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I’m going on my first cruise: Here’s what I think I should do

In:
19 Aug 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

One year ago, I knew next to nothing about cruising. Three days from now, I will be boarding my first ever cruise!

Over the past year, I’ve edited around 100 videos for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel. When I started working with Royal Caribbean Blog, I’ll admit that I was quite clueless about the cruise industry and thought that most of these cruise stereotypes were true.

Having been to twenty countries on five continents, it’s not like I hadn’t traveled before. However, a cruise seemed like a whole new ball game. Are cruises boring? Do I have to dress up? Is a cruise only for “old people”? I was very uninformed about the cruise industry.

Needless to say, after my first week working with Royal Caribbean Blog, my views on cruising completely changed! I soon found myself browsing Royal Caribbean’s website and daydreaming of tropical cocktails at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

So when Matt asked me to join him on Mariner of the Seas’ first revenue sailing, I immediately said yes and began preparing for my cruise.

After my research, here’s what I think I should do to ensure a successful and unforgettable first cruise experience:

Research protocols in advance

Traveling during the pandemic is almost always unpredictable, but Royal Caribbean is putting forth a great effort in order to ensure that travelers are prepared for their upcoming cruise.

There is a list of updated protocols on the Royal Caribbean website where you can learn about what is required of you before and during the cruise in order to keep everyone onboard safe.

One of the latest protocols is that Royal Caribbean requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of sailing. I scheduled my test at CVS about two weeks in advance in order to ensure I could get tested without any added stress.

Fly in the day before my cruise

One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve read about cruising is to fly in the day before your cruise departs.

While it might be tempting to reserve an early morning flight that should get you to the cruise terminal in time, the truth is that this is way too risky due to the uncertainty of cancellations and delays.

Therefore, I’ll be flying to Florida the day before my cruise departs so that I can leave a little buffer room in the case of any travel mishaps. And hey, I get to extend my vacation by one day, so how can I complain?

Read moreWhy you shouldn't fly to your cruise the same day it begins

Pack wisely

If there’s one thing I absolutely dread about going on vacation, it’s packing.

On a regular vacation, I can always stop into a local store and purchase anything I forgot. On a cruise ship, though, I don’t think it will be that easy since I’ll be in the middle of the Caribbean!

Luckily, there is a ton of advice online that is helping me create a packing list better suited to a cruise. A couple things I am packing that I usually don’t pack for a land vacation are motion sickness medication and a USB hub so I can charge several devices at once. I’m also packing a few dressier outfits in case I run across any dress codes onboard.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Look at the Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean provides a Cruise Compass on every sailing that gives a detailed look at everything happening onboard. And while I am generally someone who goes with the flow while on vacation, I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any fun events happening on the ship.

I browsed a few past Cruise Compasses and I am very impressed with the amount of activities and events that Royal Caribbean offers each day. I can’t wait to get onboard and see what’s in store for my sailing!

Use the Royal Caribbean App

I have the Royal Caribbean app installed on my phone and it is already proving to be immensely helpful.

On the app, I can look at deck maps, dining information, activity locations and times, my daily calendar, and much more. I think the app will also prove to be useful during the check-in process, since I can use it to show my SetSail pass at the terminal, complete the required wellness check, and do the e-Muster drill.

Ask for the special menus in the Main Dining Room

From what I’ve researched, Royal Caribbean has excellent options when it comes to dietary restrictions, whether Kosher, gluten free, and even vegan! Apparently Royal Caribbean even has a special Indian cuisine menu in the Main Dining Room.

I eat primarily a vegetarian or pescatarian diet, and while there are many options onboard, I may also ask for a special menu to see what other options are available. It’s important to note, though, that some dietary restrictions may require a 90-day notice so Royal Caribbean can ensure that they can accommodate you.

Bring workout clothes

If there’s one thing I can guarantee about my upcoming cruise, it’s that I’ll probably be eating a lot. Whether endless soft serve ice cream on the pool deck, unlimited pizza at Sorrento’s, or an extra helping of garlic bread at dinner, I’d say I’m pretty excited about trying all of the delicious cuisine onboard.

However, I’ll definitely be packing some workout clothes so I can hit the gym and work (some) of it off. Now… will I actually get off the pool chair and go to the gym? I guess we’ll see.

Carry a small amount of cash

From what I understand, I’ll be making any extra purchases onboard using my SeaPass card, but I plan to bring around $100 in USD for any “extra” purchases that may arise while on my cruise.

I paid my gratuities in advance, but I want to keep some cash on hand for extra tips or purchases I make on land. Tipping protocol seems to be a little confusing, so I’ll be reviewing some tipping and gratuity advice before my cruise to make sure I don’t mess this up!

Even though I’m a cruising newbie, I think I have a pretty good idea of what to expect onboard a Royal Caribbean ship and am excited to set sail in just a few days. Be sure to subscribe to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel to stay up to date with live broadcasts and brand new video content from Mariner of the Seas!

25 things you need to know for your first day on a cruise ship

In:
19 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

If you are planning your first cruise, you are in store for a great vacation experience with lots of activities, fun places to visit, and lots of great food to try.

Cruise ships offer lots to do for people of all ages, and it can be an attractive vacation choice for families because how much there is to do for everyone. But like anything you try for the first time, there are definitely a few things you need to know in advance.

The wealth of choice in activities means plenty of options, and prioritizing what you should (or shouldn't do) is always a question new cruisers have.

In an effort to provide the most important information you should know, here is a breakdown of what to expect on a cruise during the first day onboard.

1. Online check-in is super important

While you could show up to the cruise terminal on the first day and check-in, that would be a mistake.

You really ought to complete the online check-in via Royal Caribbean's free app in the weeks leading up to your cruise.

Not only is it easy, but online check-in will save you so much time at the cruise terminal. Filling out the paperwork at home means not having to do it later.

Equally important is your check-in time is provided via the online check-in. Royal Caribbean enforces their check-in times, so to get the earliest time possible, you will need to do online check-in.

2. You probably won't do everything onboard, and that's okay

Royal Caribbean packs so much to do onboard that it may seem overwhelming to try to work in every activity, so don't sweat it.

Water slides, specialty restaurants, escape rooms, bingo, trivia and more are waiting to do every day, but if you do not get a chance to experience it all, you can always come back on another cruise to do them.  Stressing about trying to "do it all" just leads to frustration.

Instead, prioritize what things you really want to do, and book another cruise to see the rest.

3. Yes, your check-in time matters

Before 2021, check-in times were suggestions, but these days Royal Caribbean is enforcing them.

Whatever time you get from online check-in to arrive to the cruise terminal, make sure you arrive right around that time. If you come in before that time, you will find yourself waiting around outside the cruise terminal.

If you have time to burn before your check-in, consider asking for a later check-out at your hotel, or have lunch at a local restaurant. Malls and even a movie theater are good ways to also spend some extra time.

4. There will be lunch provided

Yes, there will food provided for lunch once you get onboard the ship.

Depending on which ship you are boarding, the options can vary, but in general the Windjammer buffet will be your go-to spot for an embarkation day lunch.

Other good alternatives include Cafe Promenade or Park Cafe. There may even be a specialty restaurant or two open embarkation day that you could pay to eat at.

To get an idea of which venues will be open for lunch, read a past Cruise Compass from the ship you are sailing on before you board.

5. Food is a big deal

Cruise ships and food seemingly go hand in hand, and you will find lots of options where to dine onboard.

Royal Caribbean includes enough food every day of your cruise that you do not need to spend anything extra to be really well fed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included in your cruise fare, along with snacks inbetween.

Of course, there are some venues and options that have an additional cost to dine there if you choose. In fact, some of these specialty dining choices are truly spectacular, and offer cuisines and cooking styles not otherwise available onboard.

It is a good idea to look up which restaurants are on your ship, and decide if any extra-cost restaurants are of interest.  If so, go ahead and book a reservation.

Once on the ship, you could stop by a specialty restaurant to inquire about reservations as well.

Keep in mind the first day of the cruise is the best day to book a reservation, as reservations go quickly. Many other guests book specialty restaurants for dinner, and dining packages make affording to eat at a specialty restaurant much more than once easy.

6. Meet your stateroom attendant

When you get in your stateroom on the first day, more than likely your attendant will be somewhere nearby to meet.

Not only is it nice to put a face to who will be taking care of your cabin for your sailing, but this is the time to make special requests.

Extra towels, a bucket of ice, separating or putting the beds together, or even opening up balcony dividers are all common requests guests have that your stateroom attendant can provide.

7. Inspect your stateroom

Once your stateroom is ready, be sure to go inside and make sure everything is working and that everything that should be there is there.

Test out the air conditioning, check to see if the crib you requested is present and that things like the television and toilet are functioning properly.

Be also certain to test your in-room safe, as this is your dedicated spot to store valuables and you want to make sure this is working correctly and you know how to operate it.  Take a few minutes to understand how to open and lock your safe, and make sure it functions as it should. If it does not, you will want to let Guest Services know as soon as possible.

If anything is broken, put in a request with maintenance (via your stateroom telephone) now while the ship has extra maintenance crew members onboard.

8. Make phone calls or text messages before the ship leaves

Odds are you are sailing to a foreign port of call and more than likely using your cell phone in those countries will cost you a lot of money in roaming charges.  The best strategy is to use your phone to make calls or send text messages, and then place it into airplane mode to ensure you do not encounter roaming fees.

Your phone will work normally while your Royal Caribbean ship is docked, and will even continue working a few hours after sailaway.  Refer to our guide for using your cell phone while on a Royal Caribbean cruise to ensure you do not come home to unexpectedly large bills.

9. Sign up for exercise classes

While you are touring the spa, the fitness center is in the same area, and this is the time to put your name down for a spot in any of the fitness classes offered.

Royal Caribbean offers a good variety of fitness classes, with some complimentary and others having a small cost associated with them.  If you have any desire to be included in a class, you will definitely want to sign up for them early.  All too often guests wait too long to sign up, or try to walk in for a class only to find the limited spots are filled.

There will be a table with sign up sheets near the entrance to the fitness center where you can sign up.  There is no obligation, so you can sign up and only be charged if you make it to the class.

10. Take a spa tour

The Vitality Spa offers complimentary tours of the spa and fitness centers and while it is a sales pitch, it's fun to see the facilities available and something fun for the whole family to do.  

If you want to book a treatment for a particular day and time, you will want to make an appointment early before things start to book up.  

There's also a raffle that you can sign up for and perhaps win a free treatment.

11. Walk around to the ship to get your bearings

It is a really good idea to explore your ship on the first day to get a sense of where everything is.

While you can learn a lot from looking at deck plans, or reading Cruise Compass, nothing compares to actually walking around the ship.

Getting acclimated with where everything will make your cruise easier since you will spend less time trying to locate everything. Plus, you may discover something onboard you did not know existed!

12. Sign your kids up at Adventure Ocean

If you have kids, you will definitely want to register them for Adventure Ocean or the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery on embarkation day.  This process is pretty quick, and allows the children time to explore the Adventure Ocean facilities, while providing the staff all the pertinent information on your child.

Registration times for Adventure Ocean will be posted in your Cruise Compass, as well as on the door to any Adventure Ocean room.  Once inside, kids can check things out while parents fill out a quick form.

Even if your kids are uncertain if they will go to Adventure Ocean, registering them is quick, and it makes for less time wasted later on in the cruise. You may also find an Adventure Ocean table set up elsewhere on the ship to provide details about what Adventure Ocean is, and offer documentation on what kind of activities will be offered.

If you child is less than 36 months old, she/he can be registered for the Nursery. The Nursery will also allow parents to reserve some time in advance, so be sure to review what to expect when booking nursery time.

13. Confirm dietary requests

Whether you have a dietary restriction or just a special request with your meals, you will want to go to the main dining room and speak to the head waiter on duty about making dietary requests.

There is usually a few hours on embarkation day where a head waiter is on duty to take requests. These requests can be for a table or dining rotation change, dietary request or anything else special you want to make certain is taken care of.  

This is also a good time to scope out which table you have been assigned to and if there are any issues with the table location or size of the table, speak to the waiter then.

14. Put away your stuff in your cabin

Whether you choose to unpack everything or live out of a suitcase, it is a good strategy to put some of the things in your room away so there is less clutter all around.  This has less to do with keeping your room clean, rather, it is about keeping things organized.

There is always something going on during your Royal Caribbean cruise, and knowing where the important things are makes your life easier. Plus, it seems like there is always some down time before the muster drill, so take the opportunity to unpack your toiletries, put nicer clothes on hangers and store luggage under your bed. 

You will be happy when you return to your room after an evening of dining, drinks and fun to not have to start putting away all of your stuff.

15. Do the e-muster safety drill

Royal Caribbean has greatly simplified the mandatory safety drill everyone has to do by integrating it into the app.

All you have to do is activate the safety drill option in your app, and watch a short safety video and listen to the emergency horn sound.

Once that is complete, you go to your muster station location to ensure you know where it is. Once there, a crew member will scan your SeaPass card and confirm you have completed the drill.

Do this early and get it out of the way so you don't have to worry about it later.

16. Find a spot for sailaway

When it is time for your Royal Caribbean ship to leave its embarkation port and begin the cruise, you will want to find a great spot to take it all in. 

A very common choice is the sailaway party, which is usually held at the pool deck. There will be music, dancing and a whole lot of celebrating with the ship's activities staff.  If you want something quieter, consider finding a spot near a railing that overlooks the port area.  A hidden spot available on many ships is the helipad, which offers a fabulous vantage point.

If you are staying in a stateroom that has a private balcony, it is hard to beat that kind of a spot for sailaway.  Grab some drinks from the bar and bring it down to your stateroom to enjoy on the balcony. After all, having a balcony stateroom means you do not have to compete with anyone for a spot (except perhaps your kids).

Read moreThe best spot for sailaway on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship

17. Drop off as much luggage as you can

When you arrive to the cruise terminal, there will be porters to take your luggage and check it so it can be delivered to your room on the ship.

Just like if you are flying on an airplane, the more luggage you check, the less stuff you have to carry around with you.

In my opinion, check as much of it as you can to make the time getting on the ship before your cabin is ready as easy as possible. All too often I see a family sherpaing all of their  luggage around the ship. It's just not worth it to try to haul it all onboard yourself.

Read moreShould you use the porters to take your luggage on your cruise ship?

18. Pack a carry-on bag for the day

While you should check as much luggage as you can when you get to the cruise terminal, hold back a day bag with some important things inside that you may need later.

You will want to pack a few key items in your carry-on bag including:

  • Important medication you need
  • Travel documents
  • Covid-19 vaccination cards and test results
  • Swimsuit to change into later

19. Pools and water slides are open on the first day

The best time to go down the water slides and splash in the pool without any lines is the first day of your cruise.

Most other guests packed their swimsuits in their checked luggage, leaving little demand for these popular attractions. Your best bet is to bring your swimsuit with you in your carry-on bag, and then check in a public restroom.

Don't worry, there are towels you can borrow on the pool deck.

20. Double check the health protocols for your ship

With cruise ships finally back in service again, there are changes to the health protocols onboard.

These new health and safety measures vary from ship to ship, and region to region. It is a good idea to be aware which venues are for fully vaccinated passengers only, and any other requirements before you arrive.

Royal Caribbean keeps a webpage for all of its published health protocols, based on where your ship is sailing from.

Keep in mind these protocols are for the departure port and month specified, so if you have a cruise coming up in the future, check back later when health protocols are announced for your sailing.

21. Dress comfortably for your first day

If you are wondering what to wear on the first day of the cruise, the key is to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.

As you go through the check-in process, there will be standing in line, so comfortable shoes are a good starting point.  In addition, you may find yourself outdoors often, so t-shirts and shorts are the most common type of clothing most guests wear on their first day.

Speaking of t-shirts, a lot of groups or families choose to wear matching t-shirts as a fun way to kick off your cruise.

As stated earlier in this post, it is a good idea to pack a swimsuit to be able to change into later if you choose.  Some people will wear a bathing suit under their clothes so they can more easily hop in the pool later.

22. When can I get into my cabin?

The exact time your stateroom will be open varies, but generally early afternoon.

You will know the rooms are not open yet because large fire doors will block access to the stateroom hallways.

Usually, Royal Caribbean opens its rooms for guests around 1 or 2pm. When the rooms are ready, an announcement will be made over the PA system to alert everyone the rooms are open.

23. Bars will be open

Pretty much all the bars will be open on the first day of your cruise, which means you can start using your drink package benefits immediately.

Not only can you get cocktails or beers, but specialty coffees and teas will be available to enjoy as well.

Of course, complimentary drinks will be available as well.  

24. Try to avoid guest services on the first day

If possible, wait to speak to someone at Guest Services until either the next day or after dinner begins.

Unfortunately, the line for Guest Services is always longest on embarkation day, because many guests have first-time cruise questions and end up there to get them resolved.

In my experience, most issues can wait until later. Unless it is something that needs immediate attention and/or cannot be remedied by your stateroom attendant, you should avoid the long Guest Services lines on embarkation day.

25. Have a cocktail!

Last, but not least, take some time to relax and savor the moment. You are officially on vacation, so grab a drink at a bar and toast the start to what should be a fantastic time at sea.

This may not sound like a big deal but getting things started off on the right foot is always a good idea and sets the tone for the rest of your vacation.

Royal Caribbean could be first cruise line to restart cruises in Tampa by October

In:
18 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

While cruise ships have restarted from most of Florida's ports, Tampa has been conspicuously absent.

Many cruise fans have wondered when cruise ships would start sailing from the western Florida port, and October might be the first opportunity.

At the Tampa Port Authority board meeting this week, port officials said a mid-October is possible.

Royal Caribbean announced earlier this month Serenade of the Seas would offer 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, Florida, starting Oct. 16.

The first sailing is a five-night cruise to the Bahamas, followed by a 4-night sailing to Cozumel on October 21st.

Brilliance of the Seas is also scheduled to sail from Tampa to offer 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, starting Dec. 16

Tampa officials now seem to echo that announcement in their own plans.

Tampa Port Authority Vice President of Business Development, Wade Elliott, said at a meeting that a mid-October restart is what they are expecting, "We anticipate that we will begin to see regular sailings from Port Tampa Bay starting again in mid-October, so we’re excited about that."

"We are encouraged to see the cruise industry slowly starting back up across the county."

Elliott said Port Tampa Bay’s facilities teams have been making cosmetic tune-ups to the terminals and the port will be ready for cruise travel in weeks.

"Structurally, we’re in good shape," he said.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean charging to reserve pool deck casitas on Odyssey of the Seas

In:
18 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Ever since Royal Caribbean started offering casita day beds to their pool decks, they have been extremely popular with guests. So much so that the cruise line is now charging for them on at least one ship.

Guests sailing on Odyssey of the Seas now have the option to pre-book a casita on a sea day or port day for an extra cost.

Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site lists the Casita for reservation, with a price of $199 for the day on a sea day and $149 on a port day.

According to the item description, the rental includes towels, a cooler, storage for your belongings and a charging outlet.

You will also get two complimentary Welcome Drinks and four chilled waters with your reservation.

Guests can order more drinks by pushing a button to summon a waiter.

Casitas have been added to the pool decks of other Royal Caribbean ships, including Navigator of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas.  On those ships, the casitas had been complimentary and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

It is unclear if Royal Caribbean will charge for the casitas on other ships. The option to reserve one on Odyssey of the Seas is the first I have seen pop up.

It is also unclear if all casitas onboard Odyssey are only available if paid for, or if some are still complimentary.

In the past, Royal Caribbean has rationalized charging for select activities and amenities that were previously complimentary as a mechanism to control overwhelming demand, such as with the escape rooms.

Royal Caribbean has also begun charging for the North Star experience on Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas sailings in certain situations. 

In the UK, North Star is only chargeable on Anthem of the Seas for “extended experience” which is 15 minutes additional time where the observational pod goes over the sides of the ship. It’s still free for the shorter “up and down” experience.

Previously, North Star was completely complimentary while in North America and Europe markets.

North Star has had her capacity limited due to Covid-19 protocols, and that could play a role in charging for the experience in order to manage demand.

Best things to do on Royal Caribbean while there is limited capacity onboard

In:
18 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

An unintentional benefit for anyone that goes on a cruise during Royal Caribbean's restart process is significantly less passengers onboard, which means lines are pretty much non-existent.

Having short or non-existent lines is not just a nice experience in general, it opens up new opportunities for experiences and things to do that you might not have considered doing while ships were sailing full. Or, it means you can go back and do a favorite activity without concern of having to wait around.

While Royal Caribbean's ships were always designed to manage crowds well, having less than half the ship full makes sailings happening now the best time to take advantage of the short lines.

If you have a cruise booked for summer or fall 2021, here are are some things to do on your Royal Caribbean cruise while the cruise line is limiting capacity.

FlowRider

One of the lowest capacity attractions on any Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the surf simulator because it can only handle one passenger at a time.

In normal times, this means just one guest gets to ride, and a long line usually accumulates, especially on sea days.

But with lower capacity, I have observed very short lines for the FlowRider. In fact, most times there is no line at all.

Not only does this mean less of a wait, it means you can get back on the FlowRider quicker and get better at it. Just like your parents always told you, practice makes perfect, and the more times you can hop on your surf board, the quicker you can master surfing.

Eat at Playmakers

I really like Playmakers sports bar menu, but it always tended to have slow food service before the cruise industry shutdown.

On the ships that have restarted sailing with Playmakers, the service has been quite snappy thanks to far less demand for the venue.

With less guests to wait on, the food gets served faster, and I have found myself stopping in for a bite with far more frequency (especially while the Windjammer is closed for dinner).

If you find yourself at Playmakers, order the nachos and the campfire cookie.

Thrill waterpark

What's the best part about a water park? Water slides. What's the worst part of a water park? Waiting in line for water slides.

With ships visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay at minimal capacity, Thrill Waterpark is wide open and there are barely any lines, at any time of the day.

This is the perfect time to get in as many water slide runs in as you can physically handle.  Realistically, the only hindrance will be how many flights of stairs you can handle. With no lines, there is no downtime to wait, and you will quickly find running up stairs quite the workout.

Ditto for the water slides on any cruise ship.

Zip line

Similar to the FlowRider, the zip line has a pretty low capacity and is usually a popular activity to do onboard.

When you sign up for the zip line, the most time is consumed getting geared up with the proper harness.  Once you are harnessed up, you can ride pretty quickly.

Since there is much less demand, the crew members will usually let you get right back in line for another ride once you have your harness.

Casino table games

I enjoy stopping by the casino for a few hands of blackjack, or putting my money on red at the roulette table, but getting a spot is usually tough (especially in the evenings).

With lower capacity, the casino table games are pretty much wide open to stop by and test your luck.

Keep in mind the casino is limiting the amount of guests that can sit at a table (4 per table at last check), but even with reduced capacity at the tables, there just aren't enough other guests to hog up all the spaces.

Hang out at the pool

If you have ever been on a cruise before, there is one area that is synonymous with crowding and that is the pool deck on a sea day.

Now a days, you can sleep in, roll up to the pool deck after lunch, and find plenty of loungers right by the pool. You might even find a spare casita or couch to lay on.

If you have cruised a lot, you may have conditioned yourself to simply overlook the pool deck after mid-morning because of crowds, but you can now easily grab a chair by the pool with little issue.

Windjammer for breakfast

Perhaps no other venue is as busy as the Windjammer buffet on a sea day morning. Everyone sleeps in just a little bit, and then descends upon the Windjammer for their coffee, pancakes, bacon, and eggs.

Ordinarily, it might be a good idea to seek out other alternatives for breakfast, but with limited capacity, breakfast in the Windjammer is a breeze.

Even if you roll in at the 9am hour, you will find an easy go of getting your favorites, including the omelet station.

Bumper cars

If your kids are like mine, they will not only want to ride the bumper cars on Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships, but do it again and again.

Usually the line makes it a "one and done" experience, but with limited capacity, this might be the best time to get in as many rides as the kids can handle.

Limited capacity or not, I will be able to "tolerate" any line a whole lot more with the new Playmakers location in the SeaPlex on Odyssey of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean offering up to 35% off Cruise Planner purchases with Soak up the Savings sale

In:
17 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering a discount on cruise add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions and more, with its new sale.

The Soak up the Savings Sale runs between August 17 - 26, 2021 and is valid on sailings from  August 21, 2021 – August 31, 2022.

It is good for all ships except Spectrum of the Seas and charter sailings.

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship.

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 25% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship.

ACTIVITIES: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes GR)
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Photo Package: Picture This Private Studio: Discount varies by ship.

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

More helpful information

The 7 most important links on Royal Caribbean's website

In:
17 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Everything is easier if you know where to look, and that includes Royal Caribbean's website.

Being self-sufficient is always a nice way to speed up things, and there are a few very handy links on Royal Caribbean's website that every cruise fan should know about to save time now and onboard the ship.

In looking around Royal Caribbean's website, I found seven pages that I think most people will need one time or another to help them ensure their upcoming cruise has no issues. There certainly are other pages that have helpful information, but these seven jumped out at me as the most commonly useful ones to bookmark.

Whether you have cruised before or this is your first sailing, here are the top web pages on Royal Caribbean's website you should know about.

Cruise Planner

Linkhttps://secure.royalcaribbean.com/cruiseplanner/

Perhaps the single most important part of Royal Caribbean's website is the Cruise Planner.

This is the place you go to manage your reservation, and purchase wifi, drink, or dining packages before your cruise.  You can also reserve time at the spa, book individual specialty restaurants, shore excursions, and other activities onboard.

Whether you booked your cruise through a travel agent or not, you can access the Cruise Planner for any sailing you have coming up, and there is usually a good assortment of options to look over at any given time.

Moreover, this is how you save money on your cruise.  When Royal Caribbean has a sale on pre-cruise purchases, they can all be booked via the Cruise Planner site.

Travel agency transfer form

Link: https://rccl.secure.force.com/directtransfers/DTTRoyal

Did you know that if you booked your cruise directly with Royal Caribbean over the phone or on their website, that you can transfer it to a travel agent later?

Royal Caribbean gives guests a grace period when they can still transfer their reservation to a travel agent to take advantage of all the services a good travel agent provides.

According to the cruise line, you can use this form up until 30 days from creation if the request is made outside of Final Payment period and the booking is not paid in full.

You should contact your new travel agent first before filling out the form so you are both on the same page about the transfer.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

A list of the health protocols for your sailing

Link: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/the-healthy-sail-center/getting-ready-to-cruise

Health protocols for your sailing can change at a moment's notice, so you will likely want to know what to expect onboard before you arrive.

Royal Caribbean keeps a singular location for all of its published health protocols, based on where your ship is sailing from.

You can easily see a list of health protocols for your sailing, as well as get additional information about which venues will be open, proper documentation to bring, and much more.

Keep in mind these protocols are for the departure port and month specified, so if you have a cruise coming up in the future, check back later when health protocols are announced for your sailing.

Future Cruise Credit redemption

Link: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/reservation/future-cruise-credit

If you booked a cruise on your own, you can very easily redeem a future cruise credit to apply to your reservation.

So many cruisers have accrued a FCC from a canceled cruise over the last year and a half, and it is very likely you have more than one.  

Royal Caribbean added an easy to use form to apply the FCC to an existing booking.

Once you go to that link, a self-service page provides another way to redeem the credits.

If you booked with a travel agent, your travel agent can apply the credit for you, which is just one of many helpful services a good travel agent provides.

Make a payment

Linkhttps://www.royalcaribbean.com/make-a-payment

Another self-service tool for someone that booked the cruise directly is how to make a payment

While travel agents can handle this for you if you booked through them, someone that booked directly with Royal Caribbean can use this form to make final payment, or just an interstitial payment.

Shareholder discount

Linkhttps://rclshareholderbenefit.questionpro.com/

Did you know if you have at least 100 shares of Royal Caribbean Group ($RCL) stock, you can qualify for extra onboard credit on your cruise?

The exact amount of your discount will depend on the length of your sailing:

  • $250 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 14 or more nights.
  • $100 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 6 to 13 nights.
  • $50 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 5 nights or less.

All shareholder onboard credit requests must be received approximately 2 -3 weeks prior to sail date. 

Guest Special Needs form

Link: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/resources/guest-special-needs

Whether you have a food allergy, need wheelchair assistance, need a sharps container, or have a CPAP machine, there is one form you should fill out before your cruise to have it all taken care of.

Royal Caribbean's Special Needs form covers a variety of special needs guests may have, and many of these are commonly requested.  By filling out the form, you can be assured when you get onboard, the crew is prepared and ready to ensure you are properly accommodated.

Be sure to submit the Guest Special Needs Form at time of booking but no later than 30 days prior to sailing. Sign language interpreting requests must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing. 

Royal Caribbean CEO gives update on cruise ship restart, Covid on ships, limiting capacity and more

In:
17 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley is proud of his company's restart plans, and did not hold back in recognizing Royal Caribbean's victories, as well as challenges that still exist.

In a new social media post, Mr. Bayley posted an update on Royal Caribbean's restart plans, which read like a mile marker on the company's journey back to full operations.

While the process has had, "ups and downs and twists and turns", he was undeniably proud that by the end of August 13 cruise ships will be back in service, which represents half the fleet.

"All of our ships starting operating with reduced capacity either by government mandate," he shared on Facebook

Mr. Bayley added that all Royal Caribbean ships have limited capacity that range between 30 to 50 percent, and the company will increase capacity ship by ship over the course of each month.

Mr. Bayley also talked about the realities of cruising again, and that while there have been Covid-19 cases onboard the ship, they have been limited.

"As all guests are required to be tested before boarding regardless of vaccination status, we typically have 2 to 10 guests a week (out of thousands of guests boarding 12 ships) who do not board because they test positive."

"Do we have Covid positive guests onboard," Mr. Bayley shared. "Yes! How many guests are positive? Typically 1 or 2 of a thousand plus guests a week per ship."

Mr. Bayley attributes the the cases that do get caught onboard as a result of an incubation period for the virus, "Testing captures status at a point of time and if the guest is incubating infection then the test will miss it."

"Yes, vaccinated guests test positive for Covid and typically are asymptomatic."

If a case is found onboard, Mr. Bayley says those guests are quarantined and the crew members test immediate travel party, contact tracing and testing of all contacts and quarantine if positive.

"Repatriation home via private jet in the majority of cases."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean is flying passengers home on a private jet if they have Covid-19

Mr. Bayley also said the crew members are fully vaccinated, and all crew members are tested now being tested every week, instead of every two weeks, due to the Delta variant.

He said there are sometimes positive Covid cases among the crew, primarily during quarantine as they join the ship and are vaccinated and tested or during regular testing.

A few other thoughts from Mr. Bayley:

  • Guest satisfaction is "super high"
  • Total onboard vaccinated community ranging from 90 to 97 percent.
  • Mixed vaccines: "we continue to work with multiple authorities to find safe solutions."

Mr. Bayley ended by saying, "Please remember, we as a company, are trying our absolute best to protect our guests, employees and the communities we visit!"

What changes has Royal Caribbean made to eating on a cruise since restarting?

In:
16 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

After 15 months of no cruise ships sailing, Royal Caribbean has slowly restarted operations with dining onboard being one of the most visible changes to the experience.

Not only has there been tweaks to how food is served, such as crew members serving passengers at the Windjammer buffet, but Royal Caribbean has rolled out other changes to its ships that are in many cases the result of months of work behind the scenes.

While cruise ships may have been shutdown for most of 2020, Royal Caribbean's food and beverage team was not idle. Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, took the time while ships were out of service to work on a number of initiatives that guests are now seeing onboard.

At the onset of the shutdown, Royal Caribbean was primarily focused on getting crew members home and to ensure all the equipment and venues were locked down. But then, the food and beverage team started thinking about the projects they always wanted to do, but were simply too busy to tackle in addition to the day-to-day operations onboard.

"I said, this is an opportune moment. Let's go back and really think about the business and what needs to get better," Mr. D'Souza explained as he laid out his team's plans during the shutdown.

A lot of energy initially went into re-evaluating their supply chains, looking at ways to improve the Windjammer or dining rooms.

"We spent a lot of time looking at all the menus and all of the recipes and a lot of simplification. The most challenging part of our business is managing 26 ships spread across the world and figuring out how to build consistency."

One of the early changes to come out of this refocus was the Windjammer, where Mr. D'Souza says new dishware and a focus on quality of presentation was added.

"I think historically it was about mass volumes of food everywhere. This is really about making sure everything that's out there is well prepared, tastes exceptionally good, and makes folks want to come back."

Over in the main dining room, Royal Caribbean refocused their efforts on plating, entrees, and fine-tuned a lot of those experiences.

Another change was to re-vamp the fleetwide drink menu, which now includes cocktails, mocktails, and low/no alcohol drinks.

"The beverage team focused in on rebuilding the beverage menu, and we focused on the 'Taste of the Caribbean', which is really going to some of our favorite places that our ships sailed to and identifying drinks that are really signature drinks to those islands and bringing them on board the ship."

The hope for Mr. D'Souza was to infuse a piece of these quintessential Caribbean ports in the drink menu, "It's like bringing a port of call to your experience onboard the ship. And maybe you have the cocktail on board and you get off from the island and you say, hey, I got to get one of those here to see how close they are."

Some of the major changes Royal Caribbean has made to the dining experience to ensure a healthy experience for all includes:

  • No self-service buffet option, including drink stations, ice cream stations and other locations
  • Restaurant menus shown in the Royal Caribbean app
  • Reservations recommended for meals at specialty restaurants, Main Dining Room, or Windjammer
  • Scanning guest SeaPass cards upon entry and exit to Windjammer to ensure venue is not too crowded
  • Designated areas for everyone in main dining room, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only. 
  • Most bars and lounges are open to everyone, while some are designated for vaccinated guests.

Healthy return to service

Cruise ships restarting was much more than simply pulling into port and allowing passengers onboard. Royal Caribbean spent a great deal of time and energy on new protocols, and that includes dining.

Mr. D'Souza said a big part of his team's planning was focused on the return to service, "There was a lot of protocols, a lot of time spent focused on how do we come back to healthy, safe return service."

"We looked at the table designs in the dining room, how many guests could fit in every dining ship by ship."

"And so making sure that we had all the systems and protocols in place and a lot of my team stepped into roles that were not traditionally their roles. And I think that happened across our company."

D'Souza characterized this time as "very challenging" for everyone involved, but he felt there was a focused effort on doing what was needed for the business to return.

First Oasis Class cruise ship restarts sailings in Europe

In:
16 Aug 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship has restarted sailings, and this one is sailing from Barcelona, Spain.

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas resumed operations on Sunday, and is offering 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Spain.

While not the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to restart in Europe, she is the biggest ship to restart in Europe, following on the successful restarts of Anthem of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas.

From August to October, Harmony of the Seas will offer visits to ports in Palma De Mallorca, Florence, Rome, and Naples.

All passengers and crew members onboard Harmony of the Seas 18 years of age and older must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Children younger than the eligible age can sail with a negative test result and must follow other health and safety protocols. 

Royal Caribbean's mask policy for sailings from Barcelona on Harmony indicate all guests 6 years and older must wear a mask in all indoor and outdoor public spaces, unless seated and actively eating or drinking or sitting beside the pool. Masks are not required in staterooms if you are with your own travel party. Masks are not permitted in the pool or for any activity where they could become wet.

Other protocols onboard include the ships’ robust ventilation systems, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and cruising at reduced occupancy as ships initially return to sailing.

Health and safety measures will be evaluated as public health circumstances evolve, and guests and travel partners will be notified of updates.

At the ports Harmony of the Seas will visit, shore excursion options depend on the country's rules.

  • Spain
    • Fully vaccinated parties have the choice of booking a shore excursion or visiting freely.
    • Parties that wish to go ashore and include any unvaccinated guests, must book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean
  • Italy
    • All travel parties that wish to go ashore must purchase a local tour through Royal Caribbean. 

Ben Bouldin, vice president for EMEA, Royal Caribbean International commented “We are delighted to welcome back another ship to our European lineup this summer with the return of the award-winning Harmony of the Seas. Harmony is an incredibly popular ship and one of the most revolutionary in our fleet, so families are in for a summer of adventure.”