First Time Cruisers

Ten commonly asked first time Royal Caribbean cruise questions

In:
08May2017

Are you about to go on your first Royal Caribbean cruise? If you answered yes, then very likely you have a lot of questions.  You might have questions about concepts that are completely new to you, or you simply want verification about what to expect.

We receive many questions from our readers about their first Royal Caribbean cruise, and here are answers to ten of the most common questions from first time cruisers.

How do I get the lowest price for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Everyone wants to save money on their vacation and get the best possible price, so the question most first timers have is how does one get a deal on their Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you were to ask veteran cruisers who have taken many Royal Caribbean cruises over the years how they get the lowest prices, they will tell you the key is to book a cruise as early as possible. In general, Royal Caribbean fares are the lowest when sailings first go on sale, and as the ship fills up with guests, prices tend to go up.

How early do you need to book? Ideally, booking anywhere from 12-24 months in advance is a great strategy.  Not everyone can plan that far ahead, but if you really want to lock in the best possible price, the best strategy is to book early and then re-price the cruise if new promotions come out that lower the price.  Check with Royal Caribbean what the rules/laws are that pertain to you and the country you reside in for the ability to re-price a booked cruise. North American residents have the ability to re-book and adjust prices with no penalty up until their final payment date.

The other secret to getting the lowest possible price on your cruise is to use a travel agent. Trust us.

What time can I arrive to the cruise?

When you complete the online check-in for your Royal Caribbean cruise, a boarding time will be assigned to you.  However, that time is more of a suggestion than a rule.

What that means is you can arrive to the cruise port earlier than the posted time.  In most cases, arriving before noon will ensure minimal waits at check-in and during boarding.

If you plan on arriving later, keep in mind what time you have to be onboard prior to the sailaway time.  Check with Royal Caribbean on the later boarding times, but plan on arriving earlier than that to ensure no delays.

When can I start booking shows, drink packages, or shore excursions for my cruise?

The simple answer is, it depends. There is no rule that applies to all sailings when these kinds of activities become available for booking. Based on our experience, here are some basic guidelines for when Royal Caribbean usually makes them available for guests to reserve.

Generally, they become available around 90 days, although they can show up earlier than that.

If you do not see any options available, keep checking back for updates.

Can I bring bottled water and/or soda to my cruise?

There are two answers to bringing non-alcoholic beverages onto your cruise: the official answer and the unofficial answer.

Royal Caribbean's rule about bringing bottled water, or any beverages, is simple: Guests are not allowed to bring beer, hard liquor, fortified wines or non-alcoholic beverages onboard for consumption or any other use on boarding day or while in port.

However, when it comes to bottled water and even soft drinks, we have rarely seen this rule enforced. Bottled water and cans of soda tend to be overlooked during the embarkation process. We cannot guarantee you will not have your water or soda confiscated, but if you feel very strongly about trying to bring bottled water with you, then we would recommend putting the bottled water in your carry on luggage and hoping for the best.

Can I bring wine on my cruise?

While Royal Caribbean prohibits guests from bringing beer, hard liquor, or fortified wines onboard, wine is allowed.

Guests wishing to bring personal wine and champagne onboard may do so only on boarding day, limited to two (2) 750 ml bottles per stateroom. Wine may be consumed in any shipboard restaurant, dining venue, or within the guests' stateroom.

Since October 2014, Royal Caribbean no longer charges a corkage fee for guests that bring their own wine.

What drinks and food are included with my cruise fare?

Guests will find plenty of complimentary food and drink available throughout the cruise. While there are some food and drink that come with an additional charge, there is lots provided at no additional charge.

For breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking times inbetween, there will often be a variety of options available at different venues. There are dining rooms and buffet options, as well as grab-and-go snacking stations throughout the ship. The Cruise Compass (Royal Caribbean's daily newspaper of events and happenings), will list times and locations for all dining options.

In terms of which beverages are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise, Royal Caribbean provides all its guests on all its cruise ships a variety of drinks throughout the day that are included in your cruise fare.

  • tap water
  • milk
  • tea
  • coffee (regular and decaf)
  • lemonade
  • iced tea
  • flavored waters juices (at breakfast and not fresh squeezed)
  • hot chocolate (via instant packets)

These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free.

What is formal night, when is it, and how dressed up do I need to be?

Formal night is an evening where the dress code at the main dining room is more upscale. For men, this means collared shirts with nice pants (tie and jacket optional) and for ladies, it is a nice cocktail dress, dress or something else similar.

A typical Royal Caribbean 7-night cruise will feature two formal nights, so be sure to pack accordingly. Keep in mind that formal night dress attire only applies to the main dining room and no where else on the ship.

