First Time Cruisers

First time cruisers: When can I prebook entertainment, dining and more for my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
23Jul2016

We get a lot of questions from those new to cruising and one of the most common questions is about when can guests begin to reserve shows, restaurants, drink packages and more prior to their cruise.

Right after booking a cruise, Royal Caribbean allows guests to register their cruise on their My Cruises section of the Royal Caribbean web site and manage their reservation, with the option of booking dining, entertainment and other purchases prior to the cruise.  Often, not all options are available for prebooking and it leaves some guests wondering when they can do it. 

Why prebook?

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.

When can I prebook?

Royal Caribbean will post its cruises to purchase years in advance, but shore excursions, specialty dining, shows and more may not be available to reserve that far in advance.

The truth is, there is no rule about when these kinds of activities become available for booking, and every sailing can be different. Based on our experience, we do have some basic guidelines for when Royal Caribbean usually makes them available for guests to reserve.

Please keep in mind all of the time frames discussed here are general observations, and your sailing may be vastly different.

Entertainment: Royal Caribbean only allows guests to reserve seats for shows on Oasis and Quantum-class cruise ships.  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.

Dining: Specialty restaurant reservations can become available 90-60 days prior to a cruise.  The exact time frame will depend on a variety of factors.

Shore Excursions: Royal Caribbean shore excursions will be among the first activities to become available for pre-booking.  We have seen them available as early as 24-12 months prior to a cruise.  

Spa treatments: In my experience, spa treatments are almost always available for pre-booking via the web site. 

How to book your first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Jul2016

Have you heard all about how amazing a Royal Caribbean cruise is and been intrigued by the incredible options available onboard?  Then perhaps it is time to take that proverbial leap and book a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Whether you are new to cruising or just new to Royal Caribbean, taking that first step and picking that first cruise is easier than you think. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Decide: Travel agent or On Your Own

Before you take your credit card out and before you pick your ideal sailing, stateroom and dining rotation, you should figure out how you will book a cruise.

There are two main options for booking a cruise: on your own or via a travel agent.  

Both have their advantages, but I strongly recommend the use of a good travel agent when booking a cruise for the tremendous assistance and convenience they offer. A travel agent can help pick out the right first Royal Caribbean cruise for you based on your preferences.  They are well-versed in the many options out there and they are your partner in the process.

There are lots of great travel agents out there and a good starting point is to find one that has been accredited by the Cruise Lines International Association for assurance they have first-hand experience across the industry. 

With 25 ships in their fleet and 30 different stateroom types, a travel agent will simply make your life easier and save you time.  In fact, the entire booking process is significantly easier when using a travel agent, because a travel agent is the one pricing out options, sitting on the phone with Royal Caribbean and making adjustments on your behalf.  While anybody can book a cruise on their own fairly easily, a travel agent is there to assist you every day at no additional cost to you.  

To find a good travel agent, I recommend asking family and friends who they have used and liked.  A good referral can be a great way to find a talented travel agent.  I recommend our site's sponsor for your booking needs.

Booking online

If you decide to book on your own, then you will be booking your cruise via Royal Caribbean's web site.  Keep in mind that if you book a cruise at any other web site, you are essentially booking through a travel agent.  This includes sites like Expedia, Costco and American Express.

Reserving a cruise on Royal Caribbean's web site is fairly straight forward, requiring you to filter through cruise results on the site and select the sailing you desire.

Since it is your first time booking a cruise, you will have the option of creating an account on Royal Caribbean's site or just filling out all the personal information during the checkout process.  Creating an account is a better option, just because it allows for easier management of this and future reservations.

To book a cruise online, you will need some basic information about each guest sailing:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

Before you can fully reserve a cruise, you will need to submit some form of payment.  Depending on how close you are to your sailing date, you may have the option to put down a deposit or be required to pay the full amount of the cruise. Regardless of which option is required, a credit card payment will be made available to you in the final step of the checkout process.

If you are booking a cruise on your own, you should review the terms and conditions of Royal Caribbean's cruise cancelation policy (this will vary from country to country of residence) as well as consider trip insurance through Royal Caribbean or a third party.

2. Itinerary or ship?

The next step is to determine which is more important to you: the ship you are sailing on or the ports you are visiting.

Often the answer is, "it depends," but the exact answer will vary from person to person. Perhaps you read about the incredible features on Harmony of the Seas, or you have always dreamed of visiting Bermuda.  Regardless, your personal preferences will dictate whether the ship or the itinerary is more important.

There is no wrong answer here, but keep in mind that certain ships can only fit in certain ports, while some of the more exotic ports have limited cruise service.  

In terms of those that are new to cruising, I recommend an Oasis- or Quantum-class cruise ship because they offer the most options and seem to match up well with what first time cruisers expect on a cruise ship.  Even if you have never taken a cruise before, these two classes of ships offer the kind of gee-whiz features that many first timers read about being on the latest cruise ships.

That should not come as a knock on any of the ships in the fleet, and many Royal Caribbean fans will tell you all about what an amazing time they had on their first cruise on ships like Freedom of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas or Explorer of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean does an amazing job with all of their ships, but the Oasis- and Quantum-class ships offer so much variety and the latest features, that make for great first cruises.

3. Stateroom

The cabin you select is where you will call home for the duration of your cruise and it can be as utilitarian or luxurious as you prefer.  Royal Caribbean provides stateroom choices across many different prices, layouts and views.

Categories

Most staterooms fall into one of four categories: inside, outside, balcony and suites.

Inside staterooms are the smallest and offer no view out of your room, but they are also usually the least expensive option.  They are basic, but functional and their price is what many guests look at when choosing these.  Often the argument is made that while on a cruise, staterooms are just used for sleeping and showering, so why invest in a more expensive room.

Outside staterooms offer a porthole, or some other window to the sea or somewhere else outside your room.  Outside rooms tend to be a bit larger than inside staterooms and not much more to reserve one.

Balcony staterooms are cabins with a private balcony attached to your room.  This balcony provides access for you to enjoy at any time, with at least a small table and two chairs for your use.  Some of the larger balconies will have lounger chairs. Balcony staterooms are very desirable because of the balcony views and ambiance that come with it.  Many guests justify the additional cost for the experience of being able to enjoy their balcony.

Suites are the most expensive kind of staterooms and offer the most space, amenities and sheer luxury.  You can often find in suites several bedrooms, dining rooms, hot tubs and more.  

Location

In addition to picking the type of stateroom you want, where your stateroom is located is important.  Factors such as convenience, noise and access are common considerations when looking at where your room is located.

Those that may be prone to seasickness will want to choose a room that is towards the middle of the ship and lower, as that tends to be the area of the ship with the least sensation of motion.

Given the size of some of Royal Caribbean ships, you may want to also consider how close or far your room is from certain public areas of the ship.  Truthfully, no distance on a ship is too great for anyone, but everyone enjoys a convenient walk, so it is important to think about if you want a room near elevators, the pools, the fitness center, etc.

4. When to book

If you are wondering when is the best time book a Royal Caribbean cruise, the answer is simple: as far in advance as possible.

There are certainly promotions and sales throughout the year, but in general, the best prices for cruises will be found when booked as early as you can manage.  Cruise fare is determined largely by supply and demand.  When an itinerary goes on sale, all the inventory is available, but as rooms start to be reserved, inventory drops and that can coincide with prices rising.  Most Royal Caribbean fans will tell you that the best fares they find are those booked one to two years prior to their cruise.

The other really good reason to book early is for airfare.  Airfare pricing is notoriously in flux, so you want to get an acceptable rate for your air travel in coordination with reserving your cruise.

If you are considering last minute bookings, there can be some deals available, although Royal Caribbean is actively working to reduce/remove those sorts of deals. Last minute deals tend to be available for quick getaway cruises, although your mileage may vary.

Regardless of when you book, be sure to consider new promotions and sales that may come out later.  Residents of the United States and Canada are free to re-book under new sales promotions until their final payment date with no penalty.  Moreover, getting the best price for your Royal Caribbean cruise is why I once again recommend using a good travel agent.  Travel agents will be the ones to price things out when new sales come out, advise you on the current state of pricing and sit on hold with Royal Caribbean to make adjustments.

5. Next steps

After you book your cruise, the real fun of cruise planning comes into play and there is plenty to keep you occupied in the weeks, months and even years leading up to your cruise.

We have a list of the top 8 things you must do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, which should give you some immediate things to start doing.  These are the kind of planning steps everyone should engage in close to their booking to ensure they are off to the right start.

In addition, you will want be ready to start investigating cruise options such as

There is lots more to consider after booking a cruise, but the planning is almost as much fun as the cruise itself!  Enjoy it.

Your thoughts

If you have cruised with Royal Caribbean before, what first time "lessons" would you add so that first-timers have an easy booking experience? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's Oasis class or Quantum class?

In:
08Jun2016

These days, the latest and greatest Royal Caribbean ships are the Oasis and Quantum class cruise ships and if you are trying to choose between them, it can be difficult to know which is the best choice.

Royal Caribbean has put so much into these amazing new ships, so here is what you need to know about both classes of ships and how they differ.

Quantum class benefits

Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships are the newest class of ships and have been largely associated with being the most technologically advance cruise ships.

There are three Quantum class ships in service, with two more on order.

  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Unnamed Quantum class ship (to debut in 2019)
  • Unnamed Quantum class ship (to debut in 2020)

The Quantum class ships are best known for excelling in two specific areas: entertainment and dining.

The Quantum class ships offer a great variety of entertainment on its ships. Impressive shows, amazing venues and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Royal Caribbean designed the Quantum class ships to offer some impressive new experiences that stand out.

North Star

North Star is an observation pod that is attached to a giant arm on top of each Quantum class ship. North Star takes passengers 300 feet above the sea to see area around them.

Guests enter the observation pod and then are raised up in the air provide views all around the ship.  Whether in port or at sea, North Star offers the best views on any cruise ship.

Ripcord by iFly

You know what is a lot of fun? Sky diving. You know what is incredibly scary? Jumping out of an airplane.

Ripcord by iFly is the perfect solution, offering a sky diver simulator for guests to enjoy without the risk of jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft.

After a short orientation, guests take turns entering a wind tunnel, where they will experience the sensation of sky diving.

Two70

Royal Caribbean built a brand new venue not available on any other ship with Two70.

Located on the aft of the ship, Two70 offers a sweeping two hundred and seventy degree view of the ocean.  That alone might be a great area to enjoy the view, but there is much more to see here.

Throughout the day, different shows and events will take place.  Chief among them are the Roboshows that feature amazing robot screens that move, dance and synchronize together to provide the kind of show you have never seen.  

Then there's the premier evening show in Two70, which offers a multi-sensory show that combines music, visual effects, acrobats and more to deliver a one-of-a-kind show.

Oasis class benefits

Royal Caribbean's Oasis class redefined what a cruise ship could be and are the world's largest cruise ships in the world.

Everything about the Oasis class is big, and there is a ton of, well, everything to do onboard. 

Like the Quantum class, there are also three Oasis class ships in service with two more on order.

  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Unnamed Oasis class ship (to debut in 2018)
  • Unnamed Oasis class ship (to debut in 2021)

In short, the Oasis class ships offer a lot to see and do.  These ships are the biggest in the world and are packed with entertainment, dining, activities and more.

These ships are divided up into neighborhoods to help guests navigate easily around the ship and feature distinct visual areas of the ship. There is a boardwalk, an entire park in the middle, pools, and a whole lot more.

If your definition of a fun cruise is having plenty to do, then you will love the two FlowRiders, zip line across the Boardwalk, Royal Promenade shopping area, AquaTheater and now water slides.

Slides

While only on Harmony of the Seas, the water slides and Ultimate Abyss slide are truly impressive (and fun) ways to spend your cruise.

Dubbed "The Perfect Storm," three water slides are a beacon for families looking for some high-paced fun.

If that was not enough, there is the tallest slide at sea.  It is 10 stories tall and is an epic adventure. Spontaneous audio effects within each tunnel create a multi-sensory thrill for daring guests willing to test their mettle while traversing 216 feet through the one-of-a-kind slide duo.

AquaTheater

The AquaTheater is a venue on the aft of Oasis class ships that shows original Royal Caribbean productions that will take your breath away.

The AquaTheater shows feature distinct high diving, acrobatic performances with two 10-meter high platforms and hydraulic-floored pool and the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea.  It all combines to serve as podiums for high-diving, hair-raising aerobatics that AquaTheater audiences have come to love.

It is hard to put into words what AquaTheater shows are all about, but rest assured they are fun and tantalizing entertainment.

More than 20 dining venues

If you love to eat and try lots of different kinds of food, the Oasis class ships offer more dining venues than you can probably dine at in one cruise.

Royal Caribbean stuffed these ships with a great assortment of complimentary and specialty dining that offer something for everyone.

Italian, Hibachi, dry-aged steaks, fresh salads, Mexican are just a whole a few of the great options available.

Royal Caribbean may have added so many restaurants to Oasis class ships as a means of offering enough places for guests to eat, but the class has become a foodie's dream.

Picking the one for you

We think those new to cruising, or at least new to Royal Caribbean, will really love the Oasis and Quantum class ships because of everything they offer.

The reality is you cannot go wrong picking either class, but there are certain advantages each class offers that might have appeal for certain guests.

You should lean towards Quantum class if...

Cruising with teens

Bumper cars, Ripcord, dance clubs and more make the Quantum class a great choice for teens and older kids.  

There are a lot of great activities onboard and it seems to favor older children who want to do it all.

Where you live

If you live in the Northeast United States, Anthem of the Seas is in your backyard and not having to fly is a big deal. Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas serve China and Australia.

Not only does cruising from the a port near your home save money on airfare, but it allows for year-round escapes to the warm and exotic destinations.

Love tech

Quantum class ships offer RFID bracelets, robot bartenders, smart phone planning app, virtual balconies and other "gee-wiz" innovations.

In short, Quantum class ships are about packing in the latest technology that enhances the guest experience instead of defining it.

On the other hand, you should lean towards the Oasis class if...

Want more to do than you can do

The sheer amount of activities and events on Oasis class ships are staggering.  They even have a day time and night time edition of the Cruise Compass, because they cannot fit all the events in one Compass, like on other ships.

If you love variety of activities and want lots of choices, then the Oasis class ships are good for you.

Love getting physical

For those that like to "get out there" and do a lot, then the Oasis class is a great fit.  Two FlowRiders, two rock climbing walls, ice skating, zip lining, mini-golf, running tracks and more are available for those that need a good physical challenge.

The sports facilities on Oasis class ships are truly impressive because of many options there are and the unique opportunities available only on an Oasis class ship.

Need (or want) lots of dining choices

While the Quantum class ships are no slouch in offering great dining, the Oasis class ships just offer a ton of dining choices that cannot be overlooked.

Bars, restaurants and lounges are found all over the ship and that means plenty of variety.  Foodies or just those that are hungry will enjoy the great selection of restaurants that are in all likelihood too many to sample in just one cruise.

Your thoughts

Have you ever set sail on the a Quantum or Oasis class ship? What do you think of it? If you’ve sailed other ships, how do you think it stacks up to those? Any other tips to add or recommendations? If you have questions or thoughts, please share them below and we’ll try to respond!

When is the best time to book a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
06Apr2016

For someone new to Royal Caribbean, one of the most common questions that is often asked is when exactly is the best time to book a Royal Caribbean cruise.

It is a simple question, but has major ramifications.  We all want to get a deal on our cruise vacations, or at the very least, save money where we can.

Here are some helpful guidelines to help you plan the right time to book your first (or next) Royal Caribbean cruise.

Book early

If there is one mantra everyone taking a Royal Caribbean cruise should know, it is to book cruises as early as possible.

In general, the best prices are found the earlier one books a cruise.

Royal Caribbean sells its cruises largely based on the concept of supply and demand. When a sailing is first offered, supply is at its highest because no one has purchase a stateroom yet. As time progress, more and more staterooms are reserved and stateroom inventory drops, so the price increases conversely.

The earlier you can book, the best chance you will have at getting a good price on your cruise.

When we say "early", it essentially means as early as you can.  Royal Caribbean puts its itineraries on sale as much as two years in advance of the sailing, and while that may be too far in advance for many to plan vacations, the earlier you can book the cruise, the better for that bottom line price.

Reprice when possible

Booking your cruise early not only lets you lock in a good price, but it gives you the maximum opportunity to ensure you have the lowest price.

Throughout the year, Royal Caribbean offers various cruise sales: BOGO deals, 72 hour sales, WOW sales, leap day sales and more are offered and each promotion comes with it different pricing and booking incentives.

From when you book your cruise until the final payment date of your cruise, North American guests can cancel and rebook under the new promotions without any penalty (residents of other parts of the world need to check local laws and policies).

Since Royal Caribbean pricing can change daily, or even hourly, re-checking the price of your cruise often is a good way to ensure you are getting the lowest price possible.

When it comes to re-booking (and booking in general), we are big fans of using a travel agent for the services they provide.  A good travel agent will not only be knowledgeable about Royal Caribbean, but take the time to re-book the cruise for you and even notify you when new promotions come out that you can benefit from.

Not when you book, but when you cruise

If you are wondering if there is an ideal time to book a cruise for the best price, it is not so much about when you book as when you want to cruise.

While there are times of the year that offer deeper savings than others (Cyber Monday has been a good time), finding the lowest fares has more to do with when you are actually going on your cruise.

In general, you will find lower fares if you are willing to cruise during the "shoulder seasons" and/or when school is usually in session.

This includes

  • January (minus New Years holiday)
  • Most of February
  • May
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

Picking Royal Caribbean cruises that sail during these times of year often net the lowest fares because it is when less people have the opportunity or inclination to cruise.

What is your best tip for the best time to book a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share it in our comments!

7 things Royal Caribbean veterans always do (and you should too)

In:
03Feb2016

It is natural when you are new to Royal Caribbean to want to learn all the tips, secrets and hints you can so that your Royal Caribbean cruise experience can be the best.  These tried-and-true strategies are something many Royal Caribbean fans have come to learn after taking many cruises over the years.

If you are new to Royal Caribbean, here are seven things Royal Caribbean insiders know about taking a cruise that you might want to consider doing too.

1. Sign up for Crown and Anchor Society

This may not seem like that much of a secret, but the truth is guests that have cruised time and time again with Royal Caribbean embrace Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program known as Crown and Anchor Society.

Essentially, Crown and Anchor Society rewards guests for taking multiple Royal Caribbean cruises with special discounts onboard, priority embarkation and check-in, offers on upcoming cruises and exclusive events.

There is no cost to join Crown and Anchor Society and the discounts you receive onboard alone are worth signing up for.

2. Arrive to port very early

Your Royal Caribbean cruise may not depart your port until sometime in the afternoon or evening, but Royal Caribbean veterans always show up early for two good reasons.

First, the earlier you arrive means the earlier your vacation begins.  Whether you arrive at the port at 11am or 2pm on embarkation day, the price you pay does not change, so you may as well show up earlier to get more time from your cruise.

Second, by arriving early, you will avoid the longer lines at embarkation that typically occur on embarkation day when a majority of guests show up in the afternoon. Arriving in the morning allows you to get through security and check-in with less wait.

If you are wondering what constitutes early, usually this infers any time before noon.  Depending on your cruise, embarkation port and other factors, the check-in process can begin as early as 10am.

3. Book specialty dining in advance

These days, Royal Caribbean ships offer some amazing specialty dining options and if you want to ensure there is a table waiting for you, then you ought to book something before you set foot onboard.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to make reservations for its specialty restaurants online, via the Cruise Planner site.  

By making reservations online, you will guarantee yourself not just a table, but the day and time that fits your schedule.

This is especially important on formal nights or holidays, when many guests wish to do something special.

4. Book their cruises years in advance

Royal Caribbean recently announced their deployment schedule of when guests can see itineraries for 2017-2018 cruises and begin making reservations.  Royal Caribbean veterans know the key to getting a good deal on a cruise and the perfect stateroom, is to book as far in advance as possible.

Royal Caribbean veterans will tell you that the best way to get a good deal on a cruise is to book as early as you can.  Ideally, years in advance.

By booking early, you will often find the best rates available because cruise fares operate on a supply and demand basis.  The less supply there is (i.e. staterooms available to book), the higher prices.  So by booking one to two years early, you will find the best rates.

If you ever strike up a conversation with a Royal Caribbean veteran, ask them when they booked their cruises, because the answer is often measured in years.

5. Read old Cruise Compass' to know what to expect

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.  

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.

6. Take cruises on the smaller ships

These days, any Royal Caribbean commercial you see on television probably shows off the amazing things its newest, and biggest cruise ships offer and they are really, really stunning.  But Royal Caribbean veterans know that it is just as fun and important to consider the smaller ships in the fleet.

Royal Caribbean has a fleet of 23 ships of various shapes and sizes.  While the largest ships gain the lion's share of attention, many veterans will tell you the virtues of the smaller ships in the fleet.

Radiance, Vision, Sovereign and even Voyager class ships all offer some amazing experiences that cannot be matched on the larger ships. 

These smaller ships can get to ports of call that larger ships cannot, as well as offer a more intimate experience in relationship with your fellow guests.  Not to mention, these smaller ships also come with a lower price tag!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sailing on an Oasis or Quantum class ship, but consider every class in the fleet for your next Royal Caribbean cruise, because Royal Caribbean super fans love them all.

7. Learn from others

Let's face it: no one knows it all and that is why veteran cruisers often look for ways to congregate online and share in their experiences.

The internet is perfect for sharing our collective Royal Caribbean knowledge, and there are some great resources you should consider when looking to learn more about Royal Caribbean.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, this web site offers more than just blog posts as means of helping others have a better cruise.  Read our message boards, listen to our podcast and chat with us on Periscope for some easy and fun ways to learn more about Royal Caribbean.

In addition, Facebook has become a wealth of Royal Caribbean information, and here are a few of our favorite Facebook groups that you might consider joining.

We would also be remiss if we did not mention the Cruise Critic message boards as another great online resource of Royal Caribbean information.

Are you a Royal Caribbean veteran? What advice would you give to someone new to Royal Caribbean? Share that tip in our comments!

Royal Caribbean itinerary recommendations for first-time cruisers

In:
04Jan2016

Royal Caribbean offers cruises on 25 cruise ships to destinations in the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Asia, Australia and everywhere in between. 

That is a lot of cruises!

First time cruisers may find the choices a bit overwhelming with the various options. The good news is, the decision is not as complicated as it may seem. 

Here are a few guidelines that would make for a perfect first cruise.  

Ships

Royal Caribbean has built up a lot of cruise ships over the years and they each offer something different and interesting. 

For first time cruisers, the best choice is to lean towards the newer ships in the fleet because they will offer the latest innovations, entertainment and choices. 

Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Quantum class ships are perfect for first timers. In fact, it can be argued the Quantum class was designed with first time cruisers in mind.  

Ships such as Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas pack a lot of entertainment, dining and tech onboard that offer the kind of "WOW moment" experiences many new to cruise guests have heard about. 

The other ships in the fleet are wonderful too, but we feel the Oasis and Quantum class ships are best suited for new cruisers. 

Itineraries

If you are trying to decide between itineraries like eastern or western Mediterranean or a Bahamas cruise or to visit Cozumel or St. Thomas, these are the typical quandaries those new to cruising all go through.

For a fist time cruiser, we think it makes the most sense to pick an itinerary that mixes in an even amount of sea days with port days.  The reason for this is so that you have ample opportunity to explore the ship as well as the places you visit.  

Cruise length

It may be tempting to pick a shorter cruise, but we recommend going with a five to seven night sailing because those three and four night cruises are really, really short.

By going with a slightly longer cruise, you will have the opportunity to really explore the ship and enjoy the experience.  Shorter cruises go by so quickly and for someone new to cruising, it may not provide enough time on ship or on shore to really get a sense of it all.

Royal Caribbean ships are designed to be destinations rather than just a floating hotel room, so you will want more time to experience it all.  We typically find cruises closer to a week in length provide a great balance of value, time and opportunity.

Picking the right sailing

An itinerary with a good mix of port calls and sea days will give first time cruisers a good sense of what a cruise is like, so try to avoid sailings with lots of sea days (such as repositioning cruises) or lots of port stops.

It is difficult to go wrong with an eastern or western Caribbean sailing that includes a stop at Royal Caribbean's private destinations of Labadee or CocoCay.  These private stops are great for a beach day and many guests really enjoy their time there.

In addition, cruises to the Caribbean offer fun islands to visit that are well-established with plenty to offer in terms of shore excursions.

For cruises that go to Europe, Asia or Alaska, it is important to look for sailings that mix in that blend of port stops and sea days. 

Saving money on your cruise

Regardless of which ship you pick and which sailing you want to cruise on, everyone wants to make sure they are getting the lowest price.  There are some good strategies for ensuring you get the lowest price possible.

Book early

If there is one rule of cruise pricing that you should remember, it is that it is always best to book your Royal Caribbean cruise as far in advance as you can.

There is no such thing as booking your cruise too early because as more guests book a sailing, inventory drops and prices start to creep up.

Cruising has never been more popular and Royal Caribbean ships routinely sail completely full, so it is best to book well in advance.

Ideally, you will book somewhere between 7-18 months prior to your sail date.  If you can manage to book earlier, that is even better.

Cruise during less busy times of the year

A great strategy to keeping your cruise fare low is to choose times of the year to sail when many others are not.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises year-round and like every industry, there are high seasons and low seasons.

For the best fares, consider cruises during these times of the year

  • January (excluding New Years)
  • Early February
  • September
  • October
  • Early November
  • First two weeks of December

If you can take a cruise during times of the year that do not coincide with school or government holidays, you will find lower prices overall.

How to find the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Nov2015

Everyone is looking for a deal when they book a Royal Caribbean cruise and there are definitely some good ways to save money.

Getting a deal on a cruise has a lot to do when you book your cruise and what time of year you are looking to cruise.

Here are a few good ways to save money on your next Royal Caribbean cruise booking.

Time of year

Keep in mind that when you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, the time of year you are looking to cruise has a great influence on the price.

In general, the more people that are also looking to vacation, the higher the prices.

For example, a cruise over a time when there is a school vacation will likely see higher prices than similar sailings in the weeks before or after.

For a good starting point, consider when schools are on vacation as times to avoid, since that is when a lot of families look to travel.

The best months for the lowest fares include

  • January (except New Years)
  • February (except Presidents Week)
  • First two weeks of March
  • October
  • November (except Thanksgiving)
  • First two weeks of December

Where you want to go

Just like the time of year, where you want to cruise can factor into the prices.

Summer in the Mediterranean, summer in Alaska, winter in the Caribbean are all good examples of high season demand, and that leads to higher prices.

By looking at different months, you can swing a much better rate.  

Look for what's known as "shoulder months", which are the times of year at the beginning or end of the prime season, when demand is less and prices are lower.

Use a travel agent

A good travel agent can really help you nail down some great rates because they are "in the loop" for all the promotions available today, as well as any new promotions that can be applied to your reservation.

Keep in mind that the price of a Royal Caribbean cruise is the same everywhere.  

The difference is a travel agent can help you figure out which discounts and booking incentives will benefit you the most, and assist with ensuring that any new promotions that come out will be applied to your booking.

When you book

These days, Royal Caribbean cruises have never been more popular, so the key to getting the best rates is to book as early as you can.

Ideally, booking your cruise 9, 12, 18 or 24 months in advance is the best way to lock in low prices.

Cruise fares are a lot like airfare, where the more folks that book, the less capacity there is and therefore, prices rise.

The days of last minute discounts are being eliminated, so you definitely want to book as early as you can to ensure you have the lowest rates.

What are your best tips on the cheapest time to book a cruise? Share them in the comments!

What to do if your Royal Caribbean dining preference is not available

In:
12Oct2015

We get a lot of questions on the blog, and a common question is about what to do if the dining choice for dinner that a guest wants is not available.

Sometimes a guest will book a Royal Caribbean cruise, but discover that a particular traditional dinner seating is not available.  Or perhaps My Time Dining is booked up.  Is there any chance to change it?

The answer is, there are two strategies to use when trying to get into the dining option you really wanted.

Add yourself to a waitlist

When a particular dining option gets filled up, Royal Caribbean will allow guests to be added to a waitlist.

These waitlists are virtual queues, where if another guest leaves that dining option for some reason (usually due to cancelling or transferring their cruise reservation), the next guest "in line" can take their spot.

To be added to a waitlist, you need to contact either Royal Caribbean directly or have your travel agent do it on your behalf.

Once you are added to the waitlist, you should see a notation on your reservation in the My Cruises section of Royal Caribbean's web site.

In many cases, the waitlist will eventually come through and you will be automatically added to the dining option of your choice  You will likely not be notified of the change, so you will have to log in periodically to your cruise reservation to see if something has changed.

The fallback: speak to the head waiter

Sometimes, the waitlist option does not work and your next best option is to go speak to the head waiter on embarkation day.

Once you board your Royal Caribbean cruise, go to the main dining room in the afternoon to speak to the head waiter.

There should be a head waiter on duty in the main dining room for a few hours in the afternoon.  

Politely explain your request to the head waiter and ask if there is a way to be moved to the dining option you prefer.

In our experience, this fallback usually gets the job done.  Royal Caribbean wants their guests happy and the head waiters have a good sense of the guest dinner distribution.

More dining room tips

Check out these other helpful posts about dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Hopefully one of these two choices will get you the dining preference you really want!

First time cruisers: Making final payment

In:
21Sep2015

When the days until your next Royal Caribbean cruise start to tick down to the point where you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that means it is time to pay off your Royal Caribbean cruise in full.

Royal Caribbean requires guests pay the full fare by a certain point in advance of embarkation day. 

Guests only have to put a deposit down well in advance to reserve a stateroom and price but a good two months before your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will have to make a final payment.

When is payment due

Final payment for your cruise will due on a specific date prior to your cruise. The exact date depends on the length of your cruise:

  • Cruises over Christmas or New Years day: 90 days prior to sailing
  • 7+ night cruise: 75 days prior to sailing
  • 3-6 night cruise: 60 days prior to sailing

If you fail to make final payment on time, you risk jeopardizing your stateroom you reserved and the rate you had locked in.

How to make final payment

If you booked your Royal Caribbean cruise directly with Royal Caribbean, you can either call Royal Caribbean directly and give payment over the phone or you can log onto the Royal Caribbean web site and provide payment there.

If you booked through a travel agent, you can simply contact your travel agent and provide payment to them.  Some travel agents will require final payment a few days before final payment date because the agents want to make sure there are no slip ups.

How to make final payment easier

Let’s face it, no one likes having to lay out thousands of dollars at once because, well, most folks prefer to make smaller payments than a large lump sum.  Larger lump payments mean it is more of a hit on your family’s personal finances.

Make smaller payments

One option you have is to spread out payments between when you make a deposit and the cruise itself.

Royal Caribbean will allow guests to make payments of any amount in the interim period before final payment.  This will require some pro-active work on your part but it will mean less of a “big hit” once you have to pay the cruise. 

Guests may make payments of $500 or more online or call Royal Caribbean directly to make payments of less than $500.

Save money on your own

Another option if you would prefer to keep your money with you but avoid that “big hit”, is to stash the money in a “piggy bank” of sorts.

Many banks allow automatic transfers between accounts, so conceivably one could have a little bit of money stashed away at specific periods so when final payment date shows up, you are prepared.

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