Secrets, Tips and Tricks

7 things you might not know about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

In:
01Oct2017

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas offers a lovely family vacation opportunity, and has some interesting anecdotes related to the ship's development and operation that we wanted to share.

This list is not a list of hidden secrets of things and ways to improve your Oasis of the Seas cruise experience.  Rather, this is an opportunity to share fun tidbits and factoids about a very popular Royal Caribbean cruise ship that continues to capture the attention of the cruising public.

Oasis of the Seas has seven Godmothers

It is maritime tradition for a ship to have a Godmother, which is a ceremonial position that serves more of a marketing role than anything else these days. Royal Caribbean decided to change things up and have not one, but seven Godmothers.  Why seven? The answer is one for each neighborhood on Oasis of the Seas.

Oasis of the Seas' Godmothers are Shawn Johnson, Daisy Fuentes, Jane Seymour, Michelle Kwan, Gloria Estefan, Darra Torres and Keisha Knight Pulliam.

Oasis of the Seas was known as Project Genesis

It's common in the cruise industry to begin working on a new class of ships under a project name and then announce a formal name later on. In the case of the Oasis-class, it was known as Project Genesis.

There is a small homage to the Project Genesis name on the Royal Promenade of Oasis of the Seas.

Name for crew area

The crew-only super highway that funnels food, services, and supplies to the 16 decks above stretches the entire length of the ship, and is called I-95. This is a reference to the major American highway that runs north and south on the eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

A new terminal was created for Oasis of the Seas

When Royal Caribbean designed Oasis of the Seas, they realized she was so large and so different that they needed to also build a brand new cruise terminal to accommodate her.

The new terminal would need to be able to handle all the passengers, equipment, and supplies for the largest cruise ship in the world, so Royal Caribbean built the largest cruise ship terminal in the world at Terminal 18 in Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A 9,000 piece art collection

Oasis of the Seas is proud to blend spectacular art with its revolutionary architecture-over 9,000 art pieces have led it to be dubbed ’’a museum at sea.’’ 

The Boardwalk's inspiration

The Boardwalk neighborhood is a fun spot onboard for guests to catch a show, a bite to eat, or enjoy the ocean breeze any time of day or night.  Royal Caribbean's ship designers were inspired by the seaside piers that dot the coast of England and the nostalgic boardwalks of the past, such as Coney Island.

The centerpiece of Boardwalk is a one-of-a-kind carousel. The Boardwalk Neighborhood on Oasis is designed to be a breathtaking space for families inspired by the nostalgic seaside boardwalks of yesteryear; so the carousel was created using inspiration from turn-of-the-century carousel designs down to the very last detail.

Solar panels help light up the ship

21,000 square feet of thin solar film that produce enough power to light the ship’s Royal Promenade and Central Park areas.

Oasis of the Seas received the solar panels, after Royal Caribbean tested solar panel use on two of its Celebrity Solstice class ships.

While the solar panels may not a rapid payoff on its solar panel investment, the installation of these solar panels is what sustainability architects call “future proofing.” In other words, utilizing imperfect existing technology will pave the way for easy adoption of more efficient solar panels in the future. Old panels can be ripped off and new ones installed.

Other Royal Caribbean efforts to include more energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning systems that can turn off automatically when balcony doors are left open too long.

25 tips for a great day at Royal Caribbean's Labadee

In:
29Aug2017

Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee in Haiti has been a popular cruise destination for many years, and whether you are planning a day for the first time or fifteenth time, it seems like there is so much to see and do.

We decided to share our top tips for the best things to see, do, eat, and explore on Labadee.

1. Labadee is quite beautiful when you see it in person and via photos, but underneath that gorgeous blue water are some rocks.  You should consider buying water shoes to use in Labadee (and other beach stops during your cruise).  Water shoes are easy to pack, fairly inexpensive, and make exploring the underwater world of Labadee super easy.  It also makes getting around Labadee, both on land and in the water, simpler and easier.

For adults, try the Aleader brand water shoes for men and women because not only do they protect your feet, they also do not look like typical water shoes.  For the kids, try the Northside Brille II Water Shoe for girls and the Aleader Boys Water Shoes.

2. There is no need to worry about being hungry on Labadee, because Royal Caribbean provides lunch on the island at three different locations.  Lunch on Labadee consists of salads, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and more freshly prepared food.  Lunch begins serving at 11:00am.

3. Just like onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, the SeaPass card is the primary method of purchasing things on Labadee.  The only exception are the craft markets, where locals sell items to you.  It is probably a good idea to bring a little bit of cash with you, but your SeaPass card works in most places too.

