First Time Cruisers

5 common myths people use to avoid trying a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
26Feb2018

There are many reasons why people who have not cruised yet cite why they have avoided taking a cruise.  As a past cruiser, if you ever talk to someone who has never cruised before, they will likely mention some commonly cited reason they have not tried a cruise yet.  In most cases, these fears or concerns are largely based on untrue speculation.

If you have never cruised before, here is a list of some common reasons we often hear from people not to cruise that is frankly untrue.

It's expensive

Not only is cruising not more expensive than other vacation options, they typically offer more value for the dollar than any other international vacation option.

One thing someone who has never cruised before is to take into account how much is actually included in the cruise fare.  Accommodations, plenty of meals (and snacks), entertainment and transportation between ports is all included.

According to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, the cruise industry’s establishment of over 30 North American embarkation ports provides consumers with unprecedented convenience, cost savings and value by placing cruise ships within driving distance of 75% of North American vacationers. By providing significant cost savings through the convenience of avoiding air travel, the new homeports have introduced leisure cruising to a wider customer base.

Often I see people who price shop a cruise to a land vacation failing to account for the meals and entertainment they will inevitably have to pay for when going on any land vacation. 

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has offered more options to get guests closer to a true all-inclusive option that has many of the added expenses guests may encounter, pre-purchased prior to the cruise.

Lots of kids

Going on a family cruise line, like Royal Caribbean International, is sure to find a ship full of kids running around like they were part of Peter Pan's Lost Boys group, right?

Of course there will be children on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but the reality is a Royal Caribbean cruise is not dominated by children.  

According to Cruise Critic, the demographic often seen on Royal Caribbean are families, plus couples and singles in their 30s to 50s. The median age is low 40s, but it's slightly lower on shorter cruises and slightly higher on cruises of 10 nights or more.

The bottom line is there is a healthy mix, and the idea that a Royal Caribbean cruise is equivalent to a floating Chucky Cheese's, is just not true.

Not enough for kids to do

You might think this myth directly conflicts with what I just spoke about in the previous myth, but often a person citing one will not mention the other.  Regardless, there is plenty for kids to do on Royal Caribbean.

In the last two decades, Royal Caribbean has significantly increased its programming for children and widened the amount of space dedicated to them. 

Starting with the staff, all children’s activities are supervised by male or female youth staff that must have a four year University degree or international equivalent in Education, Recreation or a related field. All staff also has at least three to five years qualified experience in working with children ages six months to 17 years. Nursery staff must have the same above qualifications as well attend a 30 hour Nursery Training where the curriculum and hands on experience is in line with Florida State Standards of care.

On the ship, kids will have a variety of options open to them. These include:

  • Movies for children and teens.
  • Supervised and complimentary programming for children ages 3-17 years old (Adventure Ocean).
  • Royal Babies & Tots 6 mos – 36 mos. (drop off nursery offered on select ships).
  • Art, science, theater and story time in Adventure Ocean.
  • My Family Time Dining, where parents can have a complete dinner with their kids in the main dining room, with the kids escorted up to Adventure Ocean, leaving parents to enjoy the evening at their own pace.

There is plenty more, such as dedicated pool areas, water slides (on select ships), kids and teens-only events and more.

I'll be bored

A common misconception about cruises is they will run out of things to do and be bored.  I think they imagine a cruise ship is a bunch of hotel rooms, with a dining room in the middle.

Royal Caribbean builds its cruise ships to be floating destinations.  The best way to understand what is available to do on a cruise is to look at a past Cruise Compass.  The Cruise Compass is the daily newspaper distributed to all guests that lists everything happening on the ship that day. From pre-dawn to the the late night hours, there is lots going on.  

Of course, these activities are optional to attend, and that means you can do as much or as little as you like. 

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), J.D. Power conducted a web-based survey in August 2016 from its Consumer Panel, targeting consumers who:

  1. Earn more than $50,000 annually
  2. Had taken a vacation within the past three years

When these people were asked if cruises are better or worse than land-based vacations in terms of…

  • Variety of Activities: 77% thought cruises were better than land vacations
  • Having good activities for children: 76% thought cruises were better than land vacations
  • Offers something for everyone: 80% thought cruises were better than land vacations

In short, a vast majority of people who try cruising find more to do on a cruise than on a land vacation.  

Getting sea sick

If there is one thing many first time cruisers ask a lot of questions about it, it is about getting sea sick.

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise is nothing like going out on your buddy's fishing boat.  Royal Caribbean ships are massive vessels, equipped with precise GPS and stablizing technology. Moreover, the Captain will regularly plot courses that take optimal routes for guest comfort.

For those extra sensitive to motion, there are certain steps you can take to mitigate the risk of getting sea sick, such as over the counter medications and homeopathic treatments

The bottom line is while one could get sea sick on a cruise, it is a very low risk.  In fact, if you ask veteran cruisers, they will likely tell you their concern over getting sea sick is ranked somewhere around the feature film selection shown onboard.

Your thoughts

Have you been avoiding taking a cruise for one of the reasons listed here?  Did some family member or friend send you a link to this, with bold letters to "read this now"? Were you someone who felt this way about cruising, but has since come to see it is not what you expected? Share your experiences, concerns, and questions in the comments below!

Should you buy pre-cruise purchases now or wait to buy it onboard?

In:
25Jan2018

With your Royal Caribbean cruise coming soon, you might be wondering if you should buy a drink package, specialty restaurant reservation, spa massage or internet package now or wait until you get onboard.

There are a few considerations for deciding whether to make a pre-cruise purchase, so here is what you need to know.

Why pre-purchase

In general, buying drink packages, dining packages, spa reservations or internet packages before your cruise gives you a few advantages.

Discounted Price

In many cases, Royal Caribbean promises a discount on select pre-cruise purchases compared to the price onboard.

The discounted savings can vary, with the price of drink and internet packages varying from ship to ship and sailing to sailing. 

Break up total cruise cost

When you purchase anything before your cruise via the Cruise Planner site, you will be required to pay for it at the time of purchase.  This provides the ability to break up the total cost of the cruise.

When you make purchases onboard your cruise, at the end of the cruise you get a final bill with all of the charges tallied up.  By pre-purchasing certain items, you can pay off parts of the cruise months or years in advance, allowing you to reduce the cruise bill at the conclusion of your cruise.

