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Alaska cruise outfits: ideas of what to wear

In:
13 Jul 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

Cruising to Alaska is one of the best ways to see everything this stunning state has to offer. From May to September, cruise ships will sail through the Inside Passage and through the beautiful, icy fjords of Alaska. 

People watching glaciers on Alaska cruise

Packing for a cruise to Alaska is vastly different than packing for a Caribbean cruise. For obvious reasons, the weather and scenery are complete opposites. You’ll trade sugary sand beaches in the Caribbean for snow-capped mountains and glaciers in Alaska. 

The weather in Alaska is undeniably best in the summer during the cruise season with more daylight, less rain and warmer temperatures. However, you can still experience rain, snow and chilly temperatures throughout the year. 

I’ve sailed to Alaska three times. The first time I sailed to Alaska was from Seward to Vancouver in July. The second cruise was roundtrip from Seattle to Alaska in August. The most recent time I sailed to Alaska was a round-trip cruise from Vancouver in May

Two of my three cruises had typical Alaska weather with chilly temperatures and rain showers throughout the week. I would say my first cruise in July was the coldest weather while my most recent cruise in May was slightly warmer, but still cold.

Read moreWhen is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

My husband and I lucked out with great weather when we cruised in August 2021 with 70 degree days and sunny skies all week. We were told multiple times that our good weather was unusually warm for Alaska, so I think this was just good luck.

Essentially, packing for Alaska will require some planning and preparation. Ensuring you pack layers and versatile clothing will be key for a successful cruise week. 

If you’re looking for outfit ideas for your upcoming Alaska cruise, look no further! Here’s our Alaska cruise outfit guide to help you perfectly plan both practical and versatile outfits.

Focus on Layers

When you start picking your cruise outfits for Alaska, focus on packing pieces that can be layered together. Focusing on layers will let you maximize your suitcase space, which is important since warmer clothes will be bulkier. With layers, you can also mix-and-match outfits depending on both weather and activities.  

Read more50 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

For women, this could include packing leggings and dark jeans as outfit staples. Leggings are extremely versatile for an Alaskan cruise; from active excursions to exploring an Alaskan town in the rain, you won't regret packing black leggings. If it's super cold, you can even layer 2 pairs of leggings for extra warmth.

Also, leggings can be worn with a long tunic, a cozy plaid shirt, an oversized sweater or fuzzy sherpa.

Leggings or dark jeans can easily be layered with a jean jacket to provide extra warmth. A jean jacket is a great piece to bring and can be worn while exploring ports for warmth or as a casual jacket onboard the ship. I prefer to wear a jean jacket on travel days since the airplane is normally cold.

When it comes to layering for men, versatile pieces that can be layered together will be the best option for Alaskan cruise outfits. 

For men, dark jeans and khaki pants can be a great option to wear both during the day and also onboard for dinners. When planning outfits for your Alaska cruise, it’s good to consider whether the pants you pack can be used for dinner outfits as well.

Long-sleeve knit or plaid shirts can also layer well under a rain jacket, providing both warmth and versatility. Half-zips are another great piece to consider packing because these layer well with an outdoor jacket but can also be worn with khakis onboard the ship. 

Prepare for Rain

As much as you can hope for incredible weather during an Alaskan cruise, you should be prepared to experience rain throughout your vacation. Alaskan weather consists of gloomy clouds, foggy skies and chilly rain, even in the summer. 

Packing a waterproof rain jacket is a must for your Alaskan cruise, along with an umbrella. I prefer to pack a black rain jacket because it goes with everything. 

If you are sailing at the very beginning or end of the Alaskan season, you might want to consider packing a waterproof coat with a warmer lining, like sherpa or fleece. A light puffer jacket would travel well for an Alaskan cruise as well. 

If you don’t pack a rain jacket and find that the Alaskan weather is too cold for you to handle, every port will be selling fleece-lined, waterproof jackets that are embroidered with 'Alaska'. These also make a great souvenir because they are reasonably priced, some are sold as low as $9.99. 

Here's an example of the souvenir jacket you can snag in the ports if you would rather purchase a coat during your cruise. I would guess at least 15% of the people on our cruise were wearing a jacket like this by the end of the week.

Don’t Forget Boots

When planning your Alaskan cruise outfits, you’ll absolutely want to consider which waterproof boots you’re packing. Unless the forecast is showing sunshine all week, these are essential for your Alaskan cruise.

You’ll want to make sure these boots are comfortable for walking and any other excursions you might have planned. 

For women, this could include Chelsea rain boots or classic Sperry boots. Both of these are perfect options for an Alaskan cruise and pair well with leggings and rain jackets. Hunter rain boots could also be a good option depending on how much space you have in your suitcase.

Men will also want to pack a waterproof pair of boots that can be worn during the day, such as Timberland Waterproof Boots. If you have any active excursions or you want to go hiking, you should consider packing comfortable hiking boots or duck boots that would pair well with your outdoor gear. 

Hats, Scarves and Mittens

Imagine sailing through the Alaskan fjords and getting up so close to a glacier that you can hear the ice cracking and falling into the sea. It’s unbelievable to see the natural beauty of Alaska when you cruise; but your ears and hands won’t be enjoying the scenery as much unless you’ve packed properly.

As such, be sure to pack a pair of gloves and a hat for your Alaskan cruise, as your hands and ears will be cold both in-port and on the ship when sailing the Inside Passage. 

For women, a cute hat or warm headband is a perfect accessory for your Alaskan cruise! If it’s looking particularly cold, you can even pack a stylish scarf that you can wear throughout the week. 

For men, a beanie paired with a light scarf will be a great addition to your Alaskan wardrobe. A puffer jacket or vest can also be a versatile piece to add more flexibility to your wardrobe, especially if the weather is colder than anticipated.

Consider that you will likely be on the top deck of your cruise ship for whale watching or sailing through the Inside Passage, so it’s best to have a pair of gloves too. I had to buy a pair of gloves on my last Alaskan cruise because my hands were much colder than I expected.

Dinner Outfits

Packing for any cruise requires a little consideration about what to wear each night onboard the ship for dinners and shows. 

In my experience on Alaskan cruises, people are less concerned about what they wear at dinner each night because they’ve had a long day exploring the ports. The ship isn’t necessarily the destination as much because Alaska’s beauty and wilderness is really the draw for these cruises. 

As such, you will probably need to pack a few nice outfits to wear at night when you go to dinner or one of the shows. If this isn’t your thing, you can always enjoy a casual dinner at the buffet and not worry about packing separate dinner outfits. 

For women, I suggest packing a few dresses or jumpsuits for dinner. I love wearing a jumpsuit at dinner because it's comfortable, warm and easily styled for formal night.

A sleeved midi dress or long-sleeve dress is perfect for evenings at sea. Typically, you only need one pair of nice heels, wedges or sandals to wear for dinners at sea, so I prefer a classic pair of nude or black heels.

If you like to go all-out for formal night, you can definitely pack a more glitzy gown; however, this takes up more space in your luggage. With all of the warm winter clothes that are usually packed for an Alaskan cruise, you might not have as much room in your suitcase. 

For men, dinner outfits should also be a consideration, a pair of slacks paired with a button-up shirt and dress shoes is a great outfit for most nights at dinner. A blazer is another good versatile piece that can be worn in the evenings onboard your Alaskan cruise. 

Men can also consider bringing a more formal outfit; but again, this will take up more luggage space that might be better utilized by packing warmer clothes and boots. 

Final Thoughts

Nothing's worse than unpacking your suitcase in your stateroom and feeling like you've packed horribly for the upcoming week. With unpredictable weather these days, it's even more important to plan ahead and be purposeful with the outfits you choose to bring on your Alaskan cruise.

Properly planning for your Alaskan cruise will ensure that you've packed the essential pieces that will keep your outfits warm and comfortable throughout the day (that is, unless you're hoping to have a vacation shopping spree!).

More Alaska cruise tips:

10 Ways to splurge on your cruise

In:
12 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Taking a cruise is a wonderful escape on its own, but what if you want to make the entire trip extra special?

Allure of the Seas aerial with sunset

There are lots of occasions when people want to make their cruise memorable, such as for an anniversary, birthday, graduation or other life event. For these kind of celebrations, I'll see questions about ways to enhance the experience.

Think of these tips as the proverbial "cherry on top" for a traditional cruise.

Couple at Giovannis

To be fair, these tips all deal with spending extra money on your cruise.  You certainly don't need to spend money in order to have a memorable vacation, but throwing money around can certainly make a cruise stand out given the extras it provides.

Hopefully these tips can help transform any cruise you have booked into an even more special occasion and something you'll look back on fondly.

Upgrade your cabin

Photos: Voyager of the Seas completes $97 million renovation | Royal Caribbean Blog

A straight forward way to surprise someone would be get them a more lavish cruise ship cabin.

Whether you move up from an inside cabin to a balcony, or a balcony to a suite, getting a bigger cabin is noticeable difference.

There are two ways you can upgrade your cabin.

Owner suite balcony

The first, is contact your travel agent and simply pay more to move up to a higher category. This is the simplest way, although you're subject to the prevailing rates for that cabin. How much more will vary considerably, but you're likely to get a better price for an upgrade if you do this many months before your cruise.

The alternative is to roll the dice with a RoyalUp upgrade, which is a way you can bid for a stateroom upgrade.

Once you get to final payment date, you can let Royal Caribbean know how much you would be willing to pay if an upgrade situation presented itself.

There's no guarantee that because you see a RoyalUp upgrade opportunity that there's a cabin available, but there's no harm in trying either. Just keep in mind your bids are binding if it were to be accepted.

Fly first class to your cruise

First class seats

One of my favorite ways to travel and get excited even before stepping onboard my ship is to fly first class.

First class airfare is not cheap, but if you book it early, there can sometimes be a good deal.  Moreover, this is a good way to use up those credit card points you may have stacked up.

You could also take a limo to the airport or stay in a suite at your pre-cruise hotel to complete the Hollywood treatment.

Book a cabana

Is your cruise visiting one of Royal Caribbean's private islands?

At both Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee, you'll find cabanas you can rent for the day.

When you rent a cabana, you not only get a dedicated spot to enjoy with shade, bottled water, and floating mats to enjoy, you'll have a cabana attendant who can bring you drinks (and food at Perfect Day at CocoCay).

Chill Island cabanas

Staying in a cabana gets you

  • Private ocean view cabana rental for the full day
  • Furnished with 2 luxurious resort-style lounge chairs & a sofa
  • Four bottles of water (in a cooler)
  • Floating beach mats and snorkeling gear.
  • Towels for your use during the day

If you really want to go big, try one of the cabanas at the Coco Beach Club.  While pricey, these are the most lavish cabanas Royal Caribbean has and the lunch you get is unrivaled.

Read moreGuide to Perfect Day at CocoCay Cabanas

The level of service with a cabana, along with the plush accommodations, make it a must-book nearly every time I visit either destination.

Spa treatments

Massage at the spa

Perhaps no other is more synonymous with treating yourself (or someone else) than the Vitality Spa.

Spa treatments are all about being pampered, so it makes perfect sense to book a spa appointment.

You can book spa treatments and salon appointments online via the Royal Caribbean cruise planner before your cruise. There's a wide selection of choices to consider.

Read moreWhen should you buy Royal Caribbean add-ons

Stateroom decorations

Royal Caribbean makes it very easy to decorate your cabin for a birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon with decoration kits.

You'll find these items in the cruise planner site.

The room decorations include door décor, mirror clings, photo frames and more.

Book a private shore excursion tour

There's nothing quite like exploring a port of call without having to wait for anyone else.

A private tour shore excursion can be not only liberating in the sense you get to do what you want, when you want, but it's also a great way to feel special since the entire tour is about your group.

There are a few ways to book a private tour, depending on the port you are visiting.

Eagle Beach

Royal Caribbean offers its own private shore excursion option through Private Journeys.  Be sure to contact them at least a month or two before your cruise, as it takes them a while to get options together.

In most ports, you can also arrange a private tour on your own. It's important to do your research for reputable options, but there's usually a few operators that can do this.

Some good ideas for a private tour would be a sightseeing tour, catamaran ride, or ATV tour. But your imagination is usually the limit.

Dress up for photos

Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

With all these splurges, you're going to want to capture the memories with a great photo.

Each night of the cruise, there will be photographers around the ship to take your photo. There is no cost to take the photos, and later you can stop by the Photo Gallery to see how the prints came out.

Whether it's formal night or not, get everyone together and dress to the nines, put on matching pajamas, or find that eclectic outfit at Target for ironic photos.

You could also arrange a private photo sitting. Most ships have the option for a sitting, where you can go to a studio and have a photo session. There is an obligation to pay for the time and photos, but these are where you might get some really great shots.

Eat only at specialty restaurants

Izumi hibachi on Mariner of the Seas

While I really enjoy the main dining room, there's nothing quite like specialty dining as a way to enjoy additional cuisines and cooking styles.

Royal Caribbean offers an unlimited dining package, where you can eat at a specialty restaurant every night of the cruise for dinner and lunch on sea days (and embarkation day).

Giovanni's Table on Allure of the Seas

Depending on which ship you're sailing, there's quite a few different choices to consider. On a 7-night cruise, you'll have opportunity to repeat a few (or all) of the restaurants so you can try one of everything.

Read moreHow to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package

Form a group

This tip requires more coordination, but if you're going to sail with a few other families and friends, then you could really splurge in style.

If you can book at least 8 cabins with a single travel agent, you could create a group with Royal Caribbean.

When you have a group, then you can work with Royal Caribbean's groups department to arrange special events onboard, such a renting out certain venues. Imagine having the water slides or bumper for just your group for an hour. Or renting out a lounge to have a private party? Your imagination (and budget) are the limit.

Before anyone books a cruise, talk with a travel agent about arranging this so you can get the important group backend logistics set up first.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

Buy jewelry

Just like a photo can remind you of a wonderful vacation, a piece of fine jewelry can be an everyday reminder of one too.

There are jewelry stores on Royal Caribbean ships, with some ships even having name brand jewelry, like a Tiffany's store at sea.

You could also go jewelry shopping while in port, as nearly every port I've ever been to has plenty of jewelry shops.

Whether you look for a new ring, earing, or necklace, picking out a new piece of jewelry can be a wonderful way to top off the cruise.

How one group helps families with Autism cruise on Royal Caribbean

In:
12 Jul 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

Have you ever seen a group with matching bright orange t-shirts on your Royal Caribbean cruise? If so, you likely had volunteers and families from Autism on the Seas on your cruise. 

These volunteers help families with special needs children and adults have an incredible Royal Caribbean cruise by providing assistive services and care. 

Photo Credit: Autism on the Seas Facebook

Autism on the Seas is an organization that has a longstanding partnership with Royal Caribbean to operate regularly on cruise itineraries around the world. In fact, Autism on the Seas, founded in 2007, is a leading developmental disability service supplier to the cruise industry. 

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

Photo Credit: Autism on the Seas Facebook

Volunteers from Autism on the Seas make it possible for these families to have a vacation like no other by providing attentive, personalized care throughout their cruise.

While most cruisers have never heard of this awesome program, we are excited to share an insider perspective through one volunteer’s personal experience.

Meet Sydney: Volunteer on Autism on the Seas

As Royal Caribbean Blog fans, you might remember my cruising buddy, Sydney, from a recent Radiance of the Seas live blog to Alaska. Sydney and I were roommates on Semester of the Sea back in college, sailing 100 days to 4 continents while taking classes. 

When we sailed to Alaska, Sydney told me about her upcoming volunteer opportunity on Enchantment of the Seas. I couldn’t wait to share her experience with the program - even though I’ve cruised more than 30 times with Royal Caribbean, I had never heard of Autism on the Seas.

As you can imagine, volunteers for Autism on the Seas need to be highly qualified to provide the necessary and attentive care to those with special needs. Sydney first learned of the program back in college and was excited to apply, but she wasn’t accepted initially due to not having enough experience. 

The program encouraged her to apply again in the future, especially if she completed her master’s and had more experience in the special needs field. 

After Sydney graduated with her degree in Psychology & Childhood Studies, she completed her master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorder from George Mason University. 

With more experience under her belt, Sydney reapplied to be a volunteer and was accepted. Once accepted, she applied to multiple itineraries and was offered a contract for a sailing on Enchantment of the Seas. 

This sailing was a 6-night Bermuda cruise with two overnights in Kings Wharf, Bermuda

Since Sydney was accepted into the program, she can now continue applying for future volunteer opportunities with the program.

How Autism on the Seas Helps All Special Needs Families

Just like we all need some vacation time, families who have special needs children also undeniably deserve to have an amazing cruise experience. Unfortunately for these families, it’s inherently more difficult to have a relaxing vacation when you have a child who requires special care. 

The program is not limited to autism, as any disability or special need is welcome to the program. There is no age limit, although most families have children or young adults. 

Photo Credit: Autism on the Seas Facebook

Autism on the Seas helps families by providing assistance on many cruise lines, but most commonly partners with Royal Caribbean. Families book their cruises through Autism on the Seas, which acts as a travel agency by organizing and planning everything for families.

Since this was Sydney’s first cruise with the program, she was assigned as a general volunteer to really get to know the program. Families are also able to request a one-on-one volunteer if they feel that would be more beneficial. While general volunteers float across families as needed, one-on-one volunteers are assigned to a single family and assist throughout the entire cruise. 

Volunteers offer respite sessions throughout the cruise, which allows parents to drop off their participants in a safe space. This gives parents and family members the opportunity to have some alone time.

The program provides assistance for three meals a day where volunteers are present to provide aid to families.

During sea days, two respite sessions are offered for around two hours each. Port days offer one respite session in addition to staff-supported shore excursions. The respite sessions are hosted in a safe space on the cruise ship; on Sydney’s specific cruise, this was in the conference center onboard.

Sydney’s Volunteer Preparation

In the months leading up to the cruise, Sydney was able to download the Autism on the Seas app to complete necessary training. The app had a checklist of tasks to complete as well. 

Transportation and accommodations before the cruise are not provided for volunteers, although volunteers get their cruise fare covered through the program. Because of this, Sydney applied exclusively for cruises that left from Baltimore since that is the closest port to her home in Virginia. 

Like any other Royal Caribbean cruiser, Sydney needed a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding. 

Read moreGuide to pre-cruise Covid test

The night before boarding, Sydney received an unexpected call that one of the other volunteers tested positive for her pre-departure test. That staff member was originally assigned to be a one-on-one volunteer with a specific family. 

Because she was unable to cruise now, Sydney was told by the program director that she would now be placed with the family and provide one-on-one care for the cruise.

On the day of embarkation, Autism on the Seas volunteers had a three-hour training to complete before meeting with the families. Those traveling with Autism on the Seas receive priority boarding as a perk and volunteers help families with luggage and embarkation. Families also receive priority disembarkation, which is staff assisted. 

Most families on this cruise had to reschedule multiple times due to the pandemic; therefore, this was a highly anticipated vacation by the five families cruising with Autism on the Seas this week. 

Cruising Support for Families 

Sydney said on the first night, before the first respite session, all of the volunteers decorated the conference center to be a welcoming, fun, and comfortable space for the kids. The program provides specific activities catering to each child’s needs and interests, making it a very personalized experience for each family. 

Kids are encouraged to spend respite sessions however they want. For example, if they want to be on their tablets during this time, that’s fine. Sydney said the volunteers are not there to teach anything, but rather provide care in a safe space. 

During evening respite sessions, the parents are able to attend the nightly entertainment in reserved seating while their children are under the volunteers’ care. The volunteers also help with activities throughout the cruise, like staff-assisted pool time.

Because Enchantment of the Seas is an older and smaller ship, the only ship activities in the schedule included rock climbing and trampoline jumping. 

Unfortunately, these were both under maintenance during Sydney’s cruise, so the volunteers had to get creative with assisted activities. Adventure Ocean staff even joined a few of the respite sessions to help the kids make slime and host a basketball tournament. 

While in Bermuda, the program offered a staff-assisted excursion to the beach. This allowed the parents and families to relax while volunteers spent time with the kids in and out of the water. Sydney said it warmed her heart seeing her assigned family having a truly relaxing beach day because she was providing care for their child. 

Before the cruise ended, the program hosted a Silent Hush Party with Royal Caribbean’s nightclub DJ. With headphones available for everyone, Sydney loved how this private event was available for the families. 

On the final night of the cruise, all of the individuals with Autism on the Seas received an award.  

