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Should you take your kids out of school for a cruise vacation?

In:
06Aug2020
By: Lisa Van Gemert

If you’re a cruiser with kids, the day will come when you will face the question that has been the cause of many parent arguments: should you take the kids out of school in order to go on a cruise?

Before it leads to one parent sleeping on the couch after an epic fight over it, let’s take a closer look at the issues surrounding taking a child out of school.

While we’re specifically talking about cruising, most of these ideas apply to any vacation.

We all know that cruises are wonderful opportunities for kids.

  • They learn wonderful dinner etiquette. You can tell a cruiser’s child because they actually know what that extra fork is for. 

  • They learn to interact with strangers and how to hold conversations. Only cruisers know how quickly you can make friends while waiting in line at the buffet.

  • If they participate in the children’s program (like RC’s Adventure Ocean), they get practice in quickly making friendships and following the directions of new adults in charge. You’re in a blue shirt? I’ll do whatever you say!

  • Everyone understands that visiting a place is the best way to gain an appreciation of it, and cruising allows kids the opportunity to see many places they would otherwise never have had the opportunity to visit.

  • Gaining an appreciation of how much we have is easy when you visit places where people live a very different life from that of the child.

The list goes on and on. Cruises are wonderful opportunities for learning and creating curiosity, the driver of all learning.

While there are many benefits of cruising, those benefits must be weighed against the difficulties involved in missing school. 

It’s important to consider what missing school will mean for the family. For starters, the child will likely be tired, and yet there will be double the work to do. There’s  nothing like a whining, exhausted kid to ratchet up that post-cruise depression.

Additionally, no benefits of cruising are available only when the child is missing school. Those benefits are available during school vacation time as well. 

So, how are parents to decide what is right for their families?

Deciding to Go on Vacation During the School Year: Consider the ROI

Time is an investment in the same way money is. When considering whether to invest time in a cruise when a child would normally be in school, families need to weigh the costs and return on that time investment.

For some families, a special occasion is occurring. Perhaps the grandparents are celebrating a special anniversary or there is another family milestone, such as a destination wedding or even the scattering of ashes. Clearly, these cannot be put off until the next vacation. They are date-specific.

You’ll have to decide for yourself if a really good sale counts as a special occasion!

For some families, such as those with a parent in the military, the parent’s leave does not coincide with school vacations, and if the family is to be able to travel together, the child must miss school. This can happen with other occupations as well, so if you or your spouse have jobs where you can’t take vacation at more convenient times, the decision may be out of your hands.

Depending upon the child, you may want to bring him in on the decision. While parents sometimes assume that every child wants to go on a cruise, every now and then that won’t be the case.

Other Factors to Consider

The school’s policy on absences should factor into your decision. If they have a strict limit on the number of absences, a cruise may mean that your child has no wiggle room the rest of the year. 

For some high school students, a single unexcused absence can mean the loss of final exam exemptions (which is, according to most high school students, a fate worse than death).

Consider the time you’re leaving. Some instructional time is more valuable than other times. For example, you won’t want to be gone the week before state testing, when big projects are due, or right after holidays (which tend to be busy instructional times).

Good times to miss include a day or two before a scheduled vacation. For example, if your school district is open the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, any teacher will tell you that those days are not the most efficient learning days!

Children are different, and while one child may thrive missing a few days of school here and there, others will find the entire experience stressful. This is common in kids who are super conscientious, who have very strong relationships at school, or who need a strict schedule to function best.

While cruise fares may be lower during vacation times, when you are gone the school is losing money. Most schools receive payment based on the daily attendance. They still have to keep the lights on and the AC humming, even if your child isn’t there. This isn’t a reason not to go, but it’s something to keep in mind.

While you won’t be able to predict this, it’s possible that you will have another emergency come up, and you may regret burning up the teacher’s good will on a vacation when the child ends up missing another week of school due to another unforeseen circumstance.

Clearly, missing school becomes a bigger issue as the children get older. Missing a couple of days of Kindergarten is not as consequential as missing two days of calculus. Some high schools are on block schedules, where missing two days is like missing a week.

Things to Do Before You Go

Let’s say you’ve made the thoughtful decision to YOLO book it, and you’ve got your friendly neighborhood travel agent working on an epic cruise vacation for the fam. What steps should you take once the decision has been made?

