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CLIA wants cruise lines to work closer with CDC to resume cruises

In:
21Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The cruise line trade group thinks the best approach to get cruise ships sailing again faster is more unified approach from the industry.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) held a phone conference with members of the media on Tuesday to go over their approach for resuming cruises.

CLIA Global Chair (and former Royal Caribbean International CEO) Adam Goldstein believes the cruise industry needs to keep its "eye on the prize" in terms of getting back to service.

Goldstein indicated he expects new policies related to the current global health crisis to be added to CLIA’s Compendium of Policies, which would help in streamlining the industry's handling of health and safety onboard its ships.

"We have tried to work with member cruise lines and be as supportive as we possibly can. In some cases, members are very keen for CLIA to take the lead while in other cases individual lines have felt compelled to take the lead themselves."

"Our goal remains to emerge from this with a unified approach policy-wide, across the association, that all member lines will sign up for."

There were no specifics given on a timeline for releasing new policies or protocols, just that CLIA is actively working with the CDC.

Cruises held to a double standard

While the cruise lines have been shut down since March, other aspects of travel have re-opened without any oversight from the CDC, including theme parks, hotels and airlines.

When asked if the cruise industry was being treated unfairly compared to other aspects of the travel industry, Mr. Goldstein believes cruising already adheres to many more regulations that makes them unique.  Moreover, Mr. Goldstein feels complaining about it things being unfair will not achieve anything.

"Cruise ships live under a unique and different reporting regime because they are constantly crisscrossing international boundaries. So what people, including our regulator, believe about our environment is much greater than what they could possibly know about any of these other sister environments in the travel and tourism industry."

"Is it unfair? It’s not a question of fairness but one of preparation and execution. We need to keep our eye on the prize, lamenting on things is not going to get us there. Engagement, dialogue, preparation and execution are what’s going to get us there."

Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

In:
21Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are looking for the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you have plenty of great choices to consider.

 

Royal Caribbean offers cruises around the world on more than two dozen ships that will provide a great family vacation.

Narrowing down the best ship means finding the right ship for you, depending on your personal tastes, budget and who is cruising with you.

The best ship depends on you

Picking the best ship is a lot like picking out the best movie or best restaurant: it is a subjective choice based on a variety of factors that every person weighs differently.

Since no one likes to hear that the answer is "it depends", here is as objective a breakdown as possible of what to look for in the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Amenities, activities, and accommodations

At the heart of any cruise ship is what the ship offers onboard, and where you will call home during your vacation.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have four basic types of staterooms: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins. These types of cabins offer varying amount of living space and luxuries, and the some ships have more impressive cabins than others. 

Ultimately, the decision for which room you want is a question of what you can afford, but the larger and newer ships tend to offer the most expansive and luxurious accommodations.

What you do onboard is what makes Royal Caribbean stand out, and you will find various signature activities, fun things to do and multitudes of dining choices across an expansive layout.

Each cruise ship is made up of a different combination of onboard offerings and over the last decade, Royal Caribbean has varied these amenities considerably from ship to ship. So it behooves you to figure out which are the most important and pick the right ship for you.

Oasis Class

Best ship: Symphony of the Seas or Oasis of the Seas

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they simply offer the latest and greatest that Royal Caribbean is known for onboard.

The four Oasis Class ships (with Wonder of the Seas eventually joining the fleet sometime beyond 2021), have FlowRider surf simulators, zip lining, rock climbing, waterslides, clubs, specialty and complimentary restaurants and scenic evening strolls.

There is no shortage of things to do on an Oasis Class ship, including waterslides, Ultimate Abyss slide, two FlowRiders, mini-golf, zip line and more.

There are seven neighborhoods on an Oasis Class ship, including Central Park outdoor space and the seaside-inspired Boardwalk. 

The shows on an Oasis Class ship are the best in the fleet, with three different theaters offering entertainment throughout your cruise. Watch a full Broadway show (such as Mamma Mia or Hairspray), check out the thrills of the AquaTheater performances, and be dazzled by ice shows in Studio B.

