Royal Caribbean announces $165 million upgrades and enhancements to Allure of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Allure of the Seas will undergo a 58-day, $165 million transformation that will add new features, including the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, completely redesigned Adventure Ocean kids and teens spaces, the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, and Quantum Class original Music Hall.

Beginning May 2020, Allure of the Seas’ 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises sailing roundtrip from Barcelona will visit must-see cities such as Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence (Marseille), France; Florence/Pisa (La Spezia), Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples/Capri, Italy. In November 2020, Allure will make its way coast to coast to Miami for the winter season.


  • The 10-story Ultimate Abyss
  • The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell
  • Splashaway Bay kids aquapark, featuring twin drench buckets, three waterslides, fountains, pools, water cannons and a Splash Pad for tots
  • Reimagined pool deck, complete with The Lime & Coconut signature bar across two locations, a wider variety of seating and shade with cabana-like “casitas,” daybeds, hammocks and swing seats; new whirlpools on the top deck, and a reinvigorated, adults-only Solarium.
  • All-new Adventure Ocean, where younger kids can choose their own immersive adventures across an entirely new layout.

    The major makeover will bring to life interactive, personalized and unexpected activities and features in areas redesigned from top to bottom, including whimsical rooms with climbable creations at Play Place, hands-on art, science and tech fun at Workshop;

    friendly competition in physical, interactive games at Arena; the Hangout, to chill and make new friends over gaming consoles or sit back for some quality “me” time, AO Babies for babies and tots, and experiential activities at the multipurpose AO Junior space specially designed for 3- to 5-year-olds
  • Maxed-out teen spaces, debuting a 360-degree transformation, with a secret speakeasy-like entrance leading into an exclusive lounge with gaming consoles, music, movies, places to hang out and a new outdoor deck

  • Glow-in-the-dark laser tag in Clash for the Crystal City and Royal Escape Room – Apollo 18: Lunar Landing, an out-of-this-world expedition that challenges guests to solve puzzle after puzzle before time runs out


  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, a new take on a guest-favorite, will offer the beloved family-style, rustic dining experience with an enhanced menu of Italian staples, complete with hand-tossed pizza from the new in-house pizza oven, an expansive charcuterie station and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos

  • Portside BBQ will serve up a menu inspired by popular barbecue styles across the United States, including brisket, pulled pork, chicken, burnt ends, mac and cheese, homestyle cornbread and more

  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade for gameday watch parties on big-screen TVs, tournaments, bar bites with a twist and ice-cold brews
  • El Loco Fresh, featuring casual Mexican “street fare”
  • Sugar Beach, the sweetest spot on board with more than 220 types of candy and ice cream
  • Bionic Bar by Makr Shakr, manned by two robot bartenders shaking up classic cocktails and custom orders


  • Music Hall, a Quantum Class favorite, will take live music to the next level with revolving setlists and cover bands, ample lounge seating on two levels and room to rock out on the dance floor

  • Spotlight Karaoke, the dedicated karaoke bar with both main stage and private room experiences will feature thousands of songs to choose from, music trivia and themed nights

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Labadee

By: Matt Hochberg

Our final port stop on this sailing brings us to Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee.

I have been to Labadee on numerous occasions, and I have always enjoyed my visits for the natural beauty of this corner of Haiti.

The ship was cleared to begin disembarkation around 9:30am, and I think we walked off the ship at around 10am. 

Prior to the cruise, I had reserved an over the water cabana.  For many years, I have booked cabanas at Labadee because I think it is a terrific value for a family. I love having our own little "refuge" from the elements, personalized service and prime napping spot. 

On this particular visit, we reserved a cabana at Nellie's Beach and it was exactly what we wanted.

The weather today was excellent. It was hot, and less oppressively humid as it was in San Juan yesterday. Moreover, there was more sunshine than clouds. This is the right equation for a day at the beach.

Throughout the day I also noticed some smaller enhancements that I did not recall seeing on past trips. Primarily seating areas along the paths.

Our day in Labadee went by quickly, and around 3pm or so we decided to head back to the ship. 

Back onboard, we showered and napped. The Captain said our weather for the return to Bayonne looks great.

We headed back to the main dining room for dinner, and the wait staff provided another excellent meal.  The service in the dining room is certainly in the upper echelon that I have encountered in recent memory.

After dinner we went to Two70 to see the Vistarama show, however, they played a virtual concert featuring Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns. I asked one of the tech guys and he indicated this was one of the dozen or so Vistarama shows they have, but I think everyone in Two70 was hoping for something else. 

Instead, we headed over to the pub for singalongs.  It was jam packed in the pub, as I think by now the word is out about the talent of the pub singer.

Tomorrow is a sea day.


Royal Caribbean will begin Coco Beach Club construction at Perfect Day at CocoCay soon

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has sent out emails to guests sailing on upcoming cruises that include stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay to inform them of work that will be occuring at the island.

The email informs guests that some temporary changes will be made while construction of Coco Beach Club begins. Specificially, South Beach will be closed to guests. The floating bar will be moved down the beach, just past Oasis Lagoon. The beach bungalows and daybeds will temporarily moved to Chill Island.


Coco Beach Club will offer an oceanfront infinity pool, upgraded cuisine and the only overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. Cabanas at the Coco Beach Club come with an overwater hammock, waterslide and private attendant.

Coco Beach Club offers an exclusive beach experience available to all guests, not just suite guests. An additional fee will be administered for entry into this elevated experience. 

South Beach, Coco Beach Club and the overwater cabanas will open in December 2019.

Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries for Empress of the Seas in 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced new itineraries for Empress of the Seas in 2020 that include stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Empress of the Seas will continue to depart from Miami, adding Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands as a new destination for the cruise line. Virgin Gorda is well-known for hidden grottos and giant boulders, the idyllic island offers sun-soaked discovery for adventure seekers of all types.

Empress’ 6- to 8-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings will also visit Mexico, Belize and The Bahamas, as well as Perfect Day at CocoCay on select itineraries.

Cruises on Empress departing from January through April 2020 are now available to book. Details for the ship’s 2020-21 deployment will be announced and available to book in the upcoming weeks.   

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - San Juan

By: Matt Hochberg

Next up on our Anthem of the Seas cruise is a stop at one of my favorite ports, San Juan.

I love visiting Puerto Rico, and we got into port a bit early. Our hours were 7am to 3pm, so it was a "front-loaded" day in port.

We dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and then were off the ship right around 9am.  Even at 9am, it was quite warm.

We had no plans for the day, just to walk around and explore Old San Juan. Since the ships visiting Old San Juan for the day dock right in the city, it is super easy to walk off the ship and walk around.  There is so much great history, art and dining around the city.

We started off with a visit down Fortaleza Street for the famous street with all the umbrellas. Getting there early was great, because once the crowds hit that area, it was swamped later.

We checked out a few art shops along the way, and actually picked up a couple pieces that we will bring home.  I am not much of an art connoisseur, but the paintings of Puerto Rico are quite vibrant and beautiful to admire.

By 10am it was getting quite warm out and we sought refuge in a coffee shop to reevaluate our day (and enjoy some much needed air conditioning). We thought perhaps to go back to the ship since it was so warm, humid and muggy.  Ultimately, we decided to take a short taxi ride to visit one of the synagogues in San Juan.

Temple Beth Shalom is in San Juan, and has about 80 or so families part of their congregation. We met the administrator of the building, and he graciously took us around and told us about what it is like to be Jewish in Puerto Rico.  

It was really insightful, and a nice quick visit.

We took a taxi back to Old San Juan and went to find somewhere to eat lunch. We wanted Puerto Rican food in a restaurant with good air conditioning. That proved to be more difficult to locate than I anticipated, but we eventually found a great spot with fabulous air conditioning and great food too.

I opted for the berenjena (eggplant) with a side of mofongo.  The mofongo may not have been the absolute best on the island, but it was all very tasty and I enjoyed it.  

My wife ordered the skirt steak and that was a real winner.

All aboard was 2:30pm, so we got back on the ship by 1:30pm and took the most refreshing shower of my life.

Freshly showered and having regained the will to live, it was time for today's RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise event! We rented out a private session on the North Star, exlusively for those in our group that booked with MEI Travel and are RoyalCaribbeanBlog Insiders.

We managed to get in four rides on North Star, and despite the hazy conditions, we got a great view of the ship.

Dinner was back in the main dining room, followed by a rousing game of Jenga in the pub.

Tomrorow we will be in Labadee.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Maarten

By: Matt Hochberg

Our second port stop takes us to St. Maarten, but we will get to that later.  We were not scheduled to dock in St. Maarten until noon, so we had a half sea day to start out.

I slept in a bit and then headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast with the group at my favorite hidden gem, the outdoor dining deck at the aft.

The outdoor dining area at the back of the Windjammer is easily overlooked, so we decided to head there for a beautiful morning view with our breakfast.

Soon enough we began docking in St. Maarten and came alongside Freedom of the Seas right on time.

Our plans for today were to travel around St. Maarten and visit a few of our favorite spots.

We started out with a quick trip to Maho Beach to see the planes land. This is a famous spot where airplanes land very close to the beach below. Unfortunately it was incredibly hot and we managed to time it during a lull in the schedule, so we missed the big planes. Plus, it down poured on us to top things off.  Oh well, onto the next stop!

We were going to go to Grand Case beach, but opted to go to Mullet Bay instead since they had umbrellas and chairs for rent.

This was my first time here, and the water was beautiful.  Very rocky in some spots, but we found areas to enjoy a swim.  The current was also very strong, so we had to keep a closer eye on the kids.

The beach was nice, although there was a significant drop off in the beach from where the chairs were located to the water. Nonetheless, we had a great time.  The cost of two chairs and an umbrella was $10.

After our swim, we piled back into the van for a ride to the capital of the French side, Marigot.  

We wanted to make a quick stop at a French bakery and our driver recommended a good one.  They had bread, pastries, chocolate and of course, beer. 

We decided to head back to the ship to shower and relax before dinner. Another fun day in St. Maarten was in the books.

We showered and changed to get ready for dinner and headed back to the main dining room for dinner.

The dining room wait staff outdid themselves with the assortment of Mediterranean small plates. It was like our own little specialty restaurant!

After dinner, many of us in the group enjoyed drinks in Vintages, followed by a few good songs in the pub.

Tomorrow we are in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Majesty of the Seas to sail from New Orleans in 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will offer winter sailings from New Orleans on Majesty of the Seas in 2020. 

Following the recent ban of U.S. cruises to Cuba, Majesty of the Seas has been redeployed to New Orleans between January and April 2020. 

Majesty of the Seas will sail 7 night sailings primarily to the Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, along with one Western Caribbean itinerary.  

You can view the full list of itineraries here.

Cruises from New Orleans on board Majesty are now open to book for itineraries departing through April 2020. Sailings departing from May 2020 through April 2021 will be open to book the week of July 22, 2019. 

Toddler falls to her death out of a grandfather’s grasp on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

It appears a young child died after falling on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas while docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday.

Thus far, details on the incident are not clear, but the Miami Herald reports Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Public Security Elmer Roman told local media that “the grandfather took the little girl to look at the window. She fell and died."

“We haven’t interviewed everyone in the family yet,” Roman said. “We’re looking to see if there are cameras that caught what happened.”

The 18-month-old girl slipped from the grandfather's arms and fell from the eleventh deck of the cruise ship.

We reached out to Royal Caribbean for a statement on the incident. Owen Torres, Royal Caribbean corporate communications manager, issued this statement, "We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need. Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident."

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

By: Matt Hochberg

It is another sea day on Anthem of the Seas, and we also got back that hour we shifted ahead for the other day.  Ordinarily that would be the recipe for sleeping in, but we had morning plans.

One of our group cruise activities for today was bumper cars in the SeaPlex.  In fact, we rented out bumper cars for an hour, so our group was able to enjoy unlimited bumper car rides for an hour.  

The kids in the group absolutely loved all the time to enjoy bumper cars, and they took exceptional pride in ganging up on hitting me in there. I think everyone really enjoyed this exclusive event.

After our session was up, we grabbed breakfast at Cafe @ Two70. It is proving to be our preferred breakfast spot onboard.

While enjoying breakfast, there was a speaker in Two70 who discussed the naval blockade during the U.S. Civil War. Always nice to see learning opportunities onboard.

There was time for a quick trivia session, which was called "table trivia", where you have 25 words that end in the letters "table" and you have to figure out which words they are based on their definition. For example, stable, relatable, et al.

We met Natalie and Frank, and managed to win trivia!

Many of us in the group organized a cabin crawl, where we get to see different stateroom types of those in the group.  We saw solo cabins, junior suites, balconies and even a Grand Loft Suite that culminated with a snack and drink reception by the Royal Genie. 

I opted for a light lunch in the Windjammer.

After lunch, we went back to the room for a bit to relax.  Later in the afternoon, we grabbed drinks in Two70 while the American Philharmonic performed virtually with songs such as Rhapsody in Blue, musical selections from West Side Story and John Williams.

By this point, I was in need of a nap and headed back to the room for a wonderful afternoon slumber.

Dinner this evening was at Jamie's Italian.  They seem to have the "original" Jamie's Italian menu, which means they still have two plank options (meat and veggie), various bruschettas and more entree options.  

The meal itself was great, and our waiter was excellent in his attentiveness.

After dinner, we enjoyed more time in the pub.

Tomorrow, we will be in St. Maarten.

Stray Observations

  • The US/Netherlands world cup final game was shown at the pool deck and in the pub. While I did not watch the game, it was incredibly popular activity today.
  • During the cabin crawl I stopped by the Concierge Lounge. As a Diamond Plus guest, I have access to this venue in addition to the Diamond Lounge. It is located aft on deck 12 and has a great view.


Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Bermuda

By: Matt Hochberg

Our first port of call brings us to Bermuda, and Anthem of the Seas arrived into port fairly early in the morning. I certainly was not awake for it.

We got up around 7:30am and got everyone ready for a day at the beach, then headed down to Cafe @ Two70 for a quick breakfast. 

Cafe @ Two70 is not only quick, there are barely any lines there and the view you get with your meal is fantastic.

We walked off the gangway at about 9am and met up with our group, which was headed to Horseshoe Bay beach.  In fact, everyone who booked with our travel partner, MEI Travel, was provided with complimentary transportation to and from the beach.

The bus ride to the beach is about 30 minutes, and one added benefit of not taking the public bus is we were not dropped off at the top of the big hill that leads to the beach.

Once dropped off, it is a short walk to the beach. There is no admission fee for the beach, but chairs, umbrellas and other amenities cost extra. Two chairs and an umbrella will run you about $45.

Horseshoe Bay is beautiful, with stunning blue water, extra fine sand and just a few waves to make things interesting.

In addition to the main beach, there is a smaller cove to the right that is protected from the surf and ideal for young children.

There is also rock formations that everyone seems to climb, despite warnings against it.

If you walk all the way down the beach, you will find caves and other rock formations that are quite far from the crowds.

We had perfect weather for a picture perfect beach day. 

At 1pm we loaded back into the bus and took a ride back to the ship. I thought I would go into the Naval Dock Yard shops, but with only an hour and a half before all aboard, I thought it best to take a shower and relax onboard.

Relaxation time was short lived, as it was time to head up to the pool deck to enjoy sail away. The view was fantastic, and we hugged the coast of Bermuda, which provided some wonderful views.

For dinner, we were back in the main dining room. On day one we noticed a table next to us had some great Mediterranean selections and today the head waiter provided us with our own assortment of hummus, olives, babaganoush and more.

We rounded out our evening with the pub singer. The singer has a great stage presence, along with great vocals.

Tomorrow is a sea day.