The person to talk to right after the travel agent is the teacher. Let the teacher know you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. If you’ve got a special reason for going, let the teacher in on it. 

It definitely sounds better to tell the teacher that Grandma and Grandpa are celebrating their fortieth anniversary than that there was a Kids Sail Free deal you couldn’t pass up. If that’s the story, it’s best left unsaid. That can be our secret.

Don’t be surprised if in today’s digital world, the school may expect the child’s virtual participation, even if the child’s not physically in school. Just think of it as a great excuse to buy that souped up internet package.

Things to Ask Before You Go

Leaving for a cruise is the perfect time to do some pre-trip planning. In addition to making sure you’ve done your pre-cruise shopping, ask the teacher a few key questions.

Here are some ideas of questions you may wish to ask your child’s teacher:

  • Is there anything that my child can begin before we leave? 

  • If you don’t have the assignments ready before we leave, can you please share what topics you’ll be covering? (This will allow your child to watch videos on cell division instead of cute puppies – unless you can find a video of cute puppies talking about cell division. If your child is currently on Chapter 7 in the math textbook, you can safely assume they’re moving through the textbook in order. This is not true of all classes, though, so check!)

  • Do you have any preferred tutorial video sites for when my child is working independently? (Some teachers may have a preference, such as Khan Academy or the textbook’s website.)

  • When will the make-up work be due? (You’ll need this information to plan.)

  • Are there any assignments my child will miss that can’t easily be made up that we can offer something else in lieu of it? (For example, a child can’t do group work with other students, but may be able to create a slideshow about how the crew cleans a ship.)

Asking these questions helps your child have a better experience returning to school, and they also send a signal to the teacher that you are proactive and on top of it. That makes it more likely the student will have a smooth re-entry to class.

Avoid Making Assumptions about the Work You’re Given

Sometimes, parents get very little actual work to be made up and think, “Wow, they didn’t miss hardly anything! We should take little Tabitha out of school more often!”

In today’s classroom, less and less of the work of school can be sent home. More and more of it is collaborative learning that isn’t easily reproduceable. What you’re getting is just what could be distilled to a piece of paper or specific, solo assignment.

Today’s classroom is about learning even more than work in the form of paper and pencil assignments. It’s about groups being formed, group activities where a missing person causes issues for the entire group, and about creating a strong classroom community where questioning leads to deep thinking. 

If you get five pages of work for three days out of class, you can assume that the child missed a number of these kinds of learning experiences. 

That’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind.

What to do During the Cruise

When you have a child returning to school immediately after the cruise, it’s important to try to return to a semi-normal schedule before the end of the cruise. You may want to switch away from that 8:30pm dining time the last night or two if that’s normally the child’s bedtime at home!

Use slow times on the cruise to keep learning fresh. You’ll know what learning your child is doing because of those handy conversations you had with the teacher before the cruise, and now those conversations will pay off.

When you look for them, it’s surprising how many there are. Take advantage of times riding in taxis or on ferries or on long bus rides for excursions.

You’re going to be standing in lines for everything from water slides to dinner to evening shows. Use those times to have casual (but surprisingly helpful) conversations about what your child is learning. 

You can also look for easy ways for your child to apply his or her learning. For example, if the child is learning how to calculate the area of two-dimensional shapes, measure things on the ship.

If the child is old enough, getting them a special cruise journal to write about what they’re experiencing is a perfect way to blend learning skills with creating memories that will last a lifetime. 

If the child is too young to write themselves, it’s a fun family activity to have them dictate to you what the highlights of their day were.

One last tip: lots of kids find it fun and very interesting to ask the crew members they meet about their own educations. They will learn so many different ways of schooling, and it’s quite a revelation the first time they hear that other kids have to leave home to attend school, wear uniforms every day, or that parents had to sacrifice a lot for the child to be able to attend school.

What to do After a Cruise

It’s hard to remember in the midst of our own post-cruise letdown that we have to help our child smoothly return back to school. 

To make that transition as seamless as possible, here are a few tips.

  • Have the child return with as much of the pre-supplied work completed as possible.

  • Send the work with a thank-you note for the teacher, along with a small gift (like a $5 Starbucks gift card) to acknowledge the extra work the teacher went to making that vacation possible. Don’t give them a keychain from your super wonderful all-inclusive resort beach day! That’s just mean!

  • Plan out the remaining make-up work, and have the child turn in assignments as they are completed, rather than a big packet all at once.

