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Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: March 3, 2024

03 Mar 2024
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to March! We hope you are having a great weekend and are ready to sit back, relax and catch up with all the latest Royal Caribbean news!

There's a big change coming to the Main Dining Room.

Royal Caribbean will add a third dining time to its traditional dinner service, which offers a "middle" seating. The goal is to improve the guest experience for everyone in the dining room, and it promises to offer the most choice and flexibility to dinner yet.

A third dining time addresses the problem passengers had of traditional dining times were too early or too late, but switching to My Time Dining didn't work either.

Royal Caribbean News

New RCB Video: 11 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — 11 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet — and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.

Star of the Seas maiden voyage cancelled

Star of the Seas concept art

The planned first sailing of Star of the Seas in 2025 has been cancelled.

The August 17th, 2025 sailing has been cancelled "after a review of the work that remains to be done". As a result, the inaugural sailing will be on August 31, 2025.

Guests booked on the cancelled sailing have the choice of being moved to the new sailing, or a different ship, or get a full refund.

10 lessons learned after trying Icon of the Seas for the first time

Water Slides Boarding Day

Trying a new cruise ship means an opportunity to discover what makes the ship interesting, and inevitably, come away with a few tips and tricks.

Phil Schoen sailed on the brand new Icon of the Seas and was not only impressed, but came up with a list of 10 things he learned while on the new ship that anyone else sailing could benefit from.

From what to pack, to how to maximize the ship's entertainment, Phil shared ten important tips for those going on Icon of the Seas.

A new giant ship is switching to short cruises

Wonder of the Seas rear aerial

There are two notable surprises with Royal Caribbean's 2025-2026 deployments for the Short Caribbean and Los Angeles cruise markets

Wonder of the Seas will switch to short three- and four-night sailings out of Miami starting in August 2025.

In addition, Quantum of the Seas will sail from Los Angeles starting in October 2025. Quantum will be the largest Royal Caribbean ship ever to be based in LA.

I tried 4 ship classes since I started cruising. Here's what I like about each

Calista started cruising last year, and has already come up with what she likes about the different types of ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

While the cruise line’s ships all stay true to specific branding and design, each class varies a lot when it comes to layout, amenities, atmosphere, and itinerary options.

Each ship class has benefits to choosing one over the other, and Calista shared what stands out about each to her.

15 things you don't need to bring on a cruise

Walkie talkies

Of all the things you can bring on a cruise, there's a few items you can definitely leave at home.

No one wants to waste precious luggage space on things they don’t end up using during their vacation.

Whether they are prohibited or just not necessary, we wanted to share a list of things not to bother bringing on your cruise.

Travel insurance for a cruise: Why you need it for a Royal Caribbean cruise

02 Mar 2024
Matt Hochberg

Is getting cruise travel insurance the right decision for your upcoming vacation?

When you're planning a cruise, there are plenty of costs to consider beyond the cruise fare: shore excursions, drink packages, wifi, and more. Protecting yourself against risk is one of those decisions, and the decision to purchase a plan depends on a few factors.

I've covered the cruise industry for many years, and unforeseen circumstances that lead to a last-minute cruise cancellation are probably right at the top of most common stories I've heard from readers. And it's usually the ones without travel insurance that end up writing a long winded post on a forum why they're stuck.

There are many kinds of cruise insurance policies to consider, so it's not a blanket purchase either. You have to look through the coverage choices before selecting the right one.

Mariner of the Seas anchored

To make it simpler to understand, here's what you need to know about cruise insurance so you can pick the right option for you.

Why you need travel insurance for a cruise

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

It's not uncommon at all to hear someone brush off the need to buy travel insurance in the first place because they feel the risks are quite low.

I think many people equate travel insurance with health insurance to some extent. They think about having a heart attack, breaking a leg, or some other incident related to their health.  If they're in good shape and free of pre-existing conditions, why bother?

While cruise insurance does cover health issues on a cruise ship, it is far more likely to be of use beyond a slip and fall.

Travel insurance covers many more scenarios related to you getting on a cruise, especially circumstances beyond your control.  

  • You lose your job
  • Airline cancels your flight so you can't get to the cruise on time
  • Lost baggage along the way
  • Death in the family
  • Last-minute severe illness

In all of those scenarios, they would occur in the final days or hours before your cruise begins, and if you tried to cancel your cruise, Royal Caribbean would offer you no refund.  

Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami

Once you pass the final payment date for your cruise (90 days before your sailing for most cruises), you start incurring penalties if you were to cancel. In the final week before your cruise, there are no refunds for a cancellation. It doesn't matter how good of a story you have, and why it's not fair. 

Travel insurance for a cruise would likely compensate you in those situations.

Then there's the really bad situations that could occur, such as getting severely hurt while on your trip. Car accident, falls, major health incidents, are all the kind of things that could require not only hospitalization, but transport by ambulance or helicopter. While your health insurance covers that at home, when you're out of the country you're likely out of network and the out-of-pocket costs can be outrageous. 

Essentially, travel insurance for a cruise is peace of mind that a calamity will not financial burden you or leave you in a terrible bind.

Types of coverage offered by cruise travel insurance

Anthem of the Seas aerial

Depending on which policy you choose, there are a great deal of coverages available with a plan purchase.

A common misconception is that travel insurance is just for medical issues, as it covers much more than that.

Most plans have coverage for the following categories:

  • Trip cancellation & interruption
  • Medical expenses
  • Medical evacuation
  • Luggage loss
  • Travel delays

There's also some plans that have a "cancel anytime" option, which allows the insured person to have the coverage kick in for a reason not covered by the plan. These are pricier and usually cover up to 75% of the trip cost.

Most people will purchase a single trip insurance plan, where they want coverage for a specific vacation they are taking. There are also annual plans that are ideal for someone that vacations a few times per year.

How to choose the right cruise travel insurance policy

travel insurance

Cruise insurance policies are not all the same, so don't assume you can buy any plan.

You'll want to determine your risk factors and find a plan that matches up well with them.

If you have a medical condition, then it makes sense to find a plan that would cover that. Some policies will include or exclude certain pre-existing health conditions, so be sure to investigate which one works for you.

It's also a good idea to look at what each plan covers for trip interruption, delay, and cancellation. Specifically, what scenarios have to play out for your insurance to cover it. Never assume coverages, because nearly all cruise insurance requires something to occur out of your hands to be grounds for coverage.

Hurricane as seen from space

It's a good idea to think of situations you're concerned about, and verify your plan would cover it. 

Royal Caribbean sells its own Travel Protection Program, which is actually provided by a third-party company Aon Affinity.  The cruise line doesn't own or operate the insurance, they simply offer it to its passengers as a courtesy. 

There's certainly nothing wrong with Royal Caribbean's insurance plan, but don't assume it's the safest bet for your insurance needs. Moreover, read the policy just like any other policy.

Common exclusions in cruise travel insurance policies


Not every scenario is covered by travel insurance, so you want to double check what is not part of your plan. This means read your plan documents before you travel so you understand what kinds of things are excluded. 

Typical exclusions are:

  • Epidemics
  • Your decision to cancel a trip before the cruise or flight is cancelled by the carrier
  • Illness and injury caused by the use or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or any related physical symptoms.
  • Mental or nervous health disorder, as recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, dementia, depression, neurosis, psychosis, or any related physical symptoms. (This exclusion applies only to trip cancellation coverage and trip interruption coverage)
Hurricane Lee forecast

The most common issue with travel insurance is wanting to change your plans arbitrarily, especially during hurricane season.

What usually happens is there is a tropical storm somewhere in the Atlantic and someone booked on a cruise wants to cancel their trip.  The cruise sailing and the flights haven't been changed or cancelled yet by the carrier, but they don't want to go anymore.  

In that scenario, cruise insurance does not cover it, because your trip is still happening. The only situation in which an insurance policy would allow you to cancel at the last minute because you do not wish to sail is a "cancel for any reason" plan.

Tips for comparing cruise travel insurance plans

It's a really good idea to compare plans before buying one. There are many coverages and plan features that are anything but a "one size fits all" situation.

The best way to compare insurance plans is to go through a travel insurance aggregator. They make it simple and easy to see how plans differ, and often do a much better job of explaining what the coverages are without legal speak.

My two favorite options are and Both charge you nothing extra to use their services, so it's free to browse. Plus, they offer ways to compare specific plans from different travel insurance companies against each other.


When comparing insurance plans, look at which coverages you want and how much you want covered.  Most importantly, verify what needs to happen for the coverage to kick in. It's a good idea to download the policy PDF document so you can read the fine print.

