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Royal Caribbean brought back the behind-the-scenes tour: here's what it's like

01 Sep 2022
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has brought back its behind-the-scenes tours that provide a look at areas of its cruise ships passengers aren't allowed to see most times.

All Access tour badge

The All Access Tour is one of the last activities to return to service since cruises restarted last year due to the close proximity of guests and crew members. In the last few weeks, the tour is operational again and I decided to try it out while sailing on Mariner of the Seas.

The All Access Tour is a 2-hour walking tour of many areas of the ship, and costs extra. The goal is to provide a glimpse of what goes on while guests are enjoying their vacation to make the cruise ship function.

It's as much educational as it is eye opening to how much work goes on to keep the ship functional and optimal.

The tour was conducted on a sea day, and all guests are required to sign a waiver as well as wear a KN-95 mask, which Royal Caribbean provides.

Guests also have to wear pants and closed-toed shoes. Unlike the masks, this requirement was in place pre-2020 as well.

The tour visits 6 key areas along the way

  • Galley
  • Engine control room
  • Waste management
  • Laundry room
  • Food provisions
  • Bridge
  • Royal Theater

Guests are given an ear piece to wear during the tour, which makes hearing what is being said much easier. In the past I've done this tour without the ear piece and it makes things much simpler.

At each location, the tour leader usually hands off the narration to another crew member that works in the area you are visiting to explain in greater detail what goes on.

Prior to visiting the engine control room and bridge, the ship's security will pat down each guest since these are sensitive areas of the ship.

Photos are allowed in almost every area of the tour, minus the main I-95 crew corridor on deck 1 because there are posters on the wall with security information posted.

In the galley, you get to visit two galleys, which provides a look at a working galley that was serving breakfast at the time and another galley preparing for meals later in the day.

You get to see how they plan meals for guests and crew, which include seeing pastries, produce, and various cooking stations.

It's a round-the-clock operation to have the right logistics of getting food prepared and moved around the ship.

We also got to see where the food provisions are stored.

The engine control room is the heart beat of the ship, and we got to see all the controls for the systems that keep the ship moving and comfortable.

The trash area shows how waste is separated and disposed of properly. Royal Caribbean not only follows international maritime regulations, but actually goes above what's required as it relates to disposal.

To get to the laundry room, we had to go below the ship's water line and two decks below deck 1. I don't think I've ever been to this deck before.

There are machines for cleaning towels, sheets, table cloths and more.

This is also where laundry gets done for both guests and crew.

The highlight of the tour is going up to the bridge, where you can see the command center for Mariner of the Seas.

We got to not only see the primary bridge area, but also the bridge wings that allow for control during port operations.

The final stop was the Royal Theater, where we walked on stage and then headed backstage.

They explained both the technical operation of the show with rigging, lights, and scenery, as well as the cast prep for the performances.

In all, the All Access tour delivers on showing pretty much all the backstage areas you would want to see in order to fully appreciate how a cruise ship operates.

The tour doesn't include crew member quarters, restaurants, or bars. I think Royal Caribbean wants to limit the behind-the-scenes views to operational needs and let crew relax in those other areas.

It's insightful to see how a ship works, and if you've ever been curious about a cruise ship functions, then this is the tour for you.

I paid $86.99 per person for the All Access Ship tour when I purchased it prior to my cruise.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Skagway, Alaska

01 Sep 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

The last port of call on our Alaska cruise brings us to Skagway, a small town most known for its Gold Rush history.

Skagway has been having landslides on the mountainside located near their main cruise dock, so I wasn't sure what the dock/tender situation would be this morning.

Radiance of the Seas docked in the port furthest away from the mountainside. A Princess ship was docked far back on the pier affected by landslides and they were tendering guests from the ship to port instead of walking on the pier.

A Holland America ship was also in port with us today, so it definitely felt crowded in town early in the day!

We disembarked around 9:30AM and started exploring Skagway. The town has historic gold-rush era architecture throughout downtown, and it almost feels like you're stepping back in time.

One of the most popular activities to try in Skagway is a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, which follows the trail of the gold rush into the Yukon Territory of Canada. I went on the railway last year and loved it, but we did not book any excursions for today in Skagway.

Related: My experience on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Skagway

I planned to spend most of the day walking around town and visiting local businesses. When I was here in October last year, it was so frigid and rainy that I didn't spend much time at all in town.

We started the day by walking into a few souvenir shops and mailed postcards to friends and family back home.

Next up was a trip to one of my favorite places I discovered last year in Skagway: Klondike Doughboy.

Klondike Doughboy specializes in Alaskan Fry Bread. Similar to an elephant ear, fry bread is a large piece of fried dough tossed in cinnamon sugar.

Not much hits the spot more than a warm, sweet serving of fried dough on a chilly day in Alaska!

Speaking of the weather, today was definitely the best weather we encountered on our cruise. It didn't rain once (that I noticed anyway), and while windy, the temperature felt comfortable. Never follow the weather forecast too strictly on an Alaska cruise!

An Egyptian afternoon

Our day took a fun, interesting turn this afternoon in Skagway.

As I mentioned in my live blog preview, I'm traveling to Alaska this week with my good friend Reeham from Egypt.

While window shopping on Skagway's main street, Reeham noticed a jewelry store with Egyptian decor and souvenirs. She called me over to show me the shop, and the shop's owner waved and invited us inside.

Mohamed is the owner of Klondike Gold Rush Jewels, and he is also from Egypt! Reeham and Mohamed spent some time talking with each other and we were curious how someone from Egypt ended up owning a jewelry store in Skagway, Alaska.

If there's anything I learned from my trip to Egypt last year, it's that Egyptian people are extremely friendly and generous, and this was definitely the case today in Skagway. We sat down and chatted in the shop with a coffee and ended up staying for a few hours!

I think one of the best parts of traveling is getting to know the locals, and it was interesting to learn more about local life in Skagway and what it's like to operate a jewelry business in a busy cruise port.

Mohamed also treated us to lunch from Northern Lights Pizzeria. The pasta with salmon, fish n' chips, and salad were excellent!

Additionally, Mohamed gave us two cute necklaces in the shape of a whale's tail. He said we were his "lucky charms" for the day because he made a lot of sales while we were in the shop. It was a super fun afternoon!

If you're looking to buy jewelry in Skagway, be sure to head to Klondike Gold Rush Jewels. There are a lot of cool Egyptian souvenirs available, too.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

We also stopped by Kone Kompany for some ice cream, and it was the perfect way to end our day in Skagway.

Today was a good example of why I often like to travel without a plan. While I enjoy organized excursions and tours, it's always fun to see where the day can take you!

We were so busy chatting in the jewelry shop that we didn't get back onboard until 15 minutes before all-aboard time.

Back onboard

Tonight is the second formal night of our cruise, so we got ready in our stateroom and headed upstairs to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch sailaway from Skagway.

One unique feature of Radiance Class ships is the rotating bar in the Viking Crown Lounge. I asked the bartender to turn it on and it was pretty cool, although probably not best for those prone to motion sickness.

Skagway's sailaway was gorgeous! The Inside Passage to and from Skagway is relatively narrow, so the mountains on both sides of the ship were closer than in other ports. We could even spot small glaciers on top of several of the peaks.

I think Caribbean cruises are going to feel "boring" when at sea in comparison to the beautiful views of Alaska!

Before dinner, we checked out the The Colony Club, a lounge in the aft of Radiance of the Seas. It had amazing views of the Inside Passage! We also listened to some live music in the Centrum.

We dined in the Main Dining Room for formal night tonight. My favorite was the molten chocolate cake for dessert and Reeham loved the lobster tail.

Following dinner was a brief visit to the pub before heading to bed to catch some sleep before waking up early tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are set to visit Hubbard Glacier in the morning as a scenic cruising day, and I cannot wait to view this huge glacier up close!

I tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

31 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Staying in an inside cabin on a cruise ship means you're probably saving lots of money compared to a balcony cabin (or suite), but it also means a lot less living space than usual.

Inside cabin

For a lot of cruisers, that tradeoff is well worth it given the low prices an inside room usually costs. But that doesn't mean there aren't at least a few tricks for maximizing the space.

I've seen plenty of articles and videos over the years talking about easy ways to get more space out of a smaller cabin. Since I was booked in an inside cabin for a cruise on Mariner of the Seas, I picked out the best sounding tips to get an idea of how well they work.

I combed over a lot of cabin hacks, and settled on 10 of them from two really informative sources: Cruise Tips TV and Life Well Cruised.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas


Both of these ladies are cruise packing, planning, and travel hack experts. I figured if they shared them, these tips had to have some sense of usefulness.

In looking over the list, I was skeptical about some tips being actually useful.  I had no doubt they worked as intended, but would I actually find them such a benefit that I would not only recommend it, but adopt it in my own strategy.

After going through the cabin hacks, I had to purchase a number of items. Luckily, all of them were available on Amazon and I was able to get every single item in this article for just around $130 total with shipping. 

Amazon package

Given that they can be re-used over and over again from cruise to cruise, it's not much of an investment to try out.

I decided to rate each one from one of these labels:

  • Worth it
  • Meh/Indifferent
  • Not practical

Please note that I linked to each item on Amazon which contains an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but I make a small commission if you purchase it.

Let's see how they went!

Luggage under the bed trick

Luggage under bed

This is a cabin hack that works on any kind of cabin, not just inside rooms.

Did you know there's enough room under your bed to put your luggage underneath it?

This is actually a trick I've been using for years, and it works everytime. After unpacking, shove your empty luggage under your bed and it's out of sight until you need it when you have to pack.

The only downside to this trick is if you either have a lot of luggage and/or your bags are oversized. Stacking the smaller bags inside the larger ones helps a lot, and I've found no issues with any of the luggage we ever had in getting it under the bed.

Conclusion: Worth it

The perfect outlet extender

Even on the newest cruise ships, power outlets in your cabin are at a premium. Juggling devices with which to plug in and which to leave unplugged is not a fun game.

An appropriately named "Cruise ship power strip" by Cruise On seemed to be the perfect fit and it promises that it was designed to get around cruise ship rules that prohibit anything with a surge protector. The product description claims it is fully cruise compliant.

It takes up one outlet space and offers 3 new outlets along with 2 USB plugs.

I've been using a USB hub up until now, but never had something for extra plugs too.

I left the power strip in my checked luggage and sure enough it made it through and my bags were delivered without incident.

Other than the fact the outlets are upside down for some reason on Mariner of the Seas, it worked as expected.

Not only would I recommend it, I would suggest buying two so that you can get enough USB plugs along with the outlets.

Conclusion: Worth it

Night light motion sensor

In addition to inside cabins being super small and inexpensive, they're also very dark.

Since there's no outside light, trying to navigate the room without lights on can be a challenge, such as when you wake up from sleeping and need to get to the bathroom.

The workaround I've always employed is to leave the bathroom light on, but that lets more light out than I would care for. I enjoy the pitch blackness of an inside room when it comes to sleep!

The night light not only offers lighting, but it will only come on when someone moves around.

The light itself pivots on its base in almost any direction, so you can position it.

It's powered by 3 AAA batteries and has LED lights that are activated when motion is detected. The base is magnetic too, so that means you can attach it to any wall or door in your cabin.

It worked as intended and gave me just enough light once the lights were out if I got out of bed. I positioned it near the bathroom so it wouldn't pick me up moving around in bed.

Conclusion: Worth it

Sunrise alarm clock

Sunrise alarm clock

The idea is to not only have an alarm clock, but a light that will come on slowly to let you know there's daylight out.

Since you have no windows in your cabin, it's hard to know when you wake up on your own if it's 3am or 3pm. If you're like me, opening your eyes to check what time it is can be a dangerous game because you might end up waking up too much and find it difficult to go back to sleep.

The sunrise alarm clock has a gradual light, with two alarms and even has noise you can sleep to: birds, running water, white noise, and more.

There are 7 different light setting too, so you can choose the color you like.

As advertised, the light was off when I went to sleep and on when I woke up. The nice thing about this is when I woke up earlier than my alarm, I could sense no light without opening my eyes.

While it worked as intended, at this point in my life, I rarely sleep without an alarm set whether I am in a balcony or inside room. In my mind, if my alarm didn't go off yet, then it's not time to get up.

The benefit of this light would be if I woke up on my own a half hour early, I could more easily determine if I could just get about and go rather than turn over and try to fall back asleep. This is also common when nature calls in the morning.

I think this might be better for my kids, who seem to think noon is too early to get up while on a cruise.

Conclusion: Meh/Indifferent

Fridge magnets

There are two kinds of magnets that make the list, and this one is more of a general purpose magnet.

The idea is since the walls are metal, you can put magnets up to get certain other items off the desk, couch, or floor and free up that space.

Things like hats, coverups, important paperwork and more would be ideal. In fact, these have clips to them (rather than hooks) so they can "grab" items that cannot otherwise be hung.

My only problem is the magnets I bought are rather underpowered. I needed two to be able to keep my hat on without the magnets sliding down.

Otherwise, this is a great cabin trick for any kind of room because the couch and desk end up the catch-all for all of our junk. It won't work for everything, but every little bit helps.

Conclusion: Worth it, but I need to find stronger magnets.

Laundry hamper

Another cabin trick I've used in the past is to buy a cheap laundry hamper.

You can find pop-up laundry hampers that are easy to pack and keep your dirty laundry more organized.

For years, we just picked a corner of the cabin and designated it "laundry corner" and tossed all the dirty laundry there. By the end of the cruise, it was a mountain of dirty laundry.

A laundry hamper means there's less of a mountain and just like one you have at home, it does the trick.

Before buying it on Amazon, you should check if there's one at your local dollar store since this is a commonly sold item at those stores.

While a pop-up laundry hamper won't result in any less dirty clothes, it will help keep them better organized.

Conclusion: Worth it

Over the door hanging shoe organizer

I've seen the shoe organizer trick for years and always thought it sounded better than it was.

The idea is you get a plastic shoe organizer to hang over the back of your bathroom door and put all sorts of things in one of the pockets.

You could fit shoes, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and something else that starts with the letter "s".

Because the pockets are designed for shoes, they are large enough to hold a lot of small items. 

It certainly did the trick for me and when I took the time to put a lot of things in there just to get a nice photo for this article, I realized I had gotten rid of a lot of little things off my desk.  I suppose that's an endorsement.

Conclusion: Meh/indifferent

Curtain divider

This was an interesting idea to get a shower curtain with magnetic hooks and get a divider for the room.

If you are sharing a cabin, privacy is always going to be at a premium. Royal Caribbean's cabins have a curtain in the middle, but it only goes a bit of the way. Frankly, I'm not sure why they exist in inside rooms unless someone is going to lay on the couch very still.

You hang the magnetic hooks from the ceiling (which is also metallic) and then attach the shower curtain.

The particular shower curtain I bought was more see-through than I thought, so it would not give total privacy if someone needed to change.

It also only went about 75% of the way across. When combined with the Royal Caribbean curtain, then it worked, but I would check if there was a longer and more opaque curtain next time.

If you shared a cabin and had the beds split, putting the curtain between the beds might give just enough privacy so you can feel like you have your own space.

Conclusion: Meh/indifferent

Outside TV channel

Rather than purchasing a sunrise alarm clock, a no-cost hack is to leave your cabin TV on and tuned to the channel that has a view from the ship's bridge.

The idea is you'll know when it's day time when the light show on TV illuminates the room.

This may work for some people, but wasn't good for me because I don't like the amount of light the TV emits even at night.

Moreover, the channel changes between the bridge view and a map view. Moving back to map view means more light than when it's on bridge view.

If you can sleep despite light from the TV, then it could work for you.

Conclusion: Not practical

Bed configuration

I never considered the layout of the bed can help with providing more space.

Whether you are sailing solo or sharing the cabin with someone else, having the beds separated can actually create more space.

By asking your stateroom attendant to split the bids, you'll now get a walkway in the middle of the room between the beds. This extra space makes it much easier to get around your bed because when the bed is together, you have to move to the walls to get in and out of bed.

The only problem with this hack is you are giving up the luxury of having a larger bed by keeping it together. Personally, I prefer to keep the bed together to have a larger bed, but there's no doubt this trick works.

Conclusion: Worth it

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Sitka, Alaska

31 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the fifth day of my Alaska cruise and Radiance of the Seas docked in Sitka today for a full day of exploring another beautiful Alaskan port.

Sitka is the 4th largest city in Alaska, with a population of around 8,500 people. The city is the former capital of Russian Alaska and there are several Russian influences to see throughout town, from historic buildings to monuments and souvenir shops.

Like other Alaska cruise ports, the surrounding scenery is breathtaking in Sitka, and the Mount Edgecumbe volcano towers over town.

I was supposed to visit Sitka last year, but our port was changed to Ketchikan due to high seas, so I was excited to have the opportunity to visit today.

We ate breakfast today in the Windjammer, where I enjoyed another plate of my favorite breakfast: french toast topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips.

I also took in my first views of Sitka. I'm definitely going to miss the outdoor seating area at the Windjammer!

Serenade of the Seas pulled into port as we were eating breakfast. This is the first time I've seen Serenade of the Seas and, as Serenade is another Radiance Class cruise ship, she looks identical to Radiance of the Seas.

We disembarked the ship around 9:30AM. Sitka's cruise port is located around 15 minutes from downtown, and there are complimentary shuttle buses available to transport guests to and from the city.

I was worried we'd have to wait a while before getting on a shuttle bus, but the line only took around 5 minutes and we quickly arrived in town.

We did not book any excursions today. Most of Sitka's main attractions are all walkable from downtown, so we planned to explore on foot without a plan and see where the day led us!

We started the day at Lincoln Street, Sitka's main tourist street. It was nice to see that the town blocks the street from cars, making exploring the street easy and safe for all visitors.

The street is lined with souvenir shops and local restaurants. Our first stop was to a Russian souvenir shop selling dolls and Christmas decor. It was definitely more unique than other souvenir shops I've visited so far in Alaska and the displays were beautiful.

At this point it wasn't raining too hard, so we took advantage of the weather and walked to the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, located adjacent to Lincoln Street.

This small hill is the site where the ceremonial transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States occurred. Not only was it fascinating to stand where such an influential historical event took place, but the hill had the best views of Sitka I saw all day.

Sitka's mountain scenery is dramatic and absolutely gorgeous, with jagged peaks and a rainforest dominating over the town. I could have stayed on the hill looking at Sitka's skyline for hours!

However, we're in Alaska, so the rain made us head back to Lincoln Street.

We continued window shopping and visiting local businesses in Sitka. While we didn't purchase the $30,000 fur coat on display at one shop, we did warm up with some hot chocolate at Old Harbor Books coffee shop and bookstore.

We also made a brief visit to St. Michael’s Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church located in downtown Sitka that was founded in 1848. While the original building was destroyed, the replica was built with the same architecture, transporting visitors back in time to when Sitka was owned by the Russians.

Our last stop downtown was to Ashmo’s, a seafood food truck with menu items including salmon mac n' cheese, teriyaki halibut, and rockfish fish n' chips. I ordered the fish n' chips and thought it was well worth the price of only $13 for freshly caught Alaskan seafood.

There was also a small food stand selling reindeer hot dogs, and although I wasn't quite adventurous enough to order one, I'm sure they are delicious.

After lunch, we left Lincoln Street and walked along Sitka's marina. At the end of the marina was a salmon hatchery. It's prime salmon spawning season and there had to have been over a thousand salmon swimming around!

Next I continued walking along the waterfront path, which led to the Sitka National Historic Park. The park had beautiful trails, although the amount of bear warning signs made me pretty cautious! There were also hundreds of salmon in the river at the park.

My last stop for the day was the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation center for eagles, owls, and other birds of prey. This non-profit organization rescues injured birds and helps the birds reach a point where they can return to the wild.

Admission to the Alaska Raptor Center was $15, which I found well worth the cost as it goes to a great cause.

After a brief introduction, a staff member introduced a rescued eagle and we were able to learn more about how they improve the health of these birds. We made a stop by the center's Flight Training Center, where eagles practice improving their flight skills after injury.

Located outside the center are various habitats for rescued birds of prey. Here visitors can get more close up views of the birds and read about each bird at the center. The outdoor area was definitely my favorite part of my visit.

I walked back to the shuttle bus area in downtown Sitka from the Alaska Raptor Center, which probably took me around 25 minutes.

The line to catch a shuttle bus back to port was pretty long and I waited another 20 minutes or so in the rain before getting on a bus. Be sure to bring a rain jacket or umbrella!

I was back onboard around 3:30PM and took a much needed rest in my stateroom before watching sailaway from the Viking Crown Lounge at 5. I enjoyed a glass of wine for sailaway and Reeham ordered a blueberry mojito frozen mocktail.

Unfortunately I do not have photos from sailaway today due to issues with the internet on Radiance of the Seas... but rest assured, it was beautiful!

We hung out there for a while before heading to dinner around 7. We've been terrible about showing up to our Main Dining Room reservations this week, and have only showed up to our 5:15 reservation once. Luckily we've had no issue being assigned a table right away, and we enjoyed a nice meal before heading back to our stateroom for the night.

Overall, I loved my time in Sitka today! Next time I'm here I'd like to make a trip to the Fortress of the Bear to see rescued bears in their natural habitat and do more hiking in the surrounding areas.

Tomorrow we are in our last port of call: Skagway, Alaska.

Royal Caribbean announces it will add Elon Musk's Starlink internet to its ships

30 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

After months of speculation, Royal Caribbean confirmed on Tuesday it will add a new high-speed internet option to its cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean Group announced a new partnership with SpaceX's Starlink to provide internet on cruise ships with high-speed & low-latency.

Starlink will be added on all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships, along with all new vessels for each of the brands.

Royal Caribbean had been testing Starlink on Freedom of the Seas since June 2022, but did not confirm the testing or intentions to adopt Starlink.

Starlink towers on Freedom of the Seas

In the press release issued today, Royal Caribbean said the trials had, "received tremendous positive feedback from guests and crew."

Royal Caribbean Group said it will begin deploying Starlink "immediately" and should be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Read moreI tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty praised the new partnership, "Our purpose as a company is to deliver the best vacation experiences to our guests responsibly, and this new offering, which is the biggest public deployment of Starlink's high-speed internet in the travel industry so far, demonstrates our commitment to that purpose."

"This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships, enhancing the cruise experience for guests and crew alike. It will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calls. Using Starlink is one more example of our continued focus on innovation and excellence for our guests, our crew, the communities we visit and our shareholders."

Addressing a problem

Starlink means a significant improvement to Royal Caribbean's internet speeds, which have ranged from average to downright awful.

Satellite internet has traditionally been an expensive and slow product when compared to land-based internet options.

With so much of the internet needs of guests and crew members relying on cloud-based services, onboard demand for internet has been grown dramatically.

Results of Starlink tests on Freedom of the Seas in June

Up until now, Royal Caribbean's Voom internet service has relied on internet from other providers, including O3b MEO. The O3b internet had made it on Royal Caribbean's newer ships, but did not get added to older ships in the fleet.

Moreover, it has anecdotally not performed nearly as well more recently, especially when compared to other cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises.

Anthem of the Seas docked in Southampton

Freedom, Oasis and Quantum class use newer satellite technology, which means better speeds overall and you will likely find it performing well.

Older ships use older satellite technology.  You can still stream but will likely see some more buffering at times on the older ships. 

More details to be revealed later

Mariner of the Seas sailing away from Port Canaveral

If you're wondering which ship will get the faster internet speeds and what the prices will be, we will have to wait a bit longer for those details.

The announcement made no mention of when each ship would get Starlink added. Nor was there any indication of pricing.

Royal Caribbean's current prices for its faster tier internet start at $19.99 per day, per device. Multi-device plans bring down the daily cost a bit.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog has reached out to Royal Caribbean International for comment on when each ship would get Starlink.

I tried AirTags to track my luggage on a Royal Caribbean cruise

30 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

The eternal question all travelers have is, "Where's my luggage" and that's true on cruise ships as much as airports.

AirTag on luggage in hallway

While I've always had good luck with my luggage being delivered to my stateroom in a timely manner, you can never be too careful when it comes to ensuring your luggage doesn't get lost.

When you go on a cruise ship, Royal Caribbean will deliver your luggage to your cabin.  Guests drop off their luggage with porters outside of the cruise terminal, and then that luggage gets taken onboard the ship and eventually makes it to in front of your door.

In my experience, the issue of when will my luggage get delivered rather than it getting lost is a game of cat and mouse we play trying to see if it's arrived yet.

Luggage drop off at PortMiami

Recently, a number of RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have started using AirTags to track their bags and I thought I would give it a try to see how well it works.

As an iPhone user, I wanted to know if AirTags would be a simple and effective way to monitor my luggage location during the embarkation process.

What are AirTags?

Pair of AirTags

AirTags are the name of an Apple product that you can attach to almost any item so that you can track it using Bluetooth technology.

The AirTag is a small, button-shaped tracking device with a glossy white front and measures in at 1.26 inches in diameter, and it has a height of 0.31 inches, or 8mm. It weighs 0.39 ounces (11 grams).

Once activated, AirTags can be tracked using Bluetooth right alongside Apple devices in the Find My app.


A single AirTag will cost $29 and a 4-pack costs $99. [Note, these links contain an affiliate link. I earn from qualifying purchases that costs you nothing extra]

If you have an Android phone, you can't set up AirTags, but you can use the Tracker Detect app to track an AirTag with Android. 

There are alternative products for Android devices that work very similarly, such as Tile Pro. A 4-pack costs $92.99.

How do AirTags work?

AirTag directions

A major misconception about AirTags are they are not GPS trackers.

AirTags have no means to communicate directly to the internet because they don't have GPS chips in them.  They rely on an iPhone being a host to communicate their position.  

An iPhone near an AirTag will detect the AirTag and report it's discovery to iCloud if that iPhone passing by has an internet connection. 

Connecting an AirTag

This is done without consent or awareness of the passing iPhone - it's baked into the iPhone OS.  iCloud uses the position or GPS fix of the iPhone that detected the AirTag to record the location of the AirTag. 

If the iPhone has a poor GPS fix iCloud doesn't note that, it assumes the iPhone GPS fix is right.

Trying out AirTags in my cruise luggage

Close up of AirTag

On my Mariner of the Seas cruise, I placed a single AirTag in my one piece of luggage I checked with the porters.

Prior to the cruise, I connected my AirTag to my phone. You'll need to do this to pair the devices together prior to using the accessory.

The great thing about air tags is how easy it is to use them. Once they're paired, there's nothing else to do other than put the AirTags in the the place you want it and then track it via the app.

The Apple AirTag battery lasts about a year and when you remove them from their plastic wrapper, they become instantly active.  Then when you place it near your phone, it pops up on your screen to pair and connect.

Since it's dependent on anyone's iPhone being nearby, sometimes the location is hit or miss as to how accurate it would be. Occasionally my luggage appeared to be in the ocean or close-by.

Later, I checked the app again and the AirTag was reported once again to be "with me". I went out of my cabin and looked down the hallway and there was my luggage.

Thoughts on AirTags

Luggage under bed

While not the exact tracking option some may think it is, AirTags worked just fine for what I needed.

Given that the luggage never goes that far away from you while onboard, it's good peace of mind to have them just in case they were to be misplaced.

Unlike air travel, where you may end up taking off and across the country while your bags are somewhere else, it's far less likely your luggage stays behind.  But there's been enough times where one bag doesn't get delivered that it would save some sanity.


The key is to understand that it's not like having a tracker that is akin to a movie where you have a red dot you can see in real-time.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, if you don't have an Apple device, then Tile Pro could be a suitable alternative but you'll be out of luck with AirTags.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Icy Strait Point, Alaska

30 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

The fourth day of our Alaska cruise brings us to Icy Strait Point, a small port located on Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska.

Icy Strait Point is a Native owned and operated cruise port run by the Native population in the area. It's a private port run exclusively for cruise ship tourists.

The gangway opened at 8AM this morning, but we weren't in a rush to disembark the ship as all-aboard time wasn't until 5:30PM. Yesterday we were only in Juneau from 1:30 to 7:30, so it felt really rushed.

I wasn't totally sure what to expect for Icy Strait Point. The words "private port for cruise ships" initially sounded like it might be a tourist trap, and I thought there wouldn't be much to do due to the port's small size.

That being said, I wanted to keep an open mind. Plus, the surrounding scenery was gorgeous, so even if I didn't find much to do I figured I could at least still enjoy a nice view!

First impressions of Icy Strait Point

We disembarked around 9:30AM and began exploring the port. The bridge to the dock was the steepest I've seen yet! There were also complimentary shuttles available to take guests across the water over the bridge.

Once I started exploring Icy Strait Point, I found that it offered the perfect mix of a private, touristy port area while still maintaining local culture and lifestyle.

A zip line and gondola ride were available for adrenaline-seekers and this proved to be popular despite the rain.

In addition, there are several restaurants, food stalls, a bar, shopping areas, a museum, nature trails, culture center, and scenic viewing spots to explore in Icy Strait Point.

It didn't feel like a tourist trap at all and exceeded my expectations! It was really serene, especially when compared to more populous cruise ports in Alaska. The workers in Icy Strait Point were all very welcoming and friendly, too.

Icy Strait Point has a nice boardwalk leading to a beautiful orca statue, and it's the perfect spot to look for wildlife and enjoy the view. We spotted a cute otter (or sea lion?) playing in the water, but failed to see any whales! Some guests saw a couple whales from the viewpoint, though, so it's worth a try!

We then walked through Icy Strait Point's museum and souvenir shop. I really enjoyed the museum, which discussed Alaska's history and culture with displays on topics from salmon production to the gold rush era.

Afternoon in Hoonah, Alaska

When researching Icy Strait Point, I learned of a small town called Hoonah located just 1.5 miles from the port. Residents of Hoonah run the cruise port.

I hoped to visit Hoonah and I was pleased to find out that the town made it extremely easy to visit from Icy Strait Point. I was worried it would be challenging to leave the private port area and venture to town, but it turns out that visiting Hoonah is encouraged and common.

While I found the amenities of Icy Strait Point nice, I was excited to see a more local side to Alaska in Hoonah.

Reaching Hoonah can be achieved via a 30-40 minute walk or by a complimentary shuttle bus. As the weather was quite nice in the morning, Reeham and I decided to walk.

The walk was a lovely and peaceful stroll along a coastal path with breathtaking views. Informational bulletins were placed along the way to give more insight into the area's history, and there were a few areas to take a rest along the way. Even if you don't plan to visit Hoonah, I'd recommend the coastal path solely for the views.

As we got closer to town, it started to rain pretty heavily, so we were definitely grateful for our rain jackets and waterproof daypacks. Whatever you do, don't forget a rain jacket and waterproof backpack on an Alaska cruise!

Related: What should you bring on an Alaska cruise?

Once in Hoonah, we came across a building where several locals were carving a traditional totem pole. You'll see these totem poles all over Alaska, and each one tells a different story through its carvings.

The craftsmanship and artistry of creating these totem poles is truly impressive, and it's always fascinating to watch how they carve such intricate designs into a giant log!

Following the carving demonstration, we spent more time walking around Hoonah. It was really small and felt authentic, as there were no lines of jewelry stores and other souvenir shops like you'll find in the immediate downtown of other Alaska cruise ports.

I found it intriguing to see how people live in such a remote location. We stopped into a local grocery store and I was shocked by the prices! Individual apples were $2, a jar of salsa $8, a box of Quaker oatmeal $28, and a bag of jerky was priced at $23!

Lunchtime soon approached and I was excited to taste Hoonah's local cuisine. There are only a couple places to eat in town, and I had heard great things from a few locals about The Fisherman's Daughter, a seafood restaurant in the center of town.

The Fisherman's Daughter was founded by Kristi Styers, the daughter of a local fisherman. Her restaurant focuses on salmon and halibut caught locally or brought to town from nearby Juneau.

We ordered the salmon bites ($23) and a bowl of clam chowder ($6.50) and it was fantastic! Fresh Alaskan salmon was chopped into bite-sized pieces, breaded in panko bread crumbs, and deep fried. These little bites of goodness were so addicting; I wish I had been hungry enough to try more!

The weather in Icy Strait Point/Hoonah today couldn't make up its mind between sunny skies and heavy rain. At this point of the day it was pouring, so we took the shuttle back to Icy Strait Point instead of walking.

The shuttle took around 10 minutes to reach Icy Strait Point, where we were greeted with a delightful smell of cinnamon and sugar.

That smell led us to Lil’ Gen’s Donuts, a small stand selling mini doughnuts by the dozen in tons of flavors. We ordered 6 huckleberry and 6 chocolate coconut espresso mini doughnuts, and they definitely hit the spot!

I also made friends with a local cat, so that was another highlight of the day!

Back onboard

We got back onboard in mid-afternoon, and I took advantage of the sunny skies to finally walk around the outdoor decks of Radiance of the Seas.

I also spent some time filming a full ship tour of Radiance of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel, so be sure to subscribe to our channel so you'll be notified when we post new videos!

The rest of the afternoon was spent resting in our stateroom before catching sailaway from the pool deck. I also made a brief visit to the Diamond Lounge, which had plenty of yummy snacks available.

Sailing away from Icy Strait Point was really beautiful, so I watched the views from the Viking Crown Lounge while sipping a mojito and looking for wildlife in the calm waters outside.

I also spent a half hour or so chatting with Ari and Manuel, two crew members working in the lounge! I love getting to know the crew and everyone has such interesting backgrounds and stories.

Reeham and I were so busy looking at the scenery that we totally forgot about dinner! We ended up going to the late night seating at 8:30 in the Main Dining Room. I've never eaten in the MDR so late before, but I loved the more relaxed atmosphere as there were far fewer guests dining late. The service also seemed to be about 2x faster than the early dinner seating.

We finished dinner around 9:45 and went back to our stateroom to get some rest for tomorrow in Sitka, our fourth port of call.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Juneau, Alaska

29 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

The third day of my 7-night Alaska cruise brings us to Juneau, but we weren't scheduled to arrive until 1PM.

Because of this, the morning started off as a sea day and we caught our first glimpse of Alaska in the distance. While the seas were calm, it was foggy outside, so we weren't able to see much aside from few icebergs floating in the distance!

The Main Dining Room had brunch today starting at 9AM, so we enjoyed a quiet meal next to a window while looking at Alaska's scenery.

Following brunch, we relaxed in our cabin for a few hours until the ship's captain made an announcement that we were approaching Juneau.

Arrival in Juneau

Upon hearing the announcement, Reeham and I threw on our jackets, grabbed our cameras, and headed downstairs to the helicopter pad. Because our only views of Alaska so far had been blocked with fog, we couldn't wait to catch a more close-up look.

I remember last year during my first cruise to Alaska, my dad and I were in awe as we caught our first view of the state when our ship docked in Ketchikan.

The same thing happened today when we walked out on the helicopter pad. Huge mountains and thousand-foot waterfalls surrounded the ship on both sides. We couldn't have been more eager to disembark the ship and start exploring!

There was still an hour or so until the gangway opened, so we had lunch at the Windjammer before disembarking.

Radiance of the Seas docked at the AJ dock today, and we were the last ship to arrive in port. Getting to downtown Juneau from the dock is about a 15-20 minute walk, or you can opt to purchase a round-trip shuttle ticket to and from downtown.

While the shuttle ticket was cheap, we decided to walk as we had no plans for the day and thus were not in a rush.

The original plan for today in Juneau was to ride the Goldbelt Tram up Mount Roberts for stunning views of Juneau and the surrounding area. At the top of the tram are hiking trails, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop, so it seemed like a nice way to spend the afternoon.

When we got to Juneau, however, the sky had near full cloud cover and the tram was covered in mist, so we decided against it. It's still at the top of my list, but I'll have to try it on a day with clearer skies!

Instead of taking the tram, we ventured to the area around the port where local tour companies sell independent excursions. Whale watching tours, helicopter rides, glacier viewing excursions, and other Alaska adventures can be booked once on shore in Juneau.

The tours were all quite expensive (albeit standard Alaska excursion prices), so we opted for the cheapest one: round-trip transportation and entrance fee to Mendenhall Glacier.

I visited Mendenhall Glacier last year while on Ovation of the Seas, but it's such a beautiful place that I couldn't pass up visiting again.

Plus, while downtown Juneau has plenty of shops and restaurants, there isn't a ton to do directly in town, so I thought it made sense to visit Juneau's top attraction a second time.

Mendenhall Glacier

The shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier takes around 25 minutes, and our driver provided informational and entertaining commentary along the way, making the time pass quickly and giving us insights into Juneau's geography and lifestyle.

When we arrived, I was, once again, flabbergasted by the beauty and grandeur of Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding mountains.

The sky blue, icy glacier and towering Mendenhall Towers above are so beautiful that I could probably visit 100 times and not get tired of the view. We even saw two bald eagles resting on an iceberg!

We were a little short on time, so we hiked the quick trail to Nugget Falls instead of doing a longer hike. Visiting Nugget Falls is well worth the ~20 minute walk on mostly paved surfaces, as the waterfall is extremely powerful and impressive!

The view of the glacier from Nugget Falls isn't the best, though, as the view is mostly covered by rock. For the best viewing opportunity, be sure to visit the park's official scenic photo area located near the visitor center.

We spent around two hours at the glacier and before leaving, we walked into the Visitor Center. I found the information on the glacier at the center quite interesting, and they even had a theater and a live lecturer delivering information about Mendenhall Glacier, so it's well worth a visit.

Downtown Juneau

We took the shuttle bus back to Juneau and arrived downtown with an hour and a half left before all-aboard time.

Our first stop was the Alaska Fudge Co., which makes homemade fudge in a variety of fun flavors, from cookies n' cream to chocolate peanut butter. It was delicious!

Next, we stumbled across a cool food truck/food vendor park downtown. Everything from an oyster bar to fish tacos and crêpes were being sold from various vendors, and it seemed like an awesome place to hang out near downtown.

We tried panko-breaded salmon tacos from the taco truck and they were out-of-this-world delicious!

Our last stop for the day was a rest at a picnic table on the waterfront while en route back to the ship. Here we took in the last views of Juneau before making the 15 minute walk back to Radiance of the Seas.

Once onboard, we went straight to the Windjammer for a late dinner and watched as we pulled away from Juneau and began the journey to Icy Strait Point, our next port of call.

At this point it was already past 8PM and we were tired from a long day of walking, hiking, and sightseeing, so we headed back to the cabin to relax.

We had a wonderful day in Juneau today, and the rain somehow avoided us throughout the majority of the day. I even saw blue skies peeking through the clouds!

Thank you for following along on this live blog and I'll be back tomorrow from Icy Strait Point!

Spotted: Digital copy downloads of the Cruise Compass

29 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Some guests are seeing a new way to get a copy of the daily guide to events on their Royal Caribbean cruise.

Cruise Compass on bed

Royal Caribbean has traditionally provided guests with a paper copy of the daily guide to activities and events, known as the Cruise Compass.

Traditionally passengers receive a copy each evening in their stateroom that outlines the following day's events.

On Liberty of the Seas, guests have the option to get a digital download of the Cruise Compass directly to their phone in the form a PDF file.

Karen Fraser shared photos in the Liberty of the Seas Facebook group of the new option.

Ms. Fraser reported there are QR codes at both Guest Services and sent to the cabin that you can scan with your phone's camera.

Assuming you're on Royal Caribbean's wifi, after scanning the QR code, the day's Compass appears for use.



It's unclear how many ships offer this option yet, and if it will remain an option on future cruises or is simply a short-term test.

What Is Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass?

The Cruise Compass is the name of the ship newsletter.

There is a new copy every day that contains times and locations for activities, special events, show times and more. 

You can also find listed special offers or discounts available for dining, drinks, onboard merchandise purchases and even shopping in port.

Daily activities

Additionally, there's an hour-by-hour schedule of everything happening on the ship, including live performances, children's programming and dining options.

Each day's newsletter also includes opening and closing times for all of the ship's facilities, a list of onboard services, medical contacts and information for each port of call, including law enforcement.

You can find past copies of Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass in our archive.

A new digital option

The option to download a copy of the printed Cruise Compass is a new way to learn about what's happening onboard the ship.

For years, the printed Cruise Compass was the only option, but Royal Caribbean's app has also offered a list of activities.

While the app is designed to mirror the printed Compass, in practice, there have been discrepancies from time to time between the two.

Depending on the ship, there are also other ways to see activities, such as on a designated channel on the in-room television and/or via the wayfinders in the hallways.

Moving away from a printed copy

Cruise Compass on the desk

For years, the move to paperless daily newsletters has been discussed among cruise fans as an almost inevitability.

On some Royal Caribbean ships, printed copies have not been automatically distributed to all guests. Some guests have reported the need to request a copy be delivered by their stateroom attendant, or go down to Guest Services for a copy.

Cruise Compass in hand

Royal Caribbean has not announced any formal change in the printed Cruise Compass policy in terms of how it will be distributed.

With society shifting towards digital consumption, many cruise fans have assumed a digital-only Cruise Compass is an inevitability.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 28, 2022

28 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of the Royal Caribbean post round-up, where we summarize all of the Royal Caribbean news and information from this week into one handy-dandy post! There is plenty of great content to enjoy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's round-up!

Royal Caribbean updated its Covid protocols this week to allow unvaccinated cruisers onboard most of its ships.

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

Beginning September 5, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, can cruise on the following itineraries, as long as they meet testing requirements to board.

This includes cruises that sail from any Florida homeport, as well as Los Angeles, Galveston, New Orleans, and most European cities.

While vaccination is not required, Royal Caribbean kindly asks all guests to disclose their status during check-in to ensure they maintain a highly vaccinated onboard population.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 466th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Rebecca reviews her Quantum of the Seas Alaska cruise.

Quantum of the Seas gets lost in the shuffle of Alaska cruises to consider, so Rebecca talked about her recent sailing on Quantum.

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

Video: All the LEVELS & PERKS of Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society!

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: All the LEVELS & PERKS of Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society!

Exclusive Icon of the Seas aerial photos

We have a new batch of Icon of the Seas construction photos to share from the shipyard.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog commissioned its own aerial drone photos to share what we can see so far from the shipyard.

These photos were taken earlier this week, and show off the progress being made on a ship we still largely know little about.

Royal Caribbean will increase gratuities

Beginning September 7, the daily gratuity rate is going up.

Royal Caribbean will charge guests in non-suite staterooms $16 per person, per day. Guests in suites will be charged $18.50 per day.

This is the first gratuity rate change in well over 4 years. The daily gratuities are shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Allure of the Seas is the last Oasis Class ship with some classic features

Allure of the Seas

Because Allure of the Seas did not get a Royal Amplification yet, she remains the last Oasis Class ship with amenities and venues that have since been removed on other ships.

In the meantime, guests can enjoy a few classic features you either can’t find on the others or are slowly being phased out.