  • Sleep is key to making all of this as painless as possible, so get the child back in the sleep groove as soon as possible. 

  • After all of the make-up work is completed, have a reflective conversation with the child. Was the extra work worth it? Would the child want to do the same or similar thing again? Sometimes we assume kids want nothing more than to skip school, but that’s not always true.

  • If there are loads of complaining from the child following the cruise, consider how to handle that in the future. Now you know what will likely happen, and you can prepare even more effectively.

Siblings can be very different from each other, so families with a number of children may have to navigate competing needs. This is especially true if the siblings are several years apart because it’s much more difficult to miss school the older the child gets.

Considering these things is part of the post-cruise process that will set you up for success in the future.

Wrapping Up/Conclusion

In today’s complicated world, family schedules may not align with school schedules, but family goals can align with school goals. 

Families and teachers can work as partners to make sure children have both the family experiences and educational experiences they need.

If you’ve considered taking your child out of school for a cruise or vacation, these tips should help make that process as painless as possible. 

Lisa Van Gemert, M.Ed.T., is an nationally-known educator and author who loves both cruising and school. If you run into her at sea, she'll probably ask your child what they're learning in school or reading. You can get other tips and information for both parents and teachers at her website, GiftedGuru.com

Do all Royal Caribbean cruises qualify for Cruise with Confidence?

In:
06Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

In the wake of Royal Caribbean suspending all of its cruises for many months to come, the cruise line offers guests more flexible cancellation terms under the "Cruise with Confidence" program.

Cruise with Confidence has proven to be very popular with guests, because it covers most sailings and gives peace of mind that they can change their mind later on.

The premise of Cruise with Confidence is it allows anyone free cancellations, where you can cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before the sail date and get a 100% Future Cruise Credit that is good for 12 months or more.

Cruise with Confidence is applicable to guests booked on-or-before September 30, 2020 on sailings departing through April 2022. This encompasses essentially all Royal Caribbean sailings available to book currently.

This includes refundable or non-refundable cruise fares.  You are able to take advantage of either booking type with no penalty or change fee for opting into the Cruise with Confidence program.

Chartered sailings do not qualify for Cruise with Confidence.

When opting for the Future Cruise Credit that Cruise with Confidence offers, all rate codes apply, with no restrictions.  The exception is if you prefer to take advantage of Lift & Shift of the Best Price Guarantee programs, which have restrictions on Net rates, Casino rates, Travel Agent Friends & Family rates, Travel Agent Reduced rates, and complimentary staterooms.

Before you cancel your cruise, you may want to consider using Lift & Shift to price protect what you have booked for a similar sailing the following year.

More helpful information

If you have more questions about cancelling your cruise (or if Royal Caribbean cancels it for you), here are some helpful resources:

Here is why overnight visits to Perfect Day at CocoCay didn't happen

In:
05Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

While Royal Caribbean confirmed in May that it would offer overnight visits to its private island in the Bahamas, we now have a bit more detail as to why it is simply not feasible.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley spoke on this topic during a webinar with travel agents on Wednesday, after being asked if the cruise line was considering overnight stays at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

"I've been considering overnight stays for Perfect Day almost since the beginning. One of the issues that we had, ironically, was that we had we had so much so many ships going there, it became problematic. Part of the ongoing capital investment in Perfect Day was allowing us to accommodate additional ships so we could have one ship stay overnight."

As you might imagine, nearly half a year of not being able to offer cruises has taken its toll on the cruise line.

"And sadly, a lot of our capital projects that were lined up were put on hold, obviously, because of the fact that we got no revenue coming in."

This adds onto what Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed indicated that they heard from guests they enjoyed the day on the island, but evenings on the ship.

"But as of now, it doesn't look like we will be doing overnights because our guests, even with our late night stays, once they want to come back, they really do want to come back onto the ship and enjoy the fine dining and they want to enjoy the entertainment that we have onboard."

Mr. Bayley did wrap-up by describing an overnight stay scenario as a "crown jewel" to the private island's offerings once cruises resume.

"When we do return to service, it will be phased in. It will not be like a light switch where suddenly the switch is on and everything's suddenly operating."

"But certainly that is kind of the crown jewel of our return to service will be Perfect Day."

Royal Caribbean CEO updates on resuming cruises, President's cruise, which ships will sail first and more

In:
05Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke to travel advisors on a webinar and spoke on a number of commonly asked topics surrounding the current situation and the cruise line's recovery.

