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What to bring on a cruise to Alaska? 8 things you'll want to take with you

20 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you're used to visiting the Caribbean, you will want to know what to bring on a cruise to Alaska that might be different from anywhere else.

Alaska cruise ship

Having cruised to the last frontier, I quickly learned that there's a different approach to packing for an Alaska cruise.

You likely already know planning for a cruise to this region is different than other sailings. And while a summer cruise up to Alaska will not be frigid or even as far north as you might imagine, there are nuances to planning a great cruise.

A good mantra for any traveler is to be prepared, and you certainly don't want to get to Alaska only to realize you should have brought something truly important. Maybe it's something to enhance your trip, or it could be a real game-changing tool. In either case, learning about what you need now can save time.

Woman on Alaska cruise

While we have a comprehensive Alaska cruise packing list, I thought about the things that you really should consider bringing that would not be obvious. Here's my list of eight important things to bring with you to the 49th state.

Read more50 Best First Time Alaska cruise tips

You will find in this article links to products that we receive a small commission for when you purchase them. This costs you absolutely nothing extra, but the small commission helps support our site.  As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Eagle Beach

You'll be surrounded by nature's beauty throughout your Alaska cruise, and a pair of good binoculars can really make a difference.

From the bald eagles that are pretty much everywhere, to whale sightings, remote villages, and even bears, there is a lot to spot.  While you might be able to get a glimpse with the naked eye, having binoculars makes a world of difference.

Binoculars are so helpful for kids because they can really get a sense of detail when trying to view nature.  Adults can enjoy them too for the same reason, and with the benefit of having a little more patience to look around.


When you get close enough to see a glacier, binoculars are so important so that you can see the jagged edges of ice. Plus, the colors pop so much more when viewed closely.

Read moreTop 5 binoculars for an Alaska cruise

Waterproof and thermal insulated jacket

Kids on an Alaska cruise

If you buy one piece of clothing for Alaska, it should be a light and insulating waterproof jacket.

The weather will change a lot during your cruise, even hourly, and you'll need to adjust to it.  And it will likely rain too, but because it changes so often, you will need the right clothing.

Nugget falls

On my first cruise, I bought a Columbia 2-in-1 jacket that was insulated and also waterproof. The only thing worse than being wet and is being wet and cold!

You will likely hear about the importance of layering on an Alaska cruise, and the outermost layer should be a good all-weather jacket to keep you dry. Don't get something puffy or bulky. You want a jacket that can be easily folded up or tied around your waist when the sun comes back out later.

Read moreAlaska cruise outfits: ideas of what to wear

Waterproof shoes

Flowers in Alaska

I didn't think about my footwear when planning my first Alaska cruise, and I regretted not having waterproof shoes.

Not only can it rain, but you'll encounter puddles and damp trails in the towns you visit.  Plus, some of the terrain may be slippery or not paved.

Hiking trail in Alaska

It makes sense to get a pair of hiking shoes that are waterproof to keep your feet dry no matter where you go.  

I can deal with wet hair and even wet clothing, but wet feet turn cold quicker (thanks to being in the extremities of your body) and that will sour almost any outdoor experience.

Read more6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska


When you imagine visiting Alaska, is a bright shining sun what you picture? Probably not, but there's plenty of sunshine too.

Summer in Alaska is a lot sunnier than most people anticipate, and you will actually need to bring sunglasses with you.

If you have plans to visit a glacier by helicopter or seaplane, sunglasses are essential to avoid the glare of the sun off the surface of the ice.

Insect repellant

I've got to be real with all of you and warn you that mosquitos are an unfortunate reality of going to Alaska in the summer, especially during the warmest months.

There are plenty of mosquitos around Alaska throughout the summer.  In fact, there's a running joke that the mosquito is the unofficial state bird of Alaska. Given how much wetlands, slow moving rivers, and stagnant pools there are, it's a prime breeding ground for them.

Mosquitoes are usually worse inland than on the coast, so bringing insect repellent is extra important for those doing a Cruise Tour to Denali and other interior destinations before or after their cruise. 

Skagway, Alaska, pier with Serenade of the Seas docked

It's a good idea to pack a can of insect repellent spray, wipes, or lotions.  There are many varieties, but you should buy one before you leave from home to ensure you don't pay higher tourist prices in Alaska.

Another option are mosquito-repellent wristbands because of how easy they are to use, especially for kids. 

Of course, you could also wear long sleeves and pants to avoid giving mosquitos a target to land on, but there's always exposed skin somewhere.

Read moreThe weirdest Alaska cruise questions

Waterproof backpack

Jenna's dad in Alaska

Just like how rain can make you wet, it can also get your belongings wet, so it's important to have a waterproof backpack with you when you go on shore.

When I sail to the Caribbean, we might bring a beach bag, but a backpack elsewhere seems unnecessary. 

Read moreWhat to bring on a Caribbean cruise

In Alaska, however, backpacks are far more useful because you will need somewhere to put extra clothes, souvenirs, binoculars, and other important items.

Water resistant backpacks should be sufficient in most scenarios, although 100% dry bags can be a safe option, too (affiliate links included here).

Some backpacks are able to be packed down into a very small size (affiliate link), which can be helpful for those traveling on airplanes or with limited room in their suitcase.

Sleep mask

Alaska sunset

People aren't exaggerating when they say it doesn't get dark in Alaska.  During the summer, the sun stays up well into the night and might only go down for a few hours before rising again.

Whether you're a light sleeper or night, the natural light could interfere with your sleep routine and some people find it quite difficult to fall or stay asleep with the light coming in from their cruise ship balcony or window.

It's a good idea to invest in a quality sleep mask so that you can have it pitch dark when you sleep.

I used the Manta Sleep Mask (affiliate link) for my first transatlantic flight to go on a European cruise earlier this summer, and it worked perfectly.

Water bottle


You already know how important it is to stay hydrated, but I found I was getting parched far more often in Alaska than elsewhere.

Even hiking on flat paths will drain you, and having water makes such a difference.

I think it's a great idea to also bring with you a reusable water bottle that you can bring on any shore excursion with you.

Our staff love the Hydro Flask (affiliate link) as their top pick for bringing on a cruise.

I took my second cruise ever, and changed 7 things this time around

19 Oct 2023
Calista Kiper

I learned a few things from my first cruise, and decided to change a few things for my second cruise ever.

Calista on Freedom of the Seas

Having learned through both research and personal experience, I was now armed with important tips on how to have the best experience possible. 

And I was ready for more: I went ahead and planned a second cruise on Freedom of the Seas for a 3-night sailing traveling from Miami, Florida, to Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Read more: Freedom of the Seas cruise review

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

And this time, I had even more to look forward to: the fun I knew I would have and my newfound wisdom from my maiden voyage. 

In this post, I’ll share the most valuable lessons I took away from my first cruise and applied to my second cruise. 

From packing essentials to must-see shows, these are the top 7 things I changed this time around.

Read more: 11 things I wish I knew before setting foot on a cruise ship

1. Took a shorter cruise


The most fundamental difference about my second cruise was the difference in length.

My first cruise was a 7-night sailing, while my second one was only a weekend cruise spanning three nights.

I had found 7 nights a little too long for me: I felt claustrophobic by day 5 and realized that there was no way to escape the ocean. 

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

However, a 7-night cruise did allow for plenty of time to explore the ship and experience countless events and 4 shows.

Additionally, our Wonder of the Seas cruise had time for 3 full port days, allowing me to experience 3 new destinations. 

In contrast, my Freedom of the Seas cruise was only 3 nights. We stopped at just 2 ports, had fewer events to go on, and only attended 2 shows. 


