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40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets

By: Matt Hochberg

Will your cruise ship visit Perfect Day at CocoCay? 

Royal Caribbean sought to deliver the ideal private island experience with its expansive offerings at CocoCay, with plenty for guests of all ages to enjoy.

Before you hit the beach, pool, or slides, here is everything you need to know about Perfect Day at CocoCay!

1. What is Perfect Day at CocoCay?

CocoCay is Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, which means only Royal Caribbean cruise ships can go there.

Just like any port your cruise ship will visit, your ship docks there and it is up to you if you want to get off and visit.

There is no cost to walk around and explore the island, and much of the offerings are complimentary, such as the beaches, pool, and food.

Basically, the island is one enormous shore excursion run by Royal Caribbean that you do not have to spend any extra money (although you certainly can in some cases) to enjoy a fun day at the beach.

2. What's new at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

You might be wondering what is the difference between Perfect Day at CocoCay and the "old" CocoCay, if you happened to visit that in years past.

In 2019, Royal Caribbean expanded and refurbished the entire island. To say there’s a lot more to do now would be an understatement.

Guests can now choose among a great variety of activities, including:

  • Multiple beaches
  • Water park (extra admission cost)
  • Freshwater pool
  • Zip line (extra admission cost)
  • Private beach club (extra admission cost)
  • Various dining options (nearly all included)

In short, there are many more choices of how to spend your day.

3. What should you bring?

Since Royal Caribbean operates the island, there is a bit less to have to bring than to a regular cruise port.

The most important things you should bring to the CocoCay are:

  • SeaPass card
  • Cash: The artisan market only takes cash.  Tipping cabana attendants also requires cash.
  • Sunscreen
  • Closed-toe shoes: If you are going on the zip line, these will be needed.
  • Beach towels: You can get these from the ship.  If you are in a cabana or Coco Beach Club, towels are provided for you.

4. Your drink package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package for your cruise, you can use the drink package benefits while at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

This means if you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can enjoy unlimited alcoholic beverages, along with bottled water, sodas and more. Likewise, the Royal Refreshment and Soda Package benefits extend to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Just like on the ship, souvenir cups or drinks served in pineapples/coconuts are not included with your drink package benefits.  If you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can get a discount on the souvenir cup.  Or you can ask for the drink in a regular cup to pay no additional charge.

5. Your Voom package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you have a Voom internet package, you will have internet connectivity at Perfect Day at CocoCay.  

WiFi coverage extends across the island, which means you can stay connected and share photos or videos with friends back home.  Heck, you can even post updates on our message boards!

6. Best times for shortest water slide lines

Thrill Waterpark is home to Perfect Day at CocoCay's incredible water slides, and as you might imagine, a lot of cruisers are going to want to try them all.  While lines for the slides are usually quite manageable, here are the best times to try the slides to have a minimal wait:

  • Before 11am
  • After 3pm

7. Secret menu item at Snack Shack

Snack Shack serves up some great food, but they also have a menu item that is not listed on the printed menu. If you ask nicely, you can get a chicken parmigiana sandwich that is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce.

8. Buy Thrill Waterpark admission before the cruise to save money

If you want to go to Thrill Waterpark, you will absolutely spend less money if you pre-purchase it before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean sells its waterpark passes via the Cruise Planner site and regularly puts the tickets on sale.  If you want to save money (that is everyone), buy your tickets before you board the ship.

9. There is lots to do that costs nothing extra

There is a lot of attention for the activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay that costs extra, but there is a lot of fun things to do that costs absolutely nothing extra.

First and foremost, you can walk around Perfect Day at CocoCay without paying extra.  Just like any port of call, you can walk off the ship and explore on your own.

Here is a list of things that is included with your cruise fare when you visit Perfect Day at CocoCay:

  • Splashaway Bay
  • Captain Jill's Galleon
  • Skipper's Grill
  • Chill Grill
  • Snack Shack
  • Oasis Lagoon pool (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Chill Island (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • South Beach (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Sports Courts
  • Fitness Classes
  • Freshwater showers
  • Tram service
  • Beach access wheelchairs

10. Free tram service around the island

Keep an eye out for the complimentary trams that are found around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Beginning when you walk down the pier, you will find tram service to take you down the pier to save some steps (you will have plenty at Thrill Waterpark).

Once on the island, there is complimentary tram service that can take you all corners of Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

As a bonus, many of the trams are solar powered!

11. If you want a quiet spot, go to Chill Island

If your idea of a fun day is quiet time getting away from it all, head to Chill Island.  Chill Island is accessible via the green pathway that is towards the left side when you walk onto Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Once at Chill Island, keep to the left side of the area for pristine ocean views that has no music or the sounds of people at the pool or water park.  Instead, you will find only the sound of the ocean waves.

12. DIY Ice cream sandwiches

You will find self-serve soft serve ice cream machines at Perfect Day, along with chocolate chip cookies.  See where I am going with this?

Grab two cookies, dispense ice cream between the two and combine for an awesome dessert.

13. Keep an eye out for chickens, iguanas and birds

This is a fun tidbit, but Perfect Day at CocoCay is home to more than just beautiful views.  If you walk enough of the island, it is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Seagulls can also be found flying around, so be sure to keep an eye on your food.

Regardless of the animal, please do not feed any of them.