You can expect to find what percentage of the trip cost will be covered, as well as trip interruption. Baggage loss ranges from $500 to $1,500 per person, while medical evacuation ranges from $250,000 per person to $1 million per person.

You will also want to decide if you want a "cancel for any reason" policy. Adding it adds piece of mind, but it will drive up the cost of your policy, and it usually does not cover 100% of your trip cost.

The cost of cruise travel insurance


The cost of any travel insurance plan is dependent on how much your vacation costs, but the industry standard is around 4% to 8% of prepaid non-refundable expenses.

There are basic plans that are the cheapest, but don't cover nearly as much.  Then there are expensive plans that cover a great deal of possible scenarios that will cost you even as much as 10% or more of your trip cost.

A cruise insurance policy is priced per person, and it depends on:

  • Length of the trip
  • Age of each traveler
  • Number of people needing insurance
  • Optional coverages you add (i.e. "cancel for any reason")
  • Overall vacation cost

In 2023, Royal Caribbean listed 32 different price points for its insurance, based on the total vacation cost. Its cheapest plan was $39 for a cruise value up to $250 to a $1,799 policy for a cruise costing more than $14,001.

You can get a quote online from any trip insurance provider or broker with no obligation to purchase it.

How to file a claim with your cruise travel insurance

If you ever need to use your policy, there are important things to do so that you can have your claim covered. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association says about 90 percent of claims are honored. 

The first thing to do is call your insurance company when you think you're about to do something that will be covered by the policy. It never hurts to ask to verify the scenario playing out is indeed covered, and what steps you should take along the way. Having the right documentation is important.

Speaking of documentation, you're going to need proof of a trip delay, cancellation or any event that will incur a claim. Keep any and all receipts, as well as notifications of changes in your plans. Emails and letters concerning a flight or cruise change, letters from a doctor or employer, and medical records are all good to have readily available.

In short, save receipts for everything, and ask for documentation for any medical or travel expenses.

Top travel insurance providers for cruises

Ship docked in St. Thomas

There are lots of places to buy cruise travel insurance and plenty of providers, including your cruise line.  Your travel agent may even offer an insurance policy that they recommend using (and can assist you in the event you make a claim). Then there's credit card protections and third-party aggregators.

Royal Caribbean's insurance

Royal Caribbean offers trip coverage that you can buy when booking your cruise.

Cruise line travel protection is usually not the most comprehensive plan available, but it's the easiest to book since it requires a simple check box to opt into at the time of booking.

Third party insurance

Travel insurance

There are many different travel insurance companies, such as Travelguard, AIG Travel, Allianz Travel Insurance, and Travelex Insurance.

Third party insurance providers have multiple coverages, and do a good job of including pre- and post-cruise coverage as well. They are especially good if you are looking for extremely cheap or comprehensive plans. In general, you will find a great variety of policies and prices.

These are the sort of policies a travel aggregator website will include.

Credit cards

Premium credit cards usually include travel benefits that resemble a travel insurance plan.

Depending on your credit card, it may provide reimbursement in the event of a flight delay or cancellation, your baggage is damaged, or you have a family emergency that requires you to go home.

The two most popular credit cards offering travel protections are the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and the American Express Platinum card.

One "catch" with credit card protections is you must pay for the trip (sometimes completely) with the credit card you want to use for the benefits. You should also compare coverages against a regular travel insurance plan.

FAQs about Cruise Travel Insurance

What specific scenarios are covered under the "cancel for any reason" option in travel insurance policies?

The "cancel for any reason" option in travel insurance policies typically allows you to cancel your trip for reasons not covered by standard cancellation coverage, but there may be limitations, such as a deadline for cancellation and a partial refund.

How do pre-existing medical conditions affect the coverage and cost of cruise travel insurance?

Pre-existing medical conditions can affect coverage and may require a waiver for full coverage. 

Are there any differences in coverage or cost for travel insurance based on the destination of the cruise, such as the Caribbean versus Alaska?

The cost and coverage of travel insurance can vary based on the destination, with some regions potentially having higher risks or costs associated with them.

The importance of being insured on your cruise

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

It's unlikely you'll ever need cruise insurance, but if you do, then you'll be so glad you bought a plan.  Like all insurance, it's a waste of money until you need it.

Travel insurance varies considerably in coverages, and it's not cheap.  But it provides peace of mind and more importantly, financial assistance should the unforeseen happen to you.  It's more than a glorified medical plan, insurance is protection against major financial strife from an emergency.

Cruise ship plans can change, especially due to the weather or geopolitical incidents that occur in the final week or even days prior to a cruise sailing.  Without insurance, you're on the hook for out of pocket expenses not refunded by the cruise line.

Most importantly, compare plans and policies to determine which is the best fit for you. 

While not everyone may need insurance, it's something I believe is a good idea to have just in case. There are far worse things to spend your money on during your vacation, and the benefits cruise insurance provides can make the difference between a manageable problem and a nightmare.

A former bartender answers the internet's questions about what it's like to work on a cruise ship

01 Mar 2024
Allie Hubers

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a bartender on one of the world’s biggest cruise ships?

Bartender Cover

Operating a cruise ship is a massive undertaking, especially onboard one of the biggest cruise ships in the world. Each of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships have thousands of crew members working hard to ensure guests have a fantastic vacation.

Perhaps one of the most demanding jobs onboard a cruise ship is being a bartender. Although all crew members work tirelessly with long hours, bartenders are working in a fast-paced environment in cramped spaces. 

Additionally, drinking is an integral component of cruising for many. Most cruise ships have anywhere from 10 to 15 bars and lounges onboard, even the smaller cruise ships. Moreover, cruise ship passengers are drinking from sun up to sun down thanks to Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink package. That’s a lot of alcohol flowing from the bartenders into the hands of cruisers!


This week, one of Royal Caribbean’s former bartenders took to social media to anonymously answer questions from curious cruisers. On the r/royalcaribbean subreddit on Reddit, one former bartender from Oasis of the Seas posed an AMA - or ask me anything - to followers. The post was titled "Worked as a bartender aboard Oasis of The Seas AMA."

The former bartender shared in the description, “For everyone interested about cruise life, tips and tricks or wanting to know how is the job - ask me anything, would be glad to answer.”

The open-ended question prompted quite the response from followers. The former bartender received hundreds of responses from curious Royal Caribbean cruisers. These included all sorts of questions, such as how tipping works, handling rude or drunk passengers, how much bartenders get paid and more.

Here’s what it’s like being a bartender onboard one of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships from a former bartender.

Gratuities and Tipping

The most popular responses for the former bartender included questions about tips and gratuities. For instance, for guests who purchase a drink package, gratuities are already prepaid with an 18% service charge. Additionally, a-la-carte drink purchases from the bar have a service charge. How does it all work?

First, many were wondering whether Royal Caribbean’s bartenders receive prepaid gratuities. The former bartender explained there is a difference between guests with drink packages and those purchasing a-la-carte.

With a-la-carte purchases, guests automatically pay 18% for a service charge and the bartenders receive a portion of this. For Oasis of the Seas bartenders, he explains, “If you purchases a $14 cocktail, the bartenders receive $1.12 from your drink.”

For guests who choose to leave a cash tip, the former bartender shared that 100% of cash tips will always go directly to the bartender. 

Similarly, tips that you leave on your drink receipt do, indeed, go directly to the bartender. However, these receipts need to be entered into Royal Caribbean’s system for tracking. This is not as preferred as a cash tip, as it's a slightly tedious process and slows down bartenders from serving more drinks.

“Just my advice. Bring cash tips of one dollar bills. It takes 1 minute to punch a check tip - it's a drag. The same is true if you have like 20 checks with tips, you lose around 15 min instead of rest,” replied the bartender.

Another cruiser asked if tipping upfront - such as $20 on the first day of the cruise - has any difference with service and drink quality from the bar. The former bartender responded that it depends on the situation, as some bartenders work in the same bar for the entire cruise while others rotate as needed; for example, the pool attendants usually rotate more frequently.

“Find someone that’s stationed and is eager to serve you all the time. If you tip in advance, you will get the best service from that guy. If you tip a bar support guy, he will do the same, but you won’t find him everyday all day at the pool,” he responded.

The former bartender continued to share that it’s rare for guests to tip at the beginning of a cruise. Typically a handful of passengers will tip anywhere from $30 to $100 at the end of the cruise. Instead, most guests choose to tip $1 to $2 with each drink along the way.

As for drinking in the casino? The former bartender revealed those workers rely solely on tips - and “get paid nothing."