Save you time onboard

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

You can use (some) onboard credit

Since 2017, Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their onboard credit towards pre-cruise purchases.  This alleviates a primary concern among cruisers in the past that wished to use onboard credit towards any purchases first.

One thing to consider is the onboard credit available for use in the Cruise Planner is limited to onboard credit provided by Royal Caribbean.  This means, if you are receiving onboard credit from a travel agent or other source, it may not be available for use online.  Granted, while I have never had any trouble using up onboard credit on a Royal Caribbean cruise, some guests prefer to save their credits for on the ship.

Pre-purchase or wait?

There are a variety of items you can purchase before your Royal Caribbean cruise, and the advantages of buying now or waiting will depend on your situation. Here is what to consider.

Beverage Packages

These days, Royal Caribbean offers some sort of drink package discount to all guests who purchase it before their cruise. The exact discount amount, as well as the drink package price, will vary from ship to ship and sailing to sailing.

If you are new to Royal Caribbean or a Gold member in Crown and Anchor Society, you are almost always better off financially to purchase the drink package before your cruise compared to paying the price onboard.

It should be noted that if you are a member of Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, Crown and Anchor Society, you are entitled to onboard discounts that cannot be combined with pre-cruise discounts.  If you are wondering if it is more lucrative to wait to buy onboard with your Crown and Anchor discount, it depends on your status level and what discount you are seeing online.  Generally, if you are Diamond Plus or Pinnacle, wait to purchase onboard.  Diamond members can see more of a wash financially, and Emerald and below will benefit more by pre-purchasing.

Internet Packages

Just like the drink packages, Royal Caribbean offers a discount to internet packages purchased before a cruise.  These packages are good for the duration of your cruise, and are limited per device (not per person).

If your goal is to have internet access for the entire duration of your cruise, pre-purchasing an internet package will get you the best savings.

Just like the drink packages, Royal Caribbean offers a discount on internet packages to its returning guests.  The amount varies depending on your Crown and Anchor Society level, but Emerald and below should consider pre-purchasing.  There is a trick to maximizing your internet discount, which is wait until day two to purchase onboard.

Dining Packages

There is not usually a discount offered on dining packages, so deciding to pre-purchase a dining package or wait until you are onboard largely depends on how important it is to you to break up the total cost of the cruise.

By pre-purchasing a dining package online, you will avoid having that cost on your end of the cruise bill. Financial flexibility is always a nice perk.

Individual specialty restaurants

In general, the price of a specialty restaurant online is the same as onboard.  The exception is when Royal Caribbean runs a Cruise Planner sale, in which case pre-booking a specialty restaurant online is cheaper.

Ultimately, the decision to pre-purchase a specialty restaurant or not depends on how important these factors are to you:

  • Desire to pre-purchase and break up total cost of the cruise
  • Desire to dine at a specific restaurant at a specific date/time

Diamond Plus and above members are entitled to purchase one cover charge in a specialty restaurant on the first or second night of your cruise and the second cover charge is free.  In that case, you are better off waiting to purchase onboard.

Spa services

Deciding to book a spa service before or after your cruise is not always a crystal clear decision, primarily because the spa services offered online do not always match up with the total services offered onboard.

Spa services are often discounted on the Cruise Planner, with the discount percentage depending on the day and time you select for the service.  The most lucrative discounts are usually earlier in the cruise.

The challenge in figuring out whether to purchase or not prior to the cruise, is each day of your cruise will have some spa specials offered.  These spa specials are usually combination offers, which are not offered as an option in the Cruise Planner before the cruise. In my experience, the Cruise Planner offers individual services which are good for those that just want a massage, service or therapy.  

Royal Caribbean offers an onboard discount on an individual spa service, which varies depending on your Crown and Anchor Society status level.

Shore excursions

Any pre-cruise discounts manifest themselves during a Cruise Planner sale most often.  Outside of a sale, the price for a Royal Caribbean shore excursion is often the same online or onboard.

The primary reason to book a shore excursion before your cruise is not necessarily to lock in a discount, but to reserve a spot. With the exception of spa services, other pre-cruise purchases do not sell out.  With shore excursions, tours are limited to a certain head count and as a result, popular choices can sometimes sell out.  In the Caribbean, shore excursions selling out is not very common, but if there is a tour or experience you absolutely want to see/do, then you ought to pre-purchase to ensure a spot for you.

Watch the price online

Regardless of which pre-cruise purchase is of interest to you, you are best served by watching the price online in the months leading up to your cruise in case there is a price drop (or increase).

Royal Caribbean allows its guests to cancel and rebook any Cruise Planner purchase without a penalty.  This means that if you purchase something online, and then the price drops before your sailing, you can log back in and cancel the purchase and then immediately rebook to take advantage of the lower price.  Similarly, booking in advance protects against a price increase.

Moreover, if you decided to buy something online but change your mind later, you can get a refund on the pre-cruise purchase prior to your sailing.

Cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean

In:
09Jan2018

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation choice, where both they and you can enjoy plenty of fun at sea and on shore.

Royal Caribbean welcomes children of all ages, and you will find plenty of other families on all Royal Caribbean sailings.  In fact, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of activities and programming for children and their families to ensure there is plenty to do onboard.  Royal Caribbean has dedicated facilities for children, where trained crew members supervise the children and guide them through different daily offerings.

What's available for kids on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean offers programming for children as young as six months old, all the way through the teenage years.

Infants and babies

For most cruises, infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise. For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises, the infant must be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise. Moreover, any cruise that has 3 or more days consecutive at sea will require infants to be 12 months old on the first day of the cruise.

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program.  Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge. Young children can enjoy soft play areas and age-appropriate toys, as well as cribs and cots for napping or sleeping.

If you have children under the age of three, be sure to book a Royal Caribbean cruise that offers a nursery.  For child and parent alike, the nursery is a wonderful resource.

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play.  This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Children 3 years and older

Royal Caribbean's primary program for kids is Adventure Ocean and is offered in three segments

  • Aquanauts (3-5 years old)
  • Explorers (6-8 years old)
  • Voyagers (9-11 years old)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary and is offered for most of your day onboard your ship, whether the cruise is in port or at sea.  From when Adventure Ocean opens until 10pm, there is no additional cost to use Adventure Ocean. From 10pm to 2am, Royal Caribbean offers an after hour option that has an hourly cost for parents that want to let kids stay a bit later.

There's a lot for kids to do here and the programs specialize for each age group.  It's a mix of learning, play time and socializing.  

Kids are checked in and out by parents and it's fully supervised by Royal Caribbean staff. The requirement for children to participate is to be at least 3 years old and be fully potty trained.  There are after hours programs offered as well in Adventure Ocean for an hourly fee if parents want their kids to have supervision later into the evening.

On sea days, Adventure Ocean is typically open

  • 9am - noon
  • 2pm - 5pm
  • 7pm - 10pm

On port days, Adventure Ocean is open for the entire duration your Royal Caribbean ship is in port.  Once the ship leaves port, it resumes the normal schedule described in sea days.

In addition, Royal Caribbean will open Adventure Ocean early enough for guests booked on Royal Caribbean shore excursions to drop children off.  Check with the staff on exact times.

Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens have their own programming on Royal Caribbean ships. Just like the younger children, there is crew member supervision, but the activities are designed to be more open and less restrictive to the kids. Royal Caribbean built the teen programs to be about empowering teens to do their own thing but still offer activities and fun events to help introduce everyone.

There are teen-only spots onboard the ship where they can come and go as they please. Each day there are teen only events planned in the Cruise Planner, where teens can have dedicated time to enjoy special activities. Royal Caribbean ships are known for their amazing features, like ice skating rinks, surf simulators, bumper cars, and more, so teens will have opportunities to enjoy these activities exclusively.

Sample Activities by Age Group

If you want to get an idea of the kind of activities offered by Adventure Ocean, here is a sampling from previous cruises.  This list is not indicative of everything offered by Royal Caribbean, nor is it a guarantee that it will be offered on your sailing.  It is merely an example of the sort of programming available in the past.

Aquanauts (3 - 5 years)

  • Finger Painting
  • Camp Aquanaut
  • Building Blocks
  • Play dough sculptures
  • Music Activities
  • Dot Dancing
  • Games – animal, color and shape BINGO 

Explorers (6 - 8 years)

  • Pirate Night
  • Backstage Tour
  • Nutty Nicknames
  • Carnival Night
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Wide World of Sports Night
  • Autograph Hunts 

Voyagers (9 - 11 years)

  • Karaoke
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Adventure Challenge
  • GaGa Ball
  • H20 Thunder Races
  • List-o-Rama
  • The Art Walk 

Navigators (12 - 14 years)

  • Sports Tournaments
  • Pool Parties
  • College Night
  • Challenge Series
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Karaoke
  • Disco Dancing
  • Video Games 

Teens (15 - 17 years)

  • Dancing
  • Pool Parties
  • DJ Training
  • Battle of the Sexes
  • Karaoke
  • Coffee Talk
  • Talent Show
  • Formal Night
  • Survivor Series 

Cruise pricing for kids

A common question is if kids are charged the same as adults on Royal Caribbean, or if there is a cost to bring infants onboard.  

Like most of the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean charges all of its guests the same regardless of age. Cruise line pricing is based on double occupancy in a stateroom, and this has to do with the pricing model the cruise industry relies on to be profitable.

If your children will be the third or fourth (or more) passengers in the same room as two adults, their cruise fare is usually far less than the first two adults.  Occasionally, Royal Caribbean offers discounts on third and fourth passengers, as well as Kids Sail Free deals.  Be sure to consult your travel agent for guidance on taking advantage of these deals when they are available.

Staterooms

Most families book a single stateroom for their family during the cruise.  Royal Caribbean has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has begun offering family staterooms, which provide extra space and are designed to handle families of five or six passengers.  If you need more space, some suites can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you need a crib, Royal Caribbean can provide a pack 'n play upon request.  You can request this prior to your cruise by contacting Royal Caribbean or your travel agent, however, you can still get one once onboard the ship.

Speaking of toddlers and young children, you will need to bring your own supply of diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  Royal Caribbean provides milk to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

Kids activities on Royal Caribbean beyond Adventure Ocean

There's lots going on onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise regardless of if your kids are in the kids club or not.  There are pools and even dedicated pool and splash areas on select ships.  Known as the H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay, these areas offer water spouts, slides, colorful decorations and lots of areas to get soaked and the perfect place for kids to run around.

Speaking of fun in the water, Royal Caribbean has begun offering water slides on some of its cruise ships.  Water slides are open to all guests, provided they are tall enough to enjoy the slides safely. We do not have to describe the virtues of water slides, but families with older children may want to ensure they book a cruise that offers water slides.

Oasis, Quantum, and select Freedom and Voyager Class cruise ships offer the DreamWorks Experience, which incorporates the DreamWorks film characters into meet-n-greets, parades and character breakfasts.

Each day of your cruise, the Cruise Director's staff offers many family-friendly activities in the Cruise Compass. Families can join in trivia, scavenger hunts, tournaments on the sports deck, pool games and more. 

The signature activities on many Royal Caribbean ships is also open to children, such as mini-golf, the FlowRider, the rock climbing wall, ice skating and more.

Eating with kids on Royal Caribbean

Every parent knows that dining out with their kids is an adventure that can never be predicted.  Luckily, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of culinary choices that are sure to appeal to all palates.  Whether your child is a pizza and chicken fingers kind of kid, or enjoys the finer foods in life, there is lots available.

The main dining room has a special menu just for kids (adults can order off of it too), which has plenty of kid-friendly fare.  This includes pasta, hot dogs, burgers, mac and cheese, and more.  Of course, kids are free to order off the regular menu too. 

The dining room staff is usually very accommodating to families, and can work with parents to find something that their child will eat.  On past cruises, we have had instances where the waiters went to other restaurants onboard the ship to bring our kids a food not offered in the dining room.  That level of service is what makes dining (and cruising) with kids on Royal Caribbean such a pleasure.

My Family Time Dining

There is a special dinner option in the main dining room known as My Family Time Dining, which is offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.

