Excursion Focus: Maya Chan Beach in Costa Maya

In:
23Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

If there is a downside to having a really, really good time on any shore excursion it is that you begin to wonder if subsequent times going on that same excursion will match the first time.

Maya Chan Beach in Costa Maya, Mexico has been the high water mark for any all-inclusive excursion I have tried, ever since we went there back in 2010.  Having an opportunity to return eight years later, I was excited to try it again, but I was concerned perhaps the second visit would not match up to my first time.

While on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, we booked a visit to see if it could match up in a way similar to the hit Foreigner song.

Description

Maya Chan Beach is an all-inclusive spot that offers all the drinks and food you like right on a prime spot in Mahahual, Mexico.

This excursion is booked directly via the Maya Chan website.  The process is fairly smooth, with some emails traded back and forth before completing the booking.

Maya Chan Beach is not near the port area of Costa Maya, so you will need to take a taxi to get there. The folks at Maya Chan Beach arrange transportation back and forth.  Upon exiting the port area, you take a short walk down the street and meet up with the Maya Chan Beach representative, where they immediately hail a taxi for you.

On our visit, the Maya Chan Beach representative informed us that the entire area (including Maya Chan Beach) has been inundated with seaweed.  They showed us photos of the beach area, and told us they had a team of guys working to clean the beach. They offered to give us a full refund if we decided the seaweed was too much of a problem.  Since the problem was not just limited to Maya Chan, we decided to go forth with the excursion. I appreciated their honesty and offer for a refund, as the flow of seaweed is hardly something they can control.

The taxi ride to Maya Chan Beach takes around 20-30 minutes, and passes through much of Mahahual. Most of the ride is over dirt road, which was recently smoothed over for a much improved ride.  The road used to be riddled with holes, but this time around it was quite smooth (minus the incredible amount of speed bumps locals have installed).

Upon arrival to Maya Chan Beach, the representative meets you at the entrance and gives you a quick run down of how things work, along with a welcome drink.  

Each family/group is assigned a palapa area, that has enough seating, hammock and sun bed to enjoy.  There are palapa areas of various sizes to accommodate different sized groups.

By far the best part of Maya Chan Beach is the level of service you receive.  Their team is comprised of a staff that speak perfect English and are constantly roaming the grounds to assist in getting anything.  The quality service was exactly as good as on our first visit, and it meant we never waited long for anything and always had drinks and food.

In terms of food and drink, you are greeted with a serving of chips, freshly made salsa and guacamole.  Refills are available at any time. 

Their cooking staff creates a lunch each day from scratch, that is a buffet of create your own tacos to enjoy.  Truly great food all around.

There is a full bar of drinks you can enjoy throughout the day.  You can opt to get it yourself from the bar, or have one of the servers bring it to you.  

In fact, the staff set up a pseudo-floating bar off the beach to enjoy.  I loved the creativity.

Besides eating and drinking, a day spent at Maya Chan is about enjoying the beach.  While Maya Chan does not have a pool, it does have a large amount of beach access for its guests.

As I mentioned, the inundation of seaweed made getting out past the first 10 feet a little icky, but they did provide water shoes you could borrow.  

Your day pass includes access to:

  • Free WiFi
  • Kayaks
  • Snorkel equipment
  • "Cleanest bathrooms in town"
  • Lockers
  • Showers

Maya Chan also built an observation tower, which you can climb up to and enjoy a perfect view of the beach and surrounding area.

Maya Chan is also home to a couple of dogs and a cat.  The pets are well behaved, and if you like dogs or cats, they roam around and are happy to come say hello in exchange for a good scratch behind the ears.

Comments

These days, there are a lot of all inclusive day pass options at pretty much any Caribbean island you visit.  What seperates Maya Chan from the rest is the level of service and quality overall experience they offer.

Maya Chan bills itself on its service, and I think that has to do with the fact the beach is owned and operated by a few American ex-pats, who understand really well what tourists are looking for in a beach day. The attention to detail the staff provides is exquisite, and why we came back.

Despite eight years between visits, I think Maya Chan absolutely lived up to my expectations from my first visit.  Our family had a great time enjoying a relaxing beach day.  When we arrived to our palapa, there was a bucket of beach toys waiting for my kids to use.

The one issue we encountered was the seaweed, which Maya Chan has no control over.  They did have at least four guys working from morning to afternoon to clear the stuff off the beach, and by lunch there was a path to the water.  Moreover, I really appreciated the fact they offered us a warning and refund prior to going to the beach.  That kind of honesty goes a long way.

There are no guarantees with anything, but if you are headed to Costa Maya and want the kind of beach day that is very, very, very unlikely to disappoint, booking Maya Chan Beach is a great idea.

Cost: Adults: $59, Kids 0-3 $19, Kids 4-7 $39, Kids 8-17 $49.

Reservations can be made at the Maya Chan website.

Royal Caribbean wraps up cruising season in Australia

In:
23Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's cruise season in Australia concluded on Sunday night, as Explorer of the Seas departed Sydney harbor to head east to Seattle.

Over the course of the summer season down under, Royal Caribbean offer 96 cruises throughout Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Asia during the 2017/18 summer season, delivering an injection of around AUD$198 million into the Australian economy in passenger spend alone. Around 330,000 guests sailed on Royal Caribbean, which made it the largest cruise line in Australia (in terms of capacity) over the 2017/2018 summer season.

During the summer season, Ovation of the Seas returned for her second and longest season in Australian waters. Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas sailed 36 South-Pacific itineraries.

Next year, Ovation of the Seas will return for her third and longest season yet based down under.  Radiance of the Seas will offer Royal Caribbean’s very first departure from Melbourne, as well as three one-way cruises departing from Auckland.

In 2018/2019, Explorer of the Seas will return down under for her fourth season.  Sister ship Voyager of the Seas will temporarily homeport in Asia for the 2018/19 season, before returning fresh from a multimillion dollar modernization next year.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: April 22, 2018

In:
22Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Spring is here and it is also Sunday, which means we are celebrating warm(er) temperatures and Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean announced this week it will once again offer cruises to Turkey.

It has been two years since Royal Caribbean has offered cruises to Turkey.  The cruise line cancelled planned sailings to Turkey following instability following the attempted coup of 2016.

A few sailings will be offered in 2019, with a full compliment of sailings to Turkey in 2020.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 246th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which shares a review of Symphony of the Seas.

Cruise Like Rick is back from one of the very first Symphony of the Seas sailings, and shares with us his thoughts on what this new ship is all about and offers.  Rick reviews his stateroom, new venues, and talks about what stands out to him on Royal Caribbean's newest ship.

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.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Cruise1st has a quiz to test your knowledge of Symphony of the Seas.

Schiffe und Kreuzfahrten has a great video that looks back at the construction of Symphony of the Seas.

Cruise Habit compared the different cruise line credit cards and the benefits of each.

Cruise Hive shares the best ways to enjoy Labadee.

5 Royal Caribbean cruise mistakes that are not really a mistake

In:
20Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are new to Royal Caribbean, there may be some aspects of the cruise experience that seem like they would be a mistake to do, but the reality is, it may be quite the opposite.

Here are five examples of ideas that may seem like a mistake, but are actually a good idea.

Cruising during hurricane season

The phrase, "hurricane season" seems to inflict the kind of fear into cruisers that makes it seem as though if you book a Royal Caribbean cruise between June 1 and November 30, you are asking for ocean conditions that rival that of a bathtub filled with an angry toddler.

The reality is, cruising during hurricane season is not nearly as dangerous or bad an experience as you may think.

Yes, there is a chance a hurricane may form and be directly in the path of where your cruise ship is scheduled to be, but if that were to occur, Royal Caribbean will re-schedule the ship to steer well-clear of the path of the storm.  Royal Caribbean actually has their own dedicated meteorologist who plans around storms and works to ensure guests, crew and ship are out of harms way.

Moreover, cruising during hurricane season can save you a lot of money.  If you book a cruise in September or October, you can often find some great deals on a Royal Caribbean cruise because this is a time of year many others cannot cruise.  

Using a porter

"I can carry my own luggage!"

Of course you can handle your own luggage, but why should you?  You are on vacation and lugging around luggage is the last thing you need to be bothered with doing.

The port you start and end your cruise with will have porters standing by to assist with your luggage.  Their services are free to use, but a tip is expected.  For a few dollars, you can avoid the hassle of grabbing your luggage. Carrying your own luggage should be a feat of strength, so spending a few dollars to let someone else do it makes it so much easier.

The best time to take advantage of the porters is on disembarkation day.  Not only are you tired from waking up early and depressed you have to leave the ship, but there is another good reason to use porters.  In many ports, there is a special line at Customs for porters, which means you may get through the Customs line quicker.

Arriving to the cruise terminal before your boarding time

You checked in for your Royal Caribbean cruise and see on your Set Sail pass a boarding time.  Believe it or not, that is a suggestion and not a requirement.

Royal Caribbean does not enforce boarding times.  They are just something they provide to give guests a ballpark idea of when to arrive.

While there is nothing wrong with adhering to the boarding time you are given, you should absolutely feel free to arrive earlier than the posted time so that you can get onboard sooner.  In fact, we think getting to the ship as early as possible is to your advantage to beat the crowds and start your vacation sooner.

Quite often, the cruise terminal opens many hours before your boarding time states, and boarding of the ship will commence shortly thereafter. In fact, the boarding process is largely predicated on a first-come, first boarded process.  So the earlier you check-in, the earlier you will board.

Ordering more than one entrée

When you dine at a Royal Caribbean restaurant (such as the main dining room), you can order multiple entrées.  In fact, it is encouraged!

When you dine at a restaurant on land, ordering multiple entrées is not only expensive, but seems glutenous and unnecessary.  On Royal Caribbean, ordering multiple entrées is actually a great idea.  The portion sizes of entrées in the main dining room are often smaller than you may think, and all the food in the main dining room is included in your cruise fare.  You can also order as many appetizers or desserts as well.

Another advantage of ordering multiple entrées is it is the perfect opportunity to try new foods.  Since there is no financial risk, give that escargot a try!

In Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants, all will allow you order multiple appetizers and desserts, and with the exception of Chops Grille, you can order as many entrées there too.

Booking a shore excursion only (or never) with Royal Caribbean

No matter where your Royal Caribbean cruise takes you, it is a mistake to completely disregard or only consider a shore excursion bought through Royal Caribbean.

In our experience, it is best to consider all excursion options and not limit yourself to just Royal Caribbean excursions, or just third-party excursions.

When researching each port that you will be visiting, never assume going it on your own or through Royal Caribbean is an absolute must or mistake.  

Did we miss any?

Is there a commonly held thought when it comes to planning a Royal Caribbean cruise that you think is not a mistake?  Have you encountered one of these situations yourself? Share your experiences and thoughts in our comments!

Royal Caribbean offering bonus savings on balconies or suites booked this weekend

In:
20Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Dive & Discover sale is offering bonus instant savings on select staterooms booked this weekend.

Here are the details of this offer:

Valid on Royal Caribbean cruises booked between April 20 and April 23, 2018 on sailings departing on or after May 20, 2018.

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full-fare paying guest.
  • 25% off cruise fare for third guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualified guests.
  • Instant savings of up to $100 per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length
    • Sailings 5 nights or less
      • $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View
      • $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
    • Sailing 6 nights or longer
      • $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View
      • $75 for Balconies and $100 for Suites
  • Balcony & Suites Offer: Offer includes a $100 instant savings per balcony or suite booked. Offer excludes China departures.

BOGO and Balcony & Suites Bonus are combinable with each other as well as with Dive & Discover Sale, NRBD OBC, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Dive & Discover Sale is combinable with NRDB OBC, OBC, instant savings, NextCruise offers, restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military) but not combinable with Shareholder benefits and Crown and Anchor discounts. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean.

Friday Photos

In:
20Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

We love any opportunity to take a virtual escape on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and that is why every Friday we share our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos. It is a showcase of cruising fun, and you are invited!

Without further ado, we present this week's edition of Friday Photos. Enjoy!

We begin with this photo of Oasis of the Seas behind rocks in Labadee, taken by Ken.

Check out the water color in this photo that Ross and Pam took at the Isle of Pines, with Explorer of the Seas in the background!

Tony Oleszczuk sent in this photo of Vision of the Seas docked at Akureyri, Iceland.

It looks like it was a beautiful day in Central Park on Allure of the Seas when Kinny Lee took this photo.

Traveler shared this photo of Voyager of the Seas docked in Vietnam.

Twangster shared this photo of Allure of the Seas in Port Everglades, taken while flying home after his cruise.

Our final photo this week is by Salvatore Ruggiero, and it is of Oasis of Dreams being performed in the AquaTheater on Oasis of the Seas.

Thank you to everyone who shared their photos this week, and we invite everyone to send in their favorite Royal Caribbean photos by using this form.

 

Review: Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas

In:
19Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Izumi, how do I love thee? Shall we count the ways?

Over the years, I have managed to eat at seven different Izumi locations across Royal Caribbean and review them, here on the blog.  You might think the experiences tend to run into each other, but on Rhapsody of the Seas I found fairly unique Izumi experience. 

Of course, the sushi at Izumi remains very consistent (and excellent) across the fleet, thanks to the hard work of the specialty restaurant's ongoing efforts. The sushi alone is worth my many visits to Izumi, and why I continue to make reservations for Izumi.  It is pretty much one of those spots I visit whenever I have an excuse to do so.

Speaking of excuses, on our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise, there was an advertisement in the Cruise Compass towards the end of the cruise where you could pay $25 and get a $50 credit to use at Izumi. You may not run across such a promotion, but always keep an eye out for specials!

Atmosphere

Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas is not easily stumbled upon, as it is located at the very top of the ship on Deck 12.  In fact, it's kind of on a half hidden deck, behind the Viking Crown Lounge.

Suffice to say, there is not a lot of foot traffic in this part of the ship.

For those that do venture to deck 12 to see Izumi, it is arguably the most beautiful Izumi location I have ever been to across Royal Caribbean's fleet. 

The restaurant sits in a kind of half circle, with an "upper deck" that overlooks the Viking Crown Lounge below.

Out the back of Izumi, you have a perfect view of the aft of the ship, with the Solarium roof providing the perfect viewing angle to the ocean and sky behind it. During our lunch, we spent most of the time just gazing out to the back of the restaurant (when we were not gorging on the terrific food).

Eats

If you are new to Izumi specialty restaurant, it is a specialty restaurant that is priced a la carte.  That means, there is no cover charge and you simply pay for the food you order.

All meals at Izumi begin with a complimentary bowl of edamame, which is a boiled soy beans sprinkled with salt.  A perfect starter to nosh on while you look over the menu.

I always start my meal with a bowl of miso soup.  To me, it is a quintessential Japanese meal starter.

Izumi has a fairly large menu, and their appetizer selection includes some really tasty options.  The gyoza dumplings and chicken kara-age are great shareables (although one person can easily finish them off).  

Having tried the Mixed Poke Taco on Brilliance of the Seas last year, I gravitated right back towards them again on this go around.  Tuna, avocado, albacore and octopus in a crispy wonton shell is a really good combination.

Also somewhat new and already a favorite choice is the Boxed Yellowtail.  When it comes to sushi, yellowtail is never a bad choice.

I also opted for another sushi staple, the Crispy Spicy Tuna.

Overall

I never shy away from an opportunity to dine at Izumi, and when I found that $25 for $50 deal in the Cruise Compass, I found my perfect excuse.

In a nutshell, the food at Izumi is excellent all around.  Their sushi is of outstanding quality, and their non-sushi items are also quite good (if not underrated).  Even if you are not much of a "sushi person" I think you will find something to enjoy on the menu.

By far, if you happen to be sailing on Rhapsody of the Seas (or another Vision Class ship with Izumi on Deck 12), do yourself a favor and go up there for lunch.  The views on worth the price of the food you get.

When it comes to dining at Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas, come for the sushi, but stay for the views.

Royal Caribbean planning to offer cruises to Turkey after two year hiatus

In:
19Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

After canceling all stops in Turkey for the last two years, Royal Caribbean appears to be ready to once again offer sailings to Turkey in 2019.

Travel Market Report is reporting Royal Caribbean has made the decision to begin offering cruises that visit Turkey in late 2019.

After consulting with its safety and security program director, Royal Caribbean has deemed it safe to offer two sailings to Turkey.  Neither sailing is on sale yet.

The sailings will be two 12-day itineraries leaving on October 30 and November 12 out of Rome. Both will be on Royal’s Jewel of the Seas and both will feature stops in Ephesus and in Israel.

Royal Caribbean canceled all cruise stops in Turkey in 2017 and 2018 due to instability and "unpredictability" in the country that followed the attempted coup of 2016.

Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade services, and support, says Royal Caribbean is aiming to make Turkey a regular port of call in 2020.

Royal Caribbean updates bringing a drone policy

In:
18Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has updated its policy on guests bringing drones onto a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean states guests may bring drones on their cruise to be used on land only, and outside the port area.  Drones may not be operated onboard the ship at any time, nor on Royal Caribbean’s private destinations: CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti.

Previously, Royal Caribbean's policy was to store the drone for guests and then allow guests to take the drones off the ship while in port.

Royal Caribbean does warn guests that if they use a drone in port, they assume full responsibility for its safe operation.

"Guests assume full responsibility for understanding all local authority rules related to drone usage and for obtaining any required permissions for drone operations. Different countries may have different rules. Any liability, including environmental damage from drone usage is the guest's responsibility. Royal Caribbean assumes no liability for guest drones that may be confiscated by local authorities for violating local laws or for any accident or injury resulting from a guest drone flight."

Thanks to Fred Block for the heads up on this change!

Symphony of the Seas listener cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
18Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 246 is available for downloading, where Cruise Life Rick joins us to talk about his experience on an inaugural Symphony of the Seas sailing.

Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, and Rick got a chance to cruise on one of her first sailings. Rick shares with us his thoughts on this new ship and what he liked the best.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 246. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

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