Planning

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

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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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Category: 
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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Category: 
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!

Guide to Royal Caribbean 2016 new cruise ships and refurbishments

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Category: 
05Jan2016

In 2016, Royal Caribbean will have a pretty big year with a lot of changes, but perhaps no change is bigger than the anticipated arrival of new cruise ships 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 2016 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 2016

A total of three cruise ships are joining Royal Caribbean's fleet in 2016, two are brand new and one is rejoining the fleet.

Harmony of the Seas

If there is one cruise ship you will likely hear or read about, it will be Harmony of the Seas.  

Harmony of the Seas is the third Oasis class ship that will be the largest cruise ship in the world, with 16 guest decks, encompassing 227,000 gross registered tons and carry 5,497 guests at double occupancy across 2,747 staterooms.

Besides her sheer size, Harmony of the Seas is going to offer some firsts for the Oasis class and even Royal Caribbean itself.

Harmony of the Seas will offer guests the first set of real water slides on a Royal Caribbean ship with the addition of the Perfect Storm slides.

Three multi-story slides will be added above Central Park that descend three decks through a series of twists and turns over the ship’s tree-lined Central Park neighborhood 10 decks below.

If you want an even bigger thrill, Harmony of the Seas will feature a 10-story dry slide known as the Ultimate Abyss.

The Ultimate Abyss is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send guests down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour.

There is plenty more to love about Harmony of the Seas, including a new aquatic adventure park for kids, the classic Broadway musical Grease, dancing robot bartenders at Bionic Bar, virtual balcony staterooms, WOWband RFID bracelets and Voom high speed internet, just to name a few.

New specialty restaurants such as Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, Sabor Taqueria and Tequila Bar, and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine will also be added.

Harmony of the Seas debuts in May 2016 for her inaugural summer season in Europe, before heading to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in November 2016 to offer seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.

Ovation of the Seas

Also brand new for 2016 is Ovation of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's third Quantum class ship.

Ovation of the Seas will offer the kind of Quantum class innovations that made a name for her sister ships with exciting offerings such as skydiving at Ripcord by iFly, taking to the sky in a 360 degree view 90 meters above the sea in North Star and engaging in a friendly bump or two with bumper cars.

In addition, Ovation of the Seas will offer guests lots of other SmartShip experiences onboard, such as robot bartenders at Bionic Bar, the transformative and incredible entertainment found only in Two70 and the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with SeaPlex.

Ovation of the Seas will also offer Voom high speed internet and WOWbands, so guests can stay connected at sea.

If you are a foodie, Ovation of the Seas will offer great restaurant choices in restaurants like Izumi, Jamie's Italian and Wonderland.

When Ovation of the Seas launches, she will head to Asia to start off with a 52-night Global Odyssey cruise from Southampton, U.K. to Tianjin.  She will follow up her summer season with heading down under for winter in Australia.

Empress of the Seas

While not a new construction, Empress of the Seas is joining Royal Caribbean's fleet in March 2016 after leaving the fleet about eight years ago.

Empress of the Seas will be based in Miami, Florida, where she will sail short four- and five-night getaways to Nassau, The Bahamas; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman and Key West, Florida.

Empress of the Seas was originally launched in 1990 as the Nordic Empress but left the fleet to join a sister company.  Royal Caribbean is returning Empress of the Seas to Royal Caribbean International this year.

Royal Caribbean is offering some unique options on Empress of the Seas, such as fast pier-to-ship boarding with earlier boarding times, longer stays in ports and overnight stays in Cozumel on select five-night itineraries.

In addition, Empress of the Seas will offer guests

  • New Las Vegas-style “Sequins & Feathers” show
  • Newly reimagined Boleros Latin Lounge.
  • Fast pier-to-ship boarding with earlier boarding times of 11:00am
  • New pools and whirlpools
  • Voom internet
  • Chops Grille
  • Stateroom Refresh
  • Reimagined Casino

When Empress of the Seas does start offering cruises, guests can look forward to Sunday Brunch every day of the cruise, with complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa cocktails.  There will also be new poolside activities, like Plunge and Voom high speed internet.

