Odyssey of the Seas construction photo update - June 30, 2020

In:
30Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The Meyer Werft shipyard has released a few photos that show off the progress being made on Odyssey of the Seas.

Within Hall 6 of the Meyer Werft shipyard, the shipyard's webcam was updated with a wide view of the ship in position.

In addition to the weekly webcam photo of Odyssey, the shipyard also added a couple of other photos to indicate Odyssey will soon be on the move.

In the next few days, Odyssey will move to a new position within the hall to the water side of the complex.

Meyer Werft set up palings today, and due to the exact positioning of the palings, the ship has a fixed stand after the move.

The updated photos of Odyssey come just days after a construction site fire caused some damage onboard the ship, that the shipyard's owners are concerned could cause delays in the construction plans.

While no change to scheduled sailings has occurred, Royal Caribbean did tell Wall Street in May that impacted shipyard operations will result in delivery delays of ships previously planned for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has delayed Odyssey of the Seas' debut until at least April 2021.

Shipyard: Fire on Odyssey of the Seas results in damage and delays

In:
29Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Bernard and Tim Meyer posted a video providing a sobering look at the German shipyard's operations, and touched on an incident on a Royal Caribbean ship under construction and what it could mean for the project.

The Meyers shared a video that talked about some of the issues at the Meyer Werft shipyard, where Odyssey of the Seas is under construction.

Tim talked about Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship in the video.

Recently, a fire was reported at the construction site, which was the second reported fire in the last few months. This incident, coupled with project complications on other ships under construction, lead Mr. Meyer to speak about the situation at hand in German.

"And the fire at 713 Odyssey of the Seas is another stroke of fate in this overall very difficult situation. It results in high property damage and leads to further expensive delays."

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has announced it has pushed back Odyssey of the Seas debut, and cancelled all scheduled sailings through April 2021.

On June 24, the second fire reportedly involved insulation materials and took place on deck 2 of the ship. On May 28, there was another fire reported on deck 8 near a stateroom.

Meyer Werft is also juggling other issues, including P&O Cruise Lines refusing to take delivery of its new ship, Iona, which has financial consequences for the shipyard.

Last week, Royal Caribbean Vice President of Revenue Management Michael Goldner was asked about any delays in the status of Odyssey of the Seas, where Mr. Goldner indicated an update was likely forthcoming.

"We will know within the next week or two on whether there's any impact on the delivery. I don't have an answer for you today but in the next week or two we will have a more definitive answer."

The current schedule has Odyssey of the Seas arriving in Port Everglades in early November to begin sailings, with her first sailing on November 5.

Thanks to Rich Freudenberg for assisting in translating the video.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 28, 2020

In:
28Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! Hope you are having a relaxing weekend and enjoying summer! It is time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the recent Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean announced this week it cancelled more cruises, extending its cruise suspension through September 15, 2020.

The cruise line's announcement comes a few days after Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) trade group announced its member cruise lines will cancel all cruises from U.S. ports until September 15, 2020.

Exceptions to this timeline include China sailings paused through July onboard Spectrum of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas, as well as the further suspension of the 2020 Bermuda season onboard Grandeur of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas through October 31, 2020.  Voyager of the Seas sailings through September 30th, 2020 have also been cancelled.

Royal Caribbean plans to resume sailings on September 16, 2020 for the majority of its fleet.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 360th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, featuring how Ryan proposed to his girlfriend while on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Ryan took his girlfriend on Oasis of the Seas, and shares what steps he took to plan the perfect proposal.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! 

Five costly lessons learned on a cruise

We all make mistakes, including some that cost a lot in the long run, so I wanted to share how to avoid making five really costly lessons-learned on a cruise.

Going on vacation means spending money to splurge and enjoy yourself, but it does not have to mean wasting money. There are plenty of first-time cruise mistakes to avoid, and a few of them could really cost you in the long run.

The proverb, "Experience is The Best Teacher" holds true even on cruises, because there are a few mistakes that could cost you a lot of money.

