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

31 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

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

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

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

These booking bonuses are in addition to earned base commissions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more10 Secrets Royal Caribbean travel agents wish you knew

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

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

8 Things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise

30 Aug 2021
Jenna DeLaurentis

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

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

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

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

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

The crew is extremely friendly

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

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

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

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

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

Specialty dining is delicious

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

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

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

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

Read moreRoyal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Perfect Day at CocoCay lives up to the hype

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

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

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

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

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

Read more40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets

Don’t miss the Indian food

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

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

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

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

Choose an itinerary with a sea day

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

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

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

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

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

You might not spend too much time on your balcony

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

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

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

Read moreInterior vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise

The drink package isn’t always necessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You won’t have time to do everything

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

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

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

Read more15 Free Things to Do on Mariner of the Seas

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

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

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

30 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

While on a Mariner of the Seas cruise last week, many readers were surprised there was an option to request alternate foods for dinner in the main dining room.

Royal Caribbean strives to offer guests the best possible experience, and will always strive to see if there is anyway to deliver on that promise through the dining experience.

In addition to the daily menu offered, guests can request other food options to meet dietary, religious, or personal needs. Of course, not every request is possible, but the food and beverage team aboard will do their best to come up with something satisfactory.

The key is knowing when and how to politely ask for these sort of items leading up to your cruise.

What foods can you request?

I have seen a wide gamut of different choices, from tweaks to the existing menu options to full out separate meals for specific tables.

Special requests are dependent on the ship's product availability., but the staff tries their best to accommodate whatever they can.

The most common types of requests are adjustments to existing menu items, or special types of cuisines from international guests.

Indian curry (vegetarian and with meat) is available daily.  It was originally offered as a backup option for vegetarians that was not listed on the menu, but has since become a popular option for all guests.

I have seen the main dining room serve traditional Chinese, Egyptian, and Turkish foods to select families on various sailings.

Royal Caribbean can accommodate some dietary needs onboard their ships without much notice, such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

Vegetarian meals (including Indian curry vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room by simply asking the head waiter and these do not require a pre-cruise special request.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available no extra charge by requesting it from Royal Caribbean prior to sailing at least 45 days before sailing for North American sailings (90 days before for European/South American sailings & 100 days prior to Australia/Asia sailings).

Make requests early

The best advice for special requests is to get them in early, keeping in mind not all requests are possible.

Ideally, you will request any special dietary needs before the cruise so that the staff is aware of your request even before you board.  Most requests take a bit of time for the kitchen staff to arrange since dinner prep and cooking is an all day process.

You can send in your requests via email to [email protected]; Be sure to include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It is best to make requests like this at least 45 days (90 days for European/Asian itineraries) in advance of your sailing.

If you are onboard already, you can still make requests by speaking to the head waiter. Try to go to the main dining room on the afternoon of embarkation day to get in your requests early.

Once you speak with him or her, you can convey any special requests you may have and get it in place for the rest of your cruise. The key is to be polite in your requests, and be understanding if the answer is "no".

Am I asking for too much?

In reading all of this, you might be concerned of being a bother or simply asking for too much of the dining staff.

Depending on your request, it may or may not be possible to make happen.

Certainly sending your request in early via email is the best option to ensure the staff has time to process and respond to it. 

Royal Caribbean wants to do everything it can to ensure you have an amazing experience, but there are limits. Delivering certain foods, such as Indian curry or a hot dog that is already cooked elsewhere on the ship is not much of a stretch for the crew.

But trying to re-create certain cuisines or cooking styles, or requesting specific ingredients may be not possible. The staff is usually good about conveying what they can deliver, so be understanding and appreciative of whatever they can offer.

In short, ask early and politely, but understand the answer may be no.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 29, 2021

29 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of the Royal Caribbean post round-up, where we summarize all of the Royal Caribbean news and information from this week into one handy-dandy post! There is plenty of great content to enjoy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's round-up!

This week, Royal Caribbean extended its popular Cruise with Confidence program by an extra month.

Cruise with Confidence is now valid for any cruises booked on or before October 31, 2021 for cruises sailing through April 30, 2022.

Thanks to Cruise with Confidence, you can cancel your cruise up to 48 hours before you sail without any penalty, and get a 100% future cruise credit.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 420th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt lists mistakes people are doing right now.

There will always be mistakes cruisers will make, but this week's episode focuses on the worst ones happening these days.

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.