14. Got kids? Don't miss the free slides

It is easy to gravitate towards Thrill Waterpark, but Royal Caribbean provides two water splash areas for kids that costs absolutely nothing extra.

Captain Jill's Galleon and Splashaway Bay are located immediately at the entrance to the island from the pier.

If you have younger kids (elementary school age or younger), you may find these areas a great fit for kids, with seating around both areas for adults to supervise.

Both of the splash zones include small slides, water cannons, geysers and more.  

Children up to 42″ and 200lbs are able to use these areas.

Given there is no cost to go here, and many of the slides in the waterpark have height requirements, families with younger children may prefer Splashaway Bay and Captain Jill's Galleon.

15. Chairs & umbrellas cost nothing extra

You don't have to worry about hustling to find a spot at CocoCay.

There are chairs and umbrellas in every region of the island, with plenty to go around. If you visited CocoCay in the past, you may recall shade being at a premium, but Royal Caribbean has added a ton more seating and umbrellas to go with it.

The only seating that truly goes quickly are the seats at the swim-up bar in Oasis Lagoon, but it is easy enough to swim up and place an order without a chair.

16. Don't miss the floating bar

Located near South Beach, Royal Caribbean operates a floating bar in the ocean.

It is less of a swim-up bar, and more of a wade-up bar, but once you get to it, you climb a short ladder to get onboard the tiki bar and enjoy drinks in the ocean.

The floating bar has a limited selection of drinks, and no blender, so plan on beers or basic mixed drinks.

17. Your SeaPass card works almost everywhere

Just like on the ship, Royal Caribbean designed Perfect Day at CocoCay to be reliant on the SeaPass card instead of cash.

Your SeaPass card will get you into Thrill Waterpark, Coco Beach Club, and any shore excursion you book. Don’t worry about losing shore excursion tickets. Everything is loaded to your SeaPass card. 

It is also how you pay for drinks or souvenirs.

The one place your SeaPass card does not work is the Artisan Market, so bring cash for that.

18. First visit strategy

Is it your first time to Perfect Day at CocoCay? Here is what you should consider when planning your day.

First and foremost, get up and and out to the island as early as you can. By being ashore early, you can beat the crowds that descend later on.

Since there is so much to see and do on the island, it may make sense to try a few places out during your visit, rather than commit to just one.

Keep in mind that you can't do it all in one visit. While you can certainly knock out a few big parts of the island, don't try to visit every inch in one visit. Plan to come back again!

A good idea is start with the Oasis Lagoon pool first, and then hit the beaches after.  The pool tends to get busier as the day progresses, so going to Oasis Lagoon earlier means you can enjoy more of the space without as many people.

Once you get your fill of the pool, decide on a beach to visit, or perhaps beach hop to get a sense of what each offers.

Chill Island and South Beach are the two most popular beaches. Chill Island is closer to more activities (and the ship), so if mobility is an issue, it may be a better choice.

Thrill Waterpark and the Coco Beach Club are extra cost options, and if you elect to book one of them, plan on spending most of your day there. If you do book one of these, be very certain to get onto the island as early as you can to maximize your time.

I would not recommend booking Thrill Waterpark and Coco Beach Club for the same day, because there is not enough time to enjoy both options.

19. There is no breakfast on CocoCay

I advocate getting off the ship as early as you can to take advantage of your time there, but make sure you grab something to eat on the ship first.

There is no breakfast option on the island, and food does not open up until the lunch offerings begin later in the morning.

The Coco Beach Club is the one exception, and offers coffee and pastries to its guests.

20. Book a Thrill waterpark cabana if your family is going to the waterpark

Whether or not you should book a cabana for the day is a tough decision usually, unless you are going to the waterpark.

If you have at least 3 or 4 people that want to buy admission to Thrill Waterpark, you should take a hard look at the Thrill Waterpark cabanas.

Not only does a Thrill Waterpark cabana offer a relaxing and private spot for your family to enjoy, but it includes admission to the waterpark for up to 6 guests into the waterpark.

If you have 4-6 guests, then the decision becauses a near slam dunk to get the cabana, in my opinion, because the extra cost of the cabana will be substantially less since you were going to pay for the waterpark passes.

21. Will it be too cold if I am visiting in December, January, or February?

Generally speaking, the tropics do not experience the same kind of winter temperature swings found further north.  It remains mostly temperate, if not warm, throughout the winter months.

That being said, cold fronts can certainly make their way down to the Bahamas, and it is not unheard of for the temperature to drop into 70s at times.

The good news is the ocean temperature does not change much, and will remain warmer for longer periods of time after the air temperatures drop.  

Oasis Lagoon can be on chillier side during winter months, but one person's "cold" is another person's "you just have to get used to it".

I have found CocoCay to be more than enjoyable in the winter months, including the swimming options. If you are coming from somewhere that has snow during winter, CocoCay in December through February will feel divine.

22. Is it worth it to rent a cabana?

If you can afford it, a cabana rental is a great way to splurge during your day.

Cabanas offer privacy, shade, fantastic waiter service, and a "home base" for your family during your day. Your cabana attendant will bring you complimentary food throughout the day, as well as take drink orders.

Of course, cabanas have an extra cost and they are not cheap.  Not to mention you may feel a sense of obligation to stay in the cabana to "get your money's worth".

The reason to book a cabana is for the privacy and service it provides.  There is plenty of umbrellas and shade around the island, so don't worry about that.   

The more people you have, the more compelling a cabana is to book. If you have 6-8 guests, the price per person makes the choice far more reasonable.  If you can split the cost between two families, then you really have a great value.

23. Where should you eat at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

One of the unheralded improvements Royal Caribbean made to CocoCay is the upgraded dining choices.

The days of only having burgers and hot dogs are gone (although you can get them still), and there is a wide variety of complimentary food on the island.

The two main areas to eat are Chill Grill and the Snack Shack.

Chill Grill is like the island's Windjammer, with the most variety of food  to pick from, along with shaded seating nearby. You will find salads, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, and much more.  Chill Grill is also where to go to get soft serve ice cream.

Skipper’s Grill is centrally located and very similar to Chill Grill.

The Snack Shack offers more grab-and-go choices, such as chicken sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, burgers, and even a light Greek salad. Snack Shack is the only restaurant inside Thrill Waterpark.

The Coco Beach Club has its own restaurant and you will not find burgers, hot dogs and other typical island fare here.  Instead, there is lobster, steak, grilled fish, ceviche, babaganoush and plenty more to enjoy.

Moreover, you can order unlimited entrees at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, so feel free to try a couple of dishes while you are there.

Captain Jack's is an extra cost restaurant near the pier, which has wings and fries. Unless you are craving chicken wings and would be disappointed not to get them, you can skip this.

24. Day beds at Coco Beach Club go very quickly

If you bought admission to the Coco Beach Club, plan to get there as early as you can for prime seating.

There are a handful of day beds and in-pool loungers at the infinity pool that are available to whomever claims them first.

While there are plenty of beach lounge chairs and umbrellas to go around, seating around the pool goes very quickly.  So if you want one, plan to arrive early.

25. Early bird water slide access

Before the cruise industry shutdown in 2020 due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean offered a way to get more rides on its water slides with less waiting.

It is not clear if this will be offered once cruises resume in 2021 or 2022.

The Rise & Slide Pass offered guests an extra hour in the morning before Thrill Waterpark officially opened to enjoy slides with minimal waits.  They even included complimentary breakfast.

26. No rash guards on slides

Something you should know about is the lifeguards are pretty strict about not wearing rash guards while going down the water slides in Thrill Waterpark.

You can certainly take off the rash guard and hold it as you go down, and then put it back on, but in my experience I had to do this every time I went down a slide without a raft in the water park.

Why? Because rash guards (or shirts) cause drag on the slide, and can slow you down to the point you could actually stop.

27. You can snorkel at CocoCay

Whether you bring your own snorkel equipment or rent gear from Royal Caribbean, there is a spot for snorkeling.

You can use your own snorkel gear and not have to pay anything to access the snorkel area.  Alternatively, you can rent gear on the island.

There is even a lifeguard on a platform near the deeper part of the snorkeling area, and you will see plenty of marine life, including fish, stingrays and perhaps even a sea turtle.  

There is a plane wreck under water, which attracts marine life too.

28. Excursions available too

If you want to mix in some fun excursions to your day in the sun, you can find a few interesting choices.

The two most popular add-ons are the zip-line and Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride.

The Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride takes you up to 450 feet above the island on a tethered balloon.  Not only are the views amazing, but it provides the best photos while visiting.

The Perfect Day CocoCay Zipline takes you across three zip lines around the island, and it is a really fun experience, perfect for anyone that has never zip-lined before.

Keep in mind you need to be at least 48 inches tall, and weigh between 75 lbs and 275 lbs to go on the zip line.

There are also a few other excursions you can book:

  • Jet ski rental
  • Floating beach mat rental
  • Scuba diving
  • Kayak rentals

29. Water slide height restrictions

Before you book a pass to Thrill Waterpark, you should know about the minimum height and maximum weight restrictions to ensure there are no unexpected surprises later.

Daredevil's Peak® waterslide135 feet48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Dueling Demons waterslides75 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Screeching Serpent waterslide50 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Green Mamba waterslide50 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Manta Raycers waterslides25 feet40 inches minimum300 lbs.
The Slingshot waterslide60 feet 48 inches minimum or 42 inches with swim vest and supervising adult companionMax single person: 300 lbs.
Total raft weight limit: 550 lbs.
The Twister waterslide60 feet48 inches minimum or 42 inches with swim vest and supervising adult companionMax single person: 300 lbs.
Total raft weight limit: 400 lbs.
Splash Speedway waterslides40 feet 42 inches minimum 300 lbs.
Adventure PoolN/AGuests under 42 inches  must wear a swim vest at all timesN/A
Wave PoolN/AGuests under 42 inches  must wear a swim vest at all timesN/A

30. Lost? Look for signs

While Royal Caribbean provides you with a nice Perfect Day at CocoCay map in your cabin before your visit, I think you can leave the map in the room.

There are lots of signs throughout CocoCay to tell you where to go, and navigating is a lot easier than you might imagine.

When you get to the Arrivals Plaza, the pathways are color coded:

  • Light green: Chill Island
  • Orange: Oasis Lagoon, Coco Beach Club
  • Light blue: Thrill Waterpark

As you walk around the island, there are directional signs you can refer to as well to get your bearings. In addition, the Royal Caribbean app has a map you can refer to while on the island.

You can also hop on one of the free trams for a tour!

31. Free lockers you can use

Need somewhere to put your stuff? There are free lockers to use around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Lockers can be found near the entrance to Thrill Waterpark and zip lines, Chill Island (north and south), and near the  helium balloon.

 Lockers are first come, first serve.  

32. Is Perfect Day at CocoCay accessible?

Yes, most of the island is accessible, although there are af ew exceptions.

  • Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool and the infinity pool at Coco Beach Club have pool lifts
  • Wave Pool in Thrill Waterpark is wheelchair accessible
  • In Thrill Waterpark, the towers to the slides have stairs
  • The tower to the Zip Line has stairs
  • Accessible trams are available on regular rotation throughout the island

33. Do the helium balloon ride early in the day

The weather changes a lot, especially at CocoCay, so if you want to ride the Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride, plan to ride it early.

Depending on the winds, the balloon may only go up part of the way, and in general, winds are calmest in the morning.

Your best strategy for taking a ride up with best chance at it not being delayed/cancelled is to book it as early in the morning as you can.  

Royal Caribbean will shut it down if the winds are not favorable, and there's no guarantee it will reopen later.

34. Looking for a party?

If your idea of fun is a drink in hand, splashing around with some tunes, head to the Oasis Lagoon pool.

Near the swim up bar is a DJ that plays plenty of pumping music to enjoy.  There are even in-water tables and coves to enjoy it from.

If the music is too much for you, either end of the pool is sufficiently far away from the DJ.

You can even hear music underwater in the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, which is a neat feature.

35. Want live music?

If you prefer live music, head to Captain Jack's, where there is usually a live guitarist performing for part of the day.

The bar even has rope swing seats you can enjoy, and the whole area is covered, which means lots and lots of shade.

36. Try the Coco Loco

The official drink of Perfect Day at CocoCay is known as the Coco Loco, and it is really tasty.

The Coco Loco is the kind of frozen concoction that is sure to put a smile on just about anyone's face.

It comes with rum, but you can get non-alcoholic version as well for the kids.

37. Life jackets are available for no cost

If your child does not know how to swim, or just is not a very strong swimmer, swim vests are available to use throughout the island.

38. Drones are not allowed

While an aerial shot of the island would be pretty darn sweet, Royal Caribbean prohibits the use of drones at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

You are allowed to bring a drone on the ship to use in other ports, but drones are not to be operated onboard the ship at any time, nor on Royal Caribbean’s private destinations: Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti.

39. Some people actually live on the island

Nearly all of the supplies and personnel you see around CocoCay come from your cruise ship, but there is a contingent of Royal Caribbean employees that live there.

Before the cruise industry shutdown, Royal Caribbean had up to 375 employees living on CocoCay.  That number likely changed with there not being cruises operating, but there are dormitories on the eastern end of the island, where crew return to after a day working on the island.

You can see these buildings from the top of the water slide towers, or if you go up on the zip line.  They are located behind Thrill Waterpark.

40. Perfect Day at CocoCay Fun facts

Impress your friends and family with these fun facts about CocoCay!

  • Daredevil's Peak at 135 feet high it's the tallest waterslide in North America.
  • There are 6,000 lounge chairs on the island
  • There are 1,200 umbrellas dot the island
  • Thrill Waterpark has the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean
  • Thrill Waterpark also has 13 waterslides – the most anywhere in the Caribbean
  • Upgrading the island to Perfect Day at CocoCay cost Royal Caribbean over $250 million.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: May 16, 2021

By: Matt Hochberg

Stay up-to-date with all the Royal Caribbean news from this week with our roundup of all this week's news.

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean had to cancel its entire cruise season from Israel on the brand new Odyssey of the Seas.

Late on Saturday night, Royal Caribbean confirmed all sailings from Haifa, Israel were cancelled "due to the unrest in Israel and the region, Odyssey has not been able to complete the preparations required".

Instead, Odyssey will now head to Florida and await a new deployment.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 406th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which is all about what happens to a cruise ship during a dry dock.

Every so often we hear about a ship going in for a dry dock, but what happens and why are they so important? A retired Coast Guard Commander shares with us what happens during these scheduled breaks for cruise ships.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

5 cruise trends Royal Caribbean doesn't do (and 1 it jumped on)

Royal Caribbean is an industry leader, but they don't do everything their competitors offer.

Some new cruisers, as well as people new to Royal Caribbean, may be surprised by some of the things Royal Caribbean does not do, which are found on other cruise lines. 

Here are the top five cruise industry trends I have noticed Royal Caribbean does not do, as well as one that they recently changed their minds about.

Royal Caribbean cancels Odyssey of the Seas cruise season from Israel

By: Matt Hochberg

Unfortunately, the first major cruise ship to be based out of Israel will not happen.

Royal Caribbean announced it has cancelled its scheduled cruise season from Haifa, Israel.

On Royal Caribbean's website, an update was added that said their plans to sail from Haifa cannot happen due to "unrest in Israel and the region".

Odyssey of the Seas was to resume operations beginning June 2nd, 2021 out of Haifa, Israel. However, due to the unrest in Israel and the region, we have not been able to complete the preparation required to operate and as a result, sailings out of Haifa will be cancelled.

In the last week, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel have garnered a lot of concern.

Besides the unrest, it has been reported the cruise line has been unable to secure vaccinations for all of its crew members.

