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A Valentine's Day story from the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing

In:
14Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Quantum of the Seas may be the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing right now, but she's got a lovely story fit for Valentine's Day.

Currently, Quantum of the Seas is offering 3- and 4-night cruises with no port stops from Singapore and one crew member couple onboard helped celebrate Valentine's Day.

The ship has had over 25,000 guests across 20+ sailings since December, and working onboard is Rose (USA) and Johel (Brazil).

Rose Serim is the Cruise Program Administrator and Johel Fonseca is the Sports Supervisor on Quantum of the Seas. They shared their story how they met and continue to sail together.

We met on Ovation of the Seas in October 2017. Our first date was onboard Ovation at the specialty restaurant, Izumi.

We've since been together for almost 3.5 years and in addition to Ovation, have been on Spectrum of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and now Quantum of the Seas together.

Royal Caribbean added the crew are thrilled to be back onboard and are sending their love to everyone at home. 

Rose and Johel are the ones on the Flowrider surf simulator and the iFly skydiving simulator.

Royal Caribbean recently announced that Quantum of the Seas will remain in Singapore until June 2021 to continue offering cruises for three additional months between March 22, 2021 and June 21, 2021.

These 2-, 3- and 4-night Ocean Getaways  operate with a set of comprehensive health and safety measures in place, such as mandatory testing, reduced sailing capacity and strict physical distancing measures.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: February 14, 2021

In:
14Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope your day is filled with chocolate, flowers and a Royal Caribbean cruise! We are spreading the Royal Caribbean love with our look at all the Royal Caribbean news from this week.

It looks like Royal Caribbean will work to give all of its crew members COVID-19 vaccines.

An email was sent to crew members to inform them that Royal Caribbean expects to vaccinate its crew once sailings restart.

The cruise line does not yet know how or when the vaccine would be distributed to crew members, as it may depend on the country of residence, the timing of the next contract and whether the crew is already on board or traveling. 

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 393rd  episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and we're talking about Royal Caribbean's Royal Promenade

In this episode, Hayley shares her cruise story celebrating her wedding anniversary in Alaska.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

New RCB Video: Reacting to "You Should Forget 2021 Cruises" advice

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 — Reacting to "You Should Forget 2021 Cruises" advice — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Here are the two port projects Royal Caribbean intends to complete

The global health crisis has wreaked havoc on Royal Caribbean's plans for the next few years, but at least two projects will still continue.

Port of Galveston Port Director Rodger Rees confirmed the two projects Royal Caribbean told him will move ahead in 2021.

Despite the major setbacks financially, Royal Caribbean remains committed to the Port of Galveston cruise terminal project, as well as the Freeport, Bahamas port expansion.

10 Ways Cruising Has Changed in the Last 30 Years

In:
13Feb2021
By: Ashley Kosciolek

With 2020 forcing the sale of several iconic cruise ships and new regulations threatening to disrupt the onboard experience as we know it, I've been thinking a lot about how the cruise industry has changed over the past three decades. 

Change is inevitable part of life, and it includes cruise ships.

Temperature checks, mask wearing and bubble excursions aside, here are some of the key ways that cruises have evolved since 1990. 

1. Technology

Technology has taken over life in a big way, and cruises have kept up the pace. Onboard internet capabilities have gone from nonexistant to unreliable to nearly the same as what you'll find on land, allowing passengers to stay more connected than ever. 

Beyond that, room keys have progressed from manual styles and keycards to wearables and cell phone apps that make opening your cabin door a snap. Giant screens near elevator bays on the latest ships allow cruisers to easily find their way around their vessel, check the daily schedule and make dinner reservations. 

Mix in arcades that feature virtual-reality simulations and cutting-edge systems on the bridge that allow the captain to keep the ship in one place without using an anchor, and it's easy to see how today's experiences might have seemed like something out of "The Jetsons" several decades ago.

2. Size

From 1990 to 1995, at more than 76,000 tons and carrying nearly 2,500 passengers, Norwegian Cruise Line's SS Norway was the largest ship afloat. 

In 1995, a megaship boom began with Princess Cruises' Sun Princess (nearly 77,500 GRT, 2,000 passengers), which unseated SS Norway in terms of tonnage. Progressively larger vessels emerged from Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean, causing the title of largest ship to change hands every couple of years into the early 2000s. 

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels dwarfed anything the cruise world had seen. Fast forward to 2021, and the largest ship at sea is now Symphony of the Seas, which is a massive 230,000 tons and can carry nearly 7,000 cruisers -- roughly three times the tonnage and passenger capacity of SS Norway.

3. Activities and Entertainment

Think back to family vacations and honeymoons of yore, and you might remember shooting skeet or driving golf balls off the back of the ship into the wake. To say nothing of the dangers of handing shotguns to passengers, cruise lines have curtailed these activities as environmental regulations have tightened. 

Beanbag games also seem to have gone the way of the dodo, but you'll still find shuffleboard courts on most modern ships, along with other diversions you have to see to believe. 

Among the impressive list of offerings are simulated surfing, skydiving and racecar driving; rock climbing; ropes courses; multiple pools with adrenaline-pumping waterslides; and even a roller coaster. 

In terms of shows, no longer are you limited to steel-drum bands, solo crooners and crusty Las Vegas-style performances. Cruise lines have traded in the feathers and sequins for the stunning costumes of Cirque du Soleil, and Broadway revues have been replaced by full-on Broadway productions.

While comedians and magicians remain, these days cruisers will find everything from acrobats and modern hip-hop performances to ice skaters backed by choreographed drones

4. Dining

Remember when everyone was assigned a set dining time at the same table with the same waiter each night, and the only choices were the main dining room, the buffet or room service? 

Now passengers have dozens of choices (both free and for a fee) that let them choose when and where they eat, with venues dedicated to a variety of cuisines that range from Italian, Asian and French to seafood, steak and pub grub. 

Quirks abound, as well. Among the choices on select ships are restaurants and bars where you'll order from a tablet instead of a standard menu, dinner theater that includes a show with your meal, interactive experiences where you can watch miniature chefs cook your food, and delightfully prepared themed dishes that feature surprises in every course.

5. Dress Codes

Over the years, vacations have become less about putting on airs and more about comfort and relaxation. In that vein, many modes of travel -- including cruising -- have adopted a more casual vibe. 

Most mainstream lines have made formal nights optional, even changing the terminology to comprise monikers like "cruise elegant" and "evening chic." Where once only tuxedos and cocktail dresses were acceptable, cruisers can now get away with suits or blazers with slacks, or skirts with blouses.

Further, current daytime attire onboard has trended toward shorts or jeans with tank tops or T-shirts. It's also not uncommon to see sneakers, flip-flops, bathing suits with cover-ups, and baseball caps in all areas of the ship.

6. Extras

Although most mainstream cruise lines were never all-inclusive, they have found more ways than ever to give passengers add-ons to buy. 

From pricey booze, trendy specialty coffee and custom shore excursions to art auctions, unique spa treatments and priority boarding perks, there's always something extra to increase the overall cost of your voyage. 

The most recent of these added-fee draws include laser tag and escape rooms, cooking classes, top-deck diversions and even big-name land-based brands like Starbucks, Victoria's Secret and Tiffany's as additions to vessels' onboard shops. 

7. Cabins

The early days of cruising mainly consisted of ocean liners that crossed the Atlantic to transport passengers between the U.S. and Europe. Class systems were heavily enforced onboard, meaning that there were hard separations between those booked in first-, second- and third-class cabins. 

Modern cruising did away with such systems, but in the early 2010s, cruise lines began exploring the concept of "ship within a ship" enclaves to provide wealthy cruisers with lavish suites, exclusive perks and access to private areas. 

All cabins have seen facelifts in recent decades. Old, boxy analog TVs were replaced with flat-screened digital ones, and color palettes have largely moved from gaudy, tacky tropical hues to neutrals, accented by jewel tones. 

Decor aside, certain staterooms stand out from the crowd with spaces that span two decks, feature private hot tubs and saunas, include virtual balconies and portholes, and provide foosball tables and slides for kids

More widespread modern touches include USB ports for charging electronics and light switches that only work if you insert your room key.

8. Environmental Friendliness

Cruise ships are some of the planet's biggest polluters, but the industry has made meaningful strides to protect the environment in recent years. 

For decades, cruise ships operated on diesel fuels that contaminated the air with little regulation. In 2009, cruise lines were told they would have to reduce their ships' emissions within designated North American emission control areas by 2015. 

As a result, fleets underwent the expensive addition of scrubbers to filter particulates and harmful gases from vessel funnels. Several cruise lines have also started building new ships that run on liquefied natural gas -- a cleaner-burning fuel -- and even battery power. 

Onboard, crew sort and recycle just about all waste, and old linens are donated ashore. Most mainstream cruise lines have also undertaken efforts to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic straws, cups and utensils.  

9. Safety and Security

As with flights, cruises have tighter security measures since 9/11, which mean you now have to book more than two days from the sailing date, your luggage will be scanned before you board, and you're no longer allowed to bring guests onboard in port.

Additionally, open-bridge policies have become significantly more strict. Special permission or a guided tour (often for a fee) is generally the only way to access the main control center. 

