Planning

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.

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

In:
Category: 
04Oct2016

Royal Caribbean cruises are known for the wide-array of entertainment, dining and things to do onboard, and it got us thinking what would be a list of must-do activities that every Royal Caribbean cruiser should try at least once.

There is a daunting list of possibilities, but we have compiled our list of the activities that are available on pretty much every Royal Caribbean ship that are worth doing at least once.  See if you agree with what we have!

16. Eat in the main dining room

Traditional dining may not be everyone's favorite way to enjoy a meal onboard, but the main dining room is such a quintessential part of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience that we are starting our list with this institution.

The main dining room is open every day for breakfast and dinner, as well as lunch on sea days.

The elegance, service and fine dining choices available in the main dining room make this a must-do experience for anyone taking a Royal Caribbean ship. Whether with My Time Dining or Traditional, everyone should try the main dining room at least once.

We also are big fans of lunch in the main dining room.  Available only on sea days, the lunch menu changes every day and is a bit of a hidden gem among Royal Caribbean fans for the great food choices.

15. See 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.

14. Watch the ship's wake

Taking a cruise is such a relaxing and wonderful way to enjoy a vacation, and regardless of which ship you happen to be on, take a walk on the outside promenade deck at least once to enjoy the view of the ship's wake from the aft of the ship.

This vantage point is quite beautiful and calming, and you might find yourself spending more time here than you thought. Since most guests do not make it over here, it is one of the more secluded spots on a Royal Caribbean ship.

On Oasis-class ships, Royal Caribbean even added chairs for guests to enjoy and watch the wake as their ship moves to the next adventure.

13. Eat at Chops Grille

This entry should be really titled, "eat at a specialty restaurant," and if we are talking about the specialty restaurant to try if you do not eat at any others, it has to be Chops Grille.

For years, Chops Grille has been the defacto signature Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant.  While many other specialty restaurants have been added in recent years, Chops Grille remains in our opinion the restaurant to try if you only choose one.  Plus, it is available on all ships in the fleet and is consistently a wonderful experience.

12. Watch a sunrise or sunset

Being out in the ocean, catching a sunrise or sunset is a gorgeous event that should be done every cruise, but definitely at least once.

The spectacle of the sun rising and setting is amazing, with the many colors in the sky and reflections in the ocean, we should probably add to bring a camera with you because you will want to capture these memories.

Sunrises are much easier to see, since they usually occur at a much more convenient time, but if you cannot sleep one morning, make a point to grab a cup of coffee and try for a sunrise as well.  Either way, you will see one of nature's truly beautiful events.

11. See the Love and Marriage game show

Royal Caribbean has added some incredible shows to its fleet of ships, but one evening show that is a staple of any cruise is the Love and Marriage game show.

Based loosely on "The Newly Wed game," Royal Caribbean's version involves three couples trying to prove they know their spouse the best.  It is a quiz of memory and how well one spouse thinks they know the other.

This is a show that has been performed throughout the years on Royal Caribbean, and we think it is definitely a show that you have to catch at least once to have an appreciation for how amusing it can be.

10. Watch the belly flop contest at the pool

In terms of spectacles, you cannot top the belly flop competition in the main pool.

As the name implies, it is a competition of wills, determination and iron guts.  You might cringe, laugh or applaud, but it is the kind of show that everyone needs to see once.

9. Try room service

Did you know that room service is complimentary on your Royal Caribbean cruise? So many of us have become conditioned to never order room service that it escapes our minds when it comes to a cruise.

There is room service available 24 hours per day, every day of your cruise (there is a small surcharge if you order room service late at night).  The menu varies throughout the day, but the most popular option is breakfast.

You fill out the menu, leave it on the outside of your door and in the morning, your breakfast bounty will be delivered. Even if you just order coffee and bacon to have something to get you going, it is a wonderful option.

8. Watch the wipe outs at the FlowRider

Not every ship has a FlowRider surf simulator, but if yours has one, be sure to head there one day to enjoy the performances and in many cases, lack of coordination.

Guests that try their hand at the FlowRider know that falling down is very likely to happen, but it is all held in good fun and the crew members who assist the guests actively try to help guests with improving their form and learning new tricks.

There is stadium seating behind the FlowRider, which is the perfect vantage point to take in (controlled) surfing at sea.

7. See the ice show

I remember on my first Royal Caribbean cruise aboard Explorer of the Seas seeing an ice show in the Cruise Compass and thinking to myself how boring that should must be.  Boy, was I wrong!

Royal Caribbean's ice skating shows are marvelous examples of grace, skills and coordination set to fabulous music with a loose story.  It all comes together to form one of the best shows Royal Caribbean offers.

If you have the same thoughts I did about seeing an ice skating show, give the show a try because it is a truly amazing show that needs to be seen at least once.

6. Stay in a balcony stateroom once

Everyone has a budget and a balcony stateroom may not always be financially feasible, but it is the kind of experience that if you have never done it before, need to save to try just once.

There is quite a heated debate among Royal Caribbean fans of whether a balcony or inside room is a better bet, but staying in a balcony is something everyone must try at least once.

Having your own private balcony can transform your cruise experience.  Whether you are on your balcony in the morning (remember room service?) or taking it all in with a book in the afternoon, a balcony stateroom means you have your own spot to enjoy without anyone else to bother you (unless that someone else is staying in your stateroom).

5. Experience a sailaway party

Your Royal Caribbean cruise really begins when the muster drill is over and the ship drops its lines and leaves port to head to the first stop.  To celebrate this moment, Royal Caribbean offers a sailaway party at the pool deck and invites all guests to join.

The sailaway party involves dancing, music and drinks and is something worth trying at least once.

There are lots of places onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise to enjoy sailaway, but the sailaway party is something that must be experienced, because it is a core part of the Royal Caribbean cruise process.

4. Take a spa tour

You do not have to buy anything, but the Vitality Spa tour are complimentary and a great way to see this relaxing and luxurious oasis with no commitment.

Tours are available throughout your cruise, but the time to do it is on embarkation day.  The reason to take a tour is as much to learn about the services offered, as it is to take in the wonderful aromas, check out the facilities and learn more about the ship you are on.

3. Dress up for formal night

Formal night may be a vestige of cruising's past, but it remains one of the classiest evenings of any cruise and we think you ought to try it at least once.

The reason why formal night is fun is because in most of our lives, there is so little opportunity to get dressed up outside of weddings and funerals.   On formal night, everyone looks great and when you look great, you feel great too.

While you are dressed "to the nines," be sure to take photos of the family looking their best. Royal Caribbean provides complimentary photographers to take your photos, and then you have the choice later to purchase the photo or not.  Nearly all of our family photos are from formal night on a cruise and it is worth doing at least once.

2. Try the escargot (seriously)

In case you did not know, escargot are cooked snails and they are a delicacy and available each evening in the main dining room.  And yes, most people probably make a face when they first read about it, but it has become a cruising classic and you ought to give it a whirl at least once.

Most fans of escargot will tell you that it is not nearly as bad as you think, and the fact they are cooked in plenty of garlic and butter means you can barely taste them.  Eat it with bread and you may not even recognize the former terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs.

1. Book another cruise while onboard

A very common question that is asked on this site is how to get the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and without a doubt, it is to book another cruise onboard.

Royal Caribbean's NextCruise program offers essentially "free money" for rebooking.  You can book any Royal Caribbean cruise that is open for booking and take advantage of any booking promotion that is offered, plus get bonus onboard credit and reduced deposit for booking a cruise onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Not only is it a great deal, but it will give you something to look forward to when you have to sadly disembark your cruise later!

Your thoughts

There you have our list of the top things that everyone ought to do at least once on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Which ones have you yet to try? Did we miss something from our list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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

In:
23Jul2016

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

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

Why prebook?

The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise.

There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. 

By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

When can I prebook?

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

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

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

Entertainment: Royal Caribbean only allows guests to reserve seats for shows on Oasis and Quantum-class cruise ships.  All other ships, will have seating available on a first-come, first-served basis and/or complimentary tickets once guests are onboard.  

If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary.

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

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

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

How to book your first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Jul2016

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

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

1. Decide: Travel agent or On Your Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booking online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Itinerary or ship?

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

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

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

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

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

3. Stateroom

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

Categories

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

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

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

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

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

Location

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

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

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

4. When to book

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

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

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

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

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

5. Next steps

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts

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

Tips for celebrating on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
06Jul2016

Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, and graduations, among other things, on a Royal Caribbean cruise is extremely popular, and for good reason. Not only is a Royal Caribbean cruise a great vacation idea, but it is a great place for a celebration!

If you’re celebrating during your Royal Caribbean vacation, there are a lot of special activities and add-ons that can make the trip even more special, but the overall “regular” atmosphere itself is pretty conducive to celebrations. You don’t have to spend a ton (or any) extra money to have great trip celebrating a special event…unless you want to do so.

Celebratory fun on a Royal Caribbean cruise can come both from pre-planned activities and via the spontaneous acts of crew members.  Obviously spontaneity cannot be planned, but here are some of our recommendations for celebrating your special event on Royal Caribbean.

Planning

If you are a planner and want your celebration to be as special as possible, there are a few things you can do.  First, when booking your Royal Caribbean cruise, note on the reservation that you are celebrating an event.  This is easiest done with your travel agent or with the reservation agent on the phone.  Telling someone and having them acknowledge your information seems to go a long way.  

Other things that should be planned in advance are add-ons like cakes, gifts, flowers and other surprises.  These can all be ordered via the Royal Gifts web site, which offers access to pretty much everything you can pre-order.  Orders are accepted up to 48 business hours before debarkation (with the exception of flowers and packages containing flowers).  There are a ton of options to choose from and seems to cover most special occasions we hear about.  This is the best option if you want to have something delivered on a specific day.

The only other advance planning to speak of is booking any add-on experiences described below in advance.  You cannot (and likely should not) ask for something special, but often just mentioning it is your anniversary/honeymoon/birthday will get someone thinking about a way to make the event more special because of that.

What to do?

The degree to which you celebrate the occasion is entirely up to you. Royal Caribbean cruises are usually a celebration unto themselves, so if you only want to do a little to acknowledge the celebration, that’s pretty easy. If you want the trip to revolve around the celebration, that’s possible, too!

Decorate - A very easy way to make someone feel special and inform others that this is a special cruise, is to decorate your stateroom door.  As you walk around the ship, you may spot others who have decorated their stateroom doors as well, and this time-honored tradition involves appending streamers, photos, print outs and pretty much anything else that can be attached via a magnet to the door.  It is important to know that guests may not use tape or another adhesive to decorate their doors, so be sure to purchase plenty of magnets to use instead.

Surprises - Try to spice things up with some surprises unique to the person for whom you are celebrating.  If you just got engaged, a bottle of champagne in the room is great. Same goes for a honeymoon…you can use your imagination for some other in-room honeymoon options…this is a family friendly blog. For a kid celebrating a birthday, consider an onboard scavenger hunt leading them to a present “from” their favorite DreamWorks character.

For example, if they are a Shrek fan, buy some Shrek toy(s) on eBay or your local retailer and have the clues lead to somewhere on the ship that someone in your party can be at with the gift waiting.  Just remember that there are a few thousand other guests on the ship with you, so plan appropriately when it comes to hiding clues and/or gifts and expecting them to remain there.

Guests can also reserve private rides on North Star.  Special events like proposals -- and even wedding ceremonies -- can take place during private rides on the North Star.

Spa - Man, woman or child generally have a tough time resisting the amazing and relaxing experiences of the Vitality Spa. Reserving a special treatment for someone as a means to indulge is usually quite popular, and a great way to let them really enjoy their special day. Whether it is a massage, facial, shave or other pampering, the spa is a great way to celebrate because often people overlook the spa services.  Prices at the spa will vary from the inexpensive to full-on pampering.  

Drink around the ship - Royal Caribbean is well known for creating some wonderful cocktails and it designed its bars and lounges around its ships to offer different experiences at each one.  Doing a bar crawl around the ship is a really fun way to explore the ship, celebrate a special occasion and have an incredibly fun time. The special person should drink for free, while the group picks up his/her tab.  You could get custom-made t-shirts for the occasion, too!

Special dinner - In addition to the great specialty restaurants offered on all Royal Caribbean ships, there are a few select dining options that are above and beyond the norm, which can be the perfect way to celebrate.

There are several special dining options to choose from, and which you can pick from will depend on your ship and sailing.  Some of the best ones include:

  • 150 Central Park
  • Chef's Table
  • Prime Table

These restaurants offer special menus that focus on elegance and a different kind of experience than the usual dining fare.  We think these kind of private dining choices are perfect for couples that want some romance. These are the epitome of a special dining experience, but if you want something a bit more pedestrian in nature (and less expensive too), try these dining options:

  • Wonderland
  • Chops Grille
  • Izumi Hibachi

You can also speak to your head waiter in the Main Dining Room and inform them about the special occasion you are celebrating.  The head waiter is your best friend when it comes to anything above and beyond the norm.  They can arrange for cakes, singing and other ideas to make for celebrating.  Plus, in most cases, the services of the head waiter are complimentary.  

Private shore excursions - Depending on what you want to do, there are a ton of shore excursion options to choose from. We love the offerings that Royal Caribbean has, but if you want to do something extra special, consider booking a private tour that allows the tour operator to focus on your group and what will make your celebration extra special.  The price and subject of the excursion will depend on what you want to do, but a private tour of the port you are visiting, a trip to the spa on shore, renting a yacht or maybe private lessons with a surf instructor are just a few ideas we have run across.  

Do your research to find the perfect shore excursion that will fit what you are looking to do, but picking one port for something extra special can be a great way to accentuate an already fun vacation.

Fun for the kids - If you have kids celebrating something special, there are some great choices for them too. Girls of a certain age will enjoy the Barbie Experience available on many ships.  There are also packages available for Sweet 16's, Quinceañeras and Bar & Bat-Mitzvahs via Royal Caribbean's Gifts site.

If your Royal Caribbean ship has a FlowRider, you could reserve private lessons so that they can get a better chance at learning how to really surf (or just stand up without immediately falling down).

Your thoughts

What have you celebrated on a Royal Caribbean cruise Do you have any tips or additional suggestions for celebrating? Share your thoughts in the comments!

8 things you must do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
27Jun2016

You just booked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for your family.  Whether it is your first or fiftieth cruise, this results in such a great feeling of euphoria, excitement and anticipation.  Now that you have your sailing booked, what should you do next?

Arguably, planning your Royal Caribbean is almost as fun as the cruise itself and after you confirm your cruise booking with your travel agent (you used a travel agent, right?), here are eight important things that you should take care of next.

8. Post about it on Facebook

Part of the fun of taking a Royal Caribbean cruise is the, "humble brag."  Great vacations are an important event in anyone's life, so wanting to tell your friends and family about your next adventure is a very common feeling.

Booking a Royal Caribbean cruise is fun and all of a sudden, you have something new to look forward to.  Therefore, it makes total sense to share the good news with everyone you are friends with on social media.

Maybe you will post a photo you found of the ship, or tell the story of how you surprised your kids with the news.  However you do it, sharing the excitement with everyone you know is a great way to start the countdown until you sail. Besides, your post might convince a friend or family member of yours to join you on that sailing!

7. Check airfare

Most guests that book a Royal Caribbean cruise are not lucky enough to be within driving distance to the embarkation port, so looking at airfare is something you want to take care of sooner, rather than later.

Airfare prices are anything but predictable, so you will want to start looking into flight options to ensure the best possible price.

Just like cruise fares, the best prices for airfare seem to favor those that book well in advance.  

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

6. Consider travel insurance

Royal Caribbean, your travel agent and a slew of companies offer trip insurance for your vacation and depending on your risk tolerance, it may be a good investment.

Trip insurance can protect you against a multitude of emergencies, unforeseen events and accidents.  It is one of those things that you are glad you have it, if you need it.  

It is important to not just look at price but consider what is actually covered by the plan.  A common misconception surrounds hurricanes.  Many people think trip insurance will cover them if there is a hurricane in the general vicinity of their cruise and they can cancel with a full refund.  The reality is most plans only cover hurricanes if the cruise is canceled or otherwise directly impacted by the storm.  A guest's desire to cancel because they fear a storm is not usually grounds for the insurance to kick in, so it is important to understand what the plan does and does not cover and what circumstances allow for the insurance to kick in.

You should also check if any of your credit cards include trip insurance in your policy.  Many credit cards include that provision, provided you used that credit card for payment.

Once again, a good travel agent can be your guide in assisting you as to which options and plans are best for you.

5. Make sure passport is current

It never hurts to double check your passport to ensure it is still valid and  will be current throughout your cruise. All too often, people assume it is still good and then realize very close to their sailing date that their passport expired or will expire.

It only takes a few seconds, but dig out those passports and check each of their expiration dates to ensure you are all set. 

You should also be aware that the United States Department of State advises that U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced.

And if you are wondering, "do I need a passport?" the answer in our opinion is a resounding yes.  The benefits of traveling with a passport far outweigh any of the costs associated with getting one.  It is a solid investment for any traveler.

4. Ask for time off from work

It is probably a good idea to speak with your manager about getting the necessary vacation time from work for the cruise you just booked, especially if you value your employment.

Whether you are a manager or regular employee, get your time off on that vacation calendar as soon as possible so it can be approved.  In some companies, there are policies that prohibit too many employees from taking time off at the same time, so be sure you do not run into an issue with your Human Resources department.

3. Link the reservation in My Cruises

With your cruise booked, you are probably curious about excursions, dining options, drink packages and more, so be sure to link your cruise to your Royal Caribbean account.

If you have not done so already, create a My Cruises account on Royal Caribbean's web site. It's free and should take just a few minutes to complete.

Log into your account and then add an existing reservation to your My Cruises account.

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

2. Check excursions

After you complete the last step and register your cruise with your Royal Caribbean account, you can begin looking at what exciting shore excursions are available.

You definitely do not have to book anything right after booking your cruise, but it never hurts to get an idea of what to expect.  Plus, there might be something you were not aware was offered.

In our experience, excursion research and planning is a multi-step approach, and the more time you spend considering options and learning about what each port offers, the better informed you will be.

Royal Caribbean's excursions are not the only option to consider, but it is always a good starting point.

1. Select your dining preference

Dinner on a Royal Caribbean cruise has a few options to choose from, and you will want to make sure you pick the option you want.  Depending on your ship, there can be a few choices: traditional, My Time Dining or Dynamic Dining.

Traditional dining is where you have a set time each night of your cruise, where you will be seated at the same table in the main dining room and have the same wait staff and table mates.  This is the most common choice available and is also the most widely available option.  There are two times, early and late seating.

My Time Dining takes place in the Main Dining Room as well, but instead of a fixed time and table, you reserve times during the evening or show up and get the first available table.  My Time Dining allows for more flexibility in when you eat, but requires more planning to ensure you have a spot each night to dine at.

Dynamic Dining is the newest choice, and is available on Quantum class ships currently.  There is no Main Dining Room, but instead you have a choice among complimentary and specialty restaurants to book reservations at.  You can pick the same restaurant or as many as you want, with different waiters and times each evening.

To enroll in any of these options for your cruise, contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly and request the one you want. There can be times where the choice you want is full, but you can request to be put on a wait list and in our experience, wait list requests usually are fulfilled.

Your thoughts

What things do you do right after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise? Are there some pitfalls you would recommend others avoid? Share the important tasks that you think everyone should do in our comments below!

5 things that are totally worth the extra money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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31May2016

While on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you may be tempted to spend money on all sorts of extras, experiences and wonderful things, however, sometimes it is difficult to know which of these are worth the extra money.

There are plenty of great extra you can buy for your cruise, but here is a list of our favorite extras that we do not mind (as much) paying out of pocket for.

5. Stay in a balcony stateroom

In the grand scheme of ways to spend some extra money, it is difficult to overlook the value of a balcony stateroom.

Balcony staterooms offer your own private views of the ocean (or Boardwalk/Central Park on Oasis-class ships) that arguably make the cruise experience much more personal.

Having the ability to go onto your balcony at any time of day or night and enjoy the view, drink your coffee or catch the breeze is what a balcony is all about.

Plus, having a balcony room gets you more living space. The balcony itself provides more room and balcony staterooms offer more space inside the room compared to cheaper stateroom categories.

4. Dinner events

Did you know on many Royal Caribbean ships there are dinner events, where guests are invited to join in some fun along with drinks and food?

Two events are worth your time and money to enjoy: The Mystery Dinner Theater and the Prohibition Party.

The Mystery Dinner offers an evening of fun, where the cast pits you as the detectives and need your help in solving a crime, while enjoying great food in Giovanni's Table.

If dancing and drinks are more your style, check out the Prohibition Party, where you enter the world of a 1920's speakeasy and enjoy dancing, drinks and great jazz music.

3. Stay an extra day before/after your cruise

If I can share one tip that anyone can use for their cruise, it is to extend your vacation and stay an extra day (or more) before or after your cruise.

Travel delays happen all the time and the last thing you want to do is put your cruise vacation in jeopardy because of a flight delay or traffic.

By staying in a hotel a night or two before your cruise, you can give yourself plenty of buffer to accommodate almost any travel delay.  Plus, it means you go on vacation earlier!

2. Beach lounger

On Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee and CocoCay, you will find a serene paradise.  One of the best ways to enjoy paradise is from the comfort of your beach lounger.

Available at both of Royal Caribbean's private destinations, the beach loungers provide privacy, protection from the sun and some nice perks too.

On Labadee, the beach loungers cost just $35 and have room for two guests and get you a private beach, two lounge chairs and beach attendant.

On CocoCay, the beach loungers are $50 and include everything Labadee's beach loungers include, plus you get private tram service, fresh fruit, bottled water and floats.

Not only are the beach loungers comfortable and fun, but they are great values and worth the extra cost.

1. Dine at Chef's Table or 150 Central Park or Wonderland

These days, there are so many amazing Royal Caribbean restaurants to choose from and they all have different prices.  If you have the choice, you will want to try at least one of these three specialty restaurants on your next cruise.

Chef's Table, 150 Central Park and Wonderland all come with higher costs than some other specialty restaurants, but the experience at all three are well worth it.

These restaurants offer fantastic service, even better food and ambience to match.

Whether you are looking to celebrate a special occasion or just a special night out, these three choices are perfect and will leave you satisfied with the experience (and the cost).

What do you think is worth the extra cost on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share them all with us in the comments!

How to get onboard credit on your Royal Caribbean cruise

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05Feb2016

As you start to learn about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise and hop on message boards, social media and other avenues of talking about cruising, you may start to notice other guests talking about free money they are getting in the form of onboard credit.

The natural reaction to this is: what is onboard credit and how do I get onboard credit?

What is onboard credit?

Onboard credit is essentially free money that you can spend onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise.

When a guest receives onboard credit, their SeaPass account is credited with that amount of money to offset any onboard purchases, such as shore excursions, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, drink purchases and anything else you can charge to your SeaPass account.

Once onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, a guest's SeaPass account will receive a credit that corresponds to the onboard credit value they were promised.

A common misconception is you can take onboard credit and apply it towards a specific purchase.  Your onboard credit is applied against any and all onboard purchases you make in general. So there is no need to worry about ensuring you use it for one purchase or another.

You can only spend onboard credit once you are on your Royal Caribbean ship, so any purchases made in advance of your cruise cannot be applied towards your onboard credit.

How to get onboard credit

There are a lot of ways to get onboard credit, and not all means of getting onboard credit will always be available, but it is important to understand all the possibilities.

The simplest answer on how to get onboard credit is you have to be given onboard credit from someone else, either Royal Caribbean or another entity.  

Let us explore the possibilities.

Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean booking promotion

The most common way guests receive onboard credit is to receive it from Royal Caribbean as part of a deal to book a cruise.

Royal Caribbean regularly offers onboard credit as an incentive to get guests to book a cruise.

These are typically periodic promotions, where the amount of onboard credit you receive is tied to the stateroom category you book, as well as the exact promotion offered. Some promotions will offer more onboard credit than others.

The amount of onboard credit will vary from promotion to promotion and it is important to read the deal's rules and conditions.  In a best case scenario, Royal Caribbean offered up to $400 onboard credit for Balcony & Suite guests in a recent Cyber Monday promotion.

This may not be the most lucrative source of onboard credit, but it is regularly the simplest way of getting some.

Onboard credit by booking another Royal Caribbean cruise while onboard

If you happen to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise and cannot wait to reserve space on another sailing, then take advantage of Royal Caribbean's onboard booking bonus.

Royal Caribbean incentives its guests to re-book another cruise while still onboard by offering them extra onboard credit on top of whatever promotion is currently running.

Guests can visit the NextCruise office and get up to $500 in onboard credit to spend on their current sailing or defer it to an upcoming sailing.

The onboard credit you get at the NextCruise office is free money, because Royal Caribbean is rewarding you for reserving another sailing and is one of the best, and most lucrative means of getting a lot  of onboard credit.

Onboard credit from a travel agent

We love using travel agents to book our Royal Caribbean cruises for the wonderful value they provide in terms of service, but travel agents are also a great source of onboard credit.

In general, many travel agents offer their own booking bonus for working with them.

The amount of onboard credit a travel agent can give you on top of whatever Royal Caribbean is offering will vary greatly, and depends on the agency size and the stateroom category you book.

Onboard credit is one way travel agents differentiate themselves from one another and take steps to earn business.

Onboard credit from the Royal Caribbean Visa card

Royal Caribbean has its own branded Visa credit card, which allows guests to earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit on future cruises (as well as other rewards too).

Each purchase you make with the card earns you points, and as you save those points, you can redeem them for onboard credit.

As an example, the Royal Caribbean card will net a guest $100 in onboard credit for 10,000 points.

Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean mistake

No one is perfect, certainly not Royal Caribbean, and while you probably will not like the mistake itself, the silver lining is often Royal Caribbean offers guests onboard credit as a means of making it up to them.

Incidents like poor service, billing inaccuracies and other frustrations are often handled with onboard credit (in addition to remedying the situation as best they can).

The exact amount of onboard credit will depend on the nature of the incident.

Onboard credit by referring friends

If you refer a first-time Royal Caribbean cruiser and they book a stateroom, Royal Caribbean will offer you onboard credit as a reward.  

You will receive $25 in onboard credit for each stateroom your friends reserve on your cruise booked. You may refer up to a maximum of 5 staterooms for any length of cruise.

The first-time guest must be sailing on the same ship and sail date as you, the Crown and Anchor member.

You can register for this credit by going to RoyalCaribbean.com/BringAFriend.

How have you gotten onboard credit in the past? Share your best tips in the comments!

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