The worst cruise mistakes our readers have made on a ship

In:
27Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

We all make mistakes, including when on a cruise ship.  While making a mistake is bound to happen, we can learn from each other by hearing the one big mistake our readers have had on a cruise.

A cruise vacation is filled with fun activities, great dining and exotic ports of call to explore.  With so many possibilities, a misstep along the way is not uncommon.  The key is to avoid the pitfalls.

I reached out to our blog readers to hear some of the worst mistakes they have ever made on a cruise. These pitfalls are the perfect lessons for the rest of us to know about and avoid on our own sailings.

Taking online reviews too seriously

This next cruise fail is a giant pet peeve of mine, which is to take one person's opinion of something as gospel.

WanderPam almost cancelled her cruise plans based on a negative review online!

"The worst thing I did was consider canceling our Explorer cruise because I took negative reviews too seriously. So glad I didn't because we had the most amazing 2 week cruise ever!"

There is nothing wrong with consulting others' opinions (this entire blog post is made up of opinions), but do not treat cruise ship reviews like you would a Yelp review.

Cruise ships offer such a varied and experiential vacation that it cannot be properly reviewed in its entirety based on a single experience. Cruises are by their very design a "create your own adventure" experience.  You could sit at the pool every day of the cruise and never do one activity, whereas the guy next to you could be zip lining, crocheting, belly flopping and dancing the night away.  In short, we all cruise differently.

My favorite way to explain why online reviews of cruise ships should not be used as a basis for anything other than entertainment is The Great Wall of China.

If you do an internet search for "The Great Wall of China", which is one of the greatest achievements of mankind, it only has a 4.2 star rating on Google!

 

No ship in the fleet is inherently flawed, and no ship is a mistake to sail on. Figure out what the ship offers (and doesn't offer), and make the right decision based on what you are looking for in a cruise vacation.

Not considering the holiday schedule

There are cruises offered throughout the year, including over major holidays.

Coneyraven booked a cruise on Brilliance of the Seas not realizing it was over the Easter holiday, which meant there were many more kids onboard than he was anticipating.

"Our biggest mistake was not looking at the holiday calendar before we booked a cruise. Had we known it was going to be Easter, we would not have booked that date.  We tend to gravitate more towards holiday's that are more "adult oriented", as opposed to "Family Oriented", like Halloween and New Years Eve."

You might be wondering why he did not cancel and rebook to a non-holiday cruise? He committed a double faux-pas by booking a non-refundable cruise fare, which is one of my pitfalls to avoid.

Beyond the issue of kids, not looking at the calendar means you could also end up paying more for hotels or aifare because holidays will drive up the cost of those incidentals as well.

Not researching anything

Our next cruise fail is one that I hear about all the time from first time cruisers and that is not learning about their ship, or where the places they are visiting.

Geoff P shared how on his first cruise, they did not research anything to maximize their vacation.

"We had a good time of course, but learned my lesson to do more research to really get the most out of our experience.  For our second cruise and now our third on upcoming have done much more research and planning ahead of time and its been so much better."

Learning about your cruise ship, as well as the ports you visit only benefits you in the long run. Not only can a little exploration into what your cruise ship offers save you time, it can reveal activities and opportunities you might not have otherwise know about.

All too often, I hear from cruisers who wish they knew about a certain activity, excursion or deal, and the key to not missing out on any of it is pre-cruise research.

Knowledge is power, so take advantage of your time before a cruise begins to learn as much as you can!

Going to a port without anything planned

Each port of call your ship will visit offers something a little bit different, and in many cases there are opportunities to explore the history, culture or natural beauty of these destinations.  

In the case of SteveinSC, not knowing about what the ports offered lead to a lackluster experience.

"My first couple of cruises, at our stops, I just got off the boat and walked around the port area. Big mistake. I wasn't taking advantage of all the stop had to offer!!! In my other cruises, I started booking excursions and taking taxis and really venturing out. Completely changed how I viewed, not only the itinerary, but the whole cruise."

One of the best things about the internet is the ability to learn about what nearly anywhere in the world has to offer, so look up the popular attractions and offerings to have a good idea of what the best choices are out there.

Next, look at booking a Royal Caribbean shore excursion to see what the cruise line is offering.