Read more: Tipping on a cruise ship: what you should and shouldn't do

Drink Package

Bionic Bar on Ovation of the Seas

Along with tipping, many comments inquired about how the drink package works from the bartender’s perspective. Since guests who purchase drink packages already prepay gratuities, many users on Reddit were wondering how this works for bartenders actually receiving the service charges.

Following up with many tipping questions, the former bartender explained how Royal Caribbean has a system called package check value for drink packages. With this system, Royal Caribbean calculates the gratuity amount for each drink served onboard every sailing. 

The check value is calculated based on the total cost of drink packages sold by the cruise line. This can differ week by week depending on the itinerary and how many packages were sold.


On Oasis of the Seas, he stated the check value was around $1.00 USD per drink on average, although it can fluctuate based on the sailing. For every cocktail sold, he would receive around $1.00 per drink. On an average sea day, the former bartender estimated that he made anywhere from 80 to 250 drinks.

He also shared that smaller ships typically have a lower check value, as low as $0.50 USD per drink. This means that bartenders on smaller ships need to sell more drinks to reach their base pay threshold. Therefore, bartenders prefer to work on newer ships because these vessels have the best check values for tipping compared to older ships. In the same way, no one wants to work on a brand-new ship because these vessels have the stricter beverage departments.

Even still, the former bartender shared, “Oasis is one of the stricter ships for beverage department, which comes from the bar managers and supervisors. But, the check value is one of the highest, if not the highest in the fleet right now.”

Read more: How much is a Royal Caribbean drink package?


The former bartender explains this is why it’s so important for your SeaPass to be scanned even when the bartender knows you have the drink package. This ensures the employees receive their service charge per drink.

Finally, one responder asked if the bartenders prefer to serve customers who have drink packages or if there is more incentive from a-la-carte purchases.

The former Oasis bartender responded, “People that are a-la-carte complain more just for the sake of it sometimes. But, if you have the drink package, you don't complain, you just swap drinks. I prefer package because [there is] less drama all in all.”

Guest Interactions

As you can imagine, the former bartender had varying experiences onboard Oasis of the Seas when it comes to guest interactions. From rude passengers to bonding with others like family, the former bartender shared multiple instances of notable guests onboard.

First, Royal Caribbean's bartenders will cut off passengers who show signs of being overly intoxicated. “If you show signs of toxicity, most bartenders will stop serving because we can lose our job. It doesn’t matter if someone gambles or not. Management strictness has big role in this.”

One responder posed a question about whether the bartender noticed any change among passengers from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. He responded that the guest behavior typically depends on cruise prices. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean Drink Prices

Two cocktails

"In my experience, the truth is sad. The cheaper cruises have more bad apples than the expensive ones, percentile wise. But, in my experience, I have rarely had rude guests because part of being in hospitality is to handle people and volatile characters."

When it comes to behavior and overindulgence on a cruise, the bartender shared that this really depends on the person. He found that some are very friendly and others are not friendly. However, his approach was always to be professional and he was confident in his ability to handle every situation.

The former bartender also reveals that guests can have their alcohol access and drink packages revoked, per Royal Caribbean’s policy. Bartenders are alerted to guests who they are not allowed to serve alcohol to, typically because of a guest’s actions that resulted in alcohol restriction.

One responder asked whether bartenders on Royal Caribbean ships are actively looking for people sharing their drink packages, as this is not allowed onboard.

“Not necessarily,” he responded. “We notice everything, but if you are rude and try to make me a fool when I advice you to be more subtle with sharing, I am reporting you.”

The former bartender shares he once reported a guest who thought he could outsmart the bartenders. However, at the end of the cruise, Royal Caribbean revoked the guest's drink package and charged the passenger for every drink consumed during the cruise - at the normal price.

“He had a $3,000 charge for drinks,” shared the former Oasis of the Seas bartender.

But what’s the craziest bartending experience he had while onboard? 

“I had become so close to two couples in their 40s. They tipped me $500+ and offered me a job at their company if I somehow could get a green card. We talked a lot - and we cried at the end.”

Salary and Job Satisfaction

There is no denying that crew members commit to contracts with long work hours and very few days off. Some of the responses to the former bartender asked about how he obtained his job, his salary and overall job satisfaction with working long days onboard.

According to the former bartender, he applied for his position from an advertisement in his home country, somewhere in Europe. The whole process from application to getting onboard Oasis of the Seas took about six months, in his experience. It cost around $500 in his country for medical and personal preparation, which was paid for out-of-pocket.

Additionally, the former Oasis bartender continued to share that he believes Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line for employment in regards to the beverage department. While some cruise lines only provide a fixed payment for bartenders - typically around $1,500 to $2,500 each month - Royal Caribbean’s bartenders can earn much more.

Read more: 25 times Royal Caribbean crew members wowed cruise ship passengers with excellent service

In his responses, the former bartender shared that he was paid "extremely well" and made around $5,000 per month during his seven months onboard - and estimates he served some 40,000 cocktails!

Within one month, the bartender estimates he worked a minimum of 300 hours, although sometimes he worked closer to 400 hours. He received a minimum base pay regardless of the number of drinks he served, but he often earned much more than that with gratuities and tips.

The biggest perk of the job, says the former bartender, is getting to see the world. “Only perk I would say after pay is traveling and seeing stuff you won’t be able to see in your lifetime without being a millionaire.”

Oasis Class ship docked in Nassau

Finally, the bartender reveals he no longer works for Royal Caribbean because his goal was always to work and save his money for education. Since he had a long term relationship back in his home country, he was returning there to attend school with the money he earned.

The former Oasis bartender felt that while being away from everyone he knew back home was hard, the salary made it worthwhile.

“Is it worth making your monthly salary back home in 2 days? Absolutely. It’s all sacrifice, I started school when I saved enough, so I did a bit of sacrifice but I won’t need to go again,” he concluded.

Royal Caribbean's 9-month world cruise gets rerouted to Africa to avoid Red Sea

01 Mar 2024
Elizabeth Wright

Unable to sail to the Red Sea due to the geopolitical issues there, Royal Caribbean's first world cruise is headed to Africa.


Guests onboard Royal Caribbean's Ultimate World Cruise were alerted with their new cruise itinerary after it was announced that they'd no longer cruise through the Red Sea due to unrest in the area. 

Earlier this month, the cruise line allowed those onboard to vote on their updated itinerary. They had two options, with the first being "Immersive Africa." Royal Caribbean apparently called this the "scenic route," whereas the second option, "Africa & Greece," was called "the highway." 

"Immersive Africa" is comprised of numerous ports in Africa, effectively nixing Egypt from the schedule. This means that there are far fewer days at sea compared to "Africa & Greece," as this route has more sea days to catch up to the originally scheduled ports in Egypt and Greece. 


According to previous reports, guests will receive 25% off the pro-rated Segment 3 cruise fare in the form of a refundable payment. 

When Royal Caribbean confirmed the itinerary change, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson provided the following statement: "As we’ve continued to monitor what is taking place in and around the Red Sea for the safety of our guests and crew, we have made the decision to adjust plans for Serenade of the Seas’ transit through the Suez Canal this May." 

"In keeping with the adventurous spirit of our guests, we are engaging them for their thoughts and preference between two alternative itineraries that will take them on an epic adventure to Africa. They will receive compensation for the adjustment, and guests who prefer to not sail on the updated itinerary will receive a full refund and support for their travel arrangements."

Read more: Why the Internet is obsessed with 9-month world cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

A TikTok posted by @drjennytravels confirmed that the majority of passengers voted for "Immersive Africa"


In the TikTok, Jenny is seen celebrating the news with other passengers. "We just received word that it is option one. 'Immersive Africa' here we come!" she exclaims at the beginning of the video. 

Unfortunately, she was climbing the rock wall during the broadcast, so she was unable to capture it via camera; however, she said that Captain Kjell made an announcement on the PA system, which was then followed up with an email. 

"We are so excited onboard for this opportunity to visit Africa in this way," she says.

Serenade of the Seas in Maine

Later in the video, the Cruise Director popped onto the speaker to play Africa by Toto. Jenny and others were in the ship's Centrum recording and rejoicing together. 

@DmCredible⚓🛳️🚢commented, "Excited crew member here🤗🥰," revealing that it was a popular choice for both passengers and crew. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean is letting passengers vote on 9-month world cruise itinerary change

Others took to social media to celebrate the news, including @iambrandeelake


In Lake's video, she can be seen cheering and dancing with African crew members, allowing them to teach her dances native to their respective cultures, including Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. 

She was also sporting a festive African outfit to celebrate the announcement. 

What's the new itinerary? 


