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What to expect with Royal Caribbean's new virtual safety drill

In:
13 Nov 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

One big change that Royal Caribbean has implemented this year is Muster 2.0. Otherwise known as eMuster, this is a streamlined and digital upgrade to the traditional muster drill.

The muster drill is a mandatory safety briefing during which passengers learn where to go and what to do in case of an emergency onboard. The drill must be completed by all passengers on the first day of a cruise before the ship can depart.

Prior to the cruise shutdown, the muster drill was an activity many passengers disliked. Passengers had to gather at their muster station at the same time as everyone else in their group. This often led to large crowds and a lot of waiting around outside in uncomfortable temperatures.

Muster 2.0 is a new and improved hybrid model, completed partly on the Royal Caribbean app (or stateroom television) and partly in-person at your designated assembly station. It is a quick, flexible, and stress-free experience.

If you haven’t been on a cruise yet this year, it’s important to know when and how to complete the new emuster drill. After all, you don’t want to be that one passenger who is delaying the ship’s departure!

Here’s what you can expect when doing the emuster drill on your next cruise.

What to do first: Download the Royal Caribbean App

The first step to completing Muster 2.0 is to make sure you have the Royal Caribbean app downloaded on your smartphone. Royal Caribbean’s app is free and is available on both iOS and Android devices.

After the app is downloaded, login to your Royal Caribbean account. You should see your next sailing appear on the app. Once on the main page, select the safety button in the bottom left corner. This will take you to the page where you can begin the emuster drill.

No smartphone?

If you do not have a smartphone, you can complete all necessary Muster 2.0 steps on the television in your stateroom once you get onboard.

Keep in mind that you could download the Royal Caribbean app on a tablet as well.

Muster 2.0 Steps

On the safety page within the app, you will see three steps that you must complete. Next to each step, you will see a box that says “incomplete”. As you complete each step, each box will change from “incomplete” to “complete”.

Step one: Watch the short safety video

The first step on the emuster drill is to watch a short, animated safety video demonstrating how to properly put on a lifejacket. At the end, you click on a checkbox next to your name to confirm that you have watched the video.

Step two: Listen to the emergency horn

If there is an emergency onboard, you will hear a very loud, high-pitched beeping sound. The emergency horn on Royal Caribbean ships consists of seven short beeping noises followed by one long noise. It is important to know what the horn sounds like so that you are aware of an emergency should the horn blast through the cruise ship’s speakers.

To complete this step, simply press the blue play button in the “Emergency horn” box. Make sure your phone’s audio levels aren’t up all the way as the emergency horn can be quite loud.

Step three: Locate and visit your assembly station

Step three of the emuster drill differs from the first two steps in that it requires going to your assembly station onboard the ship.

After you’ve listened to the emergency horn, scroll down to the box that says “Visit Assembly Station” and click “Find on deck”. A deck plan of the ship will pop up showing you exactly where your assembly station is located.

With your phone in hand (or SeaPass card if you do not have a smartphone), go to your assembly station. If you need help locating your assembly station, simply ask one of the crew members.

Once you arrive at the assembly station, a crew member will give you a very brief safety demonstration. After this is done, they will scan your SeaPass, indicating that you have completed the emuster drill.

It’s a good idea to double check that all steps on the app’s safety page have been marked as complete. Once you see a green “complete” box next to each step, you have successfully completed the emuster drill.

How to do Muster 2.0 with children

Children also have to complete the emuster drill, although the process is a little different for them. When an adult in the cabin watches the safety video and listens to the emergency horn, the children in that cabin are automatically considered to have completed those steps too.

Children must also accompany the adults in their cabin to the assembly station to have their SeaPass cards scanned, indicating that they have completed the emuster drill.

Royal Caribbean also has a safety section for children located at the bottom of the safety page on the app or on the stateroom television. It is called “Learn about safety with Lulu & Mika” and goes over the safety information in a fun, cartoon-style video.

The video is not mandatory to watch, but may be helpful to give children a better idea of what to expect in an emergency situation.

When to do the Muster 2.0

In the weeks leading up to your cruise, you may be eager to get everything done ahead of time. You can watch the safety video and listen to the emergency horn at any time on the app, but unless you see the “Incomplete” box next to each step, the muster drill has not officially opened for your sailing yet.

You will receive a notification on your phone when you can start working on the steps of the emuster drill. If you don’t receive a notification, simply check the day before your sailing to see if the emuster drill is available.

A good idea is to complete the first two steps of the emuster drill the night before your cruise so that all you have to do once onboard is go to your assembly station. You can even choose to do this immediately after boarding so that you are done with the emuster drill within the first few minutes of being on the ship.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to do the emuster drill! Some passengers may be so excited to explore the ship or grab a drink by the pool that they completely forget about it. The ship will not leave port until all passengers have completed every step.

Royal Caribbean is constantly working to improve the cruise experience for its guests, and Muster 2.0 is no exception. What used to be an experience many passengers disliked doing on the first day of a cruise is now an easy, straightforward process that will allow your vacation to begin without any hassle.

Why did Royal Caribbean put less suites on Wonder of the Seas?

In:
12 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's not your imagination, there are less suites on Royal Caribbean's next new Oasis Class ship than older Oasis Class ships.

5 giant suites you can book on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

As soon as Royal Caribbean began opening up bookings for Wonder of the Seas, many guests began noticing there were less suite cabins to choose from than you would find on other Oasis Class ships.