Windjammer

The holy grail of kid friendly dining is the Windjammer, which is Royal Caribbean's buffet style restaurant.  Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, it offers the greatest variety of food that includes many different types of food.  

Most importantly, there is lots of ice cream available on Royal Caribbean! In fact, there is usually a self-serve ice cream station conveniently located near the pool for anyone to enjoy throughout the day.

Specialty Dining

If you want to take your children with you to a specialty restaurant, they are more than welcome to eat there as well.  Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $10 cover charge. Kids 5 years old and under eat free.

Kids 5-12 have a modified adult menu,which is a round-up of kid-friendly favorites from the regular menu. Kids under 5 are free and have a kiddies menu similar to the kids menu in the main dining room. Some restaurants do not have kids menus and so kids order off the regular menu.

Royal Caribbean specifies restaurants such as Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Chef's Table do not have kids menus, as those experiences are better suited for guests age 13 and older.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Royal Caribbean, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

First time cruisers: What to know before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
03Jan2018

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a fantastic family vacation choice, but before you book, you should arm yourself with some knowledge to ensure your cruise is terrific.  The saying "you don't know what you don't know" is certainly true when it comes to cruising.  First time cruisers make a lot of mistakes and there are many things that are simply impossible to know until you go.

With that in mind, we have written this guide with some important things that first time cruisers ought to know before they actually book a cruise.  There is plenty of planning to be done after booking a cruise, but here are some good things to consider prior to picking a ship and sailing.

Use a travel agent

Whether this is your first cruise, or you have cruised a ton, I always recommend using a travel agent.  Simply put, travel agents work to make your vacation planning easier on you and they are paid by the cruise line (not you) for your business. You literally have nothing to lose by using a travel agent.

For first time cruisers, a good travel agent is a great resource of information on Royal Caribbean in general.  Moreover, they can answer the kind of personal questions that no blog can ever tackle.  Often, many first time cruisers have questions about their particular circumstances, and a good travel agent can leverage their own experience to provide the right answer for you.

In addition, travel agents are knowledgeable about the many discounts and offers available by Royal Caribbean. If there are pricing questions, or changes to be made to the reservation, they are the ones that call Royal Caribbean and sort out the details for you.  That frees you up to do something far more interesting and fun.  Essentially, a travel agent is your advocate for any concerns you may have, including when you are on the ship.  All too often, new cruisers try to do it themselves because they can, and it leads to time and effort that could have been saved by using a travel agent.

When considering which travel agent to use, ensure you pick one that is deeply knowledgeable about Royal Caribbean, and does not charge any fees to you for changes.  Talk to them before even committing to book with them and ask questions about their experience and level of service they provide so you can feel comfortable in how they will work with you.

Try to learn the lingo

If you have not been on a cruise before, you may quickly run across terms, options, and phrases that are unfamiliar to you.  Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, we have taken precautions to help you adjust to a Royal Caribbean cruise in advance.  Our Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary will break down everything from Adventure Ocean to WOWband so that you understand everything in the cruise planning process.

Compare ship features

Royal Caribbean has 24 ships in its fleet, and while they share a core experience across them all, the ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet vary from class of ships and even between individual vessels.  This means, you need to be aware of what each ship offers, and which features each ship you are considering has and if it is important to you.

In short, Royal Caribbean breaks up its many ships into classes.  Ship classes are groupings of ships that share a common structure and layout.  Think of ship classes like types of cars: you have pickup trucks, sedans, minivans, etc.  Within each type of cars, you then have individual car models.  That is fairly similar to how Royal Caribbean categorizes its ships.

In addition to just size and tonnage, each ship class tends to include similar entertainment, activities and onboard amenities.  What you want to do is think about which features you want on your cruise ship, and then see if that class has what you want.  If water slides are important, then Oasis or Freedom Class ships would be a good pick.  If you want a nursery, then skip Majesty of the Seas.   Again, a good travel agent can greatly assist with narrowing down the choices for you.

You should also be aware that while ships within each class are similar, Royal Caribbean has added new features to some ships over the years that have differentiated them more than in the past.  Basically, do not assume one ship in the class is identical to another ship in the class (especially on the newer ships).

Book as early as you can

A very common question before you book a cruise is, "when is the best time to book a Royal Caribbean cruise" or "when should I book my Royal Caribbean cruise."  The simple answer is: as early as you can.

For years Royal Caribbean has urged its customers to book early. It is a mantra that used to be simply marketing, but these days, is absolute gospel. 

The best prices for cruises on Royal Caribbean are when the cruise line first starts taking bookings. Prices tend to rise as you get closer and closer to your sailing date, so waiting to book can actually cost you more money.

Why does the price increase as you get closer to the sail date? For one, it's a matter of supply and demand. The more people that book, the less supply there is and therefore, the price rises. In addition, Royal Caribbean wants people to book early so it can fill up their ships and by giving early birds financial incentive to book early, it helps Royal Caribbean accomplish that goal. These days, Royal Caribbean cruises are incredibly popular and ships sail full routinely.  So trying to wait for a "deal" is not advisable because it may never actually show up.

Time and time again, the lowest pricing for all sailings comes when they first go on sale.  

The caveat to this tip is you have to be prepared to book a cruise 1-2 years in advance.  For a lot of folks, that is not very practical since work and school calendars are rarely published that early.

Your best bet is to book something with just a deposit and have the flexibility to change it later.  Even if you book only 7 or 8 months in advance, that is still better than trying to book 4-5 months in advance.

Check airfare prices

Odds are that you may not live close enough to be able to drive to the cruise you will eventually book, so that means you will need to book a flight to get there.  Before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, consider airfare costs because that may make or break your cruise plans.

Airfare prices are anything but predictable, so you will want to start looking into flight options to ensure the best possible price. Just like cruise fares, the best prices for airfare seem to favor those that book well in advance.

What you want to do is when considering different cruise choices, check on airfare for each cruise to ensure you are not picking a great sailing that will come with an expensive or impractical flight choice.

Be sure to also consider nearby airports that could save you a lot of money. As an example, if your cruise leaves from Port Everglades in Florida, nearby airports of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach are close enough to be an easy car ride over, especially if that helps bring your total airfare price down.

