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Guide to cruises from Galveston

In:
12 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

While once an industrial port, Galveston, Texas has since become one of the busiest cruise ports in the United States, offering year-round sailings to the Caribbean.

With the upcoming completion of Royal Caribbean’s brand new, $125 million cruise terminal in Galveston, cruises from Texas are set to increase in popularity. Not only will the terminal provide a smoother embarkation and disembarkation process, but it will have increased capacity, allowing Royal Caribbean’s largest cruise ships to sail from the port.

More and more cruisers are looking at Galveston for their next cruise embarkation port, but understanding the ins and outs of this port can be a bit tricky. In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about planning a cruise from Galveston, from booking flights and hotels to arriving at the port.

In this guide:

Where is the Port of Galveston?

Royal Caribbean’s Galveston cruise port is currently located at 2702 Harborside Dr, Galveston, TX 77550.

When the new Galveston cruise port opens in November 2022, it will be located at 1028 Harborside Dr, Galveston, TX 77550.

Related: New Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in Galveston is nearly complete

Which airport should I fly into for a cruise from Galveston?

Passengers arriving by plane to board a cruise in Galveston will fly into one of two Houston airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) or William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

IAH is the busiest airport in Houston, serving all major US airlines, and you’ll often find competitive pricing when flying into IAH.

It is the second-largest hub for United Airlines, meaning there are nonstop flights from nearly every major US city and over 70 international destinations.

William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

HOU is the smaller of Houston’s airports, but it’s more convenient as it’s located only 7 miles from downtown Houston.

Houston Hobby is primarily served by Southwest Airlines. The vast majority of flights to Houston Hobby will be on Southwest, so if you live near a Southwest hub, you’re likely to find well-priced, nonstop flights to HOU.

Houston Hobby is located closer to the Port of Galveston, so we recommend searching for flights into this airport first. If prices are significantly higher or there are fewer direct options, however, flying into IAH would be the best option.

How to get from the airport to the Port of Galveston

Once you’ve booked a flight to Houston, your next task is figuring out how you’ll travel from the airport to port.

Unfortunately, the airports are located 40 miles (HOU) and 70 miles (IAH) from the Port of Galveston, so getting from the airport to port is not as convenient in Galveston compared to other ports like Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

That being said, there are several recommended ways to reach the port from the airport:

Rideshare service

The most convenient way to reach the Port of Galveston from a Houston airport is through a rideshare service like Lyft.

Lyft is the exclusive rideshare company at the Galveston terminal, so you cannot use Uber.

This option is best for those traveling with larger groups, as the cost of the Lyft is per vehicle and not per person like many shuttle services. Most Lyfts should be able to fit four passengers in addition to the driver. This brings the travel cost per passenger down significantly when compared to booking a shuttle service.

Expect to pay between $50-60 one-way when traveling from Houston Hobby airport to the Port of Galveston and $90-100 one-way when traveling from George Bush Intercontinental airport to the port. Tipping the driver is standard practice.

If you are traveling with large suitcases or have more than four passengers, you’ll want to book a Lyft XL. These are larger vehicles that can better accommodate luggage and higher numbers of passengers. The cost will be a bit higher for this service than a regular-sized vehicle.

Taxi service

Taxi service is also available from both airports in Houston, but the price of a taxi will likely be higher than what you will pay for a rideshare service. Expect to pay at least $125+ one-way from IAH airport and $75+ from HOU airport.

Because the prices of taxis are higher, we recommend using a rideshare service first.

Booking shuttles through Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean offers a shuttle service to and from both the George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby airports, and this can be one of the most convenient options for travelers.

Royal Caribbean’s round trip shuttle service pricing varies by airport and is priced per person. 

  • George Bush Intercontinental: $80 roundtrip
  • William P. Hobby: $64 roundtrip

Note: These were the prices I was given for a tentative sailing in October 2022, although prices are subject to change. For the most up to date pricing, contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea program.

When traveling with one or two guests, a shuttle service can make sense, but the price can get high when traveling with 3, 4, 5, or more guests. In this scenario, booking a rideshare or taxi service usually has a better price-per-person ratio.

Independent shuttle companies

While booking through the cruise line can be convenient, you’ll find a better shuttle price through independently operated shuttle companies in Galveston.

Several companies offer shuttle service to and from both the IAH and HOU airports:

Galveston Express offers shuttles priced at $60-65 roundtrip from HOU airport and $70-75 roundtrip from IAH airport.

Galveston Limousine offers the lowest prices, at $50 roundtrip from HOU airport and $60 roundtrip from IAH airport.

Island Breeze Shuttle does pricing a bit differently than their competitors. They price their shuttle at $150 roundtrip from HOU airport and $190 roundtrip from IAH, but the pricing is for 2 passengers.

The 3rd and 4th passenger from HOU airport cost $60 and $30, respectively, and the 3rd and 4th passenger from IAH airport cost $85 and $50. Group rates are also available.

Should I rent a car to get to the Port of Galveston?

Some passengers may look into renting a car from the airport in Houston and driving to the Port of Galveston themselves.

However, this is typically not going to be the most convenient nor cost effective option, especially if you’re unable to secure a one-way car rental and have to pay to park the car for a week.

It can’t hurt to check pricing and availability, though, especially if you’re traveling with a large family and would prefer having a private vehicle. It can also be a nice option if you plan to explore more of the Galveston or Houston areas before or after your cruise.

What time should I schedule my return flight after the cruise?

Because Houston’s airports are located 40-70 miles from the Port of Galveston, it’s important to budget enough time to disembark the cruise ship, travel to Houston, check-in for your flight, and go through security.

Even if your cruise itinerary says you will arrive at the Port of Galveston at 6 or 7 in the morning on disembarkation day, you may not disembark until 7:30-9AM.

Following disembarkation, you’ll need to catch a rideshare/taxi service or board a shuttle bus to the airport. Factoring in traffic and any potential delays, it might take longer than you anticipate to travel from the cruise ship to the airport.

Therefore, the earliest we recommend booking a flight home from Galveston/Houston is 1PM or later on disembarkation day.

Parking at the Port of Galveston

If you live within driving distance of Galveston and plan to drive to the port yourself, you’ll find many parking options for the duration of the cruise. Here are some of the most convenient and/or best priced options.

Port of Galveston (official parking)

The Port of Galveston offers official parking at Terminal 3 (Cruise Pier 10), Royal Caribbean’s new cruise terminal in Galveston. Parking can be booked in advance directly from the Port of Galveston’s website.

There are three lots at Cruise Terminal 3: the North Lot, South Lot, and Pier 14 Lot.

The North Lot is priced at $22 per day whereas the South Lot and Pier 14 Lot are $20/day.

Here are a few examples of what parking costs to expect at the Port of Galveston with taxes & fees added:

Adventure of the Seas 4-night cruise:

  • North Lot ($97.26), South Lot ($88.60), Pier 14 Lot ($88.60)

Allure of the Seas 7-night cruise:

  • North Lot ($168.71), South Lot ($153.55), Pier 14 Lot ($153.55)

Radiance of the Seas 9-night cruise:

  • North Lot ($216.34), South Lot ($196.85), Pier 14 Lot ($196.85)

Independently-owned parking lots

There are several independently owned and operated parking lots near the Port of Galveston. All of these lots, however, are located near the original cruise terminals and not Royal Caribbean’s new Galveston terminal.

Most of these parking lots will be about a 7-10 minute drive from the port (or a 30 minute walk). Because Royal Caribbean’s terminal is brand new, it’s best to call the parking companies to check whether or not they will provide shuttles from the lot to Cruise Terminal 3.

Independently owned lots typically offer nice savings when compared to the port’s official parking lots, although prices may be subject to change with the distance required to reach Royal Caribbean’s new cruise terminal.

Here are a few of the best rated places to park near the Port of Galveston:

Where to stay the night before your cruise

We always recommend arriving at the cruise port the day before your cruise begins. Unexpected delays and airline cancellations are all too common, so planning to arrive a day ahead of time gives you more wiggle room in case of any mishaps.

Related: Why you shouldn't fly to your cruise the same day it begins

If you arrive in Houston late at night, your best bet is to stay near the airport and catch a shuttle or rideshare service to Galveston the following morning. Be sure to still allow yourself plenty of time to travel between Houston and Galveston in case of traffic or other delays.

If you arrive earlier in the day, however, we recommend traveling to Galveston the day before your cruise and spending the night there instead. This ensures you are already at the cruise port and will not have to travel the morning of your cruise.

Several Royal Caribbean Blog readers have shared their best hotel recommendations in our message boards:

  • Baymont by Wyndham Galveston
  • Springhill Suites by Marriott Galveston Island
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Galveston Beach

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail from Galveston?

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas will begin sailing from Galveston in November 2022, and she will be the first Oasis Class cruise ship to ever sail from the port.

Allure of the Seas will offer primarily 7-night Western Caribbean cruises visiting Roatan, Costa Maya, and Cozumel.

Harmony of the Seas

Once Allure heads back to Florida in fall 2023, Harmony of the Seas will come to Galveston to offer 7-night Western Caribbean cruises visiting Roatan, Costa Maya, and Cozumel.

Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas, which has sailed from Galveston for many years, will finish her time in Texas in October 2022. Until then, she is offering 7-night Western Caribbean cruises visiting the ports of Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Belize City, Roatan, and Costa Maya.

Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas will be offering shorter cruises from Galveston, with 4-night and 5-night Western Caribbean cruise itineraries.

4-night cruises have two sea days and one port day in Cozumel, whereas the 5-night cruises have two sea days and two port days: one in Costa Maya and the other in Cozumel.

These cruises will be offered from November 2022 to April 2023.

Voyager of the Seas

Once Adventure of the Seas departs Galveston in spring 2023, Voyager of the Seas will begin offering the same 4 and 5-night itineraries in the Western Caribbean.

A few other sailings are available as well: a 6-night cruise visiting Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya and a 5-night cruise visiting Yucatan (Progreso) and Cozumel.

Radiance of the Seas

Radiance of the Seas will sail from Galveston from January to April 2023, offering varied itineraries which range from 6-10 nights in length.

Depending on the itinerary, you can visit Yucatan (Progreso), Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Belize City, Cartagena, Colón, Roatan, Key West, Nassau, Bimini, Grand Bahama Island, and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

A 15-night Panama Canal cruise will also be offered from Galveston, visiting Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Colón, San Juan del Sur, and Puerto Vallarta before ending in Los Angeles, California. 

Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas offers limited 4 and 5-night Western Caribbean cruise itineraries in fall 2022, visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise? Start here:

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 11, 2022

In:
11 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

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

Royal Caribbean rewards its repeat customers with a variety of benefits, but which Crown & Anchor benefits are the absolute best?

Depending on your cruising style and preferences, all the benefits may not be useful, but there are certainly a few that stand out as must-use nearly every cruise.

You can expect discounts, vouchers, and even freebies just for having sailed with Royal Caribbean in the past.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 467th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt reviews his recent sailing on Mariner of the Seas.

Just a few weeks later, Matt returned to Mariner of the Seas for another cruise and shares what his experience was like going solo on Mariner.

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.

Video: Rare cruise ship cabins that get booked very quickly!

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: Rare cruise ship cabins that get booked very quickly!

I tried the cheapest Royal Caribbean Alaska cabin I could find

What's it like if you go on an Alaska cruise in the smallest, cheapest cabin you can find?

The cruise fare for Radiance of the Seas was listed at $240 per person with $293 in taxes and fees. 

As someone who cruises on a budget and loves visiting Alaska, Jenna took the leap and booked the cruise unsure of what to expect.

I've been on every class of Royal Caribbean cruise ships: here's what I like about each

After trying each of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship classes, Jenna has her favorites.

Royal Caribbean has six distinct classes of cruise ships, each with their own layouts, amenities, itinerary options, and onboard atmosphere. 

Even though all Royal Caribbean cruise ships share a common cruise line "DNA", they can feel quite different from one another when comparing the ships side by side.

What happens if you're late and miss your cruise ship?

It’s every cruiser’s worst nightmare - arriving late to the port and missing the cruise ship's departure.

Longtime cruisers will tell you they’ve undoubtedly seen instances of cruise ships leaving late passengers behind. If you go up to the top deck at departure time, you might catch a glimpse of passengers running back to the ship.

If there’s one mistake that cruisers should absolutely never make, it’s arriving late to the cruise port. Those who do make this costly mistake will tell you time and time again how important it is to be on time for the ship's scheduled departure. 

50 Alaska cruise tips you should use

In:
10 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

If there is a cruise destination worthy of anyone's bucket list, it has to be Alaska. Royal Caribbean is one of the biggest cruise operators that offers regular service to Alaska and it is one of the top destinations in cruising today.

There are lots of cruise tips out there, but Alaska requires its own strategy.

Here are the fundamentals of planning a cruise to Alaska to kickstart your approach and ensure a great trip to the last—and vast—great frontier.

In this article:

Booking tips

Figure out the best time to visit Alaska for your preferences

The Alaska cruise season generally runs from May to September. While many offerings and experiences on an Alaska cruise will be similar no matter the month you sail, there are a few differences to consider.

May and September are shoulder seasons for Alaska cruises. During these months, you may find fewer families and passengers onboard and lower prices. In addition, you may have a greater chance of seeing the northern lights as fall begins in September.

The most popular months to cruise to Alaska are in June, July, and August. These months are when daylight hours are longest, wildlife viewing opportunities are greatest, and weather is warmest.

Read more: The best time to take an Alaska cruise

Research the best ship for you

Royal Caribbean deploys both large and small cruise ships to Alaska, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Larger ships will offer more onboard activities and venues, whereas smaller ships are able to fit into more destinations along Alaska’s inside passage. Taking a look at what you hope to see and experience while on an Alaska cruise is an important first step before booking a particular ship.

Are you traveling with kids and looking for the most onboard activities? If so, selecting a larger ship like Quantum of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas may be the best option. These Quantum Class ships feature the Seaplex, an indoor sports court that offers activities like bumper cars, soccer, pickleball, and more. They also have an indoor pool as well as more bars, dining options, and entertainment venues onboard.

Ships like Serenade of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas may be smaller, but don’t let that deter you from choosing one of these ships. Many passengers find that cruising to Alaska on a smaller ship comes with its own set of benefits. Smaller ships are able to fit into more ports, meaning that they can visit destinations like Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm Fjord. And like Royal Caribbean’s larger ships, these smaller ships also offer fantastic viewing opportunities with floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of outdoor deck space.

Consider a balcony cabin

If a balcony stateroom is in your budget, then definitely book one and enjoy the opportunity to have a private area to enjoy the natural beauty of Alaska anytime you see fit.  There is no denying that having easy access and private space, especially when near a glacier, is a lovely perk.

Balcony staterooms may come at a higher cost than interior or ocean view cabins, but for many cruisers it is well worth the cost.

Or… consider an interior or ocean view cabin

One of the lessons we learned from our first Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska was that while a balcony cabin is nice to have, it is not nearly as essential as others led us to believe.

You can still have an amazing Alaska cruise by depending on public areas to enjoy the view.  Royal Caribbean's ships feature ample deck space to enjoy the view any time of the day.  Even when near a glacier, you ought to find great viewing opportunities.  Moreover, the price of a balcony room may be much more expensive than an interior room. You may decide that it is a better investment to book the cheaper room and use the money saved to invest in an amazing shore excursion.

The bottom line is consider all room categories, but do not assume you have to get a balcony room.

Book with a travel agent

One of the top tips we share at Royal Caribbean Blog is to book your cruise with a travel agent. A travel agent will cost you nothing extra, but they can provide extremely valuable help and support during the booking process.

Being able to ask your travel agent questions–and get them resolved–without having to take time out of your day to contact Royal Caribbean yourself will save you valuable time. Additionally, good travel agents have an abundance of knowledge about Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry, so they are available to answer any questions you may have about your upcoming cruise.

Read more: Top 5 things to look for in a good travel agent for your cruise vacation

Book dining and drink packages in advance

Just like any Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s important to pre-book any dining or drink packages for your cruise via Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. Booking early allows you to lock in the price. If the drink package you purchased for $63/day raises to $75/day, for example, you will have paid a much lower price than some passengers onboard.

Likewise, you’re also able to cancel and rebook if the price drops. If you initially paid $220 for an Unlimited Dining Package and it lowers to $179, you can cancel and rebook the package to obtain the lower price.

You can also cancel any packages booked up to two days before your cruise, so there is no harm in booking addons early to lock in the best price.

Book excursions in advance

The same rules that apply to dining and beverage packages also apply to shore excursions; it’s important to book shore excursions in advance. In fact, because popular shore excursions often risk selling out, it’s even more important to book shore excursions ahead of time compared to dining and beverage packages.

Whether you are booking through Royal Caribbean directly or through an outside provider, be sure to research what activities and excursions are recommended in each cruise port. While some ports may be best for whale watching, others may offer the best historic or cultural opportunities.

For more information on what to do in the most common cruise ports in Alaska, check out our guides:

Find the best itinerary for you

While there is no “best itinerary” for an Alaska cruise, it’s important to have an understanding of what options are available. Some cruise ships leave from Seattle whereas others leave from Vancouver, some are one-way sailings to Alaska while others are roundtrip, and some itineraries visit more cruise ports than others.

Read more: How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Browsing through all of Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise offerings on the website is a good starting point for researching the different options available. Alternatively, you can talk to your travel agent to discuss which option will work best for you.

Fly into your departure port a day early

No matter where in the world your cruise departs from, it is important to arrive to your departure city at least one day prior to the cruise. Flight delays and cancellations, missed connections, traffic, unexpected car issues, and weather can negatively affect your chance of getting to the cruise port on time. Arriving one day ahead of time and staying in a hotel the night before your cruise will give you buffer time in the chance you encounter unexpected delays.

Luckily, Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver, Seattle, or Seward, each of which offers plenty to do, eat, and experience before your cruise begins.

Know the difference between Alaska and Caribbean cruises

If you are used to cruising in the Caribbean, going to Alaska is going to surprise you in some ways with the different approach and experience it offers.

Cruising to Alaska is a port-intensive itinerary with shore excursions that cost significantly more money and far fewer party events.  Unlike the Caribbean where the places you visit can sometimes be secondary, an Alaska cruise is all about where you visit and the onboard experience can almost become an afterthought.

Extend your Alaska cruise with a Cruise Tour

In addition to the cruises, Royal Caribbean offers expanded journeys into Alaska with its Cruise Tour program.

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Tour will take you to incredible destinations that no cruise ship can visit. From the coastline to the heart of the frontier, a Royal Caribbean Alaska Cruise Tour land and sea package delivers all the must-see sights on land.

Either before or after your Royal Caribbean cruise, you can book a Cruise Tour that combines a cruise and a land tour, which usually runs three to seven nights. Popular destinations include Denali National Park (for wildlife viewing), Talkeetna (best place for Denali views) and Fairbanks (Alaska pipeline). 

Every Royal Caribbean Alaska Cruise Tour includes knowledgeable Adventure Specialists who act as guides, historians and concierges. They are by your side for the entirety of the land tour, providing insider tips and local perspective.

Expect abnormal hours in port

Most cruises tend to have port stops sometime between 7AM and 8PM at the latest. Alaska cruises, however, often have more abnormal hours. Some port stops, for example, may be between 4PM and midnight, or you might have two stops in one day!

Most ports will stick to more “normal” hours, but if you’re looking at your itinerary and are shocked to see such bizarre hours for port stops, don’t be too alarmed. Cruises to Alaska run primarily during the summer months when daylight hours are much longer, so it’s possible to be walking around the port at 9 or 10PM in the peak of summer while still enjoying the daylight.

Purchase travel insurance

Travel insurance is always a good idea whether you are cruising to international ports or within the United States. Even though the insurance plans of most US citizens should work while in Alaska, it’s still a good idea to purchase travel insurance prior to your cruise.

Travel insurance can cover travel delays and cancellations, lost luggage or valuables, medical coverage, emergency transportation, and more. It’s always better to purchase travel insurance and not need it than to not have travel insurance when an unfortunate situation arises.

Tips for onboard the ship

Be flexible on ports

Your cruise will stop at a variety of ports in Alaska (with some stopping in Canada as well). Common ports include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Haines, and Hubbard Glacier, among others. 

Where you visit depends on your ship’s size, itinerary, and embarkation port. However, it is important to remain flexible and understand that your itinerary can change.

Alaska’s weather conditions may lead to high seas, storms, and heavy winds, especially if you are traveling during the shoulder season in early May or late September. The day you planned in Sitka, as an example, could be replaced by a stop in Ketchikan. Or perhaps the ship is unable to sail further into a passage for a glacier sighting.

The majority of sailings do go as planned, but staying flexible is important. Plus, you may end up having a fantastic day in a port you did not plan to go to in the first place!

Find a great spot to watch glaciers and scenery

A unique aspect to an Alaska cruise is that you can see land for the majority of the sailing. They mainly sail through Alaska’s inside passage, where fjords, waterfalls, and mountains dot the landscape on both sides of the ship.

On the first day or two of your cruise, we recommend exploring the ship to make note of areas from which you can view the scenery once you get to Alaska. The pool deck is a popular option, but you may find some hidden gems throughout the ship.

If you’re sailing on a Quantum Class ship to Alaska, head to the back of the Windjammer or the Solarium bridge wings for some fantastic views of the scenery with fewer crowds. On Radiance Class ships, check out the helicopter pad, the front of deck 12 above the bridge, or the Viking Crown Lounge.

Wake up early and stay up late

Traveling to Alaska will have different daylight hours than what you are used to on a Caribbean cruise, especially if you’re traveling in the middle of summer. With as many as 19 hours of daylight in the summer months, don’t forget to wake up early and stay up late to be amazed by the scenery around you on an Alaska cruise.

Try not to worry about the weather

News flash: it will rain while you are in Alaska, but it is also not the end of the world.

Weather forecasts do not always match what you will experience. Be prepared for changing weather daily. Be prepared with varying clothing options (i.e. wear layers).  And when it does rain, just give it a few minutes, as it generally does not last long. Take it all in. And remember, many excursions go rain or shine!

No matter what time of the year you pick for your cruise, the weather can be iffy, so plan for it all.

Bring motion sickness remedies

Depending on the weather conditions outside and time of year you sail to Alaska, you may encounter some choppy seas. While most days should be smooth sailing, it’s always good to plan in advance if you are prone to motion sickness. This is especially true if you plan to book a whale watching tour while in port, as most guests will feel more movement on a smaller vessel.

There are many remedies available for motion sickness, from dramamine to sea-bands or even natural remedies like green apples and ginger.

Take advantage of port lectures

Royal Caribbean offers complimentary lectures presented by higher education staff on the history and culture of the ports your cruise will visit.

It is easy to overlook these types of offerings with so many other activities and things to do onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, but do yourself a favor and check these out. The lectures provided onboard offer important context for the adventures you will take on shore later in your visit.

These lectures may not offer money saving tips or pitfalls to avoid, but they do offer an insider look at these ports that I think helps improve your appreciation of each city when you go to visit them later.

Relax and enjoy the scenery

Even with all the fun activities you’ll find onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, it’s always a great idea to spend time sitting back and relaxing on an Alaska cruise. Sailing through the Alaska Inside Passage comes with stunning views in every direction, whether you spot whales, eagles, glaciers, or waterfalls.

While it can be tempting to book a full day of fun activities onboard, don’t forget to spend some time relaxing in a comfy chair or on the pool deck to watch the scenery pass by.

Book shows and dining on the first day

Just like any Royal Caribbean cruise, be sure to book any specialty dining and entertainment reservations on the first day of your cruise to ensure you can reserve the days and times that work best for you.

As soon as you get onboard, connect to the ship’s wifi and open the Royal Caribbean app (you do not need to purchase a wifi package to access the Royal Caribbean app). Then scroll through the calendar to reserve any entertainment you are interested in.

If you have a dining package, head to any of the restaurants onboard to reserve all specialty dining days and times for the week.

Bring cards or board games

You may encounter more downtime on an Alaska cruise compared to what you would experience on a bigger cruise ship in warmer weather. While there are certainly enough activities and entertainment options to keep you occupied, some passengers like to spend time playing cards or games with fellow passengers.

While you may be able to find cards onboard, either in the library or Royal Caribbean gift shop, packing a deck of cards in your luggage isn’t a bad idea either.

Confirm Main Dining Room dining times and options

Another thing you should do on the first day of your Alaska cruise is double check your Main Dining Room preferences. When you booked your cruise, you should have selected a dining time and either Traditional or My Time Dining. Additionally, if you would prefer a private table as opposed to dining with others, it’s a good idea to speak with the staff in the Main Dining Room on embarkation day to ensure this is the case.

Shore excursion tips

Book a whale watching tour

Whale watching tours are arguably the most popular shore excursion to book on an Alaska cruise. The chance to view the largest mammals on earth in their natural habitat is simply a remarkable experience, and Alaska has some of the best whale watching in the world.

Whale watching tours are not cheap, but they won’t necessarily break the bank either. Some ports are better than others for whale watching, and some months bring a higher chance to spot whales than others. While you may be able to spot whales from your cruise ship at some point on an Alaska cruise, if you really want to see whales up close, be sure to book a whale watching excursion.

Read more: Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

View other wildlife

While whale watching may be popular, don’t miss the opportunity to spot more of Alaska’s amazing wildlife while in port. Bears, eagles, salmon, sea lions, sea otters, and other wildlife are often able to be spotted on an Alaska cruise.

In Sitka, consider visiting the Fortress of the Bear, a bear rescue center located near the city center. In Ketchikan, walk around Creek Street for the chance to spot sea otters playing in the creek. When you’re on a bus tour or walking through town, be sure to look up in the trees to see if you can spot any eagles.

Learn about Alaska’s Native history

While Alaska cruises are famous for providing stunning views, don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about Alaska’s history and culture while visiting the state.

Royal Caribbean offers shore excursions with a focus on history and culture in its Alaskan ports. As an example, one of these tours is the Native Cultural and Historical Tour in Sitka, where guests will experience first-hand the melting pot of native Tlingit culture as well as Russian and American influences. 

If you’re hoping to explore Native history and culture on your own, research museums and walking paths in your port of call.

Visit glaciers

While most cruises to Alaska will include a scenic cruising day to destinations like Hubbard Glacier and Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, you may also wish to explore glaciers up close while in port.

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is one of the most visited glaciers on an Alaska cruise, as it is easily accessible via bus or taxi from the cruise port. While at the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, visitors can enjoy walking trails, the spectacular Nugget Waterfall, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

If you’re looking for a truly once in a lifetime experience, you can even book a helicopter tour that lands on top of a glacier in Alaska!

Go on a day hike

Alaska is a dream for active cruisers, offering some of the country’s most magnificent nature and mountains to explore. All Alaska cruise ports offer fantastic day hike opportunities, from the easiest of trails to the most challenging.

Whether hiking to the pointy peak of Deer Mountain in Ketchikan, riding the Goldbelt tram to mellow trails in Juneau, or opting for a low-impact nature walk in Sitka, hiking through Alaska’s forests is a nice way to connect with nature and explore the port.

Kayak near glaciers

Kayaking is another popular active shore excursion in Alaska, bringing visitors to picturesque destinations along the coastline. Some kayaking excursions allow guests to get close to glaciers and you may even spot wildlife while on the tour.

Kayaking is a relatively low-impact activity, making it a great choice for those looking for an active excursion that also allows them to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Go biking or rent a scooter

If you’re looking to explore Alaska in a unique way, consider traveling on two wheels. Bicycle tours or rentals are available in most Alaska cruise ports, allowing guests to see much more of a port than they would on foot. The “Bike and Brew Glacier View” tour in Juneau combines a bike ride with a beer tasting!

If riding a bike sounds too active for your liking, consider renting an electric scooter in Skagway through Skagway Scooters to explore all of Skagway and the surrounding area.

Try local food

One big mistake we made on our Alaska cruise was not taking the time to research where to eat in the various ports we visited. Alaska has some amazing local cuisine, but there are a lot of pretenders alongside the great stuff.

Each port you visit will take you to some terrific spots to eat, so don't rely purely on your Yelp app once in town.  Figure out the restaurants and bars you want to go to before you leave home, especially if you are interested in enjoying the best crab, salmon and beers of Alaska.

Here are a few food and drink recommendations for your Alaska cruise:

  • Ketchikan: The Alaska Fish House is a popular seafood spot located just a few blocks from the port. In our experience, a long line formed around lunchtime, but the extremely fresh fish is said to be worth the wait.
  • Skagway: On a chilly Alaskan day, not much fills the spot more than a doughy, sugary, and warm piece of Alaskan fry bread. Similar to an elephant ear, Alaskan fry bread is a popular snack in the state, and the place to try it in Skagway is at Klondike Doughboy. Each piece of fry bread is fried to order, and it is guaranteed to warm you up no matter what the weather is like outside. If you’re looking for something more savory, check out the Skagway Fish Company.
  • Juneau and Sitka: Due to Alaska’s historical and geographical connection to Russia, you can find Russian influences in Alaskan cuisine. A restaurant to taste Russian flavors is Pel’Meni, which is located in both Juneau and Sitka. Pel’Meni offers steamed Russian dumplings in two flavors: beef or potato. The dumplings are then topped with butter, curry, hot sauce, and cilantro, creating an explosion of flavor with each bite.

Visit a saloon

Just like eating, drinking can be a way to learn more about the culture of Alaska. Our recommendation is to plan shore excursions for the morning and spend the afternoon walking around the port to try local food and drinks.

Dotted along most Alaska cruise ports are small, historic saloons filled with local history, and drinking at a saloon is a quintessential part of visiting any small town in Alaska.

One of the most famous places to grab a drink when cruising to Alaska is The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. With western-themed architecture and eclectic decor, The Red Dog Saloon is certainly unique. It’s not uncommon for the saloon to be filled with cruisers enjoying live music, drinks, and food before getting back onboard the ship.

Three of the most popular drinks at the saloon are the Duck Fart shot, Glacier Margarita, and Miners Scratch Hard Lemonade.

Taste local beer

If you’re a beer lover, you’re in luck while on an Alaska cruise. A variety of local craft breweries are located in most Alaska cruise ports, offering the perfect place to wind down after a busy day exploring the state.

Here are a few of our recommended breweries to check out while in Alaska:

  • Ketchikan: Bawden Street Brewing Company
  • Juneau: Barnaby Brewing Company
  • Skagway: Skagway Brewing Company or Klondike Brewing Company

Visit the Yukon Territory

If your cruise visits Skagway, you may want to take the chance to visit Canada’s Yukon Territory, located just 15 miles from the center of town. The Yukon Territory, like much of Alaska, offers rugged terrain, fascinating culture, and breathtaking scenery.

You can opt to visit the Yukon Territory by renting a car or motorcycle, booking an excursion, or traveling on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Get a taste of Alaska’s Russian history

In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million. Before this purchase, though, Russia had significant influence on the state, bringing architecture, food, and religion to the region. Visiting Alaska today offers visitors the chance to learn more about Russia’s impact on the state.

The best port to experience Alaska’s Russian history is in Sitka, the former capital of Russian Alaska. From visiting Orthodox cathedrals to Baranof Castle State Historic Site, where the formal transfer of Russia to the United States occurred, you’re sure to get a glimpse of the state’s dynamic history while in Sitka.

Pack snacks for shore excursions

It’s a good idea to pack a snack with you while on a shore excursion in Alaska, which may be further out into nature and more active than what you normally book on a Caribbean cruise. Packing granola bars, trail mix, or even the small boxes of cereal you can get with room service is recommended to ensure you don’t get too hungry while on tour.

Always get off the ship

Regardless of how bad the weather outside may be or if you have already visited a port before, always get off the ship when you can. Even if you don’t have anything planned, just walking around the historic port towns can be a nice way to spend a few hours.

If it’s cold and rainy, take shelter in a local seafood restaurant, saloon, coffee shop, or brewery and immerse yourself in the town’s culture while tasting delicious food and drinks.

Packing tips

Bring an all-weather jacket

Even though your Royal Caribbean cruise will take you to Alaska during the warmer months of the year, it can get downright cold (and wet) during your Alaska cruise.

Given its northerly position and varied geography—from mountains and oceans to glaciers and tundra—you can experience several microclimates in a short amount of time, which can mean extreme temperatures in one place, and mild conditions in the next.

There are plenty of great packing choices to consider, but an all-weather jacket is essential to ensure you remain warm and dry in the coldest of temperatures. Here are our top recommendations for the best jacket for an Alaska cruise:

Wear the right shoes

While you may walk around in flip flops in the Caribbean, you probably will not want to do this on an Alaska cruise! Packing the right shoes to fit Alaska’s terrain and shore excursion opportunities is essential to ensure you remain comfortable during your vacation.

The proper footwear to bring ultimately depends on what you plan to do while in port. Sneakers or other closed toed shoes are the most recommended footwear, especially those that are water-resistant. Rain is extremely common in Alaska, so having footwear that will not make your feet cold and wet is important.

Rugged hiking boots are not totally necessary unless you plan to do a lot of hiking while in Alaska. For walking around Alaska’s towns and visiting popular spots like Mendenhall Glacier, sneakers should suffice

Bring binoculars

Alaska is all about what you see around you, and often the very best of Alaska's natural beauty and wildlife is best seen through a pair of binoculars.

You do not need to go crazy with the fanciest binoculars on the market, but being able to zoom in on a bald eagle resting, or sea lions swimming is worth every penny you spend on binoculars.

On our recent Alaska cruise onboard Ovation of the Seas, we purchased these binoculars and found them to be a great budget option. 

Wear layers

Layers are key when it comes to packing for an Alaska cruise. Weather can change rapidly and several times throughout the day, so it’s important to be prepared with layers of clothing you can take on and off while in port or onboard.

In general, there are three layers to pack:

  • Base layer: t-shirt and jeans
  • Warm layer: Fleece or down jacket/sweater
  • Waterproof layer: Thin waterproof jacket suitable for when it rains

It can actually get fairly warm in Alaska during the day in the summer, so having a few t-shirts and even a pair of shorts can be a good idea.

Pack accessories

Outside of layers, remember to pack accessories for your Alaska cruise. Hats, gloves, and sunglasses are all important items to bring with you to ensure you stay warm in the chilliest temperatures you may encounter.

While you may picture rainy, cloudy days in Alaska, you’ll be surprised at how helpful sunglasses can be on sunny days. Not only is the sun shining down on you, but light will be reflected from glaciers and snow, making sunglasses really nice to have access to.

Buy lightly used clothing

If buying an all-new wardrobe sounds expensive, consider buying clothes on a website like eBay.  A quality jacket is an especially costly item, but buying a gently used one from eBay can save lots, especially for kids.

Additionally, check if there are any used outdoor gear stores in your area. These consignment stores can be an excellent place to find quality outdoor clothing at a lower price.

Don’t pack too many clothes

Packing for an Alaska cruise can feel overwhelming. From puffy jackets to rain gear, boots, dress clothes, and swimsuits, it can be easy to fill up a large suitcase with apparel fit for Alaska’s unpredictable weather.

A big lesson we learned from cruising to Alaska is to pack much less than you think (while still packing the essentials, of course). As the weather in Alaska is colder than on a Caribbean cruise, for example, you may find that your clothes stay cleaner much longer. You may also find yourself wearing nearly the same exact outfit each day in port, as well. 

Remember that you can do laundry

If you’re concerned over not packing enough or what you’ll do if clothes get dirty on a shore excursion, remember that all Royal Caribbean ships offer laundry service onboard. While self-service laundry is not available, you can choose to have a full bag of laundry washed and folded for $35.99 per bag.

While it isn’t the cheapest laundry service in the world, the convenience of washing clothes midway through the cruise and packing lighter can be worth the cost.

Bring a waterproof or water-resistant daypack

While it’s always a good idea to take a daypack ashore, it is especially important to do so when visiting Alaska. You’re going to need somewhere to put your sweatshirt when it gets too warm or your phone when it starts to rain.

Bringing a waterproof or water-resistant daypack with you to Alaska will ensure that your belongings are protected while exploring, rain or shine.

Don’t pack an umbrella

Despite the rain, do not pack an umbrella. Instead, make sure there’s a hood on your all-weather jacket. A hood takes up far less space than an umbrella, leaving more room for your gear and adventure essentials.

Don’t forget a swimsuit

Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit in your suitcase. Even though you’ll encounter colder weather than you are used to on a tropical cruise, the ships Royal Caribbean sends to Alaska tend to have an indoor pool or adults-only Solarium along with jacuzzis.

While you might not spend as much time in the pool as you would in the Caribbean, relaxing in the hot tub on a chilly morning or evening in Alaska can be extremely relaxing.

Quantum Class ships cruising to Alaska offer an indoor pool for all ages in addition to an indoor adults-only Solarium. Radiance Class ships have an indoor pool, but it’s only for ages 16+ as it is located in the Solarium. Jacuzzis are available on both ships.

Remember to pack clothes for onboard the ship

In between packing your down jacket, sweaters, raincoats, and gloves, remember to pack clothes to wear onboard the cruise ship as well. Dinner outfits, formal wear, loungewear, and pajamas are all important to pack for an Alaska cruise.

An expensive camera is not necessary

While some travel guides recommend bringing a fancy camera on an Alaska cruise to capture the state’s scenery, this is not totally necessary. If you have a phone with a great camera, don’t worry about purchasing an expensive camera to use on the cruise. A relatively new iPhone or Android will have fantastic picture quality that you can use to capture your cruise memories.

If you enjoy taking photos and are planning to invest in a new camera, though, Alaska is certainly a great spot to bring a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Remember to pack wide angle and telephoto lenses!

Bonus tips!

Book the North Star and RipCord by iFLY

If you’re sailing on a Quantum Class ship to Alaska, such as Quantum of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas, you’ll likely want to experience two of the ships’ most exciting onboard activities: the North Star (observation pod) and RipCord by iFLY (indoor skydiving).

It’s important to reserve these activities in advance to not only ensure you can try the activity onboard, but to reserve the best time, day, and price that works for you.

Both the North Star and RipCord by iFLY have complimentary and extra-cost options. Complimentary spots for the North Star are available when the ship is in port, but cost extra on sea days ($29.99) or when the ship is visiting a glacier ($49.99). RipCord by iFLY has a 1-minute complimentary flight option or a longer, 2-minute flight available for $49.99.

Just like entertainment, open the Royal Caribbean app as soon as you get onboard to reserve a time slot for these two activities.

Buy forgotten items in port

If you forget a piece of clothing like a waterproof coat or sweatshirt, don’t fret! There are plenty of souvenir shops available at each Alaskan port which offer a variety of clothing to fit any weather condition you encounter.

Plus, most of the clothing you will find in souvenir shops will be branded with “Alaska” or the port’s name, making it a great souvenir to take home with you.

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

In:
09 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

One of the things I love most about cruising is the fantastic vacation value it can offer, with accommodation, food, entertainment, and amazing destinations included in the cruise fare. It’s hard to pass up a cheap cruise deal, especially when the cruise visits Alaska.

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Back in May, I was browsing Royal Caribbean’s website when I came across a cheap cruise deal to Alaska: a 7-night one-way cruise on Radiance of the Seas.

The cruise fare was listed at $240 per person with $293 in taxes and fees. As someone who cruises on a budget and loves visiting Alaska, I took the leap and booked the cruise unsure of what to expect.

Cruising to Alaska on the cheap? Yes, please!

Expectations

Booking the cheapest cruise you can find often comes with low expectations, but my expectations were set pretty high. I took an Alaska cruise last year, and it remains one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.

Related: Ultimate Alaska cruise guide

The scenery, food, culture, and ports on an Alaska cruise are simply fantastic and it’s definitely my favorite place to cruise in North America.

Things would have to be pretty bad onboard for me not to enjoy my Alaska cruise experience, so I went into the cruise knowing it would likely live up to my expectations.

Plus, I assumed the cruise was offered at such a low price not because the product would not be up to par, but because of low demand at the end of the summer season.

In the spirit of booking the “cheapest Alaska cruise,” I did not book any excursions, dining packages, or drink packages. Alaska cruise ports are all walkable and full of free activities, so I knew I would be able to find enough to do in port without spending hundreds on shore excursions.

Cruise fare, flights, and hotel

When I booked my cruise on Radiance of the Seas, it was the cheapest Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s website. The total cruise fare with taxes & fees for 2 guests in an interior room was $1,118, or $559 per guest.

Gratuities for each guest were $101.50, bringing the total cruise fare to $660.50 per person. At around $94 per day, I felt it was a fantastic deal!

Related: How much does a cruise cost?

Flights & shuttle transfers

Because the cruise started in Vancouver and ended in Seward, I needed to purchase two one-way flights. Flying to Vancouver was $189 and flying from Anchorage was $347, bringing the total flight cost to $536.

Flying roundtrip from my house to either Seattle or Vancouver usually costs between $200 and $300 total, so the one-way flights were definitely more expensive, especially the one from Anchorage, adding a significant amount to the total cost of the cruise.

Additionally, because the cruise ended in Seward, I needed to purchase a shuttle bus to Anchorage for $78.95. This was the cheaper option; the train transfer was $124.95!

Hotel

The last purchase I made before the cruise was a hotel in Vancouver. As it’s recommended to fly to your cruise departure port the day before you sail, I spent $285 USD to spend the night at the Blue Horizon Hotel in downtown Vancouver ($142.50 per person). This was one of the cheapest hotel options I found downtown, with others as high as $400+ per night.

Related: Why you shouldn’t fly to your cruise the same day it begins

I also spent around $10 to get from Vancouver’s airport to downtown via the metro and $15 for an Uber from my house to the airport.

Total cost of my cruise fare, flights, hotel, and transfers: $1,442.95

Arrival & Embarkation

I arrived in Vancouver the night before my cruise and spent about 24 hours in the city before heading to the cruise terminal. Canada Place, Vancouver’s cruise terminal, is located walking distance from many hotels in downtown Vancouver.

I was cruising to Alaska with my friend Reeham from Egypt. I met Reeham in graduate school a few years ago and we’ve remained friends ever since! Reeham and I arrived at the cruise terminal by foot eager to board Radiance of the Seas and start our Alaska vacation.

The embarkation process was extremely easy and we were onboard within 20 minutes of arriving at the terminal.

Radiance of the Seas first impressions

I had never sailed on a Radiance Class cruise ship before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Royal Caribbean has 6 classes of cruise ships, and each has a different layout and size as well as varied onboard dining, activities, and amenities.

One of the first things I noticed was the large Centrum in the middle of Radiance of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is known for their sprawling Royal Promenades inside the ship, but the cruise line’s older cruise ships do not have this feature.

Instead, Radiance of the Seas has a large, 6-story elevator lobby connecting shops, lounges, a coffee shop, and other onboard amenities. I don’t mind the Centrum and feel that it connects the ship’s decks together nicely, although it seemed a bit cramped, even when compared to the more open Centrum area on my recent cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas.

Radiance Class ships are known for the amount of windows found throughout the ship, and this is one of the features I ended up loving most about Radiance of the Seas throughout my cruise. No matter where I was onboard, I could relax with a view and enjoy Alaska’s scenery.

Related: 20 Radiance Class cruise ship tips and secrets

The outdoor decks on Radiance of the Seas were really nice as well, although I didn’t expect to spend much time there during an Alaska cruise. Having access to the helicopter pad is always a plus, and the indoor pool area in the Solarium was a beautiful space.

While Radiance of the Seas clearly did not have all the bells and whistles of a newer cruise ship, I thought the ship was perfect for a cruise focusing more on the destinations as opposed to the ship itself.

The vibe onboard

I almost immediately noticed that the vibe on this Alaska cruise would be different from not only Royal Caribbean’s Caribbean cruises, but also my Alaska cruise last year on Ovation of the Seas.

I was told there were only around 100 kids onboard and the average age of passengers was probably in the late 50s-70s. I’d say Reeham and I stuck out in comparison to the average demographic on the ship, and the atmosphere felt very tame throughout our entire cruise.

The relaxed vibe onboard was probably due to a few factors:

  1. The school year had just started, so there was a noticeable lack of families and kids.
  2. Those passengers and families looking for a more modern, activity-filled cruise will often choose a Quantum Class ship over a Radiance Class ship. Quantum Class ships have activities like bumper cars and the FlowRider which are not available on smaller ships.
  3. This was a one-way sailing, so logistics were more difficult and expensive for younger passengers with limited PTO time, leading to a higher age demographic onboard.

I’m not a huge partier, so I didn’t mind the tame atmosphere on the ship. You’ll rarely catch me awake after 11PM and after 12 cruises I still haven’t been to the nightclub, so the older and calmer vibes onboard were fine with me.

Plus, if you really wanted to find a party you could. There was a nightclub/DJ each night at the Starquest Lounge and live music/dancing in the Centrum. Even if it didn’t have the party vibe of a weekend cruise from Miami, there was always something to do in the evenings.

Our cabin

Our cabin was ready around 1:30PM, and we had booked an interior cabin for this cruise. Booking the cheapest cruise to Alaska will almost always mean booking an interior cabin!

While a lot of people may think you have to book a balcony cabin when cruising to Alaska, I’d argue that there are better spaces onboard to watch the scenery than a balcony, which only provides views in one limited direction. I prefer hanging out on the pool deck or a lounge with more panoramic views of the outside.

Related: Choosing a cabin for your cruise

The cabin was room 9009, which was located on deck 9 forward of Radiance of the Seas. The cabin appeared well-maintained and had a nice amount of walking space throughout it. There was a ton of storage, too, with 7 drawers in the vanity, two shelving areas above the TV, one full-sized wardrobe, and one smaller wardrobe with shelves inside.

Because I travel with so much camera gear along with my clothes, I’m always happy when a cruise ship cabin has tons of storage.

Our cabin had two twin beds pushed apart. When traveling with friends, I prefer having the beds pushed apart not only so we get our own space, but it gives the room better walking space. I appreciated that this was done before we arrived as I did not have to track down my stateroom attendant!

The room had four outlets (2 North American style outlets and 2 European), which was more than I expected on a 20+ year old cruise ship. I was glad I packed a European outlet adapter so we could take advantage of all the outlets in the cabin.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

The bathroom in our cabin was a standard cruise ship-sized bathroom and nothing too fancy. The bathroom is where I noticed the ship showing its age, as the light would flicker on and off several times before staying on and the paint was faded in some areas, but that didn’t matter in the long run.

I only had two complaints with our stateroom. First, the walls seemed a lot thinner on Radiance of the Seas compared to other Royal Caribbean ships I’ve sailed on. One morning, in fact, I was woken up by the alarm in the room next to me!

Second, the internet onboard, which was pretty awful in the first place, was often not functional in our stateroom. As someone who has to do a few hours of blogging onboard each day, it was frustrating having to constantly leave the room and try to get better internet elsewhere.

Food & beverage

One of the first things that comes to mind when anyone thinks of the word “cruise” is endless food, so what was the food like on my cheap Alaska cruise?

I’ve never been disappointed by the food on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and I enjoyed every meal I had on Radiance of the Seas. Reeham and I did not dine at any specialty dining venues onboard, choosing only to eat at complimentary venues.

Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Thankfully, Radiance of the Seas has several complimentary venues onboard, including the Windjammer buffet, Park Cafe, Boardwalk Dog House, and the Main Dining Room.

Windjammer

We started most mornings of the cruise at the Windjammer. This is my favorite place to eat breakfast on a Royal Caribbean cruise due to how many options are available. From savory options like made-to-order omelets and bacon to sweets like french toast, cinnamon rolls, and pancakes, I was never disappointed.

My favorite breakfast at the Windjammer is a few slices of french toast topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips. I had this pretty much every morning!

We had a few lunches and dinners at the Windjammer as well. The dinner theme changes every night, and our favorite was Mediterranean night, which had fresh hummus, falafel, lamb kabobs, and other Mediterranean delicacies.

Related: Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer Cafe buffet

Main Dining Room

One of my favorite meals during the cruise was brunch in the Main Dining Room, where I had one of the best dishes of the cruise: butternut squash risotto. Both breakfast and lunch options were available at brunch, although the special menu was only offered one day of the cruise.

I loved the decor and ambiance in the Main Dining Room, and we ate dinner there 5 out of the 7 nights of our cruise. Dinner would usually take 1-1.5 hours. The French onion soup is by far my favorite item on the menu, but all of the salads, soups, main courses, and desserts were nice as well.

Other dining venues

Outside of the Main Dining Room and Windjammer, I spent most evenings in the Diamond Lounge enjoying complimentary appetizers and small bites. Occasionally I would grab a quick snack from Park Cafe or Caffe Latte-tudes which were free as well.

I was impressed with the food overall and never got tired of visiting the same venues for meals. I’m glad I did not purchase a dining package as this allowed me to save money for a nice, fresh lunch in port each day.

Beverages

As a Diamond member in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society, I receive four free drinks per day of the cruise. This is my favorite benefit of having Diamond status, and I was able to order fresh orange juice, specialty coffees, and cocktails every day!

I only went over my limit twice, adding a total charge of $19 to my account balance.

There were a ton of venues to enjoy a drink, too. My favorite was Starquest and the Diamond Lounge, which are both located on the top deck of Radiance of the Seas. They offered what I think are the best views from the ship, and there were always fewer people there than in other bars and lounges.

Onboard activities

I don’t tend to pack my days onboard full of activities, and most of the time I’m happy to sit back and relax with a coffee and a nice view. That being said, I never felt bored on Radiance of the Seas and there were always activities available whenever I wanted to participate.

The first activity I tried was a movie at the Cinema. Something that makes Radiance Class cruise ships unique is the movie theater, which plays a different movie each day of the cruise! There were five showtimes each day, so it was the perfect thing to do on a chilly day at sea.

We also attended a round of trivia at the Schooner Bar. Trivia is offered several times throughout the day each day of the cruise, and it’s a low-effort activity that can be pretty fun.

Other activities, like bingo, spa seminars, dance classes, etc. were available, although I did not partake in any of these activities.

Music & entertainment

There was always some kind of entertainment or live music every night during the cruise. Guitar music was offered at the pub, piano tunes at Schooner Bar, singers and instrumentalists in the Centrum, and production shows in the Royal Theater.

Related: First time cruisers: Entertainment on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

On our first sea day, I checked out Piano Man in the Royal Theater. The show combined music from Billy Joel, Elton John, and Barry Manilow combined with dancing and singing.

I felt that the show was definitely geared toward an older age demographic, but it was still entertaining to watch. I’m not a huge theater person outside of Royal Caribbean's Broadway shows, so I didn’t attend any other performances throughout the week.

My favorite activity I attended was the Captain’s Corner, where the ship’s captain had a Q&A session to answer guests’ questions about what it’s like to work onboard, how ships navigate the ocean, etc. It was fascinating to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes on a cruise ship!

While Radiance of the Seas may not have a zip line or ice-skating rink, it seemed like there were enough activities onboard to keep kids busy. Adventure Ocean kids programming, a basketball court, mini-golf, and rock climbing were available. There is also a children’s swimming area with a small slide, although this remained closed during our cruise due to the weather.

Related: Here are the absolute best cruises for families

Alaska cruise ports

We stopped at four different ports on our Alaska cruise: Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, and Skagway. We were in port between 8-10 hours each day, and I felt this was plenty of time to explore without getting bored or feeling like we were in a rush.

Juneau

Pretty much every Alaska cruise itinerary stops in the state’s capital of Juneau, and it’s one of my favorite ports because of how many activities are available. A lot of Juneau’s best attractions must be visited either by car or through a tour, so I knew we would probably spend more money here than in any other ports.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Radiance of the Seas docked at the dock furthest away from downtown Juneau, and while there was a shuttle available for around $6 roundtrip, we decided to save money and make the 20 minute walk into town.

We initially planned to spend $45 to ride the Goldbelt Tram to the top of Mount Roberts, but as there was a ton of fog on the mountaintop, we decided against it as the view would be severely blocked.

Instead, we found a shuttle bus to and from Mendenhall Glacier for $45. Other tours, like whale watching and helicopter rides, were in the hundreds of dollars, so we figured visiting Mendenhall Glacier would be the most budget-friendly tour option.

The trip was well worth the cost as Mendenhall Glacier is stunning and easily accessible from downtown Juneau. We spent a few hours walking on nature trails around the glacier and taking in the beauty around us. Mendenhall Glacier really is a must-do activity in Juneau.

Related: Local’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

Once we returned to downtown Juneau, we visited a few local shops and discovered a cool food truck park in the middle of the city. In total, we spent $9 each on fudge and chocolate and $6 on a salmon taco.

Total cost of my day in Juneau: $69

Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point is a unique port in that it is privately owned and operated by the Huna, a Tlingit tribe located in the nearby town of Hoonah. I wasn’t sure what to expect at this port and assumed there would be little to do, but I ended up enjoying the day a lot more than I initially expected.

Icy Strait Point is well developed and has many free attractions, including nice walking paths, a museum, and a beach. The natural beauty of Icy Strait Point is pristine, and we spent the morning looking through our binoculars trying to spot whales, bears, and sea otters.

Related: Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Icy Strait Point

The port is pretty small, however, so Reeham and I decided to walk to the nearby town of Hoonah. Free shuttles are available, but we walked the 40-minute coastal path to town.

While Icy Strait Point is only a port area, Hoonah is where the locals live, and I enjoyed observing local life in a remote town of only 850 people.

We visited a grocery store where jars of salsa were over $8 and bags of beef jerky over $20, watched a free demonstration of locals carving a traditional totem pole, and enjoyed lunch ($15 each) at a local seafood restaurant. There wasn’t too much to do in Hoonah, but it was worth the ~2 hour trip. 

Once back at Icy Strait Point, we enjoyed a bag of mini donuts ($5 each) before walking around a bit more and getting back onboard.

If I visit Icy Strait Point again, I’d probably choose to spend money on a shore excursion for half the day and explore on my own for the other half. We were in Icy Strait Point for the longest time of any ports on the cruise, but I ran out of things to do in the early afternoon. Booking a whale watching tour in addition to walking around on my own would be a nice way to fill up the entire day.

Total cost of my day in Icy Strait Point: $20

Sitka

Sitka, the former capital of Russian Alaska, was the next port on our cruise. Like other ports, we planned to explore freely without a prior plan, and it led to a fun yet busy day in town.

I was impressed with the amount of free activities in Sitka. One of my favorite parts of the day was walking around the Sitka National Historic Park, which had gorgeous rainforest nature trails. The salmon were also running when I was in Alaska, so tons of visitors gathered to watch as the salmon frantically swam upstream.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

I was pretty frightened with all the “WARNING: BEAR” signs around town, though, so I didn’t venture too far on my own!

I also visited the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation center for injured birds of prey. Admission to the center was $15 which felt fair as I was contributing to a good cause.

We spent most of the day in downtown Sitka exploring local businesses and attractions. In total, we spent $12 each on fish n’ chips, $4 on fudge, $3 on hot chocolates, and $6 on magnets.

Related: Local’s guide of what to do in Sitka, Alaska

My favorite place in town was the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, the location where Russia formally handed off Alaska to the United States. This site is free and the views from the top were beyond beautiful.

Total cost of my day in Sitka: $37

Skagway

Our last port of call brought us to Skagway, Alaska, the town most known for Alaska’s Gold Rush.

Last year I spent $100 to ride the White Pass & Yukon Railroad from Skagway. I would 100% recommend doing this while in port, but as I had done it already, I decided to simply walk around town without a plan.

Skagway is probably the most picturesque town we visited on this cruise, and I could spend hours walking up and down the town’s streets, which are lined with historic saloons, museums, souvenir shops, and restaurants.

Related: Local’s guide of what to do in Skagway, Alaska

Our first stop was to a few souvenir shops where we spent $5 on postcards and stamps to mail to friends and family back home.

We also made a pit stop to my favorite place to eat in Skagway, Klondike Doughboy. Specializing in Alaskan fry bread, Reeham and I shared a cinnamon-sugar fried dough for $7.

As I mentioned, Reeham is from Egypt and she abruptly stopped in her tracks in front of a jewelry shop when she saw a variety of Egyptian souvenirs and decor inside the shop.

The shop was owned by an Egyptian, and in true Egyptian culture, he invited Reeham and I inside to chat. Mohamed, the shop owner, and Reeham enjoyed talking to a fellow Egyptian in a town as remote as Skagway, and we stayed in the shop for a while to learn more about local life in Alaska.

Mohamed treated us to lunch and we treated him (and us!) to ice cream ($15) before getting back onboard Radiance of the Seas.

Total cost of my day in Skagway: $27

Related: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

Weather

When I cruised to Alaska in October last year, we encountered awful weather. It basically did not stop raining the entire week!

Because this cruise was at the end of August and into September, I did not expect the weather to be nice this year, either, but I was pleasantly surprised by the weather conditions.

While we encountered some rain on and off most days of the cruise, there was usually only a light sprinkle with a couple rare downpours. We saw the sun nearly every day and in Skagway we did not have any rain whatsoever!

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

Weather is unpredictable anywhere in the world, but especially in Alaska, so I think we lucked out on this cruise. I even took off my jacket a few times to walk around in just a long sleeve shirt and remained comfortable.

Last sea day & disembarkation

The last full day of our Alaska cruise was supposed to include a visit to Hubbard Glacier, but unfortunately we were unable to approach the glacier due to low visibility.

Bad weather was the theme of the day, and we encountered the roughest waters I’ve experienced yet on a cruise. I spent most of the day feeling seasick and laying in bed, which was definitely not fun!

As evening approached, however, Reeham and I began to feel better and were able to enjoy our last night onboard before disembarking the next morning in Seward.

We arrived in Seward early on disembarkation day and took a 3 hour shuttle bus to downtown Anchorage. We still had ten hours before our flight once we arrived in Anchorage, so I was pleased to discover that the city has a complimentary building with luggage storage, tables and chairs, and a free airport shuttle available.

Soon enough, it was time to say goodbye to Alaska’s beauty and return home.

Total cost: was it really the cheapest Alaska cruise?

While I may have booked the “cheapest Alaska cruise” based on cruise fare price, the extra add-ons (one-way flights, shuttles, etc.) added a significant cost to the cruise.

Alaska cruise costs (per person):

  • Pre-cruise purchases (cruise fare, hotel, flights, etc.): $1442.95
  • Purchases in port: $153
  • Onboard purchases: $19

Total cost of my Alaska cruise: $1614.95

Looking back, I probably could have booked a more expensive cruise fare on a newer ship from Seattle and still saved money due to cheaper flights and other transportation expenses.

If you’re truly looking to save the most amount of money possible, definitely research flight costs and shuttles before booking an Alaska cruise!

I had no idea a shuttle would cost $80 one-way to reach Anchorage from Seward, for example, and this could easily get way more expensive when cruising with a large family.

That being said, I definitely saved hundreds of dollars by not booking excursions and instead choosing to explore ports freely on my own. I didn’t feel we missed out on anything by not booking excursions.

However, I’ve already been to Alaska and will cruise to Alaska again in the future. If you’re only going to visit Alaska once, I’d book at least 1-2 excursions, such as whale watching and the White Pass & Yukon Railroad train, in order to make the most out of Alaska’s attractions.

I was happy to end the cruise in southcentral Alaska as it allowed me to explore Anchorage (and I even saw the peak of Denali from downtown!).

In the end, I made some amazing memories with my friend Reeham and we were able to explore four unique Alaska cruise ports and discover more of Alaska’s culture, cuisine, and nature.

Alaska cruises remain my favorite cruise itineraries in North America and I’ll never get tired of relaxing onboard with a scenic view out the window.

Cruising to Alaska on a budget can be done, and while I’m not entirely sure this ended up being the cheapest cruise overall, it was certainly an incredible experience, and I’m already looking forward to returning to Alaska!

Planning an Alaska cruise? Check out our guides for more tips & tricks:

Mailbag: When do shore excursions become available to book for my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
09 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Planning for a cruise ship vacation means picking out fun and interesting tours while in the ports of call you visit, but when do excursions become available to book?

St Kitts scenic overlook

Periodically I answer questions RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have sent to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog mailbag to answer for the benefit of everyone.

My family and I are booked on an Alaskan cruise for next August. I am starting to look into planning all of the details of our trip and wanted to know how far in advance Royal usually releases shore excursions for your cruise. Right now I see a few options but not a ton. When do  I need to really start checking in and looking for excursions? Thanks in advance for your help! - Katie L.

When I received Katie's question, I realized I've been getting this question asked a lot lately and wanted to share the answer for everyone curious when tours become available to book.

Royal Caribbean excursion sign

One of the best mantras for cruise planning is book as early as you can in order to get the lowest price. Cruise fares tend to be lower the sooner you book.

Not only does booking a cruise early lock in a good price, but you can also get the perfect cruise ship cabin for your family.

Read moreWhat's the best cruise ship cabin for my family?

Search results

If you book a cruise 9, 12, or 16 months in advance, you may find very few (if any) cruise add-ons to buy.

Read moreWhen should you buy Royal Caribbean drink package, wifi, tours & other add-ons

If you're like Katie and wondering when shore excursions will appear to book via Royal Caribbean's website, the short answer is "it depends".

Cruise planner results

Royal Caribbean doesn't have a set time frame when it loads in shore excursions to the Cruise Planner. This is no minimum number of days when tours get loaded, so it's up to the guest to keep checking back periodically.

If that answer doesn't sit well with you, I don't blame you. 

My best advice is to check back for shore excursions in the cruise planner around six months prior to your sail date because there's usually a good chance excursions will be added by that point.

Moreover, even if you check back at six months but shore excursions were added many weeks earlier than that, it shouldn't matter in terms of you being able to get the tour you want.

While Royal Caribbean shore excursions can sell out, most people are not booking up excursions half a year before they sail. In my opinion, there's minimal risk by checking back about six months before you sail for tours. Unlike check-in times on embarkation day, there won't be a rush to book things on the first day it becomes available.

St KItts volcano

If you still don't see tours by the six month timeframe, then check back more regularly as you're more likely to see them added than not. 

There can be any sort of behind-the-scenes reason why shore excursions aren't available to book yet, but they'll eventually make it in.

Read moreWhat to do if Royal Caribbean's shore excursions are sold out

Book on your own anytime

Family excursion in St Kitts

Regardless of when Royal Caribbean loads in shore excursions, you can always book your own tours via independent operators likely much sooner than six months before your sail date.

There's pros and cons of booking a third-party shore excursion, but you might consider browsing these in the interim just to have something ready.

Read more5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

Most tour operators will allow bookings much further in advance than six months, especially for high-demand locations, such as Alaska cruises.

Not only will booking on your own give you a head start on Royal Caribbean's offerings, you may a greater variety of choices and perhaps a better price.

Does Royal Caribbean add more shore excursions closer to cruise date?

In addition to waiting for shore excursion to become available, a lot of people want to know if more tours will be added to the lineup.

It's not uncommon to see someone browse shore excursion options on the Royal Caribbean cruise planner site and find the choices limited. When browsing tours many months before the cruise, will there be more tours added by the cruise line?

Royal Caribbean sometimes adds new tours , especially if you checked tours more than a year before your sailing is scheduled to begin.

In addition, if a guest cancels a tour, suddenly a previously sold out excursion is bookable again.

If you read the first part of this article and made a note to check for new tours around six months prior to the cruise, then be sure to keep checking for new tours in the months leading up to your cruise because it's not unheard of for new tours to be added.

Does Royal Caribbean hold back spots on excursions booked online?

Another scenario you might encounter is the exact tour you wanted to do is no longer available to book because it sold out. Will more spots become available either online or onboard the ship?

In my experience, it's not that Royal Caribbean holds back spots as it is they can add capacity.

Sometimes the Shore Excursion department is able to book additional slots (tours) with their local operators.

Martinique Suspension Bridge

More commonly, people cancel their reservations and then an excursion becomes bookable again. In either case, the end-user will never know which scenario has occurred.

If you keep checking online and the tour never re-opens for bookings, you could asked to be placed on a waiting list once onboard the ship.

Ship in Cozumel

Wait lists are something the shore excursion desk can assist you with once you get on the cruise ship. I've had fairly good luck with wait lists, but there's no guarantee.

More mailbag questions:

The Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
08 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Once you take a single cruise with Royal Caribbean, there are a number of great customer loyalty reward program benefits you receive on every subsequent cruise.

The exact benefits depend on your Crown and Anchor Society level. Just like an airline loyalty program, the more you travel, the more points you get. Unlike the airlines, your Royal Caribbean benefits never go away.

You can expect discounts, vouchers, and even freebies just for having sailed with Royal Caribbean in the past.

Depending on your cruising style and preferences, all the benefits may not be useful, but there are certainly a few that stand out as must-use nearly every cruise.

It should come as no surprise that the best benefits are reserved for the top tier members (Diamond and above), but there are still great value even at the entry level.

Where can I see a list of my benefits?

Cabin desk

There are two kinds of Crown and Anchor Society benefits: onboard and all around.

Prior to your cruise, you can take advantage of certain benefits simply by associating your loyalty number with your reservation. 

Assuming you put your loyalty number in your reservation when you booked your cruise, you'll receive a letter in your stateroom with your Crown and Anchor Society benefits.

The letter you get onboard the ship in your cabin lists even more benefits you can use:

Gold

Platinum

Emerald

Diamond

Diamond Plus

Pinnacle

Thanks to Twangster for sharing these scans.

That's a lot of rewards you can use, but which ones truly stand out as the kind you should use every single cruise you take?

Here's my top picks for discounts, offerings, and amenities worth redeeming on every Royal Caribbean cruise.

Beverage coupons - All tiers

Whether you are Gold or Pinnacle, you'll get coupons preloaded on your SeaPass card every sailing for drinks.

If you don't have a Royal Caribbean drink package, these beverage coupons can save you money on alcohol, coffees, and more.

  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda
  • 25% off any coffee beverage
  • 10% off any wine, beer or soda by the glass

Higher tiers, beginning with Platinum will get a free non-alcoholic specialty coffee with the purchase of a specialty restaurant dinner.

All you have to do is inform the waiter or bartender that you'd like to use your drink coupon and they can apply it on the spot. No physical coupon required.

Casino free play - All tiers

I couldn't believe it when someone told me I could play a few dollars in the casino every cruise, but it's true.

Crown and Anchor members get a range of free play to enjoy, and the exact amount varies depending on a few factors. It's available for the full cruise but if you go during the first couple of days, you get an extra $2.

All you have to do is go to any slot machine in the casino, enter your SeaPass card, create a new PIN and then transfer the money to your personal banker casino account. 

Casino on Royal Caribbean

The PIN you need at first is your birth month and birth day in 4 digits MMDD then it will prompt you create a new PIN.  

The process on the machine to transfer the freeplay money is not completely intuitive but once you figure it out it's the same ship to ship.

You cannot cash out the free play, and must play through until you use it up. Any winnings are yours to keep and cash out.

Free/discount souvenir photo - All tiers

While there's no cost to take a photo with the ship's photographers, a single photo will set you back $19.99.

Depending on your tier, you're entitled to either a free photo or big discount.

From Gold through Emerald, you'll get a buy one, get one 50% off photo.

At Diamond, you get one free photo.

These are wonderful keepsakes from the cruise, especially if you can get everyone dressed up.

Balcony discount - Platinum and above

Junior Suite on Harmony of the Seas

Should you book an inside cabin or is it worth it to move up to a balcony? If there's a discount on a balcony, that might sway your decision.

Platinum, Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Crown & Anchor Society members will receive an increased discount for making a reservation for
a sail date outside of six months.

Once you achieve Platinum status, you can get an automatic discount on any balcony or suite you book.

 3-5 nights6-9 nights10+ nights
Platinum$75$125$225
Emerald$125$225$325
Diamond$150$250$350
Diamond Plus$175$275$375
Pinnacle Club$175$275$375

 

In many cases, this discount can save a lot of money. The key is to book a cruise more than 6 months in advance, or these rates drop.

Free beverage vouchers - Diamond and above

Perhaps the best known and most valuable benefit are the free drinks Royal Caribbean gives its top tier guests each evening.

If you are Diamond, Diamond Plus, or Pinnacle, you can get a set amount of complimentary beverages every day of your cruise, which includes alcoholic beverages.

It's simple enough to redeem, you just tell the bartender you'd like to use your Diamond drink voucher and you pay nothing for the drink.

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean's free drink vouchers for Diamond and higher members works

Even kids can get free non-alcoholic drinks if they're a Diamond or higher cruiser.

I'm not aware of any other cruise line that offers its loyal customers free alcoholic drinks in this manner. For a lot of people, it becomes their defacto drink package.

Free internet access - Diamond and above

Diamond guests get one free day of wifi, while Diamond Plus get two free days of Surf & Stream internet package per sailing. 

If you make it Pinnacle Club, you actually get a free internet package for the duration of your cruise.

The only catch is you cannot pre-book, so you must wait to use it until you get onboard the ship.

BOGO Specialty Restaurant meal - Diamond Plus and above

Couple dining at Giovannis

The jump from Diamond to Diamond Plus isn't substantial, but there are some lucrative benefits to enjoy.

My favorite is the buy one, get one cover charge at a specialty restaurant for dinner on the first or second night of the cruise.

Just like the free wifi offer, you can't pre-book, but I've found it quite easy to redeem.

This is also great to use with family and friends, as you can apply the BOGO offer to other guests that are dining with you.

Free laundry once per cruise - Diamond Plus and above

Laundry bags

I always have to remind myself of this benefit, but Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club guests get a free wash and fold laundry bag on 5+ night cruises.

Royal Caribbean offers a Wash and Fold offer to all guests, which comes at a price of $34.99 and allows you put as many small pieces of laundry in a bag as you can for a fixed rate.

This is great for t-shirts, underwear, socks, and bathing suits. You can either use it mid-cruise to replenish your clean clothing, or at the end of the sailing to ensure there's less laundry waiting for you when you return home.

Diamond Lounge access - Diamond and above

It's fairly impressive that Royal Caribbean reserves a place on each cruise ship for use by its top tier members.

The Diamond Lounge is part social and part functional.

At its heart, it's a place for Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Club cruisers to go to for a private enclave. A lot of cruisers enjoy the social aspect of the lounge, especially in the evening. This is when guests can meet other guests and perhaps make a friend.

In addition, there's complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres served. A 24 hour coffee and espresso machine is available to use, which can save you money on specialty coffees elsewhere.

The finger foods they have in the lounge each evening are delectable, and there's a breakfast spread too earlier in the day. You won't get a meal here, but it's enough to tide you over.

    Letting the Genie out of the bottle: Asking Royal Caribbean's wish maker the top questions

    In:
    08 Sep 2022
    By: 
    Marcy Miyar

    There may not be a position on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship more mysterious than the Royal Genie.

    What adds to the intrigue is that you may not even realize you see them around the ship. A Genie doesn’t wear a nametag so they easily blend in to their surroundings. They are one of the few crew members that has access to the entire ship. Their impact on a Star Class passenger though is nothing short of magical.

    I recently had the honor of interviewing a current Royal Genie. He preferred to keep his name anonymous as to not draw attention to himself personally and to keep the focus on the Genies as a whole.

    However, he wanted to share some things you may not know. How does one become a Genie? What training do they go through? What would they like first time Star Class cruisers to know?

    Let’s find out.

    Who is chosen to be a Royal Genie?

    Genies lined up

    To be able to apply for the position, one must have two years of hospitality service experience and possess a degree in the industry. Genies are typically former Suite or Diamond Concierges.

    Being hired from outside the company is rare but does happen. They would be expected to have similar qualifications which you would normally find as a concierge of a five star hotel.

    Genies go through an extensive interview process with multiple Human Resource and Guest Service managers. They are required to make a short 2 minute video, simulating picking up a guest from the terminal and escorting them onto the ship, for example.

    White glove service

    They must demonstrate how they would handle a variety of guest situations. The final interview is with the Genie Fleet Coordinator. The entire process can take two or more months to complete.

    Read moreWhat is the difference between suite concierge and a Royal Genie?

    Training to become a Royal Genie

    London

    Being chosen as a Royal Genie is only the beginning.

    Pre-pandemic, new Genies were flown to London to take classes at the British Butler Institute. There, they learned proper service techniques from a former butler to the Queen.

    They visited wineries, learned about varieties of cheeses and correct caviar presentation. Did you know you have to use plastic spoons to serve caviar as a metal one will change the flavor? I didn’t, but maybe that’s just me.

    A Genie's schedule

    Allure of the Seas

    What time a Genie starts their day will likely depend on if the ship is in port or at sea.

    Port days are generally earlier as most guests request to get off of the ship first, especially if they’re calling on one of the private islands. The Genie will escort them to the beach or pool with the loungers of their choice before the general public has disembarked.

    A typical end to their day would be around 11 p.m. At that point, most of the activities have ended and the specialty restaurants are closed.

    At the end of their five month contract, it is common for the ships management to ask if they’d like to return to the same ship.

    Additionally, when Genies receive appraisals from guests and crew members, they are able to get more opportunities; like moving to a new ship, for instance.

    What can a Genie do?

    The Genie’s goal is provide their guests with a unique, unforgettable and magical experience. Communication is key. They carefully listen to their guests needs and tailor their trip with experiences they may not have even suggested.

    Common guest requests are parties in their suite. Everything from birthdays, anniversaries and retirements to vow renewals and celebrations of life for family members that have passed on.

    Your experience may differ depending on if you’re on an Oasis or Quantum class ship.

    Oasis class tends to be more “show oriented” where the Genie will make sure you have the best seat in the house.

    Bumper cars

    Quantum class is more “activity oriented” where your Genie will escort you to the iFly, North Star, bumper cars and acrobat school.

    The only limits on a Genie’s power are things that go against company policies and local government laws. For example, guests would not be allowed in any backstage areas and bridge tours are currently suspended due to Covid restrictions. Additionally, your Genie cannot bypass the line at customs for you on debarkation morning.

    Read moreMy advice for someone using a Royal Genie on a Royal Caribbean cruise

    Requesting a Genie

    All Genies are amazing and more than capable of handling guests requests but can you request a specific Genie?

    The answer is, maybe.

    It depends on the ship if the Genies are able to trade guests. It is generally not a problem, especially if you already have a prior relationship with a Genie.

    Regardless, it is not unusual for the Genies to help each other out. There are at least three Genies per ship to take care of anywhere between eight and eleven suites.

    How much to tip a Genie?

    Cash

    As a Star Class guest, daily gratuities are included in the cruise fare however, Genies are not included in that. When asked if he could provide some type of monetary guideline for genie gratuities, he instead referred to tipping as an “appreciation of service.” He reminded me that even beyond money, gratitude and kindness are always appreciated.

    If you check message boards online you will find many discussions regarding tipping the Genie and the amounts vary greatly. However, $100 per cabin/per day seems to be a pretty consistent opinion among Star Class cruisers.

    I would say that the amount you give should be based on how they made your vacation special, how many people they are arranging experiences for and your overall connection to them personally.

    Will Star Class expand?

    Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

    I was surprised to learn that a lot of the requests he receives from guests is to have the Star Class program implemented on other Royal Caribbean ships.

    He recommends that guests fill out their comment cards to let Royal know their wishes.

    Final thoughts

    Royal Loft Suite

    When asked what a first time Star Class cruiser should know, the response was, trust your Genie to accomplish your dreams. Put yourself in vacation mode. Relax and know that they will take care of planning and organizing everything for you.

    To him, being a Genie is like being on stage. If your performance is seamless, you should never see what’s going on behind the scenes. While the Genie gets a lot of the credit, he reiterated it is a team effort with many different departments to make sure you have the most unique vacation experience possible.

    Ultimate Hawaii cruise guide

    In:
    07 Sep 2022
    By: 
    Jenna DeLaurentis

    Royal Caribbean’s Hawaii cruises are unique itineraries where passengers can experience the phenomenal nature, culture, and cuisine of several Hawaiian islands in one cruise experience. While Hawaii cruises are only offered a few times per year, they are a dream vacation for many cruisers.

    Na Pali Coast

    The marvelous scenery of the Nā Pali coast, imposing Mauna Loa volcano, fresh bowls of poke, and ancient traditions found in Hawaii evoke a sense of wonder and discovery for visitors to the islands.

    If you’re interested in cruising to Hawaii with Royal Caribbean, here’s everything you need to know about what to expect when booking and sailing on a cruise to The Aloha State.

    In this guide:

    Does Royal Caribbean offer cruises to Hawaii?

    Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Hawaii, although they are limited and usually only offered as one-way legs on transpacific cruises. 

    Because it takes so long to cross the Pacific Ocean compared to the Atlantic, Royal Caribbean splits the crossing into two cruise segments: Vancouver to Hawaii (and vice versa) and Hawaii to Australia (and vice versa).

    Vancouver to Hawaii

    Vancouver to Hawaii cruise itineraries are 9-11 nights depending on the sailing.

    Hawaii is separated from North America by the Eastern Pacific barrier, a 4,000-mile stretch of deep ocean with no shallow areas. Because of this, there are no islands en route to Hawaii from Vancouver, so itineraries have a 5-6 day stretch of sea days to cross this section of the Pacific.

    Once in Hawaii, itineraries can differ quite a bit, with some cruises stopping in Maui for an overnight stay and others visiting 3-4 islands. Cruises end in Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Hawaii to Vancouver

    You can also choose to start a Hawaii cruise in Honolulu and end in Vancouver. Just like on the way to Hawaii, most itineraries are between 9-11 nights and visit several islands, including Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai.

    Related: Hawaii cruise on Royal Caribbean: Everything you need to know

    Transpacific cruises

    Transpacific cruises from Hawaii to Australia either begin or end in Honolulu, Oahu.

    While not a true “Hawaii cruise” because no port stops are offered in Hawaii except the embarkation/disembarkation port, these itineraries can still allow guests to spend time on the islands before or after the cruise.

    Hawaii to Australia (and vice versa)

    Most ships traveling from Vancouver to Hawaii will continue the transpacific crossing by traveling from Hawaii to Australia. This is the longer of the two stretches, taking 16-19 nights depending on the itinerary. There will be between 12-14 sea days on these transpacific cruises.

    After leaving Hawaii, there is a 5 day stretch at sea before visiting several ports in French Polynesia. Following a few days there, ships will continue to either the South Pacific islands or New Zealand before ending in Sydney or Brisbane, Australia.

    These itineraries are offered in reverse at the end of the Australia cruise season, starting in Australia and ending in Hawaii.

    Fun fact: When cruising to and from Australia to Hawaii, you will sail through the International Date Line. En route to Australia you’ll skip forward a day, whereas sailing to Hawaii you will “live the same day” twice!

    Round-trip Hawaii cruises

    Occasionally, Royal Caribbean will release an itinerary offering a “round-trip” Hawaii sailing, which is when a ship travels from Vancouver to Hawaii and immediately returns back to North America without continuing to Australia.

    These cruises will be split into two segments that you can book as a one-way leg or back to back, and they will be offered immediately following the Alaska cruise season in September/October.

    When can I cruise to Hawaii with Royal Caribbean?

    Because Royal Caribbean ships only visit Hawaii on their way to or from Australia, cruises are only offered at times which coincide with the change between the Australia/New Zealand cruise season and Alaska cruise season.

    September cruises to Hawaii

    The Alaska cruise season ends in mid to late September, and this is when 2-3 Royal Caribbean ships will begin the long journey to Australia for the summer season down under.

    You can expect to see cruises departing from Vancouver to Hawaii in the last week of September or first week of October. Cruises departing Hawaii for Australia will occur immediately after the trip from North America, setting sail in mid October.

    April cruises to Hawaii

    The Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific cruise season runs from October to April. Once the season is over, Royal Caribbean relocates its cruise ships back to North America.

    Transpacific cruises from Australia to Hawaii depart in the first half of April, reaching the shores of Hawaii at the end of April or beginning of May.

    Cruises from Hawaii to Vancouver occur immediately after the ship’s journey from Australia.

    Why go on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Hawaii?

    Easy travel from island to island

    One of the best benefits of cruising to Hawaii is traveling from island to island without hassle. There’s no need to get to an airport, go through security, and board a flight. Traveling via cruise ship means you can visit multiple islands while only unpacking one time!

    Depending on the itinerary, you can visit between 2-4 islands in Hawaii in a matter of days, and you won’t have to figure out any transportation logistics yourself, making for a stress-free way to explore the state.

    Traditional cuisine

    Hawaii’s cuisine has been shaped by a blend of cultures throughout history, from Polynesian to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, American, and more!

    Because of this melting pot of cuisines, Hawaii boasts cuisine unique to the state that is not so commonly found elsewhere in the United States. Poke (raw fish salad), poi (taro pudding), laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaves), and saimin (noodle soup) are just some of the mouth-watering dishes you can try on a cruise to Hawaii.

    Unparalleled nature

    Hawaii’s nature is unlike anything you’ll see in the continental United States–or perhaps anywhere else in the world.

    There aren’t many places on Earth where you’ll find a combination of lava fields, snow-capped volcanoes, colossal waterfalls, rainforests, lush valleys, and secluded beaches in one place, and it's sure to leave you speechless.

    Hawaii cruise ports

    Honolulu, Oahu

    The capital of Hawaii is a starting or ending point for Hawaii cruises, and offers urban life mixed with world-famous beaches, green mountains, diverse cultures, and history.

    As a start or end point of the cruise, many passengers decide to add a few extra days to their time in Hawaii before or after the cruise to experience more of what the island of Oahu has to offer.

    Popular activities on Oahu include hiking Diamond Head’s crater, touring Oahu’s North Shore, surfing, and attending an authentic Hawaiian luau.

    Visitors can also visit Pearl Harbor while on Oahu. Excursions bring passengers to the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin submarine, and USS Missouri battleship to learn more about the devastating attack in 1941.

    Lahaina, Maui

    Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island, and cruise ships stop in the historic town of Lahaina, located on the island's northwest coast.

    Maui is packed full of activities, from visiting the crater of Haleakalā to hiking the Iao Valley, swimming in waterfalls, and snorkeling at Molokini Crater. Lounging at the beach is a popular option in Maui, too, as the island has over 80 diverse beaches.

    Some itineraries include an overnight stop in Maui, giving you more time to explore this tropical paradise.

    Hilo, Hawaii

    Hilo is located on eastern coast of the Island of Hawai’i, often called the Big Island. Hilo is extremely lush, with plenty of waterfalls, beaches, and rainforest to discover. Rain falls in Hilo over 200 days of the year!

    Visiting the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a popular excursion for many visitors to Hilo, which is home to two of Hawaii’s most active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

    Akaka Falls is another must-see in the Hilo area, where the waterfall plunges a whopping 442 feet into a gorge below.

    Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

    Another port located on the Island of Hawai’i is Kailua-Kona. On the opposite side of the island from Hilo, Kailua-Kona is drier and sunnier than Hilo, making for excellent conditions for exploring the outdoors.

    Culture lovers will appreciate a visit to the Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, a spiritual sanctuary that was once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for those who broke kapu, which were ancient, sacred laws.

    If you don’t want to stray far from the port, downtown Kailua-Kona is filled with shops, restaurants, and farmers markets where you can purchase souvenirs as well as taste local products and cuisine.

    Nawiliwili, Kauai

    Kauai is the oldest of Hawaii’s main islands (the 2nd oldest overall) and it was formed over 5 million years ago. While there are no active volcanoes on the island today, the landscape has been carved by wave, wind, and water erosion, making for unique landscapes not seen on other islands.

    One of these features is Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Visitors will be awe-inspired by the canyon’s steep hillsides reaching depths of over 3,600 feet.

    Nā Pali Coast (cruising)

    If you’ve seen pictures of Hawaii’s rugged, emerald coastline, odds are it was a photo of the Nā Pali Coast on the island of Kauai. One of the most recognizable coastlines in the world, the Nā Pali coast offers unparalleled views of steep sea cliffs rising dramatically from the ocean below.

    Some Hawaii cruise itineraries include a scenic cruising day around the Nā Pali coast. While passengers won’t disembark the ship on this day, they’re sure to be blown away by Hawaii’s natural beauty.

    Transpacific cruise ports

    If you book a transpacific cruise starting or ending in Hawaii, you will visit several ports in French Polynesia as well as a few stops in Melanesia or New Zealand.

    Ports may include:

    • Mo'orea, French Polynesia
    • Raiatea, French Polynesia
    • Papeete, Tahiti
    • Auckland, New Zealand
    • Bay of Islands, New Zealand
    • Napier, New Zealand
    • Picton, New Zealand
    • Mystery Island, Vanuatu
    • Port Vila, Vanuatu
    • Nouméa, New Caledonia

    Which Royal Caribbean cruise ships sail to Hawaii?

    Depending on the year, Royal Caribbean sends 2-3 cruise ships to Hawaii. Due to limitations of crossing from the Pacific to the Caribbean, the ships sent to Hawaii and Australia tend to be the same cruise ships offering Alaska cruise itineraries.

    Ovation of the Seas

    Ovation of the Seas is a Quantum Class cruise ship launched in 2016. As one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, she is packed with the latest activities, entertainment, and dining venues found in the fleet.

    Quantum Class ships were built to sail in all climates, with indoor pools, the SeaPlex sports center, and the Two70 entertainment venue and lounge which features floor-to-ceiling windows perfect for viewing Hawaii's scenery.

    Related: All about Quantum Class ships

    Quantum of the Seas

    Quantum of the Seas is a sister ship to Ovation of the Seas. She was the first ship in the Quantum Class, launching in 2014.

    Quantum of the Seas is nearly identical to Ovation of the Seas, albeit with a few changes in dining venues and entertainment shows.

    Quantum Class ships make a great choice for a Hawaii cruise for those looking for the most activities, dining options, and entertainment available on a cruise with many sea days. Even with 5 sea days in a row, it will be hard to be bored on a Quantum Class ship!

    Brilliance of the Seas

    Brilliance of the Seas will be offering cruises from Australia in the 2023-2024 cruise season, so she will be offering cruises to Hawaii en route to and from Australia

    Brilliance of the Seas is a Radiance Class cruise ship and while smaller than the Quantum Class, she still offers plenty to do, see, and eat onboard.

    One of the most beloved features of Radiance Class cruise ships is how much glass was built into the ship’s design. Large, panoramic windows are found all around the ship, which is a huge perk when traveling to a destination as beautiful as Hawaii.

    Related: All about Radiance Class cruise ships

    How much does a Hawaii cruise cost?

    Hawaii cruises (Vancouver to Hawaii and vice versa)

    Despite visiting a remote island chain in the Pacific, Hawaii itineraries can provide a great value on a cruise vacation. You'll often find prices comparable to Caribbean cruises, even though the cruises tend to be several days longer.

    Look for last-minute cruise deals to Hawaii, too, as these itineraries do not always book as quickly as others. Due to travel to and from Vancouver/Hawaii and the fact that cruises are one-way instead of round-trip, you can often find last-minute deals.

    Related: Ultimate Guide to last-minute cruise deals

    Here are a few sample prices of the total cost for 2 adults, including taxes and fees, on a Hawaii cruise starting or ending in Vancouver:

    9-night Hawaii cruise on Ovation of the Seas

    • Interior cabin: $1,805
    • Balcony cabin: $1,963

    11-night Hawaii cruise on Radiance of the Seas

    • Interior cabin: $2,132
    • Balcony cabin: $3,010

    Related: Interior vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

    Transpacific cruises (Hawaii to Australia and vice versa)

    Transpacific cruises starting in Hawaii and ending in Australia (or vice versa) are generally more expensive than those starting or ending in Vancouver. Not only are they 5-8 days longer, but they travel a further distance and visit destinations that are much more difficult to reach, such as Mo'orea and Tahiti.

    Here are a few sample prices of the total cost for 2 adults, including taxes and fees, on a transpacific cruise:

    15-night Transpacific cruise on Quantum of the Seas

    • Interior cabin: $2,908
    • Balcony cabin: $3,982

    18-night Transpacific cruise on Ovation of the Seas

    • Interior cabin: $3,443
    • Balcony cabin: $4,593

    Extra costs on a Hawaii cruise

    Outside of cruise fare, you’ll want to budget for the following add-ons when booking a Hawaii cruise:

    • Airfare
    • Hotel cost for the night before the cruise
    • Gratuities
    • Shore excursions or spending money in port
    • Optional onboard extras: beverage package, dining package, etc.

    Related: Top 30 extra cruise costs that aren’t included

    Because Royal Caribbean’s cruises to Hawaii are one-way sailings that require many sea days, it’s recommended to spend some time in Hawaii on land before or after the cruise.

    If you plan to do this, you’ll want to budget extra for hotels, food, and transportation costs in Hawaii.

    Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise? Start here:

    Cozumel’s Del Mar Latino Beach Club all-inclusive day pass review

    In:
    07 Sep 2022
    By: 
    Allie Hubers

    If you’ve cruised in the Caribbean, there’s a good chance you’ve visited Cozumel, Mexico. Between the gorgeous beaches, incredible snorkeling and proximity to Tulum and Cancun, this is a popular port for cruisers. 

    Del Mar Latino Beach Club

    In fact, Cozumel has over 3.6 million annual visitors just from cruise ship traffic alone!

    As someone who loves to cruise, I’ve been to Cozumel probably a dozen times. At this point, it feels like I’ve done everything that the island has to offer. Now, one of my favorite ways to spend the day in Cozumel is at an all-inclusive resort.

    Cozumel coast with restaurants and bars

    With a day pass to an all-inclusive resort, you can access almost everything the resort has to offer while enjoying unlimited drinks and food. This can be a great option for cruisers who want to enjoy a low-key day in port while still enjoying the amenities of an all-inclusive resort. 

    There are also day passes to all-inclusive clubs in Cozumel - including the Del Mar Latino Beach Club. 

    Description

    Del Mar Latino Beach Club is described as being the perfect place for those looking to enjoy a relaxing atmosphere with Latin Caribbean ambiance. 

    With a regular rate of $39.95, this beach club offers a truly all-inclusive experience in Cozumel. Located within walking distance of the cruise ports, this exclusive club only allows a maximum number of 30 people each day. 

    A daily pass to Del Mar Latino Beach Club includes unlimited food and drinks; you also have access to the pool, loungers, bathroom facilities and internet. 

    Since this club is meant to offer a relaxing and intimate experience, Del Mar Latino Beach Club is fairly small. The beach club features a large pool surrounded by sun loungers and umbrellas. Del Mar Latino Beach Club also features a bar lined with high-top tables and chairs. 

    We booked this beach club the week before our cruise; luckily, the club still had availability for the day that we would be in Cozumel. Since Del Mar Latino Beach Club caps the daily admittance at 30 people, reservations should be booked in advance to secure a slot. 

    It appeared that the days leading up to our arrival were already booked, so we were excited to see our port day had availability. It was $8 for a deposit to reserve our slot for the day, in which the remaining balance would be due at arrival.  

    Getting to the club

    According to the information that was emailed with our reservation, the Del Mar Latino Beach Club operates from 9am to 5pm. 

    When we arrived in Cozumel, we took our time in the morning getting breakfast on the ship since we had the full day. By the time we started walking to the club, it was pouring rain - so we waited in the Duty Free Shopping area for the rain to pass.

    Our phones indicated that it was a short walk from the cruise terminal upon our arrival. The Royal Caribbean terminal is just a 5 minute walk to the entrance of the beach club. We walked outside of the terminal and, sure enough, we arrived quickly to Del Mar Latino Beach Club.

    I felt safe walking in this area, especially considering there was a lot of traffic and a taxi would have probably taken just as long. 

    When we arrived, we walked up to the bartender and checked in. They had a list with our names on there and we paid the remaining amount for the day. We were given wristbands to wear for the day.

    All-inclusive experience

    Upon arrival, we quickly made our way to the bar and ordered a round of piña coladas. There’s no better way to start a day in Mexico than with a cool, refreshing piña colada! It was delicious and creamy. 

    After looking around the club, we decided to get in the pool. The pool is a decent size with plenty of room for everyone to sit comfortably. We had a gorgeous view of the ocean and the cruise ships nearby. 

    The waitress came over to us multiple times during our time in the pool. My choice of drink is always a mojito and Del Mar Latino Beach Club’s mojitos were absolutely delicious! 

    We also tried a Miami Vice, Chunky Monkey and Tequila Sunrise. There wasn’t a cocktail at this beach club that we didn’t enjoy! The drinks went down smoothly and we were having a wonderful time relaxing in the pool and listening to the music played by the DJ. 

    As we lounged in the pool, we realized we did not bring towels with us off the ship. We reviewed the reservation notes and found that it did not state to bring towels; however, it also didn’t state that towels were included. We inquired with the staff about towels and they stated we could rent them for $5 each. This was reasonable, but we opted to just air dry after we enjoyed some time in the loungers. This was an oversight on our part and we should have brought towels just in case. 

    After a few drinks in the pool, we had the munchies and decided to order food. Since everything was included from the snack menu, we ordered a variety of options. We tried the quesadillas, fried chicken tacos and chicken strips. 


    Everything we ordered was hot, fresh and very tasty. We even ordered a second round of food because the portions were snack size and we enjoyed everything we tried. 

    Throughout the day, we also made trips to the beach club’s bathroom facilities. These were well-kept and clean, which we appreciated. 

    After 4-5 hours at Del Mar Latino beach club, we decided to walk back to the cruise terminal and head back to the ship after a wonderfully relaxing day. 

    Final Comments

    There are a few components that make an all-inclusive day pass worthwhile: fair price, attentive service, well-kept pools and freshly made food and drinks. 

    We were very satisfied with our experience at Del Mar Latino Beach Club and felt all of these expectations were met.

    To start, the price of $39.95 feels like a great value considering the drinks and food are unlimited. We had a tasty lunch and multiple drinks during the day, so the price of admission was very fair just in the amount of food and drink we consumed. 

    We found the drinks and snack menu to have a wide selection to choose from. We tried almost every drink on the menu and agreed that the mojitos were the best, although everything tasted yummy. We also enjoyed everything we ordered from the snack menu - especially the quesadilla! 

    The pool was well-kept and very comfortable; we saw a pool attendant come around and check the levels of the pool while we were swimming. The pool is also covered, which was nice since it rained a few times throughout the day. 

    We were very impressed with the service provided as well. There was a waitress who attentively served us in the pool and brought us drinks throughout the afternoon. It was nice that we didn’t need to get out of the pool to get another drink. We were always served our drinks quickly!

    The overall ambiance was very low-key and relaxing, especially with the wonderful ocean views and delicious drinks. With less than 30 people at Del Mar Latino Beach Club during our stay, it never felt cramped or crowded. 

    Since this exclusive club is located near the cruise port, there isn’t a sandy beach to enjoy. If you are hoping to sit on a beach during the day, this might not be the best option. There is a man-made entrance to the sea from the club, but you’re essentially jumping right into the sea. I didn’t see anyone in the ocean during our time there, so I think most people stick to the pool. 

    I would absolutely return to this beach club because of the incredible value and overall convenience to the cruise port. It was great being able to walk right to the club and not need to take a taxi. I live near the beach here in Florida, so I am fine sacrificing a beach day for a day at this exclusive and relaxing beach club. 

    Icon of the Seas looks like it will have a new bow design for Royal Caribbean

    In:
    06 Sep 2022
    By: 
    Allie Hubers

    Even as Royal Caribbean continues to remain silent on the cruise line’s newest ship, newly released photos reveal what Icon of the Seas' bow will look like. 

    Brand new pictures from the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland show tug boats transporting the bow for Icon of the Seas. The exciting series of photos, shared by finki.22 on Instagram, feature the arrival by barge of the massive new bow for Icon of the Seas. 

    It was a busy day at the Meyer Turku shipyard! The Instagram caption states that tugboats arrived from Poland with the bow of Icon of the Seas. Earlier in the day, the same tugboats assisted the new Carnival Celebration out of the shipyard for its sea trials. In fact, the two ships have been under construction together at the Finish shipyard. 

    As seen in the photos, the bow color is Royal Caribbean’s signature baby blue color, which matches the coloring of the hull. The cruise line’s newest ships have started to feature this new light blue coloring, with Royal Caribbean choosing to phase out its classic white-colored hulls. 

    In the background of the photos, the construction for Icon of the Seas can also be seen. Construction on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship started in June 2021. 

    Royal Caribbean continues to keep hush-hush regarding Icon of the Seas, leading many to speculate about the ship’s design, amenities and features. 

    Thanks to finki.22 for posting these photos.

    Parabolic Bow Design

    The bow for Icon of the Seas is now confirmed to be Royal Caribbean’s first ship to feature a parabolic bow design. This is a functional design element that creates a curved indentation in the bottom of the vessel’s hull. 

    With the arrival of Icon of the Seas’ bow, construction will enter its next phase of fitting the bow to the hull of the ship. 

    This new bow design helps increase overall stability of the vessel by shifting the center of gravity forward. In addition, parabolic bows allow the ship to be less likely to capsize or heel. This is due to the bow creating an area of low pressure beneath the ship’s hull. 

    Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

    Essentially, it’s unsurprising Royal Caribbean would choose this design for its newest ship; parabolic bows cultivate a smoother ride for cruisers. This is especially important for ships that are heavily-loaded.

    Early reports from Royal Caribbean have stated that Icon of the Seas will be the biggest cruise ship in the world, so the parabolic bow is an effective design choice.

    Icon of the Seas

    Although we know Icon of the Seas will have a parabolic bow design, there has been very little information about the ship’s design released by Royal Caribbean at this point. The cruise line has done an excellent job creating hype and excitement about what Icon of the Seas could bring to the Royal Caribbean fleet. 

    Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

    Within recent weeks, Royal Caribbean released a new video series about Icon of the Seas. The highly-anticipated series is titled ‘Making an Icon’. During the first video of the series, Royal Caribbean described its newest ship as “the most transformative ship the world has ever seen”. 

    Making an Icon

    The series has promised to feature footage from behind the scenes of the ship’s design, construction and eventual launch of Icon of the Seas. Engineers and industry experts will be featured to talk about the revolutionary cruise ship, which Royal Caribbean claims will offer the best family vacation in the world.   

    Along with the hype of its design and amenities, Royal Caribbean has also announced that Icon of the Seas will start sailing in late 2023 as the cruise line’s first LNG powered ship in its fleet. LNG powered cruise ships feature dual engines that utilize liquified natural gas to propel the ship. This makes the ships more efficient and environmentally friendly.

    Icon of the Seas keel-laying ceremony

    A huge media campaign has started for Icon of the Seas, with CEO Michael Bayley hinting at a fall reveal. In addition, Bayley already revealed that Icon of the Seas will first set sail from the UK. 

    Icon of the Seas is the first of its kind for Royal Caribbean and the first of a new class of ships. Royal Caribbean has not released a new ship class in over a decade; instead, the company has continued to expand its Oasis-class and Quantum-class ships, including Wonder of the Seas in 2022 and Odyssey of the Seas in 2021.

    Icon of the Seas bridge under construction

    At one point earlier this year, it was teased that a full-blown marketing event could be launched in New York City this fall. 

    The CEO has also emphasized that the innovation and design of Icon of the Seas will be unlike anything Royal Caribbean has built before. Guests can expect incredible onboard thrills, water experiences like no other, and unparalleled entertainment.