Alt Text!

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
06 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Our first port of call on this sailing brings us to Perfect Day at CocoCay for some beach time at Royal Caribbean's private island.

There are a few different groups of friends on this cruise, we got a floating cabana at the Coco Beach Club. This turned out to be a great decision since it makes coordinating our plans together much easier.

Joining us in CocoCay today was Adventure of the Seas, although I read they had between 400-500 passengers, so hardly a difference in the overall capacity of the island.

We took a short tram ride to the Beach Club, where the staff escorted us to the cabana.

The weather today was hot with a gentle breeze, so it was the kind of day where you want to enjoy a lot of time in the water.

The decision to book a cabana at the Beach Club was partially driven by the opportunity to eat at the Coco Beach Club restaurant. This time around, we had the food delivered to the cabana. 

Once again, the food was delicious and I standby my previous opinion that the filet mignon at the Coco Beach Club is the best on the fleet right now.

 The rest of the afternoon we spent at the cabana, as well as taking a short swim to the floating cabana.

All aboard was a bit early at 3:30, so we got back to the ship for a shower and change.

After a day in the sun, we were all feeling a bit run down so we decided to have a casual night in Playmakers.

Odyssey of the Seas is the first Quantum Class ship to have a Playmakers location, and they added it to the revamped SeaPlex area.

Royal Caribbean redesigned the SeaPlex, with a new layout that I thought made better use of the space.

Playmakers itself is quite large, taking up the entire side of the upper part of the SeaPlex. Lots of different kind of seating is available, including the most impressive Owners Box I have seen to date.

The Owners Box is a corner of Playmakers that is designed to be a private spot, with an elevated feel.  I believe the concept was to offer the Owners Box as an extra cost venue that groups could rent out, but I have yet to see it priced out.

Since no one was using it, the manager at Playmakers offered us if we wanted to try it out.

The Owners Box on Odyssey has leather seats, enormous televisions, and even a Playstation 5.

After watching a few baseball games, we decided to have dinner and ordered one of everything. 

The food was fantastic, and once again the nachos and campfire cookie stood out as very, very good.

After dinner, I headed down to Casino Royale to meet Chris Wong, who is the casino host there and has his own YouTube channel.

Chris vlogs regularly from ships, and during the pandemic, he showcased what crew members were going through.

He was very friendly, and we talked about cruises for a bit.

We rounded out our evening with some live music in the pub.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Stray observations

The Captain announced a medical emergency this evening and that we would make a quick stop in Fort Lauderdale to offload the passenger. Medical evacuations like this are not uncommon, and there was no mention of Covid.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
05 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is Odyssey of the Seas, and I managed to get onboard for a 6-night Western Caribbean cruise to check it out for myself.

When Royal Caribbean began restarting cruises, I was excited to get back to sea and once more ships started sailing again, I became more strategic with which ships I wanted to sail on.  Being a brand new cruise ship, I did my best to book something as soon as possible on Odyssey.

For this sailing, my wife and I drove down to Fort Lauderdale to hop aboard Odyssey of the Seas. We spent a night in Boca Raton, and then drove down to the terminal for our noon check-in.

This was my first cruise sailing from Port Everglades since the restart, and Odyssey of the Seas is departing from Terminal 18. This terminal has the easiest parking of any port I have been to, because it has a surface lot right across from the terminal.

Check-in was super easy. We arrived at noon for our check-in time, and got through the process very quickly. We had to wait a few minutes in the terminal prior to the ship beginning the boarding process.

Luckily the cabins were ready as soon as we boarded, so we headed up to deck 8 to our room. For this cruise, we have a two bedroom Grand Suite booked.  Why did we book a two bedroom suite for just me and my wife? We were in a balcony room originally, but the price for a two bedroom Grand Suite was cheaper than a Junior Suite one day and I decided to hop on the special.

The room looks great, and has way more space than we really need, but it's certainly nice to have!

Something this cabin has is a digital control for the blinds and lights, which means you can open the blinds and lights from the panel in the room, or the Royal Caribbean app.

With our things in the room, we headed to the Windjammer for lunch.  We have the unlimited dining package and and access to Coastal Kitchen, but I just wanted something quick and good and the Windjammer fit the bill.

Being a new ship, we spent some time exploring the ship and walking around. Odyssey looks really impressive because of how beautiful everything is, which is quite striking as you check everything out.

I thought the design of the main dining room was especially striking, and I will be going there for breakfast or lunch just for the look of the venue.

We also toured Adventure Ocean, which has the new updated children's programming onboard.

Next up was a tour of the Vitality Spa. The spa staff offers complimentary tours of the spa, and it is nice to see the various venues and offerings they have.

Walking around Odyssey, I had to check out my favorite spot on any Quantum Class ship, Two70.

I happened to be there while they were testing out some lighting, but I love this space for how many different things they have in this one space.  My advice for anyone sailing on a Quantum Class ship is when in doubt, go to Two70 to see what is happening there.

Dinner tonight is at Izumi Teppanyaki.  On Odyssey, there is a separate restaurant for hibachi and a separate restaurant for the sushi.  

Something I really like about the Teppanyaki on Odyssey is the view of the ocean from every table. And of course the amazing food.

Dinner was fantastic, and we might have had the best hibachi chef I can recall in quite a while.  

After dinner, we headed to the theater to see the welcome aboard comedy show with Cary Long.

Tomorrow we are going to be at our first port of call, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Stray Observations

The elevators have an air purifier device that I have not seen on other ships yet.

Speaking of the elevators, the elevator buttons are all "touchless" buttons where if your finger gets close, it activates without actually touching. Most of the time it works, but it's aimed at avoiding physical contact. 

Here is a look at the dining choices for embarkation day.

The internet speed on Odyssey is fantastic.  Very fast and responsive.

[block:relative_posts=relative_posts]

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 5, 2021

In:
05 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy weekend! It has been a busy week of Royal Caribbean news and events, and we have a look back at everything that happened this week.

Royal Caribbean changed its policy regarding how soon before a cruise you have to get a negative Covid-19 test result.

As a result of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) change in requirements, Royal Caribbean posted new rules about when vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers need to get their pre-cruise tests done.

Vaccinated guests can get either a PCR or antigen test, and must get the test done no more than 2 days prior to sailing (it had previously been 3 days).

Unvaccinated kids must get a PCR test done no more than 3 days before the cruise (antigen tests are no longer allowed for kids).

Here is my recommendation on the best approach to getting your pre-cruise test.

Royal Caribbean News

40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 421st episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Jeff reviews two Grandeur of the Seas cruises.

This week's podcast is a review of Jenna's first cruise ever. Jenna shares her thoughts on how the cruise went compared her expectations.

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.

Video: The BEST reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: The BEST reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package!

8 Things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise

What lessons can your first cruise teach you?

Jenna took her first Royal Caribbean cruise on Mariner of the Seas and came up with a list of eight things she learned about going on a cruise after finally sailing on a ship.

These are things that she was not aware of before the cruise, but quickly figured out were important takeaways.

This should be your approach to getting a Covid test before your cruise

In:
04 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean changed the time window guests have to get a Covid test from 3 days to 2 days before embarkation, and that has a lot of guests concerned when they should get their test taken.

Cruise lines did not have much choice in changing the policy after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their guidelines for cruise lines.

The good news is getting the test done and results back in time is quite doable, but a good plan is critical.

Here is my recommendation for when and how to get your Covid tests complete before your cruise to ensure you can board the ship.

What are the new rules?

It is important to have a good idea of the timeframe Royal Caribbean (and other cruise lines) requires for your test, assuming your ship sails September 13 or beyond.

Vaccinated guests must present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing in order to board. (Previously, it was 3 days.) 

As of September 15, unvaccinated kids ages 2 to 11 may present either a negative PCR or antigen test result no more than 3 days prior to sailing, but not on boarding day.

There continues to be no testing required for guests under age 2.

Vaccinated adults

For anyone age 12 or older, your best bet is get an antigen test.  Antigen test results come back in usually an hour or so, and quite often less time.

While PCR tests are great, nearly no venue can (or will) guarantee when results will come back so your best bet is to plan on an antigen test.

For simplicity, I would recommend purchasing an at-home test that Royal Caribbean accepts, which is the  Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test because it is supervised and administered remotely via a video session. 

This at-home test is very easy to use, and you can likely complete the whole process of test and getting results in less than an hour. Not to mention there is no need to seek an appointment at a lab or pharmacy. 

Plus, the at-home tests are great if you live somewhere not close to many testing sites.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Just complete the test one or two days before embarkation day, and you will have a test result you can print out and bring to the terminal.

Royal Caribbean also sells the exact same at-home test kit, and can be purchased at RoyalCaribbean.com/HomeTestKit.

If you prefer to go somewhere to get a test, CVS is the easiest option. More on CVS with the next group.

Unvaccinated kids

Unvaccinated kids ages 2 to 11 may present either a negative PCR or antigen test result.

Given the choice, you should plan to get your kids an antigen test since the results come back significantly quicker than a PCR test.

Read moreWhen do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise?

Unvaccinated people cannot take the at home test, so I recommend scheduling your test at a place like CVS. CVS offers free testing (they will either bill your insurance or the federal government), and they offer advanced reservations.

The critical step with planning a test with CVS is to book a reservation exactly two weeks before you want the test done.

For kids 2-11 years old, if your cruise departs on a Sunday, then you should plan to get the test on the Thursday before your cruise.  Precisely two weeks before that Thursday, you should make a reservation on the CVS website.

Once again, adults have 2 days to get their test result, but kids have 3 days in case they need an extra day for the PCR test results to come back in time.

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

In my experience, if you book your test with CVS exactly two weeks in advance, I have not had issues getting an appointment.

As a back up, Walgreens offer tests in advance too, but they only allow reservations to be made 2 days early, so plan to book an appointment 48 hours before you need it.

Walgreens releases their appointments at midnight, a day at a time.

Royal Caribbean will now require passengers to get a Covid test no more than 2 days before their cruise

In:
03 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has shortened the amount of time before your cruise you can must get your Covid test done before your cruise.

Following an update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, Royal Caribbean has adjusted its policy, beginning with sailings departing September 13, 2021 or later.

In order to meet the CDC's requirements, Royal Caribbean will now require vaccinated guests 12 and older to show a negative Covid-19 test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing in order to board. (Previously, it was 3 days.)

Unvaccinated kids ages 2 to 11 may present either a negative PCR or antigen test result no more than 3 days prior to sailing, but not on boarding day. 

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested. 

Test results must be issued by an accredited test provider and show a laboratory negative result which can be printed or shown via a phone.

Under the new rules, you would have two days before your sailing date to get the test done. As an example, if your cruise departs on a Saturday, you could get your test done on

  1. Friday (Day 1)
  2. Thursday (Day 2)

Sailings departing before September 13 will still have the requirement for all guests age 2 and older — regardless of their vaccination status, departure port or the length of their cruise, to get a Covid-19 test done no more than 3 days before their sail date.

Other cruise lines changed their policies this week as well, such as Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

Why the change?

The reason why Royal Caribbean is changing their policy is due to updated guidance from the CDC.

The CDC altered their guidelines to cruise lines to recommend fully vaccinated passengers get their Covid test no more than 2 days before boarding or get a test on embarkation day.  It also lists unvaccinated passengers get their test no more than 3 days before the cruise.

The CDC still allows passengers to get either a PCR or antigen test.

Where can you get a test before the cruise?

With such a short turnaround time for taking a test and getting the results back in time, you may be wondering what the best options are.

First and foremost, rapid antigen tests are the easiest test to take and get because they do not require the "brain tickler" prodding associated with PCR tests, and more importantly, antigen test results come back in less than an hour.

Royal Caribbean will begin offering an at-home test kit, beginning September 8, 2021. Fully vaccinated guests can order at-home test kits, shipped right to your door (anywhere in the U.S.) in two business days or less.

Complete this pre-cruise test at home, with live video supervision by a Certified Guide and get results in 15 minutes.
Your clients can visit RoyalCaribbean.com/HomeTestKit to place their order.

Many health providers and chain drug stores, including WalgreensRite Aid and CVS, now offer COVID-19 testing with the possibility of advanced reservations.  When at all possible, getting a reservation makes the process easier.

Read moreWhen do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise?

Another very easy option is the at-home Covid-19 test. Royal Caribbean accepts the Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test because it is supervised and administered remotely via a video session. 

At-home tests can be purchased online and ship quite quickly, allowing you to take the test anywhere with an internet connection at any time.  The test can be proctored at any time of day or night.

eMed sells tests in six packs, which brings the price down to $25 per test.  

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Oasis of the Seas to sail

In:
03 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is cleared to begin cruises with paying passengers on Oasis of the Seas.

Cruises from the New York City area are a go to begin, as Royal Caribbean reported on Friday it has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for Oasis of the Seas.

Oasis of the Seas had a 6-night test cruise on August 22, where the crew vetted the new health protocols onboard.

The first revenue sailing with Oasis of the Seas will commence on September 5 from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey. It is a 7-night itinerary to the cruise line’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, The Bahamas.

Oasis is the latest Royal Caribbean cruise ship to get CDC approval to sail, which means she now has her Conditional Sailing Certificate.

In order to sail on Oasis of the Seas, guests age 12 or older must be fully vaccinated. 

Vaccinated guests must present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing in order to board. Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing in order to board.

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 must undergo 2 more Covid-19 tests at the cruise terminal and prior to disembarking.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

All crew onboard all ships in the fleet will be fully vaccinated.

Guests who have been vaccinated will have full access to venues onboard, and will not need to wear a face mask at vaccinated-only venues. Here is a list of venues and activities available to vaccinated-only guests, as well as everyone.

Oasis of the Seas is the 14th cruise ship to restart operations in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Other ships that have restarted sailings include: 

  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Odyssey of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas

Oasis will offer 7-night Bahamas cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, starting Sept. 5; and 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami, beginning November

Save up to 35% off pre-cruise add-ons with Royal Caribbean's new sale

In:
03 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering a discount on cruise add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions and more, with its new sale.

The Sale Before You Sail begins today, and is valid between September 3, 2021 - September 13, 2021.

It applies to all sailings between September 9 - September 30, 2022 (except Spectrum of the Seas and Charter Sailings).

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off

Should you buy Royal Caribbean's unlimited alcohol package | Royal Caribbean Blog

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices. (Only on AL, AN, BR, HM, JW, OY, RH, VI, VY)
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 35% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

WiFi information, prices and how to get a discount - Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship.

Top Ten Royal Caribbean Dining Tips | Royal Caribbean Blog

ACTIVITIES: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes GR)

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

How do you get free drink packages on Royal Caribbean? | Royal Caribbean Blog

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Picture This Private Studio: Discount varies by ship

SPA: Up to 30% off

  • Spa: Discount varies by ship.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

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

Royal Caribbean could finish Nassau Beach Club by May 2023

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

According to new documents filed with The Bahamas, the current plan is for Royal Caribbean's new Royal Beach Club in Nassau to be complete in May 2023.

In March 2020, Royal Caribbean announced a Royal Beach Club project they would build in Nassau on the western end of Paradise Island.

Royal Caribbean has 20 total acres of land, 13 of which is owned by the cruise line and an additional seven acres leased by the Bahamian government.

Royal Caribbean's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) revealed it plans to begin construction in October 2021, with a completion date by May 2023.

The project has been delayed a few times due to Covid-19. 

The EIA includes a few more details and concept art of what to expect when visiting the Royal Beach Club:

"The proposed project will include the development of Paradise Beach and Colonial Beach to create an arrivals area, family zone, water sports centre, food and beverage services, and swimming pool and back of house areas in support of a world class beach experience."

"It is anticipated that with the payment of an entrance fee, the experience will include access to the Royal Beach Club, lunch and the rental of a beach chair. For an additional fee, guests will be able  to purchase alcohol and sodas, a cabana, day bed, clamshell, and participate in watersports and local tours."

Read more: How Royal Caribbean invested in new port projects and tech during the cruise industry shutdown

"There will be an array of activities available to guests, including but not limited to snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, jet skiing, floating mat rentals, inflatable water slides, parasailing, nature hikes, volleyball and other sand and water-related activities."

"While the location is inherently beautiful, Royal Caribbean will also ensure that additional landscaping is planted throughout the site. As Paradise Island is close to the Nassau Port, guests will have direct and quick access to the harbour via water taxis."

"The construction of the water taxi harbour and dock may include dredging, seawalls, wave attenuators, docks and fixtures."

The Royal Beach Club will be able to accommodate about 3,500 together with 250 workers. 

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Following an update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, two cruise lines have changed the amount of time guests have to get a negative Covid test before their cruise.

Carnival announces new health protocols including masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

The CDC revised their screening testing and documentation requirements late last week for fully vaccinated passengers and those who are not fully vaccinated, for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing.

Specifically, the CDC updated their testing guidelines to recommend fully vaccinated passengers get their Covid test no more than 2 days before boarding or get a test on embarkation day.  It also lists unvaccinated passengers get their test no more than 3 days before the cruise.

As an apparent result of this change, both Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have changed their policies on Thursday.

Both lines are still accepting either an antigen or PCR test.

Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line | Royal Caribbean Blog

Beginning with sailings that depart as of September 13, 2021, vaccinated guests must take a covid test within two days prior to the sailing date.

According to Carnival, if the sailing is on Saturday, the test may be taken on Thursday and Friday, and as late as Saturday, if you are guaranteed to receive your results in time for check-in.

Carnival is working to set up mobile pre-cruise rapid testing sites at all of its homeports as a back-up alternative for vaccinated guests who aren’t able to make arrangements. Additional details are forthcoming.

MSC

MSC Cruises releases new policies to keep guests safe from Coronavirus | Royal Caribbean Blog

MSC Cruises also updated their policy for all cruises departing from Miami and Port Canaveral beginning November 1, 2021 and onward.

For these sailings, All guests 2 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must provide documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 2 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation.

What is Royal Caribbean's policy?

As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy has not changed for sailings from U.S. Homeports and Nassau, Bahamas.

All guests age 2 and older — regardless of their vaccination status, departure port or the length of their cruise — will need to take a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab, no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal and show their negative test result upon arriving. 

In addition to the pre-cruise test, kids will take one or two more tests, depending on the length of the cruise. Royal Caribbean’s test provider will administer these, at no cost to children under the age of 12.

  • On boarding day, kids will take a complimentary rapid PCR test during check-in at the terminal. We’ll send registration details via email before departure.
  • For cruises that are 5 nights or longer, kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Vaccinated guests who require a COVID-19 test for re-entry into their country may receive one onboard as well. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under the age of 2 have no testing requirements.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Royal Caribbean Group CEO thinks crew will serve guests at the buffet permanently

In:
02 Sep 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

One of the big changes to cruise ships since Royal Caribbean restarted sailing likely is not going away.

Ever since the first Royal Caribbean ship restarted sailing, the buffets onboard moved from self-service to full-service, meaning crew members now serve guests instead of guests serving themselves.

The rule change was one of many new health protocols introduced to lower the chance of Covid-19 transmission between guests and crew members, and this rule may end up being a change that makes sense even beyond Covid.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain mentioned in a recent interview he thinks crew serving guest food at the buffets is just a better approach, in addition to protecting health.

"On board, the buffet, where it's now being served to you instead of you picking up the tongs yourself. And I suspect that for us, that will be a permanent feature, because independent of the health reasons, it's just better."

Mr. Fain said having crew there to serve keeps a closer eye on when refills are needed, so there is less waiting for guests, "What it means is the food ends up being a little bit fresher because we tend to have somebody right on it as the plate gets empty, they go one is another one of that."

He acknowledged that without the pandemic, it was not an idea they would have considered.

Early on in the pandemic, there was a great deal of concern buffets would not be available at all.  While fine dining is a major part of cruising, the buffet is a staple of the experience.

When ships restarted sailing again, the buffet was indeed there, but it had the crew members standing behind the buffet with the tongs in hand.

Drinks in the buffet are also served by the crew.  Crew members hand guests a cup of water, tea, or coffee instead of guests grabbing it themselves.

Guests now walk up to a buffet station, and ask the crew member to serve them a particular item.

Other health protocols implemented in the buffet include scanning SeaPass cards when going in and out of the venue to ensure there is not overcrowding, certain tables blocked off to ensure social distancing, and even signs on the floor to show passengers where to stand while in line for the buffet at a safe distance.

Royal Caribbean also added a reservation system for the Windjammer, where guests could optionally reserve a time in advance via the Royal Caribbean app, although that has not yet been necessary on any sailing so far.

While Mr. Fain did not address the subject of dinner in the buffet, it remains another top question among cruisers.

Currently, the Windjammer is only open for breakfast and lunch onboard.  It is not open for dinner.

The reason why the Windjammer remains closed for dinner is there are simply not enough people onboard the ship.  At dinner, specialty restaurants, the main dining room, and other complimentary dining venues all vying for guests.  With ships sailing with less than half a ship's normal capacity, Royal Caribbean decided to keep the Windjammer closed for dinner.

From what I've heard from Royal Caribbean, the Windjammer will remain closed for dinner until ships reach around 50-60% capacity again.