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Hubbard Glacier vs. Glacier Bay: which glacier is better to see on a cruise?

In:
28 Nov 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Choosing an Alaska cruise itinerary doesn’t boil down to just cruise ports. You’ll also want to consider which of Alaska’s colossal, majestic glaciers you’d like to visit.

Two of the most beloved places visited on an Alaska cruise are Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park. While visiting either location offers the chance to see some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska up close, they each offer different experiences, pros, and cons.

Let’s take a look at what each glacier experience has to offer so you can decide which glacier you want to visit on your Alaska cruise.

Hubbard Glacier

Imagine standing directly in front of a 30-story building made of ice. That’s what you’ll experience from a cruise ship visiting Hubbard Glacier, and you’re sure to be awe-inspired.

Hubbard Glacier is located in Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve. It starts in Canada’s Yukon Territory at Mt. Logan, the second tallest peak in North America at 19,850 feet. The glacier flows over 75 miles to reach Disenchantment Bay in southeast Alaska.

At 400 feet tall and six miles wide where it meets the ocean, Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. Unlike many other glaciers in Alaska, Hubbard Glacier is rapidly advancing at around 80 feet per year.

Due to its rapid growth, Hubbard Glacier has been nicknamed the Galloping Glacier. Its fast advancement results in frequent calving as chunks of ice break off the glacier.

Visiting Hubbard Glacier is a multi-hour experience, with ships sailing first into Yakutat Bay followed by Disenchantment Bay en route to the glacier. Sightseeing occurs for about three hours as the ship makes a 360 turn in front of the glacier, allowing guests to view its magnificent face from anywhere onboard.

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park is the 6th biggest national park in the United States. At over 3 million acres, the national park is roughly the size of Connecticut!

There are a whopping 1,045 glaciers located in Glacier Bay National Park. While most glaciers are located far into the mountains, cruise itineraries can visit up to 6 glaciers in one day in the park.

Here are the glaciers most commonly visited on a scenic cruising day in Glacier Bay:

  • Margerie Glacier
  • Grand Pacific Glacier
  • Red Glacier
  • Lamplugh Glacier
  • Johns Hopkins Glacier
  • Gilman Glacier

The longest glacier in Glacier Bay National Park is the Grand Pacific Glacier at 40 miles long. The fastest is Johns Hopkins Glacier, which can advance up to 15 feet per day.

When you visit Glacier Bay, park rangers will board the ship to provide information on the park’s scenery and wildlife.

Depending on the cruise line, this can include formal presentations in onboard lounges, commentary on the loudspeakers, a children’s educational program, and an informational desk you can access throughout the day.

Itineraries to Glacier Bay include a full day of sightseeing in the National Park. Ships typically enter the bay in the early morning, cruising slowly for two hours before reaching the glaciers.

Once at the glaciers, cruise ships spend around four to five hours exploring the scenery before turning around and making the two hour journey back into the open ocean.

Does Royal Caribbean offer cruises to Glacier Bay?

Royal Caribbean does not currently offer cruise itineraries to Glacier Bay National Park. While the cruise line was offered an agreement with the park to offer Glacier Bay itineraries from 2019 - 2029, Royal Caribbean did not sign the agreement.

That being said, you may be able to book a flightseeing shore excursion to Glacier Bay. These tours typically depart from Icy Strait Point and fly over the park.

Related: How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

There are many other glaciers you can visit on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, however, including Hubbard Glacier, Dawes Glacier, and the twin Sawyer Glaciers. There’s also the chance to visit other glaciers while in port, such as the famous Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

Which glacier is better for wildlife?

Both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay offer the chance to spot wildlife including harbor seals, humpback whales, and seabirds. While wildlife sighting is never guaranteed, you have the chance to spot wildlife while visiting either glacier.

Related: What is the best time of year to see wildlife in Alaska?

A plus of visiting Hubbard Glacier is the chance to book the “Hubbard Glacier Wilderness Explorer” excursion. This tour brings passengers aboard a small excursion boat, allowing guests to travel closer to the glacier while spotting wildlife. A guide is onboard to provide insight on the region’s ecology and wildlife calling the region home.

If we have to pick the best glacier for wildlife viewing, though, it would be Glacier Bay. As cruise ships spend more time in Glacier Bay than at Hubbard Glacier, you have more time (and chances) to spot wildlife.

Which glacier should I pick for my Alaska cruise?

Deciding between Glacier Bay National Park or Hubbard Glacier comes down to a few main considerations.

The first decision you’ll have to make if you’re a loyal Royal Caribbean cruiser is whether or not you are open to sailing on another cruise line. Because Royal Caribbean does not sail to Glacier Bay, you’ll have to sail on a cruise line like Princess, Holland America, or Norwegian.

Glacier Bay is undoubtedly impressive, however, and if visiting the park is on your bucket list, it’s worth sailing on a cruise line other than Royal Caribbean.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Hubbard Glacier, on the other hand, can still make for an excellent addition to an Alaska cruise itinerary. While only one glacier instead of multiple glaciers, Hubbard Glacier dominates the landscape more dramatically than any glacier at Glacier Bay.

