Planning

How much does a cruise cost?

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03Jan2019

Many first-time cruisers are curious how much a Royal Caribbean cruise will cost.  While your cruise fare includes most onboard activities and meals, there are government fees, excursions, spa treatments, drinks and more to consider.

To help budget and give you a ballpark idea of what to expect cost-wise, you should be aware of the possible areas where costs exist. No one can accurately predict exactly the cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise in total, because the total vacation cost will depend on your preferences and what choices you make in the course of your trip.

To help you get a better idea of what you might actually spend on a cruise vacation, we compiled a list of the major factors that influence the total cost to figure out the total cost of your cruise before you book.

Cruise Fare

The largest chunk of calculating how much a cruise costs begins with the base cruise fare.  This is the cost Royal Caribbean charges you to get a stateroom onboard a ship, and that includes a lot of amenities.

Your base cruise fare will depend on a variety of factors, including the ship you choose, length of your sailing and which category stateroom you pick. You could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per person, but it really depends on what you choose or prefer. A good travel agent can help you price out the cruise fare options get you started.

To help get a lower price on the cruise fare, be sure to try one of these strategies for finding the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Transportation costs

After the cruise fare, it is important to figure out your means of getting to and from the cruise ship.  Quite a lot of cruisers end up flying to their embarkation ports, but Royal Caribbean may offer a cruise that is close enough to your hometown that you can drive there.

In conjunction with booking your cruise fare, it is a good idea to price out transportation costs and see how much this will run you.  Like the cruise fare, this is a required cost and something that can drive up the total cost of your cruise vacation substantially.

Be sure to also include the cost of a rental car, shared ride service or airport transfers into your calculations.

We are not experts on finding the lowest airfare prices, but you should try a few airfare tips and tricks to bring down the cost.

Gratuities

Another built-in cost of the cruise is the daily gratuity that Royal Caribbean will charge each guest. There are two types of gratuity on Royal Caribbean: an automatic gratuity and optional ones.

The automatic service gratuity is $14.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Junior Suites and below, or $17.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Grand Suites and above, applied to each guest’s SeaPass account on a daily basis. The gratuity applies to individual guests of all ages and stateroom categories. 

Guests can pre-pay gratuities by calling 866-562-7625 or logging into www.royalcaribbean.com at least 48 hours prior to sailing. For guests booked through a travel agent, your agent can add pre-paid gratuities to the booking at least 48 hours prior to sailing. If gratuities are not prepaid prior to sailing, they will be automatically added to the folios once onboard.

A 18% gratuity is automatically added to all beverages, mini bar items, and spa & salon purchases.

Beverages

An area of the vacation that can add up quickly are beverages.  Royal Caribbean includes some beverages with your cruise vacation, but inevitably a lot of guests opt to indulge and order beverages such as beer, cocktails, wine or soft drinks.

You have the option of purchasing beverages one at a time, and can consult our list of Royal Caribbean drink prices for an idea of what to expect to pay. Certainly if you are not much of a drinker, going this route will be satisfactory.

If you think you might drink more than a couple drinks per day, perhaps consider investing in an unlimited drink package. Royal Caribbean offers these beverage packages as a means to offer a simple, yet simple approach to drinking onboard.  If you are wondering if a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth it, it ultimately depends on you and if you can drink enough every day of your cruise to make it worthwhile.

Besides alcohol, coffee and tea is another factor in your beverage budget.  Royal Caribbean does include complimentary coffee and tea, but if you prefer lattes, espresso, macchiatos or other specialty coffee drinks, those will come with an additional cost.  Just like alcoholic beverages, you can opt to purchase them individually or opt for a beverage package.

One last note about beverages is you can cut down on the cost of your drinks by opting to drink in the ports your cruise will visit.  Depending on your itinerary, this may or may not be a good alternative to paying Royal Caribbean's drink prices.

Specialty dining

There is no shortage of complimentary food on your Royal Caribbean cruise and you can easily go your entire cruise without paying a dime extra for food and be quite content.  However, Royal Caribbean does offer some additional dining options that carry an additional cost to them.

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.

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. 

You can preview the cost of specialty dining, as well as consider a specialty dining package, by going to the Cruise Planner site on Royal Caribbean's website. Check out our restaurant reviews for an idea of what each restaurant offers.

Shore excursions

Inevitably, shore excursions are something everyone typically opts for on a cruise vacation.  These are the activities offered in the various ports of call that your cruise ship will visit. 

