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Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: May 13, 2017

14 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Happy Mothers Day! All the moms out there deserve a big hug, thank you and hopefully a cruise too.

Royal Caribbean announced a new non-refundable cruise fare program that will begin in July.

As of July 1, 2017, the fleet-wide launch of nonrefundable deposit fares will debut across all ships. When making a cruise reservation at least 6-months prior to sailing, guests who opt to take advantage of nonrefundable deposit fares will automatically qualify to earn up to $100 per stateroom to spend at sea. Early booking credit is combinable with the existing promotional offer available at time of booking.

Change fees are only incurred should an adjustment to the ship and/or sail date occur; therefore, no change fee will be assessed upon swapping between category types on the same ship and sail date.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 197th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, sharing tips about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise to Cuba.

In this episode, Halee joins Matt to talk about her recent cruise to Cuba and what the experience was like on the first sailing.  Halee also shares tips and advice for anyone visiting Cuba soon.

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.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Seatrade interviewed Royal Caribbean SVP of Hotel Operations about the changes coming to CocoCay.

In The Loop Travel has a new video from their recent Navigator of the Seas cruise.

Royal Caribbean has ways to make Mother's Day even better with a cruise.

Spotted: Sabor on Harmony of the Seas changes to all-inclusive pricing

13 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Guests aboard this week's Harmony of the Seas sailing may notice a new pricing structure at Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Todd Fagan shared photos of the new menu at Sabor on Harmony of the Seas, in which there is no longer a la carte pricing. Instead, the menu resembles that of Sabor Modern Mexican, found on Freedom and Voyager Class Royal Caribbean ships, where a cover charge includes all the food on the menu.  

The new price for lunch or dinner at Sabor is $19 per guest. Todd noted the staff incidcated the price is the same all day, regardless of when you go, and supposedly will be like that for the foreseeable future. They no longer have an a la carte option.

Until now, Sabor on Oasis Class ships have always been priced on an a la carte basis. 

Checking Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner, we can see the $19 price listed for an upcoming Harmony of the Seas sailing in July.

Looking back on one year since Harmony of the Seas debuted

12 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

It is hard to believe, but one year ago today, Royal Caribbean took delivery of Harmony of the Seas.

In her first year in service, Harmony of the Seas has made a big impact on the cruise industry and we wanted to look back on the events that shaped her first year.


Following 32 months of construction, on May 12, 2016, Royal Caribbean took delivery of Harmony of the Seas from STX France shipyard at a traditional delivery and flag changing ceremony in Saint Nazaire, France.

Joining the festivities in the ship’s signature AquaTheater were Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International together with Laurent Castaing, General Manager, STX France.

This would mark the beginning of Harmony of the Seas' service in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and a momentous day many in the company and public had been looking forward to for so very long.

Arrival in Southampton

Before Harmony of the Seas would visit the warm waters of the Mediterranean or call Port Everglades home, she visited Southampton, U.K. on May 17, 2016 to offer early sailings.

Harmony of the Seas offered guests some quick sailings from Southampton to Northern Europe, prior to beginning her summer season in Barcelona.

Harmony of the Seas began maiden Mediterranean season

On June 9, 2016, Harmony of the Seas began her inaugural cruise season from her summer homeport of Barcelona, Spain. 

Guests on the first sailing enjoyed a five-night Western Mediterranean itinerary with visits to Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples, Italy. Guests from 34 countries flocked to enjoy that historic occasion.  For the rest of the summer, Harmony of the Seas offered seven-night Western Mediterranean itineraries, showcasing Europe’s most popular destinations – Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence (Marseilles), France; Florence/Pisa, Rome and Naples, Italy.

Godmother chosen

Believe it or not, Harmony of the Seas did not have a Godmother until October 2016, when a contest concluded among educators in South Florida and a winner was chosen.

Brittany Affolter was the lucky winner, having distinguished herself from her work with Teach for America in Miami-Dade County.  Brittany supported and inspired a number of high-needs schools in Royal Caribbean’s hometown.

The ship's Godmother, Brittany Affolter from Teach For America Miami-Dade, was selected as Godmother of Harmony of the Seas for her work in inspiring South Florida’s next generation to dream big, think differently and challenge the status quo. Royal Caribbean conducted a six-week search and received nearly one thousand nominees for the honor usually reserved for celebrities and royalty.

Epic meet up

How do you celebrate the arrival of Harmony of the Seas to the United States? How about an incredible photo opportunity with her sister ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas?

On November 6, 2016, Harmony of the Seas greeted her sister ships off the coast of Florida.

The world’s most adventure-packed ship was fêted with an adventurous take on the traditional flotilla send-off, complete with a team of 16 jetboard and jetpack riders from the world-renowned Aquafly Hydroflight Sports Performance Team leading Harmony out to sea and performing a show of extraordinary stunts.

DNCE rocked Friendsgiving

Part of the celebration involved with Harmony of the Seas' arrival at her homeport of Port Everglades, Florida included a private concert with multi-platinum-selling band DNCE.

In a spin-off of Thanksgiving, Royal Caribbean celebrated "Friendsgiving" by throwing, "the Ultimate Friendsgiving party" onboard Harmony of the Seas. The concert was held in the AquaTheater on November 11, 2016.

DNCE live from world's largest cruise ship!

A post shared by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Harmony of the Seas officially named

Following maritime tradition, Royal Caribbean officially named Harmony of the Seas on November 13, 2016 that was centered around the ship's Godmother, Brittany Affolter.

The event took place onboard Harmony of the Seas, and included Affolter, as well as singer-songwriter Jon Secada. The two took turns during the event to celebrate the ship's official arrival in her new home.

To cap off the evening, an array of fireworks filled the sky over Port Everglades in commemoration of this special day.

Your favorite memory

What was your favorite memory from Harmony of the Seas' first year?  Share them in the comments below, and be sure to include photos if you happened to be onboard!

Friday Photos

12 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Friday is here, which means two things: the weekend is close at hand and it is time to share our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean photos! Each week, we invite our readers to share with us their favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos so that we can all enjoy a "virtual escape" to a cruise ship.

Here we go!

Our first photo is from Kyle Ritch, and it is of a sunset photo taken on his last day on Liberty of the Seas.

Ron Britt sent this photo from the North Star on Anthem of the Seas, just as the ship was leaving Nassau, Bahamas.

This photo was taken at the Top Tier Crown and Anchor Society party on Jewel of the Seas, by Lisa Matt. What a neat spot for a party!

Scuba Steve sent in this photo he took while on an excursion in St. Maarten, during an Oasis of the Seas cruise. Talk about a close encounter!

John Siegmund shared this double rainbow that was off the port side of Majesty of the Seas.

Here is a photo of Navigator of the Seas coming into Galveston, Texas, taken by Chuck and Karen.

We wrap things up with this photo by Kathy Weldon of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as seen from Grandeur of the Seas.

Thank you to everyone for sharing their photos with us this week.  If you want to share your own Royal Caribbean memories with us, use this form to send them in. Have a great weekend!

Expert tips and advice for visiting Cuba on a cruise

11 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean made headlines last month with the commencement of regular cruises that stop in Cuba, which marked a historic milestone for the cruise line. With more and more sailings destined to visit Havana, we reached out to experts that recently visited Cuba on their cruise for advice and tips when spending the day in Havana.

We spoke with three writers who just wrapped up cruises to Havana.


Colleen: Bring your visa and passport with you when you disembark – but know you’ll be turning over your visa when you go through customs. If you’re getting back on and off the ship, customs officials only need to see your passport stamp. Your visa will remain on file with customs. If you’re concerned about handing over your visa, take a photo of it on your phone before you disembark.

Halee: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.  A lot of the walkways are cobble stone and not kept up (not everything is handicap accessible).

John: Get up early to watch the sail in to Havana harbor. This is a wonderfully scenic port to pull into at sunrise and the forward decks can fill up fast with people wanting to snap pictures. The city reveals itself on the starboard side, and a fortress (El Morro) and statue of Jesus.

Halee: Print out a Map of Old Havana area to keep with a notebook.  This way you can mark where you've been (in case customs asks if you venture off) and have an idea of where you are.   While you are pre planning you can also mark things you want to see prior to going.


John: Havana is extremely walkable and interesting. Make time to wander and explore. The people are friendly, and we found many who wanted to know where we were from just to chat and tell us how excited Americans were able to finally come see their country.

Colleen: Book your excursions before you sail. This ensures you will get to do what you want to do, and it also takes the hassle out of making sure you are adhering to the strict Cuba travel requirements.

John: Many might also ask whether you are interested in cigars or rum and tell you about a "Today only, the cooperative is having a half-price sale. And when you buy from the cooperative, this helps Cuban people get food vouchers." This "cooperative" is really a private business out of sight of the government, and the hawker might ask to show you where it is and lead you to a room in a private residence where they indeed might have really good deals on cigars. But you should know what is really happening so you can decide whether to go make a purchase. Note: the cigars we saw in these cooperative can be about $5 each compared with about $10 or more at an official store you can find along the waterfront or other areas in the city.


Colleen: You can pay in U.S. dollars or Euros. Yes, cash is king in Cuba, and more and more, businesses are taking American and European currency. Be aware: You will get your change in Cuban Convertible Pesos, though. That’s the Cuban tourist currency, and you can only spend it in Cuba.

Colleen: At some places, like Havana’s famous Tropicana Club, you’ll actually spend more if you pay with U.S. dollars. For example, a beer cost 5 pesos, but if you paid in U.S. dollars, it was $6. Presumably, this is to cover the hefty 10% tax the Cuban government levies on purchases made using the U.S. dollar. If you’re concerned, convert your dollars to euros before you travel to Cuba; there is no tax on the euro. Speaking of cash, take lots of it if you plan to shop, and make sure you have plenty of small denominations for tipping.

Halee: Download a Currency Exchange App (I used XE Currency).  It works offline with the most recent data from when it was online so if you are unsure on the conversion you can have peace of mind.


John: Grab a freshly made guarapo. This is a national drink for Cubans. You can find vendors feeding stalks of sugarcane into contraptions to squeeze out fresh sugarcane juice. It's added to chipped ice and makes a high-calorie and refreshingly tasty energy drink to give you a quick pick-me-up as you wander Havana on a hot day. It's cheap, too, going for less than $1. Also, try to grab a snack of churros at one of the street stands. We heard people raving about the warm, sugary fried dough sticks they got for $ for a dozen.

Royal Caribbean offering bonus sale with extra savings

10 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is adding bonus instant savings to its current Maycation Sale, where guests can get up to $100 off the cruise fare.

The Maycation Bonus Sale is valid on sailings on or after June 10, 2017, excluding China departures booked between May 10 - 16, 2017.

Qualifying sailings will get up to $100 off per stateroom

Five nights or less

  • Interior/Oceanview: $25 off per stateroom
  • Balcony/Suite: $50 off per stateroom

Six nights or longer

  • Interior/Oceanview: $50 off per stateroom
  • Balcony/Suite: $100 off per stateroom

Royal Caribbean is also offering an Oasis Class Bonus discount (excluding Symphony of the Seas). Bookings made between May 10, 2017 through May 17, 2017 at 6:59AM on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas sailings departing on or after June 10, 2017 are eligible for an additional dollars off determined by stateroom category booked:

  • Interior/Oceanview: $50 Off per stateroom
  • Balcony :$150 Off per stateroom
  • Suites: $300 Off per stateroom

Maycation 30% is combinable with adjoining Dollars Off, Crown & Anchor discounts, NextCruise offers and Shareholder Benefits. Dollars Off is not combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts or Shareholder Benefits. Maycation 30%, and Dollars Off are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including but not limited to, restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, and Military), Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, and Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of the United States and Canada.

Royal Caribbean opens year-long Cuba cruises

10 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has expanded its cruises to Cuba on Empress of the Seas with 58 cruises of 4- and 5-night itineraries from January 2018 through March 2019, more than half offering overnight stays.

Empress of the Seas will return to Tampa for summer 2018, offering a series of 4- and 5-night cruises, calling on Key West, Florida, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, as well as Havana, Cuba on most sailings. The ship will reposition to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the winter 2018-2019 season, continuing short Caribbean adventures to the Caribbean destinations. Currently, Empress sails from Tampa through Nov. 4, 2017. The ship then returns to Miami for the winter 2017-2018 season, adding calls to Royal Caribbean’s private island destination CocoCay and Nassau in The Bahamas.

"Since arriving in Cuba for the first time last month, we’ve seen the excitement of our guests when sailing into Havana and the passion they have for the city at sail away – its people, its architecture, its food, its music. This is the enthusiasm we strive to bring to adventure-seekers who vacation with us," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "The positive reaction to our Cuba sailings is very encouraging, and we are thrilled to expand on the number of sailings for our 2018-2019 itineraries."

Cruising to Cuba on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

10 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 197 is available for downloading, which has a first-hand review from the first Royal Caribbean cruise to Cuba.

Royal Caribbean is now offering cruises to Cuba on Empress of the Seas, and this week, Halee shares her experience visiting Cuba.  She shares tips and advice for anyone who is visiting Cuba on their cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 197. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean announces new non-refundable deposit program

09 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today a new non-refundable deposit program, which is an addition to the traditional refundable deposit model.  

When making a cruise reservation at least 6-months prior to sailing, guests who opt to take advantage of nonrefundable deposit fares will automatically qualify to earn up to $100 per stateroom to spend at sea. Early booking credit is combinable with the existing promotional offer available at time of booking,

As of July 1, 2017, the fleet-wide launch of nonrefundable deposit fares will debut across all ships. A soft launch will occur via promotion on May 26th 2017 on select ships/sail dates.

Royal Caribbean also announced a a non-refundable deposit will become the only option for those guests interested in reserving an upper Suite (specifically Grand Suite or higher). This also holds true for guarantee categories, including W/WS, X/XB, XN, Y/YO, and Z/Z.

In an effort to deter continual or late ship/sail date adjustments, a change fee of $100 per guest will be imposed to all reservations booked under a nonrefundable deposit fare that opts to change either the ship and/or sail date originally selected. Such fees will be incurred, without exception, at time of change, thus, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that your clients are aware of the detailed terms of this program at time of booking. Multiple adjustments to the ship and/or sail date of a booking will result in the assessment of a $100 per guest change fee for each qualifying change made to the reservation. There is no limit on the number of change fees that can be incurred.

Change fees are only incurred should an adjustment to the ship and/or sail date occur; therefore, no change fee will be assessed upon swapping between category types on the same ship and sail date.

If guests opt to cancel a cruise reserved under the nonrefundable deposit fare, that is outside of final payment, guests will receive a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of their designated cruise deposit, less the $100 per guest change fee. Such Future Cruise Certificates can be applied towards a future Royal Caribbean cruise vacation when reserved within 1 year of the issue date. Thereafter, the Future Cruise Certificate will expire and becomes invalid.

Nonrefundable deposit fares are combinable with promotional onboard credit offers, Crown & Anchor discounts, and NextCruise benefits.

What do you think of this new non-refundable deposit program? Will you take advantage of it? Let us know in the comments!

Royal Caribbean named one of America's Best Employers by Forbes

09 May 2017
Matt Hochberg

Forbes announced today that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has been named to the Forbes List of Best Large Employers for 2017.

Forbes surveyed 30,000 American employees working for large or midsize companies. Respondents were asked to rate their employer on the quality of the work environment and whether they would recommend their company to potential employees as one of the most important factors in the assessment.

"I am extremely pleased that Forbes has recognized Royal Caribbean as one of America’s Best Employers of 2017," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "This recognition would not be possible without our employees. It is because of their passion, determination and commitment that we are constantly able to push the boundaries of what is possible."