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Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas restarts cruises from Tampa

16 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship has resumed sailing this week.

LIVE - "Back on Brilliance, baby!" Brilliance of the Seas February 14-18, 2019 - Live Blogs - Royal Caribbean Blog

Brilliance of the Seas is scheduled to sail from Tampa, Florida on Thursday, which marks Brilliance's return to service.

Brilliance of the Seas completed her test cruise earlier this month, and received its Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to start cruising.

This will be the first time Brilliance sails with paying passengers in over 21 months.

Brilliance of the Seas B2B Live Blog – Michael's Cruise Preview | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean requires all passengers 12 and older sailing from Florida to present proof of full Covid-19 vaccination with the final dose administered at least 14 days before sailing.

Children age 11 and under do not require Covid-19 vaccination to cruise. However, kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may present proof of full vaccination and follow the protocols for vaccinated guests. 

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 must undergo 2 more Covid-19 tests at the cruise terminal and prior to disembarking.

LIVE - "Back on Brilliance, baby!" Brilliance of the Seas February 14-18, 2019 - Page 9 - Live Blogs - Royal Caribbean Blog

All crew onboard all ships in the fleet will be fully vaccinated.

Brilliance will offer 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa. Itineraries include stops in Costa Maya, Cozumel, Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Guests who have been vaccinated will have full access to venues onboard, and will not need to wear a face mask at vaccinated-only venues. Here is a list of venues and activities available to vaccinated-only guests, as well as everyone.


Brilliance of the Seas is just the latest cruise ship to return to service after being shutdown in early 2020. She is now the 19th Royal Caribbean International ship to restart sailings again.

Enchantment of the Seas will be the last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to restart cruises before 2021 comes to an end, with a few more ships scheduled to restart operations in early 2022.

Live blogging from Brilliance of the Seas 2018 - Preamble | Royal Caribbean Blog

Brilliance will sail from Tampa until the end of March, at which point she will move to Europe to begin her summer season.

Royal Caribbean releases 7-night Caribbean sailings for summer 2023

16 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean released new 5-night cruises and 7- to 8-night sailings Caribbean sailings for summer 2023 that are available to book immediately.

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

Highlighting the new offerings is Allure of the Seas will sail from Royal Caribbean's new terminal in Galveston year-round and Wonder of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral year-round (Nov. 2022 – Oct. 2023).

Harmony of the Seas will move to Miami to be based there for the first time.

Summer 2023 Caribbean cruises are now open, with more Caribbean getaways to be revealed early next year.

Here's a look at what Royal Caribbean has planned for summer 2023 in the Caribbean:

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas finishes ship-wide refurbishment | Royal Caribbean Blog

Allure of the Seas sailing from Galveston will be the first Oasis Class ship to call Galveston home.

Royal Caribbean has extended Allure’s Texas debut in winter 2022-2023 and opened a lineup of 7-night Western Caribbean cruises. Itineraries include stops at  Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and Roatan, Honduras.

The new cruise terminal in Galveston will open in October 2022.

The 161,300-square-foot and LEED-certified terminal, built in partnership with Galveston Wharves, was built to be able to accommodate Royal Caribbean's largest ships, including Oasis and Icon Class ships.

Wonder of the Seas will offer summer cruises from the United States for the first time in 2023 when she sails from Port Canaveral, extending its newly announced 2022 winter season that starts in November.

Cruises on Wonder of the Seas will include 7-night  Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises. Highlights include Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Cozumel; and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

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

Harmony of the Seas will transition to Miami, offering 7-night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises to places like Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Charlotte
Amalie; Oranjestad, Aruba; Costa Maya; and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

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

Mariner of the Seas will continue to call Port Canaveral home and sail a variety of of 5, 7 and 8 night cruises to Bermuda, and the Eastern, Western and Southern

And on all 8-night Bermuda and Perfect Day at CocoCay cruises, there are two nights in Bermuda.

View the full list of sailings:

Should you book a 2023 cruise now?

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

Booking a cruise for two years from now may seem like a strange idea, but booking early is one of the best ways to save money on a cruise.

One good reason to book a sailing now is to lock in the price when it is among the lowest you will find. Cruise prices fluctuate a lot, and over time, prices tend to increase as people book up rooms.

You can always reprice the cruise later with the Best Price Guarantee program, which allows for repricing of cruises in case of a price drop.

5 giant suites you can book on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Another good reason to book a 2022 cruise is if you are interested in a specific room.  Certain room categories or locations get booked up quickly because of their popularity and limited options.

Suites, staterooms with extra large balconies, and other unique staterooms are popular among cruise fans and booking now is a great way to secure these cabins for yourself.

More about Caribbean cruises:

Europe 2023 deployment delayed

Europe was also scheduled to be released this week, but that has been pushed back.

Royal Caribbean updated its deployment schedule and the Europe 2023 cruises have been delayed for the second time.

Originally, Europe Summer 2023 was set to open the week of December 6, 2021, but they delayed it until the week of December 13. It will now be released on the week of January 3, 2022.

Royal Caribbean redeploys three Oasis Class cruise ships in 2022 & 2023

15 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Three of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships will play a game of musical chairs for sailings scheduled in 2022 and 2023.

First Oasis Class cruise ship restarts sailings in Europe | Royal Caribbean Blog

The changes include some cancellations and redeployments, partially due to Royal Caribbean's announcement earlier today that Wonder of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral in November 2022 to April 2023.

The changes apply to previously scheduled sailings on Symphony, Harmony, & Wonder of the Seas.

Here is a breakdown of the changes:

Wonder of the Seas

Before today's announcement, Royal Caribbean had Wonder of the Seas sailing from China.  

Impacted sailings are between October 29th, 2022 – January 17th, 2023.

The Wonder of the Seas 10/29/22 – 1/17/23: China sailings are cancelled, since Wonder has been redeployed to Port Canaveral.

Non-China guests are provided option of 125% FCC or 100% Refund.

Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas 2020 Live Blog - Cruise Preview | Royal Caribbean Blog

Wonder of the Seas will replace Harmony of the Seas in Port Canaveral, affecting Harmony of the Seas sailings between November 6th, 2022 – April 23rd, 2023.

The November 6, 2022 sailing is cancelled. Guests booked on this sailing will be provided option to rebook on a select sailing or 100% refund.

Harmony of the Seas sailings between November 13, 2022 – April 23rd, 2023 have been transferred to Wonder of the Seas.

Video: One-Minute Tour of Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Guests will be auto transferred from Harmony to Wonder in like for like accommodations with price protection.

Guests booked in suites on Harmony will be contacted directly. Downgraded suites will have all Suite Class amenities protected, along with $300 onboard credit per stateroom.