The first formal night will usually be on the second night of the sailing, whereas the second formal night can vary between the fifth or sixth nights of a 7-night cruise. Shorter cruises (5-nights or less) will only have one formal night.  Cruises 14 nights or longer will have three formal nights.

If I buy a drink package, does the other adult in my stateroom also have to buy a drink package?

Yes, as of 2018, Royal Caribbean requires if one adult elects to purchase an unlimited alcohol package, all adults in the same stateroom must each buy a drink package.

What is the best way to communicate with other guests onboard (like my kids)?

Depending on the age of the people you want to stay in contact with and you/their budget, there are a few different options to allow for easy communication onboard.

Each stateroom has a phone that can be called from any other stateroom or public phone onboard.  If you are trying to reach a guest onboard the ship, you can make a call to their stateroom and optionally leave a message. Use of the phones for calls to a guest's stateroom is complimentary. Of course, it requires the guest to be in the room to answer the call and/or check the voicemail. This can result in "phone tag," where it seems like you are always missing each other.

Some guests opt to use their cell phones, although it is important to understand how to use cell phones on a cruise without racking up a very large bill. There are a variety of messaging apps that can be used with a Royal Caribbean internet package. Alternatively, text messaging may be simpler and more economical.

There are also some low-tech options, such as walkie-talkies or leaving notes on the stateroom door of the person you are trying to contact.

How do I make a dietary restriction/request?

Whether you have a dietary restriction or just a special request with your meals, you will want to make dietary requests up front.

Royal Caribbean can accommodate dietary needs such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

In additional, vegetarian meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room.  Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available no extra charge. All you have to do is notify Royal Caribbean at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

You may also send an e-mail request to special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It's best to make requests like this at least 90 days in advance of your sailing.

If you forget to make the request in advance, you can always speak to the head waiter in the main dining room. These requests can be for a table or dining rotation change, dietary request or anything else special you want to make certain is covered.

First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

In:
31Jan2017

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is among the cruise line's most popular, and well-known cruise ships.  She debuted in 2009 and remains one of the largest cruise ships in the world, with a wealth of activities and entertainment onboard.  Frankly, it is a floating destination that offers so much and for someone new to Royal Caribbean, or just new to Oasis of the Seas, there can be a lot to consider.

Despite the fact Oasis of the Seas is a rather large cruise ship, it is best to paraphrase Yoda and remember not to judge anything by its size. The ship is large, but believe it or not, very manageable for a first time guest and even more fun.

Anyone considering a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas will want to consider this planning guide for an optimal first time experience.  Let us jump in and get started!

Overview of Oasis of the Seas

Looking at Oasis of the Seas, it is easy to notice how large of a cruise ship she is.  When Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2009, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. In the years since, she has been eclipsed barely by her sister ships, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.  Despite losing the title of largest in the world, seeing Oasis of the Seas in person will reinforce the notion of how large the ship is.

The good news is despite her imposing stature, Royal Caribbean spent a lot of time coming up with a means of making the ship easy to navigate. The last thing the cruise line wanted was to have a cruise ship that is super big and super crowded.  As a result, Royal Caribbean broke up the ship into several themed areas, known as "neighborhoods."  These distinct areas of the ship serve as visual cues to where you are and it's important to know about them so you can more easily get to wherever you are going.

The Oasis of the Seas neighborhoods are

  1. Central Park
  2. The Pool and Sports Zone
  3. Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
  4. Boardwalk
  5. Royal Promenade
  6. Youth Zone
  7. Entertainment Place

When talking about size, a common concern is if the ship gets and/or feels crowded. The good news is while it might seem like a ship this size must have crowding issues, Royal Caribbean spent a lot of time working on strategies to make the ship feel quiet. The neighborhoods help with the flow of crowds, and the ship's reservation system integrates tightly with the dining and show management to control crowds.  Lines can occur on any cruise ship, but they are rarely awful. 

TOP 10 OASIS OF THE SEAS HIDDEN SECRETS

A good strategy for getting your bearings on Oasis of the Seas is to walk around and explore the ship as early in the cruise as you can.  There is a lot to see and do on Oasis of the Seas, and walking around the ship will quickly provide a good understanding of where things are relative to each other, plus there is a lot of great things to discover. Art, activities, live music, decor and more are found in all the neighborhoods.

Oasis of the Seas Dining and Restaurants

With the great size of Oasis of the Seas comes a lot of dining choices.  Royal Caribbean wanted to ensure there was plenty of options for guests to choose from, as well as a good variety of culinary choices. Guests will find the various eateries onboard fall into one of two categories: complimentary and specialty.