(Photo by Pat Bell)

The new 42-day route will visit the following ports of call: 

  • May 9: Dubai, United Arab Emirates 
  • May 10-13: Cruising 
  • May 14: Mahé (Victoria), Seychelles 
  • May 15: La Digue Island, Seychelles 
  • May 16: Cruising 
  • May 17: Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), Madagascar 
  • May 18: Cruising 
  • May 19: Port Louis, Mauritius 
  • May 20: Pointe Des Galets, Reunion Island 
  • May 21-23: Cruising 
  • May 24: Port Elizabeth, South Africa 
  • May 25: Mossel Bay, South Africa 
  • May 26-27: Cape Town, South Africa
  • May 28: Cruising 
  • May 29: Luderitz, Namibia 
  • May 30: Walvis Bay, Namibia 
  • May 31-June 1: Cruising 
  • June 2: Luanda, Angola 
  • June 3-4: Cruising 
  • June 5: Takoradi, Ghana 
  • June 6: Abidjan, Ivory Coast 
  • June 7-8: Cruising 
  • June 9: Dakar, Senegal 
  • June 10-11: Cruising 
  • June 12: Tenerife, Canary Islands 
  • June 13: Cruising 
  • June 14: Gibraltar, United Kingdom 
  • June 14-16: Cruising 
  • June 17: Corfu, Greece 
  • June 18: Bari, Italy 
  • June 19-20: Ravenna, Italy

It appears as though the latter half of the original itinerary is unchanged, with the voyage concluding in Barcelona, Spain on July 10. 

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the Ultimate World Cruise, which gained viral attention on TikTok as it set sail 274-night voyage in December 2023

Serenade of the Seas in Amsterdam

In February, a passenger, unfortunately, passed away while on the cruise. Before that, rough seas resulted in onboard flooding, with some ports being canceled in South America. There have also been reports of passengers fighting and visa issues for later destinations. 

Of course, with all cruises, even if it's a short 3-night getaway to The Bahamas, it's important to remain flexible. Throughout the first few months of 2024, for instance, some Royal Caribbean ships haven't been able to dock at Perfect Day at CocoCay. Recently, Freedom of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas had to have passengers return early, as weather conditions were deteriorating. 

All in all, though, it seems like the majority of guests on the ship have had a positive attitude regarding the major itinerary change. While they'll no longer be visiting Petra, Jordan (one of the World Wonders on the list), there are some pretty amazing ports of call that World Cruise passengers get to look forward to! 

Is this the itinerary that you were rooting for? Let us know in the comments! 

The Airports Near Port Canaveral Cruise Port: How to get to your cruise easily

29 Feb 2024
Calista Kiper

What’s the best way to get to a cruise port with limited airport access?

Orlando to Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral has become one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, welcoming over 4 million cruise passengers in 2022.

Royal Caribbean ships like Wonder of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Adventure of the Seas regularly sail out of this port.

Royal Caribbean’s newest Oasis Class ship, Utopia of the Seas, will also begin sailing from Port Canaveral in the summer of 2024.

The port—which also serves cargo and shipping lines—makes 80% of its revenue from cruise business. 

Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

It’s a popular location to embark on many exciting cruise adventures.

Read more: Utopia of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

However, Port Canaveral doesn’t have immediate airport access.

Airports range from 32 to 71 miles away, making it more difficult to travel directly to the port.

If your cruise ship sails out of Port Canaveral, you will have to do your homework to find the best way to get to your cruise.

There are four airports you can fly into to reach Port Canaveral: Orlando Airport (MCO), Melbourne Airport (MLB), Sanford Airport (SFB), and Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB).

Here’s a guide on how to choose the best airport for your trip.

Where is Port Canaveral?

Boarding Wonder of the Seas

Port Canaveral is the maritime gateway to Central Florida. 

It is located 45 minutes east of downtown Orlando, on the eastern coast of Florida in Brevard County. 

The location makes a cruise from Port Canaveral a great time to stop at the famous theme parks in Orlando. Several parks are located within driving distance, such as:

  • Disney World (1 hour and 15 minutes from Port Canaveral)
  • Universal Studios (1 hour from Port Canaveral)
  • SeaWorld Orlando (55 minutes from Port Canaveral)
  • Kennedy Space Center (30 minutes from Port Canaveral)

Access to the Cocoa Beach Pier, just 10 minutes south, also allows you to stop and enjoy the sunshine on a Florida beach.

With the distance between the airports and Port Canaveral, it makes sense to stop for a few days in Florida and appreciate the popular attractions in the area.

Extending your trip by a few days will give you a travel buffer for any mishaps and allow you to enjoy what the Orlando area has to offer.

How do I get to my cruise terminal?

There are a few transportation options between the airport and Port Canaveral. 

You could choose a rideshare app such as Uber or Lyft, and get dropped off at your cruise terminal.

If you research and book ahead of time, there are also shared or private shuttles that travel from the airport to Port Canaveral.

You can also rent a car at the airport and drive to the cruise terminal yourself.

Port Canaveral is an “L” shape, with a total of 6 cruise ship terminals.

Royal Caribbean ships usually sail out of terminal 1, called CT1. However, some Royal Caribbean ships also use terminal 5 (or CT5). 

Make sure you double-check where your ship will be on embarkation day. 

Port Canaveral line

To get to Terminal 1, you will need to take exit 54B toward the south side of the port. To get to Terminal 5, you need to take exit 54A to the north side of the port.

Always double-check at each step in your transportation so you don’t miss your ship!

When should I get to my cruise terminal?

The Orlando area—specifically I-4—is infamous for rush-hour traffic, so be sure to budget plenty of travel time from the airport to the port.

You should always plan for your flight to arrive the day before your cruise begins, since a flight the morning of could be delayed or even canceled.

Many reputable hotels close to Port Canaveral make it convenient to stay the night there. 

Hotel with shuttle

In the morning, you can take advantage of the hotel's shuttle service directly to your cruise terminal.

This is the best way to avoid any delays. Remember that your ship is not required to wait for you, and you don't want to miss your entire vacation!

Read more: I've never been on a cruise, but spent a week researching what I need to know. My top 11 important lessons I think I learned

Airplane landing

For your return flight, it’s recommended that you book your flight home after noon on the day of disembarkation.

Cruise ships return to the port early in the morning and usually start disembarkation by 7 A.M. However, it can still take 2-3 hours for everyone to get off the ship.

You could get off anywhere between 8-10 A.M., but delays are always possible.

Once you factor in travel time to the airport, plus check-in and security screening, it’s easy to see how an afternoon flight will give you the most peace of mind.

I would always rather wait in the airport hours before my booked flight than miss it altogether.

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Airplane on the ground

The most popular and convenient airport in the Port Canaveral area is the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

MCO is located 45 minutes, or approximately 44 miles west of Port Canaveral.

It is one of the busiest airports in the country, with major service to the city of Orlando and its surrounding theme parks.

This means that MCO offers the highest number of options when it comes to airline and flight service. 


However, it can also become very congested, with longer wait times.

Security wait times range anywhere from 10 to 50 minutes, depending on the day and number of planes in the airport.

Even if you are flying domestically, we recommend that you get to the Orlando International Airport at least 3 hours before your flight.

You have a few options for your 45-minute drive from MCO to Port Canaveral.

Hotel shuttle van

A rideshare service, such as Uber or Lyft, ranges from $60 to $90. However, prices can vary greatly depending on the time and availability of drivers.

You can also book a shared shuttle service, like Go Port Canaveral or Port to Port Shuttles, ahead of time. These services usually cost (per person) $25 to $30 one way, or $50 to $60 round-trip.

Melbourne Orlando International Airport (MLB)

Airplane in airport

Melbourne International Airport is the closest one to Port Canaveral, but also one of the smallest.

MLB is 25 miles south of Port Canaveral, but a drive still takes almost the same amount of travel time as MCO. Depending on traffic, it takes 40-45 minutes to get to Port Canaveral from MLB.

Only five domestic airlines service this airport; American Airlines, Avelo, Allegiant, Delta Airlines, and Sun Country.

Options might be slim when it comes to flying into MLB. You’ll want to do your research carefully before choosing an airport and flight time.

Airplane landing

However, a benefit to the small size means that this airport will be less crowded, and take up less of your time at security and check-in. 

Because of the size of the airport, there also aren’t as many shuttle options available. 

Plan ahead by looking at the cost of Uber and Lyft in the area. Uber’s website currently lists a ride from MLB to Port Canaveral at $62 with an Uber X and $78 with an Uber XL.

Orlando/Sanford International Airport (SFB)

Airplane taking off and landing

The Sanford International Airport is approximately 64 miles northwest of Port Canaveral. Travel time takes one hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic.

Although smaller and further away than Orlando International Airport, SFB offers a few discount flight options. 

SFB mainly features flights from Allegiant Airlines, Flair Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.

Allegiant Airlines will be your best bet if you’re flying into SFB for a cruise. They offer cheap, domestic flights from many cities in the U.S.

Rideshare transport from SFB to Port Canaveral ranges from $65 to $90. Again, these prices are subject to change and can vary greatly.

Shuttle services are still going to run cheaper. For example, Port Canaveral Quick Shuttle offers one-way rides for $40, or $80 round trip.

Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)

Daytona Beach International Airport is the furthest airport on this list, located 71 miles from Port Canaveral. Travel time takes about 1 hour and 11 minutes.

Daytona Beach International Airport mainly offers domestic flights with Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Avelo Airlines.

There are no shared shuttle services from DAB to Port Canaveral. 

Your best bet is a rideshare app. Uber rides start at $100 and can go up to $150 or even $200 depending on the time, availability, and type.

Can I drive to Port Canaveral?

Terminal 3 in Port Canveral

Driving your own vehicle is a great way to save money on transportation to the port.

However, when you arrive you will have to park your car. Port Canaveral offers convenient parking with plenty of spaces, but it runs a little pricey.

Currently, parking costs $17 per day, including the days of arrival and departure. The terminal accepts major credit cards but not cash.

The terminal parking lots open at 10 A.M. for embarking passengers, so you can easily park and get directly onboard.

10 lessons learned after trying Icon of the Seas for the first time

29 Feb 2024
Elizabeth Wright

Welcome our guest writer, Phil Schoen! He took some time to write this post entry to share some tips and tricks he and his family learned while sailing on Icon of the Seas. 

Icon of the Seas docked in St. Thomas

We just finished up an amazing week on Icon of the Seas, sailing from February 17th to the 24th of 2024. We were a family of 5, staying in a Family Infinite Ocean View Balcony room, and there were definitely some things we learned along the way. 

Since lists are always fun, I thought I would share some of them. Obviously, this is all just based on our experience and everyone cruises differently. I should also mention that the ship was not at full capacity yet; there were about 6,000 total guests, with 1,200 of them being children. 

Also, we were seeing them making some tweaks to schedules and what is included in various packages and pricing for things. Basically, your experience may differ from what ours was. 

Aqua 2

For instance, the Unlimited Dining Package now includes $10 daily credit to Izumi in the Park. Also, the drink package now covers floats at Desserted, though still not milkshakes). 

We also saw them adjust some of the theme nights. They removed White Night for a Red, White, and Blue Night.

You will need to prioritize what you want to do

Water Slides Boarding Day

This goes without saying, but this is a massive ship with a ton to do and a ton of new stuff not seen on other Royal Caribbean ships. Because of that at the end of the week, my wife and I were commenting about the things we didn't get to. 

For example, we never ate at El Loco Fresh or visited the Sports Court, whereas on our last cruise, those were two locations we spent a lot of time at. 

A week goes really fast, and if there is something you are really looking forward to checking out, make it a priority and add it to your "calendar" in the app.

For our family, one priority was the Category 6 water slides, so we went there right after boarding the ship, having packed bathing suits in our carry-on bag. We were able to do a number of them right away with shorter lines than we saw later in the cruise, especially on sea days. 

Additionally seeing the new shows and exploring some of the new venues was a priority, such as Dueling Pianos. 

Consider skipping a port to stay on the ship 


On a related note, you may want to take advantage of a less crowded ship when in port to accomplish more of your priority list. 

We found that on sea days, the pool decks and other venues were very crowded, and there were longish lines for water slides. We decided to not get off the ship when it docked at Perfect Day at Coco Cay, and it turned out to be a great call! 

We got to check out multiple pools and hot tubs, ride the water slides a bunch, and attend a trivia session with only 3 total groups. There weren't any lines at bars, and there were minimal folks in the Hideaway Area pool. It was just really nice to explore this ship with low crowds and made for a really relaxing day.

Read more: 5 best reasons to stay onboard the ship while in Perfect Day at CocoCay

You don't need to pack as many multi-port adapters


One thing the rooms on Icon have is outlets, especially USB ports. You'll find them all over the room, including between the desk, the shelf near the TV, the bathroom, and by the beds. 

Our room also had multiple USB-A outlets near the bunk bed area. If I counted correctly, we had 4 U.S. outlets, 1 European outlet, 10 USB-A outlets, and 2 USB-C outlets.  We did utilize one multi USB-A plug on the desk just to keep things more organized with phones and battery packs, etc., but we absolutely could have made it through without anything. 

Read more: The clever reason to bring a European power adapter on your cruise ship

This is very different than other ships where we felt like we had multiple multi-port adapters in use at all times. There are also outlets out around the ship, with the Overlook area having an exceptional amount and a great place to go if you need to get on a laptop. 

In the Overlook area, especially in the pods, we saw people utilizing the outlets to keep phones and laptops charged and running. 

You will want to pack magnetic hooks to hang things from in the room


One negative thing we found about the rooms (and heard from others as well) is the lack of storage compared to other ships like the Oasis Class. For our family of 5, we struggled to fit everything on the hanging racks and ran out of shelf space. We fit everything, but was tight. 

Additionally, there's no clothesline in the bathroom for hanging up bathing suits or other wet items, only a couple of knobs to hang a few things from. We are glad we brought several magnetic hooks to use on the metal walls, as it allowed us to hang things like hats and nearly-but-not-quite-dry bathing suits. 

Bonus tip: Bring at least 1 more swimsuit than you think you might need, but also try to not overpack other items as storage is at a premium.

Read more: 30 Cruise cabin hacks that cruisers love

Bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper

Ear plugs

Overall, we liked the space in the Family Infinite Ocean View Balcony room, especially having the bunk bed area which helped separate the kids' area from the main part of the room. 

We also liked how the infinite veranda space made the room bigger, and the chairs on it were comfortable. Opening the window was fun - if a bit of a gimmick - and the black-out shade really worked. It definitely doesn't replace a traditional balcony, and I would refer to the room more as an "Oceanview Plus" vs a real balcony room.

That being said, I thought I would mention another slight negative thing we found, which is that the walls appear to be quite thin, as we could definitely hear our neighbors on both sides. One group was rather loud with quite a bit of screaming from both kids and adults. 

Daughter looking out infinite window

If you are someone who needs things really quiet to sleep or just wants quiet when relaxing in the room, consider bringing earplugs, headphones, or something that can block sound out 

If you are debating it, get the drink package

Toasted Marshmallow Old Fashion from Schooner Bar

I know the drink package, especially for this ship, is expensive, but if you are someone who is contemplating getting it, go for it. There are so many unique bars and drinks on this ship that we got so much use out of our package and really enjoyed trying different things that we might not be as open to ordering (for fear of not liking it) if we were paying per drink. 

Also, consider doing a bar crawl, as it motivates you to check out the different bars and drinks. You can spread it out throughout the cruise; you don't need to do it all in one day.

The Basecamp Bar, for instance, has a lot of tropical drinks, themed to Category 6 water park. I found that many of them were pretty strong! The Rye and Bean specializes in coffee and tea-based drinks, whereas Swim and Tonic, a swim-up bar specializes in gin-based drinks. The 1400 Lobby Bar has drinks themed to elements traditional to Royal Caribbean, with names like the FlowRider and the Rising Tides. 

Toasted Marshmallow Old Fashion from Schooner Bar


Some drinks that I wish I could have right now include the Coffee Boulevardier from Rye and Bean (the espresso martinis here are also excellent) and the Tradewinds from Basecamp Bar.

Similarly, if contemplating the Empire Supper Club, book it! 


Speaking of things that are not cheap, we got to experience the Empire Supper Club, and it did not disappoint. It was one of the best meal experiences I have had in my life. 

The food was wonderful and creative. They also had some really interesting cocktails, with some pairings I would never have thought of but worked. The excellent music absolutely complemented the meal without taking away from being able to have conversations. 

I probably also had the best service I have ever had on any cruise ship. It's most likely not something you are going to do every cruise, but for a special occasion or if just something you think will appeal to you, go for it! A meal like this on land, when factoring in the cocktails and entertainment, would likely cost 2-3x what they are charging.

Empire Supper Club plate

Overall, it felt very Great Gatsby-like, and we went all out getting dressed up and trying to match the glitz and glamour of the venue and the event. There are lots of Art Deco touches throughout, including on the rim of the plates, and don't forget to look up! 

A formal invitation with a wax seal is left in your stateroom the evening before, and when you first arrive your server greets you by name. I suppose they use your boarding photo so they know what you look like. 