Plus, while Hubbard Glacier may offer shorter sightseeing times compared to a day in Glacier Bay, this can be perfect for families. Days at Glacier Bay are long, often starting in the early morning and lasting until dinnertime. Kids may not want to spend the whole day looking at the scenery, so Hubbard Glacier can be a more condensed yet still beautiful experience.

While there’s no ‘best’ Alaska cruise itinerary, you can’t go wrong visiting either glacier. In fact, you may even be able to find itineraries visiting both glaciers in one cruise!

Tips for visiting glaciers on an Alaska cruise

No matter which glacier you visit on an Alaska cruise, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared so that you have the best viewing experience possible. Here are our top tips & tricks for viewing glaciers on an Alaska cruise.

Find the best spot to watch the scenery

Whether visiting Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, or any of Alaska’s other magnificent glaciers, be sure to find the best spot to watch the scenery.

You can view the scenery from your balcony, the pool deck, Promenade deck, the helicopter pad, or any other place onboard with windows.

Prior to your itinerary’s scenic glacier viewing day, scout out a few of the best places to view the glacier. While you may opt to view glaciers from your balcony, you might want to consider somewhere onboard with more panoramic views, such as the pool deck or helicopter pad.

Be flexible

Nothing is guaranteed when cruising, and it’s always important to be flexible to ensure you don’t end up disappointed.

Alaska’s weather is unpredictable, and it’s not entirely uncommon for cruise ships to cancel or modify glacier viewing times in order to keep guests, crew, and the ship safe.

While ships successfully visit glaciers more often than not, there’s always the chance your glacier viewing day may not occur.

Bundle up

Alaska glacier viewing

Packing for an Alaska cruise means layers, layers, and more layers.

When preparing to view a glacier on an Alaska cruise, be sure to bundle up to ensure you don’t get too cold while viewing the glacier.

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for your sailing

Our advice is to wear pants (leggings or jeans), a base layer (long-sleeve shirt or sweater), a rain jacket, and a hat. It’s always better to wear more than you need and take layers off rather than be too cold while viewing the glacier.

Most importantly, don’t forget your camera!

Planning an Alaska cruise? Discover our best advice:

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: November 27, 2022

In:
27 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday and Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday with family and friends! There is a lot of Royal Caribbean news to share this week.

Mistakes can happen to anyone, but there are some mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation.

Cruise ship in Grand Cayman

More than likely you'll have a great time on your cruise and enjoy the experience, but there are some pitfalls that can wreak havoc with your plans.

By knowing what these are, you can bypass the worst kind of cruise mistakes.

Survey shows possible new main dining room menu

There's more evidence that a new main dining room menu is on its way.

Royal Caribbean sent past guests an email survey with options for a new main dining room menu, and asked them for feedback.

The survey not only included a look at a possible new menu, it also asked for feedback on the main dining room experience overall.

New video: Things you'll notice when cruising on an older cruise ship

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 — Things you'll notice when cruising on an older cruise ship — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Cash on cruise ship

Before you get on a cruise, how much money should you bring with you?

While Royal Caribbean is a cashless ship for most transactions, there are still quite a few good reasons to have cash with you.

Both onboard and off the ship, having at least some cash will make things easier for you.

Why booking my excursions in Europe with the cruise line was the best decision

Santorini sunset

Is it better to book tours through the cruise line or on your own?

There's compelling reasons for both, but on a recent European cruise, Allie found clear reasoning to go with Royal Caribbean's shore excursions.

She booked 4 tours through Royal Caribbean and feels it was the absolute best decision she could have made.

Guide to Royal Caribbean's Unlimited Dining Package

Couple at Giovannis

Ready to enjoy all the specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Package provides all the specialty dining restaurants you can handle, and there are important distinctions when purchasing this option you should know about.

From getting the most value out of it to costs, here's the important details about the Unlimited Dining Package.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 8 - Sea Day

In:
27 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The last day of our cruise is here, and being an 8-night cruise instead of a 7-night, it's like having a bonus to the cruise.

I set the alarm late so we could all sleep in on the last day. I figure it's good to get some extra sleep today when tomorrow we all have to get up early.

Once we did get up, we were able to take a quick run up to Solarium Bistro for breakfast.  On the way there, we saw it was another beautiful day.  Weather has been great all week, so I'm grateful for the pleasant weather.

Today was the Captain's Corner, where the Cruise Director and Captain answer questions from guests.

The questions were about topics such as how the ship works, crew member life, and background of the Captain.

Right after it was the entertainment Q&A event.  It was listed as for Top Tier Crown and Anchor members, but anyone could go.

We tried to go to Playmakers for lunch, but the combination of World Cup and College Football meant every table was full.  After waiting to see if anyone would leave, we relented and went to the Windjammer for lunch.

While I might have liked another order of nachos and burger, the variety of food in the Windjammer is a win with me.

We saw a family event in Adventure Ocean for kids to do a science experiment, where kids are given a rock and use water to uncover the fossil hidden inside.

My youngest enjoyed it, and it was something nice to do.

