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Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

18 Jul 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

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

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

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

In this guide:

Why go on a Greek Isles cruise

Ancient history

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

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

Ferry vs. cruise

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

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

Fresh, flavorful cuisine

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

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

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

Breathtaking scenery

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

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

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

Greek Isles cruise ports

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Chania (Crete)

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


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

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


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

Olympia (Katakolon)

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

Greek Isles cruise itineraries

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

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

Greek & Adriatic cruises

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

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

Greece & Turkey cruises

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

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

Other Greek Isles itineraries

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

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

Best time of year for a Greek Isles cruise

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

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

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

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

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

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

What ships sail to Greece?

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

Related: Complete guide to Odyssey of the Seas

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

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

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

What to pack for a Greek Isles cruise

Lightweight clothes

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

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

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

Related: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Daypack & accessories

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

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

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

Greek Isles cruise FAQ

Which currency should I bring? Do I need cash?

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

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

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

Should I book excursions on a Greek Isles cruise?

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

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

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

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

Which ship should I book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

18 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

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

Royal Promenade on Mariner of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up was lunch in the Windjammer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner took us to Chops Grille.

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

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

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

Stray Observations

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 17, 2022

17 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

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

James Van Fleet with beard

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean News

Video: Is a 3-night Cruise worth it?

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

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

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

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

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Rare cruise ship cabins that get booked very quickly

Aft balcony room

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

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

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

How one group helps families with Autism cruise on Royal Caribbean

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

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

Guide to Royal Caribbean Suites

Crown Loft Suite

Think it's time you tried a suite?

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

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

The rare cruise ship cabins that get booked very quickly

16 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

You probably are aware of the four main kinds of cruise ship cabins, but on some ships, you'll find a few variations that stand out from the pack.

Family Oceanview Cabin on Oasis of the Seas

While most balcony rooms look pretty much the same, and inside cabins as well, over the years, there's been a few cabin designs that had to vary somewhat in order to conform to the ship design.

These unique layouts have become popular with people that cruise a lot because they may offer more space, perks, or another benefit that usually doesn't come with that sort of room.

Not only are these cruise cabins unlike other rooms, they often sell out sooner. It's kind of like a "secret menu" at a restaurant that insiders know about.

Aft balcony

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

Ben & Jerry Suite

Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

When Royal Caribbean built the Freedom Class cruise ships, they added a Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor to the Royal Promenade, but the design of the shop blocked the view of one Promenade View stateroom on each ship.

Cabin 6305 on Freedom, Independence, and Liberty of the Seas has two cows from the store sign in the way of the bay window.

Secret Royal Caribbean staterooms: Liberty of the Seas stateroom 6305 | Royal Caribbean Blog

As a result, Royal Caribbean wanted to give anyone that booked this room an added benefit to make up for the ruined view.

Known as the "Ben & Jerry's Sweet," this room is designed with a black and white cow motif, and includes vouchers for a complimentary ice cream at Ben & Jerry's as well as access to the suite lounge.

Cabins designed for solo cruisers

Studio on Anthem

On some Royal Caribbean cruise ships, there are a few staterooms meant for someone traveling by themselves.

These studio staterooms are smaller than a traditional cabin, but they have just enough space for one person. Best yet, they do not get charged the single supplement fee.

The single supplement fee is traditionally charged to someone booking a cruise alone, because cabin pricing is based on double occupancy,

Studio cabin on Harmony

When Royal Caribbean added these rooms, they designed them to be respective of the ship's business model and this means solo cruisers do not have to pay double the cost of what the cruise should be.

Depending on the ship, there could be as few as two studio rooms, or as much as a dozen.

You can view a list of which ships have studio cabins and if you want one, book it early.

Hump balconies

Radiance of the Seas

Most balcony cabins across the fleet look the same, but you might be able to get a larger balcony if your room is positioned perfectly.

The so-called "hump" balcony cabins are the rooms on the outwards part of the curvy outline of the ship.  If you look at a deck plan, you'll notice around mid-ship, the hull design jets outward. 

Hump room

On many ships, balcony cabins in these areas are significantly larger than other balcony cabins.  And usually the price is the same.

You'll find hump balcony rooms with massive balconies on Radiance Class, Voyager, Freedom, Oasis or Quantum, but look closely at the deck plan to see which balconies are larger.

Aft balconies

Similar to the aforementioned hump balcony rooms, some ships have rather large balcony rooms on the back of the ship.

There are aft balcony rooms on every Royal Caribbean ship, but some of the rear-facing cabins on Vision Class, Radiance Class, and Freedom Class cruise ships have very large balcony space.

Aft balcony room

This means you not only get an interesting vantage point to enjoy, but much more living space outdoors.

People that cruise a lot will book up the aft balcony cabins on an Alaska cruise for the viewing opportunities.

Extra large Central Park Balcony rooms

Ever since I learned about the handful of Central Park balcony rooms on Oasis Class ships, I always look to book these first.

There are two Central Park balcony rooms on each deck that have almost double width balconies for the same cost as other Central Park balcony staterooms.

Extra large central park room

The cabin numbers are on decks 10, 11 and 12:

  • 10229
  • 10629
  • 11229
  • 11629
  • 12229
  • 12629

Why do these rooms have extra space? There's no actual cabin next door because the area is used by Royal Caribbean for something else.

Having that extra balcony space is a very nice benefit during your sailing.

Family cabins

If you have two or three kids with you, it could be a great idea to try out one of the family oceanview and family inside cabins available on select ships.

While these cabins don't have a balcony, they do offer a ton of living space.

Family oceanview on Brilliance

First and foremost, these cabins offer a bedroom for the parents, and either an additional bedroom for the kids, or a nook with bunk beds for the kids.

There's also two bathrooms, which can be a godsend for parents sailing with older kids.

Kids room bunk bed

These cabins are typically located at the very front or very rear of the ship and offer a ton of living space, meant to be shared by families of 4 or more guests. 

Family rooms are cheaper than a suite and in many cases offers more space.

Last-minute things to do 3 days before your cruise

15 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

You're just days away from a Royal Caribbean cruise, so what should you at the last minute before you get to the ship?

Ovation of the Seas on a sunny day

Ideally you plan a lot of things out in the months leading up to your cruise, but even the most veteran cruise will feel like they are juggling everything in those last couple days to ensure they have it all ready to go.

In short, there's a lot of little things to manage. After all, one of the worst feelings is when you realize after leaving home that you forgot something.  Even something miniscule can just be frustrating to forget because it could have been prevented.

In an effort to help everyone avoid that "oh no" feeling in the car or plane ride to your ship, I've got a list of the most important things you should be doing in those last couple days leading up to your cruise.

Wonder of the Seas aerial overhead

Not everything can wait for the last few days, so if you neglected to check your passport expiration date until now, you may be out of luck in that regard.  This list is about making sure you leave home having done and gathered everything you need to have done.

Do everything in the online check-in

If you want the online check-in process at the cruise terminal to be as fast as possible so you can get onboard sooner than later, do everything in the online check-in.

It really doesn't take very long, but I'm willing to bet you can enter your own information faster than the port agent can.

Plus, the time it takes you to do it at home is time you aren't waiting at the port.

App complete

You can complete the online check-in even the same day of your cruise, but if you're down to two or three days before the cruise, you're going to want to act quickly and take care of it.

Read moreHow to complete Royal Caribbean online check-in

Print out luggage tags

If there's one thing I forget to do the most before my cruise, it's actually print out luggage tags.

I remember I need to print them, but it always slips into the "I'll do it later" category and then we end up wasting time at the port while the porters write one up at the port.

Read moreShould you use the porters to take your luggage on your cruise ship?

Instead, log into the Cruise Planner and print out the luggage tags on a computer. You'll find them when you click "View boarding pass".

Some guests opt for luggage tag holders, which can be purchased online and provide additional protection of the tag from being accidently ripped off. I recommend these luggage tag holders (disclosure: I make a small commission for someone that buys tags via this link).

Take out cash from the bank


While Royal Caribbean ships are cashless, you're still going to need at least some cash during your cruise.

There are a few instances where cash could be useful, such as:

  • Tipping porters
  • Anything in the casino
  • Tipping cabana attendants
  • Tipping shore excursion guides
  • Extra tips for crew members

How much cash you'll need really depends on your plans onboard and on shore. 

While there is an onboard ATM and the ability to withdraw cash from the casino, the extra fees you'll incur aren't worth it if you can avoid it.

Have Royal Caribbean's app downloaded

You probably did this already if you did online check-in, but be sure to have at least one phone with the Royal Caribbean app downloaded.

Royal Caribbean will allow you to use their wifi to download it onboard the ship, but it takes much too long. You're better off setting up and having it ready to go while still at home and you're on reliable internet.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean app walkthrough and tips


Suitcase open for packing

Fairly obvious, but you should pack for your cruise.

Whether you like to pack days before your cruise or the night before, it's a good idea to get it done with sooner than later.

Read more: Ultimate Cruise Packing list

I also recommend keeping a list of things you can't pack yet, but will need to bring with you before you leave home:

  • Phone charger
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, contact lens solution, razors
  • Important medication

Be sure to also pack a carry-on bag to bring all those important things with you during the check-in process.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Take your Covid-19 test

Covid-19 antigen test

Royal Caribbean requires everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to get a Covid test before their cruise.

Which test and when to take your test vary slightly depending on if you are cruising in Europe or not, but you need to get a test done.

Kids can only take a PCR test, while adults have the option of a PCR or rapid antigen test (yes, the NAAT test is fine too).

You should have already scheduled a test appointment somewhere or ordered the at-home covid tests to take.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Your best bet is to take the test as early as you can, just in case your result is inclusive or it comes back positive. That way, you have time to take another test to verify the results.

Read moreGuide to pre-cruise Covid test

Lastly, I recommend printing out your Covid test result. You can show them a digital copy on your phone, but I find it faster if you can show print outs.

Read moreWant to get on your cruise ship as fast as possible? Here's what you should do

Take your Passport and Covid vaccine cards with you


I joke with my wife the only two things we absolutely cannot leave behind are the passports and Covid vaccine cards. Everything else we can buy somewhere else near the cruise terminal.

Pack your passport and proof of vaccine, then double check they are there again. Then, when you're backing out of your driveway, check they are all there again.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Check the weather again

No offense to the meteorologists out there, but I don't put much faith in weather forecasts more than a couple days out. So you'll want to check the weather forecast one more time, ideally the day before the cruise.

In the winter months, cold fronts can bring all sorts of changes to temperatures, even in the tropics.

Be sure to also check the weather for when you come home. You might be comfortable leaving, but if it's snowing when you return and you've only got a hoodie, it may be a problem.

If your cruise is in the summer, don't worry if the forecast says it will rain everyday of your cruise. It might, but only for brief downpours and it goes back to being sunny.

Remember to bring wine and drinks you are bringing onboard

Did you know Royal Caribbean lets you bring up to two bottles of wine and 12 cans/bottles of non-alcoholic beverages with you? And you can bring pre-packaged snacks too?

Bringing your own wine, soda, or chips can save you money on buying the same things on the ship.

You'll want to bring all of them in your carry-on luggage. Don't put it in any bag that goes to the porters to be checked, because it could be flagged by security for looking suspicious. Not to mention you don't want someone flinging the bag and one of those bottles exploding.

Print out shore excursion confirmations

If you booked an outside shore excursion, you should print out confirmations to have.

Many third-party tour operators require a paper print out, especially all-inclusive passes booked through

Read more5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

Fill out the health questionnaire

 health questionnaire

About 24 hours before your check-in time opens, you should complete the health questionnaire.

To access it, go back to the Royal Caribbean app and edit your check-in.  You will see the questionnaire to click and complete.

This will save you from every single person in your group having to answer a dozen yes or no questions in the terminal.

Charge your devices

Phone charging

You're going to want your phone on full power the day of your cruise, as well as the day you fly.

Your phone will be used a lot in the check-in process, so it's a good idea to charge it fully the night before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean updates: Return to Asia, cruise cancellations, help for travel agents, & more

15 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

Want to know the latest Royal Caribbean this over the past week?

Serenade of the Seas in St Lucia

Royal Caribbean may not have made any big announcements lately, but there's still plenty happening in and around Royal Caribbean that you should know about.

In an effort to keep you updated, here's some of the cruise news happening that you might find interesting.

Have a great weekend!

Royal Caribbean returns to Asia for first time since 2020

Spectrum of the Seas in Malaysia

Spectrum of the Seas recently sailed its first international call in Asia since December 2020.

Spectrum of the Seas sailed from her homeport of Singapore and arrived at Malaysia's Port Klang.

The Royal Caribbean ship's arrival in Malaysia is an import milestone as it marks the return of cruising to Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia are the first Southeast Asian countries to resume port calls since cruising was halted in March 2020.

Spectrum of the Seas in Malaysia

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared the news on Facebook, "After over 350 ocean getaways from Singapore, our guests finally got to explore the culture, history, and mouth-watering street food of Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia."

"We are looking forward to many more memorable vacations out of Singapore. Thank you to our partners for making this all possible !"

Serenade of the Seas European 2023 cruises cancelled

It appears Royal Caribbean is redeploying Serenade of the Seas in summer 2023.

Serenade of the Seas was to offer sailings departing from Copenhagen, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden starting May 21st, 2023. 

Travel agents received an update indicating the war in Ukraine is to blame for the change, "However, with the increased uncertainty of visiting St. Petersburg, Russia, we've reviewed our upcoming 2023 deployment and decided to reposition Serenade of the Seas to a new homeport in Florida for our Summer 2023 season. "

Instead, Serenade of the Seas will be homeported in Florida in summer 2023

Royal Caribbean helps travel agents with new call back feature

Royal Caribbean has added another upgrade for travel agents to make their jobs a little bit easier.

A new call back function has been added for travel partners in their contact centers in an effort to minimize hold times.

The added feature is first available to trade partners booking groups and expected to be broadly available for U.S. and Canada-based trade at the end of August 2022.

When travel partners call the contact centers, they are immediately prompted with the option of a call back if the wait time exceeds 20 minutes. Once prompted, travel partners can leave a brief message and input their number to initiate a call back with a Royal Caribbean representative. A direct number to a land line or mobile is required; extensions are not supported. 

Royal Caribbean has been steadily working to make the process easier for travel agents to do their jobs, with over a dozen automation enhancements in the last 24 months.

Disney Cruise Line raises gratuity

Disney Wish

Something to keep an eye on is another cruise line has raised their gratuities.

Disney Cruise Line increased its recommended gratuity rates $1 per day, per stateroom guest.

With the change, DCL's gratuities are now at $14.50 per passenger, per day for most staterooms, and $15.50 per passenger, per day for concierge suites.

Carnival funnel

Carnival and NCL have already raised their gratuities earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean hasn't touched their gratuity rate since the end of 2017, when they announced a change to the gratuity to begin in 2018.

Royal Caribbean hiring frenzy continues

Crew members together

Since the spring, Royal Caribbean has been busy trying to hire lots of new crew members, and that trend is continuing.

Royal Caribbean recently held career fairs in three different countries.

In Kenya, the company is looking to hire 2,000 new crew to work as cooks, waiters, baristas, kitchen utility staff, pastry chefs, guest relations agents, lifeguards, and marine staff.

Cruise ship docked in Miami

They've also recently hired 600 people from Trinidad and Tobago as new crew.

Royal Caribbean also held hold another recruitment drive earlier this week in Grenada.

Beach Reads: Disability Pride Month

15 Jul 2022
Haley Harnish

Mid-summer has arrived and it is hot outside. Hope you are all escaping the heat by the pool (or at least the A/C)! Make sure you’re staying hydrated and well read.

Woman on beach reading

There’s no better time to read than a cruise, when you can kick off your shoes, grab a drink of choice, and settle in with whatever book you’ve been saving for just this opportunity.

Does this sound like a good idea to you? We have some recommendations perfect for all you July cruisers (and everyone else, too)! Pack one or two of these books in your suitcase or on your tablet for your next vacation.

July is Disability Pride Month, and so the books I have picked out for you all touch on some kind of disability.

Family on the beach

The definition of disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities. Most are associated with stigma and prejudice, and so reading about disability issues can help us educate ourselves on what people living with such conditions go through.

I’d love to hear in the comments which book you chose, or if you have a favorite read for Disability Pride Month that wasn’t mentioned!


  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - Follow Edgar, born mute, on a story in the northern Midwest as he is forced to flee into the wild after his father’s death with only his three dogs for company.
  • Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson - Jacqueline Woodson is a premier middle grade author, and she hits it out of the park with Feathers. Frannie deals with a lot of big issues for a kid:  her mother’s depression, a friend’s growing religion, her brother’s deafness, and a new kid at school who is getting bullied.
  • All’s Well by Mona Awad - After a fall ended her career on stage, Miranda Fitch takes a job as a theater professor. However, living with the chronic pain as a result is a mountainous task. When her students rebel against her choice in Shakespeare plays, the Fates intervene.
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman - Anise Sawyer, California girl, must spend her summer in landlocked Nebraska, caring for her cousins while her aunt heals from a car accident. While there, she meets a one-armed skater boy who charms her off her feet.


  • Look Me in the Eye:  My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison - Robison’s life-long talent with electronics may have landed him a gig with KISS, but he had to pretend to be “normal” in any “real” job. Finally, at forty, he was diagnosed with autism, transforming the way he saw himself, and the world.
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller - Most of us grew up with Helen Keller as an example of physical disability, as well as courage, dedication, and friendship. Have you read her autobiography?
  • The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne - Thanks to TikTok, Tourette’s Syndrome has been gaining more awareness lately. Check out Josh Hanagarne’s memoir as he tells his story of growing up with Tourette’s, and how he tried everything to rid himself of his tics–to the point of losing his voice. 
  • This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl - Those familiar with John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars may recognize the name Esther Earl, as she was not only who the book was dedicated to, but who the book was based on. Collected by friends and family are Earl’s journals and writing and deserves all the credit it has received, separately from TFOS.

Are you someone who likes to read when you get on board your vacation cruise? How many books do you usually pack? What are you reading for Disability Pride Month?

We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Does Elon Musk's Starlink internet make this the best cruise ship to work remotely right now?

14 Jul 2022
Nicole Feist

When you think of working remotely, a cruise ship may not be the first setting that pops into your head. However, with the latest technology updates on certain ships, maybe it should be.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

The FCC recently approved the use of Space X’s Starlink service on cruise ships. A few weeks ago, we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put Starlink to the test.

In our review, we noticed that the Wi-Fi speeds were better than any other at-sea internet we’ve used before, making it the best option we’ve used to stay connected while cruising.

It's not clear if Royal Caribbean will continue to offer Starlink, or if/when it will be added to other ships. For as long as they do offer it however, it opens the door for remote workers to efficiently work from a cruise ship.

Freedom of the Seas offers 3 and 4 night cruises to the Bahamas, leaving from Miami, and offers plenty of space for those needing to get some work done. These shorter weekend cruises are the perfect way to try out a cruise for the first time, or a new ship. It also provides a great opportunity to try working remotely from a new location.

For our sailing, our option to purchase internet was the same as the Voom packages, offering Surf & Stream, and Surf packages.

We recommend purchasing the Surf & Stream internet package if you’ll be using any video conferencing while working. If you only need to check your email or use a chat system, like Slack or Google Chat, the Surf option should work well. 

When looking for somewhere quiet to take meetings or focus, the best place we found to work was the Library / Card Room. This smaller room often goes unnoticed by other cruisers, meaning you’ll often find yourself a quiet room with few other people.

Some of our other favorite spots to work from were the Star Lounge, Viking Crown Lounge, and the outside seating areas on Decks 4 & 12. While most of these spaces don’t have activities during the day, we recommend checking the cruise planner prior to settling in to be sure you won’t have any surprise disruptions while you work. 

With the addition of Starlink, most of the ship had strong connectivity, and was much more reliable than we had ever experienced before.

Our interior stateroom did have some buffering when logging onto a video call (primarily due to our cabin being further from a wifi hub), but we were able to load, stream and surf without issue. 

One of the biggest frustrations on other ships we've experiences is trying to use the internet while sailing between ports of call. With the other at-sea internet offerings, it would take minutes for a single web page to load, and we didn't even consider trying to stream any videos.

Starlink gave us the ability to bypass these struggles, and ensure that we were connected regardless of where the ship was located.

With the ability of being able to work and connect seamlessly during the day, enjoy all of the activities in the evening, and wake up somewhere new every morning, Freedom of the Seas may just be the best place to work remotely now. 

Mariner of the Seas 2022 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

14 Jul 2022
Matt Hochberg

This weekend I'm headed back onboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas for an 8-night cruise.

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

This is not just another cruise for me, but the first RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, which means a number of people that love Royal Caribbean just as much as me will be joining me.

Each year we have two group cruises, and this is our first one in 2022 (the next is in December on Wonder of the Seas).

I will share a daily update of everything I did onboard during this eight-night sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida.

The cruise

Mariner of the Seas has been based in Port Canaveral for a number of years in a row at this point, although this is the first time in quite a while it's not a short cruise.

My cruises on Mariner since 2019 have been three- and four-night sailings, but she's transitioned to five and eight night cruises instead (Independence of the Seas does the 3- and 4-nighters now).

The last time I was on Mariner for this long was my honeymoon cruise from Port Canaveral back in 2008. Back then I had no kids, no mortgage, and not even a Royal Caribbean blog!

I picked this itinerary because of the port intensive nature.  We'll be visiting five ports in total, including both Labadee and CocoCay.

We will visit St. Croix, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Kitts during the sailing. 

Plus, you have all the fun things to do onboard, including a number of upgrades that were added  to Mariner of the Seas in 2018.


Mariner of the Seas in Nassau lit up

When you mix in the great community of friends that will be joining me as part of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, it's going to be a wonderful experience to have so many friendly faces onboard.


Balcony cabin on Mariner of the Seas

We reserved connecting balcony staterooms for this cruise, one for my wife and I, and one for my kids.  

This is one of my favorite strategies for cruising with kids, as it allows separation from them and an extra full bathroom.

Considering the price of a suite was too high on this cruise, I found the two-room strategy to not only be economical, but provide enough space.

Both cabins are located on deck seven and should provide a room with close proximity to the Royal Promenade and only a few decks walk up to the pool deck.

With all the fun with friends we'll have onboard, I don't think we'll be spending that much time in the cabin.


Labadee aerial

The fact we get to visit two Royal Caribbean private islands was a major draw to this itinerary. Add in a couple Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and you've got a great lineup.

At CocoCay, we rented an Oasis Lagoon cabana and at Labadee, I'm trying an over-the-water cabana at Barefoot Beach.

Labadee barefoot beach cabana

Recently the Barefoot Beach cabanas showed up as bookable by anyone in the Cruise Planner, so we'll see how that works out since I'm not in a suite.

In San Juan, we don't arrive until 3pm. No excursions booked here, because we will just walk around Old San Juan and grab dinner somewhere. When I tried this strategy earlier this year, it was tough to find a restaurant with availability and air conditioning, so perhaps we will hop in a cab to find a restaurant and make a reservation in the next couple days.


In St. Kitts, we have a private shore catamaran snorkel and swim shore excursion exclusively for everyone that booked the group cruise with MEI Travel.  Every time we do a group cruise, we try to work in some fun events exclusively for us, and I think this will be a great tour.

Finally, we will visit St. Croix. Last time I was there was in 2013, and we have odd hours here (7am - 2pm), so I think we will just walk around the port area.

Dining Plans

For dinner on this cruise, we'll do a combination of specialty dining and main dining room.

I enjoy the main dining room, but I find it nice to work in specialty restaurants as well. We bought the 3-night dining package, which will allow us to check out a few of our favorite restaurants.

As with any dining package, we have to wait until we board the ship to make a reservation. I think we'll try for Izumi Hibachi, Jamie's Italian, and probably Playmakers. Or we'll go to Chops and stop by Playmakers another day and pay cash.

Read moreTop things I ate on Mariner of the Seas

I also elected to purchase an unlimited drink package for this cruise. With so many social functions onboard with friends, it made perfect sense for me.

What's Next

Our Mariner of the Seas cruise begins on Sunday, July 17.  We're actually driving out to Port Canaveral the night before the cruise and staying at the Cape Crossing Resort & Marina.

After each day of the cruise, I'll share the experience with a live blog post and I encourage you to post your comments and questions so I can answer them.

I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Alaska cruise guide

13 Jul 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

An Alaska cruise aboard Royal Caribbean will take you on a journey to visit some of the most magnificent natural beauty and local culture you'll find anywhere in the world.

Radiance of the Seas in Seward, Alaska

Alaska truly is one of those places you have to see to believe, and a Royal Caribbean cruise is a fantastic way to visit the Last Frontier. Planning a vacation to Alaska means knowing where you want to visit, what you want to do in port, and how to save money along the way.

From the majestic scenery, to amazing wildlife, delicious seafood, and diverse history and culture, Alaska has a lot to offer.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about planning an Alaska cruise to ensure you have the best vacation possible and make memories to last a lifetime.

Alaska cruise ports: Where can I go on an Alaska cruise?

Cruises to Alaska visit ports primarily along Alaska’s Inside Passage, visiting small, picturesque towns, some of which are inaccessible by road.

Juneau is the most commonly visited Alaska cruise port and state capital. It is the largest town visited in Alaska on a cruise and offers the most excursion options of any Alaska port. Activity highlights in Juneau include whale watching, exploring Mendenhall Glacier, and riding the Goldbelt Tramway up Mount Roberts. Don’t forget to taste local seafood, either, with Juneau’s king crabs, salmon, and halibut among the best in the world.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan, the southernmost Alaska cruise port, is a quaint waterfront town surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. The town’s gold rush history alongside its Native culture offers a chance for visitors to experience Alaska through history.

Walking through Creek Street can give insights into the town’s historic red light district, and visiting the Saxman Totem Park provides a lesson on the Native Tlingit peoples’ culture and traditions. Kayaking, hiking, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and walking through downtown are all great options for a day in Ketchikan as well.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska

Skagway is further north in Alaska’s Inside Passage and, while small, is filled with Alaska's gold rush history.

Located on the Lynn Canal, panoramic vistas surround Skagway and the town is a gateway into Canada’s Yukon Territory. Many passengers choose to ride the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, taking visitors through a mountain pass once climbed by those hoping to strike it rich in the gold-rush era.

Others may choose to cross the border into Canada, kayak the Lynn Canal, or rent a scooter and explore Skagway on their own.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

Sitka is home to a blend of American, Tlingit, and Russian influences and was once the capital of Russian Alaska.\

A visit to the Baranof Castle State Historic Site is an option for spending the day in Sitka, which was where the formal transfer ceremony of Alaska from Russia to the United States took place. Strolling along the forest at the Sitka National Historical Park is a popular activity, too, which preserves the site of a battle between the Tlingit people and Russian traders.

Downtown Sitka is a charming place to walk around, where you can view the city’s cultural influences on every street.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

Icy Strait Point, while less commonly visited on an Alaska cruise, offers a chance to get closer with nature in a tranquil environment. The port, near the town of Hoonah, is Alaskan Native owned-and-operated, founded by the Huna Tlingit Native Alaskans in 2004.

Getting close to nature and wildlife is recommended while in Icy Strait Point, with whale watching and ziplining popular activities to book. Cultural excursions are another option, where guests can learn more about the Huna Tlingit people through song and dance at Icy Strait Point’s Native Heritage Center Theater.

Haines, Alaska is a relatively new port for Royal Caribbean cruises to visit. Located on the way to Skagway along the Chilkoot Inlet, Haines is a small port accommodating just one large cruise ship at a time. Kayaking, hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities in Haines. Flightseeing tours can be booked from Haines to visit sights like Glacier Bay, one of the most beautiful glaciers in Alaska.

Victoria, British Columbia is a port visited on Alaska cruises from Seattle. While in Canada and not Alaska, Victoria still offers an array of landscapes and culture to explore. Visiting the Butchart Gardens is a popular destination in Victoria, where visitors can wander among 55 acres of floral display that date back to 1904.

Visiting glaciers on an Alaska cruise

Glacier seen from cruise ship

Outside of port stops where passengers disembark the ship, Alaska cruises offer scenic cruising days to glaciers along the Inside Passage. Passengers do not disembark the ship on these days. Instead, the ship slowly sails within a view of a glacier, often completing a 360 degree turn to ensure all guests onboard can have an excellent view of such amazing scenery.

There’s also the opportunity to spot harbor seals, wolves, brown bears, and other wildlife that call these areas home.

Visiting a glacier

Tracy Arm Fjord is another glacier visited on scenic cruising days. The deep, narrow passage of the Tracy Arm Fjord travels over 30 miles alongside the Tongass National Forest, with the twin Sawyer Glaciers at the end of the passage.

Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier will surely impress cruise passengers, featuring a scenic sail through the Endicott Arm Fjord followed by a panoramic view of Dawes Glacier, a 600 foot tall, half-mile wide active icecap.

Hubbard Glacier is a glacier commonly visited on an Alaska cruise. Located in Disenchantment Bay, Hubbard Glacier is an astonishing sight. The glacier’s ice is 400 feet tall, 76 miles long, and 1,200 feet deep.

Depending on your cruise itinerary, there may be a chance to book an excursion on a scenic cruising glacier day. Some glaciers offer a “Wilderness Explorer” excursion, during which passengers disembark the cruise ship and embark a small vessel, allowing them to get up close and personal to glaciers. Be sure to check if this shore excursion is available on your Alaska cruise.

Alaska cruise departure ports: Which embarkation city should I choose?

Most Alaska cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver on round-trip 7-night sailings. Some cruises to Alaska are one-way only, though, starting in Vancouver and ending in Seward, Alaska or vice versa. This is to allow for pre and post-Cruisetours to Alaska or Canada, allowing guests to experience more inland destinations like Denali National Park and Reserve and Banff National Park.

Deciding whether to start your cruise in Seattle, Vancouver, or Seward is one of the first decisions you make when planning an Alaska cruise.

Radiance pulling into Seward

If you’re from the United States and have to fly to an Alaska cruise port, flying to Seattle tends to be cheaper than getting to Vancouver or Seward. A passport isn’t necessary when cruising out of Seattle, either, although it is recommended.

Sailing from Seattle will likely offer an Alaska cruise vacation on Royal Caribbean's big ships and is your best bet for someone new to the itinerary.

Related: Top 20 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Cruises departing from Seattle include a stop in Victoria, British Columbia, as the Jones Act requires foreign-flagged cruise ships to visit a foreign port when departing from the United States. Therefore, cruises leaving from Vancouver tend to include more port stops in Alaska itself as there is no legal obligation to stop in Victoria.

Starting your cruise in Seward is recommended for those who plan to travel in the interior of Alaska ahead of time, whether independently or on one of Royal Caribbean’s organized Cruisetours. One-way Alaska itineraries tend to be more port-heavy, as well, as there is less distance to cover than on a round trip sailing.

Smaller ships tend to sail from Vancouver whereas larger ships sail out of Seattle. This is due to the fact that Quantum Class ships are unable to fit under Vancouver’s Lion Gate Bridge outside of a very low-tide. Therefore, ships like Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, and Brilliance of the Seas sail out of Vancouver instead.

Best itinerary on an Alaska cruise

There is no “perfect” itinerary for an Alaska cruise, and one itinerary is not necessarily better than another.

While cruise ports do differ in history, local attractions, and size, many ports offer the same type of excursions to book. Activities like whale watching, kayaking, nature walks, gold rush towns, museums, and food tours are available in nearly every cruise port.

Likewise, every Alaska cruise will sail through the Inside Passage, meaning you won’t miss the state’s beautiful scenery on any itinerary. Oftentimes it’s just as enjoyable sitting on the pool deck and watching Alaska’s scenery pass by as it is to explore the ports you visit!

Being flexible on an Alaska cruise is important, especially when it comes to your cruise itinerary. High seas and storms can change your port stops at the last minute. Oftentimes another port is visited in place of your original destination. If this happens, be flexible! You may end up enjoying the replacement port even more than you would have enjoyed the original itinerary.

Related: How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Best time to cruise to Alaska

The Alaska cruise season generally runs from April to October, and each month offers its own advantages and disadvantages. While there is no best time to cruise to Alaska, knowing what to expect in terms of weather, wildlife, and activities is helpful before booking your cruise or shore excursion.

Read moreHow far in advance to book an Alaska cruise

Cruising to Alaska in the early season, April and May, brings lower crowds and prices. Expect to see daily temperatures with highs in the mid 50s and lows around 40 degrees. Less rain is expected during the early season, as April, May, and June are among the driest months of the year in Alaska. (However, this is Alaska, so don’t forget to pack a rain jacket!). Daylight hours will increase each day leading up to the summer solstice, with daylight hours from 4AM to 10PM in late May.

Alaska’s peak cruise season is from mid-June to August, coinciding with the school vacation schedule. During the summer, visitors can expect to see the warmest temperatures and most hours of daylight. More crowds are to be expected during the summer, too, both onboard and in port.

Read moreTop ways to avoid crowds on an Alaska cruise

Making sure you book shore excursions early is important when cruising to Alaska during the peak season to ensure tours do not sell out.

Related: When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

The fall shoulder season in Alaska is during the month of September. As days become shorter and temperatures cool down, cruise crowds and prices tend to be lower. In fact, September is the cheapest month for an Alaska cruise.

Wildlife is harder to spot during the fall and rainier weather is likely. That being said, it’s possible (though not guaranteed) to see Alaska’s northern lights in September, which is a plus for those planning an Alaska cruise in the fall.

Related: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise at the end of the season

If you're trying to figure out the best time to visit Alaska, there's advantages to every month. The key is to prioritize if weather, crowds, or price is the most important to you.

Alaska cruise activities: What to do in port

An Alaska shore excursion will allow you to explore what each of the ports have to offer, including taking in the natural beauty of this part of the world.

Alaska cruises tend to favor outdoor activities, whether getting active on a hike or taking a relaxing canoe ride down a river. Exploring the state’s mountains, glaciers, trails, and lakes is a fantastic way to spend a day in port, although choosing the best tour to book can be a tough decision.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Whale watching tours are one of the most popular shore excursions to book on an Alaskan cruise, as many visitors hope to catch a glimpse of some of the largest mammals on Earth. A variety of whales are able to be spotted on an Alaska cruise, including grey whales, killer whales (orcas), and humpback whales.

Certain ports, such as Juneau and Icy Strait Point, tend to offer better whale watching opportunities than other Alaska cruise ports. Be sure to read our whale watching guide before booking your whale watching excursion to ensure you book it at the right port and time of year.

Visiting glaciers is another recommended activity on an Alaska cruise. Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is the most easily accessible glacier for cruise passengers, where visitors can view the glacier from easy walking trails and visit the Nugget Falls waterfall. Most cruise itineraries to Alaska will include a scenic cruising day at a glacier as well, such as Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier or Hubbard Glacier.

Related: Visiting Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

Active cruisers will enjoy kayaking through Alaska’s fjords and lakes, hiking on glaciers, and biking through the rainforest. Magnificent scenery can be viewed on day hikes up Alaska’s dramatic mountain peaks or when paddling a kayak near glaciers.

Animal lovers are in luck on an Alaska cruise, too, as they can choose from a plethora of wildlife-viewing excursions. Outside of whale watching tours, cruisers can visit the Fortress of the Bear to observe Alaska’s black bears, the Sitka Raptor Center to learn about the state’s birds of prey, and wildlife cruises during which seals, sea otters, salmon, and bald eagles may be spotted. Dog lovers will enjoy learning about dog mushing, Alaska’s state sport, and go dog sledding on top of a glacier!

Related: What is the best time of year to see wildlife in Alaska?

Other popular excursion options on an Alaska cruise include:

  • Salmon bakes
  • Cultural tours to learn about Alaska’s Native Tlingit people
  • Ziplining through the rainforest
  • Rafting
  • Fishing
  • Walking around historic towns
  • Relaxing at restaurants and saloons

Read moreWhere to eat like a local on your Alaska cruise

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail to Alaska?

Royal Caribbean sends 4-5 cruise ships to Alaska each summer, with each ship offering a different layout, amenities, dining options, entertainment, and stateroom options. Some of Royal Caribbean’s smallest and largest cruise ships sail to Alaska, so it’s important to consider which ship works best for you before booking an Alaska cruise.

The following ships will sail to Alaska in 2023:

  • Ovation of the Seas (Quantum Class)
  • Quantum of the Seas (Quantum Class)
  • Radiance of the Seas (Radiance Class)
  • Brilliance of the Seas (Radiance Class)

Both the most technologically advanced, large Quantum Class ships and the smaller, more traditional Radiance Class ships will offer a wonderful Alaska cruise experience. 

Related: Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2023

Most ships Royal Caribbean sends to Alaska offer plenty of indoor features, meaning the ship can be enjoyed in all types of weather. From each ship’s enclosed, temperature-controlled Solariums to the indoor pools on Quantum Class ships, guests can enjoy their ship even in the chilliest of temperatures.

Quantum Class ships can be a great choice for families, as they feature the SeaPlex, an indoor sports court and arcade where guests can enjoy activities like bumper cars, circus school, rollerblading, basketball, volleyball, and more. They also feature RipCord by iFLY, an indoor skydiving simulator, and the North Star, a 360 degree observation pod taking guests 300 feet above sea level.

Radiance Class ships offer a more traditional cruising experience. While there are still activities for guests of all ages onboard, there are less options overall for dining, staterooms, entertainment, etc. Smaller cruise ships offer more itinerary options in Alaska, though, visiting destinations such as Haines, Icy Strait Point, and Hubbard Glacier.

Related: What’s the difference between a large and small cruise ship?

Like any cruise ship, there may be a better ship choice for your family depending on what you are looking to do and experience as part of your vacation.

Most people going on an Alaska cruise are most interested in the destinations, with the ship choice a secondary consideration. Given the long hours spent in port, having a ton of activities or whizz-bang features may not be as important.

However, families with kids are always going to appreciate having more options available to them, especially on sea days.

Royal Caribbean Cruisetours: Visit inland Alaska and Canada

In addition to a 7-night Alaska cruise, you can extend your trip with a land-based tour.

Known as pre or post-sailing Cruisetours, these extended trips can range between 9 and 13 nights, including the 7-night cruise. These land tours are arguably the best way to see Alaska's interior and the most popular destinations.

Highlights of a Cruisetour include visiting Alaska’s biggest city of Anchorage, going back in time at a former gold mining boomtown, traveling by train on the scenic Wilderness Express, or marveling at the unbelievably high mountain peaks of Denali National Park.

Cruisetours in Canada are also offered, which feature a comfortable overnight train ride through the Rocky Mountains and visits to Jasper and Banff National Parks, including an overnight stay at Lake Louise.

While Alaska’s Inside Passage provides awe-inspiring views of Alaska’s fjords, glaciers, and mountains,  cruisetours offer the opportunity to see more of Alaska or Canada, which you can book before or after your one-way cruise in Alaska.

Cost of an Alaska cruise

Your budget for an Alaska cruise can affect your ship choice, sailing date, stateroom category, excursion options, and onboard add-ons. Knowing how much Alaska cruises cost in advance is helpful to ensure you can budget and save for such an incredible vacation.

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

There is no set cost for an Alaska cruise. Cruise fares are dynamic, with prices constantly shifting based on demand. The shoulder seasons of May and September will see the lowest prices whereas June, July, and August see the highest cruise fares.

A 7-night cruise for two adults in an oceanview stateroom on Serenade of the Seas in July may be around $2200 whereas the same cruise in September can be around $1600. Newer ships, such as Ovation of the Seas, will often be priced $300-500 more expensive than smaller ships on a similar itinerary.

Related: 45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Newer cruise ships have more balcony staterooms available, though, so balcony staterooms on ships like Quantum of the Seas are not usually significantly more expensive than interior or oceanview cabins.

As smaller ships like Radiance of the Seas have far fewer balconies available, booking a balcony stateroom on a small ship can be much more expensive than other cabins.

Related: How to cruise to Alaska on a budget

Shore excursion prices can quickly add up while on an Alaska cruise. While booking early will help lock in a low price, some Alaska shore excursions are simply more expensive than others. Activities like helicopter tours, luxury whale watching, and dogsledding can easily cost a few hundred dollars per person.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money in port. Royal Caribbean offers more budget-friendly excursions that still take you to some amazing destinations. As an example, a wildlife safari and bear viewing tour in Haines will run around $89 per adult, whereas a ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway in Skagway is around $100 per person.

Exploring ports through independent tour operators or on your own is another option. All Alaska cruise ports have complimentary attractions and nature activities right near where the ship docks, so it’s not always necessary to book an excursion.

Related: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

What to pack for an Alaska cruise

Packing for an Alaska cruise does not have to be stressful. A bit of research and preparation will get you far when deciding what to bring on an Alaska cruise.

Your Alaska cruise packing list should focus on layers, as the weather can change rapidly… and several times per day!

Having the following layers is recommended, especially on port days:

  • Base layer: t-shirt, jeans, yoga pants
  • Warm layer: fleece, down jacket, sweater, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt
  • Waterproof layer: thin waterproof jacket

Read moreAlaska cruise outfits

Those cruising to Alaska in the peak of summer may find the weather surprisingly warm, making it comfortable to wear just a t-shirt during the day. Those cruising in the shoulder seasons, on the other hand, will want to make sure they have warm layers in case of inclement weather.

Water-resistant shoes are also a must, as many excursions take guests through hiking trails or near lakes and streams. In addition, water-resistant shoes can be a lot more comfortable and warm on rainy days in port.

Other accessories, such as binoculars and cameras, are nice to have as well, whether when on an excursion or watching scenery from onboard the cruise ship.

When should I book an Alaska cruise?

Booking your cruise in advance is always a good idea, but Alaska cruises are so popular that you really need to book early to get the prices. Ideally, if you can book your cruise at least 12 months in advance, you will likely get some of the best prices.

In fact, when Royal Caribbean announces new Alaska itineraries is the best time to book. Royal Caribbean almost always announces new Alaska cruises in late November for the season to come in two years.

Alaska waterway

If you want to book a balcony or suite, then booking early becomes even more important. Since so many people value a private balcony on Alaska cruises, demand for these categories is even higher than on Caribbean or European itineraries.

The same can be said for booking shore excursions, too. Booking shore excursions early ensures you can pay the lowest price possible and reserve a spot on a tour on the chance it sells out.

Related: When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

How to prepare for an Alaska cruise in 2023

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Sailing to Alaska this season? There are a few ways to prepare so your cruise goes as smoothly as possible.

First, if you're flying to your cruise port, make sure to fly the day before your cruise begins. Airline delays are common, and you don't want to miss your cruise because of a canceled or delayed flight! Spending the night at a hotel in Seattle or Vancouver before your cruise can help ensure your vacation is off to a great start.

In addition to booking travel, we recommend purchasing travel insurance before your cruise. Travel insurance can protect you in case of any unexpected travel delays or medical emergencies during the sailing. While most travelers who purchase travel insurance won't end up using it, you will definitely be happy to have it if you need it!

You can purchase a travel insurance plan directly through Royal Caribbean upon booking or through an outsider provider. If you travel frequently, we recommend an annual travel insurance plan that covers you all year round.

Related: Should you buy annual travel insurance plans?

Serenade of the Seas in Seattle

Another tip for 2023 Alaska cruises is to check in online 45 days prior to your cruise. You can check in on Royal Caribbean's website or the Royal Caribbean app. The earlier you check in, the better chance you have at selecting an early boarding time at the cruise terminal. Getting onboard early means more time to enjoy your vacation!

Once onboard your Alaska cruise in 2023, be sure to complete Royal Caribbean's eMuster safety drill as soon as possible. This safety drill consists of three parts:

  • Watching a lifejacket demonstration video on the Royal Caribbean app
  • Listening to the emergency horn sound on the Royal Caribbean app
  • Visiting your muster station on the ship to confirm you have completed the muster drill

Every guest must complete the eMuster drill before your cruise ship can depart, and getting it done quickly on embarkation day is recommended.

Finally, make sure to book pre-cruise add-ons as soon as possible for a 2023 Alaska cruise. From dining packages to shore excursions, it's always better to book in advance before add-ons increase in price or sell out.