According to reports Royal Caribbean asked Israel's Ministry of Health to buy vaccines and replace them later when the line had other orders come in, but that was denied.  

Reports began to circulate that Royal Caribbean was going to pull the plug on its scheduled sailings since Friday, and the cruise line has since made it official on Saturday night.

An email has been sent to guests booked on Odyssey of the Seas confirming the change.

"Due to the unrest in Israel and the region, we have not been able to complete the preparation required to operate and as a result, your sailing will unfortunately be cancelled."

"We’re sorry for the impact to your holiday. We know this news is disappointing."

Guests booked on Odyssey of the Seas from Israel have the choice of a 125% future cruise credit to be used by April 30, 2022; or a 100% Refund.

Royal Caribbean will also give anyone who has a cancelled cruise on Odyssey a $400 onboard credit if they rebook for a Jewel of the Seas summer 2021 cruise from Limassol, Cyprus.

"If you re-book by June 13th, 2021 on a sailing departing from Limassol, Cyprus onboard Jewel of the Seas, we’ll give you an additional $400 OBC. You must rebook at prevailing rate to qualify for the $400 OBC"

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on Facebook his dismay the sailings had to be cancelled, as well as what's next for the ship.

"Today we announce the re deployment of Odyssey of the Seas from Israel to Florida.  The conflict makes it unsafe for our crew and guests and there is too much uncertainty.  In the next day or so Odyssey will begin its voyage to Florida.   More announcements to follow."

There are reports from crew members on the ship that Odyssey of the Seas will now head to Port Canaveral, Florida to offload crew members to another ship while the ship waits for cruises to resume from the United States.

Both Odyssey and Anthem of the Seas are docked at Limassol, Cyprus right now.

Cruises from Israel were to begin in June, and offer 3 to 7-night round trip sailings from Haifa to Cyprus and Greece.

Snorama, the exclusive sales representative of Royal Caribbean in Israel, estimated that 50,000 Israelis were going to go on the 25-30 cruises. That would have amounted to about $50 million in sales.

This is the second time Odyssey's inaugural sailings have been cancelled.

Odyssey of the Seas originally was scheduled to sail out out of Civitavecchia, Italy in May 2021, but was redeployed to Israel due to the global health crisis.

With Odyssey of the Seas no longer sailing in June, that will make Adventure of the Seas the second Royal Caribbean International ship to restart sailings, following Quantum of the Seas in Singapore.

Cruise industry wants you to tell President Biden to let cruise ships sail again

By: Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry is asking cruise fans once again to voice their support for the industry.

The pace of progress by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is stifling a rapid return to service, and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is now asking cruise fans and industry insiders to tell the White House how they feel.

In March 2021, CLIA implored cruise fans to contact their elected officials in the House and Senate and tell them to urge the Biden Administration to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). 

Now, CLIA wants everyone to contact President Joe Biden and tell him the same thing.

A new call to action has been sent out to those that used CLIA's Action Center previously to do it again, but this time send messages to the Biden Administration.

"Please take a moment to Email the White House and let the Biden Administration know that there is no reason cruising should not be able to resume in the United States in July!", the email says.

CLIA calls the current CDC requirements for vaccinated cruisers, "inconsistent" with rules the agency provides for the general public.

"By July, current trends indicate that at least 70% of the adult population will have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and many sectors will be operating at significantly increased, if not full, capacity. And yet, cruise ships are still subject to outdated guidance and restrictions."

In order to make it simple to contact President Biden (and your elected officials too), CLIA has updated their Action Center website with a new option that includes the President.

The hope is with enough pressure, the government will act to get cruise ships sailing this summer and salvage the season, including Alaska cruises.

Why should cruise ships be able to sail?

Cruise ships have been shutdown in the United States since March 2020, when the cruise industry volunteered to stop cruising in the early days of the global health crisis.  Since then, the CDC instituted a ban on cruise ships.

While restaurants, ballparks, music venues, convention centers, casinos, and countless other venues reopen or begin easing restrictions with little or no vaccine requirements, the cruise industry is still shut down despite enhanced public health measures, and even proposing to operate some voyages exclusively with vaccinated passengers and crew. 

The cruise industry has adopted sweeping new health protocols that are unparalleled in the travel industry. Lead by an independent group of scientists and public health experts, the Healthy Sail Panel has provided the industry with clear ways to offer cruises in a responsible and low risk manner during the current health crisis.

Cruise ships will employ testing for every passenger and crew member, new ways of circulating air and filtration, enhanced cleanliness onboard, and contact tracing.

No other form of leisure travel employs as sophisticated or extensive protocols, nor do any have to answer to the CDC for permission to operate.

CDC adds new rules for screening cruise ship passengers and back to back cruisers

By: Matt Hochberg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made another update to its rules for cruise ships wishing to restart cruises from the United States.

On Friday, the federal agency added new guidelines to its Operations Manual, which provide the cruise industry with requirements and recommendations for cruises to begin.

These directions apply to both test cruises, as well as revenue cruises while the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) is in effect.

Screening new cruise ship passengers

The CDC now requires cruise lines to look for symptoms or signs of COVID-19 and screen for a known close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.

Passengers with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 could still go on the cruise if they are fully vaccinated, but denied boarding if not fully vaccinated and without documentation of recovery.

Passengers who have a known close contact exposure in the past 14 days will also be denied boarding if not fully vaccinated and without documentation of recovery. Fully vaccinated may board at the cruise line's discretion.

The CDC defines documentation of recovery from COVID-19 as:

  • Paper or electronic copies of their previous positive viral test result (dated no more than 90 days ago), and
  • A signed letter, on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and phone number of a licensed healthcare provider or public health official, stating that the traveler has been cleared to end isolation and therefore can travel. A letter that states that they have been cleared to end isolation to return to work or school is also acceptable. The letter does not have to specifically mention travel.

Passenger testing on test cruises and revenue cruises

The CDC outlined what type of tests are required for fully and unvaccinated passengers.

Fully vaccinated passengers do not need to be tested on embarkation day, disembarkation day, or even going on a back to back sailing. While embarkation testing is not required, international travelers arriving in the U.S. are recommended to be tested 3-5 days after arrival, including those who are fully vaccinated. Cruise operators may follow this recommendation at their discretion.

Those that are not vaccinated, will need to take a Viral (NAAT or antigen) test for embarkation day, disembarkation day, and if doing a back to back.

The CDC gives cruise lines choices in which tests cruise lines can administer, but the agency recommends Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) for use on cruise ships because it is less likely to miss cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection (i.e., higher sensitivity) when compared to antigen testing.

What is a NAAT test? There are a few of them, but the most well-known is the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

The CDC also says self-tests are not accepted at this time.

Another round of changes by the CDC

The updates are the latest revision by the CDC, following months of inaction.

On Wednesday, the CDC issued new updates as well and relaxed a few rules related to mask wearing on a cruise ship.

Much of the cruise industry has called on the CDC to provide updated guidance that matches the science of today, as well as the realities of what is happening in society.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley welcomed the updates as a "step" towards cruises returning, "Late last night we received multiple updates to the CSO from the CDC. All reflect the significant progress made with the vaccines."

"Reading the updates last night and this morning give me increased optimism. Today the light at the end of this long dark tunnel is bright. One step at a time !"

And the Operations Manual for cruise lines still retains a great deal of requirements that are either outdated, or things no other industry is compelled to do, such as designating certain stairwells as "up" and "down",or suggesting guests wear a proximity band to alert them if they are too close to someone else.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio has been the most outspoken critic of the CDC, and told Fox News recently the CDC was "unfair" in its treatment of the cruise industry.

"Every other transportation venue, entertainment venue, hospitality venue is open around the country, and we're still shut down after 15 months," he told Cavuto. "It's unfair. It's un-American."

"If there was science-fact information, we would accept it," Del Rio said. "They never shared any data with us, any scientific data or any data, period, and so, look, it seems to me they make this stuff up as they go along."

Royal Caribbean adjusts cruise ship health protocols on Singapore cruises due to Covid-19 alert

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is advising guests sailing on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore of new protocols following an increase in Covid-19 cases in Singapore.

Singapore raised its alert status to "Phase 2 - Heighten Alert", following "several clusters of infections" over the past two weeks.  A total of 46 total cases have been reported, primarily in health care areas and an airport terminal.

Our friends at Singapore Cruise Society shared an email Royal Caribbean sent to guests booked on Quantum of the Seas advising them of onboard changes as a result of the increased cases.

To be clear, these changes are not a result of any cases on the ship.

Royal Caribbean have made changes during the health situation.  

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has revised the wording of the changes

  • Quantum of the Seas is set to sail at 25% occupancy capacity
  • Group sizes will be limited to two guests per cabin booking.
  • Guest occupancy in public venues will be reduced accordingly, allowing for at least 16 sqm per guest, while theatres will be limited to 50 attendees for each show.
  • Heightened limits will apply to all pools and hot tubs and also at SeaPlex.
  • For dining, we have made adjustments to offer takeaway options, and guests will also enjoy a wide range of choices for room service. 

Refunds are being made available to any guest that wishes to not sail due to these the changes.

"The health and safety of our guests and crew are of utmost importance to us, and while we continue to monitor the situation closely, Quantum of the Seas continues sailing with a comprehensive, layered set of measures developed to protect and keep everyone onboard healthy. Our robust programme includes pre-departure screenings using the gold standard measure of PCR tests, contactless embarkation and debarkation processes, and enhanced ventilation and sanitation on the ship."

The changes are being made as a result of working with the Singaporean government.

Singapore has taken an aggressive stance at trying to detect and isolate new cases. Singapore's Ministry of Healthy outlined some of the things it is doing to curb the spread of these new cases, "To reduce the risk of any spread from undetected cases in the community, we have cast a wide net and taken swift action to detect, isolate, and ringfence any possible emerging transmissions to the community. "

"We need to act decisively to contain these risks as any one leak could result in an uncontrolled resurgence of cases. Hence we will move to impose targeted restrictions on higher risk settings such as those where there is a high density of people who are unmasked for prolonged periods."

Quantum of the Seas has been sailing from Singapore since December 2020 under special permission from the government.

The sailings have been so successful and popular that Royal Caribbean has extended her time there through October 2021, marking 11 months sailing from her homeport.

Quantum has had over 60,000 guests sail onboard with zero positive Covid-19 cases to date.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley is extremely proud of how safe and successful these sailings have been, "Royal Caribbean’s 30-plus sailings in Singapore offer a real-life, validated model of how cruising can be a unique, safe vacation beyond what many other travel options can offer."

"I'm confident we'll continue to see how successful cruising can be through a combination of our proven, healthy and safe practices, which are informed by the Healthy Sail Panel’s 74 recommendations, and the rollout of vaccines around the world."

The layered approach to health of crew members and guests will continue, such as COVID-19 testing, reduced sailing capacity, physical distancing measures, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing processes, and industry-leading contact tracing.

Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada passes U.S. Senate

By: Matt Hochberg

A possible solution to Canada's cruise ship ban is one step closer.

The United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada.

The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act (H.R. 1318) passed the Senate in a vote on Thursday, and will now to go to the U.S House of Representatives for a vote.

The bill was introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in February 2021 as a way for cruise ships to be able to sail to Alaska in 2021.

The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act is meant to alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

Canada has banned cruise ships for at least a year, which means it prohibits cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 or until the Canadian Government lifts the prohibition. 

Senator Murkowski celebrated the victory on Twitter, calling it a "huge victory".

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also celebrated the important step, citing the important economic impact cruise ships have for Alaska.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was pleased with the bill passing as well, saying on Facebook, "one step at a time"

If the bill were to become law, it would apply to any sailing that begins on or before February 28, 2022.

Of course, even if the bill passes, Alaska cruises would still need to be permitted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has its own ban on cruise ships in place.

If you think perhaps this bill may be all for naught, Royal Caribbean does not think so.

Just a few weeks ago, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said there is still a chance for cruises to sail to Alaska this year.

On April 30, Mr. Fain said Royal Caribbean and "others" are working on resolving the issue with the CDC and Canada, "we're working on both and others are working on both, but we can't be certain where that will end up."

"I think given the momentum, there's reason for some hope, but that's a sufficiently complex and confusing situation that I don't think we're going to put odds on it one way or the other."

"But as to Alaska specifically, while we're optimistic and we're working to make that happen, there are these other factors."

"We do think that will be in time for the Alaskan season. And we're obviously hopeful that we'll be able to solve the issue with Canada in either one of these two ways."

Thus far, Royal Caribbean has not canceled its 2021 Alaska or New England cruises (except for Quantum of the Seas, which is staying in Singapore).

Instead, the cruise line is placing these sailings on hold while it hopes legal action, such as this bill, will provide a means for ships to sail this year.

In the meantime, guests booked on 2021 Alaska cruises have the option to leave their bookings as-is, or cancel them.

Florida Governor dismisses Norwegian Cruise Line threat to pull cruise ships from Florida

By: Matt Hochberg

A week after Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) said it might have to pull its ships from Florida if due to the state’s new law against vaccine mandates, Florida's Governor did not seem phased.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Ormond Beach, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) did not seem concerned with the potential for NCL to move its ships away from the state.

NCL wants to restart cruises with 100% of its passengers and crew members fully vaccinated, but a new state law prohibits any company from asking for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said last week that its three brands of ships would move their Florida-based vessels to home ports in other states or even to non-U.S. ports in the Caribbean if they were forced to comply with the new rule.

"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellors and rudders, and God forbid we can operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from."

"We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would've gone to Florida. We certainly hope that doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida, it's a very lucrative market, it's close drive market."

When reporters asked Governor DeSantis about Del Rio's comment, DeSantis was not concerned with NCL's actions, and even called NCL "not one of the bigger" cruise lines. NCL is the third-largest cruise line in the world by passengers.

"The major cruise lines, Norwegian's not one of the bigger ones, by the way. Cruise lines have been operating in other parts of the world where there's no access to vaccine, much less the passengers required. And in areas where covid is more prevalent than it is in the United States right now."

"Royal Caribbean, Carnival, they want to go, they're going to be able to do it."

"I can tell you this, if one of the smaller ones says they somehow don't want that niche will get filled in Florida."

Governor DeSantis also talked about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) handling of the cruise industry during the global health crisis, and how he feels the federal agency has overreached with its policies.

Senate Bill (SB) 2006 specifies the new law prohibits "a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."

"We are challenging the CDC's authority to do what they're doing. They mothballed the industry for over a year. That was never the intent of anything Congress has ever enacted. That was them exceeding their authority."

He specifically called out same CDC cruise ship policies that even Norwegian Cruise Line had issues with, "if you're sunbathing, you have to make sure they're wearing a mask while they're sunbathing. Are you kidding me? That is an absolute farce."

Read moreA look at the CDC's "preposterous" requirements for cruise ships test sailings

In terms of the new law that prohibits a company from asking for proof of a vaccine, Governor DeSantis said he wants cruise lines to be able to operate as they see fit up until a point, "What we want is the cruise lines to be open. And we want them to be able to make decisions about how they're going to how they're going to handle a lot of this stuff. That obviously is within the context of a Florida policy that respects the medical privacy of all Floridians."

"I'll hear is most people don't like the idea that if they show up at a ballgame, they got to whip out vaccination records or some things like that. But some say, well, maybe on a cruise, maybe we could do that a little different. Trust me, it will not stop at that. The minute that they start doing this, they're going to continue to do it. It will expand."

Governor DeSantis also touched upon the injunction the state is seeking against the CDC to allow ships to sail immediately, and he seemed optimistic about the legal challenge, "We had a great hearing. I think, by and large, the reports I heard in federal court yesterday."

"We think we got our points across. We think the judge was receptive."

Baltimore will reopen cruise port on Saturday

By: Matt Hochberg

We have another positive sign the U.S. cruise industry is moving towards re-opening.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) announced plans for many restrictions to be lifted from the global health crisis, and that includes re-opening its cruise terminal.

As a result of widespread vaccination efforts and subsequent declines in key health metrics, Governor Hogan believes the time is right for restrictions to be lifted.

Along with many other venues, Maryland is moving to removing capacity restrictions on venues such as outdoor entertainment, art and sports venues as well as indoor entertainment and convention venues.

On Saturday, the Port of Baltimore will reopen its cruise terminal.

“Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day,” said Governor Hogan. “We are making amazing progress toward that goal. But once again, the fastest way to get rid of our damn masks and to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

Following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) providing cruise lines with new test sailing requirements, Executive Director of the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) William Doyle said he will be working towards a restart of cruises, "the port is a good starting point for the cruise ship industry because the ships that visit Baltimore are a little smaller."

"The MPA will continue working closely with the CDC to get cruising restarted."

Maryland will still require people to wear masks indoors, as well as at outdoor venues. Hogan said he will lift the mask mandate once 70% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Right now, 65.4% of the state’s adult population has had at least one dose, per state data.

What about other U.S. ports?

Baltimore's re-opening is good news for anyone that cruises from the Mid-Atlantic region, but what is the status of cruise ports around the country?

Many cruise ports are already open again.  Florida's cruise ports have been open and allowing cruise ships to come in for resupply and crew embarkation.

The Port of Galveston has also been open for cruise ships to conduct logistical operations during the shutdown. Last week, two Carnival Cruise Line ships came into Galveston to a flurry of celebrations.

In addition, Florida and Texas cruise ports are allowing cruise ships to get their crew members vaccinated.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) announced yesterday he will sign an executive order for the state to formally move forward with what he called New Jersey’s “most aggressive” steps yet to ease coronavirus restrictions next week.

Governor Murphy did not specify the Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne specifically in his announcement.

The Port of Los Angeles is ready for the return of cruises, especially the return of Royal Caribbean after more than a decade away.

"Our longtime partners Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines will also be resuming their robust schedule," Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said recently.

"Here at the port, each time a cruise ship calls in Los Angeles, it brings more than $1 million to area restaurants, hotels and businesses," Seroka said. "With Royal Caribbean’s nearly 100 new ship calls, along with our other cruise partners, we expect to add more than $230 million into our local economy in 2022."

CDC updates some of its rules for cruise ships

By: Matt Hochberg

A week after releasing its requirements and recommendations for cruise ships to implement as part of its test cruises, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated a handful of the rules. 

While the cruise industry welcomed a significant update from the CDC, many of the requirements were seen as over bearing and lacking scientific merit, especially since many or all of the passengers will be fully vaccinated. 

In order to conduct test or revenue cruises, cruise lines must adhere to the CDC's requirements, and subsequently apply for permission to operate from the United States.

The CDC updated the cruise lines on Wednesday with new revisions to the Operations Manual.

The updates focus in a few key areas, and attempt to slightly loosen the previous guidance primarily for fully vaccinated passengers. 

In the CDC's email, they outlined a few key areas of change:

  • Vaccinated passengers are no longer required to wear a mask outside (except in crowded spaces), but unvaccinated passengers still must, including while sunbathing on lounge chairs spaced 6 feet apart and in between bites and sips during outdoor meal service.  
  • All passengers (vaccinated or not) must still wear a mask in between bites and sips while dining indoors.  
  • The ban on independent shoreside exploration for all passengers (vaccinated and not) has been moved from a requirement to a recommendation 
  • Buffets are still prohibited, even on fully vaccinated sailings.
  • The new update continues to treat vaccinated sailings the exact same as sailings that include a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers. It treats vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers differently in some scenarios, but continues to impose the same requirements for cruise ships that require 100% vaccination as compared to those that will allow a mix.

Rescinding the shore excursion rule to a recommendation is arguably the best of the changes announced, as it leaves the decision the cruise lines and what is happening at the time of travel. 

The CDC's guidance matches Norwegian Cruise Line's change in allowing guests to book independent tours.

Unfortunately, many of the other rewording and changes leave the requirements still with a lack of common sense considering the high levels of vaccinated passengers, as well as what is happening in society on land today.

As an example, the CDC calls for an elimination of all self-service buffets and salad bars. Supermarkets around the United States have brought back their buffets months ago, and the buffets in Las Vegas are reopening, with restaurants permitted to offer 80 percent capacity and three feet of social distancing.

The guidance still retains outdated recommendations, like designating certain stairwells as "up" and "down",or suggesting guests wear a proximity band to alert them if they are too close to someone else.

At its heart, the CDC's guidance remains outdated, and slow to respond to even basic changes.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio called the CDC's guidelines "unfair" and "never consistent."

He specifically called out the rule requiring vaccinated patrons to put their masks back on between bites in a restaurant., "Even though everyone onboard would be vaccinated, in between bites of your meal and in between sips of your beverage, you have to put on your mask, take off your mask."

"Nobody should order soup because your mask might get sloppy. That to me is just preposterous."