Royal Caribbean planning its biggest deployment ever to Alaska in 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today it plans to send three ships to Alaska in 2020, marking the cruise line’s biggest presence in the region yet.

Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas will offer sailings to The Last Frontier in 2020. Before arriving to the Last Frontier, Ovation and Radiance will island-hop along Hawaii, while Serenade sails the Panama Canal and Golden Coast on her way west. 

Ovation of the Seas will return for its second consecutive season to offer 7-night itineraries from Seattle, Wash. 

For the first time since 2009, Serenade of the Seas will head west as it repositions from a winter in the sunny Southern Caribbean to Vancouver, British Columbia, making 2020 Royal Caribbean’s first summer season with three ships in Alaska. Serenade will sail 7-night itineraries through the 500 miles of shoreline that is the Inside Passage, calling on Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait Point, Alaska.

Radiance of the Seas will once again offer 7-night, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.

In repositioning to their seasonal summer homeports, all three ships will chart their own course through exotic and off-the-beaten-path locales to discover cultural treasures. Serenade of the Seas will sail through one of the largest and legendary engineering projects ever undertaken as she makes her way from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to Los Angeles, Calif. on a 15-night Westbound Panama Canal sailing departing May 4, 2020. Along the journey, guests can encounter the charming cultures of Central America with visits to Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. On May 19, 2020, Serenade will then head over to Vancouver, British Columbia to navigate the Pacific Coast on a 7-night sailing.

Both Ovation and Radiance of the Seas will say aloha to the islands of Hawaii. Ovation will embark on its 12-night cruise from Honolulu, visiting Maui (Lahaina), Kailua Kona and Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, on May 7, 2020. Also sailing from Honolulu and departing on May 5, 2020, Radiance will offer a 10-night itinerary to the Last Frontier with ports of call including Maui (Lahaina), Kailua Kona, Hilo and Kauai (Nawiliwili), Hawaii.

Royal Caribbean’s 2020 Alaska cruises open for bookings on Thursday, Nov. 8; Crown & Anchor Society loyalty members are able to book one day prior.

Symphony of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

By: Matt Hochberg

Hey everyone! Episode 275 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

This week, we're sharing the details about our cruise on Symphony of the Seas to the Western Caribbean along with many Royal Caribbean Blog readers! This seven-night adventure has lots of fun packed in, and Matt and Annette preview the fun planned for this seven night adventure.

Be sure to also check out our pre-cruise summary of what Matt's plans are for the cruise and for how you can read the live blog each day from the cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 275. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Video: Why book a balcony cabin for your Royal Caribbean cruise

By: Matt Hochberg

We have a brand new Royal Caribbean Blog video today, and we are listing the top reasons to book a balcony cabin on your Royal Caribbean cruise!

There are many great stateroom choices when booking a cruise, and certainly a room with private balcony is one of the most intriguing options. Having your own private space to enjoy the view of the ocean, a gentle breeze and the activities in port are a fabulous way to spend any cruise.

Why would booking this type of cruise room be a good idea? We are sharing some compelling reasons to go for a balcony cabin when you book a cruise.

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Symphony of the Seas 2018 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is nearly at her new home of PortMiami, Florida, and I will be onboard a few of the first few sailings and LIVE blogging every day of the cruise, to share with you what it is like to experience this amazing ship.

This is a somewhat different type of live blog, and cruise experience, for me.  I will be on three different sailings, separated by two days between sailing two and three.  Our cruise begins later this week, but here is a cruise preview to share with you what to expect on our trip!

The Cruise

As I mentioned, I will be on three different Symphony of the Seas sailings. Here are the three sailings:

  • November 9: 4-night Western Caribbean sailing
  • November 13: 2-night media sailing to Nassau
  • November 17: 7-night Western Caribbean Thanksgiving sailing

I did not intend to go on three different Symphony sailings off the bat, but I am certainly not objecting to it.  Originally, I booked the November 17 Symphony of the Seas Thanksgiving sailing to make it a Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise.  I figured a lot of other folks would want to not only go on the first full sailing Symphony offered from North America, but also enjoy a fun holiday sailing together.

Then I noticed the quick 4-night weekend cruise Symphony of the Seas will offer when she first arrives and opted to hop on that sailing since living in Florida we could make that happen fairly easily.

On top of that, Royal Caribbean invited me to come aboard a two-night Symphony of the Seas preview cruise, where members of the media, travel agents and other VIP's are invited to check out this new ship. Royal Caribbean Blog has been lucky enough to have been invited to a couple other preview sailings on Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, so to be honored with an invite for this sailing is quite gratifying.