Mr. Bayley spoke for an hour on a variety of questions that travel agents had submitted prior to the webinar related to the timing and plans to resume cruises.

The questions were all about the current situation Royal Caribbean is facing in the midst of no sailings and the global health crisis.

More time needed to develop new health policies

  

A few hours before the webinar, Royal Caribbean announced they had cancelled more cruises, extending their voluntary suspension of cruises through October 31, 2020.

Mr. Bayley indicated that Royal Caribbean is "actively engaged" in the Healthy Sail Panel working on a healthy return to service plan.

He then went on to say that the combination of the CDC requesting public feedback, along with the submission of Royal Caribbean's return to service plan is one of the reasons why there needed to be another month of cancelled cruises.

"We think it's going to take obviously some time for back and forth with with the CDC when they see the full detail of the plan, and they've received all of the public comment."

Which ships will start first

Another question raised was which ships might start up first, and it looks like Royal Caribbean is still looking at short sailings to begin the return to service.

"I think when we resume service, our thinking is that will probably we'll probably start with short product, Perfect Day, and that'll be the how we'll start phasing in operations."

In addition, Mr. Bayley said during an employee-only call, he is committed to the idea of starting with an employee-only sailing in order to test out the new protocols.

"I said that the first cruise that we will operate through, Royal Caribbean International, will be an all employee cruise, a little bit like a shakedown cruise, because then we can test and take a look at in real-life operations all of the protocols that we're putting into place. And so our first cruise is going to be an employee cruise."

Healthy return to service update

Ultimately, Royal Caribbean wants to ensure when they resume cruises, they do it the right way.

A lot of this is going to be about trust.

Mr. Bayley reiterated a notion conveyed by different Royal Caribbean executives that they want to start cruising again once it makes sense, and not just for the sake of starting up.

"We would never want to resume service unless we were incredibly confident that we could create an environment that was healthier and safer than the environment from which people were coming."

"I think that's really why we're being really thoughtful and taking our time on creating all of the protocols that we we hope we will introduce when they're ready to be introduced."

President's Cruise cancellation

Included in today's announcement that Royal Caribbean would cancel its sailings through October is the 2020 President's Cruise has also been cancelled.

Mr. Bayley lamented the fact there will not be a sailing this year, but did say he hopes to announce a new sailing for 2021.

"We haven't yet decided when we'll do the 2021 President's Cruise, but we certainly will do it."

"So we'll probably announce in the coming weeks when the next President's Cruise will be."

Crew repatriation is almost complete

Some good news is the fact that Royal Caribbean is nearly complete with repatriating crew home.

Mr. Bayley said Royal Caribbean is about 97-98% complete, with some crew facing "unbelievable restrictions".

"One of the positive things that's happened in the past few weeks was that the CDC approved our accruing No Sail order plans and converted many of the ships of Royal Caribbean international and Celebrity to what's called the green code, which means that for 28 days or longer, none of those ships have had any COVID on them whatsoever."

"That green code designation means that the the ability to use commercial air, which which makes logistics a lot simpler."

Impact of coronavirus outbreaks on other cruise lines starting again

The big cruise news this week has been smaller European cruise lines have attempted to restart cruising, but have already experienced COVID-19 outbreaks on their ships.  This has many questioning what impact it will have on Royal Caribbean's ability to restart sailings.

"It's unfortunate, I think also it just shows it shows what a complex challenge this is."

"It's also interesting that what hasn't been reported is that both TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd, which are larger cruise brands, have been operating now, I think, TUI has now done four cruises without any incident"

Despite the fact that smaller lines will operate in a different way than Royal Caribbean, it is provides a good learning experience to overcome these challenges.

"The last thing we want to do is to return to service and get it wrong. And I think and I think our customers and our travel partners really do expect to get it right. And that's our focus."

Royal Caribbean cancels most cruises until October 31, 2020

In:
05Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it was once again canceling most of its cruises through October 31, 2020 due to the current health crisis.

Cruise operations had been suspended through the end of September, but will now be extended an additional month, except for Australia sailings.

In addition, the remainder of the 2020 Europe season and the fall Transatlantic sailings have also been cancelled. This includes the planned 2020 President's Cruise on Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean also added an an additional pause to their China itineraries through September 13, 2020.

Royal Caribbean hopes this additional time will allow them to work on their new safety measures.

Compensation

Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between October 1 - 31, 2020 have three options for compensation.

Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year.Option expires on August 20, 2020.

125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level and will be automatically issued on-or-before September 14, 2020 — if neither of the other options is selected.

Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you previously opted to take advantage of our Cruise with Confidence policy, the 100% FCC will stand, and this new option is ineligible.

Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.

FCCs for sailings between October 1 – 31, 2020, plus remaining 2020 Europe & Fall Transatlantic season can be expected via email no later than September 14, 2020.

Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before December 31, 2020.

You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.

Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases  to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on August 20, 2020.

Cancelled President's Cruise

Among the many sailings impacted by this recent round of cancellations is the annual President's Cruise.

In an email to guests, Royal Caribean International CEO Michael Bayley informed guests booked on the sailing that they had no choice but to cancel.

"This is disappointing news for you and me. The President's Cruise is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate the cruise line we love, our incredible crew and each other — something we have been doing since 2016."

Mr. Bayley did allude to "new ideas" and other ideas the cruise line is working on for guests that will be announced at a later date.

"Now, we wouldn't be Royal Caribbean if we weren't looking at ways, we can make the best out of every situation. We've been hard at work coming up with new ideas on how we can continue to bring our tradition to life within our current environment. I can't spoil the surprises we are planning, but I would encourage you to keep an eye out for some fun, creative ways we will celebrate together. In fact, I would say I'll meet you on the "virtual seas" soon."

Royal Caribbean updates Wonder of the Seas arrival date to 2022

In:
04Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced Wonder of the Seas would be delayed, and now it looks like the new target date for her arrival is 2022.

A new marketing graphic distributed to travel advisors shows a new date of 2022 for when Wonder of the Seas will arrive in China.

A few weeks ago, Royal Caribbean informed its Chinese guests that the next new Oasis Class ship will not arrive in 2021 as originally scheduled.

An update on the cruise line's Chinese website announced the delay due to the current global health crisis.

"The construction of the new Oasis Class Wonder of the Seas was delayed due to the impact of the shipyard operation. Royal Caribbean had to delay the deployment of the Wonder of the Seas from a Chinese home port. However, we look forward to the arrival of the Wonder of the Seas after the epidemic has been brought under control as soon as possible."

Dr. Zinan Liu, Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia commented on the announcement, "Royal Caribbean always firmly believes that the fundamentals of China’s economy have not changed due to the epidemic and that the trend of the cruise market will continue to develop. After the public health risks are controlled, people pursue social interactions. The instincts of reunion and leisure will not change, or even be strengthened. Royal Caribbean has prepared three lines of defense for the health and safety of tourists and crew under the new normal of epidemic prevention, including source control of viruses, multiple monitoring on board, prevention and isolation measures and emergency plans in case of an outbreak. We are fully prepared to show the public that the Royal Caribbean Cruise is a safe place."

Wonder of the Seas is the second Royal Caribbean ship to be delayed, following Odyssey of the Seas delayed from November 2020 to April 2021.

Initially, Wonder of the Seas due to be delivered in 2021. She will be the world's largest cruise ship and first Oasis Class ship to sail the Asia Pacific.

Wonder of the Seas is under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France.

Top 10 cruise questions first time cruisers are too shy to ask

In:
04Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

New cruisers often have questions about what to do on a cruise, but are to timid to ask if they are doing the right thing or not.

Cruises are a very welcoming type of vacation, but there are definitely some traditions and unwritten rules that you should be aware of before you step foot onboard.

If you are among the many people going on your first cruise, here are the top questions newbies have but are too shy to ask (so I will answer them for you).

How much food can I order at the main dining room?

When you eat in the main dining room, nearly the entire menu is complimentary (there are a few add-ons for dinner that cost extra, like lobster) and you can order as much food as you want.

You can (and should) feel free to order as much as you want. In fact, the staff will encourage you to do so as a means of trying things out.

Unlike a land-based restaurant, the main dining room food is included and there are no limits on what you can order. Whether you cannot choose between two options, or want to nibble on a few different appetizers, you can order as much as you like from the menu.

You can even order more food in the middle of the meal.  If an appetizer or entree does not satisfy, you can always order something else off the menu.

Can I change tables if I don't like the people sitting with us at dinner?

Meeting people on a cruise is a fun maritime tradition, but occasionally you might be seated at dinner with someone that just does not jive with your personality.

The good news is you can be re-seated upon request if the people you are seated with are not a good fit. All you need to do is speak to the head waiter and request a table change.

You might be able to get a table alone, or be moved to a different table with different table mates. Occasionally, you may need to change your dining time or between traditional and My Time Dining.

Should I pack beach towels for the cruise?

After you break out your suitcases to pack all your clothes, be sure to leave your beach towels at home.

Royal Caribbean provides towels for guests to use at the pools on its ships and to take off the ship on shore excursions.

You can get as many towels as you need from the pool deck, and exchange them for clean ones at anytime.

Keep in mind that you just need to bring the towels back before the cruise ends, or Royal Caribbean will charge you a $25 per towel fee.  

How do I get a chair by the pool?

You may have heard that on sea days, the pool deck can get busy with lots of guests wanting to enjoy fun in the sun.

If you are looking to get pool chairs, you can definitely get chairs with a little bit of hustle.

The easiest way to get chairs is to make sure you get up to the pool deck early enough in the morning.  If you arrive before 11am, there are usually some chairs around. Moreover, there are chairs all around the pool deck, with plenty of extra chairs if you do not need to be in view of the pool.

Another tip is to not be shy about asking other guests if chairs are being used. 

Do I have to tip everyone?

Gratuity on a Royal Caribbean cruise has gotten easier over the last few years, but tipping is definitely part of the cruise culture.

All guests have the choice of pre-paying their gratuities before the cruise, or having a daily automatic gratuity that is charged each night of the cruise.  This automatic gratuity is charged per person, and covers the service provided by your stateroom attendant and dining room staff.

In addition, when you order or buy something on your ship, an automatic gratuity will be charged on top of the base price.  So if you order a beer, or go to the spa, expect an 18% on top of the price listed.

Speaking of drinks, if you buy a drink package, you will pay a service fee on top of your drink package that covers gratuity for all drinks you order with the drink package.

Do I have to dress up on my cruise?

It can be confusing and a little bit nerve-wracking to hear about dress codes on a Royal Caribbean ship, but it is not nearly as fixed as it sounds.

There are daily dress codes, but they apply to the main dining room only. Dress codes never apply to walking around the ship or most venues. 

If you do want to adhere to the dress codes in the dining room, it is far more relaxed than you might think.  Even on "formal night", that just means you wear something nicer than the other evenings, and that can be as simple as a button down collared shirt with slacks for men, or a cocktail dress for ladies.

Specialty restaurants have their own dress codes that supersede the main dining room dress code, and these are usually smart casual. Specialty restaurants can be good alternatives to the main dining room on formal night if you do not wish to dress for that.

In addition, there are plenty of complimentary dining venues that have no dress code you can dine at for any mean (including dinner) to avoid having to wear anything resembling a collar or heels.

Do I need to take my passport with me on shore excursions?

The answer to this question depends on what you have to do versus what you should do.

Unless told otherwise, most Royal Caribbean shore excursions do not require you to bring your passport off the ship with you on excursions.  The exception can be some destinations where you may cross an international border.

I believe you should bring your passport with you off the ship to ensure that if on the very unlikely chance you were stranded in a foreign country, you could easily depart without the hassle of going to a consulate or embassy to get an exit visa. Yes, there is risk of having it lost or stolen, but that is true of any personal valuables you take off the ship with you, such as cash, phones, etc.

Am I going to gain weight on my cruise?

There is no shortage of food on your cruise, as you will find something to eat 24 hours per day around the ship. That sounds like a recipe for gaining weight, but it does not have to be like that at all.

Just like you have access to food at home day and night, just because it is there does not mean you have to eat at gluttonous levels. 

Royal Caribbean provides a good mix of healthy foods, in addition to comfort foods. You will find salads, fruit, stir fry bars, and even indications on main dining room menus of healthier alternatives.

There is also a fitness center available to use on every Royal Caribbean ship. The majority of the fitness center is included in your cruise fare, with access to free weights, weight machines, bikes, treadmills, and more.  Fitness classes are also available on a per-class cost basis.

You can also burn some of those calories by taking the stairs instead of using an elevator, or engaging in active shore excursion.

Will I get seasick?

Hopefully not, but getting seasick is a (unlikely) possibility.

Many first-time cruisers are very worried about getting seasick on a cruise, but cruise ships are massive vessels equipped with stabilizers that will chart the smoothest paths possible to ensure a comfortable voyage.

When it comes to cruise in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, sea conditions are most often calm, and repeat cruisers will tell you that getting seasick is a very rare occurrence.

If it does occur, there are lots of great remedies to quickly and effectively combat the symptoms. You can take over the counter medications, talk to your doctor about a prescription for special patch to put behind your ear, or try out one of the many homeopathic remedies, such as ginger supplements or acupressure wristbands.

Will I be bored?

It is not uncommon to hear from someone that has never cruised before that they fear they will be bored and/or feel trapped onboard, but this could not be further from the truth.

Cruises are so much more than bingo, ballroom dancing and eating. Royal Caribbean in particular has built a reputation for offering an incredible amount of activities and things to do on the ship. It is your choice to do as many (or as little) of them as you choose.

In addition to lounging by the pool, there is a wide variety offered. Since the exact offerings depend on the ship, try looking at a past Cruise Compass from the ship you intend to sail on to get a sense of what is offered. These past daily newsletters will give you a ballpark idea of what to expect on your sailing.

In short, you will absolutely not be bored. If anything, you will find too many good things you want to try.

Do you still have a question?

If you still have a cruise question, don't be shy, and please feel free to ask it in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean Group amends loans and gives them more financial flexibility

In:
04Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean filed paper work with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that provides the company more financial flexibility in dealing with their existing loans and obligations.

This is not the first time Royal Caribbean has made these sort of arrangements since the start of the global cruise shutdown.

Essentially, it means they have extended or delayed loans to provide more time to pay them off later without defaulting on the loans.

The Form 8-K filing has two major components, which you can read verbatim right here.

Credit Facility Amendments

On July 28, 2020, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (the “Company,” “our” and “we”) amended our $1.55 billion unsecured revolving credit facility due 2022 with Nordea Bank ABP, New York Branch, as administrative agent (the “Nordea Revolver”), our $1.925 billion unsecured revolving credit facility due 2024 with The Bank of Nova Scotia, as administrative agent (the “BNS Revolver”), and our $1.0 billion unsecured three-year term loan agreement with Bank of America, N.A., as administrative agent (the “Term Loan” and together with the Nordea Revolver and the BNS Revolver, the “Credit Facilities”).

These amendments extend our waiver of the quarterly-tested fixed charge coverage and net debt to capitalization covenants in each Credit Facility through and including the fourth quarter of 2021 and increase the monthly-tested minimum liquidity covenant for the duration of the extended waiver period. Pursuant to these amendments, the restrictions on paying cash dividends and effectuating share repurchases during the wavier period were extended through and including the fourth quarter of 2021. In addition, these amendments incorporate the restrictions on investments set forth in the indentures governing our 9.125% senior guaranteed notes due 2023, 10.875% senior secured notes due 2023 and 11.500% senior secured notes due 2025.

Certain of the lenders participating in the amended Credit Facilities, and affiliates of those parties, provide banking, investment banking and other financial services to us from time to time for which they have received, and will in the future receive, customary fees.

The foregoing description of the provisions of the amendments is summary in nature and is qualified in its entirety by reference to the full and complete terms of the amendments, copies of which are filed herewith as Exhibit 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3 and incorporated herein by reference.

Export Credit Facility Amendments

On July 28, 2020, we entered into (i) a financial covenant waiver extension consent letter with KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH to amend our Hermes backed loan facilities, including but not limited to, those incurred to finance Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas (collectively, the Hermes Facilities”) and (ii) amendments to the BpiFAE backed loan facilities incurred to finance Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, and Symphony of the Seas (the “Bpi Facilities”) in each case, in order to extend the period during which a breach of the financial covenants will not trigger a mandatory prepayment or default, as applicable, under each facility through and including the fourth quarter of 2021. Similarly, on July 31, 2020, we amended the Finnvera-backed loan facilities incurred to finance Icon 1Icon 2 and Icon 3 (the “Finnvera Facilities” and together with the Hermes Facilities and the Bpi Facilities, the “Export Credit Facilities”) in order to extend the period during which a breach of the financial covenants will not trigger a default under each facility through and including the fourth quarter of 2021; provided that certain structural enhancements are provided on or before September 30, 2020. In connection with these consents and amendments, we have agreed that certain of our subsidiaries (none of which directly own a vessel) will issue guarantees for the debt outstanding under the Export Credit Facilities.

Certain of the lenders participating in the Export Credit Facilities, and affiliates of those parties, provide banking, investment banking and other financial services to us from time to time for which they have received, and will in the future receive, customary fees.

The foregoing description of the provisions of the amendments is summary in nature and is qualified in its entirety by reference to the full and complete terms of the amendments, copies of which are filed herewith as Exhibit 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8 and incorporated herein by reference.

Those sites claiming to list cruise ships for sale aren't legit

In:
03Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The rumor mill has been working overtime when it comes to speculating on what could happen, including websites that list cruise ships for sale.

Have you seen screenshots or links to ship brokerage websites that have unnamed ships that are clearly a Royal Caribbean ship apparently for sale?

Some folks seem to think these are smoking guns of evidence that Royal Caribbean is planning to sell cruise ships, but these sites are not actually based in reality.

Proving the old adage, "don't believe everything you read" (especially on the internet), cruise ships are not bought and sold this way

Even before the current global health crisis, these sites are sales aggregators that list ships with an arbitrary price, hoping to get interest for a perspective buyer.  At that point, the website acts as a middleman to contact the owner to hopefully generate a sale and a significant finder's fee.

These websites are not official listings of cruise ships actually for sale, nor does Royal Caribbean list its ships for sale in such a brazen manner. 

While the cruise industry is struggling with not being able to cruise, as well as some cruise ships actually sold for scrap, sites with unnamed cruise ships for sale are not indicative of anything other than wishful thinking on someone's part.

The big questions for Royal Caribbean's earnings call next week

In:
03Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

We are exactly one week away from Royal Caribbean's second quarter earnings report, and perhaps answers to many questions about the short and long term future of the cruise giant.

Earnings calls are when the executives will provide shareholders with a look at its financial situation and answer questions from analysts. With so much disruption to the entire cruise industry due to the cruise shutdown, there are plenty of ongoing concerns to address.

While we will not know exactly all topics to be covered, here are the top issues cruise fans are curious about (and Wall Street too).

How bad of a loss?

Royal Caribbean Group reported over $1 billion in losses in the first quarter of 2020, and that was just at the beginning of the cruise shutdown and global health crisis, so how bad will things be this time?

On the one hand, there have been no cruises in the second quarter at all, but on the other hand, it sounds like 2021 bookings are surprisingly high.

There is no doubt that the Royal Caribbean Group lost money in the second quarter, but was it less than analysts expected or worse?

The nature of their financial situation may be a good indication of the overall health of the company.

Any plans to sell ships?

Rival Carnival Corporation has announced it will sell over a dozen cruise ships by the end of the year, so the question is will Royal Caribbean do the same.

Carnival made announcements in its earnings call of selling ships, so the question is will Royal Caribbean do the same.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said two weeks ago there are no plans to sell ships, but it is a consideration. A swirl of rumors last week that Empress of the Seas was headed to the scrapyard turned out to be incorrect.

As we all know, these plans can change at any time, especially if the losses start adding up.

Will there be any new cost-cutting measures?

Something Royal Caribbean announced in its first quarter earnings call was a series of cost-cutting measures, and many are wondering if more are to come.

At the last earnings call, Royal Caribbean group was considering ways to further reduce the average monthly requirement under a further prolonged out-of-service scenario and during start-up of operations.

Whether that comes in the form of more layoffs, selling ships, taking out more loans, or something else remains to be seen.

Safety protocol update

The blue-ribbon panel dedicated to coming up with new policies and protocols to keep guests safe once cruising does resume is likely to be mentioned, if not talked about at length.

Since the day Royal Caribbean announced the Healthy Sail Panel, everyone has been curious what policies exactly will be put into place.

While Royal Caribbean has said the Healthy Sail Panel's first round of recommendations will not be made until the end of August, perhaps we will get insight into what they are considering or working on.

How well is the cruise line booked next year?

While 2020 has been an absolutely terrible year for Royal Caribbean (and all cruise lines), their booked position in 2021 has been a bright spot for the cruise line.

Essentially, a lot of people opted to defer their cruise vacations to next year instead of outright canceling plans, and the question is if this trend is holding up.

Wall Street has been skeptical of any cruise line's ability to lure customers back once cruises resume, so positive feedback on how 2021 (and beyond) is looking would put a lot of concerns at ease.

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