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Cruising with teenagers: Will they have fun on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
04 Apr 2024
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Alexa H. Bluth is a writer who lives in Sacramento with her husband, two sort of well-behaved teenage daughters, and two not-at-all well-behaved dogs. She took some time to write this guest post entry about what she's learned about cruising with teenagers and why they love taking Royal Caribbean cruises together as a family. You can check out a previous post she wrote about first time cruising here

Taking teens on a cruise

If there’s one thing nobody wants to hear on a family vacation, it’s “I’m bored.”

So parents of teenagers might be hesitant to take them on a cruise. A common misperception is that cruising is only for senior citizens and parents wanting to drop their small kids at daycare to go drink rum punch by the pool (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

You might be wondering, "Will my teenagers have fun on a cruise?"

Side of Quantum of the Seas

The answer is a resounding YES. Cruise vacations are ideal for families with teenagers, with ships brimming with fun-filled activities and ports full of adrenaline-packed adventures.

What is there for teens to love about cruises?

Teen lounges

RCI_SY_TeenBackDeck

In addition to Adventure Ocean for younger kids, Royal Caribbean ships have teen areas on board for youth ages 12-17. 

They can come and go from these venues without signing in or out (unlike the younger kids). These offer a spot to meet new friends, chill out, play games, and more. The teen club staff typically hosts a bunch of activities, from scavenger hunts and game shows to karaoke and teen-only time on the FlowRider.

You’ll get a weekly schedule of teen activities in your room, or you can pick one up in the teen club.

Pro tip: Make sure your teen goes to the teen lounge on night one to sign up for activities and start making friends immediately.

Pools and hot tubs

Independence of the Seas pool deck

While this is an obvious one, teens can spend hours basking in the sunshine and sea air and swimming in brisk, clear pools on a cruise ship. The pool deck offers a vibrant spot, often pulsing with pop music, for teens to hang out.

They can sip a mocktail or enjoy a snack or soft serve cone while they’re at it. And don’t forget the water slides that many new and amped-up ships boast!

Arcades

Arcade on Serenade of the Seas

Most ships have arcades, offering a variety of games (for an extra charge). Teens can head there to enjoy a game of air hockey or Donkey Kong. Set a budget for them and let them enjoy!

Food

Sorrentos Pizza

I mean, they’re teenagers, so this one is a no-brainer. Ships offer a vast variety of food, including grab-and-go items that teens can snag until the wee hours of the night.

My teens particularly love venturing out for quesadillas from El Loco Fresh, pizza from Sorrento's, desserts (plural) from the buffet, and soft serve on the pool deck.

Another bonus is that picky eaters often are willing to try new things on cruises because of the wide selection of foods available. You might even get them to try escargot in the Main Dining Room! Never say never.

Friendships

Royal Promenade on Allure of the Seas

My kids always make friends in the teen areas with whom they meet up for the rest of the cruise. This is why having an internet package that allows them to message each other comes in handy. 

Don’t be surprised if your teen meets new friends that they stay in touch with long after the cruise.

If you have a shy teen, don’t fret. The teen club staff are particularly skilled at coaxing quiet kids into participating. Or, of course, there is plenty for them to do if the teen club is not for them.

Independence 

Bluth-teen-article-4

This is another of my kids’ favorite aspects of cruises. They don’t have to spend every moment with their parents and they have more freedom than on a land-based vacation.

They can hang out in the teen lounge or grab a slice of pizza at Sorrento's on their own. We typically let our kids have a fair amount of independence on cruises, but of course, it comes with a set of strict rules including never entering anyone else’s cabin, staying in populated public areas, behaving well, and not doing anything dangerous.

My eldest particularly enjoyed exploring the ship and going to game shows sans parents with their new-found friends and has even met up with one friend they met on a cruise who lives nearby. 

Port excursions

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Port excursions are cruise highlights, for sure. What teen wouldn’t love horseback riding on a beach, zip lining through a jungle, rafting along the rapids of a glacial river, jet skiing through crystal clear water, or snorkeling in a sea teeming with colorful fish?

Port days will not disappoint, even if it’s a chill beach day of sunbathing and boogie boarding or a cultural tour through a historic city. These priceless days offer endless options of activities that will create lifelong memories for the entire family. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Family at Thrill Waterpark

Need I say more? Royal Caribbean’s private island literally has an area called Thrill Water Park. If your itinerary includes a trip there, teens will dig the daring water slides, the massive wave pool, and the variety of food that is included in your cruise fare.

Your drink package will work on CocoCay, too, so if you’ve sprung for the deluxe soda package (which I recommend you do), teens can sip a soda or mocktail while they soak in the fun. 

Game and stage shows

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

The headliner shows on the main stage are often can’t miss, featuring everything from Broadway-style shows to juggling acts. The comedians on board often have a family-friendly show earlier in the evenings that teens can enjoy, too.

Meanwhile, teens tend to love trivia, “Name that Tune,” and other game shows. They might grumble about the idea at first, but trust me, once they’re playing, that competitive spirit will kick in and they’ll have a blast.

The cruise director staff’s enthusiasm is always reliably infectious. My teens tended to roll their eyes at the idea of “80s music trivia” but inevitably had fun with us trying to remember whether David Bowie or Billy Idol sang a song. If you really need a hook to get them to try it out, just tell them there are prizes. Teens love free stuff.

Activities

Flowrider on the back of Odyssey of the Seas

A scavenger hunt may sound cheesy to some teens, but you’d be surprised how much fun they’ll have racing through the ship searching for selfies with a couple with matching shirts, a crew member, or three generations of the same family. Plus, there are plenty more ship-sanctioned activities, such as silent discos and belly flop contests, that teens will love.

Many Royal Caribbean ships also have mini-golf courses, sports courts, and movies offered at the theater or by the pool. The newest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet offer all sorts of incredible opportunities right on board. These include simulated skydiving, water slides, FlowRider surf simulators, bumper cars, ice skating, and water slides. Enough said. 

Family time

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Family time, you say?! With teenagers?! Yep. There is something magical about cruising that truly does create memorable “together time.”

Don’t get me wrong, they will bury their faces in their phones, be embarrassed by everything you do, toss their soaking wet towels everywhere in the cabin, and glare at you when you wake them for an early port day. There will be many special moments, too, perhaps as you sail away from port with virgin daiquiris in hand and music blaring that makes it impossible not to be happy. 

You might also find that they enjoy dinners together in the Main Dining Room. They might also laugh at you screaming your head off while zip-lining on an excursion.

Their phones

Android phone

Yep. Let’s be real, they’re teenagers. Get the internet package.

They will love posting selfies on Instagram and making TikToks at sunset. They can use the ship’s app to find out about activities or find their way around the ship.

And, as mentioned above, they can communicate and make plans with their new-found friends, and with their parents of course. 

Sunsets and sea views

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Give teenagers some credit. They, too, will enjoy the spectacular ocean views and mesmerizing sunsets.

Encourage them to find a perch for the perfect sunset selfie or give them binoculars and designate them as the official family wildlife spotter.

I promise they will never forget these special moments on the vacation of a lifetime, and I guarantee that two words you won’t be hearing are “I’m bored.”

Cruising with teenagers will they have fun on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Royal Caribbean delays restart of troubled cruise ship in Australia

In:
03 Apr 2024
By: 
Calista Kiper

Royal Caribbean has delayed another Brilliance of the Seas cruise in Sydney, Australia.

Brilliance of the Seas

Passengers booked on an April 4th sailing of the cruise ship received an email that the sail date has been pushed back to Sunday, April 7th, 2024.

The ship reportedly started experiencing issues on March 22nd, 2024. 

Passengers shared online that Brilliance of the Seas arrived 90 minutes late to Lifou Isle, New Caledonia.

Brilliance of the Seas aft

While the ship was docked at Lifou Isle, crew members allegedly attempted to fix the issue but were unsuccessful.

The sailing was cut short from 11 nights to only 7 nights.

Afterward, Royal Caribbean also cancelled the sailing scheduled for March 30th, 2024, a 5-night itinerary to Tasmania.

Now, Royal Caribbean has sent another email to guests that the April 4th sailing will be rescheduled.

Letter for Brilliance

“While repairs for the technical issue that we encountered on one of our previous sailings were completed, during routine testing, we discovered that we’re going to need some extra time to get the ship ready for you,” the email reads.

The cruise line stated that Sunday, April 7th is the earliest date Brilliance of the Seas was able to obtain a terminal in the Port of Sydney.

Because of this delay, the cruise’s embarkation date will have to be pushed back, and the itinerary changed.