Oasis Class ships also have the most dining options of any Royal Caribbean ship, such as Chops Steakhouse, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Portside BBQ, classic Italian and much more.

Where they sail: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offer 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that include stops at the private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Quantum Class

Best ship: Anthem of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas

The newest class of Royal Caribbean ship does not compromise on entertainment, dining, or things to do with the Quantum Class ships.

Looking for some incredible things to do on a cruise ship? How about a skydiving simulator, or smash bumper cars into your fellow guest vehicles.  Then there is the observation capsule that takes you 300 feet in the air for breathtaking, 360-degree views. 

The Quantum Class ships are the only ones that feature Two70, which is a large circular space at the back of the ship where you will not only find a great view of the ocean, but also floor-to-ceiling screens that can transform the space along with their Roboscreen technology.

Music Hall is the perfect venue for anyone that loves live music performances, where cover bands perform and you can dance the night away.

The Royal Esplanade is located in the center of the ship and features dining and shopping opportunities.

Where they sail: Anthem of the Seas sails primarily from Bayonne, New Jersey to destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canda. She also started spending summer in Europe, sailing from Southampton, England for the summer, visiting coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.

Spectrum of the Seas is the newest Royal Caribbean cruise ship and sails from Shanghai, China to destinations in China and Japan.

Quantum of the Seas offers cruises to China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Beginning in 2021, she will start sailing to Alaska.

Ovation of the Seas splits her time between Alaska cruises out of Seattle, as well as cruises down under in Australia.

Freedom Class

Best ship: Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas

One of the most versatile cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, the Freedom Class vessels combine large size with lots to do onboard. In fact, the Freedom Class ships have been upgraded in the last few years with waterslides and other new features onboard.

You will find Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids on all three ships, along with Perfect Storm waterslides on Independence and Freedom. Liberty of the Seas has her own set of water slides, including the only ship to feature a boomerang slide.

Independence of the Seas is the only Freedom Class ship to offer the Sky Pad virtual reality bungee jump trampoline experience.

If you are looking for dining, Independence has Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and Fish & Ships, a poolside eatery where guests can grab quintessentially British seaside treats. Freedom of the Seas launched the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen specialty restaurant concept in the fleet, that features made-to-order pizzas, freshly made pastas and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos.

All three ships offer great shows onboard, including ice skating performances in Studio B.  Independence of the Seas has its own Broadway show with Grease, while Liberty of the Seas has Saturday Night Fever Broadway show.

Where they sail: Independence of the Seas sails four and five night cruises the Caribbean from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), as well as three and four night Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral.

Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston, Texas and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Freedom of the Seas is homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but will transition to Bayonne, New Jersey in 2021.

Voyager Class

Best ship: Navigator of the Seas or Mariner of the Seas

One of the best values in Royal Caribbean is the Voyager Class ships. These multifaceted vessels are a great choice for first-time cruisers, as well as anyone on a limited budget.  They are still "big ships" and offer plenty to do onboard, but at a fraction of the price of their mega ship sister vessels.

The Voyager Class is perhaps the most varied ships in the fleet, as the Royal Amplification process has added so many new and different options to these ships.

Mariner and Navigator of the Seas received the most striking changes in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mariner of the Seas has a Sky Pad and Perfect Storm waterslides. Navigator has The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Both ships also now feature Battle for Planet Z and Royal Escape Room: The Observatorium.

There are plenty of other additions to both vessels, including hibachi on Mariner and Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant on Navigator. Both ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, as well as a Bamboo Room Polynessian-themed bar.

The other Voyager Class ships also have their own share of fun onboard, including a FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and shows each evening. Adventure of the Seas has its own set of water slides that were added a few years ago.

Where they sail: Mariner of the Seas offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral. Navigator of the Seas also offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Miami.

The other Voyager Class ships move around a bit more, offering cruises around the world. Adventure of the Seas will sail from Galveston and Bayonne in the winter, in addition to cruises in Europe from Copenhagen and Stockholm in the summer.