4. The premier attraction in Labadee is the Dragon's Breath Flight Line.  From the mountaintop launch point, guests glide down the zip line over the ocean at speeds of 40 to 50 mph.  It is not just a fun thrill, but also provides the best view of Labadee available.

5. If you are interested in having some extra privacy, or cushier accommodations in Labadee, then you should consider renting a cabana or beach bungalow.  Each provides a secluded spot for you and your family to enjoy.  Guests can reserve a cabana or beach bungalow before their cruise, by visiting Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner.  They can also be rented once onboard the ship, but they tend to rent quickly.

6. If cabanas or bungalows are a bit out of your price range, beach beds and beach loungers are two inexpensive rental options that also provide a more comfortable day in Labadee.

7. If you are looking for a bit of nature, be sure to check out the nature trails, located throughout Labadee.  Labadee has a lot of natural beauty to behold and walking around will give you a good sense of the layout of the beaches as well as an appreciation for the natural wonders. Be sure to bring your camera.

8. Columbus Cove is the least crowded beach in Labadee, but can be a far walk to get to.  Look for a complimentary ferry ride that takes guests from the dock that your cruise ship is docked at, and brings you right to Columbus Cove.  Not only is it quick and convenient, but it provides a beautiful view of Labadee.

9. If you need to get around Labadee without walking, Royal Caribbean provides a complimentary shuttle service that takes guests all along the middle of Labadee.  There are clearly marked tram stations, where you can grab the next shuttle.

10. Young children may find a lot of fun at the Adventure Ocean Oasis, located roughly in the middle of Adrenaline Beach.  This is a splash pad area, with fountains, geysers, and buckets of water spraying everywhere.  It can be the perfect spot for children to play, and for you to cool off.

11. Speaking of Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean's award-winning children's programming, Adventure Ocean, will be open while the ship is docked in Labadee.  This can be a great option for adults who want to take in an excursion, but need supervision for their children.

12. Your Royal Caribbean drink packages will work while in Labadee, just like they do onboard the ship.

13. Kids (and those young at heart) will gravitate towards Arawak Aqua Park, which is an aqua park in Columbus Cove. There, you will find floating trampolines, pyramids and water slides.

14. There is also the Dragon's Splash Waterslide located nearby to the Aqua park and features a 300-foot slide that drops you into a 18-foot splash zone.

15. Royal Caribbean provides two major spots to do some shopping in Labadee: the Artisan Market and the Artisan Village. The Market is more of a store, with pre-set prices and offering hand-made goods. The Village is more of an open air market, where guests are expected to haggle with the vendors. Keep in mind that both places take cash only.

16. A day in Labadee offers a lot, but you will want to pack water resistant sunscreen, hats and sunglasses for a day in Labadee. You may also consider bringing your camera, beach toys, and other fun options.  If you forget something in your stateroom, you can always go back and get it!

Consumer Reports recommends two sunscreens that are great for use at the beach. If you prefer a lotion, try the Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50.  If spray sunscreen is more your style, the Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection SPF 70 received high marks.

17. Barefoot Beach is reserved for guests residing in Grand Suites and above.  It is an exclusive perk for suite guests, and the only area in Labadee where all guests cannot go.  If you happen to be staying in a suite, Barefoot Beach is a great choice for the smaller crowds.  Plus, there is an exclusive lunch buffet reserved just for suite guests.

18. Labadee itself has an interesting past. It was named after the marquis de La Badie, a Frenchman who first settled the area in the 17th century. The peninsula was named Labadie, although Royal Caribbean spells it "Labadee" to make it easier for English-speakers to pronounce.

19. There is a swim-up bar at Adrenaline Beach, where guests can wade through the ocean to the bar, climb up and order and enjoy a drink.

20. If you are looking for other fun excursions in Labadee, consider parasailing, renting a jet ski, deep sea fishing, or even taking a ride on the alpine coaster.  All can be reserved prior to your cruise, via the Cruise Planner.

21. The official drink of Labadee is a Labadoozie.  It is a fruit concoction, that is served with rum.  You can order them without rum as a cold treat for kids.

22. Royal Caribbean added in 2016 a DreamWorks photo safari excursion, which might be a great family activity on Labadee. There are two excursions to choose from, both of which include a DreamWorks photo safari for kids to enjoy.

23. A good way to stay hydrated is to bring bottled water with you to Labadee. There are water fountains around Labadee, but the convenience of having water bottles is a great perk.  Bottled water is included with the Deluxe and Refreshment packages.

24. There are not many of them, but towards the interior of Labadee you can find hammocks to enjoy.  Go early if you want to grab one.

25. Read the Labadee map before you arrive to get a basic understanding of where things are located, how to get to the area you want, and get a good understanding of what is available in Labadee.  All too often, we spot guests arriving in Labadee that are unaware of where things are located.

