Planning

Guide to Royal Caribbean 2016 new cruise ships and refurbishments

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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

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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.

The Iggy Azalea guide to taking a Royal Caribbean cruise

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16Jul2015

One of my favorite songs in the last few years was "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea (yes, I am a 15 year old trapped in an adult body) and besides being quite catchy, the song talks about how the singer is famous, stylish and confident.

So if you want to live the "Fancy" lifestyle on a Royal Caribbean cruise, here's what you need to know so the whole world asking how you does that.

First things first, the ship

If you think you can hold others down like you're givin' lessons in physics, then you are going to want to be on the right ship to prove it.

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is the newest in the fleet (as of the writing of this post) and it offers the latest and greatest of everything.  It's the perfect ship to get your swagger on super and have access to the latest in cruise ship tech, entertainment and dining.

You can drop it low and pick it up in the Music Hall, or maybe a little champagne spillin' during dinner at The Grande.

And since Anthem of the Seas is coming to New York City, where she will be based for the foreseeable future, it's the perfect spot to be in the fast lane.

Get your cup of Ace, cup of Goose and cup of Cris 

If you prefer to takin' all the liquor straight, then Royal Caribbean's Ultimate beverage package is perfect for you.

The Ultimate alcohol package offers virtually unlimited combinations of beer, wine, liquor, juices and more.  You won't have to get drunk on the mini bar with the Ultimate package, because you will have access to it all.

Stores to match

Anthem of the Seas features a number of boutique brand stores, such as Hublot, Bvlgari and more.

After all, you have your swagger on super and can't shop at no department.  In these stores, you can purchase somethin' worth a half a ticket  to have on your wrist.

Shopping here is classic, expensive and you don't get to touch (unless you buy it).

Put your name in bold in a Royal Loft Suite

The perfect stateroom for rooftop like you're bringing '88 back has to be the Royal Loft Suites.

These two deck suites are not just the perfect way to show you're so fancy, but also because it just has everything.

On the main level is an open living/dining room with dry bar and sofa.  There's also a separate media room with full bath and shower.

Outside, you will find a large private balcony with whirlpool and dining area.  

Upstairs on the second level is your master bedroom, private bath with soaking tup and a private balcony with dual whirlpool tub.

If you are staying in a Royal Loft Suite, it says you're so fancy.  But you already know.

Is Anthem of the Seas the perfect ship if you want to be fancy? Tell us in the comments below how you would make a Royal Caribbean cruise the realest

How much does a Royal Caribbean cruise cost?

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17Mar2015

If you're considering a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation, one of the first questions you may have is, "How much will it cost?".  It's pretty typical to think along these lines and here's a quick guide to getting a good sense of what the real cost will be.

Of course, the cost of any Royal Caribbean cruise depends on who is taking the cruise.  Everyone has different tastes, preferences and spending habits and this will largely dictate how much your cruise will really cost.  What you have to understand is any Royal Caribbean cruise has a base cost that everyone pays and then there's other options you can opt to purchase.

Here's a quick guide to getting a general sense of what a cruise will cost you when it's all said and done.  Royal Caribbean cruises are a great value but much of it depends on what you want.

Cruise Fare

The easiest place to begin budgeting is with the cost Royal Caribbean charges you to go aboard its ships.  

It's up to you to find the cruise sailing that appeals to you, but it's a fixed cost that everyone has to pay and you can always price out a cruise based on what your travel agent quotes you or you find via Royal Caribbean's web site.

Transportation

Next, you need to figure out how you are getting to the cruise.  In most cases, this will be a decision between flying and driving to the embarkation port.

If you're flying, price out airfare costs between your nearest airport and the airport closest to the port.  You can save money on airfare sometimes by considering other airports nearby to either location.  

Don't forget to factor in the cost of a taxi, rental car or car service to get you to the port from the airport.

If you're driving, use AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator to determine the cost of your drive to the port.  

Whether you are flying or driving, don't forget to factor in the cost of a hotel night (or more) if you plan on arriving to your embarkation port at least one day early, as well as any hotel costs involved in driving.

Gratuities

Royal Caribbean has a policy of automatic gratuities that will be deducted from your onboard account for each person in your party, each evening. 

The daily cost of gratuities are $14.50 per day, per person.  Passengers in suites will pay $17.50, per day, per person.

You may also pre-pay your gratuities online or added to your booking by your travel agent, before your sail date. 

Multiply the gratuity amount by the people in your party and how many nights your cruise is.

Also keep in mind a 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all bar bills, as well as salon and spa services.

Food and Drink

Wait a minute, I thought food and drinks were included on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  You are correct, some food and drink are included in your fare.  The reality is, most people opt to get more than just what's included.  

