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Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Kitts

In:
22 Jul 2022
By: 
Angie Vognild

Hi everyone! My name is Angie. I am one of the Social Media Managers for Royal Caribbean Blog. I am going to be taking over the rest of the live blog for this sailing!

Today we arrived in St. Kitts. Joining me on this cruise is my mom, Patty, who loves cruising as much as I do.

We pulled into the port around 10:30 a.m., so we had plenty of time to enjoy breakfast in the Windjammer. We even got to see the mountainous and lush St. Kitts scenery while eating.

I always go for a sticky bun (they have different flavors every day), an omelet and cranberry bread (one of my all-time favorites). The last time I was on the Mariner in April, I was able to create my own omelet, but I could not this cruise. The standard ham and cheese combo is a good alternative.

We had an excursion today - “Catamaran Fan-ta-sea to Nevis with Snorkel and Beach” - with those of us on the group cruise.

We were instructed to meet the group outside at the white tents at 11 a.m. Since everyone was getting off the ship at the same time, it was quite busy and we weren’t sure if we would make it on time.

By 11:30 a.m., everyone had gotten off the ship and we were ready to board the 65-foot catamaran. It was a short walk to the catamaran, and I was glad we didn’t have to go on a bus ride to get there.

Since I am prone to motion sickness, I took some Dramamine and I was ready to go!

Once on board, we made our way about seven miles to Shitten Bay (I swear that is the real name). Here, we were able to snorkel or stay on the catamaran and enjoy the views. I opted for the snorkeling while Patty stayed on board and took photos.

I had a fun time swimming around and seeing all the different kinds of fish, rocks, coral, etc. I saw tons of Sergeant Major fish as well as Trumpetfish. One of the workers even dove down to show us an octopus hiding under a rock, a rainbow fish, and some pretty shells.

We snorkeled for about 45 minutes, then we had lunch on the catamaran. The menu included jerk chicken, mac n cheese pie, sweet potato pudding, rice and beans, and a lettuce salad. Drinks were also included. I had some fruit punch while many had soft drinks, rum punch, or beer.

After lunch, they took us to Nevis, a nearby island, which was about another four miles away. They dropped us off on the beach where we could do our own thing for an hour. There were plenty of lounging chairs with umbrellas, but I assumed they would cost extra. To my surprise, we sat down and no one asked us to pay. After being in the sun for quite a while, I wanted to get under some shade, especially since I burn easily.

Not long after sitting down did we get bombarded by locals trying to sell us stuff - jewelry, hats, dresses, t-shirts. I was not looking to buy anything but Patty was suckered into buying two hats for $15. It ends up she did alright negotiating because someone else on our excursion paid more from the same salesman.

A dip in the cool, clear water and some lounging beach time went by fast, as the catamaran was soon back to pick us up and head back to the ship.

We had a leisurely, hour-long trip back to the starting point. It was choppy waters at first, but then the last half was smooth sailing. I laid down in the front of the catamaran and relaxed while enjoying the beautiful landscapes.

This excursion was a fun experience! All four workers were friendly, helpful, and personable. One took extra care of the passengers that needed additional assistance. Another was great with the kids and gave them snacks and seashells. Captain Phil and his crew were always smiling, offering drinks, and asking if we needed anything.

As we were leaving, one of them gave me a magnet of a frog that said “Nevis” on it - it was very cute.

We arrived back at about 5 p.m. The ship was leaving at 5:30, so we did not have time to shop around. My mom always likes to get a t-shirt or two, but there was no time, so we headed back to the Mariner.

We have 5:30 dinner in the main dining room, and we were able to get there just a little late since we had to drop off things in our cabin and rinse off. Our waiters, Carol and Frederick, are always so accommodating and never make us feel bad if we arrive late.

Dinner was good as usual! My mom loves seafood, so she ordered the escargot, shrimp cocktail, and seafood cake. For the main course, I chose the chicken parmesan while mom decided to get the New York strip steak.

Dessert was tasty, as I got the Mississippi Mud Pie. Mom got the no-sugar-added dark chocolate custard. We also decided to share the lemon curd tartlet. All were great choices, but mom did say she wished the custard had some whipped cream on top.

After dinner, we tried to attend the 7 p.m. ice skating show, but it was too late as the person at the front said the venue was full. However, I did notice others going in since they had people saving them seats. We had to wait and try the 9:15 show instead.

To pass some time, we checked out the casino. As Diamond Plus members, we have $6 free play on any machine in the casino. Patty chose to play some Jacks or Better poker. It entertained her for over an hour; she doubled her money at one point, but then lost it all. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

Once it was almost time for the ice show, we got there early to snag seats. The venue was packed; there were even people standing behind the seats to watch the show. The show was “Ice Under the Big Top” and included lots of elaborate and colorful costumes and sets. It was an upbeat way to end a great day!

Tomorrow we will be in St. Croix.

CDC posts new Covid-19 recommendations for cruise ships

In:
21 Jul 2022
By: 
Hayley Phillips

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new recommendations pertaining to Covid-19 for cruise ships and cruise lines.

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Included in the recent post, the CDC addresses the following categories; onboard Covid-19 response plans, shoreside response plans, port operation components, medical care components, housing components, Covid-19 vaccines, surveillance for Covid-19, Covid-19 surveillance testing reminders, and procedures for embarking passengers including pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing.

This recent posting by the CDC comes on the heels of their announcement on July 18th, 2022 that the voluntary Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships was coming to an end.

Instead, the CDC would provide general guidance and recommendations to cruise lines for safe practices regarding Covid-19. With this new guidance, the CDC will instead provide general health and safety recommendations to cruise lines, this is very similar to how they are providing guidance to other areas of the travel industry, such as airlines.

CDC headquarters

“As of July 18, 2022, CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect. CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward,” states the CDC on their website.

The CDC stated in this new posting, “this guidance is based on the best available science regarding the subject areas covered. CDC will reevaluate the guidance for cruise ships periodically, based on scientific evidence and the state of the pandemic, and update the guidance as needed. CDC will notify cruise ship operators if the guidance is updated.”

As reported last week, the guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations, not changes being made to cruise line protocols. Each individual cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, will evaluate the recommendations made by the CDC and will choose what their individual protocols will be.

The most recent guidance presented by the CDC cover nearly every aspect of cruising, including Covid-19 vaccines. The CDC says the following about Covid-19 vaccines for cruise travelers, “CDC recommends all eligible travelers be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.”

The guidance also recommend that cruise ships conduct pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing saying, “to reduce likelihood of onboard transmission, cruise ship operators should consider requiring travelers to get tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days before travel) and present their negative test result prior to boarding. Testing within 1 day of embarkation is highly recommended.”

Covid test

The posted guidance by the CDC mean the organization is still recommending that cruise passengers be both vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as take a Covid-19 test prior to boarding a cruise ship.

It is important to know that this guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations for cruise lines, and that it is up to each cruise line which, if any, of the recommendations they choose to follow.

The decision to end the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, allows cruise lines to determine and set their own individual Covid-19 policies and requirements.

Royal Caribbean posts their Covid-19 requirements on their website under their “Healthy Sail Center”. “The U.S. CDC recently announced that the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect, and published recommendations to guide cruise lines as they determine protocols. Upon review, we will adjust our protocols and provide guidance to our guests. For now, our current protocols remain in effect for cruises departing U.S. homeports,” states Royal Caribbean on their website as of today, July 21, 2022.

Currently, Royal Caribbean has adjusted requirements for sailing depending on where the cruise ship embarks from. For example, passengers embarking on a cruise from Florida must meet the following requirements in order to sail: be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before sailing (children age 11 and under are not required to be vaccinated against Covid-19). Guests sailing from Florida are also required to take a Covid-19 test before sailing. “Before arriving on boarding day, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test on your own, at your own expense, to meet boarding requirements in line with U.S. CDC guidance. Vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more that 2 days before boarding day,” states Royal Caribbean on their website. Royal Caribbean’s Covid-19 requirements and protocols depends on the embarkation location and the destination of the cruise ship, it is important that guests check Royal Caribbean’s website for the most recent requirements before sailing. 

Serenade of the Seas in St Lucia

With the end of the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, it is likely that changes to Covid-19 protocols for cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean will be made.

For the most up to date Covid-19 protocols for cruising with Royal Caribbean read here.

Readers can view the most recent posting by the CDC pertaining to cruise ships here.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan, Puerto Rico

In:
21 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Next up in our port visits takes us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, but not until a bit later.

San Juan

The schedule has is in San Juan later in the day, so the first half of the day is more akin to a sea day.

I started things off as usual, grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks and going up to the pool deck. The morning breeze and lower temperature makes sitting in the adirondack chairs my favorite spot on Mariner of the Seas.

The Crown and Anchor Society Top Tier event was held today in the Royal Theater.

The Top Tier event is where the ship's staff thanks the cruisers onboard with the most loyalty reward points. It's nice to be recognized for being a loyal customer.

Immediately after we went to Cafe Promenade for a "pizza brunch" event, where chit chatted with a slice of Sorrento's Pizza.

After the event, we headed to the main dining room for lunch. 

Since we weren't due into San Juan until later in the afternoon, I decided a nap was a good idea.

Mariner of the Seas pulled into San Juan right around 3pm, and docked downtown.

We had no tour booked, so let everyone else disembark first, and then walked off the ship to start our explorations. 

Read more7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

It's very easy to walk around San Juan because the ship docks downtown and Old San Juan is fairly small.

We walked from the ship in the direction of the two Spanish forts, with a stop along the way anytime the kids spotted a stray cat.

Even at 4pm, it was very hot out still, so when we got to El Morro, it was great to have a very strong breeze to cool down.

We wanted to have dinner in San Juan, and tried one restaurant we had been to in the past, but they were at capacity. They recommended La Mallorquina, which happens to be the oldest restaurant in San Juan.

Their menu was primarily Puerto Rican food, but they had just enough variety for the pickier eaters to enjoy.

I went with mofongo, which is made with fried green plantains that are then mashed with garlic and topped with your favorite type of meat. 

Once the sun set, it became far more comfortable outside. We took the kids to Himalaya Ice to enjoy ice cream before heading back to the ship.

Back onboard, we went to watch sailaway. Whether sailing in or out, San Juan is very pretty. Since it was night, we got to see the city lit up on our departure.

We wrapped up our night with music in the pub.

Tomorrow we will be in St. Kitts.

7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

In:
20 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Most people will look to book a tour of some kind to go on while their cruise ship is in port, but you don't need an excursion to have an enjoyable day.

Cozumel coast with restaurants and bars

Shore excursions are a popular way to see the top tourist sights that any port has to offer, and it's definitely the right approach for knocking out these must-see places.

However, there is sometimes a port of call on a cruise where for one reason or another you opt not to book anything. Perhaps you've been there a few times already, or the weather doesn't look great, or you just need a break after port visits the previous couple of days.

Whatever the reason, there can be fun things to do in every port your cruise ship visits without a formal tour or plan.

Ship in Cozumel

Depending on the port, there can be more options than others. In some ports, the cruise ship will dock directly in a city, whereas others, the ship docks further away. Even the most rudimentary cruise ports usually have a few things worth doing, so I wanted to highlight suggestions for how to get off the ship and explore just a little bit without a plan.

Here's my list of seven ideas for how to have fun in a port without any excursion booked.

Drink for cheap at a bar

If you skipped a Royal Caribbean drink package but want to enjoy tropical drinks, going to a bar in port can save you a lot of money.

In the Caribbean especially, drinks will cost you significantly less than on your cruise ship. Not only is each beer and cocktail likely cheaper, there are usually better specials and larger drink sizes.

I have yet to find a port that a cruise ship visits without at least one bar somewhat near the port. Most ports that cruise ships visit have a port area, which is a secured area enclosed from the rest of the city or island. In this area, there are all sorts of vendors and bars are included.

Pirate Republic brewery

Some bars are steps away from the security checkpoint to get back onto the ship, which means there's no way you are missing the ship and minimal effort to get to and from the bar.

Find free wifi

Whether you bought an internet package on your ship or you're ready for "real" internet that doesn't take a minute to load that funny gif your sister sent you, there's usually plenty of places in port offering wifi access.

Just like the drink at the bar tip I just covered, you can usually find complimentary wifi at many bars and shops in port.  Some will require a password, which usually means buying something. Stop in for a drink, but stay for the wifi.

A good idea is to ask a crew member onboard the ship for places to go with free wifi, as crew members regularly visit these ports and seek out the internet too.

Ask locals for a nearby beach

Depending on the port you visit, there can be a beach you could walk to from where your ship docks.

This isn't possible in all ports, but sometimes there is a nearby beach. A good idea is to ask a local in the port for suggestions. 

Keep your expectations in line, as the closest beach may not be the most pristine stretch of sand and water you've ever seen, but you also didn't have to pay for a tour either.

Here are a few easily walkable beaches from select Caribbean ports:

  • Nassau: Junkanoo Beach
  • St. Maarten: Great Bay Beach
  • Cozumel: El Cid La Ceiba Hotel

Have lunch

A favorite to-do in any port if all I want to do is feel like I got off the ship and did something is to find a spot for lunch.

Just like the bars, there's usually a few restaurants in close proximity to where the cruise ships dock.

In cities like San Juan, Puerto Rico or Cozumel, there's far more choices than other ports.

Most serve up enough variety for the pickiest eaters. In fact, restaurants near the ships tend to offer more American food than authentic local cuisine, so don't worry too much about having to eat anything unusual.

If you are in the mood for authentic local cuisine, it would be a good idea to ask one of the vendors in the port for a suggestion. 

Be sure to bring cash, as credit cards are not always accepted.

Listen to live music

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise: Roatan | Royal Caribbean Blog

Another good idea for something different to do is find a musical act performing in port.

It's been my experience there are different musicians that perform in port for cruise ship passengers as they come and go.

Generally, you'll find most musical acts in the first few hours the ship docks and then again before the ship leaves because that's when foot traffic is highest in the port area.

Ideally, find a nearby bar you can sit at and enjoy the tunes. Be sure to bring some small change to tip the musician after enjoying the performance.

Go for a run

Oasis of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Costa Maya | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you like to jog, maybe take a break from the cruise ship running track and go for a run in port.

It's a good idea to research in advance where you can safely run near the port. Not all ports may have an area you can start running. Many places cruise ships visit are industrial ports, or simply not in an ideal part of town.

If nothing else, a short taxi ride should get you to a park, boardwalk, or good starting point.

Go to a supermarket

La Mega in Cozumel

One of my favorite DIY shore excursions is to go to a local supermarket and browse what they have.

This is a really fun shore excursion to do in a different country because it provides a lot of insight into the destination.

You can browse the aisles and see what is for sale, who is shopping, how much things cost and how to buy things. What is the popular snack food? How are things packaged? You will learn so much by lurking in the supermarket.

Read more6 things that happen on a cruise that nobody talks about

You'll probably need to take a taxi to get a supermarket.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Labadee

In:
20 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The first port of call on our Mariner of the Seas cruise is at Royal Caribbean's private destination in Haiti, known as Labadee.

Mariner of the Seas in Labadee

This was a full day visit, so we got the kids up and going with breakfast in the Windjammer so we could get off the ship and enjoy our day.

I booked cabana at Barefoot Beach prior to the cruise, which is the area of Labadee reserved for suite guests. About a week or two before the cruise, the cabanas here appeared on the Cruise Planner site.

When we got onboard the ship on the first day, I stopped at the Shore Excursion desk to ask if this was going to be a problem since I was not in a cabana. The staff informed me they had decided to open up the Barefoot Beach cabanas to all guests to book, so we were good to go.

The ship was cleared at 8:30am and we walked off around 9am.

The sun was shining and we headed to Barefoot Beach. 

There are three types of Barefoot Beach cabanas: Beach, Hilltop and Over the Water. We booked an over the water cabana.

Cabana number 4 is to to the right of the beach, and has steps adjacent to the cabana leading into the water.

The water temperature was perfect, and as the morning went on, the temperature started to rise and being in the water became a necessity.

At 11am, the group met up at one of the bars to enjoy the signature cocktail of Labadee, the Labadoozie. 

Unlike the cabanas at nearby Nellie's Beach, lunch was served in Barefoot Beach at a buffet towards the back of the area.

You'll find your typical beach lunch here, with chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. I recall the Barefoot Beach lunch had different options, like lobster or steak, but not today.

We ate lunch, and then took my oldest daughter to try something new to us: Sip and Paint.

Available to book through Royal Caribbean, there is about a 90 minute painting experience where you can paint a object while enjoying beach cocktails.

It's located on a hill near the entrance area, which has a fantastic breeze that made it incredibly comfortable despite the afternoon heat. I wouldn't have minded a hammock up there for a nap.

Each person has a choice to paint a clay pot or a wooden boat. Paint and a smock are provided, along with stencils.

Adults are served rum punch, while kids get fruit punch.

This was a nice change of pace from the usual beach day fun, and my daughter really enjoyed getting a creative break inbetween beach time.

After the painting, it was back to the beach to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.

Unfortunately, my oldest daughter got stung by something while in the water. It wasn't clear if it was a jellyfish or beach lice, but it hurt her quite a bit.

The lifeguard showed up immediately with vinegar spray, but it didn't help.  So we took her to the nearby first aid station.

To my surprise, there was a doctor on duty who triaged the situation and cleaned the area on her leg, and used hydrocortisone cream on it before giving her benadryl and motrin to help with the pain. No cost for the care.

It a little while, but the pain started to subside a bit, but going back on the ship so she could properly shower and use more of the hydrocortisone cream was the best idea.

They took her on ATV back to the ship and the hot water of the shower helped a lot.

We went to the main dining room for dinner. Since it's a group cruise, there are a series of tables together for everyone in the group to dine together.

Whenever I eat in the main dining room for dinner, I ask for Indian curry and they had two wonderful vegetarian options. One was chana masala (chickpeas) and the other was something else that I did not know the name, but it was wonderful.

I also sampled one of my favorite things on the main dining room menu, spaghetti bolognese.

I also couldn't resist a bowl of French onion soup.

After dinner, the kids went to the room to watch some movies and the adults were back in the pub on the Royal Promenade to see the pub singer, Darla. A good time was had by all.

Tomorrow we will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Stray Observations

I really love Mariner's elevators show which floor is next.

The wifi speeds on Mariner are nothing special, but it's been very serviceable. Certainly good enough to get the basic internet stuff done.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
19 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

We began our cruise with a sea day with a bright sky and lots to do onboard.

Sea day on Mariner of the Seas

I was happy to see quite a lot of activities offered onboard, so we started off with breakfast in the Windjammer once I could get the kids up and going.

There's a waffle station for breakfast, which is fantastic.

With the sea breeze on the pool deck, it was a nice start to the day and a lot of people decided to head up to the pool deck.

There's a Starbucks kiosk on Mariner of the Seas, so I decided to get an iced coffee from there. It's not included in my drink package, but I greatly prefer their iced coffee taste to what Cafe Promenade.

Our morning was fairly quiet, and we had our first group cruise event, where we played a Royal Caribbean edition of "Super Password", the classic 70's and 80's game show.

We had a conference room rented for our group, so we held our version in there.  For fun, here's a copy of the clues you can challenge your kids to:

  1. Parade
  2. Walkway
  3. Sorrentos
  4. Pub
  5. Neighborhood

Can you guess it? Royal Promenade!

At lunch, we had a private meal in the main dining room and got to enjoy the same lunch menu as The Key guests receive, which is essentially Chops Grille.

I had the steak burger, and it definitely hit the stop.

I headed back to the room after lunch to relax for a bit and then it was time to do a bar crawl around the ship.

A fun group cruise event is to go from bar to bar and explore the ship, while having a drink in each bar and hanging out with each other.

We ended up going to seven bars in a little over an hour. The bar service on Mariner has been fantastic. Little to no waits at all.

Dinner is our second night of the three night dining package, and we headed up to Jamie's Italian.

I think the best part of the menu at Jamie's are the appetizers.

When we got out of dinner, I headed to the casino to spend a little money. The craps table was very kind to me, and I did well for myself.

Our evening entertainment was in the Royal Theater to see "Gallery of Dreams". I'm not sure if I've seen this show before, but it's a collection of popular songs that the cast sing and dance to. 

There was a lot of energy, and at the very least, I knew the words to almost all the songs.

Tomorrow is our first port stop, and we'll be in Labadee.

Stray Observations

I met Captain Panos!

There was silent disco held on the Royal Promenade for families in the afternoon

In case you're wondering, Playmakers had the right TV feed to be able to show the homerun derby.

CDC ends Covid-19 program for cruise ships

In:
18 Jul 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

The end of U.S. government Covid-19 cruise ship protocols is here.

Wonder of the Seas

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced the end of its voluntary Covid-19 program. As of July 18, 2022, the program is no longer in effect; rather, the CDC will provide general guidance to help cruise lines continue providing a safe and healthy environment for all passengers and crew members.   

The CDC will now take a general approach to providing health and safety guidance to the cruising sector, similar to how it provides guidance to all other travel sectors.   

In regards to cruise line protocols, it's important to emphasize that nothing has changed yet.

Most cruise lines protocols still include vaccination and testing requirements; however, the cruise lines now have the freedom to choose their own protocols with the end of the voluntary Covid-19 program.  

This new phase of pandemic guidance is a welcome change for the cruise lines, as the CDC will not replace the voluntary program with any other program.

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

This is a step towards a new normal for the cruise industry, which had been strictly regulated by the CDC since the onset of the pandemic. 

Cruise Industry Reaction

Shortly after the CDC made the announcement, the cruise industry had an overall positive reaction to the news. 

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the association that represents the cruise industry, released a statement fully supporting the CDC's decision to end the program.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

The association gave the following statement in response to the change: "The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its member cruise lines welcome the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to end the CDC COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters in favor of a set of guidelines for public health operations on cruise ships."

The association said it looks forward to reviewing the new guidance details that will be posted on the CDC website in the coming days.

CLIA continued, "This is an important step forward in the CDC aligning the guidelines for cruises with those it has established for other travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors."

Finally, the association shared, "The sunsetting of the CDC Program, effective 18 July 2022, is a testament to the effectiveness of the industry’s comprehensive and robust protocols. In fact, cruising has become one of the safest forms of travel and among the most successful industries in mitigating the spread and severity of COVID-19, resulting in few passengers or crew becoming seriously ill or requiring hospitalization compared to hospital statistics for landside patients."

Voluntary Program Details

Radiance of the Seas

The CDC’s Voluntary Covid-19 was implemented at the expiration of the Conditional Sail Order, which expired in January 2022. During this time, the new omicron variant had been running rampant throughout the U.S. and cruise lines were navigating the spread of a more contagious variant both on land and at sea.

Today’s expiration of the program marks the start of a new era for the cruise lines, in which they can establish their own set of health and safety protocols.

Wonder of the Seas at night aerial

Under the CDC's voluntary Covid-19 program, cruise lines had the option to opt into 3 different programs voluntarily: Not Highly Vaccinated, Highly Vaccinated and Vaccination Standard of Excellence. 

Royal Caribbean joined the ‘highly-vaccinated program’, which required 95% of passengers on each sailing to be fully vaccinated. The program also required that 95% of the cruise ship’s crew be fully vaccinated as well. The highly vaccinated program, along with its policies and protocols, went into effect on February 25, 2022. 

By adapting the highly vaccinated program, passengers onboard Royal Caribbean’s sailings were no longer required to wear masks onboard. Instead, the cruise lines shifted to masks being optional for passengers.

This was a welcomed change for Royal Caribbean cruisers, as masks were previously required indoors during any period in which passengers were not eating or drinking actively.

The CDC required cruise lines that opted into the program to provide vaccination status for each participating cruise ship. The 95% threshold for vaccination was also required for every single voyage on each participating cruise ship.

Anthem of the Seas aerial

Participating ships were also required to document, surveillance and report onboard Covid-19 cases for each sailing to the CDC. Using this data, the CDC established a color-coding system to designate the spread of Covid-19 on each ship, which was published on a public dashboard. 

The end of the CDC's voluntary Covid-19 program reflects the travel industry's overall shift towards managing Covid-19 as a new normal.

Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

In:
18 Jul 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Sailing the Greek Isles is a dream for many cruisers, and knowing the ins and outs of cruising to Greece can help you plan this once-in-a-lifetime trip as smoothly as possible.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Greece each European cruise season, and visiting Greece via cruise ship offers the perfect way to see the country’s famous islands and attractions. Whether you’re interested in touring the birthplace of the Olympics, swimming at world-renowned beaches, or strolling charming villages, visiting Greece is sure to impress.

In this guide, we’ll review the top tips and tricks to know before you sail the Greek Isles. From picking an itinerary to packing, here are the top things to know.

In this guide:

Why go on a Greek Isles cruise

Ancient history

History buffs will be blown away by the archaeological sites and history to discover on a cruise to Greece. There are few cruise ports offering the opportunity to walk alongside ruins built over 2,500 years ago, yet you can discover ancient ruins in not just one, but several Greek cruise ports.

Even more “modern” history is still fascinating. Walking through the Old Towns of ports like Corfu, Kotor, Split will transport you back in time, and you’ll surely be in awe of how such magnificent structures were built so long ago.

Ferry vs. cruise

While on a Greek Isles cruise, you’ll likely spot plenty of ferries transporting locals and tourists from island to island. While visiting the Greek Isles by ferry will allow you more flexibility in how long you want to spend in each place, it also means you’ll constantly be lugging suitcases around from island to island.

If you book a cruise to the Greek Isles, you’ll only have to unpack once, yet you’ll be able to explore a new port nearly every day. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a classic cruise experience onboard in the evening without any stress about travel logistics from place to place.

Fresh, flavorful cuisine

One of the best aspects of a European cruise is tasting local cuisine in each port and country you visit, and Greece will certainly not disappoint when it comes to food. We recommend allotting 1-2 hours per port day to sit down for a nice Greek meal. Not only will it offer much-needed rest in the shade on hot summer days, but you’ll be able to taste local and regional specialties.

Starting your meal with a Greek salad is a must while in port, and you may want to try dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) as well. For the main course, most restaurants will offer a variety of grilled meats and fish, or you may opt for a traditional Greek moussaka, an oven-baked dish made with layers of eggplant, lamb, tomato, potato, and cheese.

Don’t forget to stop in a local bakery during your time in Greece! From Greek bagels to baklava and spinach & feta pies, your senses are sure to be overwhelmed in the best way possible.

Breathtaking scenery

Greece and the nearby countries you’ll visit are stunning. While the scenery can change from port to port, expect to see tall, rugged mountains and some of the most turquoise water you’ll ever see.

Nature lovers will appreciate the sheer variety of choices available on a Greek Isles cruise. If lounging by the beach is your idea of fun, you’ll find countless beautiful beaches to choose from. A Greek Isles cruise also offers plenty of hiking, kayaking, 4-wheeling, snorkeling, and more.

One thing you’ll appreciate about a Greek Isles cruise is the scenery you’ll spot throughout the entire sailing. Greek Isles cruises tend to stick relatively close to land, meaning you’ll almost always have views of nearby mountains and islands while at sea.

Greek Isles cruise ports

Most cruises to Greece will stop at three to four Greek ports. While each port is, in some way or another, quintessentially Greek, they each offer their own highlights. Some ports may fare best for a beach day whereas others are located nearby some of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

Having an understanding of what is offered in each Greek port can help you better select a cruise itinerary. No matter which itinerary you choose, however, you’ll likely be amazed by the beauty, culture, and charm of everywhere you visit in Greece.

Here are some of the ports to choose from on a Greek Isles cruise itinerary:

Santorini

Santorini is perhaps the most well-known of the Greek Isles. The island is famous for its white buildings topped with blue domes, dramatic sunsets, and romantic atmosphere. Popular activities for a day in Santorini include exploring the town of Oia, visiting the Red Beach, and taking a catamaran tour through the island’s underwater volcano.

Rhodes

Rhodes is most known for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While the 108 ft. statue has long been destroyed, the island still boasts a plethora of attractions for visitors to enjoy. Strolling through the Old Town, ascending the Acropolis of Rhodes, or spending the day at the beach are all great options.

Athens

The capital of Greece is a far cry from the quaint island villages you’ll find on a Greek Isles cruise, but it’s well worth a visit. With over 3 million people, Athens is a bustling city with a unique blend of ancient history and modern influences.

Athens is a common embarkation port for a Greek Isles cruise, so be sure to arrive 1-2 days before your cruise begins so you can have plenty of time for sightseeing. Many cruises departing from other Mediterranean ports will visit Athens as a port day, allowing passengers to visit the city’s top attractions, such as the Acropolis, before getting back onboard.

Chania (Crete)

Located on the Greek island of Crete, Chania is known for its colorful Venetian Harbor, which was built in the 14th century. Chania’s Old Town is a picture-perfect place to spend the day, but if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, don’t hesitate to book an excursion to discover Crete’s mountains and valleys.

Argostoli

Argostoli is the capital of the Greek island of Kefalonia, located in the Ionian Sea. While you can spend the day simply walking around town and tasting local cuisine, you may be more interested in Argostoli’s natural attractions.

From Melissani Cave’s sunlit waters to beaches with unbelievably-blue waters, you're sure to have a relaxing day in Argostoli. Don’t forget to try a glass of Robola wine while on the island of Kefalonia, as it’s said to be one of the best wine varieties in all of Greece.

Mykonos

Mykonos is another of Greece’s most popular islands, known for its beaches, villages, and nightlife. Cruise ships tender right off the coast of the Old Town, home to a maze of picturesque white stone buildings with cobalt blue doors. Don’t miss the historic Mykonos Windmills, where you can enjoy views of the island with a cool summer breeze.

Olympia (Katakolon)

Katakolon, located in western Greece, is a gateway to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games. A walk through the Olympia complex is a must when visiting Katakolon, where you’ll be able to see where the Olympic Games took place from 776 BC to 393 AD.

Olympia is approximately 45 minutes away from Katakolon. After returning from the archaeological site, be sure to take some time to walk around Katakolon’s town center, where plenty of shopping and restaurants await.

Zakynthos

If you’re looking for a beach day, look no further than Zakynthos. The island is known for its turquoise waters, blue caves, and white limestone cliffs. The most famous attraction in Zakynthos is a visit to Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, which has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Corfu

Corfu is an island located in the Adriatic sea, southwest of Albania and east of Italy. Due to its geographical location, the island has been influenced by a variety of cultures and people throughout history.

Walking through Corfu’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will allow you to transport yourself back in time to the island’s Venetian rule. If an active adventure is more your style, consider a 4-wheel adventure through Corfu’s hillsides or a coastal hike along Corfu’s crystal clear beaches.

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is not an island; it’s located in mainland Greece and is the second biggest city in the country. Don’t let this deter you, though, as the city offers plenty of activities for all interests. Consider a day trip to Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, which was regarded as the home of many Greek gods in Greek mythology.

If you’d prefer to stay close to the port, the city’s cafe-lined waterfront is sure to be a relaxing place to dine as you watch Thessaloniki’s bustling city life pass by.

Skiathos

Skiathos is not a very common port stop on a cruise to Greece, and you’ll likely see the stop on itineraries labeled “Mamma Mia Cruise”, named after the iconic musical filmed in Greece. With 60 beaches on the island, Skiathos can make for an excellent beach day.

Greek Isles cruise itineraries

It’s rare for a Greek Isles cruise to only visit Greece. In fact, even when a cruise is labeled “Greek Isles Cruise” on Royal Caribbean’s website, the itinerary usually includes one or two port stops in nearby countries in addition to Greece.

There are plenty of beautiful and historic ports in the Mediterranean to discover outside of Greece, but the type of Greek Isles itinerary you choose can influence what other countries and ports you’ll visit.

Greek & Adriatic cruises

Greek & Adriatic cruises combine visits to the Greek Isles with port stops along the Adriatic to ports in Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. Many of these cruises are one-way sailings from Athens, Greece to Venice (Ravenna), Italy and vice versa.

Common ports visited outside of Greece include Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro. Less common stops may include Koper, Slovenia and Bari, Italy.

Greece & Turkey cruises

Greece & Turkey cruises typically visit either Kusadasi or Istanbul in Turkey in addition to several Greek islands.

Kusadasi, located nearby the famous ancient city of Ephesus, is much more common as a port stop than Istanbul. Both ports, however, offer the chance to discover the blend of cultures–from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern and Central Asian–that make Turkey so unique.

Other Greek Isles itineraries

Outside of cruises to Turkey and the Adriatic, you’ll come across other cruise itineraries that visit Greece. Holy Land cruises, for example, often visit several Greek islands in addition to ports in Israel and Turkey.

You can also find itineraries that include stops in Greece and Cyprus as well as one-way sailings from Greece to the Western Mediterranean visiting ports like Rome and Barcelona.

Best time of year for a Greek Isles cruise

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April to October each year, with cruises to the Greek Isles being offered all season long.

Truthfully, there is no “wrong” time to go on a Greek Isles cruise. Weather in the Mediterranean remains sunny, dry, and warm throughout the cruise season and seas tend to be quite calm.

That being said, the peak of summer can get uncomfortably hot in Greece, so scheduling excursions and port days around the beach is recommended. The most pleasant temperatures (i.e. not too warm) can be found in late spring and fall.

Related: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

The most crowds will be found in the peak summer months of June, July, and August, although crowds should be expected at any time of the cruise season. Oftentimes how crowded a port feels is more correlated with how many ships are in port with you as opposed to the month itself. Having only one ship in port in mid-July will feel far less crowded than having three ships in port in September.

The most important thing you can do when traveling in peak season is to disembark the ship as early as possible. Not only will you be able to start exploring before the weather gets too warm, but you’ll get the chance to walk around town before hoards of other tourists arrive.

What ships sail to Greece?

The newest and biggest Royal Caribbean ship sailing to the Greek Isles is Odyssey of the Seas. As a Quantum Class cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas boasts the latest and greatest of Royal Caribbean’s onboard activities, dining venues, and entertainment. 

Related: Complete guide to Odyssey of the Seas

Several smaller cruise ships sail to the Greek Isles each year. Typically, these will be Vision, Radiance, or Voyager Class cruise ships like Rhapsody of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, and Explorer of the Seas.

While Royal Caribbean’s older cruise ships may not have as many of the bells and whistles as a ship like Odyssey of the Seas, they still offer fantastic dining options, pools, children’s programming, and entertainment. They can also come at a much better price than a newer ship, allowing you to save more money for shore excursions and cruise add-ons.

Therefore, don’t overlook a smaller, older Royal Caribbean ship for a Greek Isles cruise. When visiting Europe, a cruise is sometimes more about the destination than the ship itself.

What to pack for a Greek Isles cruise

Lightweight clothes

Temperatures will very likely be toasty on a Greek Isles cruise, so packing lightweight clothing is essential. Wearing shorts, t-shirts, rompers, and sturdy sandals will help keep you cool even in the warmest temperatures. A pair of sneakers is recommended, too, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking!

While there’s no hard rule against it, take caution when packing sundresses that are prone to flying up in the wind, as you’ll likely encounter a strong breeze while touring the islands. You may also opt to wear a pair of lightweight shorts underneath a dress to avoid any mishaps!

The classic “Greek tourist” wardrobe is to dress in blue and white to match the charming villages and buildings you’ll see in places like Mykonos and Santorini. You’ll likely see plenty of tourists in these colors, and it can be fun to have a classic “island photoshoot” while in port!

Related: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Daypack & accessories

One item you’ll want to carry with you in port is a daypack. In your daypack, it’s recommended to pack sunscreen, a beach towel, valuables, and a pair of flip flops if you’re doing a combination of a walking and beach day.

If you want to travel stress-free, even on the most crowded port days, consider purchasing an anti-theft travel daypack. The main pocket on these backpacks is only accessible from a zipper that goes against your back, which can deter anyone from opening your bag in crowded spaces.

Be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses as well. The Mediterranean sun can be strong, so keeping your eyes protected and comfortable is essential. The same goes for a hat, too, such as a baseball cap or sun hat.

Greek Isles cruise FAQ

Which currency should I bring? Do I need cash?

Greece uses the Euro, and ATMs are widely available on Greek islands. It’s recommended to bring around 200 euros with you on a Greek Isles cruise, as you may occasionally come across restaurants, bars, and shops that do not take credit or debit cards. Most businesses will take card payments, especially in more touristy areas, so try to pay with card first (assuming your card has no foreign transaction fees).

As most Greek Isles cruises visit other countries in addition to Greece, it’s important to know which currencies to use in each port.

  • Italy and Montenegro use the euro as their official currency, and Croatia will be officially adopting the euro in 2023, although payments in Euro are accepted in 2022.
  • Turkey’s official currency is the Turkish Lira, and while you can usually pay with euros or credit cards in tourist areas, you will likely get a better exchange rate when paying in Lira. If your cruise only visits Turkey for one day, though, it may not be worth the hassle to use the Lira.
  • Israel’s official currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), but card payments are widely accepted throughout the country. Similar to Turkey, if your cruise only visits Israel for one day, you may not need to take out local currency, instead opting for card payments or (if possible) using euros.

Should I book excursions on a Greek Isles cruise?

Many cruise ports in Greece are charming and walkable, meaning it's possible to spend an entire day wandering around town without booking a tour. Some ports even have nice beaches within walking distance of the ship if you’re hoping for a low-cost beach day.

Some port stops may be easier with a tour, especially if you plan to visit archaeological sites. If you want to visit the Acropolis in Athens or Olympia, for example, you may prefer the insights you’ll gain on a narrated tour of these famous sites rather than exploring on your own.

Likewise, boat or catamaran tours can be an excellent way to enjoy Greece’s coastline and beaches. These tours are extremely popular, so you’ll often find tour companies selling boat trips right when you get off the ship.

If you’re looking to book a tour through an independent provider, be sure to read our guide about booking excursions independently.

Which ship should I book?

Deciding which Royal Caribbean cruise ship to book can be confusing, especially for first time cruisers. There are typically between 3-4 cruise ships offering Greek Isles itineraries each summer, and each ship comes with advantages and disadvantages.

In the Caribbean, which has an abundance of ships sailing at any time of year, we often say to choose a newer or amplified ship for your first cruise experience. Choosing a newer, updated ship means you’ll be able to experience Royal Caribbean’s latest activities, entertainment, and restaurants. 

For a Greek Isles cruise, however, we advise looking more at the destinations you want to visit rather than the ship itself. If sailing through the dramatic cliffs of Kotor, Montenegro would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, you won’t be able to book the biggest cruise ship.

Related: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

If you’re traveling with kids, keep in mind that most Greek Isles cruises are extremely port-intensive. Unlike on a Caribbean cruise where you may have three sea days in one week, it’s not uncommon for there to be only one day at sea while cruising the Mediterranean.

By the time you come back from a busy day in port each day and eat dinner, you’ll have little time for onboard activities and events before bedtime. While smaller cruise ships may have fewer activities for kids onboard, they should still offer enough to keep kids busy for the shorter periods you’ll be onboard.

For more Greek Isles cruise information, check out our Live Blog from Rhapsody of the Seas to learn more about day-to-day life on a cruise to Greece:

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
18 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's time to sail on one of my favorite ships, Mariner of the Seas!

Royal Promenade on Mariner of the Seas

We're onboard for a 8-night cruise that visits a lot of ports, and this particular cruise has been a sailing we've been planning since last summer.

Mariner is based out of Port Canaveral, Florida, which is a little over an hour from our home.  Because we had a lot of friends coming in for this cruise and staying near the port, we decided to start our vacation a day early and we stayed at the Cape Crossing Resort & Marina the night before the cruise.

It's not on Merritt Island (one bridge before Port Canaveral when coming on the main highway from Orlando), but it was perfect for our family, since they offer apartment style accommodations.

Mariner was sailing from Terminal 5, which is unusual. Royal Caribbean ships in Port Canaveral usually sail from Terminal 1, but there were 2 other Royal Caribbean ships in port today.

We had a 10:30am boarding time, so upon arrival we parked the car in the adjacent garage and then walked in to check-in. One difference between Terminal 5 and Terminal 1, is you pay when you leave the garage at Terminal 5.

The check-in process was easy enough, and we only had to wait perhaps 15-20 minutes in the waiting area before boarding began. They boarded everyone based on Crown and Anchor Society status, which was a nice change of pace.

Once onboard Mariner, it felt very familiar walking onto the Royal Promenade. It's a ship we've sailed so many times that it has a homely feel to it.

My first stop was the specialty restaurant booking kiosk on the Royal Promenade to make our dining reservations. I booked a 3-night dining package, and you always want to book dining reservations as soon as possible when you get onboard.

Next up was lunch in the Windjammer.

In addition to booking dinners, we also took care of a few other "housekeeping" duties, such as completing muster drill. We watched the safety video and listened to the ship's emergency alarm on our phone, and then just had to report to the muster station to prove we knew where it was. The emuster process couldn't be easier.

The kids wanted to expel some energy, so the next stop was to the hammocks, climbing area, and swings on the back of the ship near the sports deck.

At 1pm, Adventure Ocean opened for registration.  Basically, you sign your kids up for Adventure Ocean and provide any necessary information to the staff.   If your kids are new to Adventure Ocean, it's also an opportunity to meet the staff and see the play area.

Our cabins were ready at 1:30pm. We have two connecting balcony cabins on deck 7, near the forward elevators.

The cabins looked great, and it has just enough living space for us to enjoy. 

Our first official RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise meetup was at the Bamboo Room to say hello to everyone.

The Bamboo Room is such a fun bar, and this was our first opportunity to meet new people that we've never sailed with, as well as see past cruise friends.

Our luggage was delivered to the room, so we unpacked all of our stuff before sailaway.

We headed up to Ellington's in the Viking Crown Lounge to enjoy sailaway. Our group had reserved the space there, and we had the perfect (climate controlled) view of sailaway.

While I prefer the conveniences of Terminal 1, being further back in the port meant a lovely view when we departed since we got to pass all the other cruise ships in port.

Dinner took us to Chops Grille.

We had a large group for dinner (12 in total), and the service was fantastic. The meal progressed nicely, and the food was terrific.

After dinner, we went to the pub for music. The pub singer onboard, Darla, came highly recommended from many other cruisers and she did not disappoint.

Tomorrow is a sea day, and we have a lot of fun activities planned to really get the cruise feeling going.

Stray Observations

The new drink package cups are also here on Mariner of the Seas.

I spoke with the hotel director, who indicated the ship is at 98% crew member staffing. All the bars and restaurants we visited have had minimal waits.

Here is the onboard pricing for the deluxe beverage package if you waited to book onboard. It's always a good idea to book a Royal Caribbean drink package online before the cruise.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 17, 2022

In:
17 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! We hope you are having a great weekend! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from the week!

James Van Fleet with beard

Did you know Royal Caribbean has its own meteorologist who's job it is to monitor the weather for all the ships in the fleet?

James Van Fleet is a former TV weatherman, but now works just with Royal Caribbean to give the captain of each ship weather information.

Although meteorology is heavily based in science, Mr. Van Fleet shared the ambiguities and uncertainties associated with weather forecasting.  

Royal Caribbean News

Video: Is a 3-night Cruise worth it?

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — Is a 3-night Cruise worth it? — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 461st episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt lists the top 3 things to do in the ports of call his cruise will visit next week.

Mariner of the Seas is headed to CocoCay, Labadee, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, and St. Croix. Matt shares a few recommendations of what to do in each port.

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.

Rare cruise ship cabins that get booked very quickly

Aft balcony room

There are a handful of cruise ship cabins that will almost always get booked up super quickly because of how valued they are among people that cruise a lot.

Due to either their location or unusual layout, these staterooms are in-demand because they offer something special you don't usually get, which adds to their value.

Whether you want to book these rooms for yourself, or are simply curious about what they offer, here's a look at a few rare cruise ship cabins that are not only different from the rest, they will be booked quickly.

How one group helps families with Autism cruise on Royal Caribbean

The group Autism on the Seas travels with families on Royal Caribbean cruise ships to provide special needs children extra assistance during their cruise.

The goal of Autism on the Seas is to provide the highest quality of assisted care to ensure families have a truly relaxing and rejuvenating vacation. 

Guide to Royal Caribbean Suites

Crown Loft Suite

Think it's time you tried a suite?

Suites cost more than other cabin categories, but they also provide significantly more living space, along with some fabulous benefits.

If you think you'd like to move up to a Royal Caribbean suite, here's everything you need to know about these kind of accommodations.