Royal Caribbean Staff Elevate Experience

During her cruise, Sydney was blown away by the service provided from Royal Caribbean’s crew and staff. In fact, Sydney was so impressed with their attentive care that she wondered if crew members receive training on handling special needs children and certain situations onboard.

Most of the crew knew about the program and what it offers. Sydney said once the crew members spotted the program’s notorious orange t-shirts, many of them were excited to take care of the families and provide exceptional assistance. 

During dinner, Sydney said the waitstaff provided extremely personal service to the families as they learned more specifically about each family’s needs. 

Photo Credit: Autism on the Seas Facebook

For example, the waiters learned that Sydney’s family had a child who loved to play with straws - by the second night, the dinner table had plenty of straws for him to play with. Once the waiters knew the child hated condiments on his meals, Sydney said they were sure to respect this every night.

If one of the kids had a meltdown or made a mess, Sydney said the crew members would step in and provide assistance wherever they could. They offered additional support by going above and beyond. Sydney said their exceptional service made it easier to do her job as a volunteer. 

Photo Credit: Autism on the Seas Facebook

On the last night of her cruise, Sydney’s waiter was overcome with emotion and brought to tears when it was time to say goodbye. He was so grateful to meet everyone, especially learning more about the program and providing their dining service each night.

He even opened up about his niece in India that is diagnosed with Autism and could not wait to tell his sister about this program when connecting to WiFi again. 

Sydney mentioned that a common theme throughout the week was people coming up to her and opening up about a family member diagnosed with autism and how they would thrive with this program. She hopes more families learn about all the program has to offer.

Volunteer Arrangements and Daily Schedule

Autism on the Seas volunteers normally cruise in an inside cabin with one other volunteer, who could be either the same or opposite gender. 

Before the pandemic, the volunteers were normally assigned in a cabin with three other roommates. To reduce some of the risk, volunteers are only assigned one roommate currently. 

In Sydney’s experience, most volunteers with Autism on the Seas had cruised multiple times with the program, which shows how rewarding the experience can be for staffers.

Sydney was assigned a roommate of the same gender, who she described as very sweet and easy-going. All volunteers welcomed Sydney as a newcomer to the program and were eager to share their prior experiences. 

Volunteers typically work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with free time here and there. During the free time, volunteers can do whatever they want. As such, volunteers enjoyed the cruise ship most evenings by grabbing a drink at one of the lounges. Volunteers can also get off the ship at port during their free time.

Most nights, Sydney was tired from working all day, so she opted to rest when she was able. 

Her and her roommate also had a medical scare when they both started feeling rundown. Sydney brought a COVID home test onboard, which came back negative.

The program leader also requested that the medical staff test both her and her roommate the following day, which was promptly done by the ship doctor coming to their cabin, and confirming that neither had Covid. 

Because everyone is a volunteer, all of the staff members were passionate to provide attentive care to the families. Sydney said it was obvious that all staff members wanted to be there, which is a key part of making this program successful. 

Sydney’s Final Thoughts

With her love of travel and extensive experience with special needs children, Sydney was eager to volunteer with Autism on the Seas. 

She found her volunteer experience to be both eye-opening and extremely rewarding. Although the days were intensive, very long and a lot of work, Sydney said she’s grateful she had the opportunity to volunteer. 

With the bright orange t-shirts, it’s hard to miss the volunteers working during a cruise. Sydney hopes more Royal Caribbean cruisers know about the program in the future, as she was often approached with people asking questions and staring while she was caring for the child. 

Because these families are looking to have a normal cruise experience like everyone else, she’s hoping more people learn about the program and understand all it has to offer. 

By the end of the cruise, Sydney said the families told the volunteers they were angels on earth. They were over the moon with their cruise experience and so grateful for Autism on the Seas, saying they will never cruise without the program again.

Sydney said hearing this made the long days worth it, as she knew she was making a difference and helping each family member make lifelong memories.

To learn more: https://autismontheseas.com

To donate: https://autismontheseas.com/donate

Royal Caribbean suites guide & review

In:
11 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's suites are the top echelon of cruise ship cabins, and it includes many perks and benefits for booking one of these spacious staterooms.

Loft Suite

Suites come in a few different sizes and layouts, but the common thread among them all is a cabin that provides the most space with the best amenities for guests onboard.

Royal Caribbean's suite program is not quite a "ship within a ship" concept that other lines have, but they do give their guests lots of extra attention and access other cruise ship passengers do not receive.

If you elect to try one of the bigger suites, you'll find palatial rooms with lots of living space. Some of these rooms even encompass two levels.

Grand Suite on Liberty of the Seas

Suites are one of the first type of cruise ship cabin to sell out on any sailing because of how limited they are and how many people value staying in a room that gets all those benefits.

If you think a suite might be in your future, here's what you should know about a suite cabin, what it includes, and what you get for spending all that money.

Suites on Royal Caribbean basics

Crown Loft Suite

While Royal Caribbean is not a luxury cruise line, it does offer very lavish suites on its ships, especially if you try one of the biggest suites on its newest ships.

The exact suite benefits depend on the type of ship you sail on. Essentially, there's two echelons of the suite program: Royal Suite Class on Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships, and then the suites on the rest of the fleet.

No matter which suite you book, you can expect access to a dedicated suite lounge, services of the suite concierge, reserved seating on the pool deck, double Crown and Anchor Society points per night of your cruise, and priority embarkation/disembarkation.

Plunge pool on Wonder of the Seas

The exact benefits will be spelled out for you when you get onboard (as well as a week before the cruise in a welcome email from the suite concierge).

Something else you should know about suites are that they are only available with non-refundable deposits. This means if you were to change your mind later and cancel a reservation before final payment date, you'd lose your deposit.

Royal Suite Class

Accessible Loft Suite

On Royal Caribbean's newer ships, they wanted to enhance the suite program so it matched up better with the top-level experience its guests wanted, especially compared to land-based suite offerings.

The result is the Royal Suite Class, which categorizes suites into three tiers, each with their own set of benefits.

At the top is the Star Class, which are not only the largest cabins onboard, but also include all the benefits of the other suites, but the added bonus of including a drink package for everyone in the cabin, internet access, and their personalized attendant for the sailing, the Royal Genie.

Read moreA beginner's guide to sailing in Star Class

Each Royal Genie is shared by just 3 or 4 suites, and is a cross between the suite concierge, butler, and magic maker. They can attend to your every need onboard and reserve seats at any show or restaurant without the need to plan ahead.

As you probably guessed, Star Class is not cheap. Prices are almost always somewhere in the five figures, and some of the incredibly large suites can rival the price of a new car.

Read moreWhat is the most expensive suite on Royal Caribbean?

The people that tend to book these rooms are usually well-to-do guests that want personalized service aboard a ship that offers lots to do.

Suite living room

If the Star Class price tag isn't affordable, you'll find plenty of benefits in the next tier, Sky Class.

Sky Class is more in line with what you might find in any suite on any Royal Caribbean ship, but it also includes access to the suites-only restaurant Coastal Kitchen. Think of Coastal Kitchen as a main dining room for suite guests, with a rotating menu every day, and it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The primary benefits of Sky Class is the complimentary internet access, suite lounge access, and Coastal Kitchen meals.

Junior Suite on Allure of the Seas

For those that book a junior suite, you'll be included in Sea Class, which does not include wifi or access to the suite lounge or concierge.  

Junior suite guests can dine in Coastal Kitchen, but only for dinner. 

Suites on the rest of the fleet

Owner suite on Enchantment

If you book a suite that isn't on an Oasis Class or Quantum Class ship, the experience is a bit more standardized.

Royal Caribbean opted not to expand the Royal Suite Class to older ships simply because those ships wouldn't be able to include the same amount of benefits found on the bigger ships. So they decided to keep the suite experience intact.

Grand Suite on Freedom

Don't take that to be a negative to staying in a suite on a non-Royal Suite Class ship. You'll still get the core suite experience, which includes:

  • Double loyalty points
  • Access to the Suite Lounge
  • Services of the suite concierge
  • Complimentary alcoholic beverages in the evening while in the suite lounge
  • Priority embarkation and disembarkation

Suite benefits

Naturally, you'll want to know exactly what sort of benefits and perks you'll get by staying in a suite.

Read moreHow to maximize the value of a cruise ship suite

Here's a breakdown based on Royal Suite Class and the rest of the fleet.

Royal Suite Class

Sea Class

  • Dinner at Coastal Kitchen
  • Royal Caribbean Plush Bathrobes for Use Onboard
  • Luxury Pillow Top Mattress
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine

Sky Class

  • Concierge Service
  • All Day Access to Coastal Kitchen
  • Specialty Bottled Water (upon arrival)
  • Complimentary internet access
  • Flexible Arrival Boarding & Priority Departure
  • Priority Dining Reservations
  • Venues Early Access to Seating in Select Entertainment Venues
  • Suite Lounge Access
  • Access to Suite Sun Deck
  • Royal Caribbean Plush Bathrobes for Use Onboard
  • Luxury Pillow Top Mattress
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine

Star Class

  • Royal Genie Service
  • Coastal Kitchen for all meals
  • Complimentary Specialty Restaurants (including Chef’s Table and à la carte dining)
  • Complimentary Deluxe Beverage Package (for guests 21 years or older, or 18 and over where applicable by law)
  • Complimentary Refreshment Package (for guests under legal drinking age)
  • Still and Sparkling Water Replenished Daily
  • Complimentary Gratuities
  • Complimentary internet access
  • Expedited Boarding and Departure
  • Best Seats in the House in Select Entertainment Venues
  • Priority Entrance to Many Onboard Activities
  • Suite Lounge Access
  • Access to Suite Sun Deck
  • Royal Caribbean Plush Bathrobes for Use Onboard
  • Complimentary Minibar stocked with Coca-Cola Beverages and Water
  • Complimentary Laundry and Pressing Services
  • Luxury Mattress and Pillows
  • Frette Linens
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Maker

Suite program on other ships

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Tampa | Royal Caribbean Blog

Junior Suite

  • Royal Caribbean Bathrobe 
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine
  • Priority Boarding

Grand Suite, Ocean View/Panoramic Suite & Owner's Suite

  • Royal Caribbean Bathrobe 
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine
  • Priority Boarding
  • Pillowtop Mattress
  • Priority Departure
  • Concierge Service
  • Suite Lounge/Concierge Club Access
  • Priority Dining Reservations
  • Priority Spa Bookings
  • Priority Shore Excursion Ticketing
  • Suite Party Invitation (On Itineraries of 5+ Nights)
  • Bridge, Galley & Backstage Tours
  • VIP Pool Deck Seating (Voyager Class and Above)
  • Priority Tendering
  • Welcome Evian & Fruit Amenity
  • Main Dining Menu Available for In Suite Dining (During Operating Hours)
  • Complimentary 24-Hour Room Service
  • Private Lunch Seating Available on Ships without Coastal Kitchen
  • Private Breakfast Seating Available on Ships without Coastal Kitchen
  • Departure Breakfast
  • Reserved Section in Theater
  • Complimentary Pressing on First Formal Night
  • Sign-up Fee Waived for Luggage Valet Service

Royal Suite & Villa Suite

  • Royal Caribbean Bathrobe 
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine
  • Priority Boarding
  • Pillowtop Mattress
  • Priority Departure
  • Concierge Service
  • Suite Lounge/Concierge Club Access
  • Priority Dining Reservations
  • Priority Spa Bookings
  • Priority Shore Excursion Ticketing
  • Suite Party Invitation (On Itineraries of 5+ Nights)
  • Bridge, Galley & Backstage Tours
  • VIP Pool Deck Seating (Voyager Class and Above)
  • Priority Tendering
  • Welcome Evian & Fruit Amenity
  • Main Dining Menu Available for In Suite Dining (During Operating Hours)
  • Complimentary 24-Hour Room Service
  • Private Lunch Seating Available on Ships without Coastal Kitchen
  • Private Breakfast Seating Available on Ships without Coastal Kitchen
  • Departure Breakfast
  • Reserved Section in Theater
  • Complimentary Pressing on First Formal Night
  • Sign-up Fee Waived for Luggage Valet Service
  • Officer Escort Onboard from Terminal at Check-In
  • Welcome Moet & Chandon

Suite Concierge

 Suite Concierge

Perhaps the most important person to get to know on your cruise if you are booked in a suite is the suite concierge.

Think of the concierge as Guest Services dedicated exclusively to suite guests.

Most ships have one suite concierge, although the Oasis Class ships have two.

Suite concierge

Right around a week before your cruise, the Suite Concierge will email you to prepare you for your cruise and provide instructions on what to expect. 

The concierge can provide a number of functions including (but not limited to):

  • Specialty restaurant reservations
  • Solving billing problems
  • Book shore excursions
  • Priority disembarkation

Read moreWhat is the difference between suite concierge and a Royal Genie?

Junior Suites

Junior Suite on Radiance of the Seas

It's important to quickly mention that despite the name, junior suites do not enjoy the full suite benefits. This means no suite lounge access or concierge services.

Think of a junior suite as a "really large balcony room". They do get double points and on Oasis or Quantum Class ships, access to Coastal Kitchen for dinner, but that's about it.

Given that the price of a junior suite can sometimes be nominally more than a balcony room, many people book junior suites simply for the extra space or double points.

Which Royal Caribbean suite should I book?

Depending on the Royal Caribbean ship you book, there can be quite a few suite categories to choose from, which can make the decision of which suite to book complicated.

No matter which suite you consider, be sure to look at the layout and size of the room and balcony, as these can vary wildly.

Best values

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

If you're looking to splurge without breaking the bank, a junior suite can be the ticket.

Junior suites may not have all the benefits, but all that extra living space sure is nice to have, especially a full bathtub.

For couples that want to spread out a bit more, you can often find a junior suite at a reasonable price to move up to from a balcony.

First time in a suite

If you're ready to try out a suite, then you'll want to consider either the Grand Suite or Owner's Suite.

Both Grand Suites and Owners Suites are the lowest tier of suite that include full suite benefits. They're usually a very large room that includes both a living space and  bedroom.  The bed is usually on one side, with the sitting area on the other side, with some kind of a divider between.

Grand Suite on Liberty of the Seas

Grand and Owners suites qualify for Sky Class in the Royal Suite Class, and are otherwise full suites on the rest of the fleet. The concierge services, lounge access, and priority given to guests here are what draws many people to book these cabins.

If you plan ahead, you can sometimes book one of these suites at a reasonable price.  Suites will always cost more, but many families find these types of suites affordable, especially when you factor in the extra service you get with them.

Families wanting to spread out

Family suite living room

If you have kids and want separation from them, there's a few suites in the higher end that offer multiple bedrooms in one cabin.

Royal Caribbean has a few "family suites" that are designed to handle 5-6 guests, and often have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. 

On Oasis or Quantum Class ships, you'll find loft suites, which are a two-story cabin that have vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows.

There are different types of Loft Suites:

  • Oasis Class ships have Crown, Sky and Royal Loft Suites (in order from smallest to largest)
  • Quantum Class ships have Sky, Grand, Owner's and Royal Loft Suites (in order from smallest to largest)
Royal Loft Suite

Crown Loft Suites are eligible for Sky Tier perks, while Royal Loft, Owner's Loft, Grand Loft and Sky Loft suites receive upgraded Star Tier perks.

If money is no object, then you can book the Ultimate Family Suite.

Ultimate family suite

Available on select Oasis or Quantum Class ships, these giant suites are designed for kids and their parents.  

You'll find not only multiple bedrooms, but an in-suite slide, huge TV, suspended chair, LEGO wall, play area, and hot tub. 

The photos don't do the room justice in terms of how much fun they packed into a single cabin, but the price tag may curb your enthusiasm. The price for one begins at $30,000 for a 7-night cruise and prices usually go much higher up from there.

Apartment style living

Royal Suite

If you don't have kids in tow, but still want lots of space for you and maybe a friend or two, then there are some rather large suites to consider.

The Royal Suite is a standard offering on pretty much all ships.  They feel more like an apartment than a cruise ship cabin, and are between 950 to almost 1,400 square feet in size.

Royal Suite on Liberty of the Seas

Many even have a baby grand piano in the foyer, and usually have a hot tub on the balcony. 

There are large bedrooms separated from the rest of the suite and enormous showers.

A Royal Suite is really great for someone that wants to spend a lot of time in their room and enjoy what the cabin offers. Many that book a Royal Suite prefer to have meals delivered to their cabin.

I'm on an Oasis Class ship and want an amazing balcony

AquaTheater suite on Wonder of the Seas

If the idea of a giant balcony with amazing views is appealing to you, then you should consider an Aquatheater suite.

Aquatheater suites are their own type of experience because unlike other suites, the attraction here is the views you have of the Aquatheater below.

The cabin comes in either a one or two bedroom configuration (with the two bedroom qualifying for Star Class), but the real draw are the views.

The balcony wraps around the back half of the suite, which means you can have almost as much balcony space as you do living space inside. While at sea, you'll have views in almost every direction.

At night, you have the perfect seat for the Aquatheater performances below, without the hassle of getting a seat.

Is a Royal Caribbean suite worth it?

Couple with drinks on Suite Deck

No matter how look at it, booking a suite is a splurge compared to lower categories of cruise ship cabins.

Similar to how first class on an airplane is a plusher experience than coach, staying in a suite provides lots of extras that very nice to have access to while onboard.

It's rare to find a suite priced so low that the investment will pay for itself, so if you're considering a suite, look at it as purely a way to get more from your vacation because you can afford it.

Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, treating your family to something nice, or generally prefer the nicer things in life, a suite usually delivers on an upgraded experience.

There are three benefits that truly stand out for booking a suite:

  • Suite Lounge (and the complimentary beverages)
  • Services of the concierge
  • Priority embarkation/disembarkation

While there are many more benefits that you can take advantage of, these are the core perks that nearly everyone in a suite usually takes the most advantage of during their cruise.

Suites aren't cheap, but if you can afford one without putting a serious dent in your financial situation, it sure is a nice way to vacation.

Read moreIs a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it?

Genie in suite

Speaking of not cheap, so many people want to know if Star Class is worth the high price just so they can have a Royal Genie.

When you have a genie, you don't have to plan anything on your own. The genie can arrange for pretty much anything you want to do onboard and it's an incredibly liberating experience. From bypassing the line for the FlowRider or laser tag, to catered parties in your suite, to priority elevator access, you will rarely have to wait for anything.

Just as with other suites, the question comes down to what you can afford. You could easily take the money you'd pay for a Star Class cabin and use it to pay for two or three sailings in a balcony cabin.  But like Rolex watches, sports cars, and first class on airplanes, sometimes you just want the best there is and are willing to pay for it.

There's a cabin for just about everyone on a Royal Caribbean ship, so it all comes down to what your vacation budget looks like and how much you value the many perks a suite comes with.

More cruise advice

How Royal Caribbean navigates bad weather with its own meteorologist

In:
11 Jul 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Trying to predict the weather is no easy task, and on a cruise ship, there's many more variables to consider than on land.

Cruise ship in a storm

Did you know Royal Caribbean employs its own dedicated meteorologist to guide the fleet with the best advice based on weather conditions?

Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet is a former TV weatherman, but now works just with Royal Caribbean to give the captain of each ship the best outlook on what the weather is doing now and what it is likely to do in the near future.

On a recent President’s Cruise to Alaska in June of 2022,  Mr. Van Fleet gave a presentation on the “Art of Weather Forecasting”.

James Van Fleet with beard

During the hour long discussion on the Ovation of the Seas, Mr. Van Fleet talks about his journey to his dream job as well as the challenges of forecasting weather for an international fleet of cruise ships.

Although meteorology is heavily based in science, he takes us through the ambiguities and uncertainties associated with weather forecasting.  

With his talent for storytelling, Mr. Van Fleet recounts his journey, how he joined Royal Caribbean, and what the future holds.

How it all started

James Van Fleet

Originally Van Fleet had ambitions to be a DJ and was lucky enough to get a job at a local radio station at 18 years of age. After a while, seeking out some variety, he tried his hand at the weather.  

Some time afterward, an opportunity came up to do weather at a local tv station; Van Fleet was keen to move but was warned that his chances were slim. The preferred candidate never showed up for an interview, and he landed the job. So began his television career.

Working in weather hot spots like Oklahoma and Texas, Van Fleet gained experience broadcasting about severe weather, including tornadoes that are common in the region. Moving to Florida, he expanded his knowledge by working on hurricanes and storms. This time laid the groundwork for his future career in international cruising. Although with the last name fleet, it clearly was his destiny.

How he came to work at Royal Caribbean

Storm damage to Anthem of the Seas

In 2016, the Anthem of the Seas was caught in some unexpected bad weather at sea while cruising between New Jersey and the Bahamas. After an internal investigation of the unsettling event, the cruise line decided they needed an in-house, dedicated resource, and Van Fleet was brought onboard as Chief Meteorologist. His “dream job” as he describes it.

Hard to believe, but his appointment was an industry first. Prior to this, cruise lines used outside vendors to provide them with forecasts. However, it was felt that this was no longer sufficient.

Talking about the transition from weather forecasting on land to a company with international ships, Van Fleet says that he used to provide just over 2000 forecasts a year, and is now responsible 18,950, a momentous task. Not to mention that it is even more difficult than forecasting on land.

What’s a typical day?

Six years later, listening to Van Fleet talk, you quickly get the picture that there is no such thing as a typical day in his job. He can be in Miami, where he spends at least half the year working through hurricane and typhoon season, or he may be visiting weather specialists in Oklahoma. You may even find him flying on a NOAA hurricane hunter plane, seeking out the eye of a storm.

According to Van Fleet, he gets some ribbing from fellow colleagues about what it's like to make mistakes and still get paid. Joking aside, he is very cognizant of the ramifications of an error.

 As he describes it, there are not two days that are the same and “even when it is beautiful in Miami… there is something going on somewhere.”

Weather forecasting

Van Fleet with map

One of the biggest challenges to marine forecasting is that, unlike on land, both the weather and the ships are moving, creating far more variables to deal with.

In addition to this, they monitor the company's private islands in the Bahamas and Haiti, as well as ports where they get food and fuel or have shipyards and dry docks.

Van Fleet says it all starts with the current weather, and they go from there. He looks at plenty of maps, but predicting weather internationally has its challenges. Talking about the upcoming world cruise, Van Fleet discusses the specific challenges of this type of journey. He notes that the hardest part will be the crossing of the Drake Passage, the body of water between Cape Hope Horn, Chili and the islands of  Antarctica. He will be onboard the Serenade of the Seas for this part of the adventure.

Tools of the trade

An invaluable tool in weather forecasting is computer models. There are more than a dozen weather models, and they don’t always agree, which is why viewers see differing forecasts, especially as it relates to hurricane modeling.

Meteorologists also use radar, but Van Fleet cautions that infrared radar can have issues as it relies on temperature differences. On a foggy day, you won’t necessarily see it on a radar, which can be a problem for a ship.

The other issue in understanding weather, especially at sea, is that there are plenty of data gaps. On land, there are weather sensors everywhere, but there are many places on the sea that do not. This means, in a way, you can be flying blind.

Why you can’t go to Perfect Day at CocoCay

Sometimes ships need to change course and skip a scheduled port stop. This can be a big disappointment for Royal Caribbean guests who love the cruise line’s private destination in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Van Fleet explains that weather can be difficult to predict in the Bahamas. He has even tapped into a local weather resource, the Bahamas Spotter Network, who use old school walkie talkies to communicate about impending bad weather.

Wonder of the Seas docked at CocoCay

Another variable is the ship class. Royal Caribbean has 5, soon to be 6 classes of ships, and their characteristics mean that they respond to weather differently. The larger ships of the Oasis class are better able to navigate turbulent water than smaller ships.

It also depends on what is going on that the dock and pier assignments. It's fair to say that if you miss a port, it is because it's not safe to dock. 

Communication

Storm in Port Canaveral

Communication with guests is a big part of Van Fleet’s job at Royal Caribbean. Whether it is supplying information for a cruise compass or on social media channels.

This is something he is also working on with the ships. He has embarked on a campaign to visit the officers of all the ships, so he can get to know them better. He also does a fleetwide call every week to make sure they are on the same page. During the pandemic, he designed a course, Marine Meteorology Training, for bridge offices.

Van Fleet acknowledges that the weather business receives a lot of blowback about hurricane forecasts gone wrong.   As he says, errors expand with time, but he feels like there is an opportunity to better explain to viewers why there is a range of impact zones, especially the farther out you go in time.

Looking to the future

Water slides on Adventure of the Seas

Meteorology has improved by leaps and bounds, especially as it relates to forecasting storm landfalls. According to Van Fleet, the next big challenge is understanding and predicting the rapid growth in intensity. What causes a tropical storm becomes a category 3 storm overnight is one of the most pressing challenges in forecasting.  

There are also unexpected events, such as the 2021 eruption of the La Soufrière Volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Van Fleet worked on coordinating ship efforts as Royal Caribbean assisted inhabitants in getting off the islands. He also had to monitor the potential impacts of ash and smoke on the company's ship cruising in the Caribbean.

As he closed out his presentation, you can’t help but come away with the impression that Van Fleet loves his job and his passion for it is boundless. He made a special thanks to Royal Caribbean cruisers who “ do a phenomenal job in sharing pictures on social media”, a great help to him. 

Watch the entire talk

Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

In:
11 Jul 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

A whale watching tour is one of the most sought after shore excursions on an Alaska cruise, and for good reason. Viewing some of the largest mammals on earth in their natural habitat is breathtaking and one that will be a highlight for many on an Alaska cruise.

Whale watching in Juneau

Deciding where to book a whale watching excursion, what to bring with you, and what to expect can be confusing, so here are a few tips and tricks to make your whale watching experience as unforgettable as possible.

Types of whales to see in Alaska

There are four main types of whales to see in Alaska: humpback whales, gray whales, killer whales (orcas), and beluga whales.

Humpback whales are the most common to spot on a whale watching excursion, and are most prevalent in June and July.

If you’re traveling to Alaska in the early season, you may be able to spot gray whales as they migrate further north. Gray whales are most likely to be seen in late April to early May.

Killer whales, or orcas, can sometimes be spotted on a whale watching excursion as well. Orcas are quick moving animals, though, and have more unpredictable movement patterns than humpback whales, so they are less common to see.

Beluga whales are unlikely to be spotted on an Alaska cruise, as they spend their time further north in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. Occasionally they may go as far south as Turnagain Arm near Anchorage, but it is highly unlikely you will spot a beluga whale on a typical southeast Alaska cruise itinerary.

Other whales, such as minke and fin whales, are present in Alaska although far less common to see on a whale watching excursion.

Best ports for viewing whales in Alaska

While it’s possible to view whales in any Alaska cruise port, two of the most popular whale watching destinations are Juneau and Icy Strait Point. Both locations are home to feeding grounds for humpback whales, making sightings extremely common.

Juneau is the most popular whale watching port. Not only is it a more common port stop than Icy Strait Point, but it offers the biggest chance of spotting whales.

That being said, Juneau is a port offering an abundance of other activities to enjoy, from hiking at Mendenhall Glacier to the Goldbelt Tram Cable Car and drinking in saloons. Some guests opt not to book a whale watching tour in Juneau and instead book it in a port where there are less excursion and activity options.

In Icy Strait Point there are fewer excursions to choose from, leading many to save whale watching for their day in this port instead.

Seward, Alaska is another recommended port for whale watching. If you are doing a one way cruise to or from Alaska, consider a whale watching tour in Seward before or after the cruise. This can be a good option for guests interested in other excursions while on the cruise but still wanting to book a whale watching tour before heading home.

Although not in Alaska, Victoria, British Columbia can be another excellent port for whale watching.

It’s common for whale watching excursion providers to offer a guaranteed whale sighting. If you do not end up seeing a whale, they may offer you a partial cash refund. Be sure to read your tour operator’s policies before booking to be aware of the details.

Whale watching in your cruise departure port

If you don’t want to book a whale watching tour while in Alaska, consider booking one in your cruise departure port. Both Seattle and Vancouver offer whale watching opportunities, so this can be a nice way to add another day of excitement to your vacation before or after a cruise.

Plus, by booking a whale watching tour in your departure port, more time is opened up while in Alaska to book other types of shore excursions.

Viewing whales from the cruise ship

If a whale watching excursion is out of your budget, you are prone to seasickness on small vessels, or you prioritized other activities while in port, you may still be able to spot whales while on an Alaska cruise.

While the ship is sailing through the northern Pacific waters, whales can sometimes be spotted from the ship. This can happen in the open ocean on the way to or from Alaska, or while the ship is sailing through the Inside Passage.

When whales are spotted by the captain, an announcement will be made on the loudspeaker to let guests know there are whales near the ship. When this happens, expect a flood of guests quickly heading to the outside decks eager to catch a glimpse of whales.

The best spots onboard to watch whales from the ship are from a private balcony, Promenade deck, upper pool deck/running track, and outdoor area at the Windjammer.

Bring binoculars

It’s a good idea to bring binoculars on an Alaska cruise regardless of if you booked a whale watching tour or not. Alaska’s scenery is so vast that sometimes a closer look through binoculars at mountains, glaciers, and wildlife is helpful.

The same is true on a whale watching excursion. Pack a pair of binoculars with you for your tour to ensure you can catch the best glimpse of whales if they happen to be far away. While a binocular is not necessary for every person in your travel party, having a pair to share with the group is recommended.

Get your camera ready

Make sure your camera and phone battery are fully charged before your whale watching excursion. Photography aficionados may want to bring a full camera setup with a telephoto lens to ensure they can capture the best pictures possible.

Whichever camera you bring, though, remember to spend some time away from the lens and view whales without the use of a screen or camera viewfinder. While capturing photos is something you may value, it’s just as important to spend time during the excursion away from your electronics.

Seasickness medication or remedies

Whale watching boats are usually quite small and can encounter choppy waters. Even on the smoothest of days, the rocking of a small boat can make some passengers feel seasick.

If you are prone to seasickness, don’t hesitate to pack seasickness remedies with you for your whale watching excursion, whether medication or natural remedies.

Whale watching excursions with other activities

Some guests may want to go whale watching but combine the tour with other popular activities in port. This gives the opportunity to not only spot whales, but experience what else a port has to offer.

In Juneau, for example, you can book the “Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching, and Wildlife Quest” excursion which brings you on a whale watching tour followed by free time to explore Mendenhall Glacier. This can give guests the best of both worlds by experiencing two of Juneau’s most popular attractions.

In addition, some excursions may not be listed as a ‘whale watching excursion’ but may offer the opportunity to spot whales. In Icy Strait Point, guests can book a kayaking excursion that brings them on a tour through the waters of Port Frederick. This is a route commonly followed by humpback or killer whales, so passengers will have a chance of spotting whales while on a kayak.

Planning a cruise to Alaska? Be sure to read more of our tips for an Alaska cruise:

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 10, 2022

In:
10 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and are ready to catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

If you're thinking of booking a drink package, wifi, or shore excursion, when is the best time to book it?

You might be wondering if you're better off booking it now or waiting until you board the cruise.  Ultimately, you're going to want to do what will save you the most money, time, or both.

Here's my recommendations for when you should book certain cruise add-ons so you get the best price.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 460th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Rebecca shares her Alaska cruisetour experience.

Royal Caribbean allows you to add-on a land tour portion to select Alaska cruises, and Rebecca tried it out when she sailed to Alaska this summer.

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.

New RCB Video: The Fool-Proof Royal Caribbean cruise

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 — The Fool-Proof Royal Caribbean cruise — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

4 mistakes & 7 things I did right on my Royal Caribbean European cruise

European cruises are a different experience than Caribbean cruises from a planning perspective.

Jenna just sailed on two different European itineraries and reflected on her cruises with what she would and wouldn't do again.

She has a list of 7 things she did right and 4 she did wrong on her Royal Caribbean European cruises.

Mariner of the Seas Guide

Have you ever sailed on Mariner of the Seas?

If you haven't, we have a full review of what Mariner of the Seas has onboard and what to expect. From the activities, to dining, to the casino, we have a look at everything you can see and do on Mariner of the Seas.

Cruise balconies vs. suites

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Is it a good idea to book a balcony or suite on your next Royal Caribbean cruise?

If you want to know what makes a balcony different from a suite (and if it's worth spend more for a suite), here's a breakdown of a cruise balcony vs suite.

Here are the absolute best cruises for families

In:
09 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Ready to take your family on a great cruise vacation but want to know the best cruise ships for families?

Kids at the pool on Wonder of the Seas

There's quite a few considerations across Royal Caribbean for which ship might be best for kids: water slides, family cabins, private islands and more.

In considering the perfect cruise for families, we're not just talking kids. Which ship has something for mom, grandpa, the older cousins, and your brother's girlfriend. Not an easy task for any vacation choice.

The good news is Royal Caribbean prides itself on being an attractive option for multigenerational travel, and there are a few ships that will jump out as great choices for a family trip.

Whether you're looking for "wows", a multitude of things for the kids to do, or just a family vacation that won't break the bank, here's my top picks for the best cruises for families.

Why Royal Caribbean is good for families

Adventure Ocean

It's important to talk about why Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line for families before we pick a ship. Someone new to cruising may not be aware of how Royal Caribbean separates itself from other lines in the family travel market.

Royal Caribbean is known in the cruise industry for building cruise ships that are floating destinations, with lots of amazing things to do onboard.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a supervised kids club, fun activities on the pool deck, and visits to private islands in the Caribbean. Many ships have babysitting for younger children, water slides, surf simulators, bumper cars and more.

Bumper cars

Royal Caribbean doesn't put things on its ships just for kids, rather, they design experiences that kids and their parents can enjoy together. FlowRider, bumper cars, carousels, laser tag are all things guests of all age can find fun.

If getting your adrenaline pumping isn't your idea of fun, Royal Caribbean also has Broadway musicals on select ships, parades, ice skating shows, and expansive pool decks.

Arguably as important for parent and child alike is Adventure Ocean. Every day of your cruise there's a kids club where kids can go to meet other kids and play together in a supervised environment. Adventure Ocean isn't just a large room that kids get put in. There's activities, art, games, video games, and books for kids to enjoy. 

Revamped Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean revised its Adventure Ocean program on its newest ships and a few amplified ships, which revamped the spaces and greatly expanded the offerings.

Adventure Ocean is included in your cruise fare, with the exception of late night (after 10pm), so your vacation budget won't break.

There's even teen spaces on many ships, including dedicated lounges for teens and tweens to go and find their own enclave. The teens club is less programmed as the younger kids club, but there's still fun activities for them.  In fact, Royal Caribbean will dedicate certain times of the day at the FlowRider or other signature activities just for teens.

If you have toddlers, the nursery program is a fantastic offering for parents and kids alike. The nursery has an additional hourly cost to it, but it provides a safe place for children between 6 - 36 months to go and play, nap, eat, and play some more. For parents to have a place to drop infants off and be able to enjoy dinner and evening entertainment while their baby gets to play and be put down for sleep is a boon.

If all of this sounds great, you might be wondering how much this will cost you.  Royal Caribbean's prices are quite reasonable, with cabins and cruise fares to match nearly any family vacation budget.

Family in waterpark

Another ace Royal Caribbean has up its sleeve for families are its private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

These are ports your ship can visit on a Caribbean itinerary that are run by Royal Caribbean, which means lots of activities, beaches and a freshwater pool (at CocoCay) included with your cruise fare. A visit to either island is a highlight for nearly any family.

Other cruise lines may be more synonymous with kids, but Royal Caribbean's onboard programming stacks up favorably and offers more for children of all ages without compromising on the adult experience. Plus, Royal Caribbean routinely offers a kids sail free deal where children in the same cabin as the adults pay nothing for their cruise fare.

Best ship for families of all ages: Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear

If you want something for everyone, look no further than Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship.

Wonder of the Seas (as well as the other Oasis Class cruise ships) is not just the largest cruise ship in the world, but it has just about everything kids, teens, and grandma will find enjoyable.

Read moreSee how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size

Playscape on Wonder of the Seas

Oasis Class ships are packed with the best offerings Royal Caribbean has, and there's very few activities or amenities found on other ships that you can't find on these vessels.

You've got water slides, a giant aqua park, surf simulator, two rock walls, playscape, and a carousel if you need to burn some energy. Then there's the zip line, ice skating, hot tubs, and 10-story dry slide.

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

The adults-only solarium pool area is found on every Royal Caribbean ship, but like everything on an Oasis Class ship, the solarium on Wonder is just bigger.

Another great amenity on Wonder of the Seas are the shows. There are three entertainment venues with shows almost every night: AquaTheater, Royal Theater, and Studio B.

You can expect to see comedy shows, ice skating show, diving show and more.

AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas

If you're new to cruising, or are traveling with a wide variety of ages, it's hard to go wrong with an Oasis Class cruise ship like Wonder.

If there's a downside to going on Wonder of the Seas, it's that you'll pay more on average for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas compared to other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes guide & explanation

Wonder of the Seas at night aerial

If your budget is tight, perhaps one of the other ships in this list might be a better fit, but that isn't to say Wonder will cost you an arm and a leg either. Relatively speaking, newer ships tend to cost more.

You can save money on just about every cruise by taking advantage of certain planning tips for getting the lowest price, so there's no excuse for paying top dollar, even for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas.

Best ship for families with older kids: Odyssey of the Seas

Let's say you have tweens or teen in your family and want to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise that caters more to them than younger children.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships have always been the best choice for families with older children because of the more sophisticated offerings onboard.

Just like Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas is the newest ship in its class and has the latest offerings available. Moreover, Odyssey is a very new ship too, which means you're going to find lots to enjoy.

If you have a teen, be sure to start off by showing them the teen club and teen sun deck.  Teens not only have an indoor area for them, but they have a reserved area of the pool deck just for them.

Read more6 things you can only do on Odyssey of the Seas

Then there's the SeaPlex on Odyssey of the Seas, where throughout the day activities are swapped that include bumper cars, roller skating, basketball, and more. Parents can "observe" from the nearby Playmakers sports bar located on the upper level of the SeaPlex.

Something to do with your teens would be Zone Zero, an immersive virtual reality experience where you put on a full virtual reality suit.

Everyone will be able to also check out North Star observational pod, which is a glass capsule that takes you 300 feet above the ocean.  

If your teens ever wanted to try skydiving, Odyssey has a sky diving simulator too!

Seniors and parents

Grandparents and parents will find their enclave in the Solarium, which is as beautiful to look at as it is to relax in and enjoy.

For your evening entertainment, head to Two70, which has performances that incorporate amazing technology at the rear of the ship.  You'll be wowed by how Royal Caribbean has taken traditional stage productions and infused tech enhancements.

Best ship for families on a budget: Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

You want to take your family on a fabulous cruise but also need to make every dollar count? Check out Freedom of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean revamped this ship in early 2020, and it offers plenty to do without the price tag newer cruise ships come with.

Freedom is still a "big ship", so there's no compromising on what there is to do onboard. You're going to find a surf simulator, beautiful pool area, aqua park, water slides, rock climbing wall, and much more.

Freedom of the Seas pool

In fact, the resort-style pool deck stands out as a big win for families. Kids can enjoy time at Splashaway Bay aqua park while adults will find serenity at the Solarium. The Lime & Coconut spans 3 decks, which creates a fun party atmosphere onboard.

Freedom has Royal Caribbean's new take on kids club and teen area, just like the newer ships.

Since Freedom sails 3- and 4-night cruises from Miami, you can find an inexpensive price tag along with all the cruise fun.

Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Best yet, every single one of Freedom's itineraries visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, which means a full day of fun in the sun. So much of what you can do at CocoCay is included with your cruise fare, which is more money saved.

Read moreDo's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay

In short, Freedom of the Seas delivers on the promise of something for everyone, but at far less of a cost than newer ships.

Best cruise for families visiting Alaska: Ovation of the Seas

There's simply nothing like an Alaska cruise, and families will love everything Alaska has to offer as well as onboard Ovation of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Alaska on four ships, but I like Ovation the best for families, especially if it's your first Alaska cruise.

RelatedComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2022 and 2023

Based out of Seattle, you'll be able to find more direct flights to get you onboard and if you're an American, at a lower price than if you flew to a ship departing from Canada.

Once onboard, there is lots to do and most of the activities are indoors. Just like Odyssey of the Seas, Ovation has a North Star, Flowrider, SeaPlex, indoor Solarium and more.

Since Ovation has an indoor pool for guests of all ages (in addition to the Solarium), it's the perfect ship for Alaska.

While Alaska is worthy of dedicating as much time as you can on shore, once you get back to the ship, there's no compromise with things to do aboard.

Best cruise to take your parents: Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Whether your kids are with your or not, if you are ready to take mom and dad on a cruise too, you might look at a ship that focuses more on the classic cruise experience.

Brilliance of the Seas is a Radiance Class ship, which is actually one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships in the fleet.

Don't let her size fool you, there's still activities onboard to enjoy.  There's still the rock climbing wall and a fun pool deck. If you do bring young kids with you, there's a water slide on the back of the ship too.

Solarium in Brilliance of the Seas

The adults-only solarium might be my favorite solarium across the entire fleet. It's enclosed and climate controlled, and has lots of great seating for reading, napping, or both.

Something I've always loved about the Radiance Class are the floor-to-ceiling views, which are perfect for taking in the sunsets and watching your destinations come into view.

In addition to the main dining room, you'll find three great specialty restaurants worthy of a visit.  After dinner, take a show in at the Royal Theater.

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

So why Brilliance over her sister ships? The upgrades Brilliance received a few years ago stand out from her sister vessels (although Serenade has very similar features). Sailing from Tampa in the winter, there's also a good chance mom and dad are nearby.

Something else you'll love when you invite your parents to sail with you is the price. Quite often the value of Brilliance is unmatched.

Money saving tips for cruising with family

Splashaway Bay on Wonder of the Seas

No matter which cruise ship you sail on, there's a few ways you can make your money go further.

Book two cabins instead of one

Balcony

My favorite family cruise hack is to get two connecting cabins rather than one room.

I love my kids, but sleeping in the same room as them is not enjoyable.  Plus, sharing one bathroom is not a great experience.

Instead of booking a suite that will cost lots, or cramming into a smaller room, book two cabins that have a connecting inside door.

You'd be surprised how affordable two cabins are, especially when compared to a suite.

Soda packages for the teens

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

If your children drink a lot of soda, you may be better off with a soda package for them than paying for soft drinks individually.

Royal Caribbean has unlimited drink packages that help keep your budget intact. 

The price per night of the Classic Soda Package is $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity). If your kids can drink 3-4 sodas every day, then it can really save you money.

Look for kids sail free deals

Kids in splashaway Bay

Royal Caribbean regularly runs kids sail free deals that include the cruise fare of the third or fourth passenger in the same cabin as first two people paying normal price.

The "catch" with kids sail free are the blackout dates.  If you can find a qualifying sale, it can really save you a lot, especially if you book a suite.

Bring more baby supplies than you think you'll need

Toddler

If you're cruising with a child still in diapers or drinking formula, be sure to pack much more than you think you'll need.

One lesson I learned from my kids is they go through a lot more baby supplies on a cruise than at home. 

Baby wipes, diapers, and other essentials are hard to come by on a ship or in the ports you visit.

Feed your kids at the complimentary restaurants

If you want to dine at a specialty restaurant, don't feel like your children have to eat there too.

If your kids are picky eaters, you might consider simply taking them to get a slice of pizza at Sorrento's or something to eat at the Windjammer first.  They can dine with you at the restaurant and nibble while you eat without paying for a cover charge for them.

Or drop them off at Adventure Ocean and then schedule your specialty restaurant meal after.  This tip works even for the main dining room if you have a later seating time.

Disable your kids spending ability

Kids at arcade

You have the option of disabling spending on your kids' SeaPass cards to avoid a potential problem later.

Just stop by Guest Relations and ask them to cut off your kids ability to spend.

How to get last minute cruise deals

In:
08 Jul 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

You want to take a cruise but you also want to get onboard soon and snag a deal?

Ship in Cozumel

A cruise vacation is an attractive getaway, but finding a good price close to the sail date can be a challenge. Typically the best deals are when sailings are first put on sale up to two years in advance. As the sailing gets closer, prices tend to go up.

However, a last minute cruise deal is not unheard of, because there can be cancellations, itinerary changes, or simply weak demand for a sailing.

If you're looking to book a cheap cruise with just weeks to go before you get onboard, you're going to need some good internet searching skills, flexibility, and a little bit of luck.

The secret to last minute cruise deals

Two ships docked in Cozumel

There are plenty of strategies to get a last minute cruise deal, but the most important component is going to be how flexible you are with choosing a sailing.

Flexibility comes in many facets: how flexible you are on sail dates, the ship, itinerary, and departure port.

When you look for a last minute deal, you're probably looking at cruises that are past final payment date, which is 90 days prior to sailing. When Royal Caribbean gets past the point of final payment, they get a good sense of how booked (or unbooked) a sailing is and responds accordingly to fill up the rest of the ship.

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Years ago, Royal Caribbean would have incredibly deep discounts for unsold cabins, but they've backed off that strategy a bit, due to higher demand for cruises overall.

In looking at prices for cruises coming up in the next two months, you will certainly spot reasonable prices for a cruise. After all, it's more important for the cruise line to get people onboard since the real revenue comes in onboard spending rather than the cruise fare itself.

When it comes to consistently finding a good last minute price, you're going to want to focus on four major areas.

Time of year

Without a doubt, the biggest factor in getting a good price is going on a cruise when others are unable to sail.

Cruises when kids are in school is always a solid starting point. If you take a cruise in September, January, or early December, you're going to likely find far less families onboard since kids are in school. As a result, there's less demand.

Radiance pulling into Seward

Likewise, taking a cruise during "shoulder season" is an important time of year. This is when the weather or sea conditions may not be ideal, which leads some to opt not to cruise.  On an Alaska cruise, the shoulder season would be May or September. In Europe it's late September and October.

If you can cruise during the times of year everyone else isn't going, you can usually find better prices.

Ship age

Cruise prices will almost always be cheaper on a Vision, Radiance, or Voyager Class ship than an Oasis or Quantum Class ship.

Older ships simply don't offer as much to see and do onboard as the newer ships, and pricing is almost always cheaper to begin with, regardless if it's last minute or not.

Royal Caribbean's marketing is so effective that most cruisers tend to gravitate towards the newest ships so they can enjoy all the bells and whistles these ships offer.

Unfortunately, older ships tend to have (an incorrect) stereotype that they're rundown and boring. The reality is these ships still offer plenty to do, just not as much as the newer ships.  Plus, for the right price, you can get some fantastic values.

Read moreWhy you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships

In short, you're more likely to find a better price on an older ship than a newer one.

Departure port

You may not find a great last minute deal on a cruise from Florida, but other less-common departure ports could get you a better deal.

Embarkation ports that cannot rely on a lot of people to drive to the port tend to have lower prices because nearly everyone has to fly there.

Radiance of the Seas in Seward, Alaska

Examples include:

  • Baltimore
  • Galveston
  • Seward, Alaska
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Galveston
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you live in the area, or don't mind flying (more on that later), prices tend to be lower for cruises leaving from here and a last minute deal is more commonly found.

Repositioning cruises

If there's one type of cruise that almost always has cheap fares close to sailing, it's a cruise where the ship begins in one port and ends in another.

Repositioning cruises are a necessary evil for the cruise industry so that a ship can move from one market to another to begin a new season.

The most common repositioning cruises are when ships move from North America to Europe (and then back again). Ditto for transpacific cruises between North America and Australia.

Where to find last minute cheap cruise deals

Rhapsody of the Seas at sea

You may be tempted to start your search for a last minute cruise deal on the Royal Caribbean website, but there are a few resources you can leverage that may get you results faster.

It's always a good idea to reach out to a travel agent first. Travel agents do so much fare searches, that they could already be aware of a good price for a certain sailing. Moreover, their consortiums could have better rates than you can find online.

Internet search

Even if you do spot a great price, it's not uncommon for travel agents to be able to find a better discount on top of it and sweeten the deal.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

There are a couple of third-party websites worth checking as well, just to see if they have something you haven't spotted yet.

Cruise ship in Grand Cayman

Vacations to Go has a "90-day ticker" with a list of sailings of cruises departing within the next 90 days .

Cruisesheet.com is another aggregator of cruise deals you can reference.

Both sites are good jumping off points to start your search, and then circle back with your own travel agent to figure out the best possible price.

Downsides to a last minute cruise

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

If a last minute cruise sounds like a great deal, you should remember a few important caveats.

If you're booking at the last minute you cannot be picky with your stateroom. Expect very few cabin category choices, and even fewer choices of where it's located.

Another consideration is if you are booking a cruise after the final payment date, you will need to make a full payment up front, rather than a deposit and then the rest later.

Airplane landing

If you have to fly to your cruise, airfare prices could sink any deal you find for a sailing. Be sure to cross-reference airfare prices before committing to a cruise fare.

The easiest way around high airfare prices is to drive.  There's no question last minute cruise deals benefit those within driving distance of cruise ports, such as those living in the southeastern United States.

Airport

If driving is out of the question, look at other airports to fly out of or into.  If your cruise is out of Fort Lauderdale, consider flying into West Palm Beach, Miami or Fort Myers.   Likewise, if you are flying out of New York City, try all the city airports as well as Westchester, Philadelphia or Hartford.  A little drive can save a lot of money.

Also consider flying to or from your cruise a day or two earlier/later to see if prices change.  It's a fun way to extend your vacation while saving money too.

Tips for keeping your cruise deal as cheap as possible

Remember, your cheap cruise deal doesn't stop when you book your cruise fare.

From shore excursions to drinks to dining, there are a few other ways you can pinch pennies while on a cruise.

Stick to included drinks

Flavored waters

Alcohol, soda, and lattes all cost extra, and those costs could run up your cruise bill quickly.

Royal Caribbean includes quite a few drinks with your fare. The more of these you can consume, the less you'll spend.

If you're going to enjoy cocktails or beers, then try to wait until you get to a port of call. Prices for drinks off the ship are usually cheaper.

If you have your heart set on a Royal Caribbean drink package, be sure to purchase it before the cruise. The price will be higher onboard.

Eat at complimentary restaurants

Windjammer entrance on Wonder of the Seas

Say no to specialty dining and you'll also save some serious cash as well.

There are plenty of restaurants included with your Royal Caribbean cruise, and I think you'll find the food to be really good here as well.

Dining in the Windjammer, main dining room, or one of the grab-and-go locations will not compromise on your experience and keep costs low.

Bring your own drinks

Bottles of water

Did you know Royal Caribbean allows you to bring a certain amount of non-alcoholic drinks and even wine onboard?

By bringing your own soda and a couple bottles of wine, you can really save money without having to skip out on these items.

Plan a DIY shore excursion

Another good way to save money is to tour the ports your ship visit on your own.

Instead of booking a cruise line shore excursion, walk around the port on your own and see what's around. You could bar hop, take a taxi to the beach, or just hang out at the port area.

Use your credit card points

If you're headed down the "cheapest vacation as possible" road, then now is a good time to cash out those credit card points.

You could use your credit card points for a free flight or hotel stay prior to your cruise.  Or you could get a gift card for yourself to use in ports for spending money.

Bottom line

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

There's an art to a last minute deal, especially if you're looking for a slam dunk price instead of a "not that bad" price.

With some good internet sleuthing (and a good travel agent), you may be able to find a great getaway fare so that you can enjoy time relaxing onboard a ship enjoying (hopefully) beautiful weather and a fun atmosphere. The more flexible you are, the better your chances.

Equally important is being able to save money once you get onboard, because all those extras are very tempting. If you can avoid the additional costs, you'll be able to really save big money. Remember, you can have a great cruise without spending a ton on add-ons!

Water slides on Adventure of the Seas

Ultimately, the difficulty in getting a last minute cruise deal boils down to luck with the right offer, at the right time, from the right embarkation port. When I search for last minute deals, it's not as difficult to find a good price as it is to find a good price on a sailing that you want to go on.

If you find a great price, act quickly as cabins go quickly in those final weeks. Unfortunately a lot of people miss out on a cheap cruise deal in the interim time they take to verify they can get time off from work, dog sitters, and other logistics.

Hopefully these tips help you net a great last minute deal and I wish you happy hunting!

4 mistakes & 7 things I did right on my Royal Caribbean European cruise

In:
08 Jul 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

I'm en route back to the United States after two of my best cruises yet: a 7-night Spain & France cruise on Anthem of the Seas and a 7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas. This was my first time cruising to Europe, and it was everything I imagined it would be... and then some!

Despite extensive research beforehand, not everything can go perfectly on a cruise vacation, and I certainly made a few mistakes along the way. However, I also made many great decisions during my time in Europe that enhanced my cruise experience.

Here are the 7 things I did right and 4 I did wrong on my Royal Caribbean European cruises.

The mistakes

Not getting tender tickets ASAP

Three ports on my Greek Isles cruise were tender ports, meaning a short boat ride was required to get from the anchored ship to port. You must have a tender ticket to board the tender boat. The tickets are free, but each has a group number, and you cannot head ashore until your group number is called.

On our second tender port, Zakynthos, we did not collect tender tickets until an hour after they were available for pickup. We were in Group 7, and the boarding process seemed to be going extremely slowly.

After waiting a while for even Group 2 to be called, we were stressed that we would have limited time in port. We decided to head to the tender boarding area to gauge how long our wait would be. After around 30 minutes of waiting there, we were able to snag 3 extra spots on a tender boat.

In the future, I’ll make sure to collect my tender tickets as soon as possible to be in one of the first groups to head ashore.

Not bringing pool towels into port

One mistake we made while visiting Croatia on Rhapsody of the Seas was deciding to not bring pool towels with us off the ship. We weren't sure if we would find a beach or not, and we didn't think it was worth it to carry towels around all day.

After an hour walking around Split in the heat, we realized we needed to cool down at the beach. Because we did not bring pool towels and did not want to lay directly on rocks, we had to purchase a beach chair rental for $26 each. If we had brought the pool towels, we could have saved the money to use on drinks, souvenirs, or lunch in port.

Lesson learned: if you think you might want to go to the beach on a port day, bring pool towels off the ship!

Not packing sandals

As someone who writes articles on packing advice for a Royal Caribbean cruise, you'd think I'd be more prepared when it came to my own cruise vacation.

Prior to my European cruises, I spent two weeks vacationing in Spain and Portugal. During this time, my old, trusty pair of sandals I brought from home broke. Instead of buying a new pair, I figured I would be fine with my tennis shoes, ballet flats, and flip flops.

I ended up wearing my sneakers most days in port, and while I do think sneakers are usually the best footwear choice when sightseeing Europe, there were definitely many moments when I wished I had brought a nice pair of sandals with me!

Related: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Not packing seasickness remedies

My Greek & Adriatic cruise had smooth sailing the entire cruise, but my Anthem of the Seas cruise encountered choppier waters than what I was used to.

While I was not affected by the ship's motion, my friend Samantha, who came on the cruise with me, wished she had packed more seasickness remedies in her bag. She was able to buy extra dramamine tablets on the ship, but they were priced pretty exorbitantly compared to what she could have bought at a local pharmacy!

If you're ever affected by motion sickness, be sure to pack remedies with you to help ensure you don't feel ill on your vacation!

Related: I tried my first cruise from the UK: here's what you should know

Things I did right

Disembarking the ship early on port days

One of the best decisions I made in all European cruise ports was to get off the ship as early as possible. We were usually able to disembark around 7:30-8:30 in the morning

This is especially recommended on Mediterranean itineraries, as the afternoon can get extremely hot. When we were in Kotor, for example, the heat felt almost unbearable in the afternoon, so we went back to the ship a bit earlier than I initially anticipated.

Because we had gotten off the ship as early as possible, I was able to spend 6-7 hours in port before it got too hot and crowded, and I was able to explore the towns in more favorable conditions.

Not booking shore excursions

One thing I did right on my two European cruises was opting not to book shore excursions in every port. I've visited Europe many times before on land-based vacations without booking a tour, so I assumed it would be fine to explore on my own while on a cruise.

My assumption was correct. All towns were extremely walkable and offered plenty to see without spending a single penny! In fact, I only spent around €50 total on activities like bicycle rentals, museum entrances, and a journey up the famous Vizcaya bridge in Bilbao, Spain.

I purchased one organized tour, a half-day boat tour in Zakynthos, Greece, that visited the island's famous Shipwreck Beach. We found a local tour operator right when we got into port and were able to book the excursion for €45, which was cheaper than what I had found on Royal Caribbean's and third party operators' websites. It was well worth it, but I'm sure I could have found plenty to do in Zakynthos without a tour as well.

Related: Visiting Zakynthos, Greece on Rhapsody of the Seas

Not booking a dining or drink package

I decided to eat primarily at complimentary dining venues on both European cruises instead of booking a specialty dining package. 

One of the best parts of traveling to Europe is tasting local cuisine, whether cheese crêpes in France or paella in Spain. Instead of spending around $200 on a dining package, I chose to save money to enjoy lunch in each port I visited, and I was satisfied with this decision.

That being said, dining packages may be a nice option for others on a European cruise, especially those new to Royal Caribbean. Because I sail on Royal Caribbean ships frequently, I've already tried most of the specialty restaurants, so I didn't feel the need to book a package on a European itinerary.

Likewise, I chose not to purchase a drink package for the following reasons:

  • My itineraries were very port-intensive, so I would not be on the ship all day, every day to take full advantage of a beverage package
  • As a Diamond member in the Crown & Anchor Society, I get four free drinks a day. This is always more than enough for me!
  • Most of the countries I would be visiting are known for wine, so I figured I should save my money to spend on drinks in port.

Choosing unique itineraries

When I was deciding which Royal Caribbean cruises to book in Europe this summer, I had no idea where to start. All destinations looked absolutely incredible, from the snowy peaks of Norway to sunny ports in France and Italy.

Because I had been to many popular ports in the Mediterranean before (Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Palermo, Naples, etc.), I decided to book itineraries to ports I knew little about. This ended up being a fantastic decision, as many of these ports (La Rochelle, La Coruña, Zakynthos, etc.) ended up being some of my favorite ports of all time!

On my Anthem of the Seas cruise, there were no other cruise ships docked in port with us, so I was able to visit less touristy ports while observing local culture and lifestyle in a way I could not do in Europe's most popular destinations.

Not visiting Paris

The last day of my Anthem of the Seas cruise stopped in Le Havre, France. This is known as the "Paris" cruise port, but Paris is nearly 3 hours from the port!

I have never been to Paris before, so at first I thought I should book an excursion into the city. After calculating the time I would spend in transit to the city, though, I decided against it. Personally, I didn't feel it was worth it to spend 6 hours in transit for just 4-5 hours in one of the world's most beloved cities.

Instead of visiting Paris, I had a relaxing yet enjoyable day exploring the port of Le Havre. I had lunch in a local crêperie, rode a bicycle along the coast, and spent time at the city's beach.

While I'd love to visit Paris someday, I think it is worth at least a few days instead of just a few hours, so I think I made the right decision by staying in Le Havre.

Related: Spending the day at the port of Le Havre, France

Choosing my cruise based on the itinerary and not the ship

While I love sailing on Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships, I still prefer to pick itineraries based on the destination and not the ship. So when I was booking my cruises in Europe, I did not care which ship I sailed on as long as it brought me to culturally-rich destinations.

My first cruise was on one of Royal Caribbean's most modern ships, Anthem of the Seas, whereas my second was on Rhapsody of the Seas, the second oldest in the fleet. While the ships shared many of the features that make a Royal Caribbean ship, well... Royal Caribbean, they were very different from each other in terms of size and amenities.

Despite their differences, I found that my onboard experience on both ships was largely the same. I would wake up early, explore a new port, come back for dinner in the Main Dining Room, and spend my evenings relaxing in the Solarium. This could be done on a ship of any size!

Plus, I was so tired after exploring port each day that I barely had enough energy to get ready for dinner, let alone spending all evening at onboard shows and events.

In fact, while some cruisers have no interest in sailing on the fleet's smallest ships, I actually found Rhapsody of the Seas to be perfect for a port-intensive Greek Isles cruise.

The ship has windows everywhere onboard, so you can see expansive views of the ocean from most bars, restaurants, and lounges. This was well-appreciated on my Greece & Adriatic itinerary, where we had views of mountains most of the time we were at sea.

Additionally, with only one sea day in my weeklong cruise, I don't think I would have had time to try all the restaurants and activities available on a larger ship. Plus, smaller ships can often be priced significantly lower than Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships.

Taking out a little bit of cash

Before my European cruises, I wasn't sure what the payment situation would be in the ports I would be visiting. While I prefer to pay for everything with my card, my past experiences in Europe taught me to always have a little bit of cash on hand.

I took out €200 euros from an ATM prior to my cruise, and it ended up being very helpful, as I encountered many small businesses that preferred or only accepted cash.

Have you ever cruised in Europe before? What lessons, tips, and tricks do you have for planning the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise?