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How do I pick the perfect first cruise?

In:
15Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

After you decide to go on a cruise, you might be wondering which itinerary to pick for your first cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of cruises to ports around the world, so what is the perfect duration and destination for someone who wants to go on their first cruise?

There are a few factors to consider on which sailing is the best choice for you, but take all of these into consideration before picking the right one for you.

How many nights should your cruise be?

A good starting point is picking how many nights for your first cruise. Royal Caribbean offers cruises as short as 3-nights, and as long as two weeks. There is a great variety in what you can choose, depending on the region of the world.

Short cruises tend to go over weekends, or can have just a port stop or two.  They come and go quite quickly, but they are relatively inexpensive.

A slightly longer cruise (5-7 nights) offers a more complete cruise experience, with a good mix of sea days and port visits. The longer duration means you get to visit more exotic ports, as well as experience more of what your ship has to offer.

The even longer cruises (9 nights or longer) offer some truly fascinating voyages to places not usually visited by cruise ships.

While it may be tempting to pick a short sailing for a first cruise, I think the best choice for a first-time cruiser is a 7 night cruise because these offer a good mix of port days and sea days.  In addition, a week on a cruise means you will have more time to experience what the ship has to offer onboard. 

Those weekend cruises are over before you know it, and they are the type of sailings to augment your cruises as you continue to take more cruise vacations.

Where should my first cruise go to?

With so many places around the world to visit while on a cruise, which itinerary makes the most sense to book first?

First and foremost, where you live may dictate which itineraries are most practical to go on.  If you live in Australia, a cruise to the Caribbean is not exactly practical.

At the very least, I would recommend picking a sailing that has a good mix of sea days and port days.  A cruise with too many sea days or too many port days is not a great choice for a first time cruiser because you want to ensure you have a chance to experience both equally, without getting burnt out on shore excursions or days at sea.

Many first time cruisers love Royal Caribbean's private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee. These private destinations are extensions of the cruise ship experience, and offer a contained and easy to plan port day visit that is very inviting to families and guests of all ages.

During the summer months, cruises to Europe and Alaska offer 7-night and longer sailings to some incredible places.  These are some of the most sought after cruise destinations outside of the Caribbean.

For first time cruisers, picking a Western or Eastern Caribbean sailing has that right blend of port days and sea days that is a good fit for most people to try out a cruise vacation.

Which ship should I pick?

Once you narrow down the region of the world and length of cruise, picking the right ship for you will be a lot easier since you will have narrowed down the field of choices.

Royal Caribbean spreads its ships around the world, and in the popular regions, you will often find a few ships to pick from after narrowing down your choices.

While there is not one Royal Caribbean ship I would not recommend to sail on, I do think there are some ships better suited for first time cruisers.

The Oasis and Quantum Class ships are Royal Caribbean's newest and largest cruise ships and have the latest and greatest features that you typically see in any television commercial. The size of a cruise ship is not the end-all, be-all of what makes a ship great, but it does mean there is more space to offer a greater variety of onboard experiences.

The Freedom and Voyager Class ships are big ships in their own right, and most have been recently upgraded with water slides, new restaurants and other fun activities onboard.

Any of these ships are great choice for a first time cruiser who wants to get in on the kind of cruise fun you would see in any commercial or social media post online.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 14, 2020

In:
14Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! We hope you are having a great weekend and ready to talk a little Royal Caribbean.

The big cruise news this week was Royal Caribbean's announcement that it has postponed indefinitely its upcoming Royal Amplification projects.

Four ships had upgrades scheduled this year and next year, but those are now on hold until further notice.

While technical dry docks may still occur (where the propulsion and necessary maintenance upgrades take place), new features, activities and amenities will not be added as scheduled for Allure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas.

Despite the news, Royal Caribbean says they still plan to complete the delayed cruise ship makeovers at a later date.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 358th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, featuring the story of Donna's attempt to add some family fun to their cruise.

In this episode, Donna tells us about her family Olympics idea that she incorporated into a Radiance of the Seas cruise as an ongoing activity the family was able to enjoy throughout the cruise.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! 

What I wish I'd known before I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise

There are so many times in life that we wish we could go back in time and change what we did based on what we know now, including avoiding mistakes on a cruise ship.

Looking back on the cruises I have taken, I compiled the top things I wish I knew before I ever got onboard any Royal Caribbean ship.

Learn from what I have learned over the past few years, and check out these tips for avoiding common cruise mistakes.

Royal Caribbean makes repatriating crew members its top priority

In:
13Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

In the months since Royal Caribbean suspended operations, the cruise line has made protecting and repatriating its crew its top priority.

Recently, Royal Caribbean executives have specifically called out the hard work its teams around the world are doing to help get crew members home, despite daunting legal hurdles.

Crew comes first

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain started off his quarterly results calll with Wall Street analysts by making a point to say crew repatriation is its first priority, even ahead of the company's financial future.

"Obviously, our industry and our Company are undergoing unprecedented challenges, and we are having to quickly adapt to this new and evolving environment. But, our priorities are clear, we will work to protect the safety of our guests and crew, we will proactively enhance our liquidity, we will protect the Company's brands and our travel partners, and we will define and prepare for a new normal."

The task of getting crew home is more than simply buying a plane ticket home. Countries around the world, including the United States, have added complex new regulations and travel restrictions meant to protect its citizens at home, while making it extremely difficult for citizens abroad to return simply because they are on a cruise ship.

"In the two months since we suspended operations, we've been working tirelessly to safely repatriate our guests and crew members to their homes," Mr. Fain elaborated,  "Our crew come from more than 100 countries around the world with widely different safety protocols and travel restrictions. This has turned, what should be a simple task into a monumental one."

"It's really hard to convey the complexity of the process to somebody who's used to making simple travel arrangements. But, our teams are working around the clock with the multitude of governing bodies to repatriate our crews as soon as possible. We've even gone to the extent of using our ships as transport vessels and currently have nine ships carry more than 10,000 crew members back to their home countries. It's a complex and expensive way to do it. But it's a most reliable way to get these men and women home to their families as quickly as possible. And therefore, we've undertaken to do it this way."

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke at length about the work being done by the cruise line to get crew home safely, despite inaccurate media reports to the contrary.

Mr. Bayley characterized getting crew members home as, "genuinely a massive challenge," and went on to reassure the public it is doing everything it can, "We love our crew. We are doing everything in our power to take care for them, and to make sure that they get home to their families."

"We're doing everything we can to take care of our crew and get them home. The crew are pleased with what we're doing, they're thankful, they're understanding."

Getting crew home by the numbers

Saying you will do something, and actually doing it, are two different things, and Royal Caribbean has been actively getting more and more crew home each week.

Mr. Bayley shared an update on Facebook that as of Friday, 22,558 crew members have been repatriated, and Royal Caribbean has plans for another 4,041 crew to make it home next week.

"We’re working very hard for each member of our crew and we’re getting there! By the end of the month, we’re looking to have 95% of our repatriation efforts complete. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and every day it’s looking brighter."

Five lessons I've learned from all these cancelled cruises

In:
12Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Since Royal Caribbean started cancelling cruises in March, there has been a lot of changes across the cruise industry. Things we never thought we would see, have happened repeatedly.

With so much changing during this global cruise suspension, we have all had to adapt to new policies and procedures.  If fact, I have found some new strategies that have worked well, along with reminders of the importance of some other tried-and-true advice.

Here are the my top five lessons that the current cruise shutdown have taught me since this all began.

Always book refundable cruise fare

While Cruise with Confidence has added an incredible amount of flexibility for cancelling cruises, it seems there are a lot of people who simply want their money back, and quite often non-refundable deposits stand in the way of this, especially for cruises before final payment date.

In short, if you are going to book a cruise, be sure to book refundable fare.

The announcement this week that Allure of the Seas will not sail from Galveston is a great example of why having refundable cruise fare is such an advantage.  People found themselves stuck between being forced on Liberty of the Seas instead, or taking a future cruise credit.  For some people, this was a big problem because they wanted to cancel to change to a different sailing all together, or get their money back.  While Royal Caribbean reversed course and offered more flexible options, you cannot always count on a scenario like that.

While I usually booked refundable cruise fare even before the shutdown, I think now it is even more important to err on the side of caution and book refundable deposits whenever possible.

It is should be noted that there are situations where non-refundable cruise fare is unavoidable, such as with suites. In that case, there is not a choice, but if you have the option, I strongly recommend refundable deposits.

Travel insurance does not help much if the cruise never happens

An investment in travel insurance is never a bad idea, but it is important to always read the policy and know when the coverage applies. 

While it may seem like trip interruption coverage would apply for scenarios when cruises are cancelled, nearly every insurance company does not cover pandemics, so the policy did not apply.

I think many of us were hoping early on that travel insurance might cover non-refundable purchases associated with the trip, but that was not the case. Luckily, most travel providers ended up giving more flexible cancellation terms (such as the airlines), but the notion that travel insurance is a blanket policy to cover anything that gets in the way of your cruise is not exactly true.

A good travel agent is invaluable

I have been a proponent of using a good travel agent for years, and the rounds of cruise cancellations exacerbated the need for a good agent like never before.

All too often, I would see posts on social media from people upset about a variety of issues related to cancelled cruises. Refunds, future cruise credits, errors in reimbursement and trying to change dates were just some of the common areas where those without an agent were stuck on hold for hours to get a response.

Those of us that worked with travel agents generally had an easier time, because the agents were tirelessly working on our behalf.  Travel agents have been among the most hard hit during the cruise shutdown, as they only get paid commission by the cruise line after a client goes on their trip. Nonetheless, so many agents have worked very hard to stay and assist their clients.

While the old argument against using a travel agent of, "I prefer to manage it myself" may have been fine in the past, those managing it themselves were also dealing with relentless hold times and changing policies.

Cancel cruise planner purchases early

One strategy that seems to work well for getting money back quicker, is to cancel pre-cruise purchases before the sailing gets officially cancelled in Royal Caribbean's system.

Usually there are a few hours or more between when Royal Caribbean announces cruises being cancelled and when their system starts to process these cancellations.  

It seems if you can get into the Cruise Planner site and start canceling your drink packages, excursions, spa appointments and more before they automatically get cancelled, refunds were processing sooner.  

This is more anecdotal than scientific, but something to keep in mind going forward.

Sales are real now

Another silver lining to our current state of affairs is we have seen significant discounts in Royal Caribbean's latest sales.

The last few rounds of pre-cruise purchase sales and cruise fare sales seem to have netted cruises the most lucrative savings I can recall seeing in quite sometime.

It is no secret that Royal Caribbean (and all cruise lines) are hurting for cash, so any revenue coming in is quite welcome.  Moreover, there are quite a few people that have cancelled cruises this year and next year.  So with all of that in mind, it looks like the cruise line has been more aggressive in their discounts.

Keep an eye out for discounts going forward, especially for 2020 sailings. There seems to be changing prices constantly, and impressive savings too.

One more thing: refunds

It is hard not to talk about the elephant in the room, and that is how long it has taken for refunds and future cruise credits to be processed.  

Royal Caribbean has admitted to these delays, and it is perhaps the top complaint from readers since the first round of cancellations occurred. While Royal Caribbean has given timelines of 30 or 45 days (business or calendar), the reality has been quite different for a lot of people.

As I stated earlier, the value of a travel agent has made this process so much easier on me and so many others.  In reading people's experiences, it seems there is a clear divide between people with a good travel agent, and those that did not book with one.  Worse yet were those that booked through third-party big box stores or other big resellers that left their customers out in the rain, so to speak.

But even with a good agent, refunds are not processed any quicker. However, they are getting processed.  Yes, sometimes incorrectly, but the money is flowing out there.

The lesson learned about cruise refunds is it will take arguably longer than it should to be received, but it is happening. Royal Caribbean has brought back more call center representatives and rolled out a suite of self-service forms for travel agents and consumers alike to use.

Patience has gone from a virtue to a repeating mantra, but the money does show up.

Your thoughts

What has been something you have learned through all of this? Is there something you would have done differently? Share your experiences in our comments!

US Passport service to slowly start up again

In:
12Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are in need of a U.S. passport, there appears to be a plan to resume offering them again to the public.

The U.S. State Department announced on Thursday it was entering Phase One of its three-phase approach to the resuming of operations.

During Phase 1, limited staff are returning to work at these agencies and centers, allowing the agency to resume limited processing of applications they have already received.

Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis.

Since March 20, passport applications have been nearly impossible, only available in "qualified life-or-death emergencies".

Phase two will see additional staff return to agencies, and appointments for life-or-death emergencies only. Applications will be processed on first in, first out basis.

Phase three is a return to normalcy, with all staff returning to agencies.  There will be limited appointments for customers traveling within 2 weeks, and applications will be processed on first in, first out basis.

The State Department said customers may always apply by mail or at an acceptance facility near their homes (if it is a life-or-death emergency requiring international travel within 72 hours).

In addition, if you submitted your documents along with your passport application, they are still awaiting further processing.

Navigator of the Seas Tips & Best Things To Do

In:
12Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Navigator of the Seas offers short cruise vacations to the Bahamas, and between its getaway sailings, recent ship wide update, and low price point, there is a lot to love about her!

Weekend sailings, visits to Royal Caribbean's private island, water slides and great dining are just some of the fun things you can find on Navigator of the Seas.

If you have a cruise booked on Navigator, or are considering booking a cruise, here are my favorite things about this ship and tricks for making the most of your vacation!

Water Slides

One of the new features added to Navigator of the Seas are the Blaster & Riptide water slides, and these are an instant hit with everyone.

Royal Caribbean has begun to embrace having water slides on their cruise ships, and these are two types of water slides not available on any other Royal Caribbean ship.

The Blaster is Royal Caribbean's first aqua coaster, and it is also the longest water slide at sea.  You hop into a raft and race down more than 800 feet of dips, drops and straightaways that extend over the side of the ship.

On Riptide, you can go on a headfirst mat racer slide that provides a completely different perspective on the way down. Just try to keep your eyes open the whole time!

Water slide tips

Pack your bathing suit in your carry-on luggage on embarkation day so that you can take advantage of the slide being open with much shorter lines.  Most guests do not have their bathing suit in those first few hours onboard, which makes this the best time to ride the slides with minimal waits.

Don't be afraid to say excuse me. The stairs leading to the top of the slides are shared between both slides, but often some guests will congregate together while waiting and block the way. Be sure to politely ask to move past them if you do not see the end of your line.

Bamboo Room

Tiki bars are all the rage, and Navigator of the Seas features the largest edition of the Bamboo Room onboard.

Serving a South Pacific vibe, the Bamboo Room offers a great variety of cocktails, many of which are unavailable anywhere else on the ship. In fact, there is a wide range of drinks to choose from.

There are even a few food items on the menu, if you choose to indulge.

The Bamboo Room is the perfect spot to meet friends and family for a pre-dinner drink, or round out your evening, and it really stands out from the usual bar and lounge scene onboard.

Bamboo Room tips

Ask the bartenders for suggestions. The cocktail menu has a lot to choose from, so do not hesitate to ask the bartenders and waiters for what they prefer or which beverages are the most popular.

Check out the decor. Being a tiki bar, the Bamboo Room has a lot of kitsch to it, including a parrot that appears periodically in the digital art.

Your drink package works here. Just like any bar or lounge, your drink package covers beverages ordered at the Bamboo Room!

Family fun

 

One of the areas Royal Caribbean targeted for updating on Navigator of the Seas in her 2019 refurbishment was the family areas onboard.

Adventure Ocean and the Teens Club have been transformed, with a new approach to these areas. Adventure Ocean has been reworked with more free play space. The Living Room (teens club) has been reimagined, complete with a backyard hideaway area. If you have younger children (under 36 months), there is a nursery onboard as well.

When the kids are not in the club, you can challenge them to a round or three of laser tag. Located in the ice skating rink, teams face off in the Battle for Planet Z. It is another complimentary offering, and a very popular sea day activity.

Navigator of the Seas also features an updated mini-golf course on deck 12 that is a fun challenge for all ages.

Family fun tips

Register kids for Adventure Ocean on the first day. There will be an open house held (usually in the early afternoon) of the first day of the cruise, so be sure to go up to meet the staff and meet the staff. Plus, it will save you time later.

Try mini-golf at night. Not only is it not nearly as hot during the evening, but a round of mini-golf after the sun sets is a great evening activity.

Specialty restaurants

Navigator of the Seas features some of my favorite specialty restaurants on any ship! While there is plenty of great complimentary food onboard, sometimes you just feel like indulging a bit with something different.

Sushi lovers will really enjoy Izumi, which is among the most consistently good restaurants across Royal Caribbean's fleet. There is a good variety of sushi and Japanese specialties, including the popular hot rock options.

Jamie's Italian was added in 2019 and serves up an inspired menu of fresh takes on classic Italian dishes. The creation of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, it is must-eat whenever I am onboard.

If seafood is more your thing, Hooked Seafood has a lot of compelling choices, including lobster, muscles and more.

Don't overlook the other great specialty dining on Navigator of the Seas, including Chops Grille, Playmakers Sports Bar & Johnny Rockets. Having all of this variety is one more reason why Navigator of the Seas stands out as a great choice.

Specialty dining tips

Buy a dining package. If you know you want to try more than one specialty restaurant, your best bet is to purchase a dining package.  Dining packages will absolutely save you money compared to trying to dine at the same amount of restaurants and paying the cover charge individually.

Try the sushi making class. A really fun activity offered onboard is the sushi making class.  One of Izumi's chefs takes you through the process of how to make a few different kinds of sushi rolls, and you get to eat all of your creations after! Be sure to come hungry, because it is basically a meal.

Escape Room

Royal Caribbean has been adding escape rooms to many of its cruise ships, and the escape room on Navigator of the Seas is a must-do!

The Observatorium is one of the most challenging escape rooms I have tried across the fleet. If you have never done an escape room, you have one hour for you and a group of other guests try to solve a series of clues, puzzles and patterns that will lead you to unlocking the solution to the larger puzzle.

I have found escape rooms to be a completely different kind of thrill, because it pits your wits against the clock to solve them all. You will have to work with your team to figure it all out, and the sense of accomplishment if you manage to escape in time is an amazing feeling.

Escape Room tips

Pre-book if you want to try it. Spots for the escape room go quickly, so be sure to pre-book it on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site before the cruise.

Don't be shy. You will be grouped with other guests, but the key to beating the escape room is communication. You need to talk with each other, and in some cases, split up and assign tasks. They key is maximizing your time and having groups work together to figure it all out.

Lime & Coconut

 

The entire pool deck was revamped on Navigator of the Seas, and it is home run with all the changes that have been added, including the Lime & Coconut bar.

First and foremost, the pool deck has been re-done with casitas, loungers, more hot tubs and a very inviting poolscape. As soon as you see the pool, you know exactly where you will want to go everyday. 

  

The crown jewel of the new pool area is the Lime & Coconut bar, which is a triple level bar scene that is a combination of bar, party spot and place to be seen.

The first two levels of Lime & Coconut have their own bars, and the third deck is a rooftop sun deck that is great for relaxing, and chilling.

Pool deck tips

Get up early for a casita. Those awesome looking casitas are reserved early, so if you want one, set your alarm early and then catch up on sleep after you grab yours.

Watch the sunset from the Lime & Coconut. Royal Caribbean designed this new space to have a nightlife to it, and I think it has the best vantage point for catching a beautiful Caribbean sunset.

Try the signature drinks. The Lime & Coconut bar features its own selection of drinks not available elsewhere, so be sure to grab one of the menus and try them all (and they work with the drink package)!

Try El Loco Fresh. No day at the pool is complete without some grab-and-go Mexican food from El Loco Fresh. Located near the pool, it is easy to grab chips, quesadillas, tacos and more to bring back to your chair.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Sailings on Navigator fo the Seas will include at least one visit to Royal Caribbean's completely revamped private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

While Navigator is where most of the focus is right now, CocoCay is worthy of booking any cruise and will become an absolute highlight of any sailing.

Your visit at Perfect Day at CocoCay can include time at the beach, pool, or water park, and you can tack on a zip line or helium balloon ride, fantastic dining or even a cabana or day bed.

All cruise lines throw out words like "paradise", but CocoCay really hits all the high-notes for a fun day.

Perfect Day at CocoCay Tips

Check out our Do's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay!

Plan what you want to do before the cruise. Like so much of Royal Caribbean, you stand to greatly benefit by pre-booking as much as you can. Many things sell out, and booking in advance will be cheaper than waiting to book onboard.

Don't skip the food. CocoCay does not have just typical private island food. There is a tremendous variety, and almost all of it is complimentary! Be sure to try the crispy chicken sandwich and mozzarella sticks at the Snack Shack!

Drink & WiFi packages work at CocoCay: If you buy an unlimited drink package or internet package, those benefits extend to your time at Perfect Day at CocoCay. It greatly enhances the value of these packages by having a full day of use here.

Royal Caribbean expands options for guests affected by cancelled Allure of the Seas sailings from Galveston

In:
12Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

In the wake of Royal Caribbean's announcement that Allure of the Seas will not sail from Galveston in 2021 as planned due to a delay in construction of a new terminal, the cruise line is offering more choices to those on affected sailings.

There are now three options for anyone booked on Allure of the Seas from Galveston:

1. Move reservation to a corresponding reservation on a Liberty of the Seas sailing.

The original cruise fare will be price protected at the original cruise fare rate or reduced to the current cruise fare rate (whichever is lower). This excludes taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.

Holiday sailings (Christmas, New Year's, and Easter) are excluded from this option.

2. Full refund to the original form(s) of payment, including any non-refundable deposit.

Guests can expect to receive your refund 45 days after you submit their refund request.

3. Move reservation to any 7-night Caribbean itinerary within 4 weeks of their original sail date.

Guests have until July 7th, 2020 to let the cruise line know if they would like to change their sailing from Liberty of the Seas. 

These new choices come days after many guests took to social media to complain about the lack of choice involved in making a shift from an Oasis Class ship to a Freedom Class ship.

Originally, guests could either have their reservation moved to a Liberty of the Seas sailing, or get a 100% future cruise credit.

Royal Caribbean cited the new terminal delay was caused by the closure of shipyards along with the disruption to the supply chain. Thus, the cruise line decided to postpone construction of a new terminal in an effort to cut costs. The new target completion date for the terminal is September 1, 2022.

Royal Caribbean stock joins Wall Street plunge

In:
11Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The stock market took a big hit on Thursday, and Royal Caribbean's stock (RCL) was no exception, falling in value by double digits.

The cruise line's stock was down 14.28% at the close of trading, finishing the day at $54.51.

Travel stocks are no stranger to these downturns in the market, as travel-related companies were sharply lower across the board. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) was down 16.46% and Carnival Corp (CCL) was down 15.30%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a wide sell-off, due to fears of a COVID-19 second wave, along with a dire economic forecast by the U.S. Federal Reserve. 

Economic data appeared to back up the Fed’s dour economic projections, with jobless claims still more than double their peak during the Great Recession and continuing claims at an astoundingly high 20.9 million.

Deaths of Americans from COVID-19 could reach 200,000 in September, a grim result of the United States’ economic re-opening before getting growth of new cases down to a controllable level, according to a leading health expert.

Note: Matt Hochberg has no position in any of the stocks mentioned, nor does he own any cruise line stock.

Royal Caribbean pushes back China sailings return & cancels Denmark cruises

In:
11Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced more cruise cancellations caused by the current state of world health, as well as new regulations imposed by Denmark.

Instead of resuming China sailings in the beginning of July, Royal Caribbean has extended its cancellations through July 12, 2020 for Quantum of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas, as well as Voyager of the Seas sailings through September 2020.

The cruise line had cancelled all of its China sailings through the end of June during the last round of cancellations, but now the resumption of sailings in China may not begin until at least July 12.

Additionally, Copenhagen, Denmark has restricted all non-essential travel through August 31, 2020. As a result, the following sailings have been cancelled:

  • Brilliance of the Seas departing on August 21, 2020
  • Jewel of the Seas departing August 8 - 22, 2020

We continue to monitor the progress and evolution of the current environment as we begin to balance continued safety with a gradual return to normalcy. At the forefront, the health and well-being of our guests and crew, as well as the communities we visit, fuel the decisions we make as a corporation. As we work to prepare our ships for their operational return, extensive planning and research have proven essential.

Guests booked on any of the affected sailings have the following choices for compensation.

125% Future Cruise Credit to re-book a new cruise by December 31, 2021 for sailings departing on or before April 30th, 2022. This will automatically be issued by July 24th, 2020 via email if no action is taken.

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

Lift and Shift: If you prefer to move your cancelled booking to a 2021 sailing, you can take advantage of Royal Caribbean's new policy where the cruise line will price protect the original pricing and/or promotion on the same itinerary, length, product, and stateroom category as your original sailing within 4 weeks (before or after) of the original sail date in 2021.

You will need to contact your travel agent by June 25th to take advantage of this option.

100% Refund: if you prefer a full refund, you have until December 31, 2020 to request a refund and deactivate your certificate. You can expect to receive your refund 45 days after you submit your refund request.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean questions people are asking Google

In:
11Jun2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The internet is such a powerful tool for researching pretty much any topic, including learning about Royal Caribbean cruises.

Many cruisers, regardless of if they are first-timers or veterans, will take advantage of the wealth of information online to help answer questions and learn about new topics.  Heck, it is why this site was created!

One of my favorite video series are WIRED's Autocomplete interviews, where celebrities are asked questions based on what people are searching Google for about them.  In the spirit of those types of questions, here are the top 10 questions people are searching Google for about a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the best?

The "best" is a relative term, because what makes something great for one person may not matter to another. Just like favorite sports teams, restaurants, or airlines, every person ranks certain attributes higher than others.

I truly believe there is no one ship that is better than the rest, and I recommend a cruise on any of their ships.

However, I also recommend a first time cruiser research what a ship offers to ensure it is a good fit for them.  Not all Royal Caribbean ships are the same, and what the ship offers (and does not offer) may make it a better fit for someone.

What you want to do is identify which amenities, activities, venues and itineraries are included on a particular vessel and then determine which combination works best for you.

The key to finding the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship is not some arbitrary list compiled by a writer in Boca Raton. Rather, the best ship for you is the one that offers the types of features you are looking for in a ship.

Do you want a ship with a nursery? Water slides? A lot or a few specialty restaurants? Broadway shows? Top-level suites?

Picking the best cruise ship is about determining which ship has just the right combination of what you want onboard.

How much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean?

The exact cost of a Royal Caribbean drink package will vary from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing. There is no set amount across the fleet, so it greatly depends on which sailing you end up booking.

There are three types of drink packages offered on Royal Caribbean ships:

Deluxe Beverage Package

Better known as the unlimited alcohol package, this package offers a combination of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine by the glass, cocktails, most liquors, premium coffees & teas, bottled water, juice and more.

If purchased prior to your cruise on the Cruise Planner site, the Deluxe Beverage package often costs between $48 - $65 per guest, per night (excluding gratuity). The price will be higher if purchased onboard, usually between $63 - $70.00 per guest, per night.

Refreshment Package

The non-alcoholic drink package includes pretty much any drink that does not include alcohol on your cruise, such as mocktails, juices, coffee and teas.

The price per night of the Refreshment Package is $29.00 per guest (excluding gratuity).

Soda Package

A drink package that includes just soft drinks will cost you $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity).

What is the newest ship from Royal Caribbean?

As of the posting of this article, the newest Royal Caribbean cruise ship is Spectrum of the Seas. She is the first Quantum-Ultra-class cruise ship, and sails exclusively in Asia.

Spectrum of the Seas had her maiden voyage on April 18, 2019.

There are a number of new ships on order, set to debut at some point in the next few years. Prior to the global cruise shutdown, the schedule for new ships was for Odyssey of the Seas to debut in November 2020, and Wonder of the Seas in 2021.

What is included in a Royal Caribbean cruise?

There is quite a lot of value packed into what's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare, but understanding the breakdown of what is complimentary and what costs extra is a common concern.

The basics of what is included are:

  • Your stateroom cabin
  • Meals and snacks (at complimentary venues)
  • Select non-alcoholic beverages
  • Children's programming
  • Activities & shows
  • Signature activities & games
  • Fitness center access
  • Pools

The exact specifics of what is included will vary from ship to ship, but there is a general baseline across the fleet of what is included across the board. 

If you happen to book a suite, or are a top tier member of Crown and Anchor Society, you may get additional benefits and amenities included.

The bottom line is you can go on a cruise and never spend another dime and have a great vacation that leaves you rested, well-fed, and entertained. I do not think it is very likely many people actually go on a cruise and never spend anything extra, but there still is a tremendous value when you consider what is included with your cruise fare.

Why is Royal Caribbean the best cruise line?

Just like the question about the best cruise ship, what makes Royal Caribbean the best cruise line has no universal answer for everyone.

Royal Caribbean is known in the industry for offering fun vacations on cruise ships that pack a ton of entertainment and activities for a great price.

Their ships visit incredible destinations around the world, have two lovely private islands, and are very popular choices for families.

When it comes to picking the best cruise for kids, Royal Caribbean's newest and recently refurbished ships tend to be the best choices.  Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships offer the most dedicated space to kids programming, as well as the most onboard activities that kids (and their parents) will enjoy.  This includes rock climbing walls, ice skating, water slides and more.

How do I get the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Everyone wants to save money and get the lowest possible price on a cruise, so it is natural to seek out the best strategies for getting a great deal.  Here are the top ways anyone can do this:

Book early

The best prices for cruises are found early on when cabin inventory is highest. 

Royal Caribbean sells its cruises largely based on the concept of supply and demand. When a sailing is first offered, supply is at its highest because no one has purchase a stateroom yet. As time progress, more and more staterooms are reserved and stateroom inventory drops, so the price increases conversely.

The earlier you can book, the best chance you will have at getting a good price on your cruise.

Use a travel agent

Perhaps the most common mistake I see among first time cruisers is not using a good travel agent.

Travel agents should cost you nothing extra to use, and offer a substantial amount of experience and advice in helping you find the perfect sailing at the lowest price.

Having a travel agent will save you time, and perhaps money too.  They can also steer you away from common pitfalls, and are invaluable when problems occur. 

Take advantage of price drops

Throughout the year, Royal Caribbean offers various cruise sales: BOGO deals, 72 hour sales, WOW sales, leap day sales and more are offered and each promotion comes with it different pricing and booking incentives.

From when you book your cruise until the final payment date of your cruise, North American guests can cancel and rebook under the new promotions without any penalty (residents of other parts of the world need to check local laws and policies).

Go during slower times of the year

An easy way to knock hundreds of dollars off the cost of your cruise is to book a sailing when most others cannot go on a vacation.

In general, you will find lower fares if you are willing to cruise during the "shoulder seasons" and/or when school is usually in session.

This includes:

  • January (minus New Years holiday)
  • Most of February
  • May
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

Is Carnival or Royal Caribbean better?

This is a tough question to answer because it is is a very subjective question.

Both are mass-market cruise lines with big fleets of ships and visit a lot of common destinations. So what makes one better than the other?

First, I need to disclose I have never sailed on a Carnival cruise ship, and I run a blog about Royal Caribbean. So I am far from the most objective person in the world on this topic.

What makes Royal Caribbean stand out is their dedication to being a market leader. Their cruise ships are built to be destinations in and of themselves, and the cruise line has repeatedly been an innovator in the industry with many accomplishments.

The value offered is also something that stands out to me. How much you pay versus what you get for that money is something that seems to provide a great balance on Royal Caribbean's side of things.

Royal Caribbean's ships are the largest in the world, offer some incredible things to do onboard, and include the best private island experience in Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Which Royal Caribbean ship is best for adults?

The good news is there a lot of great choices for adults on any Royal Caribbean ship, so I think the best ship for anyone will be based on which options the ship has onboard.

If you want the greatest variety of dining and entertainment, an Oasis or Quantum Class ship is a solid choice because it offers the latest and greatest offerings by the cruise line.

That being said, the rest of the fleet offers a lot to like for adults. The Radiance Class ships have arguably the best adults-only solarium across the fleet, the amplified Voyager Class ships have a lot of the features from the Oasis Class at a fraction of the price, and many veteran cruisers appreciate the simplicity (and low price) on Majesty or Empress of the Seas.

The key is to look at what each ship offers (all Royal Caribbean ships have an adults-only Solarium pool), and weigh price, activities and where the ship sails.

Which is the oldest Royal Caribbean ship?

The oldest Royal Caribbean ship sailing in the fleet is Empress of the Seas.

Formerly known as Nordic Empress, Empress of the Seas was launched on August 25, 1989. The ship was actually retired, and then returned to Royal Caribbean's fleet after an 8 year absence.

Is Royal Caribbean all inclusive?

In short, no, Royal Caribbean cruises are not all inclusive, however, there are some add-ons you can purchase that will get you pretty darn close to an all inclusive cruise experience.

While a Royal Caribbean cruise includes a lot of things to do, dining, beverages and activities, there are still some elements that will cost you extra beyond the cruise fare:

  • Soft drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Shore excursions
  • Gratuities
  • WiFi
  • Specialty dining
  • Spa
  • Casino
  • Souvenirs
  • Photos

For all of these extra costs, you can opt to pay along the way (pay for it if/when you choose to use it), or purchase a package that includes some of these items for a fixed cost.

Regardless of which direction you take, in almost every case it is less expensive if you pre-purchase via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

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