Explorer of the Seas also splits time between North America and Europe, with cruises from Rome in the summer, and Galveston or Miami in the winter.

Voyager of the Seas offers cruises in Australia or China, depending on the cruise season.

Radiance Class

Best ship: Brilliance of the Seas or Radiance of the Seas

An underrated, yet impressive class of ships is the Radiance Class ships that combine sleek elegance with varied itineraries around the world.

Just because they are smaller than other ships, does not mean they compromise on the fun onboard. Royal Caribbean added new features and amenities to these ships, and you will find an outdoor movie screen, full-scale entertainment productions in the three-story theater, and plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges.

Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Radiance Class ships have one of the best adults-only Solarium areas across the entire fleet.

Where they sail: The Radiance Class ships are world travelers, offering lots of places to visit. Brilliance of the Seas spends her winters in Tampa with short sailings to the Caribbean, along with cruises from Boston and Miami.

You can cruise on Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam to Northern Europe in the summer, while choosing between cruises from Galveston or Miami to the Caribbean.

Radiance of the Seas offers some really interesting cruises, including open-jaw sailings (one-way) to Alaska in the summer.  She then transitions to Australia and sails the South Pacific.

Serenade of the Seas also splits her time between Australia and Alaska itineraries.

Vision Class

Best ship: Grandeur of the Seas or Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean uses the Vision Class ships to offer cruises to the most exotic locations around, because they can fit almost anywhere.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships still offer plenty to do onboard and have amenities such as a rock climbing wall, great pool deck, poolside movie screen, specialty dining and a grand Atrium area.

The lounges on these ships are equally impressive, and many repeat cruisers love the warm and thoughtful staff onboard these ships.

Where they sail: Vision of the Seas offers cruises in the winter from Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona in the summer.

Rhapsody of the Seas calls Tampa and Venice/Ravenna, Italy home, with cruises to the Western Caribbean and Greek Isles.

Enchantment of the Seas (the last Royal Caribbean ship to be stretched) offers cruises from Galveston, Baltimore and San Juan.

Grandeur of the Seas sails year-round from Baltimore.

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas is the smallest and oldest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but she maintains Royal Caribbean's high standards and received a big update when she rejoined the fleet in 2016.

The appeal of cruising on Empress of the Seas is two-fold: fantastic prices and a throwback to the old style of cruising. You can enjoy a classic cruise experience for an incredibly low rate.

Empress also sails some very interesting routes, such as down the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

If you are looking for something different and out of the ordinary when it comes to mainstream cruising, Empress of the Seas is a compelling choice.

Majesty of the Seas

Similar to Empress, Majesty of the Seas exemplifies a classic cruising experience (even though when she debuted, Majesty was considered a new kind of mega cruise ship).

While she may be an older ship, she makes up for her age in offering great getaway cruises the Bahamas at low prices.  Do not judge these ships by their age alone, because they still offer a fun atmosphere onboard, with an impressive pool deck and dining choices.  

You will find pools, whirlpools and even a Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids onboard. Royal Caribbean updated her in 2016 to offer more for families to enjoy.

What should you look for in the best cruise ship?

When you want to find the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship for you, the key is to understand what the ship offers and what it does not offer, and then weigh that against how much it will cost you.

Some important considerations you should look at in any ship is what it offers in:

  • Kids Programming
  • Signature activities (waterslides, Broadway shows, thrill attractions, open spaces, et al)
  • Where it is sailing

If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  

If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine.

The important thing to remember is to figure out if the ship you are looking at has a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship.

My recommendations for the best ships

If you just want to know which ships I think might be best for certain people, here are my top picks for best Royal Caribbean ships.

  • Best ships for new cruisers and families: Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas or Anthem of the Seas
  • Best ship if on a budget: Mariner of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Best ship if you don't care about crazy activities: Brilliance of the Seas or Empress of the Seas
  • Best combination of value (price for what you get): Freedom of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Matt's favorite ships: Harmony of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas

Why does the CDC regulate the cruise lines?

In:
21Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Many exasperated cruise fans have openly wondered why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the authority to allow cruise ships to operate in the United States.

Since March, the CDC has instituted a "No Sail" order that prevents cruise ships with customers onboard from operating in U.S. waters. Why does the CDC do this, and under what authority do they operate?

Public Health Service Act of 1944

The origin of the CDC working with the cruise lines begins in 1944 with the passage of the Public Health Service Act into U.S. Federal Law.

This law gives the federal government the authority to quarantine for the first time, and it gave the United States Public Health Service responsibility for preventing the introduction, transmission and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States.

The United States Public Health Service is comprised of a number of divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the CDC.

Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264), the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states.

The authority for carrying out these functions on a daily basis has been delegated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vessel Sanitation Program

Fast-forward to the 1970s, when the CDC established the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) as "a cooperative activity with the cruise ship industry."

The VSP was created to develop and implement a comprehensive sanitation program in order to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal diseases. This goes back to the mission of the United States Public Health Service, which is to prevent the transmission and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries. Cruise ships visit foreign countries, thus, the CDC acts on this.

The VSP operated continuously at all major U.S. ports from the early 1970's through 1986, when CDC terminated portions of the program. 

Pressure from the public and cruise industry resulted in the Congress compelling the CDC to resume the VSP. As a result, the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) at CDC became responsible for the VSP in 1986. 

Since then, the CDC has played a key role in cruise ships being approved to sail in the United States, as it pertains to the health of passengers onboard its ships.

The No Sail Order

The "No Sail" Order was instituted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC under sections 361 and 365 of the Public Health Service Act.

These sections refer to the ability of HHS/CDC to create policies that "are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States".

Initially, the "No Sail" Order was created following the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships experienced outbreaks onboard those vessels in January 2020.

Since then, the CDC has spent an estimated 38,000 person-hours on cruise ship COVID-19 response since March 14, 2020.

Top things that are totally worth spending extra for on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

There are plenty of choices to make in a cruise vacation that will cost you extra, but there are a few that stand out as being worth the extra cost because of the benefits they provide.

Any upgrade or splurge will mean more money you will have to shell out, so it is always important to determine which ones are nice to have versus which ones are smart choices.

Here is a list of my favorite extras that I do not mind (as much) paying out of pocket because I think it is worth it.

Renting a cabana

Whether your cruise will visit Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, if you want to spend money on an upgrade, I always book a cabana for my family when we visit either of these private destinations.

Renting a cabana gets you extra privacy and comfort for your day at the beach, and I love the flexibility they provide.

Personalized service from the cabana attendants, shade and a fan to keep everyone cool, comfortable accommodations and floating mats are just a few of the many perks they provide.

For families, it is so nice to have a "home base" where the kids can easily go to and from, take a break, and hang out during the day.

Cabana rental prices will vary, and they are not the cheapest excursion you can buy, but I find it offers some intangible benefits that make for a more enjoyable day at the beach.

Upgrading to a balcony cabin

When you decide which stateroom to get, certainly an inside cabin will be fine and save you some money along the way, but I think it is worth it to look to spend a bit more for a balcony.

The private balcony space you get and on-demand views of the ocean make the cruise experience so much better, because it is always available when you want it.

It is so rewarding to be able to go out on your balcony any time of day or night to enjoy the view, have a sip of your coffee, or simply enjoy the passing sea breeze.

In addition, moving up to a balcony room means more living space. The cabin itself will be larger, and of course the balcony provides additional room to move around compared to less expensive stateroom options.

Stay an extra day before/after your cruise

One of my top tips for anyone who is flying to their cruise is to ensure they come in at least a day before the cruise departs in order to prevent a travel delay impacting their ability to get to the cruise ship.

Travel delays occur with great frequency, and the last thing you want to do is put your cruise vacation in jeopardy because of a flight delay or traffic.

Coming in a day early, as well as staying an extra day or two after your cruise, is not only a smart travel decision, but it also extends your vacation.

Dine at a specialty restaurant

While I think the complimentary food in Royal Caribbean's complimentary restaurants are fantastic, I think mixing it up and having a dinner at one specialty restaurant on a cruise is well-worth it.

Specialty restaurants have gone from something else to try, to a major focus of the cruise line. It is more than just somewhere to get different food, the cruise line has placed a great deal of effort into delivering some very impressive meals.

Everyone has different tastes, but my favorite specialty restaurants to dine at each and every time are as follows:

  • Izumi Hibachi: Always a satisfying meal, my family loves to dine here for the combination of great food and great entertainment.
  • Portside BBQ: Only available on Oasis of the Seas currently, the quality of food is simply impressive. I am not even a "bbq guy", but it is really good.
  • Wonderland: For something truly different, I recommend a meal at Wonderland. It is departure from the usual specialty dining, and still delivers great food and experience.

Whether you are looking to celebrate a special occasion or just a special night out, these three choices are perfect and will leave you satisfied with the experience (and the cost).

Escape Rooms

In just a few short years, Royal Caribbean has added a number of escape rooms to its cruise ships and they are really a lot of fun.

Escape rooms are timed challenges, where you and a group of other guests try to solve a series of puzzles and clues that "unlocks" a sequence before time runs out.

Each escape room added to a Royal Caribbean ship is a brand new challenge, so even if you did an escape room on one ship, it does not mean you cannot find an all new puzzle to tackle on another.

These are great sea day activities, and win or lose, it is a fun brain teaser.

What are your favorite extras?

What do you think is worth the extra cost on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your list with us in the comments!

Bahamas closes its borders to cruise ships

In:
20Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The Bahamas is one of the most popular Caribbean countries for cruise lines, and it announced they will not welcome cruise ships to their countries due to the global health pandemic.

The Bahamas had reopened their borders earlier this month, but announced ocean-going vessels with commercial passengers will not be permitted to enter the Bahamas starting Wednesday.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis made the announcement on Sunday, citing a spike in cases in the United States, "Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy. It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders."

The Bahamas added any cruise ships that allow passengers to board without a required mask or health visa will face a fine of $500 per passenger in violation.

The Prime Minister's address did not include when the new prohibition would expire.

The announcement by the Bahamas to prevent travel by air or sea to their country follows the CDC's extension of the "No Sail" order through the end of September.

The Bahamas is one of the busiest countries in the Caribbean for cruise ship traffic, and home to one of Royal Caribbean's private destinations in Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In addition, Royal Caribbean had recently invested quite a lot of resources into two new projects in the Bahamas. In March, Royal Caribbean announced it would build a new Royal Beach Club property at the western end of Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean also has plans for a $300 million investment in Freeport, Grand Bahama that will redevelop the Freeport cruise ship terminal to bring a new world-class destination with a one-of-a-kind hotel, convention center, water adventure park and more.

The current health crisis sidelined both projects for the time being, but they appear to be still planned for the future.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 19, 2020

In:
19Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! We hope you are having a great weekend! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from the week!

The big news this week was when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement it has extended the "No Sail Order" until September 30.

 As a result, Royal Caribbean extended its voluntary cruise suspension through the same time period.

Royal Caribbean confirmed its new target date to resume operations is October 1, 2020.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 363rd episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Donal shares the story of how cruising formed new friendships.

This week's cruise story is about the power of cruises, and how Donal booked a cruise and met some people onboard who ended up becoming great friends.

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.

No, nobody knows if the cruise you have booked will actually sail

If there is one question everyone wants to know, it is if their Royal Caribbean cruise booked for later this year or in 2021 will be actually sail, and the truth is no one really knows.

Simply put, there is not enough information and too many variables to come up with odds or wager a guess at what may or may not happen.

While it stands to reason the further out your cruise is, the more time you have for the global health situation to improve, it is impossible to quantify or wager a guess as to which sailings may or may not occur.

Shipyard where Odyssey of the Seas is being built to shutdown for six weeks

In:
19Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany announced it will shutdown for six weeks due to the current global health crisis.

DisneyCruiseLineBlog spotted the news of the shutdown, which will last until August 30, 2020.

 The shipyard is facing financial hardships due to a lack of demand for new cruise ships, so beginning on Monday DW is reporting Meyer Werft will halt production and suspend operations for six weeks.

Meyer Werft is where Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ships is being built, Odyssey of the Seas.

On June 30,  Royal Caribbean announced Odyssey of the Seas will be delayed due to a combination of the global health crisis, delays in the supply chain, and fires at the shipyard compounding other shipyard issues.

Just like Royal Caribbean, Meyer Werft is facing its own financial difficulties because of cruise lines delaying projects or delaying delivery of new ships. In either case, it means longer periods of time without being paid.

Shipyard owner Bernard Meyer said the current situation is "precarious", and that Meyer Werft needs to save €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) to stay solvent. It looks like the shipyard may benefit from local and federal funding from the German government.

Reports out of Germany only mention the P&O Iona and Saga Cruises Spirit of Adventure. With Odyssey already officially delayed until next year, the six week shutdown this summer is not likely not a short-term factor.

Odyssey of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra Class ship and will come in at 168,000-gross-tons.

Odyssey recently reached another construction milestone when she was moved about 150 meters from a dry construction dock to a flooded construction dock.

Royal Caribbean delays new Oasis Class ship arrival in 2021

In:
18Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's next new Oasis Class cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, has been officially delayed from her scheduled 2021 arrival.

Royal Caribbean China posted an update in Chinese on its website that the next new Oasis Class cruise ship will not arrive as scheduled.

"The construction of the new Oasis Class Wonder of the Seas was delayed due to the impact of the shipyard operation. Royal Caribbean had to delay the deployment of the Wonder of the Seas from a Chinese home port. However, we look forward to the arrival of the Wonder of the Seas after the epidemic has been brought under control as soon as possible."

Screenshot of the translated announcement on Royal Caribbean China website

There is no new timeframe for when Wonder of the Seas will sail.

Wonder of the Seas is the second cruise ship under construction to be delayed, following the announcement that Odyssey of the Seas will be delayed until April 2021.

Dr. Zinan Liu, Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia commented on the announcement, "Royal Caribbean always firmly believes that the fundamentals of China’s economy have not changed due to the epidemic and that the trend of the cruise market will continue to develop. After the public health risks are controlled, people pursue social interactions. The instincts of reunion and leisure will not change, or even be strengthened. Royal Caribbean has prepared three lines of defense for the health and safety of tourists and crew under the new normal of epidemic prevention, including source control of viruses, multiple monitoring on board, prevention and isolation measures and emergency plans in case of an outbreak. We are fully prepared to show the public that the Royal Caribbean Cruise is a safe place."

Prior to this announcement, Wonder of the Seas was due to arrive in 2021 as the world's largest cruise ship and first Oasis Class ship to sail the Asia Pacific.

The new ship is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France.

"Royal Caribbean is known for its innovation and constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and an Oasis Class ship in China is proof of that," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “Wonder of the Seas will redefine the ultimate vacation and be revolutionary in her own right, and she marks one of Royal Caribbean’s most exciting chapters to come."

In early May 2020, Royal Caribbean told its investors it believes COVID-19 has impacted shipyard operations and will result in delivery delays of ships previously planned for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

Top Royal Caribbean dining hacks

In:
18Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Eating on a Royal Caribbean cruise is just as enjoyable as any shore excursion, performance or activity. Royal Caribbean puts a great deal of effort into its onboard dining options, and I have a few ways you can maximize these choices with some dining hacks!

These tips are all about giving you a little bit more out of your dining experience onboard, and giving you a leg up on other guests.

Order off-menu food in dining room

Each evening in the main dining room, there is a printed menu that guests can order from, but there are many more options you can consider beyond what is written on the menu.

The main dining room dinner menu is designed to appeal to a great majority of guests, but perhaps you have a dietary restriction, or you just really want something else.

Guests can ask to speak to the head waiter at any point and order something special, provided the chef in the galley has the ingredients to make it.  

The example I often share is Royal Caribbean used to offer Indian dishes on its old main dining room dinner menus, but the current version does not offer it.  As a result, I always speak to the head waiter and ask to have an Indian dish prepared for me each evening.  Sure enough, my waiter brings me that special dish every night.

Ice cream in a cup

This tip is something I learned from someone on Periscope, and it is sheer genius for someone that loves ice cream.

On all Royal Caribbean ships, there is complimentary soft-serve ice cream on the ship.  Usually, it is near the pools and there are ice cream cones available to pour the ice cream onto.  Ice cream cones are great and all, but you really cannot load them up too much without an incredibly elevated risk of it falling over and you becoming that guy.

For those that want to load up on ice cream without multiple trips to the machine, grab a drink cup from somewhere onboard.  Usually, the water cups in the Windjammer are perfect for this.  Take the cup and fill up the cup with as much ice cream as you can handle.  The result is that ice cream fix you have always dreamed of!

If you want to take it to the next level, grab a soda with your drink package and make an ice cream float!

The secret menu at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If your cruise visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, be sure to stop by the Snack Shack not only for the awesome food on the menu, but a few added items not listed there too!

Known colloquially as "the secret menu", you can ask for a chicken parmigiana sandwich, which is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce that are on the menu.

Not only is this an added menu option most guests do not know about, but it is really tasty!

Make your own pizzas

While Sorrento's Pizza offers slices of pizza all day, you might not have known you can customize your pie at a special station.

You can place an order (no additional cost) for a pizza with just the toppings you like, and have a a custom pie hot and ready to eat fairly quickly.  Moreover, you can also request a gluten-free crust option.

After you place the order, head across the Promenade to the pub and enjoy a drink while you wait.

Stock up on cereal for excursion snacks

If you have kids, be sure to grab a few extra boxes of cereal from the Windjammer to bring back to your room.

Boxed cereal is a tasty and portable snack that works really well for shore excursions. Whether the kids want something to munch on during the bus rides, or at the beach, cereal will not go bad in the heat, and travels well.

What is your favorite dining hack?

Do you have a dining trick on Royal Caribbean not on this list? Share your food ninja tips in the comments!

Do's & Don'ts of Labadee

In:
17Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Labadee, Royal Caribbean's original private destination, remains a family-favorite place for a great beach day. 

Packed with different beaches to choose from, thrill attractions, and even a few shore excursions, you will find lots to enjoy about this private peninsula in Haiti.

If you want to make the most of your visit, here are some Labadee tips to share from my many visits.

Do prebook a cabana

After I rented my first cabnana at Labadee, I have never been able to go back without having one because it was that impressive.

Guests visiting Labadee are able to take rent cabanas at Nellie's Beach or Barefoot Beach (suite guests only).

These cabanas provide privacy, shade, personalized service and even transportation around Labadee.

For families or groups, a cabana rental can make a lot of sense for the convenience it provides, along with the great amenities.

If you do want a cabana, be sure to prebook it. Cabana rentals go very fast, and they almost always sell out months or weeks before a cruise. Your best bet is to log into Royal Caribbean's site and reserve one so that you can ensure your family has it for when you arrive.

Do find the right beach

There are five beaches at Labadee, so it is a good idea to figure out which one you want to visit before you step off the ship.

Depending on if you want to be close to the ship, want the prettiest water, or want the best views, there can be a few good choices to consider.

If you are a suite guest, your choice is simple: Barefoot Beach. This is a suites-only beach area and the place to go for anyone who has a suite cabin on the ship.

Families usually like to go between Columbus Cove or Adrenaline Beach for the views and open water. 

Nellie's Beach is a quieter cove which can get busy as the day goes on, but also offers cabanas to rent.

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

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

There is a complimentary ferry at the pier that will take you directly to Columbus Cove to save time.

Don’t forget your Seapass Card

Just like any port you visit, you will need your SeaPass card to disembark and for use on the island.

Just like on the ship, your SeaPass card is what you will need for most transactions on the island. 

You can use it to order drinks, and gain access to certain activities. If you end up booking a tour or rent snorkel equipment, you will need it for that too.

Make sure you have everyone's card before you leave your stateroom.

Don't forget cash

While Royal Caribbean takes your SeaPass card on Labadee, many Haitians work on the island too, and they only take cash.

You will need cash for two things: tipping and souvenirs.

You will find helpful locals on Labadee to set up chairs and umbrellas for you, and even re-arrange them to suit your needs. While there is no cost for their services, a tip is expected.

In addition, there is an artisan market you can browse, along with crafts available to purchase at different spots. The Haitians working there cannot take your SeaPass card, so bring a few dollars with you rather than having to trek back to the ship to get some later.

Don't be afraid to say no in the Artisan market

The Artisan market is an open-air place to buy crafts and other hand made souvenirs.

While the people who sell their wares here are friendly enough, they are not passive artisans either. They are salesmen and women, so and will try their best to lock in a sale.

There is nothing wrong with browsing, but it is okay to say "no thank you"  if something is not of interest. These storekeepers are proud of the work they have done, and will want to sell you something if they can, but they will respect if it is clear you are not interested.

Don't forget to take advantage of your drink package

The Royal Caribbean drink package benefits you purchased for your cruise ship work at Labadee as well.

This means if you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can enjoy unlimited alcoholic beverages, along with bottled water, sodas and more. Likewise, the Royal Refreshment and Soda Package benefits also work on Labadee.

Just give your SeaPass card to any waiter or bartender while ordering, and you can enjoy the same sort of drinks as onboard.

Keep in mind that the island's drink selection may be more limited than on the ship, but they usually have a good assortment of favorites.

You should also be aware drinks served in souvenir cups and/or fruits (i.e. pineapples) are not included with the drink package, although you can get a discount on them.

Don't miss the floating bar

A fun new addition to Labadee is the floating bar on Adrenaline Beach.

You can swim up to the floating bar and climb aboard for a seat anywhere around circular bar.

The floating bar is located underneath the zip line, which should provide for some fun views as guests enjoy a beverage at the bar.

And yes, your drink package benefits work here as well.

Don't forget your water shoes

I generally do not think water shoes are necessary at beaches in the Caribbean, but Labadee's beaches can be tough.

While there is plenty of sand, rocks on the ocean floor are not uncommon and it is somewhere where you might consider getting a pair of water shoes.

In addition, the paved walkways and even that white sand can get very hot in the afternoon.

Don't be scared of the zip line

The star attraction at Labadee is the Dragon's Breath zip line, which is a 2,800 foot zip line over the ocean that takes guests across the span of Labadee. 

It is not cheap ($95 per guest at last check), but it delivers some really impressive views down one of the longest zip lines over the ocean in the world.

Weather permitting, you will have the choice of a traditional zip line ride down, or a head first Furious Flyer zipline. 

Do go to suites only beach

If you have a Grand Suite or better while on your ship, you absolutely want to plan your day around spending time at the suites-only area known as Barefoot Beach.

It is located on the south side of the island and is a relatively smaller beach, compared to Adrenaline Beach and is more of a cove in shape.

Crowds on Barefoot Beach are not as prevalent as other areas of Labadee due to its exclusivity.

If you want to reserve a cabana at Barefoot Beach, contact your suite concierge. Your best bet is to email your suite concierge in the days before your cruise departs after you receive the welcome email from him/her.

Don't miss the nature trails

It took me quite a few visits before I forced myself to walk down one of the nature trails, and it was so worth it!

When you get off the pier, there are a few walking trails to your left, and it provides nice views around Labadee.

It is probably a good idea to tackle the trails early in the day before the major heat hits in the afternoon.

Save these Labadee tips!

Did you find these tips helpful? 

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