Considering how lucrative suites are for the cruise line, as well as how in-demand suites can be for passengers, it seemed a strange decision to change the amount of suite cabins.

Royal Caribbean's executives recently talked about why there are less suites on Wonder of the Seas.

A new neighborhood

One big change on Wonder of the Seas is the ship will have an eighth neighborhood, dedicated to suite guests.

The Suites neighborhood on Wonder of the Seas is an area that doesn't exist on other Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships.

Read more: Wonder of the Seas neighborhoods tour

In order to make room for the new amenities suite guests will enjoy, the amount of suites had to be cut back so there could be room for it all.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, explained to travel agents during a meeting onboard Odyssey of the Seas that ship designers needed to take space from somewhere to be able to make the new neighborhood a reality, "We are going to have a private deck area for our suite guests and we're dedicating more room for our suite guests, which unfortunately kind of cuts into the amount of suites we can have."

Royal Caribbean's new Oasis Class ship will have an all suites neighborhood | Royal Caribbean Blog

The benefit of having less suites is the exclusivity suite guests enjoy will be even higher on Wonder of the Seas.

Ms. Freed also noted that unfortunately the swapping of Allure of the Seas to Wonder of the Seas in Europe in summer 2022 resulted in some guests being left without an available room, "We had to unfortunately downgrade some people who are in top suite categories because we had fewer suites on the line there. But that's all been sorted out now to the best of our ability."

Suites have never been more popular

A look at Royal Caribbean's Grand Suites | Royal Caribbean Blog

Something else anyone that books suites on a cruise ship typically may notice is that there is much more demand for them than ever.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO and Chairman Richard Fain said the cruise line is seeing big time demand for suites, "We are selling our top categories quickly."

Quantum of the Seas Royal Loft Suite | Royal Caribbean Blog

"So while the ships are going less full than we would like, we're oversold in the Star Class and the top categories."

In fact, on Royal Caribbean's 274 day world cruise, Ms. Freed mentioned all of the suites have either been deposited or booked.

Will Royal Caribbean require kids to be vaccinated in order to go on a cruise ship?

In:
12 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Now that the Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for kids under 12, many want to know if Royal Caribbean will require kids to be vaccinated in order to sail.

Royal Caribbean won't accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated | Royal Caribbean Blog

Ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved vaccines for 5-11 year-olds, cruise fans have wanted to know what Royal Caribbean might do.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked at a media event aboard Odyssey of the Seas on Friday if they would require kids to be vaccinated as well.

Mr. Fain said he thinks there will be an update to the protocols soon, but the cruise line has no change yet to announce for vaccine requirements.

"I think we will be coming out with protocols for the smaller children soon," Mr. Fain explained.

"Now that they've authorized vaccines down to the five, we're looking at how that's going to affect us."

Mr. Fain went on to talk about changes in protocols, and how while masks are required onboard Royal Caribbean ships, the reality is the time someone needs to wear a mask actively is around 20% of the time (thanks to vaccinated zones and outdoor areas).

Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I think we're moving in the direction where every cruise will have 100 percent of the crew vaccinated and ninety five or more percent of the guests."

A follow-up question was asked by a travel agent about the notion of selling a Royal Caribbean cruise to a family in January or February. Mr. Fain responded he thinks there will still be room for unvaccinated kids onboard.

"Probably by then we'll still be, if they don't want to vaccinate their children. I would still encourage them to do so. The vaccines are simply so effective and so safe that they owe it to the children and they owe it to their friends and loved ones to do so. But I don't think we're about to implement that requirement because the only just became available."

Safer than Walmart

Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

In talking about the vaccine requirements, Mr. Fain referenced a recent article by USA Today that indicated cruise ships health protocols are proving to be extremely effective.

CDC data shows not only are have there been very few cases this summer on cruise ships in the United States, but cruisers feel more secure with the protocols in place on a ship than they do visiting other businesses with little to no protocols.

"We have cases on board just as you have cases everywhere. But the cases are handled easily, efficiently and people are taken care of, and it doesn't spread. So we don't have these big outbreaks onboard."

Royal Caribbean produces video where masks are required on Quantum of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain called that a "dramatic change" for the cruise industry, because many in the public never thought it would happen and certainly not as quickly as it has compared to other segments of society.

Fain pointed to the vaccines as the major factor in making cruise ships so safe, "I think the reason we're seeing that is because the vaccines work and because they are preventing the spread."

Don't expect a change after January 15

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Independence of the Seas to sail | Royal Caribbean Blog

Some have speculated that once the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order becomes voluntary on January 15, 2022, that protocols will erode or go away quickly. Mr. Fain rejected that notion.

"I want to make it clear the controlling protocols today in almost every case, not every case, but almost every case is our own standards, not the CDC. We are acting significantly in excess of CDC requirements. And I actually don't expect January 15th when they have said that they would go through a purely voluntary program that will have any noticeable impact on us."

Mr. Fain said they worked hard to make cruises safe, and they are not going to abandon what has been working.

In terms of the pre-cruise testing, Mr. Fain said it is his preference to allow everyone three days instead of two days to get a negative test, but a lot of those decisions are based on what is happening in society.

"There are two days and we would much prefer it to be three. And that is one constraint that the CDC has imposed on us. We're not sure that the science supports that."

"You've seen how quickly it's changed over the last two months, and I think it will continue to quickly change, especially if we start getting more people vaccinated."

"I think we need to get through the winter months because the winter months traditionally resulted in an upsurge as people have people who aren't lucky enough to live in Florida who have to go indoors."

Why cruise ships are getting bigger

In:
12 Nov 2021
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas is almost ready to debut as the largest cruise ship in the world, and she is indeed massive.

With a passenger capacity of 6988, 2300 crew member, and a length of 1188 feet and 18 decks high, it rivals an aircraft carrier in size.

Building bigger is an industry trend seen among marker leaders such as Carnival and Norwegian, however, Royal Caribbean is leading the way with its Oasis class ships being the largest at sea.

For some guests, the ship is as important as the itinerary, and with the average cruise length at 7 days, larger ships provide lots to do and plenty of ways to spend money.

So why are cruise lines building bigger ships?

Some key factors that are driving the trend toward bigger ships:   

Industry Competition 

While it is evident that the pandemic has had a major impact on the travel industry as a whole, the future is looking better. Cruise lines have increased capacity in 2021 and bookings for 2022 are forecasted at pre-Covid levels.

In anticipation of growth, Royal Caribbean along with other cruise lines continues to order new ships. We will see another Oasis class ship in 2023 (name TBD) along with three new Icon class ships stretching out to 2025.

Prior to 2019, there was consistent revenue growth in the industry, driven by increased passenger numbers and higher onboard spending. With a resumption of service, cruise lines need to provide competitive offerings, and larger ships are a significant part of their strategy to improve profitability.

Economy of Scale

The other aspect of making money is cost control and economies of scale make these bigger ships more profitable. Whether it be 1000 or 5000 passengers there are common expenses such as wages for the captain, cruise director, chief engineer, and other staff that must be paid. Spreading these costs out over more passengers enhances profitability for the cruise line.   

What does this mean to the bottom line? According to Jason Liberty, the Chief Financial Officer and soon to be CEO, “newer, larger ships can breakeven on cash flow at around 35% capacity while older, smaller ships are closer to 50”, a significant difference.

Despite these news ships having a $1 billion plus price tag, they have proven to be more cost-effective as building one large ship is more feasible than building two smaller ones.

Once a cruise ship covers its costs, it can focus on additional revenue sources, the icing on the cake.

Marketing

A key aspect to a successful marketing strategy is a great product, and bigger cruise ships are just that. These floating cities have tons of amazing amenities, especially for those guests who want to try the latest and greatest things.

With kids' areas, lounges, adult only sun-decks, and world class dining options, larger ships appeal to a broad target market.  Whether it be families, solo travelers, honeymooners or retirees, there is something for everyone.

New cruise ships create lots of buzz. With each new ship being bigger than the last, anticipation is heightened.  Facebook groups monitor the construction progress posting pictures and providing updates on sea trials.

Travel agents and media provide reviews and YouTube videos with all the new details, in an effort to excite would be passengers and drive sales. All good publicity.

Great amenities and activities

New ships like the Odyssey of the Seas and the Wonder of the Seas have all the newest bells and whistles, with the flexibility to operate in different regions such as the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Odyssey of the Seas with its 17 different restaurants and a variety of bars and lounges means that cruisers will not be short on great food and drink options. New onboard activities like a skydiving simulator, virtual reality bungee experience, and the SeaPlex activity center all keep kids and parents busy.

Guests can also rent casitas for an additional fee, so no worries about getting a great spot on the sundeck on busy sea days.

Wonder of the Seas, which will start sailing in March, features some brand new design elements such as a designated suite neighborhood with more suite only amenities.

In addition. the ship has a redesigned pool deck experience and a new kids playscape. These new features on the fleet’s biggest ship will no doubt be a big draw for consumers.

Revenues

The purpose of these bigger ships is to make more money. A big part of this equation is to increase revenues, especially as it relates to the amount of onboard spending.

Gambling at the casino, specialty dining restaurants, spas, drink packages among other additional fee based activities are all geared toward this. Cruise lines are putting their newest ships on 7 day sailings, giving cruisers more to do and more time to spend. Older ships are more prevalent 3-4 day cruises.

For a 7 day cruise, Royal Caribbean makes an average of $ 300 per person after deducting expenses.  Passengers spending an extra couple hundred dollars on a drink or photo package, a massage of playing blackjack, all help to improve margins, a significant impact on their bottom line.

Suites5 giant suites you can book on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Larger ships mean more space. The development of a suite only exclusive area is another revenue management strategy. The Wonder of the Seas has a new layout with a dedicated suite neighborhood that includes a suite only sundeck, a pool, a private lounge, and a restaurant, all at a premium for those willing to pay.

A suite can be tens of thousands of dollars more than a standard balcony or interior room, providing added revenue for the cruise line. For example, for a 7 day Caribbean cruise on the Wonder of the Seas, an inside cabin is $821 per person while a one bedroom Owners Suite is priced at $5133. The suite is 5 times the price, for just over double the space.

Additionally, the demand for suites is growing even at the premium pricing associated with a new ship.  For Mediterranean itineraries in 2022, many suites are already sold out on the Wonder of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean patents opening a cruise ship cabin door with facial recognition

In:
11 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

In the future your stateroom door might be opened by your face instead of a card.

Photo tour of 2 Bedroom Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean filed paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a "multifunction smart door device", that among other things, can be opened via facial recognition.

The new patent is for a device that would be installed within or near stateroom doors of a cruise ship. Each smart door device can control access to a stateroom based on facial recognition or a wireless credential.

This smart device can perform other functions such as controlling stateroom personalization features, providing an electronic peephole function, allowing controlled access for authorized crew members, accommodating remote unlocking, and providing notifications. 

It could also be used by a passenger's mobile device.

Cabin doors on Royal Caribbean ships are all opened by a SeaPass card, which guests are issued at the start of the cruise.  Crew members have master key cards that can open the doors as well.

On some new ships, Royal Caribbean has added the ability for guests to open their cabin doors via the Royal Caribbean app.

Royal Caribbean app allows guests to open stateroom door on Spectrum of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean thinks this device can be utilized for service, safety, or security purposes, such as for anonymized foot traffic analysis, hazard detection, and stateroom access auditing. 

It is a prime example by Royal Caribbean of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that aims to  provide connected services to improve passenger comfort and efficiency.

The patent authors include Joey Hasty, Gregory Morwick, Alastair Partington, Jay Schneider. Mr. Schneider is Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer.

How it works

Photo tour of Category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom on Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

According to the patent, a wide angle camera would be able to sense a face of a person within its view and then use one or more facial recognition software algorithms to determine if the person is authorized to unlock the door.

The patent also includes the possibility for the facial recognition software to be able to set guest stateroom preferences comprise at least one of a default climate control setting, a default in-room media setting, a default lighting setting, or a default window shade setting.

There is even a provision in the patent for the wide angle camera that serves as the facial recognition sensor, to transmit a live stream to a guest's mobile device, similar to how some smart locks for houses function.

Photo tour of Category B1 Boardwalk View Stateroom with Balcony on Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Of course, the door could be opened by crew members. It would be set up to allow one or more crew members to access the stateroom based at least in part on a facial recognition result or a proximity-based credential, and based at least in part on evaluating a business rule stored in the local data store.

These business rules could limit access to certain hours of the day, or determine whether the stateroom is occupied or unoccupied before allowing a crew member to enter.

Facial recognition is the future

One of the patent's authors, Jay Schneider, has spoken publicly about the value facial recognition will have for the cruise industry.

Earlier this year, Mr. Schneider talked about why facial recognition, and not wearables, are the best long-term solution for guests being able to customize their trip.

"There are use cases where a wearable on your arm or a lanyard, et cetera, might be relevant, but your face is a better wearable for you long term than having to distribute something to you."

Royal Caribbean has already implemented facial recognition technology in some of its cruise terminals, where the embarkation and disembarkation process is sped up thanks to facial recognition.

What to do if Royal Caribbean's shore excursions are sold out

In:
11 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

One of the impactful changes to going on a cruise due to Covid-19 are the rules related to shore excursions, which can mean limited options for those traveling with unvaccinated passengers.

St. Kitts | Royal Caribbean Blog

As of now, Royal Caribbean requires anyone getting off a ship in a port of call to be on a tour booked with the cruise line if they have someone unvaccinated in the group. This means families with unvaccinated children cannot book their own tours, or wander around the port area.

Hopefully this rule gets rolled back soon, but in the meantime it can lead to an issue of trying to find a shore excursion when there are limited options that easily sell out among what Royal Caribbean offers.

Here are some alternatives and tips for what to do if you find yourself with many Royal Caribbean shore excursions sold out.

Leave the kids onboard the ship

Photos: Voyager of the Seas completes $97 million renovation | Royal Caribbean Blog

Not all families will be able or interested in doing this, but you can leave your children on the ship with Adventure Ocean.

Adventure Ocean is always open any hours your Royal Caribbean ship is in port. In fact, they will even open up early if you have a Royal Caribbean tour booked that requires an early morning departure.

By leaving your kids in Adventure Ocean, the vaccinated people in your group can explore on your own via a private tour or just walking around.

Another option is to leave the unvaccinated kids onboard under the supervision of an adult in the group. Perhaps that person is not interested in disembarking, or is simply doing a favor for everyone else.

Book a tour on your own

First and foremost, if the tours Royal Caribbean is offering are either sold out or not to your liking, going on your own is the natural next option.

Fully vaccinated passengers can choose between a tour on their own or a Royal Caribbean excursion, so booking something on your own (or even just walking around and exploring at your leisure without an organized tour) is a good option.

The key to finding a reputable and fun tour to do through a third party is to do research ahead of time before your cruise departs.

Read moreHow to book third party excursions

Book a tour with Private Journeys

A relatively new and lesser-known option is Private Journeys, which offers private tours that are organized by Royal Caribbean.

Private Journeys is a shore excursion option offered directly by Royal Caribbean, where guests can create a completely customized shore excursion in any port your ship visits.  You provide Private Journeys with an idea or basis of what you want to do, and then they work with local tour guides to come up with an excursion.

In the weeks and months leading up to your cruise, you and your Private Journeys representative will custom craft a tour for you and your family.  Just like a group tour, these tour operators are vetted and organized by the cruise line.  All you have to do, is show up.

I have tried Private Journeys twice (in Belize and Curacao), and think it is a great choice for anyone that wants to tour at their own pace, and like the benefits of what Royal Caribbean provides.

Check back later

The premise of this post is about what to do if the shore excursion you want is sold out already, but you should check back periodically to see if it becomes available.

People cancel tours all the time, so if someone were to cancel their excursion, the option to book it would be re-enabled again for anyone to book.

In addition, Royal Caribbean may add additional inventory online or on the ship. There is no way to know with certainty what to expect, but you should keep an eye to see if the tour comes back as a bookable option online.

If all else fails, consider going to the Shore Excursion desk to see if there is any additional space, or to be put on a waitlist.

Read more7 things worth checking again on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Royal Caribbean announces Godmother for Odyssey of the Seas

In:
10 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It is maritime tradition to give a new cruise ship a Godmother, and Odyssey of the Seas now has a Bahamian paratriathlete as hers.

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday Erin Brown is not only the Godmother of Odyssey of the Seas, but the first Bahamian Godmother of a Royal Caribbean International ship.

Ms. Brown has become an inspiration to many after losing her leg to cancer, but continuing on to become a paratriathlete competing at the international level.

The 41-year-old mother of two will accept the honor of blessing Odyssey at its naming ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Odyssey of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship in 2021, and will have her official inaugural sailing and naming ceremony held on November 13.

The 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship is one of the largest ships in the world, and can accommodate 4,180 passengers.

The cruise industry shutdown greatly impacted Odyssey's timeline for debut, having been delayed in the construction yard and two different inaugural seasons cancelled in Europe.

Fortunately, Odyssey was able to start cruises from Fort Lauderdale in summer 2021 leading up to her naming ceremony this weekend.

About Erin Brown

During her time as a collegiate track and field athlete, Brown was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma after suffering a fall that resulted in a broken leg. 

After more than a year of chemotherapy, her tumor showed no signs of shrinking, and Brown made the decision to amputate her limb above the knee. Brown, who watched her own mother struggle for five years before losing her battle with lupus linked to cancer, knew she had to keep going because her family depended on her. “Mind over matter,” she repeated. And then, she reinvented herself.

She said she recognizes now that her disability was a signal to start over. The first time she completed the 100-mile cycling event in The Bahamas, Ride for Hope, to raise money for cancer research, education and prevention, she led a group of adaptive athletes who heard the thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd that had witnessed Brown achieve what few with two legs could on hilly terrain.

“A sudden change like the one I experienced is just an opportunity to rebrand yourself to yourself and to society. All those skills you had before – you still have them,” said Brown who has gone on to become an advocate for rights for the disabled and works at the University of The Bahamas as the compliance officer and counselor for those living with physical disabilities.

Choosing a Godmother

A Godmother is a ceremonial position that all ships have, and different women are chosen for various reasons. The role is often held by renowned athletes, celebrities and royalty.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said selecting Ms. Brown to be the ship's Godmother made a lot of sense, "From the moment we heard Erin’s story, how her courage and determination inspired others and led to a more inclusive consciousness about succeeding with disabilities, we were moved and knew she was a natural choice for Godmother of our newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas

"A Godmother serves as the guiding spirit of the ship and brings good luck and safe travels to its guests and crew who sail on board for years to come."

Of course, having a Bahamian Godmother is fitting considering Royal Caribbean's close relationship with the country.

"Having Erin as our Godmother is a fitting way for us to pay tribute to The Bahamas as well," said Bayley. 

"Royal Caribbean’s very first international destination was The Bahamas more than 50 years ago. To this day, Nassau remains one of our most popular ports of call, and our private island destination – Perfect Day at CocoCay – remains a top pick for our guests. We are excited about this ceremony and honoring our longtime partners as well as the newest Bahamian-flagged ship in our fleet."

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for sailings through March 2022

In:
10 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released its health protocols for cruise ships sailing in Winter 2021 for the longest period of time yet.

The new protocols apply to Royal Caribbean sailings from Puerto Rico, Barbados and U.S. homeports through March 31, 2022. 

Previously, Royal Caribbean was releasing health protocols only a month at a time.

Royal Caribbean added that it expects health protocols to change over time. Guidance for other ports and sailings is still in development with federal, state, and local authorities. 

These protocols govern the rules and requirements passengers can expect if they want to go on a cruise between now and March 31, 2022.

Vaccination

Celebrity Cruises will accept mixed vaccines following CDC update | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean will require all passengers who are 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

All guests 12 years and older must bring proof of vaccination, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card, with the final dose of the vaccine completed at least 14 days prior to sailing.

For guests departing from Florida homeports, this vaccine requirement is the policy of several international governments for a cruise ship to enter their waters. 

Testing

Depending on where your ship departs from, the exact requirement for a pre-cruise test will vary:

Testing for sailings from U.S. Homeports 

  • Pre-Cruise: All guests 2 years and older must present a negative PCR or antigen test result.
  • Vaccinated guests ages 12 years and over, test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing. Guests under the age of 12, who are considered fully vaccinated, should follow the guidance for vaccinated guests. 
    • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 years, test must be taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing — but not on boarding day.
    • No testing required for guests under age 2 years.
    • Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.
  • Embarkation Day: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary PCR test for COVID-19 during check-in. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.
  • Onboard: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary antigen test prior to debarking. Depending on sailing length, there may be additional testing. Registration details will be provided onboard.

