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Difference between aft balcony & balcony cabins

21 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Balcony cabins on a cruise ship come in locations all around the vessel, including some on the aft of the ship that are highly desirable for certain cruisers.

Aft balcony rooms are usually standard balcony rooms, but with a location that overlooks the back of the ship.

If you've talked about balcony location with some people that cruise a lot, then you may hear about how wonderful a cruise cabin an aft balcony is to book.

What's the difference between an aft balcony and a regular balcony room, and what should you know about these rooms?

What's special about an aft balcony

As the name implies, an aft balcony is a balcony that overlooks the back of the ship.

Aft balcony staterooms stand out because they offer a different kind of view from a standard balcony, which some cruisers find desirable.

Having a view of the ship's wake is something you may find relaxing and/or enjoyable to watch, especially while sailing out of a port.

Aft Staterooms - Royal Caribbean Discussion - Royal Caribbean Blog

In addition, the aft balcony rooms on some Royal Caribbean ships have significantly larger balcony space than a balcony cabin on the side of the ship. 

Essentially, you may end up paying a similar price as someone who books a balcony on the side of the ship, but get much more living space on your private veranda.

Another nice benefit of an aft balcony is you will not have noisy people walking by your door, compared to cabins midship.

Why you might not want an aft balcony

Photo tour of 2 Bedroom Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

The principal drawback of an aft balcony is the distance of the room to the elevators.

On Royal Caribbean cruise ships, there are two elevator banks: at the front and middle of the ship. 

Depending on the size of the ship and your aversion to walking long(er) distances, the amount of walking to and from your room may be a concern.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 8 – Cozumel, Mexico | Royal Caribbean Blog

In addition, aft balcony rooms can sometimes have less have a breeze compared to balcony rooms on the side. This will vary from sailing to sailing depending on the weather, but it is not unheard of to have a hotter balcony feel due to the lack of wind moving past.

Just like rooms at the very front of the ship, the sensation of movement can be potentially greater at the very back of the ship.

It's also possible an aft balcony may cost more than a balcony elsewhere on the ship.

One more thing about aft balcony rooms on Royal Caribbean: the aft balcony rooms on some ships can have obstructions. This is the case with Voyager and Freedom Class ships.

Tips for aft balcony cabins on Royal Caribbean

Photo tour of 2 Bedroom Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

You will find aft balcony rooms on all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but the more affordable ones will be on Vision, Radiance, Voyager and Freedom Class ships.

On Oasis and Quantum Class ships, the aft balconies are primarily suites that command a much higher price.

If you want to nab an aft balcony room, you will want to book it early. These cabins are among the most highly sought-after staterooms because of their desirable location.

Before booking, look at the deck plans for the ship you are going to sail on and investigate which aft balcony rooms have the extra balcony space.

Is an aft balcony worth it?

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

If having an extra large balcony and different views from your balcony is important to you, then an aft balcony can be worth booking.

You should be okay with the distance to the elevators, so anyone with mobility issues will want to avoid them. Likewise if you are sensitive to motion sickness and should instead book a room midship.

If you do want to book an aft balcony, be sure to act quickly and reserve it as soon as you can.

The views of the wake alone are usually what draws most people to booking an aft balcony.

More information

Royal Caribbean pushes back final payment for April and May 2022 cruises

21 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise booked in April or May 2022, you will have more time to decide to make final payment.

Royal Caribbean announced it has extended the final payment window to 30 days-to-sailing (DTS) for April and May 2022 departures (excluding China & Singapore departures).

Prior to this change, the final payment had only been pushed back for cruises through March 31, 2022.

According to Royal Caribbean, this change was made to, "allow greater flexibility during these uncertain times." In short, it gives guests more flexibility in deciding if they want to cruise without forcing a cancellation earlier.

The final payment date window of 75 days for cruises 1-4 nights and 90 days for cruises 5+ night remains for sailings beyond May 2022.

No action is required on the part of guests or travel agents, and no cancellations will occur until the new final payment date.

By cancelling a cruise before the final payment date, they can get a full cash refund, if they booked refundable cruise fare.

Royal Caribbean had already announced an extension of its Cruise with Confidence program for bookings made by January 31, 2022.