Read an old Cruise Compass

When trying to pick the right ship and sailing for you, you will likely have questions about what there is to do onboard.  In fact, the available activities may play a major role in which ship you end up booking. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, because Royal Caribbean does not publish its activities or entertainment in advance. What you can do to learn about what to expect on your sailing is to consult a past Cruise Compass to see what was available on those similar sailings.

A Cruise Compass is Royal Caribbean's daily newspaper that is distributed to guests on each day of the cruise.  Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered. There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

Your thoughts

Are you looking to book a cruise and have a question or concern?  Have you taken many cruises and want to share something you wish you have known before your first cruise? Share what is on your mind in our comments!

First time cruisers: What time to get to the cruise port for your Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
21Dec2017

With your Royal Caribbean cruise right around the corner, you might be wondering what time should I get to the cruise port. 

The first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise is when all the fun begins, and what time you arrive to board your Royal Caribbean cruise has some implications for how the rest of your day may flow.

There are also two different times to consider: what time can you board your ship and what time can you arrive at the port to check-in.

What time to arrive at the port

Royal Caribbean cruises that depart from the United States will often open the cruise terminal for check-in sometime between 9am and 10am.  

This means the terminal will open up for guests to arrive and begin the check-in procedure. In most cases, the check-in procedure involves:

  • Parking the car/dropping off rental car/being dropped off by a car service
  • Giving porters luggage to be delivered to your stateroom later on that day.
  • Going through security screening.
  • Checking in at the counter with your cruise documents.
  • Waiting for boarding to begin.

After passing the security check, the check-in process will split guests up based on which deck their stateroom is on and their Crown and Anchor Society status.  Essentially, those with higher Crown and Anchor Society status will have a shorter wait to check-in.  Likewise, suite guests also have a dedicated line for them, which is shorter.

The good news is the check-in procedure is fairly quick, and if you have all of your documentation, it should go quite smoothly.

The key to figuring out what time to arrive is largely up to you and your travel plans. We recommend arriving to the cruise terminal before noon to avoid the longer lines that tend to appear in the afternoon.

Many guests tend to arrive in the afternoon, since their travel plans have them arriving the day of the cruise.  This leads to longer waits at the cruise terminal, compared to earlier in the morning.

Our best advice is at the very least, do not plan to arrive to the ship too close to the end of the boarding times.  Travel delays and other unforeseen issues can add unnecessary stress to what should be the start to a fun and relaxing vacation. In short, plan on a few hours buffer time as a worst-case scenario.

The future of check-in

Royal Caribbean is aiming to greatly simplify some of the embarkation day procedures with what it is calling "frictionless check-in".  

Royal Caribbean wants to streamline the check-in process to the point that it is as simple as walking in. Forget the forms to fill out, pictures to take, or agents to speak with. The new app will allow for a "frictionless check-in" that gets you onboard your ship very quickly. In Royal Caribbean's eyes, less time spent boarding means more time for vacation.

There is no timetable announced for when frictionless check-in will be available, but it is something that is coming in the near future.

What time to board the ship

Royal Caribbean will likely provide a boarding time in the afternoon, but many veteran cruisers will say in practice, boarding times are much earlier than what is stated. Royal Caribbean does this to help break up crowds.

When boarding does commence, Royal Caribbean will board their ships with Suite guests firsts, followed by guests based on their Crown and Anchor Society status, and finally, all other guests.  Regardless of your status, the earlier you check-in, the sooner you will board the ship.

The advantage of arriving to the cruise port early is you will likely find shorter lines, and board the ship sooner.  That means your vacation begins sooner, and you will have more time on embarkation day to explore and have fun. 

Keep in mind that if you do board in the morning, staterooms are not usually open to guests until 1pm at the earliest, so you will have to carry whatever you bring aboard with you until you can drop it off in your stateroom.

Boarding in the afternoon may allow for more convenient travel arrangements, and no waiting on the ship for staterooms to open up.  However, later boarding risks potential lines at check-in and at the Windjammer for lunch.  Boarding in the afternoon is hardly a mistake, but keep in mind that Royal Caribbean requires all guests to be checked-in and onboard the ship no later than 90 minutes prior to the published sailing time or you will not be permitted to sail.

First time cruisers: Entertainment on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

In:
11Dec2017

Every Royal Caribbean cruise offers some great live shows to enjoy onboard.  Musicals, ice skating performances, and comedy shows are just a few of the performances to enjoy on Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean has created a number of impressive shows for its cruise ships, as well as reached out to some very talented performers to round out the entertainment on every ship in the fleet.

Planning for shows

One thing several people have ask is whether it is worth it to see the shows. Our answer is always a qualified “absolutely.” We absolutely recommend the shows because these are a big part of what separates Royal Caribbean from the rest of the industry.  In recent years, Royal Caribbean has invested heavily in its onboard shows, and the result has been a number of must-see performances.

Our thought process goes like this: entertainment on your Royal Caribbean cruise is included with your cruise fare, so why not see a couple of shows.  Not only is it very likely to be a fun time, it is a great way for family and friends to enjoy high quality entertainment together with little risk other than your time.

The big impediment you might have in seeing all of these shows is dinner. Often trying to balance show times with your dinner times can be difficult to time properly.  The rise in popularity of specialty dining and My Time Dining has resulted in some scheduling challenges. Depending on your dinner schedule, this may or may not be an issue. Those who are on traditional dining typically have less of a problem making show times work since many shows are scheduled opposite traditional dining schedules.

We have some recommendations if you potentially run into one of these planning risks: The key is to check for additional performances that work better for your schedule, or be prepared to make alternate dining plans.  Changing dining plans is not a major hassle, but something to be aware of to ensure you see as many shows as possible. Consult a prior Cruise Compass, as show times rarely change much (if it all) between sailings on similar itineraries. Once onboard, you can often get a entertainment schedule from Guest Services and better coordinate dining changes at that time.  Making dining changes is always easier early in the cruise, than later on, because reservation spots tend to fill up quickly.

Booking shows before your cruise

A common question among those new to Royal Caribbean is about when can they begin to reserve shows tickets prior to their cruise, and the answer is it depends on which ship you are sailing on.

Currently, only Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships offers guests the ability to get a virtual ticket for select shows and they are available via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. All other ships, will have seating available on a first-come, first-served basis and/or complimentary tickets once guests are onboard.