Although it was a smaller ship, and there was less of it to explore, I wished I had more time to attend events and shows onboard. 

Where my first cruise had dragged a little long, my second one flew by in a flash. I think my sweet spot would be somewhere in between 3 and 7 days, such as a 5-night sailing. 

2. I went to the casino


On my first cruise, I felt a little nervous about trying out the casino. I walked through it a few times but stopped myself from actually participating.

But on my second, I went ahead, got some quarters, and tried out a few slot machines.

Not only was it an activity of its own, but the casino was also full of other cruisers. Once I started playing, I was able to make conversation with them.

With the fewer bonding events offered on this cruise, I was glad I took the chance to try a new activity and meet other cruisers.

3. I attended the Crazy Quest game show


I don’t know how I missed it on my first cruise, but I wasn’t going to miss the Quest game show again!

This adults-only scavenger hunt is famous (or perhaps infamous) among Royal Caribbean cruisers for its wild antics. 

My girlfriend and I attended together, and we had a blast.  The game show host split the entire room into teams, with team captains, and hilarity ensured. I was shocked at just how crazy the show got, but I’m glad I got to experience it this time around.

For those who haven’t been before, the Quest game show is a must-see. 

And if you’re introverted like me, don’t worry—you’re not required to participate. 

Everyone on stage is doing so out of their own free will. 

Read more: 50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once

4. I ate at the Main Dining Room less


While I enjoyed the complimentary food offerings in the Main Dining Room, I didn’t always enjoy how formal it was.

On my second cruise, I chose not to eat in the Main Dining Room as frequently. Out of the 9 meals we had on the 3-day cruise, I only ate at the Main Dining Room once.

On that night, I recognized the menu from my previous cruise. The food, again, was quality, but it was nothing new to me.

Menu from Wonder of the Seas

And we did find that it was a very formal, multiple-course meal. My girlfriend commented that it was a little too formal for her, as well.

We preferred to go to the Windjammer for the majority of our meals for a quicker and more independent meal option. 

5. I didn’t bring my laptop

On my Wonder of the Seas cruise, I regretted bringing my laptop.

It took up unnecessary space. I only bought Wi-Fi for one device, and the TV in our cabin was a Smart TV, so I could stream shows directly from my phone.

I left it behind when I sailed on Freedom of the Seas

This time, the cabin’s TV was not a smart TV, so I didn’t have a larger scene to watch shows on.

We decided to go to movie nights hosted on the ship’s pool deck instead, enjoying a drink in the hot tub at sunset.

Given that it was a shorter cruise and I had less downtime, I didn’t miss access to personalized TV on a large screen. And ultimately, I was grateful for the extra packing space I had by leaving behind my laptop.

6. I packed a wider variety of clothes

On my first cruise, I made the mistake of packing cute dresses and swimsuits. 

I prepared with the mindset of a beach vacation, thinking I would only need simple dresses or beach outfits.

But once I got there, I was surprised at how many other activities I had access to. 

I should have prepared for activities like laser tag, ice skating, and biking. I also didn’t realize that the air conditioning can get cold on a cruise ship; sometimes, simple dresses didn't have enough coverage.

For my second cruise, I came more prepared with sneakers, pants, shorts, and warmer hoodies. I packed the perfect amount, having finally learned my lesson. 

7. I tried more activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay


My first encounter with Perfect Day at CocoCay was just alright. 

On my first cruise, I learned that weather can make a big impact on your experience on Perfect Day at CocoCay.

On the day Wonder of the Seas stopped at Royal Caribbean’s private island, the weather was cloudy and threatening to rain. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay as seen from cruise ship at pier

Although my sister and I woke up early enough to get some sun, we mostly spent our time lounging by the water on Harbor Beach and South Beach.

We grabbed a few complimentary snacks and then walked over to Oasis Lagoon, a pool and floating bar with a live DJ. It looked like a blast, but the pool was too crowded for us to even find a space.

We decided to head back to the ship before 2:00 P.M and eat our lunch at the Windjammer buffet. Shortly after we returned, the rain started.

On my second cruise, however, I came prepared with more information about the complimentary and specialty experiences available on Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

I learned that, in addition to the snack bars, full lunches are also complimentary, offered at Splashaway Bay, Captain Jill's Galleon, Skipper's Grill, Chill Grill, and the Snack Shack.

I also saw that fun shore excursions were offered on the island, like snorkeling, swimming with pigs, and a glass-bottom boat tour. 

Ocean at cococay

On our Freedom of the Seas cruise, I decided to go ahead and take full advantage of the experience. I purchased a snorkeling excursion for our day at Perfect Day at CocoCay, and it turned out to be a blast.

When my girlfriend and I arrived, we were given our snorkeling gear and pointed to the beach at Chill Island. 

We didn’t swim all the way out to the airplane wreck, but we were able to see a shipwreck, friendly tropical fish, two stingrays, and one harmless moon jelly! 

Skipper's Grill

After that, we ate a complimentary lunch at Skipper’s Grill. 

It was still early enough in the day that we grabbed a spot at the floating bar directly in front of the DJ. There, we drank and danced into the afternoon.

The simple trick to avoid thousands of dollars in cellphone charges on a cruise ship

19 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

Anyone can make a mistake on a cruise, but no one wants to make a mistake that could cost them thousands of dollars.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

A costly mistake has a deeper effect than simply a lesson learned, and it can truly ruin your vacation.

There was a news story recently in the UK where a woman went on a Caribbean cruise and left her cell phone's antenna on, and it racked up some serious charges.

She was unaware that using her phone normally on a cruise ship shot up her monthly phone bill from £35 to £1186.59!

Why was her bill so high? Her phone was outside of its normal cellular network, and when you try to use a cell phone for calls, data, or texting on someone else's network, you incur crazy high rates.

Many cellular plans (even international plans) do not include calls, texts, or data on cruise ships and they will charge you extremely high roaming rates for such services that will show up weeks later on your phone bill.

Data usage is especially troublesome because smart phones will use data even when you are not actively using your phone.  Phones will continuously check for updates or notifications, as well as run app updates in the background.  All of this uses data, and that can drive up your bill without you even using the device.

Woman holding iPhone

In the case of this British woman, she was able to negotiate with the phone carrier to drop the price by half, but that's still many hundreds extra in fees that could have been avoided.

If that sounds like scary, the good news is you can protect yourself from running into a giant cell phone bill with a very simple trick.

Airplane mode

Airplane mode

Every cell phone has a feature that prevents the phone from using its antenna, but you need to remember to activate it.

There's a feature on every phone to put your phone into airplane mode, which disables your antenna until you re-enable it. 

As the name implies, it was designed for use while on an airplane but works just as well on a cruise ship. 

Sail away crowd

Your best bet is to get on the ship and before sail away, use your phone to let anyone know what's going on and then turn on airplane mode.  Keep it in airplane mode until you return home.

By keeping your phone in airplane mode, your phone cannot join any cellular networks and will not get you a giant bill later.

Don't worry, you can still use Wi-Fi while your phone is in airplane mode, which means you can connect to the ship's Wi-Fi or use a Wi-Fi hotspot in one of the ports of call you visit. This includes iMessage.

Some cruisers will tell you to turn data roaming off as a feature in your phone, but that requires a bit more digging into your phone settings and isn't as simple to enable or re-enable as airplane mode.  

Read more40 Best Royal Caribbean tips, tricks & hidden secrets

How to turn on airplane mode on with an iPhone

Example of airplane mode

The easiest way to turn on airplane mode with an iPhone is to swipe up.

Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen to bring up Control Center. Then tap the airplane mode button, which looks like an airplane.

To turn it off later, just follow the same steps and click the airplane button again.

If you want to enable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth while your phone is in airplane mode, just swipe up from the bottom once again. Tap the Wi-Fi button to enable Wi-Fi or the Bluetooth button to enable Bluetooth.

How to turn airplane mode on with an Android

Android phone

If you have an Android device, the easiest way to activate airplane mode is similar to an iPhone.

Swipe down from the top of your home screen and then click the airplane mode button, which looks like an airplane.

You can still make calls with Wi-Fi calling

What if you want to be able to call and text friends and family, but don't want a giant bill?

The best strategy is to buy a Royal Caribbean Voom Wi-Fi package for your cruise and then use a feature known as Wi-Fi calling.

With an internet package for your cruise, you could rely purely on data and call with Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger or some other messaging app.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean WiFi: Guide to Internet at sea

Using a phone

If you need to make a "real" phone call, make sure Wi-Fi calling is enabled on your phone.

Wi-Fi calling is a feature nearly every cellular carrier provides that allows the phone to use Wi-Fi data instead of a cellular signal to place the call. This is useful in areas where there's bad cell coverage on land too!

The important thing is to activate Wi-Fi calling before your cruise while you're still at home.  There's no cost to use Wi-Fi calling, but it's a setting in your phone you need to activate.

Depending on your device and cellular carrier, the instructions will vary. Here are some instructions for the major carriers, but you can always do an internet search for your carrier:

Your cellular provider might sell a cruise ship specific cell plan, but I don't recommend them because they are expensive and perform poorly.  A cruise ship Wi-Fi package will probably work better, be cheaper, and has no limit.

Don't forget about Royal Caribbean's free chat feature

Chat feature in app

If you don't want to pay for a Wi-Fi package but still want to be able to communicate with people on your ship during the voyage, there's a free alternative.

The Royal Caribbean app has a chat feature that is free to use.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean app walkthrough and tips

You just need to have the Royal Caribbean app downloaded and installed on your phone before the cruise. Then once onboard, connect to the Wi-Fi and select the option to just use the app.

RC app

While not as full featured as other messaging apps, it's free to use and works well enough for communicating with someone else on the ship that has the app too.

Of course, it wont work for messaging anyone not on the ship.

Royal Caribbean will add new cruise ship cabin categories, including rear-facing and sunset balcony rooms

18 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced an update to its cruise ship cabin categories that reclassify certain cabins, create new categories, and separate out a few other room types.

Junior Suite

Every cabin has a stateroom code, which correlates to the type of room it is, location, and price. 

With today's change, Royal Caribbean has consolidated and reduced the overall number of categories, along with new categories added.

These changes are going to roll out with 2025-2026 deployment. For the Icon of the Seas categories, these changes are already live for the 2025-2026 season since those bookings are already open.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean cruise ship cabin and suite guide

Inside room on Harmony

Part of the reason to make this change is to simplify the choices for travel agents as well as add new room types meant to appeal to certain types of people that cruise.

The goals of the room recategorization are:

  • More options & configurations for guests with large families
  • Separated Triple and Quad occupancy interior & oceanview staterooms
  • New high occupancy guarantee staterooms
  • New Junior Suite & Balcony categories

Read moreGuide to balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean

2025 room recategorizatiton
  • Suites
    • AquaTheater 1 Bedroom Suite (A4) - Oasis and Allure of the Seas only
    • Sky Junior Suite (JY) - Icon Class, Oasis Class, Quantum Class
    • Sunset Juniot Suite (JT) - Icon Class, Freedom Class, Voyager Class, Vision Class
  • Balcony
    • Spacious Sunset Balcony (SG) - Freedom Class, Voyager Class, Radiance Class, Vision Class
    • Sunset Balcony (SB) - Freedom Class, Voyager Class
  • Oceanview
    • Ocean view (5N) - Quantum Class, Radiance Class
  • Interior
    • Interior (5V) - Freedom Class, Voyager Class)
    • Interior with Virtual Balcony (Quantum Class)

Here's a deeper look at what's different and new as part of this effort.

AquaTheater 1 bedroom suite

AquaTheater 1 bedroom suite

On Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the seas, there are two cabins on each that the room size and the balcony size are significantly smaller than the other AquaTheater one bedroom cabins.

In an effort to ensure guests have the correct expectations of what their suite was going to look like, Royal Caribbean decided to separate out those cabins as a distinct category.

Those four cabins total will now become A4 category, which will be the AquaTheater suite one bedroom, and all other AquaTheater suite one bedrooms across the fleet will now be called Spacious AquaTheater one bedroom and will remain the A3category code.

Nothing else is changing with these suites. They'll still have the same benefits and amenities. It's simply the way that the cruise line is categorizing them.

Sky Junior Suites

Sky Junior Suite

Royal Caribbean is also adding Sky Junior suites, which are Junior Suites with Sky Class amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi and access to Coastal Kitchen and the Suite Lounge.

Sky Junior Suites were first introduced on Icon of the Seas and Royal Caribbean said they got a lot of demand for them, so they're extending them the rest of the Royal Suite Class ships.

Read moreGuide to Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

Sky Junior Suite

All Icon, Oasis and Quantum class ships will now have eight Sky junior suites, with the exception of Spectrum of the Seas, which will only have six.

On a Oasis class, all Junior suites on deck six will be Sky Junior suites and on Quantum Class, all Junior Suites on deck 13 will be Sky Junior Suites.

Sunset Junior Suite

Sunset Jr suite

One thing Royal Caribbean has heard from its guests is booking an aft balcony is a favorite type of room on older ships. The aft facing balconies and Junior Suites are now going to be separated out as new categories new categories, starting with the Sunset Junior Suite.

Read more5 Royal Caribbean cruise ship balcony cabins to book (and 2 to avoid)

With the Sunset Junior Suite, nothing's changing in these amenities or with the stateroom itself, but all of the aft facing Junior Suites on the back of the ships will now become Sunset Junior Suites.

There will be a total of 110 suites between 12 ships on Freedom, Voyager and Vision class ships.

Royal Caribbean says they are making the change so that guests can quickly and easily find these cabins.

Sunset Balcony and Spacious Sunset balcony

Sunset Balcony

Another new aft facing category is the Sunset Balcony and Spacious Sunset Balcony.

These are the balconies that are on the aft of the ships, and there will be about 100 Sunset balconies (category SB) and then 100 spacious sunset balconies (category SG) and spacious being the stateroom.

Oceanview triples

Oceanview triple

Royal Caribbean has heard from travel agents is that sometimes it's difficult to find a cabin when you have a group of three guests and what availability there is for cabins that have triple occupancy.

In the past, they've separated out some triple occupancy balcony cabins and they want to do the same with inside and oceanview rooms.

First up is the Oceanview triple cabins, and these will be category 5N. 

It will apply 120 staterooms across all five Radiance Class ships, as well as Quantum of the Seas.

Interior triples

Next are interior triples, which will be category 5V on Explorer of the Seas, and all Radiance Class ships.

On Quantum of the Seas, it will be category 5U because Quantum has the interiors with virtual balcony rather than the standard interiors.

New Guarantee staterooms

Guarantee cabin categories

Royal Caribbean is also adding new guarantee cabins, which is when Royal Caribbean picks the exact room assignment instead of the guest.

The advantage of a guarantee cabin is you will pay less for it than if you select the specific room. However, you give up the ability to choose your cabin location and end up at the luck of whichever location is selected.

Read moreThe 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

By offering new types of guarantees, it provide guests more options.

High occupancy guarantees

High occupancy guarantee cabins

In addition to the existing guarantees, Royal Caribbean is adding in an additional guarantee for triple and quad occupancy bookings.

If you have a booking with 3 or 4 guests, you'll now be able to book a ZQ as compared to a ZI. If you have a double occupancy, you can still book the ZI.

Royal Caribbean says they are making this change to offer a lower price point.

This will be offered across all category classes:

  • Balcony: XQ
  • Neighborhood: NQ
  • Oceanview: YQ
  • Inside: ZQ

Infinite Balcony Guarantee

Infinite balcony guarantee

This is a room type exclusively for Icon of the Seas, and it will be category code XI.

Similar to other guarantees across the fleet, this change will just be extending to now infinite balconies.

If a guest doesn't have a preference on where their infinite balcony is located, they can book an infinite guarantee at a lower price point versus choosing a cabin.

Infinite balcony guarantees and quad guarantees are now are live on Icon season two for 2025-2026.

8 cruise ship shore excursions our readers tried and instantly regretted

18 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

It's one thing to make a mistake, but quite another when you realize early on that you've goofed.

Cruise ship bus tour excursion

Shore excursions are a major part o the cruise experience, and some cost as much as hundreds of dollars each.  No one wants to spend their time and money on a substandard tour, but unfortunately, there are a few duds out there.

It seems like most tours ends up being quite satisfactory, but occasionally there is an excursion that is disappointing from start to finish.

Sometimes the problem could be bad luck and factors you couldn't anticipate, like a new tour guide trying to learn to ropes or bad weather. Other times, you might think you would enjoy a certain kind of tour but then realize you don't. 

River tubing

Whatever the reason, sometimes tours don't measure up to expectations and Royal Caribbean Blog readers have encountered these as well.

I picked out eight cruise ship shore excursions our readers took and reconsidered their decision making almost immediately.


water and rocks near La Bufadora Ensenada

Having been to Ensenada, Mexico a few times, smokeybandit found the tour choices less than appealing.

"I enjoyed my tequila tasting, and if I spoke Spanish it could be a fun town to drink in, but that port is a PVSA port and nothing else."

What he is referring to with "PVSA port" is the fact cruise lines use Ensenada as a way to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) of 1886. It requires foreign flagged cruise ships to call on a foreign port if sailing a closed-loop cruise form the United States.

Ensenada, Mexico

This means, cruise ships cannot sail from Los Angeles and only visit California ports.  It must make a stop outside the country, and Ensenada, Mexico is the closest port of call that is in close proximity to Southern California.

The justification for both the PVSA is to protect the U.S. Merchant Marine (the licensed (officers) and documented (trades) personnel on the ships) and to protect U.S. shipyards that both build and repair the ships.

Bus tours

Corsica bus tour

By far, the overarching theme we got from our readers was that bus tours in so many different places was a major regret.

ChessE4 wrote about a bus tour in Corsica, "The guide talked way too much at each stop, and about the time we returned to the city center the local market was closed for the day.  Had we gone on our own, we would have seen most of the same sights and enjoyed the market."

BeachGal tried an open-air, double-decker bus around St. Maarten, "Tour started about 40 min. late, and we were all standing in the sun waiting and wondering what was going on. The guide at the front of the bus narrated the tour, but only the folks on the top level could hear her.  It took a couple of stops before they got it fixed."

"Maho Beach was the only interesting stop on the tour, and we didn't get to stay there long.  Ugh, never again!"

Bus tour in Amalfi coast

Mturk did the Sorrento & Amalfi Coast by Motor Launch tour found it to be too much in a short window of time, "tried to pack too much into the day for sites that were too geographically dispersed to be properly enjoyed. We ended up spending most of the day on the bus instead of enjoying any of the locations we went to."

Bus tours are attractive because they're usually priced low and offer an easy way to see an area. This is very attractive to someone who is unfamiliar with the port and might be hesitant to go on their own.

The reality is a bus tour may leave you feeling constricted and not enough time to properly enjoy any one stop. Moreover, you may spend more time at a stop that you do not care for, but the tour must go to anyway.

One alternative is to forgo an organized tour and explore on your own, especially when your ship is visiting a city or town. If your ship docks near downtown, you can walk on your own or even use public transportation to easily get around.

Another option is to book a smaller group tour or private tour. Royal Caribbean sometimes offers small group tours, or you can book through a third party provider.

Horseback riding tours

Horseback riding tour

I always thought horseback riding on a beach would be fun, but tonyfsu21 painted a different picture.

"As you can imagine, the guide in position number one in line is the only one who gets through the water without excessive amounts of horse excrement all over their legs. Really kind of gross and I highly advise you avoid at all costs."

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove

Two different readers wish they hadn't booked a tour to one of the premier spots in Nova Scotia, Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove is a famous lighthouse that is quintessentially encompasses what someone imagines an Atlantic lighthouse to look like. It's perched along a narrow inlet and on wave-washed boulders facing the Atlantic.

RCIfan1912 thought it was amazing, but he wouldn't do it again, "It was a super long bus ride and holy cow was it crowded. We were very late getting back to the ship."

Peggy's Cove

letscruise agreed, and thought the issue was lack of enough time because the tour was coupled with other stops, "we could have definitely shortened time spent at the Titanic cemetery to be able to spend more than the 30 minutes we were allotted at Peggy's Cove."

Just like bus tours, you could see about booking a private tour to get you to a particular tourist attraction.

No matter if you book a group tour or a private tour, try to get there early to beat the crowds that come as the day progresses.

Snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas

Cabo beach

Snorkeling is a very popular cruise ship excursion, but DDaley thinks there's no point to doing this in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

"We’ve done these twice and while it’s fun on the boat, there’s just not that much to see when you’re actually snorkeling. We’ve snorkeled just about everywhere, and there is certainly no need to do it on the Pacific coast ."

Save the snorkeling for another port and prioritize time spent at a beach or whale watching when the season is right.

Read moreTop 10 things to do in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on a cruise

ATV tour in Cozumel

I've done a few ATV tours and enjoyed them, but it sounds like Keanoknick might have found a dud.

They booked a ATV tour that would take them through a jungle during a stop in Cozumel, "The so called jungle we rode through felt like I was riding in my back yard in Texas, nothing jungle about it. "

One tip for previewing any tour is to look for reviews, especially videos. Doing a YouTube search for the tour you're taking is a good place to start, as well as looking through reviews in our shore excursion forum.

Read moreGuide to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean shore excursion

Cave tubing in Belize

Cave tubing in Belize

Va4fam wrote simply, "what could go wrong with a hike through the jungle and a gentle tube ride in giant bat-filled caves?"

I would think cave tubing would be a lot of fun, especially since it's a well-known activity in that area of the Caribbean.

"Let's start with the bus.  We took several small buses to connect with the large bus that would take us to our destination.   About 15 minutes into the trip, we heard a loud bang and smelled something burning.  

"We asked the guides if everything was ok, they said it was just the brakes burning.   As we went further from Belize City, the bus shook and rattled before the driver finally pulled to the side.   Yep, definitely a tire blow out. "

"Sat on the road with no air conditioning for over an hour before the little buses retrieved us and took us to the excursion."

"The first family stepped off the bus and into a colony of fire ants and needed to be evacuated back to the port." 

Unfortunately, a lot of the issues on this tour were bad luck and there's not much you can do about that. It's always a good mantra to be as flexible as possible on a cruise.

Read more23 Do's and Don'ts for your Royal Caribbean cruise in 2023

Going to Hell

Hell sign

As soon as I saw readers posting about a Hell in Grand Cayman, I knew exactly why they regretted it.

