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I'm going on Royal Caribbean's first world cruise for 274 nights: Why I booked and what I'm expecting

09 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's first ever cruise around the world begins in December 2023, and it will be a cruise ship filled with passengers who are ready to globe trot in a new way.

World cruise

While the concept of a world cruise is nothing new to the cruise industry, this is Royal Caribbean's first foray into this type of cruise.

The Ultimate World Cruise will take 274 nights on Serenade of the Seas that will visit more than 150 destinations in 65 countries and 11 great wonders of the world.

World cruise map

Serenade of the Seas will sail roundtrip from Miami on Dec. 10, 2023 and through Sept. 10, 2024.

When Royal Caribbean first announced it would offer this cruise, many cruisers jumped at the chance to try it.

I wanted to know why a cruise around the world and a sailing that long was appealing, and what compelled them to book.

Leah and Steve are bloggers that booked the entire transit, and they shared why they booked and how they're planning a cruise of this length.

Why we started to consider a world cruise

Leah and Steve

A while back when I was in my 20s, I heard about a month long cruise that went to all of the religious centers of the world. Not much compared to the Ultimate World Cruise, but I really wanted to do it. At the time, it was beyond my financial resources.

Since then, it has been in the back of my mind to do a really long, epic adventure like that. So when I first saw the Ultimate World Cruise, I knew I was in. I would find some way to pay for it, because it was that important to me. 

My husband Steve thought it would be a great trip, but wasn’t sure that we could afford it. You see, he started saving for retirement late in life and has been trying to make up for lost time over the past decade. I pestered him by sending him a meme – I’m sure you have all seen it. The older couple in a Gondola in Venice, both sprawled out in the boat and sleeping.

Gondola meme

The thousand words that this picture explains are all the reasons you shouldn’t wait until you are too old, and too tired to enjoy traveling and seeing the world. He laughed, but still thought retirement accounts would be a better use of our funds. 

Why we decided to book a world cruise

At the beginning of 2022, we were working in different locations. Steve was in Nebraska, and I was in Guam.

Communication between us on this was mostly texts and video chats. He came to visit me in May, and we had plans for him to join me in Guam permanently in a few months. Which he did in August. And less than 24 hours later, he had a heart attack. That minor event changed every plan we had.

Over the next couple of months we just concentrated on getting him the treatment he needed, and getting our heads wrapped around how are lives were going to change.

It took about three months for the dust to settle, and then that meme came up in my feed again. I showed it to him again, and this time he was more receptive to the idea. 

Side of Navigator of the Seas

We did some research online. Called Royal Caribbean and they had a separate line set up for the Ultimate World Cruise, which was a good sign. But the folks answering the phone didn’t sound like they really knew the answers to the questions we were asking.

So we researched travel agents, and started working with one from MEI Travel. With her help, we got a better idea of pricing, were able to establish the date for final payment in order to get a 10% discount and spent some more time talking it over. We contacted our travel agent and made arrangements to make the necessary deposits.

Read moreWhy first-time cruisers should use a Royal Caribbean travel agent

Then we started working on transfers for the final payments. Neither of us had a single credit card that would accommodate the entire remaining balance, so we had to get creative. And once the decision was made, we haven’t regretted it a bit. The hard part has been the waiting.

What we've done so far to plan for the world cruise

Planning a trip

From our earlier research, we knew that to get all of the benefit of doing the full length cruise, we would need to have Platinum status with Crown and Anchor 180 days before the Ultimate Cruise began. Royal Caribbean was including seven excursions to new Wonders of the World as complimentary for everyone with this status.

Neither one of us had sailed with Royal Caribbean before, so we booked Junior Suites for three, five-day cruises out of Galveston in April 2023. The same itinerary for all three sailings.

Leah and Steve

We paid attention and learned a lot about cruising. We also had a blast, met some great people, and just enjoyed a relaxing vacation. Steve was already retired. His heart attack made it impossible for him to continue doing the kind of work we had done over the past decade or so. I was still working part-time from home, so I had to wait until my project was mostly finished before I could call myself officially retired. 

That was in September, and since then, we are planning, waiting, making plans, changing plans, and getting ready to be gone for most of a year. 

How we are planning for the Ultimate World Cruise voyage

Serenade of the Seas in Maine

Now that we have a few weeks to go, and I can taste the excitement. 

Since our embarkation day is now right around the corner, pretty much everything we do revolves around getting ready for the Ultimate World Cruise embarkation day. We are treating it like a deployment or overseas job.

We have to make sure we are healthy enough to be without major medical for 9 months. This means passing basic physical requirements. Eye exams – with two pairs of glasses each, in case one breaks. Teeth exams and cleanings. The works.


We’ve already talked to our insurance provider about getting a “vacation” 90 day supply of our medications, so we will be working on that next week. 

We are arranging shipping of some of our bags with Luggage Forward (This is an affiliate link which costs you nothing extra to use, but we make a small commission).

Suitcase open for packing

When people ask how you pack for a vacation like this, there are two options as I see it.

  1. Pack for a typical 2 week vacation and buy things as you go.
  2. Or overpack.

I – am over-packing.

Read more: Ultimate cruise packing list

We are also getting our home set up with a house-sitter. Forwarding our mail. Checking the online requirements for voting. Getting all of our travel documents together, including our vaccination records.

I am pretty pale even on good days, so I have been attempting to get a base tan before we leave. And my dermatologist has provided some additional items to help. There is nothing worse than starting a vacation with a horrible sunburn when you have all sorts of intense activity excursions planned. 

We don’t have any expectations for things to be much different than any other cruise. Other than the length and that some of our fellow passengers will come and go throughout the trip. There is already some level of disappointment due to current events and how those have changed our original itinerary, but it is perfectly understandable given the circumstances. 