Testing for sailings from San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Entry to Puerto Rico:
    • All guests unvaccinated guests 2 years and older will need a PCR or antigen test for entry.
    • Guests arriving from non-US countries (regardless of vaccination status) will need a PCR or antigen test for entry.
    • Guests flying in or connecting should check the Puerto Rico’s entry rules.
  • Pre-Cruise
    • Vaccinated guests must present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 48 hours prior to sailing in order to board. If for any reason your clients can’t arrange this test prior to sailing, we have port testing available for scheduling here.
    • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 years must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to sailing in order to board. There continues to be no testing required for guests under age 2.
    • Proper documentation (printed negative test results or negative test results presented on your phone) from an accredited laboratory (no doctor’s notes) is required to sail. All costs for this test are the guest's responsibility and must be done on their own, not at the terminal.
  • At the terminal: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take a PCR test for COVID-19 when checking in at the terminal. Registration details for this test will be sent via email in advance. This test is complimentary.
  • Prior to disembarking: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take an antigen test onboard within 24 hours before the cruise ends. Registration details will be provided during your cruise. This test is complimentary.
    • For re-entry into one's home country, guests may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test. If needed, we’ll offer complimentary testing on Day 5 or 6 of the cruise. Testing details will be provided onboard.
  • No testing is required for guests under age 2.

Vaccinations & Testing Requirements for sailings from Bridgetown, Barbados 

What you need to know about visiting Barbados on a cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Grandeur of the Seas will begin sailing from Barbados in December 2021, and it has its own set of protocols for sailings from here.

Due to the requirements of destinations on  Barbados itineraries, Royal Caribbean can only accept vaccines that are authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guests under the age of 12 years, who are considered fully vaccinated, should follow the guidance for vaccinated guests below. Children with one dose of a vaccine do not count as fully vaccinated for the purpose of our sailing. The only mixed MRNA vaccines accepted are combinations of Pfizer and Moderna.

  • Entry to Barbados: Guests must follow Barbados’ COVID-19 Travel Guidelines. All guests 5 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 3 days prior to arriving in Barbados. 
  • Pre-cruise: All unvaccinated guests 2 - 11 years old must present a negative PCR test result no more than 3 days prior to sailing. The PCR test used for entry satisfies this pre-cruise test requirement as long as its within 3 days of sailing date.
    • The PCR test used for entry satisfies this pre-cruise test requirement as long as its within 3 days of sailing date.
    • If PCR test results are older than 3 days, guests will have to secure their own PCR test while in Barbados.
    • The terminal antigen test does not satisfy unvaccinated guests’ pre-cruise testing requirement. 
    • Barbados does not accept telehealth home test kits for the entry test, even if the test is supervised by a live telehealth professional. No self testing method is accepted.
  • Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.
  • At the terminal: All guests 2 and older — regardless of vaccination status — are required to take a complimentary embarkation day antigen test and receive a negative test result. Registration details will be sent via email in advance for the antigen test at the terminal.
    No testing required for guests under age 2
  • Prior to Disembarking: Guests 5 and older (regardless of vaccination status) planning to tour Barbados before making their way to the airport or enjoy an extended stay in Barbados shoreside, are required to undergo additional testing.
    • Guests that go directly to the airport, on their own or through an RCI tour, will not be required to undergo any testing onboard. 
  • For re-entry into your home country, guests may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Testing details and options will be provided onboard at guests' expense.

Shore Excursions

How to book a Royal Caribbean shore excursion | Royal Caribbean Blog

Families traveling with unvaccinated kids are required to purchase a tour through Royal Caribbean to go ashore (except at Perfect Day at CocoCay).

Fully vaccinated parties may book a shore excursion or visit most ports freely — with the exception of those listed below, which will require tours for all guests who wish to go ashore in November and December, regardless of their vaccination status: St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, Martinique, Dominica & St. Vincent. 

For Barbados
All guests on December sailings from Barbados will need to book a tour if they wish to go ashore in ports of call, regardless of vaccination status. 

Masks

Masks are required in the terminal, in select locations inside the ship, and may be required at various destinations.

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet
  • At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants and shows
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party
  • While visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting
  • By any guest under the age of 2

CDC will require everyone to wear face masks on cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors onboard the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them

Your mask should be at least two layers of tight weave fabric with loops that fit over your ears in accordance with health guidelines. The mask should fit your face closely and cover your nose and mouth but allow you to breathe easily. Note that neck gaiters, open chin bandanas and scarves, and face masks with valves do not meet health authority guidelines and will not be permitted.

Dining

How to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room on your Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

For Main Dining, Royal Caribbean will designate areas for everyone, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only.

My Time Dining will not be available to parties that include unvaccinated guests.

Some specialty restaurants will be open to everyone, while others will be for vaccinated parties only. 

Email with protocols

Here is a full copy of the protocols shared by Royal Caribbean with travel agents.

5 things I purchased for a cruise that I regretted buying

In:
10 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

A lot of people get ready for a cruise vacation by hitting the mall or online shops to purchase a few items they think they will need onboard, but I've walked away later on regretting some of these purchases.

Whether I thought they would make my life easier, or just improve the vacation experience, in practice, some items I've bought for my cruise ended up not being what I expected.

Typically what happens is I will be browsing the internet and run across someone with a neat gadget, or read about something that might make my day at the beach or in my cabin better. At the time, it sounds like a revelation and I usually end up buying it because I think to myself how could I not buy it to improve my vacation.

Just like rompers, duck-faced selfies, or flat brim hats with the sticker still on it, we just aren't as hip as we thought.  Or perhaps the product ended up not living up to the hype.

Here is my own list of things I bought for a cruise that ended up being a terrible purchasing decision for me.

Smart luggage

A few times in my life, my late-night television browsing has come back to bite me, and this happened when I saw a commercial for smart luggage.

Smart luggage is supposed to be an enhancement to traditional bags you pack, where it not only optimizes the space better, it can charge your mobile devices, and maybe even last forever. In a world of traditional luggage that rips too easily and looks boring, why wouldn't I go for one of these bags?

After I bought it on a whim, I realized first and foremost that it was quite expensive. While you can find luggage at all sorts of prices, smart luggage are anything but cheap in cost.

After the new luggage arrived at home, I realized how small it was.  Clearly, it was meant for business travelers who want to do a carry-on only kind of trip.  Since cruise ships do not charge for luggage, sticking with just carry-on bags has never been a priority.

And then you have the smart features, like being able to charge your device or even tracking.  Sounds neat, but in practice, it's more of a gimmick. In fact, the lithium-ion battery packs are sometimes not permitted by airlines. 

So essentially, I overpaid for luggage that did nothing more than I had before, but with less space.

GoPro camera

If you watch YouTube enough, you will run across some amazing videos of people doing some really fun activities and it is all captured on action cameras that can handle wind, water, heat, and sand, while delivering incredible high-fidelity pictures.

I bought a GoPro so that we could capture our family trips, especially when on shore excursions.  I thought the GoPro would be perfect for the kids and we could remember all the times we swam, jumped, and dove.

My issue with buying a GoPro isn't the quality of the video or anything the GoPro promises.  It is exactly as advertised when you edit and upload your footage.

The problem is video editing is downright awful. If you want your video to not be a snoozefest, you will need to invest many hours editing it all down.  This is tedious and has a steep learning curve.

Moreover, the particular model I bought had no viewfinder or way to see what I'm filming, or review it later. Subsequent models of GoPro have a small screen, but I was filming blindly and hoping it looked okay later.

After one trip and many hours of editing later, I stopped bringing the GoPro because I could not be bothered to spend the necessary time making it all look good.  Perhaps that's just the perfectionist in me, but it seemed more trouble than it was worth.

Water shoes

The worst part of any beach day is if you accidently step on a rock, crustacean, seaweed, or anything else pointy or slimy in the ocean. So the obvious answer is to buy water shoes, right?

I have bought at least 3 pairs of water shoes over the years to address this problem and every time I come to the same conclusion that I wasted my money.

All water shoes feel weird when you wear them in water. They are clingy and make my feet feel like they are trapped in a rubber/silicone bag. So yes, I feel better about not touching seaweed or something else mysterious underwater, but I still feel icky.

Excursion Focus: Valley Church Beach in Antigua | Royal Caribbean Blog

Equally important is the fact the bottoms are not puncture proof, so you still have to walk gingerly to avoid stepping on something really sharp.

Worst of all, after you are done in the ocean, you are stuck with a soaking wet (and likely sandy) pair of shoes that are a burden to bring back to the ship. Not to mention the added bulk of carrying them with you.

Drone

Another "I can't wait to bring on my cruise so I can get amazing video" idea was to buy a drone.

My plan was buy one, and then take amazing aerial footage of my cruise ship and the places I visit. 

The problem is Royal Caribbean prohibits anyone from operating a drone on the ship or at their private islands.

On top of all of that, every country has its own rules about where you can operate drones and the last thing I want to do is get in trouble with the local authorities because my drone went somewhere it should not.

Ultimately, I regretted buying a drone because you cannot use it near the cruise ship and footage of my backyard is just not that exciting.

Clothes washing device

Where does the poop go on a cruise ship? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean does not have any self-service laundry option on its ships, and dry cleaning is pricey, so washing clothes is tough on a cruise ship.

You can hand wash small items in your bathroom sink, but you are really limited to smaller garments. Plus, it can be a big mess.

I remember running across a Facebook ad for a device that you could toss your clothes into and similar to Shake n Bake, wash your clothes easily without much fuss.

First time cruisers: How do I wash my clothes on my Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

This item is really intended for campers, but it seemed the perfect way to get pants and shirts clean for another use.

I don't think it was much of an improvement in terms of effort over filling the bathroom sink or tub with water and washing clothes there. So it ended up being money I did not need to spend to achieve similar results to what I had going before.

Richard Fain leaves Royal Caribbean with legacy of innovation and growth

In:
10 Nov 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Richard Fain announced he will step down as Royal Caribbean Group CEO in January 2022, leaving behind an incredible legacy over his 33 years at the helm.

With Mr. Fain moving away from the day-to-day operations of the company, it makes sense to look back on some of his many accomplishments.

Mr. Fain joined the company at a time when Royal Caribbean was still deeply rooted in the beginnings of modern cruising, and ushered in innovations and changes that fundamentally changed what the public thinks a cruise ship can be.

There is no way to perfectly encapsulate all of Mr. Fain's accomplishments in one post, but as Royal Caribbean and the industry wish Mr. Fain a fond farewell, we look back at some of his major achievements.

How Fain joined Royal Caribbean

In the 1980's, Royal Caribbean was a middleweight contender in the cruise industry, and it quickly reached a crossroads of what to do next.

Song of Norway had ushered in a new era of cruising, but by the end of 1983, the company was considering what expansion would make sense.  Economies of scale, already realized onboard Song of America, were clearly the wave of the future.

Like any sensible enterprise pondering its next step, Miami's management went shopping for advice, turning to the Cambridge-based consulting firm of Arthur D. Little.

The highly respected organization was asked to undertake a survey of the cruise industry with an eye to determining Royal Caribbean's position and potential within it.

At the time, Richard D. Fain was the vice-president of finance for one of the original investors in Royal Caribbean, Gotaas-Larsen.

In the 1970s, Fain had served as treasurer for both Gotaas-Larsen and its parent company, International Utilities, becoming increasingly involved in Royal Caribbean's financial operations.

Richard Fain chaired that committee, an appointment to which two of the founding families of the cruise objected (Skaugens and the Wilhelmsens) because his chairmanship would give Gotaas-Larsen double representation.

But Fain, in turn, promised to remain impartial. Fain discovered that by holding meetings in Miami, he was able to guarantee the attendance of key corporate personnel, who had a wealth of information to enrich Arthur D. Little's accumulating data.

As of 1984, the report pointed out, Royal Caribbean had an eleven percent market share, compared with NCL's fourteen percent and Carnival's fifteen percent. Although the conclusions were the result of a strategic thought process and were not motivated by the importance of being big, immediate expansion was recommended: additional newbuilding and/or a merger with another cruise line.

Sovereign of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Expansion" was the operative word, expansion not only of Royal Caribbean's next class of vessel but its size of operations as well. 

This report galvanized Royal Caribbean, and in 1984, the world's largest purpose-built cruise ship, Sovereign of the Seas, was conceived. And the committee that bad been assembled to assist with the Little report evolved into Royal Caribbean's Steering Committee, with Fain remaining in the chair.

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas makes maiden call at Manila, Philippines | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain began his career as the CEO of Royal Caribbean right around the time Sovereign of the Seas launched, and the cruise world was once again changed when Voyager of the Seas redefined what a mega ship is.

He realized that the image problem the cruise industry had among the public of being outdated, boring and, as an industry joke put it, full of "the newlywed and the nearly dead".

Mr. Fain believed to attract a new kind of customer, he needed a new kind of ship. To build it, he hired Harri Kulovaara in 1995, a Finnish naval architect who made a name for himself designing passenger ferries. 

Oasis 4 Keel Laying | Royal Caribbean Blog

Kulovaara was brought onboard to help run the company’s shipbuilding department.

Originally, Royal Caribbean was looking to commission a carbon copy of Sovereign of the Seas. "We’re not going to build that, Harri,” Fain told him. “We need something better."

That "better" idea ended up being Voyager of the Seas.

Voyager of the Seas launched in 1999, and introduced the first ice-skating rink at sea, the first rock climbing wall at sea, and indoor promenade. It was also 75% bigger than the previous-largest cruise ship, exceeding Panamax – the width of the Panama Canal, an industry-standard measurement.

Photo report: Voyager of the Seas in Auckland, New Zealand | Royal Caribbean Blog

"You wanted things that helped convey that this [cruising] was an unusual activity, that you could do what you wanted," Fain said. He said Voyager of the Seas was instrumental in continuing to shift the idea that cruising was for everyone.

Like Song of Norway and Sovereign before her, Voyager of the Seas would innovate ship design for decades and become the new standard going forward.

Oasis


Copyright :©BRIANSMITH.COM

Turning the cruise industry on its head is something Richard Fain started getting good at, and history would repeat itself yet again with the most ambitious project yet for Royal Caribbean with Project Genesis.

Six years before Oasis of the Seas would be launched, Mr. Fain and the team at Royal Caribbean started out with the concept of wanting to do something new and different. 

We decided to start with a blank sheet of paper and said, "What do we want our guests to do? What activities do we want to offer them?” The name of this project was Project Genesis. The idea was to indicate that this was a fresh start in terms of design. We didn’t actually start out intending to build something quite so large."


Copyright :©BRIANSMITH.COM

"The whole thesis was to give people more choice. So instead of one large pool deck divided into two we wanted to have a series—one just for families, one just for adults, one just for sports … When we added up all the things we wanted to provide for people to do, it turned out the ship was much bigger than originally expected, as we were also able to provide much more in terms of activities and amenities. "

Royal Caribbean brought in architects and designers to help take all the ideas the company had and create a revolutionary cruise ship.

At 225,000 tons, the Oasis of the Seas weighs as much as four Titanics. 

Beyond her size, Oasis of the Seas introduced the crowd-control concept of "neighborhoods", with seven in total.  Oasis also was the first ship to have a split-back design that opened the back of the ship up (Boardwalk), as well as an open-air park featuring 12,000 plants in the middle (Central Park).

Then there's the first AquaTheater at sea, the first zip line at sea and much more.

In short, Oasis of the Seas continued Royal Caribbean's legacy of revolutionary cruise ship design.  Any new mass-market cruise ship built since has had to compare itself to the game-changing Oasis of the Seas.

Covid

Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

There is no way to talk about Mr. Fain's legacy without also acknowledging the tremendous work he did publicly and behind the scenes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

No company was properly prepared for the government mandated shutdown of the cruise industry, which was the only industry to voluntarily shut down on its own but then face stiff opposition to prevent it from returning.

From the onset of the shutdown, Mr. Fain began producing short videos posted online for travel agents that shared his outlook on the situation, as well as hope for the future.

Royal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

While these videos may have been intended only for the trade, they became a beacon of hope in a shroud of unknowns. For many cruise fans, it provided helpful insight into what may come next, as well as much needed optimism.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Fain championed the creation of the Healthy Sail Panel, a group of renowned health experts who established safety and wellness protocols to restore confidence in cruising safety.

It was fitting he announced stepping away as CEO in a video update for travel agents, bringing his tenure to a close in the same way he provided updates for more than a year.