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Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Nassau

In:
01 May 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the second day of our 3-night Bahamas cruise and we docked in Nassau this morning around 7:30AM. I always love visiting the Bahamas, and I was looking forward to today's shore excursion to the picturesque Pearl Island.

Watching the ship sail into port is always a nice way to start the day, and I watched from the upper pool deck as Freedom of the Seas arrived in Nassau.

It's interesting to look at the western side of Paradise Island when sailing into Nassau. This land is what Royal Caribbean will be turning into the Royal Beach Club, one of the cruise line's upcoming major projects over the next couple years.

Related: What's New & Coming to Royal Caribbean in 2022, 2023, and 2024

A quick breakfast at the Windjammer was in order before getting my daypack ready to go ashore.

Pearl Island

I booked an excursion to Pearl Island, a small island located about a mile northeast of Paradise Island. I booked it through Royal Caribbean directly for around $93. My parents and I disembarked the ship around 8:15, where we met with the tour group and boarded a smaller vessel that would take us to the island.

The ride took around 30 minutes, and we were rewarded with beautiful views of Paradise Island and the large waterfront homes and golf courses along the way.

Our location on the boat right near the door meant we were the among first to be let off, so I quickly walked (ran) to find the best lounge chairs possible on the island. I had read reviews that the island could get crowded (note: it did not) and I wanted to make sure we had a nice shaded area to spend the day.

I picked three chairs under a covered structure with a perfect view of the beach.

A great benefit of an excursion to Pearl Island is that water sports activities are included in your tour price. While the water was a bit too choppy for standup paddles, my mom and I went kayaking around the beach and had a blast! The water was so clean and clear and we lucked out with perfectly sunny weather.

I was pretty shocked how relatively empty the island felt. Pearl Island sells both a regular beach-access day pass and a day pass that includes a snorkel tour on the opposite side of the island. Around half the guests on our boat had booked the snorkeling tour, so they were nowhere to be found at the beach for the first hour or two of the excursion.

Even when they finished snorkeling and when a second boat came to drop off passengers from the Disney Dream ship later in the morning, the island did not feel overly crowded.

Next up were drinks. Drinks (aside from iced tea and water at lunch) are not included in the excursion price at Pearl Island, but I found the prices to be fairly reasonable at $10-12 per cocktail. We ordered three Miami Vices which were extremely refreshing in the warm Caribbean sun.

A buffet lunch is included at Pearl Island, which consisted of Caribbean rice, BBQ chicken, fried grouper, and coleslaw. I thought it was pretty good for being included in the excursion cost.

We spent the next couple hours relaxing at Pearl Island before a nice, breezy ride back to Nassau at 1PM. I will be writing a full, in-depth review of Pearl Island, so be sure to check that out soon. Overall I liked the island even more than I initially thought I would!

Back in Nassau

My parents have never been to Nassau before, so I wanted to give them a short tour of the city. First we grabbed a beer at Pirate Republic Brewing followed by a walk around downtown Nassau.

Next I wanted to show them two places I discovered while wandering around Nassau during my Independence of the Seas cruise in January: the Queen's Staircase and Fort Fincastle.

These landmarks are adjacent to each other and the fort provides a fantastic view of downtown Nassau and the ocean. While the inside of the fort was not open, we walked around the grounds and took in the history and views.

The sun was extremely strong mid-day, so we got back onboard Freedom of the Seas around 3PM and headed to the pool deck.

It seems everyone else headed to the pool deck because it was packed! The atmosphere of a 3-night cruise is a lot different than a longer sailing, but I find the party atmosphere to be a lot of fun.

The lines, though, are crazy… I had to wait 20 minutes in line for a snack at El Loco Fresh!

Evening onboard

As this is a 3-night cruise and it doesn't give us much time to relax on the ship compared to longer sailings, we opted for another quick meal at the Windjammer tonight. This way we could eat quickly and spend the rest of the evening exploring other areas of Freedom of the Seas.

It turns out we stayed in the Windjammer longer than expected because we began sailing away from Nassau as soon as we sat down. We decided to stay for a while to take in the views.

Following dinner was a short round of mini golf and an hour spent watching the sunset from pool chairs on the running track. After such a busy day in port, it was nice to sit back and relax with the ocean view.

It was a bit chilly tonight, so we moved our hangout spot to the Viking Crown Lounge where we grabbed a drink before taking a walk through the Royal Promenade.

We stumbled upon karaoke in Star Lounge and I'm very glad we did. The venue was jam-packed and the karaoke was absolutely hilarious. While the singing was (purposely) not top-notch, the confidence and dance moves of the performers had the whole audience dying of laughter.

Tired from a long day, I went to my stateroom to get ready for another fun port day tomorrow at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Stray observations

I feel like the Viking Crown Lounge is underutilized. There are rarely many people in there, yet it has great views of the ship and ocean. My dad mentioned it would work well as a piano bar and I agree.

I always forget there is a Johnny Rockets on Voyager and Freedom Class ships due to its location on the way to the sports deck.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Vancouver, Canada

In:
30 Apr 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

Reporting live from Radiance of the Seas in the beautiful Pacific Northwest! 

Today, Sydney and I embarked on our 7-night sailing from Vancouver, Canada to Alaska. It was a gorgeous spring day with the perfect temperature. We really couldn’t have asked for a better send off on our first cruise day!

Our boarding slot today was for 1:30 PM this afternoon and we packed in a full morning before boarding the ship. Sydney and I stayed at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center in downtown. This was a great location in the city for exploring. It was also a quick 5 minute drive to the cruise port, which was perfect for us. We enjoyed our stay and would recommend the hotel for any cruisers because of its prime location.

Vancouver and Stanley Park’s Seawall

Downtown Vancouver is a super fun city to explore. I would highly recommend allowing some time to enjoy the downtown area if you're cruising from here in the near future! They have great walking and biking paths right along the waterfront that shouldn’t be missed. Stanley Park is also gorgeous and has a 6-mile looped called The Seawall. 

With jet-lag on our side, our morning started early at 5:30 AM. Sydney and I had coffee and a lovely breakfast at the hotel before making our way towards Stanley Park. Sydney is someone who loves to be active when traveling, so we decided to rent bikes for an hour. Our plan was to our bikes around the 6-mile loop and enjoy the views from Stanley Park. 

It was only $5 USD to rent the bikes and included a helmet - very affordable and a nice activity for all ages to enjoy. As my luck would have it, the gear of my bike collapsed within a few blocks of renting the bike so I had to walk it back and trade for a new one. I am so glad this happened before we had made any headway on the trail because it was a pain waling back my broken bike. 

With a new bike ready for round 2, we made our way back to the biking trail. Once we were finally on our way, the bike ride was absolutely stunning. The weather was a brisk 55 degrees and we were comfortable with pants and a light jacket on. We could even see the ship in the port! To my pleasant surprise, the path is flat and paved for the entire 6 miles. The route takes you along the waterfront and even goes under Lions Gate Bridge.

After we finished biking The Seawall, we stopped for a snack at Break Bakery and Cafe. This was recommended to us as a good local cafe to grab coffee or a pastry, so I opted for a brownie cookie which was perfectly gooey and chocolatey. 

Sydney and I did a little bit of shopping downtown to pick up a few things for the cruise before getting ready to pack out bags and head to the ship. We forgot to pack enough conditioner for the week - and this is a cruising must! The showers only provide a 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash so it's nice to have your own conditioner.

ArriveCan Chaos 

We opted to take a Lyft from the hotel to the cruise port right around 1:15 PM for our slated arrival time. The Lyft was super cheap, only costing us $8 USD. The conversion rate right now is amazing!

When we arrived, it seemed pretty quiet in the terminal drop off area. We dropped off luggage and began the boarding process.

Before entering the terminal, one of the port workers simply asked if we had all our necessary documents and we showed her our Set Sail Passes. I was surprised she didn't verify we had the right documents, she just took our word for it! We went through security and then we had to complete customs and immigration since we are leaving Canada to enter the United States.

 

The line moved quick enough as fellow cruisers shuffled through the customs kiosks. These are similar to what you find in the airports where a slip is printed after scanning your passport and declaring any goods you have. Sydney and I weren’t selected for any additional screening luckily, so we went on our way to the next boarding phase.

Also, I have Global Entry and I am pretty sure I would have been able to bypass the line and the kiosks. I didn’t want to separate from Sydney so I chose not to go in the Global Entry line, but it seemed to be an option.

NOTE: If you are cruising from Canada soon, you will want to read this section to save yourself major headache!