For safety reasons, the list of banned items for some lines has also grown to include newfangled contraptions like sneakers with built-in roller skates, certain hairstyling tools, drones and e-cigarettes. 

10. Smoking

Speaking of e-cigarettes, the policies for lighting up at sea have changed quite a bit since the '90s. Smoking of all types -- cigarettes, pipes and cigars -- was commonplace on most lines' ships back then. 

In 1998, Carnival Cruise Line launched Paradise (now Carnival Paradise), the first completely nonsmoking vessel. Five years later, in 2003, the line removed the designation, claiming that it was losing out on revenue from smokers, who apparently also like to drink and gamble. 

Although the original concept fell flat, cruise lines began phasing out smoking in most public areas in the early 2010s. Now, most vessels no longer allow passengers to smoke on their stateroom balconies or in the casino and, instead, require them to head to a limited number of designated outdoor areas.

Royal Caribbean Will Not Yet Cancel Alaska Sailings Following Canada Cruise Ban

In:
12Feb2021
By: Ashley Kosciolek

Although it removed bookable Canada-related cruises from its website following news of the country's one-year cruise ban extension earlier this month, Royal Caribbean International says it will not cancel its Alaska or Canada and New England sailings just yet.

"At this time, we have decided not to cancel any sailings scheduled to visit Canada," the line said in a letter sent to travel advisors on Friday.

"This includes cruises embarking/debarking from Canada ports, as well as those itineraries touching on Canadian ports of call. It's our hope that your clients will maintain their existing reservations with us as we work with the government and CLIA on potential alternatives."

Royal Caribbean has not specifically said what those alternatives are, but they could include calling on Canada for technical stops only, where no passengers actually go ashore, or asking the U.S. Government to waive archaic foreign-port requirements under the Passenger Vessel Services Act, at least temporarily.

Passengers currently booked on Alaska sailings have several options:

  • Leave their bookings as they are, and wait to see what happens. All final payment dates have been extended to just 45 days prior to embarkation day.
  • Request a 100% refund of the amount they've paid, to the original form of payment, to be processed by June 30, 2021.
  • Choose a 125% future cruise credit (for sailings booked by April 30, 2022, and departing through September 30, 2022). Credits will be issued by April 16, 2021.
  • Select a modified Lift & Shift, allowing the reservation to be moved to the same date next year (plus or minus one week) on the same ship with the same itinerary.

As another part of its ongoing efforts to help travel agents, the line has vowed to protect travel advisor commissions on all of the above options for fares that were paid in full, with the exception of the modified Lift & Shift. For that selection, commissions will be based on the final price paid for each shifted booking.

What happened with Canada?

Canada announced it banned cruise ships for a year, which makes operating cruises from the United States to New England or Alaska nearly impossible.

Due to U.S. laws, cruise ships that are foreign flagged (which is pretty much every cruise ship on major cruise lines) must stop in a foreign port if they sail from the United States. By Canada denying entry into their waters, that leaves no foreign ports for cruise ships to sail to within the vicinity of Alaska or New England.

Is there any hope for these cruises to happen?

There are a few  "Hail Mary" options for cruise lines to sort through, and evidently there is enough chance that Royal Caribbean has not thrown in the towel yet.

First, Canada can rescind the ban at any time if the global health situation improves. Certainly a lot can change by late summer.

Second, cruise lines could see if U.S. law makers would be willing to give cruise ships a temporary waiver to allow the cruises to legally occur without a stop in Canada.

So far, a delegation from Alaska has proposed such a waiver.

Do any of these have a chance? No one knows, but the odds are not good.

Which Ships Did Royal Caribbean Sell?

In:
12Feb2021
By: Ashley Kosciolek

It's no secret that 2020 was a rough year for the cruise industry. Amid months of no-sail orders, hundreds of thousands of voyage cancellations and billions of dollars borrowed to keep cruise lines afloat, a handful of lines have had to purge their oldest vessels in order to cut costs. 

Despite the expiration of the CDC's no-sail order and the fervent efforts of healthcare workers to administer vaccinations, cruising still remains on hold. The situation has become so dire that the trend of cruise lines' liquidating ships for a song has continued into 2021.

So, which ships did Royal Caribbean sell? We'll take a look here. 

For the purposes of this article, we'll be exploring ships that have been unloaded by Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company that owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and, previously, Azamara Cruises. The group also is part owner of Spanish line Pullmantur.

Pullmantur Ships Sold in 2020

  • Monarch
  • Sovereign

On June 22, 2020, Pullmantur filed for reorganization (basically the European term for bankruptcy). 

Shortly after, two of the line's ships were sold for scrap. On July 22 and July 23, 2020, Monarch and Sovereign -- formerly Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas -- respectively were beached at a breaker yard in Aliaga, Turkey, where workers quickly began the dismantling process.

Known widely for being the first of the cruise industry's megaships, Sovereign (then Sovereign of the Seas under Royal Caribbean) was the largest passenger vessel afloat when it debuted in 1988, and it was the first in the line's three-ship Sovereign Class. Monarch (of the Seas) was the second. 

Crew from the two ships were reassigned to Royal Caribbean, and since the initial reorganization was revealed, there are rumors that the line could return with a fleet of some of Celebrity Cruises' former ships.  

Royal Caribbean International Ships Sold in 2020

  • Empress of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean announced in mid-December of 2020 that it sold two of its oldest ships -- Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas -- to an undisclosed party in the Asia-Pacific region. 

It was later uncovered that the new owner of Empress of the Seas is India-based cruise line startup Cordelia Cruises. 

Since then, however, the sale of Majesty of the Seas has been shrouded in mystery. Royal Caribbean assured fans of the vessel -- the third and only unscrapped ship from the line's Sovereign Class -- that the buyer would make an announcement at a later date. 

In the meantime, there is speculation that it could have been acquired by Seajets, a Greek ferry company that scooped up at least six other cruise ships in 2020.

Empress of the Seas is noteworthy in that it wasn't a new-build for Royal Caribbean. Instead, it joined the fleet in 1988 after the line acquired Admiral Cruises, for which the ship sailed as Nordic Empress. As a result, it was the only ship in its class. It also pioneered the concept of short cruises.

If you'd like to revisit the vessels virtually for old time's sake, here are Royal Caribbean Blog's final looks at Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas

Azamara Ships Sold in 2021

  • Azamara Journey
  • Azamara Pursuit
  • Azamara Quest

On January 19, 2021, Royal Caribbean Group disclosed that it sold its Azamara Cruises brand to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $201 million in cash. 

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty said the decision to sell Azamara was not driven by the global health crisis, despite the inherit financial benefit to the company for doing so.

As part of the sale, the firm acquired not only all of the brand's intellectual property but also all three of Azamara's ships -- Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and Azamara Pursuit. 

In a bizarre turn of events, it also purchased Pacific Princess from Princess Cruises, which announced the sale of the ship to an undisclosed buyer on January 21, 2021 -- just two days after Azamara was sold. The vessel will join Azamara as the fleet's fourth ship.

Sycamore Partners retained Azamara's chief operating officer, Carol Cabezas, who will now serve as the brand's president. 

Additionally, the firm brought on former Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford, who parted ways with Holland America in May of 2020. He will take on the role of executive chairman of Azamara Cruises.

The line's top brass has vowed there are currently no sweeping changes planned for the line, so passengers can expect the experience to remain relatively unchanged when operations resume under the new ownership. 

Summary of Ships Sold by Royal Caribbean Group in 2020 and 2021

Royal Caribbean Group sold seven total ships in 2020 and 2021:

  • Monarch (2020)
  • Sovereign (2020)
  • Empress of the Seas (2020)
  • Majesty of the Seas (2020)
  • Azamara Journey (2021)
  • Azamara Pursuit (2021)
  • Azamara Quest (2021)

First Timers' Guide to Celebrity Edge

In:
12Feb2021
By: Ashley Kosciolek

There's no doubt that Celebrity Cruises broke the mold when it launched Celebrity Edge in 2018. Its sleek exterior design houses many surprises for cruisers. 

As the namesake vessel of the line's Edge Class of ships, Celebrity Edge introduced several industry firsts, including a top-deck garden, a new type of balcony cabin, unique acrobatic performance art and an outdoor bar that moves up and down the side of the ship.

If you're considering a cruise on Celebrity Edge, check out this guide, which highlights everything from dining and cabins to entertainment and activities. 

Dining and Restaurants

Celebrity Edge boasts more than a dozen dining venues, plus room service (which is free, except for late-night deliveries which levy a small surcharge). Here are some -- but not all -- of the key options.

Note: Celebrity now includes a basic beverage package in most of its fares, meaning that passengers no longer have to shell out additional money for soda, juice, specialty coffees, bottled water or alcohol.

Main Dining Rooms

Edge has four main dining rooms, all of which are included in the price. If you opt for set-seating dining at dinner, you will be assigned to a specific time and table at which to eat in Cosmopolitan, the closest thing the ship has to a traditional dining room. 

Passengers can also find breakfast served there every day, along with lunch on sea days. 

Those who, instead, opt to have dinner on their own schedule can head to any of the four MDRs, with or without a reservation. 

The other three include Normandie, which is French themed; Tuscan, featuring Italian fare; and Cyprus, which focuses on Mediterranean cuisine, with an emphasis on Greek food. 

Although one section of the menu stays the same daily across all four dining rooms, each offers a section with items specific to each eatery -- French, Italian, Mediterranean or contemporary.

Buffet Dining

The Oceanview Cafe is Celebrity Edge's buffet, which offers free food galore. Cruisers will find everything from eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast to sandwiches, salads, carving stations, Asian stir-fry, pizza, roasted vegetables and much more for lunch and dinner. 

We also have to shout out the standalone ice cream stand, which serves up free soft-serve in cones or bowls, along with a selection of hard ice creams and toppings for an extra fee. 

Near the buffet entrance, Celebrity has also included a massive handwashing station -- a convenience before the pandemic and an absolute godsend now. 

Special-Access Dining

The ship houses two complimentary dining rooms that are exclusive to travelers booked in select staterooms. 

The first is Blu, which is reserved for anyone staying in an AquaClass spa cabin or a suite. It focuses on healthy fare and is open for dinner only.

The second is Luminae, which can be accessed only by cruisers in suites and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While breakfast is fairly standard, the lunch and dinner menus are small but impressive, and they rotate daily.

Fine Dining

Fine Cut is the ship's added-fee steakhouse, featuring a variety of cuts, as well as chicken, fish and a selection of sides. 

If you're more a fan of seafood, check out Raw on 5, which sells a la carte items like lobster, crab, oysters, clam chowder, lobster rolls, sushi, caviar and more. 

Quirky Dining

Eden is one of the ship's most notable areas. It functions as a lounge during the day and a nightclub with performance art by night. With a spiral walkway around the outside -- an homage to the Fibonacci Sequence -- it also encompasses a bar with creative drinks, a gratis lunchtime deli and a pricey restaurant that's open for dinner. 

We highly recommend splurging and reserving a dining time that will coincide with performances by acrobats and a sitar player. The menu, themed around the elements, offers tasty dishes that are prepared in ways that are curious but genius.

Le Grand Bistro is a French-themed alternative eatery that is open for brunch on select days, as well as dinner, when the space presents Le Petit Chef. Between courses, projections of miniature chefs appear on your tabletop to compete in a whimsical cooking competition. 

The interactive experience offers a set menu, which coincides with the show, and an alternate menu for pickier eaters.

Dinner on the Edge is a special (and expensive) option that's offered on the Magic Carpet, an exterior open-air room that looks out over the water and moves up and down the side of the vessel to serve different functions -- bar, lounge, restaurant and tender platform, depending on the conditions. 

Because the platform can't be raised when the ship is at sea or when the weather is particularly windy, passengers can never be certain when Dinner on the Edge will be available for booking.  

Grill Fare

For those seeking more outdoor options, free grill fare can be found at the Mast Grill (by the main pool), while the Rooftop Garden Grill features a wider range of barbecue choices for a charge during lunch and dinner.

Snacks and Coffee

There are various locations on Edge to snag a nibble when you're feeling hungry between meals. They include the Spa Cafe, which puts on a spread of free healthy food. It also sells juices and smoothies. 

Additionally, Cafe al Bacio showcases complimentary pastries, cakes and cookies, along with specialty coffee drinks and premium teas. The Grand Plaza Cafe also presents gratis pastries and finger sandwiches, as well as coffee.

Activities

Shows

Eden's nighttime performances are, by far, the most noteworthy onboard. They involve heady, artistic performances that center on acrobatics (some aerial), dancing and feats of strength, often set to sitar music in dimly lit surrounds on a tiny center stage called the nucleus. 

The storyline is loosely based on Adam and Eve and the sensual temptations they experienced in -- you guessed it -- the Garden of Eden. 

The performers, known as Edenists, might try to interact with you and draw you into the fun. If you're not interested, sit farther away from the stage, or simply politely decline as they approach.

Edge's main theater consists of several stages backed by giant screens used for high-tech laser projections. A ticket of several shows runs throughout each sailing, with two performance times per night. 

Most are high-energy song and dance shows that highlight contemporary music that appeals largely to Generation X and Millennials. 

Live music and smaller-scale performances can be found in The Club. 

Pools 

Celebrity Edge has one long main pool surrounded by loungers and two martini glass-shaped hot tubs a deck above. There are also six cabanas for rent nearby, but they come at a premium, and if you don't reserve one early, you'll be out of luck.

Those seeking respite from the elements or the usual pool deck hubbub can check out the covered adults-only Solarium, which comprises a pool, hot tub and lounge chairs. 

The only other onboard pool is exclusive to cruisers booked in The Retreat, the ship's private suite enclave. The space also includes a hot tub and plenty of seating. 

Signature Attractions

We've already filled you in on the Magic Carpet, the ship's swath of movable open-air deck, which shows up on different decks to serve a variety of purposes, from bar and lounge to restaurant and tender boarding platform. If nothing else, it's an engineering marvel, so pay it a visit, even if just for the views. 

For an outdoor lounge space that features private alcoves and leafy greenery, you can't do better than the Rooftop Garden. Tables and chairs abound in cozy nooks, making the venue perfect for hosted games like Jenga and nighttime live music or films on the nearby outdoor movie screen. 

Celebrity Edge's spa is one of the most impressive at sea, with a variety of treatments. Passengers can also purchase cruise-long access to the thermal suite, which comprises tile loungers and areas for aromatherapy, salt and crystal therapy and a hammam. 

If fitness is your forte, you won't want to miss a trip to the onboard gym, which is stocked with Technogym equipment, free weights and even Peloton bikes, all of which passengers can use on their own for free. Organized exercise classes are scheduled, and you can sign up for a fee. 

What also sticks out to us is Edge's jogging track. What's special about it is that it's huge, looping around the ship's top decks in a figure-eight layout, part of which is on an incline. Whether you prefer to walk or run, the change in scenery is a welcome change from typical cruise ship tracks. 

Staterooms

Celebrity Edge offers the same standard types of cabins you'd find on any mainstream ship: insides, outsides, balconies, mini-suites and suites. However, there are a few that stand out from the crowd. 

Infinite Verandas 

These are 131- to 200-square-foot balcony cabins that, instead of traditional verandas, each have a floor-to-ceiling window you can raise and lower with the touch of a button, allowing fresh air into the stateroom without taking away any interior space. 

The area near the window offers a couple of chairs and a small table, as well as clear partitions that allow space to be sectioned off from the rest of the room so the open window won't affect the climate control. 

Instead of curtains, these cabins are outfitted with blinds that can be controlled with a switch on the wall or by using the Celebrity cell phone app. Sometimes the blinds get stuck or don't work properly, which has been a complaint of many cruisers.

For those who don't think they'd like the setup, the ship does offer regular balcony accommodations.

Edge Villas 

Celebrity Edge offers six Edge Villas -- the first of their kind in the fleet. What makes them special is that they offer 739 square feet with a walk-out balcony that's more than 200 square feet. 

The room is a two-deck setup with an upstairs and a downstairs that encompasses one bedroom, two bathrooms and a living room are. 

Edge Villa residents also have exclusive access to a private plunge pool, sun deck and lounge, as well as the Blu and Luminae restaurants.

Other perks include premium canapes, two bottles of premium spirits, complimentary laundry, unlimited specialty dining, butler and concierge service, priority embarkation and tendering, upgraded toiletries, onboard credit, and the highest-tiered Wi-Fi and beverage packages. 

Iconic Suites 

Even more coveted are Edge's two first-in-class Iconic Suites, featuring 1,892 square feet and a nearly 700-square-foot balcony. They're located directly above the bridge; anyone staying in one of these suites will see a view that's similar to the captain's.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom setup makes these digs great for family travel, as well. Also included are a living area, a whirlpool-style bathtub, dining in Blu and Luminae, and access to a reserved lounge and sun deck. 

Because these rooms are part of The Retreat, passengers staying there are also entitled to the services of a butler and concierge; priority check-in, boarding and tendering; onboard credit; the highest-tiered drink and Wi-Fi packages; unlimited specialty dining; upscale toiletries; and a welcome bottle of Champagne among other amenities.

Technology

Edge is one of the most technologically advanced vessels afloat, offering interactive dinners (Le Petit Chef), impressive theater shows and a cell phone app that allows passengers to unlock their cabin doors, raise and lower the blinds, and control the TV and air-conditioning. 

Additionally, it employs digital signage to help cruisers find their way around, and as mentioned above, the vessel's theater productions use a specially designed stage and cutting-edge laser projections as backdrops. 

Kids Programming

Camp at Sea, Celebrity's program for kids, is divided into several age-appropriate groups: Stay and Play (younger than 3), Shipmates (3 - 5), Cadets (6 - 9) and Captains (10 - 12). 

Parents must sign kids into and out of the kids club on each visit, with the exception of Stay and Play, where parents are required to stick around the whole time. 

The Basement is the dedicated space for cruisers aged 13 to 17. Teens are allowed to come and go as they please. 

Royal Caribbean releases 2022-2023 cruises sailing from Northeast US

In:
11Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

New cruises were just announced for sailings out of the northeast United States.

Royal Caribbean pushed up its Northeast 2022-2023 deployments and released the new sailings for guests to book today.

Three ships - Adventure, Anthem and Voyager of the Seas - will sail from Cape Liberty and Boston.

Today's release is phase one of the northeast sailings, and a phase two is still to be announced later.

The array of new sailings include 4 to 11 night cruises to destinations in Bermuda, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and New England.

The new sailings from the Northeast departing from May 2022 to April 2023 are now open for sale.

Adventure of the Seas will transition from Galveston to Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey and sail a combination of itineraries to Bermuda, the Caribbean and Canada. Cruises to Bermuda will include overnight stays in Bermuda.  New for summer 2022 are Adventure’s 9-night Eastern Caribbean sailings that will visit St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Royal Caribbean’s private destination, Labadee, in Haiti. The ship will also offer 4- and 9-night cruises heading up the east coast to visit Halifax, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; Boston; Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Anthem of the Seas will resume sailings from Cape Liberty when she returns from Southampton, England in October 2022. Anthem will also sail 11-night southern Caribbean sailings to destinations such as SanJuan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. John’s, Antigua; Castries, St. Lucia; and Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis.

Voyager of the Seas will cruise for the first time from Boston, where she will offer 7-night cruises to Canada that will visit Saint John, Halifax, as well as Bar Harbor and Portland. Voyager will also sail to San Juan on a 7-night cruise with stops in the Dominican
Republic and St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Voyager will arrive to the U.S. to start her season in Boston following a 14-night Arctic Crossing from Copenhagen, Denmark, which will bring guests to the wild landscapes of Iceland and Greenland along the way.

View all of the sailings here:

This is the second 2022 deployment released as part of the winter release of new deployments, with China & Hawaii sailings released a few weeks ago. 

Over the next few weeks, Royal Caribbean will release additional sailings to fill out the rest of the 2022-2023 schedule.

Keep in mind that the deployment schedule is subject to change.

Planning on booking a 2022 cruise? These stories will help:

Bionic Bar competition: MSC introduces humanoid robot bartender

In:
11Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

When Royal Caribbean introduced the Bionic Bar with its one-armed robot bartenders 7 years ago, it turned heads. 

Now, there's a new bartender in town.

MSC Cruises announced today the first humanoid bartender will be found aboard its MSC Virtuosa cruise ship.

Known as "Rob", the bartender will be part of the MSC Starliner One bar experience, which is themed to a futuristic spaceship.

Rob can mix and serve cocktails (with or without booze) and personalize drinks as well. He can even talk to guests in 8 languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese). His LED face can convey a variety of emotions.

This humanoid robotic bartender moves his arms, body and head in a highly natural way, all collaborating to give the impression that a real bartender is preparing the cocktail - a very unique engineering feature. Different facial expressions and a voice have been designed to give Rob a human-like personality.

Parallels between Rob and Royal Caribbean's Bionic Bar started almost as soon as MSC made the announcement.

Beginning on Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean introduced the first robotic bartenders in 2014.

The Bionic Bartenders are not humanoid. Instead, they are a robot arm that can make drinks based on orders placed by guests via tablets.

The Bionic Bar concept has spread to a number of cruise ships in the fleet since the debut, including other Oasis and Quantum class cruise ships.

Ordering drinks

Guests will place orders for drinks in specifically designed vertical digital cockpits. 

Guests can monitor the status of their drink while Rob makes it through digital monitors within the area and a ticker-tape-style LED strip above the robotic island.

The cosmic cocktails are served in custom-designed futuristic souvenir glasses.

Between making drinks, Rob can interact with guests and change his facial expressions or even dance.  He is capable of telling jokes, riddles and space trivia.

The MSC Starship Club

In addition to Rob, the bar has 3D holograms, an immersive digital art wall and a 12-seater infinity digital interactive table, giving guests the possibility to explore space with their own personalized galactic tour.

MSC said they have spent almost six years developing the space, and worked hard to push the boundaries of engineering.

During this time, MSC Cruises has worked with leading experts from companies specializing in robotics and automation, interior design as well as entertainment and digital experience solutions to create a custom designed entertainment venue with a humanoid robot as the star.

The robotic island solution is completely automated and integrated with all the catering machines and tools needed for the end-to-end drink preparation and delivery. Safety glass and the 2-level safety laser barriers have been installed to avoid any mishaps.

Human bartenders will be always be on-hand to assist and prepare unique beverages too as part of the overall experience.

The MSC Starship Club also offers an extensive futuristic menu served from the human bar in addition to the cocktails served by Rob These cocktails are not included within the drinks packages.

MSC Virtuosa is the newest cruise ship for MSC Cruises anbd after completing a few three, four and five-night cruises in the Mediterranean, MSC Virtuosa will be deployed to Northern Europe in summer 2021 with a range of itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.

It looks like Royal Caribbean will vaccinate its crew members

In:
11Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

It appears Royal Caribbean will be the next cruise line that will vaccinate its crew members.

An email was sent to crew members to inform them that Royal Caribbean expects to vaccinate its crew once sailings restart.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog was able to confirm that emails had been sent to various crew members to inform them that vaccines would be required for them.

"So far, several vaccines have shown to be effective at preventing both mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19, and we intend to make them a key component of our healthy return to service," the email to crew members states.

"Therefore, we expect vaccinations will be required for our crew as part of our plan for your return to working on our ships."

The cruise line does not yet know how or when the vaccine would be distributed to crew members, as it may depend on the country of residence, the timing of the next contract and whether the crew is already on board or traveling. 

Royal Caribbean's decision to vaccinate its crew members follows Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. decision to do the same.

The email did not mention at all if guests would be required to get the vaccine.

The decision was originally reported by Crew-Center after they shared the contents of the email.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reached out to the Royal Caribbean Group for confirmation that crew members will indeed be vaccinated. They shared this statement.

"We have been working in collaboration with government authorities, medical professionals and experts to continue to develop our plan to keep our guests, crew and communities we visit safe. The new COVID-19 vaccines present a new opportunity to do just that. The vaccines are a way to build protection for everyone involved and we continue to look into all options that will assist in keeping people safe. "

Whether or not guests will have to be vaccinated is a decision that Royal Caribbean will look to the Healthy Sail Panel to make.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain shared a video update in January 2021 that a decision on that should be made "reasonably soon".

Mr. Fain's response put the decision on if requiring the vaccine is a good idea on the panel of experts so that the cruise line can make the best decision based on the panel's guidance.

"We have the experts and we'll let them guide us."

Reader opinions

RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have already begun sharing their opinions on the crew being vaccinated on our message boards.

Twangster wrote, "No surprise really.  Personally I think they'll leave guest requirements to public health agencies but ultimately vaccines will be required."

"I can see many countries around the world establishing a vaccine requirement for international visitors.  Pick a popular ship destination.  If this vaccine requirement becomes real even for one stop of a cruise itinerary that will mean guests and crew are required to be vaccinated. "

Monctonguy thinks this is part of many changes the world will undergo, "Vaccine cards/passport will be the norm in the next couple years for flying, cruising, hotels stays concert events."

Why haven't cruise lines been more aggressive with the CDC?

In:
10Feb2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruise ships have not been able to sail for a year from the United States and many cruise fans think cruise lines should do more to try to fight the ban.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) implemented a ban on cruise ships in March 2020, and has yet to approve any ship to resume service.

Lawsuits, press conferences, social media call-outs and even protests have all been suggested by cruise fans who think the cruise lines are being held to a double standard by the CDC compared to other travel industries.

Cruise lines were the first industry to voluntarily shut itself down at the beginning of the global health crisis, and they are the only industry that has not had the opportunity to reopen since.

All cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, have been very leery of negative statements towards the CDC. This has left a lot of fans, travel agents, investors, and industry insiders confused why more is not being done to highlight the problem.

During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, answered this topic directly after one travel agent brought it up as a concern.

The question raised was why hasn't Royal Caribbean been more aggressive with the federal government.

Ms. Freed's response was, "When you're working with the government, it has to be a partnership and it's not one sided. We can't push them to make a sale. It is has to be jointly agreed upon."

"We have to tread with them very carefully and we want to work with them as a good partner. So we don't we we don't have answers yet because we're waiting for answers."

The topic of if the CDC is holding up cruise lines has been brought up a number of times over the last year.

Just last month, one Wall Street analyst asked repeatedly Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald if the CDC was delaying test cruises beginning. Mr. Arnold tip-toed around the answer.

Analyst: "So it sounds like you're waiting specifically for the CDC to issue some specific guidance around the test cruise timing."

Donald: "To answer your question about specific timing on test cruise, yes, we would be waiting."

At a meeting in September 2020, Miami-Dade officials called out the CDC for being slow to get cruises to restart.

"While other industries have been allowed to reopen in phases, the cruise industry remains totally shut down," said Vice Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa at the meeting. "In April, the CDC gave the cruise industry seven days to come up with a lay-up plan, and the cruise industry worked tirelessly and gave them the plan in seven days. The CDC took 14 weeks to somewhat respond to the plan that was presented."

"The problem is that's not fair, that the CDC is not paying attention and communicating with the cruise industry on the plans that they are created so they can tell them this is right, this needs more work, so they can be prepared."

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke a bit about the CDC in a video update he released in November, saying he was determined to work with the agency to get cruises back up and running.

"We are determined to work with the CDC to implement, adjust and clarify all those requirements so that we can meet the goal of safe and healthy sailing."

"It won't be easy and it won't be quick, but it will be thorough and it will be effective."

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