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Royal Caribbean beach club in Nassau will open in 2025

08 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

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

Royal Beach Club concept art

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

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

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

Royal Beach Club concept art

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

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

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

What is the Royal Beach Club?

Royal Beach Club concept art

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

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

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

Royal Beach Club render

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

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

Partnership with The Bahamas


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

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

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

Junkanoo dancers

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

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

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

What the Royal Beach Club could look like

Aerial concept art for Royal Beach Club

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

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

Royal beach Club water taxi

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

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

Activities offered would include (but not limited to):

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

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

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

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

What’s New & Coming to Royal Caribbean in 2023, 2024 & 2025

07 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

New cruise ships and destinations are coming to a Royal Caribbean cruise near you between now and 2025.

Change is continuous at Royal Caribbean, and the next few years are looking to be monumental for the cruise line, with brand new ships, private island expansions, and exciting itineraries.

From time to time, Royal Caribbean reveals its long term plans to give customers a glimpse of what is coming next. There are not usually a ton of details shared until Royal Caribbean is ready to pull back the curtain more, as the nature of cruise ship development is that some decisions are changed or purposefully left undecided until closer to launch.

Here is a project by project look at everything new and coming soon to Royal Caribbean.

Icon of the Seas

Thrill park concept

The next new cruise ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet will be Icon of the Seas, which is currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. Icon of the Seas will be a game changer for the cruise industry and will be the biggest cruise ship in the world when she launches.

Icon of the Seas will be the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Icon Class, and will be followed by two additional Icon Class ships. The ship will be powered by LNG (liquified natural gas) and include environmentally friendly applications that will reduce carbon footprint.

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

Icon of the Seas aerial aft night

The ship will be split into eight separate neighborhoods, each of which offers its own set of amenities, activities, and dining options:

  • AquaDome, an indoor AquaTheater in a multipurpose space with wraparound ocean views and dining venues
  • Central Park, an open-air park in the middle of the ship
  • Chill Island, the ship’s pool deck, which features a swim-up bar, infinity edge pool, and an adults-only retreat named Cloud 17
  • Thrill Island, home to the Category 6 waterpark and other adrenaline-filled activities
  • Surfside, an outdoor neighborhood dedicated to young families, with a splash area, kid-friendly restaurants, a carousel, and an arcade
  • The Hideaway, a neighborhood with a beach club atmosphere in the ship’s aft, which features a suspended infinity pool and bar
  • Suite Neighborhood, an exclusive suites-only area with a sun deck, Coastal Kitchen restaurant, and casual Mediterranean restaurant
  • Royal Promenade, an indoor thoroughfare with bars, lounges, dining venues, and shops 

The ship will have a maximum capacity of around 7,600 passengers and will be 250,800 gross tons in size. Icon of the Seas will be homeported in Miami with her first revenue sailing on January 27, 2024.

Utopia of the Seas

The sixth ship in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class has begun construction and is expected to launch in 2024.

Like Icon of the Seas, Utopia of the Seas will be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), the first Oasis Class ship to do so. By using LNG power and the addition of further environmentally friendly applications onboard, Utopia of the Seas will reduce emissions and boost its energy efficiency.

As Utopia of the Seas is an Oasis Class ship, she will likely share a similar layout to other Oasis Class ships, offering venues and amenities like the AquaTheater, Central Park, Ultimate Abyss, and more.

As Wonder of the Seas had quite a few differences compared to other Oasis Class ships, it’s unclear yet whether Utopia of the Seas will share these same features.

Related: Wonder of the Seas vs other Oasis Class ships

More cruise ships

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from February 2023

While Royal Caribbean currently has orders in place for three Icon Class cruise ships and Utopia of the Seas, the coming years may see more orders placed for new cruise ships.

At an event for the delivery of the new Celebrity Beyond, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said the company is considering ordering new ships for its three brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea.

No information has been shared on what these cruise ship orders will be, so it’s unknown whether the additional cruise ship orders will be for additional ships in Royal Caribbean’s existing ship classes or for a brand new ship class altogether.

The second Icon Class ship began construction in February 2023.

Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Hideaway Beach, an adults-only area of Perfect Day at CocoCay, is currently under construction and set to open in late 2023. The island’s capacity is predicted to increase by 3,000 guests following the completion of Hideaway Beach.

Related: Guide to Hideaway Beach adults-only beach at CocoCay

The beach is located to the west of the island’s pier, adjacent to CocoCay’s Thrill Waterpark. The western side of the island is still undeveloped aside from storage and housing for some crew members, so this is the first project to expand Perfect Day at CocoCay on that side of the island.

Royal Beach Club

Full scale Nassau Beach Club rendering

Royal Caribbean's Royal Beach Club will open in Nassau in 2025. This 17-acre club will feature a private beach atmosphere with cabanas, beach bars, a food hall, and several pools.

Island-style barbecues, live music, and local artisans will be found at the beach club as well. Activities at the club will include snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing, inflatable water slides, and more.

Related: Royal Caribbean beach club in Nassau will open in 2025

The Royal Beach Club will not be a complimentary island stop for all passengers like Perfect Day at CocoCay. Instead, it can be expected that passengers will reserve the Royal Beach Club as a shore excursion for an additional fee.

Perfect Day at Lelepa

Perfect Day at Lelepa artist rendering

Despite delays due to the pandemic, plans are still underway for Royal Caribbean’s newest private destination, Perfect Day at Lelepa. The private destination will be located in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu on the small, uninhabited island of Lelepa.

While Perfect Day at CocoCay features amenities like waterslides and a wave pool, Perfect Day at Lelepa will provide a more tranquil, traditional beach day for visitors. In addition, it will be the world’s first private cruise destination to achieve carbon neutrality, and all energy consumed on the island will be generated from renewable resources.

Related: First look at Perfect Day at Lelepa

Ocean water at Lelepa

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley explained how Perfect Day at Lelepa will focus on showcasing the island’s natural beauty and diverse local culture.

“We believe our destinations should be sustainably designed. That idea goes beyond simply protecting the ecological features of Lelepa and includes showing respect for the people and traditions that make this a special place.”

Perfect Day at Lelepa will handle fewer passengers than Perfect Day at CocoCay. Approximately 3 million passengers visit CocoCay each year, whereas Perfect Day at Lelepa is estimated to accommodate around 800,000 visitors per year.

There is no set opening date for Perfect Day at Lelepa, although it is expected to open within the next few years.

Panama canal cruises

In 2021, Royal Caribbean began sailing from the port of Los Angeles for the first time in over ten years, with Navigator of the Seas offering cruises to the Mexican Riviera.

Royal Caribbean continued to expand its itinerary options by announcing itineraries that depart from either Colón, Panama or Cartagena, Colombia. The sailings will be 6 or 7-nights on Rhapsody of the Seas between December 2023 and April 2024.

One of the biggest advantages of these sailings is the opportunity to traverse the Panama Canal, which had usually only been reserved for Royal Caribbean’s longer repositioning cruises. Plus, the itineraries feature lesser-visited ports like Quepos and Puntarenas in Costa Rica and Cartagena in Colombia.

Royal Caribbean Blog is offering a Panama Canal group cruise from March 16-24, 2024 for those interested in sailing around the Southern Caribbean and Panama Canal.

Projects on hold or abandoned

The public is at the mercy of Royal Caribbean to give updates on projects, or for there to be statements made as a matter of public record, to get a sense of any progress.

Many projects were announced before 2020 that are at best on hold, or perhaps even canceled. These are projects and ideas Royal Caribbean announced at one time, but there has not been an update in quite some time.

The Royal Amplified program, which upgrades Oasis, Freedom, and Voyager Class ships, has been on hold since the start of the pandemic. Ships like Allure of the Seas, which was due for amplification in 2020, do not have any enhancements scheduled.

In addition, the Royal Beach Club in Antigua, which was originally supposed to be finished by 2021, appears to be on hold, and no information has been released about the project since 2020.

Likewise, there have not been any new updates on a Perfect Day makeover for Labadee.

I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest cruise ships: here's what it's like to cruise on each

07 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

In the past year, I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean’s oldest and newest cruise ships, and I wanted to see how they compare in terms of cabins, dining options, activities, and overall experience.

Despite being part of the same cruise line, my experience on a Royal Caribbean ship launched in 1997 was drastically different from the week I spent on a ship built in 2018. Everything from passenger demographics to entertainment and itineraries were vastly different from each other.

I expected to find the newer, bigger ship far superior, but I ended up having a wonderful experience on both ships.

Nonetheless, my experiences on both Royal Caribbean ships reinforced the importance of selecting a cruise ship wisely before booking your vacation. Not all Royal Caribbean ships are created equally, and here’s what it’s like to sail on both Royal Caribbean’s oldest and newest cruise ships.

Last summer, I cruised on Rhapsody of the Seas, one of the oldest ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, and I paid $1,512.

Launched in 1997, Rhapsody of the Seas is currently the 2nd oldest Royal Caribbean cruise ship. At 915 feet long, with a gross tonnage of 78,491, and a maximum capacity of 2,416 guests, she’s also among the smallest ships in the fleet.

Rhapsody of the Seas provides a more traditional cruise ship experience to guests. Her small size means she can sail to a wide range of destinations around the world, and the onboard atmosphere is generally more relaxed than that of the fleet’s newest ships.

Related: All about Vision Class cruise ships

The ship has two pools, six jacuzzis, eight dining venues, and a selection of bars and lounges. Kids onboard can enjoy a rock climbing wall and complimentary programming at Adventure Ocean, although the ship isn’t as family-focused as other Royal Caribbean ships.

In total, I paid $1,512 for an interior room on a 7-night cruise to Greece. This cost included the price of two adults with taxes, fees, and prepaid gratuities added, making the total price $756 per person.

Last month, I cruised on Symphony of the Seas, which is the 2nd biggest cruise ship in the world, and I paid $1,656.

Symphony of the Seas docked at CocoCay

Launched in 2018, Symphony of the Seas is the 3rd newest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. As an Oasis Class cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas is massive. She is 1,188 feet long, weighs 228,081 gross tons, and has a maximum capacity of 6,680 passengers.

As an Oasis Class ship, Symphony of the Seas is split into seven distinct neighborhoods, each of which offers its own amenities and purpose. Neighborhoods include Central Park, a sprawling outdoor park with over 20,000 plants, and the Boardwalk, a family-focused neighborhood with a carousel, arcade, candy shop, and sports bar.

Related: Symphony of the Seas Guide & Review

As one of the world’s biggest cruise ships, Symphony of the Seas offers activities for cruisers of all ages, whether you want to sunbathe at the pool or try thrilling activities like a zip line or laser tag.

In total, I paid $1656 for an interior room on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise. The cost was for two adults in an interior cabin with taxes, fees, and prepaid gratuities added, making the total price $828 per person.

My cabin on Rhapsody of the Seas had outdated decor, while my Symphony of the Seas cabin had updated furnishings and plenty of storage space.

Rhapsody of the Seas is over 25 years old, and our cabin definitely showed its age. Our cabin had older bedding, the furniture upholstery could use an update, and we had a cloth shower curtain in the bathroom.

The color scheme was relatively outdated, too, with dark green furniture and cream-tinted walls, and the room’s size left little walking space.

On the contrary, my Symphony of the Seas cabin appeared modern, spacious (for an interior cabin), and with an impressive amount of storage space.

The cabin had closet and drawer space on each side of the bed in addition to a dresser with more drawers. The blue color scheme was more pleasing than Rhapsody’s outdated decor, and I found the room to be much more comfortable during our time onboard.

My one gripe with our cabin was that I feel the bed would have been better placed at the back of the room. We constantly had to walk around a tiny space between the bed and desk to reach the dresser and couch; the cabin layout seemed poorly designed.

On Rhapsody of the Seas, I ate primarily at the buffet and Main Dining Room. Symphony of the Seas had many more complimentary dining options available.

Rhapsody of the Seas, being a smaller cruise ship, has limited complimentary dining venues. There are four places to grab complimentary food onboard: the Main Dining Room, Windjammer buffet, Park Cafe, and Cafe Latte-tudes.

I enjoyed most meals at the Main Dining Room and Windjammer, as these venues have the most options. I was impressed with the buffet’s food selection, and it was one of the best buffet experiences I’ve had on Royal Caribbean so far.

Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

We did make a few stops at Park Cafe during the late-night hours, which run from 9PM to 1AM. During these hours, Park Cafe served pizza, sandwiches, and desserts, and it was the only late-night option available onboard.

Unsurprisingly, Symphony of the Seas has many more complimentary dining options to cater to nearly 7,000 passengers. There are ten places to eat included in your cruise fare on the ship, from Mexican cuisine at El Loco Fresh to pizza at Sorrento’s.

El Loco Fresh

Park Cafe on Symphony of the Seas is located in the ship’s Central Park neighborhood. Like on Rhapsody of the Seas, this venue offers grab and go options like bagels, salads, soups, and sandwiches. I much preferred the outdoor location on Symphony of the Seas, but the venue wasn’t open for late night snacks like on Rhapsody of the Seas.

I found the buffet on Symphony of the Seas to be lacking, though, and wasn’t particularly impressed with any of my meals there. The buffet’s size also felt much more cramped compared to on Rhapsody of the Seas, despite the ship being so much bigger.

Wonderland was my favorite restaurant experience on Symphony of the Seas. Rhapsody of the Seas had more traditional specialty dining options, but that doesn’t mean the dining experience wasn’t enjoyable.


In addition to complimentary dining, both ships offered several specialty dining options.

I tried four specialty restaurants on Symphony of the Seas: Jamie’s Italian, Izumi Sushi, Wonderland, and Playmakers. Of the restaurants, Wonderland was my favorite dining experience.

Wonderland is an eclectic restaurant based loosely on the tales of Alice and Wonderland. The restaurant goes above and beyond standard menu choices by offering unique, imaginative dishes that don’t necessarily look the same as they taste.


Our caprese appetizer, for example, was "reconstructed" caprese. Instead of a dish with slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, it consisted of cubed goat and bocconcini cheese with blue cheese meringue and basil puree.

To eat the dish, you first had to smash a reconstructed tomato into the cheese, which had been drained and blended with agar and Bloody Mary mix. “Creating” and mixing the dish together was just as fun as eating it!


Related: I spent $60 to eat at Royal Caribbean's most bizarre restaurant. I thought I would hate it, but it was one of the best meals of my cruise.

Despite being one of Royal Caribbean’s smallest ships, I found myself surprised by the amount of specialty dining options on Rhapsody of the Seas. The ship has four: Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Sushi, and Chef’s Table.

We dined at Izumi Sushi one evening of our cruise and found the ambiance and food to be just as enjoyable as on Royal Caribbean’s newest ships.

Although the newest Royal Caribbean restaurants aren’t available on Rhapsody of the Seas—like Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Hooked Seafood—I found the variety of specialty options adequate for sailing on an older ship.

It’s no question that the entertainment on Symphony of the Seas was several notches higher than that on Rhapsody of the Seas.

While performers on both Symphony of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas were equally talented, it was clear the entertainment on the latter had a much higher budget.

I don’t necessarily cruise for entertainment shows, but I was beyond impressed with the shows on Symphony of the Seas. From the ice skating performance in Studio B to the Broadway production of Hairspray, I made sure to never miss a show onboard.

The most impressive production, in my opinion, was HiRO in the ship’s AquaTheater. This show combined high diving, slacklining, tightropes, aerial acrobatics, synchronized swimming, and dancing for one of the most mind-boggling performances I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship.

The entertainment on Rhapsody of the Seas, on the other hand, is the area in which the ship fell the most flat for me. Not only does the ship have far fewer entertainment venues, with most productions in the main theater, but I found the shows to be a bit outdated for my generation.

I did enjoy the variety of live music on both ships, from piano tunes to jazz bands and reggae music. If I had to pick one ship over the other when it comes to entertainment, though, I’d definitely pick Symphony of the Seas.

The pool deck on Rhapsody of the Seas had a more relaxed vibe than that on Symphony of the Seas, and I preferred it.

While I preferred entertainment on Symphony of the Seas, I preferred the pool deck on Rhapsody of the Seas.

With so many passengers on Symphony of the Seas, the pool deck was packed nearly every time I tried to use it. I wasn’t interested in sharing a hot tub with 20 other passengers or swimming in a crowded pool full of kids splashing around.

I noticed much more chair hogging than usual, too, and it was nearly impossible to find a pool chair in the middle of the day.

With traditional decor and a lack of waterslides, the pool deck on Rhapsody of the Seas was not as exciting as Symphony of the Seas, but I preferred the more relaxed vibe. With one pool outside and one pool in the adults-only Solarium, I didn’t encounter nearly as many crowds using the pools.

While the lack of crowds could have been due to our port-intensive itinerary, I found myself enjoying the pool deck far more on an older cruise ship.

Activities were much more varied on Symphony of the Seas, but there were way more kids onboard.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships offer a far greater amount of activities onboard compared to the fleet’s oldest vessels. It’s practically impossible to feel bored on Symphony of the Seas, and I was almost overwhelmed with the amount of activities to choose from.

Whether riding waterslides, rock climbing, or using the FlowRider, each day onboard was packed with a full schedule of activities. Even if adrenaline isn’t your thing, you could still find an abundance of programming onboard, from trivia to game shows, live music, and dance parties.

Symphony of the Seas is especially popular with families, and there were a lot of kids onboard. With a large Adventure Ocean kids-only space and family-friendly activities like a carousel and Splashaway Bay, it’s no surprise that there were tons of families onboard.

As someone without kids, however, I have to say I preferred the more adult-focused atmosphere on Rhapsody of the Seas. Although Rhapsody of the Seas still had activities for kids, the ship doesn’t seem catered to families nearly as much as Symphony of the Seas.

If I were to bring my young nephews on a cruise, sailing on Symphony of the Seas would undoubtedly be a better choice. If I’m cruising with all adults, though, I think I prefer a smaller, less family-focused ship.

The itinerary on Rhapsody of the Seas was much more interesting than Symphony of the Seas, and visiting unique ports made the small ship experience worth it.

Rhapsody of the Seas in Kotor

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean’s oldest, smallest cruise ships offer much more fascinating itineraries compared to their newer ships.

New Royal Caribbean cruise ships focus more on the ship itself rather than the destination, and their big size means they can’t fit into as many cruise ports as smaller ships. While there’s nothing wrong with viewing the cruise ship as your vacation destination, I find the itineraries on smaller, older Royal Caribbean ships to be far more interesting.

Related: 15 countries you didn't know you could cruise to on Royal Caribbean

My Rhapsody of the Seas sailing left from Athens, Greece and visited Mykonos, Crete, Zakynthos, Kotor, and Split before ending in Ravenna, Italy. We only had one sea day on our entire 7-night cruise, and the ship felt more like an afterthought compared to the incredible ports we were visiting.

When I booked my cruise on Symphony of the Seas, I had fewer itinerary options. The ship’s Caribbean itineraries visit the same ports week after week, and the itineraries all visited popular cruise ports I’ve been to before.

I settled on a Western Caribbean cruise, and while I won’t ever complain about spending the day in Mexico, I much prefer the wider range of itinerary options on Royal Caribbean’s oldest ships.

Overall, I enjoyed sailing on both ships. Each ship comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which may vary depending on your travel style.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Royal Caribbean’s older, smaller ships. While they may lack the shiny, sparkly new decor and venues, I appreciate the more traditional cruise ship experience they offer.

I’m perfectly happy sitting on the promenade deck and watching the ocean pass by without worrying about rushing to trivia or a theater show.

At the same time, however, I do enjoy the upgraded entertainment and programming available on Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ships. There’s something special about eating breakfast in Central Park, strolling through the Royal Promenade, and having endless choices.


If there’s anything my experience on both ships taught me, it’s that having the right mindset can make or break your cruise vacation. If I boarded Rhapsody of the Seas expecting it to be on the same level as Symphony of the Seas, I would have been disappointed.

Likewise, if I boarded Symphony of the Seas expecting it to be a quiet, traditional cruise environment, I would have been shocked once onboard.

Whenever you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s helpful to remain open and flexible to trying something new. You might surprise yourself by how much you enjoy cruising on a ship you never would have considered, whether it’s the biggest, most exciting ship in the fleet or the oldest and smallest vessel.

Eating gluten free on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

06 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

For those with allergies and special diets, eating gluten free away from home can be a challenge. A Royal Caribbean cruise offers a stress-free option for those that need a gluten free diet.

Mariner of the Seas dining room

There are many choices for anyone that is looking for options that fit into their restrictions.

In fact, Royal Caribbean can accommodate a host of dietary needs, such as Kosher, low-fat, low-sodium and gluten free.

If you're someone that needs to eat gluten free on a Royal Caribbean cruise, here's what you should know.

Lots of gluten free choices

Gluten Free corner

In speaking with gluten free cruisers, they often talk about the variety of choices available.

First and foremost, you need to inform the waiter at any restaurant you visit that you are eating gluten free so that they can provide you options. 

The biggest mistake someone can make is not saying anything and relegating themselves to what they can spot on the menu.

gluten free chicken

When you sit down at a restaurant, the waiter will usually ask first if anyone has any dietary needs or allergies.

Whether they ask you or not, always tell any waiter you are gluten free, just to be safe.

Past cruisers report there being lots of options and they will accommodate you to make sure you have a great experience.

Galey tour

Royal Caribbean ships have their own preparation area in the galley (ship's kitchen) away from the main production area to prepare meals for guests with allergies to avoid cross-contamination of meals.

In fact, the Food & Beverage staff attend recurring training programs regarding allergy protocols.

How to tell Royal Caribbean you need gluten free options

GF Bread in Windjammer

You don't have to inform Royal Caribbean in advance, but you can certainly do so prior to the cruise.

You can email [email protected] and/or call the cruise line at (866) 592-7225 to confirm your needs.

In the email, include the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.

Gluten free spaghetti

Whether you inform them ahead of time or not, it's a good idea to ask to speak to the head waiter once onboard about your diet. The dining room staff are great about working with you.

In the Main Dining Room, the staff will bring you the following evening's menu and you let them know in advance what you’d like that works for your diet. They also have gluten free bread that can be prepared.

Breakfast GF

You can also make a request for breakfast the next day, such as pancakes or French Toast. They can also take lunch pre-orders as well.

Buffet dining with gluten free

GF options in Windjammer

The Windjammer buffet has great choices too if you're gluten free. 

There's an entire gluten free section in the Windjammer you can choose from, in addition to any dishes you may find elsewhere around the buffet. There are gluten free buns for burgers too.

Gluten free buffet selections

Don't be afraid to ask to speak to the chef in the Windjammer about what options you have beyond the designated section.

Specialty dining or Main Dining Room?

Meatball at Giovanni's Table

A common question is if someone with a gluten free diet is better off in the Main Dining Room or going to specialty restaurants.

In the Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group, there's varying opinions on which is better, but neither are bad choices overall.

Steak from main dining room

Both will be able to cater to your needs, so there isn't one that is a better choice than the other.

If you eat at a specialty restaurant, be sure to inform them of your special need. 

One advantage of the Main Dining Room is you can specify your dietary needs on the first night, and the staff should be able to accommodate you going forward every day thereafter.

The good news is if you elect to try specialty dining, they can absolutely accommodate you.

Gluten free snacking

Gluten free pizza

You should know that you can still enjoy the complimentary pizza at Sorrento's (or Cafe Promenade/Park Cafe depending on your ship) if you're eating gluten free.

There is gluten free pizza available at Sorrento's upon request.

Gluten free food examples

All of this sounds great, but what does it look like and what can you expect exactly?

Here are photos of gluten free dishes other guests have shared from their Royal Caribbean cruises.

GF bread

Gluten free bread 

Gluten free calamari

Gluten free calamari 

Carne Asada

Carne Asada 

GF Bread at Chops Grill

Gluten free bread at Chops Grille


Giovanni's Italian Kitchen with gluten free pasta 

GF Chocolate torte

Chocolate torte

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Gluten free dining tips on Royal Caribbean

Don't book My Time Dining

Royal Caribbean advises guests with special dietary needs to book Traditional Dining instead of My Time Dining in the Main Dining Room.

They say this is to provide the guests with a dedicated serving staff for the cruise.

MDR Waiters

Introduce yourself to the dining staff

As stated earlier, once you get onboard the ship, you should visit the dining room to introduce yourself to the dining staff.

You can advice them of your different allergies and they can then inform the dining staff for their table.

Be patient

Food service can take a little longer due to food being prepared in a dedicated kitchen.

GF Snacks

Bring your own snacks

While you wont go hungry, it might be advantageous to have gluten free snacks in your cabin to munch on when you're in a pinch.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

List of desserts

It can be difficult to know what desserts can be made gluten free, but here's a list of suggestions from reader Peggy Weatherington.

She dined recently on Wonder of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas and compiled a list of options.

  • Lemon curd (No crust)
  • Tres Leches cake
  • Coconut cake
  • Royal Chocolate cake 
  • Blueberry Cobbler
  • Baked Alaska (you will not get the cake part)
  • White Chocolate Mousse (Main Dining Room lunch menu)
  • Crema Catalina (very similar to Crème Brûlée)
  • Apple Cobbler
  • Warm Chocolate cake

Fortnite adds new Royal Caribbean cruise ship

06 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship doesn't launch until 2024, but you can see it already in Fortnite.

Icon of the Seas in Fortnite

Royal Caribbean announced is has partnered with Fortnite to create a one-of-a-kind experience in the meta verse onboard Icon of the Seas called "Hide 'n' Sea."

What does this mean exactly?

Overhead view of Icon of the Seas in Fortnite

Through the world of Fortnite, you can go ahead and virtually explore two brand-new neighborhoods onboard the highly anticipated cruise ship while collecting coins and playing hide and seek. 

You will first have to download the Fortnite game and create a free account. Once you have completed those steps, you have to enter the Icon of the Seas in-game island code, 2569-9622-8657. 

Why Fortnite?


Fortnite is an online multiplayer video game that was released in 2017. In six years, over 400 million accounts have been created, and at any given time, there are roughly three million players online! 

The heart of Icon of the Seas' purpose is to enhance the family vacation experience. This became evident with the new neighborhood concepts of Thrill Island and Surfside


Since the majority of Fortnite players are under the age of 24, it appears as though they are trying to appeal to a wider audience and continue to build up the anticipation leading up to the ship's maiden voyage. 

It is available worldwide on desktops, computer consoles, smart phones, and tablets. 

What neighborhoods are featured?


Only two neighborhoods are included in this virtual world: Thrill Island and The Hideaway.

While you will not be able to get a full tour of the ship, you can explore the record-breaking Category 6 water park, as well as Crown's Edge, a fear-inducing adventure course that combines a ropes course, skywalk, and thrill ride into one jaw-dropping experience.  

Player near FlowRider on Icon of the Seas

You can also see the Hideaway Pool, the world's first suspended infinity pool at sea, the fan-favorite FlowRider surf simulator, and Lost Dunes mini-golf course. 

The game play takes place while the ship is at sea, so you are able to take in some great sea views while trying to locate other players or remain hidden!

What is the goal of the game play?


Fortnite is known for their Battle Royale game mode, where you are dropped into a world and can fight against up to 100 other players. Hide 'n' Sea is less violent than other versions of the game. 

To play, you either become a "prop" to hide from the sea-kers or are a sea-ker who is trying to find the hidden "props" in seven minutes.

Player in Fortnite

Once the round begins, hiders have thirty seconds to conceal themselves before they transform into different props, including sun loungers, towels, or mini-golf flag.

You will win if you are able to successfully hide for the duration of the round or find all the "props." If you are a "prop," you can instantly win by collecting all 25 coins.  

Cruises meet online world

Celebrity Cruises in Metaverse

This is far from the first convergence of cruise ships and the online world.

In December 2022, sister brand Celebrity Cruises announced Celebrity Beyond cruise ship would be part of the Metaverse.

The game allowed users to visit the Resort Deck, along with other iconic spaces and bars. They could visit the Grand Plaza and see the cruise line’s flair show. A signature event onboard, mixologists perform tricks under a lit-up, moving chandelier to the delight of onlookers.  They can also visit The Magic Carpet floating bar, the Grand and the Sunset Bar.

I cruised to a tiny town in Mexico you’ve probably never heard of, and it was the highlight of my cruise vacation

06 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

There’s a charming small town just minutes away from one of Mexico’s busiest cruise ports, and it’s by far my favorite place to visit on any Caribbean cruise.

With lively culture, gorgeous beaches, and world-famous cuisine, visiting Mexico is a must whenever I’m planning a Caribbean cruise. Yet as a culturally-focused traveler, I’m more interested in exploring local places rather than spending the day at a gated resort.

So when I first discovered Mahahual, a small fishing village located just 1.5 miles from the Costa Maya cruise port, I knew I had to check it out. With a little over 2,500 residents, it’s worlds away from destinations like Cancún and Puerto Vallarta, and I was intrigued.

I visited Mahahual for the first time last April and immediately fell in love with the town’s relaxed, beachy vibe. I couldn’t wait to return, so when I booked another cruise to Mexico, I knew I’d be heading back.

Let’s take a walkthrough of a perfect cruise ship port day in Mahahual, from sunbathing at the beach to endless tacos and guacamole. If you’re planning a cruise to Mexico soon, this may just be the best place to visit.

Getting there

The town of Mahahual is split into two sections: the main town—where most residents live—and the boardwalk.

The boardwalk, known as the malecón in Spanish, is the main tourist area of the town, and it's where most visitors will spend the day. Getting to the Boardwalk is easy, but you’ll first have to navigate the maze of the Costa Maya cruise port!

Once you walk off the ship and enter the Costa Maya cruise port, you’ll be met with a maze of restaurants, bars, shops, and even a pool. Although the port area is nice (it even features its own aviary), I’d highly recommend leaving port and heading to Mahahual for a more authentic travel experience.

To do so, keep heading left through the port, following a path that will eventually lead you to a line of taxis. Taxis to Mahahual are $4 per person each way.

On my recent port day, we took a taxi to the Faro de Mahahual, a 72 foot lighthouse marking the start of the town’s oceanfront boardwalk.

Exploring Mahahual

We arrived at the lighthouse around 8AM local time, just as Mahahual started to wake up. The breezy morning weather made for an excellent time to walk the boardwalk.

Mahahual’s malecón is car-free and lined with coconut trees, shops, and beach clubs. The town is an up-and-coming diving destination, so there are plenty of small bungalows and hotels along the way.

Several massage stands were set up along the boardwalk, too, which are guaranteed to be priced lower than on the ship!

Although the morning in Mahahual is quiet, it’s the best time to walk the mile-long boardwalk. Temperatures are comfortable, there are few crowds, and you’ll get a better taste for the tranquil atmosphere of the town before other tourists arrive.

After 20 minutes walking the boardwalk, we were ready for Mahahual’s main attraction: the beach.

Beaches in Mahahual and Costa Maya, Mexico

Mexican law states that all beaches must guarantee free public access to anyone; there are no private beaches in the country! Because of this law, the beach in Mahahual is accessible to any visitor, but there are a few things to be aware of.

Beach clubs

Mahahual’s coastline is full of beach clubs and hotels, most of which use beach space for chairs and umbrellas. While you can technically access the beach at any location, use of beach equipment is reserved for guests at the respective businesses.

Therefore, booking a day pass to a beach club is the most comfortable option for a beach day in Mahahual. Some beach clubs offer free entry if you buy food and drinks whereas others offer an all-inclusive cover charge.

Here are a few of the best beach clubs in Mahahual:

Maya Chan is another popular day pass in Mahahual, but it is not located in the town center.

Free beach access

If you’re hoping for a free beach day in Mahahual, your best bet is to find a quiet spot of sand in between beach clubs. To do this, walk further down the boardwalk where there are fewer businesses and tourists. You can place your towel on the sand here for free!

Jaime’s at the Blue Reef

My favorite beach club in Mahahual is Jaime's at the Blue Reef, and this is where we spent the majority of our day in town. At $56 per adult, a day at Jaime's provides an all-inclusive experience with unlimited food and drinks.

The menu has a variety of both Mexican and American dishes, including quesadillas, onion rings, ceviche, and tacos. We dined on chips and salsa, guacamole, and several types of tacos, and everything was delicious.

Jaime, the owner of the Blue Reef, even made us a special dish of rice with freshly caught shrimp cooked in white wine and pepper. The hospitality of the Blue Reef keeps me coming back each time I visit Mahahual!

Beach club access also includes a private, padded beach chair placed perfectly in the shade of coconut trees and palapas.

In between food and drinks, taking a dip in the ocean is a must. Although this region of Mexico is prone to seaweed, most beaches in Mahahual are protected by a barrier in the water, and we found the water perfectly clear during our stay.

Of course, you can't beat the views from the rooftop at Jaime's at the Blue Reef, either, which feature the most spectacular panoramic views Mahahual has to offer.

Like always, my time at the Blue Reef was a highlight of my day in Mahahual.

What to do in Mahahual

Although a day in Mahahual is best spent at the beach, there are a few other ways to enjoy your time in the town, too, from dining to cycling and more.

Food & Drinks

One of the best reasons to cruise to Mexico is for the food, of course, and Mahahual boasts plenty of culinary options to match any tastes. As the town receives many tourists, both American and Mexican fare can be found in town.

Many visitors will dine at one of Mahahual’s beach clubs. If you're looking for a restaurant more off the beaten path, though, walk a few blocks away from the busy oceanfront.

Here you'll find restaurants frequented by Mahahual locals, such as La Curvita, which serves breakfast and lunch dishes for under $5 USD. Menu highlights include tortas, quesadillas, Mexican-style eggs, fajitas, empanadas, and more.

A variety of bakeries and cafes are located along the boardwalk as well. Panadería La Tartaleta is a fantastic spot for coffees and pastries, whereas La Dolce Vita makes unbelievably fresh smoothies.

The passionfruit, mango, and banana smoothie is one of the best drinks to try in Mahahual, so I made sure to pick one up on my recent port day.


Because Mahahual’s boardwalk is car-free, it’s a popular spot for bike riding. Several cycling excursions cruise the boardwalk each day, but you can also rent a bike on your own.

Bike rentals cost between $3-8 for a rental, which you can rent for only an hour or for the whole day.

Although I didn’t have time to cycle during my recent visit to Mahahual, I’d recommend this option for those looking to see as much of the town as possible in a short port visit. You can ride bikes past the boardwalk and onto a sandy beachfront road or head to the local side of Mahahual to ride amongst the neighborhoods there.


The waters off the eastern coast of the Yucatán peninsula are known for having some of the best scuba diving in the world. If you’d like to give diving a try, you can do so in Mahahual.

Several diving companies are located throughout the town, but if you are trying for the first time, I’d recommend a Discover Scuba lesson from Mar Adentro Diving, located right off the boardwalk in Mahahual.

Back to the ship: why you should visit Mahahual on your next cruise to Mexico

After a wonderful day walking around Mahahual and suntanning at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, it was time to head back to Symphony of the Seas. While taxis are available directly from the Blue Reef, we wanted to walk down the boardwalk one last time.

Now mid-afternoon, the boardwalk was packed with visitors from the two cruise ships in port. Music was pumping at beach clubs, street food vendors were rolling carts down the street, and vendors were ready to sell any type of souvenir and trinket you could imagine.

Like any tourist area, it's important to be prepared to be asked to buy souvenirs, massages, and food. A simple "no, gracias" is a polite way to dismiss any vendors on the beach or boardwalk, and they weren't pushy.

We walked the mile back to the lighthouse, where we were easily able to get a taxi back to port for $4 per person.

My day in Mahahual was the highlight of my cruise vacation. The town’s small, walkable size makes it easy to explore, and it has everything you could need in a port day: great food, picturesque beaches, plentiful activities, and affordable prices.

I love the energy of Mahahual, and even though many tourists visit each day, it still has a laid-back feel. Combined with the friendliness of everyone I encountered in town, Mahahual is a place I plan to visit over and over again.

If you have a cruise booked that visits Costa Maya, don’t hesitate to leave the port area and take a taxi to Mahahual.

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: March 5, 2023

05 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to March! We hope you are having a great weekend and are ready to sit back, relax and catch up with all the latest Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean is in the process of cutting back on the level of service that room attendants on its ships provide each day.

Inside cabin on Liberty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is switching over its ships so that room attendants only clean most cabins once a day instead of the twice-a-day cleaning.  This applies to non-suites, and Junior Suites and higher category cabins will still get twice-a-day cleanings.

Why the change? The cruise line says it's to be more sustainable and to align with global hospitality trends.

Royal Caribbean News

New RCB Video: 5 Things I learned from staying in my first cruise ship suite

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 — 5 Things I learned from staying in my first cruise ship suite — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 489th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available with a preview of the new 2024-2025 cruises that were released last week.

Royal Caribbean released new cruises for winter 2024-2025 and Matt looks at each of the ships and the new sailings offered.

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.

8 easy strategies I used on my recent Royal Caribbean cruise to save money

Symphony of the Seas

How do you save money while still enjoying one of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships?

Jenna sailed on Symphony of the Seas with the goal of spending as little extra money as possible while still making the most of her vacation.

Here are 8 easy strategies she used to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise that you can use too!

Updated Crown & Anchor freebies


If you're at the upper echelon of Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society, expect some changes to a few perks.

Royal Caribbean announced it has made changes to select offerings that begin March 10, 2023.

This includes new crystal blocks, a change in welcome beverages, and more.

15 things you don't need to bring on a cruise

Walkie talkies

Of all the things you can bring on a cruise, there's a few items you can definitely leave at home.

No one wants to waste precious luggage space on things they don’t end up using during their vacation.

Whether they are prohibited or just not necessary, we wanted to share a list of things not to bother bringing on your cruise.

We're expanding to Celebrity Cruises!

RoyalCaribbeanBlog is going to bring you more coverage and start sharing news, updates, and information from sister brand Celebrity Cruises!

Offering a premium experience, Celebrity Cruises is an intriguing option for many cruise fans used to sailing on Royal Caribbean because of the the elevated experiences onboard.

Plus, Celebrity offers ships that sail to more remote destinations and more intimate vessels to explore.

I booked an $1800 floating cabana in the Bahamas. While Instagram-worthy, here are 6 reasons why I don't recommend it to everyone

04 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

We paid $1,800 for a floating cabana at Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. It was unquestionably luxurious—with an over-the-water hammock and exclusive lunch—but I wouldn’t recommend it to every traveler.

Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, has twenty private bungalows “floating” over the island’s turquoise waters. These cabanas are, by far, the most opulent way to spend a day on the island.

On my recent cruise, my travel party and I reserved a floating cabana for $1,800. There were eight of us sharing the cabana, which broke down to $225 per person. It wasn’t the cheapest way to spend our day by any means, but we were hopeful the cost would be worth it.

And while I certainly enjoyed myself during my eight hours on the island, I left with a few key takeaways I think others should be aware of.

From increasing prices to unexpected sea creatures, here’s why I wouldn’t recommend Perfect Day at CocoCay’s floating cabanas to everyone.

What is a floating cabana? Let’s take a tour

Royal Caribbean's floating cabanas are located within the Coco Beach Club, an exclusive area of Perfect Day at CocoCay that must be reserved in advance.

Related: Coco Beach Club: cost, tips & review

The beach club has its own infinity pool, Mediterranean restaurant, bar, and seating areas, along with private beach access. Floating cabana guests are free to use any of the Coco Beach Club’s facilities in addition to enjoying time at their private cabana.

As you walk along the Coco Beach Club’s lush, flowery paths, you’ll reach the entrance to the floating cabanas. There are two sets of ten cabanas on the island, which are located on opposite ends of the beach club.

Your cabana attendant will guide you to your cabana for the day. Cabana attendants act as your personal concierge and can deliver drinks, food, and anything else you may need directly to the cabin.

A covered living space in the cabana includes a plush couch and two lounge chairs, along with a coffee table. A screen is located on the wall next to the couch, where you can control the music from your cabana’s speaker and call your cabin attendant.

Also under the covered section of the cabana is a sink and mini fridge. Drinks in the mini fridge cost extra, but are included in Royal Caribbean’s drink packages.

The cabana also features a freshwater shower. Snorkeling equipment is found inside the shower area, which is complimentary for cabana guests.

Outside from under the roof of the cabana are four pool chairs, which are perfect for sunbathing between dips in the ocean. An umbrella can be opened between the pool chairs for extra shade, and a cooler with complimentary water bottles are found here as well.

Next to the pool chairs is a dining area. This area is perfect for enjoying lunch from the Coco Beach Club restaurant, which you can either get delivered to the cabana or eat in the restaurant itself.

Suspended over the crystal clear, turquoise Bahamian waters is a netted hammock, which is arguably the best place to relax in the entire cabana.

Of course, we can’t forget about the slide. Each cabana features a neon green slide launching guests directly into the ocean. This slide is especially popular for kids, but is fun for guests of all ages.

Are the floating cabanas worth it? Here’s why I wouldn’t recommend them to everyone

Whether or not something is “worth it” on a cruise is highly subjective, as it ultimately depends on your travel style and budget. For some cruisers, booking a $700 drink package may be worth the cost whereas others may prefer saving that money for an upgraded stateroom or shore excursion.

Nonetheless, here are six takeaways I took from my experience in the floating cabana that you should consider when choosing whether to book one or not.

For $1,800, we got a good deal on the floating cabana, but prices are increasing

While we paid $1,800 for a floating cabana, it’s not uncommon to see prices as high as $3,000 for a one day reservation. Prices at Perfect Day at CocoCay have been increasing due to high demand, so it’s unlikely you’ll see pricing lower than $1,800 for the cabana.

In fact, on my upcoming sailing on Icon of the Seas, the floating cabanas are priced at a whopping $3,799! Even if you split the price with eight guests, it’s nearly $500 a person.

It’s hard to justify spending over $3000 for an eight hour cabana rental, even if it provides an unforgettable day. That $3000 could easily be put toward other onboard expenses like drink packages, dining packages, or spa treatments.

It could even cover the cost of a weeklong cruise in a balcony room!

The cabana is fun with a large group, but may be unnecessary for just two people

Cabanas are priced per cabana and not per person, so you’ll pay the same amount whether sharing the cabana with your spouse or with seven of your friends.

Unless you’re celebrating a special occasion—such as a honeymoon or 50th anniversary—or you really don’t care about the cost, I would argue the cabana is almost too much space for just a few people.

If I were traveling with just one or two other people, I might opt for a different kind of cabana on the island. Outside of the floating cabanas are private cabanas on land at the Coco Beach Club, Thrill Waterpark, and Chill Beach. Not only are these priced lower, but they still offer a private, luxurious way to spend the day.

Related: Guide to Thrill Waterpark at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Even if cost isn’t a factor, the floating cabanas have so much space and amenities that it’s hard to take advantage of everything in just one day, especially if there are so few people in your travel party.

There’s so much to see at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay has no shortage of free, fun things to do. From Oasis Lagoon pool to kids splash areas and a variety of beaches, there’s really no need to spend anything extra on the island.

While I certainly loved my time at the cabana, I found myself just as happy on previous trips to Perfect Day at CocoCay where I enjoyed only complimentary areas. I spend most visits to the island lounging in a chair at Chill Beach, where I spend $0 extra and still have an incredibly relaxing day.

Perfect Day at CocoCay beach

Even if you do want to book something extra, there’s a lot more than just the Coco Beach Club. Consider trying the zip line, booking a jet ski excursion, or renting snorkeling gear for the day. A quiet day at the cabanas is not for everyone when there are more adrenaline-filled activities elsewhere on the island!

The cabanas are a great choice for adults, but your kids might be bored

If you’re cruising with kids, a floating cabana may not be the best idea. While you may appreciate the peaceful, private atmosphere of a cabana, they aren’t the most kid-focused activity.

Related: 50 best cruising with kids tips & secrets

Many families prefer spending the day at Thrill Waterpark, the Oasis Lagoon pool, or Splashaway Bay. These areas of the island are exceptionally family-friendly and provide endless fun for kids of all ages.

The Coco Beach Club offers incredible amenities, but you don’t need a cabana to experience the club’s best perks

The Coco Beach Club is an excellent place to spend your day at Perfect Day at CocoCay. The club’s infinity pool, lounge areas, and beach access is perfect for guests in search of a peaceful atmosphere.

In lieu of reserving a cabana, you can always choose to buy a day pass to the Coco Beach Club. Day passes can be reserved on the Cruise Planner for around $150-250 depending on the sailing, and they include access to all areas of the club aside from private cabanas.

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

Day pass access also includes lunch at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, which offers a more upscale menu compared to other food options on the island.

I’d argue that the amenities and hangout spaces of the Coco Beach Club almost rival that of the floating cabanas. During our day in the cabana, I found myself wanting to use the beach club’s amenities, but I felt almost obligated to spend time in the cabana we reserved due to the price we paid.

If you book a floating cabana, be prepared for some unexpected guests in the water

As soon as I got to the cabana, the first thing I did was climb up the slide and slide into the water below. If I had known about the unexpected guests we’d receive later in the day, though, I might have decided against it.

On our way back from lunch at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, we spotted a nurse shark swimming below the cabanas. Later in the day, a few members of our group were in the water when a stingray swam right past them!

Look, I know you should expect to encounter fish and other sea creatures in the ocean, but if you’re afraid of swimming in close proximity to sharks and other large sea creatures, you might be better off spending the day in more shallow waters!

Would I book a floating cabana again?

Even though I wouldn’t recommend Royal Caribbean’s floating cabanas to everyone, I wouldn’t be opposed to booking one again for the right price.

Whether or not I would book the cabana again would come down to a few factors:

  • Group size: Splitting the cost of the cabana with a large group is much more affordable than booking it for just 2-4 people
  • Overall price: I definitely wouldn’t spend over $3000 for the cabana, but if I found it for $1800 again, I would consider making a reservation
  • Purpose of vacation: If I were sailing to celebrate a milestone or special occasion, enjoying the island in a cabana would be an enticing option

Overall, having a “home base” on the island was definitely a nice perk, and the cabana was a fun way to splurge and enjoy quality time with our travel party.

15 things you don't need to bring on a cruise

03 Mar 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Packing for a cruise can be stressful, especially for first-time cruisers, and many passengers are worried they aren’t packing enough for their cruise vacation.

More often than not, however, they’re packing too much for their cruise! From beach towels to hair dryers, there are many items better left at home.

Having an idea of what you should and should not bring on a cruise can help tremendously in the packing process.

Some items, like walkie talkies, are allowed onboard, but we recommend against it. Others, such as power strips, are prohibited by Royal Caribbean and will be confiscated in the cruise terminal.

Gangway entrance

Before packing for your cruise, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you don’t need to bring with you onboard. No one wants to waste precious luggage space on things they don’t end up using during their vacation—or worse, aren’t allowed onboard in the first place!

Here are the top 15 things you don’t need to bring on a cruise.


Packing beach towels is unnecessary on a Royal Caribbean cruise, as the cruise line provides towels at no extra cost to guests. These towels can be used both onboard and in port, but make sure you return your towels by the end of the cruise. If you misplace a towel, you’ll incur a $25 per towel fee!

Towels simply take up way too much space in your luggage, so it’s recommended to use the cruise line’s towels instead.

Currency of every port you visit

Depending on your cruise destination, bringing local currency may be unnecessary. Many popular cruise ports accept US dollars, especially those in the Caribbean. With so many visitors each day, these ports expect cruise ship tourists to use US dollars.

If you’re visiting Nassau, for example, US dollars and Bahamian dollars have a 1:1 ratio. There’s no problem paying with US dollars, although change may be given back in Bahamian currency.

Of course, US dollars are unlikely to be accepted in ports on cruises from Europe, Australia, and Asia, and we recommend taking local currency with you when booking itineraries outside of North America.

Related: How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

American Express gold cards

One of the easiest ways to handle paying in different currencies is by traveling with a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees. Many establishments in your cruise port will accept credit card payments, especially restaurants and shops.

Using a card avoids the hassle of figuring out which currency to use and can be a safer option compared to carrying around a lot of cash.


In most situations, you don’t need to pack snacks on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It’s no surprise that there is an abundance of food onboard, and you won’t need bags of pretzels, trail mix, and candy from home.

If you’re looking to bring a snack on a shore excursion, consider taking a few extra cookies from the buffet and placing them in a Ziploc bag. Alternatively, you can order snack-sized boxes of cereal from room service at no extra cost, and these make a great snack option while in port.

The one time we do see the value in packing snacks for a Royal Caribbean cruise is if you’re traveling with kids. If cruising with kids, it might be a good idea to pack a few of your child’s favorite snacks to have handy onboard.

Related: 50 best cruising with kids tips & secrets

Whether chips, granola bars, or fruit snacks, it can be handy to have snacks available both on the ship and in port.

Valuable jewelry

As much as you may love wearing sparkly jewelry, we recommend leaving your most expensive items at home or only wearing them while onboard.

While it’s unlikely anything will happen to your jewelry on a Royal Caribbean cruise, wearing valuable jewelry in port can draw unwanted attention to yourself and your travel party.

In addition, we also recommend leaving your Apple Watch in your cabin while in port, or at the very least putting it in your daypack. Wearing expensive items in port is, more often than not, not worth the risk.

Bulky stroller

Cruising with kids? It’s best to leave your big, bulky stroller at home.

Cruise ships are confined spaces, and it can be tough to navigate the ship with a large stroller. Not only that, but taking a bulky stroller into port can be complicated, as many cruise ports may have narrow, uneven sidewalks that make pushing a stroller difficult.

Instead, bring an umbrella stroller onboard. Umbrella strollers pack down easily and are much more lightweight, making travel with these strollers a breeze. Royal Caribbean does not provide these strollers onboard, so be sure to bring one with you from home.


Packing a laptop for your cruise? Unless you’re working remotely on a Royal Caribbean cruise, we advise leaving your computer at home. 

Related: Can you work remotely from a cruise ship? I put it to the test

While some travelers think they may want their computer to check emails and connect with friends and family onboard, bringing a laptop is an unnecessary hassle.

Instead, use your cellphone for any technology needs onboard, from checking in to a flight to researching ports of call. If you really need to use a computer while onboard, you’ll find public computers available around the ship.

Brand new shoes

A pre-cruise shopping trip can be fun, but rethink those brand new shoes you bought for the trip. Although cruising is relaxing, it often involves a lot of walking, and no one wants to deal with painful blisters on vacation!

If you buy new shoes for a cruise, be sure to wear them a few times at home before the cruise begins. This will help ensure you break the shoes in properly before your trip, which can alleviate the risk of blisters and feeling uncomfortable on vacation.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

It’s usually a better idea to only pack shoes you’re confident will be comfortable throughout the sailing. After all, no one knows if you’ve worn a pair of shoes 200 times before, so bring your trusty pair of sandals as opposed to a brand new pair.

Walkie talkies

Not only are walkie talkies an unnecessary item to pack for a cruise, but the noise they produce can be annoying to other passengers. Plus, they don’t work very well onboard, as the metal walls on cruise ships produce significant interference.

Related: The worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Instead of bringing walkie talkies on your cruise, use the Royal Caribbean app. Royal Caribbean’s app has a complimentary chat feature where you can message others in your travel party.

Communicating via the Royal Caribbean app works much better than walkie talkies. It’s completely free even if you don’t have a wifi package for the sailing.

Over the door shoe organizer

A popular cruise cabin hack is bringing an over the door shoe organizer to provide extra storage space in your stateroom. Many cruisers like to bring these to store not only shoes, but toiletries, snacks, and other accessories.

When we tried an over the door shoe organizer on a recent cruise, though, we deemed it to be more of a hassle than it’s worth. While you can fit many items in the organizer’s spacious pockets, we didn’t feel the extra storage space was necessary.

Related: I tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

Most Royal Caribbean cabins—especially those on newer ships—have more than enough storage in the room. In fact, there’s often more storage space than you’ll need, so wasting packing space with an over the door shoe organizer isn’t needed.

Hair dryer

All Royal Caribbean cabins are equipped with a hair dryer, so in most cases, there’s no need to pack your own. For most passengers, a hair dryer will take up too much luggage space and isn’t worth the trouble.

However, if your hair requires careful styling, you may want to consider bringing your own hairdryer. You can find several travel-sized hair dryers on Amazon, which may work well for those with limited luggage space.

Flowy dresses

So you’ve found the most chic dress for your cruise and can’t wait to wear it onboard. The only problem? The outdoor decks on cruise ships can be extremely windy, and you definitely don’t want to put your underwear on display for everyone onboard!

Before packing short, flowy dresses, it’s important to understand that there’s a (strong) possibility these dresses will fly up in the wind. While you can certainly still pack flowy dresses, bring a pair of shorts to wear under the dress and/or avoid windy outdoor decks while wearing the item.

Prohibited items

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Now that we’ve discussed the items you don’t need to bring on a cruise, let’s move on to the items you can’t bring on a cruise. Like all cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has a list of prohibited items.

If you bring a prohibited item on a cruise, the item will be confiscated at the cruise terminal and you can pick it up once you pass through the terminal on disembarkation day.

Here are the most common prohibited items cruisers try to bring onboard that you should avoid:

Clothing iron

Clothing irons pose a fire hazard and thus are prohibited on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Unfortunately, this means your clothes may sport more wrinkles than you’d prefer during your sailing.

Luckily, Royal Caribbean offers dry cleaning and pressing services onboard, although it comes with a per item cost. You can expect to pay around $6.99 to have a long sleeved shirt dry cleaned and pressed, and $13.99 for a dress.

Related: Royal Caribbean laundry services on your cruise

Alternatively, you can pack wrinkle release spray for your cruise, which may help to remove any unwanted wrinkles in your outfits.

Pool floaties

While pizza and unicorn-shaped pool floaties are all the rage on Instagram, they’re not permitted on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Inner tubes, pool noodles, floating mats, and other floating devices are not permitted in the pools on Royal Caribbean.

Related: What can you not bring on a cruise

Arm floaties for kids are tolerated, but your best bet if traveling with kids is to take advantage of Royal Caribbean’s complimentary swim vests. These are available on the pool deck and come in four sizes: infant, children, youth, and adult small.

While floating devices (outside of swim vests) are not allowed onboard, you may be able to use them in beaches or pools in your ports of call.

Power strips

Cruise ship cabins, especially on older ships, have limited outlets. This leads many first-time cruisers to pack power strips in their luggage, but this is prohibited on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Power strips with an extension cord are a fire hazard and will be withheld from your luggage on embarkation day.

Instead, consider packing a USB hub or outlet extender. Unlike power strips, these items are permitted onboard and can drastically increase the amount of outlet availability in your cabin.


Bringing alcohol onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships is strictly prohibited, aside from one 750ml bottle of wine or champagne per adult in your cabin.

Beer and spirits are prohibited, and sneaking liquor on your ship is not recommended.

If you’re hoping to save money on alcohol on your cruise, you have a few options:

  • Book a drink package early and reprice it if the cost goes down
  • Save money by drinking in port instead of onboard
  • Ask for the drink of the day, which is usually a few dollars cheaper than other cocktails
  • Take advantage of bringing your own wine onboard

Do not, under any circumstances, bring liquor onboard. It's not worth the risk!

Complete list of prohibited items:

  • Firearms and ammunition, including realistic replicas
  • Sharp objects (shaving products and scissors with a blade less than 4 inches are allowed)
  • Illegal drugs and substances
  • CBD oil and products
  • Candles and incense
  • Coffee makers
  • Clothes irons and travel steamers
  • Hot plates
  • Hoverboards
  • Martial arts, self defense, and sports gear
  • Flammable liquids and explosives
  • Hookahs
  • HAM radios
  • Baby monitors
  • Electrical extension cords
  • Dangerous chemicals
  • Perishable food and meat products
  • Alcoholic beverages (except permitted amount of wine)

Intelligent automation will make Royal Caribbean's next cruise ship as efficient as it is fun

03 Mar 2023
Matt Hochberg

When Icon of the Seas debuts in early 2024, she will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to implement intelligent automation.

Icon of the Seas aerial at night concept art

Intelligent automation is a way to to bring some level of automation to processes that incorporates a certain level of artificial intelligence (AI), but utilizes many more tools. Royal Caribbean is rethinking how the company does its daily work, and it employs intelligent digital solutions like machine learning in their strategy.

It's a burgeoning area of IT, and it has the potential to make crew members' workloads easier while also benefitting the cruise ship passenger experience.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider spoke this week at a panel on intelligent automation, and it provided insight into how Royal Caribbean is using AI more in how it operates.

Mr. Schneider's job is to lead the digital transformation of the guest and crew experience, as well as the physical transformation of the guest experience, which includes new water parks, restaurant concepts, and technology.

Given that Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are complex technological marvels to begin with, integrating automation into them is no simple feat. After all, cruise ships incorporate resorts, food and beverage, supply chain, entertainment, gaming, Broadway shows, and moving people logistically around the world. 

Mr. Schneider calls it a "data ecosystem" and sees opportunity in balancing how to deliver experiences to people and how to lower costs.

"We spend a lot of time with our crew at sea understanding how do we generate job function automation that delivers value to them so they can spend more time with our guests day in and day out."

Inside cabin on Icon of the Seas

One of the innovations to come out of that exercise was a stateroom automation program that could leverage algorithms to prioritize work.

"We learned that crew on board our ships had access to reports and data on a regular basis that was often latent, and it was information that we had on our ships in our data centers that we could automate, create algorithms around to help them prioritize work, understand when people weren't on ship in a way that allowed them to spend more time with our guests."

IA on Icon

Pool aerial on Icon of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's next cruise ship to launch will be Icon of the Seas in January 2024, and there's already intelligent automation integrated onboard.

The cruise line saw an opportunity to balance the guest experience along with being environmentally savvy with the air conditioning in passenger cabins.

Mr. Schneider explained, "if you've ever stayed in a hotel, oftentimes your housekeeper moves your stateroom into eco mode and you return to your room it's super hot and you're very dissatisfied. But it saved that hotel money. It was better for the environment."


"We have data on our ships that know when you get off the ship. And so we connected those two systems to say, well, wait a minute, we know when your whole party gets off the ship, let's let's have this ship automatically move your room into eco mode."

"And then when you the first person pings back on the ship, we slowly start to bring your room back to the experience level that you expected. Our ships are big enough by the time you get back there. We have a shot that we're getting closer and closer to what the level is that you wanted."

It's still being worked out, but there seems to be wins across the board if implemented properly, "That's something that we're testing to make sure that we're delivering our service promise, but also, again, reducing our environmental footprint and then frankly, saving cost as well."

A white paper ship

Hidewaway aerial

When you have a blank slate, integration of new technology is a heck of a lot easier than with an existing model.

The Icon Class is Royal Caribbean's first "white paper ship" in about a decade, and it allowed Royal Caribbean to build its most innovative cruise ship yet.

Icon will include heat recovery systems that repurpose energy across the ship, and it will be the first ship in the fleet to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). It includes six LNG-powered engines that provide 67,500 KW of energy to run the ship.

Icon of the Seas top down aerial

The 365-long (1,198ft) Icon of the Seas – 250,800 gross tonnage – will be able to take 7,600 guests when it debuts in January 2024, making it the largest cruise ship ever built. 

Icon of the Seas will sail from Miami and offer 7-night cruises to the Caribbean.