Royal Caribbean Secrets: hidden lounge deck on Harmony of the Seas

In:
06Jul2017

Along the jogging deck on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas are two lesser-known areas for guests to sit back, and enjoy the view of the ocean from the comfort of a lounge chair.

Many guests may know that on the aft of Oasis Class ships are lounge chairs to enjoy the view of the wake, but on Harmony of the Seas there is a small seating area on both sides of the forward section on deck 5 of the ship to relax in.

These areas do not have a name mentioned to reference them, but they are just off the running track on both sides.  Some runners choose to use these areas as a break point, while others simply bring their coffee or book to enjoy the view.

This area is open to all guests, and can be a secluded spot on Harmony of the Seas to get away from lots of other guests.

5 ways to save hundreds of dollars on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
17May2017

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a top choice for many families that want to enjoy a great vacation, but there are some important strategies for saving (a lot of) money off the total cost of the cruise.

Bargain hunters should be aware there are some definite ways to bring that total cruise cost down.  Here are five ways we have found to consistently save hundreds of dollars on cruise vacations.

Book your cruise early

If there is one tried-and-true strategy for getting the lowest price on a Royal Caribbean cruise, it is to book the sailing as early as possible.  If you can book your sailing 12, 18 or even 24 months in advance, you will very likely pay much less than someone that waits to book their sailing just a few months before the cruise.

The simple reason why booking early gets you the lowest price is that when a sailing is put on sale, all the staterooms are available to book, and thus, demand is at its lowest.  As guests start to book rooms, supply goes down, which inversely drives prices up.  Over time, we typically see prices for a sailing go up.

Moreover, if you live in a country that allows re-booking prior to final payment date (United States, Canada, Australia, etc), you can always take advantage of price drops, if they were to occur, and get the new lowest price.  If you book early enough, you may find regardless of the deal or promotion Royal Caribbean publicizes, the rate you had booked early on is still a better deal.

Cruise close to home

If you can manage to go on a cruise without having to fly, or take another expensive means of transportation, you will reap a ton of savings.

In addition to the traditional cruise homeports in Florida, Royal Caribbean also offers year-round and seasonal cruises from New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, Galveston and San Juan.  This means a great deal of convenient embarkation ports that can be driveable. 

By not having to include an airline ticket in your vacation budget, you will save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Of course, there still will be a transportation cost to get to the port, but very likely the savings in not buying an airline ticket will outweigh gas, tolls and even a hotel stay.

Buy a dining or drink package

If you are the sort of person that will indulge in specialty dining or alcoholic beverages onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, a dining or drink package can save you a lot of money.

Royal Caribbean's dining packages allow guests to enjoy meals at a variety of specialty restaurants for one low price.  There are many packages available, but taking advantage of these dining packages will save money compared to eating at those same restaurants, but paying the walk-up price without a package. When you figure multiple people investing in a dining package, the savings stack up quickly.

Likewise, a Royal Caribbean drink package can save you money, provided you drink enough every day of your cruise to make it worthwhile. Guests pay a flat cost to enjoy unlimited beverages that are included in the package they select.  Be sure to get a discount on a Royal Caribbean drink package prior to your cruise to increase your total savings.

It is worth noting that a drink or dining package may not inherently save everyone money.  The cost savings depend on how much you will actually consume on a cruise.  It is important to sit down before your cruise and think about how many drinks you might have, factor in time off the ship in foreign ports of call, and determine if a drink package is right for you.  Dining packages are a bit easier to figure out if they are a worthwhile investment, because you can look at your Cruise Planner and determine what looks of interest and plan accordingly.

Book your next cruise onboard

Royal Caribbean will reward you if you book another Royal Caribbean cruise, while still onboard your current sailing.  These rewards come in the form of onboard credit, which can stack up into the hundreds of dollars quite quickly.

Dubbed NextCruise, Royal Caribbean has changed up some of the rules lately for how the program works, especially if deposits are refundable or not.  It is important to be aware of all the rules on canceling or changing sailings prior to booking. 

However, if you are certain of the sailing you want to take, booking onboard will garner significant savings, especially on longer sailings (7 nights or more) and/or balcony and suite staterooms. The NextCruise program is one of the easiest ways to earn money towards your next sailing.

Be flexible with your cruise dates

If the dates you can take a Royal Caribbean cruise are somewhat open, you can shave off hundreds of dollars from your cruise fare. 

Just like the entire travel industry, cruises have peak and off-peak seasons.  Booking a cruise over Christmas week will see a much higher cost than if you opt for that same cruise two weeks earlier or later. Those that can cruise when many families are stuck following a school or work holiday calendar, will find rock bottom prices for cruise fares.