You are required to arrive at a set time, and they lock the doors behind you to keep the "speakeasy" vibe. Once seated, you are asked what type of water you want, and they start serving the champagne, which keeps flowing during the first few courses, including a few appetizers not even listed on the menu! 


Once you get into the menu, you are given very detailed information about each dish, as well as the cocktail served with it and why it was selected. My favorite course was the raviolo, which was a singular large ravioli served with a decadent sauce and topped with shaved botargo and edible flowers. 

The most interesting cocktail pairing was the Blood and Sand, which was served with the langoustine. I just wouldn't normally pair a scotch-based drink with seafood, but it worked! 

My wife does not eat pork or beef, and they were able to modify a couple of appetizers, so she could fully experience them. For example, they prepared a mushroom-based sauce to go with the raviolo, rather than the standard one which had guanciale in it.

Read more: Icon of the Seas restaurant and dining guide

Pearl Café is a game-changer

Pearl Cafe on Icon of the Seas

Two of the best changes they made for this ship were the opening up of the promenade and the addition of the Pearl Café. I cannot overstate how much of an upgrade this is over Cafe Promenade. 

The setting is lovely with the large windows, view of the Pearl, and the artwork above your head. The food is really, really good; the steak and egg breakfast sandwich become an everyday item for me, and it is open 24 hours a day. 

One food item they had there that my son enjoyed and got quite often was the tomato and mozzarella salad. We also enjoyed the various croissants they had there, and I also really liked the BBQ chicken biscuit they had in the afternoons.

Pearl Cafe choices

I will say the line for the coffee where you can get lattes and the like made with Starbucks coffee can get rather long; the crew there is working hard, just lots of people want their coffee! 

 The line for coffee was definitely the longest in the morning. By the afternoon, it would be much shorter, but always at least a few people there. 

There are two separate lines, one for the specialty coffees and one for the food, so if you just wanted food you had a much shorter wait, though if you wanted both coffee and food you had to wait in two lines. 

Seating for the shows, including non-reserved seating for the aqua show


Royal Caribbean entertainment is generally amazing and what is found on this ship is no exception. You probably don't need me to advise you to go see the Wizard of Oz, the Ice Shows, or the Aquashows, but for each, here are a few tips for where to sit. 

For the Wizard of Oz, it's best to sit in the lower section, as close to the middle as you can, but if the only thing available is on the side that is fine, too. Just being closer to the stage is great and several effects will, literally, go over your head, and it really adds to the experience. 

For the ice shows in Absolute Zero, outside of a few seats that may have a pole impacting your view, there really aren't "bad" seats, but I would advise getting as close as you can and even going for the front row, especially for the secondary show, which is aimed at families. 


We had the kids in our group sit in the front row, and at times, the performers would come by and give them high fives; they loved that! 

Perhaps my best tip overall is about AquaAction. The reservations for the shows in the aqua theater (there was only one ready on our sailing) are just for the wooden benches and chairs within that area, NOT for the chairs behind the benches. We wanted to see the show twice and just showed up early. We found that we could just sit in the chairs at the back. 

They're way more comfortable than the wooden benches. Plus, they have tables for your beverage or a crêpe from the Aquadome Market. While slightly further away, the view is just as good, and I would take these over the area the reservations are for. 

Dueling Pianos is an absolute must-do. Get there early!

Dueling Pianos

One of the most fun experiences I have had anywhere, let alone on a cruise ship, was at Dueling Pianos on Icon of the Seas. The level of talent and engagement with the crowd is off the charts! 

Singing along with hundreds of strangers/new friends and laughing with the antics of the performance, you just can't not smile during the show. The "bit" they do for Piano Man was one of the funniest things we have experienced in quite a while. 

That said, it is really popular. You will want to get there at least 30 minutes prior to showtime if you want a seat and you will, unfortunately, see people "saving" seats with drinks for an hour or so like they are deck chairs. 

Also, the earlier shows seem to attract more kids, and they try to go with the crowd (I mean, they did take a request for Baby Shark), so I would suggest going to a later show for the full experience where it gets a bit more "PG-13."


Speaking of shaving chairs, we did see some loungers with towels up on the pool decks. We did find on our second sea day that a lot of chairs were in use. Combined with the ones being saved, it was hard to find loungers that were clearly free on that day. 

This was partially impacted by our first sea day being a bit cloudy and rainy, so everyone was eager to get out. Outside of that second day, there were generally loungers available, even if maybe not in the specific spot you would want one.

There you have it, my top 10 list of tips and thoughts from our week-long cruise on Icon of the Seas. I could probably add 10 more, but this post is already more than long enough! 

Royal Caribbean introduces third dining time to give cruise ship passengers more choice when they eat dinner

28 Feb 2024
Matt Hochberg

How do you make dinner on a cruise ship even better? Give passengers more choice in when they can dine.

Main dining room family

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean has offered two traditional dinner times on its ships, where guests are seated at around 5pm or 8pm. The set dinner times have been a crowd pleaser, but for some people it has always felt either too early or too late.

Royal Caribbean wants to fix this by adding a third dinner time. It may seem like a simple change, but the cruise line thinks it will greatly improve the guest experience for anyone in the dining room, even if you don't select this time.

Royal Caribbean Blog got an exclusive update that coming this year, there will be a third dining time that will be added in-between the first two times.

Royal Caribbean main dining room

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Food & Beverage Linken D'Souza thinks the addition of a middle dining time will give guests, "more choice and variety and flexibility for their vacation."

"We're just trying to create more convenience, variety and options for our guests."

The exact time for the new seating will depend on the ship and itinerary.  It could start around 6:45pm - 7:30pm, depending on what the guest feedback is from early testing.

Main Dining Room

Mr. D'Souza said they've tested it out already on Wonder of the Seas and Icon of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean is methodically rolling it out across the fleet. There isn't a set schedule yet, but Mr. D'Souza believes by the end of the year all the ships will have the additional dining time. It won't be done all at once, instead, the new option gets rolled out ship by ship.

More choices and a better cruise

Family in dining room

At the heart of the decision to add a third dining time is the drive to improve the guest experience. Mr. D'Souza was adamant how much his team focuses on making dining better.

This idea seems to have born out of guest feedback Royal Caribbean received where traditional dining times weren't ideal, but switching to My Time Dining didn't work either.

My Time Dining offers flexible dining times, but many cruisers enjoy having the same wait staff and table assignment every night. 

Main dining room

"Guests who dine in the dining room love to have the same server, love to have the same table," Mr. D'Souza explained. "And a lot of people want to be able to choose that time, but they're not able to because the traditional dining times are taken. So they end up in My Time Dining."

Read more: My Time Dining versus Traditional Dining

Based on early testing, guest satisfaction is higher as a result of the change, "The people who are now in this new third seating, they are rating us higher than any of the other experiences that we had, whether it was early, late or My Time."

"So we're actually seeing the highest ratings for these guests out of anybody who is dining in the dining room."

Table for two

There's no menu change, no alterations to dinner on a cruise ship other than adding a new time.

"This is purely about improving the experience...None of it is impacting the guest, there's no structural changes. There's no menu changes. It's all about operational."

Evolution of dinner on a cruise

Main Dining Room on Icon of the Seas

In considering the changes Royal Caribbean has made over the past few years, there's a definitive path the cruise line has taken in gradually improving dinner on a cruise.

When Royal Caribbean revisited the dining room menus in late 2022, they wanted to improve dinner by making it more predictable and not a two hour affair.

In December 2022, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said that a top complaint from passengers had been how long dinner can take some times. 

odyssey of the seas main dining room

Mr. D'Souza said at a land-based restaurant, customers want dinner to take about 60-65 minutes, and since a cruise is vacation, that number would skew a bit longer.

The result was a concerted effort to make dinner speedier so that it would regularly come in at around 75 minutes.

With a more efficient Main Dining Room, there was now an opportunity that did not exist before to insert an additional middle dining time.

Should you choose My Time Dining or traditional dining?

odyssey of the seas main dining room

There are good reasons to choose a set dining time or a flexible dining time for dinner in the Main Dining Room, and it all depends on your preferences.

Both options are included in your cruise fare, so the key is to understand how each works to determine which fits with your habits.

You will select a dining preference when you book a cruise. It's one of the early decisions to make as part of the booking process.

Main Dining Room

Traditional dining will have the same table number, wait staff, and table mates every night of your cruise. With this new choice, there will be three dining times to pick from:

  • Early
  • Middle
  • Late

When you arrive for your cruise, your table number and deck will be marked on your SeaPass card so you know your dining time and location.

Each evening, you'll go to the Main Dining Room at the assigned time and head directly to your table. 

Main dining room

You could be seated with other passengers at traditional dinner. It depends on how big your travel party is, and which table they assign you.  Yes, you can request to have a table just for yourselves, but there's no guarantee it will be granted.  In my experience, the staff is usually good about accommodating such requests.

As Mr. D'Souza alluded to, the reason why some people prefer traditional dining is because they enjoy getting to know their waiters (and the waiters getting to know your preferences), as well as not having to worry about getting a reservation for dinner. Your table will be waiting for you each evening.

Alternatively, you can select My Time Dining, which offers the choice of what time you eat dinner.

The appeal of My Time Dining is you can choose a different dinner time depending on the schedule. If you have a shore excursion on day three, you could select a later dinner time so you have sufficient time to shower, rest, and get dressed before dinner. Then the next day, you could eat earlier.

With My Time, there's the choice of either showing up and waiting for the first available table or making a reservation in advance. It's a lot like going to a restaurant on land. 

Breakfast in mdr

Usually there are two lines for My Time Dining: those with a reservation, and those without. People with a reservation get priority for the next available table. Anyone without a reservation will still be seated, but they may wait longer if the dining room is busy.

How do the menus differ between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining, if at all?

The menus for My Time Dining and Traditional Dining are the same, offering the same dishes each evening. You don't have to worry about missing out on any dishes because you select either of the seatings.

Can guests switch between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining during their cruise?

Guests can request to switch between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining, but this is subject to availability and may not always be possible. 

If the dining choice you want is unavailable, be sure to ask to be put on the waiting list. If you're on the ship already, ask to speak to the head waiter to see what they can do to accommodate the change.

Are there any differences in the dress code requirements for My Time Dining compared to Traditional Dining?

The dress code for both dining options is the same, adhering to the ship's overall dress code for the evening, which can range from casual to formal depending on the night. 

Royal Caribbean will move Wonder of the Seas to offer short cruises and add a second ship to Los Angeles in 2025-2026

28 Feb 2024
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has posted its new 2025-2026 deployments for the Short Caribbean and Los Angeles cruise markets.

Wonder of the Seas rear aerial

Short Caribbean cruises, as well as those departing from Los Angeles, in 2025 and 2026 are now available to book. 

For the first time in recent memory, two Royal Caribbean ships will offer sailings from California to Mexico, ranging from 3 to 8 nights: 

  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Quantum of the Seas
Utopia of the Seas night render

Additionally, the following ships will make short Caribbean sailings to the Eastern and/or Western Caribbean:

The new sailings are available to book immediately.

If you're ready to begin planning your next vacation, here's a breakdown of what is offered. 

Short Caribbean sailings

Wonder of the Seas

The second largest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas, will begin offering short cruises on September 1, 2025.

Royal Caribbean shook up the short cruise market when it announced Utopia of the Seas would enter service with just short cruises.  Both Utopia and Wonder are Oasis Class cruise ships and among the largest ships in the world.

Typically, big new cruise ships sail 7-night cruises, but Royal Caribbean wants to dominate the short cruise market by offering weekend sailings on its best ships in a bid to attract new cruisers.

Wonder will continue offering 7-night cruisers from Port Canaveral until the end of August, and then moves to Miami to start the 3- and 4-night cruises.

Utopia of the Seas


Utopia of the Seas will continue offering short cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Select sailings include stops at Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay

Short Caribbean voyages are ideal for those seeking a shorter getaway or who might be new to cruising and cannot commit to the idea of spending a week on a ship. 

Jewel of the Seas

It's not just Royal Caribbean's big ships getting into the weekend cruise market, as Jewel of the Seas will also offer 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises.

Jewel will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida between April 2025 and October 2025 to offer weekend cruises.  This means Jewel will remain in the United States instead of going to Europe for the summer of 2025.

Liberty of the Seas

When Jewel of the Seas concludes her short cruise sailings, Liberty of the Seas will pick them up.

Liberty will offer cruises from Port Everglades between October 2025 and March 2026. Sailings will visit Nassau, Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas

If you'd like to take a short Caribbean cruise from Galveston, Mariner of the Seas has sailings for you.

Mariner will offer primarily 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises that visit ports in Mexico. There's also a few holiday cruises in December that are 7-nights for Mariner.

With Mariner of the Seas making short sailings to the Western Caribbean from Galveston, it's also convenient for those who live nearby and don't want to have to pay for airfare.

5-night cruises will visit Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, while 4-night voyages will only visit Cozumel. 

Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas aerial drone

In addition to Wonder of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas will offer short cruises from Miami.

In April 2025, Freedom wraps up her tenure in Fort Lauderdale before shifting back to Miami.

Freedom will sail 3-6-night cruises, with a 9-night sailing over New Years 2026.

Enchantment of the Seas

Enchantment of the Seas

Short cruises from Tampa will be available on Enchantment of the Seas for the entire year. There's a mix of 4- and 5-night getaways to the western Caribbean and The Bahamas. 

Highlights of the destinations in store include Belize City, Belize; Cozumel, Costa Maya, Nassau and Roatan, plus a lineup of vacations that visit Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Cruises from Los Angeles

Quantum of the Seas

Quantum of the Seas will be homeported in Los Angeles year-round offering cruises to Mexico and Catalina Island. She will be the biggest cruise ship Royal Caribbean has ever based on the west coast.

Rumors had been swirling about a second ship being added to the LA market, and it turns out the rumors were true.

Taking a cruise from the West Coast promises stunning coastal landscapes, world-class cuisine, and vibrant ports of call, such as Cabo San Lucas, which is a popular cruise port as well as a land-based vacation spot. It's known for having a party atmosphere, wildlife, and unique rock formations. 

Note that when visiting via cruise ship, you'll have to tender from the ship to shore. You'll have to wake up early to collect your ticket, so you do not waste the day onboard. 

Cabo San Lucas Arch

On longer sailings from Los Angeles, you'll visit Cabo San Lucas, whereas on shorter ones you will sail to the nearby Ensenada, Mexico and/or Catalina Island.

Read more: Guide to weekend cruises: Tips for taking a 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise

Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the Seas water slides aerial

Navigator of the Seas returns to Los Angeles for another season to split the Mexican Riviera sailings with Quantum.

Navigator will still offer short 3- and 4-night cruises, but lean more into the longer sailings that go further south down the Baja Peninsula.

Navigator has been in the LA market since cruises restarted in 2021.

Upcoming deployments


The remainder of the posted deployment schedule covers cruises to China, Australia, and Singapore through April 2026. They're set to be released the weeks of March 11, April 8, and May 13, respectively. 

It's important to remember that the sailings could be released at any point within that week; they're not bound to be published on the first day of the listed week.

For example, Singapore cruises are set to launch the week of May 13; however, they could be released on May 16 or 17. 

Spectrum of the Seas in Singapore

Additionally, all itineraries are subject to change without notice.

Royal Caribbean cancels Star of the Seas inaugural sailing, delays arrival of new cruise ship

27 Feb 2024
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's second Icon Class cruise ship will take a little bit longer to arrive.

Star of the Seas concept art

On Tuesday, guests booked on the inaugural sailing of Star of the Seas received notification today by the cruise line that the sailing is cancelled.

The 7,600 passenger vessel was scheduled to debut on August 17, 2025 from Port Canaveral.

According to the email Royal Caribbean sent out, the ship will not be ready in time for that sailing, "after a review of the work that remains to be done, we’re unfortunately forced to delay the ship’s delivery date."

"As a result, we must cancel our inaugural 7-Night Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day August 17th, 2025 sailing."

Star of the Seas and Icon of the Seas render

The new inaugural sailing of Star of the Seas is scheduled for August 31st, 2025.

They went on to apologize for the change in plans, "We’re truly sorry for the impact that this delay has had on your vacation plans."

Royal Caribbean did not specify exactly the reason for the delay in the new ship's delivery, but the fall out will affect those booked on the inaugural.  However, it's not unheard of for a new cruise ship to be delayed because it won't be ready on time.

Wonder of the Seas in Labadee

The cruise industry shutdown of 2020-2021 delayed the delivery of Odyssey of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, and Icon of the Seas.  Other cruise lines have delayed starts too from time to time with their new ships.

Guests booked on the cancelled August 17th sailing have the choice to be automatically moved to the new Star of the Seas inaugural sailing on August 31.  If selected, guests will be moved to a like-for-like stateroom onboard Star of the Seas. This excludes taxes, fees, gratuities (where applicable), and other non-cruise fare items.

Alternatively, guests can move to the Wonder of the Seas sailing departing on August 17th or the Icon of the Seas departing on August 16th. Guests' original stateroom category price will either be protected at their original cruise fare rate or reduced to the current cruise fare rate (whichever is lower). This excludes taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.