If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary. The truth is, there is no rule about when these kinds of activities become available for booking, and every sailing can be different.

The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise. There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

Live shows

The exact lineup of entertainment will vary from ship to ship, but there are some common genres that span certain classes of ships and some are even fleet-wide. 

The theater performances are arguably the flagship entertainment on any Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean invests heavily in Broadway-inspired performances, with some ships actually offering full Broadway shows. Classic shows such as Grease, Mamma Mia, CATS and more grace the stage of Royal Caribbean's newest ships.

Royal Caribbean has made a name for itself with the high-diving shows on its Oasis Class ships that are held in the Aquatheater.  This space is an outdoor amphitheater, which features acrobatic and high diving stunts in the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea. 

Royal Caribbean also offers ice skating shows on ships that have an ice skating rink (Oasis, Freedom and Voyager Class ships). Each ship has its own unique ice skating show, which matches incredible ice skating performances with music and a loose story line.  These shows are not only a means to see some very talented skaters perform some of the most difficult ice skating moves, there is also a great story to enjoy.

In addition, Royal Caribbean's entertainment staff will host their own live shows onboard, including fan-favorites such as the Love and Marriage Game Show, Battle of the Sexes, The Quest, and more.  These shows involve select members of the audience, and have been a staple of the cruise industry for years. 

Most Royal Caribbean cruises also feature comedians, magicians, and/or entertainers that offer family-friendly and adult-oriented shows onboard.  These performers put on their act to augment the regular entertainment line up, and can offer something a little different than stage productions.

Another popular activity is taking in a newly released or classic film.  Royal Caribbean mixes up the offerings, but will show multiple films each day of the cruise, usually on the large screen by the pool.  On the larger Royal Caribbean ships, there are even 3D films shown in the Royal Theater for no additional cost. Regardless of venue, these films can be the perfect way to finally see that new movie you have been meaning to watch, or a fun movie to see again while you enjoy a swim.

Dancing and singing

If your idea of fun is live music, with or without you dancing along to it, then you will plenty of that on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Each ship offers multiple venues each evening that offer live music, sing alongs, dance parties and more.

Each evening, your Cruise Compass will list a multitude of venues that offer live bands playing.  There will be shows at the ships' pubs, lounges, night clubs and even by the pool.  Walk in, and take a seat (or find a spot on the dance floor) and take it all in.  As mentioned, there are often many different live musical opportunities around the ship, appealing to different styles of music.  Guitar sing alongs at the pub, salsa dancing in Boleros lounge, DJ spinning, and more.

On select evenings of your cruise, there are themed parties held, where guests are invited to join in on the fun.  Some parties are themed to the 1970s or 1980s, Caribbean themed nights, and more.  These are essentially large dance parties, where the entertainment staff dress up for the occasion and guests are encouraged to do the same.  

Naturally, you may be wondering how to know which themed nights will be on your sailing and when, but Royal Caribbean does not publish that information in advance.  Your only option is to consult a prior Cruise Compass and see what was offered on previous sailings.  In our experience, the themed night lineups do not change much.

Teens & Kids

Younger travelers will find lots for them to do onboard as well.  Royal Caribbean has significantly invested in the dedicated space and entertainment options for the under 18 age set over the last decade or so.

Kids 3 to 11 years old have daily programming provided for them in the Adventure Ocean program.  Adventure Ocean is more than just a day camp experience. Kids will find classes, parties and activities offered each day of the cruise.

On select ships, younger kids will love the DreamWorks Experience, where they can meet their favorite characters from Madagascar and Shrek, watch 3D movies, and enjoy themed breakfasts and parades.

Teenagers also have their own rooms onboard to hang out, play games, listen to music... or whatever it is teenagers enjoy doing.  Royal Caribbean also schedules private sessions of popular onboard activities just for teens, such as time on the FlowRider surf simulator.

8 cruise tips for first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers

In:
30Oct2017

You have decided to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and whether it is your first cruise ever, or just first time with Royal Caribbean, we are sharing eight helpful cruise tips for first time cruisers.

Our hope is these tips provide a means of enhancing your first time on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  These tips may help avoid first-time pitfalls, or provide ways to enhance your experience onboard.

8. Book with a travel agent

All too often we get questions from first time cruisers that could more easily be resolved if they had used a travel agent.  

A good travel agent that specializes in cruising can really help make your first Royal Caribbean cruise a big success.  They will help navigate you throughout the whole booking process and be your guide to what makes the most sense for your family.  Early or late dinner? Travel insurance or not? Which day to arrive? These are all great questions that require personal input.

When it comes to making changes to your reservation, such as pricing out different staterooms, changes in fares, adding more people to your reservation or anything else requiring speaking with Royal Caribbean, the hold times for the phone can be downright awful.  But a travel agent will do all that leg work for you.

In addition, a good travel agent will work to get you the best deal on your cruise not only today but every day until the final payment date.  They can be save you money in addition to time.  And did I mention travel agents cost you nothing?

If something were to go wrong during your cruise, contact your agent and it's now their problem to solve. Always enlist your agent to handle issues on your behalf.

Read more: Why first-time cruisers should use a Royal Caribbean travel agent

7. Invest in a passport

American cruisers that take a Royal Caribbean cruise that depart and return from an U.S. port can cruise with a birth certificate and official form of identification, but a passport is worth spending a little more for the power it provides.

If something were to go wrong in another country, the difference between having a passport and not having a passport is tremendous.  If you have a passport, you can leave that very minute to go back to the United States. Without it, you will have to go to the embassy and go through a lot of red tape to get a visa back to the country.  It's not fun.

While expensive, passports are still the best way to get you onboard your cruise.

Read more: Ten firs-time cruise mistakes to avoid

6. Pack light (or at least try to)

Over packing is something even the most experience cruiser can fall prey to, but trying to packing light(er) should be a goal for first time cruisers.

It may be tempting to pack half your wardrobe after reading about things like formal nights, but the reality is you will likely use a lot fewer clothes than you think.  Moreover, you will likely not go through as much casual clothing as you might think.

