Royal Caribbean announces 2020 Europe sailings

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released the second phase of its 2020 European sailings.

Six Royal Caribbean ships had their 2020 sailings revealed, alongside Anthem of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, which had their deployments announced a few weeks ago.

Headlining the 2020 season for Royal Caribbean in Europe will be Allure of the Seas, which will sail from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona on March 1, 2020 and then begin offering 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises until Allure heads to Miami on November 1, 2020.

Brilliance of the Seas will sail from Amsterdam, and offer sailings to the Baltics and British Isles.  Her 2020 European season will culminate with a 15-night Arctic Crossing on her way back to Boston.

Explorer of the Seas returns to Europe in 2020 to offer primarily Greek Isles cruises from Rome. Among her many itineraries, Explorer of the Seas will also offer 12-night Holy Land sailing.

Jewel of the Seas will sail a variety of itineraries in 2020, including a few sailings from Barcelona before moving to Copenhagen to sail to Scandinavia, Russia and the fjords. Jewel then returns to Barcelona to offer Greek Isles and Mediterranean sailings, including a couple of sailings to the Holy Land.

Rhapsody of the Seas will homeport in Venice, Italy, and sail primarily to the Greek Isles and Croatia.

Vision of the Seas will also sail the Mediterranean and visit destinations in the Greek Isles and Venice before heading to Cape Liberty, New Jersey on September 5, 2020.

Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members can begin booking sailings on December 18, 2018, with the general public available to begin booking on December 19, 2018.

Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break in Roatan review

By: Matt Hochberg

Sailing to Roatan on a cruise means you are very likely in the market for a shore excursion that brings you to one of the beautiful beaches that this island in Honduras is well known for.  If a beach day, combined with optional pool time and all the food and drink you can enjoy sound like the winning combination to you, then the Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break might just be the right choice for you.


The Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break is a Royal Caribbean shore excursion that will bring you to an upscale beach resort about a half an hour away by bus from where your ship docks.

Like many Royal Caribbean shore excursions, you will meet onboard the ship and be escorted off the ship to buses that are waiting to take you directly to the resort.

On the way to the beach, a tour guide narrates the trip with information about the history, culture and traditions of Roatan.  If you have taken group tours before in the Caribbean, this should feel quite familiar.

As you arrive to Mayan Princess Resort, you are greeted with a welcome drink and then taken on a quick tour of the resort to provide an overview of the layout.

Mayan Princess Resort is a hotel resort that works with the cruise lines to offer day passes to its guests.  You have the choice of spending your time between pool area or the beach. 

The 250-foot-long Mayan pool is quite large, and offers various depths with a lovely design.  There is some seating by the pool, but it is quite limited so if you want to grab a seat, you ought to get one quickly.

Most guests spend their time by the beach, which offers a lot of seating.  Beach umbrellas or palapas are not available, but the lush vegetation around the beach means there is plenty of shade if you need it.

The beach itself is quite large and getting into the ocean was smooth enough that water shoes were not a necessity.  

Photo by Billy Hirsch

There is seating towards the back of the beach, as well as seating along the beach itself. Despite the large cruise group visiting, there was ample seating for all.

Mayan Princess offers an open bar that serves up a selection of local beer, spirits, fruit punch and soft drinks. This means waiters are happy to come around and take your drink order, or you can head to one of the bars and grab it yourself.  

Upon arrival there was a snack area for those that were already hungry.


Lunch is served buffet style and featured a fairly typical island barbecue menu.  There was enough variety offered to satisfy picky eaters too.  The menu features coconut chicken and fried plantains, as well as signature burgers, fish fingers and hot dogs.


In our cruising experience, group excursions to beaches have been hit or miss for us, as often the experience can be crowded with other cruise guests to the point that it is hard to overlook.  Nonetheless, Mayan Princess broke that mold and offered a relaxing day for us to enjoy.

First and foremost, I relish excursions that offer a pool and beach option.  For families, having the choice is a great equalizer for the unpredictable moods our kids can be in, and/or weather conditions. The pool was chilly, but the kids did not seem to mind and eventually we all got used to it.  As mentioned earlier, seating by the pool is limited, so if you want to sit there, grab a spot early.

The beach was lovely and provided the kind of Caribbean vibe I think most look for in a beach excursion.  There was a band playing island tunes, reasonably sized waves, cool breeze and palm trees all around.  

Photo by Billy Hirsch

It is worth noting that there were quite a few vendors that would walk up and down the beach selling goods and services.  This is not uncommon in the Caribbean, especially since the beaches are open to the public.  A simple "no thank you" and the vendors move on.

Mayan Princess includes drinks and food.  The waiter service was adequate, although not quite as regular as some other all-inclusives we have been to.  Nonetheless, the staff was friendly and the bar was never far away. The quality of drinks provided certainly met our expectations.  The lunch buffet was also pretty good, and I enjoyed the variety of food offered.  It is always a relief to see some basic fare (hot dogs or burgers) served up along side local cuisine, so no one went hungry on our visit.

Overall, Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break was a day well-spent in Roatan.  By the time it was time to leave, I think we all wish we could have had another hour or two to enjoy just a little bit more fun while there.  That is usually a sign of a good time.

Cost: $99.00 per adult or $49.00 per child. Infants are free.

Video: Symphony of the Seas' Godfather goes surfing on world's largest cruise ship

By: Matt Hochberg

Check out Carlos PenaVega as hangs ten, onboard the world’s largest ship, Symphony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean returns to New Orleans to offer cruises once more

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean made its return to the Port of New Orleans when recently when Vision of the Seas homeported at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal for its inaugural cruise Dec. 15, 2018.

“Royal Caribbean is a valued cruise line partner that we are excited to welcome back to the Crescent City,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port of New Orleans President and CEO. “Our commitment to top-notch service combined with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Big Easy will add another dimension to the dynamic Royal Caribbean cruise experience.”

The 2,514-passenger ship will sail seasonal, seven-night itineraries from Port NOLA to culture-rich destinations across the Bahamas, Caribbean and Yucatan Peninsula through March 2019.

Royal Caribbean wins Best Cruise Line Overall for 16th year in a row

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean was named the “Best Cruise Line Overall” and “Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean” in the Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards for the sixteenth year in a row.

At the 2018 awards ceremony, Royal Caribbean also won “Best Cruise Line Sales & Service” for the eleventh year in a row. In addition, Royal Caribbeantook home the “Best Entertainment” award, while Harmony of the Seas was named“Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship” – both honors received for the second consecutive year.

“All year, we make it a point to hear from and collaborate with our travel partners – their feedback is invaluable. Sweeping the top cruise categories in Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards is such an honor and a testament to the powerful relationships we have with advisors,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Royal Caribbean International. “Being recognized as ‘Best Cruise Line Overall’ and ‘Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean’ since the inception of the awards, as well as the best in sales and service, entertainment and individual ships year after year shows our connections with the community continue to build. We thank Travel Weekly and our valued advisors for their ongoing support, and will continue to deliver on our commitment and promise to seeing them succeed.”

Travel Weekly recognized the honorees at its sixteenth annual Readers’ Choice Awards held at the Conrad New York. Winners were selected in 78 categories in the airline, car, hospitality, rail, GDS, agent education, tour, cruise, destination, loyalty program and theme park sectors. The awards are presented to suppliers considered by Travel Weekly readers who led the way in product and service during the past year.

2019 Royal Caribbean Cruise Planning Guide

By: Matt Hochberg

Our 2019 Royal Caribbean trip planning guide includes all the tips you need for a vacation, whether you’re a first-timer or regular cruiser. This blog post was written to help anyone cruising in 2019 save time and money, as well as get a good sense of the intriguing onboard activities, where to eat, and fully plan your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

It may come as a surprise to first-time cruisers just how much goes into planning a cruise vacation.Sure, you can plop yourself at the pool everyday and call that a great break, but in reality, Royal Caribbean offers its guests so many great things to see and do that it can be overwhelming without a plan.  There is a ton to know before you take a Royal Caribbean cruise, and while planning requires a bit more time, the payoff is worth it.  After taking dozens of Royal Caribbean cruises, we have learned a lot, and try to distill it into something easy to absorb to make your planning easier.

Think of this post as "Royal Caribbean 101," with everything organized into the most important considerations of planning a cruise. This page is a jumping off point to give you some background information on each aspect of the cruise, with a ton of links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information.

What's new for 2019

Without a doubt, Royal Caribbean's biggest change in 2019 will be the launch of its upgraded private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay

A new pier is scheduled to become operational in January 2019, which means more ships can call on CocoCay since docking at a pier makes it easier for ships to get to the island, instead of relying on tender boats that are subject to weather and sea conditions.

The bulk of Perfect Day at CocoCay's $200 million transformation will occur in May, when a number of new and exciting additions open up for guests. Royal Caribbean is adding a tethered helium balloon,  Thrill Waterpark, with the tallest waterslide in North America, Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool, new dining options, Splashaway Bay aquapark and more. In short, Royal Caribbean is planning for Perfect Day at CocoCay to become an instant hit with families, and the kind of destination you want to visit on any Caribbean sailing.

Royal Caribbean will also launch a brand new cruise ship in 2019, its fourth Quantum Class cruise ship, Spectrum of the Seas.  Designed specifically for the Chinese market, Spectrum of the Seas will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai, China starting in June 2019.  Spectrum is scheduled for delivery to Royal Caribbean in April 2019.

Speaking of ships, Navigator of the Seas will undergo a $115 million modernization in early 2019 that will add some significant changes, including an awe-inspiring Caribbean poolscape, waterslides, the first blow dry bar at sea, nightlife and dining, and thrilling activities for the whole family. Navigator will get two new waterslides that have never been offered on any other ship.  Royal Caribbean also decided to completely reimagine its pool area, with a Caribbean feel.  

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Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 16, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Good news, we are all one week closer to our next Royal Caribbean cruise!  In case you missed any of the Royal Caribbean fun from this week, here is our weekly round up!

Royal Caribbean made headlines this week when it announced its 2020-2021 Northeast sailings and revealed Oasis of the Seas will sail from the New York City area in 2020.

Oasis of the Seas arriving to Cape Liberty on May 6, 2020 and staying through October 25, 2020.  Oasis of the Seas will return to Florida on November 4, 2020.

When Oasis arrives in Cape Liberty, she will offer a quick 4-night Canada Getaway cruise on May 6 before offering 7-night sailings down to the Bahamas, with stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau and CocoCay.  On August 1, 2020, she will offer an 8-night sailing that adds a stop in Miami.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 280th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, Matt talks with Colleen from Cruise Critic about the awards Royal Caribbean recently won.

In this episode, Colleen shares what catapulted Royal Caribbean ahead of other cruise lines to win three distinct awards at the Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards.

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.

Cruise with Matt to New England and Canada!

We are so excited to announce the next group cruise for readers and staff of aboard Brilliance of the Seas!  This is an exclusive group where we are inviting you, our readers, to join us on a fantastic Brilliance of the Seas sailing on an 7-night cruise to Canada & New England.

This Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise is all about enjoying a fun Royal Caribbean cruise along with other fans who are big fans of Royal Caribbean.  Don't miss this opportunity to check out the amazing ship as well as be a part of exclusive events for those that book with our group!

For more details on booking the cruise, the itinerary and prices, check out the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise page and if you have any questions, email me!

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Eyewitness News reported Royal Caribbean hired more than 200 Bahamians.

Beyond Ships reviewed Terminal A cruise terminal in PortMiami.

Cruise & Ferry shared why Royal Caribbean worked with Elation Professional to provide lighting to Symphony of the Seas.

Marine Insight reported that Royal Caribbean was named Best Cruise Line at the 2018 National Geographic Traveler Awards Russia.

Eat Sleep Cruise shared their restaurant menus on Symphony of the Seas.

Friday Photos - December 14, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

If it's Friday, that means we are sharing our reader's best Royal Caribbean photos in this week's Friday Photos showcase.  As always, we want to include as many of our readers photos as we can, so be sure to send us your best Royal Caribbean photos too!

Joe Moran starts us off with a look at the Solarium at night while on Freedom of the Seas.

Kinny Lee took this beautiful photo of a calm and clear night on Liberty of the Seas.

Ken shared this classic view of Oasis of the Seas docked in Labadee.

Check out this photo by Drew Christy of the sun rising in front of Oasis of the Seas, while the ship was docked in Port Canaveral.

Here is a photo by Angela Sarcone taken during the lobster catamaran lunch excursion in Antigua.

Greg Seah shared this photo while on Voyager of the Seas.

Our final photo this week is by Susan Garrett, and it is of Navigator of the Seas while in Labadee.

Do you have Royal Caribbean photos that you want to share?  We'd love to feature them so send them in by using our nifty submission form and maybe your photos will show up in next week's edition!

Royal Caribbean offering bonus instant savings on cruises booked this weekend

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Season's Savings Sale is offering 30% off all guests, plus bonus instant savings of up to $150 off the cruise fare.

The Season's Savings Sale is valid on new cruises booked December 13, 2018 – December 17, 2018 on all sailings departing on or after January 13, 2019. 

The promotion includes:

  • 30% off cruise fare for all guests in the same stateroom
  • Up to $150 instant savings per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length:
    • On sailings 5 nights or less, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
    • On sailing 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $150 for Suites

30% Off All Guests is combinable with Season’s Savings Sale, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Season’s Savings Sale is combinable with promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers and Free Upgrades but not combinable with Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.  Promo Code driven offers are based on select ships and sail dates and must be applied at time of booking, limit one promo code per booking.

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. 

DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel Review

By: Matt Hochberg

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida is located in the heart of downtown Miami, a mere few miles from PortMiami.  We tried out this hotel as a pre-cruise hotel stay before a Royal Caribbean cruise and have our thoughts on what the hotel offers and our experience staying here.

Being in downtown Miami, the DoubleTree is located quite close to PortMiami.  In fact, many of the rooms in the hotel offer a view of the port. The proximity to PortMiami makes this a compelling choice for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

This particular hotel is a waterfront condominium hotel located next to Sea Isle Marina.  What this means is as you enter the building, you will notice two entrances.  One entrance is for hotel guests and the other for condo residents.  Evidently this is a thing in Miami, where the building owner can invest in multiple revenue streams (hotel guests and tennants).  

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay offers 152 guest rooms, along with 50 condominiums for short or extended stays. Since it is downtown, you can easily walk out the hotel and explore some nearby attractions and restaurants.  Miami is more spread out than some other major American cities, so expect to rely on taxis or ride sharing to truly get around town.

One nice aspect of the hotel is attached to the lobby area is a small shopping plaza, which has coffee shops, restaurants, convenience store, hair stylist and more.  There was a surprising amount of shops in this area, and it is extremely convenient to not have to leave the hotel building and have access to a lot of services.

The hotel does have a large outdoor pool for guests to use during their stay, along with a fitness center and 24-hour business center.

The room itself is quite large, with lots of living space.

The bathroom is large as well, and offers a great deal of space for toiletries and a shower/tub that does not feel confined at all.

The rooms have a balcony, and if you are lucky enough to have a room that faces the water, you not only get extra living space to enjoy, but a fantastic view of the ships in port.

Thanks to John Bamber for providing these photos

Overall, the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay is a clean, safe and well-appointed hotel suitable for anyone that needs a hotel before or after their cruise.  It may not be the least expensive hotel in downtown Miami, but it is likely to be a mid-range priced hotel and not one you have to be concerned about compromising on the quality.

If you are just staying one night, I think this hotel is just fine for a place to rest and relax until you depart on your cruise. 

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!