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The top problems Royal Caribbean is facing as it returns to full capacity

In:
16 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's incredible to see how much progress Royal Caribbean has made in less than a year with its restart plans, but there are still a handful of issues the cruise line is working through.

Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

Royal Caribbean is on the brink of having the last ship in the fleet restart operations (Rhapsody of the Seas), which is an important milestone for a company that was decimated by a "black swan" event in the form of the global health crisis.

While the cruise experience has improved rapidly with higher guest satisfaction scores, more ships back in service, and rolled back Covid protocols, there are still a few notable issues that Royal Caribbean is tackling.

It's important to note that these issues are not just Royal Caribbean problems. Nearly every form of travel leisure has their fair share of challenges. The reason why I'm bringing these issues up is to help anyone with a cruise manage expectations properly.

Cruise ship docked in Miami

There has been many bumps on the road to Royal Caribbean's restart, but they've been able to navigate them well, and it stands to reason these issues are likely temporary as well.

Here are the challenges Royal Caribbean has to tackle at the moment, which anyone with a cruise this summer should be aware of.

Covid cases

Covid isn't gone by any means, and that means there are still Covid cases on cruise ships.

To be fair, there's always been some level of Covid cases on any Royal Caribbean sailing, but Royal Caribbean's protocols have limited the spread to ensure it doesn't become a ship-wide problem.

Covid cases are going to be an ongoing problem for a while, just like every facet of life.  Just like in society, we're learning to live with it, but that doesn't mean there won't be cases popping up onboard.

Based on reader feedback, it seems guests are reporting seeing or experiencing Covid cases on individual sailings and it's almost certainly a reflection of a general rise in Covid cases around the world right now.

YouTube vloggers Travel Spree unfortunately caught Covid and had to be isolated while on their Symphony of the Seas cruise.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog message board user anxiouscruiser shared their experience testing positive for Covid while onboard Serenade of the Seas, "it sucks but I knew the risk when I chose to cruise. I just wish it didn't happen to us."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly review, there has been a week-on-week increase in the number of counties with high levels of COVID-19. As of May 11, 2022, the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (84,778) increased 30.7% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (64,863).

Vision of the Seas sailing away

In short, more Covid cases in society is going to likely translate to more Covid cases onboard cruise ships. Unlike on land, cruise ships at least have requirements and protocols that do their best to mitigate the spread of Covid.

What this all means is you should be cognizant of the fact there are more Covid cases, and take whatever precautions you deem fit. Perhaps that's wearing a N95 mask while indoors, or changing shore excursion plans to prioritize outdoor tours.

Staff shortages

Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas

Every company is dealing with not enough workers, and that includes cruise ships.

On some ships, certain venues or forms of entertainment are not yet open so that they can better utilize crew members. In other cases, there may simply not be enough crew members to manage every situation that can arise.

There's an interesting message board thread discussing the general issue on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards.

While many guests are understanding of the general problems all business have in hiring, they also feel moving to full capacity with less than a full compliment of crew causes guest satisfaction problems, "I think we all understand the troubles of staffing right now, but Royal Caribbean should match their ships capacity with their staffing.," said carlosalonsor.

"I think Royal Caribbean just found it a bit harder to staff up than they expected to," smokeybandit opined. "For those who do want to return, lots of red tape to get them on board again. Then there are those who have found a happy life off a ship or those that are just hesitant to return for various reasons."

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Robert Joseph Dulo shared a similar issue with staffing shortages on Explorer of the Seas last week, "The staff and the ship could not handle the capacity with many service and food issues."

"I left them detailed survey responses and hope they look closely at them as my experience was similar to others that I talked to. I hope they make the appropriate changes or they will start to lose cruisers, especially me. They seemed to not be ready for higher capacity."

Even if Royal Caribbean could snap their fingers and hire everyone they need right now, there's still the issue of visa delays, quarantine rules in some countries, vaccine requirements, and more.

The good news is Royal Caribbean is indeed trying to hire as many new crew members as they can, with recruitment drives in countries around the world. It does not appear to be a problem the cruise line is not aware of by any means.

In the meantime, bring extra patience with you, along with sunscreen, a camera, and a good book.

Supply chain problems

Bottles of liquor

Tangentially related to the first two issues, you may run into certain items not available onboard your cruise.

Primarily, we've seen this in the past in the form of certain brands of liquors not available. Remember the CocoCay-branded beer? That was an early victim of supply chain issues.

Bottles of liquor at a bar

Just like staffing problems, this is not likely an issue that will go away overnight. In its first quarter 2022 earnings, Royal Caribbean Group said they're managing supply chain challenges, mainly related to fuel and food costs.

In my experience, how much of an impact it has on your sailing will greatly depend on which brands of types of food and drink you prefer, as well as general demand onboard. Each sailing has a different assortment of guests onboard, and the ships are doing their best to supply accordingly.

What this means for your cruise?

AquaTheater suite on Wonder of the Seas

After reading about these issues, what should your takeaway be for an upcoming sailing?

Certainly the problems Royal Caribbean is facing are the sort of things the company has to mitigate and address in order to improve, but if your cruise is coming up in the next few weeks, it's possible it could impact your cruise.

At a minimum, it's food for thought. Throughout the restart of cruise operations, there have been hurdles for passengers to navigate. So while today's problems are a concern, it's not like there haven't been things Royal Caribbean has overcome in the past year.

It may also be an opportunity to gauge how comfortable you are with embracing a certain level of flexibility. Nothing is perfect, including cruise ships, so if the prospect of your favorite liquor not being available, or a longer wait for drinks at bar truly irks you, then perhaps you should put off your cruise until the situation improves.

As cruise fans, we love this kind of a vacation and no one ever wants to be disappointed. It's why I think it's critical to be as honest and up-front with what others are seeing so we can all make the right decision to sail or not.

The sort of problems Royal Caribbean has are also being dealt with at plenty of other land-based travel destinations. So the grass is not greener necessarily elsewhere.  But that doesn't mean a cruise right now is superb either.

An educated consumer tends to have a better experience overall, and this article is intended to ensure you are up-to-date with what's happening.

Local’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

In:
16 May 2022
By: 
Mollie Breese

Alaska's state capital is chock full of adventure. As one of the state's largest cruise and airport hubs, Juneau has established itself as a tourist destination.

Juneau aerial view

Tucked beneath towering mountains, this city offers something for everyone while taking an Alaska cruise. Whether you want to stroll down the historic streets of downtown, toss out a line in a picturesque inlet, or climb aboard a floatplane to view glaciers from the sky – Juneau has it all. 

Mollie is a resident of Alaska, who has spent many years visiting everything her state has to offer, including extensive visits throughout Southeast Alaska.

You can easily find recommendations for top things to do or see in this bustling Alaskan community, but we're going to take you off the beaten path. In this guide, I will provide you with a list of top places to visit in Juneau from a local's perspective. 

5. Spend an Afternoon on South Franklin Street (Downtown Juneau)

Juneau street

Juneau boomed during the late 1800s. Thanks to the discovery of gold, miners, traders, swindlers, and more made the trek north to America's Last Frontier. Fishing villages quickly transformed into bustling cities (Well, cities by Alaska standards), and many of the old buildings still stand today. 

Walking around Juneau's downtown is like stepping back into a time machine to the 1890s. Visitors can head towards South Franklin Street to reach the heart of the historic area. The wide sidewalks and quaint buildings have played host to a variety of shops and restaurants throughout the ages. The multitude of stores carries souvenirs, local Alaskan crafts, fine arts, books on Alaskan history and nature, and handmade jewelry. 

Franklin Street

The downtown area is easily accessible by foot to the main cruise ship port. During your shopping experience, be sure to pop over to Marine Park with your binoculars to take a peek at Mount Juneau.

This is a popular spot to see mountain goats, especially in the late summer when their white coats stand out against the green landscape. 

Mt Roberts Tramway

Local Tip: If it's sunny, be sure to catch a ride to the top of Mount Roberts via the Mount Roberts Tramway.

While this trip isn't worth it on a cloudy day, the views are unparalleled on a clear day. Be sure to pack extra layers. It is often much windier or colder at the top.

Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

You can also hike to the top if you're feeling more adventurous. The trail from downtown is 6 miles round trip and takes about 2-3 hours (depending on stops). You can also hike to the top and ride down (or vice versa).

Treat yourself to a beer at the tram's bar, and the ride down is free! 

4. Visit the Touch Tank at the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Hatchery

Touch tanks. Photo by DIPAC

The Douglas Island Pink and Chum Hatchery (DIPAC) is a great place to learn, view, and touch the sea life that inhabits the waters around Juneau and southeastern Alaskan. This hatchery is crucial to maintaining salmon populations, but it also offers a variety of great activities for visitors eager to learn more about the infamous salmon run and other wildlife. 

If you're visiting between July and September, the hatchery is one of the best places in the area to view the salmon run. Head over to the Ladd Macaulay Visitor, situated inside of the hatcher, to watch this natural phenomenon unfold. 

In season, salmon surge up the hatchery's fish ladder. At times, the run is so thick that you could walk across the water on their backs (Of course, this activity is not allowed. But you get the picture). This is also one of the best spots to watch bald eagles fish the waters. With the salmon so thick, eagles are almost guaranteed to snag a meal on each dive. 

Salmon viewing window. Photo by DIPAC

The hatchery also has viewing windows where you can watch the salmon struggle upstream beneath the surface. Education signs will help you identify which species of salmon you're viewing. 

If you're visiting outside of the salmon season, there is still plenty to see and do. DIPAC's touch tanks invite both the young and old to get close to Alaskan beautiful sea critters. You can touch urchins, crabs, sea stars, and sea cucumbers, and staff is available to educate curious visitors. There is also a salmon rearing facility and aquarium onsite, where salmon and other marine life can be viewed year-round. 

3. Drive to Echo Cove

Glacier Highway

Juneau can only be accessed by plane or boat, but that doesn't mean there aren't any roads in the area.

There are approximately 250 miles of road throughout the city and borough of Juneau, with stretches of road extending out into the beautiful wilderness surrounding the city.

One of the best stretches of road extends out of downtown Juneau to Echo Cove via the Glacier Highway. This 80-mile round trip offers visitors the chance to hike and view wildlife at their own pace. 

Glacier highway

Car rentals are available throughout the Juneau area, with many offering pick-up services at the cruise ship port. Be sure to pack a lunch, water, sunscreen, and bug spray for this journey, as services are few and far between outside of the city.

This drive can easily fill up a day with all of the scenic viewpoints and trails along the route, or you can opt to camp along the road if you are staying in Juneau longer. 

Eagle Beach

Here are some of my favorite stops along this drive: 

  • Eagle Beach - This beach offers great views of Lynn Canal, the Chilkat and Juneau Mountains, and plenty of easy hiking trails. This is also a great vantage point to see humpback whales from the shore. 
  • Jensen-Olsen Arboretum - An idyllic public garden that is a miniature version of the famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia
  • The National Shrine of St. Therese – a historic landmark about 20 miles outside of Juneau. This stop has a beach stone chapel, spanning views, and quiet gardens. There is also a gift shop and lodge onsite. 

Local Tip: Do a portion of this drive at sunrise or sunset (assuming your ship is there late enough).

This is when wildlife is more active, and you are more likely to catch sight of a fox, wolf, or bear along the route. The lighting also makes for dramatic landscapes as a backdrop for your photos. 

2. Go Bear Viewing on Admiralty Island

Pack creek

Juneau is home to both black and coastal brown bears. Both of these species of bears can be viewed in and around Juneau, especially when out on the road. In the late summer, both bears are a common sight in salmon streams and berry bushes. Due to their dense population, it is always recommended to carry bear spray and a small blow horn when hiking or exploring. Both are easily available in the downtown shops and outfitters in Juneau. 