Finding the lowest fares typically has more to do with when you are actually going on your cruise. In general, you will find lower fares if you are willing to cruise during the "shoulder seasons" and/or when school is usually in session.

This includes

  • January (minus New Years holiday)
  • Most of February
  • May
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

Picking Royal Caribbean cruises that sail during these times of year often net the lowest fares because it is when less people have the opportunity or inclination to cruise.

Royal Caribbean Secrets: Lucky coins on Oasis of the Seas

In:
09May2017

Have you heard about a maritime tradition known as lucky coins? Guests onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas can view a piece of the ship's history while onboard.

When Oasis of the Seas was built, one of the first things the crew did was to add a number of "lucky coins" to the ship's keel, as part of maritime tradition. These lucky coins are held in a cabinet that is welded to the ship and has a small commemorative plaque.

To find the lucky coins on Oasis of the Seas, you will need to head up to the bow sundeck on deck 14.  The lucky coins are held in a cabinet that is welded to the ship and has a small commemorative plaque. 

Not only is this area hold a special piece of history, but it is also a terrific uncrowded spot to enjoy the warm Caribbean weather.

Thanks to Tom & Diane Trudnowski for providing the photos.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas hidden secrets

In:
05Apr2017

Do you have a cruise booked on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas? If so, there is so much to see and do onboard that is not to be missed.  Of course, with a ship of this size and as many activities onboard as there are, it is easy to overlook some aspects of the ship.

We present our list of the top ten hidden secrets and gems that you should not overlook if you get the chance to sail on Anthem of the Seas.

10. Secret door to the Solarium

The adults-only Solarium at the front of Anthem of the Seas is a popular destination for guests who love the enclosed windows, always warm temperatures and incredible pool.  Did you know there is a secret door that leads directly into the Solarium without having to go back out to the stairwells first?

On deck 13 forward, if you walk all the way forward past all the staterooms, there is a door that leads right out to the lower level of the Solarium.

9. Thermal spa pass

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa has always been the perfect place to indulge in a little, "me time," and on Anthem of the Seas, you will find one of the best ways to relax ever in the thermal spa.

Guests can purchase a pass to the thermal spa for $99 per person ($179 per couple) that gets guests access to

  • Heated stone chairs
  • Rainforest shower room
  • Infrared sauna
  • Steam room

The price quoted is for the duration of the cruise and is not just a tremendous value, but also a great way to forget all of your troubles.

8. The "Hershey kiss" chair

If you want to score points for taking a selfie in the coolest chair onboard Anthem of the Seas, check out this chair that reminds us of a Hershey Kiss.

Located in the Via, near Vintages Wine Bar, this chair is a large pear shaped chair that has an opening for one or more guests to jump in and relax.

The chair is more show than function, but we dare you not to take photos of yourself in there to share with others!

7. Open play room for kids

If you have younger children that need to get burn some energy (especially before nap time), there is an open play area in Adventure Ocean that is available for use throughout the day stocked full of toys.

On Anthem of the Seas, the open play area is available for all young children, and features a slide, building blocks, tunnels, toy kitchens and much more.

Parents will find seating around the edge of the play area to monitor the kids (and likely stream something on Netflix via Royal Caribbean's amazing Voom internet).

6. Bridge wings

Looking for the best view of Anthem of the Seas? Then you want to check out the wing viewing areas that are located all the way forward, near the Solarium.

There are wing viewing spots on both sides of the ship, and they are small platforms that extend away from the ship, giving guests amazing views every time.

These wing viewing areas are perfect for sailaways or just getting a great photo of Anthem of the Seas.

To get to the wing viewing areas, go all the way forward on deck 14, then walk through the Solarium all the way to the front and go left or right to find a door that leads to them.

5. Beer selection at Michael's Genuine Pub

If you are a beer lover, and especially enjoy craft beers, the spot onboard Anthem of the Seas for you is Michael's Genuine Pub.

Unfortunately, craft beers are a rare commodity on Royal Caribbean ships but Michael's Genuine Pub is stocked full of some wonderful microbrews.

While you are enjoying a great beer, be sure to order something off Michael's food menu.  Their burger and falafel are outstanding.

4. Planks at Jamie's Italian

Jamie's Italian specialty restaurant is a real winner with guests, who continuously report back glowing reviews of the food offered here.  If you are wondering what the best thing is on the menu: it is the meat planks.

The menu is comprised of Jamie’s Italian Famous Plank piled high with cured meats, pickles and tempting cheeses. It is perfect for sharing with everyone at the table and you will really find it is the perfect way to start any meal at Jamie's Italian.