Complimentary dining options are included with your cruise fare and guests can enjoy as much food as they like from these locations.  There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The alternative dining option are specialty dining, in which there is an additional cost to dine there.  Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

A very common concern among new cruisers is how important is specialty dining and how good or bad is the complimentary food.  We often hear from readers who are concerned they will be forced to pay for food while onboard their cruise.  The fact of the matter is there is plenty of good complimentary food available on Oasis of the Seas.  One can easily go their entire cruise and never spend a dime on specialty dining and have a fulfilling and tasty dining experience on Oasis of the Seas.  Specialty dining is an option for guests who want something more than what is offered in the complimentary dining, with an emphasis on certain foods that are otherwise unavailable all the time. Think of specialty dining like you would going out for dinner versus staying home and cooking something.  You would be perfectly content with a home-cooked meal, but going out for dinner is a nice treat that comes with a higher cost. 

In short, you do not have to go to any specialty restaurants while on Oasis of the Seas, but we feel it is a good idea to give a couple of specialty restaurants a try.  Royal Caribbean put a great deal of emphasis on its specialty dining options and enjoying a specialty restaurant or two will likely not "break the bank," and can really enhance your cruise experience.

Here is a good overview of the complimentary and specialty dining options you will have to enjoy

Complimentary dining

  • Windjammer
  • Park Cafe
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Solarium Bistro (breakfast and lunch only)
  • Wipeout Cafe
  • Sorrento's
  • Cafe Promenade
  • Room Service
  • Main Dining Room
  • Johnny Rockets (breakfast only)

Specialty dining

Most guests spend a majority of their dining time at the Windjammer buffet, main dining room and smaller venues like Park Cafe or Cafe Promenade. Those four options can provide meals throughout the day, and represent the most most popular options with a good variety of food.

It is hard to go wrong with any of the specialty dining, but we recommend first timers check out Chops Grille, Sabor and the Izumi Hibachi for great experiences.

Activities on Oasis of the Seas

If you thought there was a lot to dining choices on Oasis of the Seas, wait until you discover all the things to do onboard.

Oasis of the Seas can feel like a floating city with all the activities onboard.  The ship bustles with planned events, swimming pools, sports, shows and plenty more.  Your guide to knowing what is going on and when is the Cruise Compass.  Every Royal Caribbean ship offers a daily Cruise Compass, which is part newspaper and part TV Guide.  It documents everything happening during that day, and it is a must-read for any guest onboard.  A copy of the Cruise Compass will be delivered to your stateroom each evening by your stateroom attendant.

Shows

Without a doubt, the premier entertainment on Oasis of the Seas are the shows.  Included in your cruise fare are the amazing shows Royal Caribbean has put together that have a New York or Las Vegas feel to them.  Even if you aren't "a show person", Royal Caribbean puts on some impressive entertainment that caters to a lot of tastes. You will find Broadway shows, ice skating, water shows and a whole lot more offered onboard and all of these shows are included in your cruise fare.

Guests can enjoy one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, Cats, in the Royal Theater. This is the full Broadway production, complete with intermission. In addition, the original Royal Caribbean production show, "Come Fly With Me" is also shown in the Royal Theater, along with other headliner acts.

In the Studio B ice rink, guests will find the ice skating performance of, "Frozen in Time."

The outdoor Aqua Theater features the dining show, "Oasis of Dreams."

When planning your cruise, be sure to carve out time for these shows.  The performances in the Royal Theater and AquaTheater are must-see events, and the ice skating show is very good as well.  Considering there is no additional cost to see these shows, you will want to check them out because Royal Caribbean has put a lot of energy and talent into the performances.

One important tip if you are new to cruising is on Oasis class ships you can book your entertainment in advance from the comfort of home.

Select shows offer the ability to book reservations in advance via Royal Caribbean's web site.  There is no cost to do this, and we recommend booking any entertainment you can in advance to avoid lines at show time.

All you have to do is go to My Cruises and then log in (register an account if you have not done so already).  Then find your cruise reservation and go to the Cruise Planner.  A few clicks later and you should be able to reserve your entertainment.

Keep in mind that reservations for entertainment is usually available for booking 64-60 days in advance of your cruise.  Check our planning timeline for more information on when things like entertainment can be reserved.

Pools

The Pool and Sports Zone is the area of the ship with plenty of outdoor space and a good variety of pools and swimming options. Oasis of the Seas has 4 separate pool areas. All pools are located on Deck 15 and are salt water.