Royal Caribbean also modified the itinerary of 7 sailings:

  • 5 itineraries removed Perfect Day at CocoCay. As a result, these bookings will be provided $100 OBC per stateroom.
  • 2 other itineraries had ports of call changed, with no onboard credit offered.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog | Royal Caribbean Blog

Instead of sailing from Port Canaveral, Harmony will be redeployed to Fort Lauderdale between 11/12/22 – 3/4/23 to offer new 6- and 8-night itineraries.

Harmony of the Seas then moves to Miami for cruises between 3/11/23 – 4/22/23 to replace Symphony of the Seas.

Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Post Round-up April 1, 2018 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Symphony of the Seas will have her deployment altered, but not replaced, for sailings between March 4th, 2023 – April 29th, 2023.

The March 4, 2023 sailing has been shortened from 7-Night to 5-Night. Guests will be provided $100 OBC to stay on sailing. They also have the option to stay on 5-night cruise, rebook a select sailing, or 100% refund.

Symphony of the Seas sailings between 3/11/23 - 4/29/23 have been transferred to Harmony of the Seas.

Guests will be auto transferred from Symphony to Harmony in like for like accommodations with price protection.

New itineraries

Symphony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean has provided new deployment fliers to reflect these changes.

Europe 2023 deployment delayed again

Royal Caribbean updated its deployment schedule and the Europe 2023 cruises have been delayed for the second time.

Originally, Europe Summer 2023 was set to open the week of December 6, 2021, but they delayed it until the week of December 13. It will now be released on the week of January 3, 2022.

Royal Caribbean will base Wonder of the Seas from Port Canaveral November 2022 - April 2023

15 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

The world's largest cruise ship will call Port Canaveral and the Central Florida area home next winter.

Royal Caribbean announced the soon-to-be-launched Wonder of the Seas will be based in Port Canaveral between November 2022 and April 2023.

From Port Canaveral, Wonder of the Seas will offer sailings to the Eastern Caribbean, including stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The cruise line says the new sailings open later today.

Wonder of the Seas was already scheduled to spend summer 2022 in Europe, and at the conclusion of her season there, she will transition to Port Canaveral to begin her winter season from Florida.

Wonder of the Seas is finalizing the construction process before she debuts in March 2022 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The inaugural sailing of Wonder of the Seas is scheduled for March 2022. Wonder will spend a few months in South Florida before heading to Europe in May 2022.

Wonder of the Seas is the fifth Oasis Class cruise ship and will take away of world's largest cruise ship from Symphony of the Seas when she debuts.

Wonder is 236,857 gross tons, measures 1,188 feet in length, and has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,988 passengers, in addition to 2,300 crew.

In fact, Wonder has 100 cabins more than Symphony of the Seas.

Another difference between Wonder of the Seas and other Oasis Class ships is the addition of an eighth neighborhood to offer a private suite area onboard the ship. It will feature an exclusive deck with its own pool, bar and plenty of sun loungers, as well as nooks for lounging.

Read moreWonder of the Seas tour

Planning a cruise? Here's some helpful articles:

Royal Caribbean will no longer let passengers get on or off the cruise ship at a different port of call

15 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean won't let you embark the ship at a different port of call or leave the ship earlier during your cruise.

The policy on the cruise line's downline embarkation has changed, according to an update sent to travel agents via email.

Up until now, passengers were able to request to embark or disembark at a port of call other than the scheduled embarkation/disembarkation port.

"Down lining" was on a request basis only, subject to consideration and approval by Royal Caribbean.  While they used to allow down lining, they also  discouraged it due to implications resulting from unscheduled itinerary changes and weather/sea conditions, which would have resulted in missing a guest's port of embarkation/debarkation. 

Baltimore | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean will no longer allow cruise passengers to pre-plan early debark or late embarkation for any of our ships.

Why the change? As many countries continue to enforce travel restrictions, Royal Caribbean says the decision was made "in an abundance of caution for the safety and security of our guests." 

Should guests who reserved flights through Royal Caribbean's Air2Sea program experience delays in air travel that result in missed cruise embarkation, downlining to a future port-of-call remains an option as long as the guest is fully vaccinated and able to show proof of required Covid-19 test results prior to boarding.

Will there be cruises to Europe in 2020? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Here is the full statement by Royal Caribbean:

“Royal Caribbean will no longer allow cruise passengers to pre-plan early debark or late embarkation for any of our ships. As many countries continue to enforce travel restrictions, this decision was made in an abundance of caution for the safety and security of our guests."

"Should guests who reserved flights through our Air2Sea program experience delays in air travel that result in missed cruise embarkation, downlining to a future port-of-call remains an option as long as the guest is fully vaccinated and able to show proof of required COVID-19 test results prior to boarding.”

Why would someone want to down line?

5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Joining a cruise ship after the cruise begins or leaving it before it ends sounds like an odd thing to want to do, but it happens more often than you might think.

A common reason to join the ship down line is if you miss the embarkation for some reason, or if at the end of the cruise you need or prefer to depart early for convenience.

Quite often it was used by someone who found a different port of call made it more convenient to join or depart the ship than where the cruise was scheduled to begin or end.

One of many Covid protocols

Over the past few weeks, Royal Caribbean has updated many policies as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some other recent actions include banning smoking in the casino, stricter mask rules, cutting off complimentary international Covid-19 tests and more.

Mariner of the Seas group cruise review - Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

Based on these changes, it appears the cruise line is looking to limit risk, as well as reduce the demand on crew members for certain functions.

The elimination of down lining not only cuts down on paperwork for the ship, but helps maintain the "bubble" approach to cruising in terms of limiting outside Covid-19 exposures.

Planning a cruise? Here's some helpful articles:

You will be able to renew your passport online thanks to new executive order

14 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Getting your passport renewed just got a lot easier, thanks to a new executive order.

The passport renewal process has traditionally been a burden that required an in-person appointment and plenty of paperwork. During the pandemic, the passport renewal queue became overrun and slowed to a crawl.  

But it it looks like now getting your passport renewed will be a lot easier.

President Biden directed the State Department to design and deliver a new online passport renewal experience that doesn’t require any physical documents to be mailed.

The "Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government" was signed on December 13, 2021 in an effort to save Americans time when they need to renew their passport. It also aims to reduce the effort and cost by requiring a post office visit and use checks.

"Every interaction between the Federal Government and the public, whether it involves renewing a passport or calling for a status update on a farm loan application, should be seen as an opportunity for the Government to save an individual’s time (and thus reduce “time taxes”) and to deliver the level of service that the public expects and deserves."

It is not clear when this new order will go into effect, nor when exactly the online passport renewal will become available, but it is a welcome step right in the right direction for travelers.

When the new site does launch, its goal is to offer a new online passport renewal experience that does not require any physical documents to be mailed.

Are passports required to go on a cruise?

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog Day 4 – Costa Maya | Royal Caribbean Blog

In short, American citizens need a passport for cruises that embark or disembark from a foreign country. Passports are also required for sailings that begin and end in different U.S. ports. 

However, U.S. Citizens on a closed loop sailing, a cruise that begins and ends in the same port in the United States, do not have to have a passport. Instead, they can travel with a government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

There are exceptions to Americans being able to cruise without a passport, such as if a country the ship is visiting requires a passport.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Whether you need one or not, it is a really good idea to get a passport.

First, going through Royal Caribbean's check-in and the customs process after the cruise is significantly easier with a passport.

Second, if you were ever stuck in a foreign country, having a passport means being able to get home very simple.

Without a passport in a foreign country, you would need to obtain a temporary passport for reentry into the United States, but it is a time-consuming process.

How fast do cruise ships go?

14 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Cruise ships are massive ocean going vessels packed with lots to do, so how fast can they really go?

What to expect on your first cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

To move a ship as large as Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships requires a combination of power generation and efficiency. After all, the easier something is to get going, the less energy required overall.

If you have seen a modern cruise ship up close, they are quite large and can move from port to port, and even continent to continent.

Here's everything you may have wondered about cruise ships and their speeds.

How fast can a cruise ship travel?

Royal Caribbean trademarks crown-shaped smokestack | Royal Caribbean Blog

Depending on the exact ship, cruise ships can get up to a good speed given the need.

Cruise ship speeds are measured in knots, and one knot is 1.15078 miles per hour on land.

According to Royal Caribbean, their ships average a speed between 18 to 20 knots, depending on the specific ship and itinerary travelled. This is equivalent to 20 to 23 miles per hour on land.

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

But how fast can they get up to if they needed? During her sea trials in 2016, Harmony of the Seas' top speed was in excess of 25 knots, making her the fastest cruise ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet at the time.

The reality is ships never approach their top speed because it's just not good for fuel consumption.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain explained that it makes more sense to cruise at a lower speed, "We would never go at that speed."

Time running out to send your comments to the CDC on cruises restarting | Royal Caribbean Blog

"The real objective is to go 18 or 19 knots much more efficiently, (and) the thing that makes it able to do that also makes it faster."

According to Fain, the fastest speed that other Royal Caribbean ships is under 25 knots.

In order to measure a ship's top speed, they calculate an average that takes into consideration going with and against the waves in the ocean. The weather plays a major role in how fast a ship could travel, just like how an airplane's top speed can depend on how strong of a tail or headwind it encounters.

Similarly, a ship's displacement, condition of the hull and propeller, or draft can all factor into a ship's top speed.

How cruise ships can go faster

Harmony of the Seas construction reaching a milestone | Royal Caribbean Blog

Looking at a massive cruise ship, it looks to be challenge to move the ships at almost any normal speed, so how do they do it?

The secret in managing speed versus fuel efficiency is in the ship's engineering.

Over the years, cruise ship design has seen improvements of the hull design and other design tweaks meant to allow the ship to move at faster speeds. As an example, Harmony of the Seas is 20% more efficient than Oasis or Allure of the Seas, thanks to improvements in hydrodynamic design, a new type of engine and product enhancements

Four Royal Caribbean cruise ships will get dry dock work in Spain | Royal Caribbean Blog

One example of using science to help ships be faster is via the installation of an air bubble system under the hull. Tiny bubbles stick to the bottom of the ship's hull so the ship literally is sailing on a cushion of air.

This air lubrication system allows the ship to float on air, with millions of tiny bubbles created under the hull to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. 

Essentially, every improvement means cruise ships can go faster with the same fuel use or the same speed with less energy.

What is the fastest cruise ship in the world?

Because Royal Caribbean cruise ships are meant to be pleasure vessel (as opposed to ocean liners that are designed to get passengers from one port to another), speed is not a major objective for these ships.

But fast speeds are still needed in the case of an onboard emergency, or to outrun bad weather.

By most accounts, the fastest ship is/was Cunard's Queen Mary 2, with a top speed of 30 knots, or 35 mph.  She was just a tad slower than sister vessel Queen Elizabeth 2, which ad a reported top speed of 32 knots.

Instead of the diesel-electric configuration found on many ships, Queen Mary 2 uses an integrated electric propulsion to achieve her faster-than-average speeds.

Beyond those Cunard ships, many contemporary cruise ships clock in right around Harmony of the Seas' top speed of around 25 knots.

Why do cruise ships travel at a slower speed?

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Not only do cruise ships rarely travel at their fastest speed, but they often go much slower.

There can be many reasons why a cruise ship slows down, and it's not just to save fuel. Certainly fuel consumption can play a major role in determining what speed to travel at, but other conditions can dictate a slower speed.

One common reason is a short distance between ports of call. Cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in port at a certain time, and each hour they spend in port costs the company money in docking fees. As a result, a ship will reduce speed so they arrive exactly at the time they are scheduled to dock, and not earlier.

Live blogging from Adventure of the Seas – Day 6 – Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

On sea days, it is common for a ship to slow down to follow favorable weather so passengers can enjoy the sunshine. This is especially the case when the distance to the next port is short.

Sometimes, the Captain will even slow a ship down to everyone can see a sunset or other passing scenery.

In some places around the world, government regulations require cruise ships to travel at a slow speed. 

Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2022

14 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will offer cruises to Alaska in 2022 on four of its cruise ships.

The Alaska cruise season in 2022 is shaping up to be a big season, with a full season of cruising following the partial 2021 Alaska cruise season.

No matter which Royal Caribbean ship you pick, each offers onboard activities, signature attractions and specialty dining options that will compliment a vacation to the Last Frontier quite well.

Since there are a few different options for a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise, here is a breakdown of what to expect from each.

Ovation of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Victoria, British Columbia; the Inside Passage, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska. 

Once again, Royal Caribbean will send its Quantum Class favorite to Alaska to offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises .

Ovation of the Seas is one of the largest ships in the region, offering some of the latest innovations Royal Caribbean is known for onboard the ship. 

Being a Quantum Class ship, Quantum of the Seas offers a ton to experience onboard, which is perfect for families.

  • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
  • Izumi sushi
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Jamie's Italian restaurant
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Sailing from Seattle, getting to Ovation of the Seas by air is the least-expensive and most convenient choice of Royal Caribbean's Alaska fleet. Flights within the United States tend to be cheaper to Seattle, compared to Vancouver departures.

Why pick Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do and dining on a Royal Caribbean ship to Alaska. This means you are not compromising on the onboard experience by picking Ovation.

In fact, it is among the newest and largest ships to sail to Alaska, which means guests used to a certain level of amenities on their Royal Caribbean cruises in the Caribbean will not miss a beat.

The indoor pools for guests of all ages and the indoor SeaPlex provide significantly more activities for guests in a place where rain and chilly temperatures are constantly present. Pool deck life on other ships is nearly nonexistent compared to Ovation.

Moreover, the ship sails from the convenient port of Seattle, which makes airfare cheaper and more plentiful for Americans.

Quantum of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Victoria, British Columbia; the Inside Passage, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska. 

Quantum of the Seas will sail from the Pacific Northwest for the first time when she calls Seattle home in May 2022.

Just like Ovation of the Seas, Quantum will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises departing on Mondays. Quantum of the Seas will begin her Alaska itineraries with a May 9 sailing, and her season will extend through the end of September 2022.

Being a Quantum Class ship, Quantum of the Seas offers a ton to experience onboard, which is perfect for families.

  • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
  • Izumi sushi
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Jamie's Italian restaurant
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Quantum of the Seas

Just like Ovation of the Seas, you will not compromise with the onboard experience if you sail on Quantum of the Seas.

What makes Quantum of the Seas stand apart from Ovation is it is often less expensive than sailing on Ovation of the Seas. This means more money to spend on an amazing shore excursion.

Quantum sails from Seattle, which makes it easy and inexpensive to get to for most Americans.

Onboard the ship, you will find plenty to see, do and eat onboard.

Radiance of the Seas

Homeports: Vancouver, BC and Seward, Alaska

Ports: Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Radiance of the Seas has been one of the most consistently deployed ships by Royal Caribbean to Alaska, and she returns in 2022 to offer 7-night Northbound/Southbound Glacier cruises, along with 9-13 night Alaskan & Canadian Cruisetours.

Sailing alternating, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward, Radiance will introduce a second northbound itinerary that includes a visit to Icy Strait Point – a port owned and operated by native Alaskans. Southbound sailings will introduce an evening call to Haines.

Guests looking to maximize their time in Alaska can opt to add on a land tour that can extend their cruise before or after (or both) to visit destinations inland that would otherwise be unavailable to see on a cruise ship.

Radiance of the Seas is best known for:

  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
  • Izumi sushi
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Indoor movie theater
  • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
  • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
  • Mini golf
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Radiance of the Seas

Any cruiser that has been to Alaska multiple times will tell you that Radiance of the Seas has arguably the "superior" itinerary, in terms of what you will see and experience from the ship.  Radiance sails to more ports and sees more glaciers than Ovation of the Seas, which means opportunity to see far more of the impressive and best-known glaciers and wildlife in Alaska.

A Radiance Class ship is also famous for the views you can enjoy throughout the ship, since glass is incorporated in many places.  Views around the ship while still inside are plentiful.

If you have the means, an optional land tour can be combined with a Radiance of the Seas cruise to become truly immersed in Alaska.

Serenade of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Juneau, Skagway, the Inside Passage.

Serenade of the Seas is returning to Alaska and she will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience roundtrip sailings from Vancouver, British Columbia.

First Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail to Alaska in two years departs today | Royal Caribbean Blog

Serenade will also offer a full-day visit to Haines, in addition to a double glacier itinerary that features both the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, and the Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America.

An Alaska cruise on Serenade of the Seas will offer sailings that cover 500 miles of shoreline that is the Inside Passage, calling on Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, from Vancouver.

Guests on board Serenade can extend their stay with Royal Caribbean’s signature CruiseTours, a series of 2- to 6-night pre- or post-cruise land tours led by local experts. Royal Caribbean also offers 5- to 6-night Canada CruiseTour options with visits to Banff, Calgary and more.

Serenade of the Seas is best known for:

  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
  • Izumi sushi
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Indoor movie theater
  • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
  • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
  • Mini golf
  • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Serenade of the Seas

Comparing Serenade of the Seas' sailings to sister ship Radiance of the Seas, the basic difference is Serenade offers a more convenient roundtrip sailing, instead of an open-jaw itinerary.

Like Radiance, Serenade offers add-on land tours as well to enhance the visit.

More Alaska cruise info

Want to learn more about a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, as well as helpful tips and secrets? Check out these blog posts:

2022 Royal Caribbean Cruise Planning Guide

13 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2022, like so many aspects of life these days, will require some adjustments and changes along the way, but the end result is still a fun family vacation.

Slowly but surely, Royal Caribbean International cruises are returning and a sense of normalcy onboard with them. More ships will return to service in 2022, along with the ability for more passengers to sail with higher capacities onboard and more ports of call re-opening their doors.

Without a doubt 2022 will see more passengers back onboard ships, but it is unlikely to be just like how things were in 2019.  Instead, cruise passengers can expect an adjusted, albeit still compelling, cruise ship experience. It is still very important for cruise passengers to be as flexible as possible when beginning the cruise planning process to ensure you are not caught in a tough spot. 

It may come as a surprise to first-time cruisers just how much goes into planning a cruise vacation. Sure, you can plop yourself at the pool everyday and call that a great break, but in reality, Royal Caribbean offers its guests so many great things to see and do that it can be overwhelming without a plan.

There is a ton to know before you take a Royal Caribbean cruise, and while planning requires a bit more time, the payoff is worth it.  After taking dozens of Royal Caribbean cruises, I have have learned a lot, and try to distill it into something easy to absorb to make your planning easier.

This page is a jumping off point 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.

Covid-19 protocols

Royal Caribbean CEO talks about upcoming end of CDC's Conditional Sail Order | Royal Caribbean Blog

Before I jump into how to score a deal on a drink package, or decide which ship is great for family cruises, we need to talk about the question everyone who is considering a cruise in 2022 will want to know: what rules and protocols can passengers expect during their voyage.

Royal Caribbean's restart of cruises has been as successful as it has been due to its stringent and effective protocols.

The first thing you should know about Covid-19 protocols on Royal Caribbean is they change a lot, no one knows what they may be by the time you sail, and to expect changes between what they are today and when you sail.

The cruise line does its best to convey protocol changes to passengers before the cruise begins, but ultimately it is up to passengers to vigilantly keep up with changes, especially in the weeks leading up to the cruise. It's quite easy to check what they are on Royal Caribbean's website.

Until further notice, it is a safe bet a common core of protocols will be in place for the year:

  • Proof of Covid-19 vaccines for passengers 12 years and older
  • Pre-cruise test for all passengers, regardless of vaccination

Royal Caribbean has said it intends to make cruise ships "safer than walking down Main Street, USA." It is not only a refrain, but it is based on the fact they can control many more facets of the environment on a cruise ship than land based destinations.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the previous two years, it is that last minute changes in approaches, rules, and best practices happen a lot.  

As for whether a Royal Caribbean cruise is safe enough to sail during the pandemic is something no one can answer for you. I believe it is sufficiently safe for my family, but everyone's risk tolerance is different. The advent of Covid-19 vaccines certainly gives my family much more confidence in going, and the cruise line is taking steps unparalleled anywhere else on land.  I know of no other resort, theme park, airline or venue that requires full testing of all customers, vaccinations for its workers, and a slew of other changes.

More information:

Pre-cruise COVID-19 testing

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

Perhaps no new health protocol gives cruisers as much anxiety as the negative test result they must show before the cruise.

Royal Caribbean requires all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to take a Covid-19 test prior to embarkation day and show a negative result before being allowed to board.

The exact testing requirements may vary depending on if your cruise sails from North America, Europe, or elsewhere, but here is what Royal Caribbean requires of U.S. homeports in terms of testing:

  • Vaccinated guests must show a negative COVID-19 test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day. 
  • Unvaccinated kids departing on or after December 17, 2021 must show a negative test result for a PCR test (not antigen) taken no more than 3 days before boarding day.
  • Kids’ pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids’ test at the terminal.
  • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test. 

I tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you are fully vaccinated, the easiest approach to getting your test done and processed quickly is an at-home test. Royal Caribbean accepts the  Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test because it is supervised and administered remotely via a video session. 

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Unvaccinated kids ages 2 to 11 will need to get a negative PCR test result before the cruise.

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Ideally, try to schedule a test so you can minimize waiting. CVS and Walgreens offer appointments in advance, although it can be challenging at times to get an appointment.

Many other locations offer Covid testing, but without a reservation. Urgent care locations are a reliable way to get a Covid test, and most take customers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Another option is to get tested at the airport you are flying into. You can make an appointment for a rapid PCR test at the airport — either the one from which they’re departing or the one at which they’re arriving. (For travelers who are not flying, some airports will still take appointments even if you don’t have a flight booked.) 

The key for unvaccinated kids is to get their test done as early as you can in the window of time you have so that the test results can come back in ti,e.

What's new for 2022

Single FlowRider and other changes on Wonder of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Discussion - Royal Caribbean Blog

There are two major new offerings by Royal Caribbean you should keep an eye on in 2022.

In March 2022, Wonder of the Seas will begin cruises and become the new largest cruise ship in the world. Wonder will begin cruises from North America when she sails from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Following her brief spring season, Wonder moves to Europe to sail seven-night Mediterranean cruises, calling on ports like Capri and Palma de Mallorca.

Wonder of the Seas begins sea trials | Royal Caribbean Blog

What makes Wonder different from other Oasis Class cruise ships? Besides being slightly larger, she will have a a brand-new Suite Neighborhood, bringing the number of onboard neighborhoods from seven to eight.

The Suite Neighborhood offers Royal Suite Class cruisers access to a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck with a plunge pool and dedicated bar. 

The ship will also offer a reimagined pool area; Wonder Playscape, an interactive, top-deck family play area; and The Vue, a cantilevered bar that offers panoramic sea views.

Royal Caribbean has not revealed everything new about Wonder of the Seas yet, but they have never shied away from innovation when it comes to their Oasis Class ships.

A new expansion to Perfect Day at CocoCay is tentatively scheduled bring an adults-only area to the private island in 2022.

Friday Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

The plan is for this expansion to open in "late 2022", although nothing more specific has been divulged.

Hideaway Beach will be complimentary, and located on the western end of the island adjacent to Thrill Waterpark.

When to take a cruise

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for sailings through March 2022 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Many people are curious what time of the year is ideal for taking a cruise, as well as what the cheapest month to go on a cruise happens to be. There are many factors to the price of a cruise, including the month.

While we recommend the best times to book a Royal Caribbean cruise, considerations such as the school calendar, personal obligations, work schedule and more all narrow the window of time.  Still, it is important to be aware of the times of year to find lower cruise fares.

Mailbag: What are the chances my cruise will sail? | Royal Caribbean Blog

In general, you will find lower fares if you are willing to cruise during the "shoulder seasons" and/or when school is usually in session, such as these times of the year:

  • January (minus New Years holiday)
  • Most of February
  • May
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

If you are looking for a cruise during other times of the year, the good news is Royal Caribbean will still run a fair share of promotions to help bring the cost down of its cruise. 

If you follow cruise prices over any length of time, you will likely notice a number of different offers.  Each offer may focus on discounting one aspect of the cruise fare over another, but the important thing to remember is in most countries, you can re-price up until final payment date in the event the price drops.

In short, there is no bad time of the year to take a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Sailings are designed to be entertainment for guests regardless of what the calendar may say.  It is important to know that there can be peaks and valleys, in terms of demand and crowds in the ports you will visit, but the cruise experience overall is great year-round.

How long of a cruise should you choose?

The length of the cruise you should take depends on what type of vacation you are considering.  Are you looking for a weekend escape, or do you want to get away from it all?

If this is your first cruise, I recommend going on a five to seven night sailing on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship. Shorter cruises go by so quickly that you have little to get acclimated to what a cruise is all about. Ultimately, the exact length of your cruise may depend on how much vacation time you have and which ports of call you are interested in visiting.

Plus, Oasis Class ships have some of the latest and greatest features across the fleet. This includes Central Park, rock-climbing wall, surf simulator, and water slides.

Quantum Class ships have their own assortment of signature areas and activities, such as North Star, SeaPlex, sky diving simulator, rock walls, and excellent youth programs.

By going with a slightly longer cruise, you will have the opportunity to really explore the ship and enjoy the experience.  Shorter cruises go by so quickly and for someone new to cruising, it may not provide enough time on ship or on shore to really get a sense of it all. Moreover, on a per-night basis, the cost of a cruise tends to be cheaper the longer the sailing. 

Royal Caribbean ships are designed to be destinations rather than just a floating hotel room, so you will want more time to experience it all.  I typically find cruises closer to a week in length provide a great balance of value, time and opportunity. It is understandable if you are at the mercy of work or school calendars, which limit how much time your cruise can be.

Speaking of vacation time and planning, you will want to pad your cruise vacation with at least one day before your cruise.  A very common mistake first timer cruisers make is to arrive the day of the cruise.  There are so many travel delays that can occur, so why put your cruise vacation at risk? 

People that cruise a lot will always fly in at least one day before their cruise leaves and that's to avoid travel nightmares that the airlines are notorious for. Delays, weather and breakdowns happen consistently so don't let those kind of inconveniences cause you to miss your cruise. Getting in a day early will give you plenty of time to get past any travel delays you encounter with the added bonus of beginning your vacation a day earlier!

How to choose a cruise ship

Florida | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean has many cruise ships that vary in size, offerings, and things to do onboard.

While Royal Caribbean's ships tend to be big, there is enough variation among the different classes of ships to offer everyone a good choice.

These ships are not just built to be big, rather, they are built to be large enough to house all the really cool adventures that await you.  Looking back to our first way Royal Caribbean differentiates itself, all those innovative activities need to go somewhere and so Royal Caribbean has built its ships bigger and bigger to offer more and more to its guests.

