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How to use your cell phone on a Royal Caribbean cruise (and not come home to a big bill)

30 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

Nearly everyone that goes on a Royal Caribbean cruise will have a cell phone with them.  These days, most adults and plenty of older children have a phone and odds are, they are bringing it with them on their Royal Caribbean cruise. With all of those phones on the ship, the last thing you want to do is come home with an unexpectedly large cell phone bill.

The nature of cell phones these days is they are constantly using their cellular connection to determine where the phone is, get updates, and update apps.  When you are at home or work, that is quite useful and functional, but on a cruise, it has the potential to cause a major headache when all that use leads to costly roaming charges.

Before we get into how to avoid a big bill, it is important to understand how and why an unexpected large bill can occur.

Understanding roaming

Before we can discuss strategies for avoiding big bills, we have to explain why these big bills can occur.

It is probably not a surprise to hear that your cell phone functions by communicating with cell phone towers that are set up and powered by the cell phone provider company that you pay each month.  When you are in your home country, your service plan allows for regular use of their network, under the service you signed up.

On a Royal Caribbean ship, you are outside your cell phone company's service area and that is what the cell phone industry refers to as "roaming."  Instead of using your cell provider's network, you use someone else's cell phone tower and network.  Royal Caribbean partners with Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN) to provide a cell phone signal at sea known as "Cellular at Sea."  MTN provides the ability to place and receive calls, text messaging and (slow) data at a relatively high cost.  

Even if you were to go on a cruise with your phone and never use it, most modern smart phones still use their cellular signal when not in active use to keep its apps up to date. Of course, if you actively use your phone to make a call, check an app or otherwise use your phone's cellular signal to do something, then you will likely have an expensive bill because of all that roaming.

Airplane mode

In order to avoid having your phone try to use its cellular connection, all modern phones have an ability to turn off its cellular signal by enabling something called, "airplane mode."  This refers to a function that was originally intended for people going on airplanes when phone use was prohibited.  

By enabling airplane mode, your phone is incapable of using its cellular antenna.  It can, however, still use its WiFi and Bluetooth connections to stay connected, if you so choose.

Airplane mode is a mode that can be easily turned on and off, so it is important to ensure it remains in airplane mode while you do not want your phone communicating with any cellular towers.

The advantage to using airplane mode is it is a kind of "master switch," which makes it very simple to know if your phone can or cannot accept a cell signal.

How to enable airplane mode depends on your phone model, but a quick Google search should be easy, such as, "How do I enable airplane mode on an iPhone" or "How do I enable airplane mode on a Samsung Galaxy", etc.

You will want to enable airplane mode as soon as you get onboard the ship on your first day.  A very common mistake is guests forget to do it until later.

Data roaming

There are additional ways to ensure your phone will not rack up extra charges and one of them is to disable data roaming.

Your phone roaming on another network is something that can happen nearly anywhere.  It can happen in foreign countries or even somewhere in your home country that your primary provider does not offer service.

Most modern phones have an option to enable or disable data roaming.  This is important, because while most folks know enough not to make phone calls or text while roaming, they may not be aware that their phone is using data even when the phone is not being used by them.

As we mentioned earlier, smart phones perform a variety of maintenance functions, even when the phone is not in active use.  Phones will check for app updates, grab local data and try to determine its location.  This is normal for smart phones, but if you are on a cruise ship, it can lead to unintentional data use.

A smart safe guard against your phone ever using its data connection while not on your primary cell phone provider is to disable data roaming. Just like airplane mode, it is a setting in your phone that you can toggle. Just do a quick Google search for the exact instructions for your phone model.


Royal Caribbean's high-speed internet, known as Voom, is available on all ships across the fleet and it is the key to staying connected without the big bills.

To use Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi without endangering your financial future, here are the basic steps:

  1. Put your phone into airplane mode prior to your ship leaving your embarkation port
  2. Connect to the "royal-wifi" network
  3. Sign up for the Voom plan you prefer
  4. Keep your plane in airplane mode for the duration of the cruise while using Voom

Regardless of which Voom service you choose, this method is the simplest and most reliable way to avoid using your cellular antenna.

How to make phone calls

If you want to make a phone call while at sea, there are a few options.

  • Sign up for an international plan with your cell phone company. These tend to be expensive, but cheaper than trying to make calls without a plan.
  • Use an app: Many apps will allow you to make phone calls using the internet, instead of over a cell signal.  Skype is a common solution.
  • Wi-Fi calling: Some carriers (AT&TT-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon) support making phone calls over a data connection. In order to use Wi-Fi Calling, customers just need a compatible device with iOS 9 installed, a postpaid wireless account set-up for HD Voice and a Wi-Fi Internet connection.

How to send & receive text messages

If you happen to have an iPhone, you probably can send and receive texts quite easily using Apple's iMessage capability.  iMessage is a feature Apple offers that allows messages to be sent via data instead of the usual SMS text messaging service.  Since iMessage uses data, and not a cellular signal, you can easily use Voom to make it work.

If you do not have an iPhone, there are other popular (and free) apps that can help. WhatsApp, Google Voice, Viber and a host of other solutions exist that use data-only and will allow you to message from your phone. 

Other strategies

There are other ways to avoid a big cell phone bill without having to use Royal Caribbean's onboard internet.  We think Voom is the simplest and most convenient option, but other options do exist.

  • You can use the internet while on land via free or low-cost Wi-Fi hot spots.  Nearly every port you visit will have internet options, and many include the service if you buy something at the store/restaurant.  A good strategy for finding good Wi-Fi connections on land is to ask a crew member, since they are visiting these ports on a regular basis.
  • Buying a SIM card for your phone and using that in the various countries is another option.  It is difficult to do in the Caribbean, but in Europe and other regions were cell phone carriers allow use between countries, it can be a good strategy for staying connected.
  • Turn off the phone completely and disconnect for your cruise.  Some people enjoy this low-tech strategy for avoiding a big bill.  While we cannot argue with the results, we do enjoy sharing the vacation experience with family and friends.

8 things you must do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

27 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

You just booked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for your family.  Whether it is your first or fiftieth cruise, this results in such a great feeling of euphoria, excitement and anticipation.  Now that you have your sailing booked, what should you do next?

Arguably, planning your Royal Caribbean is almost as fun as the cruise itself and after you confirm your cruise booking with your travel agent (you used a travel agent, right?), here are eight important things that you should take care of next.

8. Post about it on Facebook

Part of the fun of taking a Royal Caribbean cruise is the, "humble brag."  Great vacations are an important event in anyone's life, so wanting to tell your friends and family about your next adventure is a very common feeling.

Booking a Royal Caribbean cruise is fun and all of a sudden, you have something new to look forward to.  Therefore, it makes total sense to share the good news with everyone you are friends with on social media.

Maybe you will post a photo you found of the ship, or tell the story of how you surprised your kids with the news.  However you do it, sharing the excitement with everyone you know is a great way to start the countdown until you sail. Besides, your post might convince a friend or family member of yours to join you on that sailing!

7. Check airfare

Most guests that book a Royal Caribbean cruise are not lucky enough to be within driving distance to the embarkation port, so looking at airfare is something you want to take care of sooner, rather than later.

Airfare prices are anything but predictable, so you will want to start looking into flight options to ensure the best possible price.

Just like cruise fares, the best prices for airfare seem to favor those that book well in advance.  

Be sure to also consider nearby airports that could save you a lot of money.  As an example, if your cruise leaves from Port Everglades in Florida, nearby airports of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach are close enough to be an easy car ride over, especially if that helps bring your total bill down.

6. Consider travel insurance

Royal Caribbean, your travel agent and a slew of companies offer trip insurance for your vacation and depending on your risk tolerance, it may be a good investment.

Trip insurance can protect you against a multitude of emergencies, unforeseen events and accidents.  It is one of those things that you are glad you have it, if you need it.  

It is important to not just look at price but consider what is actually covered by the plan.  A common misconception surrounds hurricanes.  Many people think trip insurance will cover them if there is a hurricane in the general vicinity of their cruise and they can cancel with a full refund.  The reality is most plans only cover hurricanes if the cruise is canceled or otherwise directly impacted by the storm.  A guest's desire to cancel because they fear a storm is not usually grounds for the insurance to kick in, so it is important to understand what the plan does and does not cover and what circumstances allow for the insurance to kick in.

You should also check if any of your credit cards include trip insurance in your policy.  Many credit cards include that provision, provided you used that credit card for payment.

Once again, a good travel agent can be your guide in assisting you as to which options and plans are best for you.

5. Make sure passport is current

It never hurts to double check your passport to ensure it is still valid and  will be current throughout your cruise. All too often, people assume it is still good and then realize very close to their sailing date that their passport expired or will expire.

It only takes a few seconds, but dig out those passports and check each of their expiration dates to ensure you are all set. 

You should also be aware that the United States Department of State advises that U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced.

And if you are wondering, "do I need a passport?" the answer in our opinion is a resounding yes.  The benefits of traveling with a passport far outweigh any of the costs associated with getting one.  It is a solid investment for any traveler.

4. Ask for time off from work

It is probably a good idea to speak with your manager about getting the necessary vacation time from work for the cruise you just booked, especially if you value your employment.

Whether you are a manager or regular employee, get your time off on that vacation calendar as soon as possible so it can be approved.  In some companies, there are policies that prohibit too many employees from taking time off at the same time, so be sure you do not run into an issue with your Human Resources department.

3. Link the reservation in My Cruises

With your cruise booked, you are probably curious about excursions, dining options, drink packages and more, so be sure to link your cruise to your Royal Caribbean account.

If you have not done so already, create a My Cruises account on Royal Caribbean's web site. It's free and should take just a few minutes to complete.

Log into your account and then add an existing reservation to your My Cruises account.

Now, you will have access to every detail of your sailing, including shore excursions, beverage packages, entertainment, dining reservations and more.

2. Check excursions

After you complete the last step and register your cruise with your Royal Caribbean account, you can begin looking at what exciting shore excursions are available.

You definitely do not have to book anything right after booking your cruise, but it never hurts to get an idea of what to expect.  Plus, there might be something you were not aware was offered.

In our experience, excursion research and planning is a multi-step approach, and the more time you spend considering options and learning about what each port offers, the better informed you will be.

Royal Caribbean's excursions are not the only option to consider, but it is always a good starting point.

1. Select your dining preference

Dinner on a Royal Caribbean cruise has a few options to choose from, and you will want to make sure you pick the option you want.  Depending on your ship, there can be a few choices: traditional, My Time Dining or Dynamic Dining.

Traditional dining is where you have a set time each night of your cruise, where you will be seated at the same table in the main dining room and have the same wait staff and table mates.  This is the most common choice available and is also the most widely available option.  There are two times, early and late seating.

My Time Dining takes place in the Main Dining Room as well, but instead of a fixed time and table, you reserve times during the evening or show up and get the first available table.  My Time Dining allows for more flexibility in when you eat, but requires more planning to ensure you have a spot each night to dine at.

Dynamic Dining is the newest choice, and is available on Quantum class ships currently.  There is no Main Dining Room, but instead you have a choice among complimentary and specialty restaurants to book reservations at.  You can pick the same restaurant or as many as you want, with different waiters and times each evening.

To enroll in any of these options for your cruise, contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly and request the one you want. There can be times where the choice you want is full, but you can request to be put on a wait list and in our experience, wait list requests usually are fulfilled.

Your thoughts

What things do you do right after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise? Are there some pitfalls you would recommend others avoid? Share the important tasks that you think everyone should do in our comments below!

16 Great Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruise Tips

23 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

When going on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, there are lot of things that can save you time and money, or improve the quality of your vacation.  

Here are 16 random tips based upon our readers' experiences in taking cruises to Alaska. Some of them are simple and easy to understand tips. Other tips require a bit more effort, but will make your cruise more enjoyable.  

Not all of these tips may be applicable to everyone, but there should be a few "nuggets of information" that everyone can use.  Whether you are a first time planner or a weathered veteran, there are tips for you here.

With these tips in hand, you can get the most out of your Royal Caribbean vacation.  

Make sure to also read the additional reader tips in the comments, as some of you readers have some great tips of your own that are really helpful. If you have some good tips, be sure to add them there, too. The more, the merrier!

Plan early!

Even if you are “just considering options”, book a reservation as early as possible to get the best price. Alaska is definitely a destination where rates tend to increase the closer you get to sail date. 

Cheapest time to cruise to Alaska

For best value, consider shoulder season sailing (May or September). There are fewer children on board in May and September due to school.

Shoulder seasons can also be less-expensive.  It has also been reported that in September at the end of season, port shops have fantastic “everything must go” sales.

Royal Caribbean Will Not Yet Cancel Alaska Sailings Following Canada Cruise Ban | Royal Caribbean Blog

Don't overlook the Radiance Class

There are options for ship classes when sailing Alaska. Radiance-class was built for Alaskan type cruising with onboard viewing opportunities from everywhere, which in Alaska is important when you hear someone yell “whale” because you will want to see it too!

If you select Radiance, generally this will mean choosing either a north bound or south bound 7-night journey. 

Look at airfare before booking a cruise

If you choose a north bound or south bound sailing, you will be arriving at one port and departing from another, so when booking airfare, be sure to compare pricing for “open leg” versus two “1- ways”; we sometimes find it cheaper to actually book two independent 1-way tickets.

6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

Balcony rooms are the way to go

Go Balcony! In Alaska, you can actually sit on the balcony and see everything! – or at least look out while waking up in the morning or changing.

Look for an aft balcony room

Speaking of balconies, if you book early enough, grab one of the huge aft balcony rooms at regular balcony prices!

The balconies on the aft of Radiance class are 4 to 5 times the size of side facing balconies; more than enough room for two lounge chairs, and two regular chairs and a small table. 

Royal Caribbean announces 2017-2018 Alaska sailings | Royal Caribbean Blog

Keep an eye on the ocean at all times

Always be looking at the water when on board. You may see whales, dolphins, seals, otters, and other sea life right from your cruise ship!

Near shorelines, you will often see bald eagles and maybe even a bear at water’s edge. Think of it like a kind of “free” excursion.

Alaska Senator introduces bill to permanently allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada | Royal Caribbean Blog

Don't rely on the weather forecasts

Weather forecasts don’t always match reality. Be prepared for changing weather daily. Be prepared with varying clothing options (i.e. wear layers). 

And when it does rain, just give it a few minutes, it generally doesn’t last long. Take it all in. And remember, many excursions go rain or shine!

Speaking of excursions … excursions will likely account for a large portion of your budget – plan accordingly.  Some excursions costs hundreds of dollars per person … but this will likely be a once-in-a-life journey for many … so don’t pass up anything you really want to do. 

Ovation of the Seas 2021 Live Blog - Preview | Royal Caribbean Blog

How to pick a great excursion

To save on excursions, consider third party providers.  There are many options.  And many are rated by other travelers on TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic, and elsewhere.  Use the internet for your research … it’s actually part of the fun of the trip and it helps you learn more about Alaska prior to arrival!  

Check pricing with both Royal Caribbean and vendors. Over the past few years, Royal Caribbean pricing has become much more competitive and comparable with direct vendor booking and in one example this year, we found that Royal Caribbean’s price was actually cheaper than direct booking with the vendor; albeit for the most expensive tours like helicopters you can still save significantly by direct booking with vendors. Be sure to read and understand cancellation policies when booking direct with vendors.

Nearly all will refund if the ship misses the port or there is an unplanned ship schedule change – but be sure to check.

Alaska Governor threatens to sue US over cruise ship ban | Royal Caribbean Blog

Free excursions

Check out the many hiking trails in each port town.

If you have an extra day at the Seward end of travel, check out the hand tram on Winner Creek trail in Alyeska in Girdwood, or hike to Exit Glacier near Seward.

Use the internet to search for trails in each port. Many of the trails are well traveled, nicely groomed, and clearly marked. Walking is free, and often the best sights are seen from wooded trails. This year we saw moose, bears, dear, and bald eagles.

Two Cruise Lines Offering Alaska Land Vacations This Year!! - Royal Caribbean News and Rumors - Royal Caribbean Blog

Make transportation an excursion!

If you are planning on a Radiance of the Seas sailing, you will have to get from Seward to Anchorage for your flight.  Take the Alaskan Railroad Coastal Classic Train!

It costs only a little more than the bus ride or rental car. The Train travels a path where no other vehicles can get too. And upgrade your seat on the train to Gold Star – that will include a meal, a few drinks, more personal space, private outside viewing area, and will ensure excellent viewing from your seat with glass ceilings and glass wall all-round.

You might even want to request the first row in the first car for the very best viewing opportunities! Specific requests can be made by contacting Alaska Railroad direct. 

Excursion Focus: Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher's Camp in Juneau, Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

Get off the ship!

No matter the weather, get off the ship at every port – even if you don’t have an excursion planned.

Sometimes the piers are a little longer in Alaska but the port towns are pretty small and easily walkable making them nice for self-guided tours. The trinket shops are pretty similar in each port, but each port will feature specialty items; Ketchikan will have more focus on totem poles, for example.

Radiance of the Seas, Alaska Southbound 8/31/18 - Page 4 - Live Blogs - Royal Caribbean Blog

Day light is plentiful

The sun will rise early and set late. But unlike Caribbean cruises, nightlife is less significant on board an Alaskan cruise – the ship still offers many night activities, but in our experience, late night activities are not well attended.

People hit the sack earlier in Alaska, and rise much earlier than customary in the Caribbean. It’s all part of the early bird and worm syndrome … port calls are typically early morning and people are up and ready for excursions at the crack of dawn, literally.

Oh, not to worry, Radiance is outfitted with blackout curtains.

Your phones work in Alaska

Americans will find cell phone service included in their coverage while in Alaska.  In fact, it tends to work quite well.

Video: Why Take a Cruise to Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

Icy Straight Point tips

In Icy Straight Point, numerous eagles, whales and sea lions can be spotted either sitting at the Duck Point Restaurant or walking along the path to the Icy Strait Point Cannery or into Hoonah.

Have fun and go with the flow! Enjoy the beauty and bounty that is Alaska! 

If you want even more great advice and tips about Alaska, listen to our two recent podcast episodes all about Royal Caribbean cruises to Alaska!

Your thoughts

If you have solid tips that are not mentioned here, please post them below! If you have any other comments or questions, please feel free to post those, too.

Aerial photos of Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

22 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean released new aerial photos of Harmony of the Seas, this time in the Mediterranean.

Harmony of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship and it is the company's third Oasis-class cruise ship. She is currently sailing in the Mediterranean for the summer season, and will head to Port Everglades, Florida in November to her new homeport.

This is the second batch of aerial photos released, with the first batch posted in early June.

Labadee Guide & Tips

16 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

Labadee is Royal Caribbean's private destination in Haiti, and is a common port of call for many Royal Caribbean western Caribbean-bound cruise ships. This guide provides tips for visiting Labadee, including things to do and not not to do and how to make the most of your time on Labadee.

For starters, some basics about Labadee and then we will get into some recommendations.It is a a 260-acre private beach resort used exclusively by Royal Caribbean guests and crew members.  Royal Caribbean sister company ships, most notably Celebrity Cruise Line, have also been known to stop there. The Royal Caribbean ships dock right at Labadee, making for an easy on-off experience. You will need to bring your SeaPass card with you when you get off the ship at a minimum, but we recommend bringing a small day bag with you to keep valuables and belongings together.

Most times Royal Caribbean provides a towel station on the dock for guests as they exit the ship, but you can alternatively pick up towels to use on the pool deck.  Once off the ship, you will walk down the dock towards land and pass through the Labadee entrance area, which is your gateway to what Labadee offers.  Recently, Royal Caribbean has been offering a water taxi that picks guests up at the dock and takes them directly to Columbus Cove beach, which is the furthest beach to walk to.

Exploring Labadee

Royal Caribbean provides tram service to get around Labadee, but it is optional and we find walking to be quite manageable.  The tram is nice to hop on if it is convenient, but by no means necessary. Plus, Labadee has a lot of natural beauty to behold and walking around will give you a good sense of the layout of the beaches as well as an appreciation for the natural wonders.

It is not a bad idea to walk through Labadee and make your way to Columbus Cove and take the shuttle back at some point during your stay at Labadee, even if you are not interested in going to Columbus Cove. This is because you will be able to check out the striking natural beauty and great beaches and the walk really is not that bad, and can actually be faster than the trams.

Labadee itself has an interesting past.  It was named after the marquis de La Badie, a Frenchman who first settled the area in the 17th century. The peninsula was named Labadie, although Royal Caribbean spells it "Labadee" to make it easier for English-speakers to pronounce.


Labadee is made up of five main beaches.  Most guests arriving at Labadee tend to go to Adrenaline Beach, because it is located closest to the dock and when walking off the dock, it is the first beach guests see.  This beach is on the north side of Labadee and extends all the way down the north coast.  This combination of proximity to the ship and things to do is the kind of mix that leads to it becoming crowded first and ends up being the most popular.

If you do not plan on going to Adrenaline Beach all day, try to arrive either early or late.  We noticed it is the least busy and the most pristine first thing in the morning, so if you plan on doing any activity, early in the morning is the best time for that.  If you just want to enjoy the beach, the last couple of hours on Labadee is the best time to go.  Guests tend not to want to be stranded on the island, and overcompensate for the fear that this will happen by leaving the beach about 1-2 hours before the ship leaves. 

Barefoot Beach is a beach reserved for suite and cabana guests exclusively and located on the south side of the island.  It is a relatively smaller beach, compared to Adrenaline Beach and is more of a cove in shape.  By far, Barefoot Beach is the smallest beach of all the choices and access is controlled by checking a guest's SeaPass card. Because of its exclusivity, crowds on Barefoot Beach are not as much a problem.

Adjacent to Barefoot Beach is Nellie's Beach, which looks very similar to Barefoot Beach but is open to all guests.  About a 10 minute walk from the dock, Nellie's Beach features another cove-type beach, with rocks on both sides that enclose the area. Many guests looking for an alternative to Adrenaline Beach end up at Nellie's Beach because it is still close to the dock area and quite pleasant looking.

Columbus Cove is the furthest beach from the dock area, but offers a lot of space and the least crowds.  Columbus Cove features the Arawak Aqua Park along with Dragon’s Splash Waterslide.

Columbus Cove runs along the the southern part of the peninsula. The beach water is sheltered and there is a white sandy beach with trees that go down to the water's edge. This area has its own bar and dining facility.

Which beach you pick can depend on a lot of factors, especially what time you arrive at the beach.  Crowds will build as the day progresses and most guests tend to fill spots closest to the dock first, extending out towards Adrenaline Beach and Columbus Cove. 

Regardless of which beach you end up going to, you should bring some cash with you for tips.  Chairs are complimentary, but there are locals on Labadee who will help you set them up and it is customary to provide a tip for the assistance.


There are three lunch locations on Labadee, where guests can enjoy a BBQ-style lunch and it is included in the cost of the cruise.  Dragon's Rock Cafe is located very close to the dock area, Cafe Labadee is at the end of Adrenaline Beach and Columbus Cove Cafe is right in the middle of the beach area to serve guests on that side of Labadee.

Each of these locations serves almost exactly the same items, namely BBQ, including chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, fresh fruit, corn on the cob and more. The offerings are virtually identical in terms of food selection, so it is just a matter of which location is more convenient for you to go to.

Another option is to go back aboard your cruise ship, and have lunch onboard in the Windjammer or other location.  Some people prefer this for greater variety and a chance to regroup, but keep in mind that your time in Labadee is rather limited. The food on Labadee may not win any culinary awards, but there should be something for everyone, which fits in well on a beach day.

There are also at least 8 bars on Labadee, with roaming waiters that will also take your order.  Each bar location has a set of drinks available for purchase. Guests that have a Royal Caribbean drink package will be happy to know their package benefits work on Labadee, just like on the ship.

Without a doubt, the signature drink of Labadee is the Labadoozie, which is a citrus-based frozen drink best known for being served in sports bottles.  

After a little bit of time on Labadee, you will grow accustomed to the waiters walking around with a tray full of Labadoozies offering to sell you one.  They are as tasty as they are a spectacle to see.  You can have them with or without rum, but for the adults that opt to have rum, their beach day is sure to improve immediately.

Keep in mind Labadoozies are included in the drink package, but the souvenir sports bottle is not.  If you have a drink package and want a Labadoozie, go to the bar and ask for one in a regular cup.

Things to do

Royal Caribbean has been steadily adding more and more activities to Labadee over the years.  At its heart, Labadee is a beach day and you can go to any beach, have a seat and enjoy a day in the water with no additional cost. 

Guests looking for something more substantive to do will find quite an array of activities in Labadee.

Chief among the things to do in Labadee is the Dragon's Breath zip line, which is a 2,600 foot zip line over the ocean that takes guests across the span of Labadee. It is a bit pricey ($95 per guest), but it offers amazing views and one of the longest zip lines in the world.

On the same mountain as the zip line is the Dragon's Tail Roller Coaster, which is located 680 feet above sea level.  This is an alpine coaster that uses gravity to bring you down the mountain and combines thrills with fantastic views.

Essentially it's a single car vehicle that races down a track at 30 miles per hour and features 360-degree turns as well as dips, waves and curves, you can catch glimpses of the ocean.

Minimum age to be a single rider is 12 years old. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 may ride in the same cart with their parent/guardian. Maximum occupancy per cart is 2 persons with a maximum combined weight of 360 pounds. Total ride time is approximately 3-5 minutes.

There are also some simpler beach activities that can be reserved, such as snorkeling or renting a floating mat.  These cost just a few dollars per guest and allow you to enjoy the activities on your own.  The snorkeling at Labadee is not spectacular, but the ocean is clear and fairly calm.  It is a good place to practice snorkeling or test out new equipment.

Kids (and those young at heart) will gravitate towards Arawak Aqua Park, which is an aqua park in Columbus Cove.  There, you will find floating trampolines, pyramids and water slides.  You can jump, climb, fall, and climb again to your heart's content. Admission to Arawak is limited by times, which helps keep crowding issues down. We've generally found the cost here to be fairly inexpensive and a great way for kids to burn off extra energy.

While the Arawak Aqua Park has an additional cost, there is a complimentary splash pad area in the near center of Labadee, known as Luc's Splash Bash.  Kids will find lots of water fountains, buckets and sprinklers to enjoy and can be great for young children who are not comfortable in the ocean yet.

There is also the Dragon's Splash Waterslide located nearby to the Aqua park and features a 300-foot slide that drops you into a 18-foot splash zone.

Photo by TravnKC

For those that want a beach day but would like to enhance that experience, there are a few options available.  Beach loungers provide shade and a little bit of personalized service for a modest fee.  We really like the protection from the sun these provide and think it is a good choice for families. There is a private beach lounger area on Adrenaline Beach, which can be reserved in advance.

Guests can also opt to rent beach beds at the end of Adrenaline Beach.  The idea is to have a comfortable place to relax, while still being right on the beach.  From your beach bed, you can relax in comfort as the ocean breeze passes by you, with a great view of Dragon's Beach.

For those that want the ultimate beach experience on Labadee, it is hard to overlook the cabanas. The Labadee cabanas come in two forms: beach and over-the-water and are available to rent at Nellie's Beach and Barefoot Beach.  The cabanas at Barefoot Beach are reserved and offered to suite guests first, but the Nellie's Beach cabanas are usually available to all guests. Cabanas can accommodate up to six guests comfortably and provide privacy as well as a lot of nice perks, including complimentary floats, snorkel equipment, beverages and waiter service.

That rounds out some of the more notable things to do on Labadee, but there is much more available.  Fishing, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaks and boat tours are just some of the activities available while visiting Labadee.

All excursions and activities on Labadee are booked directly through Royal Caribbean and your best bet is to reserve it prior to your cruise via the Cruise Planner. You can wait to book onboard your ship, but there is a risk of some options selling out (such as the Cabanas).


While visiting Labadee, you might be inclined to bring a little bit of it home to remember it by.  Royal Caribbean provides two major spots to do some shopping in Labadee: the Artisan Market and the Artisan Village.  The Maket is more of a store, with pre-set prices and offering hand-made goods.  The Village is more of an open air market, where guests are expected to haggle with the vendors.  

You will find wood carvings, necklaces, paintings, shirts and other souvenirs in there. Be sure to bring cash for either location, because your SeaPass card does not work for these purchases.

It is worth noting we have heard from many guests who were turned off by the shopping experience in the Artisan Village. Specifically, the vendors tend to be pushy and not everyone is comfortable with that.  Still, if you want an authentic souvenir from Haiti, this is your only option and the Market is less intense, compared to the Village.

You will also find a couple of Royal Caribbean shops on Labadee, where you can buy t-shirts, beach wear and other knick knacks.

What to pack

There are a few things you will want to bring to Labadee that you not otherwise consider. First, quality water shoes. You will want these because the paved walkways and even that white sand can get hot, plus in the water there are plenty of rocks that could be stepped on. Second, bring a camera (a waterproof camera would be ideal) because there is a lot to see and do on Labadee and you will want to remember it all.  With decent underwater cameras costing less than $100, it is worth it to have one so that you can take photos in and out of the water.  Plus, you will likely be able to use it on other port stops during your cruise.

You might also want to consider bringing your own set of snorkels or water toys.  Both can be rented from Royal Caribbean, although guests cannot go to Labadee and rent snorkeling gear on the island directly.  Rather, guests can get snorkeling gear via any of the snorkeling excursions. On many Royal Caribbean ships, there will be snorkeling gear to purchase onboard the ship. Water toys, such as beach mats, are available for rent but will cost more than if you bought an inflatable one to bring with you.  Granted, in the case of snorkel gear and water toys, you must be willing and able to pack and bring them because they will take up space in your suitcase and then you have to haul them back and forth from the ship.  Not everyone is willing to do that.  Even if you do need them on Labadee, you might be better renting or buying. 

Other items are more common-sense based: sunscreen, hats, and other beach-ware. You don’t need to bring the whole kitchen sink of stuff off your cruise ship and onto Labadee. If you forget something in your stateroom, you can always go back and get it!

Your thoughts

Do you have any tips to add for enjoying Royal Caribbean's Labadee? Any favorite excursions or things you think are a good value? Drink recommendations? Any other secrets to share or questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please leave a comment below!

Excursion Focus: Le Galion Beach in St. Martin

09 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

The hurricanes of 2017 damaged the beach. We do not recommend going here until it is rebuilt.

Picking the right shore excursion for families is always a challenge because depending on the age of your kids, what is appealing to one family might be completely uninteresting to another family.  When you have young kids, the choices become even more complicated.

Just over the French side of St. Martin is a small beach that offers the perfect kind of beach day for young children or anyone that enjoys going to the beach without waves.


The appeal of Le Galion beach is a horseshoe shaped beach that has little to no waves, which makes it perfect for kids that cannot swim or are not strong swimmers. 

The beach is a short drive from where Royal Caribbean docks its cruise ships and just over the French side of the border.  Upon arrival, there is a large cove surrounded by a beach that provides easy access to the water.

There is no cost to access the beach, but there are charges to use the chairs and/or umbrellas (5 Euros for either).  The beach is frequented by tourists and locals alike, with locals usually setting up further down the beach where they can just put out a beach blanket.

The chairs and umbrellas are provided by the nearby bar and restaurant, which offers waiter service and has a full bar menu, as well as a good-sized lunch menu.  

Over the years, the amenities and offerings at Le Galion beach have been improved and there are diving platforms (complimentary), kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skis and more available for hourly charges.


Le Galion is a quiet family beach that is great for non-swimmers and kids to have a relaxing day.  The beach is a shallow lagoon, and adults can walk out many dozens of yards from shore and not have the water go past their waist.  

Le Galion also tends not to get as crowded as some other beaches frequented by cruise guests.  It is a laid back beach experience that offers just enough for kids to do, without relying on a ton of water toys that can turn the ocean into a virtual playground.

We have brought our children to Le Galion for years because the beach experience is perfect for kids that just want to splash around without fear of getting knocked over by waves or suddenly finding them in deeper water than before.

The cost to use the beach chairs and umbrellas is fair and waiter service that brings drinks and food is pretty good.  There is nothing else around, so you are dependent on the beach bar for food and drink, but their prices are fair for the French side of the island and the staff speak English and French fluently.

If you want a quiet, relaxing beach that has little-to-no waves, then Le Galion beach is perfect for you.

Sabor on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

02 Jun 2016
Matt Hochberg

One of Royal Caribbean's newest and most popular specialty restaurants is Sabor, which serves up a modern take on what Mexican cuisine can be.

While you will find favorites like tacos, quesadillas and margaritas there, Royal Caribbean also offers contemporary dishes, including ceviche, flautas, seafood and more.

There are two kinds of Sabor experiences on Royal Caribbean ships.

Sabor Modern Mexican was the original implementation, and is found on select Voyager- and Freedom-class cruise ships on Deck 4, near the Schooner Bar.

Guests dining at Sabor Modern Mexican will pay a cover charge and have access to all the food on the menu (drinks are excluded).

In addition, there are hand-crafted margaritas at Sabor Modern Mexican.

Sabor Tacqueria & Tequila Bar is a newer form of Sabor, that is found on Oasis-class cruise ships and located in the Boardwalk neighborhood.

At Sabor Tacqueria & Tequila Bar, there is a cover charge just like at the other ships.  A meal at Sabor will cost $19 per person and that includes all the food on the menu (excluding drinks).

Sabor for lunch

Sabor is open for both lunch and dinner on most days.

Sabor will be open for dinner on all evenings, and is usually open for lunch on sea days.

Additionally, Sabor is sometimes open for lunch on embarkation day.  It will depend on the ship and sailing, but usually the Oasis-class ships that have Sabor are open for lunch on embarkation day.

Reservations are not necessary for lunch.

Sabor tips

  • The freshly made guacamole is arguably the best thing on the menu. Do not miss out on having it made for you.
  • Chips and salsa are complimentary at all Sabor locations.
  • On Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, there is a bar outside Sabor, where you can order drinks and some food without going formally into the restaurant.
  • Do not miss out on the dessert tray.  The banana chocolate empanadas especially are divine.

Royal Caribbean extends cruises from Baltimore for 4 more years

21 Apr 2016
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will continue offering cruises from Baltimore, Maryland for another four years.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Royal Caribbean signed a new deal with the Maryland Port Administration that will extend its year-round departures out of South Locust Point until June 2020.

Grandeur of the Seas is currently offering year-round cruises from Baltimore to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada.

Grandeur of the Seas has been offering cruises from Baltimore since May 2013, when she replaced Enchantment of the Seas.

A Royal Caribbean primer for the Disney Cruise Line fan in sticker shock

14 Apr 2016
Matt Hochberg

Disney Cruise Line released its Summer 2017 itineraries this week and many Disney Cruise Line fans very surprised by the pricing they found.

With this kind of sticker shock, there are some fans who have come to a similar conclusion as Dave.

If you are someone considering an alternative cruise that is just as fun, relaxing and far less costly as a Disney Cruise, Royal Caribbean is a great choice.  

That being said, we understand there is trepidation about changing cruise lines and leaving the warm embrace of the Mouse.  We are here to tell you that there's nothing to worry about and that a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation is very similar to a Disney Cruise (minus that price tag).

Here is our guide to how you can learn to stop worrying and love the Crown and Anchor.

Step 1: Disney and Royal Caribbean offer similar experiences

Before one can consider a Royal Caribbean cruise, I think it is important to understand that both Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer very similar experiences.

Both cruise lines are mass-market cruise lines that target family travel.

Both cruise lines embrace a strategy of building cruise ships that offer guests a lot to do onboard.

Both cruise lines have plenty for kids, parents, adults, grandparents and everyone of all ages to do and see.

In my experience, many ardent Disney Cruise Line fans have cruised Disney Cruise Line solely and a DCL cruise was their first cruising experience.  Give Disney credit, they are great at marketing their products and getting those new to cruising to give their cruise line a try simply because of the name recognition.

Believe it or not, I like the product Disney Cruise Line offers but like you, I also see this, frankly, crazy pricing Disney Cruise Line has and it is why we cruise with Royal Caribbean.

The first step in giving Royal Caribbean a try is to believe me when I say there are things Disney does better and there are things Royal Caribbean does better, but the bottom line is the experiences are more similar than they are different.

Step 2: Looking at what Royal Caribbean offers (besides price)

While price is a big deal, no one should book a cruise purely on cost factor alone. If that were the case, this blog post should be focusing on some other cruise line options.

Royal Caribbean has 24 (soon to be 25 next month) ships in its fleet and there are a few areas of the cruise experience Royal Caribbean greatly distinguishes itself from Disney Cruise Line.

Itinerary variety

Disney Cruise Line only has 4 ships in its fleet today, so it can only offer so many itineraries.  Royal Caribbean's fleet size means you can take cruises from Florida, Europe, Galveston, Baltimore, Alaska, New York, Australia, China and many more destinations for most of the year.

While Disney serves many of those areas too, they do so only occasionally and in many cases, there is not much variety in itineraries offered.

With Royal Caribbean, you can opt to explore more of the world via a cruise ship or visit your favorite spots again and again.

Ship features

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are built to be meccas of onboard entertainment.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships may offer Broadway shows, ice skating, surf simulators, rock climbing walls, water slides, multiple pools and much more.

Royal Caribbean ships offer adults-only pools, a wide variety of specialty restaurants, unlimited alcohol and drink packages, and a casino.

Many Disney Cruise Line fans that try Royal Caribbean often comment about the wide variety of stuff to do while onboard.

Step 3: Kids, kids and kids

Earlier in this post, Disney's brand recognition was cited as a reason why many choose to cruise with Disney Cruise Line in the first place, but children are also a big factor.

I get it, Disney and kids are nearly synonymous with each other and many parents are concerned how could any other cruise line compare to what Disney offers for kids.

While Disney does a great job with kids and kids programming, Royal Caribbean has stepped up their children's programming in recent years and it is much closer to what Disney offers than you may think.

Royal Caribbean offers complimentary programming for kids in its Adventure Ocean program, as well as teens in their own area.

The dedicated space for kids and breadth of programming has expanded greatly with each new ship class and for parents looking to cruise with children, the child care facilities on Freedom, Quantum and Oasis class ships should offer excellent choices.

Royal Caribbean also features on nearly all of its ships a nursery option, which for an additional hourly cost, can provide day care for children 6 to 36 months old.

Beyond child care, there is lots for kids to do onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.  Mini golf, ice skating, surf simulator, sports decks, video games, aqua parks and soon water slides are just a few of the options available.

In the Cruise Compass, guests can enjoy even more opportunities for activities throughout the day.

Step 4: (Thinking, considering & pondering) Making the jump

I hope by this point in this post you are thinking along the lines of, "I understand there is a huge price difference and the two cruise lines aren't really that different from each other."

If so, ask yourself this question next, "Why am I paying so much more for a Disney cruise?"

Answering this question may be the linchpin in the proverbial decision axle that convinces you to consider taking a Royal Caribbean cruise.

I think it would be foolish to assume every Disney Cruise Line fan that tries Royal Caribbean would be instant super fans and never look back, but I also believe (based on mine and others experience) that there is a good chance that making the switch would still result in a fun family vacation.

Look at the various options available to you in a Royal Caribbean cruise and consider the various itineraries and ships that might match up with what you are considering.

I often remind people considering Royal Caribbean for the first time, odds are they will still have a satisfying vacation on Royal Caribbean and they will either come around to cruise more with Royal Caribbean or opt to stay with the mouse.  In either case, it will be a good learning experience.

At the risk of shameless self promotion, here are some more resources on this blog to help guide you with what Royal Caribbean offers and what might be of interest to you

Have you cruised with Disney and Royal Caribbean? Share your thoughts on how they compare in our comments!

Video: Ovation Officially Joins the Family

13 Apr 2016

There’s a new member of the Royal Caribbean family as the global cruise line officially took delivery of its 24th ship, Ovation of the Seas. Ovation and her Quantum-class sister ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, are of the most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world.