  • Solarium: Adults only (age 16 and over) pool area with two cantilevered whirlpool hot tubs, which extend 12 feet from either side of the ship.
  • Sports pool: area for playing pool games such as synchronized swimming and volleyball. The sports pools area may have designated times for swimming laps.
  • Beach pool: Themed area that is supposed to look like a beach
  • H2O Zone: interactive kids aqua park, where kids and their families can enjoy geysers, sculpted fountains, and waterfalls.

For parents with young children that are still wearing diapers, there is a designated baby and infant splash pool, designed specially for them.  Children wearing diapers are not allowed in any other pools.

Unless otherwise posted, there will always be pool and whirlpool hot tubs open 24 hours a day. Pools will be closed occasionally when they need to be cleaned as well if weather or sea conditions make the pools unsafe for swimming.

The pools tend to also be a hub of activities, with lots of events held in or around them during the day.  In fact, during the day, a vast majority of events happen in the pool area.  Royal Caribbean is a huge proponent of live music and you can often enjoy bands playing music at the main pool throughout the day.   These bands will play reggae, classic rock and even contemporary hits.  For fans of live music, sitting by the pool and enjoying music is perfect.

If you consult your Cruise Compass, you will find a number of activities happening at the main pool.  Exact activities differ depending on your ship and sailing but here are some common ones 

  • Belly flop competition
  • World's sexiest man competition
  • Scuba classes
  • Fitness classes
  • Poolside bingo
  • Dance classes
  • Poolside movies

When going up to the pools, be sure to stop by the towel station to pick up as many towels you may need during your time there.  Complimentary pool towels are provided for guests near the main pool and can be returned when convenient.

Signature Activities

Oasis of the Seas was designed with impressive onboard activities, including a few things to do that are unique to Royal Caribbean. Oasis of the Seas has plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as bingo, trivia, demonstrations and more, but the ship is known for some noticeable activities that are as fun as they are intriguing to watch. Plus, they are complimentary to enjoy.

  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Zip line across 82-foot distance that is nine decks up
  • Ice skating rink
  • Two 43-foot rock climbing walls
  • Mini golf course
  • Full-sized basketball court
  • 3D movie theater

All of these activities are available for guests to enjoy for most of the day. There will be posted hours in the Cruise Compass and plenty of opportunity to experience once or many times.

Staterooms

Choosing your stateroom for Oasis of the Seas involves a lot of choices.  There are traditional cabins categories, as well as a few new categories that blend categories together. Depending on your budget, family size and preferences, there are quite a few options to consider.

Like all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas cabins fall into four distinct categories.

  • Interior rooms
  • Oceanview rooms
  • Balcony rooms
  • Suites

The price for any of these rooms will depend on factors, such as time of year, demand for rooms on the particular sailing, and how many guests in each room. You can refer to our guide to choosing a stateroom for more information on the basics, although there are some special room types worth discussing.

Boardwalk and Central Park balcony

When you hear about a stateroom with a balcony, you are probably envisioning a view of the ocean but Oasis of the Seas introduced cabins that have balconies that overlook two of their most popular neighborhoods: Central Park and the Boardwalk.  Both offer great views of their respective areas and they can be just as fun as an ocean balcony given the beautifully decorated areas.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has begun a new program in November 2016, where guests that book neighborhood balcony rooms receive certain benefits.  The new EAT • DRINK • PLAY complimentary amenities offer guests in Boardwalk balcony staterooms

  • Complimentary meal for four at Johnny Rockets.
  • Complimentary Royal Refreshment soda package for two guests.
  • Exclusive rock climbing wall experience for the entire family.

The new EAT • DRINK • PLAY complimentary amenities offer guests in Central Park balcony staterooms

  • Complimentary lunch for two at Giovanni's Table.
  • Complimentary bottle of red wine in your stateroom.
  • Private casino gaming lessons from an onboard expert.

One common question about these balconies is noise, since other passengers will be who you can see and hear from your balcony.  Generally speaking the noise factor is not a consideration and we would recommend trying either type of neighborhood stateroom.

Loft Suites

Among the different suites available are loft suites, which are an Oasis class option that come with two floors of living space, in addition to a large balcony.

The two floors break up the room and offer an unique option for guests that want something more than a traditional suite experience.  It offers a lot of space for a small footprint and are part of the revamped suite program that Royal Caribbean unveiled in 2016, known as the Royal Suite class.

Kids programming

If you are bringing kids with you on your Oasis of the Seas cruise, they will have lots to do onboard. Royal Caribbean re-invented its award-winning Adventure Ocean program to offer one of the largest kids areas at sea.

