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Royal Caribbean CEO updates what the cruise line is doing during shutdown

In:
29Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley sent an email to past cruise guests that provided an in-depth update of the cruise line's current status.

In an over 2,600 word email, Mr. Bailey touched on a number of topics that have been frequently asked by guests during Royal Caribbean's global cruise shutdown.

Crew update

Chief among the concerns of guests have been the hard working crew members and where they are now.

Mr. Bailey characterized their main focus on reuniting crew members with their families. Each country has rules and regulations for who can travel home, how and when.    

To date, Royal Caribbean has repatriated more than 43,000 crew members. By the end of this month, Royal Caribbean will have more than 97% of crew members back home.

For crew members still onboard, a great deal of special offerings have been rolled out in order to take care of them. 

"Our F&B team has introduced seafood nights, our culinary teams have been celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with surprise cakes for crew members, and we have also added a variety of activities and entertainment designed with physical distancing in mind. While nothing can beat being home with their family and friends at this time, we want our crew members to be in the best of spirits during this time."

In addition, Royal Caribbean has rolled out a new support program called RCL Cares: Employee Edition, which offers free and confidential counseling, assistance with legal and financial matters, and much more.

In addition, crew members can apply to receive financial assistance if they or their family have been severely impacted by the pandemic with hardships, such as death, hospitalization and the potential loss of their home.

Where are the cruise ships?

During the shutdown, Royal Caribbean's ships have visited more than 40 countries around the world, including Anthem and Ovation of the Seas in India, Voyager of the Seas in Manila, and three ships in Europe.  The remainder of our fleet is in the Caribbean.

In order to keep the ships ready to resume service when the time is ready, each ship has a small number of marine and repair crew members staying on board to prep our ships and keep everything running smoothly.

There was also a link to the videos of the Sovereign class ships being beached at the scrapyard.

New Main Dining Room menu

Mr. Bailey indicated a revamp of the main dining room menu is one activity that is being done during the shutdown.

"Our shoreside teams are also taking this opportunity to think about how we can continue to improve the guest experience. Our F&B team has been revamping the Main Dining Room menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as adding some unique experiences to our specialty dining venues."

Cruises starting again

Mr. Bailey also touched on the work being done to get cruises back operating again, which falls under the cruise line's Healthy Return to Service program.

This new program will focus on four key aspects:

  • Upgraded screening prior to boarding
  • Enhanced processes on board
  • A special focus on addressing the destinations
  • Procedures for addressing any reports of exceptions

The recently announced Healthy Sail Panel will coordinate efforts to ensure cruise ships are as sanitized and clean for guests and crew.  This group will review all of cruise line health and safety protocols and provide third party validation of their efforts. 

While the Healthy Sail Panel work has not been announced yet, Mr. Bailey also touched on some of the other key efforts being done to keep guests safe, including Muster 2.0.

Read the entire email

If you want to read the entire email from Mr. Bailey, click here to view it at your leisure.

Top untrue myths about a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
29Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

What is like to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Despite Royal Caribbean being rated as one of the top cruise lines in the world, there are still some myths that perpetuate, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary.

This confusion leads to misconceptions about what a Royal Caribbean cruise (and in many cases, all cruises) are really like.  Here is a look at some of the most common cruise myths out there, and why they are plain wrong.

Cabin is small

Even the smallest staterooms are still probably larger than you think.

Royal Caribbean offers staterooms of various sizes that run the gamut of price ranges and amenities.

If your concern is being in too small of a room for your liking, try a balcony room or even a suite.  Balcony rooms tend to be very popular choices and not cost nearly as much more to move up to those than you might think.

Suites offer the most living space, but as the name implies, it comes at a price. If you can afford them, suites offer an incredible amount of living space onboard.

Regardless of which room you choose, the rooms tend to be larger than you think, and you will spend significantly less time in a cruise ship stateroom compared to a hotel room.

I will get sea sick

Perhaps no other concern of a first time cruiser can rival that of fear of getting sea sick on a cruise.

While getting seasick is a possibility (especially for those prone to motion sickness), there are so many easy remedies out there to combat it, that you should not be overly concerned.

There is over-the-counter medication you can purchase (Bonine), acupressure bracelets, and even a prescription patch you put behind your ear.

There are also a variety of homeopathic treatments, such as eating green apples, peppermint or something containing ginger.

If you are truly concerned, your best bet is to take either the over-the-counter pills before the cruise begins and every day thereafter.  Or, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription medication.

You have to get dressed up

While there are some classic films and television shows set on cruise ships, they all tend to show people wearing tuxedos and ball gowns and it gives the sense that a cruise is a 7-night senior prom sailing.

Cruising on Royal Caribbean is very relaxed, and while there are dress codes, they only apply to dinner in the main dining room and they are very basic in nature.

First and foremost, you can skip formal night by not dining in the main dining room for dinner.

Even if you do want to dine there, keep in mind the required dress code is nothing close to fancy. Collared shirt and slacks for men (tie or suit optional), and a cocktail dress or pant suit for ladies. There is no one inspecting your clothing as you enter to check the regality of your attire.

On non-formal nights, the required attire is nothing fancy at all. Jeans are acceptable every night, along with polo shirts, blouses or nearly anything else without holes in them.

In addition, there are plenty of alternative dining spots on your Royal Caribbean ship that have casual dress attire requirements.

Royal Caribbean isn't the best cruise line for young children

When people look to vacation with younger children (under 10 years old), Royal Caribbean tends to be in their blind spot out of concern there are better choices out there.

Royal Caribbean offers a well-rounded approach to their children's programming, and there is a lot to do for kids of all ages onboard.

Children 6 - 36 months old are able to spend time in the ship's nursery, which is available in nearly all ships now. The nursery is an extra-cost venue that offers supervised child care during the daytime and night, and is staffed by crew members with backgrounds in child care.

Adventure Ocean is the award-winning children's programming available on all ships that encompasses ages 3 years old up to 17 years old. Adventure Ocean is broken down by ages to ensure programming is appropriate for each group, and kids can enjoy a great variety of supervised activities, including games, drawing, story time, crafts, video games, scavenger hunts and more.

Royal Caribbean recently revamped its Adventure Ocean programming on Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas with an all-new approach that will eventually make it to the rest of the fleet. This update to Adventure Ocean combines new learning methods with technology and more opportunities for the kids to choose the sort of fun they want to engage in.

The ships are crowded

The modern cruise ships Royal Caribbean sails are designed to help spread out crowds to ensure better traffic flow, as well as prevent the log jam of people that some think are always on a cruise.

Just like in any land-based casino, hotel or theme park, there can be occasions where crowds come together, such as when a show ends or returning to the ship from a shore excursion, but you will not go on Royal Caribbean feeling like you are surrounded by people all the time.

Ironically, the largest cruise ships (Oasis and Quantum Class ships) are the best at spreading guests out to prevent crowding.  Royal Caribbean knew when they designed those ships that they needed to ensure there was plenty of space for everyone, and they offer the most deck space, bars, clubs and restaurants to accommodate everyone.

People fall overboard

This myth is rooted in news reports that often involve poorly written headlines.

While there have been relatively speaking very few people that have ended up in the ocean following being on a cruise ship, they are all cases of jumping off the ship , victims of being thrown off by someone else, or being somewhere they should not be in the first place.

The notion you can be minding your own business, slip or bump into something and fall backwards over a railing into the ocean is simply not true.

Royal Caribbean designs its ships with high balcony railings, plenty of warning signs, and partitions to keep guests safe. 

You will be bored

Every so often I will hear from someone that has never cruised that they refuse to go on a cruise because they imagine being "stuck" on the ship and being bored.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are packed with tons of activities, entertainment and things to do, in addition to the fun places around the world your ship will visit.

Depending on the ship, you can enjoy rock climbing, water slides, zip lining, ice skating, laser tag, dance parties, play trivia games and much more.

The best way to convey just how much there is to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise is to read a past Cruise Compass. These are the daily activity sheets distributed to all guests onboard.  You will quickly see there is a plethora of things to do onboard that will leave you anything but bored.

I have to eat with random people

Some people are concerned they will be forced to dine with people they do not know, which is/was a cruise tradition rooted in the past.

While dinner in the main dining room does still offer this option, there are alternatives that offer more flexible options.

First and foremost, it is quite easy to request a main dining room table for just your family.

Royal Caribbean also offers My Time Dining, which is a flexible dining option that does not have assigned dinner times and seating.  Instead, when you arrive, you are seated with just your family.

In addition, you can opt to skip the main dining room and dine at specialty restaurants, where seating is always just for your party.  There are complimentary casual venues that offer plenty of seating that you can pick out.

The older and smaller ships are not as fun

If you watch a Royal Caribbean television commercial, you will spot plenty of b-roll that feature Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships, leading some to question why anyone would sail the older ships.

Royal Caribbean recognized that their newer ships offered a big advantage and engaged in a series of upgrades and enhancements to bring some of the popular features from the big ships to their existing fleet.

Not only has programs like Royal Amplified and Oasis-sizing added new dining locations, entertainment and activities to older ships, these ships are also priced extremely well compared to their newer sister vessels.

Royal Caribbean's fleet of ships are not like when you buy a car and let it languish with the same features as when you bought it. They are always looking for opportunities to bring great choices to these ships, and you will still find plenty to do onboard.

It's a floating Petri dish

This notion is the single most infuriating and downright incorrect summary of a cruise ship. 

No doubt you have read headlines that make cruise ships seem like they are the single greatest source of spreading disease, especially during the current global health crisis.

While cruise ships do carry a risk of spreading any germ or disease (just like any public venue in the world), they are not the super germ incubators the media has made them out to be.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that only 1% of Norovirus (a gastrointestinal illness) cases come from cruise ships, while nearly all the cases come from restaurants, nursing homes, schools and prisons.

Royal Caribbean takes the health of its passengers seriously, and continuously works on new policies and procedures to keep everyone safe. Hand sanitizer stations and enhanced onboard sanitization are just some of the tools often employed by the cruise line to greatly reduce the risk.

In light of the current pandemic, Royal Caribbean is working on crafting a solution to allow its ships to sail while minimizing the risk to guest and crew.

The cruise line just hired its first Public Health and Chief Medical Officer, and has put together a blue ribbon panel of scientists and health experts to create a strategy of new policies and procedures for once cruises resume.

The bottom line is the vast majority of people who go on a cruise do not get sick.

How much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean?

In:
28Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean offers guests the option to enjoy unlimited beverages on their cruise, but you might be wondering exactly how much is a drink package on Royal Caribbean.

Beverage packages are a very popular choice among guests, because they offer a fixed cost for drinks, and this means an easy to budget approach to a cost that could otherwise rack up a big bill later.

Depending on which package you choose, there are a few price ranges to consider.

Drink Package Costs

The cost of a Royal Caribbean drink package will vary from sailing to sailing, and ship to ship. This means there is no fleet-wide cost or standard to expect.  There are a variety of factors that play into the cost of a drink package.

The Deluxe Beverage Package (unlimited alcohol package) will cost somewhere between $63.00 - $89.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.

The Refreshment Package (non-alcoholic package) will cost between $29.00 - $38.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.

The Classic Soda package will cost between $12.99 - $15.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.

These prices are the range you can expect when purchased onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean does offer significant drink package discounts when purchased online before the cruise. 

There is almost always a discount of some kind available to for drink packages when guests pre-purchase them. In fact, the exact discount can change depending on the various promotions available, so be sure to keep an eye on prices.

It is common to see a 20-30% discount off the daily rate. Royal Caribbean has been known to run even more lucrative discounts from time to time. 

Gratuity with the drink package

When you buy any drink package, you will pay a 18% gratuity on top of the daily drink package price.

This gratuity will cover all of your drink package usage during your cruise, and it means no additional gratuity is expected when ordering beverages from a waiter or bartender.

Crew members receive a pool of the gratuity, based on how many drinks they serve. The more orders they take, the greater their share of the drink package gratuity pool of money.

Is the drink package worth it?

A drink package is not cheap, especially on longer sailings, but they do offer a value when properly used.

Many guests enjoy the fact a drink package offers fixed costs and convenience of being able to order drinks anytime they see fit, without concern of running up a big bill or being stuck with a drink they do not like.

On average, it will take 6-7 cocktails per day to break even on the Deluxe Beverage Package, whereas the Refreshment Package breaks even around 4-5 mocktails.  The soda package takes about 3-4 soft drinks per day to break even.

There is no denying that you can save money with a drink package and make it worthwhile, but it requires you to want/enjoy having a number of drinks, everyday of your cruise.

I asked if cruise fans feel safe going back on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
28Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It has been over four months since Royal Caribbean stopped cruising, and everyone is still wondering when cruises might resume.  

When cruises do start up again (like they have in Germany), would repeat cruise fans feel comfortable going on a Royal Caribbean cruise immediately.

I posed this question back in April, just a few weeks after the cruise shutdown occurred.  Since then, a lot has happened, including a greater proliferation of the global health crisis across the United States.

I wanted to know if cruisers felt as strongly now as they did in April about wanting to go back.

In April, about 61% of the people that responded to the poll answered "yes" to the question if they would feel comfortable going on a Royal Caribbean cruise right away once it resumes.

About 28% responded "no", and another 10% responded with "maybe".

Fast-forwarding back to today, I posted the exact same poll question for a little over 24 hours to get a sense of if attitudes have changed in regards to cruising again immediately.

 

At the time of writing this post, 1,181 responses were received, and an overwhelming 775 people answered yes, they would feel comfortable going on a Royal Caribbean cruise right away. This amounts to 65% of the votes, which is a slight increase compared to the last poll.

Two hundred ninety-two people voted "no" (24%), and 114 voted "maybe" (9%).

Many of the comments in the poll covered the gamut of emotions involved with their desire to cruise again, along with concerns over their safety.

"I feel they will make sure everything is sanitize and kept clean while everyone is onboard. They don’t want to take any chances. And if I have to get my temperature checked prior to boarding and periodically getting it checked, I am fine."

Many of the comments were in favor of getting back onboard, and there was a lot of enthusiasm about having the opportunity to sail again.

"As much as I would love to cruise, I'm not ready to shell out all of the money only to have the virus in the back of my mind."

The line between "no" and "maybe" seemed to be blurred, as some would feel more strongly about the potential negatives than others. Worry and concern were are the forefront of those that indicated they were not ready to sail again.

"Comfortable? Yes. But do I really want to? Probably not.... until the "party vibe" can get back to normal without the stress levels being associated with virus being hiked up...... the real question is...Would we Enjoy it? I just don't know, and with the amount of money we shell out, we don't want to risk it being wasted."

This was interesting comment that tried to balance the willingness to cruise again, with caution over if it is the right thing to do.

"I want to go - but I can not say its a "yes" until I see and understand "the new world of cruising" at the start; I went with maybe".

Many more of the "maybe" votes added comments why they felt that way, indicating they were torn between their love of cruising and concern over how safe things can ever really be onboard.

Your thoughts

If you missed out on the poll, let us all know in the comments below what you think. Will you be ready to cruise as soon as Royal Caribbean resumes? Or will you be waiting a few weeks or months before getting back onboard?

Royal Caribbean creates new medical officer role to keep cruise ships safe from COVID-19

In:
28Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group has hired someone to oversee all health concerns and initiatives on its cruise ships, including keeping crew and guests safe from COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the parent company of Royal Caribbean International announced it has hired Dr. Calvin Johnson as the Global Head, Public Health and Chief Medical Officer.

This new role will tackle the needs of the global health and wellness policy, manage its public health and clinical practice, and determine the strategic plans and operations of its global healthcare organization.

In addition, Dr. Johnson will  collaborate with the Healthy Sail Panel to ensure the company establishes and implements its protocols and recommendations. 

Dr. Johnson, most recently Principal at Altre Strategic Solutions Group, is the former Chief Medical Officer for Corizon Health, then the largest provider of correctional health care in the United States, and for Temple University Health System. He served as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 2003-2008 and was Medical Director for the New York City Department of Health from 1998-1999. He earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a BS in Chemistry from Morehouse College.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain commented in a statement on the hiring of Dr. Johnson, "Calvin's extensive experience in public health and clinical care will help us raise the bar on protecting the health of our guests, crew and the communities we serve. Calvin will also work closely with the newly announced Healthy Sail Panel to ensure we establish and implement leading health protocols and procedures."

Dr. Johnson has a strong background in protecting public health through service delivery innovation, policy development and analysis, and leadership training and development. He has successfully led significant response efforts during active infectious disease outbreaks and was responsible for ensuring all aspects of patient care while overseeing a clinical operation with 1,300 caregivers and more than 300,000 individuals.  

This is not the first time Royal Caribbean created a corporate role to address a sudden need to protect guests and crew.

Royal Caribbean created the role of Chief Meteorologist and hired James Van Fleet, following a high profile weather incident involving Anthem of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is undergoing scheduled maintenance work

In:
28Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance work in France.

In addition to the high profile Royal Amplifications, about every 5 years, Royal Caribbean ships undergo routine maintenance to address preventative upkeep of the ship.

Anthem of the Seas is at the Damen Shiprepair Brest, which is located in Brest, France and Baraiac Eduard shared photos of the ship undergoing the work in a Facebook post.

All photos by Baraiac Eduard

Anthem of the Seas had her maiden voyage in April 2015, and she is due for scheduled maintenance this year.

There are no major aesthetic upgrades to Anthem of the Seas announced, so this is purely a traditional dry dock to take care of "under the hood" work, such as painting and engine work.

The Damen shipyard is no stranger to Royal Caribbean vessels. In October 2014, Oasis of the Seas arrived for maintenance work att their Rotterdam shipyard for a 14-day drydock that focused on modifications to her three Azipod main propulsion units and the four bow thrusters.

In addition, the Kvaerner Masa-Yards (now Meyer Turku) was where Enchantment of the Seas went for her lengthening, where the ship was cut in half and a new section added in the middle.

6 really interesting facts about Royal Caribbean's new cruise safety drill

In:
27Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Last week, Royal Caribbean announced its new approach to the mandatory safety drill aboard cruise ships that seeks to reinvent a traditionally tiresome requirement.

This brand new approach to eMuster was so innovative, that Royal Caribbean actually filed a patent for Muster 2.0, and the patent details a great deal of how it will all work.

In digging through the 9 pages of the patent, I found a few tidbits of interest that did not make the press release.

Muster 2.0 was invented by Royal Caribbean's head of entertainment

Interestingly enough, this new approach to the safety drill was not conceived of by a special blue ribbon panel, tech company or computer named Deep Thought.  Instead, it was the brain child of the same person responsible for creating the shows and live entertainment on the cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir is listed on the trademark as the inventor of the "Distributed Muster for Ocean-Going Vessels".

Mr. Weir, along with Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Digital Jay Schneider, came up with the eMuster idea and formulated the patent for the new way of providing safety information to passengers.

Royal Caribbean filed for the patent months before the pandemic began

After hearing about Muster 2.0, many people thought this was the perfect solution to a problem that exists in a world affected by a pandemic. Howe ever, the idea came about months before COVID-19 ever got started.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records the patent filed on September 12, 2019 (with the filing approved and issued on March 3, 2020).

This means this revolutionary idea was in the works many months before the cruise industry would be shut down and innovations to promote social distancing were ever needed.

There could be a quiz (so pay attention)

If you think you can start the eMuster app and take a nap while it plays, think again.

The patent paperwork details the functionality behind Muster 2.0, and it sounds like the user could be required to answer a series of questions to ensure they understood what was presented.

Thereafter, as each one of the mobile devices is sensed within the geographically defined area of the corresponding one of the muster locations, a presentation is displayed within the user interface of a set of questions pertaining to the muster drill video in the user interface.  Finally, for each mobile device sensed within the geographically defined area, answers received for the set of questions are scored

Optionally, it may be determined that the scored answers for one of the mobile devices exceeds a threshold value, so that a voucher for a reward may be transmitted to the one of the mobile devices.

While taking notes may be overdoing it, you definitely do not want to ignore the important safety information you are hearing on your mobile device or television.

You can ask for help during the drill

No matter how smart or efficient an app Royal Caribbean develops, there are bound to be guests with questions or concerns.

Baked into the logic of Muster.20 is an option for guests to get help and make it easy for the crew to locate these guests.

During the period defined by the timer, a button control is displayed within a user interface of each of the mobile devices . The button control is configured to transmit a message requesting assistance during the muster drill . Consequently, during the muster drill, the message may be received from one of the mobile devices, a position located of the mobile device, and a crew member mobile device nearest to the position identified .

Finally, the position and an identity of a passenger corresponding to the mobile device may be transmitted to the crew member mobile device 

They could send messages to anyone who missed the muster drill

Making the muster drill self-service lead some to wonder what happens to those who skip it in.  While Royal Caribbean has indicated anyone that skips it will still have to do it later, they could also let those naughty people know they are in trouble.

The patent wording says the app has the ability to contact those guests who missed the drill.

Targeted instructions may be transmitted to specific ones of the passengers after the completion of the muster drill

There are a couple ways Royal Caribbean could determine when you complete the drill

How exactly Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line that leverages Muster 2.0) will conduct the new muster drill will depend on the implementation.

After a guest finishes the self-service component, they still need to report to their muster station to satisfy the maritime law requirement that they know where their muster stations is located.

The patent lists a few ways the drill could mark a guest as having successfully completed it. This could allow for different ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet to implement in different ways, or it is accounting for flexibility in how other cruse lines may implement the concept.

Detecting a guest entering the muster station

In this regard, during the period defined by the timer, as each mobile device is sensed within a geographical area corresponding to an assigned one of the muster stations, an entry in the muster drill table is provided indicating that a corresponding one of the passengers has completed muster.

For instance, the mobile device may include short range wireless communications adapted to communicate with a receiver disposed within the geographical area so as to indicate a presence of the mobile device at the assigned one of the muster stations .

Scanning the app in the mobile device

Alternatively, a bar code displayed in the user interface can be scanned at a kiosk disposed within the assigned one of the muster stations. 

Scanning the SeaPass card

As yet another alternative, an identification card or bracelet can be scanned at a kiosk within the assigned one of the muster stations. 

Is Royal Caribbean WiFi worth it?

In:
27Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Are you thinking about buying WiFi access on your Royal Caribbean cruise, but wondering if it is worth it?

Royal Caribbean sells onboard internet access (known as Voom Internet) that is good for the duration of your cruise, but if you are wondering how well (or not well) it performs, here is what you should know before you buy.

WiFi package costs

Royal Caribbean offers two tiers of WiFi packages on its cruise ships: Surf or Surf & Stream.

Surf & Stream internet access is the faster option, and allows for internet access without any hindering of the connection.  The regular Surf package throttles the connection down so that it can only be used for basic internet usage, and not streaming of any kind.

In addition, you can choose between a 24-hour pass (only available onboard) or unlimited use packages. The unlimited plans are sold onboard, or online.

Here is a look at onboard pricing for Voom packages:

PackagesSurfSurf & Stream
1 Device$15.99 per day per device$19.99 per day per device
2 Devices$14.99 per day per device$18.99 per day per device
4 Devices$12.99 per day per device$16.99 per day per device
24-Hour Pass$22.99 per day per device$29.99 per day per device

Royal Caribbean sometimes offers WiFi packaged with other popular cruise add-ons, such as an unlimited drink package or The Key.  

You should also be aware complimentary WiFi access is provided to all guests in Star or Sky Class suites on Oasis or Quantum Class ships only. Suite guests on other ships do not get free internet access.

You will almost always find deeper discounts offered before the cruise on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. If you know you want to buy internet for your cruise, be sure to pre-purchase it online.

Voom internet performance

While Royal Caribbean's onboard internet prices are reasonably priced, the real question is how well does it work.

A number of factors can influence how fast the ship's internet is, including how many guests are using it, natural barriers and the ship's latitude. Internet is transmitted over satellite, so it is not perfect or exactly like at home, but for ship internet it is usually pretty good and often better than hotel internet.

Royal Caribbean labels its onboard internet access as Voom, and says it is the fastest internet at sea.  Depending on the ship you sail on, this promise is sometimes true.

Freedom, Oasis and Quantum class use newer satellite technology, which means better speeds overall and you will likely find it performing well.

Older ships use older satellite technology.  You can still stream but will likely see some more buffering at times on the older ships. 

Is it worth it?

In general, Royal Caribbean's internet works just fine for basic web browsing, email and even keeping up with social media.

There are many factors that impact the speeds of internet access, but I generally find it more useful than not to have purchased internet access.  For most people's needs, Royal Caribbean's wifi works quite well.

You should expect periodic slow downs due to weather, location on the ship, and how many other people are using the internet at that time. Moreover, speeds are better on some ships than others, but a good rule of thumb is the newer the ship, the better the performance.

Considering how incredibly expensive cell phone roaming can be on a ship, as well as spotty internet access in places your ship may visit, buying a Royal Caribbean internet package is the easiest way to stay connected while on your ship, and it works fine most of the time.

Do you think Royal Caribbean's WiFi is worth it? Tell us why in the comments!

A German cruise line has started up again, and it could be a preview of what to expect on Royal Caribbean

In:
27Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

On Friday, German cruise line TUI Cruises started cruising once again and it might offer a preview of what a Royal Caribbean could look like when they restart.

Royal Caribbean is a 50% owner of a joint venture that operates TUI Cruises, and the Mein Schiff 2 set sail on Friday with about 1,200 passengers onboard.

The ship sailed with about 60% capacity onboard in order to promote social distancing, a concept Royal Caribbean has said they will initially implement on its ships when they start sailing again.

USA Today reported passengers and crew onboard are required to stay five  feet away or wear protective masks and won’t serve themselves at the ship’s buffet. All passengers filled out a health questionnaire before boarding and had temperature checks.

In addition, TUI Group (parent company to TUI Cruises) noted they had "implemented comprehensive health and safety protocols on board."

The itinerary for this sailing was a departure from Hamburg, Germany that would sail to no ports, before returning to Germany on Monday. This is an intentional move to stick to short and restrictive sailings.

Germany is now in the process of reopening its economy, with strict guidelines on social distancing, mask use and personal hygiene measures.

Top 10 health concerns on a cruise ship Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel will address

In:
27Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

When Royal Caribbean announced its blue ribbon panel of health experts, it promised to deliver a new set of the best guidelines for keeping passengers and crew safe during a cruise.

The primary concern for so many cruisers is what exactly will the panel address, and what sort of policies will they come up with so that cruises can resume.

While Royal Caribbean has not divulged much information about the work the panel is engaged in, we do know some key areas to expect answers about once they deliver their recommendations.

Enhanced embarkation screening

Prior to cruises shutting down in March, we got a small taste of what to expect in the pre-cruise check-in area.

Royal Caribbean implemented mandatory temperature checks for all guests, and we should expect enhanced embarkation screening, temperature screenings, testing options for guests and crew going forward.

Another idea being considered is staggered embarkation and check-in to spread out guests on the first day of the cruise.

Social distancing on the ships

A major change that could be coming to cruise ships is social distancing, and this could come in a variety of forms.

Initially, Royal Caribbean expects to reduce the overall guest capacity on board their cruise ships to make social distancing easier, although this will not be permanent. This means ships would sail intentionally with less guests than its capacity.

The panel is exploring other options for social distancing, including reduced capacity at dining and other public venues, and the addition of more options for entertainment such as additional show times to allow for social distancing.

What if potential cases arise on a cruise ship?

While the primary intention is to create policies that totally prevent the spread of any disease on its ships, the reality is Royal Caribbean will need to come up with a plan to deal with any new cases that occur onboard.

The panel will be working closely with the governments and ports the ships visit around the world to establish plans and protocols for the resumption of cruises, including protocols to deal with COVID-19 cases that arise.

The Healthy Sail Panel will address this in its recommendations.

What if cruises resume and the recommended protocols fail?

Any good plan needs a "worst case scenario" contingency, and Royal Caribbean is no different.  Whatever the Healthy Sail Panel comes up with is based on theoretical plans, and how well it works onboard will not be known until cruises restart.

The goal of the Healthy Sail Panel is to provide a robust and comprehensive set of protocols and recommendations to cover many different possible scenarios and minimize risk.

In the unfortunate event that a situation arises, the cruise operators are committed to quickly addressing any issues and developing appropriate solutions. The main priority will remain the health and safety of guests and crew, and the communities Royal Caribbean visits, and the cruise line will act accordingly.

How long will the panel be working on addressing new challenges?

The timeline of the panel and their work seems to indicate they will be around for a while to troubleshoot issues as they appear.

The initial contract that the panel members signed is for two years, and the expert panel will work together as long as necessary.

After the fleets return to service, Gov. Leavitt and Dr. Gottlieb will continue to assist the companies in evolving their approaches as new insights emerge. Royal Caribbean will continue to evolve protocols and standards as appropriate.

How much of an increase will there be to onboard medical teams?

In order to properly implement these new protocols, as well as properly tackle any onboard situations, an enhanced medical presence onboard cruise ships could be part of the plan.

Royal Caribbean is evaluating numerous options to increase resources in terms of both personnel and equipment for the onboard medical centers.

The addition of new or enhanced protocols could result in the need to hire additional crew, including crew members with specialized expertise and training. This will depend on the final protocols and what will be needed to implement them.

Will we need to wear masks on a cruise?

Perhaps no single topic is of higher interest in the short-term than if guests will have to wear masks during a cruise, and there is no clear answer yet.

Royal Caribbean wants to deliver the same core guest experience that makes cruising so popular, but with an adapted format.

"With the gradual reopening of other leisure experiences, consumers are having to adapt to the new normal and cruising will be no different."

Once the panel makes their recommendations, we will know if masks will be part of the overall approach.

Disinfection protocols

It is very likely we will see new means of which to sanitize the ship, based on comments from various Royal Caribbean executives.

Enhanced sanitization and disinfection protocols, upgraded air filtration, social distancing, reduced occupancy, and changes to dining and other initiatives are just some of the proposed changes onboard.

The use of technology is going to play a key role, such as UV light.

Fate of the buffet

There has been quite a lot of discussion related to if there will be a buffet still on cruise ships once they resume sailings, and it looks like the buffet will remain, albeit with some changes.

While the Windjammer buffet will be there, how it operates is still up in the air. Royal Caribbean has worked through a few different scenarios, from employee service to individual portions to individual tongs for self-service, to finger koozies that you can pick up hot dishes with that can be washed and sanitized.

Thus far guests should expect the Windjammer to remain, but with some different service steps to ensure healthy service.

The crew

Just like guests, keeping crew members safe is going to be part of the Healthy Sail Panel's recommendations.

Royal Caribbean will take additional measures to ensure the protection of their crew, so expect new protocols to be part of the overall new plan.

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