The nice thing about going on these three sailings is that I should sufficient time to conduct research and collect information for future Royal Caribbean Blog content.  The group cruise is the icing on the cake, with the opportunity to enjoy Symphony of the Seas with a group of friends and have a great time together onboard.


We will be staying in three different stateroom categories across our sailings.

On the 4-night sailing, we have a Central Park balcony stateroom.  I have stayed in this room category multiple times across other Oasis Class ships and it is a favorite of mine.  I love the ambiance you get with this room category and the bonus neighborhood balcony perks really sweeten the deal.

On the two-night sailing, we will move to an oceanview balcony. This is a classic stateroom option.

On the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, our kids join us and we move up to a Grand Suite.  

I booked the Grand Suite on the first day sailings became available and the price only went up from there.  Having the suite perks is always nice, and we decided to splurge a little for a nicer room.  


Our first sailing is a 4-night cruise with one port stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

While in Cozumel, we will check out the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort and see how it compares to other day pass places in Cozumel.

Our 2-night preview cruise will visit Nassau, Bahamas.  I am not certain if I will get off the ship or not.  There is usually a lot going on during these media preview sailings, so I may just stay onboard and take advantage of what the ship has to offer.

For the 7-night Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, we will visit four ports along the way. 

  • Roatan, Honduras
  • Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Nassau, Bahamas

Our first stop is Roatan, where everyone who booked with MEI Travel on the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise gets to enjoy the Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break excursion.

Next up is Ccosta Maya and I get to return to my favorite all-inclusive resort in Maya Chan.  In fact, we're taking all the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders on the cruise with us! Maya Chan is one of the best all-inclusive day passes I have ever been to, so the day will offer more time at the beach, and unlimited Shirley Temple's for my older daughter.

In Cozumel, we get to try one of the most popular day pass resorts on the island, Mr. Sanchos.  I have never been there, but heard some really good things for many years so I just had to try it.

Our last stop will bring us to Nassau, and we may go with a few friends cruising with us to check out a flight simulator experience.

Three things I am excited to try

3. El Loco Fresh

As many readers of this blog are keenly aware, I am quite the fan of Mexican food and more specifically, Sabor.  Symphony of the Seas does not have Sabor, so this will be my first opportunity to try the new Mexican option, El Loco Fresh.

El Loco Fresh is complimentary and I have heard generally good things.  While it may not match Sabor's excellent margarita collection or its freshly made guacamole, I am hoping it can satisfy my Mexican food cravings onboard.  If nothing else, the fact it is complimentary is a blessing to my SeaPass account (and a curse to my waist line).

2. Laser tag

I think it has been roughly twenty years since I last played laser tag, but I am excited to try this out on Symphony of the Seas.  

Laser tag has become a go-to activity that Royal Caribbean has added to its ships, and I am excited to see what Royal Caribbean's version of this game ends up looking like.  

1. Return to Roatan

I have not been to Roatan since my Navigator of the Seas cruise in 2014, so this has been a port we have not visited in quite some time.  The opportunity to come back excites me, especially since it has been so long since our last visit that it almost feels like a new port stop.

What's next

Our Symphony of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, November 9th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels. Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have. I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Dredging begins at Perfect Day at CocoCay

By: Matt Hochberg

Dredging boats were spotted at Royal Caribbean's private destination of CocoCay in the Bahamas, signaling the start of a pivotal milestone in creating a pier for ships to dock.

Majesty of the Seas visited CocoCay this past weekend, and dredging vessels were onhand to indicate work had begun recently.  

Dredging is a form of excavation carried out underwater to provide a waterway for cruise ships to access the pier that is under construction. Once the new pier and dredging are complete, Royal Caribbean's cruise ships can visit CocoCay by docking instead of tendering.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley estimates out of all the sailings to CocoCay, about 10 or 11% would be missed due to unfavorable tendering conditions. With the new pier, he believes the missed calls will drop to about 2%.

Royal Caribbean releases 2020 Alaska and Hawaii sailings

By: Matt Hochberg

UPDATE: While the sailings appear on Royal Caribbean's website, the sailings do not appear to be bookable.

Royal Caribbean's website is now showing 2020 Alaska and Hawaii sailings are viewable on the website.

While no official announcement has been made, we were able to browse the Royal Caribbean website to see and book the new sailings.

There will be three ships sailing to Alaska in 2020.

Ovation of the Seas will offer a 12-night sailing from Honolulu to Vancouver on May 7, 2020, before starting 7-night roundtrip Alaska Glacier cruises from Seattle, Washington that will begin later in May 2020. Following her Alaska season, Ovation will sail a 10-night Hawaii cruise from Vancouver to Honolulu.

Radiance of the Seas will first sail from Honolulu, Hawaii to Vancouver in May 2020, prior to offering 9-night Destination Denali open-jaw sailings between Vancouver, British Columbia and Seward, Alaska. She will also offer 10-night and 13-night open-jaw sailings between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia (optionally in both directions). Radiance of the Seas will offer a 10-night Hawaii cruise  from Vancouver, British Columbia to Honolulu, Hawaii in September 2020.

By August 2020, Serenade of the Seas will offer primarily 7-night roundtrip Alaska Glacier cruises from Vancouver, British Columbia. Serenade of the Seas will offer a 11-night Hawaii cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia to Honolulu, Hawaii in September 2020.

Be sure to consult the Royal Caribbean website or your travel professional for further assistance with itinerary options and booking.

Royal Caribbean testing VIP guest access program

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is testing out a new limited quantity VIP guest experience on select Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas sailings.

Royal Caribbean is calling this pilot program, The Key, it provides guests with special benefits and perks during their cruise. 

The Key is being tested out on Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas for sailings beginning November 25, 2018 through the end of March 2019. The Key will be available only in the Cruise Planner for purchase at a rate of $24.99 per person, per day.  All guests in a stateroom age 6 and up must purchase in order to receive benefits.

Once purchased, the Key benefits are utilized via the SeaPass card and a summary of benefits will be available in their stateroom on boarding day.

With The Key, guests can enjoy a private lunch at Chops Grille when they board, daily private hours at marquee attractions, like the FlowRider, rock climbing Wall and ice-skating rink, and access to VIP seating at shows. Please note: Guests will need to reserve their seating online at Cruise Planner before they set sail.

The Key provides:

  • Carry-on luggage service offering drop off at the Theater (until 1:30 PM) and delivery to your stateroom (Up to 2 bags per guest)
  • Private lunch at Chops Grille on boarding day from 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM - this does not need to be reserved, as the dining team will be expecting guests who’ve purchased The Key package
  • Daily private hours at signature attractions like the FlowRider, Rock Climbing wall, and ice-skating rink
  • Priority tender service from cruise ship to shore
  • Access to the VIP seating at shows (reservations required through the Pre-Cruise Planner)
  • Complimentary VOOM Surf & Stream (1 device)
  • Choice debarkation with an exclusive à la carte breakfast beginning at 6:30 AM until 9:30 AM

From what we understand, this is a pilot program and whether or not it rolls out to other ships and sailings depends on how well the program is received and performs.

Does this sound like something you would want to purchase? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Spotted: Sky Pad pre-cruise reservations

By: Matt Hochberg

If your next Royal Caribbean offers the Sky Pad virtual reality jump experience, then you might be able to pre-book it before the cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

We have spotted the option to pre-book Sky Pad sessions on the Cruise Planner site for upcoming Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas sailings. The Sky Pad option is under the Entertainment & Activities menu.

There is no cost to reserve a time, and you can select times from 30 minute blocks.

Thanks to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Jason Cook for alerting us to this change.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: November 4, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! November has arrived, and we hope you had a great week with friends, family, and plenty of food.  Each week we summarize all of this week's Royal Caribbean news, just in case you missed any of it.

The big news this week was Royal Caribbean's announcement of the major changes coming to Navigator of the Seas in 2019.

Navigator of the Seas will undergo a refurbishment in early 2019, and will feature a number of changes including an awe-inspiring Caribbean poolscape, waterslides, the first blow dry bar at sea, nightlife and dining, and thrilling activities for the whole family.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

Have you ever dined at Izumi Japanese specialty restaurant?

In this week's podcast episode, Matt shares an overview of what Izumi offers, the various options across the fleet, and mentions which menu items are his favorite.

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: Royal Caribbean cruise money saving tips

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 — Royal Caribbean cruise money saving tips — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

The Pinay Solo Backpacker Blog shared a guide for first timers to Ovation of the Seas.

Disney Tourist Blog shared their first impressions of Royal Caribbean from a Disney Cruise Line sucker loyalist.

CNBC quoted Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain talking about fuel costs and their effect on earnings.

Cruise Habit recorded a podcast about cruise line loyalty programs (including Crown and Anchor Society).

CocoCay construction progress photo report - November 1, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is hard at work to transform its private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas to Perfect Day at CocoCay, and we have a look at the progress that has been made recently.

Royal Caribbean Blog readers Brian and Elizabeth Robison visited CocoCay while on Mariner of the Seas and provided these photos.

The new pier is expected to open around the end of this year.