Hell is the name a tourist trap in Grand Cayman that is noteworthy for its name, which serves as an excuse to make the joke that you went to hell on your cruise.

LCWind wrote, "Overhyped, dated, creepy.  The stops the tour makes are to shops to entice you to buy. Not worth."

Research any tour or place you want to visit and get past the marketing hype to determine how much fun these places actually are in reality.

Voyager of the Seas review: What it's like to cruise on Royal Caribbean's oldest Voyager Class ship

17 Oct 2023
Angie Vognild

Voyager of the Seas was the first ship built in the Voyager Class by Royal Caribbean. Although Voyager of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s oldest ships, you shouldn't dismiss her as an option for your next cruise vacation!

Voyager of the Seas docked in Costa Maya

When Voyager of the Seas debuted in 1999, she turned the cruising world upside down.  This was the ship that introduced the idea of having an ice-skating rink at sea, rock climbing wall at sea, and indoor promenade.

Voyager was instantly the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuted (only until Explorer of the Seas entered service the following year).

Last month, my dad and I went on a five-night Western Caribbean sailing that visited Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico from Galveston, Texas. We had never cruised out of Galveston, so we were excited to see what it was like versus cruising out of Florida. This was also our first cruise on Voyager of the Seas! 

Angie and dad selfie in Costa Maya

Here’s what you can expect when sailing on Voyager of the Seas in 2023.

Royal Amplification

Built in 1999, Voyager of the Seas was a trailblazer in the cruise industry.

20 years later, Voyager of the Seas went through a $97 million Royal Amplification in October of 2019. During this refurbishment, the following venues and features were added:

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • Battle for Planet Z laser tag
  • Updated Vitality Spa and Fitness Center
  • Redesigned kid and teen spaces
  • 72 new inside and balcony staterooms

Read more: I went on Royal Caribbean’s upgraded and regular Voyager Class ships. Here’s what I liked about each.

Flowrider and waterslides on Voyager of the Seas

Embarkation process

Because this was my first time cruising out of Galveston, I was unsure what the embarkation process was going to be like, but I was eager to see the new Royal Caribbean terminal.

After flying into Houston, my dad and I decided to get a hotel in the area and then the next day, we would get an Uber or Lyft to Galveston. We got a hotel in Houston because it was approximately $50 cheaper than staying in Galveston.

On embarkation day, we requested a Lyft and made our way to Galveston. During the drive, we were able to complete the mandatory safety briefing, so this was a great way to make the hour-long drive go by faster.

Terminal in Galveston, Texas

Upon arrival at the terminal, we saw a huge line of people waiting to get inside. This was due to the fact that there was a Coast Guard inspection that day, so the entire embarkation process took longer than it normally would. This long line made sense because passengers were not able to board until after the inspection was complete. Royal Caribbean emailed me multiple times about this inspection, so I knew it was going to happen.

Line of people waiting to get inside the terminal in Galveston

Our check-in time was at noon so we arrived at 11:30 a.m., but we could’ve come even earlier because of the long line.

After waiting outside for about 30 minutes or so, suddenly the line started to move much faster as we entered the terminal. It was a beautiful terminal, but I didn't have much time to admire it because the line was moving so fast when we went inside.

Galveston, Texas terminal inside

Once inside, the check-in process was a breeze and probably only took about 15 minutes. We were impressed!

Read more: I cruised Royal Caribbean from Galveston for the first time. Here’s what a cruise from Texas is like.

Spacious ocean view cabin

When I originally booked this cruise, I selected an interior guarantee cabin for me and my dad. This type of cabin is usually what I select for my cruises because it is the cheapest option. I’d rather spend my money on other things, like specialty dining or activities, than pay for a larger or balcony cabin.

Well, I kept receiving emails from Royal Caribbean about participating in their RoyalUp program. For those not familiar, RoyalUp is an opportunity for cruisers to bid on a nicer and bigger cabin. I usually ignore these emails, but since my dad was coming with me on this cruise, he said, “Why don’t we try it?” He is more particular than I am, so I think he wanted a different cabin!

Four days before embarkation, my dad and I placed bids on four stateroom categories. The next day, our bid was accepted! For an additional $130 per person, we upgraded to a spacious ocean view cabin.

Spacious oceanview cabin

Read more: I paid $130 extra to upgrade my interior cabin to a spacious ocean view on Voyager of the Seas. Here’s a tour of my cabin.

Our cabin was in the very front of the ship, overlooking the helipad. We were on the ninth deck, which was ideal because we weren't far from public venues. I was worried about being in the front of the ship motion-wise, but we had such smooth sailings that I rarely felt the ship move when I was in the cabin.

Helipad on Voyager of the Seas

As implied by its name, our upgraded cabin did indeed feel quite spacious at 211 square feet. Comparatively, our interior cabin would've been 160 square feet. The additional space was noticeable by the window and bed area.

Voyager of the Seas oceanview cabin

The cabin had everything we needed and more! We had more space than we knew what to do with. One of the benefits of upgrading to this cabin was the extra large couch. It was so big that I thought it was a sofa bed (it wasn’t). Nonetheless, it was nice to have another place to sit other than our beds.

Another advantage to being in the front of the ship was that it was quiet due to low foot traffic. We did, however, feel and hear the bow thrusters in the mornings when we were docking.

The bathroom felt a little more retro than the rest of the cabin because of the color scheme, but it was just fine for our five-night cruise.

Voyager of the Seas cabin bathroom

Dining onboard

Voyager of the Seas has three complimentary dining venues onboard, the Main Dining Room, Windjammer, and Cafe Promenade, and three specialty dining restaurants, including Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, and Izumi Japanese Cuisine. Chef’s Table was also available.

My dad and I splurged and enjoyed dinner at Giovanni’s Table and Chops Grille (my dad’s favorite Royal Caribbean restaurant). The other three nights, we ate in the Main Dining Room for dinner.

On the first day of our cruise, we were so excited to see that we were assigned a table right by a window in the Main Dining Room! This view was wonderful to admire every night when we had dinner. 

We were able to enjoy these three themed meals:

  • A Taste of France
  • A Taste of Mexico
  • A Taste of Italy

My personal favorite was A Taste of Italy because I love Italian food, including arancini, lasagna, and tiramisu.

The Main Dining Room had really fast service. Most meals were only an hour and a half long, sometimes shorter. All of the food was hot which I greatly appreciated. When I cruised on Adventure of the Seas, my food was either a hit or miss in regards to the temperature. My dad and I truly had no complaints about the Main Dining Room.

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas review: What it’s like to cruise on this ship today

We noticed that more people participated in the formal night onboard (around 70%), but there were no tuxedos or prom dresses. It is much more casual. 

Another thing we noticed was how The Windjammer always seemed to be packed, especially for breakfast. I think this is because there are only three complimentary places to eat on the ship. We were able to find clean tables every morning (around 10 a.m.), but we had to hunt for them.

Giovanni's Table was excellent! This was the first time I went to Giovanni's Table where they didn't bring the desserts out on a cart. Instead, they brought it out plated like the rest of the meal. This was changed due to the pandemic.

“Chops Grill is hard to beat,” my dad said as he happily ate his food. He enjoyed the filet with peppercorn sauce. I agreed - our meal was super delicious. I was so full by the end of the meal that I could barely stand up!

Chops Grille was actually quite busy the night that we went. There were about 40 people there. This was vastly different than Giovanni’s when there were only about 15 of us dining.

Chops Grille dessert

Activities and entertainment

I’ve seen a few comments online from people saying that they thought Voyager of the Seas was boring, but I have to disagree. I thought there were some great entertainment options!

Voyager of the Seas Royal Theatre

I went to every production show in the Royal Theatre, and I enjoyed the variety of acts. My favorites were the ice skating show, “Ice Odyssey,” and the comedy showcase featuring Derrick Cameron. I also liked going to the game shows in the Star Lounge. Almost every activity here was very busy, especially the Disney trivia, “Battle of the Sexes,” “Majority Rules,” and “Finish That Lyric.”

The music productions were also fun. We saw three shows, “Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme,” “El Gaucho (described as a “must-see show packed with laughter from the very start and featuring fiery music and unusual skills”), and “Music in Pictures.” 

The Adult SHUSH! Silent Party is one of my dad’s favorite activities on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I also really enjoy this event because usually between the two channels, I can find music I like (modern pop) and dad can find music he likes (70s and 80s hits). 

I will have to say I was disappointed about one thing. While cruising on Voyager of the Seas, I noticed at the trivia games, there were no prizes for the winners. My dad and I played on a team during the Rock Hits trivia and we ended up winning, but we didn't receive a prize. All we got was a “Great job!” from the host and claps from the other participants. I personally don't like this change because I feel that there should be some kind of award for winning trivia, even if it is just a key chain or highlighter.

I am not sure if this is considered an activity, but my dad likes to work out while on vacation, so we frequently visited the Fitness Center while on Voyager of the Seas. We both found it funny how the TV was behind all of the equipment. My dad wanted to watch what was on while he was exercising, but the TV location didn't allow for that. I wonder who decided this was the best place to put the TV?

Ports of Call

Like most cruises that leave from Galveston, we visited the Western Caribbean. This included stops in Cozumel and Costa Maya. Other cruises from Galveston also visit destinations like Roatan, Honduras; Nassau, Bahamas; Belize City, Belize; and even Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Costa Maya, Mexico

What was interesting about our itinerary was that we didn't dock in Costa Maya until 12:30 p.m. I liked this because that meant we could have a quiet night’s sleep and not have to hear the ship docking in the early morning. 

As soon as we could disembark, my dad and I decided to walk around and do a little shopping. There is a convenient shopping area right off the dock. My dad was on the hunt for some Mexican vanilla and cigars, while I was fine tagging along.

Cozumel, Mexico

My dad and I have been to Cozumel more times than we care to admit, so all we did was get off the ship, take a few pictures, and then get back onboard to enjoy one of our Diamond Plus drink vouchers.

Voyager and Adventure of the Seas in Cozumel

It appeared that many people had the same idea as us and decided to stay on board. It was a hot day, so a lot of people were using the pool. This was smart because the public venues aren’t nearly as busy while docked in port!

Disembarkation day

Like the embarkation process, disembarking Voyager of the Seas was straightforward. We easily found our luggage and then we did the facial recognition scan.

We took a Lyft to Galveston, so I was planning on doing the same to take us to the Houston airport.

On the last day of the cruise, we received a “Tips for an Easy Departure” document from Royal Caribbean that stated, “Taxis are usually readily available outside the terminal. Lyft is the only rideshare available in Port of Galveston.” I thought it was odd how Uber was not included. 

Coast Guard inspection line at Galveston

On disembarkation day, I tried to request a Lyft to the airport. After at least 15-20 minutes of waiting around, I tried to request an Uber instead. Within just a few minutes, an Uber picked my request and picked us up.

So for those wondering, you can request a Lyft or an Uber at the Galveston terminal. The ride was an hour to the William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) airport.

A few final thoughts

Overall, Voyager of the Seas was in great condition. There were a few dents and scratches, but that is to be expected on a ship that is over 20 years old.

Voyager of the Seas in Costa Maya

I had no problems with the Wi-Fi, however, my dad had some issues getting connected. We believe this had something to do with his phone trying to connect to the VPN network. He brought his phone and iPad to the Wi-Fi help desk and they were able to assist him.

I noticed a lot more people wearing masks around the ship. There were also a lot of bridal parties and recently married couples celebrating. 

It seemed there were football games playing everywhere, especially in the Tavern Bar on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The crowd was especially rowdy during the Texas and Alabama game on Saturday because there were lots of Texans on the Voyager! 

5 important things to do before new cruises are available to book

17 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is on the verge of releasing new cruise ship itineraries for 2025 and 2026, and now is the time to start preparing.

The deployment schedule for new Royal Caribbean cruises has been posted, and we will get new cruises to start booking beginning at the end of October.

While your first instinct might be to wait and see what's available and make a decision based on that, I think there are some really important things to do start doing now to properly prepare.

Booking a cruise when sailings first go n sale is one of the best ways to save money on a cruise. Prices tend to be lowest when they first go on sale, and go up from there. A tried-and-true strategy is book early and take advantage of a price drop between now and the final payment date (assuming you live in a country that allows this).

Freedom of the Seas aft aerial

A few simple steps now can make the decision making process easier once the new bookings are available. If nothing else, you'll take care of a few important tasks and that means less things to do later.

Check your vacation time availability

Desk calendar

Some people work at companies where their PTO time goes quickly and you'll need to get your requests in first.

It's a good idea to outline times of the year you want to take vacation time from work to go on a cruise and put those requests in as soon as possible.  Some companies have a "first-come, first-granted" policy and once someone has time off, others cannot take the same week.

Now is a good time to get those requests in, or at least evaluate how competitive it will be.

Coordinate with travel agent which ships and times to target

I love to work with a good travel agent to make booking any cruise easier, and once again, this strategy is how to approach a newly released sailing.

It's a good idea to let your travel agent know what you have in mind to book.  Maybe it's an Alaska cruise, or a 7-night on a brand new cruise ship to the Caribbean.  Whatever the plans, loop your travel agent in early so they are on the same page as you.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Alaska cruise guide

This is doubly important because sometimes travel agents have access to new sailings before they are loaded onto the Royal Caribbean website. It's not uncommon for new cruises to appear in Royal Caribbean's backend first, and then appear on the website later.


By letting your travel agent know which times of the year, ships, and who will be sailing now, it makes the booking process so much smoother later when you're ready to pull the trigger on a new booking as they are available.

Pick a cabin

Independence balcony

If you have an idea of which ship or ship class you're interested in booking, you should also start researching cabins to book.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide

I like to give my travel agent two or three cabins I would be interested in booking, so that when she gets me a quote, we both know what to expect.

Since you wont know which ships are going to be in a particular region before the new bookings go live, you could refer to what's available in 2024 or early 2025 and make an educated guess.  Even if the ship changes from year to year, the ship class tend to be the same.

Crown Loft Suite

If you're interested in a suite, then you will want to make an extra effort to book early.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean suites guide & review

Suites book up the fastest of any cabin type because there are so few of them, and demand for suites is higher than other cabins.

It wouldn't be a big deal if you took a few days to decide on a balcony vs inside room, but suites tend to go so quickly you may want to narrow down the choices early.

Look at historical airfare prices

Airplane landing

No matter how fantastic a cruise sounds, if the overall cost to go on that vacation is too high, it may sink your plans.

If you think cruise fare prices are fluid, you should look at airfare prices.  Therefore, it's a good strategy to look at historic airfare prices to get a ballpark idea of how much that will cost.

A lot of families have a budget in mind for their entire trip, which includes the cruise fare, shore excursions, incidentals, and airfare.

Fare Detective has an Airfare History Chart that you can plug two airports in and get historical flight price data.

You could also look for a flight coming up in 2024 and use that as a metric for what to expect as well.

Double check when new ships will start sailing

Icon of the Seas construction and render

If there's one step I always forget, it's to think about what's not on sale yet.

There's nothing like a new Royal Caribbean cruise ship and it generates a lot of buzz. So before you plan to book any cruise in 2025, think about the new ships that will be coming online at that time.

Star of the Seas logo

As an example, Star of the Seas will begin sailing sometime in summer 2025, and that might change your plans to go to Europe or try Alaska.

If going on a new ship would be important, you might consider holding off booking a summer 2025 cruise now, or book a refundable cruise fare so that you can change your mind later.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean refundable versus non-refundable cruise fares

Planning a cruise? Start here:

I took my first short cruise. Here's 7 things I liked and didn't like about my 3-night sailing

17 Oct 2023
Calista Kiper

How much of a difference is there between a week-long cruise versus a short cruise?


As a new cruiser, I wanted to try cruises of different lengths to see how different they are and which I like best.

For my first cruise, I chose a 7-night sailing on Wonder of the Seas that stopped at a total of 3 ports: Perfect Day at CocoCay, St. Thomas, and Sint Maarten.

After that week, I was ready to move forward with my newfound wisdom from my maiden voyage, so I went ahead and planned a second cruise on Freedom of the Seas

This time, I selected a much shorter 3-night sailing. The ship traveled from Miami, Florida, to Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas over a weekend, embarking on Friday and disembarking on Monday.  

There were pros and cons to choosing a shorter sailing. Here are the 7 things I liked and didn’t like about my first short cruise.

Read more: What’s a good amount of days for a first cruise?

👍 What I liked about a short cruise


I'll start with the things that I enjoyed about trying a shorter cruise.

It had no long sea days

On my first cruise, day five and six were sea days and it left me feeling a little claustrophobic when surrounded by the ocean. I started to miss my own house and bed.

Despite the fact that Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, I felt stuck onboard during these sea days.

I was able to mitigate the cabin fever by investigating new areas onboard.

I was very thankful that I chose the shorter cruise for my experience on a smaller ship: Freedom of the Seas was the perfect size to explore over 3 days. 

On this short cruise, we had no distinct sea days and instead spent each day at a port. I enjoyed the speed of travel and the fact that we spent less time on the open water.

Based on these experiences, I definitely recommend limiting cruises on smaller ships to no more than 5 days—but I look forward to testing this theory for myself.

I preferred visiting fewer ports


I also liked that we visited two ports instead of the three we stopped at on my first cruise.

Although I love to travel and appreciate seeing as many new places as possible, this allowed me more time to focus on the ports we did stop at.

I was able to prioritize those two locations—Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas—in my research and planning beforehand.

Because of that, I had a much better experience at Perfect Day at CocoCay, and I arrived at Nassau with more knowledge and background about the island. 

On my first cruise, I did enjoy getting to see the multiple ports—Perfect Day at CocoCay, Saint Thomas, and Sint Maarten—but I wasn’t able to do as much research beforehand or feel quite as knowledgeable before the trip.

Having fewer parts allowed me to focus in on each one and make the most of that time.

Shorter travel time made things simple


My cruise itself was only three days, and even with our policy of arriving at the port city the night before, my total travel time was only four days, from Thursday night to Monday afternoon.

This made it easier to schedule the shorter cruise and brought me back home quickly.

Although I love to travel, this overall eased my mind and made things much simpler.

A shorter cruise is a great option for younger or working adults who only have time for a weekend trip.

It was the perfect small getaway in the middle of September.

👎 What I disliked about a short cruise


Like everything in life, there are some downsides to a shorter cruise.

It was difficult to fit in all the events


Because of the limited amount of time on my Freedom of the Seas cruise, I had to carefully pick and choose which events I attended.

If this had been my first cruise, I would have had a lot of trouble distinguishing between which events I wanted to attend and which could fall by the wayside.

Thankfully, I came with a little more experience and was able to select the most important events I wanted to go to.

However, I still didn’t have enough time to see everything. It would have been fun to attend even more of the game shows or performances offered onboard.

We had less time to try different venues 


Similar to the previous point, a shorter cruise gave me much less time to try different dining venues.

I wrote on my must-do list to eat at the Windjammer, the main dining room, El Loco Fresh, Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's Pizza, and the specialty Ben and Jerry’s location.

I ended up having time to try Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's Pizza, and the specialty Chops Grille restaurant.

However, I mainly dined at Windjammer for the length of this cruise because of the ease of dining and the ability to choose all my own meals. 

When you’re in a rush, the Windjammer is one of the best places to grab a meal.

In the end, I completely missed the opportunity to try El Loco Fresh and Ben and Jerry’s! 

Read more: Here's the one must-eat place on every Royal Caribbean ship

People seemed less friendly 


I noticed that people were a little less friendly on my second cruise than on my first cruise. 

My theory is that for shorter cruises, passengers are focused on the groups or friends they came with and on enjoying their time together.

While I had passing conversations with people on Freedom of the Seas, I found nothing close near to the close-knit friendships I’d made on Wonder of the Seas. 

On my longer cruise, I found that people were much more willing to make friends and hang out multiple times over the week of travel.

Neither is a bad perspective to have, but I was looking forward to meeting some new people, and I didn’t quite do that on my second cruise.

The time really flew by


Despite the benefits of a shorter cruise, a major disadvantage is just how quickly it seems to fly by. Three nights and barely three full days pass by swiftly!

While it was a fun experience, and I did get to try many different things on this cruise, the time period was so short that I can hardly remember what happened.

If you’re planning to spend a lot of money on your cruise and get the most out of a longer vacation, a short cruise is definitely a disadvantage in this way.

A short vs long cruise


Overall, I learned that seven nights was too long for me.

However, a seven night cruise did allow for plenty of time to explore the ship and experience countless events and four shows.

In contrast, my short Freedom of the Seas cruise was only three nights. We stopped at just two ports, had fewer events to go on, and only attended two shows. 

Although it was a smaller ship, and there was less of it to explore, I wished I had more time to attend events and shows onboard. 

Where my first cruise had dragged a little long, my second one flew by in a flash. 

There are benefits to choosing a short cruise, but I think my personal sweet spot would be somewhere between three and seven days, such as a 5-night sailing. 

Chops Grille: I visited the steakhouse that's on every Royal Caribbean cruise, and I was impressed by the quality of the steaks

16 Oct 2023
Calista Kiper

How often do you get to try a quality steak dinner?


As a new cruiser, I knew I had to try one of Royal Caribbean‘s most popular specialty restaurants. 

Long regarded as one of the best specialty dining experiences, this venue is Chops Grille.

On my second cruise on Freedom of the Seas, I went ahead and reserved a dinner at the specialty location. 

Chops Grille is a specialty restaurant, meaning there is an additional cost involved. We purchased a dinner for myself and my girlfriend and paid $55.99 per person, $111.98 in total. 

I went ahead and compared this price to quality steakhouses near me and saw that this total is equal to (or even slightly less than) typical steakhouses on land. 

Chops Grille is a quality steak house that is featured on all Royal Caribbean ships. This speaks to its fame and popularity, so I knew I had to try it out and see if the extra cost was worth it.

Read more: 5 things you will love about Royal Caribbean's Chops Grille restaurant


We reserved Chops Grille for the second night of our cruise. On Freedom of the Seas, it was located on deck 1, right next to the entrance to the Windjammer.

When we entered, I gave the staff our room number, and we were quickly seated by polite waitstaff. 



The dining room was a rectangular shape, facing a wide glass wall that looked out onto the ocean. 

We were seated near the front of the entrance and directly next to another couple's table, only divided by a short wooden wall. My seat faced the glass window to the ocean.

The look of the steakhouse was very classy: dark browns, crisp white linens, and low, golden lighting. 

Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas

When the night began, there was still enough sun for us to look at the ocean and enjoy the wide, clear view. 

However, as the sun set, it became very dark inside the steakhouse.

I also felt that the restaurant was a little crowded for the number of patrons inside. 

Not only were we seated directly next to a couple—to the point where we could hear each other‘s conversations—but there was also a large party of about 15 to the left of us.

It was easy to hear everything going on in the restaurant, especially when people got too noisy or drunk.

Staff also started singing “Happy Birthday” for diners multiple times throughout the night, inviting the whole venue to join in. This was a fun interlude to our dinner, but it happened about three times, interrupting our conversation each time!

However, the room’s crowded atmosphere also speaks to the restaurant's popularity. 

It seems that many people enjoy the specialty venue as a way to celebrate their birthdays or other special occasions. 

Despite the noise and volume, our waiter was very pleasant and put us right at ease, helping us to focus on the food and our personal experience.

Chops Grille Menu

Chops menu
Chops menu



Before explaining the menu, our waiter asked if we were celebrating any special occasions, had any allergies, or any shows that we would need to leave for at a certain time. 

Then he explained that the menu was included in our purchase, starting with appetizers, continuing to soups and salads, and including sides, as well as an entrée and dessert.


The waiter started us off by bringing a starter of bread and butter. When the bread arrived, we were surprised by the unique shapes and the warmth on the inside. 


Our waiter also offered us several drink options, and we decided to try some wine. We chose a simple Moscato that had a lovely fruity flavor. 


For our appetizers, I chose the colossal shrimp cocktail, which came with a few pieces of shrimp on ice and a horse radish cocktail sauce that was a sweet and spicy mix. 


I enjoyed the shrimp cocktail, but I much preferred my girlfriend’s order: a grilled pepper black bacon with a sweet and spicy glaze. The tender, fatty strip of meat was delicious, and I kept tasting it despite the fact that it was her order. 

Later, I discovered that this bacon slice is arguably the most popular Chops Grille appetizer, and I can see why. My only regret from this evening is not ordering a serving for myself.


For the soup and salad portion, we each chose a salad. 

My girlfriend ate a simple Caesar salad, and I ordered the crispy goat cheese salad. 


The crispy goat cheese salad came with green apples, candied walnuts, cranberries, and balsamic dressing. The goat cheese was served on top in a fried ball that I had to split open. 

It was creamy and delicious, with a tang from the balsamic dressing and sour green apples. 

Next, it was time to order our sides. Our waiter let us know that we could order as many as we wanted, but my girlfriend and I limited ourselves to three as we didn’t want to get too full before the entrée.


We chose the truffled french fries, the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, and grilled jumbo asparagus.

The sides came in small metal bowls, so in hindsight, we could’ve ordered more. 

We loved the creamy mashed potatoes and the fresh grilled asparagus. 

However, I found the salty, oniony truffle flavor of the french fries to be a little bit off-putting. I chalked this up to my own inexperience with truffles, not any issue in the actual dish.


For the main course, we each ordered the 9-ounce filet. 

On the menu, this dish is listed as “9 ounces of our most tender cut of lean Midwestern beef.”

The filet came immediately with our sides and was served with a garnish of garlic and rosemary. 

While I usually order my steaks medium-rare, at Chops Grille, I ordered mine medium. For someone who likes their steaks tender but not bloody, this was the perfect choice.

I found that it was incredibly tender, soft, and tasty, with a marinated salty flavor throughout.

Despite our concern about our fleeting appetites, my girlfriend and I managed to finish all of our steak serving. 

We went ahead and ordered our dessert to-go, hoping to finish later when we were feeling more hungry. 

My girlfriend ordered the red velvet cake, and I ordered the raspberry cheesecake.


Later, when I ate the raspberry cheesecake, I loved the creamy taste and the sweet tang of the raspberry. A dollop of whipped cream on top completed the dish. 



While I would’ve preferred a more quiet and spacious atmosphere, the food was impeccably delicious. The appetizers, tender steak fillets, and sweet desserts made the extra price worth it.

And on a visit back to Chops Grille, I would know exactly what to order to have the best possible dining experience. 

Considering the average price and the fact that this was on a beautiful cruise ship, I would definitely visit this restaurant again.

Here's when Royal Caribbean will put new 2025-2026 cruises on sale

16 Oct 2023
Matt Hochberg

We now know when Royal Caribbean will open up the first set of new 2025-2026 bookings.

Wonder of the Seas aerial

Royal Caribbean has posted most of its new sailings and when they will go on sale.

As per usual for Royal Caribbean, they will post new sailings in the fall and again in the spring.

The deployment schedule will cover Alaska, Europe, Caribbean, and West Coast sailings.

2025-2026 deployment schedule
  • Week of October 30, 2023: Alaska
  • Week of November 6, 2023: Europe
  • Week of November 13, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 1)
  • Week of December 4, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 2)
  • Week of February 12, 2024: Short Caribbean, Los Angeles & Northeast 
  • Week of February 19, 2024: Long Caribbean

Keep in mind the sailings could be released at any point within that week, and not necessarily on the first day of the listed week.

Australia, China, Singapore and other deployments will be forthcoming at a later date.

Icon of the Seas render at CocoCay

This is in addition to the Icon of the Seas sailings already released for 2025-2026.

All itineraries are subject to change without notice.

Rumored Star of the Seas release date

Star of the Seas concept art

In case you're wondering when Royal Caribbean will open up new bookings for Star of the Seas, there's a rumor of when that might occur.

Star of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's second Icon Class cruise ship.

When a new cruise ship goes on sale, it's not usually included in other deployments. Rather, it gets posted as its own deployment.

Rumor post

A travel agent posted on Cruise Critic's message boards that Star of the Seas will go on sale December 5, 2023. This has not been officially announced or confirmed by Royal Caribbean.

This travel agent also indicated it looks as though Star of the Seas could be homeported from Port Canaveral.

Wonder of the Seas docked in St. Thomas

Other rumored deployments posted by the same person include:

  • Wonder of the Seas will offer short Caribbean cruises, in addition to Utopia of the Seas
  • Alaska's cruise season will have four ships: Grandeur of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas & Anthem of the Seas.
  • Anthem of the Seas is listed as well under the "Short Caribbean and Los Angeles" deployment.
Navigator of the Seas in Los Angeles

Keep in mind none of this has been officially announced by Royal Caribbean.

What is a deployment schedule?

The deployment schedule is the plan for when Royal Caribbean will open select sailings for sale.

There is no indication of which day, just the week the new itineraries will become available to book, but it could be on any day of the noted week.

Guests will commonly misconstrue the new cruises to come out on the exact day, rather than at some point during the week.


When the new sailings are available, it is common for the new itineraries to be entered into the booking system first, and the website second. This means in some cases cruises are bookable earlier if booked over the phone or with a travel agent, even if they do not appear on the website.

What can you do now before the new bookings are posted?

If you are in the market for a cruise during one of these new deployments, you will want to keep an eye out for once cruises go on sale.

Royal Caribbean typically allows Crown and Anchor Society members a 24 hour head start on the general public, but since anyone can sign up for Crown and Anchor Society, there is no excuse for waiting.

Talk with your travel agent in the days leading up to the new deployments coming online so you can jump on specific bookings and book them.  


One of the best strategies for the lowest prices is to book a cruise as soon as it goes on sale.  Hard-to-find staterooms are also available during this period, so now is the time to lock in a studio room or a suite.

Planning on booking a cruise in 2024-2025? These stories will help: