What is free on cruise ships?

In:
16Dec2019
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean offers a tremendous amount of value in its cruises by including a great variety of dining, activities and entertainment. Many first-time cruisers are curious what is included and costs nothing extra. While splurging a bit here and there helps enhance the vacation, many guests primarily rely on what is free on the cruise.

Here is a comprehensive look at what you can expect to be included with your cruise fare when it is your turn to hit the seas.

Free vs Paid

Before we list everything that is free on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you should understand the basic structure of how Royal Caribbean offers things to do for guests.

First and foremost, a Royal Caribbean cruise is not all-inclusive. Your cruise fare includes a great deal of offerings, but it is purposefully priced to include the basics, and provide guests the choice to indulge in specific add-ons.

Royal Caribbean is fairly transparent about specifying what costs and extra, and the key for new cruisers is to learn the basics to make the process smoother.

Cabin

The cruise fare you pay covers some core aspects of your vacation. This is the heart of what you are paying for, and primarily what gets you onboard.

When you book a cruise, what you are chiefly paying for is your stateroom cabin. Similar to picking a hotel room on land, your cruise cabin is your home for the duration of the cruise vacation. Additionally, you are paying for ocean transportation onboard the ship that brings you to each of the ports of call you are scheduled to visit.

Keep in mind that things like government taxes, fees is in addition to the base cruise fare.  Your invoice from Royal Caribbean will specify all of these charges at the time of booking.

Dining

You can expect a great deal of complimentary food and drink on Royal Caribbean, to the point that you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with plenty of snacks, without paying anything extra. 

The daily cruise newsletter, known as a Cruise Compass, includes a full list of venues that are included with your cruise, venues that cost extra, and hours of operations for both. Before a cruise, you can review a past Cruise Compass to get an idea of what to expect on your sailing.

Every ship has different dining venues, but you can expect free food in:

  • Main Dining Room
  • Windjammer buffet
  • Casual dining restaurants such as
    • Cafe Promenade
    • Sorrento's Pizza
    • Boardwalk Dog House
    • Park Cafe
    • Cafe Latte-tudes
  • Johnny Rockets (for breakfast on Oasis Class ships only)

The listed venues may on occasion list additional items that cost extra, but this is an add-on option to consider and the vast majority of the menu at these venues cost nothing extra.

In short, you will not struggle at all to find an overwhelming amount of free food onboard at all hours of the day or night. 

Drinks

Just like the food, you will find a set of beverages available for no extra cost through the day or night at a different locations onboard. 

  • tap water
  • milk
  • tea
  • coffee (regular and decaf)
  • lemonade
  • iced tea
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast and not fresh squeezed)
  • Hot chocolate (via instant packets)

In some specific examples, there can be additional beverages available for limited times at no extra cost. This can include champagne on formal night, cocktails at a Crown and Anchor event and more. You will have to be vigilant in your event research to recognize when complimentary drinks will be served.

Entertainment

Most entertainment on your cruise is included with your fare. Live music, production shows, karaoke, concerts, in-room television programming (minus pay-per-view) and game shows are just some of what you expect to enjoy for no extra cost.

It may surprise you to know that even the full-length Broadway shows available on some ships is totally free to see, and you can go back again and again to see it. Considering traveling versions of these Broadway shows near your hometown will often cost hundreds of dollars per seat, the fact Royal Caribbean includes them with your fare is incredible.

Things to do

Throughout the day and evening, Royal Caribbean offers its guests a wide variety of activities that cost nothing extra.

Of course, there are opportunities to relax and enjoy time by the pool, hot tub or sit in a chair on one of the outside decks to enjoy the view of the ocean going by. Access to the ship's pools, water slides and hot tubs are always complimentary.

It is impossible to list all the free things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, because it varies from ship to ship and different activities may be offered on different sailings.  There are, however, some pretty common things to do across Royal Caribbean's fleet that you can enjoy for no additional cost:

  • Basketball court & group activities (soccer, volleyball, basketball, etc)
  • Mini golf
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Shuffleboard
  • Trivia
  • Dance classes
  • Demonstrations (cooking, napkin folding, etc)
  • Competitions (dodgeball, belly flop competition, etc)
  • Pool side movies
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ice skating (on ships with Studio B)
  • Sky Pad
  • Laser tag
  • Dance parties
  • Zip line (Oasis Class ships only)
  • Bumper cars (Quantum Class ships only)
  • Carousel (Oasis Class ships only)
  • Jogging track
  • Fitness center
    • Free weights
    • Exercise machines
    • Some fitness classes

In short, there is always some activity occurring, and plenty of other things to do that you can enjoy at your leisure.

Kids Programming

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean is at the heart of the kids programming available on any Royal Caribbean ship, and it is nearly all included with your cruise fare.

Adventure Ocean is available to all children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old.  You can register your children at any point in the cruise (although it is best to register them on the first day) and drop them off at a supervised area of the ship.

Adventure Ocean has no cost for its services, with the exception of if the kids remain at Adventure Ocean past 10pm.  From 10pm to 2am, there is an hourly charge.

If your child is between 6 and 36 months old, there is a nursery available on nearly all Royal Caribbean ships. The nursery always has an hourly fee for its services, that will vary in price depending if it is daytime or nighttime. 

In addition to Adventure Ocean, there are usually family centric activities listed in the Cruise Compass, such as family karaoke, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts and more.

Private Destinations

If your Royal Caribbean cruise visits one of its private destinations, like Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, then access and many offerings cost nothing extra.

Just like any port of call your ship visits, these private enclaves are a place you can walk off the ship and walk around at your leisure.  Both CocoCay and Labadee offer multiple beach options that cost nothing extra. CocoCay even has a large swimming pool you can spend time at for no charge.

At Perfect Day at CocoCay, this is what is free to enjoy:

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

At Labadee, this is what is free to enjoy:

  • Adrenaline Beach
  • Nellie's Beach
  • Columbus Cove
  • Lunch buffets
  • Beach chairs, umbrellas and towels
  • Tram service
  • Freshwater showers
  • Beach access wheelchairs