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One week left to get double points on a Royal Caribbean cruise booking

23 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

It looks like Royal Caribbean may not extend its popular double points promotion, so time is running out to book a cruise that qualifies for it.

Royal Caribbean added the double points offer during the cruise industry shutdown as a way to motivate cruise fans to book more cruises. As the name implies, you get double the normal Crown and Anchor society points if you happen to book a cruise under this promotion.

The Double Points offer officially ends September 30, 2021, and is valid for sailings departing January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022.

Any cruise booked before the offer expires can qualify for double Cruise Points.

Here is the breakdown of the points you will receive under the Double Points offer:

 Standard Cruise PointsDouble Cruise PointsTotal Number of Cruise Points Awarded
Cruise1 point per night1 additional point per night2 points per night
Single Cruiser2 point per night2 additional point per night4 points per night
Suite2 point per night2 additional point per night4 points per night
Single Cruiser & Suite3 point per night3 additional point per night6 points per night

If you already have a cruise booked between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022, this offer is being applied to all qualified existing bookings.

Since the Double Points benefit was announced, it was a big hit with guests because it allows people to move up the cruise line's customer loyalty program faster.

Loyalty 2X Points is available to Gold, Platinum, Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Crown & Anchor Society members.

Crown and Anchor points will be applied once the guest has paid their booking in full and completed their sailing. 

Read moreTop 8 Royal Caribbean Double Points questions

Why double points is good

Earning double the amount of points per night means you can earn points quicker, which is something Royal Caribbean has rarely offered in the past.

By earning more points, you can reach the higher tiers of Crown and Anchor Society faster, and there are some really lucrative benefits for reaching the Diamond and Diamond Plus tiers.

Complimentary alcoholic drinks, balcony discounts, complimentary photos, and reserved seating at shows are just some of the great freebies guests who reach the top tiers of Crown and Anchor Society can expect.

Moreover, this type of offer has rarely been seen.  Previous extra point offers were much more restrictive and have not been made available for a while.

Royal Caribbean starts new Cruise Planner sale with up to 35% off pre-cruise purchases

23 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

A new Royal Caribbean cruise planner sale begins today, with discounts on pre-cruise purchases.

The Fall Into Savings sale offers discounts on many popular add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions, wifi and more.

The sale runs between September 23 - October 4, 2021 and is valid on sailings between September 27, 2021 and September 30, 2022.

Here is what you can expect to find:

BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices. (Only on AL, AN, BR, HM, JW, OY, RH, VI, VY)
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.


  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship.

Activities: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes GR, VY, WN)

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship
  • Photo Package: Picture This Private Studio: Discount varies by ship

SPA: Up to 30% off

  • Spa: Discount varies by ship

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

More helpful information

Royal Caribbean Group will build new cruise terminal in Ravenna, Italy

22 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

A new cruise terminal will be coming to Ravenna, Italy, and Royal Caribbean Group will build it.

The Ravenna Port Authority announced it has awarded tender to construct and operate a new cruise terminal and the concession of its cruise operations in Porto Corsini to RCL Cruises Ltd., a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Group.

Royal Caribbean Group promises a "innovative new cruise terminal", which will be complete in spring 2024.

The new cruise terminal will showcase integrated landscaping, spanning 12 hectares, with public green spaces, pedestrian and cycling pathways, and entertainment areas for residents and visitors, all celebrating the surrounding natural coastal environment.

Prior to the cruise industry shutdown in 2020, Royal Caribbean was positioned to move its ships from Venice to Ravenna.

Sustainability is a critical aspect of this new terminal, as it has for LEED certification focusing on water and energy efficiency, renewable energy production, recycling and waste management, and sustainable sourcing of materials.

In addition, shore power will be available on the docks to enable ships in port to turn off their engines. To support these efforts, the Port Authority has obtained 30 million euros in funding from Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza, PNRR).

When the terminal is fully operational, the total number of guests is expected to increase to over 300,000 per year, most of whom will begin and end their cruises in Ravenna.

The company believes Ravenna's proximity to Venice, as well as nearby airports in Bologna, Forlì, and Rimini make it ideal for a a significant economic boon with pre- and post-cruise visitors.

