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The cruise ship hot takes you should probably ignore

16 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

The internet is a great place to share experiences, but there are a few cruise ship critiques that you should probably not put much stock in when making a decision.

I enjoy reading other people's experiences on a Royal Caribbean cruise, including what they liked and didn't like about their cruise. But I will rarely, if ever, use it as a basis for my own plans.

The reason why you should not base your buying decisions on someone else's experience is that your cruise could be completely different. Moreover, your particular tastes may be different than theirs.

It's quite common for me to see a message on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards from someone who got back from a cruise and rants about something they did, saw, or experienced onboard they did not like at all. In some cases these are a result of being unaware of what to expect, or perhaps they simply did not care for it. 

Kids on carousel

An important mantra of reading others reviews is that we all have different tastes. Think about something you love but you know others cannot stand, such as a favorite sport, a hobby you enjoy, or a local restaurant. You love it, but know someone that has the complete opposite opinion you hold. That doesn't make you wrong, nor does it mean others might not enjoy it either.

Of all the commonly reviewed cruise experiences out there, here are the top hot takes to safely ignore and try it out yourself anyway.

Food and dining reviews


They say "everyone's a critic", and this definitely holds true of dining.

One of the most commonly shared reviews of a cruise ship is the food served onboard, both the food included and what costs extra.

With so many dining choices, lots of people love to share their dining reviews of a restaurant, including the individual dishes, the service, or the restaurant overall.


When it comes to food reviews, I always think about broccoli. 

Broccoli is a particularly polarizing food because there are so many people that love broccoli and an equal amount of people who absolutely hate broccoli. What does that mean? We all have different tastes and just because someone loves or despises broccoli doesn't mean you will either.

So when you read about Meemaw’s Fried Chicken N’ Waffles at the Mason Jar, or Taste of Royal lunch, you shouldn't decide if you'll order something (or skip the restaurant all together) because of someone's review.

Chicken n Waffles at Mason Jar

This also holds true of the service.  Every restaurant has a bad day in terms of slow service. Think about dining at home and I'm sure you'll recall plenty of times your favorite restaurant was extra slow or your waiter was not great.

Slow service can happen anywhere, and it's something Royal Caribbean is constantly working to prevent. 

My advice is to not limit yourself or skip a restaurant because of what someone else thought of the food or service. Give it a try at least once to see how you like it or not.

Mattress comfort

Sky Loft Suite

"I've hard the mattresses are uncomfortable" is another topic of discussion that is bound to be purely subjective.

There are plenty of theories about cruise ship mattresses and whether or not they are too firm.

Just like all the models at a mattress store, some people will prefer a firm or cushy mattress. Your cruise ship mattress is going to be no different.

If you do find the mattress firm, you could always ask your stateroom attendant for a mattress topper. Or ask for another comforter and place it under the sheet to provide more cushion.


Hot tub

Is the pool deck, Adventure Ocean, Royal Promenade or the ship itself crowded? A lot of it will depend on your own personal definition of how crowded is too crowded.

A researcher at the University of Tokyo looked at how people perceive congestion, and it turns out the sheer volume of people around us is not the end-all, be-all of what makes it feel crowded.

"I was a little surprised to find that the density of people in a given space was not the best indicator of perceived congestion; in fact, it turned out to be the walking speed, or velocity, of the people around the perceiver," said Project Assistant Professor Jia Xiaolu.

If you hear that the pool was crowded on a sea day, was that person in the pool the whole day? Did they observe it from a higher deck? Did they spend all day or 10 minutes? And most importantly, how do they determine what is too crowded?

Let's face it, Royal Caribbean cruise ship are not private yachts and their ships sail at full capacity. This isn't a secret, so there will be other guests around you most of the time. But that doesn't mean it's a poor experience.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Some people love being in the center of the fun, and that includes being in a bar or pool where lots of other people are hanging out.  Meanwhile, there are folks that prefer to have a space all to themselves at all times. 

If you read that a ship was crowded, that isn't a scientific analysis of the experience or that you shouldn't sail on it. 


Grease Broadway musical on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

You'll find comedians, Broadway shows, singers, and plenty of other live entertainment on your cruise. With it, comes everyone's thoughts on if it's worth seeing.

Royal Caribbean invests heavily in live entertainment, so you'll find no shortage of bands, singers, actors and the like. 

The shows onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships are always the source of endless reviews. Look no further than the ongoing discussions surrounding the Broadway show, "Cats" on Oasis of the Seas, for proof of this.

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

My advice is to see the show to determine for yourself what you like or don't like. 

I've seen enough magicians onboard cruise ships to swear them off, but that's my opinion. I know others that love magic shows on cruises. It's proof that we all have different tastes and not to rely on someone else's review of a show to determine if you will see it.

Cruise ships

The all-time cruise hot take worth ignoring completely are cruise ship reviews.

Because cruise ships offer so many choices in what you can do, the experience will be vastly different for every person. You certainly cannot determine if you should cruise on one ship or not based on if someone else liked or hated the ship.

But what if there are a lot of negative reviews about a particular ship? I get this question all the time from readers.

Granduer of the Seas

My response is reviews of cruise ships are useless because of how much variation each person on that ship can have.

First and foremost, I believe the top reason for a negative experience on a cruise ship is being unaware of what the ship has and does not have onboard.

People often ask "What is the worst Royal Caribbean ship?" thinking that there's at least a few duds that everyone should avoid. It's not the case at all.

It has less to do with an inherit flaw or problem with the ship, and more to do with what you want in a cruise ship.

If you're still not convinced that all those negative reviews of one cruise ship are flawed, then consider the the nature of online reviews.

The people that write online reviews are far from objective, and anything but a professional reviewer. Often they will let minor issues overwhelm the bulk of their experience and give an undeserved 1 star review.

Want proof of that? Here's my favorite exercise.

Do a Google search for The Great Wall of China, which is one of mankind's greatest engineering achievements. 

There are over 15,000 reviews and it has a 4.2 star rating with hundreds of 1 star reviews.

"It’s way too long. They should offer rides across."

"Very boring. It did not move and it was no fun."

"Too much walking."

Wonder of the Seas docked at CocoCay

You may be laughing at these ridiculous reviews of an incredible feat, but these are the same kind of slanted reviews you'll read about cruise ships.

Read moreWhy you can't trust online reviews of cruise ships

Instead of relying on online cruise ship reviews, look at what each ship you are considering offers and doesn't offer. Consider your own personal preferences (do you like having lots of activities for kids? Want water slides? Need Broadway shows?) and then pick the right ship based on those thoughts.

If you want to learn about Royal Caribbean ships, here are some helpful resources:

Beach Reads: Books from Royal Caribbean cruise ports

16 Aug 2022
Haley Mills

There’s no better time to read than a cruise, when you can kick off your shoes, grab a drink of choice, and settle in with whatever book you’ve been saving for just this opportunity.

Wonder of the Seas in Labadee

Does this sound like a good idea to you? We have some recommendations perfect for all you August cruisers (and everyone else, too)! Pack one or two of these books in your suitcase or on your tablet for your next vacation.

Much to our kids’ dismay, summer is over and it’s time to head back to school. This time of year sure gets a lot busier for almost everyone, so taking some time to read can seem like a bit of vacation when we cannot get away. To keep that feeling going, I’ve compiled a list of books from some popular cruise ports.

Travels in Alaska by John Muir


  • Travels in Alaska by John Muir - Naturalist John Muir traveled to the pristine, mostly unexplored territory of Alaska. He recorded his experiences of glaciers and animals across what is now the largest state in the USA.


  • Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia - A family saga and testament to a group of women that spans from 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico. This book tells about the legacy of the memories they carry, and the stories they tell, even when people try to silence them.
In the Time of the Butterflies

Dominican Republic


Call Me By Your Name



Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia



  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - As Barcelona heals from WWII, a book dealer’s son becomes obsessed with an author. But while trying to find more of his work, he discovers he may have one of the few copies left.
Two ships docked in Cozumel

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of ports that Royal Caribbean visits! Do you have a favorite author or book from a port you’ve visited? Post it in the comments so we can add it to our To Read lists. 

What do you plan on reading in August? Do you have a Back-to-School list prepared?

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas hidden secrets

15 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Going on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and want to know all the best kept secrets and tips for this cruise ship?

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Mariner of the Seas has become a fan-favorite with all the fun things to do onboard, especially after her 2018 Royal Amplification where the cruise line added a variety of upgrades.

No matter your cruise style, there's sure to be at least a few less than well-known things you should know about Mariner of the Seas so that you can take advantage of these when you go on your cruise.

Here's my list of the top Mariner of the Seas hidden secrets that are often overlooked by other guests.

1. Peek-a-boo bridge


There's a place on Mariner of the Seas where you can "spy" into the bridge of the ship.

The bridge is where the ship's Captain and other officers work to navigate and control the cruise ship. Royal Caribbean has an observational window that allows passengers to see into the bridge.

Known as the Peek-a-boo bridge, it's located outside in front of the Vitality fitness area.


You can get to it by going up to deck 12 forward and walking outside towards the front.

2. There are two cabins for solo cruisers

If you are looking to go on Mariner of the Seas but are traveling by yourself, the ship has two cabins for solo cruisers.

Not that many Royal Caribbean cruise ships offer cabins for solo cruisers, but these smaller inside rooms are designed for someone on a cruise alone and the best part about these cabins is they do not have a single supplement fee. This means a solo cruiser isn't essentially paying double.

The two rooms are located behind the large round Loyalty Ambassador's desk on deck 2.

If you want to book a studio cabin, you'll need to act quickly as they sell out early.

3. Hidden little spot behind Starbucks

Whether you order a coffee from Starbucks onboard or not, there is an overlooked seating area to go to that is a great indoor spot to getaway from the crowds.

If you walk to the left of Starbucks, there is a seating area behind the kiosk that has chairs and tables, perfect for reading a book or talking with friends.

There are also large windows so you can see the ocean pass by from the chairs.

4. Visit the helipad

Perhaps my favorite spot on any Royal Caribbean ship is the helipad, and you can go there.

On Deck 4, the promenade deck has helipad access all the way forward. As you walk forward, you will see stairs going up a deck and that leads to the bow of the ship. 

From here, you have one of the best views for sailaway.

5. Quiet deck place to relax

New aerial photos of Mariner and Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Looking for comfortable seating outdoors that is perfect to chill?

All the way forward on deck 13 has some great seating that is far enough from the pools that you won't have much competition for a seat, and quiet enough you could even sneak in a nap between chapters of your book.

There are even comfy day beds you can snag! 

6. Find the Stowaway Piano Player

Stowaway piano player

One of the best not-so-well-known entertainment options that Royal Caribbean has recently added is the "stowaway" piano player.

The idea is there is a piano player with a far-out piano that will move around the ship and perform for guests but encouraging guests to not report him.  

The stowaway piano player will appear around the ship at different times during the cruise.

7. Balcony dividers can be removed

Balcony divider open on Mariner of the Seas

If you happen to have connecting balcony staterooms, most Voyager-class ships cannot have their balcony dividers removed.  However, on Mariner of the Seas that is not the case.

If you're interested in opening up balcony dividers on Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, the balconies are attached to the ships' hull and cannot be removed. But on Mariner of the Seas, the balcony dividers aren't attached and can be removed.

8. Try a few of the best alcoholic drinks onboard

On the run

Need a recommendation for drinks that stand out on Mariner of the Seas?

At the Bamboo Room, there is the "On the run", which is served in a “capri-sun” style drink pouch. Perfect for enjoying in the bar, or anywhere else onboard you take it.


If you want the best mojito, head down to Boleros. They'll use real mint and it will be the highest quality mojito on Mariner.

If you're a beer drinker, head to Playmakers and ask for the beers from Funky Buddha brewery. Playmakers is the only location that serves Funky Buddha brews, which is beer from a small South Florida company that offers great craft beer.

9. Pack socks and pants for ice skating

Did you know you can go ice skating on Mariner of the Seas?

Throughout your cruise there will be ice skating sessions offered, where Royal Caribbean provides ice skates and a helmet for no extra charge and you can hit the ice and try it out.

The only catch is you need to have long pants and socks in order to skate. Since most people on a warm Caribbean cruise don't usually pack these items, it's worth reminding anyone interested in trying it out to pack these clothes so you can hit the ice.

10. Alternate walking path

If you like to walk a few laps, there is a jogging and walking path on deck 12, but on sea days it can get very busy up there with a lot of other guests sunbathing and otherwise enjoying the sea air.

An alternative for walking would be the promenade deck on deck 4.

The promenade deck goes all the way around the ship, and more than half of this loop is in the shade.

The promenade deck is accessible on deck 4 from either the forward or aft elevator banks via the large sliding doors.

Did we miss any Mariner of the Seas secrets? Share them in our comments!

Top 5 binoculars for an Alaska cruise

15 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Binoculars may not be an item you use often at home, but they definitely come in handy on an Alaska cruise. Being able to view Alaska’s scenery “up close” from hundreds of feet away brings you closer to nature, whether spotting whales, bears, eagles, or glaciers from the binocular’s lens.

Binoculars come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of binoculars for your Alaska cruise, but you don’t want to buy a pair at the dollar store, either.

Here’s our list of the top 5 binoculars to buy for an Alaska cruise that are sure to enhance your experience in the Last Frontier.

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which means Royal Caribbean Blog gets a commission for purchases made. There is no additional cost to you.

Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars

Purchase the Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars on Amazon here.

These are the binoculars I purchased for my Alaska cruise last year. While I admit I knew nothing about binoculars and what was considered “good” in terms of quality, I was extremely pleased with these Occer binoculars. For only $35.99, they make a solid pair of binoculars for a first-time user.

One problem with cheaper binoculars is that they can lack stability, making it frustrating to keep your focus on an object through the lenses. While these Occer binoculars aren’t the most fancy pair out there, I was pleased with the lens quality, clarity, and stability.

Related: What should you bring on an Alaska cruise?

SkyGenius 8x21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars

Purchase the SkyGenius 8x21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars on Amazon here.

If you’re looking for another budget-friendly binocular option, this pair of SkyGenius binoculars is not only lightweight, but compact, meaning it will fit into the smallest of daypacks on your Alaska cruise!

At only $20, these binoculars can have a huge impact on your Alaska cruise experience. There’s no need to lug heavy binoculars around port, and these binoculars may even fit in your pocket!

These can also make a great pair of binoculars for kids due to the low cost and small size.

Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10x42mm Binocular

Purchase the Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10x42mm Binocular on Amazon here.

The highest quality binoculars on our list are the Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10x42 binoculars, which are priced at a staggering $599. Shockproof, waterproof, fog proof, lightweight, and ergonomic, these binoculars are a nice option for avid outdoor enthusiasts.

The binoculars provide an extremely crisp and clear image with no edge distortion, and they even have a Twilight Max HD Light Management System to provide extra viewing light at dawn or dusk.

I wouldn’t recommend spending so much if you only plan to use the binoculars on your cruise and later store them in a closet. However, if you have an interest in using binoculars in your day-to-day life, such as bird watching or hiking, they can make a nice investment.

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for your sailing

Roxant Monocular Telescope

Purchase the Roxant Monocular Telescope on Amazon here.

The Roxant Monocular Telescope is not a pair of binoculars. Instead, it’s a monocular, which has just one viewing tube instead of two.

There are several benefits to using monoculars instead of binoculars. Monoculars are smaller, making for easier transportation while exploring Alaska. At half the size of most binoculars, they’re also more lightweight. It’s easy to fit a monocular in your pocket, making for easy access when you want to catch a fleeting glimpse of a bear, eagle, or whale on your Alaska cruise.

Monoculars aren’t without drawbacks, however, including increased strain on your eyes from viewing the magnified world through just one eye. Therefore, monoculars are best for a short glimpse instead of looking through it for an extended period of time.

Vanstarry Compact Binoculars for Kids

Purchase the Vanstarry Compact Binoculars for Kids on Amazon here.

If you’re traveling to Alaska with young children, consider purchasing a pair of binoculars made just for kids. These binoculars will be small in size with kid-friendly colors, and while they are more like a toy compared to higher-end binoculars, they still allow kids to see Alaska’s scenery and wildlife up close.

The Vanstarry Compact Binoculars for Kids have a 5x30 optical lens, and the binoculars have soft rubber surrounding the eyepieces to protect the eyes and face. They’re made of rubber, too, allowing for easy grip, and come with a neck strap to prevent the binoculars from falling.

Not only that, but the binoculars come with a Compass, which can add to the fun for kids as they set off to discover the outdoors.

Related: 12 must have Royal Caribbean tips & tricks for families

Planning an Alaska cruise? Start here:

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 14, 2022

14 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of the Royal Caribbean post round-up, where we summarize all of the Royal Caribbean news and information from this week into one handy-dandy post! There is plenty of great content to enjoy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's round-up!

Royal Caribbean announced this week it will begin dropping Covid vaccine requirements for select sailings.

Unvaccinated passengers will be allowed onboard Royal Caribbean ships beginning September 5 on sailings from Los Angeles, New Orleans, Galveston, Texas, and Europe as long as testing requirements are met.

A vaccine is still required for other sailings, such as cruises from Florida, until further notice.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 464th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt talks with a Royal Caribbean cruiser who is blind about what the experience is like for him.

AJ and his wife love to cruise and shares the challenges of going on a cruise and being blind, as well as what the cruise line offers to assist.

Please subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! 

Video: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

Man who has cruised the most with Royal Caribbean reaches 10,000 points

Super Mario hits 10,000 points

Royal Caribbean's top cruiser has reached a new all-time high for loyalty points.

Mario ‘Super Mario’ Salcedo crossed 10,000 points while on Explorer of the Seas and celebrated his milestone with friends.

Super Mario cruises about 50 weeks a year and has been doing so for decades now.

When is the best time to book a cruise?

Are you wondering when is the best time to book a cruise?

There's many considerations, such as time of year, sailing length, itinerary and much more that factor into how early you should book a cruise.

Guide to a Bahamas cruise

Are you ready to escape to the warm blue waters of The Bahamas?

Quite a lot of Royal Caribbean cruises will make a stop in The Bahamas due to its convenient location and natural beauty.

Whether you make one stop or spend the entire cruise in their waters, here's your guide to a Bahamas cruise so you know what to expect.

10 tips to help you improve your cruise vacation

13 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

While I can't come up with a formula for the perfect cruise for every single person, I can suggest some easy ways to boost anyone's cruise experience.

Couple at the pool

In my experience, everyone has their own style to cruising. Some try to every single activity before lunch, and others don't wake up until lunch. That's the beauty of a cruise: you get to do what you want, when you want.

No matter how you prefer to chill, there are some easy ways to build on your cruise plans to make it an even better experience. 

Think of these strategies like spices in a food recipe: you don't need to add them, but the extra flavor might be a nice touch.

Add days before or after your cruise

Miami hotel

I think everyone should fly to their cruise at least a day ahead of time simply because of how flaky the airlines are with cancellations and delays, but there's an added benefit to flying in early.

Flying to your cruise the same day it begins is playing with fire, but coming in early (or staying after your cruise) allows you to pad your vacation time.

If you arrive a day or two early for your cruise, you get to have a more relaxed ramp up to getting onboard. You'll be able to explore the city your ship departs from, as well as adjust to a time zone change.

Hotel pool, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida

Staying a few days after your cruise helps soften the blow of the "post-cruise blues" and feel like your vacation isn't coming to a screeching halt.

If you can work remotely, spending a couple extra days working from the beach in Florida is a good compromise where you get a change of scenery without having to spend extra vacation days.

This strategy is especially helpful if you're on a short cruise, such as a weekend cruise, where you can take a quick cruise and expand that overall vacation feel.

Buy The Key

While I'm not a huge fan of the value proposition The Key offers, I do admit buying it is a simple means of hitting the "easy button" to cruising.

The premise of The Key is to offer anyone a way to buy into VIP treatments, such as an early check-in time at the terminal, reserved time at signature activities, and a welcome aboard lunch.

This article isn't about how to maximize value, so if you're looking for a means to splurge without breaking the bank, perhaps The Key has that benefit.

Read moreCounterpoint: why we love The Key

Get a sailaway massage

Massage at the spa

It's no secret that a massage at the Vitality Spa is a relaxing and enjoyable experience, but I think it's a great idea to get a massage on the first day right as the ship is departing.

Embarkation day is a busy day, and I've always found the first day to have that feeling of running errands, rather than relaxing. You want to get dining reservations, unpack all your clothes, book shows and a host of other important first-day activities.

Read more25 things you need to know for your first day on a cruise ship


By the time late afternoon rolls around, it's not unusual to start feeling like you're running out of energy a bit. This is the perfect time to schedule a spa appointment.

Usually, the price for a spa treatment on embarkation day is cheaper because everyone is busy doing other things.

Getting a massage right as your ship is departing could the perfect way to bring things down a notch and get that "I'm on vacation" feeling back in gear.

Ask your waiter for alternative menu options

Dining room menu

Whether you have a food allergy or are just a picky eater, there are other options not necessarily on the menu in the dining room.

Ask to speak to the head waiter and explain what you would like, even if it is not on the menu.

Politely talk to your wait staff about what options you have. In general, as long as they have the ingredients and you make the request in advance, they can absolutely accommodate a great variety of requests.

Dining room waiter

Be aware that some changes take extra time, so give the staff advanced notice. Usually 24 hours will suffice for special meals or foods. 

Read moreHow to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room

Skip a shore excursion and stay onboard

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

While you likely booked a cruise because of the fun ports the ship is scheduled to visit, you might consider staying onboard the ship for one of the stops.

That isn't to say the ports of call your ship visits don't offer some really fun things to do. Rather, this is about a way to take advantage of a less busy ship.

If there's a port you have been to before, or you can't find a shore excursion that jumps out as a great choice, then you might be better off staying on the ship and enjoying the far less busy pool deck.

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

In the morning and afternoon while a cruise ship is docked in port, the pool deck is far less busy than almost any other time of the cruise. This means it's easy to get a seat by the pool, a seat in the hot tub, or your own personal space in the pool.

Being onboard when most others are off the ship is the closest feeling you'll get to having the cruise ship to yourself.

If you have kids, staying onboard not only allows them to enjoy the pool deck, but also get extra rides in on the ship's waterslides without a massive wait.

Learn about what your ship has to offer before you board

Regret is one of the most common pitfalls of a cruise, as people realize too late that they missed out on an activity, tour, or cool thing they wanted to check out.

Read moreWhat I wish I'd known before I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise

If you want to ensure you get to experience everything on your ship that appeals to you, then you're going to want to learn about your ship before you sail.

Royal Caribbean certainly advertises the signature activities on its ships, but there's far more to do than just a FlowRider or water slide. There are shows, trivia, lectures, entertainers and lots of really fun things you can do onboard and on shore.

It's to your advantage to learn about everything you can do to ensure you don't miss any of it.

An easy way to learn about things to do on your ship is to read a past Cruise Compass.

The Cruise Compass is a daily newspaper of activities, and Royal Caribbean doesn't change these plans much from sailing to sailing. So while a past Compass might not be a 100% representation of what you can expect, it's going to be close enough.

Read moreFirst time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

Likewise, there might be a fun shore excursion you'd like to do and it might not be bookable through Royal Caribbean.

Read more5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

The more you are aware of your options, the less likely you'll be disappointed later after learning you could have done something else.

Plan to hit the pool on embarkation day

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Did you know the pool and water slides are open on the first day of your cruise?

Most people don't, or more to the point, most people don't have their bathing suits with them to enjoy the pool on the first day.

Pack your bathing suits in your carry-on bag and then change once you get on the ship to start off with a far less crowded pool deck day.

You'll find practically empty pools and water slides without much of a wait well into the afternoon.

Even when people get their luggage delivered to their room, by that point, it's time to get ready for dinner and that keeps the pools from being full.

Besides less people to contend with, hopping in the pool or jacuzzi is a great way to start your vacation with a more relaxed pace. Save the ship exploration for after dinner.

Bid for a cruise cabin upgrade

You don't need to spend more money to have a good time on a cruise, however, it certainly doesn't hurt either.

RoyalUp is Royal Caribbean's stateroom upgrade bidding program, where you can attempt to make an offer for a bigger cabin.

It's a blind bidding program, and that means you won't know what others bid, nor if there actually are any cabins available to upgrade to. But if you're lucky, you might be able to move up to a nicer cabin for less money than if you had booked it outright.

Balcony cabin on Mariner of the Seas

People cancel cruises all the time, even with just days to go before sailing. RoyalUp is a tool the cruise line uses to fill in those cabins.

There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, so if you don't mind rolling the proverbial dice on a cabin upgrade, give RoyalUp a shot.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean suites guide & review

Get two cabins instead of one for your family

Connecting rooms

Want to know my cruise best tip for a family? Get two cabins.

If you're cruising with kids, it can be advantageous to book two connecting (or adjacent) cabins instead of one large cabin for everyone to stay in.

Connecting rooms provides separation, so the kids can go to bed at a different time from you. During the day, they have their own space (and own television) to watch.

Bathroom door on Wonder of the Seas

Most importantly, getting two rooms means you'll get two full bathrooms. Families with teenagers will find this an amazing benefit.

It's also worth mentioning that two cabins doesn't mean expensive. Quite often, two smaller cabins can be the same price or cheaper than one large room or suite.

Read moreWhat's the best cruise ship cabin for my family?

Use porters at the end of the cruise


When it's time to get off the ship, do yourself (and your back) a favor and use the porters to get your luggage to your car.

I see too many people lugging their bags out of the cruise terminal (or even off the ship) as a way to save a couple of dollars.

Porters have no cost to use, but you're expected to tip them a dollar or two per bag for their services. 

In my opinion, it's well-worth it to have a porter take your bags and lessen the load.

In some ports, porters have their own line for getting through customs and that can save you time as well.

What are the Royal Caribbean suite perks?

12 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Royal Caribbean suites provide a range of benefits that can greatly enhance your cruise experience, from an exclusive suites-only lounge to private dining experiences and priority embarkation.

Royal Caribbean suites are impressive, with some even spanning two levels with a private jacuzzi, multiple bedrooms, and a personalized Royal Genie service.

Many guests opt to book a suite for a more comfortable living space, but they might not be aware of all the perks suite guests receive onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. Knowing which benefits come with a suite can help you maximize the value of your vacation and get the most out of your time onboard.

Here’s everything you need to know about the perks you can receive with a Royal Caribbean suite.

Junior Suite Perks on Royal Caribbean

The “stepping stone” into the world of Royal Caribbean suites is with a Junior Suite.

Despite the name, however, Junior Suites are more similar to a balcony stateroom than a suite. They don’t come with many of the benefits you’ll find in Grand Suites and above. Nonetheless, there are a few perks of staying in a Junior Suite.

First and foremost, a Junior Suite will provide more room in both the cabin and balcony, leading to more comfort for guests. You’ll also have a full sized bathtub and walk-in closet in a Junior Suite.

In addition to extra square footage, Junior Suite guests receive the following benefits:

  • Priority boarding
  • Royal Caribbean bathrobe
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine
  • Pillow Top Mattress
  • Dinner at Coastal Kitchen on select ships
  • Double Crown & Anchor Society points

Related: Royal Caribbean’s Junior Suites: What you need to know

Note: The benefits listed below are for guests staying in Grand Suites and above. Junior Suite guests do not have access to most suite benefits on Royal Caribbean such as the Suite Lounge, Concierge Service, etc.

Onboard experience benefits for suite guests

Suite Lounge/Concierge Club

A major perk of staying in a suite on a Royal Caribbean cruise is having access to the Suite Lounge (also known as the Concierge Club on select ships). Suite Lounge access is available to guests staying in a Grand Suite and above.

The Suite Lounge is a relaxing, exclusive getaway on an otherwise busy cruise ship. At the Suite Lounge, guests can enjoy complimentary snacks and hors d’oeuvres throughout the day and complimentary alcoholic beverages in the evening.

The Suite Lounge is open 24/7 and can offer a nice way to mingle with other suite guests onboard or simply enjoy the peace and quiet with a beautiful ocean view.

Related: Is a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it?

Concierge Service

A convenient service available for suite guests on Royal Caribbean is the Suite Concierge, a crew member who acts as a suite guest's own (enhanced) Guest Services during the cruise.

The Suite Concierge can help with booking shore excursions, dining reservations, show reservations, answering any questions, and settling billing discrepancies.

The Suite Concierge can help you check-in to your flight and print documents if you do not have an internet package. They are also available to escort you off the ship on disembarkation day.

Related: 10 Surprising things you didn’t know the Royal Caribbean concierge can do for you

Suite Sun Deck

Voyager, Freedom, Quantum, and Oasis Class ships have a designated area of the pool deck reserved just for suite guests. Usually the Suite Sun Deck is located on the deck above the main pool area. Suite Sun Decks can be a really nice benefit for suite guests, as they have comfortable, reserved seating away from the crowds on the pool deck below.

Wonder of the Seas even has its own Suite Neighborhood with a large private Sun Deck with a plunge pool, private bar, and comfy loungers.

Reserved entertainment seating

Suite Guests won’t have to worry about finding a seat for shows onboard, as they will find a reserved seating area in the main theater, Studio B, AquaTheater, and Two70 for main entertainment lineups.

Complimentary pressing on First Formal Night

If you’re splurging on a suite, you’ll want to take advantage of as many benefits as you can to maximize your value. A relatively small benefit that can be a nice extra perk is complimentary pressing on your itinerary’s first formal night.

Sending evening gowns or a suit to be pressed can run between $7.50-$15 per item, so this is a nice extra perk for suite guests.

Tours and Suite Parties

Another perk of staying in a suite are the complimentary backstage tours and events offered to suite guests. Backstage tours can vary by ship and sailing, but you can expect to see tours of the ship’s bridge, galley, or theater.

You’ll receive an invitation to a tour in your suite. If you do not see one, ask the concierge if any tours will be available on your sailing.

Priority bookings

Another nice benefit for suite guests is that they can have priority bookings on spa appointments and specialty dining reservations. If you did not book dining reservations or a spa treatment ahead of time, speak to the Suite Concierge before your cruise (they will send you an email a few days before the sail date) about making reservations.

2 Crown & Anchor Society points per night

One of the best suite perks on Royal Caribbean is that you will receive double Crown & Anchor Society points on your cruise. The Crown & Anchor Society is Royal Caribbean’s Loyalty Program which can lead to fantastic benefits once you accrue enough points.

When you stay in a normal category room (interior, ocean view, balcony), you’ll receive 1 point per night of your cruise. In a suite, however, you receive 2 points per night.

Related: Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program info, tips & secrets

Embarkation & Disembarkation benefits for suite guests

Priority boarding & departure

Suite guests have priority boarding on embarkation day, meaning they will be the first guests able to board the ship. They also have a dedicated check-in line at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

On disembarkation day, suite guests have priority departure, so they won’t have to wait for their luggage tag number to be called and can disembark whenever they choose.

Guests in Royal Suites and Villa Suites will not only receive priority embarkation, but an officer will meet them at the terminal to escort them on the ship.

Welcome gift

Once you enter your suite, you’ll find a welcome gift, which can change depending on suite tier. Guests in Grand Suites, Panoramic Suites, and Owner’s Suites will receive complimentary Evian water and a fruit amenity whereas those in Royal Suites and Villa Suites receive Moët & Chandon champagne.

Sign-up fee waived for luggage valet service

On select itineraries, Royal Caribbean offers a luggage valet service. This service enables guests to bypass the airport check-in process, as guests will receive boarding passes, luggage tags, and baggage claim checks while onboard the ship. Luggage will be delivered directly from your suite to the airport and onto your flight.

This service is currently only available in Seattle, Washington.

Benefits while in port for suite guests

Priority tendering

While most common cruise ports have a dock, there are some ports which require tendering on a smaller boat to get to and from port from the ship.

For non-suite guests, it’s necessary to get up early and grab a tender ticket as soon as possible in order to maximize your time in port. Suite guests, however, have priority tendering access, so you can bypass the line and get to port without a wait.

Barefoot Beach at Labadee

If you’re staying in a suite on a cruise itinerary visiting Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Labadee, you’ll have access to Barefoot Beach, the port’s suites-only beach.

Barefoot Beach offers a relaxing getaway with calm, clear waters and plenty of lounge chairs perfect for sunbathing. The beach also has cabanas available to rent at an extra cost as well as a complimentary lunch which offers more upgraded options than buffets elsewhere on Labadee.

In-suite benefits

More space

One of the primary reasons many guests book a suite on a Royal Caribbean cruise is for the extra space. Cruise ship cabins are known for being small, and suites can offer a more comfortable living space with extra perks.

Depending on the suite, you can find an extra large couch, dining table, walk-in closet, larger balcony, etc. Some suites may even have 2 or 3 bedrooms, allowing for more privacy for guests.

Nicer bathroom

Another in-suite perk is a larger bathroom. Suite bathrooms all have a bathtub and upgraded toiletries. Some suites even have a separate shower, double sinks, and bidet!

Additionally, certain suite categories may have two bathrooms in the suite which can be nice for larger families.

Pillow Top mattress

In addition to more living space and an upgraded bathroom, suite guests will also enjoy an upgraded mattress. Beds in Grand Suites and above have a Luxury Pillow Top Mattress instead of the normal mattress you’ll find in interior, ocean view, and balcony cabins.

Dining benefits for suite guests

In-suite dining

Suite guests on Royal Caribbean receive complimentary room service and the ability to enjoy in-suite dining from the Main Dining Room menu. This offers a nice way for suite guests to have a private meal in their suite at any time the Main Dining Room is open (or 24/7 for room service).

Coastal Kitchen

Suite guests on Quantum and Oasis Class cruise ships have access to Coastal Kitchen, Royal Caribbean’s suites-only restaurant. Coastal Kitchen is complimentary for suite guests and offers a more intimate dining experience than venues like the Main Dining Room or Windjammer.

Coastal Kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a rotating menu with a focus on Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Guests in Grand Suites and above can eat at Coastal Kitchen at any time during the week, but the restaurant is only available for dinner for Junior Suite guests.

Private dining & disembarkation breakfast

Select ships without Coastal Kitchen offer private breakfast and lunch seating for suite guests. These meals take place in a specialty restaurant onboard, although the menus are more similar to the MDR or Coastal Kitchen than the specialty restaurant menu offerings.

Royal Suite Class Benefits

If you thought Royal Caribbean’s suite benefits couldn’t get any better, there’s more: the Royal Suite Class, available only on Quantum and Oasis Class ships.

The Royal Suite Class has three tiers: Sea Class, Sky Class, and Star Class.

Sea Class

Sea Class is the Junior Suite Class in the Royal Suite Class and comes with the same benefits as staying in a Junior Suite on other Royal Caribbean ships, with the addition of dinner at Coastal Kitchen.

Sea Class benefits:

  • Dedicated Check In Line
  • Priority Boarding
  • Coastal Kitchen Dinner
  • Royal Caribbean bathrobes
  • Luxury Bathroom Amenities
  • In-room Lavazza Espresso Coffee Maker/Tea Service

Sky Class

Sky Class benefits are for guests staying in a One Bedroom AquaTheater suite, Crown Loft Suite, Owner’s Suite, Royal Family Suite, Superior Grand Suite, and Grand Suite.

In addition to the Sea Class benefits, Sky Class guests receive:

  • Complimentary VOOM internet: 1 device per guest
  • Concierge Serve
  • Exclusive Signature Activities
  • Suite Lounge Access
  • Priority Departure
  • Coastal Kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Related: 10 things to know about Sky Class suites on Royal Caribbean

Star Class

Star Class is the most luxurious experience you can have on Royal Caribbean and is available to passengers staying in Royal Caribbean’s biggest suites: the Royal Loft Suite, Owner’s Loft Suite, Four Bedroom Family Suite, Grand Loft Suite, Sky Loft Suite, Ultimate Family Suite, and Two Bedroom AquaTheater Suite.

The biggest benefit of staying in a Star Class suite is having a Royal Genie, a crew member who is your own personalized concierge and “magic maker” throughout the week. Royal Genies can cater their services to your cruise preferences, whether that means delivering Starbucks to your room every morning, reserving you seats at a specialty restaurant, hosting an in-suite dinner in your room, etc.

Related: My advice for someone using a Royal Genie on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In addition to the Royal Genie as well as the Sea Class and Sky Class benefits above, Star Class guests receive:

  • Complimentary gratuities
  • Complimentary specialty dining (including in-suite specialty dining)
  • Complimentary Deluxe Beverage Package
  • Complimentary mini bar
  • Complimentary pressing and laundry services
  • Still and sparkling water replenished daily
  • Luxury pillows
  • Priority entrance to onboard activities

More Star Class tips & tricks:

More cruise advice

I took a beer cruise tour of Canada and New England

12 Aug 2022
Haley Mills

Most of us are stuck in a heatwave that seems never ending, so it seems like a good time to remind everyone that fall is on its way! We talk a lot about beachy cruises (Caribbean, Mexico, Mediterranean). But autumn is fall foliage season in northeast America, and it makes for a beautiful trip.

Garrison Brewing Company

Mr. Mills and I took a 9 night cruise to New England and Canada in 2018 for our 5-year anniversary, and it still remains one of our favorites as far as ports go. We have otherwise mostly sailed to the Caribbean, and this cruise was just so unique. In our land-lubber life, we are foodies and beer connoisseurs, so we really took that to heart when planning this one, and I even took to calling it “The Beer Cruise.”

Keep in mind this was in 2018, so pre-Covid. Some businesses and/or itineraries may have changed since then. I thought it would be fun to reminisce about a fun sailing.

If you are looking for something different, or just want to get away from all this heat, check out our “Beer Cruise” itinerary*.

Cape Liberty

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

Because we booked the 9 night cruise, we departed from Cape Liberty. Some New England & Canada cruises skip this port and depart directly from Boston, and are 7 nights.

Read moreGuide to cruises from New York

We flew into Newark Airport, and stayed at a hotel nearby. We took an Uber to the cruise port in the morning. I think the drive took maybe 10-15 minutes at most. Fairly unexciting boarding process.

We picked up our WOW bands at Boleros and then went about exploring the ship. I almost missed sailaway, because I had gone down to the room for something, and then realized the ship was moving. I have never sprinted up so many flights of stairs so fast! I’ll never do that again!


Jewel of the Seas in Boston

Boston was the port we were most excited for prior to sailing, but also one that was the first time we’ve ever worried about making sailaway.

We started with a tour of Boston Beer Company–the folks that make Sam Adams. If you’re in Boston, and are a beer nerd, this is one that is a must.

The tour is $10, and includes a guided tour of the Brewhouse, tasting of the flagship Boston Lager, current seasonal, and an exclusive R&D style. I’m not sure if they still do it, but we got to keep our tasting glasses as well. There’s also a taproom at the end where you can hang out and drink more great Sam Adams beer.

We stuck around for a drink, and met another couple decked out in Houston Astros gear. We chatted with them, and ended up sharing a cab over to Fenway, our next stop.

Fenway park

The other must do, when in Boston, is of course Fenway Park. We are massive baseball fans, and are on a mission to visit all the Major League Baseball parks in the US. So could we even consider missing a home game while in Boston’s port? Absolutely not. It was going to be a close call though, and we were only able to catch 4-5 innings before racing back to the ship.

Still, sitting in those iconic lacquered bleachers and listening to the crack of the bat as the ball raced towards the Green Monster…we wouldn’t have given that up. Just keep an eye on your watch!


Jewel of the Seas in Portland

Next up was Portland, Maine–this is really where the beer in The Beer Cruise came into play.

I had booked us on the Maine Brew Bus, knowing that in such a brewery-heavy town, we’d never make it to all of them on our own. This ended up being a great decision, and we had a fantastic day.

Not only did we not have to worry about transportation around town, but the Brew Bus works with the breweries to make sure they are getting in at the best times, and are providing a good experience for their customers.

For example, at Bissell Bros, which is a major hot spot and can have a massive line around the building, we were there before open, to ensure we got full attention from the staff.

The breweries we visited:

Also had my first Lobster Roll (I’m from Indiana, ok? Don’t judge me!) while in Portland, and oh was it everything I’d ever hoped for. Butter and carbs and tender lobster. I probably could have had 6 and been totally happy.

I highly recommend Portland Lobster Company if you’re in the area. 

Bar Harbor

Jewel of the Seas in Bar Harbor

I’ll admit, Bar Harbor was probably our least favorite stop on the cruise–but we did have some fun. It’s just a more touristy spot, and since it’s an island, you’re a little more limited on what you can do.

The most popular excursions take you to the top of Cadillac mountain, and we had booked a bus tour that wound its way up for a vista view.

Cadillac mountain

This took a couple of hours of our morning, and while looking out over the bay was beautiful–if you get motion sick at all, I can’t recommend this one. Maybe it was due to the beer tour the day before, but we were definitely more nauseous on this bus ride than usual.

Once we finished the tour, we walked around the town a bit, and got something to eat. I couldn’t visit Maine without getting at least one whole lobster, since I’d never had one (again…we come from a landlocked state), so we stopped at Stewman’s Lobster Pound for lunch.

It was fun to break apart the crustacean–definitely a bit messy, though, and I think I prefer to have it done for me! We popped into Atlantic Brewing for a quick flight, before it was back to the ship.


Bow of cruise ship in Halifax

After several ports in New England, we crossed the border into Canada. Halifax is such a historical city, and while we were doing a pub crawl, there’s certainly no shortage of things to see.

Our crawl was on a tour by Royal Caribbean, and we were given tickets for different bars and restaurants around town. We had the option to hop on a trolley bus, but Halifax is pretty walkable, albeit hilly!

If you are able-bodied, I’d walk it, and enjoy the sights along the way, although I will admit to taking the bus back to give my tired legs a break.

Before we kicked off our crawl, we started at Garrison Brewery, right off the port. This ended up being our most memorable beer joint from the trip, and we are still talking about going back 5 years later. They serve their flights on beer barrel staves, and they aren’t short pours either.

The beers were super varied, from IPAs and stouts, to a margarita sour that was way before its time. There was a spruce beer that we had to bring home. Just excellent, well done brew that is a must for any fermented fanatics.

The crawl included a couple of historic bars in Halifax, as well as a few newer options. We even visited Alexander Keith’s, which is one of the oldest working breweries in North America.

Saint John

Our last port stop of The Beer Cruise was Saint John’s in New Brunswick.

This was the only port where we didn't go to a brewery, but we had an excursion that took all day. On your first visit to Saint John’s, there’s really only one thing you should be doing, and that is to go to the Reversing Rapids.

This is a natural phenomenon caused by the extreme tidal flow in the area. Because it’s such a drastic tide, it causes the Saint John river to flow in two opposite directions, depending on the time of day! We got to see it at both times, and it really demonstrated how powerful nature can be.

We also got to see the tide come in quickly at the Bay of Fundy, which is where we ate lunch before heading back to see the rapids a second time. Along the way, you’ll see the river at both low and high tide, and it’s really cool to see such drastic changes. 

Halifax Port

Last thoughts about this itinerary:  Because we took our New England/Canada cruise in September, there were very few kids on board. The crowd was less families and more 50+.

Because this was the dynamic, the activities didn’t feel like the typical Royal Caribbean programming we were used to. It was definitely geared more towards a more upscale, older audience.

Less poppy, kid-friendly, and more art & culture. I’d imagine that varies if you take this cruise during busy holiday weeks, but just something to keep in mind. Otherwise, we loved the port stops, and would absolutely do this cruise again.

Ask a Captain: How fast can a cruise ship go to outrun a storm?

11 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

When you're on a cruise ship, you might be curious about a ship's top speed so that it could avoid something like a storm.

Severe weather is enough to give almost anyone a bit of anxiety, and riding out a storm at sea isn't usually at the top of anyone's wish list when it comes to things to do on a cruise.

On every Royal Caribbean cruise, there is an event held for guests to ask the ship's Captain questions.

On a recent Odyssey of the Seas cruise, a passenger wanted to know in case of a storm, how fast can the ship sail away from a storm?

How fast can a cruise ship go?

Before we talk about the chances of running into a storm, let's look at a cruise ship's top speed.

Captain Sindre Borsheim answered how fast do cruise ships go when he was captain of the ship earlier this year. Captain Sindre has more than 20 years of experience with Royal Caribbean, so he's no stranger to ships and conditions at sea.

Royal Caribbean veteran Captain Sindre Borsheim

According to Captain Sindre, the top speed of Odyssey of the Seas is around 23.7 knots.

"That is full speed," he said and then joked maybe the ship could go a bit faster if they went downhill at the time.

The top speed of any cruise ship varies greatly depending on the ship’s size and engine power. 

Most of the time, a cruise ship doesn't get near that top speed. Instead, they remain at a more comfortable cruising speed. Going at a slower speed also reduces the ship's fuel consumption.

But if necessary, the ship can accelerate to that 23.7 knots figure, which is about 27 miles per hour.

Outrunning a storm is unlikely

The question about needing to outrun a storm is very unlikely to be a scenario your cruise ship will encounter.

"With today's technology, you see where the storms are coming," Captain Sindre explained.

"You can predict days in advance. So it's very rare that nowadays we get caught by surprise storms."

He did recall one time a few years ago when bad weather developed quickly, "I was on a ship over in Southeast Asia sailing out of Hong Kong. And we just happened to be exactly where the typhoon was born."

"We managed to get away before it was building up."

"Normally we see that they are born and then you predict the path. But if you happen to be exactly right there during birth, then then you may be caught by surprise."

James Van Fleet with beard

It's important to also note that Royal Caribbean employs its own meteorologist to keep track of severe weather, anywhere around the world.

Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet gives the captain of each ship the best outlook on what the weather is doing now and what it is likely to do in the near future.

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean navigates bad weather with its own meteorologist

More efficient engines than ever before

Top 10 Odyssey of the Seas frequently asked questions | Royal Caribbean Blog

On a cruise ship like Odyssey of the Seas, it has the best engines in the fleet given how new it is.

Another guest asked if Odyssey's engines are quieter or eco-friendly than before.

"Yes, they are," Captain Sindre answered. "we have four diesel engines, our azipods are electric motors. The electric motors are propulsion motors. And then you have the diesel engines driving the generators, creating the electricity for the ships."

"If you combine the performance of an old diesel engine and the new ones that we have on board, it is a remarkable difference."

The use of azipods, which are omnidirectional form of propulsion for cruise ships, are great for many reasons.

"The azipods are placed there for fuel efficiency, which is of course serving two purposes. One is to reduce the fuel for environment. And that is also more cost beneficial for the company. So those two things go hand in hand."

"We have state of the art engines, which means that they are far more efficient. They're far more environmentally friendly than older engines."

Azipods on Odyssey of the Seas

Captain Sindre pointed out the shift in the cruise industry to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead of diesel, "Most cruise lines are already starting heading in the direction of LNG instead of diesel engines. So LNG powered ships, which is again very more environmentally friendly."

Read moreWhich Royal Caribbean ships are powered by LNG?

Guide to pre-cruise Covid test

11 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Understanding Covid test requirements needed for a Royal Caribbean cruise can be a bit confusing. In reality, though, taking a Covid test before your cruise just requires a little planning upfront.

Certain countries and regions have relaxed Covid-19 requirements whereas others maintain more strict requirements. Because of this, each port may have its own testing requirements, so it's important to ensure you're following the requirements of your cruise departure port.

In this guide:

Cruises departing from United States homeports with no port stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Guests sailing from the United States homeports (excluding itineraries visiting Canada or Bermuda) should adhere to the following guidelines:

Cruises 5 nights or less:

  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 3 days of the sail date. A second test is no longer required at the terminal.
  • Fully vaccinated guests, regardless of age, no longer need to test for sailing lengths of 5 nights or less. 

Cruises 6 nights or more:

  • All guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 3 days of the sail date. A second test is no longer required for any guests at the terminal.

Cruises departing from United States homeports with port stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Testing requirement on all cruises regardless of length:

  • Vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Only PCR tests will be accepted for unvaccinated kids, and the test cannot be taken on boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 will have another COVID-19 test taken at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Cruises departing from Vancouver, Canada

  • Vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of the sail date. Only PCR tests will be accepted for unvaccinated kids, and the test cannot be taken on boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 will have another COVID-19 test taken at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Note: PCR tests for unvaccinated children are the only test to adhere to an hour requirement as opposed to days. Tests must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to scheduled boarding time on embarkation day. For example, if you are scheduled to board at 12PM on Friday, your test must be taken after 11:59AM on Tuesday.

All travelers arriving in Canada by air or sea will also have to fill out a form on the ArriveCAN app.

Related: How to use the ArriveCAN app for your Alaska cruise

Cruises departing from European homeports (Excluding Greece and Spain)

  • All vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated kids aged 2-17 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 1 day of the sail date.

Cruises departing from Athens, Greece

  • All guests aged 2 and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Telehealth tests are not accepted on cruises departing from Athens.

In addition to the pre-cruise test, guests age 12 and up who are considered not up to date with their vaccination, or are not vaccinated with an EMA-authorized vaccine, will require additional testing to be completed onboard at their own expense, in order to go ashore in select countries.

Guests 12 and up that are not up to date with their vaccinations will take an antigen test within one day before disembarkation day. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test. The cost of the test is at their own expense, conducted onboard by a licensed third-party testing provider at a cost of $55 USD per test. Royal Caribbean does not retain any part of the testing costs.

Cruises departing from Spain

  • Vaccinated guests who are up to date must show a negative result for a PCR or an antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day.
  • Vaccinated guests who are not up to date will have a 1 day window to take this test. Kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may follow the testing protocols for vaccinated guests.
  • Unvaccinated kids aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 1 day of the sail date.

Note: To see if you are up to date on vaccinations, check here.

Cruises departing from Australia

Testing protocols have not yet been released for Australia cruises. However, Royal Caribbean has stated that it is likely that all guests will need to present a negative Covid-19 test.

Cruises departing from Singapore

  • All guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (nasal swab or saliva test) taken within 1 day of the sail date. Test results must be in English.

What does "within X days of the sail date" mean?

Depending on your departure port and vaccination status, you will have to take a Covid test 1, 2, or 3 days prior to your sail date.

Test required within 3 days of sail date:

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, you can take your Covid test Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, you can take your Covid test Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, you can take your Covid test Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, you can take your Covid test Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, you can take your Covid test Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, you can take your Covid test Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, you can take your Covid test Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday

Test required within 2 days of sail date:

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, you can take your Covid test Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, you can take your Covid test Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, you can take your Covid test Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, you can take your Covid test Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, you can take your Covid test Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, you can take your Covid test Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, you can take your Covid test Thursday, Friday, or Saturday

Test required within 1 day of sail date:

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, you can take your Covid test Saturday or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, you can take your Covid test Sunday or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, you can take your Covid test Monday or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, you can take your Covid test Tuesday or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, you can take your Covid test Wednesday or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, you can take your Covid test Thursday or Friday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, you can take your Covid test Friday or Saturday

    The amount of hours that have passed since your test do not matter. Royal Caribbean counts tests by days, not hours, so there is no need to worry if it has been ~50 hours instead of 48 hours since your test by the time you board the ship.

    Where can I get my Covid test?

    The easiest and most convenient option for travelers who are eligible to take an antigen test is to order the Abbott BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test. This is a telehealth option in which a proctor watches and guides you through the Covid test. Tests come in packs of 2-6, and it is recommended to order more than you need in case of any discrepancies within the tests (missing items, invalid result, etc.).

    Note: Do not use the regular Abbot BinaxNow test sold over the counter, as it does not have a proctor watching you take the test.

    Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens also offer rapid and PCR Covid tests. Search for appointments near you prior to the cruise to ensure you can get one booked. These tests are free. The ease of finding a Covid appointment at a pharmacy can change with demand and your location, so check early to see if this option will work for you.

    In addition to the at-home test and pharmacies, Covid tests can be found at urgent care locations, pop-up testing sites, health clinics, and more. Research what is offered in your local area far in advance to ensure you do not run into any surprises when trying to schedule a Covid test.

    Our recommendation, when possible, is to take a rapid antigen test as opposed to a PCR test. Results come back much quicker, so there is no need to worry about not receiving the results in time.

    Covid test results should include the following:

    • Your name
    • Date the test was taken
    • Type of Covid test
    • Negative result
    • Lab’s CLIA or Certification number
    • Address of the lab

    How do I present my test results?

    Test results can be shown either on a phone or printed paper at the cruise terminal.

    Additional testing requirements by port

    Most countries have gotten rid of inbound testing requirements when arriving by land, air, or sea. Before your cruise, however, double check to ensure no negative COVID-19 test results are needed upon arrival to your destination.

    Here are the websites of the current protocols by country: