Planning

Things not to worry about on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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12Jun2017

Many first time cruisers have concerns about what a Royal Caribbean cruise is all about, and what it entails.  There is certainly a fair amount of pre-trip planning that can be beneficial to improving a trip, but there are also a few aspects of cruise planning that one should not concern themselves with prior to sailing.

Here are five parts of any Royal Caribbean cruise that you should not worry about before getting onboard.

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.

Let us be clear, 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.

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.

Hurricanes

Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs between June 1 - November 30, and poses a significant threat each year to people all around North America. Despite the ferocity of hurricanes, a Royal Caribbean cruise is a very safe vacation choice, even if there is a possible hurricane.

First and foremost, Royal Caribbean sends its ships well out of the path of known storms. While hurricane forecasting is not always precise, once a storm forms, it will affect a certain region of the Caribbean or Atlantic, and Royal Caribbean makes proper plans to alternate itineraries when necessary to steer clear of these storms. The cruise line wants its guests and crew to remain safe, its equipment out of harms way, and maintain a high level of guest satisfaction.  So changing from an Eastern to a Western itinerary or dropping a scheduled port stop is an easy to achieve that.

First time cruisers should also be aware that bad weather can happen throughout the year, and storms occur outside of hurricane season too. In addition, no one can control the weather or with any definitive knowledge tell you any sailing will be free of weather concerns.  Your best bet is to book a sailing that works for you, and have trust in the cruise line and the ship's crew to provide an excellent vacation experience, rain or shine.

Handing out gratuities

In years past, one responsibility of guests were to hand out gratuities to crew members onboard.  Not only was this time consuming, it was awkward.  These days, Royal Caribbean has simplified the whole process with automatic gratuities.

Each day of your cruise, guests are charged an automatic gratuity that goes towards their dining room staff and stateroom attendant.  Onboard purchases at bars, restaurants and lounges also include an automatic gratuity to simplify things as well.

Guests have the option of pre-paying their gratuities before the cruise to help break up the cost of the cruise.

All of this means guests can focus on enjoying their vacation, rather than having to be concerned with who gets what tip and for how much.

Having enough to do onboard

When someone who loves going on a cruise tries to encourage a friend or colleague to try a cruise, all too often they will hear a response of, "I'm worried there won't be enough to do," or even worse, "I think I would be bored."

These sort of statements will likely give a cruise fan a good chuckle, because they know a Royal Caribbean cruise is anything but mundane or boring.  In short, there is so much happening onboard that the most likely result will there being too much to do, rather than not enough.

Royal Caribbean designs its cruise ships to be a destination, with lots of activities, dining, shows and more.  Between the ports your ship will visit and the seemingly non-stop options listed in the ship's Cruise Compass, there is plenty to choose from.

Of course, all the activities and events onboard are optional, which means you can do as much or as little as you like.  Most guests prefer to sprinkle in activities alongside old fashioned relaxing.

Being hungry

There is so much food available throughout the day and night on a Royal Caribbean cruise that being concerned with there not being enough to eat is one less thing to worry about.

On a Royal Caribbean ship, guests will find a lot of food included in their cruise fare, along with specialty dining options that augment the standard fare.

Complimentary food is available for all meals, and time inbetween. Simply put, there is plenty of great food included in the cost of your Royal Caribbean cruise. One can easily go an entire food and enjoy nothing but food that has no additional cost from morning to night. After all, that is what the concept of a cruise has been for a long time.

In addition to all the food that is included in your cruise fare are specialty dining options, that carry with it an extra cost to enjoy the food there. The exact amount extra will vary from restaurant to restaurant, and ship to ship.

In most cases, the specialty dining options offer a greater variety of food choices than what is available at complimentary dining locations. Royal Caribbean has designed its specialty restaurants around themes or cuisines (Italian, steakhouse, sushi, etc).

6 things you may not have tried on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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07Jun2017

A Royal Caribbean cruise is the kind of vacation experience where fond memories are made. We all have our favorite restaurants, spots onboard, and entertainment to experience, but why not try something new the next time you go? Here are a few out-of-the-box experiences you may not have tried yet.

Izumi Hibachi

On Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, Izumi has expanded to also offer a Hibachi experience where guests can enjoy Teppan-style dining. Izumi's Hibachi option is as much about the experience as it is about the food.

Izumi's chefs cook the food in front of guests surrounding a cooking table. If you have never done hibachi, it is a must-do and if you have, then you need to check out the great food (and show) Izumi offers.

Labadee cabana

Sometimes you just have to pamper yourself, and staying in a cabana at Labadee is the perfect way to do just that.

Labadee is Royal Caribbean's private destination, and while just sitting at the beach is a perfectly good way to spend your day there, renting a cabana makes the visit extra special. A cabana is your own private space that can accommodate up to six guests. Each cabana is equipped with two lounge chairs and a large seating area inside the cabana. A cabana attendant is also assigned to you, who can assist you with any requests you may have. Cabana guest also get to enjoy complimentary bottles of water (in a cooler), two floating beach mats, snorkeling gear and towels.

Cabanas are available for rent at Barefoot Beach and Nellie's Beach, and can be reserved before the cruise and during the sailing.

See the Quest

Have you heard about a game on Royal Caribbean ships called The Quest?

The Quest is an adults-only scavenger hunt that is big on laughs, friendly joking and competition.  When someone asks what the Quest is exactly, it is never easy to answer except to say, "you have to see it for yourself."

The Quest is an unique Royal Caribbean show that involves guests either actively participating in teams or watching the action.  You do not have to participate, but it is worth seeing for yourself at least once for the spectacle that is this show.

The Quest is an adult-oriented show, so the kids will have to grow up before checking this one off their list.

Get your hair styled at the salon

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa is best known for the wonderful massages and treatments, but it also features a high-end spa, that is the perfect place to have someone make you look a little extra special.

Whether for formal night, or just a fun evening out, you can make an appointment to have your hair cut, treated or just styled.  Men can get a shave or hair cut as well.

Be sure to make a reservation early, because spots tend to go quite quickly (especially for formal night).

Take a repositioning cruise

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise that embarks at one port, but disembarks at another port at the conclusion of the cruise is a very different, and rewarding experience.

Each season, Royal Caribbean offers repositioning cruises that take ships between continents.  Not only is a repositioning cruise longer than most other sailings, but they offer the opportunity to visit ports of call not normally included in a Royal Caribbean itinerary.  Plus, there is lots of time to enjoy what the cruise ship has to offer with the bonus sea days.

Take a behind the scenes tour

Royal Caribbean now offers fairly regularly a behind the scenes tour for guests to reserve, which will bring guests to many areas not normally accessible.

These tours include visits to the ship's bridge, galley, engine room and more.  It is the only means of seeing these off-limits areas, as well as extremely interesting to see how a Royal Caribbean ship operates.

Check your Cruise Planner for something called the "All Access Tour".

Your thoughts

Which of these activities have you tried before?  Any you think should be included in this list?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Last minute Royal Caribbean cruise trip planning

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05Jun2017

Imagine this: You are sitting at home or work, looking around you and realizing that you have reached a point of needing a break from this. Surely you have earned a little break, and a Royal Caribbean cruise seems like the perfect way to escape the day to day doldrums that you are actively lamenting. Some sun, beach and a few trips to the Windjammer sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  The only problem is, you do not want to wait 6 months or more for a cruise.  You want one now!

Taking a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise may sound a little crazy, but it is doable. Sometimes folks encounter a scenario like we just described, or sometimes they just take advantage of cruises sailing soon as an excuse to get away.  While we advocate planning your Royal Caribbean cruise as far in advance as possible, taking a last minute cruise is doable, but you need to plan accordingly in a short(er) span of time.

Here is what you will need to get in order, what to expect, and how you can make the most of a last minute cruise.

Cruise Fare

Any last minute cruise is going to require purchasing cruise fare, and that means finding a ship, itinerary, stateroom and price that works for you.

When we say "last minute", in cruising that generally refers to a cruise booked no further out than 6-8 weeks in advance.  Some cruising veterans might argue a last minute cruise applies to cruises booked 2-3 months before you sail, but that is a debate for another time.  The bottom line is, you are past the final payment date for the sailing you are considering and looking to see what is available.

We should be clear, the phrase, "last minute" does not necessarily infer there is a "deal". The cruise industry is red hot these days, and Royal Caribbean ships are sailing full much more often than in years past.  Moreover, Royal Caribbean instituted a price integrity policy a couple years ago to combat super-last minute cruise fare reductions.  What this means is finding a bargain-basement price on an unsold stateroom just weeks before sailing may not be as simple as it sounds. Yes, there are deals to be found in those last few weeks, but they are significantly rarer than they used to be.

Searching for a last minute cruise fare starts out the same as looking for a cruise months and years in advance.  You should contact a travel agent to assist in the search, and you can augment the search by looking through Royal Caribbean's web site for offers.

Each week, Royal Caribbean publishes something called its Going, Going, Gone rates.  These are select sailings that have some sort of a discount associated with them because they are generally sailing soon.  They go on sale to Crown and Anchor Society members on Mondays, and then the general public Tuesday and Wednesday.  How lucrative these offers are, and the variety of choices, will greatly vary.

Of course, some people simply want to get away and finding a deal is secondary to finding a cruise that is reasonably priced. There are some good strategies for finding these sort of sailings that can apply to a variety of scenarios.

Look for a cruise sailing from fly to ports

Cruises that depart from ports like Galveston or San Juan, Puerto Rico, often start out priced lower than other sailings because people have to travel a great distance to reach them.  

Considering a cruise from one of these ports might be a good starting point for finding that price.

Guarantee rooms

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.

Consider the calendar

The cruise industry is very much based around the concept of demand, with certain times of the year seeing higher or lower demand for a cruise.  Someone looking to take a last minute cruise in the middle of January will find a much easier time than someone in the middle of summer.

If you can, try to find a last minute cruise in a time of year when kids are in school and/or there are no major holidays occurring. Employing this strategy may find many more options to consider.

Airfare

Airfare fluctuates based upon market conditions. Since a seat on a flight is a perishable commodity, sometimes last minute airfare will be cheaper than airfare booked months in advance. However, this is not normally the case. Airlines are pretty good at anticipating demand, and price fares and schedule routes accordingly.  It makes sense to hold off on booking any last minute cruise until you can confirm a last minute flight makes financial sense.

To avoid getting burned on last minute airfare price, we recommend checking out ITA Software, which searches every airline (except Southwest) based on parameters you input. If the prices you get at first are not appealing, consider expanding your search to include airports nearby your home or where you're flying to.  As an example, if your cruise is going to depart from Port Everglades, it is easy to fly to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or even Orlando.

If prices are still too insane, consider driving if that is feasible.

Shore Excursions

If you have gotten this far into your last minute cruise planning, you have gotten over the most difficult hurdles.  Where your cruise will go is always an important consideration, but the good news is booking a shore excursion is relatively simple if you are booking close to your sail date.

Arguably the most difficult aspect to booking a shore excursion on a last minute cruise is you have less time to figure it all out.  For Caribbean cruises that go to ports that mainly involve some sort of beach activity, the decision can be much simpler than someone taking a last minute European cruise, where there is a wealth of choices.

If you have your heart set on a certain excursion, book it as soon as you can.  If you are flexible, or do not see anything right away that jumps out as appealing, you can certainly wait to book something later.  Heck, you can even wait to get off the ship in the port and hop into a taxi.  

Dining

In terms of the onboard experience, the problem most people who book last minute cruises run into problems is dining.  Specifically, getting the dinner rotation they prefer.  

Royal Caribbean offers My Time Dining and Traditional Dining for dinner. Depending on the sailing, your first choice may not be available.  If the dining choice you prefer is not available, the good news is there is a good strategy to still get what you want.  Have your travel agent put you on a waitlist for the dining option you want.  This puts your name on a list, and once a space opens up, you will be added.  In all my time of cruising, this has worked all but once.

If the waitlist fails to come through, then make plans to visit the dining room on embarkation day.  There will be a set time in the afternoon where the head waiter will be on duty to take dining requests and changes.  Ask to have your dining option changed to the one you prefer, and in our experience, that always comes through.

An alternative to a dining option that may not be available is to forgo the main dining room completely. There are plenty of great complimentary dining choices for dinner, including the fabulous Windjammer buffet. Many guests dine in the Windjammer each evening for dinner and never regret it.  Plus, there is far less formality to dining at the Windjammer.

Another option is to eat at specialty restaurants.  This comes with an additional cost, but the advent of specialty dining packages has made this strategy far more affordable than ever before.

Basically, doing a last minute trip from the perspective of dining just requires altering your expectations. There is a good chance you won’t get into all of your favorite options, but there likely will be great alternatives. Give those a try instead!

Your thoughts

Do you agree or disagree with our advice for planning a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise? Any hacks you use to save money on trips with little planning or advance notice? Any other recommendations? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

Royal Caribbean allowing guests to use onboard credit for pre-cruise purchases on select sailings

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13Mar2017

We have spotted a new feature in Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner that allows guests to use their onboard credit prior to their sailing for various packages, upgrades and services.

This functionality will go live on five ships beginning March 13, 2017 for all voyages on or after April 1, 2017. The first applicable sailing for each ship is:

  • Harmony of the Seas: 4/1/17
  • Allure of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Anthem of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Liberty of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Oasis of the Seas: 4/2/17

Guests that have been awarded Promotional onboard credit will be able to log in to Cruise Planner prior to the sail date of their booked cruise and see their available Promotional onboard credit in US$ where the booking was priced in US$. For all other currency bookings, Promotional OBC will be converted from US$ into the same currency as the cruise booking that gave rise to the award of Promotional OBC (“Available Spend”).

Available Spend may be used to purchase shore excursions, dining, beverage packages, internet packages, spa & fitness services, entertainment activities and any future ancillary products / services available for purchase in advance of your cruise via Cruise Planner.

If you choose to cancel any purchase made via Cruise Planner, any relevant amount of Promotional OBC released by such cancelation will be credited back to your Cruise Planner account to be used as Available Spend.  In the event the purchase was in part funded by cash (via a credit card, debit card, or other form of cash equivalent payments then the applicable amount will be credited back to the original form of payment within 30 days.

Any residual Available Spend at the cut-off date for making purchases via Cruise Planner will be automatically converted back to US$ for spend onboard your booked cruise.

Seven things that are totally free on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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26Jan2017

Often we highlight experiences on a Royal Caribbean cruise that have an additional cost to them, but this post has seven things that are included in your cruise fare that you might not have known about.  If you are new to Royal Caribbean, you may not have been aware of some of these services, entertainment or food were included with your cruise fare.

To be fair, nothing is really "free" on a cruise.  You paid good money to get on a cruise, so in reality, the items on this list are "included" or "complimentary".  We apologize for the click-bait title of this post, but we promise the end result is the same: everything on this list will cost you nothing extra to enjoy!

7. Room service

My parents ingrained the notion that I should never, ever order room service because it was always so expensive.  On a Royal Caribbean cruise, however, room service is included in your cruise fare and you can make up for all those hotel stays where room service was denied as a child.

Room service is available 24 hours per day, although there is a service fee if you order room service very late at night.  Other than that, there is a good variety of choices to pick from in the room service menu, including breakfast.  Many guests opt to order room service breakfast so that they can enjoy their first meal of the day in the comfort of their room, or even on their balcony.

It is important to keep in mind that while the food is free, it is customary to tip the crew member that delivers your food a few dollars.

6. Ice cream

What better way to cool down on a hot day in the sun than with ice cream? Every day of your cruise, there will be soft-serve ice cream available near the pools.  The exact location varies depending on the class of ship, but the ice cream will be flowing and you can have as much as you like.

A pro tip that I learned from a RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader is to grab a drink cup from the Windjammer, and then fill that up with ice cream! 

5. Alcohol

Believe it or not, there is opportunity for complimentary alcohol onboard your ship. Seriously.

That being said, free alcoholic beverages are not available all the time, but there are a few times during every cruise where free drinks will be served.  On the first formal night, there will be complimentary champagne offered as part of the Captain's toast.  Likewise, complimentary champagne is offered as part of art auctions.

If you are a member of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society, there are welcome back events in which complimentary rum punches and other alcoholic drinks are served.  When you make it to Diamond level or above in Crown and Anchor Society, drink coupons are provided each evening to be used for free drinks. Also, suite guests can get free drinks from the concierge lounge.

4. Broadway shows

Royal Caribbean offers full-length Broadway shows on its newest cruise ships for guests to enjoy during the cruise.  Broadway shows are not known for being inexpensive, so considering these performances are included in your cruise fare when they usually run hundreds of dollars to see the same show for a family on land, that is a great benefit!

Six ships offer five different Broadway shows and will offer multiple performances during the cruise. 

3. Surf, sky dive and ice skate

When you watch a Royal Caribbean television commercial, very likely you will see guests riding a FlowRider surf simulator, or going 300 feet in the air aboard North Star, or even sky diving in Ripcord by iFly.  All those activities (and more) are included in your cruise fare!

Ice skating at sea, going on a zip line, taking a ride on a carousel and rock climbing are just some of the really fun activities you can do on Royal Caribbean ships and there is no additional cost to enjoy them.

2. Souvenirs 

If you want to bring home a Royal Caribbean trinket or two, then try your luck at the trivia games offered onboard.  Each day, there will be a few different trivia games held, where guests compete in small teams to answer questions on a variety of questions.

The team with the most correct answers will receive a small prize, usually something like a Royal Caribbean pen, bag, zip-ties or something else of that nature.  These prizes may not fetch a lot on eBay, but they are the kind of souvenirs that cost you nothing extra and are fun to win, too.

1. Pizza

If you, or your children, are anything like my children, then free pizza is going to sound like you just won the lottery.

Royal Caribbean ships offer a lot of food that is included in your cruise fare, but Sorrento's Pizza is one of the more popular food choices and it is available throughout the day for absolutely nothing extra.

You will find a few varieties of pizza available by the slice, as well as the option to custom order a small pizza pie to your liking.  Either way, it is free and the kind of food my kids never can never resist ordering.

How to get closer to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise

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25Jan2017

A common question first time cruisers ask is if a Royal Caribbean cruise is all-inclusive, and that usually leads to a conversation about the modularity of a cruise vacation and how you can pick and choose which experiences appeal to you, and not pay for others that do not.  Thinking about the question some more, it lead to our own question, "how close could a guest get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise?"

What is all-inclusive?

Depending on your definition of "all-inclusive", the answer to that question can vary.  For our purposes, we referenced the Sandals Resorts definition and looked up what is not included in their vacations. After all, Sandals has made a name for themselves as a leader in all-inclusive land vacations. Here is what is not included

  • Spa treatments
  • Optional tours
  • Golf caddies
  • Medical assistance
  • Gift shop items
  • Transportation
  • Phone calls
  • Scuba certification or refresher courses

Using this list as our frame of reference for what we can leave out of the all-inclusive categories, it stands to reason these Royal Caribbean options could also be omitted.

  • Vitality Spa treatments
  • Medical attention
  • Souvenirs from any onboard shops
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Phone calls onboard

Otherwise, we would need to include everything else in our all-inclusive Royal Caribbean experience.  Moreover, the idea would be a guest could go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and never pay a dime on their SeaPass account, unless they selected to do one of the experiences listed above.

What is included in your Royal Caribbean cruise

All too often, guests get hung up on what is not included, but the reality is your cruise fare includes quite a bit. The value offered by a cruise is unparalleled, and here is a good breakdown of what activities, dining venues, entertainment options and experiences are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise fare.

  • Entertainment & Nightlife
    • Broadway shows
    • Live music and comedy shows
    • Aqua shows and ice-skating shows
    • Parades and parties on the Royal Promenade
    • Comedy and live jazz club
    • Nightclubs, karaoke and sing-along piano bars
    • Lounge games and contests, such as trivia, Puzzle Break, Battle of the Sexes and more
  • Signature Activities
    • FlowRider® surf simulator
    • Rock Climbing Wall
    • Quantum Class
      • RipCord® by iFLY® skydiving simulator
      • North Star observation capsule
      • SeaPlex play space with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze school, video games and more
    • Oasis Class
      • Zip Line
    • Multi-level waterslides and slides on select ships
  • Meals, beverages & room service
    • Main dining room
    • Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in various venues throughout each ship
    • Windjammer casual buffet on every ship, open for every meal
    • Variety of juices, teas, coffees, soft drinks and water throughout the ship and with meals
  • Kids & Teens
    • Adventure Ocean Youth Program
    • DreamWorks Experience
    • Fuel teen club
    • Teen lounge area with movies, games and live DJ
  • Fitness Center & Sports Activities
    • State-of-the-art fitness center
    • Table tennis
    • Full-size basketball and sports court
    • Group fitness classes, such as sunrise stretch, fab abs, dancing, meditation and more
    • Seminars on topics like weight loss, reflexology, stargazing and more
    • Deck Games — Volleyball, pool games, tug of war and other active challenges
    • Running / jogging track
  • Pools & Outdoor amenities
    • Outdoor poolside movies
    • Adults-only Solarium
    • Multiple whirlpools
    • Traditional swimming pools plus beach ambience areas and sports zones
    • H2O Zone and Splashaway Bay for kids

