Just like the supermarket, DMV, baseball games and so many other aspects of life, waiting in a line on a Royal Caribbean cruise is going to happen sooner or later.
Perhaps part of Royal Caribbean's plans once cruising resumes is to implement new means to spread guests out in order to enforce social distancing, but you will likely run into an extended wait during your cruise.
While you cannot avoid waiting at all, there are some easy ways to mitigate these lines and reduce your stress at the same time.
Lines getting back on a ship
When you return to your cruise ship after a fun day on a shore excursion, lines can develop at the gangway to get back onboard the ship.
Usually in the afternoon when most tours wrap up, many guests return to the ship and lines can develop, with often times there being lines that lack shade.
The easiest strategy is to find a spot in the port area where you can sit down in the shade and keep an eye on the line while enjoying the port area. Quite often, there are bars and restaurants set up near the pier that you could enjoy a drink while seeing when the line shortens.
Another strategy is to plan to return to the ship significantly earlier or later than most others. If you come back early, you sacrifice time in port but can pretty much walk back onboard. Likewise, if you wait until the last couple of hours your ship is in port, you may find shorter lines since most others have returned.
One last option is if you bought The Key (or are a Star or Sky Class guest or Pinnacle member), you can take advantage of Fast Track boarding.
Crowded Windjammer buffet
Dreaming of a lovely breakfast with a cup of coffee, bagel, lox, cream cheese and pile of bacon to go with it? So is everyone else on the ship, and that leads to a busy buffet.
The best way to avoid lines in the Windjammer buffet is to either have breakfast early (before 8:30am) or late (after 10am).
If you like your 9am breakfast, then consider an alternative option for breakfast such as:
- Cafe Promenade
- Johnny Rockets (Oasis Class ships only)
- Park Cafe
- Solarium Bistro
- Coastal Kitchen (suite guests only)
These locations are vastly less crowded and allow you to get in and out with substantially less waits.
Waiting to get into the main dining room
If you have traditional dinner, you will inevitably find a lot of guests waiting outside the main dining room doors for them to open.
Rather than join the masses and stand around, seek out an entertainer in one of the nearby bars, or play a few games in the casino.
There is usually something else going on nearby, and that way if you wait until a few minutes after the doors open, you will find no wait to get in.
Waiting to get off the ship on the last day
Admittedly I do not have a great way around this line, but there are some ways to make it easier on yourself.
The last day of your cruise is when everyone has to get off the ship, and you are almost certainly going to encounter a line somewhere. Not only is there a line to get off the ship, but everyone is tired from waking up early and disappointed their cruise is over. It is a recipe for a lot of grumpy people.
The best strategy for an easy disembarkation is to stay in a suite. Suite guests get escorted off the ship by the Suite Concierge and it is the simplest (albeit expensive) approach.
If staying in a suite is not practical, you should either plan to be among the first off the ship or the last. Even if you wake up at 6am and get ready to go bright and early before the ship even docks, you will be waiting around with the other early birds.
The problem with waiting to be among the last get off the ship is there is nothing to do onboard. You are requested to leave your staterooms by a certain time, and all the venues are closed. So you could sit around on the pool deck one last time and enjoy the ocean breeze while the line winds down.
This used to be a quagmire of people trying to leave their muster stations, but Royal Caribbean has solved this for everyone.
Royal Caribbean recently announced an electronic muster drill process it will implement when cruises resume known as Muster 2.0.
Rather than going to a muster station, standing around and listening to safety instructions, guests can use mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs to learn important safety information.
One on the cruise ship, guests have a set time (indicated by a timer in the app) during which muster drill must be completed by all of the passengers.
So rejoice that we will never have to deal with this problem again.