Adventure Ocean is divided into three age-appropriate groups

  • Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5)
  • Explorers (ages 6 to 8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)
  • Royal Babies and Tots nursery (ages 6 to 36 months)

Children must be registered and fully toilet trained to take part in activities. There are dedicated spaces for each age group, plus specialized areas like science labs and a theater for enhanced programming.  Plus, Royal Caribbean has partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer the DreamWorks Experience, which has character meet-n-greets throughout the ship, parades, movies and integration into the Adventure Ocean programming.

Adventure Ocean is open most of the day, but their hours vary depending on if it is a port day or sea day.  On Sea days, Adventure Ocean can open as early as 6:30am.  Guests that have Royal Caribbean excursions booked and need to drop their children off earlier, can arrange with Adventure Ocean for that benefit.  For lunch, kids are brought to Wipe Out Cafe or Windjammer between noon and 1pm, and then again to the Windjammer for dinner between 5pm and 7pm. Adventure Ocean programming is included with your cruise fare.

The nursery operates with similar hours to Adventure Ocean, although there is an hourly charge for nursery services.  The hourly rate depends on if it is daytime or nighttime.

Adventure Ocean closes at 10pm, but parents can leave their children with Adventure Ocean until 2am for an hourly fee.  The Late Night Party Zone runs from 10pm to 2am in Adventure Ocean, and is billed at $7 per hour, per child for children who remain after 10pm.

Tweens and teenagers also have their own club, plus a variety of activities onboard such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line. Teens meet at the Living Room, on Deck 15 aft and also have exclusive access to their own night club, known as Fuel on deck 15. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.

Royal Caribbean offers daily programming for teens, with their choice of as little or as much as they want to do.  This includes things like teens-only FlowRider time, speed climbing on the rock wall, prom night, glow in the dark party, teens-only ice skating and more.

Embarkation day plan

When it is time to get onboard Oasis of the Seas, be prepared for the start of an amazing vacation experience. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to do on your first day, here are some good ideas for tackling day one on Oasis of the Seas.

1. Arrive early

If you read the Royal Caribbean documentation, there is a fairly large window of time you can arrive to the ship, but ideally plan to arrive early to check-in.  Your best bet is to arrive before noon for check-in.  If you can, try for check-in in the 10:00am hour, to ensure you are among the first to board the ship.

2. Have lunch first

Once onboard, grab something to eat before everyone else has the same thought. The Windjammer buffet will offer the most variety, but it can easily get crowded there.  If you board Oasis of the Seas early, crowds will not be an issue, but if you find lines, consider alternative options that have great food without the lines.  Park Cafe in Central Park and Wipe Out Cafe on Deck 15 are great choices.  

If you do not mind spending some money, Sabor and Giovanni's Table are open for lunch and will ensure a very tasty start to your cruise vacation.

3. Walk and explore

With food in your belly, if your staterooms are not open yet, take the opportunity to start walking the ship.  Oasis of the Seas is a large ship, and there is lots to see, so walk around to get an idea of where things are located. 

Exploring Central Park, the Boardwalk or the pool decks area great starting points. Do not force yourself to try to "see it all" on day one.  You do not want to burn yourself out with running around the ship on day one, so focus on areas that appeal to you and branch out from there.

4. Staterooms open usually at 1pm

On most sailings, your staterooms will open at 1pm, which is an opportunity to drop off any belongings you brought with you in your carry-on items.  It is also the first chance to check out your home for the duration of your cruise.

While in your room, check to see everything is operating correctly and that you can operate the in-room safe, as this is your dedicated spot to store valuables and you want to make sure this is working correctly and you know how to operate it.  If anything is not working, or you are unsure how to operate something, contact housekeeping or maintenance immediately to have it taken care of quickly.

5. Go for a swim

Did you know the pools, FlowRider and H2O Zone are open on embarkation day? Take advantage of the low crowds in these areas by going for a swim. After a long morning of getting to this point, a dip in the pool can be a great idea.

By far the least crowded time at the pool will be embarkation day because most guests have their swimsuits in their luggage, which is in the process of being delivered to their staterooms.

If you bring your swim suits with you (or wear them before you get onboard), then head to the pool and enjoy uncrowded pool time. 

6. Go to any specialty restaurant for reservations

If you have not made dining reservations prior to your cruise, your first day is the best time to make a reservation onboard.  Popular days, like formal nights and holidays, will see specialty restaurants book up quickly, so if you are interested in dining at any of them, make your reservations sooner than later.

Guest Services typically has lines on embarkation day, so instead, you can go to any specialty restaurant and make reservations for that and any other specialty restaurant.  Their booking systems are linked, and that means no need to go to each restaurant individually (unless you want to).  

7. Find a spot for sailaway

A very common choice is the sailaway party, which is usually held at the pool deck. There will be music, dancing and a whole lot of celebrating with the ship's activities staff.  If you want something quieter, consider finding a spot near a railing that overlooks the port area. A hidden spot for sailaway are the wing viewing areas, located on deck 14 near the Solarium. 

If you are staying in a stateroom that has a private balcony, it is hard to beat that kind of a spot for sailaway.  Grab some drinks from the bar and bring it down to your stateroom to enjoy on the balcony. After all, having a balcony stateroom means you do not have to compete with anyone for a spot (except perhaps your kids).

How to cancel and rebook pre-cruise purchases on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner

In:
29Oct2016

You might have read the news earlier this weekend that Royal Caribbean is offering discounts on select drink packages, internet packages, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and more, which has you thinking if this new promotion can save you some (more) money. But what if you had already purchased an internet package and now the price is cheaper?  Here is your guide to canceling and rebooking with Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner!

The good news is, anything you purchase via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner is fully refundable up to two days before your cruise is set to begin.  If you cancel the item, the value will be refunded back to the form of payment that was originally used within 3-4 business days.  This means, if you are debating if you want to buy something from the Cruise Planner, but have not made up your mind, you can lock in these prices and still have time to cancel with no penalty.

You can still cancel one of these items onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, but be aware that the refund will come back in the form of onboard credit, instead of back to your credit card.

How to rebook something you bought in the Cruise Planner

If you find there is a better price for a package, service or experience and want to take advantage of that lower price, here is what you have to do.

1. Log into your Royal Caribbean account and proceed to the Cruise Planner for the sailing you have in mind.

2. At the top right corner of the pick, click Order History.  You will want to cancel the item you bought first, and then re-book it later.

3. Once at the Order History page, you will be able to see everything you have reserved or purchased for your cruise.  From here, find the item you want to cancel and click cancel.

4. Follow the next few steps to confirm the cancelation.  You should find yourself at a screen that displays a confirmation message with the exact refund to the form of payment used.  As stated earlier, it may take a few business days for the refund to be made.

5. Now that you have canceled the original purchase, you can proceed with re-purchasing the item at its lower price.

How to rebook something you bought via the phone

Alternatively, you can call Royal Caribbean directly and have them cancel and/or re-purchase the items to take advantage of the new price. Find the Royal Caribbean customer service number in your country and then work with the agent to make the change.

We recommend using the Cruise Planner because it is quite simple, and will end up being quicker than dealing with phone hold times and repeating to the agent all of your booking information and billing details.

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's SeaPass card

In:
03Sep2016

One of the first events on every Royal Caribbean cruise is when guests get their SeaPass card to use onboard their cruise. Every guest must use one and it is your figurative and literal key to your cruise experience and here is what you need to know about your SeaPass card and account.

SeaPass basics

When you hear the word, "SeaPass," it refers to your onboard expense account that is a lot like a credit card account, where all of your onboard purchases are charged against.  Since Royal Caribbean ships are cashless, your SeaPass card is how you make purchases, gain access to designated areas of the ship and identify yourself to Royal Caribbean easily.

Each person on the ship (including kids) will receive a SeaPass card with their information stored in the account. At embarkation, you will put down a credit card (American Express, Optima, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club) to place against your purchases.  At the end of your cruise, all of your purchases are added up and charged to that credit card.

Royal Caribbean also allows you to use traveler's checks, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo, or cash to activate your SeaPass charging.

Once onboard your ship, you can use the SeaPass card to do things like

  • Get into your stateroom
  • Make onboard purchases
  • Check-in when returning back to the ship in ports
  • Accessing your onboard photos

Your SeaPass card is something to bring with you anywhere you go onboard or onshore. 

Making purchases

Using your SeaPass card to make purchases online is pretty simple and identical to using a credit card. Present your SeaPass card to a Royal Caribbean crew member and they will swipe it, provide you with a receipt to sign and that is about it.

A running tab of all your purchases will be kept under separate folio numbers for each guest and an itemized statement left in your stateroom the night before disembarkation.

Normally to activate this SeaPass account, most guests provide a credit card, (American Express, Optima, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club), to have these purchases charged to at the end of their cruise. Additionally, the SeaPass system may be activated with traveler's checks, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo, or cash.

Onboard credit

Often, guests have onboard credit from a variety of channels. This onboard credit is effectively free money that is credited to your SeaPass account that will offset purchases made onboard.

If you have any onboard credit, it will automatically post to your SeaPass account on the first night of your cruise.  All charges you make your SeaPass card are first deducted from your onboard credit before you start accruing a tab.

You cannot designate certain charges to go against your onboard credit in lieu of others. Rather, it's a first charged, first debted system.

Kids

Children receive a SeaPass card too and they are essentially no different from an adult account, although there can be differences if you would like.

Minors receive SeaPass cards that have a different design to easily identify them to any crew member. 

In addition, parents can opt to revoke charging privileges completely or give a daily limit.

First time cruisers: The most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Aug2016

Whether you are new to cruising or not, what to pack (and not pack) can be quite a challenge.  Inevitably, the question boils down to what is essential to pack for a cruise and this blog post should assist in providing a guide of must-pack items.

There are tons of cruise packing guides available on the internet, but I sought to compile a packing list of things that pretty much everyone needs.  This packing list is about the basics that should be in almost everyone's luggage. Of course, there might be an item or two on this list that does not apply to you, and there will be plenty more that you think you should bring, but we wanted to include the basics.

If you are wondering what to pack for a Royal Caribbean cruise, then here is what you need to know.

Travel documents

These items are the most critical things to pack, because without them, you are not getting on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  You could forget to pack everything else on this list, but all of that can be bought, whereas these items are not so easily replaceable.

You might notice we only listed passport and not a birth certificate, and that is because I firmly believe you ought to invest in a passport to safeguard you and your family in the event of a travel emergency.  While you can cruise on some Royal Caribbean cruises with just a birth certificate, a passport is a far better option and it is worth the extra investment.

  • Passport
  • SetSail Pass
  • Credit card
  • Travel insurance documentation (if purchased)
  • Cash in the form of small bills for tipping

Clothing

It is self-explanatory that you will need to bring clothing on your cruise to have for each day.  How much clothing one person goes through on a cruise will vary, but this should be the basics.

The most difficult decision for this list was how many outfits per day to pack.  Depending on your activities, you will be changing during your day a few times.  If it is a sea day, you might wake up and put on your bathing suit, change in the afternoon into regular clothes and then change again for dinner.  Port days, you might put on one outfit for your adventure on shore and then change into something else when you return and again for dinner.  Or you might just wear one outfit the entire day.  Everyone's habits are different.  Still, I felt most guests will wear 2-3 outfits per day.

  • Couple of swimsuits per person (at least two)
  • Water shoes
  • 2-3 outfits per day of your cruise
  • 3-6 outfits for evenings on a 7-night cruise
  • Sunglasses
  • Sweater or wrap for when it is cold indoors

Toiletries

Like clothing, you may end up packing much more than is on this list, but there are likely to be some basics to bring with you to ensure you have what you need to get through your cruise without any issues.

  • Prescription medicines
  • First aid kit
    • Fever reducer medicine
    • Anti-diarrheal medicine
    • Band-aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra contacts/glasses
  • Deodorant
  • Hair conditioner and/or shampoo
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Accessories

Arguably, this is the toughest category of packing to plan for, because there are things on this list that may depend on your definition of "important."  I think enough people pack these items to warrant bringing them on the cruise with you and they are ubiquitous enough among cruise guests.

  • Electric strip (no surge protectors)
  • Highlighter for the Cruise Compass
  • Camera (your phone may double as this)
    • Extra memory cards for the camera
  • Chargers for electronic devices (phones, cameras, laptops, iPads)
  • Small bag for excursions

Your thoughts

This is not a total packing list, just a listing of the most important things you should pack on a cruise that apply to pretty much everyone.  Do you think we missed something?  Or is there something on this list that you think should be bolded, circled and posted on highway billboards because it is that important? Share your suggestions in the comments!

First time cruisers: What clothing do I wear on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
13Aug2016

What to wear on your Royal Caribbean cruise seems to be a question we get a lot because no one wants to do the wrong thing.  Cruising has changed a lot over the years, but some traditions of dress codes remain to this day.

Before you go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, here is a handy guide to help you understand what cruise clothing you should wear onboard.

Cruise clothing for embarkation day

The first day of your cruise is a bit of an odd day, with guests arriving onboard and getting acclimated to their new home.  Moreover, luggage deliveries to staterooms can take a bit of time, so not all guests have access to all of their belongings throughout the day.

Nearly all guests will arrive to their Royal Caribbean ship wearing something comfortable and relaxing.  Depending on the weather conditions at the embarkation port, you will find most guests with t-shirts, shorts/jeans, etc.

While Royal Caribbean offers guests the option to check their luggage and have it delivered later to their stateroom, you might consider retaining a day bag that has a change of clothes, swimsuit, work out clothes and anything else you might need between when you board the ship and when your luggage will actually be delivered.  This is especially important for kids, because the pools will be open on embarkation day, but swim suits packed away in checked luggage could lead to disappointment.

Cruise clothing during the day

During the morning and afternoon, there is no dress code and your itinerary will largely dictate what you should wear onboard.

Caribbean, Mediterranean and other warm-weather cruises will see a mix of t-shirts, shorts, blouses, bathing suits and whatever else is comfortable.  Since much of the activities and things to do onboard your ship are outdoors, a vast majority of guests will be dressed for a pool day, and swim suits and associated clothing are quite prevalent.

Cruises to cold weather destinations will see guests wearing heavier clothing, including jeans, sweaters, lounge wear and more. Depending on the season and destination, layering your clothes is common, where t-shirts are worn underneath sweaters to allow for greater flexibility with the changing temperatures.

If you are planning to visit the fitness center, be sure to bring extra shorts, t-shirts, socks and running shoes/sneakers to work out in.

The reality is, there are no guidelines about what you wear during the day on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Restaurants retain some basic dress guidelines, including a casual dress code in specialty restaurants and the main dining room.  Quick service venues, such as the Windjammer, Cafe Promenade and other grab-and-go locations have just basic guidelines when it comes to dress code, such as shoes and a shirt.

Cruise clothing in the evening

During the dinner hours, Royal Caribbean does have a dress code for its main dining room.  The dress code is only for the dining room, and outside that venue, there is no special dress code .

When people hear dress codes, it causes a great deal of anxiety about what is and what is not allowed.  It is a complicated issue because "appropriate" attire for each dress code will depend on the interpretation of the rules.  Royal Caribbean tends to be a bit ambiguous about its dress code rules, especially when it comes to enforcing them. In practice, Royal Caribbean's dress code is more a guideline that can be used as an enforcement tool, but is not frequently administered to all guests.

There are three basic dress codes Royal Caribbean uses.  We will list each one, along with what Royal Caribbean lists as suggested dress for each one.

  • Casual: Sport shirts and slacks for men, sundresses or pants for women. Pants should have no holes, rips or tears.
  • Smart Casual: Jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women.
  • Formal: Suits and ties or tuxedos for men (black tie is optional), cocktail dresses or pantsuit for women

Swimsuits, robes, bare feet, tank tops, baseball caps and pool wear are not allowed in the main restaurants or specialty restaurants. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are acceptable for lunch.

Formal night

Despite the name, formal night is not nearly as fancy as you might think.  Formal night is certainly the most dressed up evening attire required on your Royal Caribbean cruise, but it is not as ornate as you might imagine.

Evening wear for formal night will vary, and you will see some guests wearing tuxedoes and gowns.  It is our opinion that most guests tend to dress a bit less fancy than that, with men wearing suits or sports coats and women wearing cocktail dresses.  Essentially, it is clothing that is a bit nicer than you might wear on other nights of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean does provide a tuxedo rental option, which can save on packing space.

If the idea of formal night really bothers you and you, the good news is you absolutely do not have to get dressed up on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  The formal night dress code is only for the main dining room and specialty restaurants, so anywhere else on the ship is fair game for shorts, flip flops and tank tops.  The Windjammer and other quick service venues will be open and without any formal wear.

Cruise clothing for kids

Children on a Royal Caribbean cruise will follow similar patterns to adults in terms of what they wear.  During the day onboard and onshore, it will be casual for kids, so nothing really important to worry about.  Just something they will be comfortable wearing.

In the evening, the dress code for children is the same for adults. There tends to be more leeway in terms of the degree of formality for children's clothing, but at the same time children are expected to be dressed up more than what they would wear during the daytime. The exception would be infants.

For boys, polo shirts and nice pants will suffice for most evenings and girls can wear dresses, skirts and sweaters.

First time cruisers: Can I get a table for two people in the main dining room on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
06Aug2016

Royal Caribbean's main dining room is elegant, sophisticated and serves guests some amazing food.  It is a staple of the cruise experience, but some guests do not love the idea of sitting with other guests at the same table.

Whether you prefer some time alone at dinner, or just would prefer to sit at your own table, there are some options for getting a table for two on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you are in My Time Dining, tables for two are generally easy to get.  If you do not arrange anything in advance, simply go up to the My Time Dining reservations table and when you make your dinner reservation, simply ask then for a table for two. It shouldn't be a problem, even if you don't have a reservation, although if it's a peak period, you might have to wait about 15 minutes.

If you are in traditional dining, when you make your initial cruise reservation, you can request a table for two.  You also send an email to rcldining@rccl.com about 2-3 weeks prior to your sailing with your request.  This strategy usually works for most folks. 

Once onboard the ship, you can still make the request.  On embarkation day, go to the main dining room and speak to the head waiter and ask for a table for two.  They are usually quite accommodating.  

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