Royal Caribbean Group believes a new terminal at the Port of Ravenna will allow for an expansion of options for cruise travelers in the Adriatic region and throughout the Mediterranean. This major infrastructure investment and partnership with the Port Authority is part of the Port Hub marine project which will allow access to a greater number of ships through the North Inner Port area.

"We are so honored to partner with the Ravenna Port Authority on this exciting cutting-edge project which will return growth to Ravenna and bring a new era of cruising to the region. Royal Caribbean has assembled a world-class team that is committed to a high-quality experience through sustainable development while embracing the extraordinary natural beauty and warm hospitality this region has become so well known for. There is a wealth of opportunities for visitors to discover the rich historic and cultural treasures, art and antiquities, the thrill of motor racing, unspoiled nature and beaches, international nightlife and Italian culinary tradition,” said Joshua Carroll, vice president, Destination Development at Royal Caribbean Group.

Royal Caribbean moves summer 2021 cruises from Venice to Ravenna | Royal Caribbean Blog

"We thank the Port Authority, the Municipality of Ravenna, the Emilia Romagna region and the entire port and city community that have welcomed us and supported our project. We are also pleased to partner with our investors at VSL Club in Italy who will join us on this adventure."

On days without ships at berth, the terminal and its walkway over the sea is accessible to both public and private events such as sport competitions, artistic and literary presentations, and much more. Sizable ground floor spaces are suitable for trade fairs and other large gatherings.

Guide to balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean

22 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

Balcony staterooms are among the most popular category of cabin you can book on any cruise ship because of the combination of space and value it provides.

When you book a balcony cabin, you get a well-sized room along with a private balcony to enjoy at anytime during your cruise.

Royal Caribbean offers more balcony rooms on its ships than ever before, with its newest cruise ships offering the most balcony rooms.  In short, you will find plenty of balcony room choices when booking a cruise on any of its newest vessels.

If you are thinking about booking a balcony stateroom on your Royal Caribbean cruise, here is what you need to know about this stateroom category.

Balcony room basics

No matter which balcony cabin you book on any Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you can expect a very similar experience across the board.

Balcony rooms all feature a bed that can be split into twin beds if necessary, private bathroom with stand up shower, sitting area, television, mini fridge cooler, and of course a private balcony.

Most of the time, there will be a couch in the room. In some balcony rooms, the couch can convert to a twin bed.  Other balcony cabins may also include pullman beds, which are retractable beds that can descend from the ceiling.

Photo tour of Category 6B Spacious Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony on Independence of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

The typical size of a balcony stateroom on Royal Caribbean is right around 180 square feet, not including the balcony.

The balcony itself has seating for at least two people and has a table.

Read moreAvoid these mistakes when picking a cruise ship cabin

Types of balcony rooms

Is a balcony stateroom worth it on a Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

There are a few types of balcony cabins you can book.

Traditionally, a balcony room means you have a view of the ocean.  Balcony rooms are situated on the outer portion of the ship, with the ability to look out from your room to the ocean.

Royal Caribbean also offers two other types of balcony rooms that actually face inward towards the ship, instead of outwards to the ocean. These interior balcony rooms are only available on Oasis Class cruise ships.

Balcony room on a Royal Caribbean cruise: Is it worth the price? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Boardwalk balcony rooms have a view of the Boardwalk neighborhood, while Central Park balcony rooms have a view of the Central Park neighborhood.

These inward facing balcony rooms tend to be a little bit cheaper than oceanview balcony rooms, and offer excellent people watching opportunities. There is still plenty of fresh air to enjoy, and you get to see what is happening below in the neighborhood.

Read moreWhat you need to know about neighborhood balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships

Obstructed balcony rooms

Odyssey Obstructed Balcony Guide - Royal Caribbean Discussion - Royal Caribbean Blog

It is worth talking about a subset of the balcony rooms, known as obstructed balcony rooms.

Obstructed balcony rooms have some physical barrier that blocks at least part of the view you would usually have in a balcony room. That is not to say the view from your balcony is completely obstructed, just partially.

Most commonly, obstructions are either life boats or the ship's structure.

The reason to book an obstructed balcony room is you will be able to get a good deal on these types of cabins because demand for them is much less than a regular balcony. But if having something blocking at least part of your view from your balcony will bother you, then avoid these types of balconies.

Why you should book a balcony room

6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you are wondering if booking a balcony room is worth the extra money compared to an inside room, here are a few good reasons to move up to a balcony.