Steve and I have often lived in cramped quarters, and already spend a lot of time together, so no concerns there!

What we are expecting of the Ultimate World Cruise

World cruise logo

Since this is a first-of-its-kind sailing for Royal Caribbean, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect, but we are making some assumptions.

Given the cost and length of the Ultimate World Cruise, we think we will be among the youngest of the crowd. I’m 52, and Steve is 59. A bit younger than the standard retired age.  

There probably won’t be a lot of families with young kids. 


We are guessing the number of people doing the full 274 days will be less than half.  There will definitely be a lot of interesting people to meet.

Steve and I will probably have the lowest Crown and Anchor society status when we first board.

One thing we are hoping for is a less busy gym than on our previous sailings. Steve and I both work out at least 6 days per week and on our last three cruises the gym was so crowded it was difficult to get a decent workout in. If we are correct about the general demographics of the Ultimate World Cruise, I think we will have a good shot at it. But I will have to keep you posted once we set sail!

Royal Caribbean's Black Friday sale is here and you could save big on drink packages, shore excursions and more

09 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Black Friday sale has deals on add-on extras for your cruise.

Wonder of the Seas

The Black Friday offer has begun, and it could have discounts on pre-purchased cruise packages, with savings of as much as 50% for some items.

Many cruisers look to the Black Friday sale as the most lucrative point in the year to get the best prices.  It can vary how good the sale is, but now is the time to price it out.

While the Black Friday offer for booking a new cruise has yet to appear, Royal Caribbean is getting an early start on discounting its pre-cruise purchases.

Royal Caribbean Black Friday 2023 sale details

Black Friday sale

Royal Caribbean's Black Friday sale on booking a new cruise offers up to $750 instant savings, plus 30% off everyone in the cabin.

Black Friday Sale applies to new bookings made between November 23 – 24, 2023 on sailings departing on or after December 23, 2023, and provides instant savings of up to $750 USD per stateroom.

Savings amount varies by stateroom category booked and sailing length as follows:

  • 5 nights or less
    • $75 USD savings for Interior and Ocean View
    • $150 USD for Balconies
    • $250 USD for Suites
  • 6 nights or longer 
    • $150 USD savings for Interior and Ocean View
    • $225 USD for Balconies
    • $750 USD for Suites

Black Friday Sale is combinable with 30% Off Every Guest and Kids Sail Free as well as with promotional OBCs, Next Cruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, Shareholder Benefits, but not combinable with Ultimate World Cruise and Crown and Anchor discounts. 

Cruise Planner sale

Black Friday cruise planner sale

Royal Caribbean’s Black Friday sale applies to Cruise Planner purchases made between November 9, 2023 and November 24, 2023, and applies to select sailings departing November 13, 2023 — December 31, 2024.

Here is what is included during the sale:

Beverage: Up to 50% off

  • Refreshment Package: 35% off onboard prices
    • 50% off for Kids (12 and younger)
  • Classic Soda Package: 35% off onboard prices
    • 50% off for Kids (12 and younger)
  • Cafe Select Package: 55% off onboard prices
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
  • Evian Water Package: Discount varies by ship.
Paddle boarding in CocoCay

Shore Excursions: Up to 50% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship.
    • Up to 50% off — all PDI sailings except Icon, Utopia, Ultimate World Cruise and Holiday sailings will only receive up to 30% Off shorex offer
    • Up to 30% Off — all other non-PDI sailings

Internet: Up to 55% Off

  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

VIP Pass: Up to 40% Off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship
Giovanni's Table on Allure of the Seas

Dining: Up to 45% Off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 14N sailings: Discount varies by ship.
  • Chops Grille — Lunch: 40% off onboard prices
  • Giovanni's Table — Lunch: 40% off onboard prices
  • Hooked — Lunch: 40% off onboard prices
  • Izumi Hibachi Experience — Lunch: 20% off onboard prices
  • Jamie's Italian Restaurant — Lunch: 40% off onboard prices
  • The Mason Jar — Brunch: 40% off onboard prices
  • Lunch at Hot Pot: 40% off onboard prices
  • Lunch at Sabor: 40% off onboard prices
  • Lunch at Sichuan Red: 40% off onboard prices
  • Lunch at Wonderland: 40% off onboard prices

Spa: Up to 30% Off

  • Spa Packages

Gifts & Gear: Up to 45% Off

  • Strawberries with Champagne: 35% off onboard prices
  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne: 45% off onboard prices
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries: 35% off onboard prices
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries: 35% off onboard prices
  • Happy Birthday Bright Style: 35% off onboard prices
  • Happy Anniversary Decorations: 35% off onboard prices
  • Bon Voyage Decorations: 45% off onboard prices
  • 9 Chocolate Covered Strawberries: 30% off onboard prices
  • White Wine and Cheese: 30% off onboard prices
  • Red Wine and Cheese: 30% off onboard prices
  • Soft Octopus Travel Set: 30% off onboard prices
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel: 30% off onboard prices
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe): 30% off onboard prices
  • Inky Beach Set: 30% off onboard prices
  • Inky Octopus Family Travel Set: 30% off onboard prices
  • Winter Blanket: 25% off onboard prices
  • Luxury Robe: 40% off onboard prices
  • Cooler Bag with Water: 30% off onboard prices
  • Cooler Bag with Coca Cola: 30% off onboard prices
  • Cooler Bag with Diet Coke: 30% off onboard prices
  • Cooler Bag with Bud Light: 30% off onboard prices
  • Cooler Bag with Truly: 30% off onboard prices

Photo Packages: Up to 65% Off

  • Photo Packages from 5 - 100 Photos: Discount varies by ship
  • Private Photo Session: 65% off onboard prices
  • Photo Package: All Digital: 65% off onboard prices

Onboard Activities: Up to 50% off

  • All Access Ship tour: 25% off onboard prices
  • Casitas Sea Day: 20% off onboard prices
  • Casitas Port Day: Discount varies by ship.
    • Up to 40% off onboard prices
  • Ocean View Day Bed – Sea Day: 20% off onboard prices
  • Ocean View Day Bed – Port Day: 40% off onboard prices
  • North Star Extended Experience: 20% off onboard prices
  • FlowRider: 20% off onboard prices
  • FlowRider Private Lesson: 20% off onboard prices
  • RipCord by iFLY Two Minute Experience: 20% off onboard prices
  • Escape the Rubicon: 20% off onboard prices
  • Mission Control: Apollo 18: 20% off onboard prices
  • Observatorium: 20% off onboard prices
  • Sprinkle Time Cupcake Decorating Class:
    • Up to 25% off onboard prices
  • Sip.Tour.Brunch.: 25% off onboard prices
  • Cooking Class Guacamole: 15% off onboard prices
  • Introduction to Pickleball Clinic: 40% off onboard prices

You can still take advantage of a better price on cruise add-ons

Soda cup

If you’ve already purchased add-ons like an internet package or spa service for your upcoming cruise, be sure to check the price of the add-on under the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale.

If the price is lower, you can cancel and rebook the add-on with no penalty up to 48 hours before your cruise date.

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

Is a short cruise on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world a crazy idea?

08 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships are among the biggest in the world, but is a 3-night cruise worth it?

Allure of the Seas

When these mega ships were designed, Royal Caribbean wanted to pack them with more to see and do than any other ship before it.  To the point, they offer a floating array of choices and activities.

In late October, Allure of the Seas became the first Oasis Class ship to begin offering regular short cruises, with 3- and 4-night sailings from Port Canaveral.

Allure of the Seas

Next year, Utopia of the Seas will enter service and will begin by offering 3- and 4-night cruises, which is equally unheard of because traditionally new cruise ships start off with 7-night cruises.

This change lead to a lot of questions about what it's like to sail on an Oasis Class ship for just the weekend, and is it worthwhile to do so.

Read more: Guide to weekend cruises

Allure of the Seas in Perfect Day at CocoCay

I went on the first 3-night sailing of Allure of the Seas, which began on November 3, to see for myself.

More activities packed into the sailing

Allure of the Seas ice skating show

One of the top questions people have about going on a short Oasis Class cruise is if all the shows are still available.

Like her sister ships, Allure of the Seas has three primary theaters onboard: the Royal Theater, the AquaTheater, and Studio B ice rink. There's shows in each venue, along with comedy shows, live music, and more.

Royal Caribbean's entertainment team consolidated the show schedule to fit into a 3-night cruise, but the difference between a 3- and 7-night cruise schedule is there will be more than one show each evening.

Allure of the Seas AquaTheater at night

On a longer cruise, you can afford to skip the first show time and catch it later. With the short cruises, there may be just one evening to see it.  Luckily, there are still multiple show times for each of the shows.

Like other short cruises that Royal Caribbean has offered on other ship classes, you'll find lots of activities throughout the day. The difference is that Allure has more venues than smaller ships, so there's more competing choices.

Read moreHow different is a 3-night vs 4-night cruise?

A short cruise is like a trip to a city

View of Central Park at night on Allure of the Seas

At first I also struggled with how to best see everything on such a short cruise, but then I questioned why I had to in the first place.

When I take a trip to New York City, I don't aspire to see every major attraction in Manhattan, let alone the surrounding boroughs. I prioritize a few very important attractions, hope on seeing a couple of others, and understand that I need to come back to do more.

In the same vein, why should we feel compelled to try to see everything on a cruise ship?

Royal Promenade on Allure of the Seas

If you talk to someone that has taken a 7-night cruise on an Oasis Class ship, they'll probably admit a week wasn't long enough to "do it all", but that didn't stop them from trying it.

A short cruise is fleeting, but this is true on Grandeur of the Seas as much as Allure of the Seas.

Matt in Coco Beach Club

It reminded me a lot of going to Walt Disney World, because you could spend a week in that resort and never come close to seeing every ride.  

Wanting to return to have the chance to sail again on cruise isn't a downside, it's an indication that you had a really good time and want more.

Once I came to this realization, I felt much better about going on a ship as big as Allure for just 3-nights.

Where to eat?

Arguably the most difficult choice may be where to eat dinner on a short Allure of the Seas cruise.

Oasis Class ships redefined the cruise experience in so many ways, including how many restaurants could be on one ship. Before Oasis of the Seas was built, if a cruise ship had two specialty restaurants, that was a big deal.  Today, a ship with two specialty restaurants is disappointing.

Negotiating with my family which three meals we would have may have been the toughest aspect of such a short cruise.

Specialty dining has become extremely popular, and when we sail on an Oasis Class ship, we'll lean heavily into the extra cost restaurants because of the sheer variety.

Even though I'm lucky enough to cruise a lot, it wasn't easy being limited to just a few restaurants. Ultimately, we narrowed it down to 150 Central Park, Izumi, and Samba Grill.

I think we made a good choice overall, and when we return again next year for a 3-night cruise, we'll change up which restaurants we visit.

Sushi at Izumi

Having too many choice is still better than not enough.

Cheaper out the door price

Allure of the Seas gangway

Something else that jumped out at me with a 3-night cruise on Allure of the Seas was the price.

On average, a 3- or 4-night cruise will cost less than a 7-night cruise overall.  Longer sailings may cost less per night, but the "out the door price" is usually cheaper.

This is a really attractive prospect, and it actually lead me to upgrade my cabin choice and try a suite because the cost was a lot less than I was used to.

Royal Loft Suite living room

The suite program on Oasis and Quantum Class ship is significantly better than the rest of the fleet.  By booking a suite on a weekend cruise, I could afford to splurge.

We booked the Royal Loft Suite, which had two levels to it, a giant wrap-around balcony with jacuzzi, and access to the services of the Royal Genie.

We never booked such an opulent suite before this because longer sailings made the price difficult to reach. But with a short cruise, it made more sense.

Royal Loft Suite

Even if you don't jump at a suite, it's quite likely you will find lower prices for a cabin on a 3-night Allure of the Seas compared to a 7-night cruise on Oasis of the Seas.

This means more people can try an Oasis Class without the premium price tag associated with a longer cruise.

Short cruises are aimed at new cruisers

View of cruise ship at CocoCay

Something else to think about is the strategy behind offering short cruises on Royal Caribbean's biggest ships.

Allure of the Seas' debut in this role, followed up by the brand new Utopia of the Seas undertaking it in 2024, is about attracting first-time cruisers.

All cruise lines covet new cruisers, because they are the single largest source of new customers and growth in the cruise industry. It's because the majority of the public has never cruised before, that's who Royal Caribbean wants to attract.

Utopia of the Seas night render

The problem is someone that has never cruised before may be leery of spending a week on any ship, even the brand new Icon of the Seas. So they tend to gravitate towards short cruises to give it a try.

So by offering cruises on their best cruise ships, Royal Caribbean is hoping to convert them into cruise fans with vessels that have all the latest and greatest features.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean's plan to dominate short cruises with a new ship and private destinations

Was a 3-night cruise on Allure of the Seas worth it?

Allure of the Seas at night

Without a doubt, I was glad to go on Allure of the Seas for just the weekend.

I would have certainly preferred to have more time and go on a longer sailing, but that isn't always in the cards. The school calendar and work obligations curtail most people's ability to cruise, and a short cruise is better than no cruise at all.

I like to work in weekend sailings as a way to augment my longer cruises. I don't plan weekend cruises as our primary family vacations, but they are great for "let's get out of the house for a few days".

Allure of the Seas aft

Going into the cruise, I knew I wasn't going to try everything, and I found myself liberated without that burden. Plus, it gave me a good reason to come back and do it again. I'm never one to shy away from a compelling reason to book another cruise.

We had a really nice time on Allure of the Seas for just 3-nights, and I think this will introduce the Oasis Class ships to a lot more people who will fall in love with cruising.

Celebrity Ascent has been delivered by the shipyard to the cruise line

08 Nov 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Celebrity Ascent has officially joined Celebrity Cruises' fleet. The cruise line took delivery of the brand-new Edge Class ship at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France.


In addition to 1,400 Celebrity Ascent crew members, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty; Celebrity Cruises President Laura Hodges Bethge; Laurent Castaing, General Manager of Chantiers de l'Atlantique; and Captains Dimitrios Kafetzis and Tasos Kafetzis were all present for the celebration. 

“Celebrity Ascent is yet another example of innovation driving our mission to provide the best vacations responsibly. The ship continues Celebrity’s ambition to redefine premium travel and take it to new heights,” said Liberty.


“I want to thank and congratulate the Chantiers de l’Atlantique team, our Newbuild and Celebrity Cruises’ teams, and their partners for the vision, craftsmanship, and passion that went into bringing this spectacular ship to life.”

“Celebrity Ascent features all the innovative and award-winning Edge Series signature experiences that launched a new era in cruise ship design, plus a few new enhancements, and I can’t wait to welcome our guests aboard,” said Hodges-Bethge. 


This is the first ship to be delivered to Celebrity Cruises since Hodges-Bethge became the CEO.

“It is a true honor to welcome this ship to our fleet and I am so grateful to everyone involved with all that goes into launching a new ship.” 


“I am convinced that Celebrity Ascent will meet the same success as the other ships in the prestigious Edge Series. Its fine exterior and interior design and its exceptional seaworthiness make it an outstanding ship, said Chantiers de l’Atlantique General Director Laurent Castaing.

"Celebrity Ascent embodies the strong bond between the Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Royal Caribbean Group and Celebrity Cruises teams."


While a few preview sailings are scheduled for late November, Celebrity Ascent is slated to make her official debut in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 3 with a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise sailing to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Dominican Republic.

Distinctive ship features and new experiences onboard Celebrity Ascent


Celebrity Ascent may be the fourth ship in the Edge Class, but she is not an exact copy of her sister ships. 

For the first time, Blu, the Aqua Class-exclusive restaurant, will have an outdoor dining terrace with the ability to seat 24 guests. Other dining venues, such as Le Voyage by Chef Daniel Boulud and the complimentary Cosmopolitan dining room, have been newly redesigned. 

RelatedWhat is the difference between The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises?

Le Voyage private dining room, on board Celebrity Ascent, the second installment of the highly rated fine dining venue by world-renowned chef, Daniel Boulud

Headed by KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group, Daniel Boulud's second restaurant at sea will offer an intimate fine dining experience that is based upon the Chef's travels. 

Entertainment is another selling point of the cruise experience for many passengers, and there is no lack of things to do onboard Celebrity Ascent.


Onboard, guests will have six new live productions, interactive gaming experiences, a transformative nightlife experience on the Resort Deck, and more to enjoy. 

Additionally, the redesigned casino will feature brand-new games for those who wish to try their luck at sea.   


There's also an expanded Rooftop Garden; upgraded Resort Deck with cantilevered float pools; multi-level, multi-terraced Sunset Bar; and two-story sundeck for guests staying within The Retreat. 

It wouldn't be an Edge Class ship without the return of the Magic Carpet, a multi-purpose cantilevered venue that serves as a gangway for tender boats during the day and an upscale dining venue and cocktail at night. 

Where will Celebrity Ascent be sailing to during her inaugural season?


From December through late April, she will sail to The Bahamas, Mexico, and Grand Cayman, as well as San Juan, Tortola, and St. Kitts on alternating 7-night voyages. 

During the summer, she'll be based in Europe with numerous different itineraries sailing from  Athens, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy to choose from, such as a 9-night Italian Riviera and France cruise or 12-night Best of Greece and Italy voyage. 

She will return to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2024. 

Royal Caribbean reveals 2025 European cruise itineraries

08 Nov 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Following the release of 2025 Alaska cruises, Royal Caribbean has now opened bookings for 2025 European cruises.

Allure of the Seas aerial

A variety of different itineraries will be offered throughout the region. You can cruise to Northern Europe, Norway, the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, and more!

Six cruise ships will sail around Europe between April and October 2025, including Allure of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas.

Here's a breakdown of which ships will be deployed to Europe and where they will be sailing from:

Independence of the Seas will return to the UK and offer cruises from Southampton in 2025.  For the last six years, Anthem of the Seas has offered cruises there, but Royal Caribbean has made a change for the 2025 cruise season.

Independence of the Seas will offer cruises of varying lengths that visit Spain, Portugal, Northern Europe, Norway and more.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

Allure of the Seas will return to Europe in 2025 and split her time between Barcelona, Spain and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy.

The schedule has Allure of the Seas conducting a transatlantic crossing in February 2025, and then there's a gap in her schedule until April 2025, fueling speculation of a long overdue refurbishment.

Allure of the Seas had her Royal Amplification ship upgrades cancelled in 2020 due to the cruise industry shutdown, and thus, hasn't received the same upgrades her other Oasis Class sister ships have.

Royal Caribbean has not made any official statements confirming Allure of the Seas will be amplified in 2025.

Allure will offer primarily Western Mediterranean cruises, along with a few shorter cruises at the beginning and end of the cruise season. 

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Brilliance of the Seas will move from Miami to Barcelona in April 2025, and then reposition to Athens (Piraeus), Greece to offer Greek Isles cruises. In August 2025, Brilliance moves to Barcelona and then Southampton to presumably return to the United States for the winter.

Explorer of the Seas will call Ravenna, Italy its home and offer Greek Isles and Adriatic Sea cruises.

Odyssey of the Seas will move from New York to Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy and visit destinations in Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

Read moreWhy Odyssey of the Seas is worth your attention

Voyager of the Seas will also be based in Civitavecchia, and offer 7-night cruises to Greece, Turkey, and around the Adriatic.

The new sailings are available to book via Royal Caribbean's website.

What are the best months to take a European cruise?

In general, the best months to cruise the Mediterranean and Greek Isles are May, June, September, and October. While outside of the peak summer season, these months see more favorable weather. Plus, you'll find fewer land-based tourists at popular attractions. 

You are more likely to spend time visiting cities, rather than lounging on the beach like you would if you were taking a cruise to The Bahamas or Caribbean. Walking around ports Rome, Athens, and Barcelona can be uncomfortable in July and August. 

Rhodes, Greece

Because of the cooler climate, the summer months see lower temperatures in Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland. You'll also have the most daylight. 

RelatedWhen is the best time to go on a cruise?

Booking your 2025 European cruise as early as possible is the best way to ensure that you get the lowest price


The lowest available rate for Royal Caribbean cruises tends to be when itineraries are first released. This, however, does not mean that you cannot find a good deal on a shoulder season voyage closer to the sail date. 

Those with their hearts set on cruising during the peak season should book as easy as possible, though. Over time, prices will go up as more and more cabins are reserved.

Norway flag

Additionally, some highly desirable cruise cabins (i.e., suites and staterooms with unique layouts) sell out quickly or jump in price after the sailings are released. 

Plus, you will be able to be on the hunt for the best airline tickets when they're released and start budgeting for cruise add-ons like shore excursions, as they can be more expensive in Europe than in places like The Bahamas and Caribbean. 

More 2025 deployments coming soon

There's plenty more deployments coming for the 2025-2026 cruise season.

The new deployments will take a small break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then we can expect 7-night Caribbean cruises to kick things back up in early December.

2025-2026 deployment schedule
  • Week of November 13, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 1)
  • Week of December 4, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 2)
  • Week of February 12, 2024: Short Caribbean, Los Angeles & Northeast 
  • Week of February 19, 2024: Long Caribbean

Keep in mind the sailings could be released at any point within that week, and not necessarily on the first day of the listed week.

More about European cruises:

Photos: Royal Caribbean Hideaway Beach construction update & changes to Coco Beach Club

07 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Work continues on the new adults-only area at Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas.

Perfect Day at CocoCay on November 5

After visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay on November 5th, I was able to get photos of the progress being made on the new expansion that will add an a haven for adults.

Read more41 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips and secrets

Hideaway Beach will open in late January 2024 and will be open to only cruise ship passengers that are 18 years old or older.

Hideaway Beach Club render

This area is not included, and the exact cost to enter is priced dynamically based on your sailing and what time of year you're going. 

Here's a look at the changes and updates I saw while visiting this weekend.

Construction photo update

Hideaway Beach construction

Hideaway Beach will be located on the western side of the island, essentially "behind" Thrill waterpark.

Access on foot is closed off to passengers, but we were able to get photos from the back of Allure of the Seas.

On the rocks construction

The most visible building under construction is On The Rocks, which is the first sports bar to be added to CocoCay.

Location of the bar

Located on the rocky shore, it will be where to go to watch live sports and play games, such as pool and shuffleboard.

Hideaway Beach construction
Hideaway Beach construction

Looking further back, I can see the pool for The Hideout is starting to take shape. This is where you'll find poolside cabana with in-water loungers, outdoor shower access, Bluetooth speaker, floating beach mats, resort-style seating, a cooler, sink, mini fridge, charging outlets, ceiling fans, and private lockable storage space.

Hideaway Beach construction

At the end of CocoCay is more construction work, that looks to be primarily staging for Hideaway Beach construction, along with new buildings going up.

New tram station added

Tram station construction

When you walk down the pier, it's apparent they are adding a tram station near the current tram station to take guests to Hideaway Beach.

Tram station construction
Tram station construction

Royal Caribbean provides tram service around the island at no additional cost so that guests can easily get from point A to point B.

Currently, the new station is hidden behind planters to prevent guests from accessing the area.

Coco Beach Club cabana policy changes

I was also made aware of two changes to the Coco Beach Club cabanas during my visit to the island.

Cabana wristband

First, is cabana guests must wear wristbands, even when not leaving the cabana. 

The other policy change is for additional guests at a Coco Beach Club Cabana. 

Floating cabana

If you want to add more than the 8 people included with a single cabana purchase, there is a charge of $50 per person, plus the purchase of a Coco Beach Club Day Pass per guest, for a maximum of 2 additional people.

Previously, only a Coco Beach Club Day Pass was necessary.

Royal Caribbean unveils blockbuster show and entertainment lineup for Icon of the Seas

07 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will offer its best lineup of shows and entertainment when Icon of the Seas debuts in January 2024.

Icon of the Seas front render

Icon of the Seas is poised to become not only a popular new cruise ship, but the new standard within the cruise industry that all other new ships are judged against. The gangbuster demand Royal Caribbean has seen already is a strong indication that its new class of cruise ship is a home run.

As the ship wraps up construction, we have a look at the new shows you can expect to find onboard.

Royal Caribbean has traditionally been known for being a leader in the cruise industry from an entertainment standpoint.  Original productions are nothing new for Royal Caribbean, and the company continuously strives to ensure their entertainment is on par with Las Vegas.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment Nick Weir previewed the new shows coming to the ship, "If you’re a fan of full-scale productions on Broadway and the West End or live music and comedy in hot spots like Las Vegas, Icon has it all for every mood and style in one vacation – alongside never-before-seen twists only found on Royal Caribbean."

Icon of the Seas infographic entertainment

Here's a breakdown of all the new shows Royal Caribbean has planned for Icon of the Seas.



Within the AquaDome are two new shows.

More than 75 world-class performers are featured in the AquaDome, which is home to the next generation of AquaTheater.


The first is Aqua Action!, which is meant to indulge audiences with a lot high-energy.

This show incorporates Olympic-level high divers, skateboarders, aerialists, slackliners and synchronized swimmers. Plus, the cruise line is excited to introduce new technology, such as a double 3D flying system and robots doubling as diving boards and set creators.

The hope is it will, "blur the lines between live-action movie and theatrical experience."

Pirates vs Mermaids

The second show is Pirates vs. Mermaids, and it's a show geared towards the family that brings fairytale characters to the stage.

You can expect a lighthearted story that appeals to parents and children.

Royal Theater

Wizard of Oz

The signature show on Icon of the Seas is arguably an original stage production of The Wizard of Oz.

Not to be confused with the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, this is Royal Caribbean's take on the classic story with a modern twist to it.

Wizard of Oz on Icon of the Seas
Wizard of Oz on Icon of the Seas

You can expect to see characters in the show "soaring above the audience", along with a revolutionary set design with never-before-seen stage effects, more than 600 costume elements and an original score performed by a new 16-piece orchestra.


Royal Caribbean is also incorporating a show for music lovers, called SHOWBAND! Live. Music. Now.

A total of 16 musicians will take to the stage to offer, "an all-out sensory experience." 

Expect string, woodwind, brass and percussion instrumentalists to perform in this show.

Absolute Zero

Absolute Zero

The ice skating rink on Icon of the Seas will be the largest ice rink at sea.  It will have over 2,850 square feet of ice, and two shows in this space.

Starburst poster

Starburst: Elemental Beauty is a performance that is an artistic interpretation of the periodic table of elements. The Olympic-level ice cast will dazzle the audience with high-speed choreography and tricks.

Expect bigger tricks because of the new oval-shaped ice arena. Along with the tricks will be digitally mapped backdrops and vibrant lighting displays.

Icon of the Seas set

Another ice show is the Once Upon a Time: The King’s Royal Ball, and similar to Pirates vs. Mermaids, is designed for families to enjoy.

"Timeless tales will take everyone on a nostalgic ride through their childhood with twists and surprising new details not part of the originals."

More entertainment

Jazz Bar

There is also more entertainment on Icon of the Seas in other areas of the ship.  Royal Caribbean is well-known for offering live music in many bars and lounges.

50 live musicians and comedians will perform throughout Icon and in more venues, including the new Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues and Dueling Pianos, along with the Schooner Bar and the Point & Feather English pub.

The Attic on Icon of the Seas

The Comedy Club on Icon will have three comedians a night for adults to enjoy.

Ships ahoy
Parade float

The Royal Promenade will feature a reimagined parade for families, Ships Ahoy!

Delivery is right around the corner


Icon of the Seas is nearing the finish line for physical construction.

In speaking with Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider last week, he estimated the ship is right between 92-94% complete, and delivery of the ship is, "right around the corner."

Delivery doesn't mean the ship is ready, however. 


Once Icon of the Seas is delivered, the ship will head to Cadiz, Spain, where post-delivery work will commence.  This is when aesthetic elements of the ship are added, such as art work, furniture and more.

Speaking of art, Icon of the Seas will feature a "significant art implementation" that is about double the amount of art found on Wonder of the Seas, which is the world's biggest cruise ship today.

French shipyard cuts steel for Celebrity Cruises' next new cruise ship

07 Nov 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Celebrity Xcel, the fifth ship in Celebrity Cruises' groundbreaking Edge Class, is set to launch in November 2025. 

Xcel steel cutting 1

The ship's name was revealed during the steel-cutting ceremony at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Executives from Royal Caribbean Group and the shipyard were present. 

“The Edge Series has shattered preconceived notions of cruising, and I am thrilled to announce our next bold step as a brand with Celebrity Xcel,” said Celebrity Cruises’ President Laura Hodges Bethge.

Xcel steel cutting 3

“True to her name, this next ship will ‘Xcel’ beyond her sister ships with entirely new experiences, yet to be revealed, but that will change the game all over again.” 

Celebrity Xcel will be based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida during her inaugural season


After her debut, Celebrity Xcel will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on 7-night cruises to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Cayman Islands, as well as Puerto Plata, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

According to Celebrity's website, the maiden voyage is slated to take place on November 18, 2025, sailing to Bimini, Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico. 

You can book your cruise onboard Celebrity Xcel by heading to Celebrity's website or through your trusted travel advisor. 

What features will be onboard Celebrity Xcel?

Magic carpet

In addition to some distinctive Edge Class features, there are some differences and enhancements that will make the experience onboard this Edge Class ship different from others. 

First, the ship will have an expanded Rooftop Garden and Resort Deck with unique cantilevered float pools. 

Fans of the Sunset Bar will appreciate the multi-level, multi-terraced bar at the aft of the ship similar to the one that can be found on Celebrity Beyond. The cantilevered Magic Carpet will also return to offer impressive views of the sea's horizon. 

Martini Bar on Celebrity Crruises

The three-story Grand Plaza will be redesigned, too, in order to create an open indoor venue. 

Of course, guests looking for a luxurious and upgraded cruising experience and splurge on a suite within The Retreat, Celebrity's ship-within-a-ship concept that will feature a two-story sundeck, as well as two-story villas with private plunge pools. 

RelatedWhat is the difference between The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises?

What's a steel-cutting ceremony?

Xcel steel cutting 2

The steel-cutting ceremony for a brand-new ship is a maritime tradition and major milestone in a ship's construction process because it indicates that the groundwork has been set. 

Typically, executives from the cruise line, as well as shipyard personnel, are present. 

As of November 2023, there's no set date for the keel-laying ceremony, which is the next milestone and marks the official beginning of the ship's construction. 

Celebrity Ascent, the fourth Edge Class ship, is launching this month


Celebrity Ascent is set to join Celebrity's fleet as the fourth Edge Class ship, following Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, and Celebrity Beyond. 

In addition to Edge Class favorites, this ship will have a few experiences that cannot be found on her younger sisters, including a completely redesigned Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud; expanded martini menu at the Martini Bar; three brand-new production shows; redesigned casino; and outdoor terrance at Blu, the exclusive restaurant dedicated to AquaClass guests.

RelatedCelebrity Cruises released details about its biggest ship yet: Celebrity Ascent

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship, is almost ready after finishing sea trials

06 Nov 2023
Elizabeth Wright

After spending eight days at sea, Icon of the Seas returned from her second round of sea trials. 


She departed from the shipyard early on October 29 after a short delay. Icon of the Seas was scheduled to depart the evening prior. 

"We're getting close to the finish line, and during Icon's final weeks at the shipyard, the ship will be getting her finishing touches before delivery, when it will be time for Icon to cross the Atlantic for her new home in the Caribbean," read a post published to Meyer Turku's Facebook page.  

An "extensive" test of every system


Icon of the Seas was pushed to her limits during the second round of sea trials. 

When she first sailed through open waters in June, she traveled hundreds of miles and had informal tests and certifications completed.


This time, however, the ship's noise, vibration, speed, fin stabilizers, automation, and main engine adjustments were formally tested to make sure everything was in working order and ready to welcome guests. In total, hundreds of tests and inspections were completed. 

"Building this ship is a challenging project, but I am proud of the shipyard workers and the fact that it is possible to build such a ship here at the Turku shipyard," said Tim Meyer, CEO of Meyer Turku in a recent interview given to YLE, Finland's national public broadcasting company. 


During the sea trials, Royal Caribbean learned that the ship is lighter and faster than they expected her to be.

Icon of the Seas is not quite ready to be delivered 


Even though Icon of the Seas is over 90% complete, Some final touches need to be made before she can be handed over to Royal Caribbean. 


According to Nick Weir's X page, Icon's carousel in Surfside was turned on and rotated for the first time on November 5. The video shows that, while it is functioning, there is still more work that needs to be done.  

Another post revealed an update on the largest ice rink at sea, Absolute Zero, which will be home to two different original productions: Starburst and Once Upon a Time. Additionally, guests can check the Cruise Compass to see when free skate sessions are offered. 


While the area has taken shape, some chairs still need to be moved into place.

An official delivery date has yet to be announced; however, there is post-delivery work that will have to happen. This will be completed in Cádiz, Spain. Things like art won't be brought in until the last minute. 

"This is a..significant art implement for us in comparison to size of vessel and quantity," remarked Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider. He estimated that it has close to double the amount of art onboard as Wonder of the Seas

Nearing two months until Icon's first-ever cruise


As 2023 draws to an end, we get closer and closer to Icon's debut month! She's scheduled to depart from Miami, Florida on January 27, 2024 after over two years under construction. 

She'll be based in South Florida though at least April 2026. By then, however, they'll be another Icon Class ship, Star of the Seas, in service, although it's currently unknown where she will sail from. 


Onboard the 250,800 gross ton vessel, passengers will find 40 dining venues and bars, a water park, the largest ice skating rink at sea, an indoor ice skating rink, and seven pools. 

My family stayed in a $7,000 suite on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas for a 3-night cruise, and it was the perfect weekend binge

06 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

We love taking the family on weekend cruises as a quick escape, and when we got the chance to try the Royal Loft Suite on Allure of the Seas, it seemed like a great opportunity.

Royal Loft Suite

This is one of the biggest suites on Allure of the Seas and a cabin that has Star Class benefits, which means it has some of the best perks on the ship.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Suites Guide & Review

Ordinarily, a suite of this size would command a gargantuan price, but Allure of the Seas just shifted to doing short weekend cruises from Port Canaveral and that brought the overall price down to something more affordable.  For my family of 4, the price came out to $7,388.32 for the 3-night cruise.

I booked this cruise right when the itineraries were announced back in March of 2022, and that proved to be a good decision as the prices then were much lower than they later became.

Take a tour of spacious my hotel room at sea complete with two bedrooms, a jacuzzi on the balcony, and some of the best views from any cabin.

My suite was located on deck seventeen, which is deck reserved exclusively for suite cabins.

Coastal Kitchen on Allure of the Seas

On this deck there are many other suites, along with the Suite Lounge and Coastal Kitchen, an exclusive restaurant for guests staying in a suite (and Pinnacles too).

The layout of this deck is a "U-shape", and we were located on the aft facing port side.

When I tapped my room key card and opened the door, I walked into the living room.

Royal Loft Suite

The Royal Loft Suite has two bedrooms, a dining room, and large living room.  Let's start with the master bedroom.

Given that this suite has a loft configuration, there are two levels, with the master bedroom and bathroom being entirely located on the upper floor.  A staircase is how you access the second floor.

Royal Loft Suite living room

There is a king size bed, tv projector, and more closet space than you can possibly use.

Royal Loft Suite

There is no door to the master bedroom, but there is a remote controlled curtain that completely encompasses the upper bedroom to provide privacy and darkness.

Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite

The one noticeable feature missing compared to a newer cruise ship are power or USB outlets near the bed. The closest outlets were by the office desk closer to the staircase.

The office desk has a chair, and faces the balcony so you can have a view to enjoy.

Royal Loft Suite

Behind the bed is where all the storage space is located.  There are drawers and closets, and there seemed to be much more space than I could possibly fill.

Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite

The safe is also located in this area, long with a seating area with mirror.

Royal Loft Suite

The master bathroom is also enormous, with a toilet, bidet, two sinks, two showers, and a jacuzzi tub.

Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite

The showers have two adjustable heads, along with a rainforest shower.  All three can be used at the same time, or one at a time.

Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite

The second bedroom is located on the main floor, near the entrance to the suite.  It can sleep two people, and the beds can be separated if needed.

Royal Loft Suite

The second bedroom has its own door, which makes for better privacy for anyone sleeping here.

Royal Loft Suite second bedroom
Royal Loft Suite second bedroom


Royal Loft Suite second bedroom
Royal Loft Suite second bedroom

It also has its own television, along with desk and mirror.


Adjacent to the second bedroom is a full bathroom.

Royal Loft Suite bedroom

Each shower has upgraded shower toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

Royal Loft Suite bedroom

In the foyer is a piano, which you can play on your own or use an autoplayer feature.

Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite

There's also a library of books you can borrow for the duration of your sailing.

Royal Loft Suite

In the living room, you will find chairs, ottomans, sofas, and comfortable seating.

Royal Loft Suite living room
Royal Loft Suite living room

There is also a large television in the living room.

Royal Loft Suite living room

Behind the living room is the dining room, which is a very large table to enjoy meals delivered by room service.

Royal Loft Suite living room

The in-room coffee maker can make a quick cup of coffee anytime you want.

Royal Loft Suite living room

Stepping onto the balcony, there are three doors you can use: two from the living room, and one from the second bedroom.

Royal Loft Suite living room

The Royal Loft Suite has a wrap-around balcony that provides views of the ocean and Sports Deck below.

There is a wet bar outside that you can use, along with another dining table with lots of seats. When having food delivered to the suite, you have the choice of dining indoors or outdoors.

Royal Loft Suite balcony
Royal Loft Suite balcony

There are two giant loungers on the balcony that face the sports deck.

Royal Loft Suite balcony

There are also comfortable loungers that face the ocean.

Royal Loft Suite balcony
Royal Loft Suite balcony

The "pièce de résistance" of the Royal Loft Suite is the private jacuzzi hot tub on the balcony, which faces the ocean.

Royal Loft Suite balcony

The hot tub is available day and night, and is one of very few suites to have this feature.

Another compelling feature of this suite is the Royal Genie services, which provides VIP privileges to everyone staying in the cabin.

Of course, the Royal Loft Suite was far from cheap, but it's designed to offer one of the most luxurious accommodations you can find on Allure of the Seas.

I felt the suite delivered on the promise of a luxurious cabin for our family to enjoy on a short cruise.  We prioritized spending more time in the cabin and taking advantage of what the in-room amenities, along with the Royal Genie services.

If your family wants a lot of space, the absolute best perks, and are willing to spend a lot for it, then the Royal Loft Suite is a great choice for you.

More information: