Royal Caribbean provides smart phone app and online check-in feature updates

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean issued an update to travel agents on the current status of its new smart phone app and mobile check-in options for guests sailing on select cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean's new smartphone app is available on six ships currently (Mariner of the Seas was recently added), with Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offering real-time folio access, along with an expedited arrival option.

The folio option allows guests to see all charges being made while on the cruise, directly in the app.  Instead of going to Guest Services for a print out, or checking the stateroom television, the app will offer a real-time look at what they have spent onboard.

Expedited Arrival is part of the mobile check-in process, and once guests complete their mobile check-in in full, they may qualify for expedited arrival. When the guest arrives to the pier with their digital Set Sail Pass, they can go into the Expedited Arrival line. This means these guests can bypass the traditional check-in line and instead check-in very quickly via the mobile station. Royal Caribbean hopes this will mean getting from curbside to onboard the ship in a matter of minutes. Expedited Arrival is currently available on Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, and will roll out to other ships in the future. 

The new app is still under development, but the arrival of folio management and expedited arrival marks another milestone for its development. Version 1.9.0 of the Royal Caribbean app was released on August 10. The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Last month, Royal Caribbean introduced the mobile check-in option to the app as well (and its website) for a simpler check-in process.

Royal Caribbean has also introduced recently online web check-in on three of its ships to offer a cleaner traditional check-in process.

While online check-in is available for all Royal Caribbean ships, the enhanced online web check-in is a new features fewer steps needed for check-in completion, along with some other improved functionality:

  • Option to check in one person or your entire party simultaneously
  • Ability to edit previously entered information without repeating any steps
  • Easy add-guest or remove-guest functionality from check-in process
  • The ability to stop and save at any point
  • Easily pick up where you left off on either the website or the Royal Caribbean mobile App check in
  • Convenient digital SetSail pass for mobile use at terminal

Guests can check-in from 90 days to 72 hours prior to the sail date. If a guest misses the check-in window, the guest has the option to check-in at the Port.

Wheelchair accessibility on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 263 is available for downloading, which shares tips, tricks and advice for anyone who is going on a Royal Caribbean cruise in a wheelchair.

Laura joins Matt to talk about her experience with accessibility cruising, and offers helpful information for having a great cruise vacation if they or someone they know has need of a wheelchair.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 263. 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!

Video: How One of the World’s Largest Cruise Ships Sails into St. Thomas

By: Matt Hochberg

For Oasis of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, arriving to St. Thomas in the Caribbean can be daunting. With narrow water ways, sailboats anchored in the harbor, a tight turn and just six feet of clearance below the keel, the water around this popular port is one of the most difficult to maneuver. But thanks to an expert marine team using the industry’s leading technology, arriving is just another day at the office for the Oasis of the Seas crew. With a local pilot offering his expertise on the currents and local marine environment, and powerful bow thrusters which gives the captain the control he needs to pull the 1,187-foot ship, this is nothing but smooth sailing.

Royal Caribbean prohibits emotional support animals from its cruise ships

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has updated its policy regarding emotional support animals by announcing that effective immediately, emotional support animals may not sail onboard Royal Caribbean International ships. 

The cruise line cites that emotional support animals are not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

All Emotional Support Animals noted on reservations prior to July 30, 2018 are protected and will be allowed to sail. A notation advising of a protected emotional support animal will be placed on the reservation by the Access Department.

Royal Caribbean joins Southwest Airlines, which also announced today, it will restrict emotional support animals on its airplanes.

Royal Caribbean issued a statement regarding the change and why it was implemented, "We are updating the policy to differentiate emotional support animals from service animals that are trained to perform a function for a person with a disability.  It is important to us that all our guests enjoy their vacation, which is why we put into practice this new policy.  Royal Caribbean’s policy remains the same for service animals traveling with guests that have a physical or non-physical disability.

Moving forward, emotional support animals cannot be added to existing or new reservations.  Confirmed guests who already have emotional support animals noted in their reservation will be permitted to bring the animal."

Spotted: New Royal Caribbean crew member name tags design

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is slowly changing the design of the name tags its crew members wear aboard cruise ships.

The Cruise Director for Allure of the Seas shared a photo of his new name tag on his Facebook page.

New crew member name tag design. Photo by Cruise Director Mitch.

Previous crew member name tag design. Photo by Michael Chandonia.

According to Mitch, they are slowly rolling out to the entire fleet.

What do you think of the new name tag design? Share your thoughts in the comments!

New Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in PortMiami photo report

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal in PortMiami is under construction, and we have a look at the progress being made.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Lovetocruise2002 took photos of the new Terminal A building while sailing away on Mariner of the Seas yesterday.

The new state-of-the-art terminal at PortMiami will be home to Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas. Once completed in October 2018, Royal Caribbean will implement the best technologies to deliver a state-of-the-art guest experience.

9 things you should know about Royal Caribbean suites

By: Matt Hochberg

Have you ever thought about making the jump up to a suite stateroom for your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Suites do come with a higher price tag, but they also have their own set of perks and benefits that may factor into that decision.

Here's a few things you should know when you start to consider if the increased price is "worth it".

Royal Caribbean has suite benefits exclusive for Oasis & Quantum Class ships

In 2016, Royal Caribbean began offering a completely different suite benefits program on its Oasis and Quantum class ships., known as the Royal Suite Class.

The Royal Suite Class is only offered on these ships, and it aims to expand upon the standard Royal Caribbean suite benefits (some of which are listed below).  Essentially, these ships offer expanded suite benefits and paying for a suite on these ships certainly gets you a lot more.  Of course, suites on these category of ships usually come with a higher price tag too.

The Royal Suite Class has the Sea Class, Sky Class and Star Class categories, and they deliver luxurious suites, as well as additional exclusive services and amenities, depending on the class you book. On the whole, Royal Suite Class accommodations are among the most spacious at sea, with some truly magnificent rooms you can book, such as the two-story Royal Loft Suites or Ultimate Family Suite.

These suites go far beyond your typical hotel digs, sporting private balconies—some with private Jacuzzis—expansive bathrooms, dining areas, kitchens, and even lofts. They also feature special “Royal Genies” ready to help customize your vacation every day—arranging private dining, reserving seats for every show, making reservations at the suites-only restaurant and more.

The Royal Suite Class experience includes the Ultimate Beverage Package; unlimited VOOM internet access; and luxe linens and bath products in select suites.

Special embarkation day perks

Getting onboard your Royal Caribbean ship is something everyone has to do but if you're a suite guest, Royal Caribbean makes the entire process a little easier.

Being in a suite means you will have dedicated port agents to help you check in.  Priority check in means less time waiting to get yourself checked in compared to everyone else on the ship.  

Then you get a special area just for you to wait, often with nicer furniture and perhaps some refreshments too.  Even before you board, you're already living the "good life" with those suite perks.

You will get a gold SeaPass card

All guests who staying in a suite will have a gold color SeaPass card, which helps Royal Caribbean easily know if you're a suite guest or not.

Besides that good feeling deep down of having a special card, the gold card allows staff immediately know you are a suite member.

So when you get to the theater or pool deck and there is special reserved seating for you, the crew member will direct you to it.

Note, if you are on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, the Royal Suite Class SeaPass cards are different colors to indicate if you are in Sea Class, Sky Class or Star Class.

Concierge lounge access

On most Royal Caribbean ships (a concierge lounge is not available on Majesty of the Seas), there is a concierge lounge for suite level guests that offers you a private area to get away from the hustle and bustle of the ship.

One of the chief benefits of the concierge lounge is access to complimentary alcoholic drinks every evening, which include beers, wine by the glass and select liqueurs. There also au d'oeuvres served in the evening, along with snacks during the day and a light breakfast in the morning. A 24 hour coffee and espresso machine is also available to use in the Concierge Lounge.

Access to the lounge is available for your use 24 hours a day and is staffed with a dedicated Concierge, who will attend to your individual needs.  The staff can help you reserve specialty restaurants, shows or any assistance you need on the cruise.

There are some pretty sweet rooms

It's important to remember that your suite itself comes with a lot of neat features not found in other staterooms as well as a lot more space.

Royal Caribbean designed their suites to be quite desirable with furnishings you'd be surprised to find at sea.  Pianos, wet bars, jacuzzis, extra large balconies and more are typical with most suites.

Looking at photos of suites, you quickly realize why people pay a lot more for these special staterooms. They are exquisite and depending on how far up the suite ladder you go, the word "luxurious" really gets its definition. 

Special sun decks for suite level guests

On Quantum, Oasis, Voyager and Freedom class ships, you will find a private area of the pool deck for suite guests.  

The lounge chairs here are a little more comfortable than other chairs in the area and are reserved just for those staying in a suite, which means less competition to fight for a chair.  It makes getting a spot on the pool deck much easier and you also get a great vantage point of what's happening around the pool.

On Voyager and Freedom Class ships, the Suite area on the pool deck is comprised of reserved lounge chairs.  On Oasis and Quantum Class ships, there is a private area of the pool deck that includes lounge chairs, bar access and more.

Double Crown and Anchor Society points

One of the best benefits of staying in a suite is it helps catapult you up the Crown and Anchor Society ladder much quicker.

Each Royal Caribbean cruise you book in a suite gets you double the regular Crown and Anchor points.  That means instead of 7 points for a week-long cruise, you will now get 14 points.  If you stay in a suite by yourself, you will get triple Crown and Anchor points!

For anyone looking to accrue points fast and reap the benefits of Diamond status or above, staying in a suite can really help.

Complimentary pressing service on formal night

Photo by Jeff Goldberg

You pack all your clothes for your cruise and as hard as you may try, inevitably, when you unpack onboard your clothes are wrinkled or have creases in them.  If you're a suite guest, for formal night you don't have to worry about wrinkles or creases!

Suite guests get complimentary pressing service that will iron your clothes for you and return them so on formal night, you can look your finest.  This is a service that usually costs a few dollars per item, but it's one less thing you will have to worry about now.

Junior Suites do not have all the benefits of other suites

It is woth noting that Junior Suite staterooms may have the word "suite" in the name, but they are not considered a "full suite".  This means it does not get the full level of benefits outlined earlier in this post.

Junior Suite guests do get some nice benefits, such as:

  • Priority embarkation/disembarkation
  • Double Crown & Anchor Society points for each night
  • Walk-in closet
  • Enhanced toiletries
  • Full bathtub
  • Sea Class benefits  (Oasis and Quantum Class ships)
    • Coastal Kitchen access for dinner only
    • Luxury Pillowtop Mattress
    • L’Occitane Bathroom Amenities

Junior Suite guests do not have access to the Concierge Lounge, Concierge service or suites-only areas of the ship.

Is a Royal Caribbean drink package right for you?

By: Matt Hochberg

You may have heard about Royal Caribbean's drink packages and wondered if a drink package is right for you and which package would be a good fit. There are a few drink packages to choose from, and here is an easy guide to knowing what each package includes and if it will benefit you.

Deluxe Beverage Package

If you enjoy a having a few alcoholic drinks per day on your Royal Caribbean cruise, then the only choice to consider is the Deluxe Beverage Package.

For the person that wants it all, the deluxe beverage package includes virtually unlimited combinations of beverages on their Royal Caribbean cruise.  It includes 

  • Cocktails / Spirits / Liqueurs / Beer
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Wines by the glass
  • Fresh squeezed juices
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Fountain sodas
  • Coca-Cola® souvenir cup and Coca-Cola Freestyle® beverages 
  • Milkshakes at Johnny Rockets

The cost of the Deluxe Beverage Package varies from ship to ship and sailing to sailing.  That means there is no fleet wide price of the Deluxe Beverage Package, so exact pricing will depend on which sailing you book. At the time of drink package purchase, a service charge (18%) will be added that will cover gratuity on all drinks ordered with the drink package. 

It is important to note that Royal Caribbean requires if one person in a cabin purchases a Deluxe Beverage package, all others in the cabin aged 21 and over must purchase a package. 

It is worth noting that the Deluxe Beverage Package is very commonly discounted when purchased prior to the cruise, via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner.  Discounts of 20-30% off are regularly seen, and anyone considering a drink package would be well-served to pre-purchase the package instead of buying them onboard.

Unlimited beverage packages

If alcohol is not your thing or you are just not old enough to be drinking yet, then Royal Caribbean has a number of beverage packages perfect for you.

Refreshment Package - $26.00 per person, per day (plus gratuity)

With the Royal Refreshment package, you will get premium coffee, premium tea, bottled water (sparking or still), fresh squeezed juice, non-alcoholic cocktails and a Coca-Cola souvenir cup.

If the drinks Royal Caribbean provides complimentary aren't enough to quench your thirst, this is the best choice for how much you get.  It especially appeals to coffee drinkers because of the premium coffee and tea benefit.

The cost of $26 may not sound like a lot, but for a 7-night cruise it's still a few hundred dollars.  Just like the alcohol packages, it is ideal for those that enjoy having a number of drinks per day.

Classic Soda Package - $8.50 per person, per day (plus gratuity)

The Classic Soda package is simple, it is all the soft drinks you can drink during your cruise.

Coke, Sprite, root beer and all the other carbonated drinks that are available from the self-serve machines, restaurants and bars are at your disposal. 

To purchase a can of your favorite soft drink onboard otherwise, will cost you about $2, so the package requires the least commitment to get your moneys worth.

One more consideration

The basis for purchasing any drink package is to pay a fixed price for an unlimited amount of drinks, with the plan to drink enough over the course of the cruise to "break even" on the package cost.

When you look at the daily cost of any drink package, you will notice that you will need to drink more than just one or two drinks per day over the course of your cruise. With the  the significant up-front investment of a drink package, this means if you buy a drink package, you need to drink enough to make the packages worth it

That up-front investment can actually be a benefit for some, because it allows guests to break up the total cost of their cruise. Rather than end the cruise with a large bar bill, pre-purchasing a beverage package allows for spreading out the cruise cost over different billing cycles.

It's also worth noting these packages work best when you are onboard the ship, so port days when you spend a majority of the day off the ship result in less time to enjoy the package's benefits (excluding Royal Caribbean's private destinations of CocoCay and Labadee, where the drink package benefits work).

At a minimum, the unlimited alcohol package requires around a half dozen drinks per day, every day to be a good value for you.

Top reasons to get a drink package

Convenience of not worrying about drink costs onboard

Having a drink package means not worrying about the cost of individual drinks on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Since so many cocktails, beers, premium coffees and more are included with the drink package, any concerns of running up a high bar tab are eliminated.  For a lot of guests, this is a very liberating experience.

Breaking up total cost of cruise

If you elect to buy a drink package before your cruise, you will be charged for the drink package at the time of purchase.  This helps reduce the total bill you will see at the end of your cruise.

For those that like to budget their cruise vacation and prefer smaller payments over time, buying a drink package in advance helps spread out the cost of the cruise, since you will not be paying for it (or any individual drinks) along with any other incidental charges to your SeaPass account.

Risk-free opportunity to try drinks

A great perk of having a drink package is being able to try drinks that you have never had previously without the concern of "wasting money" on something you do not enjoy. Royal Caribbean's drink menus offer a good variety of choices, and a drink package allows you to try any of them without any worry of not finishing the drink.

Top reasons not to get a drink package

You do not drink enough per day

If you are not interested in having a few drinks per day, every day of your cruise, than a drink package is likely not right for you.  While you do not need to drink enough to keep up with Bluto from Animal House, you should be having enough drinks per day to offset the daily cost compared to if you bought the same amount of drinks without a package.

Up front cost

When you purchase a drink package, Royal Caribbean will charge you for the full cost of the drink package.  For some guests, this can be a bit of sticker shock, especially with the Deluxe Beverage Package on longer sailings.

While we like the option to purchase a drink package in advance to help with budgeting for a cruise vacation, when you consider two adults on a seven night cruise will cost around $700-800, that is still a big charge.

Other adults in your room do not want a drink package

If there is one thing we hear a lot about from prospective drink package buyers that they struggle with, it is the rule of  if one person in a stateroom purchases a Deluxe Beverage package, all others in the stateroom aged 21 and over must purchase a package.

There is a little bit of wiggle room with this rule, if you call Royal Caribbean and mention your the other adult(s) in your stateroom do not drink (as much) alcohol, they will often let the other adult purchase the Royal Refreshment package instead (which costs significantly less per day).

Port intensive itinerary

Since Royal Caribbean's drink packages work only on their ships or private destinations, if your cruise vacation will take you to a lot of ports of call, that means less time to spend onboard to take advantage of the drink package benefits.  

In general, the less sea days and more days docked in a port, the more difficult it is to break even on the cost of a drink package. 

Friday Photos

By: Matt Hochberg

Every Friday, we ask our readers to send us their favorite Royal Caribbean photos so that we can showcase them here on the blog. After all, looking back on past cruise memories is always a great way to get excited for our next cruise!

We begin this week's edition with a photo of Grandeur of the Seas in Nassau, taken by David Epstein.

Cole sent in this photo of Allure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas docked in Cozumel.

Next, we have a photo of Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas docked in San Juan.  Photo by Patrick.

Continuing our unplanned series of ships at a dock, here is Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba, taken by Daniel Stober.

Terry Wooten shared with us this photo of the morning view, as seen from his Grand Suite (stateroom 1556) on Brilliance of the Seas.

Here is a look from North Star on Ovation of the Seas when Bob and Kaye Carpenter took the photo at Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Our final photo this week is by Clayton Powell of Ovation of the Seas in Sydney's Circular Quay.

That wraps up this week's edition of Friday Photos. Thank you to everyone that submitted their photos, and if you would like to, please feel free to share your Royal Caribbean photos with us for a future edition. Have a great weekend!

Royal Caribbean offering up to 30% off Cruise Planner purchases with week-long sale

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 30% off shore excursions, drink packages and internet packages this week.

The weekend Cruise Planner sale applies to select sailings departing August 23, 2018 - February 15, 2019. Guests can check which discounts, if any, are available for their upcoming sailing by visiting the Cruise Planner site.  Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

The Cruise Planner sale runes between August 9, 2018 – August 16, 2018 and is valid on Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas on select Alaska, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, Cuba, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Pacific & Transatlantic sailings.

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers.

Royal Caribbean says beverage packages are discounted up to 30% off onboard prices, shore excursions can be discounted up to 25% off on select tours (discount varies by ship), Up to 30% off onboard internet prices.  In addition, save 20% off lunch at Chops Grille, Jamie's Italian or Hooked.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.