Planning

The Iggy Azalea guide to taking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
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?

In:
Category: 
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?

In:
Category: 
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!

How to convince someone to take a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
19Mar2014

I was inspired by a fellow blogger who wrote about, "How to convince someone to visit Disney" and it got me thinking about a common question I run across of how to convince someone to take a Royal Caribbean cruise.

This question is targeted at two very different groups of people: those that have cruised before (but with other cruise lines) and those that have never cruised before.

I know I've received my fair share of friends, family and blog readers who want to know why I choose to cruise on Royal Caribbean so much.  It's a fair question because when you see someone really fall in love with a brand like Royal Caribbean, some people start to wonder what the appeal is to see if perhaps they are interested too.

As fans of Royal Caribbean cruising, we're passionate people that want to share the excitement of a Royal Caribbean cruise with everyone else.  After all, cruising with friends is always best and by bringing people new to Royal Caribbean to try it too, you're hopefully helping them discover a very fun vacation.

The good news is regardless of if the person you are looking to convince (new to cruising or not), I believe it is very possible to convince someone to give Royal Caribbean a try (and have a good time too).

Hype the value

Cruising in general is a pretty good vacation value when you start comparing it to comparable land vacations.  Because food, travel (between ports) and entertainment come with the price you pay for the cruise, what you get for what you pay is often a good balance.

With Royal Caribbean, I feel their balance of cost versus product is the best in the marketplace today.  Sure there are cruise lines out there with cheaper cruise prices but I feel what you get for the money isn't satisfying.  Likewise, cruise lines that charge more than Royal Caribbean don't deliver that much more than Royal Caribbean does (for less money).

Thanks to Royal Caribbean's vast fleet of ships, there's good prices to be found year-round and around the world.  

When you're trying to convince someone why Royal Caribbean makes sense, I often start with the bottom line price of how much it will cost to get onboard and remind them of everything they get for that price.  Food, onboard activities, pools, shows, demonstrations, more food, dancing, bars and more (did I mention food?).

It's not what you think

For those new to cruising, I think many people have certain ideas or pre-conceived notions of what a cruise is like.  It's largely based on what they've seen in television or movies and most times it's just not accurate.

The people that bring up the news stories about Norovirus, people getting lost at sea and other shocking stories, I remind them people get hurt everywhere on vacation.  Sadly, it's a fact of life.  

People get sick, hurt or worse at the beach, theme parks or in major cities.  The fact is, you can't avoid these risks because it's really just a fact of life.  However, the reality is it's very unlikely it will happen to you.  Remind them that the odds are low and Norovirus strikes many more people on land then ever at sea.  Remind them people get hurt all the time, everywhere.  You just have to be careful and mindful of the risks in advance.

The other major misconception is that all you do on a cruise is sit by the pool and there's nothing really to do.  I like to pull up a cruise compass from a recent Royal Caribbean cruise and start rattling off different activities onboard.  I often find these same people are surprised by how much there is to do on a Royal Caribbean ship.

In fact, I'll mention among the things Royal Caribbean does really well is offer a lot to do, especially on the newer cruise ships.  The company has strived for years to offer more and more onboard (often for free) and it's really up to you how much you want to do (or don't want to do).

Don't overdo it

I know you really, really want them to love Royal Caribbean cruises as much as you but the last thing you want to do is overwhelm them.  You and I probably enjoy reading a site like this, checking out the latest YouTube videos of Royal Caribbean cruises and perusing Cruise Critic message boards until the server crashes but don't put that stuff in front of them.

While you may be a super Royal Caribbean fan, they are new and likely hesitant.  Let them get excited on their own when you mention the cool ports you are visiting or the new specialty restaurants you want to try with them.

It's important to let them move at their own pace and respect that they are still on the fence, even if they have tentatively committed to the idea.  Remember, one of the best aspects of a Royal Caribbean cruise is it's your choice what you want to do and how much of it you want to do.

I think it can be fun to email them a cruise photo you run across now and then of something they can look forward to if they go on the cruise or maybe a video of sunset on the pool deck of a Royal Caribbean ship to give them the sense of what to expect.  

Family fun

Royal Caribbean is a cruise line for almost anyone I feel, but there's no denying it appeals directly to family cruising.  This can be families with young children or older children.  Heck, grown up kids too!

Knowing whom you are trying to convince, if they are looking for a family vacation talk up the family aspect of a Royal Caribbean cruise.  There's opportunity for doing a lot of things together as well as alone time too.

Certainly families with younger kids will appreciate Adventure Ocean for two basic reasons.  First and foremost, the kids will have structured and supervised activities each day to take part in and meet new friends.  Royal Caribbean has focused more and more attention to its Adventure Ocean program, which goes from 3 years old all the way up to 17.

The other big selling point is for the adults because it's your opportunity to get alone time on the cruise.  We all love our kids but having a little time to relax alone by the pool, go shopping or take a walk together means a lot.  I can tell you as a dad getting some time with my wife to enjoy a drink at the bar was lovely.

Of course, families do want to spend time together and the nature of a Royal Caribbean cruise celebrates that.  From shore excursions where you will experience new adventures together to the onboard dining venues to the daily activities, there's a lot for families to do together.

Anything else?

Those are some good selling points for convincing someone to take a Royal Caribbean cruise but is there another good point or "ammunition" to use in convincing others to give Royal Caribbean a try?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

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