Compensation

The email went on to extend apologies to guests who may be disappointed: “We are terribly sorry for this last-minute change."

“We understand this news is disappointing, but we hope you’ll join us on the alternate itinerary planned below.”

At the time of the publishing of this article, CruiseMapper showed Brilliance of the Seas was sailing on its way to Sydney, Australia.

The cruise ship’s original planned itinerary was to leave Sydney on April 4th and spend two days at sea, followed by stops at Noumea, New Caledonia, Lifou Isle, New Caledonia, and Mystery Island, Vanuatu.

After two more sea days, the 8-night cruise was then intended to return to Sydney, Australia on April 12, 2024.

The new itinerary will now only last 5 nights, and visit Hobart, Tasmania for two consecutive days.

Hobart

“Prepare for your time in Hobart,” Royal Caribbean’s email said, advising guests that the temperatures would run in between 16°-19°C (61°-66°F) and that passengers should pack warm clothing.

If guests do not make a response, they will automatically remain booked on the now-April 7th sailing of Brilliance of the Seas.

Compensation

Similar to the previous cancellation of a Brilliance of the Seas cruise, guests will receive the following compensation for the inconvenience and shortening of their cruise:

  • A 50% refund of the cruise fare paid as Onboard Credit.
  • A Future Cruise Credit (FCC) in the value of 50% of your cruise fare paid and sent to the guest’s email
  • A refund for any pre-paid shore excursions impacted for Noumea, Lifou, and Mystery Island in the form of Onboard Credit
  • A pro-rated refund for days missed on any packages that are charged daily (such as Beverage, VOOM, and Dining Packages)
  • All bars opened, with drinks at a 50% discounted price
  • Guests who purchased beverage packages will have 50% of the package cost refunded as Onboard Credit
  • Guests who pre-paid their gratuities will receive a prorated refund for the days shortened on the sailing
  • Guests who booked Royal Caribbean flights or transfers will have arrangements rescheduled automatically
  • Any travel change fees reimbursed up to $250 USD for domestic travel and $400 USD for international travel
  • Hotel costs reimbursed up to $250 USD per stateroom, up to three nights before embarkation

Guest Onboard Credits will be available for use anywhere onboard, and any remaining refunds at the end of the sailing will be sent back.

Sydney opera house

Additionally, passengers will receive Crown and Anchor loyalty points for each night of the original sailing, instead of nights actually sailed.

Essentially, they will still receive 8 nights of loyalty points, even though the actual sailing will be 5 nights.

What is the technical issue?

Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean did not give many details as to what the technical issue is.

In the email sent to guests on Thursday, April 4th, the cruise line referred to it as, “The technical issue that we encountered on one of our previous sailings was completed, during routine testing.”

Passengers who were on the previously cancelled sailing, however, began to speculate.

Brilliance of the Seas

Guests shared that the ship supposedly had an engine problem within the propulsion system.

Brilliance of the Seas would not be the first Radiance-Class ship to have a propulsion issue cancel or delay a sailing.

In September of 2023, Radiance of the Seas had two Alaskan sailings that were cancelled due to unplanned technical problems with the ship’s propulsion system.

However, other guests on Brilliance of the Seas claimed that the ship’s azipods were damaged.

Royal Caribbean uses azipods on their ships to help them rotate 360 degrees while safely maneuvering. 

One Reddit user claimed to be onboard Brilliance of the Seas while sharing, “If you look out the back, we are definitely running on one propeller.”

However, no specific details have been officially announced about what propulsion issues the ship could be experiencing.

What to know before booking your first cruise

In:
03 Apr 2024
By: 
Calista Kiper

How can first-timers book a cruise without making a vital mistake?

The answer is to arm yourself with information.

Royal Caribbean offers fun, elegant family cruises. The cruise line promises a great vacation for guests of all ages.

But before you book, you’ll want to prepare yourself with all the necessary knowledge on Royal Caribbean cruises.

There are endless things that can go wrong if you jump into cruising without the proper education, such as wasting money or picking a ship you don’t end up enjoying.

Royal Caribbean

Booking your first cruise comes with a daunting amount of options: itineraries, cruise lines, destinations, ships, and cabins.

To help you face your first cruise with confidence, we’ve put together a guide with the most important things first-time cruisers should know before booking.

Read more: 7 surprising things I learned when booking a cruise for the first time

Use a travel agent

Travel agent

When it comes to gathering knowledge before booking, a good travel agent will be one of your best resources.

We always recommend using a good travel agent, whether this is your first cruise or you’ve already been on many.

Travel agents are paid by the cruise line to help you make your vacation planning easier. This means that their services don’t cost you anything.

They have a wealth of information on Royal Caribbean and can get to know you and answer all your personal questions. Travel agents can even use their own experience and network to get the answers you need.

They can also help you save money by finding all the discounts and offers available, and even snagging you onboard credit. 

Onboard credit (or OBC) is like a gift card for use onboard the ship. When you book through a travel agent, they can get anywhere from $50-100 in credit.

If you have pricing questions, changes to your reservation, or any further questions, your agent will be the one to call Royal Caribbean directly and sort out the details.

They become your advocate for everything surrounding your cruise, even when you’re onboard the ship.

Not only will they become your library of information, but their assistance will also free you up to focus on the more fun and interesting parts of preparation.

Read more: 12 things I'd tell anyone new to cruise ship travel

Book as early as possible

Icon of the Seas at CocoCay

When to book your Royal Caribbean cruise? As early as possible.

You’ll find the best prices for your cruise when the cruise line first opens bookings.

Because of supply and demand, the closer you get to the sail date, the more prices will rise. As soon as people begin to book the cruise, the price will increase. 

Also, Royal Caribbean wants to fill up their ships, so they encourage guests to book early and even offer early bird incentives.

Serenade of the Seas

Read more: The best time to book cruises by day, month, and last-minute

Waiting to book can be a costly choice.

Don’t just wait for a deal or a sale to come along, because it may never show up.

Royal Caribbean cruises are top-rated, and ships frequently fill up. You’re better off booking as early as you can.

However, because bookings usually open 1-2 years before a sailing, this requires a lot of forethought.

If you can’t plan that far ahead because of work or school, you can book your sailing with just a deposit. This gives you the flexibility to grab that low price, but also change the booking later if you need to.

Those living in the US, Canada, or Australia can usually rebook without any penalty if the price drops after booking.

Know the lingo

Who gets a SeaPass card? What does ‘Alpha Alpha Alpha’ mean? What is the lido deck?

The cruising world has many specific terms and phrases that can be strange and confusing for newcomers.

It’s important to learn the meaning of each of these phrases so that you can understand what’s going on during your cruise.

Alaska sunny skies

We have a Royal Caribbean cruise ship glossary to help you understand these unfamiliar phrases.

This will help you have clarity during your planning process and onboard the ship.

Check airfare prices

Before booking your cruise, you’ll also want to check how you’ll travel to the cruise port. 

If you don’t live close enough to drive, make sure to consider the cost of a flight.

Airfare can be extremely unpredictable, with prices quickly climbing into the hundreds.

Before you book your cruise, check which airports you’d be flying into, and how much flights cost for the dates you’re considering. 

Read more: How to prepare for a cruise: Last minute things you should do

You’ll want to ensure you are not picking a sailing that requires expensive or impractical flights.

When you do book your flight, remember that, like cruise lines, airlines seem to reward earlier bookings rather than later.

Also, keep in mind that you should fly into the cruise port the day before your cruise leaves. If you experience any delays, the ship will not wait for you!

In short, you should be looking to book a flight as early as possible, to arrive the day before the cruise begins. 

Make sure you look at all nearby airports to find the cheapest option.

Compare classes and ships

Not all Royal Caribbean ships are made equal.

When booking your cruise, you’ll choose from a fleet of 28 ships. 

While there are similarities and a core experience across all of them, features vary between classes and ships.

Just like cars are separated into types like trucks, sedans, and minivans, Royal Caribbean has designed different types of ships. 

Quantum of the Seas

These groupings of ships are called classes, and each class shares a common structure, layout, and design. 

Royal Caribbean’s fleet is broken up into 8 classes: Icon, Quantum Ultra, Quantum, Oasis, Freedom, Voyager, Radiance, and Vision.

Each class has its own distinct size, entertainment, activities, and amenities. Individual ships also have their own distinctions.

To book the best cruise for you, you’ll want to consider what features are a priority for you, and then explore which Class might have your favorite features.

oasis-docked-labadee-pool

For example, if you want to cruise on a ship with water slides, then the Icon, Oasis or Freedom Class might be the best fit.

But if you value visiting more unique ports of call, you might want to look into a smaller ship, like the Radiance or Vision Class.

This is another area in which your travel agent can help you out. They can choose the best ship for you based on your desires and budget.

Adventure vs Voyager

Just keep in mind that even within a certain class, ships can be different. 

Read more: First time cruise tips for Royal Caribbean

Consult a Cruise Compass

odyssey of the seas the book

Once you decide what your vacation priorities are, how do you find what’s available on each ship?

Onboard activities can play a major role in which ship you end up booking

If you’re looking for specific activities before you book, or just wondering what there is to do onboard, we have a hack to help you find that information.

Royal Caribbean does not usually publicly share its activities or entertainment for specific cruises before the cruise.

Instead, you can consult previous Cruise Compasses to see what was available on similar sailings on the same ship.

A Cruise Compass is a daily planner or itinerary distributed for each day of the cruise. It lists exactly what activities are available, and when and where they’ll be happening. This can give you a strong idea of what will be offered on a particular sailing.

Understand cabin categories

Icon of the Seas interior cabin

Depending on which ship you’ve picked, there are many different cabin categories to choose from.

Especially on bigger ships, there’s a variety of options and prices for staterooms.

Make sure that you research before booking a cabin. The best fit for you depends on your goals for the cruise.

Looking for a place to crash at night? Try a cheap interior cabin.

Have a large family with kids who want privacy? You can look into the suite categories.

Read more: What are the Royal Caribbean suite perks?

If you’re concerned about noise or seasickness, you’ll always want to look into the best cabin locations.

For the cheapest option, you can book a guarantee stateroom, in which you allow Royal Caribbean to assign you a less desirable cabin for a lower price.

Confirm what’s included in the fare

odyssey of the seas main dining room

When I first started cruising, one of the most surprising things was how much ended up being included in the base fare.

As part of your cruise experience, you’ll receive free room cleanings, access to high-quality food venues, child care, pool and hot tub access, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and many exhilarating activities.

Before my cruise, I like to go online and read Royal Caribbean’s Fact Sheet for the ship. That usually lists which venues are complementary and which cost extra.

cocktail-bar-alcohol

However, it’s also important that you’re aware of the extra fees that come with a cruise.

Items like WiFi, specialty drinks, room service, gratuities, and shore excursions all cost extra.

As a general rule, it feels like a lot is included in the cruise fare, but items that cost extra come at a high price.

You can expect specialty items (like alcoholic drinks or spa packages) to cost more than they might on land.

What to know before booking your first cruise

Royal Caribbean teams up with Make-A-Wish to offer dream getaways to children battling critical illnesses

In:
03 Apr 2024
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

In a new heartwarming collaboration, Royal Caribbean has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to support the nonprofit's mission of fulfilling life-changing wishes for children who are living with critical illnesses worldwide through their new Wishes at Sea program. 

Make-a-Wish-Broll-3

All wishes granted by the cruise line will feature a Royal Caribbean cruise that's designed with wish kids and their families in mind. From complimentary Wi-Fi to private FlowRider sessions, exclusive experiences, VIP treatment, and unique adventures at Perfect Day at CocoCay, every trip will be dedicated to ensuring that the getaway is special. 

"The memories we make with our families and friends on vacation are among the moments that are the most special and impactful, and for wish kids and their families, that very impact can change the course of their lives,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. 

“We are thrilled and humbled to partner with Make-A-Wish for years to come. In this partnership, we are in a position to do what we love – delivering memorable vacations – while making a difference in the lives of those at the heart of Royal Caribbean, families, who need it most.”

What is Make-A-Wish?

Make-a-Wish-Broll-1

Make-A-Wish is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that creates transformative wishes for children battling critical illnesses. They aim to bring hope, joy, and strength into the lives of the children and their families through the experiences. 

Today, it's the #1 trusted nonprofit operating locally through all 50 U.S. states, and since 1980, Make-A-Wish has granted more than 585,000 wishes in 50 countries worldwide, more than 375,000 of which were in the United States and its territories. 

Donors, staff, and more than 20,000 volunteers help to deliver hope to both the children and their families. According to their website, 87% of alumni say that their wish was a turning point in their statement. Additionally, 99% of doctors say that the wishes help families alleviate traumatic stress. 

Children eligible must be diagnosed with a critical illness, which is defined as a progressive, degenerative, or malignant condition that places the child's life in jeopardy. Moreover, they must be older than 2.5 years and younger than 18 and have not received a wish from another wish-granting organization. 

What will the experience entail?

Make-A-Wish-Infographic

The experience begins with a free cruise for the wish kid and their immediate family. Plus, extended family members will receive a 20% discount, so the adventure can be shared with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents!

The wish kid and their immediate family won't have to worry about travel expenses, either, as free transportation is included. Upon arrival at the terminal, the entire group will receive priority boarding, so they can head straight to all of the fun onboard. 

With The Key, they'll receive other perks, too, such as a welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room, VOOM internet, and choice departure on disembarkation day. 

cococay-aerial

While at Royal Caribbean's award-winning private island in The Bahamas, the child will be given an All-Access Pass to experience the best attractions that the island has to offer, including a cabana, tickets to Thrill Waterpark, and even a flight on the Up, Up, and Away helium balloon! 

Back on the ship, the wish child will have fast-lane access to popular onboard activities and reserved seating at shows, as well as a private FlowRider session and even a behind-the-scenes tour that includes a meet and greet with the ship's Captain and take-home ship model. Finally, they will receive a celebratory dessert in the Main Dining Room

Royal Caribbean cruisers can contribute to the Wishes at Sea program by making donations online

Make-a-Wish-Broll-2

Though online donations are crucial in helping wishes come true, those sailing aboard Royal Caribbean ships will be able to raise awareness and funds during their vacation. From Walk for Wishes 5Ks to walkathons, auctions, and more, there will be various events offered aimed at supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation's mission. You can even donate your casino winnings onboard if you'd like! 

"As we celebrate World Wish Month, we are grateful to partner with Royal Caribbean International and open a sea of new opportunities for us to fulfill our mission of granting life-changing wishes,” said Leslie Motter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish America. 

“We know that a wish can chart a new course in these children's lives, and we look forward to having the opportunity to work together to deliver that life-changing impact.”

Those interested in donating can visit the Make a Wish website. All proceeds collected onboard Royal Caribbean ships go directly to Make-A-Wish. 

Royal Caribbean has hosted wish kids in the past, helping them create fun memories amidst battling their illness

Rum Cay in The Bahamas

In 2019, Hannah Updike, a then-rising high school Junior from South Dakota, received a trip to The Bahamas onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. Updike was diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) after her father passed away from the same disease when she was just 13. 

FAP is an inherited disorder that's caused by a defect in the adenomatous polyposis tract. "People with the classic type of familial adenomatous polyposis may begin to develop multiple noncancerous growths in the colon as early as their teenage years...basically, it causes all sorts of cancers and problems," Updike explained. 

To prevent a premature death, both Updike and her brother would need to undergo surgery. Five surgeries later, she was able to embark on a Royal Caribbean cruise with her mother, step-father, and brother. 

“I met lots of people on the cruise from all over the world [and] learned that even though I do have a disease,... I’m still a normal teen trying to live out my life the best way possible,” Updike said.  

Sun rising in Alaska

Similarly, Lindsey from Chattanooga, Tennesse, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at just 9 years old, was granted a wish to go on an Alaskan cruise

A year after receiving her initial diagnosis, she and her family, including her mom, dad, two sisters, brother, and grandfather, flew out to Vancouver to board their cruise.

Their VIP treatment began before embarking on the ship, as they were transported to the terminal in a limo. During the sailing, they went on different excursions, including a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier. 

Royal Caribbean and Make-A-Wish's collaboration guarantees that more children in the future will have the opportunity to create memories akin to Hannah and Lindsey on one of Royal's many ships. 

I paid $350 for 3 hours in a private room at Royal Caribbean's sports bar. It made it easy to watch March Madness games, but I wouldn't do it again

In:
03 Apr 2024
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Watching your favorite team play doesn't take a break when you're on a cruise ship, and for those that are passionate fans, this means catching the game and rooting for their team no matter what.

Playmaker's Owners Box on Wonder of the Seas

Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade is Royal Caribbean's sports bar venue, and it features lots of televisions that show a variety of sports programming. For casual game watching, it's a hot spot and can get very busy when there are major events happening.

On Wonder of the Seas, Playmakers has the Owner's Box, which is a private VIP alcove you can rent for a few hours and I wanted to see what it was like to get this during the onset of March Madness in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Playmakers is known for being a sports lovers paradise

Playmakers entrance

The first Playmakers opened on Symphony of the Seas when that ship launched, and it's become a favorite of cruisers for its a la carte menu, viewing opportunities, and causal atmosphere.

Now it's found on several ships across Royal Caribbean's fleet, including the brand new Icon of the Seas.

Read more: Icon of the Seas information, tips & tricks

The Playmakers Owner Box VIP Section costs $350

Owner's Box at Playmakers

The seating in Playmakers is on a first-come, first-reserved basis. There's no ability to make advanced reservations, which can be problematic if you really want to see a particular game and many other passengers do too.

The newer Playmakers have the Owners Box, which you can book during the cruise to assure you of space for your group.

It's really meant as a group activity, with enough space for a dozen or so people. 

Owner's Box

On our spring break sailing, I wanted to catch the opening of the basketball tournament to see the University of Connecticut play (Go Huskies!).

It costs $350 for 2 and a half hours, although the staff were adamant we could stay for as long as our game was playing.

You get two pitchers of beer, 12 wings, and 2 appetizers from the regular menu. The beer is limited to what's on tap.

The Owner's Box is located near the Boardwalk

Looking towards the Boardwalk

A velvet rope sections off the Owner's Box from the rest of Playmakers, and you'll find the most comfortable chairs  surrounded by televisions.

The staff welcomed us in and the restaurant's manager came by to ensure the games we wanted to see were on the screen. There are two large televisions, along with a few smaller sets that line the walls. You can easily watch 3-4 games at the same time, although Royal Caribbean's satellite feed is not quite the same as at home.

Luckily, they had most of the games available to watch, so it was just a matter of having the staff change the channel on each television to match what we wanted.

TV in owners box

The box is open air, which means noise from the Boardwalk can easily bleed through.  Moreover, while the restaurant is air conditioned, the open air nature of the restaurant means the outside heat and humidity certain seeps in.

When we sat down, there was a large family activity going on that was quite loud. Plus, I'd be concerned in the warmer months of the year how hot it gets in the venue.

There are sound bubbles

Speakers in the ceiling

Noise bleed from around the bar and in the Boardwalk is going to happen, so Royal Caribbean installed what I call "sound bubbles".

These speakers in the ceiling have a plastic dome around them to direct the sound directly downwards to whomever is sitting below it.

They do indeed work, and it allows you to easily hear the game you want to watch, even if it's noisy around you.

Playmaker's food is just what you want on game day

Nachos

Burgers, wings, nachos, oh my! 

Whether you're in the Owner's Box or not, the comfort food at Playmakers is your typical sports bar selections that hits the spot for most people.

A lot of the menu is great for sharing, which is conducive to a group experience in the Owner's Box. It's easy to get nachos, and place it in the middle to share.

Besides the snacks and beer included with the rental, you can order anything else you'd like off of the regular menu. 

Buffalo crunch roll

I think the onion ring tower, nachos, and buffalo crunch rolls are all worth trying there.  Those are great for sharing, but order your own Campfire Cookie because you won't want to give any of that up.

We had fun, but I wouldn't rent the Owner's Box again

Watching the game

UCONN won its game, and we enjoyed all the food and drinks provided, but I'm not sure I need to experience this again.

At $350, it's not outrageously expensive for a large group, but I'm not sure I need to spend the money for a dedicated area again. 

If you're a die-hard fan and you're on a cruise for a critical game, then you might consider renting the Owner's Box for your group. It certainly is nice having reserved seats and space to spread out.

The bar's service was impeccable, and they did just about anything to ensure we got what we wanted.

I glanced around a few times and even though it was the NCAA tournament, there were still stools and booths available that we could have sat at for free to watch the game. Perhaps if the price was closer to $100, it might have been worth it.

The decision to rent the Owner's Box truly comes down to your passion as a fan, and how important it is to you to have a reserved section.  

How early should I pack for my cruise?

In:
02 Apr 2024
By: 
Calista Kiper

Many cruise tips and hacks cover what to pack on your cruise. 

You probably already know to bring essentials like sunscreen, swimsuits, formal clothing, and medication.

But an equally practical question also arises as you’re planning ahead: when should you pack for your cruise?

The answer depends on multiple factors, such as the weather and length of your cruise, and personal preferences.

It’s important to find a good middle ground when you’re deciding when to pack away clothing and other essentials.

Packing for a trip

Too early, and you might end up needing items you’ve already packed away. 

Too late, and you could forget something while rushing.

What’s the optimal time to pack before your cruise? 

This guide will explore the best length of time based on where you are and what you’ll be packing away.

Factors to consider before packing

Things to pack for a cruise

The optimal time to pack depends on several factors. 

There’s no one answer for everything, but packing earlier has many benefits, such as reduced stress, more time to prepare, and limiting overpacking.

I recommend beginning to pack about 2 weeks before your cruise, but the best time for each person depends on personal preference and other factors.

The length of your cruise

Sun rising in Alaska

The duration of the cruise plays a significant role. 

If your cruise is a shorter one, such as a weekend cruise or only 3-5 days, you can pack closer to the departure date.

However, if your cruise is longer than a week, you’ll want to give yourself more time in advance to pack. That way, you’ll make sure you have everything you need for the long voyage.

Any special activities or occasions

You should also consider any special activities you’ll be participating in. Packing items like scuba gear, surf equipment, or hiking supplies can take extra time to prepare.

If the cruise is to celebrate an important occasion, you should also pack earlier rather than later. 

A birthday or anniversary might require that you plan ahead to pack gifts or decorations. Especially if any items are a surprise, make sure to pack early and carefully!

The climate and season

View from balcony in Alaska

When you’re packing for a cruise, the season and climate of your home and your destination all play an important role.

Generally, if it’s winter or fall at home, and you’re cruising to a warm destination, you can pack much earlier because you won’t need to wear any of the clothes you’re packing away.

The closer your home and your destination are in their current climate, the later you’ll want to pack so that you still have outfits to wear before you leave.

Either way, be sure that you research the weather at your destination and plan ahead accordingly.

How you’re traveling to your cruise

United plane at Fort Lauderdale airport

How you’re getting to your cruise can influence when you start packing.

If you’re driving, you have more leeway for how late you can pack. Not only do you choose when the car leaves, but you also have more time and space for bags.

If you’re flying, I recommend packing earlier and more stringently. You will have to make sure that your luggage fits both airline and cruise ship restrictions.

Hotel with shuttle

You’ll also need to arrive at your port ahead of time, so you may need to pack extra items.

Keeping in mind that all of these factors affect the right timing to pack, this is a general outline of how I recommend you begin.

Read more: 7 things to pack for a cruise (and 5 to leave behind), from someone who has cruised half a dozen times

Two weeks before: Make a packing list

Being organized and prepared helps you plan the best cruise experience possible.

First, start by making a packing list 1-2 weeks before your cruise.

Making a list early on will give you an idea of what items you need to obtain for the cruise.

You’ll be able to make sure you have everything you need while giving you plenty of time to purchase any items.

Suitcase open for packing

Especially if you need to purchase anything online, preparing at least a week before gives you plenty of time for those packages to arrive.

Consider the activities and attractions you plan to participate in. If you want to use the FlowRider surfing simulation, pack a tight, secure swimsuit. If your cruise has a “white night” theme, pack an all-white outfit.

And don’t forget about any activities you’ll be doing on port days. Make sure you bring a broad range of options.

overpack-suitcase-stock-luggage

Pack clothing that is both comfortable and appropriate for each occasion.

Also, be sure that you look into the cruise line's regulations so that you don’t bring any prohibited items or go over a weight limit.

After considering everything you need, create a checklist. This will ensure that you don’t overlook anything important as you pack.

1 week before: Pack away clothes

Elizabeth-luggage-symphony-clothes

Packing clothing for a cruise is one of the most challenging parts of packing.

It’s important to choose versatile, efficient outfits that can be mixed and matched.

You should also opt for lightweight, wrinkle-resistant fabrics.

Personally, I like to take the weekend before my cruise to do laundry and pack away all the clean clothes I want to bring into packing cubes divided by type of clothing: tops go into one packing cube, bottoms into another, swimsuits in a third.

Packing cubes

This way, I don’t dirty any of the outfits I want to wear on my cruise, and I know that everything is already prepared for the trip.

In case I feel worried about keeping track of the clothing I’ve packed away, I take a picture of the outfits so that I know what’s already in my bag.

This also helps you match your outfits to the shoes, jewelry, and makeup you’ll pack later on.

If completely packing away clothes more than a week before the cruise makes you nervous, you can also just create a pile of everything you’ll be bringing along. 

Clothes in a closet

You can dig into this pile anytime, but it will stay there so that everything you’re packing is collected in one area.

Packing early also helps you check if everything you want to bring fits into your luggage. If something doesn’t fit, you’ll have time to adjust your list or obtain new luggage.

Some cruisers find that packing early also prevents them from overpacking because they’ll have more time to consider what they actually need and take out any unnecessary items.

5 days before: Collect travel documents and electronics

About five days before your cruise, collect all the essential travel documents and electronics you need.

Most of these items, especially laptops and phone chargers, can’t be packed away just yet, but try to collect them in one space so that you can confirm you have everything.

Forgetting essentials like your passport or headphones can ruin an entire trip. 

Sitting in Central Park with laptop

I like to gather these items into a basket that I keep on my desk. That way, everything is at hand if I need it, but also kept together so that I can confirm I have everything I need for my trip.

This is also a good time to collect the shoes you want to bring on your cruise. Depending on how many pairs you own, you might still need to wear them at home, but I still recommend collecting them in one place. 

Since the shoes you pack need to be versatile, it helps to have them planned out ahead of time.

The night before: Pack toiletries

The night before your trip, you can begin to pack toiletries, medicine, and jewelry.

While you might need items like deodorant or toothpaste for the next day, you can still pack them into a bag that you keep in your bathroom.

You must pack medicine the day before. You never want to forget your medication while rushing to leave!

Again, I recommend placing your important toiletries in a bag in your bathroom. Double-check with your packing list that you have everything you need.

The day of your trip: Pack makeup and last items

Toiletry bag

The day you leave for your cruise, pack away these important travel documents and essential items.

Reference your packing list so that nothing is forgotten!

This is when you can finally pack essential items that you use every day, like your phone or glasses.

Read more: 21 Cruise Cabin Essentials Everyone Should Pack

For those who wear makeup, I recommend packing it on the day of your trip. 

When I get ready before the trip, I do my makeup. As I finish each step, I’ll put the item I just used into my bag.

With this strategy, you can confirm that you’ve brought all the products and brushes that you really will use—and your makeup is done for the day!

How early should I pack for my cruise?

Inside Royal Caribbean's luxury Royal Loft Suite, which start at almost $5k a night

In:
02 Apr 2024
By: 
Matt Hochberg

On one of the biggest cruise ships in the world, you'll find a giant suite that has more space and amenities than you ever thought possible on a cruise ship.

Royal Loft Suite

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas has an entire neighborhood dedicated to just suites, and it's where you'll find some of the largest cabins on any cruise ship.

The Royal Loft Suite is one of the biggest suites on the ship, and also one of the most expensive.  It comes with the ship's best perks, known as Star Class. It comes with complimentary drink package, specialty dining, gratuities, and the services of the Royal Genie.  

Read more: My advice for someone using a Royal Genie on a Royal Caribbean cruise

It's a big room with the best benefits Royal Caribbean offers, and we got a chance to tour the cabin. Let's take a look inside.

The Royal Loft Suite has its own entrance on deck 18

Royal Loft Suite entrance

The Royal Loft Suite is located within the suite neighborhood, which is an area of the ship that only has suite cabins. There are suites on other decks too, but this area is reserved exclusively for suite guests.

Unlike other suites that share a common hallway, the Royal Loft Suite has its own glass door that stops anyone from even reaching the actual door to the cabin. It's like its own mini-hallway.

A chime outside the glass door rings inside the cabin to allow entry.

Guests are welcomed into the foyer

Royal Loft Suite foyer

As you walk into the Royal Loft Suite, it becomes apparent quickly this is a very different cruise ship cabin.

There is a baby grand piano on your right, a wet bar on your left, and floor-to-ceiling windows leading to the balcony.

The look of the room is also quite opulent, with hardwood floors and marble furnishings.

This suite features a large living room and dining area

Royal Loft Suite living room

Sprawling is the best word to describe this cabin, as the main floor has a dining room table that can seat up to 8 people.

Room service is included with this suite, and that includes being able to order food from specialty restaurants or the Main Dining Room. Guests staying in this cabin are able to have their meal served in the dining room.

Royal Loft Suite

To the right is the living room, and it has lots of space to relax.

There is a large couch, chair, and even a pair of hanging rocking chairs. I especially liked the couch had a chaise to it, making it far more comfortable for lounging.

There are two floors, with the master bedroom exclusively on the upper level

Royal Loft Suite master bedroom

As the name implies, there is an upper loft area that is just for the master bedroom and bath.

Stairs lead to the upper level, where you'll find a king size bed. The bed overlooks the rest of the suite and has views to the windows, providing ocean views.

If you need privacy, a curtain can be extended by the push of a button to completely envelop the bedroom.

Master bedroom in Royal Loft Suite

Behind the bed are more closets than you could possibly need, with floor-to-ceiling doors that offer drawers and hanging space.

The master bathroom has an amazing shower

Master bathroom

The amount of extra space continues into the master bath, with dual sinks and lots of counter space.

Within the shower is a rainforest shower with a pair of handheld shower heads, along with various nozzles.

Bathroom

There's also a soaking tub nearby.

Bathroom

The toilet is separated by a door, and has a remote controlled bidet.

The balcony is smaller than other Royal Loft Suites, but has a better location

Royal Loft Suite balcony

I was surprised by how much smaller the balcony space was on this balcony compared to the Royal Loft Suite balcony on Allure of the Seas, but Royal Caribbean made up for it with an ocean view that doesn't have the privacy issues other ships have.

Hot tub

The balcony has its own hot tub to enjoy, along with a table and chairs nearby.

There's also two more hanging rocking chairs that face the ocean, along with a wet bar and television.

The second bedroom has space for additional guests

Second bedroom

On the lower floor is the second bedroom, which can sleep an additional two guests. The bed does not separate.

This room has its own doorway, along with storage and even a chair.  Just like the master bedroom, the television retracts down from the ceiling.

Bathroom

While the bathroom is not nearly as large as the master bathroom, it's still quite nice and has multiple faucets inside the shower.

The Royal Loft Suite comes with a genie

Genie

Just as important as the room is the services of the Royal Genie, who isn't quite a butler, but is just as helpful.

The genie is responsible for three cabins on Wonder of the Seas, and assists with just about every need their guests might have. Dinner reservations, seats for a show, escorting on and off the ship, and even getting elevators for their guests are just some of the benefits they provide.

Think of a genie as an "easy button" for the cruise, where you don't need to pre-book things and simply inform the genie what you want to do, and they will make it happen.

The Royal Loft Suite is one of the biggest and over-the-top suites you can book on a cruise ship

Balcony

Cruise ships have become well-known for offering incredible experiences that you can't believe are available at sea, and this suite certainly fits the bill.

Suite accommodations are not about providing a dollar-for-dollar value, but rather, an option for the well-to-do that can afford it. Walking through the cabin, you quickly get a sense this is unlike other cruise ship cabins (or even lesser suites).

The combination of sprawling space and services of the Royal Genie mean anyone willing to pay the price tag to enjoy a stay here.

Royal Caribbean cabins for 5 or more people

In:
02 Apr 2024
By: 
Calista Kiper

It's not always easy to go on a cruise if you have more than four people in your cabin.

Rooms for 5 or more people

Royal Caribbean creates great cruise experiences for the whole family, and makes it easy to plan a cruise for four people or less. But what if you have a bigger group? 

For groups of five or more, more challenges can arise. 

You often cannot book one on the website but will have to call Royal Caribbean or ask your travel agent to take care of it.

Family on the swings in CocoCay

Whether you’re a family with many kids, a big friend group, or an extended relative family reunion, it’s natural to want to stay close to the group you’re traveling with.

Picking the right stateroom for your family involves choosing the right size, finding the best location, and ensuring that everyone is comfortable and has enough privacy. 

Your family’s cabin will become your home on the seas, so it’s important to find the best fit.

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Interior-Stateroom-2

Not every cruise ship will have stateroom options available, but here are your best bets if you’re looking for a room that fits all of you.

Read more: Royal Caribbean will add new cruise ship cabin categories, including rear-facing and sunset balcony rooms

Family oceanview stateroom

Spacious oceanview cabin

For families who want to stay all together in one cabin, a family oceanview stateroom—also called the “ultra spacious ocean view” is a great, affordable option.

It has space for six people and requires a minimum of five people to book the room.

This stateroom ranges from 265 to 328 square feet of space. It features a king bed, with additional bunk beds in a separate area, and a living area with a sofa bed.

Voyager of the Seas oceanview cabin

The cabin also features an ocean view, usually through a window or a set of portholes. This brings in natural light and provides a window into the outside world.

However, a major drawback to this cabin is its location on the deck, which is usually all the way forward. 

Staterooms in the very front or back of the cruise ship are more subject to feeling the motion of the ship, which can cause seasickness.

Because a larger group is required to book this room, it won’t sell out quickly. It’s also one of the cheapest options for a group of five or more.

Available on: Oasis Class, Freedom Class, Voyager Class, Radiance Class, Vision Class

Family interior stateroom

Icon of the Seas interior cabin

The cheapest single-cabin option for five to six guests is the family interior or “spacious interior” stateroom.

It is windowless, with no ocean view, but can accommodate larger families.

Two twin beds can stay separated or convert to a Royal King, providing different options for bed configurations. 

Two Pullman beds pull out from the ceiling or fold down from the wall, leaving plenty of space in the room until the beds are needed.

Wonder-Interior

A family interior stateroom also has a private bathroom and a sitting area with a sofa that converts into a double bed.

This room is a great choice for families who don’t need an ocean view or a balcony, want to save money, or are looking for a variety of bed configurations.

Available on: Oasis Class, Freedom Class, Vision Class

Family promenade view stateroom

Promenade cabin

Similar to the family oceanview stateroom, the family promenade stateroom—or, “spacious promenade view” offers a spacious cabin with a special view.

This stateroom is an interior room that looks out onto the Royal Promenade. 

It is spacious, spanning 327 square feet, and can accommodate up to six guests.

The stateroom features a set of twin beds that can convert to a larger bed, a sofa in the sitting area, and either bunk beds or Pullman beds for extra sleeping space.

Promenade view cabin

This stateroom has a better location, closer to the middle of the ship, and a unique view as it looks out onto the activity of the Royal Promenade.

However, one disadvantage is the large amount of noise that can come from the music, events, and crowds gathered below.

Available on: Freedom Class

Family Infinite Ocean View Balcony

Family infinite balcony

New categories on Icon of the Seas promise extra options for families and big groups.

The Family Infinite Oceanview Balcony is a new cabin on Icon of the Seas that combines an infinite balcony with additional space for families.

The stateroom is 285 square feet and sleeps 6 people. The convertible balcony spans 50 square feet.

Family infinite balcony split bathroom

Two twin beds can convert into a Royal King, and a separate alcove holds bunk beds for kids.

With families in mind, there are games inside the room and two televisions—so everyone gets their own remote.

The bathroom is also split into two compartments, so multiple guests can use it at the same time.

Available on: Icon of the Seas

Royal Loft Suite

Royal Loft Suite

If your group is willing to splurge on a suite, the Royal Loft Suite is a high-end, luxurious choice.

This suite boasts Star tier suite benefits, 560-580 square feet of space, and a large private balcony. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean suites guide & review

Royal Loft Suite second bedroom

The “loft” configuration means that there are two floors, allowing guests to spread out over the stateroom and give each other privacy.

This family space can sleep up to six guests, with two sets of twin beds that convert to a Royal King and one double sofa bed.

For families who need a lot of space, this huge suite is an expensive but worthwhile treat. 

Royal Loft suite on Icon

If you can afford it, a Royal Loft Suite is one of the best ways to stay with a lot of people without tripping over each other.

Available on: Oasis Class, Quantum Class, and Icon of the Seas

Ultimate Family Suite

Another splurge-worthy suite is the Ultimate Family Suite, only available on a select few ships. 

This is one of the few staterooms for huge groups and families, as it can sleep up to nine people.

This suite is part of the Star tier as well, boasting the highest level of Royal Caribbean suite benefits.

Read more: Guide to Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

Ultimate Family Townhouse

A king-sized bed, two twin beds that can convert to kings, four twin-sized bunk beds, and a double pull-out sofa bed ensure that everyone has ample choice at bedtime.

Video games, table tennis, Connect 4, and an in-room slide all provide entertainment right in the stateroom.

And the wide balcony features a private Jacuzzi! 

cruise-family-horizon-deck

For large families who want to stay together and enjoy activities right in their own stateroom, the Ultimate Family Suite is an incredibly exciting option.

Available on: Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas

Two staterooms

Harmony of the Seas interior cabin

If all else fails, you can always book two staterooms.

The cost of two separate staterooms can be cheaper than one large family stateroom. 

Not only that, but you also get the benefit of having two bathrooms.

This is also a bonus for groups of adults or families with older children because it provides separation and additional privacy.

Connecting door

Guests over 21 can have their own room, so just make sure that you’re booking at least one adult in each room.

Booking two rooms doesn’t mean you’ll be completely separated from your group, either. There are connecting staterooms, which have a door between them for easy flow. 

This is convenient to keep open during the day, essentially creating a multiple-room cabin with two adjoining rooms.

Available on: all Royal Caribbean ships

Ultimate Family Townhouse

Ultimate Family Townhouse

Royal Caribbean has added multiple new categories on Icon of the Seas that particularly cater to families.

The Ultimate Family Townhouse is the summation of suites onboard, feeling more like a townhouse than a cruise ship cabin.

With a view of the ocean and the Surfside neighborhood, this three-story suite can sleep 8 guests.

The room spans 1,772 square feet with two balconies. The balcony on level one is 410 square feet, while the balcony on level two is 90 square feet.

Two-bedroom spaces hold a king bed, two sets of bunk beds, and a double sofa bed.

The room features an impossible amount of games and activities for kids, including a slide that connects the second and main levels!

Available on: Icon of the Seas

Royal Caribbean cabins for 5 or more people

How does specialty dining work on Royal Caribbean?

In:
01 Apr 2024
By: 
Calista Kiper

There's a choice on any Royal Caribbean cruise to eat at the restaurants that are included or the restaurants that cost extra.

Couple at Empire Supper Club

From the Windjammer buffet to room service to Jamie’s Italian and Japanese cuisine at Izumi, there are flavors for every guest’s taste.

Complimentary restaurants are included in your cruise fare, but specialty venues come at an extra cost.

These alternative restaurants can come a la carte (meaning, charged per dish), or with a set entrance fee per person.

MSC-Seashore-Kaito-Teppanyaki-Specialty-Dining

Specialty restaurants are often higher quality, and more elegant than the complimentary options. 

Royal Caribbean ships include popular choices such as Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian, and Wonderland.

Whether you’re interested in an unlimited package or in trying a specific restaurant, our guide will provide everything you need to know about specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean ship.

What are specialty restaurants?

Tomahawk steak

Guests tend to like specialty restaurants because there is different cuisines offered.

If you value one particular type of food or want a certain sort of atmosphere, a specialty restaurant gives you a way to choose and focus on that energy for the length of your meal.

They’re also a great option for special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants come in different shapes and sizes, with all sorts of cuisine.

Chef Travis at Izumi

The venues available vary by ship, but fleet-wide options include:

  • 150 Central Park
  • Chops Grille
  • Giovanni’s Table
  • Giovanni’s Kitchen
  • Hooked Seafood
  • Izumi
  • Izumi Hibachi
  • Izumi in the Park
  • Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver
  • Johnny Rockets
  • Johnny Rockets Express
  • Mason Jar
  • Chef’s Table
  • Sabor
  • Samba Grill
  • Sichuan Red
  • Fish and Ships
  • Playmakers
  • Wonderland
  • Empire Supper Club

To double-check which venues are free and which come at an extra cost, you can always take a look at your Cruise Compass or refer to the Royal Caribbean app.

Which restaurants are a la carte?

Playmakers on Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants are either a la carte, meaning that each dish comes at an extra price, or they have a cover charge per person.

The a la carte restaurants on Royal Caribbean’s ships are Portside Barbeque, Izumi Sushi, Sichuan Red, Johnny Rockets, Fish and Ships, Basecamp, and Playmakers.

Other specialty restaurants charge a fee to each person to enter, and once you do, all the dishes and desserts are included. 

izumi-sushi

The only items you may still have to pay extra for would be alcoholic or specialty drinks.

Read more: Royal Caribbean Drink Prices

Is specialty dining worth the extra cost?

Family eating at Chops Grille

If you consider every part of the dining experience—from dressing up to food to service—part of the cruise’s entertainment, specialty dining might be a good option for you.

If meals are a key part of enjoying your cruise, focusing on a few specialty restaurants is a great way to elevate your experience.

Buying a dining package makes for a smart method of saving money. 

Instead of dining at a certain number of specialty restaurants and paying the list price for each one, you save money by paying a set price for one package.

Because most specialty restaurants have a cover charge of about $35-60 per person, a dining package can save a lot of money!

A dining package is great for someone who wants to enjoy a lot of specialty dining restaurants during their cruise. On Royal Caribbean ships that have a lot of specialty restaurant choices (such as Oasis, Quantum, and Icon Class ships), splurging on a dining package also opens up your options.

How do dining packages work?

wonderland-from-above

If you’re interested in trying popular specialty restaurants, you can purchase meals individually or use a dining package to streamline your experience.

These packages provide flexibility for guests to pay once, and then choose which venues they’d like to try.

This way, guests can enjoy multiple specialty restaurant meals at a discounted rate.

Read more: Royal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Icon of the Seas Empire Supper Club salad

You can even choose between multiple package configurations.

The options offered vary by ship, but usually these include:

  • 3 Night Dining Package
  • Chops Grille + 1 Package
  • Unlimited Dining Package

3 Night Dining Package

tuna-wonderland-symphony

The 3-night package gives you access to three dinners at unique specialty restaurants. 

For this set cost, you can dine at three different venues. Guests can even use this package to dine at the same venue multiple times.

Chops + 1 package

Pretzel bread

The Chops + 1 package includes one meal at Chops Grille and an additional free meal at any specialty venue of your choice. 

You cannot use your second meal at Chops Grille; you must select a different restaurant.

Unlimited Dining Package

Unlimited dining package in Cruise Planner

For one price, the unlimited dining package gives you access to multiple specialty restaurants every night of your sailing.

It also includes lunches at specialty restaurants on sea days, 40% off bottles of wine under $100, and 20% off bottles of wine over $100.

You can use this package to dine at the same restaurant multiple times, but the Chef’s Table and other culinary activities are excluded from this package.

Subject to which ship they are sailing on, guests can use the unlimited dining package at the following restaurants:

  • 150 Central Park
  • Chops Grille
  • Giovanni’s Table
  • Hooked Seafood
  • Izumi
  • Izumi Hibachi
  • Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver
  • Johnny Rockets
  • Sabor
  • Samba Grill
  • Sichuan Red
  • Wonderland

While it is included in the package, there is an additional $10 charge per person for the Izumi Hibachi experience.

The price of each package varies depending on the sailing and ship.

Can I use my dining package at an a la carte restaurant?

A la carte restaurants that put a price on each menu item are still included in specialty dining packages.

Guests with a dining package usually get a $20 or $35 credit towards food at those restaurants per day.

This goes toward the cost of the food items and can be used once a day.

How do I make reservations?

Cruise Planner on an iPad

For individual meals at a specialty restaurant, you can reserve a time in advance on the Royal Caribbean website or mobile app, through the Cruise Planner

Royal Caribbean does not yet allow guests with a dining package to make reservations before the cruise. However, the cruise line plans to change this in 2024.

In the meantime, you can make reservations as soon as you get onboard by going to any specialty restaurant and speaking with the staff there.

They will do their best to get you a spot at the day and time you prefer.

Can I make changes to my reservations?

If you’d like to make any changes to reservations onboard, you can speak to the hospitality staff onboard.

Again, this can be done by going to any specialty restaurant and speaking to the staff at the counter. 

But you can even call them directly from your stateroom phone for assistance.

Is there a dress code for specialty restaurants?

Chops Grille on Utopia render

Specialty restaurants have their own dress code, which is primarily "smart casual", although dress codes are loosely enforced.

However, the style of dress depends on which specialty restaurant you’re dining at.

At a more casual venue, such as Johnny Rockets or Playmakers, you could certainly wear simple clothing like jeans and a T-shirt.

But there are more formal, elegant venues, such as Izumi, Chops Grille, or the Empire Supper Club where it would be appropriate to dress more formally. In fact, the Empire Supper Club requires men to wear a jacket.

Worst case scenario, if the staff turns you away, you only need to go back to your room and change before returning.

Looking for more information about Royal Caribbean dining?

How does specialty dining work on Royal Caribbean?

Harmony of the Seas review: What this cruise ship is like in 2024

In:
01 Apr 2024
By: 
Angie Vognild

Spring break is a popular time to take a cruise, so I decided to book a seven-night spring break cruise on Harmony of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas.

Harmony of the Seas review

I invited my friend to join me on this Western Caribbean sailing, and we had an absolute blast on this fun-filled ship. While we were excited to visit Mexico and Honduras, Harmony of the Seas is a destination in and of itself that we were excited to explore.

This is what sailing on Harmony of the Seas is like in 2024.

Harmony of the Seas overview

Harmony of the Seas in Cozumel, Mexico

Debuting in 2016, Harmony of the Seas is the third Oasis Class cruise ship. In fact, she is currently the fourth biggest cruise ship in the world behind Icon of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas.

Harmony of the Seas is so big that it’s split into seven neighborhoods, including:

  • Central Park
  • Boardwalk
  • Royal Promenade
  • Pool and Sports Zone
  • Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
  • Entertainment Place
  • Youth Zone
Harmony of the Seas pool deck and Central Park

6,687 guests can sail on Harmony of the Seas, and for my particular sailing, there were 6,565 guests onboard - meaning the ship was practically fully occupied! Of the 6,565 guests on my sailing, there were 2,200 children (34%).

There were lots of new cruisers and multi-generational families on this spring break sailing. Also, the overwhelming majority of passengers on our cruise were from Texas. My friend and I were one of the very few people from the Midwest on this sailing. Our accent was a dead giveaway!

Embarking and disembarking from Galveston

Galveston, Texas terminal

This was my second time cruising out of Galveston, Texas, so I had an idea of what to expect this time around. 

Because I don't live near Texas, I had to fly in the day before the cruise. When cruising out of Galveston, many cruisers will fly into Houston since that is the closest major city. There are two airports you can fly into: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). I recommend flying into HOU because this airport is closer to Galveston, but IAH is also an option if you are set on flying on a certain airline or the airfare is a better price.

Houston view from an airplane

After flying into HOU, I decided to stay at a hotel in League City. Hotels in Galveston are quite expensive so I chose not to stay there, although it would’ve been convenient for embarkation day. 

I stayed in Houston near the airport for my last cruise out of Galveston. I think this is a good option for those who fly in late because it’s nice to have a short ride to your hotel after flying all day.

Driving to Galveston terminal

On embarkation day, my friend and I requested a Lyft to the Galveston port. The ride was 40 minutes and cost $36.19, including a tip.

The entire embarkation and disembarkation process was seamless. Embarking the ship took only 10-15 minutes and we were on the ship in no time! This was quite different from my last experience in Galveston, but that’s because there was a Coast Guard inspection.

Galveston, Texas terminal security

On the last day of the cruise, I scheduled a Lyft ride for the next morning from the Galveston port to the HOU airport. My ride was right on time and picked me up at the front of the terminal building. This ride was an hour long and cost $88.74, including a tip. 

Read more: I cruised Royal Caribbean from Galveston for the first time. Here's what a cruise from Texas is like.

Interior guarantee cabin

Harmony of the Seas interior cabin

Because sailing during spring break is more expensive than other sailings, my friend and I decided to stay in the cheapest cabin available: an interior guarantee.

Soon after booking the cruise, we were assigned cabin 10673 on deck 10. At first glance, this cabin appeared to be satisfactory, but I saw our cabin was located above the music venue Dazzles. I was initially worried because I imagined we would hear thumping music all night long.

Harmony of the Seas vanity and closet

Luckily, however, we never heard any music in our cabin! Cabin 10673 was located on the starboard and aft of the ship, meaning it was slightly towards the back of the ship. I hardly ever felt ship movement so I was happy about that.

The cabin was 172 square feet in size and included a large closet, a vanity with drawers, a chair, a king bed split into two beds, and a bathroom. 

Harmony of the Seas interior cabin

We encountered a few things that could’ve been improved upon (like the slow shower drain and the inoperable USB ports on the vanity), but overall, the cabin was in great condition and it was a cozy place to call home for the week.

You can read more about my cabin on Harmony of the Seas here.

Read more: I stayed in the cheapest cabin on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas for $463 a night. Take a look inside my 172-square-foot cabin

Dining on Harmony of the Seas

Main dining room on Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas offers 20 places to eat! I found that there were plenty of options to grab a snack or enjoy a three-course meal. I also thought the quality of the food was excellent, especially at the specialty dining venues.

On the first night of the cruise, I utilized my Diamond Plus BOGO offer which allowed me to purchase one specialty restaurant dinner and receive complimentary dining for a second guest. This offer can only be used on the first or second night of the cruise, so my friend and I decided to start the cruise off right with dinner at Jamie’s Italian. 

Jamies Italian on Harmony of the Seas

My favorite dishes were the truffle arancini, ultimate garlic buns, truffle tagliatelle, and the chocolate brownie with salted caramel gelato.

For the rest of our dinners, we ate in the Main Dining Room. The Main Dining Room on Harmony of the Seas is spread out between three decks with different names - we were on deck three in the American Icon Grill. 

Brownie in the main dining room

Here are the themed menus we enjoyed for dinner each night:

  • A Taste of France
  • A Taste of Italy
  • A Taste of the Caribbean
  • A Taste of Asia
  • Royal Night
  • Bon Voyage

Because I have cruised with Royal Caribbean many times, I knew what menus to expect. However, there was a surprise menu that I had not seen before: The Asian menu! Our waiter told us that instead of the Taste of Mexico menu, Harmony of the Seas was testing the Taste of Asia menu. They’ve only been using this menu for about a month or so, but they are testing it because they received many comments from Texan passengers on previous sailings that they’d rather have different food than Mexican since that is what they normally have at home.

A Taste of Asia dining room menu

I was very happy and excited to try some new food in the Main Dining Room. I really enjoyed the appetizer and main dish I had (spring rolls and kung pao chicken) although the desserts weren’t my cup of tea. I hope to have this menu again soon!

Spring rolls in the main dining room

Every night, dinner was incredibly fast - faster than other ships I have recently been on. For the two of us, dinner was normally only an hour long. And our food was always hot which I was pleased about. This hasn’t always been the case on other Royal Caribbean cruises.

On one of our sea days, we wanted to try Johnny Rockets for lunch. This is a specialty restaurant that costs $15 per person. We felt the cost was reasonable for what we got, which was an appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Johnny Rockets menu

I haven’t had Johnny Rockets food in a very long time, so I loved coming here to see what they had to offer. I really liked my BBQ chicken bacon melt and the super sundae was super yummy!

Johnny Rockets food

Speaking of Johnny Rockets, my friend and I often indulged ourselves with a nightly milkshake from here. I was able to use my Diamond Plus drink vouchers for these milkshakes. This was a popular late-night dessert option among many cruisers because it was normally busy with people until it closed at 10 p.m. 

Milkshakes from Johnny Rockets

Read more: Top 10 Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas hidden secrets

Entertainment and activities

Royal Theatre on Harmony of the Seas

I don’t think anyone can be bored on an Oasis Class ship when there is so much to do every day of your cruise. During the day, you can participate in several activities and events, and then in the evening, you can watch top-notch entertainment. 

Almost every night of the cruise, there was a themed party of some sort in the Royal Promenade. Some of these I have seen on other Royal Caribbean cruises, but some were new to me, like the Totally Awesome 90’s Party, the Caribbean Dance Party, and the 50s and 60s Rock n Roll Dance Party. I attended all of these parties and I thought they were all extremely similar, just different styles of music. I liked people-watching and seeing everyone have a fun time dancing!

Dance parties on the Royal Promenade

There was also a Royal Roundup Country Party in Studio B, which was essentially a line dance party, that I had never seen on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It makes sense they had this because so many people on this cruise were from Texas. Yeehaw!

Country party in Studio B

On Harmony of the Seas, there are two shows in the Royal Theatre, two shows in the AquaTheatre, and two shows in Studio B. These include:

  • Grease: The Hit Broadway Musical
  • Columbus…The Musical! Return to the Caribbean
  • The Fine Line
  • Big Daddy’s Hideaway Heist
  • 1887: A Journey in Time
  • iSkate

Both shows in the Royal Theatre, Grease and Columbus, were fabulous! The last time I was on Harmony of the Seas back in 2022, I remember being wowed by Grease so I was eager to see it again. I admired the singers, dancers, costumes, and music the entire 90-minute show. 

Grease on Harmony of the Seas

I have never seen Columbus…The Musical! before, so I truly did not know what to expect. The musical is described as the following: “Royal Caribbean’s Original Production tells the tale of Christopher’s luckless distant cousin, Marvin. Banished from his father’s kingdom, Marvin sets sail on a madcap voyage of discovery in the hopes of claiming his own place in history. Unforeseen romance and a happily ever after story are on the map as Marvin Columbus crashes into his Caribbean destiny.”

Columbus The Musical on Harmony of the Seas

Needless to say, I went to the show with an open mind. After watching the musical, my first thought was how cute the storyline was. I anticipated the songs in the musical were going to be originals based on the plot, but I liked that the music was a mix of old and new songs we hear on the radio. I also liked the plot twist at the end, but I won’t spoil it for those who are going to see it soon!

My favorite shows to see on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships are the ones in the AquaTheatre. The Fine Line was the first show we saw, and this was described as having “high-flying feats, mind-blowing stunts, and physically demanding acrobatics that are brought to life by the world’s best extreme sports athletes.” I didn’t follow a storyline for this show, but I was just amazed by the talented divers, synchronized swimmers, and dancers.

The Fine Line on Harmony of the Seas

On the last day of our cruise around 1 p.m., my friend and I were hanging out when an unexpected announcement was made that a second aqua show was going to be offered at the AquaTheatre: Big Daddy’s Hideaway Heist. We were both pleasantly surprised that there was another show we got to see, so we planned on getting to the theatre extra early to secure a spot. 

AquaTheatre on Harmony of the Seas

This show wasn't advertised in the Cruise Compass or on the app, so I thought that was strange. Maybe this was because they didn't know if the weather would cooperate to put on the show? Either way, you would only know about the show happening if you were listening to the ship announcements.

We decided to go to the first show at 3:30 p.m., and it was super busy. We were thankful we got there early and got a good spot. The show was entertaining to watch and it was a plot that I could actually follow!

Big Daddy's Hideaway Heist on Harmony of the Seas

During this sailing, we were not able to see 1887: A Journey in Time due to a cast member injury. This was a bummer, as my friend and I were looking forward to seeing this show. 

We were able to see iSkate, which centers around the cast performing alongside their favorite tunes.

iSkate on Harmony of the Seas

There was also a pair of comedians performing in The Attic Comedy Club. It was hard to get a reservation for these shows since it was such a small venue, but we were able to snag two seats on the second night of the cruise.

In addition to seeing the shows, we took advantage of the many fun activities offered on Harmony of the Seas. These include:

  • The Ultimate Abyss
  • Three waterslides
  • FlowRider
  • Zipline
  • Carousel
  • Rock climbing
  • Ice skating
Zipline on Harmony of the Seas

Another thing to note was that apparently there was an escape room onboard in The Puzzle Break near Adventure Ocean. However, I never saw it advertised, so I believe it is closed for the time being.

Read more: Trying out the free activities on Harmony of the Seas

Ports of call

Mayan ruins in Cozumel, Mexico

Our seven-day cruise had planned stops in Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. However, something completely unexpected happened during our cruise - our stop in Costa Maya was canceled last minute.

My friend had woken up early to get ready for her excursion in Costa Maya when she heard the ship announcement. The captain informed everyone that we were not able to dock in Costa Maya due to high swells. This was definitely a bummer because my friend was excited about her excursion to swim with the dolphins. We did not dock somewhere else and we had another sea day instead.

Royal Promenade on Harmony of the Seas

My friend was refunded for her excursion and everyone received a port and air tax credit of $17.12 on our onboard accounts.

Our first port stop was Roatan, Honduras. I noticed that there is now a new pool and bar area right as you get off the ship. 

New pool and bar in Roatan

There was a sign that read, “Free beach chair and pool with a purchase at the pool bar.” It didn't appear super busy, so this could be a new option for people who don't want to venture far from the ship but still say they did something in Roatan.

Pool and bar in Roatan, Honduras

In Cozumel, my friend and I did an excursion together called, “Legacy of the Maya: Ruins and Chocolate Tasting.” I have not done an excursion in Cozumel in a long time so it was fun to explore new parts of the island I have never been to before. My favorite part of the excursion was the chocolate samples we got to try. It was also cool to learn more about the Mayan history of the area.

Overall thoughts

Harmony of the Seas in Roatan, Honduras

My friend and I had lots of fun together during our spring break cruise on Harmony of the Seas. 

While there were a few unexpected instances that occurred, like Costa Maya being canceled, our ship departing Galveston an hour and a half late, and the musical being stopped in the middle due to a technical issue, we still enjoyed our time onboard.

Central Park on Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas is one of my favorite Royal Caribbean ships because of the many things you can do onboard. The staff onboard was excellent, the ship was in great condition, and the entertainment was superb.

Harmony of the Seas cruise ship review