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First time cruisers: Comparing Royal Caribbean to Disney Cruise Line

In:
22 Dec 2014

For many families, they have to pick the right cruise for their vacation and there's no doubt two of the titans of the family cruise market are Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line.  We get so many questions about this topic that we wanted to look at how they compare to each other.

It should be noted right away that picking a cruise line over another is quite subjective and there's always going to be differing opinions on this, but we try to remain as objective as possible.

What Royal Caribbean does well

Royal Caribbean has a few "core competencies" where it generally exceeds at and these are areas that if important to you, could sway your opinion

Latest and greatest

If you want to cruise on the newest cruise ships with the latest uber-cool cruise ship innovations, then Royal Caribbean is the line for you.  They build new ships quite regularly, with another four cruise ships on order as of this blog post.

Besides bragging rights, these new ships offer the latest in cruise ship trends as well as the very best in accommodations, dining, technology and entertainment.  We love older ships but there's no beating a brand new ship for what it offers.

World wide itineraries

From the Far East, to Australia to the Middle East, Europe and Alaska, there's lots of Royal Caribbean ships sailing these waters throughout the year.   Its ships sail to every continent except Antarctica on cruises ranging from three nights to 18 nights.

Because Royal Caribbean has a substantially larger fleet than Disney, Royal Caribbean has been focusing on serving the international markets to expand its market share and that's resulted in a lot of itinerary variety to choose from.  Often, there's a Royal Caribbean ship in one of these major regions in addition to the well-represented North American cruise corridor.

When you're looking for something more than another cruise to the Bahamas, it's hard to beat what Royal Caribbean offers.

Unlimited alcohol packages

Simply put, you can get reasonably priced unlimited alcohol packages on Royal Caribbean ships that give you a fixed price for your onboard consumption.  

Adults will be able to know in advance how much this cost will be and even pre-pay it to help break up the cost of the trip.  While we personally find the unlimited drink packages to be more than what we need, many adults enjoy the convenience of the packages.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST EPISODE COMPARING ROYAL CARIBBEAN TO DISNEY CRUISE LINE

What Disney Cruise Line does well

If you're wondering what Disney Cruise Line does better than most, here's a quick rundown of our experience.

Overall dining experience

Excluding specialty restaurants, we think Disney Cruise Line's complimentary restaurants are quite well planned. Guests get to try a different restaurant each night with the same wait staff "following" them around between restaurants.

In addition, the restaurants on Disney Cruise Line are not just rooms with food.  Each restaurant has a unique look and feel to it and they stand out in terms of their atmosphere.

For sailing of 4-nights or more there are different themed menus. So, even though you eat in the same dining room again you'd have a different dinner. At times they are themed to the region for example Mediterranean or Taste of Alaska.

Free soda

If soft drinks are your thing, there's no beating the complimentary soda available on Disney Cruise Line.  

Royal Caribbean charges per soda or offers beverage packages that cover them, but on Disney Cruise Line offers unlimited fountain soda, regular coffee, tea and water.  

For kids and those that just love a good Coke, it's a big cost savings when you consider how much Royal Caribbean would charge to drink the same amount onboard their ships.

Stateroom size and offerings

Since it's inception, Disney Cruise Line has offered more space and options in its staterooms than anyone else in the cruise industry,

While Royal Caribbean has narrowed the gap in recent years with its newer ships, Disney Cruise Line offers more square footage and bathtubs in the majority of staterooms.

Inside staterooms on the Disney Dream (one of Disney Cruise Line's newest ships) have square footage of 169 square feet, whereas on Oasis of the Seas inside staterooms begin at 150 square feet).

Blurred Lines: How the two compare in other areas

Both cruise lines do a lot of things well and it's harder to pick a winner among the two without getting into some real personal opinions.

Entertainment

Disney came into the cruise space with its well known ability to create compelling shows.  Disney puts on a lot of stage shows that garner rave reviews and they also offer character meets with Mickey, Minine and many other characters and princesses.

