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Celebrity Cruises redeployed ships to CocoCay because their fans wanted more Caribbean cruises

In:
28 Jun 2023
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

If Celebrity Cruise's announcement that it will begin visiting Royal Caribbean's private island surprised you, you should know that the line is responding to customer demand.

CocoCay

Starting in April 2024, Celebrity Cruises is going to begin sailing from Florida to Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, to meet a need its customer base has been clamoring for.

Celebrity Beyond is being redeployed to the Caribbean in 2024 and taking over Celebrity Reflection's sailings, rather than cruising through Europe. Guests booked on the 6- and 8-night sailings on Celebrity Reflection will automatically be transferred to Beyond. 

Those booked on Celebrity Beyond have the opportunity to be transferred to another European voyage. 

CEL_BY_Drone_Aerial_6

Instead of making 6- and 8- night sailings, Celebrity Reflection will make shorter cruises to The Bahamas: 3-night sailings departing every Friday and 4-night cruises departing every Monday. Currently, you can find 3-night sailings on Celebrity Reflection for under $300 per person for an interior cabin. 

"...having the opportunity to now have these short 3- and 4-night itineraries answers really a demand that we have in the market to have something new, something exciting, something elevated, and something quick to be able to really experience that short and quick getaway still in the Celebrity style," said Jennifer Suarez, Associate Vice President of National Accounts and Inside Sales for Celebrity Cruises.  

Related20 Celebrity Cruises Tips & Tricks

What sailings will be offered?

Celebrity Reflection will sail 3-night and 4-night cruises from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The 3- and 4-night cruises will visit Perfect Day at CocoCay and either Nassau, Bimini, or Key West. 

Celebrity Beyond will be taking over Reflection's longer sailings that alternate between cruises to Grand Cayman, The Bahamas, Mexico, and the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Will All Included be active on the island?

Celebrity Beyond

When you are booking a Celebrity cruise vacation, there are two options for fares. The first is a standard rate that includes accommodation, transportation between ports, entertainment, and select food and beverages.

The second is known as "All Included," which adds the Classic Beverage Package, gratuities, and Wi-Fi to the cost of your cruise. It is meant to give passengers a more inclusive experience.  

Whether you select this rate or purchase each package individually, those docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay on a Celebrity ship will be able to utilize the benefits of their package(s). 

Which ages and demographics are sailing on Celebrity Cruises?

caribbean-client

The ages and demographics for Celebrity sailings to the Caribbean vary based on length.

51% of guests, for instance, on 7-night cruises are 60-years-old and older. This number drops to 37% for short Caribbean cruises, while it increases to 75% on long Caribbean cruises. 

On all Caribbean cruises onboard Celebrity vessels, Baby Boomers make up the majority of guests onboard, with anywhere from 47% to 63% of all guests coming from this generation. The total percentage of Millennial and Gen Z passengers is typically no more than 25%. The lowest percentage of this age group is found on short cruises, with the total percentage around 6%. 

Celebrity Cruises logo

Moreover, the percentage of families with children is currently below 15%, regardless of the duration of the sailing. 

And while Royal Caribbean remains the best cruise line to provide the ultimate family vacation, there is a distinction between traveling for and with children. 

"...[you] are going to start to see meaningful ways in which how we show up at Celebrity Cruises to ensure that traveling with your family and with your kids in engaging, is exciting, and is active in the right way for the Celebrity clientele," said Katina Athanasiou, Senior Vice President of Sales & Services, The Americas for Celebrity Cruises. 

Will there be other ships docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

CocoCay

Due to the popularity of the island, there is a good chance that if you are sailing on Celebrity Reflection or Beyond, you will be docked beside of a Royal Caribbean ship. 

In any port of call, though, it is likely that your ship will not be the only one there. If you think about Nassau or Cozumel, you may be one of two, three, or even four ships in port that day. 

Cabana

With Perfect Day at CocoCay, it is guaranteed that there will be a maximum of only two ships in port that day, and the island has been built to accommodate a high number of passengers. 

"...[This island] is specifically built for family of brands' guests, and so everything on there is very much controlled by us...it is literally just the Royal Caribbean Group guests joining the amazing destination for an amazing day," said Suarez. 

Booking incentive

If you book a cruise onboard Celebrity Reflection or Beyond between June 27 and July 31, 2023 that departs between May 1 and September 30, 2024, you are eligible to receive double club points through Celebrity's Captain's Clubthe the cruise line’s loyalty program that provides exclusive perks and events to repeat cruisers. 

If you have yet to sail with Celebrity Cruises but have status with Royal Caribbean through their Crown & Anchor program, you may be eligible for their reciprocity program. 

Note that status matching does not extend to the highest levels for each cruise line. In other words, if you are Pinnacle with Royal Caribbean, you will not become Zenith with Celebrity. Celebrity's Elite tier is the highest level that you can match.

Boardwalk vs Central Park Balcony Cabins

In:
27 Jun 2023
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

When Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009, it was the first time a cruise ship had ever had interior facing balconies. This increased the total number of balcony cabins available for booking on any given sailing. 

split-hero-boardwalk-central-park

In addition to the standard ocean view balconies, Royal Caribbean added cabins that overlook the two open-air neighborhoods: Central Park and the Boardwalk

Other than the view, they are identical to traditional balcony staterooms. Often, they are cheaper, meaning that you can still experience having your own personal outdoor verandah at a lower price, allowing you to allocate additional money towards other incidentals. 

For some, it may make more sense to stay in a cheaper cabin if that means you will be able to purchase experiences to enhance your overall vacation, like specialty dining meals, shore excursions, and more. 

Here's a breakdown of Boardwalk and Central Park balconies. 

RelatedGuide to balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean

Stateroom features

Allure-Boardwalk-Balcony

Until Icon of the Seas launches in 2024, interior balconies can only be found on Oasis Class ships. You will not have the option when looking at other classes, such as Voyager and Freedom. 

Every balcony cabin comes with the same interior features: two twin beds that can convert to a queen, vanity area, sofa, television, minibar, and, of course, the balcony furniture. 

They are all about the same size, too, measuring roughly 180 square feet with a 50 square food balcony. 

The most notable differences are the view and location.  If you want to look at the ever-changing scenery, you will want to make sure that you book an ocean view balcony. 

RelatedEverything about Royal Caribbean's Central Park View Balcony Staterooms

If, however, you are looking to save some money, Boardwalk and Central Park staterooms are great options. Compared to ocean view balconies, they are less windy and each offer a distinct experience. 

A cabin overlooking the Boardwalk means that you will be able to view the AquaTheater.

Depending on where your stateroom is located, you might have a prime viewing spot, especially if it is closer to the back of the ship. Plus, due to the neighborhood's open concept, Boardwalk staterooms may include an ocean view, allowing you to soak up some wake views from the comfort of your cabin. 

Central Park staterooms offer a more tranquil vibe, as they overlook the lush garden.

This neighborhood is also home to many specialty restaurants, and it boasts a more relaxed environment at night, unlike the Boardwalk, which is more lively at night. You will find people dressed up to enjoy dinner at Chops or listen to live music outdoors. 

RelatedAre Boardwalk balcony cabins too loud?

SOTS Central Park at Night

Central Park is located midship on Deck 8, meaning that all balconies overlooking the neighborhood are on Deck 10 and higher; Deck 9 is where you will find staterooms with picture windows. 

The Boardwalk can be found at the aft of the ship on Deck 6, with balcony cabins starting on Deck 8. 

RelatedWhat is the best location on a cruise ship?

If you have a preference in regard to midship or aft, Central Park staterooms are located closer to the middle of the ship, while Boardwalk cabins are located further back. 

Is privacy a concern?

Boardwalk-Cabin-View

When you book a Central Park or Boardwalk stateroom, the balcony is visible by everyone in the neighborhood, as well as those staying across on the opposite side of the ship, meaning that you will not have much (if any) privacy when sitting outside. 

When getting ready in the morning, it is best to keep the curtain closed to avoid having someone peek into your room while you are changing. 

If you are someone who enjoys people watching, these cabins are great options. 

Pricing

Wonder of the Seas in St Thomas

The cost of a cruise varies on multiple different factors, such as time of year, length, and ship's age.

A Boardwalk stateroom on a cruise on Wonder of the Seas in July will be more expensive than a Boardwalk cabin onboard a voyage on Allure of the Seas departing in October.

Allure-Boardwalk-Balcony

Looking at Royal Caribbean's website, a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Wonder of the Seas departing on July 21, 2024 currently starts at $2,173 per person for a Boardwalk balcony, $2,241 for a Central Park balcony, and $2,303 for a traditional ocean view balcony, meaning that you can save over $120 per person if you opt for a Boardwalk stateroom. 

Central-Park-Boardwalk-Price-Comparison-Wonder

The cost for the same cruise in October drops significantly, with an ocean view balcony costing less than the Boardwalk in July.

On the sailing that departs on October 13, 2024, the current rates are $1,718 for a Boardwalk balcony, $1,772 for a Central Park balcony, and $1,848 for a traditional ocean view balcony. 

If you do not have a preference, you can always book a guarantee rate. This means that Royal Caribbean will assign your cabin closer to the sail date with whatever staterooms have yet to be booked. Sometimes, this can save you hundreds of dollars per person!

Allure of the Seas

RelatedI saved $100 by letting Royal Caribbean choose my cruise ship cabin location, and I would let them do it again

While nothing beats a private oceanfront balcony, if you are looking to save some money and still be able to enjoy the benefits of a balcony, consider booking a Boardwalk or Central Park stateroom for your next cruise. Central Park tends to be quieter; however, select Boardwalk cabins located further in the aft will give you a sliver of ocean to look at. 

Celebrity announces its cruise ships will visit Royal Caribbean's private island

In:
27 Jun 2023
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Celebrity Cruises will soon offer cruises that visit Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Ship at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean International's private island has been a mega success since getting a $250 million makeover in 2019, with high guest satisfaction scores along the way.

Sister brand Celebrity wants to share that experience with its passengers.

On Tuesday, Celebrity said it will start offering weekend cruises to The Bahamas, beginning in April 2024.

Celebrity Reflection aerial

Celebrity Reflection will sail 3-night and 4-night cruises from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

3-night sailings departing Friday

  • Key West
  • CocoCay
  • Bahamas getaways (Nassau & Bimini)

4-night sailings departing Monday

  • Key West
  • Bahamas
  • CocoCay
Celebrity Beyond

In addition, Celebrity Beyond will sail from Florida year-round and offer visits to CocoCay.

