Alt Text!

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Oasis of the Seas to sail

In:
03 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is cleared to begin cruises with paying passengers on Oasis of the Seas.

Cruises from the New York City area are a go to begin, as Royal Caribbean reported on Friday it has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for Oasis of the Seas.

Oasis of the Seas had a 6-night test cruise on August 22, where the crew vetted the new health protocols onboard.

The first revenue sailing with Oasis of the Seas will commence on September 5 from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey. It is a 7-night itinerary to the cruise line’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, The Bahamas.

Oasis is the latest Royal Caribbean cruise ship to get CDC approval to sail, which means she now has her Conditional Sailing Certificate.

In order to sail on Oasis of the Seas, guests age 12 or older must be fully vaccinated. 

Vaccinated guests must present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing in order to board. Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing in order to board.

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 must undergo 2 more Covid-19 tests at the cruise terminal and prior to disembarking.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

All crew onboard all ships in the fleet will be fully vaccinated.

Guests who have been vaccinated will have full access to venues onboard, and will not need to wear a face mask at vaccinated-only venues. Here is a list of venues and activities available to vaccinated-only guests, as well as everyone.

Oasis of the Seas is the 14th cruise ship to restart operations in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Other ships that have restarted sailings include: 

  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Odyssey of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas

Oasis will offer 7-night Bahamas cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, starting Sept. 5; and 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami, beginning November

Save up to 35% off pre-cruise add-ons with Royal Caribbean's new sale

In:
03 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering a discount on cruise add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions and more, with its new sale.

The Sale Before You Sail begins today, and is valid between September 3, 2021 - September 13, 2021.

It applies to all sailings between September 9 - September 30, 2022 (except Spectrum of the Seas and Charter Sailings).

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off

Should you buy Royal Caribbean's unlimited alcohol package | Royal Caribbean Blog

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices. (Only on AL, AN, BR, HM, JW, OY, RH, VI, VY)
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 35% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

WiFi information, prices and how to get a discount - Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship.

Top Ten Royal Caribbean Dining Tips | Royal Caribbean Blog

ACTIVITIES: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes GR)

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

How do you get free drink packages on Royal Caribbean? | Royal Caribbean Blog

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Picture This Private Studio: Discount varies by ship

SPA: Up to 30% off

  • Spa: Discount varies by ship.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

Royal Caribbean could finish Nassau Beach Club by May 2023

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

According to new documents filed with The Bahamas, the current plan is for Royal Caribbean's new Royal Beach Club in Nassau to be complete in May 2023.

In March 2020, Royal Caribbean announced a Royal Beach Club project they would build in Nassau on the western end of Paradise Island.

Royal Caribbean has 20 total acres of land, 13 of which is owned by the cruise line and an additional seven acres leased by the Bahamian government.

Royal Caribbean's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) revealed it plans to begin construction in October 2021, with a completion date by May 2023.

The project has been delayed a few times due to Covid-19. 

The EIA includes a few more details and concept art of what to expect when visiting the Royal Beach Club:

"The proposed project will include the development of Paradise Beach and Colonial Beach to create an arrivals area, family zone, water sports centre, food and beverage services, and swimming pool and back of house areas in support of a world class beach experience."

"It is anticipated that with the payment of an entrance fee, the experience will include access to the Royal Beach Club, lunch and the rental of a beach chair. For an additional fee, guests will be able  to purchase alcohol and sodas, a cabana, day bed, clamshell, and participate in watersports and local tours."

Read more: How Royal Caribbean invested in new port projects and tech during the cruise industry shutdown

"There will be an array of activities available to guests, including but not limited to snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, jet skiing, floating mat rentals, inflatable water slides, parasailing, nature hikes, volleyball and other sand and water-related activities."

"While the location is inherently beautiful, Royal Caribbean will also ensure that additional landscaping is planted throughout the site. As Paradise Island is close to the Nassau Port, guests will have direct and quick access to the harbour via water taxis."

"The construction of the water taxi harbour and dock may include dredging, seawalls, wave attenuators, docks and fixtures."

The Royal Beach Club will be able to accommodate about 3,500 together with 250 workers. 

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Following an update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, two cruise lines have changed the amount of time guests have to get a negative Covid test before their cruise.

Carnival announces new health protocols including masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

The CDC revised their screening testing and documentation requirements late last week for fully vaccinated passengers and those who are not fully vaccinated, for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing.

Specifically, the CDC updated their testing guidelines to recommend fully vaccinated passengers get their Covid test no more than 2 days before boarding or get a test on embarkation day.  It also lists unvaccinated passengers get their test no more than 3 days before the cruise.

As an apparent result of this change, both Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have changed their policies on Thursday.

Both lines are still accepting either an antigen or PCR test.

Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line | Royal Caribbean Blog

Beginning with sailings that depart as of September 13, 2021, vaccinated guests must take a covid test within two days prior to the sailing date.

According to Carnival, if the sailing is on Saturday, the test may be taken on Thursday and Friday, and as late as Saturday, if you are guaranteed to receive your results in time for check-in.

Carnival is working to set up mobile pre-cruise rapid testing sites at all of its homeports as a back-up alternative for vaccinated guests who aren’t able to make arrangements. Additional details are forthcoming.

MSC

MSC Cruises releases new policies to keep guests safe from Coronavirus | Royal Caribbean Blog

MSC Cruises also updated their policy for all cruises departing from Miami and Port Canaveral beginning November 1, 2021 and onward.

For these sailings, All guests 2 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must provide documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 2 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation.

What is Royal Caribbean's policy?

As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy has not changed for sailings from U.S. Homeports and Nassau, Bahamas.

All guests age 2 and older — regardless of their vaccination status, departure port or the length of their cruise — will need to take a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab, no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal and show their negative test result upon arriving. 

In addition to the pre-cruise test, kids will take one or two more tests, depending on the length of the cruise. Royal Caribbean’s test provider will administer these, at no cost to children under the age of 12.

  • On boarding day, kids will take a complimentary rapid PCR test during check-in at the terminal. We’ll send registration details via email before departure.
  • For cruises that are 5 nights or longer, kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Vaccinated guests who require a COVID-19 test for re-entry into their country may receive one onboard as well. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under the age of 2 have no testing requirements.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Royal Caribbean Group CEO thinks crew will serve guests at the buffet permanently

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

One of the big changes to cruise ships since Royal Caribbean restarted sailing likely is not going away.

Ever since the first Royal Caribbean ship restarted sailing, the buffets onboard moved from self-service to full-service, meaning crew members now serve guests instead of guests serving themselves.

The rule change was one of many new health protocols introduced to lower the chance of Covid-19 transmission between guests and crew members, and this rule may end up being a change that makes sense even beyond Covid.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain mentioned in a recent interview he thinks crew serving guest food at the buffets is just a better approach, in addition to protecting health.

"On board, the buffet, where it's now being served to you instead of you picking up the tongs yourself. And I suspect that for us, that will be a permanent feature, because independent of the health reasons, it's just better."

Mr. Fain said having crew there to serve keeps a closer eye on when refills are needed, so there is less waiting for guests, "What it means is the food ends up being a little bit fresher because we tend to have somebody right on it as the plate gets empty, they go one is another one of that."

He acknowledged that without the pandemic, it was not an idea they would have considered.

Early on in the pandemic, there was a great deal of concern buffets would not be available at all.  While fine dining is a major part of cruising, the buffet is a staple of the experience.

When ships restarted sailing again, the buffet was indeed there, but it had the crew members standing behind the buffet with the tongs in hand.

Drinks in the buffet are also served by the crew.  Crew members hand guests a cup of water, tea, or coffee instead of guests grabbing it themselves.

Guests now walk up to a buffet station, and ask the crew member to serve them a particular item.

Other health protocols implemented in the buffet include scanning SeaPass cards when going in and out of the venue to ensure there is not overcrowding, certain tables blocked off to ensure social distancing, and even signs on the floor to show passengers where to stand while in line for the buffet at a safe distance.

Royal Caribbean also added a reservation system for the Windjammer, where guests could optionally reserve a time in advance via the Royal Caribbean app, although that has not yet been necessary on any sailing so far.

While Mr. Fain did not address the subject of dinner in the buffet, it remains another top question among cruisers.

Currently, the Windjammer is only open for breakfast and lunch onboard.  It is not open for dinner.

The reason why the Windjammer remains closed for dinner is there are simply not enough people onboard the ship.  At dinner, specialty restaurants, the main dining room, and other complimentary dining venues all vying for guests.  With ships sailing with less than half a ship's normal capacity, Royal Caribbean decided to keep the Windjammer closed for dinner.

From what I've heard from Royal Caribbean, the Windjammer will remain closed for dinner until ships reach around 50-60% capacity again.

Royal Caribbean will expand Perfect Day at CocoCay with Hideaway Beach

In:
01 Sep 2021

There will soon be a new area of Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas to enjoy.

40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean announced on Tuesday an expansion to Perfect Day at CocoCay with a new area.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley revealed in an email to Crown and Anchor Society guests plans for the new area.

"I can also hardly wait to share more news about our plans in The Bahamas, including another expansion to make Perfect Day at CocoCay even more perfect with an entirely new experience we’re calling Hideaway Beach — you heard it here first!"

View the 2021 Perfect Day at CocoCay map | Royal Caribbean Blog

There were no additional details, but this is the first expansion of the private island since the completion of the Coco Beach Club in early 2020.

Prior to the cruise industry shutdown of 2020, Royal Caribbean alluded to the idea of expanding CocoCay following the early successes of the Perfect Day makeover.

Where could Hideaway Beach be located? Much of the western end of CocoCay is undeveloped.

Royal Caribbean has utilized the area immediately west of Thrill Waterpark for supplies, lodging, and other backstage needs.  But the beaches to the west and south are unused.

Of course, cruise fans are excited to know what will be part of the Hideaway Beach area.

There has not been a trademark filing yet with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, so unfortunately no clues in any of those filings yet.

Royal Caribbean opens Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

What do you think Hideaway Beach will be? Share your predictions in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean CEO gives updates on return to service, loyalty benefits and more

In:
01 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

With all the changes and updates related to Royal Caribbean's return to service, the cruise line's CEO shared a new update.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley sent an email to Crown and Anchor Society guests with a look at the most important facts related to the restart process.

Royal Caribbean has been busy with getting its ships back in service, and there have been a lot of changes and tweaks along the way.  With half the fleet back in service, Mr. Bayley took some time to provide cruisers with where things stand.

Here is everything Mr. Bayley included in his email update to guests.

Halfway to the goal

Royal Caribbean CEO says pent-up demand still exists for cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

In just a few short months, 13 of the 26 ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet are now back in service.

"It has been full steam ahead since June, when Adventure of the Seas became the first Royal Caribbean International ship to sail the Caribbean after many months," Mr. Bayley noted.

The plan is for every single ship to return to service by spring 2022, as outlined by the cruise line in an update earlier this month.

"It’s onward and upward on all fronts — including several new developments I’m excited to share with you!"

Mr. Bayley also pointed out that every single of the test cruises in the United States have "passed with flying colors", coinciding with the effective health and safety measures onboard.

More ships will be restarting very soon, including Oasis of the Seas from Cape Liberty on September 5.

He also pointed t o other ports being able to resume cruises, such as Tampa, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico in October and November.

Perfect Day at CocoCay expansion

Royal Caribbean hoping to reopen Perfect Day at CocoCay soon | Royal Caribbean Blog

Snuck into the email was an announcement of a new expansion to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The new area is called "Hideaway Beach", and there were not many details included.

"I can also hardly wait to share more news about our plans in The Bahamas, including another expansion to make Perfect Day at CocoCay even more perfect with an entirely new experience we’re calling Hideaway Beach — you heard it here first!"

"A herculean effort"

Royal Caribbean begins vaccinating crew members in Miami | Royal Caribbean Blog

Thus far, over 160,000 guests have sailed on Royal Caribbean cruises from ports in the U.S., U.K., The Bahamas, Cyprus, Italy, Singapore and Spain.

Mr. Bayley gave credit to the hard working crew members who made this all possible, "This has been a herculean effort, and throughout it all, our crew have been the shining stars you’ve always known them to be. "

"Their commitment, positive attitude and smiling faces have made this all possible. And we can see the results of their impact in the feedback and record-setting guest ratings."

Adjusting to changes

First look at Royal Caribbean's new health protocols when it restarts cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Bayley also talked about the challenges the cruise line has faced in dealing with changes. 

"Our health and safety measures will adapt to however many more curveballs and changes COVID-19 may have for us, including requirements from various countries and authorities."

He pointed to a recent change, where The Bahamas issued a new policy prohibiting anyone over the age of 12 that is unvaccinated to be able to visit their ports on a cruise ship.

The result is all ships sailing from Florida visiting The Bahamas now requires guests 12 and older be vaccinated.

"This now means every Royal Caribbean cruise from the U.S. will sail with fully vaccinated guests, while still welcoming children under 12 who are ineligible for the vaccine today."

Crown and Anchor Society update

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

With the email going out to Crown and Anchor Society guests, a lot of eyes are focused on the onboard experience for the cruise line's customer loyalty program.

Mr. Bayley said they are bringing back several Crown & Anchor Society benefits that were paused due to Covid-19.

As of September 1, this includes:

  • The Diamond Lounge is fully opening its doors to welcome more Diamond members and above
  • The exclusive Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club Top-tier Event 
  • Complimentary breakfast in specialty restaurants for Pinnacle Club members 

Mr. Bayley also referenced the recent announcement for Pinnacle Club members that will have access to a new lounge while the temporary pause on access to the Suite 
and Concierge lounges remains in effect.

"Pinnacle Club members, please know we have been determined to bring you a dedicated space to come together in the meantime."

"This will be available to each member through November 1, during which we’ll consistently evaluate the current public health circumstances for everyone’s well-being on board. We’re committed to returning this benefit to you as soon as practically possible."

Read the full email

If you want to read the entire email, here is a copy.

10 Tips to save you time on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
31 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The saying "time is money" applies to business, as well as your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation. Every minute you save now, is an extra minute of vacation time you get to enjoy unencumbered.

One of my top pet peeves is wasting time that could have been saved with a little work upfront, especially if it's time spent at home so that things move smoothly onboard.

Whether it saves you two minutes or ten minutes, it all adds up and time saved also reduces stress.  I love the feeling of knowing I bypassed what would have otherwise caused me to wait longer. It's like driving in the expressway on the highway when traffic is backed up, but without the extra cost!

Here are 10 easy ways you can save time on your Royal Caribbean cruise with some quick tips.

Download the Royal Caribbean app now

The Royal Caribbean app is super important these days, and if you wait to download it on the ship, you will waste much more time.

Royal Caribbean allows you to download the app for free while using their wifi, but the speeds are super slow.  Download it now while you are at home and have a fast internet connection.

Moreover, having the app installed and signed in will make nearly every aspect of the vacation (especially embarkation) much smoother and faster. 

While some cruisers might prefer to not have to use a phone on their cruise, there is a difference between using the Royal Caribbean app and checking work email.  Put on your out of office message in your email, but keep the Royal Caribbean app primed and ready.

Read moreThe Royal Caribbean App: Everything you should know

Do everything in the online check-in before the cruise

Speaking of the Royal Caribbean app, there is no excuse for not completing the online check-in before your cruise.

I recommend using the Royal Caribbean app to complete the check-in (in lieu of the Royal Caribbean website) because the app can scan your passport to save time, as well as make the photo upload much easier since your phone has a camera.

If you enter all your information, take the selfie, and add a credit card to your account, you will fly through the cruise terminal during check-in.

Read moreWant to get on your cruise ship as fast as possible? Here's what you should do

Book My Time Dining reservations

If you have My Time dining, be sure to book a reservation so you don't wait later.

My Time Dining allows you a flexible dining schedule, and you can simply go to the dining room and get a table.

The reality is having a reservation means you will wait less, so whenever possible, book a time in advance so that you wait less. People with a reservation get priority for a table first.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean My Time Dining versus Traditional Dining

Pre-book beverage packages, dining packages, internet packages and more

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

As an added benefit, there is usually a pre-cruise discount if you book these online.  Save time and money by pre-booking.

Read more12 must have Royal Caribbean tips & tricks for families

Research shore excursions before you cruise

All too often you will see families standing on the pier while visiting a port of call and trying to decide on the spot what they should do.

You have a limited amount of time in any port of call you visit, and time wasted deliberating where to go means even less time to enjoy your tour.

Your best bet is to look into what each port your cruise ship visits offers, and either book something in advance or have a plan of what you will do there.

Just like the previous tip about pre-purchasing packages, researching in advance shore excursions will save time and maybe even some money.

Read moreA complete guide to picking the perfect shore excursions

Read the Cruise Compass the night before

Every night, your stateroom attendant will drop off a copy of the next day's Cruise Compass and this is your best time to check out what is coming up.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot to do onboard their ships, and it is a good idea to at least browse the next day's activities and check out what sounds interesting.

Not only will perusing the Cruise Compass save you time in deciding what to do, you may discover an activity you really want to see and reduce the chance of missing out on something.

Read moreFirst time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

Visit Guest Services at less-busy times

When you have a problem, Guest Services is almost always the go-to place to get it resolved, but if at all possible, try to go when there are less guests doing the same thing.

Guest Services is open 24 hours, and they can assist with so many issues. The best times to visit Guest Services is early in the morning, during dinner, while the ship is docked in port, and late at night.

If your question or concern can wait a little bit, try to visit when the lines are much shorter or even non-existent.

Read moreThe top crew members to find if you have a problem onboard your cruise

Get to the beach faster on CocoCay and Labdee

If your ship is visiting Labadee, there is a complimentary ferry that visits Columbus Cove.

About halfway down the pier will be an area you can board a ferry boat to take you to the opposite end of Labadee, and enjoy one of the quietest beaches available.

The ferry is free.

Over at Perfect Day at CocoCay, there is complimentary shuttle services all around the island.

You will find golf carts waiting to take guests off the ship as you disembark.  These carts will take you down the length of the pier and drop you off at the entrance to the island.

There are also larger trams that go all around the island. These trams are great for not only getting from point A to point B, but they are a good way to see the island.

Whether by cart, tram, or ferry, these free services will save you steps on what is likely a very warm and sunny day in paradise.

Read more40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets

Use a travel agent

Travel agents are an amazing resource that costs you absolutely nothing extra to use.

The best reason to use an agent is to save you time, because they are the ones sitting on hold when calling Royal Caribbean.  Tasks such as repricing, making special requests, dealing with weather events and more are why I use a travel agent every single I book a cruise.

While they are saving you time, they can also net you big savings.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

Register your kids for Adventure Ocean on embarkation day

While you can sign your kids up for Adventure Ocean at any time, the best time to do it is on the afternoon of the first day of your cruise.

In the early afternoon (usually around 1pm), Adventure Ocean opens up their open house so families can stop in to meet the staff and register.

The registration process is quick, and doing it now means the crew members have everything you need to sign right then and there, as opposed to later when they have to grab the sheets and of course that means more time spent while also trying to drop your kids off.

Read moreTop tips for taking a Royal Caribbean family cruise vacation

More tips and secrets

Want more helpful tips to save you time and money? Check out these articles:

Royal Caribbean steps up again to support travel agents with new booking incentive

In:
31 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Throughout the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean has been a steadfast supporter of the travel agent community with various programs aimed at helping them stay afloat during this turbulent time.

In its latest way of giving back to travel agents, Royal Caribbean is announcing a new instant booking bonus option for travel agents that coincides with Travel Partner Appreciation Month in September.

The Instant Booking Bonus will instantly give travel partners up to $200 on all new fully deposited bookings throughout the month of September. In addition, any booking created through an online sales platform, such as Espresso or any third-party tool, will receive an additional $10 bonus. 

These booking bonuses are in addition to earned base commissions.

The new bonus is one of many efforts Royal Caribbean has undertaken to help travel agents during the last year or so.

At the very onset of the cruise industry shutdown when cruise lines announced cruises were canceled and their return to service was unknown, Royal Caribbean promised to protect travel agent commissions for canceled cruises.

Traditionally, when someone books a Royal Caribbean (and most cruise lines) cruise with a travel agent, the agent receives the commission once the passenger actually goes on the cruise.  If the passengers would cancel and take a future cruise credit, the agent would not be paid by the cruise line until the subsequent cruise was taken.

Royal Caribbean decided to change that policy so that guests who take advantage of the Cruise with Confidence program and are opting for a Future Cruise Credit in the full amount paid, will have earned commission to the travel agent protected on both the canceled booking and the future reservation where the FCC is redeemed. 

The cruise line then announced a new program to  assist thousands of travel professionals in the U.S., Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories dealing with the negative impact of the Covid-19 crisis.  

RCL Cares first offered one-on-one assistance and access to key resources to travel agent partners.  The program was then expanded with a "Pay It Forward" option with $40 million in funds available to qualifying travel advisors, who can apply for three-year, interest-free loans of up to $250,000 to keep their businesses focused on a return to growth.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, spoke to RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com about the importance of supporting the travel advisor community, "We do it because we can, and it's the right thing to do, and we see the value of travel advisors."

"We're going through this journey right now and it's taken longer for us as an industry to come out of it. We need to make sure that when we do come out of it, the travel advisor has survived."

Ms. Freed has long been a champion of guests using travel advisors for the tremendous benefits they offer in knowledge and resources, "I think when a consumer can lean on a travel advisor for that expertise and that advice, it's very helpful for the consumer's experience. Plus, we equip the travel advisor with the right tools so that they know how to get that."

Read more10 Secrets Royal Caribbean travel agents wish you knew

As you might imagine, this new instant bonus has already resonated with travel advisors. Beci Mahnken, Founder and CEO of MEI-Travel, said programs like RCL Cares have been so critical, "Targeted programs like commission protection and the RCL Cares initiative gave us the lifeline we needed to help navigate the difficulties of keeping our business afloat."

"We are grateful to Royal Caribbean for extending their hand of support while they were also suffering. It is good to have a true partner who cares about the travel advisor channel - not just with words, but with meaningful action."

8 Things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
30 Aug 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

I have officially finished my first cruise EVER, and I am hooked!

Last week, I wrote a post here on Royal Caribbean Blog about what I thought I should do on my first cruise. I was about to board Mariner of the Seas’ first revenue sailing, a 4-night itinerary to CocoCay and Nassau leaving from Port Canaveral.

The primary reason for this cruise was to create new videos for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel. With a camera in hand and my sister tagging along as my guest, I boarded Mariner of the Seas ready to experience all that a cruise has to offer.

And in what seemed like a split second, the cruise came to an end. While I researched a lot ahead of time to prepare, it is a whole different ball game when you experience something first hand.

After experiencing it for myself, I wanted to share 8 things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise.

The crew is extremely friendly

One aspect of my cruise that I was consistently impressed with was the friendliness of the crew. It is clear that the crew are excited that guests are back onboard, and I have never seen such a high level of customer service in any other form of travel. From the second I arrived at the terminal, Royal Caribbean’s crew was helpful, sociable, and especially joyful.

I lost count of the amount of times I was told “Good morning!” while on my way to breakfast. If I got lost or had a question, I knew I could ask any crew member and they would point me in the right direction.

I really enjoyed sitting at Cafe Promenade with a coffee in the morning and getting to know the crew members who were equally as eager to learn more about the guests onboard. 

My sister and I kept saying “Everyone is so nice!” over and over throughout the entire cruise and the crew made our experience that much better.

Read moreThe top questions people want to know about crew members on a cruise ship

Specialty dining is delicious

Thanks to Royal Caribbean’s Best Price Guarantee program, I started my cruise with a lot of onboard credit (around $530 to be exact). So after boarding, I had a big task at hand: figuring out how to best spend my onboard credit. It was a great task to have.

I took advantage of this by trying out a few specialty restaurants onboard. As you can read on Matt’s live blog from the sailing, we ate at Playmakers, Chop’s Grill, Izumi, and Jamie’s Italian. Yes, it was an enormous amount of food. And yes, I was impressed by all of the restaurants.

From the quality of the ingredients and unique menu items to the level of service we received at each meal, specialty restaurants added a more elevated dining experience to the cruise. A few of my favorite menu items were the warm sesame balls for dessert at Izumi, fresh penne pasta at Jamie’s, and loaded nachos at Playmakers.

I would say it is worth it to try a couple specialty restaurants onboard. Even though the food included in your cruise fare is excellent, trying the diverse cuisine available in specialty dining is a nice addition to the normal dining options.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Perfect Day at CocoCay lives up to the hype

While Perfect Day at CocoCay looked incredible in all of Royal Caribbean’s marketing materials, I was curious to check out the island in person. Would it be crowded? Were the beaches as nice as they looked in pictures? Was it going to seem like a theme park instead of a secluded, tropical island?

Perfect Day at CocoCay exceeded all of my expectations and then some! Because I was filming a full tour of CocoCay for an upcoming video on the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, I explored every inch of the private island.

The beaches on CocoCay are exceptionally clean and crystal clear, which is excellent for snorkeling, kayaking, or simply floating on a raft with a drink in hand.

I was impressed by the amount of free things to do as well. You can easily spend a day on the island without spending any extra money and still have a “perfect day” at CocoCay. My favorite complimentary experience would have to be the Oasis Lagoon. The swim-up bar is magnificent.

The island is easy to navigate and has shuttles going around the island all day. There are way too many activities to do in a single day on the island, soI am looking forward to visiting CocoCay again.

Read more40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets

Don’t miss the Indian food

Hot take here… the Indian food at the Windjammer is some of the best food on the ship. I know what you’re thinking… is the buffet food that good? But I’m serious! It is delicious.

A significant number of Royal Caribbean’s employees come from India, and you will see their cultural influence at the Windjammer. During each meal on my sailing, several options of Indian curry and flatbreads were available in the buffet. I love Indian food at home, so I made sure to try some each time I ate in the Windjammer and I was never disappointed.

Even if you don’t usually eat Indian food at home, a cruise is a great place to try new cuisines. Plus, the staff from India were always happy to see me enjoying food from their culture!

Read moreHow to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room on your Royal Caribbean cruise

Choose an itinerary with a sea day

Our itinerary on Mariner of the Seas included one sea day, the last day of the cruise. For first time cruisers, I think it can be tempting to book a cruise that visits as many destinations as possible in the shortest amount of time. However, I would recommend making sure you have at least one sea day in your itinerary.

A sea day is the ultimate relaxation mode. Port days tend to be busy, as you will want to experience as much of the destination as you can.

On a sea day, though, there are no obligations. You can wake up on your own time, enjoy a late breakfast in the Main Dining Room, and spend the rest of the day exploring the ship. A sea day is also a good time to try out activities on the sports deck and attend events at different venues onboard.

Sitting on the pool deck on the sea day and looking at the ocean around me was mesmerizing. I’ll definitely be looking at itineraries with sea days for my future cruises.

Read moreTop things to do on a sea day on a Royal Caribbean cruise

You might not spend too much time on your balcony

I was thrilled to have a balcony room for my first cruise, and I’m not going to lie… I think booking a balcony is totally worth the extra cost. Being able to have your own area to relax outside and watch the waves go by is a huge benefit. Plus, having room service breakfast on the balcony was nothing short of awesome.

That being said, I don’t think a balcony is 100% necessary, especially for a first-time cruiser. I spent the majority of my days experiencing all that Mariner of the Seas had to offer outside of my room. I also loved heading up to the pool deck as it gives a 360° view of the ocean.

My advice would be to book a balcony if the price is within your budget (or splurge a little!). If you can’t, though, and opt for an inside or ocean view stateroom, that’s okay too. You probably won’t be spending too much time there anyway!

Read moreInterior vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise

The drink package isn’t always necessary

I did not end up purchasing a drink package for my cruise and I don’t regret it. 

Before my cruise, I kept going back and forth about whether to purchase a drink package or not. In the end, though, I did not think I would be able to get the value out of the drink package, so I decided to just purchase drinks individually as I wanted.

This worked out well for me. I found myself satisfied with the complimentary drink options onboard like fruit juice, coffee, lemonade, and tea. Outside of these complimentary drinks, I averaged two alcoholic drinks per day. With a cost of around $11-14 per drink, I did not spend nearly as much money as I would have spent on a drink package.

I was also consuming so much food throughout the cruise (which was well worth it), so I found myself too stuffed to order drinks all day.

If your primary reason for going on a cruise is to relax at the pool with a drink in hand, though, I’d say you should surely purchase the drink package ahead of your sailing.

Be sure to try my favorite drink onboard, the Banana Colada, in the Bamboo Room.

Read moreThe best reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package on your cruise

You won’t have time to do everything

I love how Royal Caribbean turns a ship into a destination. Mariner of the Seas isn’t even close to being Royal’s largest ship, and it was still unbelievable to me how there was so much to do onboard. Whether watching an ice show in Studio B, flipping around on the Skypad, or listening to live music at Boleros, I did not have a second to be bored.

An important thing to note, though, is that because there are so many activities offered, you likely will not have time to do everything you want to do. I ran out of time to try many of the activities on the sports deck, visit the spa, and go to several events in the evening that I originally planned to attend.

My takeaway from my first cruise is to not get too caught up in trying to see and do everything on the ship. Sometimes the best moments of cruising are when you are looking at the sunset on the horizon and doing nothing at all.

Read more15 Free Things to Do on Mariner of the Seas

In the end, my first Royal Caribbean cruise was certainly an experience to remember and I am already looking forward to cruising again. It’s funny how my browser just somehow seems to open up to Royal Caribbean’s booking page…

Be sure to subscribe and turn on notifications to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, as we will be sharing new videos from our Mariner of the Seas cruise in the upcoming weeks.