Video: The Strangest Things We've Seen On A Cruise Ship

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: The Strangest Things We've Seen On A Cruise Ship

How Royal Caribbean reimagined its signature Italian restaurant

Italian cuisine is among the most popular kind of cuisines on land or sea, and Royal Caribbean has relaunched one of its most popular specialty restaurants with an all-new menu that features fresh new choices.

Two of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships now offer Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, which is a refresh of Royal Caribbean's Italian specialty restaurant.

Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, shared an inside look at how the cruise line worked on updating this fan-favorite specialty restaurant.

CDC wants cruise lines to reconsider mask policies on cruise ships

28 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a new update to its cruise ship operations manual asking cruise lines to take another look at some of the onboard rules related to mask use.

Currently, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have certain areas of the ship where fully vaccinated guests can go and take off their masks while indoors. These areas are only open to fully vaccinated guests.

The CDC has issued an update recommending this practice stop because of the increased transmissibility of some Covid-19 variants, and published the new recommendation in its  Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

On August 27, the CDC posted an update that it is recommending, but not requiring, cruise lines reconsider face mask rules such as these:

  • Allowing fully vaccinated crew to remove masks indoors in areas inaccessible to passengers
  • Designating areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required
  • Advising passengers and crew on ships with 95% of crew and 95% of passengers who are fully vaccinated that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas. 

Royal Caribbean currently has certain areas of its cruise ships designated for only fully vaccinated passengers, where passengers there are allowed to take off their mask while in this area.

Admission to these vaccinated areas is enforced by crew members who check if a passenger is vaccinated or not.

The exact list of venues available only to fully vaccinated passengers depends on the ship, but here are some examples:

  • The Chef’s Table
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Schooner Bar
  • The Pub
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Solarium
  • Casino Royale
  • Vitality Spa

The CDC still allows cruise ships to offer select areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required, but this update is aimed at requesting the cruise lines to reconsider this policy.

The CDC also revised its testing requirements for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated cruise ship passengers for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing, for cruise ships operating under the CSO, including those choosing to follow CSO measures on a voluntary basis. 

The new recommendation matches what Royal Caribbean was already doing, which is require unvaccinated and fully vaccinated passengers bring a negative Covid test that was take no more than 3 days before boarding to the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean first added the requirement to get a negative Covid-19 test before cruises 5 nights or longer as of July 31, and then expanded that rule to include sailings of any length as of August 12.

Read moreWhen you should take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise?

According to the CDC, the change was made because of the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people and the increased transmissibility of some Covid-19 variants of concern.

Royal Caribbean did not change their back-to-back cruise policy

27 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

An erroneous email went out to some guests about a change in the consecutive cruise policy, but Royal Caribbean has clarified the process will not change as drastically as first thought.

On Thursday, Royal Caribbean sent an email to guests to inform them guests doing a back-to-back cruise would have to take their luggage off the ship with them, take a Covid-19 test, and then re-embark during a selected check-in time.

This drew a great deal of negative reactions from cruise fans, who relish the opportunity to do back-to-back cruises. Many cruise fans questioned the logic in leaving the contained environment of the cruise ship to mingle with the public again before coming back onboard.

Many of the outraged took to airing their frustrations on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message board.

ConstantCruiser wrote, "Tested on the ship and confirmed to be negative but you have to fully pack and sit in the terminal for fours hours?"

"Definitely not the experience we were looking forward to," teddy added.

Corrected and updated back-to-back information

A few hours later, Royal Caribbean sent a follow up email to clarify that the original directions of being required to pack your bags and bring them to the terminal between sailings was incorrect.

"This is incorrect. You do not need to pack your bags and bring them to the terminal," the email said.

Instead, here are Royal Caribbean's back-to-back sailing requirements.

Guests who sail on back-to-back cruises must show proof of full vaccination against Covid-19 and are required to take a Covid-19 test producing negative results between each sailing. 

This test will be administered onboard at no expense to the guest. The regular back-to-back process will occur on turnaround day which means, back-to-back guests will debark (leaving their luggage onboard) and check-in for the next cruise will take place. 

Be sure to bring your Covid-19 Vaccine record card, as well as your Passport and any important documents needed to board your next sailing. 

And if you're sailing on consecutive cruises on different ships within 3 days, Royal Caribbean will arrange for a complimentary pre-cruise Covid-19 test on the last day of your sailing. Just let Guest Services onboard know a couple of days before you disembark and they'll arrange the complimentary test for you. 