Beyond is taking over Celebrity Reflection's 6 and 8 night sailings.

Guests booked on Reflection for those 6 and 8 night sailings will automatically be moved to Celebrity Beyond at a protected rate.

Celebrity Beyond, will offer a mix of six and eight-night cruises to places such as Grand Cayman, The Bahamas, Mexico, and the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Anyone booked on Beyond in Europe will have opportunity to move to another European cruise.

"Our customers are consistently asking for more opportunities to visit this stunning region year-round, have more weekend options so they can getaway easier, and have expressed a desire for a private island destination. By introducing this new program, we can meet this demand and offer something new and historic to all our guests,” says Laura Hodges Bethge, President of Celebrity Cruises.

"Perfect Day is a destination like no other, and we are honored to add it to our portfolio."

This will be the first time a non-Royal Caribbean International cruise ship has visited the private destination since the island was relaunched as Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Adding Perfect Day to enhance the cruise experience

If you've heard how well-received Perfect Day at CocoCay has been among the public, then Celebrity's decision to add visits there makes a lot of sense.

Perfect Day at CocoCay has a number of beaches, a water park, beach club, freshwater pool, and helium balloon, along with many other activities to choose from.

Royal Caribbean has touted the overwhelmingly positive guest feedback it has received about the island time and time again.

Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley said earlier this year the island was a major success, "The demand for that product [Perfect Day at CocoCay] is exceptionally high."

"CocoCay is the number one destination that Royal Caribbean goes to in the world out of 100 global destinations, because it’s a curated experience designed and built to deliver a high-level experience to the customer."

Chill Island with ship in background

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty talked in May 2023 about how lucrative it's been for the company, "While demand has been strong across all products and markets, we continue to see exceptional strength from the North American consumer. This strength, in combination with the incredible perfect day at CocoCay has resulted in record yields for our Caribbean sailings."

All of that positive feedback had to be enticing to offer Celebrity Cruise guests as well.

More adult experiences coming

hideaway-beach-construction-update-1

If you're thinking a day at CocoCay might not be a good fit for Celebrity's "modern luxury" vibe, keep in mind a major addition is coming.

The new adults-only Hideaway Beach is opening in early 2024.

Beach at Chill Island

This will be a new expansion to Perfect Day at CocoCay that offers an area of the island exclusively for the mature crowd.

Royal Caribbean has not announced yet what exactly you'll be able to experience at Hideaway Beach, but the new area is coming to coincide with the launch of Icon of the Seas in January 2024.

The addition of Celebrity Cruises visiting the island along with the new adults-only area opening seems to be perfect timing.

Alaska cruises. Your questions answered

In:
26 Jun 2023
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

You asked your most pressing Alaska cruise questions, and today, we’re answering each and every one.

If you’re planning a cruise to Alaska, it’s natural to have questions about cruising to the 49th state. From selecting a ship and embarkation port to reserving the best shore excursions, there’s a lot to know before your cruise begins.

Last week, our readers submitted their top questions about Alaska cruises to our Facebook page. Members of the Royal Caribbean Blog team travel to Alaska every summer, and we love sharing our best tips, tricks, and advice here on the blog.

To make your Alaska cruise planning process easier, here are the answers to your top Alaska cruise questions.

When is the best time to find deals on Alaska cruises?

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

More often than not, the best Alaska cruise deals are found when booking far in advance.

Royal Caribbean typically releases new itineraries around 18-24 months before the sail date. Booking a cruise as soon as the itinerary is released will often bring the lowest prices as well as the most selection of available cabins.

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

Despite this, you can sometimes find unbeatable Alaska cruise deals at the last minute, but you might have to be flexible.

For the past few years, we’ve noticed a trend on last-minute Alaska cruise pricing. One-way itineraries on Radiance of the Seas have offered cheap cruise deals a few months before the sailing.

Just last year, we found a cheap deal for only $550 per person. The sailing started in Vancouver and ended in Seward, visiting Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Icy Strait Point along the way, and here’s how it went.

How many days is an Alaska cruise, and how many ports of call are there?

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

The vast majority of Royal Caribbean Alaska cruises are 7 nights, although you may occasionally find a 6 or 8-night itinerary.

7-night Alaska cruises usually visit four ports of call from the following list:

  • Juneau
  • Skagway
  • Sitka
  • Ketchikan
  • Haines
  • Icy Strait Point
  • Victoria

All roundtrip sailings from Seattle must include a port stop in Victoria, British Columbia, thus visiting three ports in Alaska. One-way cruises, on the other hand, are not required to stop in Canada and have four port stops in Alaska.

Related: Alaska cruise ports guide

In addition to port stops—where guests disembark the ship—most itineraries include a scenic viewing day of a glacier. During these visits, your cruise ship will sail into a fjord and stop within sight of one of Alaska’s magnificent glaciers, such as Hubbard Glacier or Dawes Glacier.

How do I choose which itinerary is best for me?

Creek Street in Ketchikan

There’s no right or wrong itinerary to book for Alaska, but it’s important to know what to expect in each port before booking one cruise over the other.

Almost all itineraries stop in Juneau, Alaska, but other ports vary from itinerary to itinerary. Some cruises may visit Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan whereas others may call upon Juneau, Icy Strait Point, and Sitka.

Related: How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Before booking an Alaska cruise, take time to research the activities and shore excursions offered in each port. Some cruisers may prefer booking a train ride in Skagway whereas others will love the opportunity to learn more about Alaska’s Russian influence in Sitka.

Truthfully, your experience in Alaska will not vary drastically from itinerary to itinerary. All itineraries give passengers the chance to explore the state’s wildlife, history, and cuisine regardless of the town.

Where is the best embarkation location for an Alaska cruise?

Seattle aerial view

There are three ports you can embark from on an Alaska cruise: Seattle, Vancouver, and Seward.

In most cases, Seattle is the best embarkation port for most American passengers, as it’s usually easier to travel to Seattle compared to Vancouver or Seward. There are ample direct flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making traveling to the city easier and more affordable.

Vancouver, though, is an excellent embarkation port for the itinerary options. All Alaska cruises departing Seattle must include a port stop in Victoria, British Columbia to meet the requirements of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA).

Related: Guide to Seattle cruise port for Alaska cruises

Radiance of the Seas docked in Vancouver

Cruises leaving Vancouver do not need to stop in Victoria, meaning your cruise itinerary will visit more ports in Alaska compared to those leaving Seattle.

The third option for embarkation is in Seward, Alaska, a small town located a few hours drive from Anchorage. This option is not as convenient as Seattle or Vancouver, but is a good choice for those hoping to spend time in Alaska’s interior before starting the cruise.

Simply put, there’s not one “best” embarkation port for an Alaska cruise—each has its own pros and cons.

What are typical ship amenities on an Alaska cruise?

Currently there are two classes of Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska: Radiance Class and Quantum Class. Both classes of ships have several indoor features perfect for cold weather cruising.

Radiance Class ships have an indoor Solarium for adults, an indoor movie theater, and lounges with floor to ceiling windows looking toward the ocean. Quantum Class ships also have plenty of indoor areas, including an indoor pool for all ages, adults-only indoor Solarium, and indoor sports court.

Both classes of ships also have a thermal suite available at an extra cost, which includes hot stone loungers, saunas, and steam rooms—all of which are perfect for Alaska’s chilly weather.

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

The plethora of indoor spaces and amenities on Radiance and Quantum Class ships means guests can enjoy Alaska’s scenery regardless of weather conditions outside.

What do we pack?

Elizabeth-suitcase-angle

Packing for an Alaska cruise is not as difficult as it might seem. The key to packing for Alaska is to pack layers, as you never know what type of weather conditions you will encounter on your cruise.

We recommend packing:

  • Base layers: t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, etc.
  • Warm layers: pullovers, crew necks, sweatshirts, fleece jackets, etc.
  • Waterproof layer: rainjacket and water-resistant daypack
  • Bottoms: jeans and leggings
  • Dinner outfits: dresses, slacks, blouses, collared shirts, etc.

For more information on what to pack for an Alaska cruise, check out these helpful guides:

What are good excursions to do that are not booked with the cruise line?

Sitka

There’s no need to book a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise in order to have a good time. A little research goes a long way, and here are our best tips for ways to enjoy Alaska’s ports without a cruise ship shore excursion:

Look for local tour operators

Instead of booking directly through Royal Caribbean, search shore excursions on websites like Tripadvisor, Viator, and Shore Excursions Group. By going through these websites, you can find tours that may be priced lower compared to those offered by the cruise line.

Reserve tours once you disembark in port

In most Alaska cruise ports, you will find stands selling tours as soon as you disembark the cruise ship. These tours can be booked day-of and may be priced significantly lower than those booked onboard.

It’s easy to find shore excursions upon arriving in most ports. If you’re visiting smaller ports like Icy Strait Point and Haines, however, we advise researching and booking tours ahead of time.

Explore port on your own

Instead of booking a tour, there’s always the option of exploring a cruise port without a tour. To find the best things to do in each port, we recommend reading the following:

If you could, would you do a one-way sailing over a roundtrip cruise? It seems to give much more time exploring Alaska.

When planning an Alaska cruise, you will have to choose between either a roundtrip or one-way itinerary. Each of these itineraries comes with advantages and disadvantages, so you should weigh the pros and cons of each before booking an itinerary.

Northbound one-way cruises start in Vancouver, British Columbia and end in Seward, Alaska whereas southbound sailings travel in the opposite direction.

Advantages of a one-way Alaska cruise

There are two main advantages of a one-way itinerary. First is that these itineraries allow you to start or end your trip in Alaska’s interior, meaning you can visit sites like Denali National Park and Preserve and Kenai Fjords National Park, both of which are inaccessible on a roundtrip voyage.

Related: 50 Best Alaska cruise tips

Additionally, the 7-night cruise includes more port stops compared to a roundtrip itinerary. Because the cruise starts or ends in Canada, it is not required to call upon Victoria, British Columbia as a port of call.

Disadvantages of a one-way Alaska cruise

Radiance of the Seas

Of course, there are disadvantages, too. Roundtrip sailings depart and return to Seattle, Washington, and this is often more affordable and logistically easier than starting and ending in different ports.

In addition to convenience, roundtrip sailings also provide an excellent Alaska cruise experience. On a roundtrip cruise, you’ll still visit Alaska’s most popular ports, such as Juneau and Skagway, and most itineraries include a scenic glacier viewing as well.

Related: How far in advance to book an Alaska cruise

Plus, Royal Caribbean’s roundtrip Alaska cruises are offered on Quantum Class ships, which are significantly larger and more modern than the Radiance Class ships sailing one-way voyages.

If there is no pool/tan time, what is there to do all day when at sea?

Most Alaska cruises have two sea days—one on the way to Alaska and the other when returning. Despite traveling through a cold climate, there’s no lack of pool time on an Alaska cruise.

All Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska have an indoor pool for guests to enjoy. Quantum Class ships have two indoor pool areas—one for all ages and the other for guests 16 and older. Each area has a pool and several hot tubs, meaning you can enjoy a pool day in Alaska just as easily as in the Caribbean!

Related: 10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day

Outside of hanging out by the pool, guests can enjoy a variety of other activities on a sea day, including sports activities, surfing simulators, rock climbing, trivia, live music, and entertainment shows.

In short, a sea day on an Alaska cruise isn’t drastically different from a sea day in the Caribbean.

How do I get my beach and warm weather wife to want to go to Alaska?

Glacier Bay from Alaska Cruise

It can be challenging to convince someone to go on an Alaska cruise if their idea of vacation includes suntanning by the pool under a palm tree.

While we can’t say for sure whether or not you’ll be able to convince someone to go on an Alaska cruise, it might not be as challenging as you think. During the peak summer months, Alaska is not nearly as cold as most people think, and you might even find yourself warm when walking around ports on sunny days.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Show your spouse, friend, or another family member who needs convincing a few images and videos of Alaska’s scenery. Maybe find a vlog on YouTube from an Alaska cruise, as seeing a first-hand experience could get someone more excited about the possibility of cruising to Alaska themselves.

If you really can’t convince your wife to cruise to Alaska, you can always book a solo cruise (although she may not be too happy about that!).

Are the seas calm in the Pacific?

Aft balcony

While it’s impossible to predict the exact weather conditions you may encounter on an Alaska cruise, it’s possible your ship will sail through choppy waters.

While on an Alaska cruise, your ship will sail through both the open ocean and the calm waters of the Inside Passage. When in the open ocean, you may encounter rough seas and high winds, leading to more movement onboard than you may be used to while visiting other destinations.

Related: How to avoid getting seasick on a cruise

Luckily, the Inside Passage tends to be extremely calm, as these waters are protected and sheltered from the higher waves in the open Pacific waters.

If on a one-way itinerary, you may also encounter rougher seas while crossing the Gulf of Alaska to and from Seward.

Most passengers will not feel seasick on an Alaska cruise, but packing seasickness remedies is still recommended.

What is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

There’s no “best” time to cruise to Alaska, as each month offers pros and cons.

Here is an overview of each month of the season and what you should expect. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each month may help you find the best month for your travel style and needs.

  • Late April/May: less chance of rain, fewer crowds, colder temperatures, lower prices
  • June and July: highest crowds, long hours of daylight, higher prices, warmest weather
  • August: higher crowds in the first half of the month, more chance of rain, lower prices around the end of the month
  • September: lower crowds, high chance of rain, lower temperatures, less daylight, lower prices

Related: When is the best time to cruise to Alaska? Month-by-month guide

What’s it like sailing to Alaska in the early season?

Whale in Alaska

The end of April marks the beginning of Alaska’s summer cruise season. Visiting Alaska in the early season will come with several differences compared to visiting in the peak season.

In April and early May, you can expect lower chances of rain and temperatures with lows in the 40s and highs in the mid-50s There are around 15 hours of daylight in southeast Alaska during this time of year.

As far as wildlife, you’re less likely to see bears and salmon in the early season compared to later months, but you may see humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions, although wildlife sightings are never guaranteed

Related: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise in the early season

What’s it like sailing to Alaska in the late season?

Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise season ends in late September each year. This shoulder season will see some of the lowest prices offered all year, and you can occasionally snag a great last-minute cruise deal as fall approaches.

In September, you can expect to see more rainfall compared to other months and temperatures will be chillier compared to peak summer. Nonetheless, the fewer crowds and lower prices make visiting at this time of year appealing for many guests.

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

As far as wildlife, you may catch a glimpse of Alaska’s annual salmon run as well as bears, and it’s possible to see whales in Alaska’s waters, too.

What type of cabin should you book for an Alaska cruise and why?

There’s no right or wrong cabin to book for an Alaska cruise, and the type of room you book ultimately comes down to your budget and cabin availability.

A balcony is the most common choice for an Alaska cruise, as it allows you to enjoy the state’s scenery from the comfort and privacy of your own cabin. Even if it’s too cold to stay on the balcony all day, you can still enjoy views of the outside from the warmth of your couch or bed in the stateroom.

Those on a budget, however, should opt for an interior or oceanview room. While nothing fancy, these small, budget-friendly cabins allow you to allocate your vacation funds elsewhere. Instead of spending $1000 extra for a balcony, why not book a once-in-a-lifetime shore excursion?

Related: Best cabins to book for an Alaska cruise

If you’re on the opposite end of the budget spectrum, there’s nothing wrong with booking a suite. Staying in a suite on a Royal Caribbean cruise can make your Alaska experience even more enjoyable by providing extra space and amenities like private restaurants and priority embarkation.

What is the minimum number of days for an Alaska cruise and land trip?

If you’re hoping to combine a one-way Alaska cruise with a land trip in Alaska’s interior, you should allocate at least 9 days for the trip.

The shortest cruise and land tour combinations offered by Royal Caribbean are 9 nights, and they include a 7-night cruise and 2 nights in Alaska’s interior, during which you will visit Denali.

If traveling all the way to Alaska, though, we advise planning more days for a cruise and land trip. Many guests prefer spending an additional week in Alaska’s interior, giving them extra time to visit other areas like Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Whether you book a tour through Royal Caribbean or rent a car and explore Alaska on your own, having extra time gives you more opportunities for adventure.

Best places to eat in port?

Alaska has delightful cuisine, from freshly caught fish to reindeer meat. While traveling to any destination, one of the best ways to learn more about a region’s culture is to taste local cuisine, and that is true in Alaska as well.

Our local Alaska expert Mollie wrote a great piece about where to eat like a local on your Alaska cruise. From local breweries to diners and food trucks, we recommend reading through her guide before your Alaska cruise to ensure you don’t miss out on the state’s best eats.

Inside or outside passage and why?

All Alaska cruises sail through the Inside Passage, but there is one difference between cruising from Seattle versus Vancouver.

Cruises from Vancouver sail through Canada’s Inside Passage en route to Alaska. This narrow passage is between Vancouver Island and British Columbia and offers scenic mountain views.

Ships departing Seattle first travel along the west coast of Vancouver Island in the open ocean instead of through the Inside Passage. Upon reaching Alaska, the ships then enter the Inside Passage.

There is little difference between the two routes, and it isn’t worth booking one itinerary over another just for a few extra views on the way to and from Alaska. Instead, book the itinerary that works best with your interests and schedule, whether that means sailing from Seattle or from Vancouver.

Can you see the northern lights on an Alaska cruise?

Many cruisers to Alaska dream of seeing the northern lights while visiting the state, but the northern lights viewing season does not coordinate well with the summer cruise season.

The most common time to see the northern lights is during the winter and early spring. Because of the long hours of daylight in the summer, it’s not common to see northern lights on an Alaska cruise.

That being said, they do appear from time to time in the later part of the cruise season, usually around September. Because of their unpredictability, we wouldn’t recommend getting your hopes up about seeing the northern lights.

Even so, if they do make an appearance, it will surely be spectacular.

What is the best way to see the ports on a budget?

Empty Skagway street

The best way to see Alaska’s cruise ports on a budget is to explore on your own instead of booking a tour.

Fortunately, Alaska’s cruise ports are all small and walkable, meaning you can see many attractions without booking expensive excursions. A variety of museums, restaurants, and bars are located just a few minutes away from where cruise ships dock in each port.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

Day hikes are free and accessible from cruise ports as well. If visiting Skagway, take a short, thirty minute walk to Yakutania Point, which provides a stunning view of the Taiya Inlet. Or, if in Ketchikan, put on your hiking points and summit Deer Mountain for unbeatable views of the nearby islands.

If you would prefer a tour, book through an outside tour company instead of a Royal Caribbean shore excursion. Many guests enjoy visiting Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, but instead of booking a $150 excursion, you can book a $45 roundtrip ticket on a shuttle bus to and from the glacier!

For more ideas of what to do in Alaska cruise ports, check out these guides:

Are Alaska cruises kid-friendly?

Bumper cars in SeaPlex on Anthem of the Seas

Alaska cruises often have a reputation of being for adults, but they can be a wonderful vacation for families with kids, too.

While on shore in Alaska’s cruise ports, kids will love the outdoor adventures offered in the state, from looking for wildlife to running around Alaska’s hiking trails.

And, while onboard, kids will enjoy the activities and programming offered by Royal Caribbean. Whether in the Caribbean or Alaska, Royal Caribbean offers the same family-friendly activities and programs for its guests.

Related: 50 best cruising with kids tips & secrets

Adventure Ocean with kids

If cruising with kids, we recommend booking an Alaska cruise on a Quantum Class ship over a Radiance Class ship. Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas both sail roundtrip cruises from Seattle, and they offer family-friendly activities for guests of all ages.

These ships feature amenities like an indoor sports arena, rock climbing wall, indoor skydiving simulator, and FlowRider surf simulator. In addition, they have a larger Adventure Ocean kids programming space and an indoor pool for all ages.

Kids will still enjoy an Alaska cruise on a Radiance Class ship, but there is a far greater amount of kid-friendly activities on Quantum Class vessels.

Do I really need gloves and a hat?

Alaska glacier viewing

Predicting the weather in Alaska is nearly impossible, and you may encounter all four seasons in just one day while visiting the state.

If you’re wondering whether you really need to pack accessories like gloves and a hat, we’d recommend putting them into your suitcase. These items are small and you may be thankful to have them in your cabin during the sailing.

Even if a port day reaches 70 degrees, the next day could see lows in the 40s. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors viewing scenery, it’s always better to be prepared with more layers and accessories than you think you’ll need.

Is the casino open on an Alaska cruise?

The casino is open on an Alaska cruise when your cruise ship is sailing through international waters. This means that when your ship is docked in port, the casino will be closed.

As soon as your ship leaves port and enters international waters, the casino will open.

Which port has the train excursion? Is it handicap accessible?

Skagway white pass train

The popular “train excursion” on an Alaska cruise is the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, and it’s located in Skagway, Alaska.

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway is a historic railroad built in 1898 that links Skagway to Whitehourse, Yukon Territory. Cruise line excursions take guests to the summit of the White Pass and back to Skagway, and the trip takes around three hours.

The excursion is handicap accessible, although guests traveling with a wheelchair should notify the excursion team or tour operator while booking.

What are land tours, and does Royal Caribbean offer them?

Land tours are offered on one-way Alaska cruise itineraries, and these are multi-day tours you can add before or after an Alaska cruise.

Land tours range from 2 to 6 extra nights before or after a 7-night sailing. The tours are guided and include accommodation at charming lodges and hotels, a scenic train ride, and visits to destinations including Denali and Fairbanks.

Royal Caribbean offers these tours during the summer cruise season, and they can be booked directly through the cruise line as part of your overall cruise fare.

Should you do the land portion at the beginning or end of your cruise?

If you’re booking a one-way Alaska itinerary, you have two options: northbound or southbound.

Northbound itineraries travel from Vancouver to Seward, which means guests enjoy a 7-night cruise before starting the land portion of their trip.

Southbound itineraries travel from Seward to Vancouver, meaning you can spend time in Alaska’s interior before the cruise begins.

While there’s no right or wrong direction to book for a one-way cruise, a southbound itinerary may be more relaxing.

You can spend several busy days sightseeing in Alaska’s interior before the cruise begins, which will likely leave you tired and in need of relaxation. Once you board your cruise, you’ll have 7 days to relax and unwind while traveling to Vancouver.

What are the must sees and dos on an Alaska cruise?

Mendenhall Glacier

Here are some of our favorite activities of must sees and dos in Alaska’s main cruise ports:

  • Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls waterfall
  • Skagway: White Pass & Yukon Railroad
  • Sitka: Fortress of the Bear, the Raptor Center, and Sitka National Historical Park
  • Ketchikan: Creek Street (in town) or Misty Fjords National Park (excursion necessary)

Is the Hubbard Glacier excursion worth $450?

During scenic glacier viewing days, Royal Caribbean offers excursions that allow guests to disembark their large cruise ship and board a small expedition vessel.

These small vessels allow passengers to get up close and personal with Alaska’s wildlife and scenery in a way that is impossible to experience on a large ship.

Unsurprisingly, these excursions are not cheap, and it’s not uncommon to pay hundreds of dollars for a spot on a smaller boat. But because what is “worth it” for one guest may seem like a waste of money to another, we cannot say for sure whether or not a glacier excursion will be worth the cost.

If you value being able to see scenery more up close and have the budget to spend on an extra excursion, there’s no harm in booking the tour. If you are choosing between a glacier excursion and an excursion in another cruise port, though, we advise booking an excursion in a different port instead.

You can still enjoy glacier views from the ship without a $450 tour, as there are many places onboard to catch views of Hubbard Glacier, Dawes Glacier, the Sawyer Glaciers, and any other views as your ship sails through Alaska.

Are we missing out by not doing Glacier Bay?

Glacier seen from cruise ship

Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve is one of Alaska’s cherished national parks, but you cannot visit the park on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Only select cruise lines, including Princess Cruises and Holland America, can visit Glacier Bay. The national park issues permits to cruise lines, and Royal Caribbean does not currently have a permit.

“Missing out” is subjective, but Glacier Bay is, of course, a spectacular destination to visit. Even though you cannot visit the park on Royal Caribbean, you still have the chance to visit other magnificent glaciers on a Royal Caribbean cruise, including Mendenhall Glacier, Taku Glacier, the twin Sawyer Glaciers, and Hubbard Glacier.

Related: Hubbard Glacier vs Glacier Bay: which glacier is better to see on a cruise?

Despite not visiting Glacier Bay, Royal Caribbean puts an incredible product out with their Alaska cruises. If you enjoy Royal Caribbean, it’s not necessary to book another cruise line simply to visit Glacier Bay, as you may prefer the overall experience with Royal Caribbean more than with another company.

What is a moderate price hotel to stay in Seattle?

If you’re planning to stay in downtown Seattle before your cruise, you may find it difficult to find a hotel under $200. Most nice hotels in the downtown area are over $250-300 per night, especially if you’re cruising in the peak summer season.

Nonetheless, you can occasionally come across a good deal by booking in advance or finding a last-minute deal offered by a hotel. If you really need a budget hotel, your best bet is to stay further from downtown or near the airport.

Here are a few hotels for a pre-cruise stay in Seattle that our team members have enjoyed:

  • Holiday Inn Seattle Downtown-Lake Union
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seattle-City Center
  • Grand Hyatt Seattle
  • Sheraton Grand Seattle

Use Priceline Express Deals

Our favorite tip for finding a cheap deal on a hotel is to use Priceline Express Deals. Priceline offers a “blind booking” feature where you can input the destination and dates, and a list of hotels will populate offering deals.

The caveat is that you cannot see the hotel name and are only given the number of stars and approximate location of the hotel, thus leading to a “blind” booking.

There is a workaround, however, and using a few tech-savvy skills can lead to great savings. Each Express Deal hotel shows a photo of the hotel. By screenshotting or saving the photo and uploading it to Google Images under the “Search by Image” feature, you can find the exact name of the hotel, negating the need for a “blind” booking!

Our team frequently uses Priceline Express Deals to book nicer hotels at a lower price.

How does a person with a past DUI sail to Alaska?

Those with criminal records may be unable to board an Alaska cruise. Canada does not permit entry to any visitors with criminal records, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred. Crimes include DUI, misdemeanor drug possession, shoplifting, theft, etc. You can read more about the requirements and exceptions here.

Many cruisers have been able to board Alaska cruises despite having a DUI, however, provided they sail from Seattle and not Vancouver. Because the process can vary from person to person, we advise doing extra research on whether or not you will be able to board an Alaska cruise.

Do I have to go home?

All cruises come to an end, and unfortunately this means you will have to return home after your Alaska cruise.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from booking another Alaska cruise, so why not head to Next Cruise before disembarkation day?

What it's like to cruise on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas in 2023

In:
26 Jun 2023
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

Whether you have a cruise coming up on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, or you're curious what to expect on a ship like this, we have a first-hand look at what's happening onboard.

Navigator-Exterior-Cabo

I recently boarded my first-ever cruise onboard Navigator to the Seas. Not only was this class of ship new to me, but it was also my first time sailing out of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. 

Navigator of the Seas is a Voyager Class ship that was initially launched in 2002. Since then, however, she underwent the cruise line's Royal Amplification program and received $115 million in upgrades, meaning that if you sailed on her in 2018, you would have a different experience than you would if you sailed on her today. 

Here's what it is like to sail on Navigator of the Seas in 2023. 

Related: 23 Do's and Don'ts for your Royal Caribbean cruise in 2023

The boarding process

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Los-Angeles

As soon as online check-in for my sailing opened, I was able to secure an arrival time of 10:30am. I knew that I wanted a full day to explore and orient myself with the ship, rather than board later in the day just to sleep in. 

Since I flew into LAX the night before, I stayed relatively close to the airport, meaning that I had about a thirty minute drive to the port, which is actually located outside of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. 

Related: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise 

I was surprised to find that security was in tents outside of the physical terminal building. Plus, you go through security prior to getting your documents (i.e., passport or birth certificate) checked. 

After going through security, I was instructed to go inside of the terminal, where I was greeted by a port agent who proceeded to scan my Set Sail pass, take a photo of my passport, and update my security image.

View-of-LA-from-Navigator

After that, I had a brief wait before we were able to officially board the ship since there were other groups who had priority, such as suites, The Key, and Pinnacle guests. 

I was on the ship by 11:00am and opted to wait to grab lunch at the Windjammer after staterooms were ready at 1:00pm to avoid the rush. As someone who is used to sailing on Oasis Class ships, I prefer to skip Windjammer and go to Park Café for lunch.

On Navigator of the Seas, however, is this not an option, and waiting to go to lunch was the best decision because the buffet was not nearly as hectic as I had pictured it. 

Disembarkation

Navigator-disembarkation

When, sadly, disembarkation day arrived, the process to get off the ship was seamless. I had a later disembarkation time of 9:00am; however, all groups were called by 8:45am.

I was able to get off the ship, grab my luggage, go through customs, and order an Uber in less than forty-five minutes. Plus, someone in my travel party had a birth certificate, so she had to wait in a separate line. 

Accommodations 

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Interior-Stateroom

In January, I sailed onboard Liberty of the Seas and was a bit disappointed in how dated the staterooms were, so I did not have high expectations since I knew that Navigator is an older ship. 

While you could tell that my stateroom was older, as it lacked the modern finishes that the newer ships have, it was in relatively good condition. You could tell that it was older, as it lacked the modern finishes that the newer ships have. 

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Interior-Stateroom-2

What was the most frustrating, however, was the lack of outlets. In my stateroom, there were only two, and both were located near the desk.

Thankfully, the charging cords that I had were long enough to reach both beds. Had I brought standard three feet ones, neither myself nor my travel companion would have been able to use our devices in bed! 

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Outlets-Interior-Stateroom

Despite staying in an interior cabin, which is often the smaller stateroom onboard any given ship, there was more than enough storage space for two people. Three people, however, would have been a tight squeeze.

Dining

Jaimes-Italian-Navigator-of-the-Seas

It is no surprise that food onboard a cruise ship can be a hit or miss. That is understandable, though, as the team is trying to serve thousands of people within a few hours! 

While my favorite meal was lunch at Jaime's Italian, I was pleased with the quality of the complimentary options, too, including El Loco Fresh, which was my favorite poolside treat on sea days. 

The food in the Main Dining Room was better than when I sailed onboard Symphony of the Seas earlier this year. I had some of the same dishes and could definitely tell a different in preparation. 

RelatedI tried Royal Caribbean's new main dining room menus, and here's what I thought

Lobster-mac-and-cheese-navigator-dining-main-dining-room

Out of all the menus, I was most excited for "Taste of the USA," as this menu was not yet available last time I did a weeklong Royal Caribbean cruise in February. 

As basic as it sounds, one of my favorite foods is macaroni and cheese, and the lobster mac and cheese did not disappoint. In fact, both myself and my travel companion, who is also a self-proclaimed macaroni and cheese connoisseur, agreed that we each could have ordered another. 

The Bamboo Room is a bar that is only available on two ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet: Navigator and Mariner of the Seas. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by a sign that reads "It's Tiki Time." I loved the tropical vibe of this venue located in the heart of the Royal Promenade. 

The-Bamboo-Room-Navigator

It was a fun place to grab a refreshing cocktail and definitely makes this ship stand out amongst others. 

My Time Dining

main-dining-room-navigator-of-the-seas

For this cruise, I had selected My Time Dining versus a traditional seating. This meant that I was responsible for booking my dinner reservations each night or would be subject to whatever wait time there was when I arrived. 

Most nights, I made reservations for around 8:00pm, and when I got to the Main Dining Room on Deck 3, there was a line to both check-in for reservations and to secure a spot on the wait list. Regardless, we were seated in less than ten minutes with our reservations. 

The earliest that I ate was at 7:15pm, and I found that both lines were shorter. In fact, they were practically non-existent! If you did not have a reservation, you probably would have been seated in less than five or ten minutes. 

In terms of the service, we were seated with a total of three different teams. Every night, our service was concluded within an hour and fifteen minutes, with our conversations over dessert keeping us there longer. In theory, we could have quickly eaten dessert and gone elsewhere to enjoy our coffee. 

Entertainment

iSkate-Navigator-of-the-Sea

Personally, I find the entertainment on the smaller ships to lack in comparison to offerings on larger ships. There's nothing quite like AquaTheater shows or Broadway-style musicals while at sea!

For a Voyager Class ship, though, I found the options to be entertaining. None of the shows were over forty-five minutes, which was a good length. 

show-girls-navigator-of-the-seas-entertainment-production

While onboard, I saw the ice skating show, original production that was a tribute to show girls, and The Quest. What I appreciated most about the ice skating show was that it did not try and stick to a plot and seemed to focus more on the skaters' abilities. Plus, the costumes got more elaborate as the show progressed. 

On the last night, I went to the farewell performance that featured a live band, comedian, and performance by the ship's singers and dancers; it was my favorite of the entire sailing! 

star-lounge-navigator-of-the-seas.

Finally, I found there to be quite a few live music options each evening, whether it be at Boleros, the pub, Schooner Bar, or Royal Promenade. 

Onboard activities 

mini-golf-navigator-of-the-seas

There was enough to do onboard, from water slides to mini-golf, the resort-style pool deck, ice skating, rock walls, the sports court, and, of course, the entertainment.

I do not usually attend trivia; however, I went to general trivia the first few days. Perhaps I just do not have enough general knowledge, but I was stumped by many of the questions. My travel companion, however, said that it was not challenging enough. 

On the night of the 80s party, I went to attend the 80s dance class in the Royal Promenade; however, no other attendees showed up, and the event organizer eventually left. To be fair, it was at 5:30pm on "Dress to Impress" night. Had this program been in the morning, I think it would have been more of a hit. 

Normally, I prefer my cruises to have a even mix of port and sea days; however, I would have been okay with only two full days onboard Navigator! I think that would have given me enough time to experience everything that I would have liked to do. 

The limited amount of seating in the Solarium was apparent on the second sea day. The weather on the first was less than desirable (i.e., chilly and windy), so I opted to spend the majority of the day indoors. On our return to Los Angeles, however, the weather was extremely pleasant, especially in the Solarium.

solarium-navigator-of-the-seas.

I am glad that we staked out our chairs early in the morning and made ourself comfortable for the day. Those who arrived later in the afternoon were unable to find groups of chairs together, especially in the sun. This is not an uncommon cruise issue, though. 

RelatedHow to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

Onboard internet 

Navigator-WiFi-Speeds-Internet

With download speeds of 140.1mbps upload speeds of 5.33mbps, the internet was above average in regard to what I have experience on other ships this year, including Symphony of the Seas.

I still had some issues sending and receiving photographs via iMessage; however, I have found that to be normal on most cruises. 

Ports of call

Cabo San Lucas

tendering-in-cabo-navigator-tender-boat

My previous trips to Mexico have been exclusively to Cancun, Cozumel, and Costa Maya, meaning that traveling to the Mexican Riviera was going to be a new experience for me! 

The last time I tendered to any port was in 2016 when I visited Grand Cayman on a Disney cruise, so I was unsure how the tender process would work onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. 

cabo-tender-letter-navigator-tendering

The night before we docked in Cabo San Lucas, which was our first port of call, I received a letter from my stateroom attendant with instructions about how to retrieve tender tickets; they were required to go ashore unless you had an excursion booked. 

Tickets were given out starting at 10:00am in the Main Dining Room on Deck 5. The earlier you lined up, the earlier you would be able to disembark. 

Cabo-Tender-Line-Navigator

Around 1:15pm, the line to get off the ship was pretty long. People were crowding on Deck 2 waiting for their group number to be called. If getting off the ship early is important to you and your day in Cabo, it is advisable to get to the Main Dining Room at least thirty minutes prior to when they begin handing out tickets. Otherwise, you may find that you cannot get off the ship until over an hour after the ship docks. 

Mazatlán

Mazatlán-church

In Mazatlán, I did a scenic boat tour that was booked through Royal Caribbean. Like with any cruise line sponsored excursion, I found it easy to locate the guide with the corresponding paddle in hand. Since the tour was less than tour hours, that meant that I had the rest of the day to explore the city center. 

Unfortunately, it was scorching hot. After less than two hours walking around, I was ready to return to the ship for lunch. My advise for Mazatlán, if going off on your own, would be to draft a plan prior to setting off. That way, you are not wasting time in the heat researching what you want to see. 

Mazatlán-blue-line-city-center

It was easy to reach the city center, though, as all you had to do was follow a blue line from the cruise terminal straight into the heart of the city. In total, the walk took around fifteen or twenty minutes. 

I ended up visiting a neat church that, supposedly, was partially funded by a wealthy Jewish donor. If you look up at the stained glass, you can see where the Star of David was incorporated as a token of appreciation.

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto-Vallarta-All-Inclusive-Riu

An all-inclusive resort is the way to go in Puerto Vallarta, especially if you are looking for some time in the sun and/or beach. I visited Hotel Riu Vallarta, which was located about thirty minutes from the cruise port.

Note that transportation was not included and cost around $20 per person for the round-trip fare. I also discovered that wi-fi was not included in the rate; however, it was available for purchase. 

Check-in was simple and required handing the front desk a printed copy of the confirmation of our day passes, provided identification (i.e., valid driver's license or passport), and then receiving a towel card. Afterwards, the group was free to roam throughout the resort, whether that was staking claim to a chair on the pool deck or heading down to the beach. 

Since it was all-inclusive, all drinks -- both alcoholic and non-alcoholic -- were included, as well as food. At 11:30am, a small poolside buffet open that consisted of limited options, such as a burger, chicken, fries, and chili. At 12:30pm, though, an expansive buffet opened in the main resort. 

adults-only-pool-riu-puerto-vallarta

What I appreciated most was the fact that the staff was very attentive to everything going on. Whenever a child would try and sneak into the adults-only infinity pool, they were quick to blow their whistle and inform them that they had to go elsewhere. 

There was plenty for children to do, too, as they had their own dedicated pool area. In the afternoon, there was even a foam party for all-ages!

What it is like to sail from Los Angeles versus Florida

Port-of-Los-Angeles-Embarkation-Navigator

When deciding whether to cruise from Los Angeles or Florida, you should be aware of a few key differences. The first being that you will have fewer ship and itinerary options. From Port Canaveral, there are three Royal Caribbean ships deployed there in June, July, and August 2023: Wonder, Independence, and Mariner of the Seas. 

The more ships you have to choose from, the more itineraries you have to choose from, too. Between these three ships, you can take a cruise as short as 3-nights to the Bahamas or as long as 8-nights to the Caribbean onboard the world's largest cruise ship. Mariner of the Seas is even making a few trips to Bermuda! This also means you have more flexibility when making your travel plans. 

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Docked-Puerto-Vallarta

Currently, Navigator of the Seas is the only Royal Caribbean ship sailing from Los Angeles, meaning that if you are hoping for a 7-night cruise during a specific week, you may be disappointed to find the only options are 3- and 4-nights. 

In regard to embarkation, though, this means that you do not have to battle traffic from other ships. If you have sailed from Miami at any point in 2023, you know the frustration of arriving and sitting in traffic or waiting for an Uber to arrive on disembarkation day. When I got to the port in San Pedro, it was easy for my Lyft driver to pull right up to the terminal building. 

Overall, though, the cons of sailing from Los Angeles are minimal. Navigator of the Seas, despite her age, is in great condition and offers sailings to a beautiful ports of call that you simply cannot visit when departing from Florida. 

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: June 25, 2023

In:
25 Jun 2023
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! Hope you are having a relaxing weekend and enjoying summer! It is time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the recent Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean revealed this week Utopia of the Seas will begin sailing in July 2024 with short cruises only.

Utopia aft aerial

Instead of offering 7-night cruises, Royal Caribbean will offer 3-night and 4-night cruises on its newest ship in a bid to attract new cruisers.

Utopia is the sixth Oasis Class ship, but will include a few new amenities not found on other Oasis Class ships.

Royal Caribbean News

New RCB Video: Early Dinner vs. Late Dinner on Royal Caribbean

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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 — Early Dinner vs. Late Dinner on Royal Caribbean — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Icon of the Seas completes first round of sea trials

icon-during-sea-trials

Icon of the Seas wrapped up her first set of sea trials this week.

The new ship spent four days at sea testing out its systems before returning to the Meyer Turku shipyard.

During her first set of sea trials, Icon of the Seas traveled hundreds of miles, during which the main engines, hull, brake systems, steering, noise, and vibration levels were all tested.

Royal Caribbean has a plan to dominate short cruises with a new ship and private destinations

Utopia of the Seas at CocoCay

The announcement of Utopia of the Seas offering only short cruises is part of a broader strategy the line has to offer the very best in short cruises.

Utopia is one big piece of a larger plan that will seek to establish Royal Caribbean as the preeminent choice for a weekend cruise by crafting a curated cruise experience second-to-none.

Between the new ship and destinations it will visit, Royal Caribbean is setting itself up to offer something we haven't seen before.

Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay vs Carnival Cruise Line's Amber Cove: Which is better?

In:
24 Jun 2023
By: 
Allie Hubers

If you’ve cruised to the Caribbean, you more than likely visited a cruise line’s private island or destination. Nearly every major cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Norwegian, have a private destination for guests to enjoy. 

CocoCay Cover

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are two of the biggest (and most popular) cruise lines in the world. As such, if you’ve sailed on one of these cruise lines, there’s a very good chance that your itinerary included a stop at the cruise line’s private destination. 

Most would agree that Royal Caribbean has one of the best private islands in the cruising industry. Perfect Day at CocoCay is the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas - and it’s exclusively used by Royal Caribbean guests. The idyllic paradise is the result of a $250 million investment, which transformed the island into a tropical oasis. Here, guests will find a variety of waterslides, bars, lounges, beaches, pools, cabanas and more. 

In fact, more than 2 million guests visited Perfect Day at CocoCay each year. The island’s dock is able to accommodate two Royal Caribbean ships each day, bringing thousands of guests to CocoCay daily. This number is only likely to increase with Royal Caribbean’s fleet expansion with Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas. 

However, competitor Carnival Cruise Line also has private destinations for guests to enjoy. This includes the very popular Amber Cove resort, which is located in the Dominican Republic. While this is not an island, the resort area - conveniently located to Puerto Plata - is exclusively available for cruise guests. 

Amber Cove

With a whopping $85 million investment, Carnival transformed this pocket of paradise into Amber Cove in 2015. The destination now hosts around 250,000 passengers each year. Because Carnival’s ships are not as big as Royal Caribbean, Amber Cove does not accommodate nearly as many passengers. However, the hefty investment is nearly 3x more per visiting guest as Royal Caribbean’s investment in CocoCay. 

I recently visited Amber Cove for the first time while sailing onboard Carnival Mardi Gras - and I was very surprised to see similarities to CocoCay. After visiting CocoCay in January of this year, it was pretty easy to draw comparisons between the two resort-style cruise experience. 

Here is how my recent experiences at Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay compared to visiting Carnival’s Amber Cove private destination. 

Initial Impressions

I’ve visited CocoCay a few times over the years, as I sail almost exclusively with Royal Caribbean. My very first visit to CocoCay was actually back in 2009, when the island was barebones with not much to do. More than a decade later, I visited CocoCay again - with low expectations based on my earlier visit. 

Much to my surprise, Perfect Day at CocoCay blew me away! I appreciated the ultimate convenience of everything. We spent all day in the Oasis Lagoon listening to the DJ blast pop tunes across the island - with a cocktail in hand, of course. There were so many beaches, pools, eateries and bars to explore!

CocoCay

While thrill-seekers can enjoy the waterslides, hot air balloon and zip-line, beach bums can enjoy multiple places around the island scattered with soft sand, floating tiki bars and crystal clear waters. 

As mentioned above, my first visit to Amber Cove was a few months ago while sailing on Carnival Mardi Gras. I am not necessarily a loyal Carnival cruiser, so I was excited to see what the private destination had to offer. Unexpectedly, Amber Cove reminded me a lot of CocoCay.

I had not done any prior research to my visit, but I had heard a few experiences from other cruisers. While some had enjoyed their time at Amber Cove, others said it was mediocre. Therefore, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

Amber Cove

While there isn’t striking resemblance, the convenience, ambiance and amenities are certainly similar with Amber Cove. We found there to be pools, bars, cabanas and tons of loungers in the resort area to enjoy. Additionally, there was a splash pad area for kids, a waterslide and a zip-line. Similar to CocoCay, I also enjoyed listening to the DJ play party tunes throughout the day. 

Additionally, Amber Cove was much bigger than I anticipated! The area was expansive and didn’t feel crowded during our day docked there. With plenty to do, including activities and amenities, it was a great place to spend the day.

Location

Amber Cove is located in the Dominican Republic, which is located right outside of the bustling city of Puerto Plata. Carnival’s private destination is on the northern point of the Dominican Republic, which is mountainous and luscious. Not to mention, the water is strikingly blue, making the island absolutely gorgeous! 

Amber Cove

For history lovers, you might recognize this city as the location of where Christopher Columbus established his first settlement in the Americas. As such, there is a lot of history in the area, which could be perfect for those interested in history. Carnival’s Caribbean itineraries feature Amber Cove stops frequently. If the private island vibe isn’t your cup of tea, you can take a quick visit into Puerto Plata since it’s just 20 minutes away. 

Amber Cove

In comparison, Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay is, indeed, a private island. This means you aren’t able to spend your time anywhere else. Instead, your entire time is spent at CocoCay because you are not able to venture from the island. 

Further north from Amber Cove, you will find Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas. The private island has plenty of local flair throughout. More precisely, you can find CocoCay about 55 miles north of Nassau in The Berry Islands. 

CocoCay

Less than a mile wide, CocoCay is a private island that covers nearly 130 total acres of white sand, blue water and palm trees. Your odds of visiting CocoCay are pretty high, as most of Royal Caribbean’s itineraries in the Caribbean feature a stop at the island. 

Both private destinations feel like a tropical oasis, although CocoCay features more natural beauty throughout the island. You will feel relaxed the minute you step ashore!

Beach Access

If you’re a beach lover, you definitely will not want to visit Amber Cove. This is where the two destinations vary the most. You might be envisioning that Amber Cove is beachy, but this isn’t the case. Because Amber Cove is not a private island, the area has absolutely no beach access. 

Amber Cove

Of course, you are still surrounded by the ocean and the mountains, but you won’t be finding any beaches at Amber Cove. 

On the contrary, CocoCay has multiple beaches for Royal Caribbean guests to enjoy - and these beaches are fabulous. As the name implies, you can have a perfect beach day at CocoCay. The private island features complimentary beach access throughout with loungers and soft sand. The ocean water is gorgeous and blue - perfect for swimming. You can even swim to a floating tiki bar at CocoCay!

Beach

I found that both of these destinations had tons of complimentary sun loungers for guests to use. Those who prefer the shade can also snag a complimentary umbrella as well. Amber Cove’s loungers are located throughout the pool area while CocoCay has loungers located around the pools and beaches. 

Those looking to visit these destinations will want to determine if beach access is a priority, as CocoCay will be the better choice for beach goers. 

Pools

Since Amber Cove does not have beach access, you can instead find a large pool to enjoy throughout your day. This massive pool, which holds 300,000 gallons of water, includes a swim-up bar, pool loungers and even a lazy river that loops around the resort.

Amber Cove

Similar to CocoCay, you can also find a DJ playing party music throughout the day. This creates a very fun, loud and upbeat atmosphere for cruise guests. Many people enjoy their day in the pool, listening to music with a cocktail in hand from the nearby bar!

Families will definitely enjoy all of the pools at Amber Cove as well! Kids (and adults alike) who are looking for thrills can enjoy the nearby waterslide (for a fee, discussed below). Smaller children will definitely want to spend time at the complimentary Wet Zone and Splash Pad, which features a few mini slides and a splashing bucket. 

Kiddie Pool

Amber Cove showcases one large pool for guests to enjoy, while Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay has three different pools that expand across the island. Because CocoCay is nearly four times the size as Amber Cove, Royal Caribbean has utilized its space to offer multiple pools for cruisers. 

Oasis Lagoon is the main pool at CocoCay. In fact, this is the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean! Royal Caribbean has made Oasis Lagoon as a complimentary pool for guests to use. Those who want to spend their day here can take advantage of the DJ playing music and the swim-up bar for easy drink access. 

Oasis Lagoon

Those who purchase access to CocoCay’s exclusive club, Coco Beach Club, will find another pool to use. This infinity pool is relaxing and serene. After visiting Coco Beach Club earlier this year, I can confirm that this pool is as amazing as it looks in pictures! The entire space feels like a secluded tropical paradise. I don’t think I’ve ever swam in a more beautiful pool!

CocoCay

Finally, CocoCay has a third pool in Thrill Waterpark, which is a Wave Pool. This waterpark is not complimentary and requires daily admission. Those who love waterslides will want to consider a visit here, as you will find some of the wildest waterslides in all of North America! Thrill Waterpark is a full-scale waterpark with multiple pools, slides and rides. 

Those who want to spend their day poolside will find that Amber Cove and CocoCay are both great choices! Because of CocoCay’s size, you can find more pools throughout, including the more serene experience at Coco Beach Club. 

Unique Activities

If you prefer to spend your vacation being active, you will enjoy many activities at both CocoCay and Amber Cove. Because CocoCay is so much larger, guests will find more unique activities at Royal Caribbean’s private island. However, I was surprised to find a number of activities at Amber Cove as well, including zip-lines and jet skis. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay is packed with so many activities, you won’t even know where to start. There’s so much to do on the island that Royal Caribbean created distinct neighborhoods: Oasis lagoon, Thrill Waterpark, Coco Beach Club, Chill Island, South Beach, Up Up and Away, and Arrival’s Plaza. 

Those looking for an adrenaline rush will want to try CocoCay’s zip-line, as it spans across the entire island. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon is another unique feature of CocoCay, which takes guests soaring to new heights with a tethered balloon ride. Of course, Thrill Waterpark allows guests to try some of the craziest waterslides in North America. Finally, CocoCay has snorkel equipment, jet skis, paddle boards and kayaks to guests to rent.

While there is plenty to do for free on CocoCay, everything listed above is not complimentary and requires an additional fee. Complimentary activities on the island include volleyball, basketball and other beach games to be enjoyed on the sports court. 

Similarly, Amber Cove also has no shortage of activities for cruisers to enjoy. Two of the biggest activities include a zip-line that spans across the pool area and a large waterslide.

Amber Cove

These both include unlimited rides for a set price, which was $20 during the time we visited. Similar to CocoCay, guests can rent paddle boards, hydro bikes, kayaks, snorkel equipment and more. 

Amber Cove

Finally, a unique experience at Amber Cove that you won’t find at CocoCay is swimming with dolphins! The Ocean World Adventure Park allows guests to feed and play with dolphins during their visit. This is one of the largest man-made dolphin encounters, which also includes sea lions and tropical birds.

Regardless of how you spend your day, you will tons of activities and fun things to do in 

Drinks and Food

Amber Cove doesn’t even compare to CocoCay when it comes to complimentary dining. CocoCay knocks it out of the park in terms of dining. Additionally, you can use your Royal Caribbean drink package at CocoCay, which is a huge perk of this private island. 

While CocoCay has many different places to eat for free, you won’t find any complimentary dining during your time at Amber Cove. Also, if you have purchased a Carnival drink package, you won’t be able to use it at Amber Cove either. You will be expected to pay for drinks out of pocket, along with food.

Amber Cove

Those wanting to eat and drink during their day at Amber Cove will find delicious options, including a few local vendors as well. There is a marketplace at Amber Cove with Coco Cana Bar and Restaurant. In addition, you can enjoy the poolside bar with a swim-up portion. There is also Sky Bar and Cabana Bar at Amber Cove. 

Amber Cove

On the contrary, CocoCay is filled with places to eat and drink. One of the most popular bars at the private island is Oasis Lagoon’s Swim-Up bar. Here, you don’t even need to get out of the water because you can swim right up to the bartender and grab aborter drink. You can also find something very unique at CocoCay - a floating tiki bar off the coast of South Beach. This is a vacation experience you do not want to miss!

Chill Grill

If you’re looking for complimentary dining, you can enjoy Snack Shacks throughout the island. Here, you can snack on chicken sandwiches, funnel cakes, brownies, mozzarella sticks and more. CocoCay's Chill Grill buffet is a larger dining space that is also complimentary options for visitors. Surcharge dining spots include Skipper’s Grill and Captain Jack’s. 

Cabana Rentals

Those looking for a more luxurious experience can find cabana rentals at both Amber Cove and CocoCay. Cabana rentals can create a very unique experience during your time at a private island or destination. Why fly all the way to the Maldives when you can rent an over-the-water bungalow right in the Caribbean?! Both destinations have cabana rentals that will transport you to a truly private and tropical paradise - all to yourself!

Cabanas

Royal Caribbean has some incredible cabanas to rent at CocoCay. These cabanas can be rented at Chill Island, Oasis Lagoon and Thrill Waterpark. Cabana rentals are perfect for those who want to have a quiet space to retreat to during their time at CocoCay. With a cabana rental comes complimentary snacks, water, concierge service and more. 

Additionally, Coco Beach Club cabanas include access to the beach club while Thrill Waterpark cabanas provide access to the waterpark. 

Cabana

Prices range greatly for renting a cabana at CocoCay. Guests can look to spend $299 to $999 for cabanas in Chill Island, Oasis Lagoon and Thrill Waterpark. The more lucrative cabana rentals are the floating cabanas located in the beach club. These are priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,5000, but pricing is based purely on demand. 

Cabanas

I was surprised to see Amber Cove feature a number of cabanas that could be rented as well! These cabanas are categorized as Ocean, Grand, Poolside and Hillside cabanas, which is based on their location. Those who want to rent one of these cabanas will enjoy a refrigerator stocked with drinks, snacks and water throughout the day. Additionally, you will receive cabana service, including a waiter who will help get you drinks throughout the day. 

Amber Cove

Amber Cove cabanas also include showers, Wi-Fi and lounge chairs for guests to use. The Poolside cabanas feature air-conditioning while the Ocean cabanas sit over the beautiful ocean, similar to an over-the-water bungalow. Amber Cove also has a Grand cabana that features a private dining room and furnished living room.

Prices range from $500 to $2,000 at Amber Cove, which is dependent on which cabana you choose to rent. 

Environment and Design

Both Amber Cove and CocoCay offer vibrant and fun atmospheres. Both of these private destinations have great party vibes throughout the day. Those looking to let loose will certainly enjoy both of these destinations. 

Amber Cove

CocoCay and Amber Cove are stunning destinations surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful, blue water. Everywhere you look, it feels like a tropical vacation. The environments are very upbeat with many places to not just have fun, but also kickback and relax. You are on vacation, after all!

Because CocoCay is four times the size of Amber Cove, you will find more bars, pools, eateries and amenities. Royal Caribbean’s sizable investment does not go unnoticed, as I would argue that CocoCay is a bit more upscale. You can also find unique spaces like Coco Beach Club and Thrill Waterpark, meaning there’s a little something for everyone. 

CocoCay

I was still pleasantly surprised by Amber Cove, perhaps because I had low expectations. I kept referring to the space as ‘a mini version of CocoCay’ during the day. There are many parallels between the two destinations, such as the DJ playing poolside party music, the swim-up bar, the massive pool, loungers, activities, cabanas and more. 

It does feel like CocoCay has an edge on Amber Cove because of its size and location. There’s also a vibrant energy across the expansive space. With more space, you can find multiple pools and beaches; on the other hand, Amber Cove is much smaller and features just one main pool. 

Amber Cove

CocoCay also allows guests to utilize their drink and internet packages from onboard, which is a big perk for Royal Caribbean’s private island. You can also find more complimentary eateries around CocoCay, which creates a more laidback and all-inclusive feel. 

This isn’t to say that I did not enjoy my time at Amber Cove. I was impressed by the space and enjoyed how much was included. There was still a great vacation feel at Amber Cove - everyone was having a fun time for sure. Also, some of the amenities at Amber Cove were much more affordable than CocoCay. For just $20, you can ride the zip-line or waterslide an unlimited number of times. 

At the end of the day, it would be pretty tough not to enjoy your time at both of these private destinations. What’s not to love about the warm sun, palm trees and the sea breeze?!

Icon of the Seas completes first round of sea trials

In:
23 Jun 2023
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

A milestone in the construction of Royal Caribbean's first Icon Class cruise ship was just completed. 

icon-during-sea-trials

On June 22, the brand-new ship successfully completed her initial round of sea trials and returning to the Meyer Turku shipyard, where she departed from four days ago. This is where the ship has been under construction since April 2022 when the kneel was laid. 

In other words, Royal Caribbean's Icon Class has now sailed through the open ocean! 

Icon of the Seas' first sea trials

icon-of-the-seas-ship-yard-2

During her first set of sea trials, Icon of the Seas traveled hundreds of miles, during which the main engines, hull, brake systems, steering, noise, and vibration levels were all tested. Everything was done on time as outlined in the schedule, despite her departure being delayed due to wind conditions. 

When sea trials take place, hundreds of specialists run tests to help assess different technical areas of the ship, and there were more than 450 specialists who helped to run the four days tests on the ship’s technical areas during this round of sea trials. 

Between preparing for the trial and the tests themselves, there were over 2,000 specialists who put in more than 350 hours of work in helping Icon of the Seas pass this important milestone. 

A second set of sea trials is planned for later in 2023, where Icon's abilities will be pushed even further. All of this is done to make sure that the ship is in tip-top shape being before delivered to Royal Caribbean. 

Operation food bag donation 

icon-operation-food-bag

When Icon of the Seas returned from her first set of sea trials, she returned with a truckload of food to donate to the non-profit organization Operaatio Ruokakassi, or Operation Food Bag. 

Operation Food Bag is based out of Turku, Finland that was founded in March 2008. Their goal is to acquire and deliver food to those in need. All food that is distributed is free to those who apply. 

In 2022 alone, the non-profit distributed over four million pounds of food, and every week, they give out roughly 4,100 bags. 

Nearing the maiden voyage

Icon of the Seas under construction in May 2023

There's roughly seven months to go until this record-breaking ship departs on her first voyage out of Miami, Florida on January 27, 2024. This is where she will be based through at least April 2025, where she will make 7-night cruises to the Caribbean. 

When she is completed, Icon of the Seas will be 6% larger than Wonder of the Seas, which means that she will steal the title for largest cruise ship in the world. 

Category 6 water park

As if that was not something to look forward to. (as Oasis Class ships have retained this title for over one decade), she will introduce brand firsts, such as Izumi in the Park, the AquaDome, family-focused Surfside neighborhood, Category 6 water park, and more. 

Between now and the second set of sea trials, there is still a lot that needs to be done before she is ready for passengers to board to experience the ultimate family vacation. 

Royal Caribbean has a plan to dominate short cruises with a new ship and private destinations

In:
23 Jun 2023
By: 
Matt Hochberg

If you’re looking at just Royal Caribbean’s Utopia of the Seas announcement offering short cruises, you’re missing the bigger picture.

Utopia of the Seas at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean revealed this week that its next new mega cruise ship will sail short weekend cruises (along with 4-day sailings too), and it's a major deviation from the cruise line's traditional plan.

When a new Royal Caribbean cruise ship enters service, it always starts with 7-night cruises. Later in the ship's life, it may transition to shorter cruises.

With Utopia of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is flipping its script and starting off with short cruises immediately.  But there's more to the cruise line's plans than meets the eye.

Ultimate Abyss on Utopia of the Seas

Utopia is one big piece of a larger plan that will seek to establish Royal Caribbean as the preeminent choice for a weekend cruise by crafting a curated cruise experience second-to-none.

Attracting new cruisers

Utopia of the Seas pool deck

The first part of Royal Caribbean's strategy is to start off Utopia of the Seas with 3- and 4-night cruises so it's an attractive option for first-time cruisers.

The first-time cruiser market is the single largest source of new customers and growth in the cruise industry. An overwhelming majority of people have never cruised before, and new cruisers have long been the target of Royal Caribbean for creating new loyal guests.

Someone that has never cruised before might be leery of taking a longer cruise, because they're concerned they aren't sure if they'll like a cruise.

utopia-splash-facts

Short cruises are more attractive to newbies because the time commitment is less.

By jumping on this desire, Royal Caribbean not only wants to offer short cruises, but offer them on its newest ship that has all the best features.

The 236,860-ton ship will be the second largest ship in the world at the time she launches, right behind equally new Icon of the Seas

Utopia aft aerial

Utopia will dazzle new cruisers with pools, surf simulator, basketball court, mini golf, zip line and a kids aqua park.

Utopia will also have a variety of eye-opening shows, ice skating, bars, and plenty of dining choices.

In short, Utopia will offer the latest and greatest things you can do on a cruise ship that is heads-and-shoulders above what you'd find on any other cruise ship sailing short cruises.

Utopia Pesky Parrot

Short cruises are a crowded market, with each of the major mass market cruise lines having something that they hope lures in new cruisers: Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line.

It's also probably not a coincidence Royal Caribbean is basing Utopia from Port Canaveral, which is a short half hour drive from Orlando.

Orlando, Florida on a map

Orlando is the number one family vacation destination, and it's why Disney Cruise Line has always placed its newest ships in this spot so that families have an easy way to get from land to sea and combine trips.

Royal Caribbean seems to want to position its newest ship to offer the most choices for families, with a near overwhelming amount of family fun, as the kind of choice where you have to wonder why anyone would pick anything else when comparing amenities.

Adding in a proven winning destination

You might think a new cruise ship filled with everything you'd want would be enough, but the second part of Royal Caribbean's plan is to offer cruises that always stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Ever since Royal Caribbean revamped its private island in the Bahamas, it's been a mega-hit for the line.  

Guest feedback has demonstrated overwhelming favorable responses to CocoCay being a favorite choice among cruisers.

CocoCay

Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley said earlier this year the island was a major success, "The demand for that product [Perfect Day at CocoCay] is exceptionally high."

"The demand not only is there from a volume perspective, but the rate is there and that rate has been going up again in a very healthy way."

"CocoCay is the number one destination that Royal Caribbean goes to in the world out of 100 global destinations, because it’s a curated experience designed and built to deliver a high-level experience to the customer."

View of cruise ship at CocoCay

Not only is CocoCay popular, but it's profitable too.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty talked in May 2023 about how lucrative it's been for the company, "While demand has been strong across all products and markets, we continue to see exceptional strength from the North American consumer. This strength, in combination with the incredible perfect day at CocoCay has resulted in record yields for our Caribbean sailings."

Regardless of if you book a 3-night or a 4-night cruise on Utopia, you'll be able to visit Perfect Day at CocoCay and combine a compelling brand new cruise ship with a proven hit for shoreside fun.

Utopia-of-the-Seas-infographic

You can see that formula in Royal Caribbean's marketing, which combines all the water fun you can have between Utopia of the Seas and Perfect Day.

The goal seems to be to for guests to love their ship and private date experience.

A beach club finishing touch

Nassau Beach Club

The final piece of Royal Caribbean's strategy is to address the other port call in Nassau, Bahamas.

Nearly every short cruise visits Nassau, Bahamas, which is traditionally rated poorly by cruise ship passengers when compared to other ports of call in the Caribbean.

Read moreBest things to do in Nassau on a cruise

Mr. Bayley said recently Nassau ranks among the bottom 10% of ports in feedback.

Oasis Class ship docked in Nassau

Why so low? Part of the answer is there aren't enticing options.

According to Mr. Bayley, cruise ship passengers have, "come here many times before and there’s nothing new, fresh or innovative. Secondly, there needs to be more product, more experience, more uniqueness, more options."

"We want to improve the experience of our guests. We can’t keep selling experiences to people who say we love going to Perfect Day, it’s fantastic, we want to go back, but the Nassau thing, can you guys stop going there? We can’t do that, so yeah, we want to be a part of the solution."

Nassau Beach Club

The answer is the Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island.

In 2025, Royal Caribbean will open its first Royal Beach Club, which is an extra-cost all-inclusive beach on Paradise Island, just across the waterway from where Royal Caribbean's ships dock their ships in Nassau.

It will be a limited capacity area, and a shore excursion option that will be open exclusively to Royal Caribbean ship passengers.

Nassau Beach Club

There will be pools, beaches, dining experiences, and live entertainment too.

The beach club will give Royal Caribbean a leg up on any other cruise line, because those lines will be stuck with the same old things to do in Nassau and nothing on the same level as Royal Caribbean.

A winning plan that no other cruise line can match

Utopia aerial

When Utopia launches, Royal Caribbean will have a three-pronged approach to attracting new cruisers to a vacation that other lines simply can't match.

A new ship with fun activities for everyone, a private island day, and an optional add-on beach club experience. It's the recipe for covering every day of a vacation with the wow-factor Royal Caribbean has always sought.

Crown's Edge on Icon of the Seas

If a family prefers a longer trip, the new Icon of the Seas will offer 7-night cruises on a ship that the cruise line is calling the ultimate family vacation.

"Icon will be the best family vacation in the world," is what Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider said in a recent interview about the plans for this ship.

Utopia of the Seas concept art

Utopia will have 40-plus ways to dine, drink and dance, more pools than days to count, more ways to thrill and chill, and even more of all the above at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

5 things I liked better about MSC than Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
23 Jun 2023
By: 
Elizabeth Wright

After eight cruises with Royal Caribbean (six of which being on Oasis Class ships), I recently decided to give MSC Cruises a try while in Europe. 

Elizabeth-MSC-Seashore-Split-Hero

MSC is an Italian based cruise line that is quite controversial in the cruise industry. While it is pretty established in Europe, it has begun to gain popularity in North America, where you can oftentimes find a 7-night cruise to the Caribbean for less than $400 per person onboard one of their newest ships. 

The cruise line, however, has been subject to negativity, with the most common complaints being about the quality of the food, service, and onboard programming. 

MSC-Seashore-Atrium

Despite all the things I had heard, I decided to take a 7-night cruise to Italy, Spain, and France onboard MSC Seashore, and I had a great experience! I would easily consider another cruise with MSC in the future. 

At 169,400 gross registered tons, MSC Seashore is considerably smaller than Oasis Class ships, which all come in over 225,000 gross registered tons. That being said, she can still accommodate over 5,800 passengers at maximum capacity. 

Before boarding this cruise, I knew this cruise would be unlike any that I had previously been on. Of course, "different" does not equate to bad. In the end, there were things that I enjoyed more about my cruise with MSC than Royal Caribbean!

Lower priced cruise add-ons

MSC-Seashore-Kaito-Teppanyaki-Specialty-Dining

Normally, I do not splurge too much on cruise add-ons, such as specialty dining experiences, due to the cost on Royal Caribbean ships. 

While onboard MSC Seashore, however, I was surprised to discover that the extras were far less. I was able to dine at Kaito Teppanyaki and HOLA! Tacos & Cantina for around €50. In comparison, teppanyaki at Izumi can cost upwards of $50 per person alone for dinner. Plus, the prix fixe menu at Kaito included sushi and sashimi! 

Likewise, I found the alcoholic beverages to be cheaper, too. They had an extensive list of cocktails for only €9 each, meaning that I felt like I could splurge a little bit more than normal. 

MSC-Seashore-Hola-Cantina-Specialty-Dining.

I will admit that if I do end up cruising with MSC again in the future, I would consider a drink package. One thing I disliked about the cruise line was the lack of complimentary water. The Easy Package, which included beverages up to €9, was only €47 per day! 

With Royal Caribbean, I always find myself debating if the Deluxe Beverage Package is worth the cost. While it does include more than MSC's Easy Package, it is also much more expensive. Even when it on sale, I find that it is normally around $75 per day, before the additional gratuities. 

The elevator system

MSC-Seashore-Elevator-Bank

On Royal Caribbean ships, the elevators are a free-for-all, meaning that as many people as often pack into available cars. For that reason, I find myself taking the stairs quite a bit, as it is usually a faster and more comfortable option than waiting for a full elevator. 

I loved MSC's elevator system. Rather than just selecting if you want to travel up or down, you have to select the specific deck. Afterwards, you are assigned an elevator car to board. The screen would even tell you how long of a wait you were going to have before the elevator arrived. Most of the time, it was under two minutes!

There were a few days that we were told the ship was sailing close to maximum capacity, which meant that nearly 5,880 people were onboard. At double occupancy, MSC Seashore has a capacity of 4,540 passengers.  

Despite the large number of passengers, there were only a few times during the entire cruise that the elevators were crowded. During the majority of my sailing, there were no more than five or six people on the same car as me. 

RelatedHow to beat the crowds on your cruise ship

MSC's embarkation and disembarkation

msc-boarding-documents

Since my cruise was an interport sailing, guests were embarking and disembarking in each port. This meant that instead of 4,000 some passengers all trying to get on the ship in a single day, it was spread out throughout the cruise. 

I knew when I was embarking, there would be a mix of people disembarking and getting off to explore Genoa as a scheduled port of call. When I arrived at the terminal in Genoa, I found it to be less crowded than when I have boarded Royal Caribbean ships. 

Related30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

Due to my hotel's check out time, I got the the terminal an hour before my scheduled embarkation time. This was not an issue, though. I was checked in, through security, and onboard in about thirty minutes! I appreciated that they had refreshments available, too, including sparkling water, still water, orange juice, and pineapple juice.

MSC-Boarding-Refreshments-Embarkation

And since thousands of guests were not boarding at the same time, I found the buffet to be relatively pleasant during lunch. On Royal Caribbean ships, I will do whatever I can to avoid the Windjammer on embarkation day! 

When it came to disembarkation, my group was called at 9:15am. In less than thirty minutes, I was at the Genoa train station. The only line I had to wait in was the one to scan my cruise card a final time. 

Diversity of passengers

Elizabeth-MSC-Seashore

I was expecting a more international crowd of passengers, and I was right! 

When I was waiting in line to check in at the terminal, I heard tons of different languages being spoken. In fact, other than the port employees, I did not hear anyone else speaking English.

Moreover, all onboard announcements were made in multiple different languages to accommodate the diverse crowd. This did, however, mean that the announcements took longer. The only time it was a bit of an annoyance was prior to the theatre shows, when I felt like the cruise director was speaking for fifteen minutes!

Overall, though, I loved being surrounded by so many people from different backgrounds. It made the trip feel more special and immersive, especially since it was a European itinerary! 

Status match

MSC-Seashore-Voyagers-Club-Loyalty

I am currently an Emerald Crown & Anchor member, which means that I was able to roll my status over to MSC Cruises' Voyagers Club and enjoy some neat perks on my very first cruise with the line. 

While not the highest tier, I achieved Gold status, and I was able to start utilizing the benefits during the booking process with a 5% discount off of my cruise fare.

MSC-Seashore-Loyalty-Welcome-Back

My three favorite perks, however, were all onboard: the free one hour in the thermal spa, welcome back cocktail reception, and complimentary MSC Voyagers Club drawstring bag. 

The only status matching that Royal Caribbean will honor is through Celebrity Cruises and vice versa, meaning that you cannot try and get them to honor your status on any other cruise line, such as Carnival or Norwegian. 

If you have yet to step foot on any cruise ship at all, MSC will even match your hotel status with well-known brands like Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. 

Overall thoughts

Elizabeth-MSC-Seashore-Split

Though I did not board MSC Seashore anticipating all of the negative complaints to be true, I was surprised at how much I genuinely loved my cruise on this beautiful ship!

I found the quality of the food, both complimentary and specialty, and service to be quite high. Food, however, is subjective; my favorite dish might be someone else's least favorite. 

When it came to the entertainment offerings, I was disappointed with the productions in the theatre. Entertainment is something that Royal Caribbean is known for, and I do not believe that MSC lives up to them in this way! 

Overall, I would consider another MSC cruise in the future, as the value for what I got was exceptional!