Read moreWhat's the difference between a balcony and a suite cabin on a cruise?

Private space

Radiance Class | Royal Caribbean Blog

Without a doubt, the number one reason to book a balcony room is you get a private balcony to enjoy when you want it.  

Unlike the top deck of the ship, there is no one to contend with to get a great view of the ocean. Moreover, it is your place to enjoy in the morning and evening, or with a cup of coffee.

Some passengers like to take their room service orders outside and enjoy the meal on their balcony as an added plus.

Unlike the pool deck, a private balcony means private space to enjoy time in the sun and also somewhere much more quiet.

More living space

What's the difference between a balcony and a suite cabin on a cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

A balcony room will also give you more space, both inside and outside.

Balcony rooms are larger in terms of square footage, and the balcony adds even more space to enjoy.  Cruise ship cabins are traditionally smaller than hotel rooms, so every square foot counts.

When you are traveling with children, having that extra space really makes a difference.

The views

Of course, the views you get from your balcony are worth it alone to book.

Having a balcony on certain itineraries really makes a difference, such as Alaska or Europe. You will be able to see wildlife and the coastline as your ship passes by, which is especially nice during sail away or sail in.

In addition, just having a view of the open ocean is calming.


What are the differences between Royal Caribbean's 1D, 2D, 4D, etc balcony rooms? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Balcony rooms offer more living space than inside rooms, and the private balcony gives you a really nice area to enjoy anytime during your cruise.

Of course, a balcony room will cost more than an interior room, but in many cases the price jump to a balcony is not unreasonably more.

For a lot of cruise fans, having their own balcony to see every morning, enjoy the ocean as it passes by, and watch the sunset from is worth it every time.

Royal Caribbean Group met or exceeded nearly all of its 2020 sustainability targets

22 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

Many companies talk about sustainability, but Royal Caribbean Group has done much in the last year to make it happen.

Royal Caribbean Group released its 13th annual sustainability report, which encompass everything the company is doing towards sustainability.

In short, Royal Caribbean Group reports they have met or exceeded nearly all of its 2020 sustainability targets.

The report is organized into four main sections conveying Royal Caribbean Group's strategic approach to sustainability, from emissions reductions to supporting employees and crew in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Here is a look at the highlights from the report:

Emissions reduction

Royal Caribbean Group achieved its carbon reduction target of 35% and has committed to further reduce emissions 25% by 2025.

  • Royal Caribbean Group's wind farm project in Kansas, developed in partnership with Southern Power, began operations and generated approximately 242,000 tons of CO2 offsets. It is expected that the wind farm will offset up to 12% of the company's global emissions each year.
  • Celebrity Apex joined the fleet with shore power connectivity and with an energy efficiency standard (EEDI) 39% more efficient than the current International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirement.
  • Icon-Class cruise ships, expected to launch in 2023, will use cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas and fuel cell technology, which reduces ship emissions.

Sustainable sourcing

The company has a commitment to source 90% of wild-caught seafood and 75% of farmed seafood, served on Royal Caribbean Group ships from certified sustainable sources, a first for the cruise industry. 

  • While the global suspension of service delayed this goal, as cruise operations resume, Royal Caribbean Group remains committed to tracing back to its origin the sustainable seafood served across the company's fleet.
  • Additionally, the company is constantly working to identify sustainable products, from cage-free eggs to humanely raised pork.

Circular economy

The company is working to achieve zero waste across the Royal Caribbean Group fleet.

  • Today, 100% of the company's fleet is equipped to be landfill-free. Only 0.50 pounds of waste are sent to landfill per passenger each day — 80% less than the U.S. average on shore.
  • Whenever possible, the waste on Royal Caribbean Group ships is reused, recycled or converted to energy.
  • The company has removed 60% of single-use plastics from its supply chain. 

Water and wastewater

Royal Caribbean Group ships work to ensure fresh water on their ships is used sparingly and efficiently.

  • 90% of fresh water is produced on board its ships in order to not deplete local resources.
  • On average, only 66 gallons of water per person per day are used, compared with the U.S. average of 100 gallons per person.
  • Each ship is equipped with a water treatment plant. Advanced wastewater purification systems are designed to be twice as stringent as U.S. federal standards, with a company policy of no untreated waste released into the ocean.

You can view the full report online.

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval to start test sailings on Oasis of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was extremely pleased with the report, " "While I'm proud of the progress we have achieved, the importance of this area has grown exponentially. Consistent with our mantra of continuous improvement, we have significantly expanded our aspirations in this critical area and are setting even more aggressive goals for the coming years."

"We believe that what gets measured gets better. Sustainability is a core area for our business, and this report reflects our successes and challenges over the past year."

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for U.S. sailings October 16-31, 2021

21 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released its health protocols for cruises departing the second half of October 2021 from ports in the United States.

The cruise line had released October protocols for sailings in the first half of the month, but now we have the protocols for the second half.

These protocols apply to any Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from a U.S. homeport between October 16-31, 2021.

Here is what Royal Caribbean has planned for passengers sailing in the second half of October.


Spotted: Royal Caribbean adds new way to add Covid-19 vaccine card in its app | Royal Caribbean Blog

All guests 12 years and older must bring proof of vaccination, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card, with the final dose of the vaccine completed at least 14 days prior to sailing.


When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog


All guests 2 years and older must present a negative PCR or antigen test result.

  • Vaccinated guests ages 12 and over, test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing.
  • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11, test must be taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing — but not on boarding day.
  • No testing required for guests under age 2.

Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Embarkation Day

Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 will take a complimentary PCR test for COVID-19 during check-in. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.


Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 will take a complimentary antigen test prior to debark. Depending on sailing length, there may be additional testing. Registration details will be provided onboard. 

Shore Excursions

Families traveling with unvaccinated kids are required to purchase a tour through Royal Caribbean to go ashore, except at Perfect Day at CocoCay.


Coast Guard wont fine you for not wearing a mask on a cruise ship, but you will get kicked off | Royal Caribbean Blog

Masks are required in the terminal, in select locations inside the ship, and may be required at various destinations. Guests under 2 years old don’t need a mask.

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants and shows.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Where and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors in public areas of the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

Some venues and nightlife events will be for vaccinated guests age 12 and up, only. Masks won't be required in these venues. Vaccinated parents are invited to enjoy these experiences while their kids are at Adventure Ocean. 


Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

The Main Dining Room has areas for all parties (vaccinated and those with unvaccinated children.) My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated children.

Windjammer buffet and Grab-and-go cafes are open to everyone for breakfast and lunch and crew members will serve you.

Some specialty restaurants are for vaccinated parties only. 

Other venues

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog | Royal Caribbean Blog

Theaters and activity venues offer spaced seating with options for everyone and vaccinated guests only. 

Spa services, except those offered in treatment rooms, are available to everyone.

The Fitness Center has operating hours for everyone as well as hours reserved for vaccinated guests only. 


If booked guests do not wish to follow these protocols and are booked on a cruise sailing in late October, Royal Caribbean will offer a refund or move their sailing into the future when circumstances may have evolved. 

Royal Caribbean now accepts cruise ship passengers with mixed series of mRNA vaccines

21 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

As expected, Royal Caribbean has updated its policy to consider cruise ship passengers fully vaccinated if they have a mixed series of mRNA vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance last week on mixed vaccines, which greatly affects residents of certain countries where the practice was encouraged, such as Canada or Germany.

As a result, Royal Caribbean has updated its rules for mixed vaccines from different manufacturers:

For sailings departing from the U.S., the CDC will now recognize a mixed series of mRNA vaccines (e.g., 1 shot of Pfizer with 1 shot of Moderna, in any order) as fully vaccinated. The doses must be administered a minimum of 28 days apart. The guest will be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the final dose. 

Guests who received 1 shot of Johnson & Johnson, with any other vaccine, are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Guests whose two-shot regimen consists of 1 mRNA dose (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 AstraZeneca dose will not be considered vaccinated. We continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.

The change in policy mirrors sister company Celebrity Cruises, which updated its policy a few days ago.

The full policy has been posted on Royal Caribbean's website.

Earlier this summer, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines announced they would not consider someone with mixed vaccines fully vaccinated, following a CDC policy change.

Not allowing mixed vaccines has been a problem for Canadian cruisers because the practice is widespread in that country.

Certificate of Recovery from Covid-19

Royal Caribbean adding mandatory temperature screenings to screen for Coronavirus in guests | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean also added information for guests who have recovered from Covid-19, as well as digital certificates.

For U.S. departures, Royal Caribbean does not grant vaccine accommodation for reasons related to recent recovery from Covid-19.

However, Royal Caribbean will allow a certificate of recovery for departures outside the United States.

Royal Caribbean announces health protocols for Harmony of the Seas from Spain | Royal Caribbean Blog

Guests will show the certificate at time of boarding that verifies that either the guest was diagnosed with Covid-19 within the 90 days prior to their sail date or that they are sailing before the end date noted on the Certificate of Recovery.

For sailings departing from Cyprus, the Certificate of Recovery must be issued 30 days after the day of the first positive Covid-19 test and is valid for either 90 days or until the expiry date displayed.

The Certificate of Recovery must include the following details: 

  • Name of sailing guest
  • Date of issuance of the Certificate of Recovery
  • Medical services provider name

EU Digital COVID Certificate 

For sailings operating within the E.U only, guests may present an EU Digital COVID Certificate showing they have received a single dose of a 2-dose series of an approved COVID-19 vaccine after having previously been infected with COVID-19, where the Member State issuing the EU Digital COVID Certificate considers the vaccination course as completed. 

In this scenario the certificate must clearly show 1 of 1 vaccine completed.  The vaccine must have been administered at least 14 days before their sail date 

Cruise industry welcomes U.S. plan to welcome back international travelers

21 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

The United States will lift restrictions on foreign nationals wishing to fly to the United States, which is good news for the cruise industry.

While cruises have been able to restart in the United States since earlier this summer, many cruise fans from other countries have been excluded from the restart.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement in support of the Biden Administration's plan to begin allowing fully vaccinated visitors from other countries in November.

Beginning at some time in November, foreigners will be allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and that they have tested negatively for the virus within three days of their flight. This includes visitors from the U.K. and EU.

The travel ban has been in place for well over a year, and CLIA welcomes the change to start allowing travel to return, "CLIA  joins our peers across the travel and tourism sector to express our appreciation to the Biden Administration for recognizing the importance of international travel to the U.S. economy and for establishing a path for international visitors to travel to the United States responsibly."

"The cruise industry is an important driver of international visits to the United States, prompting approximately 2.5 million international visitors to travel to the United States to embark on a cruise in 2019, representing nearly 18 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. International cruise visitors in the United States spend $4.5 billion annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other U.S. businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs."

"Our members look forward to welcoming international travelers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritize public health."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also require airlines to collect and provide passenger information to aid contract tracing.

There will be a few exemptions to the vaccination requirements for foreign visitors, such as for children not yet eligible to be vaccinated, according to a person familiar with the White House’s strategy, but full details of the policy have not yet been released.

The Trump administration had first issued the rules, which now apply to more than 30 countries, in March 2020. President Joe Biden upheld those rules in January, shortly after taking office.

What's it like to cruise right now?

20 Sep 2021
Dan Kline

Before the cruise industry shutdown, I did a short cruise (almost always a three-day weekend on Navigator of the Seas out of Miami) about once a month for over a year. In addition to my trips on the Navigator as a solo cruiser, I did an occasional longer trip with my son on a variety of other ships including Independence, Explorer, and even once on Majesty).

When Royal Caribbean began its comeback in July, I was lucky enough to be on the first revenue sailing of Freedom of the Seas over the 4h of July holiday. That trip was tremendous fun, but it also wasn’t typical of what cruising would be like as the company mounts its comeback because that trip had a lot of Royal Caribbean executives on board as well as some celebratory touches (lobster on the opening day buffet, free drinks on the 4th of July during the fireworks display) that are not part of the new normal. In addition, that July 2 Freedom sailing did not have a typical crowd as there was a large media and social influencer presence onboard.

My most-recent trip -- Sept. 13-17 -- on Freedom was, perhaps more typical of what it’s like to cruise now and, while it was one of my favorite trips ever, there were some things that remain different from the pre-COVID world.

Protocols and testing

New requirements from the Bahamas made it so every person over 12 on-board had to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination (a CDC card) when boarding. Passengers were also asked to upload pictures of their vaccination cards when checking-in for their cruise but doing that did not exempt you from showing it three separate times during the onboarding process which was perhaps more times than will be typical because there were computer issues at Terminal A in Miami when we boarded.

All passengers also needed to show proof of a negative Covid test taken one or two days before the cruise. I used the Royal-approved at-home test and that was a very easy process. In theory you could show the email you got with your negative results but having it printed out made the process go much faster. In fact, printing your set-sail pass also led to getting processed and boarding faster.

I carried my luggage on-board, but people who used the porter system seemed to get their bags very quickly because there were only an estimated 1,300 people on board (roughly 33% capacity). Boarding times were semi-strictly enforced but because the computers were down there was a line for my 2:30 boarding time when I arrived at about 2 and I was actually at my room a few minutes after 2:30.

Masks were not required in the outdoor part of the queue and there wasn’t much distancing. Once you entered the terminal masks were required until you reach your room. In general, you had to wear a mask walking indoors but could remove it in vaccinated venues, which were most of them aside from Playmakers which allowed masked, unvaccinated kids under 12.

In a broad sense, wearing a mask wasn’t as enforced as it was on the July 2 sailing. This wasn’t an official change in policy, but when people forgot to put their mask on or had it on incorrectly, I did not seem them corrected as they were on my previous trip. Still, most people wore masks when walking indoors and nobody seemed to be overtly ignoring the rules.

Fun, sun, and a whole lot of water

Despite the well-below capacity crowds, the beautiful weather made the pool areas very popular on the first day of the cruise, which was a sea day. The main pools had a healthy crowd and there were times the Solarium pool had limited open space along the walls or seated areas. There were even a few times when the Solarium hot tubs were filled to capacity (meaning there was no place to sit as no capacity rules were enforced),

Still, at no point did the pools feel crowded and getting a chair in a desirable location was easy. It rarely took more than a minute or two to get a drink at the various pool bars (and being a responsible reporter I believe I tried them all). Lines were limited at the walk-up soft-serve station and, while El Loco Fresh sometimes had a bit of a crowd, it was quick by normal standards even with crew members serving passengers instead of the normal self-serve procedures.

I spent most of the sea day bouncing between hot tubs and pools. It was busy enough to have people to talk to (something I find important as a solo traveler) but never crowded. The only notable difference aside from crowd size is that on my pre-pandemic trips there were generally more movies playing on the poolside screen with more showings of each film. This trip had a couple of movies each night but lacked the daytime repeats and the overall number of films screened was smaller than usual.

What was the crowd like?

Many of the people onboard were frequent cruisers and a lot of the people I met were not on their first sailing this summer. Much like the July 2 sailing, the passengers appeared very happy to be there and people were very friendly. 

I had joined a pre-cruise Facebook roll call for the trip and that group did an unofficial meetup at the Lime and Coconut pool bar on the first afternoon. It was a well-attended kickoff and the group got together in various combinations throughout the cruise getting bigger along way as we added new people we had met. 

One of the nice side effects of there being fewer people on board was that it was almost impossible to avoid seeing people you knew. I’m a pretty outgoing guy and generally make friends onboard, but this was the first time I have ever been part of large group that remained loosely affiliated for an entire trip (and I suspect this will be the most people I ever keep in touch with post-cruise). 

There were very few kids onboard with most that were there being below school age since this was a weekday trip.

Way too much food  

Normally, I start my cruise in the gym (as a way to avoid the buffet) but I was not that disciplined this time. Instead, I went to the Windjammer and sampled a few dishes. Since it was already about 3 p.m., however, I kept it to a few bites. Service was quick with crewmembers dishing out the food and drinks. Seating was easy to come by even though half the tables were marked as not available due to social distancing

On my way into the buffet I stopped at Chops where the woman working the reservation desk greeted me by name and helped me make reservations for the next four nights. As a solo traveler I tend to book the Ultimate Dining Package as it was around $70 when I booked it (prices can vary a lot) and eating alone in specialty restaurants by yourself has always felt more comfortable to me than eating alone in the main dining room (especially now when singles are largely not being sit with larger groups due to the pandemic).

There was, however, a major change on this trip compared to the policies on my July 2 sailing -- Royal was allowing people not travelling together or on linked reservations to dine together. I found that out late in my trip after learning that some members of our informal group had been allowed to dine together in the main dining room. 

One of the big advantages (or disadvantages) of the limited number of passengers meant that you never waited for food. Places like the Promenade Cafe, El Loco Fresh, and Sorrento’s, which often have long lines, almost never had more than a few people waiting. That made it way too easy add that post-midnight slice of pizza or pre-dinner dessert that you maybe didn’t need.

I ate at Chops the first and last night and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on nights two and three. Originally, I planned to eat at Izumi Sushi on one of those middle nights., but a scheduling snafu on my part led to a change in plans.

Dinner was largely excellent but the lack of crowds led to service being, perhaps, a little too quick. Dinner normally takes me closer to 90 minutes than 60 and I was in and out in under an hour all four nights.

Freedom of the Seas completes $116 million Royal Amplification | Royal Caribbean Blog

At Chops I had the wild mushroom soup both nights which may be my favorite dish in any Royal Caribbean restaurant I have sampled. I also particularly enjoyed the lamb chops the first night and had specifically saved the ribeye with the peppercorn sauce for my last night.

I treated Giovanni’s as essentially two separate experiences going with the calamari and polenta as an appetizer the first night (alfredo dipping sauce is excellent, but I prefer the zesty marinara with the already fried dish) and had the linguine vongole as a main course. The sauce was light and the fresh pasta was cooked perfectly. 

For the second visit to the Italian eatery, I decided to sample the pizza (a first for me) going with the wild truffle which includes truffle oil, an egg with a loose yolk, and bacon. The runny egg made the dish truly decadent and I mopped up as much as I could though my waiter was surprised when I left a little less than half of the pizza unfinished.

Both Chops and Giovanni’s excel at dessert, I got a shot of espresso all four nights and tried the Red Velvet Cake at Chops, the cannolis and tiramisu at Giovanni’s and. A new one for me, the key like meringue at Chops on the last night which was a lighter complement to the ribeye that was my main course.

I skipped breakfast all four days instead opting for lattes (included in the drink package) at the Promenade Cafe while I got some work done for three of the four mornings. On the last day, for Perfect Day at CocoCay, I instead took my coffee to go and sipped it once I left the ship.

Perfect days

Our trip started with a sea day that I spent largely in the Solarium bouncing between the pool and the hot tubs. Conversation was plentiful and people seemed to be relishing getting back to cruising. This weekday trip did not have bachelorette parties, boys weekend groups, and other heavier partiers I saw often on the three-day weekend version of this cruise so, while drinks were flowing, I never saw anyone overtly drunk.

The lines were minimal everywhere on board and, while I’m not a waterslide or FlowRider person, those activities were easily accessible. I generally like doing a few trivia sessions on board and while some were scheduled, there were fewer than there were in the past. There was also no laser tag which has been missing since the pandemic (likely because it’s impossible to distance while playing). 

In general, the activities were exactly the same as they were pre-pandemic with fewer sessions of some things and some minor changes like I mentioned earlier with fewer movies playing.

Like most of those onboard, I elected to not get off in Nassau as many of the shops remain closed and, while I enjoy walking about a mile to Junkanoo Beach, taking advantage of the semi-empty ship seemed like a better option. Nassau also has some pretty strict mask-wearing rules and the thought of being masked on a hot day when I could just opt to stay on-board was mildly unpleasant.

Our last day included a much-anticipated stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay. On the July 2 sailing, the Freedom was the only ship that stopped at the private island and with its limited crowd, it left CocoCay feeling very empty and since I was the second person off the ship, I literally had the Oasis pool to myself (well me and dozens of crew) for about 45 minutes.

This time, the Mariner of the Seas was also docked and while the island still had a very light crowd, it was busy enough to not feel empty. It was never hard to get a prime beach or pool chair (I never found it all that hard in the pre-pandemic days) and the bar was hopping at the Oasis pool with seats at the actual bar being the only tough get on the island.

We closed our Perfect Day with a small meetup at Captain Jacks where the crowd was sparse but the music and service were top-tier. 

And perfect nights

At night, I tend to skip the theatrical productions because when you travel on the same ship repeatedly the stock shows quickly become repetitive. Freedom did require reservations for the headliner shows but walk-ins were accommodated.

I tend to split my nights between the Pub, the casino, and the Schooner Bar, depending upon who’s performing at the two music venues. In this case, I had seen John Winters in the Pub and Andy C. in the Schooner on the July 2 sailing and enjoyed both of their work. I spent more time in the pub, however, because I enjoy the mixology menu which might be the best drink selection of any Royal bar I have experienced.

The staff was incredibly attentive and almost too-quick to replenish your drink. They were, however, quite accommodating when I asked for a bottle of water with each drink (and requested they not bring me another until I finished it). 

We also had a pretty neat experience in the casino bar when on night three we got stuck in Nassau until after midnight due to a passenger needing emergency medical treatment (I later learned the person involved was brought to Ft. Lauderdale and was expected to make a full recovery). A few of us were waiting for the casino to open and we had been asking the bartenders to make us drinks they thought we might like. Daria started making a few different concoctions that were well received, but Christian was the star of the night. He created the “Emergency In Nassau” which was a layered red and blue drink which mixed when you removed the champagne flute that was served with it.

The small crowds made it easier to connect with staff and from bartenders to waitstaff and room attendants, service was universally more able to talk than usual. 

As for the casino, it was never crowded, but always had a steady audience. My personal luck was mediocre, but it was easy to secure your favorite slot machine or a seat at a table game. Freedom, it’s worth noting, has a ton of slot machines, but only four video poker machines hidden in a back corner.

Back to reality

When we docked in Miami I planned to carry my luggage off to get back to my car to make the 90-minute ride back to West Palm Beach. You’re supposed to stay in your cabin rather than line-up waiting for the all-clear, but I opted to get coffee at the Promenade Cafe (have to make the best possible use of the drink package) and, while I was drinking it, the doors opened to let people off.

Normally, Miami has a super-easy facial recognition system where you don’t need to take your passport out. On this trip, however, I had the bad luck of being flagged (randomly, I think) for added security screening. The officer who pulled me in was super nice and asked if there was anything in my bags he needed to know about. Since I hadn’t bought anything and the only addition was some beach sand, I said “no,” and two officers went quickly through all of my belongings. It wasn’t fun, but it was handled well for what it was and about 20 minutes after I would have gotten to my car had I not been flagged, I was in my car, heading for a long workday, and planning for my next sailing on Oct. 11 (also on Freedom).

Dan Kline covers the cruise industry as part of his work as a lead advisor for 7investing. He also hosts 7investing Now, a free show for long-term investors that airs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 p.m. ET which can also be found on all major podcast platforms.

Celebrity Cruises will now accept a mixed combination of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines

20 Sep 2021
Matt Hochberg

Celebrity Cruises has updated its policy to now allow some mixed vaccines and recognize those passengers as fully vaccinated.

In an updated policy posted to Celebrity's website, it says the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidelines regarding mixed vaccinations, which prompted Celebrity to change their policy.

Earlier this summer, many cruise lines were forced to not recognize any passenger who had a combination of vaccines from different manufacturers, including Royal Caribbean. The reason being the CDC did not recognize any mixed combination of Covid-19 vaccines as fully vaccinated.

According to Celebrity, the CDC has "clarified their position regarding mixed vaccinations."

Celebrity has seemingly followed that guidance from the CDC in their updated policy and will now recognize a mixed combination of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines (Pfizer/Moderna) as fully vaccinated.

  • If a guest has already received two mRNA vaccines in mixed series at a minimum interval of 28 days, the CDC will consider that individual to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Guests who received the Janssen (aka Johnson & Johnson) vaccine before or after another COVID-19 vaccine should be considered to have received a valid, single-dose Janssen vaccination—not a mixed vaccination series—and are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • To be recognized as fully vaccinated, guests 12 years of age and older, must complete a vaccine series with the last dose administered at least 14 days prior to sailing.

"For sailings departing the United States, to be recognized as fully vaccinated, guests 12 years of age and older, must complete a vaccine series with the last dose administered at least 14 days prior to sailing. The CDC will also consider a guest fully vaccinated with proof of vaccination that can include mixed doses of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. Celebrity Cruise will not accept any form of Certificate of Recovery."

The issue of mixed vaccines affects residents of certain countries where the practice was encouraged by their governments, such as Canada.

A change to Royal Caribbean's policy has not yet been posted.

Celebrity also added a new option for passengers that lost their original vaccination card, but want to show an electronic copy instead.

Celebrity will now accept proof of vaccination from a passengers if that person can furnish proof from the government site or app.

Photos or photocopies of the original vaccination card are still not accepted.