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6 Things I'll do differently on Royal Caribbean in 2024

29 Dec 2023
Matt Hochberg

When I go on my cruises in 2024, I'll be making a few changes to how I cruise.

How I'll cruise different in 2024

I went on 11 cruises in 2023, including 9 of them on Royal Caribbean ships. It was my best year yet of cruising, and I was able to sail to a variety of destinations around the world.

With the new year nearly upon us, I can't help but look back at what I did this year, and the new year resolutions I'll make to being a better cruiser in 2024.

With any cruise, you can alter the dynamic of how you approach it. It's not a "one size fits all" product, and that means you have the option to change it.


I came up with five changes I want to make in my 2024 cruises so that I can save money, avoid pitfalls, or simply improve my experience overall.

Book my second half cruises sooner (to save money)

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

The cost of travel went up in 2023, and cruises were no exception.

The average price of a Royal Caribbean cruise is higher now than in 2019, and as as consumer, I need to adjust my strategies.

While I have a number of cruises already booked for 2024, my plan is to be more proactive with booking anything new.

liberty of seas

In the past, I would still rely on booking a cruise with about three months or so left to be able to squeeze another cruise in. This was partially because I live in Florida and can drive to any cruise port in the state, but also because I was slow to come up with ideas for articles to write and subsequently find a cruise to make it happen.

Instead, I'll book my cruises sooner to hopefully get a better price than if I try to get a last-minute deal.

I'd recommend anyone reading this to also aspire to book their cruises earlier. Prices are only going up, so booking early is still the best overall strategy for a better price.

Read more: The best time to book cruises by day, month, and last-minute

Skip the drink package

Drink package cost

Depending on how long you've read posts on this site, you know I've generally been a fan of the Royal Caribbean drink package. But I think that may be changing this year.

Even at the higher prices, I still think the drink package is a good investment for someone looking to indulge during their cruise. It still has the propensity to save money.

However, I've found an alternative way to enjoy alcoholic beverages on my cruise without paying the price of a drink package. 

Casino bar

Many readers have told me about how lucrative Royal Caribbean's casino loyalty program can be, as it includes unlimited free drinks in the casino as one of its perks.

Read more: I gambled enough in Royal Caribbean's casino to get free drinks and a cruise

I'm not a big gambler by any means, but I cruise enough during the year that I can spend a little bit during each sailing to accrue enough points to reach Prime in the Casino Royale program.

Having achieved that status, I can now get free drinks in the casino.  Combined with the free drink vouchers I get from Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society, I want to try relying on this instead of buying a drink package.

The downside to this strategy is I'm reliant on going to the casino to get a drink. On big ships, this is quite the schlep.

Nonetheless, the money-saving opportunity this strategy has is too alluring to pass up, so I want to try it this year.

Take the train instead of driving to South Florida

Brightline train car

From the first time I took the new Brightline train between Orlando and Miami, I was hooked.

It's about three and a half hours to traverse Central and South Florida, and it's an extremely boring drive. Much of Florida's interior is rural and there isn't much to see. Plus, that's a lot of time to be out of pocket for covering what's happening in the world of cruising.

Brightline opened daily service between Orlando and the ports Royal Caribbean ships sail out of in South Florida, and it has been a godsend for people like me that hate to fly but were sick of the drive.

Matt on Brightline train

I've taken the train five times now, and when Icon of the Seas begins her cruises from Miami, I'll be taking the train instead of my car to get back and forth.

Read more: I took the Brightline train from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale for my cruise. Here's what it was like

Driving is still cheaper, but my time is worth more to me, especially if it means never having to get stuck in traffic or slowed down by a downpour.

Rethink the unlimited dining plan

Playmakers on Oasis of the Seas

Earlier I said I'd skip buying a drink package, but for the specialty dining package, I'm going to commit to thinking twice before buying it.

I've bought the unlimited dining package for plenty of my cruises because it's a great way to enjoy many specialty restaurants. 

But like the drink package, the price of the dining package has gone up. And equally importantly, Royal Caribbean has stepped up with its complimentary food. While I love the hibachi or a filet, I never regret the stir-fry station in the Windjammer or a bowl of French onion soup in the Main dining room.

Empire Supper Club

I think a lot of people are coming to a similar conclusion, especially on Icon of the Seas.

Jeffrey Robinson bought the unlimited dining package the first day it became available for the Icon of the Seas inaugural sailing, but then cancelled it a few weeks ago because he realized how much great complimentary food there was on Icon. 

I didn't cancel my dining package for Icon, but as I plan out the rest of my 2024 cruises, I might reconsider the investment.

Finally try the rock climbing wall

Believe it or not, I've never tried the rock climbing wall on any Royal Caribbean ship.

The rock wall has been a staple of Royal Caribbean ships ever since it was first introduced on Voyager of the Seas in 1999.

I've always wanted to try it, but never got around to doing it.  A few years ago I actually went to the wall to try it, only to hear it was closed because the wall itself was too hot.

I'm not sure which ship I'll try it on, but I aspire to finally get up on the rock wall this year! The Crown's Edge on Icon of the Seas can take the rock wall's place on my "never done it" list.

Go for a night swim with my kids

Not my kids

When I was brainstorming this list, I thought of something to do differently as it relates to my kids.

We've always talked about going up to the pool for a swim after dinner, but never end up doing it.  Either the kids find something else to do, or I realize we have plans elsewhere on the ship.  Or we just get lazy and call it a night.

In any case, I want to find time to go up at least one night per cruise with the kids up to the pool to get some time in for a night swim.  Maybe it's for half an hour, maybe it's for an entire movie, but I think this is a good year to make it happen.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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