Odyssey of the Seas at dusk

If that's not satisfactory, guests can be moved to re-book any other Royal Caribbean International sailing, but they'll be responsible for any difference in pricing for your cruise fare, taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.

The final option is to cancel and get a full refund.

Guests must decide by March 12th, 2024 which choice they want, or they'll be automatically moved to the new Star of the Seas inaugural sailing.

Icon of the Seas aft

Star of the Seas follows up on the tremendously positive reception the public has had for Icon of the Seas, which is the first ship in the Icon Class.

When Star does arrive, she will feature the same neighborhoods that offer lots for passengers to enjoy, including Thrill Island, Chill Island, AquaDome, and the open-air Central Park. 

You can expect more than 40 ways to dine and drink, cutting-edge entertainment across the ship’s four signature stages – air, ice, water and theater – and a lineup of activities for adults, kids, teens and the whole family.

Icon of the Seas aerial

Without a doubt, Star of the Seas will have other features that will distinguish her from Icon.  Royal Caribbean typically tweaks a few venues and changes up offerings to make new ships stand out from others in the class.

At 250,800 gross tons, Star won't be bigger than Icon.  Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider talked on the inaugural voyage about what to expect with Star, and the Icon Class will not follow the Oasis Class trend of subsequently increasing the size of each new ship just enough to make it the biggest in the world.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide

"That isn't the case on Icon. Star will not be a foot bigger. It will be 1198ft long. The third ship in the icon class, yet to be named publicly, will also be 1198ft long."

According to Mr. Schneider, there's no point in continuing that pattern, "We don't feel a need to do that right now. Maybe we'll change our mind. Never say never. But that isn't the design intent."

Under construction in Finland


Star of the Seas is being built at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, which is where Icon of the Seas was built, along with other ships such as Oasis and Allure of the Seas.

Star should be right around the same dimensions as Icon of the Seas, so it should be about 250,800 gross tons and carry approximately 5,610 passengers at double occupancy or up to 7,600 passengers at maximum occupancy.

When you add crew members, that brings the theoretical maximum amount of people onboard up to 10,000.

Star of the Seas logo

The Icon Class is a deliberate effort on Royal Caribbean's part to appeal to the family vacation market, including as many attractions as they've ever thought of in one ship. 

There's still one more Icon Class cruise ship on order, due in 2026. No details have been revealed yet about Icon 3.

I'm new to Royal Caribbean and tried 4 different kinds of cruise ships, here's what I like about each

27 Feb 2024
Calista Kiper

When I first started cruising in August of 2023, I thought I would never even learn the names of all Royal Caribbean’s different ships.

Royal Caribbean currently has seven classes: Icon, Oasis, Quantum, Freedom, Voyager, Radiance, and Vision.

With 28 ships to choose from—and more on the way!—it can feel intimidating to decide which one suits your preferences.

For the new cruiser, selecting the right class of ship to sail on takes a steep learning curve.

Fast forward to today, I’ve now sailed on five ships across four classes. This experience has given me a better grasp of what each class has to offer.

While the cruise line’s ships all stay true to specific branding and design, each class varies a lot when it comes to layout, amenities, atmosphere, and itinerary options.

The best fit for each person comes down to what they enjoy on their cruise vacation.

Sun rising in Alaska

If you’re looking for a floating resort with activities available onboard, you might prefer a bigger ship. 

But if you’re interested in unique itineraries with multiple ports of call, a smaller class of ship will be a better fit.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide (2024)

I prefer an ambient onboard experience while cruising

My cruising style focuses on the quality of the ship itself. I love ships that have many onboard activities, or a peaceful onboard atmosphere. 

While unique itineraries are fun, they’re not the major draw for me when choosing a cruise.

I don’t mind a not-updated or cheap stateroom, since I enjoy spending time out and about onboard. Most Royal Caribbean ships have a uniform stateroom design, anyway.

odyssey of the seas pool deck

My perfect cruise vacation includes a packed schedule of relaxing by the pool, people-watching, enjoying tasty food, and then heading to the nightclub or other entertainment in the evenings.

I don’t usually spend extra money on specialty dining, so I don’t require ships to have many different options when it comes to dining venues. I prefer that the complimentary food tastes high-quality.

I usually cruise with fellow young adults, looking for parties and relaxing spots. I don’t cruise with children, so childcare or kid’s activities don’t factor into my decision-making.


While I enjoy having many different activities to choose from, I like that balanced with a peaceful atmosphere. I dislike too much noise or large crowds, so I prefer ships with a calm ambiance or at least a location where I can get some quiet.

The best kind of ship is one where I have enough to explore over the length of the cruise, but not too much to be overwhelming. 

Oasis Class: Boundless fun

Ships I sailed on: Wonder of the Seas, Allure of the Seas

There’s a lot to love about the Oasis Class. As a new cruiser, these ships blew me away with the breadth of activities and entertainment.

Read more: All about Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships

The ships feel huge—packed with food venues, shops, and plenty of other cruisers.

I love how many activities are available onboard, from ice skating to surfing to walking in Central Park. The same applies to specialty dining: there are an endless amount of venues to choose from.

These ships feel less like ships and more like walkable cities. 

The energy is infectious onboard. Crowds gather around and cheer on live musicians, elegant dinners host couples and families, and nightclubs pop with activity and dancing.


I always meet the most people—and make genuine friendships—when I’m on an Oasis Class ship.

However, there are downsides to a ship of this size. I find that you don’t get as many connections with crew members onboard, due to the amount of cruisers and crew members spread all over the ship.

It’s also insanely easy to get lost: I usually need 1-2 days to get my bearings onboard.

And lastly, it’s difficult to book shows. Reservations fill up quickly ahead of time, so I either have to check the app frequently, or get in line half an hour before the show. 

There usually ends up being enough seating, but you have to plan to get into the venue.

Read more: 13 things I wish I'd done differently on my first cruise, from avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues

Freedom Class: Quiet luxury 


Ship I sailed on: Freedom of the Seas

If you want the activity and fun of an Oasis Class ship without all the noise and crowds, I recommend a Freedom Class ship.

This ship felt like an older, more chill version of Wonder of the Seas.

Read more: All about Freedom Class cruise ships


There was plenty to explore onboard, and the ship was in good condition. It also felt less crowded, but still had the fun parties and activities onboard that I enjoyed.

It was easy to reserve or find seating in the shows onboard, and they were fairly good quality! The entertainment wasn’t equal to what you might find on land, but it was plenty of fun for a cruise ship.

When it comes to downsides, the WiFi was incredibly slow on board—especially in the stateroom.


There also isn’t much variety when it comes to specialty food options, and the ship lacks a varied itinerary. 

Radiance Class: Vibrant community

Ship I sailed on: Radiance of the Seas

For a sense of fun yet serenity, Radiance of the Seas was one of my favorite ships.

She is a comparatively smaller ship but with a vibrant nightlife and ample activities.

On my Oasis Class cruises, we joined a community of fellow cruisers onboard. But on Radiance of the Seas, I felt as though I was joining the ship’s community.

Read more: All about Radiance Class cruise ships

Crew members seemed close, and recognized me when I walked around the ship. Captain Marek also brought a personal touch to the sailing by talking with and performing for guests.

Out of all my cruises, Radiance is the only ship where I’ve remembered the name of the captain and other crew members I met while onboard.

The tranquil size and close-knit community made for a peaceful yet warm atmosphere onboard the ship.

As a bonus, Radiance of the Seas is also small enough to attend many diverse ports. I loved getting to experience an entirely new country at our stops in Mexico!

If you’re looking for a pleasant onboard experience, but also want to see exotic ports of call, a Radiance Class ship is the perfect in-between.

Vision Class: Amazing itinerary 

Centrum on Enchantment of the Seas

Ship I sailed on: Enchantment of the Seas 

Honestly, I can see why people call Enchantment the worst Royal Caribbean ship.

She’s old—originally launched in 1996—and it shows.

I noticed that the ship was pretty rundown. Lights would flicker or crack in the stateroom, and the elevator also broke down for a full day during my cruise. 

Read more: All about Vision Class cruise ships

Despite the quality of the ship, I loved Enchantment’s complimentary food and ports of call. 

I sailed on her for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, with a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary. Enchantment’s smaller size allows her to stop at small ports of call, including Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Palma de Mallorca, and Barcelona. 

Being able to visit so many new locations moved all my focus to tours and excursions, leaving little time or energy to explore much onboard.

For the type of cruise I was on, Enchantment does just fine. But a port-focus isn’t my favorite style of cruising.