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Royal Caribbean accidentally sells cruise ship passenger VIP pass and refunds purchases

14 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

It turns out the amazing deal Royal Caribbean has for a new VIP pass was indeed too good to be true. 

Side of Navigator of the Seas

Over the weekend Royal Caribbean added a new package to its website that appeared to be a new extra cost pass. It included WiFi, exclusive tours and more at a bargain price.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. 

On Monday, Royal Caribbean sent guests an email to inform them that Premier Pass was a "system glitch" and was never intended to be put on sale in the first place.

Premier Pass logo

Premier Pass listed all sorts of benefits, such as dinner with an officer, internet access, and more.

Royal Caribbean removed the Premier Pass option, cancelled all purchases, and will issue refunds.

In the email sent to guests that purchased Premier Pass, the cruise line admitted the benefits sound incredible, but are, " all things that would be operationally unsustainable" to actually offer.

Royal Caribbean International Assistant Vice President of Guest Experience, Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, wrote in the email, " In reading all of the social media threads – I’ve seen many guests mention that it was “way too good to be true”, and unfortunately, that’s the truth."

The email alludes to the fact so many people purchased the pass simply by way of word of mouth, which also made it impossible to carry through with.

Royal Caribbean is offering guests $50 USD Onboard Credit as a way of making up for the mistake.

Unfortunately, it looks like some people got more onboard credit than they should have received, because the system gave them $50 per person initially.


Anyone that spent the money immediately on a new purchase, received an email to inform them that the purchase they made was no longer paid in full and they needed to make up the difference.

"Just got the same email- now I OWE Royal $100!!," is what Carlyn3 posted after encountering the onboard credit error.

Cruise fan reactions

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

As soon as the emails went out, cruisers shared their thoughts on the mix-up.

On the Royal Caribbean message boards, there were plenty of comments on the cancellation.

Rakaia wrote, "Hey, $50 I didn't have before. I'll take it."

Montemy2419 posted, "Nice of them to give the gesture because if they didn't give a little something then the backlash would of been bad."

Wilson wrote, "This is a hot mess."

Shore excursion price mistake

Minutes after the email was sent about Premier Pass, another email went out to anyone that booked an Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark tour. 

There was a price mistake for this popular Bahamas shore excursion, and purchases will also be cancelled and refunded.

Just like the Premier Pass, anyone that booked the Aquaventure at the mistake price will receive $50 USD Onboard Credit.

Another glitch

This week's issues are not Royal Caribbean's first notable internet sale error.

The most notable one was in 2019 when Royal Caribbean's website listed the Deluxe Beverage Package for $18 per day, per person.

At the time, the drink package was usually listed for $40-50 per person, per day (it now costs significantly more than that).

Royal Caribbean went on to honor that pricing goof.

Utopia of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

13 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Utopia of the Seas will be the sixth ship in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class when she launches in 2024, and she will also be one of the biggest cruise ships in the world.

Royal Caribbean has not released many details about Utopia of the Seas, but this page will be updated whenever Royal Caribbean announces more information about the ship’s amenities and features.

Like all Oasis Class ships, many people are eager for the launch of Utopia of the Seas. The ship is sure to provide high quality entertainment, modern accommodations, diverse dining venues, and a plethora of activities for guests of all ages.

Here is a look at everything we know about Utopia of the Seas.

Utopia of the Seas facts

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Utopia of the Seas is the final ship in the Oasis Class, unless Royal Caribbean decides to order additional Oasis Class cruise ships in the future.

Information on entertainment, restaurants, cabin categories, and activities have not yet been announced. However, It’s expected that Utopia of the Seas will share the same features of other ships in the class, including:

  • Open-air Central Park neighborhood
  • Outdoor boardwalk neighborhood with restaurants, shops, and family-friendly activities
  • AquaTheater entertainment venue
  • The Ultimate Abyss dry slide
  • Ice skating rink
  • Waterslides
  • Two story Royal Promenade

The fifth Oasis Class ship, Wonder of the Seas, has a slightly different layout compared to previous Oasis Class ships. She features a large suites-only neighborhood, larger Windjammer buffet, and climate-controlled Solarium.

Wonder of the Seas carousel

Related: Wonder of the Seas vs other Oasis Class ships

It’s unknown whether Utopia of the Seas will share the same design as Wonder of the Seas, or if she will be constructed more similarly to previous Oasis Class ships like Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

Utopia of the Seas construction

Utopia of the Seas is under construction at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. The ship began construction in April 2022.

Utopia of the Seas will be 362m (1,188 ft.) with around 2,800 cabins. Like other Oasis Class ships, it’s expected that Utopia of the Seas will weigh over 230,000 gross tons and have a maximum capacity of around 7,000 guests.

This will make Utopia of the Seas about the same size as other Oasis Class ships, but smaller than the Icon Class cruise ships.

When will Utopia of the Seas be delivered?

Utopia of the Seas is scheduled for delivery to Royal Caribbean in the spring of 2024. Cruise ship delivery is the transfer of ownership of the ship from the shipyard to the buyer, in this case Royal Caribbean. This marks an important milestone in the construction process.

Delivery, however, does not mean the ship begins sailing with passengers in spring 2024. Wonder of the Seas, for example, was delivered to Royal Caribbean in January 2022, but her inaugural sailing was not until March 4, 2022.

Regardless, we can expect the inaugural sailing of Utopia of the Seas to be sometime in the late spring or summer of 2024.


Utopia of the Seas will be the first Oasis Class cruise ship to be powered by Liquified Natural Gas, or LNG. LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel that can power ships today. It has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by around 30%, sulfur emissions by nearly 100%, and nitrogen oxide emissions by around 85%.

Related: Which Royal Caribbean ships are powered by LNG?

In addition to being powered by LNG, Utopia of the Seas will continue the environmentally-friendly practices found on other Royal Caribbean ships, including shore power connection and waste heat recovery applications.

Utopia of the Seas itineraries

Ship at CocoCay

It’s not yet known from which port Utopia of the Seas will offer cruises. Royal Caribbean sends most of its new ships to South Florida, where they cruise to the Caribbean from either Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

Currently, though, there are already three Oasis Class ships and one Icon Class ship sailing from South Florida from spring 2024 to spring 2025. Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, and Icon of the Seas will offer Caribbean cruises during this time frame.

It’s possible that Royal Caribbean will also deploy Utopia of the Seas to Miami or Fort Lauderdale in addition to the other vessels. It’s also possible, however, that Utopia of the Seas may take the place of one of these ships.

There has been other speculation that Utopia of the Seas could be sent to a different region of the world instead of Florida, but no concrete information has been announced yet.

Why hasn't Royal Caribbean announced more information about Utopia of the Seas?

Compared to Icon of the Seas, there has been little information announced about Utopia of the Seas. Some Royal Caribbean fans have been curious as to why we’ve heard little about the ship, but there are a few reasons why this might be the case.

The first is that Royal Caribbean is driving most of their marketing efforts toward Icon of the Seas. When a cruise line prepares to launch a new ship, they want the consumers to focus on what’s next, not what is further down the line.

Building hype and excitement about Icon of the Seas will lead many people to book a sailing on the ship. If these same consumers were to see promotional material for Utopia of the Seas, they could change their mind and book a cruise on Utopia instead.

Related: Icon of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

Overhead concept art for Icon of the Seas

The other reason why there has been little information announced about Utopia of the Seas is that Utopia is the sixth ship in her class whereas Icon of the Seas is the first.

Royal Caribbean has not launched a new class of ships since the Quantum Class in 2014, so there is a lot of excitement about the Icon Class. A completely new layout and unique offerings like a waterpark and indoor AquaDome currently make Icon of the Seas more newsworthy than Utopia of the Seas.

We should expect to hear more about Utopia of the Seas throughout this year and early next year, so be sure to check back periodically for new updates.

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: March 12, 2023

12 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

Happy weekend! We hope you remembered to Spring Forward! Here’s all the Royal Caribbean news this week!

Royal Caribbean has moved forward with its beach club in The Bahamas.

Royal Beach Club concept art

The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island will now open sometime in 2025, following the cruise line receiving approval from The Bahamas to move forward with the project.

The 17-acre destination experience will offer "the ultimate beach day" as it will combine the island’s striking beaches with the cruise line’s signature experiences.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 490th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, and shares why you might not want to book the cheapest cruise you can find.

It's tempting to find pick a cruise based purely on price, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn't.

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: I spent $600 on cruise drink package & I think it was worth it!

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 — I spent $600 on cruise drink package & I think it was worth it! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Why I almost always stay in a cruise ship inside cabin

Inside cabin on Symphony of the Seas

An inside cabin will cost less than a balcony or suite, and it often makes a lot of sense to go with these kinds of rooms.

Inside cabins definitely aren’t for everyone, but Jenna prefers to stay in them for the great savings they provide.

From a quieter cabin to a perfect night’s sleep, she'll never complain about cruising in a cozy inside room.

Beginner's guide to planning a cruise

Allure of the Seas docked

From money saving advice to travel hacks to mistakes to avoid, here's our best advice on planning your first cruise.

Cruising is easier than it looks, but like any form of travel, there are lots of considerations and important do's and don'ts when it comes to doing it well. 

Our guide will provide you the perfect place to start planning a first cruise.

I just spent 11 nights on Celebrity Edge – did it live up to the hype?

Chantal spent 11-nights on Celebrity Edge to see what the fuss is all about this new class of ship.

Innovative, revolutionary, and bold are all words used to describe the first in the new class of ships from Celebrity Cruises.

Having never sailed on an Edge series ship, Chantal shares her thoughts on this kind of Celebrity cruise.

Royal Caribbean launches new cruise VIP package

11 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

UPDATE MARCH 13: Royal Caribbean canceled and refunded any Premier Pass purchases.

UPDATE MARCH 12: It appears this package is a mistake and was never intended to be sold to Royal Caribbean guests.

On Sunday morning, Royal Caribbean's social media channels shared updates with guests that the package was mistakenly offered.

Thanks to Michael Poole for providing this screenshot.


If you want to get an all-in-one add-on for your Royal Caribbean cruise that includes a bunch of extras, there's a new option for you.

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Royal Caribbean is now offering Premier Pass, which is a new priority access program.

Royal Caribbean's original add-on perks package, The Key, is still available, but Premier Pass offers a different set of amenities aimed at offering the, "newest and most innovative vacation package."

Purchasing Premier Pass gets you VIP access, internet access, and service amenities you might not otherwise get unless you stayed in a suite or had an upper echelon Crown and Anchor Society level.

Premier Pass logo

Here's what's included with the Premier Pass:

  • Welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation
  • Inside Access tour (two guests)
  • Officer's lunch (two guests)
  • Unlimited internet access (two devices)
  • Captain's toast and photo
  • Wine pairing with sommelier (two guests) - wine is complimentary
  • Laundry service (one bag per stateroom)

Basically, it's a way to board the ship faster and get VIP treatment at select events.

Premier Pass description

This new package includes some perks of The Key, but excludes priority activity access. Instead, it has more experiences and tours as part of its deal.

"Introducing Premier Pass, our newest and most innovative vacation package for 2 guests. It offers a series of unique cruise experiences to elevate your vacation to the next luxurious level. Purchase the Premier Pass before you sail and enjoy VIP access to the ship, including priority boarding. You’ll have a bottle of Veuve Clicquot waiting in your stateroom when you arrive - just our way of saying Welcome aboard.

Your pass includes our most popular Inside Access Tour where you’ll discover the inner workings of the ship from the bridge to the engine room. Your pass also includes a meal with one of the ship’s officers, complete with a photo of you and the captain.

During your sailing, you’ll savor an exclusive food and wine pairing. Keep in touch with unlimited internet access for two devices. Look your best in every port with personal laundry service on board."

Cruise Planner on an iPad

The new option is located under the "Packages" tab in the Cruise Planner, although I was only able to spot it for one of my upcoming cruises on Mariner of the Seas. RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bob Rogers spotted it for his Allure of the Seas cruise, so it's possible it's only available on select ships so far.

The cost of the Premier Pass is advertised for both of our sailings at $88.99 and it covers two guests.

How can I buy the package?

Premier Pass in Cruise Planner

You must purchase Premier Pass online before your cruise begins. 

After a cruise is booked, go to Royal Caribbean's site, log in to your account and click on "Cruise Planner." 

Why buy Premier Pass?

The appeal of any VIP package for a cruise is a way to enjoy added benefits without spending the money for a suite or having sufficient loyalty program points.

Buying Premier Pass gets you VIP benefits at a more affordable price, especially for new cruisers.

Stock VIP pass

In short, the Premier Pass is all about getting exclusive benefits, if you value them. It's a way to feel like a VIP on your cruise, especially on embarkation and disembarkation day.

Like The Key, it's not essential to have, but it's certainly a nice add-on for those that want something special and wouldn't otherwise have similar benefits.

How is Premier Pass different than The Key?

Key entrance

It appears thus far, The Key and Premier Pass will both be offered, as both options were available on sailings I was able to see Premier Pass listed.

Having not tried Premier Pass yet, it seems based on the description they are some benefits that are similar with most not.

First and foremost, one Premier Pass purchase is for two people, whereas The Key has a per-person price.

Additionally, The Key must be purchased prior to sailing by each guest age 6 or older assigned to the same stateroom. There is no such requirement of Premier Pass.

The Key is priced per night of the cruise, whereas Premier Pass is a fixed price for the entire voyage.

Both passes include Internet access for the duration of the cruise. Both will get you on the ship faster with priority embarkation, as well as priority disembarkation.

Beyond that, the list of benefits diverge from each other.

What's included with The Key

  • Priority access into the terminal (within booked arrival time) on Day 1.
  • Carry-on bag drop off and delivery to stateroom. Drop-off your carry-on bags in the Main Dining Room until 1:30pm.
  • Private time at onboard activities including Rock Climbing, FlowRider and more.
  • Priority departure at tender ports of call from ship-to-shore.
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille Lunch menu.
  • Seats in the exclusive VIP seating section at shows in the Main Theatre, Aqua Theater, Studio B and Two70 (reservation is needed).
  • VOOM ® Surf & Stream 1 Device high speed internet.
  • On debarkation day, enjoy an exclusive à la carte breakfast and choice departure.
water slides on Symphony

What's included with Premier Pass

  • Welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation
  • Inside Access tour (two guests)
  • Officer's lunch (two guests)
  • Unlimited internet access (two devices)
  • Captain's toast and photo
  • Wine pairing with sommelier (two guests) - wine is complimentary
  • Laundry service (one bag per stateroom)

Reserved times for shows and activities are at the heart of what The Key offers, whereas Premier Pass includes more experiences.

I always stay in an inside cabin on a cruise ship. Here's why I actually like these rooms

10 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

I almost always book an inside cabin when I cruise. Despite being the smallest, most basic cruise ship cabins, I find that I actually like these rooms.

Not only do inside cabins save me money, but I find they come with extra perks as well. From a quieter cabin to a perfect night’s sleep, I’ll never complain about cruising in a cozy inside room.

Inside cabins definitely aren’t for everyone, though. If you value the added space of a balcony or the exclusivity of a suite, a tiny, windowless room will not be the best choice. Likewise, having natural daylight in the room is a major plus for many cruisers, making an inside cabin a last resort.

Nonetheless, I continue to book inside cabins again and again when I cruise, and here’s why I actually like these rooms.

Inside cabins are the quietest cabins onboard

A few months ago, I stayed in a Boardwalk balcony cabin on Allure of the Seas. Although I appreciated the room’s extra space and balcony views, I found the cabin to be much too noisy for my liking.

The Boardwalk neighborhood is full of activity during both the day and evening, and it was much louder than I expected when I initially booked the cabin.

Related: Are Boardwalk Balcony cabins too loud?

The carousel, in particular, drove me a little crazy. My balcony was located directly two decks above the carousel, which played carnival-themed music for over ten hours each day! Even with the door closed, I couldn’t stop the muffled sound of music entering my cabin.

An inside room, on the other hand, is impressively quiet. On my recent cruise, I rarely heard any noise above, below, or adjacent to my cabin. If I heard noise, it was almost always the loud flushing sound of a cruise ship toilet!

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Cabins with balconies are more prone to noise, especially those located near the pool deck or within Central Park and the Boardwalk neighborhoods. You may find yourself hearing music, conversations, or activities happening from your balcony, which you won’t encounter when staying in an inside room.

Related: Avoid these mistakes when picking a cruise ship cabin

Of course, you can still encounter noise in inside cabins. Older cruise ships, for example, have thinner walls than Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, which may help noise travel from room to room. In addition, booking an inside cabin above or below a busy area of the ship—such as a nightclub or Adventure Ocean—can lead to increased noise levels.

In my experience, however, inside cabins have been more quiet than other staterooms.

Inside cabins are cheaper than other cabins, and this stretches my budget much further

Inside cabins are almost always the cheapest cabin you can book on a cruise. As someone who prefers cruising on a budget, this is the primary reason I book inside cabins.

I’ve been on 16 cruises, and I’ve spent 11 of them in inside cabins. By doing so, I’ve saved thousands of dollars. Had I spent every cruise in an oceanview, balcony, or suite, I probably would not have been able to cruise nearly as much as I have!

Related: I'm a budget cruiser. Here are 8 easy strategies I used on my recent Royal Caribbean cruise to save money

Booking an inside cabin means I can stretch my vacation budget further. On my recent cruise, I saved around $500 by sailing in an inside room instead of a balcony cabin. This $500 was put towards flights to Miami, shore excursions in port, specialty dining, and other incidental expenses during the cruise.

This isn’t to say I’ll never sail in other cruise cabins. Recently, in fact, I sailed in one of Royal Caribbean’s most expensive and luxurious suites, and it was certainly an experience I’ll cherish for a long time.

Related: I cruised in a suite for the first time. Here are 5 things I learned from the experience—and 3 I’d do differently next time

Additionally, I always reprice my cruise and email my travel agent about upgrade options before my sail date. Several times, I’ve been surprised to see upgrade options for as little as $90 from an inside to balcony cabin. It’s always worth asking if prices have gone down prior to your sail date.

I sleep the best in inside cabins, as there is no natural light in the room

There’s nothing quite like the sleep you’ll get in an interior room on a cruise ship. Having no window or balcony to the outside means these rooms are pitch black when you turn the light off. For most passengers, including myself, this leads to a fantastic night’s sleep.

Not only that, but taking a midday nap is easy when sailing in an interior cabin. I have a hard time napping at home, as I can never properly fall asleep with daylight shining through my window. In an inside room, though, I have no problem sleeping at any time of the day, whether 3AM or 3PM!

A post-port day nap is one of my favorite parts of cruising, and it’s even better when staying in an inside room!

Not all inside cabins lack outdoor views

Certain Royal Caribbean ships have a virtual balcony, which is a large, floor-to-ceiling television screen projecting a live feed from outside the ship. Having stayed in two virtual balcony cabins, I find these to be a nice way to get an outside view at a fraction of the cost of a balcony cabin.

I’ll admit the virtual balcony doesn’t necessarily make you feel like you’re looking at the scenery in real life, but it’s still a nice cabin feature. Being able to easily see what the weather is like outside, if you’ve left port yet, and if it’s day or night is helpful when staying in an inside room.

I don’t know if I’d pay extra for a virtual balcony in lieu of a normal inside cabin, but it’s still a nice option.

Voyager, Freedom, and Oasis Class ships offer a different type of interior cabin: a Promenade view room. These cabins have a window looking into the ship’s Royal Promenade, a hub of shopping, bars, and activities.

Related: Everything about Royal Caribbean’s Promenade View staterooms

Like other inside cabins, these rooms do not have a view of the outdoors, but they can be a nice middle ground between booking an inside cabin and an oceanview or balcony room.

Inside rooms “force” me to spend time in other areas of the ship

Voyager of the Seas sunset

Whenever I’ve cruised in a balcony room or suite, I find myself spending a significant amount of time in my cabin instead of exploring the ship. Instead of attending trivia, seeing a show, or watching live music, I frequently choose to hang out on my balcony instead.

There’s nothing wrong with spending time relaxing in my cabin, but I love how inside cabins almost force me to spend time elsewhere. Although inside cabins are cozy, there’s no view to admire outside, and I’d much prefer spending my day in other, more interesting areas of the ship.

On my recent cruise in an inside room, I only visited my cabin to sleep, shower, and change. Instead of spending time in my small cabin, I spent my days lounging in the Solarium, enjoying a drink at the Schooner Bar, and catching a show at the AquaTheater.

With so much to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I almost felt as if I would be missing out on the cruise experience by spending time in my cabin!

Should you book an inside cabin on a cruise ship?

First-time cruisers often struggle with picking the right cabin for their cruise. After all, no one wants to make a mistake on cabin choice and regret their decision once the cruise begins!

Thankfully, there’s no “wrong” cabin to book on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Regardless of whether you stay in the cheapest inside room or most expensive two-story suite, you can still have an amazing experience onboard.

If you’re considering booking an inside cabin, consider the following factors before making your reservation:


Most cruisers book inside cabins to save money. Most of the time, you can save a few hundred dollars by booking an interior stateroom.

Take a look at your travel budget before booking an inside cabin. Would you rather save money on your cabin in order to afford shore excursions, dining packages, and drink packages? Or would you prefer to cruise in an upgraded stateroom and skip pre-cruise add-ons?

Every passenger has a different budget, and ultimately you are the only person who can decide what splurges to allocate your budget toward.


Although inside cabins are usually cheaper than other cabins on your cruise ship, it’s not guaranteed. Before booking an inside cabin, be sure to check the price of oceanview and balcony rooms.

Depending on the sailing—and how far in advance you’re booking—you may be surprised to see upgraded staterooms priced similarly to an inside room.

Travel style

Are you the type of cruiser who loves being out and about on the ship? Or do you prefer getting alone time with a book and an ocean view?

If your goal when cruising is to experience as much as possible—from entertainment shows to activities and nightclubs—an inside cabin may work well for you. With so much happening around the ship at any given time, it’s unlikely you’ll spend much time in your cabin throughout the sailing.

If you’re a more introverted traveler, though, and would prefer a stateroom with a view, an inside room is probably not the best option. Although inside cabins are still comfortable, they aren’t the most exciting place to hang out if you plan to spend significant time in your cabin each day!

Still deciding which cabin to book for your cruise? Check out more of our tips & tricks:

Royal Caribbean is looking for artists to feature their work on its newest cruise ship

10 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

Are you an aspiring artist? Royal Caribbean wants to display your work on Icon of the Seas when it launches next year.

Artist Discovery Program for Icon of the Seas

The cruise line has traditionally embraced art on its cruise ships, featuring impressive collections on each of its new ships.

Icon of the Seas is the next new cruise ship for Royal Caribbean and the cruise line has launched a new program that aims to look for up-and-coming artists from destinations the cruise line visits can vie to put their work on display.

Winners could get as much as $100,000 in commission budget if selected.

As its name suggests, Icon of the Seas was designed to be an icon – a symbol of luxury and comfort that guests can look forward to during their vacation. 


Later this year, as artists in residence, the winners will work closely with the Newbuilding team behind Royal Caribbean’s renowned ships to bring their concepts to life in Turku, Finland, where Icon is under construction.

Artist Discover Program

The "Artist Discover Program" has a goal to "infuse every region’s spirit and culture into the curated art collections on board ships, in order to highlight and celebrate the very destinations and their people at the heart of Royal Caribbean’s memorable vacations."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley thinks the new program will not only satisfy the cruise line's love of art, but also help promote burgeoning artists, "The Artist Discovery Program is a project close to our hearts at Royal Caribbean International because the destinations we visit are family. And it’s only fitting that we begin our search for up-and-coming artists who are in the Caribbean; it’s where we got our start more than 50 years ago."

"Vacationers want to immerse themselves in the places they visit. This is a way to spotlight the beauty of the local cultures and people in the places they see and enjoy every day on their cruise, beginning with large-scale canvases on a first-of-its-kind adventure – Icon of the Seas."

How artists can enter

Artist work concept for Icon of the Seas

The program is starting off with looking for artists in the Caribbean. Local artists can send their submissions starting today and through April 4 via the program website.

To vie for a spot in the first edition of Artist Discovery Program, artists must submit the following:

  • Five samples of conceptual work: The work must be original and may not currently be published or on display.
  • A brief artist statement that helps explain their work, inspiration and other details regarding the pieces submitted.
  • A copy of their resume.

If picked, each artist will receive a grant from the cruise line, ranging from $20,000 to more than $100,000.

Artist work concept for Icon of the Seas

The Caribbean Edition of the artists picked will be commissioned to paint nine large-scale murals in three highly visible locations:

1. Embarkation Murals: embarkation area passengers first enter when walking onboard Icon of the Seas.

Pearl on the Royal Promenade

2. The Royal Promenade: Main thoroughfare on Icon of the Seas that has shopping, dining, and things happening all day long.

Suite Sun Deck render on Icon of the Seas

3. Suite Sundeck: Private VIP area for suite guests only, boasts a bar, dining area, and pool.

Each piece will invoke the vibrancy of the Caribbean, joining the collection on board that will include an array of pieces created by Caribbean artists or inspired by the region.

Icon of the Seas launches in January 2024

Artist work concept for Icon of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas is the most highly anticipated new ship in 2024, and for good reason. Boasting an impressive gross tonnage and capacity, it's set to become the largest cruise ship in the world. 

When Icon of the Seas launches in January 2024, she will be the first ship in a new class of vessels.

Icon will sail year-round, 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean vacations from Miami. 

The new ship will have 20 decks and manned by 2,350 crew members.

Why an Alaska cruise is worth it and you should go there

09 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Booking an Alaska cruise is a dream for many travelers, and Alaska cruises are always worth it. Visiting the 49th state means viewing incredible scenery, tasting delightfully fresh cuisine, and experiencing Alaska’s unique history firsthand.

Glacier Bay from Alaska Cruise

Fortunately, Alaska cruises fit many travel styles, from those in search of a relaxing getaway to adrenaline seekers and wildlife enthusiasts. There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy on an Alaska cruise, and visiting Alaska makes for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Some cruisers, however, are skeptical whether an Alaska cruise is worth it. Alaska is one of the most remote states in the United States, and it’s hardly the tropical vacation many vacationers daydream about. Plus, Alaska cruises may be priced higher than Caribbean cruise itineraries, especially when accounting for shore excursions like whale watching and glacier visits.

Nonetheless, here’s why an Alaska cruise is worth it and why you should plan your vacation to Alaska as soon as possible.

Southeast Alaska is best visited by cruise ship

Alaska cruises primarily visit the state’s southeastern region, which consists of towns and islands dotted along the state’s scenic Inside Passage. Alaska cruise ports in the Inside Passage include Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, and Haines.

Related: Alaska cruise ports guide

Many of these towns are not accessible by road—only by ship or plane—making them a perfect cruise destination. Your cruise ship will travel from destination to destination as you sleep, so you won’t have to worry about transportation logistics from place to place.

Plus, by taking an Alaska cruise, you can visit several destinations in a short amount of time. Most port days are between 8-10 hours, which is just enough time to see the highlights of each port.

Alaska cruises offer gorgeous scenery in every direction

Serenade of the Seas in Alaska

If you have cruised the Caribbean, you are probably used to seeing only the open ocean as your ship sails from port to port. While watching the endless blue ocean pass by is a favorite pastime of many cruisers, it hardly compares to the breathtaking views you’ll experience on an Alaska cruise.

While cruising Alaska, the majority of your time onboard will be spent sailing through narrow inlets in the Inside Passage. Sailing the Inside Passage means your cruise ship is surrounded by tall mountains on each side, which are dotted with long, narrow waterfalls and snowy peaks.

That’s not even mentioning the plethora of glaciers to view on an Alaska cruise. Most itineraries include a scenic cruising day to a glacier. On these days, your cruise ship sails within close proximity to one of Alaska’s most famous glaciers, such as Hubbard Glacier or Dawes Glacier.

Related: Hubbard Glacier vs. Glacier Bay: which glacier is better to see on a cruise?

An Alaska cruise provides spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities

Whale watching in Juneau

More bears live in Alaska than any other state, with black bears, brown bears, and even polar bears calling Alaska home! While you won’t spot polar bears on an Alaska cruise, you have a good chance of spotting black and brown bears.

Whales are another common animal to spot on an Alaska cruise. Humpback whales are most common during June and July, and you may spot orcas and gray whales in late spring.

In addition to whales and bears are sea lions, otters, salmon, and eagles, all of which you may see on an Alaska cruise.

Related: What is the best time of year to see wildlife in Alaska?

Pack creek

Not only is Alaska home to an abundance of wildlife, but the peak time to spot wildlife coincides with the Alaska cruise season. It’s no surprise, then, that wildlife excursions are extremely popular on an Alaska cruise.

Whale watching tours, dog sledding excursions, and visits to animal sanctuaries are all common excursions on an Alaska cruise. However, you don’t necessarily need an excursion to spot wildlife in Alaska.

It’s common to see eagles in the trees, whales in the Inside Passage, and otters playing in streams in Alaska cruise ports. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll see wildlife on an Alaska cruise, the chances are high that you will.

Alaska cruises have a more relaxed atmosphere onboard, which can be a nice change of pace from Caribbean cruises

Caribbean cruises, more often than not, have a higher energy atmosphere onboard compared to Alaska cruises. For many passengers, cruising the Caribbean entails sipping mojitos on the pool deck and spending port days visiting beach clubs.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the party atmosphere of a Caribbean cruise, but a more tranquil Alaska cruise can be a nice change of pace.

Alaska cruises tend to offer a quieter atmosphere onboard. While you’ll still find exciting activities and entertainment, it’s more common to see passengers simply taking it easy with a view.

Plus, with the weather much chillier compared to an Alaska cruise, there’s an absence of the upbeat pool parties Caribbean cruises are known for. That’s not to say you can’t find a party atmosphere onboard an Alaska cruise—night clubs and DJs are still on the activity schedule—but in general, the onboard atmosphere tends to be more chill.

Alaska cruise ports offer delicious cuisine

Alaska is famous for its variety of fresh seafood, from salmon to king crab and halibut. And although you should enjoy the complimentary food on your cruise ship, you’re missing out if you don’t try local food in port.

Related: Where to eat like a local on your Alaska cruise

Each Alaska cruise port is packed with restaurants and street food stalls offering the best of Alaskan cuisine. We recommend budgeting around $20 per person for lunch in port each day. With such tasty cuisine, you won’t regret it!

Here are our top recommendations for what to eat on an Alaska cruise:

  • Klondike Doughboy (Skagway)
  • Tracy’s King Crab Shack (Juneau)
  • The Alaska Fish House (Ketchikan)
  • The Fisherman’s Daughter (Hoonah/Icy Strait Point)
  • Ashmo’s (Sitka street food)

You can find cheap deals on Alaska cruises if you know where to look

Alaska cruises are in high demand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cruise to Alaska on a budget. By booking far in advance, sailing at non-peak times of year, and being flexible in itinerary choice, you can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on an Alaska cruise.

Shoulder season cruises to Alaska

One way to save money on an Alaska cruise is to cruise during the shoulder season months of May and September. Cruises during these months are typically priced lower than the peak season months of June, July, and August, but still offer a wonderful cruise experience.

Cruising during Alaska’s shoulder season comes with pros and cons. You should expect colder temperatures, fewer crowds, fewer daylight hours, and different wildlife viewing opportunities compared to the summer months.

Related: When is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

In addition to May and September, you may find great deals in early June and late August. Fewer families may book these sailings due to the cruise dates coinciding with the school calendar.

One-way itineraries to Alaska

Some of the cheapest Alaska cruise deals are found on one-way itineraries, which start in one port and end in another. Royal Caribbean’s one-way itineraries travel between Vancouver, British Columbia and Seward, Alaska and vice-versa.

One-way cruises are often cheaper due to lower demand. Round trip itineraries are more convenient when booking flights or driving to the cruise port, so many cruisers prefer to book Alaska cruises that start and end in the same place.

Related: I tried the cheapest Alaska cruise I could find: here’s how it went

That being said, one-way Alaska cruises can provide more enticing itinerary options, as they typically include more port stops and glacier visits. Many one-way itineraries visit Hubbard Glacier, for example, which is not typically visited on round trip sailings due to its more distant location.

In addition, one-way cruises to Alaska give you the chance to combine a cruise with a land tour. Many passengers book a Cruise Tour before or after their Alaska cruise, during which you can visit popular destinations in interior Alaska such as Denali National Park and Reserve and Talkeetna.

Alaska cruises offer once in a lifetime shore excursions

Mendenhall Glacier

If you plan to book shore excursions during your Alaska cruise, you’re in luck. Alaska cruises offer some of the most unique, most sought-after shore excursions around the world.

From scenic helicopter rides, whale watching tours, and kayaking around glaciers, shore excursions on an Alaska cruise truly offer once in a lifetime experiences. Whether you’re a nature lover or history buff, you’re sure to find a shore excursion to match your interests.

The downside of shore excursions in Alaska, however, is that they are often more expensive than excursions in the Caribbean. It’s not uncommon to see excursions priced between $200-400. Some excursions, particularly those including sea planes and helicopter rides, can be even more expensive.

Family on Alaska tour

You can find excursions under $100 as well, though, and there are a few ways to save money on Alaska cruise excursions.

First, book excursions as far in advance as possible. The earlier you book an excursion, the more opportunities you have to reprice the excursion in Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner. If the price goes down, you can cancel and rebook your excursion to snag the lower price.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner site

Second, look for shore excursions through third party websites. It’s not necessary to book shore excursions directly through Royal Caribbean, and you can usually find better deals with independent tour operators.

Websites like Tripadvisor, Viator, and Shore Excursions Group have an extensive list of tours available to book. Alternatively, you can consult other cruisers in the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards; the community can share their advice and ideas about Alaska cruise excursions.

Lastly, you can choose to skip shore excursions altogether and plan a port day on your own. Alaska cruise ports are walkable and offer plenty to do and see without booking a tour. You may visit a museum, enjoy a relaxing lunch at a brewery, or do a day hike. There’s no shortage of things to experience on a cruise to Alaska whether you book an excursion or explore on your own.

More shore excursion planning advice and tips:

Planning a cruise: What you need to know to get started

09 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

Ready to plan your first cruise but not sure where to start?

Cruising is easier than it looks, but like any form of travel, there are lots of considerations and important do's and don'ts when it comes to doing it well.  After all, you're going to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, so you ought to get the most out of the investment.

From money saving advice to travel hacks to mistakes to avoid, here's our best advice on planning your first cruise so you can set yourself up for a super fun vacation.

Where you want to cruise to?

Allure of the Seas in Galveston cruise terminal

It's debatable what aspect of the cruise you should start with first, but I think it makes the most sense to pick which part of the world you want to visit on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Australia.  There are repositioning cruises and other sailings too, so there's lot of choices.

Many people that have never cruised before often have an idea in mind for where they want to sail to, so it makes sense to narrow your search to one region.

Allure of the Seas docked

There isn't a right or wrong choice, but there's no sense in going somewhere you aren't that interested in visiting just because it's cheaper.

You may pick one region and then decide to change to another region because of prices, logistics, or some other factor.  But it's easier to start with one area and plan from there.

More information


Icon of the Seas water park

We'd all love to book the most extravagant suite on the itinerary that visits the coolest places, but money is the ultimate equalizer when it comes to vacation, so you need to be realistic about what you can afford.

Like any vacation, you probably have a ballpark idea of how much you're willing to spend and it's a good idea to have that number in mind when picking the right cruise for you.

The truth is that the price of a cruise can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. For example, a 3-night weekend sailing for two adults can start as low as $550 for two adults. On the other hand, a splurge on an expansive multi-story suite could cost up to $80,000 for your entire family. 

Of course, the cost of a cruise can vary depending on itinerary, ship selection, how long you sail for, how many people are joining you onboard, and when your chosen date is. It’s important to do your research and compare different packages before selecting the best option for you.

You'll need to not only consider the cruise fare, but also shore excursions, getting to and from the ship, and other incidentals.

A cruise is one of the best vacation values out there because of everything included in your fare, but you need to realize how much more is going to cost extra and be able to afford all of it. New cruisers may be surprised to find many extras not included in a Royal Caribbean cruise, such as drink packages, internet access, shore excursions, spa services and more.

Having a budget in mind will help narrow your choices when you select a ship or cabin.

More information

How to choose a cruise ship

Royal Caribbean operates a fleet of almost 30 cruise ships, so you might be wondering how to pick the right cruise ship for you.

First and foremost, not every cruise ship is the same. In fact, many ships differ from their sister vessels of the same class!

There is no bad ship to pick, but you need to figure out which activities and amenities are important to you to figure out which ship has those.

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

In the first step, you determined which region you want to sail to, and that will dictate which subset of ships are available. If you want a summer Caribbean cruise, you may find many ships in Europe and that leaves you with less choices than a winter Caribbean cruise.

It's a good idea to make a list of the things you absolutely want to have on a cruise ship to help narrow the list. Some popular considerations include if a ship has:

  • Water slides
  • A nursery for toddlers & infants
  • Has lots for kids/teens to do
  • A Broadway show
  • Is one of the newest ships
  • Has a specific specialty restaurant

There's plenty more, but these are the usual things people think about when choosing a cruise.

Odyssey of the Seas at dusk

If you have kids, you might pick an Oasis Class or Quantum Class ship because of all the things there are to do for kids onboard.  But if you're seniors cruising as a couple, those same activities might not matter to you.

More information

Why is this ship so much cheaper/expensive than the others?

In your search, you may find one ship or sailing coming in significantly less than the rest. If you're like me, you might be wondering is there a good reason for one to be so much cheaper.

The pricing of any cruise relies on many factors, but usually it boils down to one of these:

  • How new or old the ship is
  • Which homeport it is sailing from
  • Overall demand for that particular sailing

In general, newer ships tend to cost more than older ships. This is just because newer vessels offer more to do, and they command a premium price.

In addition, certain homeports are less desirable than others.  Cruises from Florida's east coast tend to have higher prices than cruises from Florida's west coast, or Baltimore, or Galveston. This is because newer and bigger ships are on Florida's east coast, whereas older ships tend to sail from the other ports.

The exact itinerary can also play a role in pricing, as there can be less demand for cruises that are longer than 7-nights. This has more to do with family's abilities to take that much time off school or work.

How to choose a cruise ship cabin

Junior Suite on Harmony of the Seas

Related to your ship choice will be what type of stateroom you want to stay in.

There are lots of cabins across many categories. Rooms come in various sizes, layouts, views, and amenities. Just like the cruise ship, what matters to you is the important consideration here.

Oceanview cabin on Liberty of the Seas

There are four basic types of cabin categories:

  • Inside
  • Oceanveiw
  • Balcony
  • Suite

As you probably guessed, inside cabins cost the least but offer the smallest space and no outside views. A Royal Caribbean suite is the largest cabin with lavish furnishings and plenty of space, but will cost significantly more.

Royal Suite

When it comes to selecting an ideal cabin for a vacation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people will prioritize price over luxury, and others will rationalize a vacation is worth a splurge.

In choosing the best stateroom, weigh these factors:

Your vacation budget may dictate which cabin categories are within reach. Someone on a tight budget may not be able to even consider a balcony or suite.  But if you can spend more, then there's a wider range of choice.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

For those looking to save money or make the most out of their time on board, an inside room might be the way to go. These rooms offer all the comforts of a traditional hotel room without having natural light or outdoor settings. Inside staterooms are generally more affordable than other options, but they still come with various amenities such as comfortable beds, private bathroom, and flat-screen television. 

If you want to take in some ocean views while onboard, an oceanview room could be just what you’re looking for. These staterooms come with large windows that allow you to enjoy plenty of natural light during your stay.

Of course, a balcony room has indoor and outdoor space at usually a very affordable rate (compared to suites). You'll get a private balcony that you can enjoy at your convenience. 

Royal Loft Suite

Finally, if you’d like the ultimate in luxury onboard experience then a suite might be the right choice for you. Suites come with extra amenities such as separate living areas and luxurious bathrooms equipped with spa-like showers or whirlpool tubs - perfect for taking some time out from sightseeing or partying! Plus many suites are located in prime locations on board giving you easy access to all that ship has to offer - from top-notch restaurants and bars to on-deck pools and entertainment venues.

If you’re going on a shorter cruise, it may not be worth investing in an expensive room – since you’ll likely be running around trying to enjoy as much as possible during your voyage.

Independence of the Seas at sunset at sea

But if you’re embarking on a longer journey, having a larger and more luxurious room can make all the difference in terms of comfort and relaxation. Having more space means being able to spread out and truly indulge in your cruise experience. You can take naps, read books or watch the beautiful landscape pass by from your private balcony – creating an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after the ship docks back home. 

More information

What to look for in a cruise price

Voyager of the Seas at dusk

Cruise ship prices are advertised as being simple, but when you dig in there are some important things you should know.

The price of a cruise will vary widely. Inside cabins can cost just a few hundred dollars, while some suites go for as much as $75,000

Almost any cabin you pick is based on double occupancy, so that means Royal Caribbean is assuming there will be two people in the room and charge you for each person. It doesn't matter how old these first two people are, the price doesn't change.

If you're looking to cruise by yourself as a solo cruiser, you will still have to pay a single supplement fee to make up for the loss of revenue from that second passenger in your room.  While there are studio cabins that don't have a single supplement fee, they are few and far between.

When you choose a cabin, Royal Caribbean may give you the choice of you picking a cabin or letting them pick.  By letting them pick, you'll get a guarantee cabin.  This means you will not get any cabin of lesser category, but the cruise line will pick it later.  

Guarantee cabins have an advantage of being cheaper, but the exact location is up to Royal Caribbean and you may end up with a room at the end of the ship, or an obstructed view.

The price of a cruise will include:

  • Cruise fare
  • Taxes
  • Port Fees

You optionally add gratuities or travel insurance to that cost. Then there's the extras we talked about earlier that are not included in your fare, such as wifi, beverages, excursions and more.


Equally important is the fare type you select. Royal Caribbean offers non-refundable and refundable cruise fare.

Just like an airplane ticket, non-refundable cruise fares are cheaper but come with penalties for cancelling or changing.  Refundable cruise fares allow changes, but you'll pay more overall.

Before deciding on any cabin or fare type, pay special attention to the cancellation policy.

One of the top first time cruise mistakes is booking a cruise and wanting to change or cancel it later. There are strict policies related to changing your reservation, so check when final payment date is, and what sort of penalties come with changing your mind later.

How to save money on a cruise

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

Before you book anything, there are a few ways you could knock off a few hundred dollars or more from your total cost.

Book as early as you can

Desk calendar

Try to book your cruise as early as you can because prices tend to be cheapest when booked early.  

If you can book a cruise 6, 12, or 18 months ahead of time, you can really get a much better price than someone that books closer to the sailing.

Plus, you'll have a greater selection of cabins.

Cruise during the shoulder season

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

One of my favorite ways to save money is go on a cruise during times of the year that most others cannot go.

Every region cruise ships visit have a peak season, low season, and shoulder season. 

Shoulder season is the time period between peak and low season when you'll find slightly cooler temperatures but at an affordable price point. This is a great option if you're looking for a balance between temperature and cost-effectiveness. 

Odyssey of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea

Prices will be higher in peak, and lower other times of the year.  But there can be tradeoffs of cruising in lower demand times of year, such as temperatures, crowds, or precipitation.

Book a guarantee cabin

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

If you're not picky about where your cabin is located on the deck, guarantee rooms can save lots of money.

Some people want to be in a specific location, but if you don't mind a longer walk from your room to the elevators, a guarantee cabin reservation might save a lot.

When you book a guarantee, you won't know your cabin location until closer to your sail date. There's no specific time Royal Caribbean will pick the room, as it could go right up until the day before your cruise. 

Purchase cruise add-ons and extras

Once you have your cruise booked, you'll want to tackle all the extra purchase you could buy.

Royal Caribbean gives guests two choices for its gratuities: pre-pay them before the cruise or get charged automatically every night of the cruise. 

Gratuities are compulsory and cover your stateroom attendant and dining room staff. It does not include gratuities for other crew members or purchases, such as drinks or spa services.

The advantage of pre-purchasing gratuities is you lock in the gratuity rate (in case the price goes up later), and it's one less charge on your final bill at the end of the cruise.

Travel insurance is an optional add-on that you can buy through Royal Caribbean or on your own through a third party.

Like all insurance, travel insurance is probably a waste until you need it, and then, it's the best investment you've ever made.

Hurricane aerial view

Travel insurance doesn't cover every scenario, but it does help a lot if there's unforeseen circumstances that require you to cancel a cruise (especially at the last minute). Without it, you'll be left with a major penalty for cancelling and lots of money lost on a vacation you didn't go on.  For piece of mind, I recommend travel insurance.

Next, you're up to the optional add-ons that can be purchased prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner website.

You can buy drink packages, dining packages, wifi, excursions and many other extras, and buying them in advance will cost you nothing more than if you bought it onboard. In fact, many of these items are cheaper if you buy them before the cruise.

How to pack for your cruise


What to pack for a cruise seems to give a lot of first time cruisers a lot of anxiety because they are worried they will be ostracized for not being properly dressed.

Yes, there are dress codes on Royal Caribbean ships, but they're far less stringent than it seems on paper.

Consult a cruise packing list for a good starting point on what you need to bring with you.

Whale watching in Sitka, Alaska

Also keep in mind the weather you're going to, as warm weather destinations will need more comfortable and lightweight clothing than a cruise to a cooler weather climate. Packing for an Alaska cruise involves much more than packing for a Bahamas cruise.

Think about what your plans are for each port you will visit, as well as what to wear to meals at the ship's restaurants.

Clothing steamer iron

You should also be aware of what things you cannot bring on a cruise ship because they are prohibited.

More information:

Do online check-in

If you want to make the check-in process as fast and easy as possible at the cruise terminal, be sure to download the Royal Caribbean app and do the online check-in process.

45 days before the cruise sails, you can get a check-in time via the app.  It's important to do this early to get a convenient time for you, and it's very simple via the app.

RC app

Use Royal Caribbean's app to do the check-in because the app has a a feature to scan your passport, saving you time from entering the information manually if you do it on a computer.

Completing all of these questions, and especially taking the photo, saves so much time in the cruise terminal.

How to find shore excursions

Family excursion in St Kitts

Your cruise ship will visit at least one port, with most cruises going to more than one, so you'll want to have plans for the day there.

When a cruise ship visits a port, you don't need to have a tour booked. You could disembark the ship and walk around on your own, but not every port is conducive to this approach because often cruise ports are far from a city or cultural center.

Your best bet is to book a tour before the cruise begins to assure yourself of a spot, and have a plan locked in to avoid wasting time figuring out what to do.

Royal Caribbean sells its own shore excursions through its website before the cruise, as well as onboard the ship.

Excursions through the cruise line are curated and generally reliable. Nearly all are run by third party operators, but they are vetted by Royal Caribbean to ensure it meets certain criteria. Plus, booking them is super simple through the website.

Of course, tours booked through the cruise line will probably cost more because the cruise line is taking a percentage of the cost for themselves. Plus, tours offered by the cruise line are not necessarily indicative of every type of activity available.

Paddle boarding in CocoCay

At CocoCay and Labadee, you can only book tours through Royal Caribbean.

Alternatively, you could book a tour on your own.

In any port you visit, there are a myriad of excursion operators that you can book through. You can usually find out about most of them through an internet search.

When booking a shore excursion on your own, it's important to look up reviews of them to determine how reliable and reputable they are. You want to make sure they're not a "fly by night" operation, and that you'll be able to get back to the ship before it departs.

This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that the all-aboard time your ship has is a requirement to be onboard, or you will be left behind.

One advantage Royal Caribbean shore excursions have is if a tour is running late, Royal Caribbean will ensure you get back to the ship.  If you book a tour on your own, it's up to you to figure out the logistics of getting back on time.

Martinique Suspension Bridge

My advice is look at what Royal Caribbean offers and then look at what you can book on your own and determine the best option for you. There isn't a right or wrong answer whether to book a shore excursion on your own or through the cruise line. Each has its pros and cons.

Regardless of who you book your tours through, it's critical to book your shore excursions before the cruise because tours often sell out.

More information

I just spent 11 days on Celebrity Edge – did it live up to the hype?

08 Mar 2023
Chantal McPhee

I am just off an eleven day adventure on the Celebrity Edge, sailing far south to the Southern Caribbean and the tip of South America. It was a great adventure, and I even got re-married while onboard.

Edge Curacao

Innovative, revolutionary, and bold are all words used to describe the first in the new class of ships from Celebrity Cruises, a vast departure from the Solstice class or, for that matter, any other cruise ships out there.

Our extended cruise vacation gave me plenty of time to try out tons of food venues, entertainment, bars, and other fun stuff on the ship.

Having never sailed on an Edge series ship, there was lots to explore. Here is what it was like to sail on the Celebrity Edge on an epic 11 day cruise to the Panama Canal. 

Overview of Celebrity Edge

Edge view

We booked the Edge more than a year and a half in advance. The Panama Canal itinerary was a big draw, and we were eager to try this class of ships.

Previously, we mainly sailed on Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships. At 129,500 gross tonnage and a capacity of 2,918, the Celebrity Edge is significantly smaller than Wonder of the Seas, which tops out at 235,600, over 80% bigger, with 5,734 guests. So I wasn’t sure how this ship would feel in terms of space.

The ship is quite different in design from any other ships I have sailed on. I missed the open center design, a signature feature of Oasis-class ships, but there were plenty of beautiful spaces like Eden and a rooftop patio onboard.

I was advised by the crew that we were sailing near capacity for our voyage, and the ship did feel a tad busy on sea days. On a few occasions when it was windy outside, it was hard to find a spot in the solarium.

And, of course, there were chair hogs as usual. I think whoever solves this issue deserves a Nobel peace prize.

My first impression was that the ship was quite modern in design. I don’t necessarily gravitate toward this style. Some of the design elements onboard puzzled me, and I wondered how they would age with time. The chandelier that anchors the Grand Plaza looks like a giant crown gone crazy. I was not sure what to make of this supersized light or whether I even liked it, but it was undoubtedly symbolic of the bold design on the ship.


Edge Sky Suite

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we booked a Sky Suite. We were mid-ship on Deck 10, which proved to be a great location, and the cabin was thoughtfully designed. It was evident that the design team carefully considered how each space would be used, and the flow was excellent.

Sky suites run around 320 square feet, which is plenty of space for two. The finishings were top notch, and the bathroom, in particular, was designed well with a separate water closet. It has one large sink with two faucets and a large shower with a tub.


Bath Edge 2

We had tons of closet space and could easily store our suitcases under the bed. The room also included upgraded bedding, bathroom products, robes, slippers, an umbrella, and binoculars, but no coffee maker. Our cabin attendant and butler provided superb service throughout our 11 day journey.

Edge Balcony

The balcony was a good size with two chairs. I would have loved a lounger, a very minor point. On busy sea days, I did enjoy sitting there, and it allowed for some amazing scenic views when we passed through the Panama Canal. 

Dining Venues

Food is a major part of cruising, and we ate very well onboard the Celebrity Edge.

Oceanview Café, the main buffet, is pretty much similar to other cruise ships. It offered a wide selection of choices and was busy in the morning, lunch, and sea days. There was a large amount of seating, including some outside, and I never had a problem finding a spot. I liked how they had a separate area for pizza and ice cream, which diverted people from the main food area.

We did venture to the Fine Cut Steakhouse onboard. The menu was incredibly similar to Chops on Royal Caribbean, which we have enjoyed thoroughly in the past. Our food was delicious, and the portions were quite large. The restaurant opens to the Grand Plaza area but lacks a little ambiance.

As part of our Sky Suite, we had access to Luminae. It is quite a large space, well decorated in tones of red, which seemed all the more appropriate on Valentine’s Day. They don’t take reservations, just walk-ins, and we never had a problem getting a table.

The service was excellent, and we enjoyed the varied menu throughout our cruise. If you are a foodie, they have dishes designed by famed chef Daniel Boulud.

Main Dining Room 

Food MDR

One of the most significant differences on the Edge is the separation of the main dining rooms into four different themed venues that look like specialty restaurants. Cyprus, Cosmopolitan, Tuscan, and Normandie offer specialties as well as classics such as steak, chicken, and shrimp, as well as signature dishes.

Being smaller than a standard main dining room, I found the restaurants to have more of a specialty dining feel, especially Normandie, which was a bit whimsical in décor with rose colored accents, and some French style chairs that looked like a French King could have used.

I was also impressed with the food, including a a mouth watering beef tenderloin in pastry. It was so good that we went twice, and it actually became quite busy by the end of the cruise as word of mouth got out about its delicious cuisine. Based on this experience, I would recommend skipping the steakhouse and heading to Normandie to satisfy your beef craving.

We also tried Cyprus twice and Tuscan, Both were good, and I enjoyed the freshly made pasta at Tuscan.

Separating the dining rooms into smaller spaces is an exciting idea, and I would say the only downside is that you don't get to know your wait staff as well.

On my previous cruise on Celebrity Equinox, I had excellent wait staff in the main dining room, and toward the end of the cruise, they knew my tastes and preferences and made excellent recommendations for food and wine. I missed this on the Edge.



Eden is a unique venue. A fine dining restaurant, bar, a spot for casual bites, and a music venue. It is a three-level, multifunctional space at the back of the ship.

A tropical inspired oasis, it is home to what many consider the best restaurant on the ship – Eden. The restaurant was hands down the best meal I ate all cruise. A 7-course tasting meal with impeccable service. My only complaint is that there was too much food! If you only do one specialty restaurant on Edge, please do Eden.

The acoustic music was terrific and well suited to the serene environment. The splashes of green, wicker chairs and plants made you feel like you were in a jungle on a cruise ship.


Martini Bar

The Grand Plaza, which opens up from Deck 3-5, is definitely the main hub on Edge. There is a stage in the middle of the Martini Bar, with lots of music throughout the day. Each evening it hosted a lively show where the bartenders' twirled bottles in the air and then jumped up on the counter and poured a magical concoction into a glass. I was impressed with the live music and the diversity of songs throughout the eleven days.  

It is a lively area throughout the day, and many people sit around and enjoy coffee from Café al Bacio on Deck 5. It serves top not specialty coffees and European-style pastries and desserts. The lounge around popular cafe was always full, and people seemed to love it.

I should note that the coffees are extra or complimentary with a drink package, but the pastries are free.

Even though we were on the ship for eleven days, we did not get to all the events we had planned. I did enjoy trivia and loved the music in the Eden many nights. We did not make it to any shows. We did want to, but after a leisurely dinner, we often chose the options of a post-dinner drink and lively music. It is one of my favorite things.

We attended a captain’s talk while onboard, where we learned more information about the ship and the Panama Canal. We showed up about 10 minutes before the event; apparently, everyone else on the ship did. It was standing room only as we listened to Captain Costas’ funny yet informative session.

Floating Art Gallery

Art Edge

The ship's architectural elements and overall design is nothing like I have seen on any other cruise ship. I was blown away by the number of art pieces, including paintings and sculptures, throughout the ship. This was unexpected and may seem trivial, but I still think about post cruise.

One of the most talked about (and I would say controversial) pieces on the ship was the large scale installation in a hallway on the way to Eden. It was quite a discussion point amongst passengers in our Facebook sailing group. I don't know that pictures do it justice, but it was incredibly dark, with large sculpture pieces that looked like contorted Oscar statues.

The most unusual sounds played as you walked through, which may have been marine in nature, too hard to make out. I walked through it numerous times and remained both puzzled and intrigued.

There were numerous sculptural pieces throughout the ship that held my eye, including a White Pearl piece, which seemed to be a play on the Black Pear from the famous Pirate of the Caribbean movies. There were also wooden sculptures of people, which seemed to stare at me, despite having no faces. Excellent pieces and thought provoking, exactly what art should be, and most unexpected on a cruise ship.

Other fun stuff

There were several upscale shops on the ship, all with standard ones like Tiffany. Although I saw a beautiful watch in Bulgari, by the name alone, I knew it was out of my price range and did not venture in. I can't recall seeing anyone in there or Cartier during the cruise.

I first thought the Magic Carpet would be a bit gimmick, but it was much more. Another multipurpose space -  a bar, a restaurant, and a launching point for tenders. On one of the sea days, we were lucky enough to score a seat there. It has the perfect amount of shade and incredible views. For my next cruise, I would love to try dinner on it.  

I am not much of a gambler, but my husband did enjoy blackjack in the casino, and we met friends for a drink in the Casino Bar, which was often not busy. Big shoutout to Celebrity for a smoke-free casino. I love it.

We happened to be cruising on Valentine's Day, and everyone who wanted was invited to participate in a vow renewal, a fleet wide event. It looked like at least 100 people participated, and we were treated to a glass of bubbly afterward. I even received a certificate before the end of the cruise to reconfirm my marital status. Nice touch, Celebrity.



One of the best perks of sailing on an Edge class series is the size of the ship. Big enough to offer all the modern amenities you expect in a cruise ship but small enough to fit through the Panama Canal. 

I wasn’t expecting the canal to be so quiet. As we entered, I was surprised to see so much jungle around it, and I could hear birds calling out as we entered before 7 am. I had envisioned lots of people working frantically, with machines buzzing around. Not so. A few people onshore, but otherwise exceptionally calm and well organized. Once through the locks, we entered Gatun Lake, which was greenish in color and surprisingly beautiful. The ship was buzzing the whole time we went through the locks, with people traveling around to get different views and enjoy the sites.

We also sailed to the ABC islands, although we were delayed in arriving in Aruba due to a medical emergency. We rented a golf cart in Bonaire, which is an island like none other I have visited in the Caribbean. Such diverse topography and remote in areas. We also visited Curacao, where we wandered around Willemstad having great Dutch coffee and visiting the local museum. Cartagena, Columbia, was a vibrant port and full of contrast. Your first glimpses of the city are towering white high rises, which was very different than our tour of the old town, which was full of well preserved Spanish colonial buildings.

Ship tour 


One of the best things I did onboard was a ship tour. This has been something I always thought of doing, and I was well organized this time and booked it before we boarded. It is kind of genius that cruise lines charge you for this and that they sell out.

There were around 20 of us, and we ventured to the galley (of Normandie, which was a bonus). We visited one of the 40 storage rooms onboard, and apparently, around 2,000 bottles of wine were consumed each day. No wonder they needed so many store rooms.  We also visited the laundry room and the recycling areas. I am incredibly jealous of the ship’s folding machine, which was magical in pressing and putting sheets into beautiful squares.

One of the highlights of a ship tour is the bridge. I have previously visited a bridge on Royal Caribbean ships, and it was pretty similar on the Edge. Sparsely populated with only three people working, it was quite spacious and packed with modern technology and the smallest ship wheel you can imagine. Unfortunately, the Captain was not there, but the Chief Office did an excellent job of showing us around. All in all, this was a great highlight of the tour and a great way to spend some of the five sea days.

The Verdict

Edge walkway

Celebrity has definitely pushed boundaries with the Edge. They have reimagined spaces and challenged some of the traditional cruise ship designs. The ship lived up to the hype by providing a well designed ship with great amenities, tasty food, and very good service. These are things we all want in a cruise vacation.

I am not sure I need all of the modern design for a great cruise, but the ship has tons of terrific amenities, and its size means it has a lot of possible itineraries. It will be interesting to see how dated the ship will look in another five years, as modern design changes rather quickly.

Eleven days is a significant amount of time that lets you explore and experience the ship, as well as fantastic ports. A genuinely relaxing cruise vacation. I can say with certainty that I would sail on the Celebrity Edge series again.

Royal Caribbean beach club in Nassau will open in 2025

08 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

It may have taken longer than originally planned, but Royal Caribbean is moving forward with opening the exclusive area in 2025.

Royal Beach Club concept art

The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island will be the first Royal Beach Club, and it promises to be a compelling new option for cruise ship guests visiting Nassau, Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean had originally announced the beach club project in March 2020, but the cruise industry shutdown shortly thereafter left the venture in limbo.

Royal Caribbean received approval by the government of The Bahamas to move forward with the 17-acre project.

Royal Beach Club concept art

The new opening date is 2025, and Royal Caribbean promises more details, "will be revealed in the coming months."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley celebrated the news, "The Bahamas has been a phenomenal partner since the very start, when they became our first port of call more than 50 years ago."

"As we continue to bring millions of visitors to experience attractions throughout Nassau each year, The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island is the next bold adventure in Royal Caribbean’s commitment to both increasing tourism in The Bahamas and delivering memorable vacations to our guests."

What is the Royal Beach Club?

Royal Beach Club concept art

Not quite a private island, the Royal Beach Club is a new type of cruise ship experience that offers a curated beach day.

It won't be as secluded as Perfect Day at CocoCay, but it wont be something passengers on other cruise lines can enjoy either.

Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island will be located at the western end of Paradise Island.  Cruisers will recognize this area as the same plot of land that the famous lighthouse near the Port of Nassau is located.

Royal Beach Club render

In today's announcement, Royal Caribbean describes the beach club as follows, "Alongside private cabanas, stunning pools and more, the vibrant Bahamian spirit and culture will come to life throughout the world-class destination experience."

"Vacationers will be welcomed by local architecture that complements the exceptional views of The Bahamas’ turquoise-blue waters and white sand beaches, along with experiences that feature Bahamian fare, island-style barbecues, live music and local artisans."

Partnership with The Bahamas


Royal Caribbean is designing this beach club as a public-private partnership in which Bahamians can own up to 49% equity in the beach club.

The beach club will be made up of 13 acres of land owned by the cruise line and 4 acres of Crown Land. 

The Crown Land will be contributed as equity in the new venture to ensure a share of the profits return to the government and the people in a first-of-its-kind agreement in The Bahamas. 

Junkanoo dancers

Local businesses and entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to manage the vast majority of the experience. 

The cruise line expects the beach club will generate hundreds of jobs between the construction and long-term operation.

This, in addition to a new tourism levy, will go into reinvesting in the local community. The collaboration between the government, the community and Royal Caribbean will continue as the development moves through the stages of planning and completion.

What the Royal Beach Club could look like

Aerial concept art for Royal Beach Club

Based on Royal Caribbean's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that it submitted, we have a possible idea of the plans are for this beach. Keep in mind the images and concepts shared here could have changed, but it's our best guess until more info is shared later.

Royal Caribbean wants to create a "world class beach experience" that has a family zone, arrivals area, water sports center, food and even a swimming pool.

Royal beach Club water taxi

The EIA mentions an entrance fee, so this will likely be an extra cost experience for cruise ship guests.

"It is anticipated that with the payment of an entrance fee, the experience will include access to the Royal Beach Club, lunch and the rental of a beach chair. For an additional fee, guests will be able to purchase alcohol and sodas, a cabana, day-bed, clamshell, and participate in watersports and local tours."

Activities offered would include (but not limited to):

  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba diving
  • Kayaking
  • Jet skiing
  • Floating mat rentals
  • Inflatable water slides
  • Parasailing
  • Nature hikes
  • Volleyball
  • Other sand and water related activities
Royal Beach Club master concept plan
Royal Beach Club master concept plan
Royal Beach Club master concept plan

The Conceptual Master Plan has a very low resolution image, but we can make out these features:

  • Beaches
    • Tranquility Beach
    • Hideaway Beach
    • Sapphire Beach
  • Cabanas
    • VIP Cabanas
  • Beach Bars
  • Bungalows
  • Signature Bahamian Bar
  • Artisan Village
  • Tidal Wading Pool
  • Adults Pool
  • Food hall
  • Tram service
  • Restrooms
  • Snack Shack
  • Kids' Splash Pool and Wading Pool

With cruise ship visits to Nassau that could last up to 9 hours, the Royal Beach Club experience will include four to five hours on Paradise Island plus additional time for shopping and other Nassau attractions.