7 ways Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is different from other Oasis-class ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Despite their size, Royal Caribbean designed these ships to be easy to get around. Each of the Oasis class ships has 7 distinct neighborhoods that have their own look and feel. The neighborhood concept makes getting around easier because areas of the ship do not blend into each other.

In fact, first timer cruisers might find the largest and newest Royal Caribbean ships to be an ideal pick because they offer the latest innovations, entertainment, technology and choices.

Perhaps you live somewhere where getting to an Oasis class ship is not practical or feasible, or you generally prefer smaller ships. There are lots of other great ships in the fleet to consider.  

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

First, are the Quantum class ships, which are also quite new but not quite as large as the Oasis class ships. It can be argued that Quantum class ships were designed with first time cruisers in mind.  Just like the Oasis class ships, the Quantum class ships offer a number of Royal Caribbean advancements and some of the finest dining and entertainment at sea.

The Voyager and Freedom class ships are slightly smaller, but offer an amazing value for large ships. They are also dispersed more widely than their larger cousins, and still offer a lot to see and do onboard. Many Royal Caribbean veterans love the Voyager and Freedom class ships for their well-proportioned size, dining choices and activities onboard. The "sweet spot" of Royal Caribbean pricing tends to fall right in with the Voyager and Freedom class ships because the newer ships have drawn much of the attention, and the other ship's premium pricing means there are some really good deals to be found.

Radiance and Vision class ships make up the smallest ships in the fleet, but what they lack in size, they make up for in port variety, great value and beauty onboard.

Serenade of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

To paraphrase the Jedi Master Yoda, judge not these ships by their size. While they may lack surf simulators and bumper cars, they make up for in classic cruise experience. These smaller ships can get to ports of call that larger ships cannot, as well as offer a more intimate experience in relationship with your fellow guests. Not to mention, these smaller ships also come with a lower price tag! There is absolutely nothing wrong with these ships, but it is worth understanding what these ships offer (and do not offer) onboard when picking the right ship for you.

In terms of those that are new to cruising, I recommend an Oasis- or Quantum-class cruise ship because they offer the most options and seem to match up well with what first time cruisers expect on a cruise ship.  Even if you have never taken a cruise before, these two classes of ships offer the kind of impressive features that many first timers read about being on the latest cruise ships.

First Timers' Guide to Oasis of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Some of the best value these days are in the recently amplified ships that received major new upgrades, but still retain a lower average price than newer ships in the fleet. Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and more that have gotten work done since the Royal Amplified program began in 2018 are excellent choices as well.

Many people ask me what is the worst Royal Caribbean cruise ship, but the reality is every ship has its merits, so it is really a question of what do you want the ship to have onboard, and does the ship you are considering have that.

Which cabin to book

Which room type is right for you is another major consideration in picking the right cruise.

There are four basic types of cruise cabins:

  • Inside
  • Ocean view
  • Balcony
  • Suites

Royal Caribbean prices its cabins based on double occupancy, which means even if you want to sail alone, you're going to end up paying double.

When choosing your cabin, you'll have two cruise rates to pick between: refundable cruise fare and non-refundable cruise fare

Refundable cruise fare will cost more, but allow you to get a full cash refund if you decide to cancel or change plans before the final payment date.

Non-refundable cruise fare will save money on the total cost, but there is a change fee if you cancel or swap to a different sailing.

I recommend booking refundable cruise fare for peace of mind in case you change your mind later on, even if it will cost you more compared to non-refundable fares.

More than likely which cabin you want to book will depend on your budget, how many people are traveling with you, and personal preferences.

Balcony rooms are the most popular category, with Royal Caribbean dedicating more cabins to balcony rooms than in the past.

Read moreInterior vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise

How to book your cruise

What's the difference between a balcony and a suite cabin on a cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

When you are ready to make your Royal Caribbean cruise, you can certainly reserve your stateroom via, which offers a simple, yet robust means of choosing your ship, stateroom and dining preferences.

The best way to find and book the right cruise for you is by using a travel agent. Imagine having someone with a wealth of knowledge about Royal Caribbean that can help you with your particular circumstances, preferences, and needs. That is what a good travel agent provides. It is a back-and-forth dialogue, and they are there to hold your hand and give you personalized advice.

If you go this route, look for a travel agent who primarily or exclusively does Royal Caribbean related bookings. Travel agents that specialize in Royal Caribbean are often fans of the cruise line too and enjoy planning their own trips and want to share their knowledge with others.

5 giant suites you can book on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

When you seek out a travel agent, an agent with great knowledge of Royal Caribbean is critical to helping you have a better cruise experience. Royal Caribbean has spent an incredible amount of time and resources to help educate agents in what Royal Caribbean offers and it all ends up benefiting you.

Most travel agents specializing in Royal Caribbean are "no fee" agencies, which means it costs you absolutely nothing extra to book the cruise reservation from them (Royal Caribbean pays the travel agent a commission). Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean. If you are not convinced using a free travel agency that is recommended by Royal Caribbean is right for you, read our post discussing the benefits they offer.

What to pack

Whether you are new to cruising or not, what to pack (and not pack) can be quite a challenge. In fact, it might sound hard to believe, but I hear from a lot of guests that packing anxiety is a major concern. Packing correctly can save you time and money, and improve your overall experience.

There is sometimes a great deal of anxiety about trying to understand what to wear on a Royal Caribbean cruise and then packing properly. The good news is cruising these days is a far cry from the "old days" of cruising in the last century when ball gowns and tuxedos with tails and top hats.  While there is still formal nights, Royal Caribbean is pretty open about what you can wear throughout the cruise but at dinner time, there's still a few elements of formality left to consider.  And for those that don't want to dress up beyond t-shirts and shorts, Royal Caribbean has options for you as well.

We have spent a lot of time scouring the internet for packing lists, packing ideas, (and sometimes divine intervention) to know what is important to bring.  Everyone's definition of what is important will vary, but we go over the really important things that no cruise is complete without in this important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise post.

There are some objectively important items that everyone needs to have with them on their cruise, or the cruise will not happen.  

  • Passport
  • Proof of Covid-19 vaccine
  • Pre-cruise Covid test results
  • SetSail Pass (via your Royal Caribbean app)
  • Credit card
  • Travel insurance documentation (if purchased)
  • Cash in the form of small bills for tipping

Yes, we did say you should get a passport, because it is the best travel investment you can make. Having a passport safeguards you and your family in the event of a travel emergency overseas.  If you were to be stranded outside the country with anything but a passport, it would present a very big problem for you.  Instead, get a passport and ensure your family will navigate any situation with the greatest of ease.

Cruise FAQ: Dining | Royal Caribbean Blog

You might of also heard about dress codes on Royal Caribbean ships, and we are going to share with you a secret about them.

You do not have to dress up at all.

Dress codes pertain to what guests must wear if they elect to dine in certain restaurants on the ship. Anywhere else, there is no dress code, and that means it is far simpler to prepare for life onboard a ship. It really is up to you how dressed up or not dressed up, you wish to be.

The only places you will need to adjust what you wear is in select restaurants.  The main dining room has a dress code for every night, which is stipulated in Royal Caribbean's daily newsletter, the Cruise Compass.  It varies from casual to formal and applies to dinner only.  

For breakfast and lunch, the main dining room has a less stringent dress code of no swimsuits, hats, tank tops or other pool clothing.

The specialty restaurants always have a dress code that falls somewhere between casual and formal that Royal Caribbean calls "smart casual".  Royal Caribbean defines it as, "jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women. Other complimentary restaurants such as the Windjammer or Cafe Promenade simply require shoes and a shirt. 

What to pre-purchase before your cruise

Right after booking a cruise, Royal Caribbean allows guests to register their cruise on their My Cruises section of the Royal Caribbean web site and manage their reservation, with the option of booking dining, entertainment and other purchases prior to the cruise.  Often, not all options are available for pre-booking and it leaves some guests wondering when they can do it. 

The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise. There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

Royal Caribbean provides a number of options to pre-purchase, but that does not mean you necessarily have to book it prior to stepping onboard. There are, however, some value to pre-purchasing some of these options, provided they are of interest to you.

2022 Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you are wondering when can you prebook these items, the simple answer is it depends, but eventually, the Cruise Planner will provide anything that can be reserved prior to a cruise. Here are the things you ought to book in advance, assuming you were going to get them to begin with (meaning, do not purchase a drink package if you had no interest in one before).

The drink and internet packages available via the Cruise Planner are quite often discounted significantly more than onboard the ship. In fact, the discounts available in the Cruise Planner regularly outperform any savings from booking them onboard. In addition, pre-booking means you will split up the total cost of the cruise because payment will be required at the time of booking. If one person in a cabin purchases an unlimited alcohol package, all others in the cabin aged 21 and over must purchase a package.   This may or may not be a problem for you, but it is important to be aware of the change.

A look at the specialty restaurants on Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Specialty restaurants are a bit more ambiguous in terms of having an advantage to pre-booking.  Discounts are far rarer than the drink and internet packages, and availability at specialty restaurants if one chooses to book them onboard is quite large.  Unless you have to dine at a particular restaurant, on a particular date and time, then you can wait to get onboard the ship and spend your onboard credit.

Anything else available for pre-booking presents little to no advantage to booking in advance. In fact, the Vitality Spa treatments are something I do not advocate booking in advance because there are so many spa specials available only onboard that you might be overpaying without first considering those. Shore excursions are also something that is not required to be booked prior to your cruise, unless there is a particular trip that you absolutely want to experience and would be upset if it was filled up, there is little incentive to pre-purchase shore excursions.  A good reason to wait to book an excursion with Royal Caribbean is to evaluate the weather closer to the date you will actually be there.

Where to eat on your cruise

In short, there are a lot of places to dine while onboard your cruise.  If you are hungry during your cruise, then you will not have to go very far to remedy that situation. Royal Caribbean offers a wealth of food to try, some of which is included in your cruise fare and some other options that have an additional cost.

When you book your cruise, you will have the option of picking traditional dining or My Time Dining.  Each has its benefits, so be sure to compare My Time Dining versus Traditional Dining along side your own preferences to know which option will work the best.

Specialty dining is an emerging trend aboard their ships, where guests may elect to pay extra to dine at one of these restaurants. Each specialty restaurant is focused on a particular cuisine or food style that is often not available onboard the ship.

In terms of understanding how dining works and which areas cost extra and what is included, check out our guide to Royal Caribbean food as a good starting point. We also have an overview of what's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare to lay out exactly what costs extra and what does not.

While I do believe you can go an entire cruise without spending a dime on food that is not included with your fare (and be quite content), I do advocate guests try a specialty restaurant or two for the terrific quality and service provided.  Specialty dining has become a focal point of the cruise experience, and it is a great way to enhance the cruise experience.  Just like opting to go out for dinner instead of cooking dinner at home, a specialty restaurant on Royal Caribbean ships is a fun reward to yourself.

What else to do

There is so much more you can see and do on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Of course, the ports you will visit are a major attraction for any sailing.  Swimming, exploring history, learning a new skill, and shopping are just some of the typical activities in most excursions.  If we tried to list it all, we would likely come up with a list even longer than this blog post!

The key to any good day in port is centered around educating yourself about all the options available, and nuances of the port you are visiting.  All too often, we see guests simply disembarking the cruise ship in port and then trying to figure out what to do.  The internet is a wealth of information on every port you will visit.

Shore excursions are a major part of any Royal Caribbean cruise because a large part of your overall vacation is exploring the ports of call you will visit. You have just a few hours at each stop, but it should be enough to get a taste of the city you are visiting. Check out our guide to picking the perfect shore excursion, and be on your way to nailing down some great plans in every port of call.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for first U.S. cruise ship sailing | Royal Caribbean Blog

Here are some other posts that cover "other stuff" on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and other ways to improve your vacation that do not really fit in the categories above:

Another way to get help (and build anticipation for!) your Royal Caribbean vacation is to join the Royal Caribbean Blog Message Boards. There are a lot of friendly folks who post in the forums, and they can offer their opinions and ideas on all things cruising. 

Cruise industry announces it will extend voluntary suspension of cruises through December 2020 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Remember, this blog post is just a starting point.  You will want to read our Getting Started section for a great array of hand-selected posts that are perfect for someone looking to jump into planning their first cruise. 

Our First Time Cruisers series of blog posts is also a great primer for someone new to cruising and/or Royal Caribbean.  Want to know where to eat? Our Specialty Restaurant reviews will help!

These are just a few of many posts mentioned in this article that will provide the foundation for your planning…but these 3 other posts are probably the most important of the bunch!

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks about vaccine and Florida's vaccine passport ban | Royal Caribbean Blog

If all of this is still overwhelming or you want personalized recommendations for a Royal Caribbean cruise, click here to get a vacation quote from a no fee travel agent that specializes in Royal Caribbean.

Your Thoughts

Are you taking a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2020 or 2021? If you are a Royal Caribbean veteran, what tips would you add to this? If you’re a first-timer, is there anything else you’d like to know? We love hearing from readers, whether it be questions from newbies or tips from seasoned Royal Caribbean pros with tips of their own to add!

Comparing Royal Caribbean's Private Islands: CocoCay & Labadee

13 Dec 2021
Marcy Miyar

Royal Caribbean operates two private islands that offer passengers a curated and exclusive experience where the cruise line manages the entire visit.

These days it's rare to find an itinerary in the Caribbean that does not include a stop at one of the private islands.  Although Royal Caribbean has temporarily stopped calls to Labadee for the time being, they have not abandoned the island and have said they will cruise there again at some point. 

Which private island is better for you?  What makes them different or are they pretty much the same?  Let’s take a detailed look at these two beautiful islands.

A brief history

While Labadee is known as a private island, it is actually a peninsula on Haiti’s north coast.  It was the first private destination for Royal Caribbean, who leased the land in 1986. 

CocoCay is actually named Little Stirrup Cay.  It was originally leased by Admiral Cruises in 1985.  When Royal Caribbean acquired Admiral Cruises in 1988, they took over the lease and changed the name. Leases for both islands run until 2050.  It’s a pretty good assumption that they’ll be renewed.

Perfect Day at CocoCay prices and costs | Royal Caribbean Blog

Both destinations were originally tender ports, meaning you had to take a small boat from the ship to the island.  Now they both have a pier that has made visiting there much easier and reliable. A pier allows cruise ships more flexibility with regard to weather conditions, thus meaning less missed calls.

Royal Caribbean invested heavily in a major overhaul in 2019 that saw over $250 million invested to expand the island's offerings with a waterpark with 13 slides; the region’s biggest wave pool; the region’s largest freshwater pool; and a beach club area for an extra cost aimed at those who want an elevated experience.

Climate & Topography

Since both private islands are in the tropics, the climate is very similar. 

It is usually hot and humid most of the year, with the highest temperatures in July.

Royal Caribbean celebrates one year anniversary of Perfect Day at CocoCay opening | Royal Caribbean Blog

Although CocoCay is located further north, their temperatures can dip into the 60’s in January.  Both destinations are in the path of a possible hurricane.  

CocoCay is mostly flat while Labadee is surrounded by lush vegetation and mountains. 

Things to do in CocoCay

Guide to Thrill Waterpark at Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

You can’t miss the advertising Royal Caribbean has been doing for Perfect Day at CocoCay since it’s refurbishment in 2019 and with good reason.  CocoCay has become a must-do destination.  It’s Thrill Waterpark has slides that can rival most theme parks on land.

They have zip lines that stop at various platforms throughout the park and island (1600 feet in all), a tethered helium balloon that lifts you up to 450 feet in the air and Splashaway Bay, a complimentary kids area with slides and water buckets.

CocoCay has the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, Oasis Lagoon, which also has a swim up bar.  For a fee you can rent one of the cabanas that surround the pool or just grab any of the free lounge chairs.  There is also a DJ providing music.

Royal Caribbean surveys guests on possible ideas for Perfect Day at CocoCay expansion | Royal Caribbean Blog

But what if you just want to relax?  Then head to the beach!  South Beach is a more quieter area since it’s further away.  You can upgrade your experience by purchasing a pass to the Coco Beach Club.  There you will also find a beach and the infinity pool. 

One of the most unique things about CocoCay are the floating cabanas.  They can accommodate up to 8 people and include access to the Coco Beach Club.

Coco Beach Club debuts at Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

You’ll have your own private slide into the ocean, a hammock that sits just over the water, a shower, a safe, and a dining area.  What I loved most about it was the ability to play our own music by connecting to the cabanas Bluetooth system. 

They are pretty expensive. The average price I’ve seen for my recent sailings has been $1699 and up, which I guess isn’t bad if you split it up between four couples but for just my husband and I, that price is hard to justify.  But sometimes you can find a deal.  We did last October and were happy that we could finally experience the cabanas.

Food on CocoCay

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

CocoCay offers a complimentary buffet with everything from burgers to tacos.

I love the Snack Shack that has chicken sandwiches, burgers, mozzarella sticks and funnel cakes.

Coco Beach Club: cost, tips & review | Royal Caribbean Blog

Captain Jack’s, which is adjacent to the Skippers Grill buffet, has flavored chicken wings and fries for a fee.

Coco Beach Club has a lunch that is more elevated than the complimentary options with lobster and filet mignon. If you have the drink package, it can also be used on both private islands.

Things to do in Labadee

Friday Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

Labadee was the first to introduce over the water cabanas. 

They are more of a simple design and don’t include all of the bells and whistles of the ones on CocoCay.  However, they’re quiet and have more of a secluded feel. They allow access to the ocean via a nearby staircase.

Another option is the hilltop cabanas that are farther away from the beach but have amazing views of the ocean and the ship. There are also beachfront and standard cabanas.

Barefoot Beach Cabanas on Royal Caribbean's Labadee | Royal Caribbean Blog

There is one thing Labadee has that the current CocoCay doesn’t, which is a “suites only” area called Barefoot Beach.  It’s definitely more peaceful there and makes for a relaxing day.

Labadee also has thrills of its own.  The Dragon’s Breath zip line starts 500 feet above sea level and plummets you at speeds up to 50 mph 2600 feet to the beach below.  It is the longest over the water zipline in the world.

For a bigger rush, you can zip line head first on Dragon’s Fire’s. Dragon’s Tail is an alpine style coaster that takes you around a mountain and there’s the Dragon’s Splash water slide.  The Arawak Aqua Park is in the ocean itself and has slides and trampolines.  

First timer's guide to Labadee | Royal Caribbean Blog

Labadee also offers tandem parasailing which I really enjoyed.  It takes you up about 400 feet and the views of the mountains are spectacular!

Both islands also have jet skiing, snorkeling and floating beach mats. One thing to keep in mind is that Labadee does not have a freshwater pool.  

Food on Labadee

Buffet dining is available throughout the island.  Again, there is an upgraded buffet at Barefoot Beach for the suite guests that includes lamb and filet mignon.

Similarities between CocoCay & Labadee

What you need to know about snorkeling on Royal Caribbean's Labadee | Royal Caribbean Blog

While you can pick out a number of ways Labadee and CocoCay are different from each other, they have a lot more in common.

At the heart of both visits is a beach day. You will find multiple beaches to visit, and each beach is included with the cost of your cruise (except for Coco Beach Club for an additional cost and Barefoot Beach for suite guests).

A complimentary lunch is also offered at both, along with certain activities such as hammocks, sports courts, and a splash area for younger kids.

40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

An opportunity to purchase local goods from residents of either The Bahamas or Haiti is also part of the islands experience. Be sure to bring cash if you wish to purchase a souvenir.

And no Royal Caribbean private destination is complete without a few bars to visit. In fact, both CocoCay and Labadee have a swim-up bar you can visit just off the beach.


You really can’t go wrong with a visit to either destination

While CocoCay has been updated with the latest amenities, Labadee has an unmatched natural beauty. Both destinations are a treat to have on any itinerary.