The laundry facilities onboard your Royal Caribbean ship allow for dry cleaning, and the wash and fold laundry bag specials means you have options if you find yourself running low on clean clothes.

Read more: The most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise

5. Research the ports you will visit

When you get off your ship and into the ports of call that your Royal Caribbean cruise will visit, you do not want to be at a loss for what to do.

The Internet is a wealth of information for figuring out the best activities to do in every port your cruise will visit.  Researching in advance will give you the chance to figure out what your group can do and what may be available.

"Winging it" can be adventurous but being informed about your choices in advance gives you a major advantage, especially if you're interested in an activity that has limited capacity.

Read more: Complete guide to picking the perfect shore excursions

4. Do not miss the shows

Royal Caribbean has a reputation in the cruise industry for being a leader, including the premier entertainment onboard their ships.

Each evening is filled with various shows, performances, and more.  Make time in your schedule to see as many of these shows as possible.  On the newer cruise ships, there are often theatrical, diving, and ice skating performances offered regularly.

It is important to give shows a try, especially shows that take place in the AquaTheater or ice skating arena.  First time cruisers may be tempted to skip these shows, since they seem a bit odd or different, given their location.  However, missing these shows would be a mistake, as they offer phenomenal and different displays not easily matched on land.

Read more: Top 16 things on a Royal Caribbean cruise everyone needs to do at least once

3. Consider drink and dining packages before you get onboard

The time to figure out if an unlimited beverage package or specialty dining package is right for you is in the weeks and months leading up to your cruise, and not once onboard.

While you can purchase dining and beverage packages on your ship, you will lose out on the pre-cruise discounts offered, plus you may not have adequate time to realistically gauge how lucrative the offerings will be for you.

Many guests opt to purchase one of these packages, but the reality is they are not a perfect fit for everyone.  How much value these packages will offer depends greatly on you and your habits.  Each package potentially can save you money, and be worth it, but it really depends on the person.

If you do decide to purchase a beverage package or dinner package, purchasing it prior to your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner will save you time on the ship, and very likely save you money.  

Read more: Are Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages worth it?

2. Arrive to your cruise port at least a day early

When traveling, there are certain factors you will have no control over, such as weather, canceled flights, and flat tires. If you ask seasoned travelers how they get around these obstacles, the answer is often to give yourself more time.  Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, arrive at least one day before your cruise is scheduled to depart.

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

Read more: How being early is the secret to the best Royal Caribbean cruise, from start to finish

1. Read a past Cruise Compass

After booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you may be wondering what events, activities and specials may be offered on your cruise.  

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, because Royal Caribbean does not publish its activities or entertainment in advance.  What you can do to learn about what to expect on your sailing is to consult a past Cruise Compass to see what was available on those similar sailings.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.

Read more: First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

First time cruisers: It's supposed to rain my entire cruise!

In:
16Oct2017

A reoccurring concern among first time cruisers that book a Royal Caribbean cruise in the warmer months of the year is they see a weather forecast that looks something like this.

Does this mean your cruise is ruined? Not so fast.

Understanding rain in the tropics

The tropics have two seasons: the dry season and the wet season.  During the summer months in the tropics, it rains every day. This means there is a high chance of rain, but it is not an all day soaker event.

Unlike rain storms in the north, where fronts move through and saturate the area with rain for much of the day, rain storms in the tropics are sporadic and short-lived.  They pop up during the afternoon, move quickly and have been known to actually rain while still sunny.

These sort of afternoon pop up storms are incredibly difficult to predict, so most weather forecasters simply attribute a high percentage chance of rain and hope for the best.  Pop up storms are so sporadic that it is too difficult to know exactly where it will rain, so forecasts often look worse than they really are. Despite the fact you see rain in the forecast everyday, it does not mean it will actually rain at all on you, nor will it rain for a long time.

How to plan your day

This may sound crazy, but ignore the forecast.

Seriously.

Rain in the tropics is so common and so unpredictable that it is simply not worth concerning yourself with prior to your trip.  Since it is often short-lived, if it does actually rain on you, you can wait it out (with a cocktail in hand) and before you know it, the sun will be back out.

On sea days, often the Captain will take routes to follow the sun and avoid clouds so that guests can enjoy the kind of sunny day they dreamed about when booking the cruise.  Of course, the Captain can only do so much to help, but if it can be helped, he will do what he can.

The exception to all of this are tropical storms (hurricanes), but your Royal Caribbean cruise will not be anywhere near these storms to begin with.  Royal Caribbean detours its ships well away from the path of the storm.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary

In:
14Sep2017

If you have started to plan your first Royal Caribbean cruise, you may have run into a few words or phrases that sounds like something out of a CSI episode, rather than a family vacation. This post will help explain what all these nautical terms mean, so you can learn to "talk the talk" once onboard.

Adventure Ocean: Royal Caribbean's children's programming that is open to children between the ages of 3-17.

Aft: The back of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Bow: The front part of the ship, which refers to the physical part of the ship.

Closed-loop sailing: A roundtrip cruise, where the sailing begins and ends at the same port.

Cruise Compass: The daily newspaper distributed to guests each day that lists all the activities, events and specials happening onboard the ship.

Cruise Director: This officer onboard the ship is in charge of the entertainment during your cruise, from bingo to the shows to trivia and more.

Dining package: An optional purchase, where guests can pre-pay the cost of specialty restaurants and receive a discount compared to dining at the same specialty restaurants individually.

Disembarkation: Usually refers to the last day of a cruise when you depart the ship at the conclusion of a cruise.

Double occupancy: Most cruise fares are based on double occupancy. That means two people sharing one cabin.

Dock: A pier at a port that your ship can pull up to, where guests can walk off the ship and directly onto land.

Embarkation: Usually refers to the first day of your cruise when you board the ship. 

Forward: The front of the ship,  which refers to a direction.

Friends of Bill W: A code name for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Friends of Dorothy: A code name for LGBT activities.

Galley: The ship's kitchen.

Gangway: Ramp guests use to embark or disembark their ship.

Guarantee room: To help fill in empty staterooms, Royal Caribbean will offer a guarantee room rate. This means you pick a category of stateroom that you are promised you will receive nothing less than that. In fact, you might even be upgraded to something higher. On top of it, you will pay less than someone who picks their stateroom. The "catch" to a guarantee room is that Royal Caribbean will assign your room number at some point between when you book the stateroom and your sail date. You are essentially trading the ability to pick your stateroom location for a lower cruise fare.