3. Best uncrowded spot for breakfast: Cafe @ Two70

If you want to have breakfast somewhere on Anthem of the Seas without a large crowd, try Cafe @ Two70.  Royal Caribbean describes this as a "European" style breakfast, and you will find a bagel bar, yogurts, fruit, pastries and some breakfast sandwiches too.

The best part of breakfast here is the view, because you can take your food out to Two70, and enjoy a wonderful view of the ocean.

2. See through floor

It can be easy to forget just how large a ship Anthem of the Seas is, so head to deck 13 aft and walk up to deck 14, where you will get a pretty good reminder.

Royal Caribbean added this see-through floor for one of the steps, which allows guests to peer down more than 10 decks to the Royal Esplanade.  Be sure to bring your camera, especially when kids see this for the first time.

1. The best views of NYC are on the port side

If you are booking a balcony or oceanview stateroom and want to ensure you get a great view of New York City while docked in Cape Liberty (and on your way out to sea), then very likely you will want to book a room on the port side of the ship.

We should mention that Anthem of the Seas does not always dock in the same way, but most often we see the port side of the ship facing the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan.

Regardless of which side the ship docks or where your stateroom is, be sure to go to the bridge wing that we noted in secret number 6 to get the perfect vantage point of this iconic skyline.

Did we miss any Anthem of the Seas secrets? Share them in our comments!

How being early is the secret to the best Royal Caribbean cruise, from start to finish

In:
15Feb2017

We have spent years sharing tips, secrets and strategies on this blog about taking a better and more fun Royal Caribbean cruise, and we discovered there is one common thread among so many of our best tips: being early.

There are plenty of ways to improve one's cruise, but if you remember a single mantra for your cruise, it should be simply to be early.  So many aspects of the cruise experience, from saving money to saving time, can be greatly improved if you embrace the idea of doing it all early.  If that statement does not make a whole lot of sense yet, check out the five steps we outlined in this post to demonstrate why being early will help you have a great cruise.

Book early

Perhaps one of the most common questions we receive on Royal Caribbean Blog is about how to save money and get the best possible price for a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Questions are often worded like, "How do I get a deal?", "When is the best time to book a cruise?" or "How do I get the lowest price?" and the answer to them all is simple: book your cruise as early as you can.

In general, Royal Caribbean's cruise fares are priced the least the further out you go, and as the sail date approaches, prices start to creep up as the supply of staterooms on a sailing begin to get booked up. So the earlier you book your cruise, the more stateroom inventory you will have and if freshman year high school economics taught me anything, it is that supply and demand plays a big part in pricing.

When we say "early", we mean booking your cruise 12, 18 or even 24 months before the sail date.  For some folks, that may sound like lunacy to plan a vacation up to two years in advance, but the fact of the matter is employing this strategy is the key to getting a really great price.  Royal Caribbean sales promotions will come and go, but if you talk to folks who book their cruises very early, they will tell you that booking super-early beats most sales offers.

Buy drink packages early

Have you heard about Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages? They offer guests the option to drink as much as they want on their cruise for a fixed price.  Sounds great, right? But did you know if you wait to book your drink package onboard the ship you will be overpaying for it?

The drink packages have become quite popular with guests, but Royal Caribbean rewards guests that purchase their drink package early with a discount. The exact amount of the discount will vary from sailing to sailing, but in general, the savings of booking a drink package online before a cruise can be as much as over $10 per person, per day compared to booking it onboard. Over the course of a 7-night cruise, those savings add up quickly!

What you want to do is log onto the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's website and purchase the drink package of your choice online.  If you are concerned about the drink package price dropping, take solace in the fact you can always cancel and rebook with no penalty!

Not only will buying your drink packages online save you money, it will also save you time because typically there can be lines to purchase the drink packages onboard the ship. Your vacation time is limited, so do not waste it waiting to buy a drink package.

Arrive to your port city early

When it comes to travel, there are always going to be certain factors involved in the trip that you have no control over: weather, canceled flights, flat tires, and Michael Poole. If you ask seasoned travelers how they get around these obstacles, the answer is often to give yourself more time.  Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, get in early!

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

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

Arrive to the pier early

If you subscribe to the theory that time is money, then you definitely want to arrive to your embarkation port early.  By arriving early, you will beat the big crowds that descend upon the cruise terminal later in the day, and you also get the added benefit of having some extra time onboard the ship.

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

If you are wondering what time constitutes, "early", we are talking about sometime between 10am and 11:30am. The earlier you arrive on embarkation day, the earlier you will board the ship. And the price you paid for the cruise is the same whether you get onboard at 11am or 2pm, so may as well get the most time possible.

Show up early to every activity

Whether it is a show, a ride on North Star or the tenders to CocoCay, the absolute key to avoiding waiting in any semblance of a line is to arrive before these activities are scheduled to open/operate/perform.

In our experience, most guests see the times for an activity and begin arriving after the scheduled start time.  However, if you show up just 10-15 minutes before these events, you will likely find few, if any, other guests waiting and first shot at even the most popular activities. Rope dropping is also a great strategy for the sort of activities that quickly generate a line.  

Disembark early

The last day of your cruise is never fun, and regardless of how many times you cruise, it never gets any less depressing.  If you believe in the, "rip the Band-Aid off quickly" theory of life, than disembarking your ship early will likely result in a shorter wait.

Royal Caribbean offers all guests the option to bring their own luggage (rather than have their luggage delivered to the terminal) and leave the ship anytime once customs officials clear the ship. You simply keep your luggage in your room (instead of placing it in the hallway on the last evening of the cruise) and then when the ship is cleared by Customs agents, you take your own luggage and disembark the ship.

This option may not be viable for everyone because families and large groups may find lugging all their stuff from the stateroom to the terminal is not practical.  In that case, keep in mind the luggage tags you will be provided with can be swapped out at Guest Services for a luggage tag with an earlier disembarkation time. Royal Caribbean is quite understanding about schedules, and if you need to get off the ship sooner, they are usually very accommodating.

25 must-read Royal Caribbean dining secrets

In:
27Dec2016

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a family vacation that millions of people look forward to taking each year, and good planning can enhance that vacation experience even further.

After more than a decade of Royal Caribbean cruises, we have perfected some expert tips and advice to get the most out of your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Today, we are sharing our 25 must-read Royal Caribbean dining secrets to ensure you have the best possible cruise experience!

1. Make dining reservations

Simply put, the best way to ensure you get into any Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant that you want is to make a reservation in advance.  You could wait until you arrive onboard the ship, or even chance it to simply walk up and ask for a table, but you are risking the restaurant of your choice filling up.  Make a reservation online via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site or as early as possible once onboard the ship.

2. Do date night on a cruise

Royal Caribbean cruises are the perfect vacation for honeymooners and anyone looking for a romantic evening out.  Plan ahead and treat your favorite person to a signature dinner at 150 Central Park or Chops Grille. Or order ice cream and cookies to your stateroom via room service, or take a ride on the carousel together in the Boardwalk.

3. Don't miss the must-eat items

After years of eating on Royal Caribbean ships, we have amassed our own list of "must-eat" dishes, treats and snacks across the fleet. Fan-favorites, such as the Tutti salad bar, Labadoozie, escargot, savory bites and pretty much anything from Sabor are high priority when onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. 

To read up on our favorites, check out our list of 15 amazing things you can eat on Royal Caribbean article.

4. You can reserve specialty restaurants around 90-60 days before your cruise

A very common question we receive is, "when can I start booking specialty restaurants on my Royal Caribbean cruise?" and the answer is "it depends." Generally speaking, specialty restaurant reservations will open up sometime between 90 and 60 days prior to embarkation day on your cruise. The exact time frame will depend on a variety of factors.

The best reason to book dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise. By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

5. There are free beverages available throughout the ship

Believe it or not, you do not have to pay an extra dime onboard for beverages on your Royal Caribbean cruise. There are plenty of drinks included in your cruise fare to keep not only your thirst quenched, but also satisfied.

Here is the list of drinks that are included in your cruise:

  • regular coffee
  • decaffeinated coffee
  • tea
  • iced tea
  • tap water
  • milk
  • chocolate milk
  • lemonade
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast, not fresh squeezed)
  • hot chocolate (via instant packets)

These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free.

6. Research your dining options

Royal Caribbean ships offer more dining locations than ever before - everything from upscale dinners, to restaurants serving up burgers and fries. Take your time and research your options, and to that point, Royal Caribbean Blog has a list of Royal Caribbean restaurant reviews to provide a good starting point for learning about each dining choice available.

7. Free breakfast in Johnny Rockets

On Oasis class ships, Johnny Rockets is open for breakfast and it is included in your cruise fare. During breakfast, you will find classic American fare (just like the other meals), including pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, eggs, French toast and more.

Besides the price tag, Johnny Rockets is often a less crowded spot for breakfast, so if you need a break from breakfast in the Windjammer, head over to the Boardwalk and start your morning there.

8. Try My Time off peak hours

Royal Caribbean's My Time Dining allows guests to enjoy dinner on their schedule, but if you want to avoid the dinner rush, try eating off-peak hours.

We have found the most popular times to have dinner in the main dining room while on My Time Dining is between 6:30pm and 8:00pm.

Guests can make reservations for shorter waits, but if you want to truly avoid lines, try to go early or late: before 6:00pm or after 8:00pm.  

9. Research the Specialty Dining Packages to see if it meets your needs

One of the hot new choices many Royal Caribbean guests are opting for are the dining packages, which allow guests to get a discount on multiple specialty restaurants. Guests can choose between 2, 3, 4 or 5 specialty restaurants on their Royal Caribbean cruise with up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually.

The only caveat to the dining packages is one of the restaurants must be experience on the first or second night of the cruise.  Nonetheless, the cost savings offered by the dining packages is perfect for someone who wants to experience many of the best Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants.

10. Book a DreamWorks character meal

Whether your kids love the DreamWorks films or you just enjoy hanging with the crew from Madagascar, then be sure to book a DreamWorks character meal.  Available on Royal Caribbean ships with the DreamWorks Experience, this is an opportunity to have breakfast in the main dining room with popular characters from DreamWorks films, including Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar films. This is a great opportunity for some very fun photos!

11. Communicate food sensitivity or special diets before your cruise

If you have a dietary restriction, special need or just prefer to have your food prepared in a certain way, your best bet is to let Royal Caribbean know about those kinds of requests prior to your cruise.

The best way to do this is by emailing special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.

You should also make a quick stop in the main dining room on embarkation day.  There will be a head waiter on duty to speak with, and that person can confirm they have your dietary needs on file and make any necessary changes too.

12. Try samples from the specialty restaurants

In an effort to get guests to book specialty dining, Royal Caribbean will often offer complimentary samples of food from that restaurant during the cruise. Sometimes there is a table set up to offer samples, and other times there are demonstrations offered with samples handed out at the end. Keep your eyes open and be sure to check the Cruise Compass for scheduled events.

13. Bring food from onshore

The ports of call your ship will visit offer a tremendous array of amazing food, but your culinary indulgences are not limited to when you are on shore.  Aside from alcohol, you can bring food back onboard the ship with you to enjoy later. Whether that is a freshly baked baguette, chocolates or something jarred for later, you can take it back with you for enjoyment later in the cruise or back home.

Keep in mind that the United States has strict laws about bringing back certain fruits and vegetables, so be sure to read up on these laws prior to bringing anything home.

14. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.

If you have questions about the food or the menu at a restaurant, do not be afraid to ask your server about it. Royal Caribbean offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for the most part when it comes to making substitutions or accommodating dietary needs. They truly want you to be happy, so be sure to communicate any needs to the wait staff. In the main dining room, you can speak to the head waiter about any gluten-free, vegan or other dietary needs.

15. Fill up at the buffet

At the core of any Royal Caribbean cruise is the Windjammer buffet, which offers all-you-care-to-eat choices throughout the day. This is a fantastic choice for families or groups of guests that have wide variations in taste, as well as for picky eaters. For these reasons, the Windjammer buffet can be a wise choice for keeping everyone happy. 

Not only is the Windjammer very accommodating in tastes, it also offers a wide variety of choices and we have found the food quality to be quite good. In fact, some guests will eat exclusively at the Windjammer during their cruise.  That might be a bit much for our tastes, but keep in mind it is available most times of the day and evening.

16. Look for the cooking stations in the Windjammer

In addition to the array of food available in the Windjammer buffet, there are also cooking stations that offer custom-made dishes.  In the morning, this usually takes the form of an omelet station and each evening, there is a different choice offered.  There are custom-made pasta, Asian stir-fry, crepes and more regularly offered. 

Check with the Windjammer wait staff for a schedule of options.  These cooking stations not only offer the freshest food choices, but they will make it exactly to your taste.

17. Consider booking a dining event

In addition to traditional restaurants, Royal Caribbean offers on select ships dining events, including a Chef's Table experience, mystery dinner and prohibition party.

These events are a fun alternative to a typical mean, and offer entertainment in addition to the food and drink that these specialty restaurants are well-known for offering.

18. Drink packages work at all specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean's drink packages have become extremely popular with guests, and the good news is the drink package benefits work at specialty restaurants too.

Be sure to ask your waiter about any exclusions, but a majority of cocktails, beers and liquors will be included in the drink package benefits.  This means extra value from a drink package and an opportunity to sample some exclusive beverages available only at specialty restaurants.

19. If this is your first cruise, do not underestimate the importance of specialty dining

Even if you have visions of riding the FlowRider, hanging by the pool and catching a show on your first Royal Caribbean cruise, first time visitors should not overlook the important of planning your meals.

Royal Caribbean dining choices, both complimentary and specialty, offer unique dishes and impeccable service that has the potential to be every bit as memorable as time spent at the pool or onshore. 