Guest reactions

Just as quickly as the negative comments originally came in, RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers commended the quick fix of what looked to be a bad situation.

JimnKathy immediately wrote, "I commend Royal for correcting this so quickly. Makes me feel much better about our back-to-back sailing next month."

BrianB added, "I appreciate Royal acting so quickly to change it. It may have sounded like a good idea, and was probably made with input from health officials, but somewhere along the way reasonable accommodation for the customer must also enter into the formula."

Teddy admitted he the job of crafting protocols cannot be an easy task, "I’m glad I don’t have to make policy decisions for cruising. Truly a no-win situation for everybody. "

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks how cruise industry can overcome Delta variant threat

27 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain talked about the threat the Delta variant poses to the cruise industry, but also what can be done to combat its effects.

Mr. Fain started off his latest video update with the admission that the Delta variant hit the cruise industry hard, and right at the time it looked like things were going to quickly move back to normal.

"It was only a few weeks ago that we all thought that the virus was getting under control and life was gradually returning to normal. Unfortunately, the Delta variant upset all our plans."

Mr. Fain said the Delta variant has hurt cruise bookings, but has not destroyed the forward progress the cruise industry is making to get back into operations.

Mr. Fain sees a parallel between what is happening right now with the Delta variant and an important World War 2 battle, the Battle of the Bulge.

He sees the Delta variant as a sudden fight back in an enemy we had considered defeated, similar to how the Battle of the Bulge was the last offensive by the German army in the war at a time the Allies thought victory was close at hand.

"Like world war two, we're fighting a powerful and determined enemy. It's a hard battle and fighting. It is costing us heavily in casualties and in money. But it's a battle we simply can't afford to lose."

"We have no choice but to do what it takes to defeat this insidious disease. I hope and I trust that America will once again stand up and be counted."

Mr. Fain also said just like in the war, by Americans working together can the virus be defeated.

"Not only the soldiers in the field, but the entire country was united in a common goal, defeating the enemy and ending the war."

In his eyes, Mr. Fain sees two important lessons that the Battle of the Bulge taught us, "First, and I think most importantly, America can do amazing things when we work together."

"The second important similarity to the Battle of the Bulge is the ultimate outcome is clear and it's inevitable."

The way Mr. Fain sees things, the Delta variant is "a big bump in the road", but he sees a clear path forward.

"Cases are up, but that will soon peak. Hospitalizations and fatalities are up by a much lesser degree, and then mostly amongst those who have made a voluntary choice to refuse the vaccine."

"We are definitely not where we hope to be. We have taken one step back after taking two steps forward. Fortunately, more forward steps are coming."

Mr. Fain also celebrated the fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, and the fact he believes in a few months vaccines will be available for children as young as five years old.

"The end of this battle is in sight. But we can't let down our guard," he said right before making the bold statement, "Please wash your hands, and dammit, get vaccinated."

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

26 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

The last day of our cruise is a sea day, and we had some amazing weather for our final day.

I woke up to clear skies and a bright shining sky. Since the distance back from Nassau to Port Canaveral is a trivial distance, the ship can afford to follow the good weather while still being able to make it back with plenty of time.

For breakfast, I decided to try the main dining room for breakfast to change things up. I really enjoy the ambiance of the main dining room for breakfast.

With the sun shining, I grabbed my laptop and went up to the pool deck to enjoy a beautiful morning on deck.

Having a sea day for the last day of the cruise is my preferred way to wrap up a cruise, because it allows you to enjoy a relaxing day at your own pace.

I also took this opportunity to walk around the ship a bit. First up was the Sky Bar, which has the best views of the pool area.

When I made it down to the Royal Promenade, I found one of the health protocols in place, where the crew were limiting the amount of guests in the shops to ensure it was socially distanced.

I made a coffee run to Starbucks along the way.

Next up, I went up to my favorite hidden gem onboard, the helipad.

Guests can access the helipad during the cruise, and it has the best views of the ocean and the ship.

For lunch today, we dined at Izumi hibachi. Izumi is one of those restaurants I can go to every sailing because of how fun the experience is and how good the food is.

The chef did a great job with presenting and preparing the food, and I left stuffed but satisfied.

I originally thought perhaps I would go lounge by the pool, but a nap was calling my name so I decided to head back to the room to recharge for the afternoon.

