Top travel gadgets to bring on a cruise

In:
11Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Packing for a cruise vacation means not just remembering to bring a swimsuit and formal night wear, but also helpful travel gadgets. These tech tools can enhance any vacation experience and ensure your days by the pool, at the beach or exploring are the best ones yet.

Here are some of our favorite picks for innovative accessories to bring on your next sailing. Note that we included links in this post that may contain affiliate links. Basically that means Amazon gives us a "finder's fee" commission without charging you anything extra.

Wireless Earbuds

Whether you jam out to classic reggae or prefer a Top 20 pop hit, wireless earbuds allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes without worrying about disturbing others around you.

Our pick: Apple AirPods

Phone Case Wallet

I have lost count of the times I have accidently de-magnetized my SeaPass card due to my phone being too close to it.  Until the whole fleet moves to RFID cards, you can guard against this problem by getting a phone case wallet.  They are inexpensive and will save you a trip (or four) to Guest Services for a new card.

Our pickSilk iPhone X / XS Wallet Case

Waterproof Bluetooth speaker

A day at the beach is about relaxing in the sun and surf, but passing the time enjoying those rays and waves is much more enjoyable with some great music.  Royal Caribbean does have some live music on the island, and some recorded music playing near the bars, but back at your beach chair it can be difficult to hear any of it.

We do not advocate blasting your music to disturb other guests, rather, provide a way for you and your family and friends to enjoy some background music while you take it all in.  Enjoying music among friends is a great way to spend the day, especially if you are in a cabana.

Our pick: UE Boom 3 portable Bluetooth wireless speaker

Portable device charger

Never let battery power on your phone, camera or any electronic device prevent you from capturing or enjoying the fun onboard or onshore.  A portable USB charger ensures you can stay charged up, and even allow multiple devices to be useful all day long.

Our pick: Anker PowerCore 20100

Clip-On phone camera lens

Your phone is capable of taking great photos, but with a clip-on lens, it can take even better photos.  By adding a clip-on lens, your phone can take wide-angle, close-up, or just plain spectacular shots that can rival any DSLR camera.

Our pickXenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone and Android

Travel Pillow

If you are flying to your cruise, you may want to invest in a neck pillow so that you can actually sleep comfortably on an airplane. 

Our pickEverlasting Comfort airplane travel kit   

USB wall charger

Since Royal Caribbean prohibits guests from bringing a surge protector (they are a fire hazard), your best bet is to bring a USB wall charger to keep everyone charged up during your cruise.  There are limited outlets in a standard stateroom, and a USB wall charger means you do not have to unceremoniously unplug your spouse's device and then later blame housekeeping.

Our pickAnker 60W 6 Port USB Wall Charger

Your thoughts

Any good cruise or travel-related gadgets we missed? Have any product recommendations (or dislike any of the things listed here)? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

Friday Photos - January 11, 2019

In:
11Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Get your weekend started with our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos! Each week, we show off Royal Caribbean photos that our readers submitted.  It is a great way to enjoy lovely photos, as well as take a "virtual trip" back on a cruise.

 

We begin this week's batch of photos with a shot of the Sapphire Dining Room on Adventure of the Seas. Photo by Corey Seeman.

David Kelly took this beautiful shot of Central Park on Oasis of the Seas at dusk.

Wendy Frazier shared with us this photo of movie night on the pool deck of Enchantment of the Seas.

Our next photo is by Harry Nicholson and it is of Symphony of the Seas docked in Barcelona.

John Blahnik sent in this photo from the balcony on Enchantment of the Seas during the RCPeriscopers Superbowl cruise. Note Michael Poole's visor, which now resides on the bottom of the Port of Tampa Bay.

Next is a photo of Miami, as seen by Bill Barber on Empress of the Seas.

Our final photo this week is by Jason, and it is of the Seafood Tower at Chops Grille.

Thank you to everyone for this week's fabulous photos. If you would like to send in your own Royal Caribbean photos to be featured here, use this form to have them included in a future edition!

Top 8 most common Royal Caribbean dining questions

In:
10Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships offer an incredible amount of food and dining venues onboard.  Guests will discover fresh, delicious and authentic cuisine catered to a range of tastes and preferences. Whether you are a foodie or just enjoy classic comfort food, there is a lot of great dining choices to choose between.

We get a lot of questions about dining and eating on Royal Caribbean, so we have answers to some of the most commonly asked dining questions. Grab your fork and knife and let's dive into these common Royal Caribbean dining questions.

What food is included with my cruise? Is there food I have to pay for?

A Royal Caribbean cruise offers complimentary food as well as specialty dining. This means there are venues onboard your ship that serve unlimited food that is included with your cruise fare, along with some additional options that have an extra charge.

In short, there is ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks inbetween without additional cost. The exact complimentary venues will depend on the ship you sail on, but here are some common ones that pretty much every ship has:

  • Main dining room
  • Windjammer buffet
  • Grab and go spots for food, such as Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, Sorrento's, Boardwalk Dog House, Park Cafe, etc.
  • Johnny Rockets (for breakfast on Oasis Class ships only)

In addition, Royal Caribbean offers its guests the choice to dine at specialty restaurants. Most specialty restaurants have a simple cover charge that includes most of the food on the menu, although there are a couple of specialty restaurants that forgo the cover charge and simply charge you for what you order.

Pro Tip: If you are interested in trying more than one specialty restaurant, you can save a lot of money with a specialty dining package.

Is dinner the same every night?

No, the main dining room and Windjammer buffet both alternate their menus each evening to ensure there is something different. Complimentary dining venues change their menus daily.

Specialty restaurant menus do not usually change.

Do I need to make reservations for our meals?

Depending on which dinner option you choose, the answer to this question may differ. For dinner, guests can choose between traditional dinner or My Time Dining at the time of booking their cruise.

If you are booked for traditional seating at dinner, then there is nothing to reserve ahead of time for the main dining room dinner.  Simply arrive at the designated dining time and you will be seated at the same table each evening.

If you are booked into My Time Dining, then you have the choice of making reservations in advance. With My Time Dining, reservations are recommended for each evening, but you have the option to choose a different time each day of the cruise. We recommend making reservations in advance via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site to ensure quick(er) seating, particularly if you prefer to dine at peak dinner times (6:30pm - 8:00pm).

For specialty restaurants, you certainly want to make reservations.  Walk-up seating may be available, but it is common for specialty restaurants to get booked up. To make sure you get a table, you can make your arrangements online by going to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

Does Royal Caribbean offer unlimited drink packages?

Yes, Royal Caribbean offers unlimited drink packages that include alcohol, as well as some that are just non-alcholic beverages.

There are three basic drink packages to consider:

Drink packages can be purchased before the cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site, as well as onboard. 

Pro Tip: Booking a drink package before your cruise is the best option financially, as the drink packages are usually discounted when bought online.

Can I use my drink package anywhere on the ship?

Yes, Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages work at any venue onboard the ship.  This includes any bar, restaurant or lounge, including the Windjammer, main dining room or specialty restaurants.

The only exception is drink packages are not accepted for room service or minibar orders.

Pro Tip: Drink package benefits extend to Royal Caribbean's private destinations of CocoCay and Labadee.

Can I bring drinks on my cruise?

Guests can bring up to 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Distilled water or specialized beverages such as, milk for medical purposes, dietary or infant use, are permitted.

Guests may also bring up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom.  

Guests cannot bring liquor or fortified wines at any time.  If you purchase wine or liquor in port during your trip, Royal Caribbean will store it on board for safekeeping and return it to you on the last day of the sailing.

Pro Tip: Be sure to keep any beverages you bring onboard with you in your carry on luggage.  If you put non-alcoholic beverages or wine in your checked luggage, it will be delayed in delivery to you room by security.

Do I need to tip?

Prepaid gratuities are automatically added to your reservations. Some guests choose to recognize particularly exceptional service with an added cash gratuity throughout their cruise.

Is there room service?

Yes, there is room service available but it has a $7.95 per order service fee.  The service fee is per order, so you can order as much food as you want in each order and only pay the service fee.

There is a complimentary continental breakfast room service option.

Room service is available 24 hours per day.

Gastrointestinal illness on Oasis of the Seas forces Royal Caribbean to end cruise early

In:
10Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

About 167 guests on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas are afflicted by a stomach virus, according to Royal Caribbean officials.

WESH is reporting the guests affected by the short-lived illness are being treated by the ship's medical team with over-the-counter medication.

“We are bringing additional medical staff on board and we're engaging in intensive sanitary procedures to minimize the risk of any further issues,” a statement from Royal Caribbean said.

Oasis of the Seas is on a 7-night Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida.

UPDATE: The number of sick guests has increased to 277.

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has decided to cancel the rest of the Oasis of the Seas sailing due to the outbreak. The Miami Herald is reporting that Oasis of the Seas will cut its current cruise short. Royal Caribbean said all passengers will receive full refunds for their cruise fare.

“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health,” said Rob Zeiger, chief communications manager for Royal Caribbean. “Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing.”

Reasons people avoid going on a cruise on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
09Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 284 is available for downloading, where Matt and Billy debunk myths many people that have never cruiused before use to avoid going on a cruise.

Unfortunately there are a lot of myths about why not to cruise and this week, Matt and Billy dispell these misconceptions on the podcast.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 284. 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!

Save up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases with Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner sale

In:
09Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean kicks off a week-long Cruise Planner sale with up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases.

The Bring on the Savings Sale runs between January 9 -16, 2019 and is valid on sailings between January 20, 2019 - June 30, 2019.

Royal Caribbean states guests can expect to see:

  • Beverage Packages: Up to 30% off on select sailings
    • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
    • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
    • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices. Discount varies by ship.
  • Save up to 25% on select shore excursions. Discount varies by ship.
  • Internet
    • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
    • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • Dining Packages
    • 3 Night Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.
    • 3 Night, 4 Night and 5 Night Ultimate Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.

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. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

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.

First time cruisers: What clothing to pack

In:
08Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Packing for your first Royal Caribbean cruise can feel like a daunting task, as there is a lot to consider. You have to take into account where your cruise is going, the shore excursions you want to book and dress codes onboard.

In a way, it is difficult to blame anyone for over packing because the longer the cruise, the harder it is to figure out just what clothing you will need. Your luggage will have vastly different clothing in it if you cruise heads to the Mediterranean versus Caribbean or Australia.

We have some tips to share for what to pack for your first cruise.

Cruise destinations

Even though Royal Caribbean has the word "Caribbean" in its name, Royal Caribbean ships serve a variety of ports around the world, so where you go can make things easier or harder on your packing.  

Caribbean and other warm water port destinations usually require a lot of t-shirts, shorts, and other light clothing.  But if your cruise is visiting cold water ports such as Alaska, New England or Northern Europe, you're going to need clothing that will feel comfortable outdoors as well as clothing that is comfortable inside the ship.

Based on where your cruise is going, you'll have a better idea of how much you will need and it's important to figure out a rough idea of what your schedule will be in terms of ports.  If you're only planning on leaving the ship at one or two ports, you may not need as much clothing than if you're planning on leaving the ship all the time.

First day packing

Embarkation day requires its own special packing strategy, because you will need a carry-on bag with certain items that you need to have on you until the rest of your luggage is delivered to your stateroom later in the day.

Pack your bathing suit in a carry on bag and then change in one of the public restrooms.  Towels will be provided in the pool area for your use.  By bringing bathing suits with you to change into on embarkation day, you will be able to enjoy the pools and hot tubs without the crowds that will soon arrive for the rest of the cruise.

You should also plan to pack anything you will need to have access to between when you arrive at the cruise terminal through the evening of the first day. This can include things such as medications, electronics, passport, credit card/cash, change of clothes and toiletries.

Royal Caribbean dress codes

The phrase "dress code" often strikes fear into the hearts of first time cruisers out of concern that they will feel out of place or break a rule. The reality is dress codes are merely dress suggestions for the main dining room, and dress on Royal Caribbean is far more casual than you might think.

Royal Caribbean has three main dress codes onboard its ships:

  • Casual
    • Most times of the cruise, Casual is the defacto dress code.  You will find it for breakfast, lunch and some dinners. 
    • Some good ideas for casual nights are jeans, polos, sundresses, blouses, and generally comfortable clothing. 
  • Smart Casual
    • Think of Smart Casual as a step up from Casual dress code, so plan on something a bit nicer than you might wear on Casual.  In practice, you could easily dress for Smart Casual the same as Casual.
    • Smart Casual dress suggestions include collared shirts, slacks, nicer dresses or skirts.
  • Formal
    • Formal Night is when guests can enjoy their evening best.  Nothing is too fancy for formal night, but keep in mind that you do not have to recreate your Senior Prom either.
    • You will find men wearing suits and even tuxedos.  Ladies may opt for cocktail dresses or evening gown.
    • If all this sounds too fussy, a simple collared shirt and pair of slacks for men or jeans, skirt or dress for women will suffice.
    • Formal nights are optional (though recommended) and will only take place one to three times per cruise. As always, there are plenty of casual restaurant options available on those nights too.

Packing for fun

Beyond what you will wear for meals, the bulk of your packing will entail what you need to wear around the ship or in town on excursions. 

For all the activities onboard, you may need a workout outfit or two for the fitness center.  You will also need athletic wear to tackle the rock-climbing wall, sports court or zip line. If you are cruising on Voyager, Freedom or Oasis Class ships and want to visit the ice-skating rink, be sure to pack socks and long pants. Likewise, the zip line requires closed toe shoes.

If there is one aspect of cruise packing that may be the most obvious, it would be for the pool deck. You will need swimsuits for the pool, hot tubs and waterslides.

Cruise packing tips

Here are some more packing tips to consider for your first cruise!

  • Do a Google search for "cruise packing list".  There's a lot of packing lists out there and most contain a lot of stuff you don't need, but they are good resources for remembering those "oh yea!" things. Our friends at CruiseHabit came up with a great list.
  • When possible, re-use clothing.  Odds are no one is tracking if you wore the same pair of jeans or shorts on day 2 and day 6 of your cruise.  Pants are the easiest to reuse, as they really don't get "dirty" after just one use.  
  • For men, if you want to pack less dress shirts, try packing one shirt and tie with your suit to wear, and then on a different formal night, just wear shirt without jacket or tie.
  • Another tip for men, try finding reversible belts that go with a "black" or "brown" outfit.  One less thing to pack!
  • Have one bag, preferably something easily portable like a backpack, full of essentials you need but wont check in, such as passports, money, cruise documents, phones, etc.
  • I find two bathing suits are usually enough for almost any cruise.  Short of you or someone literally spending all their time in the pools, you can usually operate with one swimsuit drying somewhere in your cabin with the other ready for use.
  • While this article is all about trying to avoiding over packing, it's definitely better to over pack than under pack!
  • Self-service laundry isn’t available on the ship, but dry cleaning and laundry services are offered for each stateroom at an additional fee. Nominal fees are worth it if it means packing less clothing.

More packing information

Now that we have covered packing basics, here are some additional articles to help more!

Video: It’s Showtime All the Time on Symphony of the Seas

In:
08Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean continues to push the boundaries in entertainment with the debut of cutting-edge productions on stage, in the air, under water and on ice on board Symphony of the Seas.

8 cool things for kids to do on your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
07Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Kids get just as excited for a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation as their parents, because of all the fun activities for them to do onboard. Cruising with kids is an exercise in energetic adventures, big smiles and hopefully a nap in-between. In our many Royal Caribbean cruises, we have discovered certain aspects of the cruise that are real winners with our children and wanted to share them with you.

Consider some, or all, of the following fun things for your kids to do on your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise!

Play in Splashaway Bay

Splashaway Bay is Royal Caribbean's new generation of aqua park that combines slides, water cannons, drenching buckets, geysers and more into a kid-approved playground.

Royal Caribbean is slowly adding Splashaway Bay to many of its ships (including Perfect Day at CocoCay) and it represents a fresh look at what kids enjoy about splashing around for hours by the pool.

Movie night in the pool

If there are two things kids love, it is swimming and watching movies.  On Royal Caribbean ships, you will regularly find popular feature films shown on the big screen near the pool each evening.  After dinner, you and the kids can hop in the pool and splash away while enjoying a great flick!

Royal Caribbean shows all sorts of films, from recent releases to classics, and adding in the ambiance of a night swim is always a fun treat as well.  Plus, the pools and hot tubs are much less busy at night, so that means more opportunity for your kids to act like kids and enjoy time in the pool while everyone in the family gets to enjoy a great flick.

Climb the rock wall

A signature Royal Caribbean activity is the rock climbing wall. The 30-foot rock wall offers different tracks for various experience levels and is open for most of the day.  

It's open to kids and adults and Royal Caribbean provides all the safety equipment that you will need, including helmets, harnesses and shoes.  You just need to bring a pair of socks.

What makes the rock climbing wall so much fun is that it is an exhilarating challenge to try and climb up all the way to the top and ring that bell to let everyone around know you conquered it.

There are different paths on the rock wall to allow beginner climbers and advanced climbers alike have a go at it.  Once you conquer one side, try the next side!

Ride the carousel

If you are going on an Oasis class cruise ship (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas or Symphony of the Seas), then your family must go on a carousel ride in the Boardwalk neighborhood.

Royal Caribbean commissioned for each ship a hand-crafted carousel that is inspired by turn-of-the-century carousels. These carousels are as pretty look at, as they are fun to ride.  Plus, rides on the carousel are included in your cruise fare.

Be sure to also get some nighttime carousel rides in too, because the carousel and the entire Boardwalk neighborhood are lit up beautifully once the sun goes down.

Eat frozen yogurt by the pool

Near the pools, you will find free frozen yogurt that is available most times of the day and there is as much of as you want. I do not think there needs to be any more elaborating.

Decorate your stateroom door

Your Royal Caribbean stateroom door is made of metal, which means it is magnetic and a great family project prior to the cruise to create the decorations.  It can be a fun family activity to come up with different ways to personalize your door to share with everyone how excited you are for the cruise.

Often you will find other doors decorated with pictures, magnets of various sizes and shapes, leis, and more.  Your kids could draw something to put on the door, or you could help them create name tags to decorate and then put on the door with magnets.

Keep in mind that you will need to supply your own magnets to affix anything to the stateroom door.  Tape is not allowed.

For those less artistically inclined, Royal Caribbean does offer stateroom decorations for purchase that can be delivered and set up for you.  This can be a great way to celebrate a special occasion, or just plain surprise the children.

Slide down the Ultimate Abyss

If your kids want more of a thrill, they need to check out the Ultimate Abyss on Harmony or Symphony of the Seas. The Ultimate Abyss is a 10-story dry slide on the rear of the ship that is advertised as the tallest slide at sea.

The Ultimate Abyss is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send guests down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour. 

To ride the Ultimate Abyss, kids can climb the steps into the mouth of a fearsome sea predator, the anglerfish, enjoy the unobstructed ocean views, grab a mat, and then launch themselves down 216 feet of twisting tunnels against the background of whizzing lights, sound effects and pumping music.

Perfect Day at CocoCay construction progress photo report - January 2019

In:
07Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

We are getting closer and closer to the much-anticipated launch of Royal Caribbean's CocoCay private island makeover.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Kayla Hildebrandt recently visited the island and shared these photos of the progress being made.

In addition, Caran Popowitz shared these photos from her recent trip to CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean currently estimates the pier for its private island to open in March 2019.

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