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9 things Royal Caribbean veterans always do (and you should too)

12 Mar 2024
Calista Kiper

Cruising can have quite the learning curve, so why not learn from those that already mastered it all?

If you’re new to Royal Caribbean, it’s natural to feel intimidated by the things you need to learn and prepare for.

One reason you’re probably reading this post right now is so you can find out all the tips and tricks Royal Caribbean veterans know.

Cruise fans have developed tried-and-true strategies to enjoy their cruises to the fullest.  Thankfully, the Internet allows us to share all these tips—and for you to learn from them!

Inside cabin

By researching and putting into practice these insider hacks, you can make sure you have the best cruise possible. 

If you are new to Royal Caribbean, here are nine things people that cruise Royal Caribbean all the time know about taking a cruise that you might want to consider doing too.

1. Check-in as soon as possible

Terminal A check in

Getting the earliest check-in time gets you onboard the ship faster.

The Royal Caribbean app and website will open online check-in 45 days before the cruise begins.

Cruise veterans check-in as soon as this opportunity opens, and some even stay up late to be the first!

If you stay up late, checking in at midnight based on the time zone of your sailing, you can get the earliest possible check-in time slot.

After you complete check-in, you’ll receive an option of time slots, usually ranging between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M.

When each time slot fills up with guests, it will close. So it makes sense that you’d need to check-in early to get the earlier times.

The sooner you check-in, the sooner you get onboard the ship!

Since the price you paid for the cruise won’t change, check-in early to get those extra couple of hours onboard.

2. Book specialty dining in advance


Royal Caribbean offers some amazing—and popular—extra-cost dining venues. 

From Chops Grille to Izumi Hibachi, there are formal and delicious meal options for all tastes.

If you want to ensure a table will be open for you, try booking the restaurant before you get onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean veterans know that restaurants can fill up fast, and you’ll need to act quickly if you want to reserve a table.

You can make reservations online via Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website.


This way, you’ll guarantee a spot and choose the date and time that works best for your schedule.

If you want to celebrate a special occasion or holiday, it’s especially important to plan ahead and reserve as soon as possible.

If you choose to purchase a specialty dining package instead of individual restaurant reservations, have a plan of where and when you want to eat.

Then, make your reservations as soon as you get onboard the ship.

Staff at any one of the specialty venues can help you book your meals for all of the venues.

3. Purchase your cruise years ahead

Star of the Seas coming 2025

Royal Caribbean veterans work to get the best possible prices on cruise fares.

The more you save, the more you can spend on activities, excursions, or even another cruise!

To get the best possible price when booking a cruise, you’ll want to book as early in advance as possible.

Ideally, you’d want to book a year or years in advance.

The earlier you book, the more staterooms will be available. Since cruises operate on supply and demand, prices will be cheaper when more supply is available.

Utopia of the Seas night render

By booking one or two years early, you’ll get ahead of the demand and increased prices.

Try asking a Royal Caribbean vet when they book their cruises, and they’ll likely give you an answer measured in years.

If you’re on a cruise and find yourself thinking about the next vacation, you can also book your next cruise directly onboard. You can save hundreds of dollars per person by booking at the Next Cruise area.

NextCruise sign

For the more impulsive types, last-minute deals are also worth keeping an eye on. While they’re less assured than ones planned years in advance, occasionally those last-minute deals will have a discount worth snatching up.

Read more: How to plan a cruise for the first time

4. Cruise during the off-season

If you’re still looking for fare deals, keep in mind that it matters more when you cruise, not so much when you book the cruise.

Finding lower fares is easier if you’re willing to cruise when school is in session (August to May) and during the cruise shoulder season.

Shoulder season, which offers lower fares, fewer crowds, and comfortable temperatures, varies depending on your destination.

Pool on a cruise ship

Usually, these times include the months of January (excluding New Year’s Day), February, May, and September, the first two weeks of November, and the first two weeks of December.

Cruising during these times will give you a lower fare, because it’s when other people are less likely to try cruising. 

Buy a cruise for those times when others are at work or in school, and you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and lower prices.

5. Try a smaller ship

Radiance of the Seas

Yes, Royal Caribbean heavily promotes its newest and biggest ships.

You’ve probably heard about everything there is to try on huge ships like Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.

But despite the public attention the mega-ships command, veterans know that every ship in the fleet has something to offer—even the smaller ones.

Radiance, Vision, and Voyager Class ships all have their own charm. 

Vision of the Seas solarium

From a quieter experience to a more tight-knit crew to opportunities at unique ports, some amazing experiences can’t be replicated by a larger ship.

Not only that, but they’re also likely to come with a lower price tag.

There’s nothing wrong with those big, exciting ships like in the Icon, Oasis, and Quantum Class, but be sure that you’re not writing off those smaller ships.

The demand for smaller ships isn’t going away anytime soon, and Royal Caribbean has even discussed plans for a new class of smaller ships.

6. Stay onboard in port


If you ever talk to someone that cruises a lot, there's a good chance if you ask them what their plans are while in port, they'll tell you they are staying on the ship.

There's a few good reasons why you might want to strategically embrace this strategy.

If it's a ship new to you and you want to explore and enjoy what the ship has to offer, staying onboard during a port visit gives you more time onboard and less lines to contend with.

Ship docked in St. Thomas

Taking a cruise on Icon of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, or Odyssey of the Seas, there's a good chance you picked these new ships because of all the cool things it offers.  While the ship is in port, signature activities tend to be far less crowded, especially the pool and water slides.

Sometimes they stay onboard because there just isn't an excursion or activity that speaks to them. There's nothing wrong with staying on the ship if you don't find a tour that fits your needs.

In addition, cruise pros stay onboard if it's a port of call they've been to in the past. Some ports have a lot of repeatability, while others, not so much.

7. Join the loyalty program


While the Crown and Anchor Society isn’t exactly a secret, veteran cruisers know how to take full advantage of this loyalty program.

You can even sign up before your first cruise, and you’ll earn points for each night you spend on a Royal Caribbean ship.


It’s free to sign up, and you will receive more and more discounts as you earn points.

The Crown and Anchor Society rewards frequent cruisers with onboard discounts, priority embarkation and check-in, and promotional offers.

8. Read Cruise Compasses to prepare

Reading a Cruise Compass

Wondering what exactly you can expect on your next cruise?

It’s hard to accurately predict exactly what events, activities, and specials might be offered on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean pros know that they can consult an old Cruise Compass to see what was previously offered on similar sailings.

Bumper cars on Odyssey

Looking at an old cruise itinerary can give you a good idea of what to expect going forward.

From entertainment to activities, Royal Caribbean ships won’t change their schedule too much from week to week.

And we have an archive of old Cruise Compasses you to peruse. 

9. Use a good travel agent

travel agent

Yes, we always recommend using a good travel agent for your cruise.

They’re able to make life easier for you through planning, preparation, and saving you money overall.

A good travel agent comes at no extra cost to you, as they are paid by the cruise line. They provide expertise and knowledge to help you get the best cruise vacation possible.

Sun rising in Alaska

A good travel agent will have a wealth of knowledge about Royal Caribbean, and be able to answer a variety of questions for you.

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s top travel agents prove why you need one more than ever

Pros know that no one has all the answers, so having a guide in the form of a travel agent gets you your own personal advocate. 

From booking the cruise to any problems you run into onboard, they will be there to assist you.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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