If you're heading to Juneau to catch sight of the infamous grizzly, there is no better place than at Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area on Admiralty Island. While black bears can average around 400 pounds, their distant cousins, the coastal brown bear, can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Brown bears are Grizzlies, but they are considerably larger than the grizzlies found in the interior. That is thanks to a rich diet of salmon, berries, and other fatty-riched foods that are readily available along the Alaskan coast. 

While both species co-exist elsewhere, Admiralty Island is home to only the brown bear. It is estimated that around 1,600 brown bears call Admiralty Island home, making it one of the densest populations of brown bears in the world. 

Pack Creek bear

The Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area is situated inside the Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. This sanctuary is only accessible by boat or plane, so most visitors catch a 30-minute floatplane ride from Juneau. The sanctuary is open from June 1 through September 10, with the peak season occurring from July 5 through August 25. During the peak season, visitors are limited to 25 per a day. 

A permit is required to visit the sanctuary, with half of the permits available for public purchase. Due to the difficulty in reaching the sanctuary and securing a permit, I recommend booking a bear guide to solve both of these problems. Bear guides are also knowledgeable in bear behavior and help keep you safe while you observe these majestic animals in the wild. 

While this isn’t a local secret, this is one of the best places to view brown bears en masse in Alaska.

Bear warning sign

But don’t worry if you can’t swing a permit here. Black bears are numerous throughout Juneau and out on the road, and brown bears are incredibly common throughout mainland Alaska.

When visiting Alaska, it is never if you see a bear, but when. 

1. Take a Guided Kayak Trip to Mendenhall Lake

6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

Juneau is a water destination. Surrounded by islands with countless inlets and glacier lakes, this is a water lover's dream destination. One of the most spectacular trips is a voyage along Mendenhall Lake to Mendenhall Glacier. 

Visitors can opt for a guided kayak tour to Mendenhall Lake, where you can kayak between floating icebergs and experience the serenity of Tongass National Forest for the water. The tours allow paddlers to view the glacier from a safe distance while learning more about the history and nature of the region from the experienced guide. Keep an eye out for otters, beavers, and bears, as they are frequent visitors along the banks of Mendenhall Lake.

Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

Permits are required to paddle close to the glacier, so opting for a guide makes this journey easier and safer. Guides also supply all the gear needed. While some fitness level is needed to participate in the 2-hour adventure, visitors do not need to be kayak experts. Guides provide kayaking tips and lessons, and the lake remains calm on sunny days. 

If kayaking sounds too extreme, visitors can also enjoy Mendenhall Glacier on a charter cruise. Helicopter tours are also often if you want to see the glacier from the sky. Both of these experiences are easier physically, but they lack the serenity found only with a paddle. 

Nugget falls

Local Tip: If you're under a time restraint, you can also view the glacier from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

If you have longer to explore, consider a hike to Nugget Falls from the visitor center. This trail will bring you close to the glacier as well as to the viewing point of Nugget Falls, a 377-foot waterfall plummeting into the lake.

Simply look for signs from the visitor center pointing to the falls. The 2-mile hike is level and on gravel, making it the perfect option for families. 

More Alaska information

How to link Royal Caribbean cruise reservations together

In:
16 May 2022
By: 
Haley Mills

If you're going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with close friends or family, you might want to link your reservations together.

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

Linking reservations is an optional feature to make dining arrangements a little bit easier.

Here's a look at the why and how of linking reservations on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Why link reservations?

Main dining room table

In short, linking reservations together means you can more easily facilitate dining reservations, especially in the main dining room.

Every stateroom has a reservation number, and there is no inherit way for Royal Caribbean to know guests staying in one cabin want to dine with guests in another cabin. This is especially true of families that split up among different cabins.

Royal Caribbean makes cruising fun for families and groups of all sizes, but that usually means there are multiple reservations involved. Since you’re traveling together, it makes sense that you would want to eat together in the dining room and plan excursions together.

Spa facial

Or maybe you have someone really generous in your group who is paying for your drink package, or wants to surprise you with a spa day! 

In addition, linking reservations allows for an easier time of booking entertainment since you won't have to look up the reservations later.

It's an extra step that makes planning other aspects of the cruise a little bit easier when your travelling party is spread across more than one cabin.

How to find my reservation number

Before you can link a reservation with yours, you will need some basic information about each person's reservation:

  • Reservation number
  • Last name
  • Date of birth

The most common issue for anyone that wants to link reservations is finding their reservation number.

There are a few ways to find your reservation number, so it's just a matter of whatever is easier for you.

You can find that by logging into your Royal Caribbean account. I find that it is easiest to do this on an actual computer, rather than the mobile app.

After logging in, the reservation number should be listed with every cruise you have booked.

Other ways to get the reservation number include:

  • Look at your invoice you received when you booked the cruise
  • Call Royal Caribbean or your travel and ask for the number

How to link reservations

8 Things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Once you're ready, you can link reservations together in one of three ways:

  • Have your travel agent do it for you
  • Call Royal Caribbean and have them do it
  • Do it yourself online

In the case of a travel agent or going through Royal Caribbean, this requires you to simply contact either one to make it happen.

If you want to do this on your own, you and them can log onto the Royal Caribbean website.

Just below your reservation information, you should see a button that says Have a Reservation? Click the blue Add a Cruise button.

This will take you to the Link A Cruise page. It will ask you for the Surname (Last Name) of the person you want to link, their date of birth, and their reservation number. Click Continue.

From there, it should locate their reservation and give you the option to link their reservation with your cruise!

Now you are all set! Your Main Dining Room table reservations will be set together. You’ll also have access to each other so that you can pay for each other’s excursions and other Cruise Planner items.

For example, my husband and I are traveling with his sister in November, and we are trading off paying for some of the fun things we are planning on board. Linking our reservations has made that super easy! Have fun and get to planning!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: May 15, 2022

In:
15 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Stay up-to-date with all the Royal Caribbean news from this week with our roundup of all this week's news.