From sodas and beers to meals in the specialty restaurants, there's a lot to choose from.

Starting with the drink packages, take a look at Royal Caribbean's drink packages and which, if any, you would be interested in.

Next, find out which specialty restaurants are available on your ship and determine which, if any, you would like to dine at.  

With either the beverage packages or the restaurants, it's a good idea to book them in advance to help break up the cost of your cruise because Royal Caribbean will charge you for any of them at the time of reservation.

Excursions

Your Royal Caribbean will visit some interesting and fun destinations and many passengers choose to get off the ship and explore.  

There's a number of options in any port of what to do, so begin by considering the ports you are visiting and looking into what is available and what is of interest to you.  You can book Royal Caribbean's shore excursions or opt to do something on your own.

There's a lot of choice involved here and depending on what you like to do for fun, your costs can vary wildly.  You could walk around the port and not spend a dime or done your part to personally stimulate the local economy.  

If you go with an organized excursion, it's usually safe to estimate a cost of about $40-50 per person.  Prices jump from there if your activity includes alcohol, animal encounters or private aircraft.

Extras

Beyond what we've listed so far, there's even more for you to spend on your cruise vacation.  

Spa services, gym classes, souvenirs, onboard internet and more are just a few of the choices you have in purchasing extras on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

The costs for all of these can vary greatly, but you should take a look at some of the extras available for booking in Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website.

And the total is...

Add up the numbers you came up with in all the of the steps above and you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect your final cruise cost to be.

It's important to understand there's a lot of choice involved with your cruise vacation.  It's easy to point out much of the extra costs are optional and you can withstand the temptation but when you're on the ship, it's a different story.

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

BOGO Wild: Is BOGO or free drink packages a better deal?

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19Feb2015

Royal Caribbean's latest cruise promotion is to offer guests the option of buy one, get one passenger 50% off or free beverage package for two.  You may be wondering which offer will save you more money in the long run and we're about to find out.

Our test critiera was to pick a couple of random cruises in the future to price out how BOGO Wild affects the price.  We decided to pick cruises in June 2015, since they were far enough out to be a realistic choice for someone pricing out cruises about the time this blog post came out.

First test: Couple sailing on Freedom of the Seas

Itinerary: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing on June 14

BOGO Price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Inside stateroom (Category M): $2115.80 ($635 savings)

Ocean View (Category H): $2688.80 ($826 savings)

Balcony (Category D2): $4207 ($1,333 savings)

Free premium drink package price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Value of 2 premium alcohol packages for 7 nights:  $809.48

Inside stateroom (Category M): $2750.80 ($809.48 savings)

Ocean View (Category H): $3514.80 ($809.48 savings)

Balcony (Category D2): $5540 ($809.48 savings)

Second test: Family of 4 sailing on Allure of the Seas

Itinerary: 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise departing on June 14

BOGO Price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Inside stateroom (Category K): $6086.00 ($1160 savings)

Balcony (Category D1): $7816.00 ($1,604 savings)

Free premium drink package price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Value of 2 premium alcohol packages for 7 nights:  $809.48

Inside stateroom (Category K): $6086.00 ($809.48 savings)

Balcony (Category D1): $9420.00 ($809.48 savings)

Third test: Couple sailing on Enchantment of the Seas

Itinerary: 4-night Bahamas cruise departing on June 15

BOGO Price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Inside stateroom (Category M): $1194.16 ($345 savings)

Ocean View (Category H): $1494.16 ($445 savings)

Balcony (Category D1): $2248 ($750 savings)

Free premium drink package price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Value of 2 premium alcohol packages for 7 nights:  $462.56

Inside stateroom (Category M): $1539.16 ($462.56 savings)

Ocean View (Category H): $1939.16 ($462.56 savings)

Balcony (Category D1): $2998 ($462.56 savings)

Fourth test: Couple sailing on Oasis of the Seas

Itinerary: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing on June 13

BOGO Price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Inside stateroom (Category M): $2874.96 ($885 savings)

Ocean View (Category G): $3084.96 ($955 savings)

Balcony (Category D6): $3729.96 ($1,170 savings)

Free premium drink package price (including taxes, fees and port expenses)

Value of 2 premium alcohol packages for 7 nights:  $809.48

Inside stateroom (Category M): $3759.96 ($809.48 savings)

Ocean View (Category G): $4039.96 ($809.48 savings)

Balcony (Category D6): $4899.96 ($809.48 savings)

Conclusion

The results show that the less expensive the cruise, the better savings you will find with the unlimited alcohol package.  Conversely, the more expensive the cruise, the better the BOGO savings.

Of course, the savings you get with the complimentary unlimited alcohol package assumes you would be purchasing the unlimited alcohol package anyway.  Also, the free unlimited alcohol package savings come when you total the entire cost of the cruise, whereas BOGO reduces the up-front cost of the cruise.  Depending on how much you drink, the savings with the unlimited alcohol package could be greater than what's noted here in the grand scheme of things.

Across our four tests, the BOGO savings were mostly the better deal, especially if you are interested in a stateroom category of oceanview or above.  

For most people, the BOGO deal may still be the better deal but it will come down to where your priorities are.

The total Royal Caribbean cruise planning timeline

In:
Category: 
09Feb2015

Whether you're new to Royal Caribbean or been on a few cruises, there's a lot of considerations as to when to research, plan and book your cruise vacation.  It can be complicated and moreover, you want to ensure you aren't missing something important.

Thanks to the members of Royal Caribbean Blog, we've compiled an optimal timeline of what you should do, when to ensure you're ahead of the game in all respects.

This timeline is a suggestion and it is not to say that not following it in its entirety will lead to be a bad cruise experience.  Rather, this should be a guideline for your planning to assist, not dictate the cruise planning.

24-12 months before your cruise 

  • Start looking at cruise itineraries to pick the right one for you.
  • Check RoyalCaribbean.com for available sailing dates and cruise options.  Depending on when you're looking, deployment schedules may limit how far in advance you can actually book.  
  • Be sure to also look at deck plans for which staterooms have most space (i.e. hump staterooms). Also consider using cruisedeckplans.com to be able to drag the decks above and below your stateroom to ensure your room isn't going to have noise bleed.
  • Put a deposit down on the sailing you want and to reserve the stateroom you want.  You can change or cancel the cruise without penalty for several months while you continue researching.
  • Research if trip insurance for your cruise makes sense, perhaps due to hurricane season or if there are health risks involved.  Royal Caribbean offers insurance as well as third party suppliers, which are often cheaper.
  • Look at excursions after placing your deposit.  When excursions become available varies widely but it's best to start looking at what Royal Caribbean is offer as early as possible.

90 days before cruise 

  • Final payment due for all holiday cruises (Christmas or New Years Day). Look for your passport or birth certificate & make sure they 1) can be found 2) are up to date.
  • Online check-in becomes available
  • Start researching third party shore excursion options.  
  • Check your passports.  If you need to replace a lost birth certificate, apply for a new passport, or renew one that is about to expire, start the paperwork now.

75 days before your cruise

  • Final payment due for 7-night or longer cruises. Look for your passport or birth certificate & make sure they 1) can be found 2) are up to date.

74 - 65 days before your cruise 

  • For those on 7-night or longer cruises, check again for available staterooms, dining, entertainment or shore excursions that may have become available due to other guests not making final payment.

60 days before your cruise 

  • Final payment due for 3, 4 or 5-night cruises. Look for your passport or birth certificate & make sure they 1) can be found 2) are up to date.
  • Around this time dining and entertainment reservations will become available on royalcaribbean.com

59 - 50 days before your cruise  

  • For those on 5-night or shorter cruises, check again for available staterooms, dining, entertainment or shore excursions that may have become available due to other guests not making final payment.

49 days before cruise 

  • E-docs and luggage tags are available to download and print.

4 days before your cruise

  • Last chance to complete online check-in at royalcaribbean.com. You must complete and print out your SetSail Pass by now.

3 days before your cruise

  • Last chance to reserve shore excursions, specialty restaurants, spa or salon services using Cruise Planner. 

72 - 24 hours before your cruise 

  • Check into your airline online
  • Do one last check of weather expected for your cruise.

2 days before your cruise 

  • Last chance to purchase Gifts and Gear from Royal Caribbean.

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise: Labadee

In:
Category: 
15Jan2015

In just a matter of weeks, I will be going on my next Royal Caribbean cruise, and I want to take you along for the planning of my cruise with what my plans are for shore excursions.  I hope this will give you some insight into my thought process and perhaps this will assist you for planning your next Royal Caribbean cruise too.

Today, we are going to look at excursion ideas for one of our stops on Quantum of the Seas 8-night cruise, Royal Caribbean's private island of Labadee.

Background

Labadee is a private "island" that Royal Caribbean leases from Haiti and it's one of my favorite places to visit for it's sheer beauty.

Labadee was designed to be the perfect destination relax and enjoy the beach.  There's a little shopping and some quaint cultural options but if you're going to Labadee, it's for the beach experience.

I've been to Labadee three or four times now and it seems like I always do the same thing: grab a spot on the beach and enjoy.  There's nothing wrong with that but I would like to try something else besides just a swim and getting a tan.

When I began doing research into what's available to do besides just swimming, I quickly remembered why I primarily just did the beach thing and that's the cost of the other activities. I would not characterize the options as prohibitively expensive but it does give me pause.  

The Options

After some looking around Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner app, I came up with these excursion ideas.

Dragon's Tail Coaster

A few years ago, Royal Caribbean built an alpine coaster that descends down to the beach from a 680-foot height.  

Photo by drum881

It's set on Santa Maria's lookout mountain and promises a 30 miles per hour ride with 360-degree turns.  There's a great view at the top and along the way, along with a little thrill.

A single ride costs $26 and an all-day pass costs $36, so if I were to ride more than once I would "break even" on the cost.  Of course, the question is how many times would I really want to ride.  If I were to ride three times, would I just be riding three times to get my money's worth or would I genuinely find it something I'd want to do again and again.

Pros: Something new to try; Fairly inexpensive

Cons: All-day pass may not be worth it

Dragon's Splash Waterslide

I actually was not aware this was an option until I looked over the excursions.  Dragon's Splash Waterslide is an almost 300-foot slide that drops you into an 18-foot splash zone.  

Photo by TravnKC

It's hard to describe this anymore than I have, after all, it's a waterslide! They are fun but is it something I really need to try?  I've also heard that the metal can get hot in the sun (it's made out of stainless steel).

Pros: I haven't met a waterslide that wasn't fun to go down

Cons: $24 for one ride is rather pricey. 

Dragon's Breath Flight Line Tour

If you ask me, this is the pièce de résistance of Labadee. This 2,600 foot zip line gives you arguably the best view of Labadee as you zoom over the beaches of Labadee.

Photo by kbmay1

Custom-made safari vehicles bring you 500 feet above the beach to the zip line that will take you over Labadee at a speed of up 50 50 miles per hour and end up at Dragon's Breath Rock.

I've always wanted to try this but the primary reason I have not is because this excursion costs $96.  

Most people I've talked to that have tried it have said it was not worth the money but they did think it was something you had to try once.

Pros: Always wanted to try this: Unparalleled views of Labadee

​Cons: Expensive

Labadee Parasailing Experience

As I was thinking about that zip line tour, I ran across the parasailing option that offers a similar experience form slightly less money.

Photo by Leandro Rizzi dos Santos

The Labadee Parasailing Experience will bring you 400 feet above the ocean to enjoy a bird's eye view of Labadee and the surrounding area.

Unlike the zip line, there's a wider angle of Labadee to enjoy and you also get a speed boat ride in addition to just parasailing.

My primary concern is because of a bad parasailing experience I had once.  I have gone parasailing twice and one time the seas were rather rough and the speed boat was rocking quite a bit and a few people got sea sick to the point of "feeding the fishes".  It was miserable despite the fun time in the air.

Pros: Slightly cheaper than zip line

Cons: Bad prior experience; Parasailing happens away from Labadee

Labadee Cataway at Malfini

In an effort to consider something much different, I ran across another option I had no idea existed with a beach break at a remote beach near Labadee.

Photo by Colleen Travis

Royal Caribbean offers a quiet getaway at Malfini, which evidently far enough from Labadee to offer a private beach experience but close enough to be convenient.

Royal Caribbean describes it as a "secret paradise" with white sands in a remote cove.  There's floating mats available and "Malfini Punch" to try.

This sounds interesting but I keep wondering why I would go to a beach when Labadee is a great beach and free.  

Pros: Remote beach experience away from the crowds

Cons: Extra cost to do something I can do at Labadee for nothing extra

The Decision

After considering my options, I've ended up choosing: Dragon's Tail Coaster & Dragon's Breath Flight Line Tour.

Despite my earlier assertion that I wanted to try new things, I also wanted to have time to actually sit on Labadee and have a Labadoozie (or two) and enjoy the beach in addition to what I picked.  

I feel like the zip line and coaster are good choices of things to try at least once and are also of greatest interest to blog readers, who may be interested in trying the same thing.

If money wasn't a concern, I would probably include the water slide too but I just can't justify the cost for one ride.  

I think my choices will give me a taste of something different while still leaving me plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful beaches Labadee offers.

Cruise Compasses on Royal Caribbean Blog

In:
Category: 
25Jun2014

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 47 is available for downloading where we take a look at the daily newsletter Royal Caribbean provides, the Cruise Compass.

Matt describes what the Cruise Compass contains, how to look through it and how to best utilize it to plan your day aboard your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 47. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

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