You have everything to gain by looking into what there is to do in any of the ports you will be visiting, and coming up with a plan for each port day.

Trying to do it all

I mentioned that cruise ships have so much to do onboard, and that leads us to our next cruise mistake, which is trying to do everything.

Melmar02 shared how she wanted to work everything in and that lead to more frustration than fun.

"I'm all for seeing and experiencing everything, but husband wants a laid back relaxing vacation...big fights may have broken out on our second cruise. I'm much more "go with the flow" now."

Achieving a balance of activities and relaxation is a great idea, and overdoing it in order to see it all often leads to burnout.

It is nearly impossible to do every single activity on a single sailing, so your best bet is to prioritize the must-do activities onboard and then come back for another sailing later to do more. 

Lots of people have had amazing cruise experiences by sleeping in, relaxing by the pool, and otherwise taking it easy. No one said a fabulous vacation can only be one where you are hiking, ATV-ing, and running around for 7 days.

Not pre-booking

If there is one mistake I always bring up it is not taking advantage of prebooking activities and add-ons to save you time and money later on.

JasonL shared how not pre-booking things cost him while on the cruise.

"Didn't use to pre-purchase as much as possible before the cruise. Also didn't pre-book activities. Of course I didn't have any money for extras back then, but  still it's a very common rookie mistake."

If you wait to purchase drink packages, shore excursions, restaurant reservations or spa appointments onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, you are wasting money.

Royal Caribbean offers pre-cruise discounts in the months leading up to its cruises and these discounts are significant enough to make it well worth your time to pre-book instead of waiting to buy it on the ship.

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.

Not having a packing list

I still struggle with packing as efficiently as possible, but the fear of getting onboard a cruise ship only to realize you forgot something really important is an all too real concern.

ptod wrote about how her husband refused to use a packing list, and ended up getting onboard without something pretty darn important.

"My husband was a little irked that I wanted to review the basic clothes that we had packed for one cruise....so I just let it go.  Come to find out that he completely forgot to pack any underwear - none, nada, zilch.  All he had was what he wore to travel."

While I admit that I do not always use a packing list, it is generally a good idea to refer to one to ensure you bring the most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Not putting phone into airplane mode

A very costly mistake is not protecting your phone against roaming charges that can run up a giant bill later.

Rose City Cruiser committed this mistake, and it was not pretty after the cruise was over.

"Forgetting to put my cell phone in airplane mode.  Was able to negotiate down the outstanding balance.  It was a huge lesson."

It is really easy to put your phone into airplane mode to protect against a costly bill later. 

Make sure once you get on the cruise ship, disable your phone's ability to connect to other networks, and then have the peace of mind that you will not have an expensive surprise waiting for you next month.

Missing the cruise because of a flight delay

Perhaps the most common mistake I see made is by people that fly in the same day their cruise departs. In my opinion, you are playing with fire by doing this instead of flying in at least a day ahead of time.

twangster wrote how it cost him once by doing that.

"I don’t make cruise mistakes. Okay, there was that one time I flew to the cruise on the morning of the cruise... and missed my cruise."

If you are flying to your cruise embarkation port, be sure to fly in at least one day early to avoid travel delays impacting your ability to make the cruise.

Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

Having cash with you

While Royal Caribbean's ships are cashless, other people outside the ship definitely still use green backs.

Brobbins246 confessed to a time she forgot to grab some cash.

"My confession is completely forgetting to have some cash available for tipping the porters on embarkation day.  We had a rental car to return that morning, so my husband dropped me, our kids and our luggage at the cruise port, then drove off to return the car.  After a porter took care of our luggage, I realized all our cash was still with my husband and I had nothing to give him except a profuse apology, thank you, and a hand shake.  Awkward....."

It is a good idea to bring some cash with you for before and after the cruise, as well as in any of the ports you visit. Be sure to also have smaller bills for tipping.

What's your worst cruise mistake?

Time to fess up to the worst rookie mistake you made on a cruise, even if you aren't a first time cruiser. Is there one here that you also committed, or do you have your own story to share? Please share the single mistake/slip up/fail you made on a cruise, so that we can all learn from these mistakes!

Royal Caribbean offering virtual concert on Friday night

In:
26Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Kick off your weekend with a Music Hall Virtual Concert experience by Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean is inviting everyone to watch a Virtual Concert featuring Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns. It will be streamed on Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Facebook page beginning at 5:25pm.

The virtual concert experience is an activity shown in Two70 on its Quantum Class ships, and as part of Royal Caribbean's final Virtual of the Seas online event, the concert is going to be streamed online.

"We're thrilled to bring you an exclusive virtual concert featuring one of the world's most extraordinary bands and Las Vegas' Crown Jewel: Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns."

As an added bonus, there will be special interviews held before the concert begins at 5:25pm. 

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, will conduct exclusive interviews pre-show with the band. 

 

Unique to the Two70 theater on Quantum Class ships, Virtual Concert is a musical experience that uses high resolution video footage of live performances captured on five 4K cameras to create a truly unique, immersive experience.

15 really cool things to do that you can only find on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

In:
26Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruise ships are more than floating hotels. They offer lots of entertainment, activities and things to do, and many Royal Caribbean ships even offer some incredible signature activities found no where else at sea.

If you are wondering what makes Royal Caribbean stand out from other cruise lines and their ships, here is a look at the best activities onboard that no other cruise line can match!

SeaPlex

Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

What happens when you combine sports courts, dance floor, table games, video games and bumper cars? You get the SeaPlex.

The SeaPlex is an indoor multi-purpose sports venue that transforms throughout the day depending on the activity. 

This multi-deck facility offers basketball courts, ping pong tables, dance floor, circus school, dodge ball arena and even bumper cars to ride. Since it is indoors, there is never an issue with it being rainy, too hot, or breezy.

The SeaPlex is busy from morning until night, and it is a big hit with teens, kids, and pretty much anyone that enjoys a little physical fun.

Ripcord by iFly

Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

Have you ever wanted to try skydiving without the danger of actually jumping out of an airplane?

RipCord by iFly allows guests to don a special suit and jump into a vertical wind tunnel for a few minutes of free-fall fun.

Set in a recirculating indoor vertical wind tunnel, guests can feel like they're falling from the heavens in a safe environment.  You wear the gear and goggles as if you were jumping out of an airplane, so it's as authentic an experience as you can get without the airplane.  

Trained instructors are with you the whole time in a totally controlled environment.

RipCord is going to be one of those experiences that you tell your friends and family about when you get home because it's not too often you get to experience something like this.

FlowRider

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum, Odyssey, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Explorer of the Seas.

The FlowRider surf simulator offers guests the opportunity to try surfing onboard a cruise ship.

The self-contained surfing area pumps 34,000 gallons per minute and allows passengers to try stand-up surfing as well as boogie boarding. 

While the FlowRider experience is far more of a controlled environment than the ocean, learning to stand up (and stay standing up) on your surf board is not so easy, so Royal Caribbean offers lessons for an additional price.  Both private and group lessons are available.

The FlowRider has scheduled times of operation during the day when it is open to all guests for no additional fee.  Guests must sign a waiver and there is a height requirement of 52" for boogie boarding and 58" for stand up surfing.

Royal Promenade

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Voyager, Explorer of the Seas.

The hub of activity on Royal Caribbean's largest ships is the grand canyon concourse known as the Royal Promenade.

Spanning three decks in height, this focal point for the ship offers shopping, dining and dance parties to enjoy during the cruise.

The Royal Promenade also features special staterooms that have a window view of the promenade, instead of a view of the ocean. This prime people-watching spot is not only a money-saving stateroom choice, but a great way to keep an eye on what's happening.

Studio B

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Explorer of the Seas.

Did you know you can ice skate at sea on Royal Caribbean ships?

Studio B is home to a functional ice rink, where you will find impressive ice skating performances in addition to the opportunity to put on a pair of skates and enjoy free skate time.

Free skates are offered throughout the cruise for no additional fee.  Be sure to pack long pants and socks so you can participate.

Ultimate Abyss

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean sought to create a truly unique thrill experience on its ships, and the Ultimate Abyss slide was born.

Ultimate Abyss is a dry slide (no water involved, you slide down on a mat) and is located on the aft of the ship.

It is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send guests down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour.

Guests board the slide by climbing stairs that lead directly into the mouth of a giant angler fish, where they get into a customized mat and then descend down the slide, traversing 216 feet of a multi-sensory tunnel. Guests can reach a speed of 9 miles per hour, and it is the kind of thrill experience unlike anything else at sea.

The Ultimate Abyss is free and available for rides mostly during the day.

Carousel

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure of the Seas.

Exclusive to the Oasis Class ships, the hand-crafted carousel is a tribute to the seaside boardwalks of the past.

Located in the Boardwalk neighborhood, the carousel uses turn-of-the-century carousel designs as its basis down to the very last detail.  Even the original artwork scenery panels located on the carousel’s eight Rounding Boards feature custom painted scenes to highlight the wistfulness of life on the historic boardwalks.

Eighteen figures are suspended from stainless steel poles along with one ADA accessible chariot that were created from poplar wood populate the carousel. 

Be sure to also check out the carousel at night because like the fairs of the past, nighttime is when these rides really shine when they are all lit up.

Broadway shows

Ships available: Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Liberty, Independence of the Seas.

On select Royal Caribbean ships, you can watch full Broadway shows performed in the Royal Theater for absolutely nothing extra.

Hit shows such as Hairspray, Cats, Mamma Mia and more are performed on Royal Caribbean ships and when you combine Tony Award-winning shows with no extra cost, that is a tremendous opportunity.

North Star

Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

On Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships, you can rise 300 feet above sea level to enjoy unparalleled views in North Star.

Available only on the Quantum Class ships, this observational pod is a calm and fun way to see everything around you, including the cruise ship below.

Tidal Wave slide

Ships available: Liberty of the Seas

The only boomerang raft slide on a cruise ship can be found on Liberty of the Seas.

Guests get into the raft slide, and then descend down quickly before going up a near vertical wall for a moment of weightlessness before heading right back down for a splashy end.

SkyPad

Ships available: Independence, Mariner, Spectrum, Odyssey of the Seas.

Combine virtual reality and a bungee experience and you get the SkyPad.

The SkyPad straps guests into bungee chords, where you can bounce up and down with an optional VR helmet on to provide the sensation of moving through an augmented reality world.

AquaTheater

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure of the Seas.

The AquaTheater is a distinct high diving, acrobatic performance space designed for Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships.

The venue has two 10-meter high platforms and the hydraulic-floored pool, the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea, below will serve as podiums for high-diving, hair-raising aerobatics that AquaTheater audiences have come to love.

On select evenings, you can enjoy performances held in the AquaTheater that combine music, dance, acrobatics and high-dives. It is something you have to see to believe.

Escape Room

Ships available: Harmony, Symphony, Oasis, Mariner, Navigator, Anthem, Independence of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean ships are home to a popular new attraction: escape room games.

Guests participating in the escape room try to solve a series of puzzles before time runs out, that requires them to man their stations from Mission Control and successfully launch Apollo 18 to the moon. 

When you arrive for your session, a short video will explain some ground rules of the puzzle. A crew member will supervise your group and will go over a few items in the room that are not part of the game, such as fire sprinklers and emergency exits.

Bionic Bar

Ships available: Harmony, Symphony, Oasis, Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

You can have your favorite cocktail mixed and served by a robot at the Bionic Bar.

Royal Caribbean teamed up with Makr Shakr, a company with ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create the Bionic Bars. The idea is simple: guests place orders via tablets and then can watch the robot bartenders start mixing the cocktails. Bionic Bar combines two big trends, robotics and mixology.

The single armed robot will get the ice, mints and lemon and then squeeze and shake them to make your drink. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Ships available: Most itineraries visiting The Bahamas

While not available onboard the ship, Royal Caribbean's private island is so impressive that it is worth mentioning as a good reason to book a sailing that visits here.

Perfect Day at CocoCay spans nearly a mile across, and features incredible beaches, a water park, pool, private club, zip-line and more.

There is a lot to see and do for guests of all ages, whether you want to simply relax on a quiet beach, or mix it up with some of the tallest water slides in North America, or enjoy one of the many luxurious cabanas.

Royal Caribbean spent a lot money revamping its private island, and since its opening in 2019, it has become a huge hit with cruise guests.

You can combine Future Cruise Credits instead of separately being reissued

In:
26Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has made it easier to manage Future Cruise Credits in a situation where a guest uses a Future Cruise Credit towards another sailing.

In a scenario where a guest uses a Future Cruise Credit to pay for their existing cruise, but now wishes to cancel under “Cruise with Confidence” terms, the cruise line aims to simplify the process.

If a Future Cruise Credit was leveraged to pay for either all or a portion of the existing reservation, Royal Caribbean will make it easier by combining all funds into one voucher. This is an alternative to having multiple FCCs, one from each cancelled booking.

The value of the original FCC will now be added to the new FCC at 100% of its original value, plus the addition of any amount paid by the guest.

Regardless of the original FCC’s expiration date, the new FCC is valid through December 31, 2021, at which time all unused funds will expire.

Prior to this change, Royal Caribbean would have issued a separate FCC for each cruise instead of combining the value into one.

This is another change Royal Caribbean has made to its Future Cruise Credit program, which has evolved since the start of the current global cruise suspension in order to meet the needs of guests.

Earlier in June, the cruise line began allowing guests to use Future Cruise Credits to pay for a new cruise deposit.

Future Cruise Credits are an option for guests who either choose to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before the sail date via the Cruise with Confidence program, or have their cruise cancelled by Royal Caribbean. In either case, a voucher code is provided that can be redeemed for the value of the sailing.

When Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing, the Future Cruise Credit is worth 125% the value of the cruise fare that the guest paid.

Expert-level cruise tips that all the cruise pros use

In:
25Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you have done even a tiny bit of research, you are well aware of common cruise tips, such as not overpacking or to pre-purchase add-ons to save money, but here are the secrets and tricks people that cruise all the time do, so you can do it too!

There is plenty of good cruise advice to go around, and this blog was started as a means of learning from each other.

In that spirit, I wanted to highlight five tips that I, and so many other people that cruise all the time, do on pretty much every cruise we book.  These tips may save you time and money, and not something the average cruiser may know about.

Changing their booking to non-refundable at the last minute

Many of you know I am a big proponent of booking refundable cruise fare because it adds a great deal of flexibility in case your plans change.  But you can change to non-refundable cruise fare down the line, especially if it is in your financial best interest to do so.

While not something that always occurs, there are plenty of situations where a booking is made a year or two in advance with a refundable cruise fare.  As the sail date approaches, it becomes clearer that you will almost certainly want and be able to sail on that cruise.

A good tip is to monitor the non-refundable cruise rates prior to final payment, because there are scenarios where the non-refundable rate drops to a point where it makes sense to rebook under that deposit program and take advantage of the savings.

I will employ this strategy once I am certain I will go on the sailing, and the savings bu changing are worth the jump.

Booking solo stateroom with a fake second person

This is one of my favorite tips for saving money when cruising by yourself.

Going on a cruise solo is a really fun experience, but it can also be an expensive sailing. Royal Caribbean charges something known as the "single supplement fee" to offset the loss for not achieving double occupancy in a stateroom.

When someone seeks to book a solo cruise, they usually enter just one person in the room reservation, and Royal Caribbean sticks you with that single supplement fee.

Instead, try looking for a reservation that has two people on it: you and a fake person.

When you add a second person, it is not uncommon that the total price is cheaper than if you price the same room out solo. 

Don't worry, you will not get in trouble for booking a fake second person.  You simply show up to the cruise terminal alone, let the agent know the other person will not be coming and you will get the fake second person's port fees and taxes refunded later.  And you still get double Crown and Anchor Society points for sailing solo!

Pre-book gratuities

When you book a cruise, there is the option to pre-book gratuities or pay them onboard.  Cruise pros always pre-book gratuities because it simplifies things, and locks in the gratuity rate in case of a rate change later.

Every so often, Royal Caribbean will revise the gratuity rates for its crew to keep pay in line with the industry.  When this occurs, anyone who pre-booked gratuities will be grandfathered in under the old rates.  

By pre-booking gratuities, you not only spread out the total cost of the cruise, but you assure yourself of the lowest price you can pay.

Book cruises years in advance

People that cruise a lot will book their cruises many months in advance to take advantage of the lowest prices. 

This is the best strategy for locking in the lowest price, as well as getting the most sought-after cabins that get booked up quickly (such as suites).

When Royal Caribbean releases new sailings, cruise pros will comb over the new options and usually place deposits as soon as they can to lock in low prices.

By booking early, you will often find the best rates available because cruise fares operate on a supply and demand basis.  The less supply there is (i.e. staterooms available to book), the higher prices.  So by booking one to two years early, you will find the best rates.

Book with a travel agent

I will never tire of sharing one of my favorite tips that will save you time and money in the long run - work with a good travel agent.

A good travel agent is more than somebody to take your credit card details and reserve a cabin.  Travel agents are your advocate throughout the cruise process, and are invaluable if an issue should arise at any point. 

In these days of delayed refunds, cancelled cruises, and future cruise credit tracking, having a good travel agent working on your behalf is incredibly important.

Since a good travel agent should cost you nothing extra to use (the cruise line pays them a commission), you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using one.

Your best tips

Did I miss a cruise tip employed by the most cruise-ninjas out there? How many of these tips have you heard about? Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments!

Five times Royal Caribbean changed its mind after announcing something

In:
25Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean announced Allure of the Seas would sail not be able to sail from Galveston in 2021, and offered limited options for guests booked on Allure. An avalanche of negative feedback to the cruise line resulted in Royal Caribbean changing its policy and adding more options to rebook guests.

This example of Royal Caribbean shifting its stance on something it had already announced is not unprecedented. In fact, Royal Caribbean is not shy about changing its mind even after announcing a change.

To its credit, guest feedback has played a major part in "getting it right", and there have been some very public examples of when Royal Caribbean decided to completely change direction based on guest feedback.

While this list is not the entire collection of policy shifts by the cruise line, it is a look back at some notable one-eighties by Royal Caribbean in the recent past.

To buffet or not?

A very recent example occurred when in May Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke to travel agents and alluded to the idea of getting rid of the Windjammer buffet entirely due to the global pandemic.

Speaking about the sort of changes guests can expect to see on a cruise ship once sailings resume, Mr. Bayley indicated the Windjammer buffet concept was all but gone.

"I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet in the beginning, that's how I see it. It depends again upon the timing. We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant."

Fast-forward a week later, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain walked back the notion that there would be no buffet.

"It doesn't mean that you don't have a buffet. I think it's very likely that you're not going to see that on land or sea."

We still do not know what the final result will be, but it was an example of a change to something previously talked about.

Not getting rid of Majesty of the Seas

In 2014, Royal Caribbean announced Majesty of the Seas would be transferred out of the fleet in 2016, joining her sister vessels that had already left the fleet.

Her last sailing was scheduled for April 29, 2016 and then she would be off to join Pullmantur Cruises.

Fast-forward to July 2015, and the cruise line suddenly announced Majesty would remain in the fleet due to "popular demand."

Instead of leaving, Majesty would undergo a drydock to receive a number of enhancements.  

One of the additions to Majesty that was announced, but removed, was free and unlimited Voom internet onboard.

Extending the Oasis Class neighborhood perks

In September 2019, Royal Caribbean announced it would discontinue the extra benefits it offered to guests who booked Boardwalk Balcony and Central Park Balcony staterooms on Oasis Class ships. 

The change initially meant guests who sailed January 1, 2020 and after, following the announcement, would not receive the neighborhood perks anymore.

Many cruisers were upset that they had booked these cabins based, in part, on the idea of receiving extra benefits and so three days later, Royal Caribbean grandfathered in anyone who had a booking made prior to the discontinuation of the neighborhood benefits.

$18 Drink Package

The saga of the $18 drink package blunder of 2019 is one of the prime examples of a complete flip-flop on a decision.

In July 2019, Royal Caribbean accidently put its unlimited alcohol package on sale for $18 per day, which was a substantial price mistake. Usually, the Deluxe Beverage Package runs somewhere between $40 - $52 per person, per day when purchased in advance.

Royal Caribbean apologized for the error, but said it would not honor the price mistake. Instead, the package purchase will be canceled and refunds will be issued.

That decision did not sit well with guests, and following a large amount of guest feedback, Royal Caribbean relented a day later and announced it would own the error and honor the price.

Dynamic Dining

Perhaps the most significant policy change in recent memory is the rise and demise of Dynamic Dining.

In 2014, Royal Caribbean was looking to shake up its complimentary dinner offerings on its Quantum (and later Oasis Class) ships by adopting a new approach called Dynamic Dining.

The core concept of Dynamic Dining is removing the main dining room completely and instead offering a number of smaller complimentary and specialty (cost extra) restaurants for guests to choose from.

Passengers can book specific times for any of these restaurants in advance, prior to their cruise or opt to book reservations onboard the ship.

Off the bat, Dynamic Dining ran into some problems on Quantum and Anthem of the Seas and Royal Caribbean attempted to save it by adopting a new rotational dining program that would seek to address some of the primary concerns guests were having with the new concept.

Feedback on Dynamic Dining was so negative, that at one point the cruise line gave guests $100 each for the trouble they had endured.

Guests never warmed up to the idea, and in September 2016, Royal Caribbean announced that Dynamic Dining would be abandoned in favor of a return to traditional dining.

Your thoughts

Is there an example of a time Royal Caribbean completely changed its mind that deserves to be on the list? Which one of the examples in this post do you recall? Share your memories in our comments!

Expect Royal Caribbean cruise prices to go up soon

In:
24Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

One of the few bright spots from the global pandemic has been lower cruise prices than we have typically seen, but don't expect these low prices to stick around for much longer.

Falling demand, along with hesitation in the marketplace, has caused Royal Caribbean to cut prices on its sailings in the short term. but these low prices will be going up sooner than we think.

Michael Goldner, Royal Caribbean Vice President of Revenue Management, commented on the nature of pricing today and why he believes prices will go up soon.

"I don't expect we're going to be at these prices very long. Our intention was to get our prices to a place where I would say our rock bottom, and then as we see business improve, which we're seeing each and every week, our intention is to raise prices."

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean cruise prices are generally set the lowest when a new sailing becomes available, and then prices increase over time.  Royal Caribbean calls this pricing model "low to high".

The idea behind the low to high model is it provides consumers with the confidence that they are getting the best deal.

With Royal Caribbean struggling, as so much of the travel sector is, with lower demand in spring 2020, Mr. Goldner indicated Royal Caribbean wanted to "reach our low point with pricing now."

With increasing demand for cruises in 2021 and beyond, it appears pricing we are seeing now will give way to higher prices soon.

"Our pricing is very attractive right now, especially if you compare to where we were in prior years. And I don't think we'll be here long. I think as business comes in, pricing will go up."

Strong demand pushing prices up

Despite the pandemic and months of cancelled cruises, prices going up may sound odd, but the cruise line is reacting to what it is seeing in the marketplace.

At the onset of the pandemic, many wondered if Royal Caribbean would offer deep discounts for their sailings. In fact, a lot of Wall Street analysts predicted the need for discounts to drive slumping sales.

While prices did go down, especially for certain sailings in 2020 and early 2021, rising demand for cruises in 2021 are behind why Mr. Goldner believes prices will only go up from here.

"The majority of the business that we're getting for 2021 is new bookings, new business. And I think this bodes really well for all of us because I believe there is a lot of pent-up demand for next year."

Mr. Goldner stressed that while Royal Caribbean is seeing a lot of bookings from guests who had cruises cancelled in 2020, the majority of business that Royal Caribbean is seeing from new bookings. 

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