Itinerary: The day by day list of where your cruise ship is going, with notations for which ports of call you will visit and what times you will be there.

MDR: Abbreviation for Main Dining Room.

Muster Drill: A mandatory safety event, where all guests report to their evacuation station to learn what to do in case of an emergency. Every guest must attend this event.

Muster Station: The designated spot where guests must go in the event of an emergency for evacuation.

My Time Dinner: Royal Caribbean's concept for dinner, where guests have flexibility in making reservations ahead of time or simply showing up at any point while dinner is being served.  This is an alternative to Traditional Dinner.

OBC: Acronym for Onboard credit.  Onboard credit is the money in your onboard account that you can use to spend towards purchases made onboard.

Open-jaw sailing: A one-way cruise, where the sailing begins and ends in different ports.

Porthole: A round window, often smaller than the standard picture window found in most outside cabins.

Port/Portside: The left of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Repositioning cruise: A one-way itinerary that effectively moves a cruise ship from one part of the world to another. 

Royal iQ: The smartphone application to manage your cruise while onboard the ship.  Only available on select ships.

Royal Suite Class: Royal Caribbean's suite offerings available on Oasis and Quantum Class ships only. 

Sea Day: A day in which your cruise ship does not visit a port of call, and spends the entire day at sea.

SeaPass: The card every guest uses to make purchases onboard, identify themselves, and get access to their stateroom.

Single supplement: Since cruise fares are based on double occupancy, solo cruisers are charged a single supplement.  The single supplement fee is usually 150-200% of the cruise fare. Some Royal Caribbean ships have solo cabins, where the single supplement fee is waived.

Specialty restaurant: A dining venue where there is an additional charge to dine there. Usually a cover charge, although sometimes food is charge a la carte.

Starboard: The right of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Stateroom: A room for a guest on the cruise ship.  Every guest books a stateroom (sometimes referred to as a cabin).

Stern: The back part of the ship, which refers to a part of the ship.

Tender: A ferry, where your ship will anchor in the harbor near the port and a small vessel will shuttle you between the cruise ship and port.

Traditional Dinner: Dinner in the main dining room where you have a choice of either first or second seating (you choose this before your cruise), and are seated at the same table each evening with the same wait staff and table mates. 

Wake: The trail of waves behind a cruise ship that is created by the ship's engines as the ship moves forward.

WOWBand: RFID bracelet that works just like a SeaPass card.

First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

In:
22Jun2017

You just picked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for you and your family and it sounds like it will be a blast, but you might be wondering what events, activities and specials may be offered on your cruise.  

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver to your stateroom the Cruise Compass, which is a daily guide to the news, events and activities that will be occurring on your ship the next day.

Royal Caribbean packs a lot of things to do into each day and you are best served by reading it each evening to be aware of what is happening onboard. 

The Cruise Compass is more than just knowing what time bingo is at.  It offers you insight into the next day's weather, which bars will have drink specials, shore excursion information and much more.

Some events are not repeated while other activities can change daily, so it is in your best interest to track what is happening so you do not miss any of it.

Cruise Compass structure

Regardless of which ship you are on, the basic structure of the Cruise Compass is fairly consistent.  Oasis and Quantum class ships have a slightly different look to the Cruise Compass, but the organization of the Compass remains similar.

Page One

The first page has an overview of what to expect that day, including where the ship will be (in port or at sea), a weather report, and various specials, offers and events that are highlighted.  By far, the weather report in the upper right hand corner is the most useful information on this page.

The first page also includes a section of "Important things to know today".  It is always good to skim over the list to see if there is anything that stands out.

Page Two

Opening up the Cruise Compass, you will find more events, sales and other offers.

The most important part of this page is the "Activity and Entertainment Highlights," which lists the headline show/performance of the evening.  Since the evening entertainment is usually the most popular and well-known acts onboard, it is always a good idea to see what performances are scheduled for the evening.

In terms of activities listed here, they will all be listed again in the full daily planner, which is coming up on additional pages.  Page two is usually best for glancing quickly over it for anything that jumps out as interesting.

Page Three

The third page is an important page for referencing which venues are open and what time. You will get a breakdown of open hours for many areas of the ship, and most importantly, restaurants.

On this page you will find the dress code for the main dining in the evening, as well as open hours for every eatery onboard the ship. Knowing when restaurants are open is always helpful, because hours stagger quite a bit.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the drink of the day, which features one cocktail that can be purchased at a discount.  If you do not have an unlimited alcohol package, this can be a good value.

Page Four

If you read only one page of the Cruise Compass, make sure it is this one because it lists all of the day's activities.  

Activities are broken down by time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) and provides a chronological list of events throughout the ship.  Each event has a time, title and location for quick reference.

A great strategy for managing this page is to use a highlighter and mark off any events of interest for easy reference later. 

You should also know that the activities listing can be teared off for easy reference later on. Many guests will tear them off, fold it up and place in their pocket.

Kids and Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean provides a lot of programming for children and teenagers on their ship.  Some events make it onto the regular Cruise Compass, but there are even more events listed in special daily planners just for the kids.

Just like the Cruise Compass, Adventure Ocean publishes a Kids Daily Planner for children 3-11 years old.  It breaks down the activities lined up for the day while the kids are enrolled in Adventure Ocean.  The activities are broken up by ages for easy reference.

Teenagers get their own planner too, specifically for kids that are 12-17 years old. The Teen planner is a bit more similar to the Cruise Compass in structure, with a chronological breakdown of events and activities that are just for teenagers.

Past Cruise Compasses

Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance.  Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. With that in mind, many veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers reference past Cruise Compasses to get an idea of what to expect on an upcoming sailing. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.

You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

Digital Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean's Royal iQ app is available on select ships and has among its features a digital copy of the Cruise Compass.

In addition to a listing of everything happening onboard, guests can add specific events directly to their own digital calendar for easy tracking. As you make reservations or add activities directly from the daily Cruise Compass to your calendar, your schedule is automatically updated. 

Royal iQ only works when onboard Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

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