One of the port workers asked to see our ArriveCan forms and we showed her the emails we received for our flights. (This was also when I realized that masks were seemingly required in the terminal because I lowered my mask to use my FaceID on my iPhone - she immediately snapped at me to get my mask back on). 

Currently, if you fly into Canada, you will need to enter your travel plans and upload vaccination proof before entering the country. You receive a QR code after and can download the ArriveCAN app that will have your info and QR code. I only needed to show the gate agent for my flight into Vancouver in order to board the flight. 

The port worker snipped at us and said we needed another ArriveCAN form to board the ship. We were dumbfounded and had no idea this needed to be done.  

None of the communication from RCL mentioned that we would need to fill out ANOTHER form on ArriveCAN to board the cruise. Clearly, no one knew about this because it was utter chaos in the terminal.

Everyone was on their phone - and clogging the cell network - trying to get another ArriveCAN form submitted because you couldn’t board the ship without having the form completed.

We saw a lot of older guests who were struggling trying to fill out this information on their phones; that is, if they even had a phone to use because there were no computers available that I saw. 

We also received no direction on how to fill out the marine entry form, as it’s different than the airline one with just arrival date information. Sydney and I were frazzled as the app was slow to respond.

Finally, we were able to complete the marine travel form on the app and thought we had done them correctly. We got in line with our QR codes only to get told at the front of the line that we entered the wrong information.

Apparently you have to enter the entire duration of the cruise from start to end. I guess we had just entered today’s date for departure. 

By this point, we were super annoyed with how everything was being handled. People were sitting on the ground trying to upload proof of vaccination and complete the forms. Lots of older guests were receiving little to no assistance either for filling out the required document. 

Finally, our information was correctly entered and we were able to board the ship. This was also where our passport was scanned, negative test was verified and health questionnaire was complete. 

The port worker said that they had just heard of the requirement that morning. I am not sure if RCL dropped the ball on the ArriveCAN app or if the requirements were only made known to RCL right before the cruise. Either way, this was poorly executed and left many of us frustrated and frazzled.

Either way, if you sail on Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver, save yourself the headache and complete the marine travel form on the ArriveCAN app before arriving at the terminal. 

Sailaway

After boarding the ship (finally!), we dropped off our luggage at our stateroom. We are sailing in an inside cabin (3071) for the ship and it’s very comfortable with plenty of storage. We booked an inside guarantee and our cabin is located almost midship, so we can't complain!

Next, we made our way to the dining room to schedule our My Time Dining. I guess you can book your dinner time online prior to the cruise because they were barely able to accommodate us for dinner at 5:30 PM.

I used to just take it day by day with My Time Dining, but my cruises this year made me realize you need to apparently book your dinner time prior to boarding if you want to eat before 8 PM. I thought My Time Dining was meant to be a flexible option, but I guess not.

Eventually, we made our way to the top deck for lunch at the Windjammer. We ate outside on the back deck and the weather was perfect for spring. I had a hot dog and Sydney had a salad and small ice cream cone.

The trauma from boarding was only cured by the cocktails we enjoyed on the top deck as were admired the beautiful scenery. The Sailaway party started around 4:00 PM and the pool deck slowly filled with people wanting to watch us leave port. There was actually some lively energy on the pool deck and everyone was enjoying the scenery. We were looking for whales and seals from above but didn't have any luck.

At 5:00 PM, Radiance pushed back and we were on our way to Alaska! We sailed out of Vancouver and under Lion’s Gate Bridge, which was stunning!

Dinner in the Main Dining Room

It was well past 5:30 PM, so we made a pitstop at our cabin to change and made our way to deck 4 for dinner. There was a long line at the entrance, so I was glad we took care of our reservation right after we boarded. 

Our table for 2 was tucked between two other tables of 2 with less than a foot between the tables. It seemed that the waitstaff was very busy, essentially trying to accommodate multiple tables of 2 each ordering at different times. 

We are seated near a window and saw whales from afar, which was so fun!

Sydney started with the crab cake and I chose the wild mushroom soup. My mom dies for the crab cakes, so I was surprised when Sydney said it was a little mushy. My soup was pretty good but I could have used more truffle flavor. 

For dinner, I had the prime rib and Sydney the herb-crusted salmon. We both really enjoyed our meals, although the service was a bit slower than normal. We also didn’t have a beverage waiter stop by for a while, so we asked the main waiter if we could order cocktails. I think it added some more stress to his plate, so I will opt to get a drink before we head to dinner again. 

Dessert tonight was key lime pie, warm hazelnut chocolate cake and peach berry cobbler. Sydney didn’t know the cobbler was low sugar, so she said it was a little tart. The key lime pie and chocolate cake were fabulous. 

After dinner, we were pretty pooped so we came back to our room and unpacked. There was no headliner show tonight except for some movies playing, trivia in the pub and karaoke tonight. 

Tomorrow is a sea day so I am excited to relax a bit tomorrow. We also booked dinner at Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse tomorrow! I’ve never heard of this speciality dining restaurant onboard a Royal Caribbean ship! Our dinner table friends said they heard amazing things about it, so I have high hopes. 

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
29 Apr 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Embarkation day is always an exciting day, and today I got to board Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas for the first time for a quick 3-night cruise to the Bahamas.

The main objective of this cruise is to explore all that Freedom of the Seas has to offer while filming a full tour of the ship for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel. However, I'll also be visiting Pearl Island in the Bahamas and trying out my first 3-night cruise, which is the shortest cruise I've been on other than a short non-revenue sailing on Navigator of the Seas.

As Freedom of the Seas visits Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay twice every week, I've seen the ship countless times when visiting those ports on other Royal Caribbean ships. I woke up this morning excited to get onboard and finally see the ship up close.

Embarkation

After disembarking Oasis of the Seas yesterday, I spent the night at an Airbnb in Miami Beach. My parents are joining me on this cruise, so we spent yesterday and this morning walking around South Beach and enjoying delicious food.

When I boarded Oasis of the Seas five days ago, I noticed that no one was checking boarding times. Therefore, even though we had a boarding time of 12PM, I ordered a Lyft to Terminal A at 11AM.

Just like I thought, we were able to board as soon as we got to the terminal with no problem! From arrival at the terminal to walking onboard was around 15-20 minutes.

I'm staying in an interior cabin on this cruise and my parents are in the connecting room. This is my first time experiencing a cruise with connecting staterooms and it's great! My interior room feels so much bigger when I can open a door to my parents' cabin. It's also convenient for coordinating schedules and making plans.

Pool deck fun

The first thing we did once onboard Freedom of the Seas was head to the pool deck. When Freedom was amplified in early 2020, the pool deck was enhanced with the Caribbean resort-style pool deck, which has bright colors and The Lime & Coconut Bar.

I had a classic piña colada from The Lime & Coconut to start the cruise, followed by a small lunch in the Windjammer.

We spent some time relaxing on the pool deck, which quickly got busy as more people embarked the ship. Freedom of the Seas is at nearly full capacity this weekend.

Right before sailaway I decided to climb the rock climbing wall a few times. I made my dad try it, too!

We watched sailaway from the back of the sports court on deck 12. Viewing the Miami skyline while sailing out of port was just as beautiful as last week's departure on Oasis of the Seas, and the sports deck was not very crowded.

After sailaway I took a walk on the Promenade deck, which is my favorite place to be on Voyager and Freedom Class ships. It's the most peaceful place onboard and I especially love hanging out on the helicopter pad.

Evening activities

Tonight's dinner was in the Main Dining Room. I really enjoy eating in the Main Dining Room, but I haven't eaten there much at all since I started cruising last August. I tend to eat at the Windjammer while cruising solo or at specialty dining when with a big group, but it's always nice to have a sit-down meal in the Main Dining Room.

I heard that Royal Caribbean had started to sit multiple parties together at one table, and I wanted to eat with only my parents. Therefore, I went to the dining room as soon as I got onboard to confirm that we could have our own table (I probably should have done this ahead of time but I forgot).

The Main Dining Room crew member told me we had our own private table. However, when we got to the dining room for dinner this was not the case and we found out we would be seated with strangers.

I'm not opposed to eating with other passengers, but I would much rather have a private meal. Luckily, we were able to be seated at a private table in the My Time Dining room.

My meal was really great tonight! I ordered butternut squash soup to start the meal, Indian curry for the main course, and key lime pie for dessert. If I'm being honest, I ate far too much bread earlier in the meal and I was not very hungry by the time the main course came, but it was still delicious.

After dinner my parents and I went to FreedomIce.com: An Ice Adventure, the ice skating show in Studio B. This may have been my favorite ice show yet. It focused mainly on the music and vibe of the 1970s and displaying the concept of "freedom" through costuming and music. The whole show was upbeat and extremely colorful!

As the show ended at 10:30, I called it a night and went back to my stateroom. Tomorrow we are in Nassau where we will be going on an excursion to Pearl Island.

Stray observations

It's funny how "small" Freedom of the Seas feels after my previous three cruises being on Oasis Class ships, even though Freedom of the Seas is still a gigantic vessel.

Full capacity is crazy busy compared to what I am used to! I never knew so many lines could form everywhere.

I haven't received paper Cruise Compasses on Oasis or Freedom this week.

I tried the cheapest Royal Caribbean cabin I could find and here's how it went

In:
29 Apr 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

There’s nothing I love more than snagging a great travel deal, especially on cruises. By booking a cheap cruise fare, I can splurge on things that matter most to me on vacation - like eating delicious food, drinking fun cocktails and exploring incredible cities.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Also, by booking cheap cruises, I can cruise more often. I'd rather travel more frequently on a budget than dump thousands of dollars into one single vacation.

There are some incredible cruise deals out there if you know what to look for. When you book a cheap cruise, you have so much that’s already included in your cruise fare - like food, lodging, entertainment and transportation. This means you can stick to your budget easier!

Originally, I had a super cheap cruise booked in January that I unfortunately had to cancel because I caught covid. With my future cruise credit in hand, I was on the hunt to find another cheap cruise. 

How I found my cheap cruise

Since I live in Florida, I was only interested in ports that were within driving distance. Currently, that includes Port Canaveral and Tampa, both of which are 6 hours away. 

I had a few weeks throughout April that I was available, so I filtered the cruise search to show me only cruises during that time frame. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a great deal or not, as it was pretty last minute and my search was fairly limited. 

I sorted the results by 'Price Low to High' so I could find the cheapest fares first. Most of the time, the cheapest cruises are also the shortest ones. However, this sorting feature doesn’t show you the cheapest price per night, but rather the cheapest total cost.

This is an important distinction - as sometimes short cruises can have higher nightly costs compared to longer sailings. But, a higher daily cost on a shorter sailing can still provide an affordable vacation at the end of the day. 

I’ve seen transatlantic cruises cost as little as $42 per day, but these are often 12-14 nights. This is an incredible deal per night, but not everyone can afford being gone for 2 weeks; for me, that means paying a dog sitter for 2 weeks, which gets pricey.

Some of my options for a cheap cruise in April had affordable fares on a per day basis, but most of these were 7 night sailings. I prefer to drive to the port the night before, so that turns into an 8 night vacation. Again, leaving my dogs last minute for 8 nights would be pretty tough logistically and financially. 

Shorter Cruises = More Flexibility

For this last minute sailing, I decided to look for something on the shorter side. This also gave me more flexibility to choose a sailing that was between 3 to 5 nights. I was open to sailings over the weekend or during the work week since I can work remotely. 

One of the best options was a 4-night Bahamas Getaway Cruise out of Port Canaveral on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. This fit my calendar nicely and my sister was already flying down to visit on April 17.

The total cost was $499, down from the advertised price of $571 because of my Florida resident discount. 

This fare was for an inside guarantee stateroom, meaning I would be assigned at least an inside cabin, likely right before the cruise departed. The stateroom could be located anywhere on the ship. I’ve always had good luck with inside cabins, so I was totally fine with this kind of stateroom for the price.

Last Minute Logistics

As a longtime cruiser, living in Florida was always a dream of mine. I couldn’t imagine how nice it would be to just drive to a cruise port and hop on a cruise ship. 

With my husband serving in the military, I have little to no say where we live; needless to say, I couldn’t be more thankful that he is stationed in Florida because it allows me to live my best cruising life and take advantage of these last minute opportunities. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t find cheap cruises that are in the future and not considered last minute. There are plenty of cruises with very cheap fares that are available through the rest of the year and even into next year. 

Last minute cruising deals can be great but do require some flexibility and logistics that need to be sorted out quickly to make it work. 

Being able to drive to the port negated any consideration for airfare prices. My aunt and uncle live near Orlando where we can stay the night before a cruise, which means we didn’t need to consider the cost of a hotel. We also have great friends who were able to help watch the dogs with only 2 weeks notice. 

With everything falling into place, we pulled the trigger and booked our cheap cruise! My sister would be sailing with me as my cruise buddy - our first sister cruise.

Cruise Expectations

Since the cruise was relatively cheap, I expected the ship to be sailing at a low capacity. I figured with basic economics that demand was low for this sailing, so Royal Caribbean was dropping the price to get more reservations booked. 

Most of my cruising in recent years has been on longer sailings and smaller ships. The other cruises I’ve done since the pandemic have been on ships sailing at 30% and 50% capacity. 

I also figured that most schools had already had their spring break. Since our sailing was Tuesday to Saturday, I assumed the low cost was because most families couldn’t sail during this time. In fact, I haven’t sailed during the spring break time frame since my own college spring break back in 2016!

Mariner of the Seas is a mid-sized cruise ship for Royal Caribbean and recently refurbished. I was excited that our cheap sailing was on a cruise ship with some really fun additions and amenities, as our canceled cheap cruise in January was on a smaller and older ship. 

I figured a shorter sailing would have a more party-like atmosphere than the other cruises I’ve done in recent years. 

Since we normally book inside cabins, I knew what to expect in the stateroom. However, I haven’t booked a guaranteed inside cabin, meaning our cabin location could be anywhere. I assumed we would be located either at the front or back of the ship and potentially in a bad location - like under the pool deck or night club. 

Cruising Day

Since our cruise left on a Tuesday, we drove to Debary, FL to stay with my aunt and uncle on Monday afternoon. 

The day of our cruise, we were slotted for a 1:30pm arrival. As we arrived at the port, Mariner looked like she was in great shape and felt even bigger than I remembered. 

Parking at the cruise port cost $85 for the duration of the cruise while gas to the port had cost right around $75. We did not get there early enough to snag a spot in the parking ramp, unfortunately. This was my first indication that the cruise would be busier than I expected. Back in February, we were able to park much closer to the terminal when sailing on a bigger ship at a lower capacity. 

Stateroom Impressions

After checking in, we went to our stateroom to drop off our luggage and check out the room for the first time. We had been assigned to cabin 8371, which was an interior stateroom almost at the back of the ship. 

This is what I had expected with our inside guarantee stateroom selection. Honestly, I was a little worried we would feel more of the ship’s motion that far back. I don’t think I’ve actually had a cabin that far back on a cruise ship before!

Although Mariner of the Seas had been refurbished in 2018, I’d argue that most of the renovation budget went to upgrading public spaces and very little went to upgrading cabins. 

The cabins looked exactly as I remembered from when I sailed on the same cruise ship in 2017. The decor was a little dated, but it did ooze with nostalgia since we had sailed on Voyager Class ships often growing up.

The cabin also had a couch, which was nice to have because newer ships don't always have sofas for inside cabins. Even if it just became a spot for us to pile our clothes and bags slowly throughout the cruise, it filled the space nicely and it was comfortable.

There was plenty of storage with a large closet that had shelving on the side. There were 4 sets of drawers on both sides of the vanity, along with a mini cooler under the TV. We had more than enough space to unpack and get comfortable in the room. The room also had a hair dryer in one of the drawers and a safe above the TV, which also had more shelving.

The bathroom was very standard for a cruise bathroom with a small shower and toilet. Certainly not spacious but everything you need in a bathroom. There was a shelf under the bathroom sink for more storage and mirror panels that opened to uncover even more shelving for cosmetics and bathroom toiletries. 

Our TV was playing the infamous “wash your hands” tune so we tried to change the channel. Either our remote didn’t work or the TV itself was struggling, so we ended up unplugging it entirely. 

Something that I’ve grown more accustomed to with traveling these days is having USB plugs in my room. On a recent trip to Europe, I didn’t even need to use my converter because all of our rooms had USB plugs on the nightstand and desk. 

Our cruise on Harmony of the Seas, which is one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, had USB plugs in the room. This is super nice because it allows for more charging and overall convenience. Honestly, it’s something I just expect to have these days when traveling. We had to constantly trade between charging our phones and laptops. 

Good thing my husband wasn’t there with all of his electronics because we would be struggling to get everything charged without some sort of USB extender. 

Our beds were very comfortable and we both slept well throughout the cruise. We had them separated, which is similar to a sleeping in a twin size bed.

Other than being slightly outdated with decor and electronics, our inside cabin felt spacious and had everything we needed for a place to sleep, change and shower each day. We were overall pleased with the cabin and felt comfortable staying there throughout the cruise.

Cruising Itinerary 

Our original cruise had stops in Nassau and CocoCay, Bahamas with one day at sea. Upon arrival in our stateroom, we found a letter that our sea day would be replaced with a maintenance stop in Freeport, Bahamas. 

This was a welcomed change for us since we could choose to stay onboard as scheduled or go ashore to a new port we’ve never visited. We opted to walk around the port area and enjoy most of our day onboard, as we had planned.

If you followed our live blog, you’ll know our visit to Freeport was eventful when Mariner of the Seas was struck by a cargo ship. Luckily, this did not impact our sailing further but certainly caused some commotion onboard. 

Our second port was Perfect Day at CocoCay, which we were excited to have a relaxing beach day at Royal Caribbean’s private island. We enjoyed chicken sandwiches at Snack Shack, drinks in Oasis Lagoon and a visit to the floating tiki bar on South Beach. 

CocoCay is a great stop because it feels like you’re at an all inclusive resort. Everything is conveniently located and there’s already so much included. Of course, you can spend extra to have a private cabana or ride the wild waterslides; but, those of us cruising on a budget can still have a great day without spending anything extra.

 

The final port of our cruise was Nassau, Bahamas. For this day, we opted to spend a little extra to spend the day at RIU Palace using Resort for a Day. (This link contains an affiliate link)

This gave us unlimited drinks and food with access to the resort’s main pool, infinity pool, swim-up bar and private beach. 

For $100 each, this was a relaxing way to spend our day. The resort was a short 10 minute drive from the port and located on Paradise Island next to Atlantis. The taxi’s cost was $30 roundtrip. 

The only thing I would consider in the future when doing another resort pass is the amount of time you have in port and how long you can use your pass for. Our pass was valid from 10am to 6pm but we were in port from 7am to 3pm. I don’t like to risk being back to the ship late, so we really only had from 10am to 2pm at the resort, only utilizing 4 of the 8 hours we paid for.  

Full Capacity Sailing

To my surprise, the cruise was sailing with 3,000 passengers which is nearly at 100% capacity. Because of the cruise’s cheap pricing, I was convinced the cruise would be sailing at a lower capacity. 

Again to my surprise, there were tons of families and spring breakers. I guess our cruise was at the tail-end of the spring break season. I also hadn’t considered that the Sunday before our sailing was Easter so it was a holiday weekend as well.  

Here's a picture of the pool deck during the belly flop contest - it was pretty packed!

With the ship sailing at full capacity, it was very busy. We didn’t have any lines at the Windjammer, but there were lines at places like Cafe Promenade and Playmakers. Most of the onboard thrills like SkyPad and FlowRider had lines too.

 

We had to sit behind a pole at the ice show on the first night because we didn’t get there early enough. 

I wouldn’t say this damped our cruise by any means, but I did feel the ship was slightly understaffed. For example, the servers at Playmakers said it would take 45 minutes to get the campfire cookie skillet (worth it!). The first night’s entertainment in the Royal Theater was just playing a movie (Sing 2). Of course, this is an issue plaguing all industries right now so I guess I should have expected there to be some staffing issues onboard. 

Another thing I didn’t miss was the chair hogging that took place at some of the coveted spots, like the daybeds in the Solarium. I normally love spending time in the Solarium, but we had the hardest time finding a good spot. The bar was also packed in the Solarium so we didn’t spend much time here at all. 

Dining Options

Since our cruise was so cheap, we did choose to splurge on specialty dining a few times. We’ve always enjoyed our meals in the main dining room when cruising, but have grown to appreciate the quality and experience of specialty dining in recent years. 

Before cruising, we purchased the Chops + 1 dining package. This was $75 each and included dinner at Chops plus a second specialty restaurant. Since Chops is $55 each, this meant we could dine at a second specialty restaurant for only $20. 

On the first night, we dined at Chops Grille for a delicious 4-course steak meal. We had excellent service and great food. 

For our second and third nights, we opted to dine in the main dining room. To our dismay, our original table was being seated with 2 other couples that we didn’t know. We were accommodated by the hostess to have a table where just the two of us could dine, which we appreciated. Our original table was with older cruises and didn't look very lively.

In the spirit of transparency, I didn’t love that we were assigned to sit with strangers. Since the cruise was sailing at full capacity, I suppose they didn’t have many options to accommodate everyone without seating strangers together. We did have great service both nights and enjoyed our experience, regardless.

In fact, we were in and out of the dining room in less than an hour both nights. This was actually perfect since we wanted to get to the shows earlier to snag seats. 

On our final night, we had an amazing dinner at Jamie’s Italian. The food was very fresh and we could tell the pasta was homemade. I did feel that the food was better onboard Harmony of the Seas back in February, but it was still delicious. We also had great service here. 

One of the best things we ate during our cruise was the campfire cookie at Playmakers. Although it cost $7, this was absolutely worth it to enjoy its ooey, gooey chocolatey goodness. 

The Bamboo Room was another spot that we loved and we went there 3 of the 4 nights of our cruise. The atmosphere was very tropical and we loved the tiki-themed cocktails. We also enjoyed getting to know the bartenders here!

We ate breakfast each morning at The Windjammer buffet and we were pleased with the food options and quality. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any issues finding a table each morning, but we were only looking for a table to accommodate the 2 of us. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, we had a phenomenal cruise vacation, especially considering the price we paid for the cruise. 

Because our cruise fare itself was so cheap, we did treat ourselves to specialty dining and the all-inclusive resort pass in Nassau. The resort pass was $130 each including tax and the taxi ride from the port to the resort. Our specialty dining was $75 each, making these extras around $205 for each of us. 

Gas round trip from my house was $130 and parking was an additional $85, which adds $107 to the total cruise cost.  

Gratuities for this cruise were $58 per person, although we did tip some servers and bartenders extra.  

With our base cruise costing $250 each, the total cost with gas, parking, gratuities, specialty dining and the all-inclusive resort was right around $620. 

It would have been easy to still have a great cruise on a budget without specialty dining and the all-inclusive resort. When booking a cheaper fare, you have more wiggle room to spend money on other things you enjoy. It’s always good to consider the extras that come with cruising that aren’t included in your cruise fare - for us, that was gas, gratuities and parking at the terminal. 

I wouldn’t hesitate to book another cheap last minute cruise. It was a great getaway and it’s convinced me that vacation really is a state of mind. 

What to do on a rainy day on your cruise

In:
29 Apr 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

As much as everyone on a cruise hopes for endless days of sun, a slight breeze, and warm temperatures, the truth is that sometimes you will encounter unfavorable weather conditions onboard or in port.

Royal Caribbean works hard to forecast weather conditions in advance and deviate course whenever necessary, but it’s not always possible to avoid rainy conditions. If your cruise ship encounters rain, though, don’t fret!

There are countless ways to spend a rainy day onboard, and here are some of our favorites.

Relax in the Solarium

Royal Caribbean ships, aside from those in the Voyager and Freedom Classes, have a covered Solarium for guests aged 16 and older. On chilly, rainy, or windy days, relaxing in the Solarium provides an escape from the weather outdoors while still allowing you to enjoy time by the pool or jacuzzi.

Related: Everything about Royal Caribbean’s Solarium

Additionally, if you are sailing on a Quantum Class ship (with the exception of Odyssey of the Seas), take advantage of the indoor pool, which is available for all ages. While the pools will be closed if the ship encounters any severe weather like lightning, they will generally remain open during normal rainy days.

Read a book

A classic cruise activity for a rainy day is to find a quiet corner onboard and read a book. Despite the fact that cruise ships are packed with entertainment, activities, music, and lounges, there are always places onboard to get away from the crowds.

Related: Chill spots to get away from the crowd on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship
Here are some of the best places to read a book on a rainy day:

  • Two70 (Quantum Class ships)
  • “Hidden” seating on the running track (Oasis Class ships)
  • Star Lounge (Voyager and Freedom Class ships)
  • Library or card room
  • Vintages wine bar

If you’re looking for book recommendations, check out our lists of the best reads to bring on your cruise:

See a show

If your rainy day is on a sea day, check the ship’s entertainment schedule to see if there are any matinee performances in venues like the Royal Theater, Two70, or Studio B.

Spending an hour or two in a show is a great way to pass time on a rainy day while being entertained in the process. Plus, by seeing the show in the afternoon instead of in the evening, your evening schedule is opened up for other activities onboard.

Listen to live music

If you encounter a rainy day on your cruise, take a look at the Cruise Compass to see what live music is available throughout the day. From live Spanish guitar at Boleros to jazz in the Royal Promenade, listening to live music can be a cozy, relaxing way to spend your time as the rain passes through.

Grab a drink

Relaxing with a drink in hand is always a fun way to spend time on a cruise, but can be especially nice during a rainy day. There are many places indoors on a cruise ship to grab a drink, plenty of which have large windows looking toward the ocean.

Here are some of the best bars or venues to relax in while waiting for the sun to come back out:

  • Viking Crown Lounge (Vision, Radiance, Voyager, and Freedom Class)
  • Two70 (Quantum Class)
  • Schooner Bar

Related: A look at Royal Caribbean's new fleetwide drink menu

Depending on the ship, you may find covered seating at outdoor bars. The North Star Bar on Quantum Class ships, for example, has a covered seating area at the bar where you can watch the ocean and enjoy the sea breeze while remaining covered.

Go to trivia

Trivia is a fun activity on any Royal Caribbean cruise, but can make an excellent option on a rainy day. There are numerous trivia categories available, from geography to Harry Potter and sports.

Trivia usually only lasts around 30 or 45 minutes and is located indoors, making it a quick activity to do while rain passes through. Plus, you have the opportunity to put your knowledge to the test and maybe even win a prize!

Take a class

While browsing your cruise’s daily schedule in the Royal Caribbean app, you’ll likely see a few unique classes that you might otherwise skip over in favor of relaxing by the pool. A rainy day, however, can be an excellent time to try some of these classes.

Classes may include:

  • Scrapbooking
  • Card making class
  • Italian/Spanish/Portuguese language class
  • Zumba class
  • Morning stretch
  • Seminars

Hang out at the sports bar

Royal Caribbean’s classic sports bar, Playmakers, makes a fantastic hangout spot on a rainy day, where you can cheer on your favorite team while enjoying classic bar food like burgers, wings, and french fries.

The amount of televisions in Playmakers means there is no shortage of games and sports to watch, which you can enjoy while playing bar games like shuffleboard, pool, and Pac-Man.

Related: Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade review

Royal Caribbean ships without Playmakers will usually have a venue available for watching sports, such as in the pub, but there are generally only one or two small TVs there.

Hang out at the SeaPlex

Quantum Class cruise ships may be the best Royal Caribbean ships to sail on through inclement weather, as they were built to sail in all weather conditions while still offering the latest and greatest amenities and activities onboard.

The SeaPlex is a wonderful place to go with kids on a rainy day, as they can get their energy out while running around the sports court, playing basketball, soccer, or going head-to-head with other passengers in bumper cars.

Enjoy a sit-down meal

Whereas dinner on a cruise ship is usually a more formal, sit-down event, most guests tend to favor a casual, quick lunch onboard. Whether grabbing a burrito at El Loco Fresh or heading to the Windjammer, eating lunch on a cruise is often something to do quickly in-between activities.

Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

On rainy days, though, consider dining in the Main Dining Room or at a specialty restaurant for lunch. Having a sit-down meal will help pass the time on a rainy day while enjoying a relaxing, multi-course meal.

Go to the arcade (or casino)

All Royal Caribbean ships have an arcade, but it’s not only for kids! From skee-ball to air hockey, there are plenty of games to keep you occupied on a rainy day. The arcade comes at an extra cost, with most games costing between $0.75 and $2.50.

Alternatively, if you would like the chance to win money, head to the casino to pass a few hours on a rainy day.

Book a treatment at the spa

If you look at the weather forecast on your cruise and see a day with unfavorable weather, don’t hesitate to book a treatment at the Vitality Spa. After all, not much is more relaxing than a massage.

If you don’t want to spend extra money on a spa treatment, check if your cruise ship has a complimentary sauna and steam room. Select Royal Caribbean ships (excluding Quantum and Oasis Class ships) have free-of-charge saunas available in the fitness center locker rooms.

If your ship has a thermal suite, you can purchase a pass that allows you to use the facilities at any time, which include a rainforest shower, hot stone loungers, and sauna.

Related: Thermal Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas

Indoor signature activities

While many of Royal Caribbean’s signature activities are located outdoors, such as rock climbing, ziplining, and the FlowRider, there are several indoor activities to enjoy on a rainy day. Depending on the ship, these activities can be enjoyed rain or shine:

  • RipCord by iFLY
  • Puzzle Break Center (escape room)
  • Zone Zero
  • Ice skating
  • Laser tag

Check the Cruise Compass to see which activities are offered. Some, like the escape room, RipCord by iFLY, and Zone Zero, require reservations.

See a movie

Whether on land or at sea, watching a movie is a nice way to pass time on a rainy or cold day. While all Royal Caribbean ships have an outdoor movie screen, there are often indoor movies played as well in venues like the Royal Theater.

In fact, Royal Caribbean’s Radiance Class ships have their own indoor movie theater which plays a variety of movies throughout the day!

Related: All about Radiance Class cruise ships

To see if any movies are playing on your cruise, check out the Cruise Compass or the Royal Caribbean app. Movies are free-of-charge, but get to the theater or cinema early to ensure you get the best seat!

How much does a Mediterranean cruise cost?

In:
28 Apr 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

A Mediterranean cruise is a dream itinerary for many cruisers. From exploring the Colosseum to sunbathing on the French Riviera and walking the cobblestone streets of Dubrovnik, plenty of unique adventures await visitors in the Mediterranean.

With proper planning, a Mediterranean cruise can fit both low, modest, and high-end budgets. From interior staterooms on Royal Caribbean’s smaller ships to suites on the newest and largest ships, options are plentiful for planning a Mediterranean cruise no matter your budget.

Therefore, there is no “one price fits all” on a Mediterranean cruise, as the cost can vary drastically in cruise fares, shore excursions, onboard spending, and time of year you sail. If you’re planning a Mediterranean cruise, this guide should help you decide how to make cruising this fantastic region of the world fit into your budget and vacation style.

Mediterranean cruise prices by ship

Royal Caribbean sends both its oldest and newest cruise ships to the Mediterranean during the summer months, offering guests the choice between a traditional cruise experience or a ship filled with the cruise line’s most unique and updated activities and amenities.

Unsurprisingly, Royal Caribbean’s newest ships come at a higher price tag compared to its older ships in the Mediterranean. The cost difference of sailing on a larger ship compared to a smaller ship can be significantly more expensive or only slightly more expensive.

Let’s look at a few examples to see how the ship you choose for a European cruise can affect your cruise fare. 

First let’s compare an 8-night Greek Isles cruise on both Rhapsody of the Seas (Vision Class ship) and Odyssey of the Seas (Quantum Class ship). The price listed is the total fare for two adults in an ocean view cabin on a September cruise, including taxes and fees:

  • Rhapsody of the Seas: $1658.28 ($207 per night)
  • Odyssey of the Seas: $2998.14 ($374 per night)

Next let’s compare a 7-night Western Mediterranean on Brilliance of the Seas (Radiance Class ship) and Symphony of the Seas (Oasis Class ship). The price listed is the total fare for two adults in a balcony cabin on a June cruise, including taxes and fees:

  • Brilliance of the Seas: $2254.54 ($322 per night)
  • Symphony of the Seas: $3796.34 ($542 per night)

While a smaller ship will come at a lower price tag, it’s never a good idea to pick a cruise solely based on price. Looking into each ship’s amenities, dining options, cabin categories, and onboard activities can help you decide which size ship will suit you best.

Mediterranean cruise prices by month

Just like the ship you book, the month you cruise in the Mediterranean can have an impact on the overall cost of your cruise. In fact, a cruise in May can be several hundred dollars cheaper per person than a cruise in July or August.

Shoulder season in the Mediterranean is found in the months of April, May, September, and October, and this is when you tend to see the lowest cruise fares. As the school year is still in session, there is less demand for Mediterranean cruises, leading to lower prices.

Peak season, on the other hand, is found in the summer months: June, July, and August. While early June may see some lower prices due to the fact that summer travel to Europe is just getting started, expect the highest fares in July and August. At this time of year demand is highest and ships are likely to be near full capacity.

Let’s take a look at just how varied the price of a cruise can be based on the month you sail. First let’s compare the difference in a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Symphony of the Seas in mid-April and mid-July.

The price listed is the total cost for two adults in an ocean view balcony cabin:

  • April 16 departure: $2999.48 ($428 per night)
  • July 16 departure: $4338.40 ($620 per night)

Such a huge price difference is not always the case, though. Next let’s compare the difference in an 8-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Vision of the Seas in mid-May and mid-July.

The price listed is the total cost for two adults in an interior cabin:

  • May 13 departure: $1634.90 ($233 per night)
  • July 8 departure: $1729.80 ($247 per night)

As you can see, the price difference between spring and summer can be either drastic or only slightly different. A more drastic price difference will be seen on the most in-demand ships, such as Oasis and Quantum Class ships, whereas a smaller price difference will be seen on older ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Does itinerary matter?

Mediterranean cruises generally fit into two categories: Western Mediterranean (Spain, France, and Italy) and Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, the Adriatic, and countries like Cyprus and Israel). You will not see a notable difference in cruise fare from one region of the Mediterranean to another.

That being said, countries in the eastern Mediterranean, such as Croatia, Montenegro, and Turkey, tend to be cheaper destinations to visit, which may influence shore excursion pricing as well as the cost of things like local guides, taxis, food, souvenirs, etc.

Shore excursion prices in the Mediterranean

Remembering to budget for shore excursions is important on a Mediterranean cruise. Those used to cruising in the Caribbean may not put too much thought into planning shore excursions, where choosing what to do can be as simple as picking one beach over another.

In the Mediterranean, though, it’s good to have an idea of what you would like to do in each port and book excursions accordingly. Many Mediterranean ports are easy to explore on your own, which will save you money in the long run, but plenty of cruisers prefer the security and ease of an organized shore excursion.

Here are a few Royal Caribbean excursion ideas along with their prices (these prices are subject to change based on sailing and time of year):

  • Essential Rome with the Vatican, Colosseum & St. Peter’s Basilica: $279.00/adult or child
  • Barcelona City Sights: $53.75/adult, $44.75/child
  • Monaco Hop On Hop Off Bus from Nice: $119.0/adult, $89.00/child
  • Best of Mykonos full day adventure: $148.99/adult, $103.99/child
  • Mykonos walking tour: $35.99/adult, $17.99/child
  • Kotor Bay Catamaran Sail and Beach Break: $121.99/adult or child
  • Plantaze Vineyards Wine Tasting (Kotor): $188.99/adult or child
  • Dalmatian Coastline & Village Life (Split): $117.99/adult, $92.99/child

Some excursions soley offer transportation to and from certain destinations that are far from where cruise ships dock. For example, cruise ships to Rome actually port in Civitavecchia, which is around 40 minutes from Rome on a high-speed train.

Therefore, Royal Caribbean offers tours that provide transport to and from cities while giving you several hours of free time upon arrival. The “Explore Rome” excursion, as an example, provides round trip transport to Rome from Civitavecchia for $69.95/adult or $54.75/child.

Of course, you do not have to book any excursions and can instead figure out activities and transportation on your own. Alternatively, you can find shore excursions with tour operators outside of Royal Caribbean, which may come at a lower cost and offer a wider selection of tours.

Personal preferences and onboard spending

Outside of picking a ship, itinerary, and booking shore excursions, the total cost of your cruise will ultimately depend on your preferences. From the type of cabin you book to extras like specialty dining and drink packages, the total cost of a cruise vacation can vary widely from person to person, even if they paid the same base cruise fare.

Here are some examples of what you may pay extra for on your Mediterranean cruise:

  • Drink packages (alcoholic or nonalcoholic packages) or paying for drinks individually
  • Specialty dining
  • Onboard activities
  • Gratuities
  • Spa treatments
  • Wifi

For a more in-depth look at what extra costs are not included on a Royal Caribbean cruise, check out our article on the top 30 extra cruise costs that are not included.

It’s possible to cruise the Mediterranean on a budget or splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. No matter what cabin you book, ship you choose, or activities you do in port, though, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable vacation in one of the most beautiful and historic regions of the world.

All about Royal Caribbean's ship classes

In:
28 Apr 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Are you wondering what the differences are between Royal Caribbean's ship classes?

Harmony of the Seas aerial

Royal Caribbean groups its ships in classes, which are based largely on the ship general design and structure. Think of these like car models, which makes categorizing ships easier in broad terms.

Within each ship class, there can be variations of features, restaurants, or activities that have been added or modified over the years. While there may be three, four, or more ships within a particular class, the exact onboard activities can vary.

Here is an easy-to-understand breakdown of each class of ship, and what they offer.

Oasis Class

The largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships offer the latest and greatest features found on any ship in the fleet, as well as in the industry.  

The Oasis Class ships can handle just about 5,500 passengers and have a gross tonnage of over 225,000 tons.  

If you are concerned about crowds and navigating a ship of this size, Royal Caribbean has you covered.  Royal Caribbean designed the ship to be easy to get around, and break up crowds.  Seven neighborhoods help distinguish parts of the ship apart to guests, and there are so many activities on Oasis Class ships that everyone will be on their own schedule.

Oasis Class ships are among the newest Royal Caribbean ships, so they are packed with the latest and greatest.

Why choose Oasis Class: You want it all on one ship! The latest features, tons of activities, and great dining.

Oasis Class ships

Oasis Class highlights

  • Neighborhoods
  • AquaTheater
  • 3D Movies
  • Broadway Musicals
  • Waterslides (Harmony and Symphony only)
  • Zip Line
  • Central Park
  • 2 FlowRider Surf Simulators
  • Boardwalk 
  • Carousel
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Loft Suites
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area

Quantum Class

The innovative Quantum Class cruise ships were designed to user in the 21st century with a blend of high-tech, and tried-and-true family vacation experiences. These stylish new ships offer incredible views and activities onboard. 

Quantum Class ships have signature features found just on these ships, and are a big hit with families of varied ages.  Quantum Class ships are the sort of cruise ship that has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you are new to cruising or an established veteran.

In 2019, Spectrum of the Seas will launch, becoming the first Quantum Ultra Class ship. The revolutionary Quantum Ultra ship will specifically be designed for guests in China and the Asia-Pacific region, and will feature cutting-edge and unprecedented experiences and amenities.

Why choose Quantum Class: Families looking for lots to do onboard, along with some incredible features.

Quantum Class ships

Quantum Class highlights

  • North Star
  • RipCord by iFLY 
  • Seaplex
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator
  • Two70 
  • Virtual Balcony Staterooms
  • 3D Movies
  • Loft Suites
  • Music Hall
  • Broadway Musicals
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area

Freedom Class

Royal Caribbean's Freedom Class cruise ships offer a big ship experience, with plenty to see and do onboard.  In fact, Royal Caribbean updated two of them with much more to do in just the last few years.

Freedom Class ships represent an excellent value for families that want to cruise on a large ship, have lots of activities, but not break their budget.  From a pure value standpoint, the Freedom Class ships are a great choice for a fabulous cruise experience.

Freedom Class ships are essentially a slightly larger version of their Voyager Class sisters.

Why choose Freedom Class: Big ship experience, minus the premium price tag that the newer ships in the fleet currently command.

Freedom Class ships

Freedom Class highlights

  • Aqua park
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Royal Promenade
  • British-Style Pub
  • Designer Shopping
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Panoramic staterooms
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator
  • Water slides

Voyager Class

When Royal Caribbean introduced the Voyager Class, it revolutionized the industry with features and activities that we cannot dream of not having on a cruise ship these days.  Mini-golf, the Royal Promenade, ice skating and more all had their start on the Voyager Class.

Just like the larger Freedom Class ships, Voyager Class vessels are a terrific value, and offer some incredible itineraries.  Royal Caribbean is not done investing in these ships, having added new restaurants, surf simulators, aqua parks, entertainment and more over the last few years, with another round of updates beginning in 2018 and going through 2019.

Why choose Voyager Class: Plenty to do onboard, newly added features and terrific pricing.  It is a great choice for families looking to save.

Voyager Class ships

Voyager Class highlights

  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Royal Promenade
  • British-Style Pub
  • Virtual Balcony Staterooms
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator

Radiance Class

Radiance of the Seas combine lots of glass and open areas to provide guests with a classic cruise experience.  

Royal Caribbean's Radiance Class ships are stylish, and get into many of the smaller cruise ports around the world that Royal Caribbean's larger ships cannot.  

Radiance Class ships do not skimp on things to do, offering varied dining experiences, as well as terrific live entertainment. Veteran cruisers enjoy the Radiance Class for the ship's refined offering and easy going atmosphere.

Why choose Radiance Class: Beautiful ships that offer a time-honored cruise experience, with a connection to the ocean itself.

Radiance Class ships

Radiance Class highlights

  • Sunlit Glass-Covered Spaces
  • Glass Elevators
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Self-Leveling Pool Tables
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Indoor movie theater
  • Mini-golf

Vision Class

Royal Caribbean designed their Vision Class ships to fit into almost any port, which means guests can travel to exotic ports of call around the world.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships combine a small size with many activities that have been added over the years. Whether you are looking to "do it all" or just relax, Vision Class ships are a good choice.

Why choose Vision Class: Impressive itineraries that other ships in the fleet cannot offer. 

Vision Class ships

  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas

Vision Class highlights

  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Bungee Trampoline (Enchantment of the Seas)
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Specialty Dining Options
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Broadway-Style Shows

The future: Icon Class

Something to keep an eye on will be Royal Caribbean's Icon class ships, which promise to bring us a new evolution in cruising.

Royal Caribbean has been quiet on exactly what the Icon Class will offer, but these new ships will handle about 5,000 passengers and will be built using new fuel technology including liquid nitrogen gas and fuel cells. This technology has been used on space shuttles and satellites for years, and is a much greener way of powering ships.

The first two Icon Class ships will debut in 2022 and 2024.

Royal Caribbean updates: Alaska tour cancelled, Barbados, WWF & more!

In:
28 Apr 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

I don't want you to miss any of the important Royal Caribbean changes from this week, so here's a look at some of the updates from the last couple of days.

Skagway white pass train

With the industry moving closer to full capacity again, lots of changes are happening around Royal Caribbean.

Here's a quick wrap-up of what's new this week in the world of Royal Caribbean cruises.

Royal Caribbean renews partnership with World Wildlife Fund

Ocean

Royal Caribbean Group has doubled down on its commitment to the environment by renewing its deal with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Royal Caribbean Group announced it has extended its existing partnership with the WWF with a new five year commitment.

The WWF provides Royal Caribbean Group with guidance and counsel in establishing environmental goals and sustainable business practices.

WWF and Royal Caribbean have been partners since 2016 in order to embed sustainability by promoting responsible tourism in priority coastal destinations and help protect the oceans by investing in conservation programs globally. This included establishing 2020 sustainability goals that the company has met or exceeded, with the exception of the sustainable seafood sourcing target, which was impacted by global suspension of service from the pandemic.

This year, WWF and Royal Caribbean Group will work together to establish sustainability goals across three key areas of Ship, Sea and Shore:

  • Ship — Continuous improvement of operational sustainability, including emissions, marine mammal protection, seafood sourcing, plastics reduction, and food waste.
  • Sea — Investing in ocean health through targeted philanthropy; engaging with a global science-driven agenda and consumer-facing education and fundraising campaigns.
  • Shore — Embedding principles of sustainable development in projects and increasing sustainability and certification of tour operators.

Royal Caribbean Group will also continue to provide financial support to WWF's global ocean conservation work through a $5 million philanthropic contribution and collaborate with WWF to build global awareness about ocean conservation issues among Royal Caribbean Group's millions of guests.

Royal Caribbean cancels Alaska train shore excursions

White Pass train in Skagway

Guests who had a shore excursion booked on the White Pass Railway for an Alaska cruise had their plans cancelled this week.

Royal Caribbean informed guests that the train tour operator was forced to temporarily suspend any train activities into Canadian territory.

The White Pass train tour is a popular excursion in Skagway

Skagway train

The good news is the train can still operate, although it must remain within the United States.

Thanks to RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Steve Cohen for sharing the information.

Canadian Switch Health test kit accepted by Royal Caribbean

Air Canada's new Covid testing is a good option for Canadians flying to the US for cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

Good news for Canadian guests that the Canadian Switch Health test kit is accepted by Royal Caribbean for a pre-cruise test.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog writer Chantal McPhee asked the cruise line's social media team for clarification and it appears the answer is yes.

Similar to the Abbotts proctored tests for Americans, the Switch Health tests are available for at-home testing for Canadians.

Royal Caribbean deepens partnership with Barbados

Royal Caribbean announced a new strategic partnership with the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The agreement was signed in Miami earlier this week. Part of the deal will assist with employment opportunities for Barbadians onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

For the cruise line, Royal Caribbean is looking to deepen the commercial relationships with the country.

Radiance of the Seas - Live Blog Preview

In:
28 Apr 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

This week, I’ll be heading up north for the very first Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise for the season! 

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska waters

I’ll be sailing on a 7-night sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver to Alaska. Our itinerary includes port stops in Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway. The cruise will also sail through the Inside Passage and Tracy Arm Fjord, which I’m very excited about. 

Queue the song “North to Alaska” - one that my dad sang everyday of our first Alaskan cruise!

This week, I’ll be sailing with a very special friend, Sydney! We were roommates during our Semester at Sea and we haven’t sailed together since we disembarked from our ship in 2015. From sleeping in a remote Senegalese hut to hiking almost the entire island of Santorini, we have some incredible travel memories together. 

It’s been 4 years since we last saw each other at my wedding, so we have lots to catch up on during our week in Alaska. We've been wanting to take a trip together since our semester abroad, but life has been busy for us both. The pandemic didn't help, of course.

Travel Requirements

When we booked our Alaska cruise in February, it wasn’t entirely clear if Canada would allow cruise ship travel. Given the country’s overall cautiousness with the pandemic, I was hesitant to get too excited about the cruise. 

Luckily, Canada has allowed the entry of cruise ships and our cruise is a go! Sydney will be visiting Seattle and taking the train to Vancouver, while I will be flying from Florida directly into Vancouver. As fully vaccinated travelers, we don’t need a negative covid test to enter the country. 

Both of us were required to fill out the ArriveCAN form online, in which you receive a QR code to board your flight. The website says you can be randomly selected for COVID testing, but those recovered from COVID within 180 days are exempt with a positive PCR test. Sydney and I have both recovered from COVID in the last 180 days so we will be traveling with documentation to exempt us from the testing. 

Royal Caribbean still requires a negative COVID test within 2 days to board the ship and the United States still requires a negative test for airline travel. I’ve been holding out hope that the international testing requirement would be dropped for airline travel, but who knows if I will luck out by May 5. 

I am planning to take the Abbott Home-Test (proctored) for both the cruise and the airline requirement since I am outside of the 90 day recovery window. I’ve had great luck using these tests and I will probably pack and extra just in case. 

Alaska Experiences

I’ve sailed twice to Alaska before, both on Royal Caribbean cruises. The first time I did an Alaska cruise was in 2010 with my family and grandparents. We sailed south from Seward to Vancouver onboard Radiance of the Seas as well. 

I will never forget showing up to the train in Anchorage; we were under the impression it was a quick 30 minute ride to the cruise port Seward. Someone told us to enjoy the train’s beautiful views during the 5 hour ride - and we all were shocked to hear it was a long haul ride to the port. Guess that’s what life was like before iPhones! 

Our cruise was incredible though, even with the weather being unexpectedly cold. I have vivid memories of doing the dog sled training excursion and whale watching from the sea. Our horse-drawn city tour excursion hit a car in Ketchikan, which was very memorable. We also cruised right up to an iceberg and could hear the cackling and crashing of ice chunks falling into the freezing sea. 

The worst part of the trip was when I got home and found out I had mono- which explains why I got sick on the flight home from Vancouver. Hoping for better health this time around in Vancouver!

The second time I sailed to Alaska was last summer in July 2021 when cruising had just restarted. My husband and I sailed for 7-nights roundtrip from Seattle on Serenade of the Seas. Luke and I desperately needed a vacation after he graduated from his rigorous pilot training program and I finished grad school, not to mention the pandemic wearing on all of us at that point. 

We just wanted to cruise and honestly didn’t care where it went. When Royal Caribbean announced that Alaskan cruises would be restarted, we booked right away. It was perfect for us because it didn’t require approval for Luke to leave the country. We were true Floridians escaping the summer heat to vacation somewhere cooler!

Overall, our exploring was quite minimal. We had no plans because we wanted to have ultimate relaxation filled with eating, drinking, sleeping and being literal vacation blobs with no schedule in mind. 

We accomplished just that and enjoyed a week of much needed cruising relaxation. We didn’t do much in the ports other than walking around. The scenery from our balcony each evening was spectacular - and we had been upgraded from an outside cabin for free. We also have excellent weather and were actually able to use the outdoor pools a few days. 

Radiance Class Ships

As I mentioned, I sailed on Radiance of the Seas nearly 12 years ago. The ship was refurbished in 2016, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of her upgrades. We had a New Zealand cruise scheduled for March 27, 2020 on Radiance of the Seas, but you all know how that ended! She's definitely a great ship to sail anywhere with gorgeous landscapes and natural beauty.

Radiance Class ships are some of my favorite. In fact, in the last 5 years, I’ve sailed almost exclusively on Radiance Class ships. I appreciate the more intimate size of these cruise ships and the glass atrium gives truly incredible scenic views. 

Being on the smaller side, these ships are usually placed on longer sailings with more interesting ports of call. Radiance Class ships might not have all the bells and whistles of the bigger cruise ships, but they’re so comfortable and have everything you need for a great cruise. 

This Cruise

For our week in Alaska, Sydney and I are going to take a freestyle approach. We weren't sure if excursion policies would change so we haven't booked any tours currently. We are open to doing a tour if the opportunity presents itself but we normally like traveling on our own and exploring the port cities.

This is the first sailing of the Alaska season for Royal Caribbean! I've never been on a ship’s first inaugural season sailing, so that will be fun. It’s looking like we won’t be having amazing weather, as the forecast is showing 40 to 50 degrees each day. Looks like it will be rainy and cloudy. This is expected for late April so I’ll be packing all the cozy sweaters.  

Apparently, Radiance of the Seas just returned to service in April as the 22nd Royal Caribbean ship to resume cruising. I'll be interested to see if the ship's recent return to service will affect the onboard operations.

Glacier in Alaska

Sydney and I got an incredible deal on our cruise. We booked an inside cabin guarantee for $450 each with $100 onboard credit included. With the price being so low and the sailing being the first of the Alaska season, I will be interested to see what capacity we will be sailing at. I assume most who sail to Alaska sail in the summer in hopes of better weather and kids are out of school. After my busy Mariner of the Seas sailing last week, I wouldn't complain about a quiet ship.

Last summer, our Alaskan cruise had boozy hot chocolate and coffee during one of the mornings sailing through the fjords. This was something I was so excited for because I saw pictures online before we sailed. I asked at every bar when the boozy cocktails would be served but most bartenders didn't know what I was talking about.

Apparently these amazing drinks were served one morning on the pool deck and there was no announcement, much to my disappointment. They didn’t serve these special boozy drinks again the rest of the cruise. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the different cozy cocktails that will be served and I’ll be darned if I miss the warm cocktails on the pool deck again! 

Sydney loved getting up early on Semester at Sea to see the sunrise as we pulled into new ports - and I never once joined her (haha). This time around, I don’t want to regret missing beautiful sunrises or sunsets if the weather looks like it will cooperate. 

Overall, we are very excited to be sailing through Alaska. I really think it's the best way to see the state and all of its natural beauty. Getting to sail through the Inside Passage and the fjords can't be matched with a land trip. Of course, Sydney and I are equally as excited to see each other again after we lived in a cabin together at sea for 104 days!

Bon voyage!

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

In:
28 Apr 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

My last day on Oasis of the Seas is a sea day as we make our way back to Miami.

I started my morning in the Solarium to watch the sunrise. It was extra colorful this morning, and quite a few passengers were outside on the sundeck.

I then grabbed a banana, strawberry, blueberry, and peanut butter smoothie from Vitality Cafe. I'm definitely going to miss having made-to-order smoothies when sailing on non-Oasis Class ships!

This morning I had to catch up on some work for Royal Caribbean Blog, and as it was too early to head to my "wine office" at Vintages, I went to the Card Room.

The Card Room is a little bit of a hidden gem on Oasis of the Seas, with a few sets of tables and chairs and a fantastic view of the Boardwalk and aft. There are several board games and cards available to use free of charge as well, which many passengers took advantage of throughout the morning.

This area of the ship was replaced with Wonderland on Symphony, Harmony, and Wonder of the Seas.

Lunch and pool deck fun

I decided to try something new for lunch and went to Portside BBQ. This is the only barbecue restaurant in Royal Caribbean's fleet, serving up classic comfort food and a variety of meats. It's only available on Oasis of the Seas, so I figured I needed to try it before the cruise was over.

Portside BBQ is a casual, quick service restaurant, but it is not included in your cruise fare. Prices for a full meal range from $10-15, which includes a selection of meat and sides, ranging from pulled pork to brisket and turkey legs.

I am a pescetarian, so I admit I am the worst person to do a full review of a meat-centric barbecue restaurant. However, I still wanted to try Portside BBQ, so I ordered two sides and a dessert.

My sides (mac & cheese and grilled corn on the cob) were definitely tasty, although I thought the portions were a bit small considering each side was $3. The dessert, though, was phenomenal.

I ordered the Chocolate Brookie, a half-brownie, half-chocolate bar that was perfectly chewy, perfectly fudgy, and delightfully sweet. I am kicking myself for waiting until the last day of the cruise to order it! Luckily, each order came with two brookies.

The International Men's Belly Flop Competition was taking place after lunch, and since this is an activity that only recently returned to ships, I was excited to see what all the hype was about.

It may have been the most hilarious event I've seen on a cruise ship yet. A group of around 5 contestants jumped into the pool to try and make the most impressive (yet painful) bellyflop. The pool deck was packed with guests cheering on contestants. The winner was Tony from Mexico and I definitely agreed with the rest of the crowd that his belly flop was extremely impressive.

While on the pool deck, I decided to try a mocktail. I ordered the Lime & Coconut drink from the Lime & Coconut bar without rum, and it was really refreshing and tasty. We are planning to create a list of the top mocktails to try on a Royal Caribbean cruise, so be sure to share your suggestions with us!

Next I decided to use my $6 free play at the casino. I never gamble (I guess living 5 minutes away from dozens of casinos in Nevada does that to you!), but I always like to use my free play money. Unsurprisingly I lost the $6 in a matter of minutes, so unfortunately I didn't win big today.

Cats

Oasis of the Seas is the third Royal Caribbean ship I've been on with a Broadway show, so seeing Cats was definitely on my to-do list for this week. When I sailed on Independence of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas in January, the Broadway shows were modified/canceled due to omicron, so I did not get to watch Grease on either ship.

It turns out I couldn't see Cats today either due to injuries sustained by a few of the main cast members. Instead, a cabaret was performed by select cast members, with a combination of songs from the musical and songs picked by cast members themselves.

While it may not have been the Broadway show, I still really enjoyed the performance and the vocals may have been the best I've heard yet on a cruise. My next cruise on a ship with a Broadway show will be Anthem of the Seas this summer, so hopefully I'll be able to see We Will Rock You once onboard!

Relaxing evening

The show ended around 3:45, where I had a pre-dinner snack from Park Cafe and relaxed on the chairs at the back of the running track.

This is one of my favorite areas on Oasis of the Seas. While I like cruising on Oasis Class ships, I find that there are few places onboard aside from the pool deck where you can sit and enjoy an ocean view. Many venues, bars, and restaurants face inward, and with the lifeboats covering what would be the Promenade deck, it can be hard to find a quiet place to look out at the ocean if you don't have a balcony.

It still amazes me how powerful these cruise ships are and how vast the ocean is! I can easily sit and stare at the ocean for hours.

I had another quick dinner at the Windjammer. To avoid the monotony of another picture of Indian curry, here is a photo of tonight's fabulous dessert selection.

The self service buffet isn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I make sure to use hand sanitizer once I have finished touching the serving spoons and tongs. However, I did see a family avoid washing their hands altogether after one of the sinks wasn't working, so I still don't trust that the self service buffet is totally sanitary...

After dinner, I walked a couple laps on the running track, went to the thermal spa, and went back to the running track to watch tonight's sunset.

Sadly it was time to call it a night and get my bags packed for disembarkation tomorrow. I enjoyed my time on Oasis of the Seas over the past four days as we journeyed through the Caribbean and visited Costa Maya, Mexico. It's rare to see a 4-night cruise on an Oasis Class ship, so it was nice to take advantage of all that this ship has to offer in a short amount of time!

Luckily I don't have long to wait until my next cruise, though, as I will be boarding Freedom of the Seas in just two days!

Stray observations

All over Oasis of the Seas are the "Small Wonders", which are small portholes that reveal a hidden image once inside. For whatever reason, it brings me great joy to find these around the ship and peek at the artwork inside! It's a nice touch onboard Oasis.

I went to Guest Services to ask a question, and when we were talking I mentioned I was going on Freedom of the Seas this Friday. The representative gave me an at-home Covid test free of charge without me even asking! If you are cruising on another Royal Caribbean ship within the next two days of your first cruise, they should provide you with an Abbot BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test.