Do cruise prices drop? | Royal Caribbean Blog

The Cruise with Confidence program allows anyone with a cruise booked the ability to cancel up to 48 hours before the sail date and get the full value in a Future Cruise Credit that’s good to redeem until May 31, 2022. 

Between the Cruise with Confidence program and final payment extension, Royal Caribbean is looking to give consumers more time to decide if they want to move forward with their cruise.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean bans smoking in casinos due to Omicron variant concern

20 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

You won't be able to smoke in Royal Caribbean's casino for at least a while.

Royal Caribbean informed passengers sailing on Mariner of the Seas,  Freedom of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas the casino will not allow smoking inside due to the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Three RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers reported announcements made on these ships on Monday that smoking will not be allowed in the casino so that guests can remain masked while in the casino.

It is not clear yet if this is a fleetwide policy, nor if/when smoking in the casino will return on these ships.

The casino was the only indoor location passengers were allowed to smoke. This will leave just a designated smoking area on the pool deck for smoking.

Casino | Royal Caribbean Blog

Carnival Cruise Line announced a similar policy on Monday, banning smoking in its casinos through January 31, 2022.

Banning smoking in the casino comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean tightening up its Covid-19 protocols in general, such as requiring face masks to be worn by all passengers in vaccinated-only areas of the ship.

The casino is one of these vaccinated-only areas aboard Royal Caribbean ships.

Passengers may only remove their mask indoors in public areas while seated and actively eating or drinking.

Royal Caribbean will stop offering onboard Covid-19 tests for international passengers returning home

20 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has updated its website to indicate it will stop offering international cruise ship passengers a Covid-19 test onboard its ships, and instead refer them to land-based test sites.

Royal Caribbean requires unvaccinated kids get a PCR test before the cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Up until now, Royal Caribbean offered international passengers a complimentary Covid-19 test onboard its ships so that they could satisfy their home country test requirements to return.

The new policy is posted on Royal Caribbean's website that beginning January 5, 2022, optional tests for international re-entry will no longer be offered onboard.

International guests sailing on a cruise before January 5, 2022 will still be able to schedule a Covid-19 test onboard prior to debarkation day. Details on scheduling your test will be provided once onboard. 

Instead, Royal Caribbean will provide guests with testing locations at or near the cruise terminal for passengers to complete once the cruise is over. These providers are not affiliated with the cruise line, and testing costs will vary by location.

  • At the Terminal — For your convenience, you can take a rapid PCR or antigen COVID-19 test right at the terminal upon debarking the ship and depart. Results will be emailed to you shortly after. 
  • At the Airport — Guests traveling directly to the airport can schedule their rapid PCR or antigen COVID-19 test to be taken on-site with a test provider at the airport.  
  • Local Testing Sites — If you’re staying in the area, there are various locations close to the terminal, the airport and hotels in the area where you can complete PCR or antigen COVID-19 testing.  

These options will be communicated to passengers once onboard in greater detail. 

Many countries require a negative Covid-19 test in order to return home after international travel, such as Canada.

Air Canada's new Covid testing is a good option for Canadians flying to the US for cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

Up until now, Royal Caribbean offered such tests onboard its ships for no additional charge.

In the case of Canada, travellers must have a negative COVID-19 molecular test (PCR, RT-PCR, NAAT, RT-LAMP) result. The test must be taken a maximum of 72 hours before the departure of their last direct flight to Canada.

Live Blogging from Navigator of the Seas - Preamble

20 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Hi everyone, I'm really excited to announce our next live-blog experience as we get ready for a cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas for a 7-night Mexican Riviera adventure.

This is my first time trying this itinerary, and I hope it offers all of you a chance to preview what to expect if you ever wanted to give it a try.

Royal Caribbean had been absent from the West Coast of the United States for over a decade, so when Royal Caribbean announced a return, I had to give a try.

Most of the Navigator of the Seas cruises are just 3- and 4-night sailings, but if I was going to fly across the country for a cruise, it had to be for something longer.  Luckily, there are longer sailings on holidays, and it seemed like a good opportunity to spend our winter break on a cruise.