How to get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise

Over the last few years, Royal Caribbean has added more choices for guests to make optional experiences onboard simpler to consume and understand. The advent of pre-purchased packages have largely been a win-win for cruise line and guest a like.  Guests enjoy the convenience of having a variety of package options that offer seemingly limitless choices, while the cruise line has seen a resounding increase in onboard spending.

Here are the various means to have an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise. All of these options can be (and should be) purchased prior to your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner, or via your travel agent.

Pre-pay gratuities

Every guest on a Royal Caribbean cruise will be charged a daily gratuity, which goes towards rewarding the services of the wait staff and stateroom attendants.  Normally, this daily gratuity is charged to a guest's SeaPass account automatically with the final charges being paid at the conclusion of the cruise.

Instead, guests can have their travel agent pre-pay the gratuities. This provides two advantages. First, it breaks up the total cost of the cruise, because the gratuities will be paid earlier than the cruise fare. Second, if the recommended gratuity amount changes after pre-paying gratuities, Royal Caribbean has traditionally grandfathered in guests who had already paid their gratuities upfront.

Cost: Junior Suite, Balcony, Ocean View, and Interior staterooms: $13.50 per guest, per day. Suite guests (Grand Suite & Above): $16.50 per guest, per day.

Photo packages

Royal Caribbean photographers will be looking to capture memories throughout your cruise vacation, from the dining rooms to the pool area and even on the dock at each port.  These photo opportunities are complimentary to engage in, and then you can decide later if you want to purchase those photos. A standard 8x10 photo onboard the ship commonly costs about $20 per print.

Guests who want to be able to take as many photos as possible and take them home later, can take advantage of a photo package at www.ourcruisephotos.com.

The cost will vary, but it is generally cheaper to pre-purchase the photos on the site before your cruise, instead of buying a package on the ship.  A common choice is to have all photos digitally saved to a USB drive, which can then be printed when you get home or just shared to social media. 

Cost: $249.99 for all photos on a USB Drive.

Internet

Royal Caribbean offers high speed internet in the form of its branded service, Voom.  Voom internet offers substantially higher speed connections than other cruise lines, and is available fleet-wide anywhere onboard.

Regardless of if you look to make your cruise all-inclusive or not, it is a good idea to pre-pay for your Voom internet service because Royal Caribbean offers a significant discount compared to purchasing it onboard. There are a variety of plans available that provide unlimited Voom internet throughout the cruise.  There are plans that support one through five devices, with the average cost per device dropping with the more devices that are added to the plan. And yes, you can sign out of one device and log in with another device without requiring a 2-device plan.

Cost: $11.99 per day for one device at a time, up to $41.97 for 5 devices at a time.

Unlimited beverage packages

Perhaps the most popular packages of all are any of the unlimited drink packages. There are a variety of drink packages that offer unlimited alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages that can fit the needs of any guest.  Of course, any unlimited drink package is best served for guests that will drink enough each day of their cruise to make the purchase worthwhile.  If your goal is to have an all-inclusive cruise experience, then these packages are a must.

It should be noted that the drink packages offer a very wide range of drinks, but there are certain beverages exempted from being included in any drink package.

For adults, the Deluxe Beverage Package will include most alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, while the Refreshment Package includes most non-alcoholic beverages for children and adults. Any of the drink packages should be pre-purchased online via the Cruise Planner, especially since Royal Caribbean regularly offers a discount on the Deluxe Beverage Package when purchased prior to the cruise.

Cost: Depends on sailing. Deluxe Beverage Package will range between $41-48 per guest, per day. Refreshment package costs $26 per guest, per day. 

Specialty Dining Package

Perhaps no experience onboard has become as popular and prevalent as specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  More and more specialty restaurants have been added to Royal Caribbean ships, which offer guests cuisines and experiences previously unavailable onboard for an additional cost. To encourage guests to try more specialty dining while offering a discount, Royal Caribbean has begun offering dining packages.

The dining packages are simple: guests experience 2, 3, 4 or 5 specialty restaurants on their Royal Caribbean cruise with up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually. By purchasing a dining package, guests can be assured of enjoying plenty of specialty dining during their cruise.

Like the other packages, dining packages can be purchased via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner prior to a cruise.

Cost: 2 Night Dining Package costs $30 per adult, 3 Night Dining Package costs $75 per adult, 4 Night Dining Package costs $90 per adult, and 5 Night Dining Package costs $105 per adult.

Shore excursions

Royal Caribbean does not usually offer shore excursion packages (although they have experimented in the past), however, guests can pre-purchase all of their shore excursions prior to the cruise on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner. 

Just like the packages listed earlier in this post, pre-purchasing ensures no additional costs once on the cruise. 

Cost: Varies depending on excursion.

Or just stay in a suite

It is worth noting that Royal Caribbean's suite offerings do include quite a bit of these services and packages already, provided you opt for their elite Star Class accommodations.

Royal Caribbean's Royal Suite Class combines amazing service with first-class amenities. The Royal Suite Class is only available on Oasis and Quantum class ships, but offers the very best in what Royal Caribbean can offer.  Moreover, nearly all of the options listed above are included with the Star Class, including some options above and beyond what a guest in a non-suite room could even purchase.

As you might imagine, Star Class suites are not inexpensive.  Then again, suites are not about providing a value proposition to guests, but rather, an indulgent vacation that rewards oneself.

If you want the closest thing to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise experience with the greatest simplicity (and money is no object), then go straight to booking a Star Class stateroom and consider this an easy win.

Your thoughts

Does the idea of having an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise vacation sound appealing? Did we miss anything that should have been included in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

A look at what's new in 2017 for Royal Caribbean

In:
09Jan2017

Each year, Royal Caribbean offers its guest new and interesting ways to see the world.  Like so many companies, they continuously look for new ways to innovate and capture the attention of the public in changes to their plans.  With 2017 here, Royal Caribbean is continuing with that tradition some new and notable itinerary and deployments this year.

Notable homeports in 2017

In 2017, the state of Florida will be home to the three largest cruise ships in the world year-round. Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will call Ft. Lauderdale home, and Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral, which is close to Orlando.

Royal Caribbean will also offer expanded Caribbean itineraries from the Northeast in 2017, with Rhapsody of the Seas joining Anthem of the Seas in Cape Liberty, New Jersey. This will be the first time that two Royal Caribbean ships will be sailing from Cape Liberty, offering guests in the New York more ways to explore the award-winning cruise line. 

The largest ship to sail to Cuba from the United States, Empress of the Seas will provide vacationers with the opportunity to discover the timeless sights, sounds and culture of this island nation. The newly revitalized Empress of the Seas will make history for the cruise line with its first visit to Cuba during a 5-night sailing departing Miami on April 19, 2017. 

New and notable itineraries in 2017

In 2017 Royal Caribbean will be offering several new itinerary options. 

  • Empress of the Seas will homeport in Tampa for the 2017 summer season – the cruise line’s first-ever summer program from the destination – offering a series of 4- and 5-night sailings, including port calls in Cuba. 
  • Explorer of the Seas will sail roundtrip from Seattle, and Radiance of the Seas will sail from Vancouver, BC to Seward, AK and then from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC.
  • Freedom of the Seas will host guests on seven-night sailings through the Western Mediterranean, while Brilliance of the Seas will navigate eight European destinations with a 12-night itinerary, both departing from Barcelona, Spain.
  • Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas will sail the Mediterranean and the Spanish Canary Islands from Southampton, England with itineraries that extend from 7 to 14 nights.
  • Serenade of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will head to northern Europe with a checklist of ports that includes Copenhagen, Denmark, home to the 100 year old Tivoli Gardens amusement park.
  • Adventure of the Seas will sail from Puerto Rico to the most sought-after Southern Caribbean islands on 7-night itineraries, and Liberty of the Seas will remain in Galveston, Texas in 2017, offering a variety of 7-night escapes to the Western Caribbean.

Will you be sailing on any of these new itineraries? Tell us what you have booked for 2017 in the comments below!

What to do when a new Royal Caribbean sale is announced

In:
05Jan2017

Royal Caribbean regularly comes out with a number of new promotions throughout the year, aimed at getting folks to book a cruise. Whether it is their first or fiftieth cruise, these promotions will vary in different ways to incentive guests to give a Royal Caribbean cruise a try.

When a new promotion is announced, here are a few things you should do to ensure you get the best possible deal.

Look at the booking incentives offered

Each promotion Royal Caribbean releases is going to be different, and each promotion has its own set of booking incentives included with the offer.  It is important to understand what the deal offers, and if it might be of benefit to you or not.

As mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean trots out a number of booking promotions throughout the year, and no one deal will be of great benefit to everyone.  In our experience, different deals benefit different folks, so it is important to evaluate each offer for which benefits mean the most to you.

There are lots of possible booking incentives that Royal Caribbean can include, but the most common kinds are

  • Reduced deposit
  • Onboard credit (money credited to your SeaPass account to be used onboard the ship)
  • Instant savings (money taken off the cost of the cruise fare)
  • Percentage discount off cruise fare
  • Kids sail free (third and fourth passengers are free when sailing with two other passengers in same stateroom)

There are plenty more booking incentives out there, but depending on your cruising party, time of year you choose to cruise, and whether you prefer to get savings off the cruise fare or onboard the ship, the various promotions will be more or less valuable.

Book a cruise (that you've been considering)

The most common step is to put down a deposit to take advantage of a new promotion and it is what often compels many people to jump on a given deal. 

Whether you have been considering a cruise in the past and a new promotion is the "final straw" in convincing you to book, or you ran across a deal and think it is too good to pass up, booking a new cruise reservation with the promotion can make a lot of sense. 

Royal Caribbean's cruise deals are largely regional, with specific offers aimed at residents of certain countries.  The good news is in most of these cases, there are no special discount codes to remember.  Rather, the promotion is automatically applied at the time of booking.  The only booking promotions that may require a special code are discounts offered to residents of certain states or guests in certain occupations that qualify for a discount.  Keep in mind these sorts of discounts are often incompatible with national promotions Royal Caribbean runs, which means you will have to pick which works best for you.  Check any promotion offer's terms and conditions to see combinability rules.

Re-price an existing cruise

Residents of certain countries (such as the United States and Canada) are able to re-book an existing cruise reservation under a new sales promotion, without penalty up until final payment date.

This can sometimes be referred to as "re-pricing", or "price adjustment", or "applying the new promotion" but in reality your previous reservation is being canceled and a new booking is made.  The reason for this is most sales promotions Royal Caribbean releases are for new bookings only, so a quick cancelation and booking gets around that deal.

Keep in mind that if you do cancel and rebook, you may only do so up until the final payment date without incurring a penalty. After the final payment date, Royal Caribbean incurs a penalty for cancelations that often offsets any savings from a new booking promotion.  In addition, any booking incentive made under the prior reservation will be lost and replaced with the new booking incentives that come with the current promotion.  Be sure to evaluate the total cost savings, especially when onboard credits are involved.

The secret weapon: use a travel agent

Regardless of if you are brand new to Royal Caribbean or been on many cruises, this entire process is much simpler if you leverage a good travel agent to help you out.  

A good travel agent is the one that can crunch the numbers, provide options to you and advice on what might be the best course of action.  When it comes to re-pricing a cruise, there are so many factors involved and many guests worry about making a bad decision.  Having a travel agent to provides peace of mind to you, as well as quality service. Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean. If you are not convinced using a free travel agency that is recommended by Royal Caribbean is right for you, read our post discussing the benefits they offer.

If you are wondering, a travel agent should cost you nothing extra to use.  Royal Caribbean pays their commission, which means their services are complimentary to you.  When choosing a travel agent, be sure to look out for agents that charge any kind of reservation change fees.  It is not a widely used practice, but it can occur in some cases and frankly, you should steer clear of them and rely on knowledgeable travel agents that are here to help you every step of the way, regardless of how many questions or changes you have.

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