You could do something simple like taking a taxi downtown and walking around, take a walking tour or even a bus ride around town.  Or hop in a helicopter, ride a dog sled or visit historical sites.  In short, there are lots of options when visiting any port Royal Caribbean will take you.

Picking the perfect shore excursion will depend on what you are looking to do, but you have the choice of booking a tour through Royal Caribbean or going on your own and working with a third-party vendor.

The cost of shore excursions can be just as varied as your cruise fare.  

Internet

Having internet access on your cruise went from something nice to have, to a near necessity these days. Royal Caribbean's onboard WiFi comes in two options: an unlimited plan or 24 hour access packages.

Royal Caribbean calls its internet service, Voom, and it boasts excellent speeds onboard its ships. Unlimited internet plans are available for purchase before or during your cruise.  Almost always, the cost of an internet package is cheaper before the cruise thanks to pre-cruise discounts.

Photos

During your cruise, Royal Caribbean's photographers will snap shots of you and your family that you have the choice to purchase later in the sailing.  While far from a neccesity, onboard photos represent for many families an opportunity to take professional shots and remember a fun family vacation.

Royal Caribbean offers photos priced individually, as well as photo packages.  Just like the drink packages, which option to take depends on how much you will take advantage of the photo opportunities.

Admittedly, it is quite difficult to exactly estimate how many photos you will want to take, but keep in mind that it is part of the cost of a cruise.  You can always take your own photos during the vacation, but the photo opportunities Royal Caribbean offers make for some very compelling memories.

Additional activities

Beyond everything else we have outlined, there are still spending opportunities on your cruise that you may or may not be interested in. This area of vacation budgeting will vary wildly, but here are some common spending options many cruisers consider:

  • Spa treatments (onboard or on shore)
  • Casino
  • Bingo
  • Fitness classes
  • Souvenirs

The total cost will vary depending on your preferences.

Add the costs together

If you add up the numbers from the spending categories outlined in this post, you should have a ballpark idea of what your Royal Caribbean cruise cost.

How much a Royal Caribbean costs depends so much on the choices you make before and during the cruise. Many of the extra costs are optional, but then again you are on vacation and indulging is what makes vacation so fun.

Hopefully this will give you a guide on what to expect and ultimately, you have the power to determine how much higher the cost will be in the end!

Guide to Royal Caribbean 2019 new cruise ships and refurbishments

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02Jan2019

Royal Caribbean has big plans for 2019, with plenty of new additions and changes to the fleet. Perhaps no change is bigger than the anticipated arrival of a new cruise ship and refurbishment of quite a few others.

Each year, Royal Caribbean plans on changes to its fleet of ships and if you are considering a 2019 cruise, then you are certainly going to want to consider some of these ships that are getting new upgrades or are joining the fleet for the first time.

Here is what you need to know about the cruise ships joining Royal Caribbean's fleet and which ships will be upgraded this year.

New cruise ships in 2019

Royal Caribbean will add one new ship in 2019 to its fleet, which will be the first subclass of an existing class.

Spectrum of the Seas

The first Quantum Ultra Class ship joins Royal Caribbean's fleet in 2019 with the launch of Spectrum of the Seas.

Spectrum of the Seas is the first Quantum Ultra Class vessel. What separates Spectrum from previous Quantum Class vessels is the fact she will boast private enclave for suite guests, new stateroom categories, innovative dining concepts, and stunning features and experiences – many of which have never before been seen at sea.

Accommodating 4,246 guests at double occupancy and 1,551 international crew members, Spectrum will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai starting in June 2019.

Spectrum will debut Royal Caribbean’s first exclusive suites-only area, which will feature the exquisite Golden and Silver suite accommodations in a private enclave at the forward end of the ship on decks 13 through 16. Vacationers booked in these luxury suites will have special keycard access, a private elevator and a dedicated restaurant and lounge. In addition to a range of exclusive amenities, guests will have access to The Balcony – a private outdoor space for sunbathing and relaxing – that offers the best views on board; and The Boutique, a shopping area where travelers can book private shopping experiences.

Another big change for Spectrum is the ship's take on dining,  The three-level main dining room will serve a variety of Chinese and Western a la carte options rotating each day of the sailing.  The Windjammer Marketplace – 20 percent larger than those on Quantum Class ships – will offer a wide buffet selection of Chinese and Western dishes, including noodles, pizza, Japanese teppanyaki and mini hot pot.  

Spectrum will boast a number of specialty restaurants, including Wonderland’s Dadong (run by Chinese chef Dong Zhenxiang), Jamie's Italian, Izumi, Chops Grille and the new Leaf and Bean traditional tea room and café parlor.

Spectrum of the Seas will feature bold and unexpected experiences, including the iconic Sky Pad, a virtual reality, bungee trampoline experience located on the aft of the ship. 

Cruise ship refurbishments in 2019

Royal Caribbean is always looking to add more value to their ships and in 2019, four Royal Caribbean ships are getting upgrades, refurbishments and some nice changes.

Here is a list of what you can expect to see changed in the coming year.

Navigator of the Seas

Refurbishment dates: January 3 – February 23, 2019

Royal Caribbean will start 2019 with a major refurbishment of Navigator of the Seas.  Navigator will undergo a $115 million upgrade, as part of the fleet's Royal Amplified program.

Royal Caribbean will add all-new features and firsts, including a revamped Caribbean poolscape, two waterslides, the first blow dry bar at sea, nightlife and dining, and activities for the whole family. 

Navigator of the Seas will return to service on February 24, 2019 and offering 3- and 4-night Caribbean cruises from Miami.

Empress of the Seas

Refurbishment dates: February 3, 2019 and March 3, 2019

Empress of the Seas will undergo a dry dock for maintenance work in February 2019.

There are no sailings scheduled between February 3, 2019 and March 3, 2019.

No word on what work will be done, but it is expected to be mostly a maintenance effort to keep the ship running in great condition.

Voyager of the Seas

Refurbishment dates: September 10 – October 14, 2019

Like Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas will also undergo a refurbishment in 2019 as part of the Royal Amplified program.

Royal Caribbean has not announced the exact changes that are coming to Voyager of the Seas, although it stands to reason the changes should be similar to recent changes made to Mariner of the Seas or the scheduled changes for Navigator of the Seas.

Oasis of the Seas

Refurbishment dates: September 22 – November 23, 2019

The Royal Amplified program continues with upgrades coming to Oasis of the Seas.  Just like Voyager of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has not announced any specific details on what will be changed on Oasis quite yet.

Oasis of the Seas will undergo the refurbishment work after wrapping up her summer cruise season in Europe.  Following the bow-to-stern revitalization, Oasis of the Seas will change her homeport to Terminal A at PortMiami for the fall and winter seasons. 

Royal Caribbean describes the goal of the Royal Amplified program as something that will, "innovative attractions, pools, bars, and dining." Royal Amplified targets three key areas: pool deck & attractions, bars & nightlife, and onboard dining.

Quantum of the Seas

Refurbishment dates: November 2019

Prior to Quantum of the Seas' six month homeport in Singapore, she will be revitalised in a multi-million dollar project that will see the ship refreshed and upgraded.

If you are wondering what work will be done on Quantum of the Seas, so are we.  Royal Caribbean has not announced yet the scope of changes coming to Quantum of the Seas. 

Which ship addition or refurbishment are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments!

Six big changes coming to Royal Caribbean in 2019

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19Dec2018

With 2019 right around the corner, a new year of Royal Caribbean cruising is nearly upon us.  With the new year comes new changes to Royal Caribbean, and we picked out six of the most noticeable changes that guests will undoubtedly encounter.

New app features

While Royal Caribbean's new smart phone app has been around since being announced in 2017, 2019 will be the biggest year yet for the app.  

In 2019, Royal Caribbean's app will not only roll out to most (if not all) of the fleet by years' end, it will also see the most popular features finally reach users.

Scheduled for a 2019 rollout are features such as chat, shore excursions, stateroom dining and even stateroom changes.

Navigator of the Seas $115 million modernization

In early 2019, Navigator of the Seas will undergo a major upgrade effort that will see a lot of great new features added to the ship.

Navigator is set to receive a combination of firsts as well as Royal Caribbean favorites, including an awe-inspiring Caribbean poolscape, waterslides, the first blow dry bar at sea, nightlife and dining, and thrilling activities for the whole family.

Navigator of the Seas will be the third Royal Caribbean ship to undergo a Royal Amplified upgrade. Royal Amplified is a $900 million initiative to reimagine Royal Caribbean's fleet through a new modernization effort.

Ovation of the Seas arrives in North America

Royal Caribbean will debut a Quantum Class ship in Alaska in 2019, with the arrival of Ovation of the Seas for the 2019 Alaska summer season.

Ovation of the Seas will transition from Sydney, Australia to her new summer homeport of Seattle, Washington.

Ovation will sail 7-night itineraries to destinations from Juneau to Victoria, British Columbia, showcasing Alaska’s natural treasures and luring adventure seekers with stately spruce forests, island- studded waters, native wildlife and awe-inspiring glaciers. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay launch

In 2019, Royal Caribbean's $200 million upgrade to its private island in the Bahamas will open its first phases to the public.

Along with a new pier, a number of new attractions and experiences at Perfect Day at CocoCay will debut in 2019. Guests will be able to choose from a variety of fun ways to spend their day, in addition to the classic lounging by the beach option.

Royal Caribbean lists Thrill Waterpark, the Zip Line, Splashaway Bay aqua park, Up, Up and Away helium balloon, Captain Jack’s Galleon, Skipper’s Grill dining, Captain Jack’s dining, Chill Island, Chill Grill dining, and Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool will open in May 2019. South Beach, Coco Beach Club and the overwater cabanas are scheduled to open in December 2019.

Oasis of the Seas returns to Europe & upgrades

File this change as something to keep track of for later, because we do not know the full extent of what will be done quite yet, but Oasis of the Seas is headed to Europe in 2019 and her season across the pond will culminate with a major upgrade.

For the first time since 2014, Oasis of the Seas will spend the summer season in Europe when the ship repositions to Barcelona in 2019. From Barcelona, Oasis of the Seas will sail seven-night itineraries, visiting Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Marseille, France; and Florence (though the port wasn't specified), Civitavecchia and Naples, Italy.

Following her European season, Oasis of the Seas will undergo a bow-to-stern revitalization before changing her homeport to Terminal A at PortMiami for the fall and winter 2019 seasons. If you are wondering what changes Oasis of the Seas will receive, well, so are we.  Royal Caribbean has not divulged what will be changed or added to Oasis of the Seas quite yet.

Spectrum of the Seas launch

The new year will see a new Royal Caribbean ship join the fleet with the addition of Spectrum of the Seas

Spectrum of the Seas will be the cruise line's first Quantum Ultra class ship. The ship will feature a number of firsts for a Royal Caribbean ship, including the cruise line’s first private enclave for suite guests, new stateroom categories, "innovative dining concepts", and "stunning features and experiences".

Designed specifically for the Chinese market, Spectrum of the Seas will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai, China starting in June 2019. The ship is scheduled to be delivered in April 2019.

Which Royal Caribbean change are you most excited about for 2019? Tell us in the comments!

Trying to answer the most common Royal Caribbean question

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24Jul2018

One of the most common questions someone new to Royal Caribbean has is how good is a certain Royal Caribbean ship.  Or if a certain ship is too old/new/boring/outdated/flashy these days.  Or better yet, a question along the lines of, "I read a lot of negative reviews about ____ of the Seas, so should I not go on it?".

Based purely on the frequency of these types of questions, we wanted to tackle the general notion of trying to answer this question.  Interestingly enough, the answer is to question the inquiry itself.

Cruise ships are not like takeout diner

Arguably one of the best uses of the internet is the ability to research any venue, show, eatery, book and get instant feedback on how good or bad it is.  Websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google and Rotten Tomatoes have all built their reputations on giving consumers the opportunity to share their experience and thoughts.  So when it comes to a cruise ship vacation, why not apply the same logic?

The reality is cruise ships offer such a varied and experiential vacation that it cannot be properly reviewed in its entirety based on a single experience.  Cruises are by their very design a "create your own adventure" experience.  You could sit at the pool every day of the cruise and never do one activity, whereas the guy next to you could be zip lining, crocheting, belly flopping and dancing the night away.  In short, we all cruise differently.

The age of a ship is equally irrelevant to determining how good or bad it is.  Cruise ships are not like the family car that you own.  In most cases, people buy a car, but never add significant new features after purchasing it.  Cruise ships undergo extensive refurbishments periodically and regular maintenance every few years.  While you could probably look at the corners of a room and see a piece of rust or inspect the upholstery of a chair for worn material, those aspects are superficial and irrelevant to the overall experience. 

...but I read bad things about that ship

Negative reviews have a powerful effect on everyone.  Think about a time someone shared a rotten experience involving a certain restaurant, movie, book or car repair shop and how quickly you probably abandoned any consideration of trying it yourself.

The thing to remember is one person's experience is not indicative of what yours will be.  Think about broccoli.  I could find hundreds of people who hate broccoli and never want to eat it ever again. I could find another few hundred people that love broccoli, and think it is really good.  Then of course you have people who have written negative reviews of Star Wars, chocolate, newborn babies and Alf.  All that proves is we have different tastes in things.

There was a great piece in the New York Times titled, "Why You Can’t Really Trust Negative Online Reviews" and it starts off with this wonderful fact:

"The Great Wall of China has more than 9,000 Google reviews, with an average of 4.2 stars. Not bad for one of the most astonishing achievements in human history."

One of the greatest feats of mankind left some people questioning how good it really was.  This is why those people that gave Anthem of the Seas a one star review is frankly ludicrous. The fact negative reviews exist about any Royal Caribbean ship is not a sign of a pitfall or disaster waiting to happen.  Rather, it just goes to show you that you cannot please everyone.

I really love this line from that Times article, which really sums up why online reviews are anything but a definitive way of booking a cruise, "Reviews are subjective, and the tiny subset of people who leave them aren’t average."

The answer is the always the same

Inevitably when someone asks what I think of a certain Royal Caribbean ship, or if they should avoid a certain ship, I always give the same answer because it applies to every single Royal Caribbean ship in the fleet.

They are all great ships and you can have a great time on any of them.

No ship in the fleet is inherently flawed, and no ship is a mistake to sail on.  Are some ships older than others? Of course, that is a chronological fact.  But age does not make a ship better or worse than another.

I firmly believe anyone can have a great time on any Royal Caribbean ship.  It just comes down to a few simple steps you need to take before stepping foot onboad, which are truths that can be applied to any sort of travel:

  1. Cruise with an open mind
  2. Be flexible
  3. Research before booking what the ship does and does not offer

What you should do instead of reading reviews

First and foremost, stop reading online reviews of these ships.  They are at best a quirky form of entertainment, and certainly not a proper barometer of what makes a ship great or not.

What you want to to do instead is look into what features, amenities and entertainment a ship offers and figure out if that is what you are interested in. You need to figure out what you are looking for in a cruise and then see which ship might be a better fit for you.

Some Royal Caribbean ships have water slides, and some do not.  Some have Broadway shows and some do not.  Some have FlowRider surf simulators and some do not.  Some have a multitude of specialty restaurants and some have just a couple. Which of these matters to you? 

The key to going on a great ship is going on a ship that offers the kind of experience that will appeal to you.

One story I like to tell is about a man at the Solarium pool on Brilliance of the Seas that I struck up a conversation with on a past cruise.  We talked about a few topics before he complained, "this ship is terrible.  We went on Oasis of the Seas last time and there was so much more to do."

Naturally I just smiled and went whatever he said to avoid an awkward exchange.  But deep down, I wanted to respond that of course Oasis of the Seas will offer much more to do than Brilliance.  Oasis of the Seas is more than double the size of Brilliance (225,000 GT compared to 90,000 GT).  More space equals more options to pack into the ship.  

Had this person done some research into Brilliance of the Seas, they would have realized that they clearly enjoy the type of experience Oasis of the Seas offers, and the Brilliance of the Seas does not have a number of the onboard activities and entertainment that Oasis of the Seas.  It does not make Brilliance of the Seas a bad ship, just a different one.

What you want to focus on

Now that you know what not to worry about (general reviews of ships), you should know that learning about a ship is still a great idea.  You ought to focus on figuring out what you want from the cruise and which ships offer things to do that appeal the most to you.

If you do not have kids, then picking a ship with a large Adventure Ocean space or DreamWorks Experience may not really matter much.  If you consider yourself a foodie, then a Royal Caribbean ship with lots of specialty dining options might be something to lean towards.

Essentially, you want to look at what the ship and itinerary offer, and determine which combination might be the best option for you.

Your thoughts

How much have online reviews played a role in determining which ship you do or do not cruise on?  Does the ships' age matter in your decision making? Please share your experiences when it comes to recommending one ship over another in our comments.

What we spent on our last Royal Caribbean cruise

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29May2018

Please welcome Kathy Constantine as our guest blogger today! She took a previous blog post we did and is providing her own look at the total cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Inspired by Matt’s post sharing the cost of his sailing on the Brilliance earlier this year, I thought we would share with everyone the cost of sailing with four adults on a seven night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas.

Cruise Cost Summary

Adventure of the Seas May 18, 2018
Cruise length: 7 nights
Stateroom category: J3 Junior Suite 
Passengers: 4 adults
The travelers:  Myself, my husband, and our two college-aged sons.  My in-laws also joined us on the cruise. 

Cruise fare total (including pre-paid gratuities): $4282.88
Pre-cruise purchases:  $450 (bungalow, BCH dep, arcade, Voom, coffee card) 
Onboard spending: $390 (Izumi, drinks, clothes, pictures)
Cash spending onshore: $300 (BCH final, Grills)
Cash spending onboard: $110 (slot pull & additional gratuities)
Miscellaneous at port: $150 (parking & porter gratuities)
GRAND TOTAL: $5682.88

How did we spend that much? Outside of accommodations, we feel like really did not spend much at all.

Stateroom

Junior suite: worth it or not?  We originally had booked two connecting panoramic ocean view rooms for the four of us but on a whim decided to have our travel agent price a Junior Suite instead.  For approximately $100 less, we got to try out the bigger room and gained a coffee maker & kettle, big closet, and a bathtub. Oh, and double Crown & Anchor points.  All good, except did not love the bathroom. 

Prior to the cruise, our travel agent tried to request a cot but apparently our room category does not have room for one.  We asked onboard, and our stateroom attendant was happy to oblige.  There was more than enough room.  Only disadvantage was that the chairs from the seating area blocked the balcony door, and we have to wiggle them around to get out at night.

Onboard Expenses

Adult beverages: We wanted to see exactly how much we would spend on drinks without a drink package to gauge its worth to us.  We drank freely, ordering what we wanted when we wanted it, and quickly realized that a drink package was not a good fit for us as we could not justify the cost over seven days.

We waited patiently for a drink card to appear, and on day 3, the draft beer for $57.82 (including gratuity) showed up on one of the ad boards.  We grabbed one.  We did learn afterwards to ask what was on draft before purchasing, as there was only three options at the pub and two options in the Schooner Bar. While each option was tasty, we got tired of those choices by the time we reached the final punches. 

The full drink card did not appear until day 7 so at that point was not worth it.  Since we did not have a drink package, we also brought on two bottles of wine.  Looking at our statement, we spent about $67 on drinks, plus an additional $6 for the boys BOGO milkshakes.  

Prior to the cruise, we purchased a coffee card.  My family enjoys our Starbucks, and since Adventure has premium coffees available at Cafe Promenade on board, we decided to pick up this shareable item before the cruise. 

For the low price of $31 (plus gratuities) = $36.58 you get 15 punches on the card.  On this sailing (as it seems to vary by ship) you got one punch for a tall or grande, and two for a venti. Frozen drinks were two punches.  

Between three of us, we had a hard time using all 15 punches. Not sure we’d purchase again on a seven night sailing.

Sushi making class: $35 pp plus gratuity times three people = $123.90

My husband, Tony, participated in this class on Harmony of the Seas and loved it, so he wanted to do it again with our boys. The amount of sushi you get for the money is amazing, and none of them could eat it all.  In fact, the staff at Izumi encourage you to have family members join you afterwards to help eat.  My mother-in-law happily obliged and even with a fourth person they each left rolls on their plates. 

Arcade: $40 
Those two college-aged boys I mentioned earlier?  They each asked for arcade credit as you cannot be separated from video games.  In advance, I paid $20 each and they received $25 arcade credit.  They were not at all thrilled with the options and many of the games were never working.  There is also no way to know how much of your pre-paid credit you have used, without keeping a mental tally. It does not show up anywhere.  

Voom: 2 device Surf & Stream package = $186.06
Since I would be Periscoping during our voyage, and my college boys needed to keep in contact with the girlfriend and friends at home, a minimum of a two device package was required.  We purchased the Twangster-recommended travel router for the cabin but I did not include it in my costs, as it is for all cruising and not specific to this one.  Voom was very cooperative most of the trip, only a few times the connection was too poor to periscope, but we could easily get online. 

Slot pull: $60 in, $32 back out.  
Our Meet & Mingle group organized a slot pull.  Since my boys are legal to gamble on the ship (and not here in NJ) they wanted to participate too.  $15 each was the buy in, and we all got $8 back.  

The only other onboard purchases were a shirt each, Tony bought a hat, and family photos. $65

Shore Excursions

 

We had three stops on this sailing. Port Canaveral, CocoCay & Nassau.

In Port Canaveral, we met up with fellow Periscopers for drinks & apps at Grills. $53 for the four of us, drinks & food.

CocoCay was our next stop.  Since there was six of us, we rented a bungalow.  We secured a great price during a Cruise Planner sale of $209.  Includes four bottles of Evian water, two floating mats, transportation all around the island (they are a bit far from the main area) and towels so you don’t have to lug them off the ship. Also included is food brought to your bungalow so you don’t have to go to the main BBQ area.  Well worth the price for six.  

We had reserved ahead of time jet skis for our boys, but it was too windy so that got canceled.  

In Nassau, we made reservations for day passes at the British Colonial Hilton.  Based on recommendations from Matt & other cruisers we booked ahead of time using resortforaday.com, which offers discounted passes.  You pay a small deposit per person when booking, then the remainder by credit card when you arrive.  Our deposit was $17 per person then $62 per person upon arrival for a total of $79 each = $316. You got a $40 food & beverage credit as part of that, and we left about $4 on our account.

That’s about it.  Parking for the week was $140, and we gave the porter $10 tip on arrival for a grand total of $150 miscellaneous.  

So overall, we spent about $1,400 per person all-inclusive for a 7 night vacation.  When thinking back about how much food alone my own two boys consumed during that time...we got our money’s worth!  After putting this together I went back to compare what we spent to what Matt & his wife spent on their, four night cruise, and it looks about comparable.  $400 more per person for three extra nights.

Top things to do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

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03May2018

After you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, you are likely trying to figure out what are the important things to know and do prior to the day when it is your turn to set sail.

Cruise planning can be a very fun and satisfying experience, and we picked the most important things everyone should consider doing prior to their cruise departure.  

Transfer to a travel agent

You took our advice and booked your Royal Caribbean cruise through a travel agent, right? Right?

If you did not, you have up to 60 days after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise to transfer the reservation to a travel agent so that they can assist in ensuring your cruise vacation goes off without a hitch.

Not only is a good travel agent have no cost associated with it, travel agents provide a tremendous amount of service.  They are your sounding board when you need advice on things like upgrading, changing staterooms, itinerary details, etc.  If there is a problem with your reservation, they are your partner in getting things taken care of quickly and easily. And, travel agents are there to help you save money wherever possible, like in the case of a price drop.

Add your reservation to the Cruise Planner

Now that your cruise is booked, you likely want to start the pre-cruise planning process by looking over the shore excursions, drink packages, specialty dining choices and other fun activities you can reserve.  A majority of this can be done by linking your cruise reservation to your Royal Caribbean account.

You can access the Cruise Planner by filling out the necessary fields on Royal Caribbean's web site.  Alternatively, you can log into the site if you already have an account set up.

Once logged in, you will have access to every detail of your sailing, including shore excursions, beverage packages, entertainment, dining reservations and more.

Arrive to the departure port at least one day early


 

In the grand scheme of travel, there are certain aspects that you have little to no control over, such as mechanical breakdowns, bad weather or other types of delays.

The key to mitigating the effects of these kind of delays is to give yourself more time to get to the departure port area. Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, get in early!

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  The last thing you want to do is put your entire cruise vacation in jeopardy because of a delayed flight or flat tire.

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

Arrive to the cruise terminal early

Nobody likes to wait in a line, so if you want to ensure a smooth and quick embarkation process, we advise getting to the cruise terminal early in the morning to get there before "everyone else" shows up. 

By arriving early, you will beat the big crowds that descend upon the cruise terminal later in the day, and you also get the added benefit of having some extra time onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean may send you an email about boarding times, but those are mostly suggestions and not enforced at all. If you followed our previous advice about arriving to your port city early, then likely your hotel will have a check-out time in the early part of the morning, which is the perfect excuse to head to the cruise port.

If you are wondering what time we mean when we say, "early", we are talking about sometime between 10:30am and 11:30am. The earlier you arrive on embarkation day, the earlier you will board the ship. 

Research the ports you will be visiting

The ports of call you visit are an exciting aspect to any Royal Caribbean cruise, so it is important to educate yourself on what these ports of call offer and what type of activities are available before you leave your home.

You certainly can book shore excursions onboard the ship, but lines tend to develop at the shore excursion desk.  By researching excursions at home, you afford yourself more time to compare different options and learn about what each port is known for.

You can view all the shore excursions available by logging into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner and browsing the shore excursions by port.  Each excursion will list the price, details of the activity and any physical or age restrictions.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of shore excursions in every port and on top of that, you can also consider shore excursions through third party groups to further expand your options.

Read a past Cruise Compass

After booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you may have questions about themed nights, activities offered onboard, show times and more.

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

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

Your thoughts

Did we miss any critical things to do after booking a cruise? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

5 Royal Caribbean cruise mistakes that are not really a mistake

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20Apr2018

If you are new to Royal Caribbean, there may be some aspects of the cruise experience that seem like they would be a mistake to do, but the reality is, it may be quite the opposite.

Here are five examples of ideas that may seem like a mistake, but are actually a good idea.

Cruising during hurricane season

The phrase, "hurricane season" seems to inflict the kind of fear into cruisers that makes it seem as though if you book a Royal Caribbean cruise between June 1 and November 30, you are asking for ocean conditions that rival that of a bathtub filled with an angry toddler.

The reality is, cruising during hurricane season is not nearly as dangerous or bad an experience as you may think.

Yes, there is a chance a hurricane may form and be directly in the path of where your cruise ship is scheduled to be, but if that were to occur, Royal Caribbean will re-schedule the ship to steer well-clear of the path of the storm.  Royal Caribbean actually has their own dedicated meteorologist who plans around storms and works to ensure guests, crew and ship are out of harms way.

Moreover, cruising during hurricane season can save you a lot of money.  If you book a cruise in September or October, you can often find some great deals on a Royal Caribbean cruise because this is a time of year many others cannot cruise.  

Using a porter

"I can carry my own luggage!"

Of course you can handle your own luggage, but why should you?  You are on vacation and lugging around luggage is the last thing you need to be bothered with doing.

The port you start and end your cruise with will have porters standing by to assist with your luggage.  Their services are free to use, but a tip is expected.  For a few dollars, you can avoid the hassle of grabbing your luggage. Carrying your own luggage should be a feat of strength, so spending a few dollars to let someone else do it makes it so much easier.

The best time to take advantage of the porters is on disembarkation day.  Not only are you tired from waking up early and depressed you have to leave the ship, but there is another good reason to use porters.  In many ports, there is a special line at Customs for porters, which means you may get through the Customs line quicker.

Arriving to the cruise terminal before your boarding time

You checked in for your Royal Caribbean cruise and see on your Set Sail pass a boarding time.  Believe it or not, that is a suggestion and not a requirement.

Royal Caribbean does not enforce boarding times.  They are just something they provide to give guests a ballpark idea of when to arrive.

While there is nothing wrong with adhering to the boarding time you are given, you should absolutely feel free to arrive earlier than the posted time so that you can get onboard sooner.  In fact, we think getting to the ship as early as possible is to your advantage to beat the crowds and start your vacation sooner.

Quite often, the cruise terminal opens many hours before your boarding time states, and boarding of the ship will commence shortly thereafter. In fact, the boarding process is largely predicated on a first-come, first boarded process.  So the earlier you check-in, the earlier you will board.

Ordering more than one entrée

When you dine at a Royal Caribbean restaurant (such as the main dining room), you can order multiple entrées.  In fact, it is encouraged!

When you dine at a restaurant on land, ordering multiple entrées is not only expensive, but seems glutenous and unnecessary.  On Royal Caribbean, ordering multiple entrées is actually a great idea.  The portion sizes of entrées in the main dining room are often smaller than you may think, and all the food in the main dining room is included in your cruise fare.  You can also order as many appetizers or desserts as well.

Another advantage of ordering multiple entrées is it is the perfect opportunity to try new foods.  Since there is no financial risk, give that escargot a try!

In Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants, all will allow you order multiple appetizers and desserts, and with the exception of Chops Grille, you can order as many entrées there too.

Booking a shore excursion only (or never) with Royal Caribbean

No matter where your Royal Caribbean cruise takes you, it is a mistake to completely disregard or only consider a shore excursion bought through Royal Caribbean.

In our experience, it is best to consider all excursion options and not limit yourself to just Royal Caribbean excursions, or just third-party excursions.

When researching each port that you will be visiting, never assume going it on your own or through Royal Caribbean is an absolute must or mistake.  

Did we miss any?

Is there a commonly held thought when it comes to planning a Royal Caribbean cruise that you think is not a mistake?  Have you encountered one of these situations yourself? Share your experiences and thoughts in our comments!

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