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Four ports that probably wont get bigger cruise ships in the future

By: Matt Hochberg

Cruise fans love to dream of what new itineraries Royal Caribbean might announce next, and with that, opportunities to sail on different ships.  While Royal Caribbean has a large fleet of ships, not all of them can sail from every port.

Certain ports of call are hindered by structures and obstacles that effectively place a limit on the size of ships that can physically access these ports.

Here is a look at the major ports of call Royal Caribbean sails from regularly, and why you should not expect to see any larger cruise ships sailing from there anytime soon.


The Port of Baltimore is a popular embarkation port for the Northeast Corridor due to its proximity to the mid-Atlantic region, but Vision Class ships have been the ships to call the region home.

The reason you likely will not see any bigger ships from Baltimore is because of two bridges that block access to the port from the ocean, the Key Bridge (I-695) and the Bay Bridge (US 50/301).

One alternative is for cruises to sail from a nearby port not blocked by these bridges. Norfolk is one such port, and Royal Caribbean did operate cruises from here for a short time about 10 years ago.


Much like Baltimore, the Port of Tampa is hindered by offering anything larger than a Radiance Class ship by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Mega cruise ships cannot fit beneath the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The Skyway can handle cruise ships that measure 180 feet from the top of the waterline. But the mega ships can sit as high as 225 feet above the waterline.

One option is to build a new Skyway bridge, or raise part of it, so that mega cruise ships could pass beneath it.

A recent study of the issue estimated that building a new Skyway would cost $2 billion. It also would take two years to tear down the current bridge and four years to build a new one.

The span could be raised, but at a cost of up to $1.5 billion that would leave it closed for years. That option creates a "high risk of instability," the report said.

Even if the bridge issue was resolved, Tampa Bay's shipping channels are too narrow and would have to be dredged, which is expensive, difficult and highly regulated.

The most likely solution is to build a new cruise port west of the Skyway so that the larger vessels won't have to travel under it. 


Cruising in Australia has seen a boom in recent years, but Sydney is dealing with issues handling all these new ships.

Congestion at Sydney Harbour has forced Royal Caribbean to look for alternatives, since Royal Caribbean believes the cruise industry in Australia needs a cruise terminal east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in order to grow.

One solution was a new cruise port at Wollogong's Port Kembla Harbour. Another idea was a proposal for a cruise terminal at Yarra Bay, although that plan is been "put on hold with all industry and community engagement suspended".


The Port of Galveston seemed like it was about to overcome its issues with being able to support a larger ship, but those plans have at the very least been delayed.

Currently, Galveston can handle a Freedom Class size ship, but anything larger is out of the question due to limitations of the cruise terminal and the harbor.

Royal Caribbean had committed to building a new cruise terminal and dredging the bay, but those plans have been postponed by at least a year.

Until this work is actually begins, the Port of Galveston cannot handle larger cruise ships.

No, nobody knows if the cruise you have booked will actually sail

By: Matt Hochberg

The one question readers are asking is if their upcoming cruise in 2020 or 2021 will sail, and the simple answer is no one knows.

While Royal Caribbean currently plans to resume operations on October 1, 2020, the cruise line has pushed back its date cruises will restart a number of times, which leaves many wondering if their cruise they have booked will happen.

While the "TL;DR" answer is "no one knows", here is a look at why no one knows and what we should be looking for to get a better idea of when cruises might restart.

No way to know if your cruise will sail

So many people with cruises booked that have not been cancelled yet want to know what are the chances their cruise will happen.

The most commonly asked question I have seen in the last few months is what are the odds a sailing will be able to go, but unfortunately no one knows because there is not enough information available and too many variables to make such a prediction.

Since Royal Caribbean started its global suspension of cruises in March, the cruise line has taken a "wait and see" approach to cruises resuming. They have periodically cancelled about a month worth of cruises at a time, and evaluate the ever-changing situation to determine if more cruises need to be cancelled.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed said recently with the current climate, "things can change rather quickly," and that, "we all have to take it day by day."

At this point, there is not nearly enough information available to have insight into what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) is looking for in order to resume sailings.

While it stands to reason the further out your cruise is, the more time you have for the global health situation to improve, it is impossible to quantify or wager a guess as to which sailings may or may not occur.

Simply put, no one knows when exactly cruises will be able to resume sailings because the public does not have a list of milestones for Royal Caribbean to reach to start up again.

Challenges ahead

This much is clear: in order for cruises to resume, some obvious tasks need to be completed.  

This is not the complete list of what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) must do, but they are some of the critical steps.

Create and submit a health and safety policy

The first step to starting up again is to come up with a plan of action to keep crew and guests safe, and Royal Caribbean announced this step is underway.

Announced last week, the Healthy Sail Panel is a group of public health experts that will create a list of recommendations that will include things like enhanced embarkation screening, temperature screenings at the pier, testing options for guests and crew.

The panel's initial findings are expected by late August, and further work and refinement to come in the months after.

Once Royal Caribbean receives the recommendations, they will incorporate them into a new set of policies for the cruise line.

Government approval to sail

After Royal Caribbean crafts its new policy, it will need to submit them to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for approval.

Currently, cruise lines are under a 100-day No Sail Order that extends through the end of July, although that could be extended.

Government restrictions and warnings have been chiefly responsible for the decision of all cruise lines to suspend operations and subsequently remain idle. Until the CDC signs off, cruising seems unlikely.

Ports of call need to open up

Even if cruises were allowed to resume immediately, many foreign ports of call remain closed to cruise traffic and/or Americans.

Royal Caribbean's ships must make at least one stop in a foreign port to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires foreign flagged vessels to stop outside the United States. Essentially, it means Royal Caribbean cannot offer "cruises to nowhere".

While some Caribbean and European ports are beginning to open their borders again, cruise lines need much greater access to start back up again.

Substantial reduction in the global health threat

It may seem like the elephant in the room to not talk about, but the pandemic status likely needs to no longer be a major health crisis.

It is debatable to what extent the situation needs to improve, but the cruise industry is looking for the risks associated with operating to be substantially less.

Part of this will be achieved via the Health Sail Panel's recommendations, but a reduction in cases around the world would help ease concerns across the board.

More helpful resources

When do you think cruises will resume? Share your best guess in the comments!

Odyssey of the Seas construction photo update - July 13, 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

There is a brand new photo construction photo to share of Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas.

Photo by Meyer Werft

The photo was released by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.

Just about every week, the shipyard releases a new photo of the work being done in Hall 6 of the ship.

This week's photo is of the ship in her new positition, about 150 meters away from where she used to reside, and now sits in water instead of being completely out of the water.

Delayed until 2021

In case you missed it, Royal Caribbean announced Odyssey of the Seas will be delayed, and not debut until April 2021 in Rome.

The cause of the delay is a combination of the global health crisis, delays in the supply chain, and fires at the shipyard compounding other shipyard issues.

When Odyssey does start sailings, the plan currently is for it to start in Europe in summer 2021, sailing Eastern Mediterranean itineraries out of Rome.

The 168,000-gross-ton Quantum Ultra-class ship will then move to the United States in November 2021. 

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 12, 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and are ready to catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean revealed this week its blue ribbon panel of health experts that will create a set of enhanced cruise line health and safety protocols.

The Healthy Sail Panel is comprised of top experts in public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations in response to the current global health crisis.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke with one of the Healthy Sail Panel's co-chairmen, Governor Mike Leavitt, that shed more light onto how this panel was created, where it is going, and what its goals are in order to get cruise ships sailing again.

The Healthy Sail Panel has been working for almost a month, and should have its initial recommendations by the end of August.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 362nd episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Kelly shares how a few setbacks did not ruin a great cruise vacation.

This week's cruise story is about how cancelled cruises (plural) can eventually result in a great cruise vacation.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean will add social distancing on its cruise ships

One of the new health protocols you can expect to find on Royal Caribbean will be social distancing onboard when its resumes cruises.

Royal Caribbean expects initially to reduce the overall guest capacity on board its fleets to allow for easier social distancing.

As of right now, reducing guest capacity is not expected to be permanent.

In addition, other forms of social distancing are being explored, including reduced capacity at dining and other public venues, staggered embarkation and check-in and the addition of more options for entertainment such as additional show times to allow for social distancing.

Top 10 extra cruise costs that are not included

By: Matt Hochberg

A Royal Caribbean cruise vacation includes a lot of activities, dining, ports to visit, and things to do, but it is not an all-inclusive vacation.

Cruises offer a great deal of value, but there are extra costs to be aware of, so that you can budget around them.

In order to avoid sticker shock later, here are the top extra things on a cruise that will cost you extra, and how to reduce your out-of-pocket price.

Onboard photos

Cruise vacations are all about the memories you make onboard, and Royal Caribbean has plenty of photographers each evening to capture them.

These photo opportunities cost nothing to stop and take, but if you want a print or digital download, it will cost you extra.

A single 8x10 print will cost $19.99, although there are photo packages that will cost you less per print.

The best way to avoid this cost is to skip the photographers and take your own photos around the ship, or on shore. While you will not have access to their backdrops, there are lots of good alternatives. Staircases, balconies, the pool deck, and various spots around the Royal Promenade/Centrum make fantastic ad-hoc backgrounds for any photo.

Shore Excursions

Cruises are at their heart a means of which to visit different places around the world. Each day your ship whisks you away to a new port of call, where you have access to a slew of activities there.

The easiest and most straight-forward way to find something to do on shore is to book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean. While the cruise line shore excursions are extremely convenient, they do come at a price.

You can save a few dollars if you book a shore excursion on your own through a third party service.  You could also bypass a tour or activity all together, and simply walk around the port on your own, or hop in a taxi and go to a pre-determined destination.

The best way to lower this cost is to research shore excursion options in advance, and figure out the most cost effective strategy for your day in port.

If you do explore on your own, ensure you are working with a trusted tour operator (meaning they have a good reputation online), and manage your time to ensure you get back to the ship well before you are required to return.


While Royal Caribbean does include some drinks with your cruise fare, alcohol is not one of them.

Enjoying a cocktail, beer or glass of wine on a cruise is a very popular option, that can add up quickly.  Royal Caribbean's drink prices for booze will often be in the $10-13 range before you add gratuity.

For anyone that wants more than just an occasional drink here or there, you have a few options to keep that bar tab lower.

The easiest strategy is to buy a Royal Caribbean drink package. These drink packages offer a one-time flat fee for unlimited drinks on your cruise. They are not cheap, but do offer a fixed budget option that can save you money, if you drink enough.

Perhaps the best money-saving tip for keeping your bar bill down is to drink off the ship. Quite often, the cost of alcoholic beverages in the ports you visit is substantially cheaper, especially in the Caribbean.

While not as convenient as drinking on the ship, you can often get far more value from drinking on land than onboard.

Back onboard the ship, keep an eye out for drink specials and even free drinks. The drink of the day offers a different discounted cocktail, while happy hour specials, complimentary champagne or alcohol tasting events can be found during the cruise.

Specialty Restaurants

One of the biggest trends in cruising today is specialty restaurants, which offer additional dining options at an extra cost.

Sushi, seafood, steaks, hibachi and more have become popular dining alternatives on Royal Caribbean ships, and most have a cover charge that will carry a per-person cost to dine there.

The easiest way to save money on these is not go at all. Royal Caribbean offers plenty of complimentary food on its ships in the main dining room, and other venues. Free food is available all day, every day and it is not bad at all.

If you really want to try a specialty restaurant, buy a dining package to cut down on the cost.


Royal Caribbean charges a daily gratuity to cover the wait staff and stateroom attendants and recognize great service aboard their cruise.

As of January 2, 2018, the daily gratuity amount is $14.50 per guest, per day for those guests in standard accommodations.  Guests in suites will pay $17.50 per person, per day in gratuities.  The daily gratuity amount is the same for all passengers, regardless of age.

While this gratuity is unavoidable, you should be aware of tipping that comes in other venues.

An automatic 18% gratuity gets added to most onboard purchases, including the spa, drink purchases and more.

There is not a way to avoid tipping, and it is well-deserved for the hard working crew members. What you ought to do is budget accordingly and be aware it is part of the overall cruise cost.


No matter what type of vacation you go on, bringing home a souvenir to remind you of the trip is a near-constant.

Whether you elect to buy souvenirs on the ship or in the ports you visit, these gifts will cost you extra.

One good way to save on onboard purchases is to wait until the end of the cruise. Usually there are last-day sales at the shops onboard, including discounts on t-shirts.

You can also save money buying goods in the ports you visit, where local products and vendors may offer similar options at discounted prices.


It probably should come as a surprise to hear that the salon and spa cost extra, but they do exist and can be a tempting option for guests to splurge onboard.

The Vitality Spa and Salon offers massages, therapies, hair styling, and more, and it not inexpensive. Many massages or treatments will be in the ballpark of $150 - $400, plus an automatic gratuity.

If a visit to the spa sounds good, you can cut down the price by pre-purchasing services on Royal Caribbean's website, or asking about specials onboard. The best discount is usually a flat discount on embarkation day, since most people do not have the time to stop for a massage on the first day of the cruise.

You can also search on the internet for similar spa services on land, where the cost can be substantially lower.


While the cost for onboard internet has come down quite a bit over the last few years, it is not free.

Royal Caribbean's wifi (known as Voom), offers reasonably fast internet access for a flat daily cost. There is a 24-hour option, but the unlimited internet for the duration of the cruise is a more popular choice.

To save on the cost of WiFi, pre-purchase a package before your cruise. There are discounts for WiFi packages almost all the time, and they really are much cheaper than on the ship.

Speaking of extra costs, do not use your phone's cellular connection for data, as you will be roaming and come home to a monster bill.

Kids costs

Any parent knows that children have a tendency to rack up extra costs, so here are the common ways your lovely children will cost more.

Adventure Ocean is complimentary during the day and most of the evening, but does carry an additional hourly charge after 10pm. The Nursery will always come with an hourly charge. The arcade costs extra as well.

While easier said than done, avoiding the arcade completely and picking up your kids before 10pm is one way to avoid the extra costs.

Royal Caribbean does offer pre-paid arcade credits on its website before the cruise, that carry a bonus (depending on how much you pre-pay).

Onboard activities

In addition to all the things to do on your cruise included, Royal Caribbean offers activities that cost extra.

Escape rooms, private Flowrider time, fitness classes, and the casino are just a few examples of things will cost you extra to enjoy.

The good news is there are lots of alternatives to keep you busy that cost nothing extra. Royal Caribbean's shows, live music, trivia, and many demonstrations are available at no additional cost. 

While these extra cost activities can be a lot of fun, you should keep in mind they are not necessary for a great vacation.

Your thoughts

Which extra cruise costs do you typically buy? Which do you always skip? Is there a money saving tip you want to share? Post your questions and suggestions in the comments!

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Lift and Shift questions

By: Matt Hochberg

With so many cruise cancellations these days, Royal Caribbean devised a new way for guests to easily defer their cruise vacation with the Lift and Shift program.

This new policy makes moving an existing cruise vacation to next year much simpler than having to cancel a reservation, get a refund, and then re-book and re-pay for everything. Plus, it has the added benefit of protecting the price you paid for the original reservation.

Considering the typical year-over-year price increases, Lift and Shift has proven to be a very lucrative and popular choice for guests.

Naturally, new policies tend to have lots of questions associated with them, so here is a look at the most commonly asked Lift & Shift questions readers have been asking.

Who is eligible to use Lift & Shift?

The Lift & Shift option is available to guests with existing bookings, as well as someone who has had their cruise cancelled by Royal Caribbean.

If you have a cruise booked currently, you can elect to Lift & Shift that sailing between now and August 1, 2020. After this point, Lift & Shift expires and is no longer eligible (although Royal Caribbean could potentially extend it).

If Royal Caribbean cancelled your cruise during the sailing suspensions departing June 12 - September 15, 2020, as well as Bermuda sailings and those sailings visiting a Canadian port through October 2020. Likewise, Odyssey of the Seas departures between November 5, 2020 and April 17, 2020 are also eligible.

Sailings previously impacted by cancelled cruises prior to June 12, 2020 are unfortunately ineligible.

Can I use Lift & Shift with any cruise fare?

Lift and Shift works with most fares, but there are a few restrictions on select rates that are ineligible for Lift and Shift.

These include (but not limited to):

  • Net rates
  • Casino rates 
  • Travel Agent Friends & Family rates
  • Travel Agent Reduced rates
  • Complimentary staterooms

Do I have to book the same ship or ship class when using Lift & Shift?

No, you do not have to rebook on the same ship or even the same class of ship.

The requirement for Lift & Shift is to ensure it is the same itinerary, stateroom category, sailing length, and timeframe. You can move between ships without an issue, provided those other requirements are met.

Will add-ons (such as air, transfers, and hotel) and pre-cruise purchases (such as beverage packages, shore excursions, etc.), follow to the future ship/sailing?

No, all add-ons and pre-cruise purchases will be cancelled and refunded when opting to Lift & Shift.

These add-ons can be added to the future reservation, as desired, at prevailing rates.

Keep in mind that while Royal Caribbean's promotions carry-over with the reservation, any promotions or incentives your travel agency may have provided will likely not carry over.

Are there any sailings that I cannot Lift & Shift my cruise to?

There are a few dates that you cannot Lift & Shift to, unless you are already booked during this time of year.

This includes Christmas, New Year’s, and Chinese New Year’s cruises.

If you are already booked on one of these holiday sailings and want to take advantage of Lift & Shift, you can move to the same sailing next year (assuming all other qualifying criteria is met).

Can I Lift & Shift a 2021 sailing to 2022?

This is a gray area of the rules, where I have heard from numerous readers they have been able to Lift & Shift their reservation to 2022.

It seems in general it is possible, but it may require talking to the right person to get it done. 

It seems the only caveat is that is allowed as long as there are sailings in your date range (currently Royal Caribbean only has 2022 cruises available to book through early 2022).

Is there a limit to the number of times I can Lift & Shift a reservation?

Yes – throughout the life of your client’s booking, you can opt to Lift & Shift only one time during the designated opt-in period.

Can I Lift & Shift if I have only paid deposit, and not made final payment date?

Yes, all that is required to take advantage of Lift & Shift is for names and full deposit to be on the reservation.

This includes refundable or non-refundable cruise deposit. Either one will work.

When you complete Lift & Shift, your deposit type remains the same, so a refundable deposit remains a refundable deposit.

Can I Lift and Shift if I am past Final Payment and now within the cancellation penalty period?

Yes, provided all required criteria are met, your client can opt to Lift & Shift to a qualifying future sail date.

Since your current reservation falls within the cancellation penalty period, the applicable penalty amount (as indicated on the
day the booking is re-accommodated) will follow your reservation to the new ship and sail date.

Assuming that you sails as planned, there is no impact. Should you decide to cancel in the future, the assessed penalty amount
from the original reservation will be withheld, as well as any additional cancellation fees as indicated by the payment schedule on the new ship and sailing.

Once I decide to Lift & Shift my reservation, can I change my mind later for a refund or Future Cruise Credit?

No, once you decide to Lift & Shift , reverting to a Future Cruise Credit or requesting a refund at a later time is not an option.

Lift and Shift Tips & Tricks

Here are a few bonus tips to keep in mind if you opt to Lift and Shift!

You cannot pick a room with the self-service form. When you decide to Lift and Shift, if you use the self-service form online, you cannot specify a specific room. If you want to pick your room, you will need to call.

Beware of inconsistencies. Royal Caribbean has been inconsistent with enforcing certain Lift and Shift rules, such as the exact same itinerary. Going between Western and Eastern Caribbean is technically not allowed, but some people have been able to do it by simply talking to a different agent.

Your cruise-add on pricing does not carry over. It is worth noting again that your drink package, shore excursion, or specialty dining purchases will be refunded when you Lift & Shift. You certainly can re-purchase them for your new sailing, but it will be at the prevailing rates.

Have you used Lift & Shift?

What has been your experience using Lift & Shift? Is there a question you still have about the process? Share your questions and advice about Lift and Shift in the comments!

Royal Caribbean's parent company has changed its name

By: Matt Hochberg

It seems that Royal Caribbean International's parent company has changed its name from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to Royal Caribbean Group.

Over the last few weeks and months, the name change has slowly occured, where press releases, videos and now social media have been updated to reflect the new name.

It can be confusing to understand the corporate hierachy due to the closeness of the names, but Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company that owns Royal Caribbean International (the cruise line this blog covers), Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Group told Rob Zeiger told Seatrade Cruise News the name change was a matter of keeping things fresh, "We felt switching to Royal Caribbean Group is a more modern expression. Modifying and updating the crown and anchor and the company name seemed practical and useful to us."

In addition to the name change, the Royal Caribbean Group logo has also been updated.

Slow roll out

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the name change began, but it looks like the new name was used as early as May 2020, when Royal Caribbean scheduled its first quarter 2020 earnings call with investors.

The title of the press release to announce the call said "Royal Caribbean Group To Hold Conference Call On Business Update And First Quarter".

Since then, the name has made its way into more press releases, video updates, and most recently the company's social media and website presence.

Royal Caribbean Group updated its corportate website, as well as social media platforms to reflect the change right around when the Healthy Sail Panel announcement occured earlier this week.

Evolution of a name

The name "Royal Caribbean" goes back to the company's founding, and has evolved over time to reflect its growth as a company.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line A/S - familiarly reduced to RCCL - came into formal being on January 31, 1969. This was the winning choice for a name for the new company, rejecting other names, such as Pleasure Cruise Line, Holiday Cruise Line and Crown Cruise Line.

When RCCL purchased Celebrity Cruises in 1997, a new holding company was formed, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line changed its name to Royal Caribbean International.

Royal Caribbean Group's logo has also evolved with this name change.

The hallmark logo, the anker med krone, or crown, has been the company's logo since 1969.

Examples of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor in various stages of design development

In fact, Royal Caribbean Group's headquarters in Miami were originally built so that if viewed from the sky, it looked like the Crown and Anchor logo.

With the change to Royal Caribbean Group, the logo has also changed ever so slightly.

How to make the most of your time on a Royal Caribbean cruise

By: Matt Hochberg

The saying "you don't know what you don't know" refers to the notion you cannot take advantage of something without being aware it exists, and on cruises, there is so much more to do see, do, and explore than going to the pool deck.

Royal Caribbean cruises offer quite a lot of activities, and since your time onboard the ship is limited, here are some simple ways to make the most of your cruise.

Read the Cruise Compass every day

Every day of your cruise there is a new copy of the Cruise Compass to read, which lists all the activities, events, and times of operations going on around the ship.

Each evening your stateroom attendant will leave the Cruise Compass on your bed for you to read, and you should at least take a glance before going to bed what is happening the next day.

Glancing down the Cruise Compass is more than just staying informed of what the Activities staff has planned, it is an opportunity to discover something new or different to do onboard. It also provides a good indication if you should plan to sleep in or get up earlier.

In addition, the Cruise Director will record a daily show that talks about what is happening onboard, and you can watch it from your stateroom television.

Read more: First timer's guide to the Cruise Compass

Plan breaks

While this post is all about getting the most out of your time onboard, do not over do it either.

First and foremost, you cannot do it all in one cruise. Royal Caribbean packs its ships with lots of activities, restaurants and fun, but trying to work everything in is a recipe for burn out.

Instead, prioritize the most important things to you, and make sure you give your family regular breaks along the way.  

Sleeping in one day, coming back to the ship early from a shore excursion for pool time, or even naps (especially for the adults) work wonders for the morale of everyone (and their feet).

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

Get to the cruise as early as you can

On the day your cruise sets sail, plan to arrive to the terminal early to beat the crowds and start your vacation sooner.

By arriving to the cruise terminal early, you will beat the majority of guests who arrive later in the day and that means shorter waits to check-in and get onboard. Plus, you will have extra time onboard the ship on your first day!

If you are wondering what time constitutes early, sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. is a good target. The price you paid for the cruise is the same whether you get on board the ship at 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., so you may as well get the most time possible onboard your ship!

Read moreHow early can I board my Royal Caribbean cruise?

Plan shore excursions in advance

Want to save money and enjoy an awesome tour while in port? Do your research and book shore excursions before your cruise.

A very common mistake among first time cruisers is "winging it", where they simply walk off the ship in a port of call and try to figure out something to do.

Not researching in advance likely means paying more for a tour, and greatly limiting your choices to whatever you happen to stumble upon.

Instead, look up tours offered by Royal Caribbean or third-party services and learn about all the tour options available to you. In the process, you will likely save money as well, since you can price shop around to see who offers the tour at the lowest price.

Read moreHow to book a Royal Caribbean shore excursion

Try something new

I am the first to admit it is very easy to fall into a routine on a cruise, even if it is your first time sailing.

You find something that works and you like, so you stick with it.  While there is nothing wrong with doing what you like, try to sneak in something new or different to mix things up.

All too often I resist trying something, only to realize later it was a great idea. 

Here are some good ways to mix it up:

  • Try somewhere else for breakfast. Park Cafe, Solarium Bistro or Johnny Rockets (on Oasis Class ships) are great choices.
  • Order a different appetizer. Escargot is not nearly as gross as it may sound.
  • Book a cooking class. Sushi making, cupcake decorating, or guacamole making classes are a lot of fun and taste great too!
  • Try out the escape room. This a popular option on many ships that gives your group a limited time to solve a series of puzzles and clues.

Say hello to your fellow guests and crew

Something you will never see in a Royal Caribbean commercial, but a real highlight of any cruise, is making friends onboard.

The other people on your cruise already have something in common with you: you are all on vacation on the same ship, visiting the same places.  This makes for easy conversation starters, and you would be amazed how friendly other guests and crew members are to strike up a conversation.

You do not have to become everyone's best friend onboard, but do not shy away from a "good morning" when you walk in the elevator, or a "hello" as you sit down around the pool.

Crew members are especially friendly, and usually very willing to engage you in a quick conversation.

Read moreThe 25 best Royal Caribbean tips, tricks & hidden secrets!

The bottom line

A cruise is an inherently fun trip, but you can turn a good trip intro a great trip with these quick and easy tips.

With just a little bit of planning, you can avoid common cruise mistakes and enjoy a memorable vacation. 

How to maximize the value of a cruise ship suite

By: Matt Hochberg

Booking a suite on a cruise ship means enjoying some of the most lavish and expansive cabins available onboard.

All of that luxury comes at an expensive price, but just because you are paying more does not mean you cannot get a lot of value back from the room.

While suites are definitely a splurge, there are some easy ways to maximize the value you get from staying in a suite on a cruise ship.

Look for an email before your cruise

About a week before your cruise sets sail, the suite concierge should send you an email to welcome you onboard and give you an overview of what to expect once you board the ship.

This email is not only a great way to know your suite concierge's name, hours and where to find him/her, but it also gives a good overview of the amenities available to suite guests onboard.

This email is also your first opportunity to book certain suite-only offerings, such as cabanas or reservations at special events.

In addition, you can email the concierge with any special requests.

Use the suites-only check-in

When you get to the cruise terminal on the first day of your cruise, look for a special check-in area just for suite guests.

Even if you have elevated status in Crown and Anchor Society, the suite entrance has shorter lines and a special waiting area that ensures you will be among the first guests to board the ship.

If you happen to overlook the suites check-in area, one of the cruise terminal employees should redirect you back to the suites line, but save yourself time and keep an eye out for it.

Spend time in the Suite Lounge

The focal point of the suite experience is the Suite Lounge (also known as the Concierge Lounge on some ships).

This special area allows suite guests not only a restricted access space just for suite guests, but it also provides complimentary snacks and hors d'oeuvres throughout the day.

In the evening, there is complimentary alcoholic beverages served, which adds a great deal of value to being in a suite. The exact hours will vary, but it is usually for 3-4 hours per evening, and it is unlimited drinks while in the lounge.

Many suite guests also enjoy the lounge as an opportunity to meet other guests and talk about cruising, their experiences that day, and otherwise chit-chatting. Frequent suite guests look forward to the social aspect of being in the suite lounge and enjoying meeting others.

Take advantage of the concierge

The suite concierge is more than just a glorified guest services option.  The concierge is there to save you time and make your cruise experience easier.

It is a good idea to meet the concierge at some point on the first day of the cruise. Some guests stop by the suite lounge in the afternoon of the first day, and a lot more will visit the lounge on the first evening when the complimentary beverages are available.

The concierge can handle everything the front desk of the ship can do, such as billing issues, re-issuing SeaPass cards and more.  

The true value of the concierge is they are your go-to problem solver. Need to make a dining reservation? Not sure what to do in a port? Having an issue with your stateroom? The concierge knows exactly how to rectify these issues quickly.

In short, get to know the concierge early and do not hesitate to reach out them with questions or concerns.

Enjoy reserved seating at shows

Suite guests are able to take advantage of reserved seating at the major shows during your cruise.

You can speak to the concierge about the exact location, but performances in the Royal Theater, Two70, Studio B and AquaTheater have a special area for suite guests to go and enjoy the show.

These seats are on a first-come, first-taken basis, so be sure to get to the show on time.  In addition, if no suite guests claim the seats by a certain time, they can be opened up to other guests.

You should be aware that while these reserved seats exist, they may not be exactly where you want to sit. It is a good idea to investigate where the seats are, and determine if you are better off finding your own seats elsewhere.

Go to the private beach in Labadee

At Royal Caribbean's private destination, Labadee, there is a special beach area just for suite guests known as Barefoot Beach Club.

This beach is reserved only for suite guests, and provides an exclusive area just for suite guests, complete with a lunch buffet area just for them.

In addition to the complimentary beach for suite guests, there are cabanas available to rent. These cabanas can be reserved via the suite concierge.

If you want a cabana, be sure to act fast as they sell out quickly. Your best bet is to reply to your suite concierge's email before the cruise to reserve one.

Complimentary tours

On most sailings, suite guests will be invited by the concierge to enjoy a complimentary backstage tour.

These tours will vary, but can be tours of the ship's bridge, galley or theater.

Invitations will be sent in a card, so keep an eye out for it.  If you do not see it, there is no harm in politely asking the concierge if there are any tours available for suite guests.

Escorted disembarkation

Perhaps my favorite perk of being in a suite is the escorted disembarkation process, which means no waiting in a line to get off the ship.

On the final morning of your cruise, the suite concierge will have select times where he/she will walk you off the ship and bypass nearly all the lines.

This has the potential to save a lot of time, as lines to disembark the ship can easily back up quite a bit.

Royal Suite Class

If you happen to be in a suite on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, then the suite benefits get taken to a different level with the Royal Suite Class.

The Royal Suite Class represents the very best suite benefits across the fleet, and if you want to get the most out of your suite experience, you would be best served to try one on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship. Guests staying in the Royal Suite Class are entitled to certain benefits not available on other classes of ships.

Most notably, Sky Class guests get complimentary WiFi for every person in their room (even kids), and Star Class guests have access to a Royal Genie.

The Royal Genie is part concierge, part butler, and part wish maker. If you book a Star Class room, plan nothing in advance and let your Royal Genie take care of all the details. They can hook you up with pretty much everything you would need onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean's Beat the Clock sale offers bigger discounts the earlier you book

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has rolled out a brand new sale that provides bigger savings the sooner you book a 2021 cruise.

The Beat the Clock Sale offers instant savings of up to $450, but the value depends on what day you book. 

Beat the Clock

The instant savings depend on which day you book your 2021 Royal Caribbean cruise.

Beat the Clock Sale applies to new bookings made on July 9, 2020 – July 14, 2020.

Cruises booked between July 9 – July 11, 2020

Up to $300 off sailings on select sailings booked between 7/9/20 – 7/11/20 that depart on or after 9/16/20. 

  • Sailings 5 nights or less, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $150 for Suites
  • Sailings 6 nights or longer, $100 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $150 for Balconies and $300 for Suites

Cruises booked between July 12 – July 13, 2020

Up to $200 off sailings on select sailings booked between 7/12/20 – 7/13/20 that depart on or after 9/16/20. 

  • Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
  • Sailings 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $200 for Suites

Cruises booked July 14, 2020

Up to $150 off sailings on select sailings booked 7/14/20 that depart on or after 9/16/20. 

  • Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
  • Sailings 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $150 for Suites

Beat the Clock Sale is combinable with 30% Off Every Guest, Kids Sail Free and 2021 Kicker as well as with promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, and Shareholder Benefits, but not combinable with Crown and Anchor discounts.  Offer are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, and Net Rates. 

30% off cruise fare for all guests in the stateroom.

Kids Sail Free: Free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests in a triple or quad-occupancy stateroom. Kids Sail Free applies to select 4-night or longer Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, CaribNE, Coastal, Europe, Hawaii, Repositioning and all 2020 Serenade of the Seas sailings departing between September 16, 2020 – December 17, 2020 and January 8, 2021 – May 17, 2021 and September 1 – December 17, 2021, and QN in Alaska May 10 – September 21, 2021. Offer excludes 2020 Thanksgiving sailings (Sailings between November 21 - 28, 2020), 2021 President’s Day Sailings (Sailings between February 12 – 15, 2021), and 2021 Spring Break and Easter sailings (Sailings between March 13 – April 4, 2021), 2021 Thanksgiving Sailings (Sailings between November 19 – 26, 2021.

2021 Kicker Sale: Instant savings of up to $150 USD per stateroom on select sailings departing between January 1 – December 31, 2021. Savings amount determined by category booked and sailing length:

  • Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
  • Sailings 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $150 for Suites

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean.