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The cruise ship shore excursion mistake that sounds like a better idea than it really is

01 Jun 2023
Matt Hochberg

It may seem like a good idea, but you're better off not double booking shore excursions no matter how good it seems.

Family on pier

Cruise ships stop in ports of call around the world, and it's tempting to try to "see it all" while you're there for the day.

For many people, this might be the only time they get to visit these places.  Regardless of if you return again, people like the idea of enjoying the kind of humble brag activities they can share with friends and families.

On days when your ship is docked most of the day, it may seem like a good idea to book two shore excursions on the same day, but in practice, it ends up being more problematic than you might think.

You have less time than you think

Gangway in Nassau port

The reason why booking two tours on the same day is a bad idea is the issue of time management.

First, you'd need to line up two shore excursions back to back that provide enough time to conclude one without being late for the second one.

Quite often, tours run a bit long.  Or the tour lacks an indication of time required to transport you to and from the meeting point.

The last thing you'd want to do is miss out on your second tour because you couldn't get to the meeting point for that excursion on time.

Basically, it's more difficult than you think to have a good idea of when exactly a tour will end so you can be ready for the second tour.

Port times can be misleading

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Also, the times your ship is listed to dock isn't necessarily the time you're in port.

Cruise lines will list the time they expect to dock and the time they expect to depart, but those aren't the times you can actually get off the ship.

It takes a bit for the ship to physically dock, tie up, and then get clearance from the local authorities.  Clearance can sometimes take a while if the port authority deems it necessary to conduct a more thorough investigation.

Skagway, Alaska, pier with Serenade of the Seas docked

At the end of the day, the sail away time is the time the ship will leave the port.  This means you need to be back onboard at least a half hour earlier.

Of course, the all-aboard time is the absolute last minute to get back, so you'll need to realistically get back sooner than that time.  

All of this adds up to less time in port than it might otherwise appear.

Shore excursions are tiring

St KItts volcano

Even if you get the timing perfect, the second reason to avoid booking two excursions on the same day is the energy required.

When you research shore excursions at home from the comfort of your couch, desk, or bed, you have all the energy in the world and feel up for just about anything.

But after a couple of hours in the hot and humid Caribbean sun, or enduring rain in your face in Alaska, your energy levels are going to be totally different.

Exploring the islands and cities your ship visit takes a toll on your body, even basic sightseeing tours.  Buses are uncomfortable, and you probably had to wake up early to prepare for that morning excursion.

Working in two hours in one day may leave you exhausted.

You can still do more than one thing

San Juan Street

Don't confuse this advice of avoiding two tours to mean you can't do something else in port before or after your shore excursion.

Walking around on your own or just taking a taxi to a nearby beach is a much better way to still enjoy what your port of call has to offer, while adding far more flexibility.

If your first tour took a while and you're now hard pressed for time, you could take a quick stroll and then head back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.

Paradise Island beach

But if your first tour is over and you have plenty of time, you can still enjoy a DIY excursion and head to a beach or city center for more exploration.

In fact, many tours I've been on will offer guests a different drop off point at the end of the excursion that isn't the cruise ship.

By booking only one tour, you have much more flexibility to "roll with the punches" depending on how you're feeling and how the time is working out.

Another option is to come back again

Oasis Class ship docked in Nassau

If the port you're set to visit has really impressive things to do and you want to do more than one thing there, the easiest solution is to book another cruise.

People that cruise a lot will tell you they'll repeat itineraries often because they want to go back to a particular port of call.

Granted, the cost of another cruise isn't insignificant, but planning another vacation isn't a bad idea at all either!

Stick to one tour, but be open to additional exploring

Family on Alaska tour

My best advice is book just one shore excursion per day and leave the option open to do something on your own when it ends.

While you certainly could book two tours in the same day when your ship is in port for 10 or more hours, the logistics (and associated stress) of getting back and then to the next tour just isn't worth it.

I think you'll find plenty to do on your own if you want to continue enjoying the port without having to secure a second excursion.

Royal Caribbean designed its new Icon of the Seas cruise ship to have a beach retreat experience

01 Jun 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has designed plenty to do on its next new cruise ship, including ways to relax, as if you were at the beach.

Cove pool

Icon of the Seas will launch early next year, and among the many things you can do onboard will also be ways to not to anything.

The cruise line is known for packing its ships the sort of whizzbang features that capture the imagination of the public, but they also want to ensure it has thrills, dining variety, nightlife, and shopping to make a great resort getaway.

Two new neighborhoods will be part of the Icon of the Seas launch aimed at giving guests the perfect spot for a calm escape: Chill Island and The Hideaway.

Chill Island and Hideaway

In short, Royal Caribbean wanted to create something more than just your average cruise ship pool decks.

Chill Island

Pool aerial on Icon of the Seas

Located in the middle of the top deck is the new multi-deck experience centered around the idea of enjoying time by the water.

Whether it's sitting by the pool, listening to the Caribbean band, or enjoying time at the ship's swim-up bar, the idea behind Chill Island is you can pick from different ways to take it easy.

You won't have to go far to find an aquatic escape, as Chill Island has plenty of it.

Chill Island

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley saw the demand for being in close proximity to water as important to their customers, "Our research told us that people wanted to not only look at the water, see the ocean, but they wanted to be surrounded by water, whether it's a whirlpool, Jacuzzi, whether it's a swimming pool, whether it's a beach pool, really, that whole experience is built around water."

That lead Royal Caribbean to want to build more pools than ever before. In fact, there's 62% more water surface area than on the Oasis Class cruise ships.

You'll find the largest pool at sea, an adult only pool, and the first suspended infinity pool at sea. Five of the seven pools on Icon of the Seas are located in Chill Island.

Royal Bay

Royal Bay: the largest pool ever put on a ship. The entry of the pool has shallow water, along with two hot tubs that flank either side of the pool. There's also the longest deep water pool that the cruise line has ever created.

Swim & Tonic

Swim & Tonic: The first true swim-up bar that you'll find on a Royal Caribbean ship, and it will have a party vibe all day. You'll find a DJ nearby so that you can dance in the shallow water or just enjoy the experience.

Cove Pool

The Cove: A smaller pool with infinity ocean views.  Think more zen than busy, as it has a calmer experience. Royal Caribbean put it on the edge of the ship so you can not only sit in the water, but also enjoy views of the ocean.

Cloud Pool

Cloud 17: This is the adult-only area on Icon of the Seas.  While the ship doesn't have a Solarium, it does have a new take on adults-only. It has views of the ocean, cocktails, and hot tubs to enjoy.

The Hideaway

The Hideaway

Royal Caribbean describes its Hideaway neighborhood as having a combination of day club and beach club, centered around a suspended infinity pool.

In fact, this is the first suspended infinity pool on a cruise ship, with 180-degree views of the ocean.

The Hideaway on Icon of the Seas

"You can get incredible views, great music, fantastic drinks with proximity to food from base camp. And it's going to be a place our guests are going to really make it their hideaway," said Royal Caribbean's Associate Vice President of Product Development, Claudia Diaz-Gonzalez .


Royal Caribbean is planning on creating a few special cocktails specifically for the Hideaway neighborhood to further enhance what makes this area unique.

Connection to the ocean

Cove Pool and the ocean

While both of these neighborhoods have intriguing things to enjoy, Royal Caribbean wanted to ensure you had a view to the ocean so it felt just like a beach resort.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said this wasn't just a gut feeling, but in fact something the line heard from customers, "When it comes down to market research, and of course understanding what our guests are looking to do, we know one of the major draws is wanting to be connected to the water."

"And so you'll see we've really leveraged the latest shipping nautical technology to really bring some of our spaces to just grander levels so people always feel like they're connected to the ocean."

Hideaway at sunset

More than just having pools, you'll notice the design of the pools draws the guest towards the ocean.  You'll notice the pools on Icon of the Seas allow guests to physically be in the water while looking at the ocean.

7 reasons to eat at specialty restaurants instead of the Main Dining Room on your cruise

31 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean are not included in your cruise fare, but we think they’re worth the splurge.

With so much food included in your cruise fare, some passengers scoff at the idea of spending extra on specialty restaurants. After all, most specialty restaurant dinners cost around $50, and spending extra may seem silly when you can eat elsewhere for free.

Others, however, prefer the ambiance, food quality, and cuisine options at specialty restaurants, even if they come with an added charge.

Many first time cruisers are torn between whether they should dine at specialty restaurants or stick to complimentary venues like the Main Dining Room and Windjammer buffet. It’s hard to pass up the exciting specialty dining options, whether teppanyaki or New England-style seafood, but is it worth it?

Here are 7 reasons to eat at specialty restaurants instead of the Main Dining Room on your cruise.

More intimate atmosphere

One of the main reasons passengers choose to dine at specialty restaurants as opposed to the Main Dining Room is for the more intimate atmosphere. Generally speaking, dining at a specialty restaurant feels more like a refined restaurant on land whereas the Main Dining Room feels more like a banquet dinner.

Specialty restaurants are smaller in size compared to the Main Dining Room and have more curated theming and decor. Tables are typically further apart than in the dining room as well, allowing guests to have more privacy while dining.

Some specialty restaurants have outdoor seating as well. Jamie’s Italian on select Quantum Class ships has outdoor seating on the promenade deck whereas Chops Grille and the Italian restaurant on Oasis Class ships feature outdoor seating in Central Park.

There are few date nights more romantic than dining outdoors at Central Park while a guitarist plays classical music in the background. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want a romantic night out, dining outdoors can be an excellent option.

Wider range of cuisines

Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants offer a wide range of cuisines, from Brazilian to Japanese and barbecue.

In the mood for sushi? The only place to eat sushi, sashimi, ramen, and other Japanese favorites is at Izumi, which comes at an extra cost.

Likewise, if you’re craving southern American cuisine such as a classic po’boy or shrimp and grits, look no further than The Mason Jar on Wonder of the Seas.

Mason Jar with kids

Even though the Main Dining Room offers a themed menu each evening for dinner, they rarely offer the same cuisine found in specialty restaurants. The only nights that may feature cuisine similar to specialty restaurants is on Mexican night and Italian night, although there will be far fewer options compared to a specialty restaurant like Sabor or Giovanni’s Table.

Unique dining concepts

Many Royal Caribbean fans are familiar with Wonderland, the cruise line’s eclectic, whimsical dining experience inspired by the tales of Alice and Wonderland. Dining at Wonderland is worlds away from the Main Dining Room, and currently offers the most unique dining experience found at any Royal Caribbean restaurant.

Related: I paid $60 to eat at Royal Caribbean’s most bizarre restaurant

A restaurant like Samba Grill also offers a unique dining experience. This Brazilian churrasco restaurant offers all-you-can-eat meat in addition to a variety of appetizers, sides, and desserts.

Train concept car

When Utopia of the Seas launches in 2024, she will feature a restaurant designed like a “moving” train car, with screens transporting guests to far-flung destinations out the window. This type of dining experience is something that cannot be replicated in a complimentary venue on Royal Caribbean.

The cost is not exorbitant

In the grand scheme of a cruise vacation, spending extra for specialty dining will not add that much more to your overall vacation cost.

On my upcoming 9-night cruise, the Unlimited Dining Package, with gratuity added, is $334. Considering that dining is such an important part of the overall cruise experience, adding a little over $300 to the overall vacation cost for unlimited meals at specialty restaurants may be worth it for many cruisers.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Package

Even if you don’t want the Unlimited Dining Package, you can usually find the 3-night dining package for around $120 with gratuity added. Considering that $120 is the cost of one shore excursion, eight cocktails, or half a spa treatment, it’s probably not a budget-breaker for most passengers.

You can also choose to book restaurant reservations individually. If you book specialty restaurants for lunch, you can find great deals. Many specialty restaurants are often half price at lunchtime and offer similar menus, meaning you can try a specialty restaurant for around $25.

There’s also the opportunity to dine at à la carte specialty restaurants. As opposed to a cover charge, these restaurants charge per-item, giving you more flexibility in how much you spend.

You can visit Playmakers and order $6 nachos for a snack or spend $19 on udon noodles at Izumi. There’s no rule saying you have to spend $50 every time you visit a specialty restaurant; à la carte restaurants can be an easy way to try different venues without breaking the bank.

You can use onboard credit

Giovanni's Table on Allure of the Seas

Speaking of not blowing your budget, did you know you can use onboard credit for specialty restaurants?

If you received onboard credit while booking your cruise, whether from a travel agent or booking promotion, you can put that credit toward specialty restaurants and dining packages.

Think of onboard credit as free money. You can use onboard credit to pay for drinks and souvenirs while onboard, or you can reserve items ahead of time on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website.

Related: Royal Caribbean onboard credit: How to get it and where to spend it the smart way

Booking specialty restaurants with onboard credit is a nice way to feel like your specialty restaurant meal is free, as you won’t pay anything extra for the dining experience. If you don’t have enough onboard credit to cover the entire reservation, you can pay the remaining balance with a credit card.

Better quality food


While food is subjective, many passengers find the food at specialty restaurants to be of higher quality than dishes in complimentary venues like the Windjammer and Main Dining Room.

Simply put, cooking for 5000 passengers is vastly different from cooking for a few hundred. Dishes in specialty restaurants are not cooked in mass quantities, allowing chefs to give extra attention to the dish before it’s served.

A great comparison between complimentary and specialty dining is with Italian food. You can find Italian food almost every day in the Windjammer and Main Dining Room, from chicken parmesan to pasta and pizza, but it won’t be nearly the same quality as Italian food at specialty restaurants.

Jamie's Italian

And while ordering a strip steak in the Main Dining Room will be satisfying, it won’t usually be on par with the filet you can order from Chops Grille or Giovanni’s Table.

This isn’t to say the food in the Main Dining Room isn’t good, but specialty restaurants take cruise ship dining quality to the next level.

It makes your cruise more fun


Dining at the same venue for dinner each evening can get monotonous, even if you plan to switch between the Main Dining Room and Windjammer.

Booking specialty restaurants can help break up the day to day routine on a cruise and give you something extra to look forward to. Instead of eating in the Main Dining Room every evening, why not book a few lunches or dinners at specialty restaurants?

Even if you enjoy the food in the dining room, there’s nothing wrong with splurging in order to have more fun on a cruise vacation. When you look back on your cruise months later, you may not remember your fourth night in the dining room, but you will remember the fun you had dining at teppanyaki or Wonderland.

Like any cruise add-on, specialty restaurants are completely optional, but they can enhance your overall vacation experience.

Check out more cruise ship dining tips:

Is a cruise ship cabin on deck 2 bad?

31 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Cruise ship cabins are found on almost every deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, but is it a bad idea to reserve on the lowest deck?

Deck 2 cabins

Royal Caribbean cruise ships of all sizes have cabins on the lowest deck passengers can access, which is usually deck 2.  On Royal Caribbean's biggest ships (Oasis and Quantum Class), it would be deck 3.

Crew members have cabins in even lower decks, but the passenger decks begin at deck 2.

Here's what you should know about booking a cabin on deck 2 of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

About cabins on deck 2

Grandeur of the Seas hallway

When you book a cabin, Royal Caribbean allows you to select the exact cabin you want. This includes rooms on deck 2 on most ships.

While there is a deck 1, there's no cabins down there.  So the lowest deck you can stay on is deck 2, except for Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships on deck 3.

There are two types of staterooms on the lowest passenger deck: inside and oceanview cabins.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Inside cabins have no windows or views outside of your room.

Read moreWhy you should book a cruise ship inside room

Oceanview cabin

Oceanview cabins have either a porthole or large window that looks out to the ocean. The window doesn't open or move, but it does provide natural light and a peek outside.

Even at deck 2, oceanview cabins are above the water line.

Read moreInside cabin vs. oceanview cabin: Are the differences worth an upgrade?

Oceanview cabin

One variation you may find of cabins on these decks are larger oceanview rooms, which Royal Caribbean calls "spacious oceanview rooms".

Another type of cabin are cabins designed for solo cruisers, such as the Studio Ocean View on Deck 3 on Harmony of the Seas.

Read moreThe 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

You won't find any balcony cabins or suites on the lowest passenger deck.

Is deck 2 on a cruise ship bad?

Hallway on Brilliance of the Seas

Should you avoid a cabin on deck 2 or 3 of a cruise ship? Or are these hidden gems?

By far the best reason to book a stateroom on the lowest deck is it will probably save you money.

Inside and oceanview rooms are typically the cheapest cabins, and since most guests would pick a cabin on a higher deck, prices tend to be less on the lowest deck.

Large interior room

Another advantage of staying on a low deck is the lack of movement you may perceive.  The common piece of advice regarding avoiding seasickness is booking a cabin on a low deck, mid ship. 

Since deck 2 (or 3) is the lowest decks you can book, those sensitive to motion sickness may find these low decks beneficial. 

You may also feel like a genius by having a cabin on deck 2 when you return to the ship after a shore excursion.

Royal Caribbean ships docked with gangway

There's always a wait for the elevator to get back upstairs, but those staying on the lowest decks can take a short walk back to their room.  After a long day on land, it's nice to get back to your room (and in the shower) sooner than later!

If all of this sounds great, here are some reasons to avoid cabins on deck 2.

Balcony smooth seas

As mentioned, there's only inside and oceanview cabins on the lowest deck.  If those types of rooms aren't your favorite, then this won't work for you.

By being on a low deck, you're also relying on an elevator more than people on a higher deck.  Royal Caribbean ships that have 14, 16, or even 18 decks mean you're either taking long walks up and down the stairs, or waiting more for an elevator.  Someone on a higher deck, could more easily "commute" between their room and popular public decks.

Cove pool

Sometimes noise can be an issue, since your cabin might be near crew areas where work is done throughout the day and night. Light sleepers may find this especially problematic.

One thing to look at is what is one deck above and below your cabin to ensure there aren't public venues nearby.

Should you book a cabin on the lowest deck of a cruise ship?

Side of Quantum of the Seas

Ultimately, booking a room on the lowest deck of your ship isn't necessarily a problem, but you should be okay with the disadvantages.

The primary reason someone would want to book a cabin on deck 2 or 3 is because of the price. Since these tend to be the most inexpensive cabins you can book, it's hard to overlook the price.

Even with the additional reliance on elevators, the price savings you can get outweighs the potential commute times required to get around the ship. But if you're the type of person that spends a lot of time in their room, then a low deck location may not matter.

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

I really like the convenience cabins on a low deck have to the main dining room and casino.  

While most guests may end up booking a cabin on a higher deck, the cost savings alone may make it a smart choice.

Cruise ship occupancy rates are over 100%. Why that isn’t actually a problem (or what you think it means)

30 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group ships sailed at 102.1% capacity in the first quarter of 2023, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. 

Pool deck

There’s no doubt the cruise industry rebound from the 2020-2021 shutdown is in full force. 

After struggling with restarting operations, things are quite good for the “big three” cruise companies: Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Carnival Corporation. 

In fact, business is so good that the average cruise line occupancy rates for the first quarter of 2023 for these lines either exceeded or came close to 100%. 

  • Royal Caribbean: 102.1%
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: 101.5%
  • Carnival Cruise Line: 91.0%

If seeing those kind of numbers looks like a bad thing because it means their cruises are oversold, it’s actually not that case and a misleading statistic.  

What does 100% occupancy rate mean?

Promenade view cabin

Let's start by defining what it means when a cruise ship sails above 100% capacity.

That sounds like the ship is oversold or some people don't have a cabin, but you have to understand how occupancy rates are calculated for cruise ships.

The cruise industry sells cabins on its cruise ships based on double occupancy. This means the line assumes two people will be in each cabin that is booked.

Split bed configuration inside cabin

Each cabin has a capacity number, and it varies depending on the stateroom's category, as well each cruise line's methodology.

But when a cruise ship cabin planned for 2 guests adds a third or fourth guest (i.e. kids sharing a room with their parents), the capacity of that cabin exceeds 100%.

Oasis Class ship docked in Nassau

In fact, if you look at stats of a cruise ship, you'll see the ship's capacity (at double occupancy) and max capacity (when every extra passenger is included).

When you see Royal Caribbean had 102.1% occupancy rate in the first quarter of 2023, that means there were third and fourth passengers in those cabins occupying the room, which was beyond the standard double occupancy minimums.

High occupancy rates aren't new

Ship tendering

These occupancy rates aren't a new phenomenon by any means. In fact, it's the norm for the cruise lines.

Prior to 2020, it was quite typical for cruise ships to sail above 100% occupancy rates, with the mainstream lines typically sailing between 103 - 107%, depending on the ship and line.

The cruise industry has traditionally followed a business model built around managing bookings to ensure ships are always full.

Harmony of the Seas pool deck sunset

In 2019, the last full year of sailing before the pause, Royal Caribbean Group had an overall occupancy rate of 108.1%.

  • 2019: 108.1%
  • 2018: 108.9 %
  • 2017: 108.4%
  • 2016: 106.4%
  • 2015: 105.1%

As cruise lines restarted operations in 2021, occupancy rates were about half that, with some ships even starting out at 30% occupancy rate.  These rates were meant to get the ships back into service slowly. The intent was never to stay at those rates, as it would not be profitable for the line.

Occupancy rates had been a little sluggish in 2022, but Royal Caribbean saw improvement as the year progressed. Load factor for the year averaged 85%, although load factor climbed to 95% in Q4 with a high of 110% on peak December holiday sailings. 

In 2023, it's become clear based on booking rates that consumers have no hesitation about booking a cruise vacation again.

Why occupancy rates above 100% isn't a problem

Allure of the Seas

While you may see figures about higher occupancy rates in the media, the reality is that's what the ships are designed to handle in the first place.

Using Royal Caribbean as an example, their ships are built with thousands of cruise ship passengers in mind.  Venues are designed to accommodate a lot of passengers, and activities and entertainment are strategically listed to keep passengers moving around and not all doing the same thing at the same time.

Given the occupancy rates for the years preceding the cruise industry shutdown of 2020, you can see the 2023 occupancy rates we are seeing are more in line with what's normal.

When ships restarted sailing in 2021 and 2022, it set an outlier situation with some lines at less than 50% occupancy.

What about the oversold cruises?

You may have also read about oversold cruises, and that's a different and unrelated situation.

There's been reports of a handful of Royal Caribbean cruise ships that were oversold, with the cruise line asking passengers for volunteers to change sailings in order to free up space.

On those sailings, that isn't related at all to the occupancy rate.  Rather, that's a problem with the cruise line's inventory management selling too many cabins.  

From what we can tell, they're isolated incidents stemming from a mistake with Royal Caribbean's internal selling mechanism.

For an oversold Wonder of the Seas cruise in April 2023, the line informed guests, "We’re sorry to inform you that due to an unexpected inventory error, your scheduled Wonder of the Seas April 30th, 2023 sailing is currently oversold. We’re aware that this may cause disruption to your booking, so if your travel plans are flexible, you may be able to take advantage of our special offer."

It's important to understand occupancy rates have nothing to do with if a particular sailing gets oversold, because of how cruise lines count passengers in a cabin.

10 things to know before you book an Alaska cruise

30 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Planning an Alaska cruise? Before you book, there are a few things you should know.

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Cruising to the majestic, mountainous landscapes of the 49th state is an experience every traveler should have at least once. Unsurprisingly, Alaska cruises are among the most popular cruise itineraries Royal Caribbean offers.

Before booking a cruise to Alaska, there are a few key things to know. It’s important to know the best time to sail to Alaska, what to expect when it comes to weather, and to be flexible on the (likely) chance of an itinerary change.

Even if you are a seasoned cruiser, an Alaska cruise can come with surprises, and it’s helpful to be prepared to ensure your trip goes smoothly. If it’s your first cruise, knowing what to expect is even more crucial—cruising to Alaska is a whole lot different than the Caribbean!

Here are 10 things to know before you book an Alaska cruise.

The time of year you sail can impact your cruise experience

Radiance pulling into Seward

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September each year, and your experience in the state can vary from month to month.

Weather, daylight hours, wildlife viewing opportunities, and crowds change frequently throughout the Alaska cruise season. During the summer, you’ll find the warmest temperatures and most daylight, but, by far, the most crowds.

Related: What is the best time to cruise to Alaska? Month-by-month guide

Likewise, fall brings lower prices and crowds, but also less daylight and fewer wildlife viewing opportunities.

While there’s no “right” month to cruise Alaska, you should research what to expect in each month. No month will be perfect in all criteria, but certain months may work better with your travel preferences than others.

It won’t always be cold (the weather is unpredictable)

When most people think of an Alaska cruise, they imagine chilly temperatures, snow, and glaciers. Because of this, many passengers are surprised when they feel warm (or even sweat) on an Alaska cruise.

You might be surprised with how warm you feel on an Alaska cruise, especially if you’re traveling between June and August. On warm summer days, it’s possible to see temperatures in the mid 60s which, under the sun, feels fairly hot.

While packing t-shirts, shorts, and sandals for an Alaska cruise might seem odd, you might wear these items more frequently than you think. Even though the mornings may be chilly, temperatures can rise quickly throughout the day, leaving you uncomfortable in a sweater and rain jacket.

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

Skagway train

If you booked an active shore excursion, such as a cycling or hiking tour, you may feel uncomfortably warm in heavy layers. In this case, having thin layers like short sleeve shirts and lightweight shorts or pants is helpful.

Of course, you could prepare for warm weather and encounter nothing but rain and freezing temperatures during your cruise. In a state like Alaska, it’s possible to see several seasons in one day, and weather is relatively unpredictable.

Packing layers ensures you’re prepared for whichever weather conditions you encounter.

Book a one-way itinerary if you want to extend your trip

Most Royal Caribbean itineraries are round trip sailings, meaning they start and end at the same cruise port. With certain Alaska itineraries, however, you can book a one-way cruise.

One-way Alaska cruises start in Vancouver, British Columbia and travel north to Seward, Alaska (and vice versa). Like other Alaska cruises, these itineraries are 7-nights, but traveling in one direction allows guests to visit four Alaska cruise ports instead of just three.

Roundtrip Alaska cruises leaving from Seattle must make a port stop in Victoria, Canada. As part of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), all foreign-flagged ships carrying passengers from one US port to another must make a stop in a foreign port prior to returning to the United States. Victoria is the most convenient port available, as it’s situated on the way to and from Alaska.

One-way itineraries do not need to stop in Victoria as they begin or end in Vancouver, Canada. Because of this, these 7-night cruises include four port stops in Alaska instead of three, in addition to a glacier viewing day.

Because one-way itineraries start or end in Seward, you also have the opportunity to spend time in interior Alaska before or after the cruise. Extending your 7-night cruise with a few days visiting destinations like Denali National Park and Reserve and Talkeetna can make your vacation even more memorable.

Shore excursions are expensive

Mendenhall Glacier

Many first-time cruisers are surprised to see how expensive shore excursions can be on an Alaska cruise. Shore excursions on Alaska cruises tend to be significantly more expensive than shore excursions in the Caribbean. While you can certainly find budget-friendly tours, they are few and far between.

Expect to pay a minimum of $100 per person on Alaska shore excursions, and significantly more if you plan to book a helicopter ride or plane to a glacier. Most whale watching tours will be at least $150-$200, and helicopter rides landing atop Mendenhall Glacier can cost over $500 per person!

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Despite the cost, shore excursions in Alaska offer truly unique experiences that you can’t find elsewhere in the lower 48. Whether dog sledding on a glacier or kayaking through fjords, splurging on an excursion is almost always worth it.

Nonetheless, if you don’t want to break the bank with excursions, it’s easy to have a great time in port without a shore excursion. Most Alaska cruise ports are completely walkable and offer plenty of shopping, restaurants, museums, and nature to explore without booking a tour.

To better plan your day in port, whether you book an excursion or explore on your own, check out our helpful guides:

Last-minute deals are common in the shoulder season

Radiance of the Seas

More often than not, the best time to book a cruise is one to two years in advance. Booking early is generally when you’ll see the cheapest cruise fares and most stateroom options, and prices tend to only get higher closer to a cruise’s sail date.

That being said, we’ve noticed a trend with Alaska cruises in the past few years. A few months before the sailing, prices drop significantly for one-way cruise itineraries. It’s possible to see Alaska cruises for as little as $500 per person including taxes and fees, a complete steal on a weeklong vacation.

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

If your schedule is flexible, keep an eye out for last-minute Alaska cruises. Starting in March or April each year, search Royal Caribbean’s website for Alaska cruises and filter the search results by price. If demand is low for a particular sailing, Royal Caribbean may drop the price.

Radiance of the Seas docked in Vancouver

These low fares are almost always on Radiance Class ships sailing one-way itineraries from Vancouver.

These cruises see less demand due to the fact that they sail from Vancouver and that they sail one-way, as these logistics are more challenging for cruisers. Plus, Radiance Class ships are significantly smaller and older than Quantum Class ships sailing to Alaska.

Related: I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest cruise ships: Here’s what it’s like to cruise on each

These “downsides” shouldn’t deter you from booking a cheap cruise to Alaska. In fact, they aren’t necessarily downsides at all! One-way cruises allow you to dig deeper into Alaska’s culture, Vancouver is a world-class city to explore before a cruise, and small ships can offer a more intimate, quiet experience than Royal Caribbean’s larger vessels.

Be prepared for itinerary changes

Ketchikan shopping

All Royal Caribbean cruises can be subject to itinerary changes, but you may find changes more common when sailing to Alaska.

As previously stated, Alaska’s weather can be highly unpredictable, and this may lead to itinerary changes and even port cancellations. It’s not uncommon for a port day to be canceled or moved to a different day because of inclement weather.

Royal Caribbean will do everything possible to notify guests of itinerary changes before the cruise, but sometimes you will not find out of any itinerary changes until you get onboard. Unfortunately, this may mean scrambling to figure out new shore excursions and ideas for what to do in port.

Itinerary changes also happen on glacier viewing days. If the captain deems the approach to a glacier too dangerous, whether due to icebergs or low visibility, your highly awaited glacier viewing may be canceled.

Although most Alaska cruises go ahead as scheduled, it’s always important to remain flexible on the chance your itinerary is shifted.

Purchasing internet may not be necessary

ebook reader

Internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise is expensive, often costing $20 or more per day for one device. If you’re from the United States (or another country with access to US phone service), you may not need an internet package.

Related: How to get free wifi on Royal Caribbean

Depending on your itinerary, you will visit three or four ports in Alaska on your cruise. In these ports, your phone service should work as normal because you’re still in the United States. This means that during the entire port day, whether you stay onboard or get off in port, you can use your phone’s data.

If you decide against purchasing an internet package, use your time in port to catch up with friends and family, check your emails, and do any other tasks that require an internet connection.

When you leave port and your ship begins sailing to its next destination, be sure to turn off your data and turn on airplane mode. Even though you’re sailing through Alaska’s Inside Passage, your phone data may not cover the remote areas when sailing, and you want to avoid incurring hefty data charges.

Alaska cruises have a more relaxed vibe compared to Caribbean cruises

If you’re used to weekend party cruises to the Bahamas, you might be shocked by the relaxed atmosphere on an Alaska cruise. In general, cruises to cold weather destinations tend to attract a different demographic compared to Caribbean cruises.

Whereas you might find large groups of friends onboard a 3-night Freedom of the Seas cruise for a bachelorette party, you’re more likely to see families on an Alaska cruise.

Not only that, but Alaska cruises have less of a party atmosphere compared to cruises in tropical destinations. Cruising the Caribbean is an excuse to party, from reggae bands on the pool deck to all-inclusive resorts in port.

Alaska, on the other hand, is more about enjoying the state’s landscapes. You won’t find many passengers spending their day partying while in port. Instead, you’ll find them hiking, whale watching, and quietly admiring the state's gorgeous vistas.

You might feel motion sick

Many first-time cruisers are concerned about feeling motion sick on a cruise, and while it’s unlikely to happen, there’s always a chance.

For the majority of an Alaska cruise, your cruise ship will sail through the calm waters of the state’s Inside Passage. As land surrounds the passage on both sides, you usually won’t encounter much movement onboard.

When your ship is not within the Inside Passage, it’s possible to encounter strong winds and high seas.

As your ship departs Seattle or Vancouver, it must sail through a brief section of the open Pacific before reaching Alaska (usually day two of the sailing). You’ll also pass through this section on the way back to Seattle or Vancouver from Alaska (day six or seven).

Related: How to avoid getting seasick on a cruise

Depending on the weather conditions, this portion of the sailing may encounter rough seas. Packing dramamine or other motion-sickness remedies is recommended just in case your ship sails through choppy waters.

If you’re on a one-way itinerary, it’s possible to encounter inclement weather while sailing through the Gulf of Alaska to (or from) Seward. Again, packing motion-sickness remedies is recommended, although you can always find some onboard if you forget.

A balcony is nice, but not necessary

When researching cruises to Alaska, one piece of advice you’ll almost always see is to book a balcony cabin. Balcony cabins are cruise staterooms with their own private outdoor balcony, and they are the most popular cabins to book on any sailing.

These rooms come at a higher cost than interior and oceanview staterooms. While the price can vary depending on the itinerary, it’s possible for balcony rooms to cost between $500 and $1000 more than the smallest interior cabins.

Related: Oceanview vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise

If a balcony won’t hurt your budget, by all means, book one for your Alaska cruise—there’s no doubt that having a balcony cabin is nice when sailing through Alaska. If booking a balcony cabin means sacrificing on other add-ons like shore excursions and drink packages, though, we recommend staying in a cheaper cabin instead.

Fortunately, Royal Caribbean designs their cruise ships with an abundance of places to enjoy ocean views without a balcony. From the pool deck to the Solarium, lounges, restaurants, and entertainment venues, you don’t have to look hard to find a scenic view while onboard.

Where to cruise this summer: 8 destination ideas

29 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Summer 2023 is here, and that means a lot of families want to escape somewhere fun, relaxing, and memorable.

Rhodes, Greece

With the cruise ship experience returning to pre-2020 levels of occupancy, market reach, and ship deployments, this year is likely when a summer cruise vacation sounds like a great family trip idea.

Royal Caribbean expects this to be a big year, with demand the highest it has been in a long time. "Demand for our brands is outpacing broader travel due to a strong rebound and an attractive value proposition," is what Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors recently. 

That means planning a summer cruise this year could be a challenge given how cabins are filling up and prices for a cruise might not be much of bargain.

If you're still thinking of taking a summer cruise, act quickly and consider the following destination ideas to get you started.

Navigator of the Seas from Los Angeles

water and rocks near La Bufadora Ensenada

If there's a best kept secret of cruises from the United States, it's Royal Caribbean's ship on the west coast.

Navigator of the Seas sails short 3- and 4-night cruises for easy getaways, along with occasional 7-night cruises down the Mexican Riviera. As a recently amplified Voyager Class cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas boasts plenty of amenities, restaurants, lounges, and onboard activities to keep cruisers busy.

A Pacific Ocean cruise from Los Angeles means you can see a different side of Mexico from what you may have already seen on a Cozumel visit on previous cruises. Western Mexico has more wildlife viewing opportunities, such as whales and seals.  There's also beautiful historic, cobblestone-street towns you can explore.

town of sayulita near punta mita, mexico

Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) are small towns recognized by the Mexican government for their culture, history, and charm. There are currently 132 pueblos mágicos in Mexico, several of which are located nearby cruise ports in the Mexican Riviera, including Sayulita and Todos Santos.

Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral

I love the value proposition Mariner of the Seas represents, and she sails a good variety of cruises to mix up your choices.

Sailing from Port Canaveral, Mariner of the Seas is conveniently located close to the Orlando area.  

The great thing about Mariner of the Seas are the variety of itineraries.  In summer 2023, there's eastern, western, and southern Caribbean cruises you can choose from, along with Bermuda sailings.

Bermuda houses

The Bermuda cruises are especially intriguing, since you still get to visit Royal Caribbean's private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas, along with the must-see spots in Bermuda.

An easy destination to wander around, Bermuda is a mix of English tradition with local culture. Its rich history, natural beauty, and geography make it unique among other islands.

Ovation of the Seas from Seattle

Glacier in Alaska

While you might think beach and sun for a summer vacation, don't forget about the other amazing summer spot: Alaska.

A Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise is a must-do for anyone that's never been, because of the majestic beauty this area of the world is known for.

Visiting the 49th state means viewing incredible scenery, tasting delightfully fresh cuisine, and experiencing Alaska’s unique history firsthand.

Read moreWhy an Alaska cruise is worth it and you should go there

Downtown Ketchikan

Ovation of the Seas sails from Seattle, and she is the newest Royal Caribbean ship to offer Alaska cruises in 2023.  Plus, sailing from Seattle is an easy city to reach for most Americans with ample flights.

More about Alaska cruises

Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver, Canada

Radiance pulling into Seward

If you're sold on the idea of an Alaska cruise but want to get a cheap Alaska cruise deal, then Radiance of the Seas might be the ship for you.

Sailing from Vancouver, Canada, Radiance offers 7-10 night cruises that you can also combine with a land tour to further extend your Alaska explorations.  These land tours are add-ons that take you further in-land to places, such as Denali.

Visiting a glacier

Radiance of the Seas sails open-jaw sailings, meaning it begins in one port and concludes in a different port.  This makes getting to and from your ship a bit tricky, but demand is lower for these sailings and it represents very competitive prices.

Anyone that has cruised a lot to Alaska will tell you these open-jaw cruises have the best Alaska itineraries in terms of the ports you'll visit.

Anthem of the Seas from Southampton, England

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

Whether you live in the UK or fancy a flight across the pond, Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is a great choice for a European vacation.

Anthem sails from Southampton, England, and it's a short train ride away from London. 

Anthem of the Seas has made a name for itself as one of the premier cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet. She debuted in 2015 and combines first class style, exquisite dining and original entertainment productions to provide an incredible cruise experience.

Anthem of the Seas in Portugal

This 4,180-passenger ship offers a lot of entertainment and dining onboard, and is best known for some of the headliner attractions, such as bumper cars, the observation pod that takes guests 300 feet above sea level, and a skydiving simulator.  

The beauty of Anthem's summer deployment in England are the different itineraries you can choose from in 2023:

  • Spain & France
  • Mediterranean
  • Spain & Portugal
  • Norwegian Fjords
  • 7-night cruises
  • 14-night cruises

Having a variety of choices is great, and given how easy it is to get to London for most people, Anthem of the Seas is a ship worth sailing on.

Rhapsody of the Seas from Haifa, Israel

Sea Caves near Ayia Napa, Cyprus

A new embarkation port for Royal Caribbean, Haifa, Israel gives you a Greek Isles bucket list cruise along with a pre- or post-cruise vacation to the Holy Land.

Royal Caribbean recently began offerings cruises from Haifa, and this port puts you right in the heart of the eastern Mediterranean with more Greek islands to visit than you can manage.

And since Haifa isn't a traditional cruise port to sail from, we've often seen some of the best Mediterranean cruise prices around.

ancient temple. Lindos. Rhodes

Sailings this summer will visit ports in Greece and Cyprus, including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus.  

If you're looking to maximize your time in the Greek Isles, Rhapsody of the Seas is going to check-off a lot of choices.

Wonder of the Seas from Port Canaveral

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear

Forget the places you can go, the cruise ship is the destination to many cruise fans!

Wonder of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship and Royal Caribbean's newest ship. This means you're going to find the very latest and greatest that the cruise line has to offer.

While you'll also visit beautiful Caribbean beaches, the ship has a ton to see and do.

Perfect Storm waterslides on Wonder of the Seas

It has 16 passenger decks, which are divided into eight neighborhoods. It's a cruise ship that appeals to active families, couples and friend groups.

Like the earlier Oasis-class ships, Wonder will offer multiple main pool areas, a kiddie splash zone, surfing simulators, a miniature golf course, a basketball court and even a zip line. And that’s just on its top deck. Inside the vessel, you’ll find more lounges, bars, restaurants and shops than you can imagine, plus a huge casino, spas and theaters.

Liberty of the Seas from Bayonne


If you're from the Northeast United States, there's no reason you can't find a great cruise vacation in your backyard.

Royal Caribbean's summer deployment of cruise ships to Bayonne, New Jersey offers a little of something for everyone, but you'll find interesting itineraries and lower prices on Liberty of the Seas.

Liberty of the Seas sails from the New York City area, with sailings to Canada, New England, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.

Looking for more information on Royal Caribbean’s destinations? Start here:

Dinner on Royal Caribbean: Early Dinner vs. Late Dinner

29 May 2023
Elizabeth Wright

When you book your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will be asked to select between three dining options: early, late, and my time dining. 

Main Dining Room

Whatever option you select will be when you dine in the Main Dining Room for the entire duration of your cruise, so it is important that you weigh the pros and cons to each traditional dining time and choose which is best for you and your travel party.

You can, of course, skip the Main Dining Room and go to a specialty restaurant or Windjammer. Even if that is your plan, you will be required to make a selection during the booking process. 

RelatedThe Ultimate Guide to Royal Caribbean's Unlimited Dining Package

Here is a comparison of early dinner and late dinner on Royal Caribbean cruises. 

What is the Main Dining Room?

Women eating in main dining room

The Main Dining Room is Royal Caribbean’s traditional sit-down restaurant that serves three-course meals every night of your cruise. It is also largest dining venue on any Royal Caribbean ship and spans multiple decks, even on the oldest ships. 

Each night, you will be presented with a menu that contains different appetizers, main courses, and desserts. The best part? You are not limited to one of anything, and everything is complimentary, aside from a few premium options listed at the bottom of the menu! If you want to try two appetizers and two desserts, you can order both. 

The dining times (i.e., early, late, and My Time) only apply to the dinner service, as breakfast is first come, first serve. You can also dine here for lunch but only on sea days. 

Menu at an angle

When it comes to the menus themselves, there will be a new one each evening that is centered around a specific theme, such as Mexican and Italian night. If your cruise if over 10-nights, you may see repeated menus. Those who are unsure of what to order will appreciate the chef's recommendations at the top of the menu. 

Related21 Tips for the Best Cruise Ship Main Dining Room Experience

Early seating

Waiter serving a family

The first seating in the Main Dining Room usually takes place around 5:30pm or 6:00pm; the exact time varies based on itinerary. With this seating, you will be able to free up your evenings for shows and other activities taking place around the ship, even if it is just listening to live music in the pub! 

The early seating usually appeals to families with children and those who like to retire early. With this seating, you can easily be in bed by 9:30pm, meaning that you will be well-rested for the next day. 

If you are worried that you will be hungry later on, you will be able to find late-night snacks available at select venues, such as Sorrento's and Cafe Promenade. 

Royal Caribbean main dining room

For passengers wanting to dine around fewer children, it is best to skip the early seating. Of course, you could be seated next to a larger family if you select the late seating; nothing is ever guaranteed! 

Likewise, if you are wanting to enjoy the evening entertainment, you may find yourself sleepy after indulging in a three-course meal, especially later in the cruise. Some may prefer to see the earlier shows and eat dinner later!

Finally, the early seating tends to overlap with sail away on the first night, meaning that you will have to skip the Main Dining Room or select a later time if you want to go on embarkation day and attend all of the sail away festivities. 

Note that this tends to be the most popular dining option, so if you want to dine during the first seating, make sure you book your cruise as early as possible! 

Related7 cruise ship main dining room rules to follow — Plus 1 to break

Late seating

Family in dining room

The late seating commences after the early seating has concluded, and the wait staff has been able to reset all of the tables, meaning that it usually begins around 8:00pm. For many, this might be too late to eat every night; however, there are some pros to selecting this dining time!

For starters, you will not feel rushed in the afternoon. You can spend more time by the pool or exploring the ports before returning to your cabin to get ready. Those with an early seating will need to ensure that their excursions end with enough time for them to freshen up for dinner, meaning that they could lose an hour or two extra in port! 

Late seatings also allow for more pre-dinner activities, whether that is a drink or early show. 

Food in main dining room

And often, the service is more relaxed, as the wait staff is not worried about setting up for another seating afterwards. 

Of course, one of the biggest cons is that you will be staying up late each evening for dinner. It is important that you take into consideration your sleep schedule. Will you want to do other things after eating? If so, will that impact your energy level the next day? You do not want to feel groggy during the day!

RelatedYour really dumb cruise ship dining questions answered

My Time Dining

Are you torn between early and late dining? You may want to consider My Time Dining, Royal Caribbean's flexible dining option that allows passengers to make reservations during specific hours for the Main Dining Room ahead of time or show up when they are ready to eat. 

This will allow you to eat at 6:00pm one day and 8:00pm the next, if you so wish. Otherwise, you can try to dine around the same time, say 7:30pm, each night of the cruise. It is meant to be an option that allows you to schedule dinner around the rest of your onshore and onboard plans.

My Time Dining, however, is not considered traditional dining. You will not have the same table mates and wait staff each night, as you are seated wherever there is an open table. Many cruisers enjoy getting to know their servers and having them learn their preferences, which is why traditional dining is still so popular! 

RelatedWhat you need to know about Royal Caribbean's My Time Dining

Early dinner vs. late dinner on Royal Caribbean: which is best for you?

Symphony of the Seas main dining room

The early seating is best for families with younger children or those who want to retire to their cabin earlier in the evening. Likewise, it is also the preferred seating for those who enjoy evening entertainment, as you will be finished with your meal by the time the ship is livening up! 

On the other hand, if you prioritize daytime activities, whether that be excursions or lounging by the pool with a cocktail in hand, you will enjoy having time in the evening to get ready, instead of having to cut the afternoon short.

This option will also enable you to attend sail away without compromising on the Main Dining Room experience on embarkation day. 

Main dining room

There is always My Time Dining, too, if you are unable to make up your mind. Just note that your overall dining experience will be a little bit different than if you selected a traditional seating-- you will neither be seated at the same table each evening nor have the same wait staff.

My Time Dining also requires you to plan ahead a little bit, as you could be faced with lengthy wait times if you fail to make reservations ahead of time!

Do not forget that you do not have to eat in the Main Dining Room every night, either. You can always forego the lengthy meal and head up for a quick bite at the Windjammer or opt to indulge in a more intimate specialty dining experience one night!

Both of these options, so long as you make your specialty reservation ahead of time, will provide you with more flexibility in regard to dining time. 

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: May 28, 2023

28 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday and unofficial start to summer! Temperatures are rising, and so is the pace of cruise news to share with you this week.

Royal Caribbean gave us a first look at more than 20 dining venues we can expect on Icon of the Seas.

Empire Supper Club

Among the new venues includes a new Empire Supper Club that will serve an eight-course menu, and is arguably the most elegant dining venue Royal Caribbean has ever offered.

Royal Caribbean’s first food hall will also be coming to Icon of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 499th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, reviewing Matt's Norway cruise.

Matt took his first European cruise, which was a 7-night cruise to Norway on Anthem of the Seas. He talks about what he liked and didn't like about the cruise, and how a European cruise compares to a North American cruise.

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.

New RCB Video: Your really dumb cruise ship cabin questions answered

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — Your really dumb cruise ship cabin questions answered — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

I walked through Royal Caribbean's new food hall concept

Creme de la crepe concept

Icon of the Seas will have the first food hall on any Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and it looks like a great change for the line.

At Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami, Matt was able to tour a prototype of the new AquaDome Market to get a sense of what the cruise line has in mind.

From new cuisines to how the food will be served, it's a first-look at what you can expect when you get onboard.

Royal Caribbean vs MSC Cruises: what I liked & didn't like

MSC World Europa

Jenna tried her first MSC cruise to compare it against her Royal Caribbean experiences.

Sailing on MSC World Europa, she wanted to see how similar or different the line is to Royal Caribbean, and what she enjoyed about it too.

After 7-nights onboard, Jenna came away with a list of what she liked, disliked, and what surprised her about her first MSC cruise.

Alaska vs Norway cruise


How similar is a Norway fjords cruise compared to an Alaska cruise?

Having sailed both, Matt came up with the aspects of each kind of cruise that are the same, and in what ways are they totally different.

Both destinations are certainly going to be colder than the Caribbean or Mediterranean, but they aren't exactly the same type of cruise either.

Carnival Mardi Gras vs Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Carnival Mardi Gras

Love big cruise ships? Here's a battle of the titans of the two largest cruise lines.

Carnival's Excel Class and Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships are the largest ships in their respective fleets, and bring a mass-market appeal that aims to provide as many choices as possible on a cruise ship.

Allie has sailed on both Carnival Mardi Gras and Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas to see what each ship does better.

New Royal Caribbean Starbucks 'Been There' mugs coming this summer

27 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is dropping a Starbucks cruise ship collection that you always wanted.

Been There mugs coming to Royal Caribbean

The Starbucks "Been There" mugs is a fun way to commemorate a visit to a specific place, and pretty soon you'll be able to get one for the coffee stores you visit on Royal Caribbean's ships too.

Royal Caribbean has featured licensed Starbucks locations on its ships for over a decade, but there's never been a mug you can buy for the ships that have a location.

That's about to change this summer when the coffee giant and cruise line put forward their own Starbucks merchandise.

Starbucks 'Been There' mugs of Royal Caribbean ships

A total of 10 mugs will become available, one for each ship that has a free-standing Starbucks kiosk onboard.

While Starbucks drinks are served on many more ships, only a ship with an actual Starbucks kiosk will have a Been There mug.

The design of the mugs are not copies of each other. Each of the mugs has on the mug the sort of activities and signature features of the ship.

Starbucks 'Been There' mugs of Royal Caribbean ships

For example, you'll find Spotlight Karaoke on the Oasis of the Seas mug, and iFly on Odyssey of the Seas.

This is consistent with the Been There mugs, which depict landmarks from the city or location the Starbucks kiosk is located in.

Starbucks 'Been There' mugs of Royal Caribbean ships

Royal Caribbean doesn't have a firm date set for the mug, but expects them to launch sometime in late summer.

The plan is for these to be available no later than the end of August, although ships still in Europe may have a delay and the mugs might not become available until the ship returns to the United States.

Starbucks 'Been There' mugs of Royal Caribbean ships

Royal Caribbean Director of Beverage Operations, Ed Eiswirth, talked about the design and launch of these mugs, "We're planning on having him in on ships in August."

"They all have specific iconic photography for each ship, so they're all slightly different."

The expected price for each mug is $16.95, and it will not be included with any Royal Caribbean drink package (which is the case with all Starbucks kiosk offerings).

Symphony of the Seas in PortMiami aerial

Mr. Eiswirth also confirmed that only each ship will have their specific mug, so if you want to collect them all, you'll have to go on each of the ten cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean fans excited for the new mugs

If early reactions are any indication, these Royal Caribbean "Been There" mugs will be quite popular.

Photos of the mugs first appeared on the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group, and excitement for the new launch was near unanimous. 

"I’m sooooo excited!," shared Darren Wolner. "I’ve been hoping for this forever! I have more “Been there” series mugs then I care to admit."

" I collect these for different land based locations so this will be cool," Rob Johnson added.

Starbucks on Harmony of the Seas

"Oh my goodness, just picked up Miami and Orlando ones in April and now I need these," is what Clare Kinnear posted, and it is the sort of sentiment many readers had of happy to see this, but also thinking about what's needed to collect them all.

"I have a huge Starbucks mug collection. This is bad 😂😂 I’m excited for this," is what Ashley Harbridge shared, probably while taking a break from planning her next Disney World trip.

Navigator of the Seas Starbucks location

Kelly Bellovary, wrote likely what Royal Caribbean wants to hear, "Now we have to plan more cruises!"

Over 10 years in the making

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to launch a ship that had Starbucks onboard.

The Oasis Class ships introduced the concept with Allure of the Seas had the first "Starbucks At Sea". 

The partnership was a response to cruise ship passengers that wanted signature made-to-order espresso beverages and Frappuccino blended beverages while on vacation.

Since then, Royal Caribbean has steadily offered Starbucks on most of its new ships, as well many refurbished ships.

Most ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet do not have a kiosk, but do serve Starbucks beverages from the ship's proprietary coffee house.