Back in the cabin, I wanted to sit out on the balcony, but it was warm. So I went up to the pool deck to enjoy an afternoon drink.

I went to the Lime & Coconut bar to try out the signature drink there named after the bar.  One of our writers here on RoyalCaribbeanBlog, Allie, loves this drink, so I wanted to give it a try.

After 3 of them, I can say it was a solid choice.

By this point in the afternoon, I was ready for a nap!

Just like yesterday, I woke up to a lovely sunset outside my balcony.

Dinner brought us back to Giovanni's Italian Kitchen.

Just like the other two times we ate here, the food was great and really hit the spot.

After dinner, we went to see The Effectors.

This is an original Royal Caribbean production, and while I've seen it before, my kids have not.  Plus, we're going to see Effectors 2 on Wonder of the Seas next month, so it was good to refresh my memory.

This is a great show and I think it might be the best show in Royal Caribbean's fleet right now.

After dinner, I went up to Playmakers for a drink.

We had a great time on Odyssey of the Seas and would love to sail on her again.

Thanks for following along in these live blogs!

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
26 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

After four port days in a row, having a sea day feels great.

Odyssey of the Seas sea day

As Odyssey of the Seas makes her way back to Port Everglades, we have two sea days to enjoy and that means relaxing and doing any of the onboard activities we may have missed.

Once we got out of bed, we hit up Solarium Bistro for breakfast.

Just like on day two of this cruise, we like Solarium Bistro because it's relatively uncrowded and has a good selection of food.   My youngest likes it because it has doughnuts.

After breakfast we heard the Stowaway Piano player in one of the elevators, so we tracked him down and went for a few rides. Odyssey's elevators are air conditioned (most other Royal Caribbean ship elevators are not), so it was nice to get a few rides in.

Next up was a Quantum Class ship must-do: bumper cars!

The line looked long, but it took maybe 15 or 20 minutes before we got our turn.

I found a Perfect Day at CocoCay bumper car, so we went straight for that one.

For lunch, we went to Giovanni's Italian Kitchen.

Their lunch menu is slightly different from the dinner menu, and my kids really like this restaurant.

After lunch we headed to the Schooner Bar for Disney trivia and it was packed to the brim!

There are a few kinds of trivia that are always crazy popular on Royal Caribbean: Disney, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. I might be missing some others, but they really need to add more of these kinds of trivia given how popular they are.

By this point, I was ready for an afternoon nap and it felt great!

After waking up, I was greeted by a perfect sea day sunset.

For dinner, we had booked Izumi sushi.

On Odyssey, the sushi and hibachi parts of Izumi are separate restaurants.

The food was great, and I was happy with all the sushi options while my family ordered the non-sushi items.

I wanted to mix up our post-dinner plans a little, so I went to Boleros for a drink and music.

Boleros primarily plays Latin music, but in the early evening it has other performances here and it was perfect for sitting back and enjoying music without it being a party or super loud.

That evening, we watched the crew members put up the ship's Christmas tree.

It took them a couple hours, but before the end of the night, the tree was up.

Tomorrow is another sea day!

Royal Caribbean surveys guests on possible new main dining room menu

In:
25 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Could this be what the next version of Royal Caribbean's main dining room menu looks like?

Royal Caribbean sent past guests an email survey with options for a new main dining room menu, and asked them for feedback.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Shannon Apodaca shared screenshots from the survey, which asked a variety of questions regarding the main dining room experience.

The example menu is for a French night theme, and it features both a new layout and new choices on the menu.

The survey then asked for ratings of each dish and how appealing they were to the respondent. 

Also included in the survey were questions about the main dining room experience overall, such as:

  • How many minutes is too short, just right, and too long for dinner in the main dining room?
  • What proportion of the menu would you prefer to contain familiar vs new dishes?

Then the survey asked for the top 3 things you look for in the menu items:

  • Wide variety of dishes
  • Lots of dishes to choose from
  • Familiar items
  • Healthy options
  • New items I've never had
  • Easy to understand descriptions
  • Small portions
  • Listing of all ingredients in each dish
  • Sourcing of ingredients
  • Exotic options

Next was a question about top 3 things in particular do you look for in the service of the main dining room:

  • Gets to know me
  • Anticipates my needs
  • Doses not rush my service
  • Offers suggestions
  • Quick Service
  • Friendly staff
  • Bring samples to try
  • Goes above and beyond
  • Provides detailed description of menu items
  • Refills drinks promptly
  • Same server each night

Finally, it asked for guests to share the ideal main dining room atmosphere, in terms of lighting, table settings, music, silverware and more.

Following up on ship testing

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

This survey is being conducted in conjunction with a real-world example of the new menu taking place on Symphony of the Seas.

As we reported first, Royal Caribbean has changed the main dining room menu on only Symphony of the Seas to trial out the new menu.

Thanks to Thomas Napolitano for providing these menus

The new menu layout is part of the test, along with a change in the lobster portions provided.

Royal Caribbean says the impetus for making the change is for the guest experience in an effort to simplify the dining room menu, which would allow the service to speed up.