Cruise ship refurbishments in 2016

Royal Caribbean is always looking to add more value to their ships and in 2016, 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.

Liberty of the Seas

Later in January 2016, Royal Caribbean will send Liberty of the Seas for a month-long drydock where she will receive a number of upgrades and additions.

Liberty of the Seas returns to service in February 2016 and will offer these changes

  • Two racer water slides, called Cyclone and Typhoon that will be added at the aft of the ship alongside the Flowrider surf simulator.
  • Tidal Wave, the first Boomerang style water slide at sea that features a steep drop, where riders are propelled up a near vertical wall for a moment of weightlessness and then into a freefall.
  • An adult-free zone with the introduction of Splashaway Bay, an aqua park featuring an interactive kid’s play area with water cannons, geysers and much more.
  • New specialty restaurants
  • 26 new Panoramic ocean view staterooms that feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls
  • Additional 53 staterooms throughout the ship.

Jewel of the Seas

In April 2016, Jewel of the Seas will get a $30 million bow-to-stern refurbishment that will bring many changes to the ship.

During her refurbishment, Jewel of the Seas renovation features will include

  • New 2 bedroom Family Suite stateroom
  • All staterooms will be renoveated with an additional 42 staterooms added
  • New specialty restaurants will be added
    • Giovanni's Table (replaces Portofino)
    • Vintages (replaces Champagne Bar)
    • Izumi (replaces Seaview Cafe)
  • Pervasive Wi-Fi & Digital signage throughout the ship
  • New poolside movie screen
  • Diamond Club added to the Viking Crown Lounge
  • Renovated Chops Grille
  • Renovated Spa and retail shops
  • Concierge Club will replace Hollywood Odyssey
  • Shoreside Dining Room, Explorer’s Court and Yacht Club will be removed.
  • Addition of Voom high-speed internet

Following her refurbishment, Jewel of the Seas will offer cruises from Rome on an array of itineraries showcasing the best destinations of Italy, Greece and Turkey. These 7, 8, and 9 night itineraries mainly sail through the Greek Isles.

Jewel of the Seas will complete her European itinerary in October 2016 after which she will return to her home port of San Juan, Puerto where she will sail 6, 7, 8 and 9 night Southern Caribbean itineraries.

Majesty of the Seas

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Majesty of the Seas will offer summer 2016 cruises from her new home in Port Canaveral, Florida right after she sails to the Bahamas for a drydock for upgrades and receive transformational new onboard amenities.

Work scheduled to occur on Majesty of the Seas includes

  • Complimentary Voom high speed internet access
  • New water slides
  • Family-friendly Jacuzzis
  • Poolside movie screen
  • Dreamworks Experience
  • Enhanced casino
  • New specialty restaurants

Following her upgrades, Majesty of the Seas will be homeported in Port Canaveral starting in summer 2016. Majesty of the Seas will sail 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas with visits to the cruise line’s private island destination, CocoCay.

Adventure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has not revealed plans yet for what changes are coming to Adventure of the Seas, aside from the fact she is on the schedule for a refurbishment in 2016.

Based purely on the schedule of planned cruises, Royal Caribbean has a gap between scheduled sailings for Adventure of the Seas from October 16, 2016 to November 14, 2016.

Anyone looking for a ballpark idea of what to expect, can likely look at the sort of changes Royal Caribbean made to sister ships Navigator of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas for a guide.

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

Six big changes coming to Royal Caribbean in 2016

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18Dec2015

We are just weeks away from the start of 2016 and the new year will be bringing with it a lot of changes to Royal Caribbean.

From new ships to new amenities to new things to try onboard, there is plenty of reason to be excited about the changes coming to Royal Caribbean in 2016.  

6. Three ships will be refurbished in 2016

Liberty of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas are all due for refurbishments in 2016, which means a lot lot of new things to do onboard each ship.

Liberty of the Seas is getting a massive upgrade, with new restaurants, staterooms, water slides and an aqua park.  

Liberty of the Seas will go into drydock in January 2016 for about a month and then resume service in February 2016 with a ton of new options.

Next up will be Jewel of the Seas, which will receive a $30 million bow-to-stern revitalization in April 2016.

Jewel of the Seas will get a ton of upgrades, with new staterooms, restaurants, Voom high speed internet, poolside movie screen and a lot more.

Majesty of the Seas will also be going to drydock after her April 29, 2016 cruise and will receive several upgrades, including water slides, additional hot tubs, and an outdoor movie screen added to the pool area.

The ship will also add new restaurants, upgrades to the casino and additional amenities for guests staying in suites.

All three ships are due for some major work and the result will be completely new and impressive options for guests to enjoy going forward.

5. Empress of the Seas is returning to the fleet

Photo by Chris&Steve

Empress of the Seas will return home to Royal Caribbean an almost eight year absence.

Just like the ships listed above, Empress of the Seas will undergo an extensive refurbishment in Spring 2016 before resuming service in the fleet.

Royal Caribbean veterans that remember Empress of the Seas will enjoy the return of an old friend and the opportunity to cruise on a classic ship once again.

4. Broadway show will debut on two ships

What is better than a new Broadway show on a Royal Caribbean ship? How about a new show on two ships!

The hit Broadway musical, Grease, will debut onboard Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas starting in 2016.

The all-new, never-before-seen stage production, specially adapted by Royal Caribbean Productions, will boast a soundtrack of crowd favorites such as “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Born to Hand-Jive,” “Beauty School Dropout” and more.

3. Voom is coming to more Royal Caribbean ships

Royal Caribbean's high speed internet service known as Voom is arguably one of the best innovations Royal Caribbean has ever created and it is going to be available on even more Royal Caribbean ships in 2016.

We know of at least six ships that will be getting Voom in 2016

  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas

The exact dates when each ship will start offering Voom may vary, but expect all ships to have Voom ready to go by May 2016 at the latest.

2. Ovation of the Seas will debut

In addition to everything else we listed, Royal Caribbean will launch two brand new ships in 2016, starting with Ovation of the Seas.

Launching in April 2016, Ovation of the Seas is the third Quantum class cruise ship will offer a 52-night Global Odyssey from Southampton, U.K. to Tianjin, China.

Following a summer season in Asia, Ovation of the Seas will head south to Australia, where she will homeport in Sydney for winter 2016-17.

Ovation of the Seas will not only claim the title of the largest cruise ship to ever call Australia home but also the most technologically advanced in the region.

1. Harmony of the Seas will debut

While China gets the newest Quantum Class, North America is getting the newest Oasis Class, Harmony of the Seas.

Debuting in May 2016, Harmony of the Seas will offer a blend of classic Oasis class offerings coupled with some new enhancements.

The soon-to-be largest cruise ship in the world will offer European sailings from her homeport in Barcelona, Spain, starting on June 7.  Following her summer season, she will head to Port Everglades, Florida offering seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.

Harmony of the Seas is going to packed with a lot to do onboard, including the recently announced Ultimate Abyss 10 story slide.

Which Royal Caribbean change are you most excited about for 2016? Tell us in the comments!

What to do a week before your Royal Caribbean cruise

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17Nov2015

Great news: you have about a week to go before your Royal Caribbean cruise and that means your vacation will be starting very soon.  But what should you be doing now to prepare for it?

In the days leading up to your Royal Caribbean cruise, there are some important things every cruiser should do, to ensure their Royal Caribbean cruise goes off without a hitch!

Complete online check in

If you have not already, be sure to log into Royal Caribbean's web site and complete the online check in.

The online check in will save you a lot of time at the pier, as well as provide you with the necessary paperwork to expedite your cruise boarding procedure.

You will need a copy of everyone's documentation (passport or birth certificate), travel plans and a credit card to store for incidental charges.

Make sure you complete this at least 3 days prior to your sailing.

Print out your SetSail Pass & luggage tags

Whether you filled out the online check in months ago or just did it now, you will want to print out everyone's SetSail Pass along with luggage tags.

Once the check in process is finished, the web site will give you the option to print it all out.

Keep in mind, for the luggage tags, to print out as many copies as you may need.

A good tip is to save a copy of the luggage tags and SetSail Pass as a PDF on your computer in case you need a copy later.

TOTAL ROYAL CARIBBEAN PLANNING TIMELINE

Check the weather

Forecasting the weather a week out is not as precise as we would all like, but it is something that you should start doing now to get a sense of what to expect.

You should mostly focus on temperatures rather than precipitation forecasts, since forecast models often change considerably.

Keep in mind that in the Caribbean (and other tropical areas), rain is often in the forecast but that does not mean it will rain all day or even at all.  The tropics are notorious for pop up showers, which often last minutes rather than hours.

Having a ballpark idea of what to expect weather-wise will help you with the next task.

Start (thinking about) packing

Packing for your cruise vacation is something some folks really enjoy and others lament.  Regardless, we all have to do it.

Packing one week out from your cruise may be premature, but you should make sure all your luggage is good to go (i.e. no holes or rips).

In addition, you should start thinking about what clothing and outfits you want to bring with you.  This may trigger a memory that you wanted to replace a suit or shirt or get new shoes.

If there is anything you can pack now, breaking up the packing process does make it easier, rather than doing it all the night before.

Buy anything you have been putting off

There always seems to be something you have been meaning to buy for your cruise and now is the time to do it, before it is too late.

As your cruise gets closer and closer, you have less time and seemingly more things to get done, so get any shopping out of the way now so you can keep those last days stress-free.

Get cash & exchange money

You will definitely want to bring some cash with you for purchases that cannot be done via credit card or your SeaPass card.

Cash is useful when on shore excursions, tipping porters and other common situations that occur while traveling.  

United States Dollars are fine to use in the Caribbean, but if you are traveling elsewhere, consider exchanging your money for local currency.

You can shop around for some good exchange rates now, rather than taking whatever exchange rate you are subject to on shore during your cruise.

Stop your mail

You should either have the post office hold your mail until you return or arrange with a family member or friend to pick up the mail for you.

Stopping the mail can now be done online, and it is much simpler than having to go to the post office.

11 most amazing Royal Caribbean moments

In:
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24Aug2015

There seem to be certain moments of absolute joy when it comes to a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.  It is the moments when you forget about everything else in your life briefly and are engulfed in the pleasure of the cruise.

Frankly, I think it is these kinds of moments that bring Royal Caribbean fans back again and again to book more cruises.  

Here, you will find our list of the top 11 moments when you can take it all in and feel like you are "home".

11. Email telling you your cruise documents are ready

When I go to check my email and there is an email from Royal Caribbean that it is time to check into my cruise is the first real sign that my upcoming cruise is going to be here soon.

Let's face it, we book our Royal Caribbean cruises well in advance and it always seems like those countdowns to the next cruise cannot come soon enough.  

But this one email is your first indication that your next Royal Caribbean cruise is nearly here.  It was never so much fun typing in your family information!

10. Attaching your luggage tags

Like the email above, if you are taking the time to affix  to your suitcases and baggage, that means you are very close to a cruise.

While packing may not be the most fun activity someone can do, there is no denying that attaching your luggage tags can give a great sense of excitement since it only ever happens when you are days away from a cruise.

It just seems so perfect to have a set of suitcases with Royal Caribbean luggage tags on them, waiting to be put in a car and head off to a cruise.

9. Hearing the sound SeaPass cards make when passing through security

This is one of those sounds you have to have been on a Royal Caribbean cruise previously to properly appreciate.

Hearing this sound is just one of those quintessential Royal Caribbean moments that remind you subtly you are onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.

8. Windjammer lunch on embarkation day

If there is one meal I always look forward to every cruise, it is the first lunch onboard the ship in the Windjammer.

Having lunch on embarkation day in the Windjammer is a Royal Caribbean cruise tradition for me and when I sit down with my overflowing plate of food, that is the moment for me when it feels like the cruise has really begun.

7. Opening your stateroom door for the first time

Another one of those "my cruise is finally here" moments has to be when you put your SeaPass card or WOWBand up to the door of your stateroom and swing the door open to reveal your home for the next week or so.

Walking into your "home away from home" that represents your personal space for duration of your cruise really feels, well, good.  

Our family enjoys exploring the stateroom to find all the spots we can put away clothes and the various souvenirs we will collect.  And when you have a balcony stateroom, is there anything better than sliding open those balcony doors for the first time and feeling the ocean breeze?

6. Enjoying time on the pool deck

This moment is one that seems to repeat itself time and time again on your Royal Caribbean cruise but no one is complaining!

Time spent on the pool deck is time well spent, and it seems so many guests will find their way up to the main pool and enjoy some sun and a dip in the pool.

Regardless of if you enjoy time at the Solarium, H2O Zone or main pools, there never seems to be a bad time to be in the pool because this area of the ship is always a hub of activity and the perfect place to let a few hours slip by.

Extra points for enjoying the pool deck with an adult beverage, complete with umbrella and maybe some live music playing nearby!

5. Dinner in the main dining room

The main dining room is a quintessential part of the cruise experience and having dinner here is a feeling that I have yet to replicate anywhere else on land.

From the moment you are shown to your table and seated with a selection of fresh breads to choose from, the main dining room continues to be a central part of the cruise experience and sitting here and looking around to enjoy the scope and beauty of the area always resonates with me.

Perhaps it is because there are few, if any, comparable experiences to the main dining room outside of a cruise and Royal Caribbean seems to do their main dining room experience with such class and expertise that we relish the experience. 

4. Taking in a show in the Royal Theater

Royal Caribbean takes real pride in the entertainment it provides for its guests, chief among them the entertainment in the Royal Theater.

Whether you are seeing a Broadway show or the Love & Marriage game show or any of the fabulous acts that can be found in the Royal Theater, it seems like this is another one of those times when you can literally sit back and take it all in.

Royal Caribbean designs its shows to be a focal point of the onboard entertainment and for years, the company has been producing bigger and more elaborate shows that give guests something exciting and fun to watch each evening.

Favorite shows have to be any of the Broadway shows, Love and Marriage game show, Welcome Aboard show and Sonic Odyssey.

3. Walking down the Royal Promenade or into the Centrum

It does not matter if you have cruised with Royal Caribbean dozens of times or if it is your first, being on the Royal Promenade or Centrum always impresses guests and it is not hard to see why.

It is difficult not to step foot in this area and have a huge sense of satisfaction wash over yourself as you have one of those moments when you think to yourself, "I really am here!". 

The smell of food coming from Cafe Promenade or Sorrento's Pizza, the many shops selling pretty much everything you can think of, the art surrounding you, it all combines to set the tone for somewhere quite different from anywhere else.

The funny thing is it does not matter how many times you have been on a Royal Caribbean ship before, these areas seem to always strike you as being unique and exciting.  

2. Reading the Cruise Compass in your stateroom bed

If you ask me, one of those Royal Caribbean moments has to be getting into bed after a long day of having fun onboard and grabbing the copy of the Cruise Compass the stateroom attendant dropped off to read with my wife and pick out what we want to tomorrow.

Royal Caribbean designs its experience to offer a lot of opportunities for fun throughout the day and night, and the Cruise Compass is your guide to it all.  

It seems like I never get to half of the events I aspire to see, but I love looking for events I have done and loved as well as new ones to try.  The wide array of events offered seem to always be impressive and I make sure to highlight the activities that I think I want to try.

Besides events, the Cruise Compass is your guide to sales, weather forecasts, information about the port we are about to visit and more.  It really provides the perfect glimpse into what is to come tomorrow.

1. The moment your ship starts to sail away

Without a doubt, the perfect Royal Caribbean moment is when your ship starts to sail away and your vacation really begins.

Some folks watch sail away from their stateroom balconies, some go up to the pool deck to be a part of the celebration and others pick other areas of the ship to enjoy it, such as the Viking Crown, helipad or the promenade deck.

It really does not matter where you go, but that moment when you look around and see your ship is starting to move always strikes me as a "WOW" moment because it marks the beginning of the cruise part of your cruise vacation!

In a way, sail away is the moment of your vacation when all the excitement and planning you have been dealing with for months and years up to this moment pays off and you forget all about countdowns, bills, book reports and everything else and get into that cruise state of mind.

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