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Royal Caribbean will add new immersive dining experience to Utopia of the Seas

11 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Utopia of the Seas might be Royal Caribbean's sixth Oasis Class cruise ship in the fleet, but she will have at least one new innovation not offered on her sister ships.

Immersive Train car dining experience

Royal Caribbean will debut a brand new dining experience never before offered onboard that sounds different from anything else on other ships, can exclusively confirm.

The cruise line has steadily been moving towards new food and beverage concepts that aim to differentiate restaurants from being just another place for dinner.

In speaking with Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider, he provided details on one such restaurant coming to the next Oasis Class ship.

There's no name announced for it yet, but Mr. Schneider calls it, "an immersive train dining experience."

He wasn't able to provide all the details yet, but here's what we know about it.

Mixed reality dining train experience

Atmos restaurant

In talking about future plans, Mr. Schneider referenced a train car experience coming to Utopia, "That will be pretty amazing."

"There is a mixed reality immersive dining experience with a train motif coming to a ship near you that's going to blow people away."

Royal Caribbean has been on this path to develop new dining concepts since announcing a new technology initiative in 2017.

Back then, there was a virtual reality dining demo where people wore virtual reality visors, but Mr. Schneider said it isn't ideal, "people don't want to eat food with a goggle on their head."

Since then, a lot has changed with trends in dining.  He pointed to "Sublimotion" in Ibiza, Spain which is a new high-end Mediterranean dining concept with VR tech & immersive film projections, as an example of how the culinary world is exploring this medium. 

He thinks there's more than can be done in a less jarring way, "nobody's really done thematic immersion until what you're about to see on Utopia."

Classic train car

Here's how Mr. Schneider explained what this dining experience will be like once guests are able to experience it for themselves, "imagine seeing a series of train cars built out on a cruise ship."

"What if you could go to land based destinations while on a cruise ship in a dining experience that happened to look like 1930s to 1960s train and go through a series of destinations that you've never done before or might do on some of our other ships but in a way that could give you then a platform for culinary and immersion that you've never seen before."

Experimenting with new ideas

harmony of the Seas sea trials

When Royal Caribbean builds a new ship, they champion the mantra of "tradition, evolution, and revolution" as a way to bring back favorites while also pushing the envelope of what guests can expect onboard.

Mr. Schneider says this guiding principle is more like consistency and experimentation than anything else, "Our guests expect some sort of consistent experience. And I don't mean consistent in a negative way. Consistent in what they expect from us and quality."

Couple at Giovannis

"There's no reason that you wouldn't expect to find a Chops on every ship that we build in the future. And there needs to be, if you think of the concept development, we do a significant percentage of that, whether it's Main Dining, Chops, great Italian in our new Giovanni's kitchen concept."

"And then there needs to be experimentation."


An example of small experimentation is the Bubbles champagne bar in Central Park on Icon of the Seas. Beyond that, Royal Caribbean also moves towards full restaurants, such as the Mason Jar concept.

"New cuisine also then takes you to new experiences. And so things like and again, we don't have a name yet, but this railroad mixed reality culinary immersion is is part of that experimentation."

Wine being poured

Part of the rationale for developing new concepts is food is a major reason why people go on a cruise. On a high level, Mr. Schneider says the two predominant reasons people book a cruise are for destinations and food.

"You want that kind of diversity, given again, people want destinations and food is their two drivers to go on a cruise."

Utopia of the Seas launches in 2024

Bow of Ovation of the Seas

While Icon of the Seas is garnering the lion share of attention right now, Utopia of the Seas will also launch later that year.

"Utopia is going to be for the Oasis class yet another great step forward. You're just going to be amazed by kind of the next set of changes that we make, " said Mr. Schneider of what we can expect from Utopia.

He admitted Utopia won't have the same level of new experiences Icon of the Seas has, "but when you look at them, they'll make a ton of sense."

Utopia of the Seas name

When might we be able to start booking Utopia of the Seas? Mr. Schneider alluded to summer 2023 as when you can expect more information on bookings and details for the public to be able to start making plans.

The ship will debut in the spring of 2024.

Deal alert: Alaska cruises starting at $269

11 Apr 2023
Elizabeth Wright

If you are looking to take a cruise to Alaska in the next two months, you will want to act quickly.

On April 11 and 12, Royal Caribbean is having a "Going, Going, Gone" sale with fares as low as $269 per person for an interior room on a 7-night Alaska cruise. That breaks down to less than $40 per night before taxes, fees, and gratuities. 

As with any last minute cruise, you are going to have to act fast to secure your booking. Plus, you will have to think about the potential cost of airfare.

Here's a look at the great deals that you can find on Alaska cruises. 

Brilliance of the Seas


Brilliance of the Seas has the most availability, with cruises departing as soon as April 23. All sailings are roundtrip from Vancouver, meaning that you might have better luck securing flight deals. One-way tickets are often more expensive. 

  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on April 23 is priced at $564 for an interior, $449 for an oceanview, and $629 for a balcony. Regardless of which stateroom you select, there will be an additional $232.65 in taxes and fees added to your fare. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on April 30 is priced at $449 for an oceanview and $599 for a balcony. There are no interior staterooms left for this sailing. Taxes and fees are another $233.42. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on May 7 is priced at $459 for an oceanview and $699 for a balcony. You will have to pay $231.76 in taxes and fees. 
Haines, Alaska
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on May 14 is priced at $559 for an oceanview stateroom and $749 for a balcony. Again, there are no interior cabins available for this sailing. Expect to pay $226.16 in taxes and fees. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on May 21 is priced at $519 for an oceanview and $699 for a balcony, with taxes and fees being another $226.16.
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience departing on May 28 is priced at $559 for an oceanview and $749 for a balcony. Add another $228.48 in taxes and fees to whichever fare you select. 

Read more: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

Radiance of the Seas

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

With only two options, Radiance of the Seas has the fewest cruises during this sale:

  • 7-night Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier from Vancouver, Canada departing on May 19 starts at $329 for an oceanview and $509 for a balcony. Taxes and fees are an additional $240.86. The cruise concludes in Seward, Alaska. 
  • 7-night Southbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier from Seward, Alaska departing on May 26 is priced at $269 for an interior stateroom, $319 for an oceanview, and $509 for a balcony, with taxes and fees costing $278.06. This one-way cruise ends in Vancouver, Canada. 

Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas in Sydney

Those looking for availability in June will have to opt for a sailing on Ovation of the Seas from Seattle, Washington. This might be the best option for families with children whose academic years do not conclude until early or mid-June.

Note, though, that these are the most expensive options, as you get to sail roundtrip from Seattle on a newer ship. 

  • 7-night Alaska Glacier departing on June 2 only has balcony cabins available for $1,049 per person. This does not include the $246.42 in taxes and fees. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier departing on June 9 is priced at $749 for an interior and $1,149 for a balcony, plus $214.85 in taxes. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier departing on June 16 costs $799 for an interior and $1,199 for a balcony. Taxes are another $242.96. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier departing on June 23 has balcony staterooms for $1,299 per person. You will have to pay $231.24 in taxes, too. 
  • 7-night Alaska Glacier departing on June 30 starts at $849 for an interior and $1,349 for a balcony, with taxes costing an extra $238.91. 

Other deals during the sale

Ship at CocoCay

If you are not interested in cruising to Alaska, there are other offering during the "Going, Going, Gone" sale, including sailings to the Greek Isles, Bahamas, Iceland, Ireland, Bermuda, and Mediterranean. 

Most of the cruises depart in May; however, there are a couple that leave in June:

  • 4-night Bahamas from Miami, Florida on Freedom of the Seas departing June 2, 5, and 12
  • 4-night Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida on Independence of the Seas departing on June 5 and 12
  • 12-night Iceland & Ireland from Amsterdam on Jewel of the Seas departing on June 5 and 29
  • 12-night Arctic Circle from Amsterdam on Jewel of the Seas departing on June 17
  • 7-night Greek Isles from Rome on Odyssey of the Seas departing on June 4
  • 7-night Western Mediterranean from Rome on Symphony of the Seas departing on June 1
  • 7-night Western Mediterranean from Barcelona on Symphony of the Seas departing on June 4
  • 9-night Bermuda & Perfect Day from Baltimore on Vision of the Seas departing on June 8

Unfortunately, this sale does include any cruises later in the summer for families that have yet to plan their summer trip. There is no way to tell if there will be another sale, either. 

In general, cruise pricing tends to favor those that book early, so let this be a lesson! If your schedule does not permit much flexibility, you are better off booking in advance. 

Increased demand for cruises

Voyager of the Seas sunset

2022 and 2023 have been successful years for the cruising industry, with many cruise lines breaking their personal booking records!

In fact, Royal Caribbean broke their own record three times in 2022 in less than five weeks. Black Friday of 2022 was the cruise line's single largest booking day.

Other cruise lines are seeing a similar trend. Carnival Cruise Line reported that bookings for the first quarter of 2023 were the highest volume for any quarter in the company's history!

Why you should not always rely on last minute deals

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Since the demand for cruise vacations is so high, there is no guarantee that the sailing you are eyeing will have any last minute availability. Many of Royal Caribbean's ships have been sailing at or close to maximum capacity, even outside of peak season. 

Additionally, as shown with the current "Going, Going, Gone" sale, cabin selection will be limited; there are no suites included for any of the Alaska deals, and some are sold out of interior and oceanview, too.

The lowest price may also be for a guarantee cabin, which means that there is no way to tell where it is located until assigned by Royal Caribbean. 

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

If you want a specific stateroom, you are better off booking in advance to secure the best rate and guarantee that you will get the cabin that you want. 

Booking the cheapest cruise does not mean it is going to be the cruise that you have been envisioning. In addition to potentially not getting the stateroom you want, you may find that certain add-ons have limited availability-- some shore excursions sell out in advance!

Read more: Why booking a last-minute cruise isn't always a great idea

Talk with your travel agent before booking

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

Last minute sales are great for those with whose lives are able to accommodate the flexibility of taking off on short notice. 

If you see a price listed on a "Going, Going, Gone" deal that you are interested in, ask your travel agent to price it out! 

There is no harm in sending them an email or giving them a call, as you never now what kinds of agency rates and special offers they have!

Royal Caribbean's private Bahamas beach club will be all-inclusive and a one-of-its-kind investment in locals

10 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

What can we expect when Royal Caribbean opens its first beach club experience in 2025?

Royal Beach Club concept art

Royal Caribbean confirmed last month it was moving forward with plans to build a beach club in Nassau, Bahamas, which is set to open in the first half of 2025.

This will be the first of its kind experience for the cruise line, as the beach club is not going to be another private island type of experience.  But how different will the Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island be and what can expect once the first passengers visit the beach club?

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider has a large hand in the planning of the new destination, and has been working with the Bahamian government for years through two different administrations to get approval for their work.

The Bahamian government gave Royal Caribbean "approval in principle from the government", which means the government of the Bahamas and Royal Caribbean have reached an agreement on kind of the key principles that they both think are important.

How is the beach club different than a private island?

Royal Beach Club concept art

Up until now, the only context cruisers have for a land-based experience offered by Royal Caribbean are the private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

Mr. Schneider calls the beach club, "a really rich Royal Caribbean service experience attached to a high volume destination or strategic destination for us."

"Whereas a Perfect Day it is the destination, it is the only thing you can do... and it's typically far flung."

Undeveloped site of the Royal Beach Club

To better explain the differences, Mr. Schneider confirmed that the beach club will cost extra, as it's not intended to be something for everyone to visit like it would be at CocoCay.

"Not everybody's going to have an opportunity to go to the Royal Beach Club. It wasn't designed for that purpose."

"Because we then hope you sail with us again the next weekend and have that opportunity. And so that's where it kind of fits into our strategy."

Royal Beach Club render

He also confirmed that the beach club admission will be all-inclusive, which means your admission cost will cover:

  • Water taxi ride to/from the beach club
  • All food and beverage, including alcohol.
  • Beach chairs
  • Umbrellas
  • Non-motorized activities (swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, etc)

"It's really meant to be this kind of all inclusive, ultimate beach day," Mr. Schneider said of the plans.

Royal Beach Club master concept plan

The beach club will have three primary areas:

  • Family beach zone
  • Active pool space
  • Quieter beach area on the western side

In addition to the beach, the pools are going to be a focal point, "At the heart of it, you'll find a series of pools. And part of the reason for a series of pools is you need heated pools in the Bahamas to have a really great experience year round."

Beach today in Nassau

Don't expect a giant pool akin to the Oasis Lagoon pool at CocoCay. Rather, for a better environmental footprint, these pool spaces will be smaller, "They're not terribly small, but smaller experiences. So imagine a Splashaway Bay sort of experience."

"Imagine if you were to take Oasis Lagoon and kind of break it into a couple different parts."

There will be live Bahamian music to enjoy, cabanas to rent for an additional cost, snack shack restaurants, along with beach bars around the club.

Full scale Nassau Beach Club rendering

One thing you will definitely not find at the beach club are thrills, "there's no massive thrill experience. And frankly, you know, there's two reasons not to have a massive thrill experience."

"One is the land is just not that big."

"The second is there's really great thrill elsewhere in Nassau. This wasn't meant to steal thrill from other things in Nassau."

How much will the beach club cost?

Paradise Island beach

You're probably wondering how much this experience will cost, and there isn't yet a price determined.

Mr. Schneider confirmed the all-inclusive admission will include food and drink (including alcohol), but said it was too early to know what the cost will be.

I then asked if admission will be a full or half day experience, and Mr. Schneider said he wasn't sure yet what to expect.

Why build beach clubs?

Adventure of the Seas sailing into Nassau

Why would a cruise line invest millions of dollars in a project like this when there are already lots of places to visit in Nassau, as well as destinations around the Caribbean.

On a high level, Mr. Schneider says the two predominant reasons people book a cruise are for destinations and food.

"The reason people go on a vacation is they want to go visit destinations. We break that down into destinations have two parts: the places we take you to and the ships and hardware that you sail on as a destination."

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

In speaking about the places Royal Caribbean already goes to, Nassau fell into a grouping of ports that have high volume but don't have high appeal or high satisfaction rates. This is the primary reason for leading Royal Caribbean down the path of planning a Royal Beach Club.

"Nassau is a great place to go. We wanted to add a Royal level service to that destination. This this gave us that model to to really expand."

Profiting the Bahamas too

Mr. Schneider was adamant about the fact the Royal Beach Club in Nassau isn't a cash grab by the company that only benefits the cruise line.  

He called it a "public private partnership", which has the goal of ensuring, "that the profits from the Beach Club stay in the Bahamas for generations to come."

How does it work? There's a few components to this deep partnership between cruise line and government.

New Providence Island

First is equity, "Bahamians will have the opportunity to own up to 49% of the Royal Caribbean Beach Club."

"And so we felt and the government felt as we went through our discussion that it was important that Bahamians have ownership in this as a result of the Bahamas contributing crown land."

"We want to make sure that that the Beach Club has real ownership of local Bahamians so that it's beloved for years to come.

Fort Fincastle, Nassau, Bahamas

"The equity comes in two parts. First is the government. The government sovereign wealth fund, which is called the Bahamas National Investment Fund, will get essentially equity for the fair market value of the four acres of crown land that they're contributing."

"The second part of the equity is really then individual Bahamians will have an opportunity through an investment fund to essentially buy shares in the investment fund to buy equity into the fund."

In addition to the equity being built up from the crown land, is to open up every kind of bespoke part of the operation to local Bahamians.

Jobs in Nassau

Mr. Schneider said this includes all sorts of jobs, such as security, lifeguards, environmental monitoring, food, music, and more, "All of those will be open to local businesses and entrepreneurs. And our hope is that the entire operation is through partnerships from Nassau."

He mentioned the first employee hired will be the new president of the Royal Beach Club, "the goal is to hire somebody who is Bahamian. So from the senior most executive down to the landscaper, the idea is all Bahamian or Bahamian partnerships."

Bahamian culture

On top of all of that, a new tourism tax will be part of this project that benefits local Bahamians, "one of the things we're really excited about is not just the growth of tourism, but we agreed to a new tourism levy that doesn't exist."

"We'll be the first new development kicking 1% of gross profits into a new tourism levy in perpetuity. And the purpose of that tourism levy is a new tourism fund to improve other attractions throughout New Providence in the Bahamas."

Mr. Schneider also took some time to address local press coverage regarding the beach club, "we've seen some negative press that people think this is just a mini Perfect Day at Nassau such that we'll suck all the air out of the local businesses and this will be the only place our guests go."

He was emphatic that is not the case, "Less than 40% of our guests will have an opportunity to go to the Royal Beach Club of our deployment to Nassau on an annual basis."

"It's important they have other things to do because the other 60%, we want to have a great destination as part of a rich itinerary."

Fort Fincastle in Bahamas

In 2017, Royal Caribbean was bringing about a million passengers to Nassau.  By 2027, the cruise line expects to be bringing 2.5 million visitors to Nassau.

"The number will have grown the number of calls and visits and guests into Nassau far in excess of the total capacity of the beach club."

Royal beach Club water taxi

Something else Royal Caribbean is doing to benefit local businesses is to build a water taxi service, "we're partnering with local Bahamians to create a new water taxi infrastructure."

"That water taxi infrastructure is serving the beach club will then also serve other attractions throughout the harbor and New Providence."

Water taxi

In short, Royal Caribbean is doing something no other company has done for the Bahamas, "We look at the totality of kind of the structure that we created with the government and the kind of net new employment opportunities and job creation and profit creation for  the government and individuals and the money that we're putting back into the Bahamas is really something that nobody's ever done before, for sure, for the Bahamas. And it's rare to see worldwide."

"We think this is a home run for the Bahamas."

First of many beach clubs

When The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island, it will be the first, but not the last, beach club.

"We want to build multiple beach clubs around the world because every geography is is somewhat unique," stated Mr. Schneider. 

But don't expect each to be an exact replica of each other, "as we think of the future beach club kind of portfolio, our hope is they'll have similar components."

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: April 9, 2023

09 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Spring is here and it is also Sunday, which means we are celebrating warm(er) temperatures and Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean will open its own private beach club in Nassau, Bahamas and it looks incredible!

Royal Beach Club concept art

The Royal Beach Club in Nassau will open in 2025 and we have all the information we know so far about the project for you to catch up on.

This extra cost excursion will include beach access, pools, cabanas, and much more.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 494th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which answers as many listener emails as possible.

It's been a while since we had a podcast episode all about your questions, so this week's episode is just listener emails!

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.

New RCB Video: Best things to bring on a cruise under $10

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 — Best things to bring on a cruise under $10 I always regret forgetting to bring — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day

No one wants their cruise vacation to end, but on the last morning of the cruise, there are a few good reasons to hustle off the ship.

Just like the idiom of "ripping off a band-aid" to get it over with, disembarking your cruise ship when it ends sooner than later has a few advantages.

From beating the traffic, to getting on an earlier flight, here are the compelling arguments to plan on leaving your ship as soon as possible.

20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

Windjammer table

You don't want to be "that guy/gal" when it comes to committing a faux pas, so we have a guide to proper cruise ship etiquette.

Being polite to your fellow passengers and crew member should go without saying, but there are a few nuances of a cruise that you might not think are an issue, but in reality, should be avoided.

Knowing proper ship etiquette will help ensure that you do not feel disrespectful or underdressed, as well as make sure that you are able to contribute to a positive atmosphere. 

What it's like when a cruise ship is empty

70s dance party crew backstage

Mariner of the Seas just finished a dry dock in Europe and returned to the United States without any passengers.  Not having passengers onboard doesn't mean there's nothing to do for crew either.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Marc Walker shared a glimpse of what crew members do in the time there are no paying passengers onboard to prepare for a return to service.

Over the course of an 8-night crossing, we've got a look at what the crew did with no passengers to attend to.

What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?


If you are thinking about the best month to go on a Mediterranean cruise, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each month.

 While there isn’t necessarily a “perfect” time to take a Mediterranean cruise, this guide should help you decide which season works best for you.

8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

Before you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, it's a good idea to go over some important considerations.

Depending on your preferences, one ship might be a better idea than another to sail on.

Here's a look at the questions you should be asking yourself prior to selecting a Royal Caribbean ship to ensure you find the best ship for you.

Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

07 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you are looking for the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you have plenty of great choices to consider.

Overhead view of Oasis Class ship

Royal Caribbean offers cruises around the world on more than two dozen ships that will provide a great family vacation. Wonder of the Seas is the newest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but does that make it the best ship? Is the oldest ship necessarily the worst ship?

Read moreI sailed on Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest cruise ships: here's what it's like to cruise on each

Narrowing down the best ship means finding the right ship for you, depending on your personal tastes, budget and who is cruising with you.

Royal Caribbean prides itself on a consistent experience across all of its ships, but they aren't carbon copies of each other either.

The best ship depends on you

Symphony of the Seas at night

Picking the best ship is a lot like picking out the best movie or best restaurant: it is a subjective choice based on a variety of factors that every person weighs differently.

Since no one likes to hear that the answer is "it depends", here is as objective a breakdown as possible of what to look for in the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Amenities, activities, and accommodations

At the heart of any cruise ship is what the ship offers onboard, and where you will call home during your vacation.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have four basic types of staterooms: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins. These types of cruise cabins offer varying amount of living space and luxuries, and the some ships have more impressive cabins than others. 

Ultimately, the decision for which room you want is a question of what you can afford, but the larger and newer ships tend to offer the most expansive and luxurious accommodations.

What you do onboard is what makes Royal Caribbean stand out, and you will find various signature activities, fun things to do and multitudes of dining choices across an expansive layout.

Each cruise ship is made up of a different combination of onboard offerings and over the last decade, Royal Caribbean has varied these amenities considerably from ship to ship. So it behooves you to figure out which are the most important and pick the right ship for you.

Oasis Class

Best ship: Symphony of the SeasWonder of the Seas, or Oasis of the Seas

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they simply offer the latest and greatest that Royal Caribbean is known for onboard.

The five Oasis Class ships (with Utopia of the Seas eventually joining the fleet sometime in 2024), have FlowRider surf simulators, zip lining, rock climbing, waterslides, clubs, specialty and complimentary restaurants and scenic evening strolls.

There is no shortage of things to do on an Oasis Class ship, including waterslides, Ultimate Abyss slide, two FlowRiders, mini-golf, zip line and more.

There are seven neighborhoods (eight on Wonder of the Seas) on an Oasis Class ship, including Central Park outdoor space and the seaside-inspired Boardwalk. 

The shows on an Oasis Class ship are the best in the fleet, with three different theaters offering entertainment throughout your cruise. Watch a full Broadway show (such as Mamma Mia or Hairspray), check out the thrills of the AquaTheater performances, and be dazzled by ice shows in Studio B.

Oasis Class ships also have the most dining options of any Royal Caribbean ship, such as Chops Steakhouse, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Portside BBQ, classic Italian and much more.

Where they sail: Wonder of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offer 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that include stops at the private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Some years, one Oasis Class ship sails from Europe for the summer.

Quantum Class

Best ship: Anthem of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas

The newest class of Royal Caribbean ship does not compromise on entertainment, dining, or things to do with the Quantum Class ships.

Looking for some incredible things to do on a cruise ship? How about a skydiving simulator, or smash bumper cars into your fellow guest vehicles.  Then there is the observation capsule that takes you 300 feet in the air for breathtaking, 360-degree views. 

The Quantum Class ships are the only ones that feature Two70, which is a large circular space at the back of the ship where you will not only find a great view of the ocean, but also floor-to-ceiling screens that can transform the space along with their Roboscreen technology.

Music Hall is the perfect venue for anyone that loves live music performances, where cover bands perform and you can dance the night away.

The Royal Esplanade is located in the center of the ship and features dining and shopping opportunities.

Where they sail: Anthem of the Seas sails primarily from Bayonne, New Jersey to destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canda. She also started spending summer in Europe, sailing from Southampton, England for the summer, visiting coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.

Spectrum of the Seas sails in Asia.

Odyssey of the Seas splits her time between winter cruises from Florida to the Caribbean, and summer cruises in Europe around the Mediterranean.

Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas sail to Alaska in the summer, and then spend the other part of the year in Australia.

Freedom Class

Best ship: Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas

One of the most versatile cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, the Freedom Class vessels combine large size with lots to do onboard. In fact, the Freedom Class ships have been upgraded in the last few years with waterslides and other new features onboard.

You will find Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids on all three ships, along with Perfect Storm waterslides on Independence and Freedom. Liberty of the Seas has her own set of water slides, including the only ship to feature a boomerang slide.

Independence of the Seas is the only Freedom Class ship to offer the Sky Pad virtual reality bungee jump trampoline experience.

If you are looking for dining, Independence has Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and Fish & Ships, a poolside eatery where guests can grab quintessentially British seaside treats. Freedom of the Seas launched the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen specialty restaurant concept in the fleet, that features made-to-order pizzas, freshly made pastas and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos.

All three ships offer great shows onboard, including ice skating performances in Studio B.  Independence of the Seas has its own Broadway show with Grease, while Liberty of the Seas has Saturday Night Fever Broadway show.

Where they sail: Independence of the Seas sails three and four night cruises the Caribbean from Port Canaveral.

Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston, Texas and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Freedom of the Seas is homeported in Miami, Florida, where she offers short 3- and 4-night cruises.

Voyager Class

Best ship: Navigator of the Seas or Mariner of the Seas

One of the best values in Royal Caribbean is the Voyager Class ships. These multifaceted vessels are a great choice for first-time cruisers, as well as anyone on a limited budget.  They are still "big ships" and offer plenty to do onboard, but at a fraction of the price of their mega ship sister vessels.

The Voyager Class is perhaps the most varied ships in the fleet, as the Royal Amplification process has added so many new and different options to these ships.

Mariner and Navigator of the Seas received the most striking changes in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mariner of the Seas has a Sky Pad and Perfect Storm waterslides. Navigator has The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Both ships also now feature Battle for Planet Z and Royal Escape Room: The Observatorium.

There are plenty of other additions to both vessels, including hibachi on Mariner and Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant on Navigator. Both ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, as well as a Bamboo Room Polynessian-themed bar.

The other Voyager Class ships also have their own share of fun onboard, including a FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and shows each evening. Adventure of the Seas has its own set of water slides that were added a few years ago.

Where they sail: Mariner of the Seas offers Caribbean cruises of various length from Port Canaveral.

Navigator of the Seas is homeported from Los Angeles, where she sails short cruises to Ensenada, Mexico, as well as 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises.

The other Voyager Class ships move around a bit more, offering cruises around the world. Adventure of the Seas will sail from Galveston and Bayonne in the winter, in addition to cruises in Europe from Copenhagen and Stockholm in the summer.

Explorer of the Seas also splits time between North America and Europe, with cruises from Rome in the summer, and Galveston or Miami in the winter.

Voyager of the Seas offers cruises in Australia or China, depending on the cruise season.

Radiance Class

Best ship: Brilliance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas

An underrated, yet impressive class of ships is the Radiance Class ships that combine sleek elegance with varied itineraries around the world.

Just because they are smaller than other ships, does not mean they compromise on the fun onboard. Royal Caribbean added new features and amenities to these ships, and you will find an outdoor movie screen, full-scale entertainment productions in the three-story theater, and plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges.

Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Radiance Class ships have one of the best adults-only Solarium areas across the entire fleet.

Where they sail: The Radiance Class ships are world travelers, offering lots of places to visit. Brilliance of the Seas spends her winters in Tampa with short sailings to the Caribbean, along with cruises from Boston and Miami.

You can cruise on Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam to Northern Europe in the summer, while choosing between cruises from Galveston or Miami to the Caribbean.

Radiance of the Seas offers some really interesting cruises, including open-jaw sailings (one-way) to Alaska in the summer.  She then transitions to Australia and sails the South Pacific.

Serenade of the Seas also splits her time between Australia and Alaska itineraries.

Vision Class

Best ship: Grandeur of the Seas or Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean uses the Vision Class ships to offer cruises to the most exotic locations around, because they can fit almost anywhere.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships still offer plenty to do onboard and have amenities such as a rock climbing wall, great pool deck, poolside movie screen, specialty dining and a grand Atrium area.

The lounges on these ships are equally impressive, and many repeat cruisers love the warm and thoughtful staff onboard these ships.

Where they sail: Vision of the Seas offers cruises in the winter from Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona in the summer.

Rhapsody of the Seas calls Tampa and Venice/Ravenna, Italy home, with cruises to the Western Caribbean and Greek Isles.

Enchantment of the Seas (the last Royal Caribbean ship to be stretched) sails year-round from Baltimore.

Grandeur of the Seas offers cruises from Galveston & Miami to the Caribbean.

What should you look for in the best cruise ship?

When you want to find the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship for you, the key is to understand what the ship offers and what it does not offer, and then weigh that against how much it will cost you.

Some important considerations you should look at in any ship is what it offers in:

  • Kids Programming
  • Signature activities (waterslides, Broadway shows, thrill attractions, open spaces, et al)
  • Where it is sailing

If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  

If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine.

The important thing to remember is to figure out if the ship you are looking at has a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship.

My recommendations for the best ships

If you just want to know which ships I think might be best for certain people, here are my top picks for best Royal Caribbean ships.

  • Best ships for new cruisers and families: Oasis of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas
  • Best ship if on a budget: Mariner of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Best ship if you don't care about crazy activities: Brilliance of the Seas or Grandeur of the Seas
  • Best combination of value (price for what you get): Freedom of the Seas or Liberty of the Seas
  • Matt's favorite ships: Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas

8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day

07 Apr 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

The end of a cruise vacation can stir up many emotions, but most (if not all) passengers feel a hint of post-cruise depression set in on disembarkation day. Thoughts of returning to work, cleaning your house, and cooking your own meals can make even the toughest passengers dread returning home.

Serenade of the Seas in Tampa

Nonetheless, you have to return home eventually after your time onboard, and we recommend that you get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day. For most cruise itineraries, this means disembarking around 7AM instead of, say, 8 or 9AM.

While shortening your time on a Royal Caribbean cruise may sound unappealing, the truth is that by disembarking just an hour or two earlier than other passengers, you can reap a wide range of benefits.

From shorter wait times in the cruise terminal to avoiding chaos at the parking garage, here are 8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible.

How can I get off the ship as early as possible?


Before explaining the top reasons why you should disembark your cruise early, you should have a basic understanding of how Royal Caribbean’s disembarkation process works.

You have two options for disembarkation: self-disembarkation or using luggage tags.

Self-disembarkation is when you carry your luggage off the cruise ship with you. By transporting your own luggage off the ship, you have the freedom to leave whenever you want. This works well for cruisers who packed light or who don’t mind lugging suitcases off the ship, down the gangway, and through the cruise terminal.

Self-disembarkation is also a nice option for those who want as much flexibility as possible when leaving the ship. If you booked an early flight, you may prefer to disembark your ship as soon as the gangway opens instead of waiting until your luggage tag number is called.

Related: Self-disembarkation on a Royal Caribbean cruise

If you opt not to do self-assist disembarkation, you should adhere to the disembarkation time on your cabin’s luggage tag number. Near the end of the cruise, luggage tags will be delivered to your stateroom. Each of these luggage tags has a number, and this number coincides with the time in which your luggage will be ready for you in the cruise terminal.

If you don't like the disembarkation time given on your luggage tag, you can change your luggage tag number to the time that works best for you—simply head to Guest Services and get a different luggage tag.

Now that you have a better idea of how to disembark a cruise ship, let’s move into the top 8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day.

There’s nothing to do onboard on disembarkation day

Although Royal Caribbean cruise ships are packed with activities and entertainment, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything interesting to do on disembarkation day.

With such a short turnaround time between cruises, there’s no time for activities like waterslides, trivia, and production shows.

Truthfully, there’s a rushed atmosphere onboard on disembarkation morning. If you’re suntanning on the pool deck at 9AM, you might get a few strange looks from crew members.

While there are no activities offered on disembarkation day, select breakfast venues, including the Windjammer and Main Dining Room, are open. We recommend grabbing a quick breakfast and getting off the ship as early as you can.

Avoid lines to leave the ship

While you won’t usually encounter an exceptionally long line to disembark your cruise ship, it’s best to avoid waiting in lines whenever possible. More often than not, the earlier you try to disembark your cruise ship, the shorter of a line you’ll experience.

Related: How long does it take to get off a cruise ship?

Not only will you avoid a long line just to leave the ship, but you won’t have to wait as long to have your passport and documents checked in the terminal. This is even more true if you’re traveling with a birth certificate and ID instead of a passport.

Those with passports can usually go through a fast-moving line during which a facial recognition device confirms your identity. Those without passports, on the other hand, have to wait in a line to have their documents manually checked.

If you disembark at the same time as everyone else, there’s a chance you’ll have to wait in line longer than you'd prefer.

Get taxis and Ubers more quickly than other passengers

In addition to lines in the cruise terminal, disembarking your ship early means you’ll spend far less time waiting in line for transportation to the airport.

With thousands of passengers leaving the cruise port at the same time, disembarkation day can be a bit hectic. Taxis and rideshares see high demand all at once, and unfortunately, many passengers end up waiting longer than they would like for a ride to the airport.

By getting off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day, you can be among the first to call an Uber or Lyft, and it’s unlikely there will be any wait at the taxi line.

Beat the traffic in the parking garage

If you drove to your cruise port, you don’t want to get held up at the parking garage on disembarkation day. It’s typical for long lines of cars to form as thousands of other passengers try to exit the parking garage all at once.

No one enjoys waiting around in their car when they could be on the way home. By getting off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day, you can be one of the first out of the parking garage.

Get home earlier if you’re driving

Driving to your cruise port? The earlier you disembark your cruise ship, the earlier you can hit the road.

It’s always hard to relax knowing there’s a long drive ahead of you. Getting home earlier means you can start to unpack and relax, even if it means you’re no longer on a cruise ship.

Our recommendation is to wake up early, grab a takeaway coffee and pastry from Cafe Promenade, and hit the road before most passengers have even made it to breakfast.

More time to make a flight

We’ve all seen frantic, disheveled passengers sprinting through an airport terminal to make their flight on time. Many of us, in fact, have been those exact passengers ourselves—I know I’m guilty. By disembarking your cruise ship as early as possible, you give yourself more time to make a flight.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend booking flights no earlier than noon on disembarkation day, but the exact time can vary from airport to airport. If you’re flying from Fort Lauderdale, which is only 5 minutes away from the cruise port, you will (more than likely) be able to make an 11AM flight with little rush.

Making a noon flight from Venice, Italy when your cruise ends in Ravenna would be much more stressful—the cruise port is over two hours from the airport.

Related: The 20 worst cruise mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation

As long as you don’t book a flight too early, disembarking your cruise ship as early as possible will give you enough time to make your flight and account for any unexpected delays.

Account for security lines at the airport

My small, regional airport at home almost never has a line at security, but the same cannot be said about airports near popular cruise ports.

Many of the world’s busiest cruise ports are also located near the world’s busiest airports. Whether at the Los Angeles, Miami, or Orlando airport, you might encounter longer-than-anticipated lines at security.

If you don’t have TSA Precheck or an alternative priority security screening like CLEAR, you want to make sure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your flight. There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to the airport only to find out a long security line could cause you to miss your flight altogether!

Fly standby on an earlier flight

When I disembarked Symphony of the Seas earlier this year, I was off the ship by 7:45AM. My flight home, however, didn’t depart Miami until 12:30PM, and I was dreading waiting around the airport for several hours.

On route to the airport, I opened my American Airlines app and realized I could fly standby on a 9AM flight to my connection in Los Angeles. I never would have booked this flight outright as it left very little time to get to the airport and go through security after disembarking.

As a standby passenger, though, I could attempt to make the earlier flight with no risk of missing my flight later in the day.

To my surprise, I was able to fly on both my flight from Miami and my connecting flight home as a standby passenger. I was home over five hours earlier than I would have been on my initial itinerary!

Had I dilly-dallied around the cruise ship for another hour before disembarking, I never would have made the standby flight at 9AM. From now on, I’ll always get off the cruise ship as early as possible on disembarkation day if I can get on a standby list for an earlier flight.

Celebrity Cruises announces new CEO to succeed Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

06 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Laura Hodges Bethge will take over as CEO of Celebrity Cruises in May, the cruise line announced on Thursday.

Celebrity Cruises logo

Laura Hodges Bethge will take over the role from Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who has been CEO since 2014.  Hodges Bethge was most recently executive vice president,
shared services operations at Royal Caribbean Group.

In her current role, Hodges Bethge was responsible for Royal Caribbean Group’s safety, security and environment, risk management and crew movement teams.

"I look forward to building on the incredible achievements of Lisa and this world class team, as we continue to break boundaries and chart new courses in the industry," she said in a statement announcing the change.

Laura Hodges Bethge

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty welcomed Laura Hodges Bethge to the new role, "I would also like to congratulate Laura for her appointment as the next brand president of Celebrity Cruises. With her operational experience, business acumen and deep understanding of our company and the cruise industry, I know Laura is the right person to lead Celebrity Cruises to its next phases of growth."

Hodges Bethge has been a part of many aspects of the cruise industry. She served as senior vice president of Product Development for Royal Caribbean International, where she spearheaded the Royal Amplification ship upgrade program, and the Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover.  She also oversaw the design and construction of six new ships, including Spectrum of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas.

She joined the company in 2000 and has been a part of the Hotel and Marine Operations, Sales, Marketing, Product Innovation and Investor Relations teams.

She was also based in Shanghai as vice president of Market Development, where she oversaw commercial operations for this strategic market.

Departing Celebrity

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

Celebrity's current CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, will transition to Vice Chair, External Affairs for Royal Caribbean Group, effective May 1.

Mr. Liberty thanks Ms. Lutoff-Perlo for her hard work as CEO, "Lisa has been instrumental in transforming the Celebrity Cruises brand to what it is today."

"From helping us introduce the revolutionary Edge Series of ships to advancing the role of women in maritime careers, Lisa has had an incredible career during her time leading Celebrity Cruises, and multiple parts of our Royal Caribbean International brand. I have had the pleasure of working with Lisa for almost 18 years, and I know her expertise will be invaluable as she transitions to serve as my Vice Chair, External Affairs.”

Lutoff-Perlo’s career started with Royal Caribbean Group in 1985, when she was a district sales manager. 

She leaves behind a legacy of many firsts: In 2005, Lutoff-Perlo became Celebrity’s first female senior vice president of hotel operations. In 2012, she was named executive vice president of operations for Royal Caribbean International, the first woman in the industry to oversee both hotel and marine operations. Two short years later, she was the first woman appointed to president and CEO of one of Royal Caribbean Group’s brands.

As CEO, Celebrity Cruises added four new cruise ships to the fleet, and implemented cruise ship revitalizations under the Celebrity Revolution program.

"It has always been difficult for me to imagine leaving the incredible Celebrity brand, but the time is right for me to start an exciting new chapter and turn the helm over to a new leader," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

"It has been my great honor to lead this brand and work alongside the phenomenal Celebrity shoreside team and crew. Together, our accomplishments have been extraordinary. I'm excited to now work closely with Jason on broader initiatives as we sail toward an even brighter future."

20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

06 Apr 2023
Elizabeth Wright

If you are planning your first cruise, you may be wondering what proper onboard etiquette is like. 

Cruise etiquette

You can relax knowing that many protocols have relaxed, and cruising is neither as formal nor traditional as it used to be. That, however, does not mean that you can act however you want to. 

It is, for instance, important to be polite to fellow passengers and crew members. While that may seem like common knowledge, you would be surprised how many cruisers are rude to those around them. 

Knowing proper ship etiquette will help ensure that you do not feel disrespectful or underdressed, as well as make sure that you are able to contribute to a positive atmosphere. 

Be polite to crew members

Crew members work hard to ensure that you have a great vacation experience. If you pass your stateroom attendant in the hallway, time a moment to strike up a brief conversation by asking them about their day; they will appreciate it. 

If an issue arises that requires a visit to Guest Services, stay calm and level headed. The Guest Services representative will want to help you as best they can, and getting angry will not help the situation. 

Get a new plate when returning to the buffet

Windjammer table

While you might think that you are helping the crew members out by reusing your plate at the buffet, it actually is frowned upon. Serving yourself on a used plate could lead to the spread of germs. 

If you want another serving of food, simply leave your dirty dishes at the table. The Windjammer has staff walking around to clear the table in between servings and at the end of the meal. 

Do not be a chair hog

Please do not be one of those people who try and reserve pool chairs for the entire sea day. If you do not plan on using a chair for hours after claiming it, you should not leave your belongings there and prevent people who want to enjoy the pool deck in that moment from doing so. 

Cruisers on select Royal Caribbean vessels have reported that staff members have begun taking measures to prevent guests from saving chairs on the pool deck for a prolonged period of time. After a certain amount of time, they will remove your belongings and leave a note telling you where you can collect them. 

Related: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

Be patient

With thousands of people onboard a cruise ship, you may find yourself having to wait in lines more than you thought, whether it is at Windjammer for breakfast, during the day at the waterslides or FlowRider, or when disembarking the ship.

Do not push and shove others trying to get to the front of the line. Be patient, as everyone is trying to enjoy their vacation, too. 

Wait for people to get off of the elevators before getting on

Regardless of the time of day, cruise ship elevators are usually packed. Before you try and squeeze on, see if anyone is getting off. 

As an alternative, you can take the stairs and bypass the elevators. Not only is this often a quicker way to move about the ship, but it also leaves space on the elevators for those who rely on it. 

Related: Why you should skip the elevator on your cruise

Be mindful when navigating throughout the cabin hallways

Grandeur of the Seas hallway

If you were trying to sleep, you would not want to hear a loud group of people outside of your stateroom. Even if it is 2:00pm in the afternoon, you do not know who has returned to their cabin for an afternoon nap. Likewise, your neighbor might be someone who enjoys sleeping in or retiring early. 

Avoid blasting music from your stateroom or mingling for too long in the hallways, especially late at night or early in the morning. This can be disruptive to other guests. 

Quiet down when the captain or other personnel are making announcements

Royal Caribbean veteran Captain Sindre Borsheim

Whenever an announcement comes on, it would behoove you to listen to what they have to say. Often, they will be  regarding disembarking in ports of call, weather, onboard activities, etc.

Rather than chatting amongst yourselves, take a moment to pause and listen to what they are saying, as their announcements pertain to making your cruise vacation better!

Maybe it is about show getting cancelled due to weather conditions or the ship being cleared faster than anticipated. 

Do not share your drink package with others


Due to how expensive a drink package can be, it is tempting to want to share your drink package benefits with others. Sharing, however, is strictly prohibited. If you are caught, you risk getting your package revoked without a refund. 

If one person in your stateroom who is of legal drinking age purchases a package, you must get it for every other guest the same age. In other words, drink packages are bought per person, not per room. Sharing is less likely to occur if everyone 21-years-old and older (or 18 depending on the market) has their own drink package. 

Additionally, you should not give drinks to minors. While you will not be kicked off the first time you are caught, you face expulsion from the ship if you continuously disregard their warnings. 

Make sure that you are on time to any reservations that you make, including shore excursions

Family on Alaska tour

Out of respect for everyone else, you should always arrive on time to your reservations. 

If you are late to a shore excursion, you will likely be left behind. Even if they do happen to wait, you do not want to be the reason that you kept everyone else waiting. 

Likewise, arriving to onboard reservations is polite to those who might have reservations after yours. Perhaps the specialty restaurant you are dining at is fully booked for the evening, and there is another party dining right after you. And if there is a show that you want to see, you may find that you cannot be seated if you show up late. 

Know your alcohol limits


Purchasing a Royal Caribbean drink package does not give you the excuse to drink until you are belligerent.  

Drinking is often the root of the cause when it comes to issues between passengers. Someone may have had one too many drinks and decide that they want to try and instigate something. The best way to minimize this type of behavior is to limit your alcohol intake. 

Plus, you do not want to be stumbling around the ship and feeling ill while in port the next day. Staying hydrated throughout your cruise is key, especially if you are consuming alcohol. 

Respect the dress code

Family in dining room

While you will not be denied service for dressy casually on formal night, you may feel out of place. Don't worry, though. You do not have to pull out a ballgown or tuxedo, but you will want to wear a nice pair of pants and shirt or dress.

This also means that you should dress for the occasion and not wear anything too revealing or that might otherwise be deemed inappropriate around families with children.

You do not have to dress for the themed nights, but it sure does make the cruise more fun!

Related: What to wear on a cruise that works for all dress codes

Do not throw anything overboard

Junior Suite balcony on Anthem of the Seas

Cruise lines are actively working to decrease their environmental impact. By throwing things into the ocean, you are choosing to disturb a delicate ecosystem. 

If you are caught, you could face a fine or removal from the ship at the next port of call. If you have trash, dispose of it properly in one of the trash bins.

Take responsibility for your children

Kids together on Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has various rules in place for minors. Those under 18, for instance, have curfews that they should abide by. 

Likewise, children should not be left unattended on the pool deck. Parents, please make sure that you have an eye on your kids at all time! Should they need to use the restroom or get hurt, you should be able to immediately assist them. 

When it comes to the youth clubs, children should be picked up by the designated closing time in the evenings. It is likely that the staff has other duties elsewhere on the ship, or it may one of their only times off. 

Do not remove your daily gratuities to save money

Crew member smiling at the bar

Crew gratuities are an additional fee that you pay on top of your base fare. As of April 2023, guests in standard staterooms (including Junior Suites) pay $16 per person, per day, while those in Grand Suites or above pay $18.50 per person, per day.

They can either be prepaid or added to your onboard account to be settled at the end of the cruise. And while you can go speak to Guest Services to have the amount adjusted or completely removed, you should first speak to them and let them try to resolve the issue. 

Some guests opt to remove them in order to give cash tips to the crew members they interact with; however, this impacts those who work behind-the-scenes and receive a percentage of your daily gratuities. 

Related: Tipping on a cruise ship: what you should and shouldn't do

Be polite to fellow passengers

Rising Tide

A little kindness can go a long way! If you find yourself in a situation where tensions are raised, do not try and resolve it yourself; find a crew member and alert of them of what is going on, whether it is a chair hog or someone picking a fight or another reason. 

The last thing you want is to spend any part of your cruise speaking with security!

Everyone is onboard to have a great time. Working together to treat each other with respect will create a better environment for all. 

Wash your hands 

Even though many covid protocols have been relaxed, you should still frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially before entering the buffet. At minimum, you should be using the hand sanitizer that is located throughout the ship. 

There are other precautions that you should take, such as coughing and sneezing into your elbow. With thousands of passengers onboard a single vessel, it is easy for illnesses to spread! 

Make sure that you complete the muster drill as soon as possible

Crew member emuster

Royal Caribbean's muster drill is done primarily through their app, meaning that you will not have to worry about gathering with everyone else onboard the ship at a dedicated time. 

This means that completing the drill is easier than ever. In fact, you can watch the mandatory safety video prior to even boarding the ship!

The only thing you will have to wait to do is visiting your assigned muster station. When you get there, a crew member will scan your Set Sail pass or SeaPass to mark that you have attended. 

The ship cannot set sail until everyone onboard has completed all parts of the drill, so make sure you get yours done as soon as possible!

If you want to smoke, do only in a designated smoking area


In order to facilitate a pleasurable experience for all guests, cruise ships have designated smoking areas onboard. This means that you cannot start smoking a cigarette whenever you want to. 

Smoking on your stateroom balcony, despite being outdoors, is strictly prohibited. If caught, a cleaning fee will be added to your onboard account.  

Common smoking areas include one side of the pool deck, as well as a section of the casino. Note that e-cigarettes can only be used in smoking areas, too. 

Do not try and bring any prohibited items onboard 


There are some prohibited items that are obvious, such as illegal drugs, candles, and fireworks. Others, however, are common household items like clothes steamers and electrical extension cords. 

While showing up with a steamer will not get you kicked off the ship, when your luggage is delivered to your stateroom, you will find a note that says the item was confiscated and can be picked up at disembarkation. 

To avoid this hassle, make sure that you have not packed any items that Royal Caribbean does not allow onboard their ships. 

Moreover, if you show up with anything dangerous or illegal, you may be denied boarding!

Do not leave a big mess for your cabin steward

Oceanview cabin on Liberty of the Seas

Your cabin attendant is responsible for making sure that you cabin is clean and tidy throughout the cruise. They will refresh your towels daily, make your bed, empty the trash, deliver important documents, and leave fun towel animals!

It, however, is disrespectful to clutter around your room that interferes with their ability to do their job. 

In fact, if you leave a big mess, they will often clean around it! This is to mainly protect themselves in the event of being accused of taking something from a passenger's cabin. While having things lying about in your cabin is inevitable, try to consolidate the mess. You will also appreciate coming back to a tidier space! 

What happens when an empty cruise ship returns to service without any passengers

05 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Following a dry dock in Europe, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas concluded a transatlantic crossing without any passengers onboard, and yet, the crew still do a great deal of work to prepare for paying guests.

What happen on an empty ship

About every five years, Royal Caribbean's cruise ships go into dry dock for maintenance work.  This is when ships are taken out of the water and preventative work is done all around the ship.

In the case of Mariner of the Seas, she went back and forth between North America and Europe without any cruise passengers onboard. You might think the crew would have nothing to do, but there's a surprising amount of things happening on a ship with just the crew.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Marc Walker shared a glimpse of what happens via his Facebook page, and it's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of the work done to prepare for passengers.

Cruise Director Marc Walker

"Understandably you may think we don’t do much during dry dock, but there is a lot to do, especially our 8 day crossing back," he posted at the start of crossing home.

"We are now in dress rehearsals for the ice show and theater production shows, live music runs, all theme nights are now rehearsed and ready, many safety trainings and Royal standards being presented, and lots of dusting."

Through Mr. Walker's posts, here's a look at some of the things crew members do on a cruise ship even without any passengers to service.

Mock boarding day

Marc Walker on Royal Promenade

One one day of the crossing back to Florida, the ship pretended it was embarkation day so that crew members could practice the muster drill process.

Royal Caribbean's eMuster process means guests don't have to line up and hear safety information at their muster station.  Instead, they complete most of the process on their digital devices before reporting to their muster station so they are aware of where it is located.

The change to an eMuster process has been a revelation in the cruise industry, and a huge hit with passengers.

Since the goal of this return trip is to get everything and everyone ready for passengers, every process of the cruise experience needs to be refined.

Flush all the toilets at the same time


Part of the process to prep the ship for a regular day is to ensure all of its systems work well, including the toilets.

Mr. Walker noted on the second day of the return trip was, "super chlorination day", which means all the crew members need to run all faucets, showers and toilets manually,  "to make them nice and clean."

In fact, every 10 minutes starting at 7:30am, Mr. Walker would get on the ship's public address system to tell crew members to flush.

Dining room dry run

Main dining room staff preparing

As Mariner of the Seas gets ready to return to service, crew members need to get back into their routines, including the dining room staff.

In order to prepare the Main Dining Room staff for passengers, Mariner of the Seas treated a number of crew members to dinner in this venue, where other crew played the role of guests so that the wait staff can get practice.

Not only does this give the Main Dining Room a good exercise, but it also rewards other crew members with a meal in a venue they don't ordinarily get to enjoy.

Dance parties with no one in attendance

70s dance party crew backstage

The ship's entertainment staff needs practice too, so they practice the popular dance parties held in the Royal Promenade, even if there's no one really there.

Mr. Walker talked about the putting on these shows, "Tonight we performed our classic 70s Disco Inferno for the fabulous Mariner of the Seas crew. We have a lot of new Royals so as part of our simulation cruise, we are treating them to all of our shows and theme events, plus tonight we gave away some amazing prizes!"

Empowering crew members

Crew member advancement

Crew members on a ship may start out in one role, but many will advance through the ranks in part due to the cruise line's programs aimed at advancing their careers.

Mr. Walker highlighted the "Getting Started as a New Leader" program that promotes crew members from within, instead of looking to hire new managers outside the company.

"Myself, Natalie my assistant, and Gemma my Sports Manager today congratulated Sports Staff Natalia, and Cruise Staff Nenad and Milos for their certification. They are our future leaders - and really cool people!"

Prepare the shows

Center Stage crew and cast

Each Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a cast of performers, as well as an array of technicians, that produce shows for guests.

The featured show on Mariner of the Seas is, "Center Stage", and on the final night before Mariner of the Seas returned to Port Canaveral, the cast and crew held an opening night performance.

The cast for a show will be onboard a ship for a few months before a new cast comes onboard to replace them.  

"Here are all the amazing and talented cast, orchestra, stage stage, techs, and Miami install team. Yes it’s a lot for one show, but that’s how we roll," Mr. Walker noted.

"Very proud of them all."

backstage view of show

The "Gallery of Dreams" cast also got their opening night performance, and they put on the show for other crew members.

"The crew got to enjoy this show tonight which is something they don’t usually get to see," noted Mr. Walker.

Best hotels near Port Canaveral before the cruise

05 Apr 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Traveling to Port Canaveral for a cruise? We’re sharing our top hotel recommendations for a pre-cruise stay.

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Port Canaveral is a cruise port located on Florida’s central coast just 45 miles from Orlando. It’s among the busiest cruise ports in the world, with over 4 million passengers sailing from the port each year.

If you’re cruising from Port Canaveral, we recommend arriving in Florida the day before your cruise begins. Depending on your travel schedule, you may choose to book a hotel near the airport in Orlando or one closer to the port.

Anthem of the Seas in Port Canaveral

Arriving a day early provides ample wiggle room in the case of travel delays when driving or flying to the port. Plus, it allows you to start your vacation one day early before embarkation day, whether you visit Orlando’s theme parks, spend time at the beach, or simply rest in your hotel.

Here’s our list of the best hotels near Port Canaveral to book before your cruise.

Where to stay in Port Canaveral before your cruise

Cape Canaveral

Many passengers prefer to spend the night before their cruise close to Port Canaveral. The port is located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, otherwise known as Florida’s Space Coast.

Staying in Cape Canaveral offers a wide selection of activities, from visiting the Kennedy Space Center to spending time at Cocoa Beach. The area is home to many restaurants, bars, and beach shops, providing more of an “I’m on vacation” atmosphere compared to staying in Orlando.

Related: How to get to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise

There’s no question that staying in Cape Canaveral instead of Orlando makes it easier to reach the cruise terminal on embarkation day. Many hotels are located just a five minute drive away from the port.

If you arrive in Orlando early the day before your cruise, we recommend traveling to the coast to spend the night in Cape Canaveral instead of staying in Orlando.

Near Orlando airport

Most travelers flying to Orlando will arrive at Orlando International Airport (MCO). If your flight arrives late (after ~6PM), we recommend staying near the airport instead of traveling to Cape Canaveral for a pre-cruise hotel stay.

You’ll more than likely be tired from a long day of traveling, and the 40 minute drive from the airport to Cape Canaveral can add to your exhaustion. Instead, reserving a no-frills airport hotel for one night gives you the chance to catch up on rest as soon as possible without any extra travel time.

Luckily, because MCO is such a major airport, there is a huge variety of hotels to choose from in the surrounding area. In addition, you usually cannot board the ship until around 11 AM on embarkation day, so you can travel from your airport hotel to Port Canaveral with plenty of time to spare the morning after your arrival.

Shuttles from Orlando to Port Canaveral

Many hotels in the Orlando and Cape Canaveral area will offer a shuttle service from the hotel to port. When traveling to Port Canaveral, you can choose to book a shuttle service or handle transportation on your own by reserving a taxi, Uber, or Lyft.

Here is what to consider when choosing between a shuttle versus a rideshare service:


Most shuttles are priced per person instead of per car like a taxi or Uber. For a solo traveler, a per person rate can be the most budget-friendly, but the cost can quickly add up when traveling with a larger group.

If you’re staying at a hotel in Cape Canaveral and need to travel to the cruise port just 1 mile away, your hotel might charge $10 per person for a shuttle. If traveling with a group of four, this amounts to $40, but you could call a Lyft instead for just $10-15 total.

Nevertheless, Port Canaveral differs from other Florida cruise ports in that the port is located far from the main airport in Orlando. It takes around 40 minutes to drive from the MCO airport and nearby hotels to Port Canaveral, and a taxi or rideshare service could cost over $100.

If a shuttle from the airport to Port Canaveral is only $25 per person, it may be the same price (or even cheaper) to take a shuttle when traveling with a larger group.

Traveling on your own time

Something else to consider when deciding whether to reserve a shuttle service or order an Uber to the cruise port is convenience. Shuttles leave at set times throughout the day whereas you can call a taxi or rideshare at any time.

If there is only one shuttle leaving from your hotel at 11AM, for example, but you want to leave at 9AM, a shuttle probably is not the best option. Instead, you should reserve a ride independently to have full control over when you head from the airport or hotel to Port Canaveral.

Here is our list of the best hotels near Port Canaveral before your cruise:

Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $220 to $450
  • Address: 8959 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

The Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Canaveral is an all-suite hotel located just a three minute drive from Port Canaveral. The convenient location of the hotel—combined with its comfortable rooms and amenities—make it hard to beat for a pre-cruise stay in Cape Canaveral.

Studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom suites can all be booked at the Residence Inn. Each room includes one or two beds, a sofa bed, dining area, and desk. Booking a suite can provide more space during your pre-cruise stay, which is especially helpful if traveling with kids or a large group.

Amenities at the Residence Inn include complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool and hot tub, kitchenette, fitness center, and convenience store.

Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

  • Average nightly price: $240 to $400
  • Address: 1550 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
  • Location: Cocoa Beach

The Hilton Cocoa Beach is the perfect hotel for a pre-cruise stay on the beach in Cape Canaveral. The hotel is just ten minutes away from Port Canaveral and offers oceanfront views and direct beach access.

Both rooms and suites are available to book at the Hilton, many of which have views of the water. Amenities at the property include beach access, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant, although free wifi is not included. Volleyball courts and surf lessons are also available.

Staying in a hotel so close to the ocean typically comes with a higher price tag compared to hotels further from the water. Therefore, an oceanfront hotel in Cape Canaveral is recommended only for those who plan to take advantage of the location.

If you arrive early the day before your cruise and want to make the most of your time, the Hilton Cocoa Beach can be an excellent choice. Plus, who doesn’t love a morning walk on the beach before heading to the cruise port?

Homewood Suites by Hilton Cape Canaveral-Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 9000 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

Located just a mile from Port Canaveral is the Homewood Suites by Hilton, an all-suite hotel with studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom rooms. Suites feature a fully equipped kitchen, bedroom space, and living room.

Amenities at the Homewood Suites include free breakfast, free wifi, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and tiki bar.

The hotel’s location along Astronaut Boulevard—which leads to Port Canaveral—means it is not directly on the beach. However, it’s near several restaurants and bars that you can enjoy the evening before your cruise begins. Plus, the beach is only 1.5 miles from the hotel, so it’s easy to access for those hoping to kick off their vacation a little early.

There are several shuttles available through Port Hotel Shuttle:

  • Hotel to cruise: $5 per person
  • Hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $25 per person

Radisson Resort at the Port

  • Average nightly price: $275 to $350
  • Address: 8701 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

Also along Astronaut Boulevard is Radisson Resort at the Port. This hotel is a popular choice among many cruisers due to its convenient location, amenities, and offerings specific to cruise guests. Both standard rooms and suites are available to book.

The hotel features a large outdoor pool with a hot tub, which is a major attraction of the property for many guests. Other amenities include an on-site restaurant, fitness center, free wifi, tennis courts, and room service.

In addition, the Radisson offers four separate cruise packages to guests:

  • Park three or four nights and cruise
  • Park five to eight nights and cruise
  • Fly, stay, and cruise (includes shuttle from MCO airport)
  • Snooze and cruise (does not include parking)

While taking the shuttle from Orlando or parking your car is optional, many cruisers appreciate the added convenience of this service provided by the Radisson.

Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 3425 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
  • Location: Cocoa Beach

Just steps from the beach (and a ten minute drive to the cruise port) is the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral. The hotel’s location on the main road in Cocoa Beach means it’s near plenty of restaurants, bars, and shopping, making it an enjoyable place to spend the night before your cruise.

Amenities at the Hampton Inn include complimentary breakfast, an outdoor heated pool, poolside bar, free wifi, electric vehicle charging, and a fitness center. The hotel does not offer suites, but has king and queen rooms with balconies facing the ocean.

We recommend the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral for those who value staying near the beach and who don’t mind a few extra minutes drive to Port Canaveral on embarkation day.

There are several shuttles available through Port Hotel Shuttle:

  • Hotel to cruise: $10 per person
  • Hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $30 per person
  • MCO to hotel, hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $52 per person

Springhill Suites by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 655 W Central Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: near cruise port

The Springhill Suites Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach is a new hotel just a four minute drive to the cruise port. As an all-suite hotel, rooms provide ample space, making for a comfortable place to relax and unwind before your cruise begins.

Amenities at the Springhill Suites include complimentary breakfast, free wifi, an on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool and hot tub, poolside bar, fire pit, and fitness center.

A shuttle service is offered from the hotel to the cruise port for $10 per person, but an Uber or Lyft may be a cheaper option.

Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport

  • Average nightly price: $300 to $400
  • Address: 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, FL 32927
  • Location: Inside Orlando International Airport

Arriving in Orlando late at night? Your best bet is to stay at a hotel near the airport and head to Port Canaveral the morning of embarkation day.

The Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport is, by far, the most convenient hotel option, as it’s located inside the airport! The hotel is located between the security checkpoints at Terminal A and Terminal B, meaning you can get from baggage claim to your hotel room in just a few minutes!

Not only is the hotel’s location helpful for travelers arriving late, but it offers several great amenities including a rooftop pool with runway views, fitness center, jogging/walking track, and free wifi.

Additionally, three dining venues are available on-site:

  • Lobby Bar, a bar with signature drinks, sushi, and sandwiches
  • McCoy’s Bar and Grill, featuring a global-inspired menu and sushi bar
  • Hemisphere Restaurant, a contemporary restaurant with runway views from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows

The Hyatt Regency also offers optional Park, Stay, and Go packages for cruise guests. These packages include accommodation the night before your cruise in addition to parking for up to seven nights.

Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport

  • Average nightly price: $150 to $275
  • Address: 7100 Augusta National Dr, Orlando, FL 32922
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

If you’d prefer to leave the confines of the airport, there are many hotels located just a few minutes drive away. Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport is a no-frills property near the airport that offers a pleasant place to rest before traveling to Port Canaveral in the morning.

The Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport has complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, hot tub, free wifi, and a fitness center. Not only is it close to the airport, but it’s a short walk away from restaurants, bars, shops, and even a movie theater!

The hotel offers a Fly Snooze Cruise Package, which includes:

  • Transportation from Orlando International airport to hotel
  • Accommodation for one night
  • Transportation from hotel to cruise port
  • Transportation from cruise port to Orlando International Airport

Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport

  • Average nightly price: $165 to $225
  • Address: 5750 T G Lee Blvd, Orlando, FL 32822
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

Another hotel option near the airport is the Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport. Located just one mile from the airport, and with bright, modern rooms, the property is a great option for those arriving late to Orlando. 

Amenities at the Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport include an outdoor pool, wifi, on-site restaurant, and fitness center. They even have a 275” big screen TV in the lobby.

Breakfast is not included in the standard hotel rate, but there are several breakfast options nearby including IHOP and Denny’s. The hotel also features the Drift Kitchen & Bar (restaurant/bar) and a 24 hour marketplace.

The Holiday Inn offers a free shuttle from MCO to the hotel. Shuttles from the hotel to Port Canaveral can be booked through Go Port for $34.99 per traveler. However, you can also book a Fly Snooze Cruise package that includes:

  • Transportation from MCO to hotel
  • Pre-cruise accommodation for 1 night
  • Transportation from hotel to cruise
  • Transportation from cruise to MCO

Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel

  • Average nightly price: $190 to $220
  • Address: 5445 Forbes Pl, Orlando, FL 32812
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

Our last hotel recommendation near the Orlando airport is the Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel. Like other airport hotels, the Renaissance is located just a few minute’s drive away from the airport and offers convenience for a pre-cruise stay.

Rooms with either one king bed or two queen beds are available, some of which provide Club Lounge access. Amenities at the Renaissance include an outdoor pool with cabanas and a hot tub, fitness center, free wifi, a grab and go eatery, concierge lounge, and convenience store.

There is both an on-site restaurant and cocktail bar at the Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel, which is convenient for travelers looking for a quick bite to eat and drink after a long travel day. Breakfast is available at Fresco, the on-site restaurant, for an extra cost.