How many formal nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
05Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

You might be wondering how many formal nights there are going to be on your Royal Caribbean cruise. Part of planning a Royal Caribbean cruise is being prepared for the different activities and events onboard, including formal nights. 

On select evenings of a Royal Caribbean cruise, the dress code in the main dining room is a little bit fancier, with the cruise line encouraging guests to dress their best. 

There are anywhere from 1-4 formal nights during a Royal Caribbean cruise, and the exact number depends on the length of your itinerary.

  • 3-5 night cruises: one formal night, usually on day 2.
  • 6-10 night cruises: two formal nights.
  • 11-14 night cruises: three formal nights, Days vary by ship and sailing.
  • 15+ night cruises: Three or four formal nights, Days and number vary by ship and sailing.

2020 Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons

In:
05Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

A Royal Caribbean beverage package offers the choice to enjoy an unlimited amount of drinks for a fixed daily price. This post offers tips for saving money with these drink packages and our reviews of the various plans.  

We will get to what each version of Royal Caribbean's Beverage Packages include and whether the Royal Caribbean Drink Package is worth the money below.  Our tips and opinions are based on our first-hand experiences with the drink packages, and the current versions for this year.  

Before we get to the dollars and cents, let us cover some basics.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Royal Caribbean's drink packages are a fixed daily cost plan offered on all Royal Caribbean ships so guests can budget their beverage costs in advance and (potentially) save money.  The various plans provide guests with unlimited drinks that can be used at any bar or restaurant on Royal Caribbean ships (and private destinations).  The drink package benefits are available on the guest's SeaPass card or WOWband, which any waiter or bartender can verify they have the package.

Royal Caribbean guests wishing to purchase a drink package can do so either prior to their cruise via the Cruise Planner web site or once onboard their ship. Once purchased, you must pay for the package for the duration of your cruise.  If purchased during your cruise, guests will pay for the remaining nights of their cruise.

Let’s get more into the nitty-gritty of the 2020 Royal Caribbean drink package…

The drink packages can be redeemed at pretty much any restaurant or bar on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship or private destination.  There are only two places a drink package cannot be used: room service and stateroom mini-bars.

A lot of information exists about Royal Caribbean drink packages, with most of the focus on whether or not the package makes financial sense.  In fact, our most popular articles concerning Royal Caribbean unlimited alcohol packages include Are the unlimited drink packages worth it, Answers to common Royal Caribbean unlimited alcohol package questions,  Should you buy the unlimited alcohol packages. Frequent users of Royal Caribbean's drink packages become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the packages, but with some advance planning, first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers can also make the most of the packages.

From time to time, Royal Caribbean may offer a drink package discount.These discounts are offered selectively and can vary in terms of how much the discount is and for which sailings they are eligible.  Nearly all discounts we have seen are offered prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner web site. These discounts have the potential to add to the potential value a guest can get from a drink package, but remember any discount does not necessarily make the value proposition a drink package offers a "slam dunk" deal.

Before even booking a drink package, you should determine roughly how many drinks per day you think you can and will drink over the course of your cruise.  For some folks, 5-6 drinks per day is easy, while others may think that is a lot every day of a cruise.

That is probably enough background on Royal Caribbean's drink packages.  You likely still have some more questions, and we will dig into them below and get them answered.  For a simple system, it can be surprisingly complex, do not feel bad if it takes some reading before you fully understand how the drink package works and whether it is a good for for your party.


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Video: Top 10 cruise packing mistakes

In:
05Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Packing for your cruise vacation means making sure you have everything you need for an a memorable and enjoyable time away from it all.  Packing also has its own set of challenges, and I have ten packing mistakes to avoid making.

Whether it is your first cruise or your twentieth, packing is one of those things we all have to do and it can cause problems later on in your cruise.  Here are the top pitfalls of packing for a cruise and what to do to avoid them!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

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

So check out the video and then let us know: Is there a packing mistake you have made? What is your advice for someone packing for a cruise?

Oasis of the Seas cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
04Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 331 is available for downloading, where we share a review of our recent cruise on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Matt just got back from a 9 nights on the newly Amplified Oasis of the Seas, and talks about what he did onboard and shared some of his favorite things about this ship.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 331. 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 releases 2021-2022 Northeast, Canada & Bermuda sailings to book

In:
04Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's 2021-2022 Northeast, Canada & Bermuda sailings are now available to book, with sailings visiting New England, Canada, Perfect Day at CocoCay, the Southern Caribbean and Bermuda.

The newly Amplified Oasis of the Seas returns to Cape Liberty in Summer 2021, sailing week long Caribbean itineraries with stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Anthem of the Seas returns to Cape Liberty in Winter 2021 to sail a mix of week long wanders with stops in The Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, plus 11-night adventures to the exotic isles of the Southern Caribbean.

Enchantment of the Seas will from Baltimore and offer 8-night itineraries with stops in Charleston, Port Canaveral and The Bahamas, plus 12-night Southern Caribbean sailings with stops in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados, St. Lucia and more. Enchantment will also offer an escape on 5 and 9-night getaways to both Bermuda and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The Amplified Freedom of the Seas will sail 4-night summer adventures in Canada and 9-night New England fall itineraries, all from Cape Liberty. Freedom will also sail 5-night sailings to Bermuda that include an overnight stay in King's Wharf.

Brilliance of the Seas will do week long sailings out of Boston, while Empress of the Seas, returning to Cape Liberty, will offer 7-nighters  New England and Canada in Summer 2021, before sailing to Montreal for roundtrip 10 and 11-night fall adventures in Canada. Empress will also depart Cape Liberty to do overnight stays in both Hamilton and St. George.

View all the new sailings here:

Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members can begin booking sailings on December 4, 2019, with the general public available to begin booking on December 5, 2019.

Royal Caribbean named best cruise line for entertainment & suites by Cruise Critic

In:
04Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean won three awards when Cruise Critic announced the winners of the 2019 Editors' Picks Awards.

The 12th annual Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards recognizes the best cruise lines of the year across dozens of categories, as chosen by the site’s international team of editors.

Royal Caribbean was the winner in the following categories:

Best Ship Refurbishment: Oasis of the Seas

“Oasis of the Seas set the mega-ship bar high when it debuted in 2009, with a zipline, 20-plus restaurants and a plant-filled Central Park. The ship's latest refurbishment -- part of Royal's outstanding Amplified program -- has added the best of the line, including the Ultimate Abyss slide, the Perfect Storm water slide trio, a redesigned pool deck and several new bars and eateries.”

 Best Entertainment: Royal Caribbean International

“Royal Caribbean continues to entertain with original Broadway-style productions, parades and challenging escape rooms. High-tech enhancements elevate shows in the main theater and skating rink, as well as enable amusements like glow-in-the-dark laser tag and the trampoline-based Sky Pad. With surfing, rock climbing, water slides and flying (by zipline or skydive simulator) onboard many of Royal Caribbean's ships, it's impossible to get bored.”

Best Suites: Royal Caribbean International

“Royal Caribbean blends extravagance and inclusiveness in its perfectly conceived suites -- some ships offer up to a dozen top-level categories. Suite passengers get plenty of space, along with a bounty of perks, including special restaurants and "Royal Genie" personal concierges. Choose from suites with lavish penthouse trappings, duplexes with space for a full dinner party and family suites with slides.”

Royal Caribbean has won each of these awards at least once since last year, with taking home Best Entertainment for the second year in a row, Best Suites for the fifth year in a row, and Best Ship Refurbishment two years in a row (last year's winner was Mariner of the Seas).

New travel document requirements for cruises visiting Martinique

In:
03Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is advising its guests of new travel document requirements for cruises that visit Martinique.

As of January 1st, 2020, all guests on sailings visiting Martinique will need a passport book (not a passport card) for boarding. The passport book must be valid for at least 6 months after the sailing ends.

Passport cards and birth certificates will not be accepted and may result in a denial of boarding for both adults and minors. This policy changes impacts sailings beginning from and returning to  the U.S. including San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Portside BBQ restaurant review on Oasis of the Seas

In:
03Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Among the many changes Royal Caribbean made to Oasis of the Seas during her 2019 amplification was the addition of the first barbecue restaurant to the fleet.

Portside BBQ is a new specialty restaurant that offers slow cooked, smoked meats that are popular across the United States. This is a type of cuisine not well-represented on Royal Caribbean in the past, and aims to fill in that gap for guests.

Portside BBQ is a specialty restaurant that offers items on an a la carte basis, which means there is no cover charge to dine here; instead, you pay for what you order. Unlike most other specialty restaurants, this is a counter service restaurant, where you order your food at the counter and take your order back to your table.

Royal Caribbean placed Portside BBQ on deck 15 of Oasis of the Seas in the former location of the teen club. The restaurant has a bit of a rustic feel to it, with wood floors inside, dark wood tables and brick walls all around. 

There is outdoor seating, both along the port side of the ship as well as behind the restaurant.  There is a surprisingly large amount of seating available at Portside BBQ, so even at its busiest, you should have no issues finding a spot.

Portside BBQ has three menus to match its serving times: lunch, dinner and late-night.  The lunch and late-night menu is a smaller menu that primarily offers combos, whereas the dinner menu greatly expands the options provided.  

In terms of the food offered, there is a variety of turkey, pork, beef and chicken options to consider. Brisket, smoked turkey, pulled pork, chicken wings, spare ribs and more are available to enjoy. Royal Caribbean aimed to cover the major barbecue categories.

Photo by AshleyDillo

Speaking of the meats, barbecue aficionados know how critical smoking the meat is to a great meal. 

At Portside BBQ, the cruise line introduced a bold hickory flavor that uses smoke from real wood. The Combi Oven Smokers slow cook chicken and burnt ends along with the meats and the oven technology locks in the flavor by improving cooking capacities with reduced moisture loss. Each oven is specifically programmed to perfectly cook all the BBQ items. Hickory wood chips are used in small portions to give just the right smoky flavor, and small batches are cooked throughout the day to provide fresh food for guests, while infusing the air with just enough smoke aromas to spark their appetite.

In addition, you will find traditional bbq sides to enjoy, like coleslaw, mac & cheese, cornbread and more.

Photo by AshleyDillo

There is also a variety of sauces you can add on your own once the food is delivered.

I freely admit that I did not grow up in an area of the United States where barbecue is a way of life, so I am by no means the mayor of any flavor village. That being said, I enjoy a well-cooked and juicy piece of meat as much as the next Yankee.

On my first visit to Portside BBQ, I opted for the beef brisket at lunch, while my table mate went for the pulled pork sandwich.

The first thing I noticed about the brisket was how incredibly tender the meat tasted, as well as how flavorful it was.  By default, the sammies are served with coleslaw and pickles, sans any sauce.  Without getting into the "does good BBQ need sauce" debate, I opted to eat the food as it was prepared, and I loved it.

The pulled pork sandwich was described as equally tasty, and hit all the right checkboxes when it comes to great pulled pork.

I also sampled the smoked turkey sammie, and was incredibly impressed by the taste of it. In fact, I ended up ordering the smoked turkey over the brisket on later visits to the restaurant because it really hit the spot for me.

Out of sheer curiosity, my daughter decided to try the smoked jumbo turkey leg, and I was leery she wasted $8 on something she would never eat. As it turned out, the turkey leg became her new favorite cruise food and requested we eat at Portside BBQ for lunch every day for the turkey leg. I think it is safe to assume she liked it.

Photo by AshleyDillo

The sides provided were just as compelling.  In fact, I found myself munching on the sides more than I expected to because they were just that good.  Gooey, yellow, and thick mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and I ended up doubling down on mac and cheese on subsequent visits.  The beans where combined with burnt ends, and had a fantastic, tangy flavor.

While you probably come to Portside BBQ for the meats, stay for the dessert. The chocolate brookie is a combination of cookie and brownie, and I cannot come up with the proper superlative to describe the taste, but it is a must-order.  If you love bananas in your dessert, the Banana Dream is also very good.

Looking at the prices of Portside BBQ, it represents a pretty good value all around.  Considering you can get an entree for lunch, along with two sides and a dessert for $8, you get a lot for the money.  At dinner, they include an additional meat or two for a few dollars more.  Stretchy pants optional.  If you are dining with a specialty restaurant package, you can dine at Portside BBQ and be provided a $20 per person stipend per visit, which is ample for enjoying what the menu offers.

Prior to dining at Portside BBQ, I would never have told you I was much of a barbecue food fan, but now I am ready to drive to Texas, Kansas City or Alabama to sample more of this food.  That, or I could just re-book a cruise on Oasis of the Seas.

Disclosure: I dined at Portside BBQ on multiple occasions, although my first meal was provided to me at no cost by Royal Caribbean for purposes of review.  I paid on my own for subsequent visits.

What are your thoughts on Portside BBQ? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

Video: Why you should get travel insurance for your cruise

In:
03Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

It is impossible to predict the future, and that includes accidents, delays and other unforeseen circumstances.  That is why it is so important to invest in travel insurance to cover your cruise vacation.

We have a brand new video to share with you, that looks at the important reasons to buy a travel insurance plan for your next Royal Caribbean cruise. It is not too late!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

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

So check out the video and then let us know: Why do you typically purchase travel insurance for your cruise? 

Royal Caribbean to offer early bird water slide access at Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
02Dec2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will begin trialing a new option for guests that purchase Thrill Waterpark admission that will get them extra time on the popular water slides before other guests.

Starting in December, a select number of sailings will be offering a Rise & Slide Pass for guests. For only $29, a number of guests who have already purchased a full day pass to Thrill Waterpark will enjoy an exclusive hour in the morning before the park officially opens. Between 8 – 9am, 200 guests will have complimentary breakfast served on the island while they enjoy their exclusive hour of thrills.

The new option is being added in response to demand by guests who want to enjoy more time going up and down the popular Perftect Day at CocoCay attractions.

The Rise & Slide Pass will be available for purchase onboard select sailings beginning December 6th, 2019 and will be available to purchase precruise within the next few months. 

 The Rise & Slide pass is available for guests that purchase a Full Day Thrill Waterpark pass , and cannot be purchased separately.   

Guests who did not purchase the Ride & Slide pass, will not be able to access Thrill Water Park during that early hour.

December 3 Update: The Rise & Slide Pass will be available on the following sailings:

 

Will you purchase a Ride & Slide pass? Let us know in the comments below.   

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