After I got up, I headed outside again to enjoy the tail end of the afternoon. It was so relaxing to be outdoors with a nice breeze and the ocean passing by. It is one of those cruise moments I missed being able to do during the shutdown.

The activities staff had a classic rock trivia session up in Ellington's Bar at the Viking Crown Lounge, and I was quite proud of how many songs I knew based on a riff or two.

With the clear skies, we were also treated to a beautiful sunset at sea.  

Another spot I had to go to one more time was the Bamboo Room. Between the decor and fun drink menu, it is a great spot to meet up for drinks.

Dinner tonight brought us to Jamie's Italian.

I had to go with my favorite order of eggplant parm, and the food was so darn good.

Bonus points for the epic brownie, which was so much better than I remember.

That wraps up my cruise on Mariner of the Seas. It was fantastic, and I look forward to sailing on Mariner many more times since she sails just an hour from my house.

I hope you all enjoyed this live blog. The next live blog kicks off in less than two weeks when I finally get to sail on the brand new Odyssey of the Seas.

6 ways to tame the worst cruise ship problems

26 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Issues can pop up in any aspect of travel, and the difference between a temporary blip and a major problem can sometimes be measured on how prepared you are to handle it.

Overall, the cruise experience goes quite smoothly for most guests, but knowing what to do if you run into one of these issues can really mitigate the fallout.

Here are the smart answers to some real-life scenarios and what to do if they happen to you.

Being unaware of required protocols and tests

Did you read about some cruise ship passengers who were surprised by a requirement or protocol and were denied boarding? It is really easy to avoid being those people with just a little bit of effort.

First, it is always a good idea to book a cruise with a good travel agent.  Travel agents do much more than simply take your credit card information. They are given regular updates by Royal Caribbean about important changes and can convey to you the most critical information you need to know, especially when policies change.

In addition, you can always review Royal Caribbean's health policies in one easy to find spot online.  Bookmark that page and check it in the weeks and days leading up to your cruise.

If you run into a question or concern, I recommend reaching out to Royal Caribbean via their Twitter or Facebook pages. They respond quite quickly and without the hassle of waiting on hold if you were to call.

If the protocols or rules don't suit you, you can cancel up to 48 hours before your cruise sails under Royal Caribbean's Cruise with Confidence policy.

This allows anyone to cancel their cruise for any reason and get a 100% credit towards a cruise down the line.

In order to get a cash refund, you will need to cancel your cruise before your final payment date.

Your luggage gets lost

When you arrive to the cruise terminal, you can drop off your bags to have porters put them on the ship to be delivered to your stateroom.

The first thing you should do is take a walk down your hallway on your deck. The most common scenario is your bags got placed in the wrong staging area to be delivered, so take a walk down the hallway and even on the other side of the deck to see if you can spot them.

Another common issue is your bags were not delivered because there was something inside flagged by security. Clothing irons, alcohol, scissors, and a host of other prohibited items can get your bag withheld.  

Usually security leaves a message on your stateroom phone to collect the bags, but you can always head down to the security desk on deck 2 to see which bags are there and claim your bag.

Another possibility is the luggage tag accidently got ripped off in transit, and Guest Services will hold it until someone comes to claim it.

My advice is don't jump to the conclusion your bag is indeed lost too quickly.  Sometimes it just takes a while for bags to get delivered, but speak to Guest Services once the ship departs and you are not seeing bags being delivered in your hallway.

What to do if you get sick or hurt during the cruise

Royal Caribbean has an onboard medical center on all of its ships that guests can and should visit if they feel ill or injure themselves.

The medical facility can handle a host of common issues, and triage anything major before getting you to a full medical facility.

A lot of guests feel a sense of embarrassment or worry about getting in trouble for going down to medical center. The truth is they are there to help, and not every visit will result in a major bill or immediate quarantine. 

With Covid-19 being at the forefront of many guests' minds, Royal Caribbean upgraded its medical facilities to handle any potential Covid cases onboard.

The medical team will evaluate the guest in the comfort and privacy of their stateroom, by an in-person visit or by video tele-consultation and determine if a Covid-19 test is needed. The ship's onboard medical facilities can offer rapid PCR testing and results onsite; state-of-the-art equipment enhancements like hospital-grade ventilators with CPAP and BiPAP capabilities; a dedicated Controlled Care Center where infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas; and more critical care beds on each ship.

You should be aware the medical facility does not take any insurance, so you will have to pay out of pocket for their services and then reimburse yourself with your insurance provider.  Travel insurance can often cover more of these services, but check your coverages before assuming anything.

The catch-all for special needs

If at all possible, submit any special needs requests before your cruise via Royal Caribbean's special needs form.

Dietary requests, C-PAP machines, mobility assistance and whole bunch of other really common special needs can be submitted before the cruise to be ready when you get onboard.

If you are on the ship and a special need arises, there are a few crew members to speak with to tackle the issue.

For dietary requests, speak to the head waiter in your section of the dining room.

Guest services is another option for coordinating concerns you may have.

How to deal with a problem on a shore excursion

If you run into an issue during your shore excursion, be sure to talk to your tour guide as soon as possible so they can do their best to address it. 

If your tour is sold through Royal Caribbean, once you get back on the ship be sure to go to the shore excursion desk to address your concern.

Do not wait until you are home to identify a problem, as the issues are handled while onboard the ship.

Billing problems

I cannot stress enough the important of dealing with any issues with your bill while you are still onboard the ship.

Waiting until you get home makes the process of disputing any charges much more of a hassle than it has to be.

You can track all of your charges via the Royal Caribbean app, which appear in near real-time once the transaction is complete. Alternatively, Guest Services can always print out a copy of your bill at any time.

Instead, go to Guest Services while you are still onboard to discuss any billing questions you may have.

If you are staying in a suite, the suite concierge can also assist with billing issues on your SeaPass account.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau

25 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

The third day of our cruise brings us to Nassau, Bahamas for a day in port. While we had excellent weather yesterday, it was a little bit more hit or miss today.

No one can control the weather, so it's just the "luck of the draw". According to Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet, an upper level low is moving through The Bahamas today.

Luckily, it was just a short passing shower here and there, but it mostly stayed dry.

Something I could see clearly from my balcony was the progress being made on the new pier.

Nassau is re-doing their entire pier, which is why there's a handful of canceled stops in Nassau coming up for some ships. Hopefully things will progress quickly because the new renderings look great.

I thought about disembarking the ship, but decided to stay onboard to catch up on some RoyalCaribbeanBlog, and I couldn't have asked for a better office for the day.

Before I could do any work, I had to get coffee and something to eat.  I headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast. 

They had my favorite new variety of Indian breakfast curry available, sambar. Mixing that with a little bit of bread and it really hits the spot.

I picked the pool deck for my office. There are a few different kinds of tables and chairs on either side of the deck, and it allows for a nice breeze along with plenty of people watching whenever I need to sit back for a moment.

Docked next to us was Freedom of the Seas once again.

As lunchtime came around, I was once again in the Windjammer to enjoy the wonderful pasta station.  In the back of the Windjammer there is sometimes a cooking station available, and it is worth a stop every time.

In the afternoon, I decided in the interest of this live blog to do something a little more interesting.  I headed back to my stateroom to change and then went up to the sports deck.

First up, was the water slides.  I had ridden the slides on Mariner years ago, but decided it was time to try them again. 

Just like at CocoCay, there are no lines for the water slides right now with limited capacity. 

The slides were fun, and the blue slide definitely moves faster than the yellow slide.

The breeze was stiff, so I decided to "warm up" in the hot tub back on the pool deck.

I thought I was just going to go in the hot tub for a little bit, but I enjoyed my time so stayed longer and then lounged by the pool for a bit.

After I changed, I found the stowaway piano player playing on deck 4 near the Schooner Bar.  Like so many of the great entertainers onboard, I am always impressed how many songs they know and how they can play all of them so well.

If you can find the stowaway piano player on your ship, be sure to stop by for a minute.

Dinner tonight brings us to a Royal Caribbean staple, Chops Grille.

Chops ia stalwart of the specialty restaurant lineup, and I don't think I've eaten at Chops since being on Adventure of the Seas.

Since I had filet mignon yesterday, I decided to go with the lamb chops as my main dish.

First up was the tuna tartare and wild mushroom soup.  These are always my go-to dishes at Chops.  

My table mates went with another fan favorite of the grilled black pepper bacon and they really enjoy it.

When my lamb came out, I was surprised how tender it was. It had been many years since I had the lamb, and it was a great non-fish alternative to a steak.

I have a Pavlovian response to dessert at Chops, where I must order the red velvet cake. It's just one of those signature dishes I associate with the restaurant.

For our evening entertainment, it was back to the pub to enjoy bar songs.

Tomorrow is a sea day.