Could Icon of the Seas be even bigger than the Oasis Class cruise ships?

Icon of the Seas plaque

One Royal Caribbean executive recently said Icon of the Seas will be the largest ship when she debuts next year.

Sean Treacy, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, said, "Icon will be the biggest. It launches in the fall of next year."

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 454th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which explains how and why to book a cruise onboard.

NextCruise is where you can go on your ship to book another cruise. Matt details what you need to know about booking a cruise onboard.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

15 reasons to book a cruise on Oasis of the Seas

There are a few different Oasis Class cruise ships, but the original is still a great choice to sail on.

Oasis of the Seas was upgraded in 2019 and offers plenty to see and do onboard. In fact, we came up with 15 reasons to book a cruise on Oasis of the Seas.

8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Need a recommendation for a great non-alcoholic drink to try on your cruise?

There are lots of possibilities, but we have a list of 8 must-try mocktails when you go on your next cruise.

Where to eat like a local on your Alaska cruise

Scottish egg encased in longanisa and a loco moco with adobo gravy

Besides seeing the amazing sights of Alaska, there are some great places to eat and have a drink.

Our in-house Alaska expert shares her top picks for food, beers, cocktails, or coffee at each stop along your Alaska cruise.

Why Freedom of the Seas is a great choice for a short cruise

Ever thought about taking a weekend cruise?

Freedom of the Seas sails short 3-night cruises from Miami, and here's why Freedom of the Seas is a great option for a cruise vacation.

Guide to cruises from Tampa

In:
14 May 2022
By: 
Nicole Feist

Tampa offers a convenient embarkation port for cruises to the Western Caribbean, including many with Royal Caribbean.

When you think about cruising out of Florida, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are probably the first port’s that come to mind. If you are looking for something a little quieter, on Florida’s west coast sailing into the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find Tampa. 

Port Tampa Bay is the home port for five ships from four cruise lines, offering itineraries to the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean and even Transatlantic cruises. 

How to get to the Tampa Cruise Port

Port Tampa Bay is located just 8 miles from the Tampa International Airport, and less than a mile from downtown Tampa, making it one of the easiest cruise ports to get to. 

The address of Port Tampa Bay is 1101 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602.

Royal Caribbean typically uses Terminal 2, but will also use Terminal 3 when needed. Passengers should follow the digital signage at the port to find the correct terminal for their ship. 

Flying to Tampa Cruise Port

Tampa International Airport

Tampa airport

Flying into the Tampa International Airport is the easiest for those needing to fly in prior to their cruise. With over 90 nonstop destinations and 260 daily departures, travelers have plenty of options to choose from to get to and from their cruise.

With the port located so close to the airport, it is recommended to use a taxi or rideshare app Port Tampa Bay, which will usually cost between $18 - $25. The drive should only take 15 - 20 minutes.

One of our biggest tips at Royal Caribbean Blog is to fly into your departure port the night before your cruise, to ensure that you don’t encounter delays that could make you miss your embarkation time. There are plenty of hotels to choose from located near both the Tampa airport and Port Tampa Bay, making getting to the port on embarkation day a breeze. 

What Time Should I Schedule My Flight from Tampa?

Tampa airport

When booking your travel home after your cruise, it is important to not book too early of a flight, as you do not want to risk missing the flight home. 

Even though TPA is located close to the port, we recommend booking a flight home no earlier than 11:30am. While you may be able to walk off the ship by 8:00 - 9:00AM on disembarkation day, it isn’t guaranteed, and you don’t want to end up missing a morning flight.

Royal Caribbean Shuttle Service

How to get from Orlando to Port Canaveral | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean offers shuttle service from the airport to the port (and vice versa), for an extra fee. There are also outside vendors who offer shuttle service such as Infinity Transportation.

Since the airport is located so close to the port, I recommend utilizing a rideshare or taxi service over a shuttle. Not only will prices typically be lower, you also won’t have to wait on a shuttle to fill up before being able to leave.

Parking at Port Tampa Bay

Port Tampa Bay has very convenient parking options for the cruise terminals. Since it is located so close to downtown Tampa, there are plenty of parking garages to choose from. 

The closest option is the Port Tampa Bay parking garage, located just across the street from the three terminals. They offer self parking for $15 per day, and oversized parking (RV’s, etc) for $30 per day. 

Port Tampa Bay also offers valet parking for $15 per day, plus a one time fee of $20. This is a great option for those who have trouble walking, or don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking their car. To utilize this option, you simply pull up to the curbside of the terminal entrance, and the valets will take care of the rest. 

Where to stay the night before your cruise from Tampa

Tampa downtown

As we mentioned, it is highly recommended to fly in the day before your cruise departs. When doing that, booking a hotel is an important part of the planning process when cruising from Tampa. 

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may want to stay closer to the cruise port and downtown Tampa. This will give you an opportunity to explore the city and see the sights before leaving for your cruise. The Tampa Bay Riverwalk and Channelside areas offer plenty of dining, shopping and sights. 

If your flight is arriving later in the evening, you may want to stay closer to the airport and head to the cruise terminal in the morning. The Westshore area is located just outside the airport, and has plenty of hotels to choose from. 

Recommended hotels include:

Some hotels will offer a shuttle service to the terminal on embarkation day, but we still recommend using a rideshare service, as you will have flexibility on the timing. 

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail from Port Tampa Bay?

One of the best parts of cruising out of Tampa, is getting to sail under the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

However, this bridge can only accommodate ships that measure 180 feet from the top of the waterline. For this reason, Royal Caribbean uses Port Tampa Bay for its Vision and Radiance class of ships. 

Serenade of the Seas will be sailing out of Tampa starting in October 2022 offering 4, 5, 7 and 10-night Bahamas, Caribbean and Americas cruises.

These itineraries will visit Cozumel, George Town, Puerto Costa Maya, Belize City, Roatan, Grand Bahama Island, Bimini, Nassau, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Cartagena, Colón, and Puerto Limon.

Serenade will also be offering a 14 Night Spanish Transatlantic Cruise in May 2023, visiting Nassau, Madeira and Palma De Mallorca before ending in Barcelona.

Brilliance of the Seas will begin sailing from Tampa again in October 2022, offering 4, 5, 6 and 7-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. They will visit Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize City, George Town, Key West, Nassau, and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In April 2023, Brilliance will go on a 16 Night Transatlantic Cruise, stopping in Madeira, Málaga, Cannes, and Florence before ending in Rome. 

Radiance of the Seas will sail out of Tampa starting in October 2023, offering 4 and 5-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises, visiting Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau. 

Granduer of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas will be sailing out of Tampa starting in May 2023, offering 4 and 5-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. These itineraries will visit Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Nassau, and Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

Where to Watch a Sailaway

If you find yourself in Tampa before or after your cruise, and want to catch a ship sailing through Tampa Bay, there are plenty of areas to watch from. 

The closest viewing spot you’ll find is at the cruise terminal. Port Tampa Bay allows you to walk right up near the ships, for an unforgettable view. 

If the ship is leaving from Terminal 2, you can walk over to the Sparkman Wharf to take in the view, while grabbing a drink from the beer garden or a bite to eat from one of the many food stands.

Another great option is David Islands Beach, less than 15 minutes away from the port. Here you can sit back and relax with your toes in the sand, or even get in the water as you watch the ships sail away from Port Tampa Bay. 

Arguably, one of the best sites to see is the ship sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This bridge is located about a 30-45 minute drive south of Tampa, and it takes the ships about 2 hours after departure to reach the bridge.

While you can’t stop on the bridge to view the ships, you can go to either the north or south fishing piers to watch them sail under the bridge.

Royal Caribbean Group releases 2021 sustainability report

In:
13 May 2022
By: 
Hayley Phillips

Royal Caribbean Group released on Friday its sustainability report for the year 2021.

This is the 14th annual sustainability report that Royal Caribbean has released to the public, and it outlines the environmental policies across the company.

This report provides a comprehensive update on Royal Caribbean’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) actions and activities across all of the company’s brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises.

This year for 2021, Royal Caribbean Group reworked their ESG report to even more reflect the company’s efforts towards creating more sustainable cruising within the industry. The report focuses on five areas in which Royal Caribbean Group is working towards sustainability specifically. These five areas include: champion communities and the environment; provide unforgettable cruise experiences; foster human rights and be an employer of choice; advance net zero innovation; and govern responsibly. 

Ocean water at Lelepa

Jason Liberty, the CEO of Royal Caribbean Group said the following, “all of us at Royal Caribbean Group are focused on delivering the best vacations possible and doing so responsibly. This reflects our commitment to continuous innovation and building a sustainable cruise industry while growing our business for good.”

The debut of the 2021 sustainability report comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean Group announcing that they have committed to an additional five-year partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

“Much of what the Royal Caribbean Group has achieved has involved collaborators and partners. One of the most important is World Wildlife Fund. WWF’s counsel on key sustainability matters has added rigor and accountability across many facets of the business, including sustainable tourism, sourcing, and reduction of emissions. The company is currently embarking on a new set of co-developed targets involving reduction of food waste. WWF is knowledgeable in the ecology and environmental characteristics of many of the company’s destinations,” stated Chairman of Safety, Environment, Sustainability and Health Committee for Royal Caribbean Group, William K. Reilly. 

Alaska Seward Waterfront and Ray s Restaurant

The ESG report for 2021 highlights Royal Caribbean Group’s efforts to become increasingly energy efficient. Some of the ways Royal Caribbean Group details their energy efficiency include: 

  • Capturing engine waste heat to heat shower and galley water.
  • Co2 and occupancy-based ventilation controls to optimize AC fan energy consumption.
  • Advanced Emissions Purification system to treat and clean exhaust gases.
  • LED and fluorescent lights to reduce energy use and produce less heat.
  • AI-based weather routing to optimize timing, route, speed, and distances traveled.
  • Chiller and HVAC upgrades to reduce energy consumption. 
  • Shorepower connects to the local electrical grid while docked and completely removes emissions. 
  • Galley energy management system, including demand-based ventilation, to benchmark equipment energy usage. 
  • Optimized power plant design to better sync with ship’s operational profile. 
  • Improved hull with anti-founding paint and redesigned propulsion system. - Air lubrication system to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. 

The 2021 ESG report emphasizes Royal Caribbean Group’s efforts to decarbonization, especially through the company’s Destination Net Zero strategy. This strategy aims to identify Science-Based Targets (SBT) and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Strategy’s such as these will help the company identify their goals and achieve their targets in the realm of sustainability. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay aerial of South Beach

Destination Net Zero demonstrated Royal Caribbean Group’s focus on serving as a focal point for change within the industry, with developments that include the following: 

  • Introducing a fuel-cell hybrid design that allows for zero emissions in each port the ships dock.
  • Future-proofing the company’s ship-building portfolio through fuel flexibility and innovation that ensures that each new ship class that Royal Caribbean debuts is 20% more energy efficient that the previous. 
  • Developing waste management technologies that can convert waste to energy. Currently 100% of the Royal Caribbean fleet is equipped to be land-fill free.
  • Being prepared, through shore power, to connect to local power grids as soon as it becomes available.

Other areas that Royal Caribbean Group is working towards are: sustainable business development and growth, sustainable tourism, waste management, and continued carbon emissions reduction. 

Some additional statistics released in Royal Caribbean’s report include:

  • “We reduced our waste-to-landfill by 87% from 2007 to 2021.”
  • “We eliminated single-use plastic condiment packages, cutlery, and shopping bags. We’ve now reduces our single-use plastics by 60% since the beginning of the initiative.”
  • “We protect destinations by offering more than 2,000 GSTC-certified sustainable tours around the world.”
  • “We granted $21 million in relief funds across 78 countries.”

To read Royal Caribbean Group’s 2021 sustainability report and learn more about the company’s efforts towards sustainable cruising, readers can visit: www.royalcaribbeangroup.com/sustainability 

A look at the best Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise deals in 2023

In:
13 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The Alaska cruise season has just begun in 2022, and all this excitement might be the impetus you need to book a cruise to The Last Frontier in 2023.

While some may be able to turn around and book an Alaska cruise for later this season, many families need more time to plan out a trip. Not to mention the financial benefits of booking a cruise to Alaska well in advance.

Being just about a year away, we are in a prime point of the calendar to look ahead to 2023 and reserve an Alaska cruise.

Royal Caribbean will send four cruise ships to Alaska in 2023, and we took a look at the cruise pricing as it stands now to pick out some of the best prices you could get by booking right now.

Alaska waterway

Just like cruises to the Caribbean and Europe, Alaska cruise prices fluctuate all the time. But, the best prices are usually found when booking a year in advance. The Alaska season is short, so that means limited opportunity (and subsequently cabins) to reserve a sailing.

A look at Royal Caribbean's Alaska 2023 cruise prices

Our methodology is simple: I looked at the price for two adults to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2023 and came up with the lowest price for each of the sailings in Royal Caribbean's 2023 Alaska season.

The search was conducted on May 12, 2022 and the prices were accurate as of the time of the search. It's doubtful the price would have changed much, if at all, between when the search was conducted and when the article was published.

In comparing the data across 84 sailings, I wanted to come up with the best possible prices to see what patterns could be discerned.

There also could be various other discounts that could be applied to alter these prices, such as Crown and Anchor, residency, and age discounts.

Cheapest cabin price for 2023 Alaska cruise

  • Cheapest possible cabin (inside): Enchantment of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise April 23, 2023 from Vancouver: $381
  • Cheapest possible oceanview cabin: Enchantment of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise April 23, April 30 or September 17, 2023 from Vancouver: $621
  • Cheapest possible balcony cabin: Ovation of the Seas 8-night Alaska cruise May 11, 2023 from Seattle, Washington: $793
  • Cheapest possible suite: Enchantment of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise September 17, 2023 from Vancouver: $2,005

It's no surprise that the cheapest Alaska prices came exclusively during the shoulder season in April and September. 

Moreover, the fact the cheapest cabin was found three out of four times on Enchantment of the Seas is not surprise since Enchantment is the smallest and oldest ship offering cruises to Alaska in 2023.

Typically, Royal Caribbean discounts its oldest and smallest ships because there is less demand for these vessels, regardless of where they are sailing to. When compared to the two Ovation Class ships or even Radiance of the Seas, Enchantment has the least activities and things to do onboard.

Average cheapest price for 2023 Alaska cruise

Radiance of the Seas in Seward, Alaska

Next I wanted to get an idea of what the average price is for each sailing when comparing the lowest price for each cruise ship cabin category.

Across all ships

  • Inside cabin: $744.04
  • Oceanview: $896.61
  • Balcony: $1,428
  • Suite: $2,544

Enchantment of the Seas

  • Inside cabin: $757.41
  • Oceanview: $907.85
  • Balcony: $1451.41
  • Suite: $2549.82

Ovation of the Seas

  • Inside cabin: $757.47
  • Oceanview: $908.51
  • Balcony: $1433.81
  • Suite: $2565.43

Quantum of the Seas

  • Inside cabin: $758.85
  • Oceanview: $907.51
  • Balcony: $1433.75
  • Suite: $2562.33

Radiance of the Seas

  • Inside cabin: $765.66
  • Oceanview: $916.48
  • Balcony: $1452.78
  • Suite: $2565.74

Most expensive cheap cabin price for 2023 Alaska cruise

Alaska balcony

In case you're wondering how much of a deal the cheapest cabin prices were listed earlier, here are the top weeks you can expect to find the highest price among the lowest fares available.

  • Inside cabin: Ovation of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise July 21, 2023 from Seattle, Washington: $1,001.00
  • Oceanview cabin: Ovation of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise July 17, 2023 from Seattle, Washington: $1191.00
  • Balcony cabin: Radiance of the Seas 7-night Southbound Alaska cruise July 21, 2023 from Seward, Alaska: $1987.00
  • Suite:  Ovation of the Seas 7-night Alaska cruise July 21, 2023 from Seattle, Washington: $3423.00

The highest prices for a 2023 Alaska cruise will be found right in the middle of prime season during the month of July.

July is when it is warmest in Alaska and every school is off for summer break. This means the most people possible have the opportunity to take a vacation, and mid July is exactly when we see the highest prices for an Alaska cruise.

Moreover, three out of the four highest prices are found on the newest cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas. Ovation offers the latest features of all the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska, which carries the highest wide-appeal.

I was surprised to see Radiance of the Seas coming in with the highest price for a balcony cabin given that Radiance is older and smaller than either Ovation or Quantum of the Seas. Plus, Radiance is sailing an open-jaw from Seward to Vancouver, which usually turns off a lot of people.  Perhaps the itinerary is particularly appealing to many, along with the fact Quantum Class ships have a higher percentage of balcony cabins.

Should I wait to book a last minute Alaska cruise?

Serenade of the Seas in Alaska

The alternative to booking a year in advance is to wait for a last minute cruise.

There can be good deals for Alaska cruises closer to sailing, but you run the risk of there not being that lucrative of a deal.

If you really don't care about your cabin type or week you sail, you might get lucky with a last minute booking, especially if you can cruise in the shoulder season when many others are unable to go.  The months of April, early May and September are in that shoulder season when the temperatures are lowest and school is still in session.

If you look at 2022 Alaska cruise prices, there are some low prices available, primarily on Radiance of the Seas open-jaw sailings. Prices at the time this article was written were as low as $240 per person, although that's for an interior cabin at the end of August. That price jumps to $863 per person if you want a balcony room.

Many cruise fans advocate a balcony cabin is a must-do when sailing to Alaska.

Generally speaking, waiting to book a 2023 Alaska cruise at the last minute is not a great idea, unless you live close to the west coast. Expensive airfare prices alone might offset any savings you get from a last minute cruise fare.

Royal Caribbean updates: Land tour testing change, The Cove & more

In:
13 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to a new week of Royal Caribbean news, which has a few tidbits and updates you should know about.

There's a lot happening in the world of cruising, and this week's update aims at catching you up on a few changes that we've seen over the past few days.

If you notice something different, be sure to email any news tips over to [email protected]

Change for Covid testing on Alaska land tours

Cruisetour Alaska train

Royal Caribbean has changed the Covid-19 testing policy for guests that have booked a cruisetour add-on to their Alaska cruise.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader melmar02 shared an update that testing is no longer required prior to the land tour, although testing remains for the cruise portion.

"Cruisetours: Testing is no longer required prior to the land tour, but cruisetour guests must still meet the pre-cruise testing requirements."

"It's recommended guests bring an eMed Test Kit to take at the end of the land tour. Guests who don't bring their own test kit will have a test made available through a local medical service provider at their own expense. "

The cruise tours are optional tours that take guests into the interior of Alaska before or after their cruise.

Cove

Remember that Royal Caribbean trademarked the term "secret cove" that sounds like it could be a new area for Perfect Day at CocoCay

A few days later they made another registration for "The Cove", which is also described as " intended to cover the categories of recreational services, namely island resort services."

There's been no word from Royal Caribbean what any of these trademarks may be utilized for, but it's something to keep an eye on.

New Zealand will reopen borders to cruise ships this summer

Auckland, New Zealand

Good news for anyone cruising down under: you'll be able to visit New Zealand again.

Our friends at Cruise.Blog shared an update that New Zealand will reopen its maritime borders on July 31, 2022.

While Australia had re-opened its borders to cruise ships, New Zealand was still holding out.

CLIA statement

CLIA Australasia issued a statement in support of the change,"Today’s announcement is a huge breakthrough for the many New Zealanders who depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, port workers and many other industry suppliers."

"The suspension of international cruising over the past two years has had a huge impact on the New Zealand travel industry and we now have an opportunity to work on a revival."

Royal Caribbean ship opens new Sitka cruise terminal

Photo by Caitlin Blaisdell for Royal Caribbean Group.

The arrival of Ovation of the Seas to Sitka on May 7 not only signaled the start of the Alaska cruise season, but also the opening of  newly constructed Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal.

The new terminal is a 40,000-square-foot timber-framed facility featuring local retail shops and restaurants, an outdoor covered terrace and a departure point for land- and water-based shore excursions.

The 1,300-foot dock is designed to accommodate two 1,000-foot neo-Panamax-class cruise ships, with a total capacity of 8,000 guests.

The terminal has six retail stores and two restaurants, all locally owned. A shuttle for cruise guests between the terminal and downtown Sitka is designed to load up to four 60-passenger motor coaches at a time.

Beach Reads: Mental Health Awareness Month

In:
13 May 2022
By: 
Haley Mills

Spring is turning into summer, and the temps are heating up. As we head off onto our summer vacations, let’s pick some books to read! Does anyone remember those library summer reading programs?

Woman reading on a beach

There’s no better time to read than a cruise, when you can kick off your shoes, grab a drink of choice, and settle in with whatever book you’ve been saving for just this opportunity.

Does this sound like a good idea to you? We have some recommendations perfect for all you May cruisers (and everyone else, too)! Pack one or two of these books in your suitcase or on your tablet for your next vacation.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and so the books I have picked out for you all touch on some kind of mental illness. Most of us are affected by mental illness in one way or another:  we may know someone who suffers from the effects of disease or we ourselves battle illness. Either way, learning more about mental health helps to reduce the stigma surrounding these disorders and allows us to remove barriers to empathy and care.

I’d love to hear in the comments which book you chose, or if you have a favorite read for Mental Health Awareness Month that wasn’t mentioned!

Fiction

  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman:  The story of a teen with schizoaffective disorder, and the chaotic delusions he lives with on a daily basis.
  • Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee:  Miranda tries to protect her sister, Lucia, who is fiercely independent. When Lucia’s schizophrenic disorder forces her to yield to it, Miranda tries to rescue her, but only Lucia can decide if she wants to be saved. Can the bonds of sisterly devotion protect them both?
  • Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall:  A soft teen romance that gives a very accurate view of what it is like to have OCD and Agoraphobia.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia:  Because of her schizophrenia, Alex never totally knows what is real and what isn’t. So when she meets Miles, he seems too good to actually be true. She’s not prepared for normal.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:  This one is a classic for a reason. If you’ve never read it, this is a good time to add it to your list. Sylvia Plath’s masterpiece perfectly encompasses her character’s breakdown and the dark corners of the psyche.

Non-Fiction

  • Darkness Visible by William Stryon:  A memoir of depression from a Pulitzer-Prize winning author. This book lays bare the realities of clinical depression and the difficult recovery this disease demands.
  • Scattershot by David Lovelace:  Four out of the five people in the Lovelace family have bipolar disorder, and David Lovelace shares the eccentricities of their family portrait.
  • Agorafabulous! By Sara Benincasa:  Comedian Sara Benincasa shows us what it is like to be terrified of the world outside, and how to confront some of the more awkward and challenging aspects of adulthood in her hilarious memoir.
  • Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster:  Why is everyone in the USA so anxious? Comedic author Jen Lancaster is here to help us all out of that stressful pit. Maybe. 
  • Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn:  You may have seen Neil Hilborn’s poetry when it went viral across Facebook several years ago. Since his debut of “OCD”, he’s had many others make their way across the web. This collection features several of those, along with others you’ve never heard before.
Book and a beach

Are you someone who likes to read when you get on board your vacation cruise? How many books do you usually pack? What are you reading for Mental Health Awareness Month? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
12 May 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Drinking may be synonymous with any cruise vacation, but there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages to enjoy while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Nothing hits the spot like a tropical, fruity drink, whether you’re sun tanning on the pool deck or exploring one of Royal Caribbean’s private destinations.

I was curious as to what types of mocktails are available on a Royal Caribbean cruise, so I engaged in some fun “research” to taste a variety of drinks around the ship during my recent sailing. While there are endless combinations of juices, fruits, and syrups that can be turned into tasty mocktails, here are 8 of my favorite options for when you’re craving a nonalcoholic drink.

Mojito from Boleros

Boleros is the Latin-themed bar found on most Royal Caribbean cruise ships, and it is undoubtedly the best place onboard to order a mojito.

While the drink’s exact birthplace is not entirely known, it’s said that the mojito originated in Havana, Cuba. Combining white rum, lime juice, fresh mint, white cane sugar, and soda water, a mojito is both light and refreshing.

To order a virgin mojito, simply order a mojito without rum. The result tastes like an extremely fresh mint lemonade, and it was my favorite mocktail I tried while onboard.

Piña Colada

Perhaps the most famous vacation cocktail in the world is a piña colada, a frozen drink combining rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice together. The piña colada originated in San Juan, Puerto Rico during the 1950s and has since become synonymous with a tropical vacation.

Most bars on any Royal Caribbean ship will be able to make a piña colada, although they are most commonly served on the pool deck. Ordering piña coladas without alcohol is very common and, due to the strong pineapple and coconut flavors, a virgin piña colada barely tastes any different than its alcoholic counterpart.

Not many drinks hit the spot on a warm Caribbean day like a piña colada does, and it is a must-have drink on any Royal Caribbean cruise.

Miami Vice

If you’re having a hard time choosing between a piña colada and a strawberry daiquiri… why not both? A Miami Vice is another delicious mocktail to try on a Royal Caribbean cruise, made with one side strawberry daiquiri and the other piña colada.

The combination of pineapple, strawberry, and coconut is sure to be the best of both worlds of any tropical mocktail.

Mai Tai

A Mai Tai is a classic drink to enjoy while at the beach or onboard a cruise ship. Made with Goslings Black Seal Rum, Myer’s Dark Rum, amaretto, orange juice, sweet & sour, lime juice, and grenadine, a Mai Tai brings an explosion of flavor to a tropical drink.

A Mai Tai can easily be made into a mocktail by removing the rum. I ordered a virgin Mai Tai at The Lime & Coconut bar onboard Freedom of the Seas and it was one of the best drinks I enjoyed all cruise long!

Lime & Coconut from The Lime & Coconut

If you’re sailing on a Royal Caribbean ship with The Lime & Coconut bar on the pool deck, be sure to order the signature Lime & Coconut drink without alcohol.

The Lime & Coconut is a creamy drink over ice that combines Malibu Coconut Rum, coconut milk, coconut syrup, Monin guava syrup, and lime juice for a unique fruity taste. I ordered the drink without rum to give the bar’s signature cocktail a try.

Initially I was not sure if I liked it due to flavor combinations of guava, lime, and coconut, but the drink grew on me. While I think I preferred the Mai Tai I ordered from The Lime & Coconut, both mocktails make a good choice for a sunny day on the pool deck.

Being able to order this drink is not totally guaranteed, however. When I asked the bartender on Oasis of the Seas if he could make it, he initially seemed confused but said he would try to make a virgin version (to which he did). On Freedom of the Seas, though, my bartender said he didn’t think it was possible to make it virgin and I was unable to order it.

It might be a good idea to just specify the drink order “without coconut rum” if the bartender seems confused whether or not they can make the drink without alcohol.

Coco Loco (or Labadoozie)

Royal Caribbean’s private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee each have the same signature cocktail, despite the name differing between the two destinations. The Coco Loco (CocoCay) or Labadoozie (Labadee) is a frozen drink made with orange juice, pineapple juice, papaya juice, coconut cream, dark rum, coconut rum, and grenadine.

As this drink is so popular while in port, there are usually pre-made blended drinks available, and bartenders simply scoop the drink into a cup. Fortunately, this pre-made blend is nonalcoholic as the alcohol is poured into the drink once it is in the cup, so it’s an extremely easy mocktail to order.

In fact, if you’re interested in making the Coco Loco at home, we have a full recipe available on the blog.

Smoothies from Vitality Cafe

If you’re sailing on an Oasis Class cruise ship, one of my go-to “mocktails” is a fresh smoothie from Vitality Cafe, located in the Vitality Spa. Not only is a fresh fruit smoothie healthier than a mocktail loaded with added sugar, but it is extremely refreshing as well.

Smoothies at Vitality Cafe are entirely customizable, from selecting which fruits you would like to the type of milk. My favorite smoothie to order has bananas, strawberries, and blueberries blended with almond milk. A bit of peanut butter makes for a great addition to the smoothie as well.

Smoothies are included in Royal Caribbean’s drink packages, although if you decide to add protein powder to your drink an extra charge will be added.

Specialty coffee drinks

While not technically a mocktail, I always enjoy having frozen or iced coffee whenever I don’t feel like drinking alcohol but still want to sip on a tasty drink. All Royal Caribbean ships have somewhere to order specialty coffees onboard, whether at Cafe Promenade, Park Cafe, Cafe Latte-tudes, Starbucks, or Cafe @ Two 70.

Select drinks will be on the cafe’s menu, from frozen caramel “frappuccinos” to iced hazelnut or vanilla lattes. A variety of flavored syrups are available, though, so it’s possible to customize a drink exactly how you would like. Frozen white chocolate coffee drinks and iced caramel lattes are two of my favorites.

What is your favorite mocktail (or cocktail) to enjoy on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Let us know in the comments!