Disney Cruise Line also offers fireworks at sea, whereas Royal Caribbean does not.

Royal Caribbean has really upped its game in recent years.  Many Royal Caribbean ships feature Broadway shows such as Cats, Mamma Mia, Chicago and more.  Royal Caribbean has also partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer just as many character meets, film showings and general character interactions as Disney.

For adults, Royal Caribbean's entertainment may be a stronger choice given their shows gravitate to them more so than children and there's also a greater variety of shows to choose from.  In addition, Broadway shows are of a higher caliber display than Disney's shorter shows based on their films.

Activities

You will find plenty of onboard activities for both cruise lines.  Bingo games, dance lessons, demonstrations, tours and more can be found on both cruise lines.  Both lines also offer swimming pools, sports courts, spas, gyms, shows, bars and entertainment lounges.

Royal Caribbean offers ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, mini-golf, movie theaters and a lot more.  Oh and did we mention there are no casinos on Disney Cruise Line?

Disney Cruise Line offers a water coaster, water play areas for kids, and slides in their pools.  There's also scavenger hunts, trivia, tasting classes, and more on Disney Cruise Line.

Child Care

Both cruise lines offer child care included in the price of the cruise.  

Both lines offer kids clubs for children, young teens and teens.  In general, Royal Caribbean's clubs are more structured in terms of their daily routine but Disney Cruise Line has a more "open" policy to their child care programs, that encourage the children to explore and try what they find interesting.

Both lines do have nursery options that have a per-hour cost.  

Private islands

Both cruise lines have private islands the cruise line operates that offer a very well-maintained and beautiful destination.  With good weather, it's hard to really which is more beautiful than the other (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?).

Disney Cruise Line has Castaway Cay in the Bahamas that is widely regarded as a beautiful island with lots to do for adults and children.  We also find the beach sand to be softer and less rocky than Royal Caribbean's.  

On Castaway Cay you will find 5k races, great snorkeling, and a private beaches for adults.

Royal Caribbean has two private islands, Labadee in Haiti and CocoCay in the Bahamas.  Both islands are gorgeous and a great place for a beach day.  Given their respective locations, western and eastern Caribbean itineraries usually include a stop at one.

Labadee also offers an aqua park, zip line and roller coaster for an additional cost.  CocoCay is more basic in its offerings and also requires tendering to get to the island.

The crew

Both crews do an admirable job at keeping their guests happy.  From customer service, to wait staff to the people that turn down your bed, both cruise lines work hard to keep guests smiling.

Disney has built a reputation over many decades for a hard working staff that is always looking to improve.  From its theme park origins, the Disney Cruise Line crew members want to make your cruise better and offer tremendous service.

Royal Caribbean's crew is just as good, with their service always looking to "WOW" its guests.  For the crew, wow is more than a marketing slogan, it's the group mantra.  You will find smiling faces and a can-do attitude onboard Royal Caribbean that is always asking how can they make your cruise better. 

The X-Factor: Cost

There is a big difference between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean that is hard to ignore and that is the cruise fare price.

Royal Caribbean is usually considerably cheaper in cruise fare compared to Disney Cruise Line.  In a study by the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean's prices were on average 60-70% less than Disney for very similar cruise experiences.

To put this in perspective, seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral in the second half of 2015 were over $7200 for an inside cabin (depending on date) compared to Royal Caribbean's prices of about $2200 - $3000.  That's a lot of money.

We are the first to admit the onboard experience of a Disney Cruise and a Royal Caribbean cruise are very similar, so it's hard to justify the prices Disney Cruise Line charges for their product.

Summary

After reading all of this, you have to start deciding which aspects of your cruise vacation are more important to you to pick the right choice.

Given the fact this blog is centered around Royal Caribbean cruising, it's obvious where our allegiance lays but it's important to recognize what the competition does well too.  Royal Caribbean is far from perfect and when you look at the right cruise for you, it's always important to have as much information as possible.

In a nutshell, Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful product with lots of entertainment and plenty for the kids.  Royal Caribbean counters with phenomenal ships, lots of options to choose from at a great value.

I also wanted to give a big thanks to Scott from Disney Cruise Line Blog for making sure I was fair to Disney Cruise Line in this post.  Check out his blog for some really good coverage of all things DCL.

What you need to know about Royal Caribbean's refillable Coca-Cola cups

In:
20 Dec 2014
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It wont be long before you start seeing souvenir Coca-Cola cups on your Royal Caribbean cruise and it seems like they are everywhere!  The cup comes in bright colors in a stylized design that is the perfect way to get refills of your favorite soda anytime you want. Here are six things that you will want to know if you are thinking about buying one.

You can purchase it from many places onboard the ship

If you want to get the souvenir cup, you can purchase the non-alcoholic drink package that is right for you.  Especially on embarkation day, you will find stations around the ship offering to sell you the package and the fun cup!

Simply pick between the Royal Refreshment Package and the Royal Replenish Package and you will get a complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup with each package purchased.

Often you will find the packages for sale outside the Windjammer and on the Royal Promenade.

The cups work with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines

Of course you can have bartenders fill the cup up and there are automated machines near the pool, but the best way to use your Coca-Cola souvenir cup is with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines!

Located on select ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, you can use these amazing machines exclusively with the souvenir cups and choose from over 100 flavor combinations!

In order to use the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines guests must purchase an all-inclusive beverage package or the Royal refreshment package and use their complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup. The Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip in it which activates the machine.

You can only refill the cup once every 15 minutes

As mentioned earlier, the Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip that prevents people without the cup from using the self-service refill stations.  

The machines do "lock down" your cup for about 15 minutes after you refill your cup to ensure the cup isn't shared with people that do not have the drink package.

You get a free cup with any unlimited alcohol package purchase

Of course you can get the souvenir Coca-Cola cups with the non-alcoholic packages, but if you prefer to go with the unlimited alcohol packages, you get the souvenir Coca-Cola cup too!

Each of the unlimited alcohol packges (select, premium, ultimate) come with a complimentary souvenir cup that you can use to get unlimited soft drinks during your cruise when you're looking to get something with a little less punch.

The cup is accepted almost everywhere

The souvenir cup can be refilled nearly everywhere onboard the ship. Bars, self-service stations, restaurants and lounges will all gladly refill the cups for you.

However, the souvenir Coca-Cola cups do not work with room service or the drinks in your mini-fridge.  Keep that in mind before you order something that will cost you extra!

You can pre-purchase the mug online before your cruise

You don't have to wait to get on your cruise in order to purchase your souvenir Coca-Cola cup.  In fact, you can pre-purchase online at royalcaribbean.com and have your cup waiting for you.

After you purchase the package online, the souvenir cup should be waiting for you inside your stateroom once you get in there.  That way, there's no waiting in line for you and you can start taking advantage of the benefit immediately!

Have you bought the Coca-Cola souvenir cups before?  Do you think they are worth it?  And will you buy one on your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean WOWbands: What you need to know

In:
19 Nov 2014

What is a WOWband?

Worn on the wrist, WOWbands are bracelets that come in a variety of colors that allows passengers to connect with a number of Royal Caribbean experiences.

You can use your WOWband to enter your stateroom, purchase beverages, merchandise and anything else Royal Caribbean sells.  They can also access the Suite Lounge or Crown and Anchor Diamond Lounge.

Because you can wear your WOWband on your wrist, you do not have to bring your SeaPass card along anymore and this frees you up from trying to find the SeaPass card when you need it.  Just like the SeaPass card, you will not need cash or other credit cards because all charges go right to your SeaPass account.

What does a WOWband look like?

WOWbands are silicone bracelets that come in a variety of colors: white, yellow, black and blue.

How does it work?

WOWbands use Radio Frequency (RF) technology that can be read by Royal Caribbean's readers that are found at kiosks, tablets and mobile scanners that Royal Caribbean crew operate.

Your WOWband is linked to your SeaPass account and holds all of your information related to your cruise vacation such as your stateroom information, dining reservations and more.  

Who can use a WOWband?

Any Royal Caribbean cruise passenger can use a WOWband, but they are optional.  You can still use SeaPass cards in conjunction with or in lieu of, WOWbands.

How do I get a WOWband?

WOWbands may be purchased onboard your ship for $4.95 each. They can be purchased at anytime from Guest Relations, although on embarkation day there may be a specified distribution point.

Guests staying in a suite will find a WOWband for everyone in that stateroom. They are already activated and ready for use as soon as you get it.

How much do WOWbands cost?

Royal Caribbean charges $4.99 for each WOWband.

Guests in Grand Suites and above (Golden Suites & Royal Premiere for Spectrum of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas) will continue to receive the WOW Bands in their staterooms at no charge.

What if I don't want to use a WOWband?

WOWbands are optional and you may keep your SeaPass card instead to use.  Even if you get the WOWband, you can use both.

Royal Caribbean is encouraging all guests to use WOWbands but they are not required.

What ships offer WOWbands?

Currently Spectrum of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas offers WOWbands. 

Royal Caribbean does have plans to roll out WOWbands to all ships across the fleet, but that will take several years before it's all ready.

First time cruisers: How do I wash my clothes on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
10 Nov 2014
By: 
Matt Hochberg

You're on your first Royal Caribbean cruise and you spill something on your favorite shirt.  Or maybe your kids were a little too rambunctious in port and got their clothes dirty.  Or perhaps you want to re-wear something again.  How do you launder your clothes on your Royal Caribbean cruise?

Photo by Jeff Goldberg

Send it out

The simple answer is Royal Caribbean provides a laundering service.  Just like the dry cleaners at home, Royal Caribbean charges per item to have it washed and press, pressed only or dry cleaned only.

The price for this service depends on the item. Refer to the list below for prices for each item and its corresponding service.

Depending on when your order goes in, you often can get your clothes back the next day.

Having your clothes simply pressed is a great way to have nicer clothing, like dress shirts, suits or dresses, wrinkle free for just a small cost.

You will find order forms for laundry in your stateroom (check the closet or ask your stateroom attendant).  Fill out the paperwork, deposit the clothes in the provided bag and leave it for your stateroom attendant or hand it to him/her to take care of for you.  The cost of the order will be deducted from your SeaPass account.

Can I do it myself?

The answer to this is mostly, no.  

Royal Caribbean prohibits passengers from bringing irons onto the ship and there are no self-service laundry facilities.

However, many passengers have found you can bring single-packet detergent and fill your sink up with water to wash small loads of laundry, like soiled shirts.  It's a good solution for kids clothes mostly.

First time cruisers: What are the differences between Royal Caribbean's ships?

In:
07 Nov 2014

When you're trying to pick the right Royal Caribbean cruise for you, there's a lot to choose from.  Royal Caribbean currently has 26 ships in its fleet and that's a lot to choose from.  Let's discuss what the differences (and similarities) are and which one is great for you.

Royal Caribbean ships do vary considerably in size, from ships that can handle around 2000 passengers to ships that top out over 5000 passengers.  

Ship Class

The first thing to understand are the classes of ships. Royal Caribbean has 7 classes of ships in active service to choose from.  

  • Quantum
  • Oasis
  • Freedom
  • Voyager
  • Radiance
  • Vision

Ship classes are categories of ships that have a very similar size, amenities and layout.  Think of ship classes like car models.  Every Ford Mustang for any given year is based on the same build, but individual cars can have slightly different options.

By looking first at ship classes, you get to more easily see key differences between the ships.  Each class is fairly unique but you will notice similarities too.

Understanding the what each ship offers is important.  Even among sibling ships, there are some differences. For example, Liberty of the Seas offers a Broadway show whereas none of its sibling ships have one.

The differences between ships used to be much larger but Royal Caribbean embarked upon a fleet-wide refurbishment in the last few years to bring innovations first developed for the Oasis-class onto older ships in the fleet.  To be honest, the changes have breathed new life into these older ships and now the differences between all ships has been greatly reduced.

Ship age

That brings up ship age.  The tendency in the cruising industry is to build bigger ships each time, so typically the smaller ships are also the older ships.  That's not always the case but generally speaking, the last few classes of Royal Caribbean ships (Quantum, Oasis, Freedom, Voyager) are signifigantly bigger than the older classes of ships. 

The newest class of ships are Quantum, Oasis and Freedom class. The oldest is the Vision class.

Of course, age doesn't tell the whole story. In fact, many Royal Caribbean fans will tell you the older ships are their favorite ships. Smaller ships offer a much more intimate cruise experience and they often have things the larger ships do not, like more vantage points to the ocean.

Newer cruise ships have more of the fancier and newer technologies, which can factor into your decision but the recent fleet-wide refurbishment mentioned earlier did help quite a bit in "leveling the playing field".

You shouldn't make your decision based purely on ship age but it's a key difference between the ships.

What you should pay attention to

When picking the right ship for you, look at these key factors

Ammenities for your group

Each Royal Caribbean ship offers a lot to do but if the hyped up features don't interest you, then it may not be perfect for you.  Oasis of the Seas offers zip lining, Broadway shows, a surf simulator and over a dozen restaurants but if all you want to do is enjoy pool time and read, then perhaps it's more than you need.

Likewise, if you've got children, the newer ships in the fleet have larger and newer kids club facilities that will be a better fit.  Look at the features each ship has and see which are relevant most to you.

Price

I love the newest ships Royal Caribbean rolls out, but if I can get a similar cruise on a smaller ship for a fraction of the cost, then I'll gladly take it.  

Pricing fluxuates a lot but newer ships command a higher price, so if there's a deal to be found, then consider that option too.  You shouldn't let price solely dictate which ship you pick, but it's a powerful factor.

Where it's going

One advantage smaller Royal Caribbean ships have over larger ones is they can go to many ports the big ones cannot.  

Many ports in Europe, Asia and the Pacific can't handle the new mega-cruise ships Royal Caribbean has built so if you have your heart set on certain ports of call, make sure the ship you pick can get you there.

First time cruisers: Dinner on Royal Caribbean

In:
24 Oct 2014

If you're new to cruising or just Royal Caribbean, dinner onboard may seem different than you're used to, so here's a guide to how dinner is handled in the main dining room on your cruise ship.

There are two types of dinner experiences you can expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Which type you have the opportunity to get to experience depends on the ship you pick.

Traditional dining

As the name implies, traditional dining is the classic means of experiencing dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

There are two seatings, first and second seating.  First seating is usually around 6:00pm and second seating is usually around 8:00pm. Exact times will vary.

When you book your cruise, you can choose which seating you like. Typically families choose first seating because it's harder to keep kids up later for the second seating.  You will still see kids in second seating, but there tends to be more families in the first seating.

You will be assigned a table in the main dining room that can be as small as two people or as large as 16 or even larger.  Royal Caribbean can also place you at a table with other guests onboard your ship.  Who you sit with (if anyone else) depends on a few factors but it's usually the norm to be seated with others.  

You can change your seating if you prefer not to sit with others or are unhappy with whom you are seated with.  Speak to the head waiter to arrange a change, although changes are subject to availability.

Once seated, you will be taken care of by your main waiter, assistant waiter, and to a lesser degree, head waiter.  

The main waiter takes your orders and brings you your food.  Your main waiter is your primary point of contact and will do most of the serving.  The assistant waiter is the head waiter's help and brings you beverages, bread and otherwise assists the main waiter.

The head waiter largely manages the wait staff he or she is responsible for and can handle special requests.  You may not see the head waiter that much but it's usual to have the head waiter visit your table once every night or two.

Eating at the main dining room is a lot like eating at any restaurant at home in that you get a menu of appetizers, entrees and dessert and you can choose anything on the menu.  In fact, you can order as much food as you want so feel free to get a few entrees and appetizers.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DINNER DRESS CODES

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a lot like traditional dining with one big exception: you do not have a set time that is the same every night of your cruise.

You will still dine in the main dining room, but you can choose between making reservations or showing up and waiting for a table.  

My Time Dining advertises its benefit as being you do not have a set time to eat each night.  So if one night you feel like dinner at 6pm but another night you want to stay at the pool later, you can come eat at 8:30pm.

Like the main dining room, you may be seated with other people at your table.  Where you sit is subject to availability.  Unlike the main dining room, you may not have the same wait staff each night.  You can request certain waiters but you may have to wait to be seated at a table they serve.

The my time dining experience once seated is nearly identical to traditional dining.  You order off of the same menu as traditional dining and can order as much food as you like from that menu.

Everything about Royal Caribbean's Promenade View staterooms

In:
05 Aug 2014

An iconic area on many Royal Caribbean ships is the Royal Promenade, a boulevard of shops, restaurants and bars.  

In addition, there are staterooms that look down on the Royal Promenade that offer sweeping views of the area so we thought it would be useful to look at what this stateroom does (and does not) include and why you might want to consider booking it for your next cruise.

A look inside a typical Promenade stateroom - Photo by Royal Caribbean

What is a Promenade stateroom?

The Promenade stateroom is a lot like an ocean view stateroom, in that it's a category of stateroom that offers a window and more square footage, compared to a standard inside cabin.  

The attraction of a Promenade stateroom is it offers bowed windows that overlook the Royal Promenade.

The exact size of Promenade stateroom varies depending on the class of ships. Voyager and Freedom class ships Promenade staterooms are 160 square feet, whereas on Oasis class ships they are 193 square feet.

Promenade stateroom windows as seen from the Royal Promenade - Photo by TravnKC

There is also a special category of Promenade staterooms for families called the Promenade Family Stateroom.  It's only available on the Freedom class of Royal Caribbean ships but it offers a more than double the space, with 327 square feet.

Family Promenade Stateroom - Photo by ADPMOM

What are the benefits of booking a Promenade stateroom?

The best part of a Promenade stateroom is the opportunity to watch the activities happening on the Royal Promeande.  From parades, to dance parties to just people watching, there's usually something going on and it's a fun way to scope everything out.

In addition, the bay windows included offer a nice place to sit and a little extra space in your stateroom.  For kids, being able to watch the Royal Promenade anytime from their room gives them entertainment anytime.

They tend to be an excellent value and the couch that is built into the bay window adds more another sitting area and of course, lots to see.

Since the Promenade staterooms surround the Royal Promenade, these rooms are right in mid ship, making the convenient to everywhere.

What are the disadvantages of booking a Promenade stateroom?

Parade going by - Photo by skjoiner

The same bay windows in a Promenade stateroom that let you look down on the activity on the Royal Promenade let everyone in the Promenade see right back into your stateroom.  Not to worry, Royal Caribbean provides two curtains to retain your privacy but for some people the idea is too voyeuristic.

In addition, the rooms can get noisy, especially during the parades.  The first night is usually the noisest due to the parade and cruise kick-off celebrations but it's usually very quiet after that.

Some cabins on the Oasis-class ships have pieces of the ship's structure or store fronts partially blocking the cabin's view. Not enough to ruin the view, but it's noticeable, especially compared to Voyager and Freedom class ships that have no blockage at all.

Read more: How to choose a cruise cabin

Summary

Promenade staterooms on Mariner of the Seas - Photo by Rennett Stowe

Overall, Promenade staterooms offer a fun view that is an unique Royal Caribbean experience.  Promenade staterooms are certainly more interesting than inside or ocean view staterooms and the extra couch in the bay window is a real plus.

The staterooms are conveniently located and for kids, it's a wonderful source of entertainment since they can constantly watch the Royal Promenade activities.  

Like nearly every stateroom category, it's important to note what is above and below your stateroom.  We've heard reports of noise from shops during early or late hours.  Noise bleed isn't unique to the Promenade staterooms but it is worth noting when choosing your exact cabin.

If you're wondering which level of staterooms to choose, it's a very subjective question. The lowest deck offers the closest views but with the most noise (relatively speaking).  The highest deck is a little far from the "action" but it gives you a little more privacy.  Generally speaking the middle and upper deck are the most popular.

Have you stayed in a Promenade stateroom? Do you want to stay in one? Post in the comments below and share your thoughts!

Debate: Why you should book a balcony stateroom

In:
29 Jul 2014

Today we will begin a fun "debate" between the pros and cons of booking a balcony stateroom versus something less expensive, like inside or ocean view staterooms.  We will begin with the argument for balcony staterooms and then tomorrow will post the rebuttal for booking interior staterooms.

The view!

Without a doubt, the best reason to book a balcony stateroom on a Royal Caribbean cruise is for the view you can have anytime you want.  Waking up to the ocean breeze is something that never gets old.

Plus being on a cruise ship, there's always something to see and enjoy, from other ships and islands passing by to the wildlife and even just the sea.  It's a spectacle that when you see it, you know how great a view it is.

Dinner with a breeze

A really fun way to spice up your meals is to eat on your balcony.  Royal Caribbean provides a table in addition to chairs to enjoy whatever food you bring back to the stateroom on the balcony.

In addition, you can order room service and have it set up on your balcony.  Forget breakfast in bed, breakfast on your balcony is where it's at!  

Alternatively you can bring back a cup of coffee, small snack or full meal enjoy with your feet propped up as you watch the ocean go by.

Balcony means more space inside too

As you move up the categories of Royal Caribbean staterooms, balcony staterooms come with more space compared to interior staterooms.  As anyone that has cruised before will tell you, every square foot matters!

When you book a balcony stateroom, you get more inside as well as the space from your balcony.  It all adds up to more room for everyone to manuever in and makes the entire experience less crowded.

Great spot for sail away

When it's time for your cruise to begin or for your Royal Caribbean ship to leave port, nothing beats being outside to see the ship leave.

Having your own balcony stateroom means you get to experience this anytime without worrying about finding a spot.  You will always have a reserved place to enjoy the ship coming in and out of port.

Royal Caribbean balconies are more than the ocean

Of course ocean view balconies are what Royal Caribbean offers most of but did you know that you can also get a balcony that overlooks other places onboard your ship?

On the Oasis-class cruise ships, you can choose between Central Park View or Boardwalk View balcony staterooms.

These unique balcony staterooms offer the outdoor experience but with a completely different take on them. Perfect for people watching as well as enjoying the view of what's happening onboard the ship right now.

Are you convinced yet to book a balcony stateroom?  Share your thoughts about booking a balcony stateroom in the comments below.

What you need to know about Labadee Cabanas

In:
24 Jul 2014

If you're going to Royal Caribbean's private island of Labadee and intersted in renting a cabana, here's a guide to what you need to know about renting your own cabana.

How much are the cabanas?

  • Nellie's Beach cabanas
    • Over water cabana: $495
    • Beach cabana: $395
  • Barefoot Beach cabanas (available to suite guests only)
    • Over the water cabana: $495
    • Hilltop cabana: $395
    • Beach front cabana: $395
    • Standard beach cabana: $295

Who are cabanas good for

The cabanas at Labadee are perfect for someone who is planning on spending the whole day on Labadee and wants to have a a private beach experience.

What's included

  • Private ocean view cabana rental for the full day
  • Furnished with 2 luxurious resort-style lounge chairs & a sofa
  • Four bottles of water (in a cooler)
  • Floating beach mats and snorkeling gear.
  • Towels for your use during the day
  • Barefoot Beach cabanas have a private beach only for cabana rental guests

How to rent the cabanas

Cabanas may be rented online prior to your cruise through Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner section.  

Suite guests get first access to the cabanas but we have seen access for non-suite guests to book cabanas online.  Suite guests may also email their concierge prior to your cruise to reserve one.

You may also go to the Explorations (shore excursions) desk onboard your Royal Caribbean ship and put your name down on a list.  It's best to put your name down as soon as possible for the best chance at getting a cabana.

In regards to the online system, make sure you are only selecting one person in your party when making the reservation online. Don't worry, the rest of your group will be allowed in as the reservation is good for up to 6 people.

What's the difference between Nellie's Beach cabanas and Barefoot Beach cabanas?

Barefoot beach is reserved for suite guests only, where as Nellies is open to everyone.  As a result, the beach is far more crowded (relatively speaking) at Nellie's Beach.

In addition, those at Nellie's Beach will be escorted over to Barefoot Beach for the private lunch buffet. Your cabin attendant will inform you when it is time and walk you over.

Blog reader Tony mentioned a new policy for those that have cabanas at Nellie's Beach. Nellie's Beach cabana rentals do not have access to the private lunch buffet at Bearfoot Beach. If you booked before October of last year you were eligible after that Nellie's Beach cabanas use the regular buffet areas.

First time cruisers: The truth about dress codes

In:
21 Jul 2014

If you're new to cruising, often there's a lot of confusion and misconceptions surrounding the idea of dress codes and how formal (or informal) you have to be on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  It's time to clear the air about what to wear!

Here's the quick and simple answer: 

You don't have to dress up at all!

That's right, if you want to wear shorts and tanktops all day, every day of your cruise there is no reason you cannot.  Royal Caribbean has a few dress codes that are only for dining in select restaurants. Otherwise, you can wear whatever suits you all the time.

When and where you will need to dress up

The only places you will need to adjust what you wear is in select restaurants.  The main dining room has a dress code for every night, which is stipulated in the Cruise Compass.  It varies from casual to formal and applies to dinner only.  

For breakfast and lunch (if open,), the main dining room has a less stringent dress code of no swimsuits, hats, tanktops or other pool clothing.

The specialty restaurants always have a dress code that falls somewhere between casual and formal that Royal Caribbean calls "smart casual".  Royal Caribbean defines it as, "jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women.

Other complimentary restaurants such as the Windjammer or Seaview Cafe simply require shoes and a shirt. 

Casual is okay

Worrying about the dress code can be a major obstacle for those new to cruising but it really does not have to be a problem at all.  

Some people enjoy dressing up and others despise it and it's okay for both people.  Royal Caribbean offers dress code suggestions with alternative dining venues if you choose not to dress up.  

In fact, a lot of veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers will tell you they really enjoy dining in the Windjammer every night for the wide variety of food and relaxed atmosphere.  

If you feel like packing a collared shirt and "nice" jeans and maybe a dress to have a nice night out, that's okay too.  Royal Caribbean wants every guest to feel comfortable and under no pressure when it comes to what to wear at dinner.

Don't worry!

The bottom line is don't worry about dress codes.  At all.  They exist but they are suggestions and you will not be ostricized for not following them.  

There are lots of places to eat onboard if you choose not to follow them and even when you do follow them, the dress codes are pretty relaxed. Royal Caribbean ships are not full of people in tuxedos and formal ball gowns.  

Enjoy your Royal Caribbean cruise experience without worrying about what you will be wearing at any given time.