Why we chose this cruise

It's not often there is a brand new itinerary to try from the United States, so when Royal Caribbean started selling cruises from Los Angeles, I had to give it a try.

Finding an itinerary that worked with the kids' school schedule was not easy, but the price was right, especially for a holiday sailing and it allows the kids a bit of a break before and after the cruise before school resumes.

The prices for Navigator of the Seas' sailings from Los Angeles have been on the inexpensive side, which represents a great value for anyone that can get out there. 

On top of the fun itinerary, I love Navigator of the Seas and the upgrades she received has part of her amplification in 2019. Combine a great ship with a new itinerary, and you have an exciting plan.

My plans onboard

New Navigator of the Seas west coast cruises now available to book | Royal Caribbean Blog

I'll be traveling with my wife and kids, and we have two connecting balcony rooms for this cruise.

Getting two connecting rooms instead of putting everyone in one cabin is one of my favorite family cruise tips because of how it doesn't break the bank and gives my wife and I some separation from the kids. Plus, an extra bathroom!

Since this is a holiday cruise that goes over Christmas, we decided to just do a 3-night dining plan so that I can do a few specialty restaurants, but enjoy the best the main dining room has to offer.

Navigator of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

I'm also not sure what to expect in terms of how full the ship will be. Navigator did not restart cruises until November, but Royal Caribbean has been steadily increasing ship capacity across the fleet over the last six weeks, especially on holidays.

I'm hoping the weather will be warm enough to try out the waterslides onboard.  I've done both slides, but my kids have not. I think once we get down to Mexico, the temperatures should warm up considerably.

Something else that will be different for us will be the tightened mask rules that Royal Caribbean just announced. I've never stopped wearing my mask at home while indoors, so I'm not certain how much of a difference it will be, although I had gotten used to being in vaccinated-only areas and enjoying entertainment without a mask.  

My plans on shore

We will be visiting three ports of call on this cruise, and each is brand new to me: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.

Given that I've never been to any of these ports, I spent more time than usual to plan excursions because I not only want to see what each offers, but it may be a while before I return, so I want to maximize my time seeing the best each port has to offer.

In Cabo San Lucas, we booked the Deluxe Coastal Cruise through Royal Caribbean, which is described as a 2-hour catamaran where we will visit the rock formations of Land's End, check out a barking colony of sea lions, and then sail past a rare stretch of sand shared by both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. It's also whale season, so we may see migratory whales.

In Puerto Vallarta, I booked a private shore excursion through Royal Caribbean's Private Journeys program.

Royal Caribbean arranged a private vehicle with driver/guide to take us to a 4 star beach club with beachfront, pool, restaurant, full bar service, lounges, umbrellas, restrooms, showers and poolside service.

Finally, in Mazatlan, I booked an ATV tour on our own. We have a private 4x4 Rhino Safari ATV tour where the four of us will ride in a 700cc fully automatic Honda Big Red 4x4 Rhino on an ecological adventure through Mazatlan's backcountry.

What's next

Our trip begins tomorrow when we fly out to California for a few days pre-cruise touring. We'll spend a few days at Disneyland before boarding our cruise ship on Friday, December 24.

If you want a head start on this live blog, check out Jenna's quick two-night cruise on Navigator last month.

I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 19, 2021

19 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Merry Christmas! The holidays are here, and so is our weekly round up of the articles and news we shared about Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean updated its mask policy this week to require passengers to wear them indoors, even while in vaccinated-only areas.

The tightened mask rule change comes as the omicron variant of Covid-19 has caused a spike in cases around the United States.

As a result, Royal Caribbean will now require all passengers to wear masks in all indoor public areas unless actively eating or drinking.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 434th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which has a list of mistakes passengers make when they get off their cruise ships.

The last morning of a cruise is when you have to unfortunately disembark, but there are some pitfalls you can avoid to ensure walking off the ship and getting home is much easier.

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: 15 Royal Caribbean cruise hacks

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 — 15 Royal Caribbean cruise hacks — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

2022 Royal Caribbean Cruise Planning Guide

20 free things to do on Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Have you got a Royal Caribbean cruise scheduled in the coming year? Or are you thinking of booking one? Planning a cruise can be a daunting task, but it's easy with our new guide.

It may come as a surprise to first-time cruisers just how much goes into planning a cruise vacation, so we wrote a guide to give you the basics of how to get started.

Check out our 2022 Royal Caribbean planning guide to give you some background information on each aspect of the cruise, with a ton of links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information.

See how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size

18 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

With so many Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the fleet, it can be confusing to figure out how big each ship is by size.

Ship size isn't everything when it comes to picking the right ship for you, but how big a ship is remains one of the key metrics a lot of people pay attention to when it comes to comparing vessels.

So whether you have a passing interest in knowing how big each ship is in Royal Caribbean's fleet, or want to prove your friend wrong that you know which ship is the biggest, here is a look at all the Royal Caribbean cruise ships by size.

How do you measure how big a cruise ship is?

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

Cruise ships are measured by their gross tonnage, which can be a confusing metric to understand.

Gross tonnage is a nonlinear measure of a ship's overall internal volume.


Basically, this is a way to measure passenger vessels by volume and not weight. This is the standard way to measure how cruise ships compare to each other because of how designs can vary greatly.

Royal Caribbean ships by size

1. Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean takes delivery of new world's largest cruise ship as it departs shipyard | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 236,857 GRT

Length: 1,188 feet long

Beam: 210 feet wide

Passengers: 5,734 (double occupancy)

2. Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: April 8, 2018 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 228,081 GRT

Length: 1,188 feet long

Beam: 215.5 feet wide

Passengers: 5,518 (double occupancy)

3. Harmony of the Seas

Aerial photos of Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 226,963 GRT

Length: 1,188 feet long

Beam: 215.5 feet wide

Passengers: 5,479 (double occupancy)

4. Oasis of the Seas

Everything you wanted to know about Oasis of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 226,838 GT

Length: 1,187 feet long

Beam: 215 feet wide

Passengers: 5,602 (double occupancy)

5. Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas to begin her test cruise today | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 225,282 GRT

Length: 1,187 feet long

Beam: 215 feet wide

Passengers: 5,484 (double occupancy)

6. Spectrum of the Seas

Spectrum of the Seas joins Royal Caribbean's fleet following delivery ceremony | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 169,379 GRT

Length: 1,139 feet long

Beam: 135 feet wide

Passengers: 4,256 (double occupancy)

7. Odyssey of the Seas

Royal Caribbean CEO gives updates on return to service, loyalty benefits and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 169,300 GT

Length: 1,138 feet long

Beam: 135 feet wide

Passengers: 4,284 (double occupancy)

8. Ovation of the Seas

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval to start test sailings on Ovation of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 168,666 GRT

Length: 1,138 feet long

Beam: 136 feet wide

Passengers: 4,180 (double occupancy)

9. Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean becomes first cruise line to be named Gay Travel Approved | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 168,666 GRT

Length: 1,141 feet long

Beam: 136 feet wide

Passengers: 4,180 (double occupancy)

10. Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean cancels Quantum of the Seas cruises through March 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 168,666 GRT

Length: 1,141 feet long

Beam: 136 feet wide

Passengers: 4,180 (double occupancy)

11. Freedom of the Seas

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 156,271 GT

Length: 1,111 feet long

Beam: 185 feet wide

Passengers: 3,926 (double occupancy)

12. Liberty of the Seas

Everything you wanted to know about Liberty of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 154,407 GRT

Length: 1,112 feet long

Beam: 185 feet wide

Passengers: 3,798 (double occupancy)

13. Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Independence of the Seas to sail | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 154,407 GRT

Length: 1,112 feet long

Beam: 185 feet wide

Passengers: 3,858 (double occupancy)

14. Navigator of the Seas

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas hidden secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 139,999 GT

Length: 1,020 feet long

Beam: 161 feet wide

Passengers: 3,388 (double occupancy)

15. Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Mariner of the Seas to sail | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 139,863 GRT

Length: 1,020 feet long

Beam: 127 feet wide

Passengers: 3,344 (double occupancy)

16. Explorer of the Seas

Explorer of the Seas meets Voyager of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 137,308 GRT

Length: 1,020 feet long

Beam: 157.5 feet wide

Passengers: 3,286 (double occupancy)

17. Adventure of the Seas

Top 8 things you should know about going on a cruise in 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 137,276 GRT

Length: 1,020 feet long

Beam: 157 feet wide

Passengers: 3,114 (double occupancy)

18. Voyager of the Seas

Royal Caribbean changes Covid-19 vaccine requirements for cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 137,276 GT

Length: 1,020 feet long

Beam: 157.5 feet wide

Passengers: 3,602 (double occupancy)

19. Radiance of the Seas

20 Radiance Class cruise ship tips and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 90,090 GRT

Length: 962 feet long

Beam: 106 feet wide

Passengers: 2,143  (double occupancy)

20. Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 90,090 GRT

Length: 962 feet long

Beam: 106 feet wide

Passengers: 2,142  (double occupancy)

21. Serenade of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is first cruise line to restart cruises from Tampa | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 90,090 GRT

Length: 965 feet long

Beam: 106 feet wide

Passengers: 2,143 (double occupancy)

22. Jewel of the Seas

Gross Tonnage: 90,090 GRT

Length: 962 feet long

Beam: 106 feet wide

Passengers: 2,191 (double occupancy)

23. Enchantment of the Seas

Enchantment of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 82,910 GRT

Length: 989 feet long

Beam: 105.6 feet wide

Passengers: 2,252 (double occupancy)

24. Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 78,491 GRT

Length: 915.35 feet long

Beam: 105.6 feet wide 

Passengers: 1,998 (double occupancy) 

25. Vision of the Seas

Royal Caribbean announces Vision of the Seas will sail from Bermuda | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 78,340 GT

Length: 915 feet long

Beam: 105.6 feet wide

Passengers: 2,050 (double occupancy)

27. Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas to leave Royal Caribbean fleet | Royal Caribbean Blog

Gross Tonnage: 73,817 GRT

Length: 916 feet long

Beam: 105.6 feet wide

Passengers: 1,992 (double occupancy)

Royal Caribbean will require passengers to wear masks indoors at all times on cruise ships due to Omicron variant

17 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced it has changed its mask rules aboard its cruise ships due to the surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

Cruise industry supports CDC's temporary extension of cruise ship Covid-19 regulations | Royal Caribbean Blog

In an email sent to guests, for sailings departing through January 5, 2022, face masks will now be required to be worn indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. This new update also applies to vaccinated areas and venues.

This policy is in place for all sailings departing before January 5, 2022, at which point it will be reevaluated.

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors in public areas of the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

Royal Caribbean says they consulted with their Chief Medical Officer, public health experts and governments to come to this change.

Royal Caribbean will notify guests booked on these sailings

Guests booked on these sailings are being reached out to and made aware of the change. 

The cruise line apologized for having to make this change, "We're sorry for any disappointment this may cause, but hope you understand that health and safety come first. Despite the new requirement, we know you will still have a great time onboard."

Prior to this change, vaccinated guests were able to remove their masks in certain indoor areas of the ship designated for fully vaccinated passengers, such as the casino, and certain bars and lounges.

In addition to Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line also changed their mask policy.

NCL informed guests sailing that masks will be required indoors on its ships when not actively eating or drinking.

In an email sent to passengers, NCL said, "We are asking guests to wear masks onboard while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking or when in their stateroom; wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible; and adhere to local regulations when visiting ports of call."

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says July cruises from U.S. "not possible" | Royal Caribbean Blog

The uptick in Covid cases is not just a cruise ship problem.

The NFL announced today three Week 15 games have been postponed due to COVID-19 surge.

The NBA and NHL both announced postponements as well.

Royal Caribbean previews new cruise terminal in Galveston

17 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is building a new cruise terminal in Galveston, Texas, and shared a look at what it will look like inside and out.

Terminal 3 cruise terminal will be big enough to handle Royal Caribbean's largest cruise ships, and signifies a major investment in the Galveston cruise market by committing to invest millions of dollars to upgrade the facilities.

The new $125 million cruise terminal will open in Fall 2022, and Royal Caribbean shared new concept art for what it will look like. 

New cruise terminals are more than just a place to check-in and board your cruise. With the new building comes a smoother process, as well as enhancements in the embarkation and disembarkation procedures.

The entryway

Allure of the Seas will be the first ship to call Galveston home when the new terminal opens in fall 2022.

In total, the building is 161,300 square feet and Royal Caribbean says it will be a state-of-the-art building. 

It will also be a LEED-certified terminal (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which means it will be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently. 

Construction of the terminal was delayed due to the global health crisis, but work began in April 2021 on the 10 acre parcel of land.

The new terminal is located at Pier 10 for exclusive use by Royal Caribbean.

Architects Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc. came up with the look of the new terminal, but this firm is no stranger to Royal Caribbean. They also designed Terminal A in Miami, Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal, and Port Everglades' Terminal 18 and 25.

Boarding area

The facility will feature state-of-the-art technology, including mobile check-in and facial recognition to expedite guest arrival.

Not only can Terminal 3 handle Oasis Class ships, it will also be able to accommodate Royal Caribbean's new Icon Class ships.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean looks forward to big plans in 2022 and 2023

Guests who are booked in a suite will be able to enjoy a VIP area in the new terminal.

Many cruise terminals have separate seating for suite guests, and Galveston's new terminal looks to follow in Terminal A in PortMiami's approach to providing suite guests with their own "plussed" seating area before boarding begins.

Allure of the Seas will offer cruises from Terminal 3 beginning in November 2022.

Allure will sail 7-night Western Caribbean cruises to destinations like Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and Roatan, Honduras.

Back-to-back cruises tips and advice

17 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Going on a back-to-back cruise means doing more than one cruise on the same cruise ship, and it's a popular way for passengers to extend their vacation fun beyond any published itinerary.

If you have ever gotten to the end of a trip and thought to yourself, "wouldn't it be nice to stay longer?", then a back-to-back cruise might be exactly what you want.

Many veteran cruisers will do multiple cruises in a row as a way to spend more time on a ship. Doing a back-to-back cruise comes with its own set of nuances and procedures that may give someone trying it for the first time a little bit of concern.

The good news is a back-to-back cruise is as fun as it sounds, and a very smooth process. Here's what you need to know about it all.

What is a back-to-back cruise?

When someone says they are doing a back-to-back cruise, it means they are doing multiple cruises in a row on the same ship.

Rather than get off the ship at the end of the cruise, they are remaining onboard for another sailing.  

Royal Caribbean refers to such guests "Consecutive Cruisers".

A similar concept is when someone goes on a sailing on one ship and then disembarks to board a different ship right after. That is known as a "side-to-side" cruise.

Why would you want to do a back-to-back cruise?

There are many reasons to consider doing more than one cruise in a row. The most obvious is to prolong your vacation, but there are other rationales as well.

Back to back cruises can allow you to maximize the value of your airfare. Rather than fly down for a 3-night cruise, doing a back-to-back means you get more time on the ship to justify the airline price.

In addition, doing a back-to-back cruise can expand the ports you visit. It is not uncommon for a ship to sail one itinerary and then follow it up with a different itinerary. In the Caribbean, ships often alternative between Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries. A back-to-back allows you to do both.

Speaking of itineraries, it also has an advantage if you are considering an open-jaw sailing.  In Alaska, some sailings begin in one port and end in another. By doing a back-to-back, you can avoid having to deal with flying to and from different cities.

How does a back-to-back cruise work?

The procedure for a back-to-back cruise is usually the same for most passengers.

Once on board the first cruise it's always a good idea to stop by Guest Services and ensure they have you on the list as a consecutive cruiser, otherwise they expect you to leave like a regular guest at the end of the first cruise.

Towards the end of the first sailing, passengers staying onboard for the next sailing will receive a letter in their stateroom on what to do on turnaround day.

Royal Caribbean pushes back final payment for cruises departing through January 2022 | Royal Caribbean Blog

In most cases, the letter instructs the passenger to report to a venue at a specific time.

When they arrive, a crew member will take their name and stateroom and sign them in.  Once all the other passengers are off the ship, guests staying onboard are escorted to the gangway where they scan their old SeaPass card and then are given new SeaPass cards to scan to begin the next sailing.

In the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) dictates the process for consecutive cruisers.  More often than not they will require all guests disembark so that the ship reaches "zero count" before they allow guests for the next sailing to begin boarding. 

In some ports, consecutive cruisers are sometimes walked off the ship and into the terminal before returning onboard.  In either case, back-to-back cruisers are the last passengers off the ship and the first ones back onboard.

Sometimes consecutive cruisers are offered a special lunch or sometimes they are offered sparkling wine and mimosas upon reboarding.  This varies from ship to ship. 

How do I book a back-to-back cruise?

There are no specific back-to-back cruises to book; you simply book two cruises that happen to be one right after the other.

You book them as two separate cruises.  It's on you or your travel agent to find cabins that meet your needs.  

Royal Caribbean updates cruise booking website with cleaner design | Royal Caribbean Blog

A good idea is to use two web browsers so you can do searches for cabins on two different dates at the same time. Find two dates and looking at each in a different browser to find cabins that are the same... or better yet, ask a travel agent to look for you

You can always book another cruise later on and turn it into a back-to-back, but you are less likely to find the same cabin.

Can I book the same stateroom for both sailings?

7 things you should know about your cruise ship cabin | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you booked the same stateroom, yes.  Ultimately, it is up to you to book the same room.

The most desirable back-to-back sailing often means booking the same cabin for both cruises.  There is no check box for this when searching for cruise, it's up to you or your travel agent to find a cabin that is available to book for both cruises.  This is easier to do when booking cruises that are far in the future.  

When booking the cruises closer to sail date, it's often difficult or impossible to book the same cabin for both cruises.  The cruise line offers no assistance in this effort and they will not ask someone to change cabins so that you can stay on for the next cruise.

The advantage of having the same cabin for both sailings is you can leave your belongings in the cabin between cruises and even access your cabin while other rooms are being changed.

If I change cabins, how does my luggage move?

Cruise FAQ: Cabins | Royal Caribbean Blog

This is a bit of gray area, but usually your stateroom attendant will assist in the moving of luggage from one cabin to another.

Talk to your stateroom attendant towards the end of the first sailing about how to best move your belongings. Some attendants will offer to move everything for you, and some will instruct you to leave your bags outside the room to be moved.

To be perfectly honest, I always tip the stateroom attendant first for a job well done, and then ask about how to best move my luggage for the next sailing.

Is there a discount for back-to-back cruises?

Oasis of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan | Royal Caribbean Blog

Generally there is no discount for doing multiple cruises in a row.

Royal Caribbean does not recognize a back-to-back cruise as anything but two separate reservations that just happen to be right after each other.

In some situations, there has been a discount offered for passengers to stay onboard for another sailing by booking the next sailing at the NextCruise office. This tends to be rare, and not something to count on being offered.

Do I need to do the muster drill for each sailing on a back-to-back?

Yes, maritime law requires all passengers to conduct the mandatory safety drill on a cruise, regardless of if you did it last week or not.

While you are doing consecutive cruises, each cruise is a separate sailing, and the Coast Guard makes no distinction between someone going on more than one sailing and someone on for just one cruise.

Are there any restrictions on back-to-back cruises due to Covid-19?

Live Blogging from Adventure of the Seas - Preamble | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean welcomes guests to do as many back-to-back cruises as they as they wish, including kids of any vaccination status. 

There was a restriction on unvaccinated kids doing back-to-back cruises on the first sailings to return in 2021, but that has since changed.

The travel requirements and health protocols are the same as a single cruise, and back-to-back cruisers will need to meet all those requirements.

All guests 2 years of age and older, regardless of vaccination status, are required to take a COVID-19 test producing negative results between each sailing. This test will be arranged by Royal Caribbean at no expense to the guest, as long as your consecutive cruises are less than 3 days apart. 

Packing for a back-to-back cruise

Something easily overlooked when planning to do more than one cruise in a row is laundry. You'll need to pack wisely when your overall journey is longer.  

Some items can be repeated such as formal wear for both cruises.  Some items, like bathing suits, can be rinsed and hung to dry so they work for both cruises. 

Sometimes you just need to bring more clothes and more suitcases to last for both cruises, or just plan to pay for laundry services on board.  Royal Caribbean offers "wash and fold" specials that are not cheap, but not overly expensive either.