Friday Photos - September 14, 2018

In:
14Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Friday and welcome to another round of Friday Photos, where we share our readers favorite Royal Caribbean photos on the blog!  If you want to share your photos, just use this form to send them in!

We begin with this photo of Oasis of the Seas leaving Cozumel, as seen by Joel Torres from his balcony on Navigator of the Seas.

Helena Saint shared this photo of the Ultimate Abyss entrance on Symphony of the Seas.

Here is Serenade of the Seas docked in Alesund, Norway.  Photo by Mark.

Shane Paulo took this photo of Symphony of the Seas' inaugural visit to Naples, Italy.

Beth and Gordon were married on Harmony of the Seas 4/21/18 and had to have carousel photos!

Allen Shaffer spotted what used to be Splendour of the Seas .  She is now the Marella Discovery.

Our final photo this week is by Jeff LeBriton, and it is of Freedom of the Seas in the early morning preparing to dock in Cozumel.

Thank you to everyone that submitted their Royal Caribbean photos! If you want to include your photos in a future Friday Photos post, be sure to send them to us!

Hurricane season for cruises

In:
13Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Wondering if you should take a cruise during hurricane season?

Many cruisers contemplate going on a Royal Caribbean cruise during hurricane season, debating taking advantage of lower fare prices while weighing the possible impact of foul weather.  There are pros and cons to taking a cruise during this sometimes tumultuous time of year, and ultimately it depends on which factors are most important to you.  

The simple answer is going on a cruise during hurricane season is a great idea.  Prices are lower on average and the likelihood of a hurricane directly impacting your sailing is low.  Even when it does, the consequences are usually minor (i.e. substituting one port of call for another or changing itineraries).  

When is hurricane season?

The official dates for the Atlantic hurricane season are June 1 through November 30.  This is the time frame when the vast majority of storms form in the Atlantic Ocean The peak months for hurricanes in the Eastern Caribbean are mid-August to mid-September and in the Western Caribbean from mid-August to early November.

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force estimates there are 10 tropical storms on average per year, with six becoming hurricanes.  Most of the storms remain over the year, with about five hurricanes striking the coastline of the United States every three years.

Why cruise during hurricane season

The most compelling reason to take a Royal Caribbean cruise during hurricane season are the lower prices.  Discounts and low cruise fares are often found during the course of hurricane season, with great pricing usually in August through the end of October. 

The reason for the lower prices is most families are back in school and unwilling to take kids out of school for a vacation (especially since they may have just taken summer vacations earlier in the summer).  Moreover, the threat of hurricanes impacting cruise itineraries turns some folks off from booking, which results in more inventory being available.

What happens if there is a hurricane

While tropical storms can affect cruise sailings, the reality is a very small percentage of Royal Caribbean cruises are ever directly impacted by these storms. Royal Caribbean spends a great deal of time to plan around storms, and if a hurricane is likely to impact the scheduled route of a cruise ship, the ship will be rerouted in some way to avoid the path of the storm. This may result in scheduled ports of call being skipped and/or replaced with another port.

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has its own Chief Meteorologist that spends the summer months tracking all tropical storms, and working directly with the cruise line to make itinerary changes as necessary.

It is quite rare for a hurricane to cancel a sailing.  Most of the time, the ship simply goes in a different direction to steer well-clear of the storm.  Sometimes Royal Caribbean will reverse an itinerary, or change an Eastern Caribbean cruise into a Western Caribbean sailing. 

Trip insurance

If you are taking a cruise during hurricane season, you may want to consider getting a policy that covers travel disruptions related to the weather.  Royal Caribbean offers its own travel insurance, and a variety of third-parties sell travel insurance.  Like any insurance policy, it is important to review what the plan does and does not cover and when it kicks in.

In most cases, trip insurance policies can compensate you for trip delays, interruption and cancelation in the event of a major storm.  Trip insurance covers things like missing your flight or being re-routed due to weather.  It also covers being stuck unexpectedly in a city overnight and missing part of your cruise.

When it comes to travel insurance and hurricanes, the most important consideration is when a policy will cover you.  Often, cruisers think they can cancel a cruise prior to the storm actually impacting your plans.  Most plans do not allow for preemptively canceling a cruise due to a storm.  For the most part, you must still go on your cruise, wherever the ship may go, and only be able to collect compensation if the cruise or your travel plans are directly impacted by the storm (i.e. canceled flights, delays, etc).  Many people incorrectly think trip insurance is a safety net for canceling their cruise to avoid a storm completely.

Tips for a cruise during hurricane season

First and foremost, you need to be flexible when taking a cruise during hurricane season.  An altered itinerary, delayed flights or less than perfect weather are the most common scenarios someone may encounter as a result of a tropical storm.  The key is for you to mentally prepare for changes and be okay with it.

Part of being flexible is understanding that an itinerary change could occur, so any plans you have in a port of call should be equally flexible.  Planning a wedding, excursion of a lifetime, or meeting friends or family could all be impacted by a change in itinerary.  

Browse travel insurance plans after you book your cruise and see if one makes sense for you.  Everyone's risk tolerance is different, but having that piece of mind that insurance provides is a tremendous benefit.

If you see a storm is formed and could possibly impact your sailing, be sure to follow Royal Caribbean and James Van Fleet on Twitter for updates on any impact. Your travel agent will also inform you if they are apprised of any changes.

New England & Canada listener cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
12Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 267 is available for downloading featuring a review of a podcast listener's recent Canada & New England cruise on Adventure of the Seas.

Podcast listener James joins Matt this week to talk about his recent cruise on Adventure of the Seas.  James shares his experiences onboard Adventure, as well as what he did on shore.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 267. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher 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!

Royal Caribbean now allowing pre-cruise purchases up to one day prior to sailing

In:
12Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Select Royal Caribbean ships will now allow guests to make pre-cruise purchases on shore excursions, specialty restaurants, beverage packages and more just one day prior to their sailing.

Pre-cruise purchases can be made via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. Here is the list of ships and which sailing the new policy is effective:

  • Allure of the Seas: 9/16/18
  • Anthem of the Seas: 9/15/18
  • Harmony of the Seas: 9/15/18
  • Oasis of the Seas: 9/16/18
  • Grandeur of the Seas: 9/13/18
  • Adventure of the Seas: 9/17/18
  • Brilliance of the Seas: 9/17/18
  • Liberty of the Seas: Effective Immediately

Prior to this change, pre-cruise purchases were cut off a few days prior to the sailing.

Video: Spectrum of the Seas construction update

In:
11Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Spectrum of the Seas is another step closer to completion. The ship’s two large megablocks were merged and fastened together at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg Germany – the latest milestone in her unique building process. Spectrum is scheduled for delivery in 2019.

Hurricane Florence causes Royal Caribbean cruise to stay in Florida until storm passes

In:
10Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced that due to Hurricane Florence's forecasted track, Grandeur of the Seas will wait out the storm in Port Canaveral, Florida until it is safe to return to Baltimore.

Grandeur of the Seas is currently in the Bahamas and sailing on a previously modified itinerary to avoid the path of Florence.  Royal Caribbean issued an update for the September 8th sailing today, "The ship will have a full day in Nassau, Bahamas on Tuesday, September 11th, and will then set sail to Port Canaveral, Florida where she will be in port on Wednesday, September 12th and Thursday, September 13th. We expect Grandeur to arrive in Baltimore no later than Sunday, September 16th."

As a result, the scheduled September 13th Grandeur of the Seas sailing is being finalized pending the return of the ship to Baltimore, "The departure date and time, as well as the itinerary, are currently being finalized. We do not expect the departure date to be later than Sunday, September 16th."

Another update by Royal Caribbean on the status of the Grandeur of the Seas upcoming sailing is scheduled for 7pm EDT on September 11th.

Royal Caribbean trademarks three new ship names

In:
10Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has trademarked three new ship names that could be the names of new cruise ships in the future.

The cruise line registered Eon of the Seas, Gallant of the Seas and Phenom of the Seas via the United States Patent and Trademark Office last week.

It is worth noting that Royal Caribbean has registered other cruise ship names that it never ended up using for actual ships. Joy of the Seas and Apex of the Seas were registered back in 2017 and have yet to be used.

Royal Caribbean currently has four unnamed ships on order, in addition to Spectrum of the Seas.

Tip of the hat to Lloyd Marchand for alerting us to this news.

How to get cheap cruise deals

In:
10Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are trying to find a cheap Royal Caribbean cruise deal, there a few good strategies that you can employ to narrow your search down and lock in on a great rate.  Royal Caribbean offers a tremendous value across its sailings, and sometimes you can snag an even better deal on select sailings.

Competition in the cruise industry to outdo each other and offer new cruisers greater incentives to try a cruise vacation means there can be significant savings to reap, thanks to various sales promotions and offers.  

It is important to realize that what constitutes a good deal is in the eye of the beholder, as value is a relative proposition. This means that finding a cheap cruise deal is more about finding a price that works for your budget, rather than scouring the internet for a bargain basement price.  With cruising as popular as ever, finding ridiculously low rates is not that realistic.  With that being said, there are definitely deals to be found and here is our strategies for finding the best ones!

Book early

The best strategy for getting the lowest price on a Royal Caribbean cruise is to book your cruise as early as you can.  Royal Caribbean's prices tend to go up over time, as more and more guests book up rooms.  As a result, we find the lowest prices tend to be offered early, especially for shorter sailings.

If you can book at least six months in advance, you will likely lock in a much lower price.  If you can get in on new sailings when they are announced, you will find often the lowest prices that are regularly offered by the cruise line.  Pricing for staterooms is not an exact science, but in general, the more rooms that are booked up, the less inventory left and thus, higher prices.  By booking early, you will avoid the peak prices that will be offered later.

Booking early is especially important for high-demand sailings, such as the summer, holiday weeks (Christmas, New Years, Spring Break, et al).  These sailings will always command higher prices, so the key for getting the lowest price on these cruises is to book early.

Short sailings (less than five nights) tend to be booked much closer to the sail date than longer sailings, so we find that if you can book nine to twelve months in advance (or earlier), significant savings can be found.

Check for price drops

If you live in a country where you can adjust the price of your cruise prior to final payment date (United States, Canada, Australia....sorry, not the United Kingdom), then a really good strategy is to check regularly for price drops.

The basic premise of this strategy is to re-price your booked sailing and see if the price has changed.  If the price has gone down on the category stateroom you booked and you are before final payment date, you can contact your travel agent to adjust the price.

In terms of how often to check for price drops, the most practical strategy is to check when a new sales promotion is announced.  Some folks will check daily, but that may be a bit aggressive for our taste.  You will want to check periodically, although if you employed our first tip and booked your cruise early, you may find the price you locked in is already a great rate.

Skip the newest ships

Royal Caribbean places a premium on its newest cruise ships, since they are the "latest and greatest" cruise ships available and have the highest demand.  While we love the amazing innovations these new ships offer, if you are looking for a cheap cruise deal, they are found in the established ships in the fleet.

As new ships enter the fleet, their net effect is pricing for older ships in the fleet tends to go down. Think of it in broad terms like new cars.  New car models are priced higher than last year's model.  

Royal Caribbean's Freedom, Voyager, Radiance and Vision class ships are priced extremely well, and price savvy consumers will often find terrific bargains on these ships.

If you are concerned that an older ship will mean a boring or less-exciting time, fear not. Royal Caribbean spends millions of dollars in ship revitalizations that have added new activities, features and amenities that almost make them feel like new ships.

Use a travel agent

One of the best resources for finding a great deal is a good travel agent.  It is their job to stay informed of promotions, price drops, special sailings and more.  

Travel agents work directly with the cruise lines and they have additional information at their disposal to get you a lower price.  There are special group bookings, internal agency promotions and even special discounts for select travel agents that no internet search will return.  Moreover, a good travel agent will work with you to get the best price not just at the time of booking, but all the way until your final payment date. 

A good strategy for picking a travel agency is to contact them for a quote and to ask the agent a few other questions about prices, the cruise or any other concern you may have.  The point of this is to get a sense of their level of responsiveness and service.  Finding a good partner in a travel agent can make your life so much easier, and I think that is far more important than someone else offering you an extra $20 discount.

Be sure to ask your travel agent about something called the "Going, Going, Gone" rates.  These are weekly deals offered by Royal Caribbean on select last-minute sailings that the cruise line wants to fill up.  

Guarantee cabins

If you are not picky about where your stateroom is located, booking a guarantee stateroom can save you a lot of money.

Guarantee staterooms are a tool that Royal Caribbean uses to help fill in empty staterooms. Basically, the cruise line offers a discounted rate for a guarantee room, which means if you book this rate, the cruise line will assign a room of at least the category you chose for less than someone who picks their stateroom number.

The "catch" to a guarantee room is that Royal Caribbean will assign your room number at some point between when you book the stateroom and your sail date.  You are essentially trading the ability to pick your stateroom location for a lower cruise fare.

Non-refundable rates

The lowest cruise fares these days tend to be for non-refundable cruise fares.  Like the airline and car rental industries, Royal Caribbean will offer you a lower price on a cruise if you commit to a particular ship and sail date rather than booking a fare that allows for a full refund.

Most staterooms will offer a refundable and non-refundable rate.  The non-refundable rate will be lower than the standard fare during brand promotions.  The "catch" is if you want to cancel the booking, or change the sail date and/or ship, you will incur a $100 per guest change fee for each qualifying change made to the reservation. There is no limit on the number of change fees that can be incurred.

If you are certain of the sailing you want to go on, then there is little risk with booking a non-refundable rate.  It is important to understand the consequences of having to change your booking later prior to committing to this option.

Cruise in shoulder seasons

If you can go on a cruise in the slower times of the year, referred to as the shoulder season, you can net some deeply discounted cruise prices.  These are times of the year when most guests are unable or unwilling to go on a cruise.  Typically this is when school is still in session and/or immediately before or after a common time for vacations.

If you want to target these slower times of the year, consider cruises during:

  • January (minus New Years)
  • First two weeks of February
  • Early May
  • September
  • October
  • Early November (minus the weeks of Veterans Day and/or Thanksgiving)
  • First two weeks of December

As you can tell from the time of the year listed, you are trying to avoid holidays when families look to go on vacation.  Those times of the year are when there are built-in days off of school or work, and as a result, there is higher demand for cruises.

Look for special rates

Royal Caribbean offers special residency and occupational rates that can net even greater savings on a cruise fare.  Royal Caribbean offers regularly special rates on select sailings to members of the U.S. and Canadian military, senior citizens, first responders, interline personnel, and even residents of certain states or countries.

The exact discount and eligibility rules will vary, so your best bet is to inform your travel agent of any of these you may qualify for. Certainly a good travel agent may ask you in advance if you are a veteran or what your occupation is, but it is important to be aware of these types of discounts.

Residency discounts are especially good to key in on, such as residents of Florida, where you may find cheaper deals on select sailings.  During the booking, be sure to mention your home city and state to see if there are any special rates available.

Repositioning cruises

One of the best values in cruising are repositioning cruises, where the cruise begins in one port and concludes the cruise in a different port.  These types of sailings often feature very low prices per night, along with longer sailings.

One-way repositioning cruises, such as transatlantic or open-jaw sailings, are priced lower because airfare prices tend to drive up the total cost of the vacation and thus, less guests are interested in booking them. 

Many veteran cruisers will tell you repositioning cruises are some of the cheapest cruises around, in addition to being a quite enjoyable cruise experience.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 9, 2018

In:
09Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Thank you for joining us for this a look at all the Royal Caribbean news from this week. We had plenty to share, so let us jump right in!

Have you been struggling to decide between My Time Dining and Traditional?  Royal Caribbean offers two dinner options in the Main Dining Room and this week we broke down the pros and cons of both.

Each dinner option offers guests a style of dining and time of evening to match an individual cruiser's preference.  If you are wondering if traditional dining or My Time Dining is a better choice for you, then we have a comprehensive look at what each choice offers.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 266th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we share a podcast listener's review of Freedom of the Seas.

In this episode, Jose talks about his Freedom of the Seas cruise to the Southern Caribbean.  Jose shared his experiences on Freedom of the Seas, as well as what he did on shore.

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.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Cruise Industry News reports that Royal Caribbean is now the largest player in Canada/New England.

Cruise Habit posted a hurricane status board to keep track of storm-related itinerary changes.

Cruiseline.com wrote about 6 cruise ship innovations that sounded better on paper.

Royal Caribbean alters Grandeur of the Seas itinerary to avoid Hurricane Florence

In:
07Sep2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has made a slight modification to an upcoming Grandeur of the Seas sailing to keep the ship out of the path of Hurricane Florence.

Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet issued an update today that the September 8th sailing of Grandeur of the Seas will switch to an overnight in Nassau, Bahamas itinerary to, "ensure we stay out of any potential NorthEast Quadrant, if the track of Florence unexpectedly shifts."

This means Grandeur of the Seas will skip a scheduled stop at Kings Wharf, Bermuda and instead sail to the Bahamas.

Florence became the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.  Weather forecasters say it's too early to tell if the storm will make landfall somewhere on the East Coast, or if it will turn harmlessly back to sea.

Pages