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Families and kids are the reason why Royal Caribbean is doing test cruises

In:
07 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave cruise lines two choices in how to restart operations, Royal Caribbean knew there was one clear choice for them.

Some have wondered why Royal Caribbean International did not follow sister brand Celebrity Cruises in mandating 95% of its guests be fully vaccinated, and it has to do with the fact Royal Caribbean International is a family brand.

In April 2021, the CDC gave cruise lines two choices: skip test cruises if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated, or conduct simulated sailings first.

Royal Caribbean decided to go with the simulated sailings because of its commitment to families.

Speaking with Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, he emphasized the decision to conduct test sailings was an easy one for them, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."

"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."

Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids,"

In fact, according to Tamis, more than 1 million children sail on Royal Caribbean ships each year, "We're the largest family cruise brand in the world, so it was pretty obvious that we would just go down this path."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted recently on social media there are a substantial amount of children too young for a vaccine on most sailings, "As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine."

The vaccine policy is not the only way Royal Caribbean is looking to protect the family cruise segment of its customer base. Recently, Royal Caribbean announced unvaccinated passengers would not be able to go on independent shore excursions, including families where the parents are vaccinated but the kids are not.

Mr. Tamis indicated the cruise line wanted to make sure there were options available for families at a reasonable price, "We have just looked at how we manage that, and we made sure we had price points available so price wouldn't be a negative factor."

Cruises from Florida in July require both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests to have to wear masks onboard, but Mr. Tamis is optimistic new guidance from the CDC will change that.

"I'm guessing when we do get new regulations from the CDC, it will be around the number, a percentage of vaccinated."

While speaking to members of the media at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Sunday, Mr. Bayley said he is expecting a new update from the CDC regarding masks, which could allow for a ship with at least 75% vaccinated guests onboard to not require fully vaccinated guests to have to wear masks while indoors.

Royal Caribbean test cruise to Alaska should begin today

In:
07 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Alaska cruises will get one step closer today when Royal Caribbean starts up a test cruise from Seattle.

Serenade of the Seas is in Seattle, Washington to begin a test cruise from the Port of Seattle, which is a necessary step for revenue cruises to begin.

It is not publicly known how long this first test sailing on Serenade will be, but there are reports it could be 4-nights.

Royal Caribbean will have 100% of its crew members fully vaccinated on all its sailings.

Simulated voyages (also known as test cruises) are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

These are not cruises you can book, but rather, are limited voyages where a cruise line invites certain unpaid volunteers to help go through all the necessary steps and procedures to ensure cruise ships can be run safely.

If the test cruise is succesful, Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to begin revenue sailings with paying passengers on July 19, 2021. This would make Serenade the second Royal Caribbean cruise ship to restart revenue sailings from the United States, following Freedom of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean released health protocols for Serenade of the Seas cruises in July, which include wearing face masks and social distancing rules onboard.

Serenade is one of two Royal Caribbean cruise ships scheduled to sail to Alaska this year. Ovation of the Seas is scheduled to begin her cruises on August 13, 2021, although her test sail date is not yet known.

Serenade of the Seas will sail 7-night cruises beginning in July, with stops in popular ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as the jaw-dropping Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

Test cruise requirements

Test cruises come with a variety of requirements that must be completed in order to demonstrate the ship can be operated in a safe manner with the new health protocols

While the ship is indeed conducting a cruise as if it were a normal cruise, the CDC wants the cruise ship to test out procedures and ensure it can handle any health situation it could encounter.

Each ship must conduct at least one simulated cruise, and each voyage must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.

Read moreEverything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

The CDC recommends a test cruise is at least 3 days with 2 overnight stays.

Passengers and crew must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

And then there is a laundry list of activities that the CDC says the ship needs to test across one or many separate test cruises:

  • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, as approved by U.S. port and local health authorities as part the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, including procedures for terminal check-in.
  • Onboard activities, including seating and meal service at dining and entertainment venues.
  • Medical evacuation procedures.
  • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms.
  • Onboard and shoreside isolation and quarantine, as per the terms of the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, of at least 5% of all passengers and non-essential crew.
  • Recreational activities that the cruise ship operator intends to offer as part of any restricted passenger voyages, e.g., casinos, spa services, fitness classes, gymnasiums.
  • Private-island shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on the private island:
    • Only one ship can port at the island at any one time.
    • A routine screening testing protocol must be implemented for island staff who are expected to interact with volunteer passengers or crew, unless they are fully vaccinated or have documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
    • Mask use and social distancing must be observed in indoor areas while on the island.
  • Port of call shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on port of call shore excursions:
    • Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship.
    • Cruise ship operator must ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour while in any indoor areas.
    • Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts at all foreign ports of call. At a minimum, the protocol must include the following:
      • Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
      • Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.

Royal Caribbean cancels Australia cruises due to uncertainty in travel restrictions

In:
06 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

While cruise ships are once again sailing in North America and Europe, Australia remains left out of the restart plans.

Royal Caribbean informed guests with booked sailings for the 2021-2022 season the ships scheduled to sail to and from Down Under will no longer do so.

Royal Caribbean described the current situation in Australia as "quite fluid", and announced a redeployment of ships.

Australia still has a cruise ship travel ban that runs through September 2021.

"Due to ongoing uncertainty with the re-opening of international borders, as well as subsequent changes to our global return to service scope, we’ve made a few adjustments to our upcoming itinerary offerings that we want to make you aware of. "

Quantum of the Seas will stay in Singapore, instead of sailing from Brisbane, Australia beginning October 30, 2021.

Instead, the extension of the Singapore season for Quantum of the Seas will run through February 2022. This marks the third season extension for Quantum in Singapore, which first returned to cruising in December 2020. 

To date, on 60-plus ocean getaways, more than 82,000 guests have safely sailed with zero occurrences of COVID-19 on board.

Voyager of the Seas was originally scheduled to sail from Beijing (Tianjin), China beginning in August 2021 and Singapore as of November 2021, the decision has been made to suspend Voyager’s sailings through March 2022. 

Ovation of the Seas will get 4 new sailings added to the tail end of her 2021 Alaska cruise season instead of heading to Australia in September 2021.

Serenade of the Seas has had her repositioning sailings departing September 26 and October 7, 2021 cancelled.

Guests booked on one of the cancelled cruises will have the choice of a 100% refund, 125% future cruise credit, or Lift & Shift for Ovation Sept 20 - Oct 16 only.

Royal Caribbean says it is doing what it can in the meantime to work with Australian authorities to get permission to sail again, "We also continue to engage with Federal and State governments to recommence cruising in Australia and will provide updates as and when they come to hand. "

Since March 27, 2020, no foreign-flagged cruise ships may enter Australian waters.  The Australian Health Principal Protection Committee reviews the ban regularly.

Two Royal Caribbean cruise ships ready to start sailing in Europe

In:
06 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has restarted ships sailing in North America, and Europe is next.

First up is Anthem of the Seas, which completed a shakedown cruise and has returned to Southampton, UK to begin sailings.

Anthem will begin offering cruises on July 7, which will be the first revenue sailing for that ship and from England.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley announced Anthem is ready to sail, and congratulated the crew members for getting everything ready, "Congrats UK team!  Onwards and Upwards."

Anthem will offer a combination of 4-night cruises to nowhere in early July and 5- to 8-night British Isles cruises, starting 15th July, that feature visits to destinations such as Liverpool, England, Kirkwall in Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

All crew members onboard will be fully vaccinated.

This weekend, Jewel of the Seas will kick off her sailings from Limassol, Cyprus.

Like Anthem, Jewel of the Seas concluded a 2-night shakedown sailing on Tuesday and is ready to offer 7-night cruises.

Jewel will sail with fully vaccinated crew and guests 18 years of age and older, along with children under 18 who are ineligible for the vaccine. Testing protocols are required for all guests.

This is the first time a Royal Caribbean ship has called Cyprus its homeport and will offer 7-night cruises to the Greek Isles through October.

Port stops will include Limassol, Athens, Greece and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.

By the end of this week, the two ships will join a handful of other ships sailing in North America and Asia.

Freedom of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas have begun sailing again from North America, along with Quantum of the Seas from Singapore.

CDC appeals overturning Florida's cruise ship lawsuit

In:
06 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

A few weeks after a federal judge sided with Florida in a lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), the agency is appealing the decision.

On June 18, a federal judge ruled in favor of Florida in a lawsuit against the CDC because the agency overstepped its authority.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the CDC appealed the verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Florida sued the CDC because it felt the CSO unfairly singled out one industry and was hurting Florida's economy, and a judge agreed with Florida.

In the 124 page summary, Judge Steven D. Merryday granted a preliminary injunction for Florida ports.

"This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC's conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC," the ruling said.

"Florida persuasively claims that the conditional sailing order will shut down most cruises through the summer and perhaps much longer," the judge wrote, adding that Florida "faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state."

The intention of the ruling was to bring cruise ships in line with other forms of leisure travel and entertainment, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.

The CDC instituted a ban on all cruise ships from the United States in March 2020 due to the global health crisis. Then on October 30, 2020 the CDC imposed a four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in April as a way to fight back against the CDC, which had not granted any permission to sail at the time.

"The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it," DeSantis said.

Since Judge Merryday issued his ruling, the CDC has granted permission for Freedom of the Seas to sail from the United States, and approved a number of other test cruises.

Five additional Royal Caribbean cruise ships have test cruises scheduled for July and August from ports in Florida, Washington, and Texas.

Carnival Cruise Line also restarted operations from PortMiami over the weekend with Carnival Horizon.

UPDATE: The CDC also filed a motion for a stay of the preliminary injunction on Tuesday.

In its court filing, the CDC wants the injunction to be stayed before the preliminary injunction takes effect on July 18, 2021.

The CDC believes the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) plays an important role in keeping passengers and crew safe on a ship, "It does not shut down the cruise industry but instead provides a sensible, flexible framework for re-opening, based on the best available scientific evidence."

"The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone."

"Cruise ships are uniquely situated to spread COVID-19, due in part to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods, and stops at foreign ports that risk introducing new variants of COVID-19 into the United States."

In the CDC's opinion, "The balance of the harms and the public interest thus overwhelmingly favor Defendants and maintaining the status quo pending appeal."

Royal Caribbean patents new way to alert cruise ship passengers in their cabin

In:
06 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean revolutionized the cruise industry with an easier safety drill, and is now looking to take it one step further with a new patent aimed at alerting passengers there is a drill they need to participate in.

The new emuster drill is already available on Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruise ships that have restarted sailings. This new drill replaces the traditional one where guests would have to stop everything they are doing and line up and hear about safety protocols.

Instead, guests have a window of time to conduct the drill via their smart phone.

Royal Caribbean Group recently filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Guest Quarters Coordination During Muster".

This patent seeks to do two things:

  • Alerting passengers in their cabin that a muster event has started
  • Displaying the muster location on the television display

The patent would cover an additional way to alert guests they need to complete their muster drill, as well be more easily notified they need to report to their muster station.

On the television, there would be a computed navigation path from the cabin to the retrieved muster location, selecting one or more turn by turn directions for the path, selecting landmark disposed within the path and displaying the muster location, a graphical image of the computed navigation path in the television display, at least one of the turn by turn directives and the landmark on the television display.

Traditionally on cruise ships, a muster drill is performed at the beginning of the cruise before the cruise ship departs or shortly thereafter.

During the muster drill, each individual passenger reports to an assigned muster station--a specific location on the vessel. A crew member then confirms the presence of each passenger expected to be present at the specific location during the muster drill so that all passengers may be accounted for in the event of an actual emergency and a resultant actual muster.

The muster process is particularly important because in the event of an emergency, all passengers can be accounted for and the location of the passengers managed relative to a location of an emergency condition aboard the vessel. 

In its filing, Royal Caribbean determined that even with the best safety drill information provided earlier, the reality is during an emergency condition--even a minor emergency--general confusion may arise simply owing to the complexity of size and architecture of a vessel and the mass movement of so many passengers to different locations within a short period of time. 

Because of this confusion, it can be confusing for some--particularly the elderly and children--both of whom often require additional assistance locating and moving towards assigned muster stations.  The foregoing difficulties may be compounded when the muster event occurs during nighttime when passengers awake from sleep and may not be completely aware of unfamiliar surroundings. 

As a result, Royal Caribbean came up with this idea for a guest quarters coordination method during muster.

Royal Caribbean's chat feature is now available on every cruise ship

In:
06 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The next time you go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, expect to be able to use the guest-to-guest chat feature onboard.

One of the projects Royal Caribbean was working on during the cruise industry shutdown was getting its chat feature ready to be used on all ships, and going forward, the cruise line says it will be available in the Royal Caribbean app when you sail.

While on Freedom of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Group Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider confirmed the chat feature is ready for use fleet wide, "As we bring every ship back, every ship, will have chat."

In fact, Mr. Schneider said the chat feature was ready to be roll out to the fleet just before the global health crisis forced all the ships to shutdown.

There is a cost to use the chat feature, which is $1.99 per guest, per day. You do not need to purchase internet access in order to use the app features in the app. In fact, you can use the app on a tablet or other non-cellular device.

Chat has been something Royal Caribbean has been working on since at least 2019, with it being in a beta test on Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas

The chat in Royal Caribbean's app works very similar to other texting apps you may have used in other apps.

Royal Caribbean's chat offers one-to-one guest chat, along with group chats.

Once onboard the ship and logged onto Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi  network (no internet package required to use the app), other guests will show up as offline or online but are only online if they have the app opened and to the “chat” window.

If your travel agent linked your reservation before sailing with a friend or family the will automatically show up in your list of contacts. You also have the option of adding other guests.

Royal Caribbean's app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

With new features and capabilities coming to Royal Caribbean's app as a result of ensuring health and safety are the top priority. This includes a variety of new changes:

Dependency on the smart phone app has never been greater because so many new features are being incorporated onto it.

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida

In:
05 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

With Freedom of the Seas sailing from the United States, the state of enthusiasm for cruising's return is matched only by the amount of questions people have about what it is like to be onboard.

I shared my first look at what it is like to cruise on Freedom of the Seas, but I wanted to answer as many questions as possible from RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers on our Facebook page.

Keep in mind the protocols and requirements for cruises on Freedom from Miami in July may be different for other months and/or ships.

Do they still have the buffet?

Yes, the Windjammer Buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (not for dinner until they start allowing more guests onboard).

There are two major differences to the Windjammer:

  1. The staff serves you the food
  2. A crew member scans your SeaPass card when you come in because there is a limit to how many people can be in the Windjammer. If they reached that limit, they would turn guests away until it changes. Alternatively, you could make a reservation.
    1. So far, reservations have not been necessary with the small amount of guests on this sailing.

What are the rules for Adventure Ocean? Reservations? How many hours do you get per child?

There is limited capacity for every Adventure Ocean session, which means parents need to sign up their kids for a time slot.

Unlike on Adventure of the Seas where they give you hours to use, on Freedom, parents get a 4 sessions per sailing to book once onboard. The idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity to get time for their child.

Kids must wear masks while in Adventure Ocean.

How are they distinguishing being the vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers?

Vaccinated guests are given a wristband to wear around the ship, while unvaccinated guests have no wristband and get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

You can read about how someone that is vaccinated can volunteer to disclose they are vaccinated.

If you have an unvaccinated child under 12 with you can they come with us into the vaccinated areas if all the adults are vaccinated?

No, since they are unvaccinated, you would have to follow the unvaccinated rules for designated venues that are off limits to unvaccinated guests.

Of course, when the child(ren) is not with you, you could go to any vaccinated space.

What percentage of the time are passengers forced to wear masks. 

Indoors, all guests (vaccinated or not) wear masks in public areas unless they are:

  1. In their stateroom
  2. Fully vaccinated and in a designated vaccinated area
  3. Sitting and actively eating or drinking

No guests have to wear a mask outdoors, such as on the pool deck.

For a vaccinated passenger, that basically means you are wearing a mask when walking around inside.  In practice, when you get to where you are going (restaurant, lounge, other venue), you can usually remove your mask.

Are the crew still wearing masks?

Yes.

We have been assigned a 1:00 check-in for a Jr Suite. Can we arrive early and go to the lounge, or do we need to stick to the 1:00 sharp check-in time?

They are still being very strict about the check-in times and enforcing them in order to ensure the terminal does not get overcrowded.

Per Royal Caribbean, there are no pre-arrival lounges to use, so plan to arrive at your designated check-in time.

Does the stateroom attendant still come in twice a day? If so, do they wear gloves and change them out?

Yes, there is still daily stateroom service and turndown service each evening.

I don't believe they are wearing gloves, but crew members practice a great deal of personal hygiene, including rigorous hand sanitization.

Do you "feel" the differences, pre-Covid vs. now?

The major differences that I feel are the lack of crowds due to limited capacity, and face mask requirements.

Overall, the cruise experience retains that fun feel it had before things shutdown, which means it still feels like you are on a cruise. The core elements are all still there.

Just like on land, there are some adjustments we have all made to adhere to new health requirements.

Since my wife doesn't drink alcohol can she give me her 4 Diamond drinks?

Yes, you just need your wife's SeaPass card to do that.  

Can unvaccinated children under 12 eat in specialty dining with vaccinated adults?

Yes, but with two exceptions:

  • Chef's Table
  • Izumi Hibachi

Do you think the Windjammer will re-open for dinner? 

Yes, Royal Caribbean executives have said it will re-open for dinner once there are more passengers onboard.

It is not quite clear yet what threshold the limited capacity onboard would have to reach, but it seems to be at least 50% occupancy.

Do they have extra masks when you go inside?

There are not masks available to pick up as you walk inside the ship from an outside area, but Royal Caribbean does have disposable masks they give you in your room on the first day.

It is primarily your responsibility to pack enough masks for your sailing.

Do you still leave cash tips at bars or are they attempting to be cashless?

Cash tips are still permitted.

How are they monitoring the masks?

Crew members will politely remind guests to put on or fix their mask if they notice a passenger not wearing one. Quite often it is a case of forgetting to put the mask back on after being outdoors.

Are the lounge chairs around the pool spaced further apart?

Yes, to some extent they are spaced a bit further apart than before. It looks like they don't mind chairs within a traveling party to be together, but other groups to have some space.

Can the WOW bands be used on Freedom of the Seas?

No, Royal Caribbean did not extend WOW band support to Freedom.

Face masks not listed on Royal Caribbean's August health protocols

In:
05 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean posted its health protocols for cruises sailing from Florida in August 2021 and there is no mention of face masks.

Whereas the protocols for cruises from Florida in July specify face masks must be work while in the cruise terminal and inside the ship, no such policy is listed for August sailings.

Royal Caribbean has not announced anything specifically to declare masks will not be necessary. Essentially, a face mask policy for August sailings is conspicuously missing.


August protocols for Florida sailings as seen today

At least one executive hinted at an upcoming federal policy change.

While speaking to members of the media at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Sunday, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said he is expecting a new update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding masks.

Mr. Bayley said he was expecting an update from the CDC that would allow a cruise ship with at least 75% vaccinated guests onboard to not require fully vaccinated guests to have to wear masks while indoors.

He did not say exactly when this new CDC update might occur, but it seemed more likely to be sooner than later.

Currently, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. The CDC does make allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully vaccinated parties.

Under the July protocols on Royal Caribbean's website, the cruise line says it expects an update from the CDC, "In the coming days, we are expecting updated guidance from the CDC on mask policies for vaccinated guests in shared spaces and will update you at that time."

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson indicated the full list of August protocols are not yet on the website, "We have not released our protocols for August sailings yet and just posted details on the vaccine and testing policies since it was related to insurance."

"We anticipate that August protocols will be very similar to July. That being said, we are hopeful that the CDC changes the mask policy soon."

On Royal Caribbean's sailings from The Bahamas on Adventure of the Seas, masks are not required to be worn onboard among fully vaccinated passengers, although unvaccinated passengers are required to wear masks.

In the meantime, Freedom of the Seas has restarted sailings from Miami, and all guests are required to wear a mask while indoors.

To reduce the need to wear masks among vaccinated guests, Royal Caribbean set up certain venues to be fully vaccinated zones, where masks are not necessary. This includes place such as the casino, various bars and lounges, specialty restaurants and more.

A look around the big changes on Freedom of the Seas

In:
03 Jul 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to get upgrades as part of the Royal Amplified program, and I got a chance to check out the changes firsthand.

Right before the cruise industry shutdown, Freedom of the Seas received a $116 million upgrade with new features and amenities.

Freedom had just one sailing with guests before everything shutdown, so most of the changes were not highlighted very much. 

With Freedom of the Seas being the first cruise ship from Royal Caribbean to restart sailings in the United States, we have a chance to look at all the changes.

Whenever a cruise ship gets an upgrade, the pool deck always gets the most noticeable changes because of how prominent and popular these new offerings are.

Royal Caribbean added the Perfect Storm duo of high-speed water slides to the back of the ship.

Not only did the waterslides get added, but the entire pool deck was revamped with a resort-style Caribbean poolscape.

This concept was first rolled out on Navigator and Oasis of the Seas, and it updates the look and feel of the pool deck.

The Lime and Coconut is a major part of the pool deck,with a multi-deck lounge and bar scene to enjoy.

The H2O Zone was also replaced with Splashway Bay aquapark.

Boleros is not new to Freedom of the Seas, but the look has been updated.

Right next door is a massive Playmakers space, which where the old photo gallery area.

Having been to many Playmakers locations, this one is enormous, with ample seating, and likely more televisions than people.

There are also a lot of new dining venues on Freedom of the Seas, including the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, and El Loco Fresh.

Here are some other photos from around Freedom to enjoy.

Freedom of the Seas is offering 3-night weekend and 4-night weekday summer cruises from Miami.