In short, Royal Caribbean is looking for a way to make the dinner experience in the main dining room more predictable and efficient.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Curacao

In:
25 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The last port of call on our Odyssey of the Seas cruise takes us to Curacao.

Since the distance between our previous stop of Aruba and Curacao is quite short, the ship docked around 8am and we had a full day to enjoy the island.

We had no plans for the day other than not going to another beach.  After three beach days in a row, the family wanted something different. With that in mind, we decided to just wing it and see what happens.

Breakfast was in Cafe @ Two70 for how quick we can get in and out for time onshore.

Odyssey of the Seas docked a reasonable distance from downtown, with an easy walk from ship to shops.

The day started out cloudy and quite humid. As the day went on, we had an occasional light rain shower, but the clouds eventually cleared. The humidity, however, did not go away.

Before you can get to the real part of downtown, you have to go over a pontoon bridge. This bridge will sometimes move to make way for boat traffic, which is a neat sight to see.

Once downtown, we started meandering to look for souvenirs and anything else interesting. We had no agenda, just see where the streets would take us until the kids complained too much.

We ran across Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue , which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas.

We had visited it a few years ago as part of a Royal Caribbean shore excursion, but the kids are older, so we decided to poke our heads in again.

At first, I just wanted to give the synagogue a couple of dollars to see the inside of the temple and take another glimpse.

The first synagogue building was purchased in 1674, and the current building dates from 1730.

Something else unique about this building are the sand-covered floors.

There's also a small museum that tells the story of Jewish community in Curacaco, dating back to the late 15th century.

We continued our walk around town and get to the main square, where the kids took an ice cream break.

We did some more shopping before stopping for lunch at a restaurant along the water.

The food was nothing special, but the views of the water were nice.

At this point, the humidity was a bit too much, so we decided to head back to the ship.

We rested up for the evening, as it was Thanksgiving.

The ship didn't do a ton for Thanksgiving, but it covered the basics. There is a special menu in the main dining room and a few Thanksgiving activities in the Cruise Compass.

Prior to dinner, we took the kids to get a drink from the Bionic Bar.  

They loved watching the robots make the drinks. I find the drinks too sweet for my taste, but they loved it.

Next was dinner in the main dining room. We were on My Time Dining because when you book the Unlimited Dining Package, you automatically get moved to My Time to free up a table in traditional dining.

The earliest time you can book is 6:45, but we wanted to dine with our friends in the first seating of dinner at 5:30.

We got downstairs at 5:30 and asked and they said to come back at 6 once they knew who the no-shows were.  Sure enough, we were seated at a table right next to them at 6pm.

It's hard not to appreciate the beauty of the main dining room on Odyssey of the Seas because it's a different look than dining rooms across the fleet.

There's the normal main dining room menu, along with a special Thanksgiving menu.

I had to get turkey, along with the butternut squash soup.  My wife opted for the honey baked ham.

After dinner, we went to the Schooner Bar for "Name That Tune: Thanksgiving songs".  If you're like me, you can't think of any inherently Thanksgiving songs.

Sure enough, the idea was song titles that could double as Thanksgiving references, as opposed to songs synonymous with the holiday.

We weren't sure where to go next, so we headed up to Playmakers to watch the evening NFL football game between the Patriots and Vikings.

We didn't intend to stay for the whole game, but had a good time so did so anyway.

I rounded out my evening with some time in the casino before heading to bed.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

In:
24 Nov 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Payments on cruise ships have almost entirely gone digital, but there are still a few situations where cash comes in handy. Knowing how much cash to bring on a cruise can help you plan your vacation budget and avoid pesky ATM fees along the way.

Here’s what you should know about cash on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Do I need cash on a cruise ship?

Cash is rarely required on a Royal Caribbean cruise, as all payments onboard are made via your SeaPass account. Prior to your cruise, you’ll connect your onboard account with a credit or debit card, and all payments will be charged to that card at the end of the cruise.

You won’t require cash for 99% of purchases on a cruise, whether specialty restaurants, cocktails, or souvenirs. Plus, you’re never required to make any extra purchases in the first place if you take advantage of the complimentary options available on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Related: What’s included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

When will I need cash on a cruise ship?

Although cash isn’t required for onboard purchases, there are a few scenarios where you’ll want to have cash available.

Tipping crew members

Bartender at Lime and Coconut

Something you will need cash for on a Royal Caribbean cruise are any extra tips you give to crew members.

While you pay daily gratuities before your cruise ($16 per person, per day in most staterooms), many cruisers like to give something extra. Whether $2 to a bartender, $20 to your waiter, or $50 to your stateroom attendant, it’s common to tip crew members extra for excellent service.

Tipping extra is not necessary, and there’s no right or wrong amount to give a crew member. Some guests may bring $200 extra for gratuities whereas others may bring $50.

Having small bills handy is helpful if you plan to tip crew members throughout your sailing.

Port days

The time when you’ll need the most cash on a cruise vacation is when you’re in port. Whether in Mexico, St. Maarten, Italy, or Vanuatu, having cash is recommended. Although cards are widely accepted, you may still encounter establishments that do not accept card payments.

And while you don’t need to visit a port with $1000 in your wallet, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money to account for expenses throughout the day.

Depending on what you plan to do in port, you might need cash for the following:

  • Taxis
  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Museum entrance fees
  • Beach chair rentals
  • Souvenirs

We recommend bringing around $100-200 in cash with you on a port day. This should provide enough money for transportation, food, and small souvenirs in port.

Can I use my credit card while in port?

You’re welcome to use a credit or debit card to make purchases in ports of call whenever possible. However, you’ll want to make sure you’ve notified your bank that you will be out of the country.

If you haven’t notified your bank, they will usually send you a fraud alert or temporarily freeze your card.

How to get cash on your cruise ship

If you forgot to bring cash on your cruise, there are a few ways to get it once onboard.

First is the ATM. All ships have at least one ATM onboard, which is usually located in the Royal Promenade or Centrum. ATMs usually charge a $5-6 fee per transaction.

Depending on your bank, the ATM transaction fee may be waived. If you want to avoid any ATM charges, though, you can theoretically take money out via the casino.

If you go to any slot machine, you’re able to transfer money to the game via your onboard account, which is connected to your credit or debit card.

If you transfer money to the slot machine and immediately cash out, you can take your cashout slip to the casino cage and receive the listed amount in cash.

Which currency do I need on a cruise?

Which currency you should bring with you on a cruise depends on your departure port and itinerary.

If you’re sailing from the United States to the Caribbean, US dollars are widely accepted in popular cruise ports. You can choose to pay in local currency, too, but obtaining money in 3+ currencies before a cruise is not necessary.

You’ll often receive change back in local currency even when paying with USD. If you buy a $5 souvenir with a $20 bill in Mexico, for example, you’ll receive change in Mexican pesos.

Cruises from Europe and Australia will still use the US dollar as the official onboard currency, but you should make purchases in port with the destination’s local currency. If cruising from Australia to the South Pacific, Australian dollars are widely accepted.

To avoid currency confusion, especially if you’re traveling to multiple countries on one cruise, we recommend using a credit or debit card to make purchases in port whenever possible.

More tips & tricks for planning your Royal Caribbean cruise:

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Aruba

In:
24 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's kind of amazing that we were in the Dominican Republic yesterday and we'll make it down to the Southern Caribbean the next day.

RIU Palace in Aruba

Aruba is the next port of call, but we weren't due in until 1:30pm.  So today was half sea day, and half port day.

Since we had a sea day start to the day, we took things easy and slept in. My wife had a spa massage booked for the morning, but the girls and I slept in a bit.

Eventually we made it to the Windjammer for breakfast.

After eating, I took the kids up the SeaPlex to try out a Royal Caribbean original video game where you have to move your body to move the character.

Like other arcade games, it costs money, but it was a fun thing to try out.

As Odyssey of the Seas approached Aruba, we got ourselves ready to go once we docked.

We booked day passes to the RIU Palace resort through Resortforaday.com, which includes admission to the resort and is all-inclusive.  This means we can use the pool and beach, as well as enjoy unlimited drinks and food at a couple restaurants.

Walking off the ship was super easy.  In fact, we've had no lines at all walking off or coming back onboard the ship.  Maybe we're just getting lucky with times, but the process has been handled well.

Our time in Aruba was from 1:30pm to 11:30pm, giving us an afternoon and evening in port.

There were taxis waiting as we walked off the ship and took the short 10 minute ride to the resort. 

We checked in at the resort lobby and got wristbands for the day and cards to get towels. It's always so much easier if we don't have to schlep towels back and forth from the ship, especially when the towels are wet at the end of the day.

The pool is large, with various depths and features. The pool was so large there was no issue with it being overcrowded at all.

We were able to easily get chairs at the pool, and the hotel buildings provided shade for where we wanted to sit.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included, and there is a large swim up bar in the pool, as well as a dry bar on the other side. There are also waiters that walk around periodically to take orders, but I found the waiters to be quite infrequent.

The resort is situated on Palm Beach, and the walk from pool to beach is just a few steps.

All the beaches in Aruba are public access, but the chairs and palapas are reserved for hotel guests.  

Palm beach is lovely, and it did not disappoint with white sand that felt very soft. Water was warm and as you can see in these photos, quite beautiful.

As afternoon turned to evening, we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset right on the beach.  While I generally prefer pools to beaches, I spent a lot of time at the beach, especially when the sun started to set.

For dinner, we had access to either the sports bar or the buffet restaurant.  It's worth noting you need to be dry and not have sleeveless clothing to go into the buffet. It's not listed in the day pass buying process, but I saw someone else mention it in a review, so we packed clothes to change into.

The buffet restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating and is quite expansive with tons of choices. Even the pickiest eaters will find something here.

We had a great time at the RIU Palace, and while not cheap, delivered on the fun we were hoping for.

We took a taxi ride back to the ship and showered once back onboard.

Still in port, we decided to go up to Playmakers for a drink and a bite to eat. One nice thing about having the unlimited dining package is you can stop in for just a bite since we weren't going to eat at Playmakers otherwise today.

We ran into one of our favorite waiters, Jessica, working in Playmakers.  It's always a pleasure when you can reconnect with crew members you had a good rapport with in the past.

Tomorrow we will be in Curacao.

The 20 worst cruise mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation

In:
23 Nov 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Planning your first cruise is always exciting, but it can be difficult to know what to expect. From packing to embarkation day and exploring new ports, there’s a lot to consider when preparing for a cruise vacation.

Solarium on Harmony of the Seas

In order to make sure you have the best cruise possible, you’ll want to avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes many newbie cruisers make. Even a small mistake can have a negative impact on the enjoyment of your cruise, and you’ll want to avoid making decisions that can ultimately ruin your time onboard.

Here are the top 20 worst cruise ship mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation.

Packing important items in your checked luggage

When you arrive at the cruise terminal on embarkation day, you have the option to check in your luggage with porters. Most passengers opt to do this to avoid the hassle of lugging their suitcases around the ship on embarkation day.

Before handing off your suitcases to the porters, double check to make sure you have everything you’ll need to embark the ship in your carry-on bag.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

It’s important to keep identification, medication, items for your kids, etc. in your carry-on bag to ensure they’re handy on embarkation day.

Bringing the wrong documentation

Walkway to cruise ship

One of the top ways to ruin a cruise is by being denied boarding in the first place! Before you book a cruise, make sure to review which necessary documentation is required for your sailing.

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Necessary documentation for your cruise depends on your citizenship, residency, and from where in the world you are embarking a cruise ship. Review Royal Caribbean’s official policy on necessary identification here to ensure you have the proper documentation for your cruise.

Having an expired passport

Passport

In addition to having proper documentation for a cruise, make sure it will be valid at the time of travel. You don’t want to realize your passport expired as you’re packing for the cruise!

You must ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your cruise. If your cruise is in June but your passport expires in July, you may be denied boarding.

Be aware of when your passport (or driver’s license) expires and plan accordingly if it will expire before the cruise. Passport renewals can take several weeks, so it’s important to plan ahead to ensure you don’t miss your cruise.

Not researching anything in port

We don’t recommend “winging it” when it comes to visiting a new cruise port. With limited time in each destination, you’ll want to make the most of your time and have the best experience possible.

While you don’t have to plan your port day down to the minute, knowing the basics of what your port has to offer can help you plan the perfect day.

Related: Best shore excursion in every Caribbean cruise port

Research the port’s top attractions, culture, food, and language. It’s better to be knowledgeable about what you can do in port so you don’t regret not experiencing something in the destination later on.

Not putting your phone in airplane mode

One of the most expensive mistakes you can make on a Royal Caribbean cruise is forgetting to put your cell phone in airplane mode. Leaving your phone’s data on can lead to expensive international roaming charges, and no one wants to be surprised with a huge bill.

Cell service on cruise ships is not covered even if you have a phone plan with international coverage. Therefore, regardless of your phone provider or where in the world you are cruising, always make sure to put your phone on airplane mode when your ship is sailing.

Booking a flight the same day your cruise begins

Airplane on the ground

One piece of advice we give over and over again is to arrive in your embarkation port the day before your cruise.

Booking a flight that arrives the same day of your cruise is risky. Weather delays, technical issues, and unexpected mishaps can easily cause you to miss the ship. Booking a flight that arrives the day before your cruise provides extra wiggle room in case of any travel issues.

Airline travel has always been unpredictable, so be sure to plan for extra travel time.

Booking flights too early on disembarkation day

Newark airport

Just like traveling to your cruise port, you’ll want to plan wiggle room for any delays you might encounter on disembarkation day.

Most cruise ships return to port around 6AM on disembarkation day. This does not mean, however, that you are able to disembark the ship at 6AM.

Disembarkation usually starts around 7AM, with most guests off the ship by 9:30AM. Disembarkation, travel to the airport, checking bags, and going through security can take a few hours, especially if the port is far from the airport.

We don’t recommend booking a flight before 12PM, although it’s important to research travel times from your cruise port to the airport. Some airports, like Fort Lauderdale, are located just a few minutes from the cruise terminal whereas others require more travel time.

Picking the cheapest cruise you see

Independence of the Seas as seen from tender

Everyone loves finding a good deal, but don’t book a cruise based solely on price. Booking a cruise based on price ignores other important factors like ship size, itinerary, activity options, and stateroom choices.

Related: Why you shouldn’t book the cheapest cruise you can find

Before you book the cheapest cruise you can find, be sure to consider these factors. You don’t want to book a cheap cruise only to realize the itinerary isn’t what you wanted or that there are limited activities for kids onboard.

Do research before booking to make sure your cruise vacation is as amazing as possible.

Picking the wrong ship

Promenade deck

Royal Caribbean cruise ships may all offer a classic Royal Caribbean experience, but amenities, size, and activity options vary widely. Although you can have an excellent cruise on any ship, you might prefer one style of cruising over another.

If you’re traveling with kids, for example, you might want to consider a ship with an abundance of family-friendly activities. Voyager, Freedom, Quantum, and Oasis Class ships have activities like waterslides, Splashaway Bay, a FlowRider, zip line, and ice skating.

Related: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

If your main goal is to visit exotic ports, you’ll want to look for a cruise on a smaller ship. Royal Caribbean deploys its older, smaller cruise ships on more unique itineraries to places like Fiji, the Panama Canal, and Croatia.

The more research you do on Royal Caribbean ships before booking your cruise will help avoid any disappointment upon boarding.

Not packing sunscreen

No one likes getting sunburned, and a bad burn can severely impact the enjoyment of your cruise vacation.

If you’re cruising to a warm destination, you’ll probably be spending much more time in the sun than you’re used to. Whether lounging on the beach or sightseeing in a city, it’s important to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

Booking shore excursions in every port

If you’re new to cruising, you might assume you should book shore excursions in every port you visit, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

While shore excursions can offer a stress-free way to see the top sights of any port, they come with several drawbacks. Large tour groups, little time spent in each destination, and a higher price than exploring independently are just some of the cons of booking a shore excursion.

Family on Alaska tour

Many ports can be easily explored without an organized tour. Plenty of passengers prefer disembarking the ship and spending their day exactly how they want to spend it. Whether that means taking a taxi to a local beach or shopping downtown, there are many ways to spend time in port without an excursion.

If you’re debating between booking an excursion or exploring on your own, these tips should help you make a decision:

Getting upset about itinerary changes

Adventure of the Seas sailing into Nassau

Itinerary changes are possible on a cruise, so it’s important to understand that the cruise you originally planned for may encounter changes.

Changes can occur due to weather, port restrictions, medical emergencies, unrest in a port of call, etc. Therefore, it’s extremely important to be flexible with any itinerary changes.

Instead of declaring your cruise “ruined” due to an itinerary change, view the change with excitement instead of anger. If you will be visiting a new destination, research the best things to do in port, local cuisine, and culture. If your port stop was replaced with a sea day, plan something special for the extra time onboard, such as visiting the spa or reserving dinner at a specialty restaurant.

As with everything in life, changes can happen unexpectedly, but you shouldn’t let an itinerary change ruin your cruise.

Being rude to crew members

Royal Caribbean’s crew members work extremely hard on their multi-month contracts. Most crew work 7 days a week while still maintaining a positive attitude and helping guests in every way they can.

While most ship operations run smoothly, there’s always a chance something will go astray. If your dining room waiter accidentally brings you the wrong appetizer or a bartender charges for the wrong drink, approach the situation politely.

Being rude and yelling at crew members is never a nice way to go about your cruise vacation. If something bothers, you can calmly ask a crew member to resolve the problem.

Missing the cruise ship

Two ships docked in Cozumel

A sure-fire way to ruin any cruise vacation is by missing your cruise ship and being left behind in port. Whether you arrived late on embarkation day or lost track of time at the beach in Mexico, missing the ship is an unfortunate scenario.

Related: What happens if you miss your cruise ship?

Missing your ship is, more often than not, an expensive and time-consuming ordeal, especially if you’re traveling without a passport.

Visits to the US embassy for emergency identification documents and last-minute airline prices are not ideal. Be sure to keep track of time when in port to ensure your cruise ship doesn’t leave without you.

Not purchasing travel insurance

Medical center

Another way to ruin your cruise vacation is by not purchasing travel insurance.

Traveling can lead to many surprises, from canceled flights to emergency doctor visits. Having travel insurance ensures you are financially covered in the most unpredictable situations.

Related: Should you buy annual travel insurance plans?

In fact, Royal Caribbean’s onboard medical services are not covered under most insurance plans that work at home. Travel insurance, on the other hand, should cover any medical services you may require once onboard.

Not leaving clothes out for disembarkation day

Before you put luggage outside your stateroom door the night before disembarkation, be sure to leave clothes to wear the following morning.

The night before disembarkation, you can opt to place luggage in the hallway which will be transported to the cruise terminal for pick up the next morning. Although this is a hassle-free way of moving your luggage from place to place, be sure to leave daytime clothes for disembarkation day.

You don’t want to disembark the ship in your pajamas!

Forgetting medicine

One of, if not the most important thing to pack for a cruise is any prescription medication you require. Check and double check to make sure all necessary medication is in your carry-on bag before leaving for a cruise.

While you’ll find pharmacy options in port and in the ship’s medical center, there’s no guarantee your specific medication and brand will be stocked.

It’s a good idea to pack over-the-counter medications with you as well, such as motion-sickness medication, ibuprofen, anti-nausea tablets, etc.

Selecting the wrong cabin type

One sure-fire way to negatively impact your cruise vacation is by selecting the wrong cabin type or location.

Before booking the cheapest or first cabin you see, consider what you’re looking for in a cruise vacation.

If you plan to spend the whole day outside of your cabin, an inside room can be a budget-friendly option. If you’d rather enjoy the privacy of a balcony, however, consider booking a higher category room.

Related: Guide to balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Your cabin location is another important factor to consider before booking a cruise. Some cabins may be more prone to movement than others, whereas some are located closer to certain venues onboard.

Before picking a cruise ship cabin location, be sure to read our guide on the best cabins on a cruise ship.

Arguing with other passengers

Did you know every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a jail onboard? Make sure you don’t end up there.

With thousands of passengers on any cruise ship, arguments and conflict can occasionally occur.

Just like in any land-based setting, it’s best to avoid conversations about politics and controversial topics with fellow passengers. Be courteous of those around you on a cruise and you’ll avoid any major issues.

Not checking your bill at the end of the cruise

Every purchase you make onboard is charged to your SeaPass card. You can check your account balance throughout the cruise via the Royal Caribbean app, and we recommend looking at the balance periodically to check for any errors.

You may occasionally encounter an incorrect charge, and it's always better to catch this mistake while onboard instead of at home. If you don't check your invoice until the cruise ends, you'll have to call Royal Caribbean and wait on hold. It's much easier to go to Guest Services while onboard to take care of any billing issues.

More cruise tips & tricks:

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - La Romana, Dominican Republic

In:
23 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Today we visited the Dominican Republic for the first time, which makes it a nice change of pace.

I've had many cruises with scheduled stops to a port in the Dominican Republic, but they always ended up being cancelled.

Today, we are visiting La Romana, which is on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic.

Odyssey of the Seas wasn't due in until about 10am, so we took our time in the morning and grabbed breakfast at Cafe @ Two70.

As the ship pulled into La Romana, the mountainous countryside stood out immediately.

Prior to the cruise, I booked a private boat charter through a website called GetMyBoat. It's a third-party listing of boats you can charter, and this one sounded like a perfect fit.  It was 3 hours of having the boat to ourselves, and it comes with a crew, lunch, and a few stops along the way.

The boat left from Punta Cana, which is about a 45 minute car ride away.  The company that chartered the boat arranged for an additional cost transportation to and from the port. Carlos was waiting when we disembarked and met us in the taxi lot.

I believe we docked a little early, so we were able to walk off the ship earlier than I anticipated. There is a small port area with lots of shops you can browse as you walk out (or back in as you return).

We met Carlos who had a large passenger van and he got us on our way.  The kids loved when he hooked up his phone to the Bluetooth and played their favorite songs.

I didn't realize Punta Cana was as close as it is to La Romana, primarily via highway. 

Once we got to the beach, Carlos dropped us off at the main building for the company that owns the boats they charter.  We signed the necessary paperwork and were taken right away to the beach to board our boat.

We had booked a 60 foot long boat that has 2 levels, 2 bathrooms, and even a water slide off the back of the boat.

Our visit would take us to a snorkeling spot and a swimming spot to enjoy. Along the way we would also visit a dolphin park. All the stops are at various areas just off the coast, so there's no long commute times on the water.

Since it was reserved just for us, the boat felt very large with tons of space.  And since it was our own charter, as soon as we were ready to go, the captain pulled up anchor and we were on our way.

Our first stop was a snorkeling area, where the boat provided all the equipment.  You could optionally just hop in the water for a swim without snorkel gear if you preferred to just be in the water.

One of the crew members escorted us around the water and helped the kids.  There was a strong current, so there was a lot of swimming required.

After we got back onboard, it was time for lunch.  I paid extra to get an upgraded lunch option for the kids, so we had burgers, chicken kabobs, and fruit.  Later we were served chips and salsa.

Also included were soft drinks and rum punch and rum and cokes. We had the option to BYOB as well, with a stop at a liquor stand before boarding the boat.

We passed by a dolphin park, which meant we could see dolphins swimming around in their enclosure from our boat.  We didn't go in or anything, so it's merely a quick minute long stop to glance.

Next up was our swimming stop, where we could get in the water that was about 4 or 5 feet deep. 

This proved to be best time of the day, because the kids loved going down the water slide over and over again and we all got time to relax in the water.

After the swim, we started heading back to shore.

I loved our time because it delivered exactly what was promised. We got back to La Romana with 2 and a half hours to spare, which is always my primary concern when doing a tour on my own far from the port.

The crew were great, and having the boat to ourselves was fantastic. It felt special and I only wish we had more time during the tour. In case you're wondering, the boat cost $688, and then it was an additional $300 for the roundtrip transportation and upgraded lunch.

Carlos drove us back and we browsed a few shops at the port before getting back on the ship.

After showering, it was time for dinner at Wonderland.

My kids wanted to eat at Wonderland because they've never dined there and thought the whimsical nature of the restaurant sounded fun. I have to admit I would have preferred dining elsewhere.

As it turned out, the kids loved the experience.  The kids menu was a homerun, and the main menu items ended up being really good.  Plus, the kids loved the schtick more than I thought they would.

I even found the food better than I remembered, and I don't think anyone regretted going to Wonderland.

After dinner, my wife and I did a little window shopping around the Royal Esplanade before hitting up the casino for a bit.

Tomorrow we will be in Aruba.