20. When all else fails, order room service

Sometimes you just need to take it easy, and room service on your Royal Caribbean cruise is complimentary. Ordering is as simple as picking up the phone and calling in your order.  Soon thereafter, your food order will be brought up to your room and served wherever you like. This can be great for when you need a break and want something quick and easy for a meal, or just a snack to tide you over.  

21. Have picky eaters?

Many of us go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and would prefer to eat chicken nuggets for every meal than try something new... and that is okay! Royal Caribbean is a safe haven for those with specific likes and dislikes. Check out the menus before you make your dining reservations to ensure there is something that everyone can eat.

Anything on the menu can be served as an entree, regardless of if it is listed as an appetizer, side dish or kids' menu item. Here are a few more tricks and tips for dining with a picky eater on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

22. You can bring your own water onboard

Royal Caribbean's rule about bringing bottled water, or any beverages onboard its ships, is simple: Guests are not allowed to bring beer, hard liquor, fortified wines or non-alcoholic beverages onboard for consumption or any other use on boarding day or while in port.

In practice, when it comes to bottled water and even soft drinks, we have rarely seen this rule enforced.  We cannot guarantee you will not have your water confiscated, but if you felt very strongly about trying to bring bottled water with you, then we would recommend putting the bottled water in your carry on luggage and hoping for the best. 

23. Take advantage of dining discounts onboard or pre-cruise

Royal Caribbean is known to offer pre-cruise discounts on various aspects of the cruise experience, including specialty dining.  In an effort to spur reservations, Royal Caribbean will discount specialty restaurant reservations and dining packages to guests that prebook on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

Check your Cruise Planner site often, because offers can change from week to week.  And you can always cancel and rebook if prices drop!

24. Include your companions in the dining planning.

Traveling on a Royal Caribbean cruise with picky eaters, disinterested teenagers, first timers, a stressed out spouse? The best way to ensure that everyone has a great time on the cruise is to make them all feel invested in the trip planning. And who does not want to give their opinion on food? Share menus, reviews, and restaurant options with the family or your other traveling companions and get their feedback and favorites. This is an especially great idea for budding chefs!

25. Enjoy eating outdoors

On certain Royal Caribbean ships, there is an outdoor seating option that is available to enjoy a little al fresco dining.

The Windjammer on Radiance and Quantum class ships offers an area at the rear of the ship to enjoy any meal with a fantastic view of the ship's wake.  Also, restaurants in the Central Park and Boardwalk neighborhoods of Oasis class ships also offer outdoor seating.

On any Royal Caribbean ship, food from the Windjammer buffet may be brought to anywhere on the ship, which means the kids can stay in the pool while an adult gets the food and brings it back to the pool area.

Freedom of the Seas secret: Ordering Sabor guacamole from the bar

In:
13Oct2016

Sabor Modern Mexican has quickly become one of Royal Caribbean's most popular specialty restaurants with cruise fans because of the terrific food quality available. On Voyager and Freedom class cruise ships, Sabor is priced with a cover charge and to dine there requires paying the full cover charge.  If you are interested in just grabbing a bowl of Sabor's famous hand-made guacamole, there is another way to enjoy it without paying the cover charge.

While on Freedom of the Seas, we spotted at the Schooner Bar a sign that allows guests to order Sabor's guacamole, salsa and chips.  It is a fairly simple process and comes with the benefit of not having to pay the cover charge. The only caveat is guests may only order from Sabor when the restaurant is open (sorry, no midnight guacamole orders).

Just let a waiter from the Schooner Bar know that you would like to order from Sabor and they will get one of the waiters from Sabor to take your order.  The waiter will ask how many people should the order be made for.  Pricing will be based on how many guests you want to have enough guacamole, chips and salsa to accomodate. 

When we tried this out, we also had the choice of ordering from the restaurant's drink menu.

A few short minutes later, our food and drink was brought over for us to enjoy.

When we tried it out on Freedom of the Seas, the cost for the food (excluding the alcoholic beverages) was $10.00.  

Royal Caribbean Secrets: Tony the Gnome on Harmony of the Seas

In:
13Oct2016

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas is filled with a lot of fun activities, exciting shows and incredible dining choices.  The level of detail on this brand new ship is truly amazing, including one very small (and cute) bit of detail that is easy to overlook.

Hidden in the Central Park neighborhood, among the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers, is Tony the Garden Gnome!


Photo by Tracey Van Leeuwen

Tony was donated by Matt and Samantha Alexander, and have been adopted by the ship's horticulturist, Tom Brownlee.

Guests can find Tony under a tree, opposite the Trellis Bar in the Central Park neighborhood.  While not as thrilling as the ship's water slides, Tony is a great example of a fun hidden gem onboard Harmony of the Seas that you can visit once onboard.

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