Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - CocoCay

In:
16Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Our second day on Mariner of the Seas is taking us to the beautiful private island of CocoCay, and today we have a real surprise.

Our visit today marks the first time a Royal Caribbean ship is able to dock and disembark guests via the new pier.  After months of anticipation, the pier is operational and I was excited to disembark in a much simpler fashion.

The pier was not the only big change, as three new venues were in a “soft opening” for guests today that are part of the massive Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover: Oasis Lagoon pool, Chill Grill and Snack Shack.

I posted a ton of photos of these three venues here, so be sure to check them out if you have not seen them yet.

Oasis Lagoon is as impressive as it is large. It was fully open, including its giant swim up bar and water features.  As a “pool guy” (as in I prefer pools over the ocean), Oasis Lagoon might just be my new favorite spot! 

My daughters loved splashing at the pool, and we spent our afternoon enjoying the new venue.  I do hope they add more shade, because there is little to none to be found. Of course, this is a soft opening so changes are to be expected.

I am pretty sure when we come back to CocoCay next week we will spend most of our day at Oasis Lagoon.

During lunch I checked out the spread at Chill Grill, and was delighted to see more than just the typical CocoCay lunch fare.  In addition to hot dogs, burgers and ribs, there were Cuban sandwiches, build your own tacos, salsa bar, and more.  Great spread!

Prior to the cruise I booked a cabana and it was my first time trying a cabana at CocoCay. In years past, the cabanas were located elsewhere but these new cabanas are located just about in the middle of the beach area, with private beach and swimming area, exclusive buffet lunch, and the usual cabana amenities. 

I was able to snag the cabana for a steal of a price during a Cruise Planner sale, and it was worth every penny.

Weather-wise, today was perfect.  High temperatures in the low 80s, a gentle breeze and barely any clouds. 

Having walked CocoCay and checked out some of the progress being made, it is getting exciting seeing all of this come together.

All aboard was at 4:30pm and I think I got back onboard at 4pm, which is so much later than usual.  

The kids I think fell asleep before their head hit the bed for a nap while we got ready for dinner.

I promised my kids some time to check out the signature activities, so they got showered and changed quickly and we headed up to the SkyPad.

Luckily when we got there it was open exclusively to The Key guests, so we had no wait.  My oldest got to do try it out, while my four year old was too young/small to do the SkyPad but the staff allowed her to sit down and put on the virtual reality headset so she could see what her big sister was seeing. 

After the SkyPad we fed the kids and dropped them off at Adventure Ocean.

We had no dinner plans, but were able to get into Chops Grille and use our Diamond Plus BOGO free offer. It was a great meal and our waiter was terrific.

After dinner we enjoyed some beverages in the Bamboo Room, followed by The Quest!

The Quest is best described as an adult scavenger hunt, and I am proud to announce Michael and Sara from our group were victorious in representing our group and winning it all!

Stray Observations

  • This was a sign on some food to be delivered to the island, but I wanted to have a copy to affix to myself when I am stuck at home and missing a day like today.
  • Speaking of clever signs, I like this one too.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau, Bahamas.

First look at first new venues at Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
16Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean opened the first part of its major enhancement of its private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas docked at CocoCay today, marking the first time a Royal Caribbean ship docked and disembarked guests on the island.  The pier allows ships to forgo the tendering process.

We got a chance to look around at the three major new venues open on Perfect Day at CocoCay, the Oasis Lagoon pool, Snack Shack and Chill Grill.

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

 

Walkway from pier to the beach

Straw market shopping

Oasis Lagoon - the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean

Snack Shack

Chill Grill

The new pier, Oasis Lagoon and dining venues represent a major step in the private destination's transformation into Perfect Day at CocoCay.  The first phase of Perfect Day at CocoCay is officially scheduled to open in May with Thrill Waterpark, the Zip Line, Splashaway Bay aqua park, Up, Up and Away helium balloon, Captain Jack’s Galleon, Skipper’s Grill dining, Captain Jack’s dining, Chill Island, Chill Grill dining, and Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool slated to open. 

South Beach, Coco Beach Club and the overwater cabanas will open in December 2019.

Please note that these dates might be subject to change depending on the progress of construction.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is a $200 million upgrade to the cruise line's private island in the Bahamas that was first announced in March 2018.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
15Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Our next Royal Caribbean cruise is here and we are boarding the recently refurbished Mariner of the Seas for three sailings in a row!

We started off our day by staying in a Hampton Inn and Suites in Coconut Creek, which is about an hour north of downtown Miami.  Great hotel and served its purpose for a good pre-cruise hotel.

We hopped in the car in the morning and got to Terminal A at PortMiami by 9:45am and to my surprise the terminal was already open and allowing guests to check in.

We had completed the check-in via the Royal Caribbean app, so check-in was a breeze and boarding began right around 10:30am.

The last time we were on Mariner of the Seas was 10 years ago for our honeymoon, so returning to the ship is a bit of a homecoming for us.

In addition, we purchased The Key for this sailing to try it out.  For embarkation they invited Key guests to board in the same group as Diamond Plus and Diamond.  Since I’m Diamond Plus, it did not benefit us much.

One really nice benefit of The Key is you can drop off carry-on luggage and they will deliver it to your room.  I really loved this perk, because typically we end up hauling a bunch of things around until the room is ready.

Another Key benefit is we get lunch at Chops Grille.  I had just done Chops for lunch on Brilliance of the Seas last month, so I had a decent frame of reference for this meal.  The food was as good as always, but unfortunately the service was quite slow.  

After lunch the kids were biting at the chomp to do something more their speed, so we put on our swim suits and enjoyed a bit of pool time.  It was a bit rainy, but the sun was starting break through.

By this point the rooms were ready, so we went up to our room on deck 8.  We have a balcony stateroom towards the aft of the ship, and will be our room for the next three sailings. Our stateroom attendant, William, is terrific and very attentive.

Following muster drill, we started out enjoying sail away on a now much sunnier day on the helipad, but moved to the pool deck to get a bit of shade.

Being a three-night cruise, there is a lot of activities packed into the first day of the cruise.  Ice show, 70’s night, balloon drop, just to name a few. 

I took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean promptly at 7pm.

Next up was the ice show in Studio B. I cannot recall if it is the same show that we saw 10 years ago, but we got great seats.  With The Key, there was reserved seating but I found available seats that I preferred elsewhere.

The show was fun, and I generally enjoy the ice skating shows.  Good performers and a fun premise.

After the show it was up to the main dining room for dinner.  The waitress was able to bring my a serving of Indian curry, along with my favorite dish on the menu – spaghetti Bolognese.

Since we had second seating dinner at 8:30pm, once we were out of dinner it was time for music around the ship.  In lieu of the 70’s party on the Royal Promenade, we headed down the Schooner Bar for some sing along favorites.

Stray Observations

  • Cafe Promenade has a line for pizza and a line for everything else. 
  • Embarkation day cake is the best kind of cake.
  • We had a missing suitcase for quite a while, but luckily it showed up after our stateroom attendant tracked it down.
  • If you happened to be a Diamond Plus or higher, someone figured out you could buy a Voom package on day one and get a first day discount combined with the Diamond Plus discount for a grand total of $2 for the duration of the 3 night sailing.

Friday Photos - March 15, 2019

In:
15Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Friday is here and we are sharing our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos so that we can all get into a "cruise mood" for the upcoming weekend!

First up this week is a photo of an early sunset, as seen by Joe Moran on Freedom of the Seas.

Our next photo is a peek into the Royal Promenade from Central Park. Photo by Kinny Lee.

Iris shared this photo of Voyager of the Seas while docked in Penang, Malaysia.

Check out this sunrise photo from the South China Sea, taken from the aft of Voyager of the Seas by Rudi Steinmetz.

Kyle Ritch snapped this photo in Cozumel with sister ships Liberty and Freedom of the Seas docked near each other.

Next up is a photo by Jolynn hartford of a beautiful day in Labadee.

Our final photo this week is by Benedict Bellamy, and it is of Jewel of the Seas in Santorini.

Thank you to everyone who shared their photos with us this week. As always, we welcome all of our readers to share their favorite Royal Caribbean photos by using this form to submit them. Have a great weekend!

Spectrum of the Seas conveyance scheduled for March 19

In:
14Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Spectrum of the Seas, will have her conveyance down the River Ems on March 19, 2019 at 6:00pm.

Photo by Björn Haß

Spectrum of the Seas, is expected to leave Papenburg on Tuesday, March 19 and be transported on the Ems River to Eemshaven (Netherlands). The arrival in Eemshaven is scheduled for Thursday, March 21. After technical and nautical trials, Spectrum of the Seas arrives later in Bremerhaven.

Spectrum of the Seas' conveyance will take the ship from Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany along the Ems River to the North Sea.

The conveyance is scheduled to being at 6:00pm local time with a tentative timetable, which can be postponed due to weather or tide conditions:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

  • approx. 6:30 pm Ship in waiting position (Papenburg) 
  • approx. 7:00 pm Passing the Dockschleuse (Papenburg)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

  • approx. 01:30 am Passing the Weener Bridge (Weener) 
  • approx. 06:00 am Passing the Jann-Berghaus-Brücke (Leer) 
  • approx. 10:15 am Arrival Emsperrwerk (Gandersum) 
  • approx. 11: 45 am passing Emsperrwerk 
  • about 1:15 pm passing Emden

All information is subject to the wind and weather conditions, the water levels and thus without guarantee. Time shifts are possible at short notice!

The river conveyance is necessary because the Meyer Werft shipyard is located inland to avoid the North Sea's unpredicatability.

Royal Caribbean offers new travel protection option for New York state residents

In:
13Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Guests residing in New York State may no longer purchase Royal Caribbean Travel Protection/CruiseCare.  

As of February 5, 2019, Royal Caribbean stopped offering its form of travel insurance to New York Residents due to New York State regulations which applied to companies selling travel insurance. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd partnered with Aon, the service provider, to offer an alternative travel protection program for residents of all states, including New York, via www.travelcruisecare.com. This is effective and available immediately.

If a guest had Royal Caribbean Travel Protection/CruiseCare added to their reservation on 2/14/19 or prior, the benefit will be honored even if the Royal Caribbean Travel Protection / CruiseCare has not been paid in full. 

This new program can be purchased through www.travelcruisecare.com and will require 100% payment upfront. The certificate of insurance may look slightly different for the new product, but there will not be any other differences that would impact the guest experience.

Royal Caribbean announces new Winter 2020-2021 Caribbean sailings

In:
13Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announces the remaining 2020-2021 Winter Caribbean itineraries today, which include new ship combinations and itineraries from Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Adventure of the Seas will call Texas home for the first time in 2020, becoming the largest ship sailing short getaways from Galveston. Adventure will offer 4- and 5-night to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Adventure of the Seas will join Liberty of the Seas, which will be sailing 7-night Caribbean cruises year-round from Galveston (announced in Dec. 2018).

Enchantment of the Seas will sail south for the winter to homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the first time, following her summer season in Galveston. Sailing 7-night itineraries from  San Juan, Enchantment will visit islands in the Southern Caribbean. San Juan will continue to be the year-round homeport for Freedom of the Seas, which will be newly reimagined in March 2020 as part of the Royal Amplified fleet modernization program.

Explorer of the Seas, fresh off her Royal Amplification, will sail from Miami and off 5- and 9-night cruises. Select 5-night sailings will visit Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas.

Independence of the Seas will return to Fort Lauderdale in November 2020, sailing 4- and 5-night short getaways to the Western Caribbean and Nassau, The Bahamas..

Vision of the Seas will be offering 10- and 11-night cruises from Fort Lauderdale to the Southern Caribbean. 

Rhapsody of the Seas returns to her longtime homeport of Tampa in 2020, and include a Panama Canal crossing. Rhapsody’s regular 7-night itineraries will call on coveted Caribbean destinations, including Grand Cayman, Belize and Mexico. Also returning to her homeport in Tampa, Brilliance of the Seas will join Rhapsody for the season, continuing a mix of 4- and 5-night sailings to the Western Caribbean, perfect for short getaways and first-time cruise vacationers.

Seasonal winter Caribbean itineraries will be open to book the week of March 11, 2019. Crown & Anchor Society loyalty members will have access to book one day prior to the general opening date.

Mariner of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
13Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

This week's podcast episode is ready to go, as we present episode 293 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast for your downloading pleasure.

This week, Matt and Annette preview the plans for the 2019 Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise on Mariner of the Seas.

In this episode, Matt and Annette look at the idea behind a group cruise, along with what special events are planned for the group cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 293. 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!

5 things to love about Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

In:
12Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Have you cruised on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas? It may not be the newest or largest ship in the fleet, but Navigator of the Seas is a fantastic ship that just got a major refurbishment in 2019.

Once onboard Navigator of the Seas, it is easy to see why this ship is a lot of fun. Here are five of the many reasons we love Navigator of the Seas.

5. Bamboo Room

Featuring a Polynesian theme, the Bamboo Room is the perfect spot to chill and enjoy a cocktail or two.  Between the South Pacific vibe and creative cocktails, the Bamboo Room seems to always be a great spot for taking advantage of a drink package.

The Bamboo Room's menu of cocktails really stand out as special, and there is enough variety on the menu that you will almost certainly want to try as many as possible. There are even a few bites to eat too.

It is easy for many bars or lounges to look all too familiar, but Bamboo Room certainly offers that je ne sais quoi appeal.

4. Lime & Coconut

Speaking of places to have a good time, the revamped poolscape on Navigator of the Seas is headlined by the Lime & Coconut.  This three-level signature bar is a combination pool bar, party spot and place to be seen.

From its prime spot near the pool, the first two decks offer guests the perfect drinks fit for any vacation.  The third deck is a rooftop sun deck that is great at day or night.  In fact, Royal Caribbean designed this space to not just be a happening spot during the day, but at night as well. Nightlife on Navigator of the Seas is not limited to indoor spaces.

3. Family adventures

Without a doubt families will find lots to do on Navigator of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean redesigned spaces for kids and teens onboard.  This entails a reworked Adventure Ocean with plenty of space for free play fun, and a reimagined Living Room for teens with a backyard hideaway. 

If your family likes to try their skill, then head over to Studio B for a game of laser tag, where two forces face off in a battle for "Planet Z". 

Or, test your family's wit and determination with the escape room. You’ve only got 60 minutes to solve the mysteries of the latest Royal Escape Room challenge. A series of mind-bending puzzles and brain teasers must be completed before time is up.

Be sure to also head up to deck 12 for a round of mini golf.  The course has been updated and features some fun challenges.

2. Specialty restaurants

We love to indulge on any Royal Caribbean cruise with some great food, and Navigator of the Seas has plenty of it.  In addition to the terrific food included with your cruise, there are a number of great specialty restaurants to consider dining at onboard.

In 2019, Royal Caribbean added two new specialty dining options to Navigator: Hooked Seafood and Jamie's Italian.

Hooked Seafood serves up New England-inspired dishes in a casual eatery that features lobster, muscles, and lots of great seafood all around.

Jamie's Italian is not only the creation of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, but it features a new menu to Royal Caribbean's fleet centered around rustic Italian recipes.

Love sushi? Then you need to try Izumi for some fantastic creations that rival any sushi you have had on land.

Chops Grille is known across the fleet for amazing steaks that are tasty, cooked to perfection and a fan-favorite restaurant.  A terrific date night spot to be certain.

1. Water slides

Without a doubt, the main attraction on Navigator of the Seas are The Blaster and Riptide water slides.  This water slide duo is going to be a must-do for anyone looking to cruise on Navigator.

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.

Riptide is also new to Royal Caribbean, and is the cruise industry's only headfirst mat racer slide that finishes off with a a very, very wet.  Try to keep your eyes open for the views out the translucent tubes!

Your favorite

What is your favorite thing about Navigator of the Seas?  Is it on our list or do you have something you think is worth the cruise fare alone? Tell us about in this blog post's comments!

Spotted: Stateroom decoration packages in Cruise Planner

In:
12Mar2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Guests can now pre-purchase stateroom decoration packages directly from the Cruise Planner website.

For years, Royal Caribbean has offered stateroom decoration options from its Gifts website, but the option to have the cruise line decorate your stateroom to celebrate a special occasion is now available via the Cruise Planner site.

Located under the Internet & More tab of the Cruise Planner, Guests can choose between a variety of stateroom decoration motifs, including for a birthday or anniversary.

The room decorations include door décor, mirror clings, photo frames and more.

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