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Royal Caribbean's private Bahamas beach club will be all-inclusive and a one-of-its-kind investment in locals

10 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

What can we expect when Royal Caribbean opens its first beach club experience in 2025?

Royal Beach Club concept art

Royal Caribbean confirmed last month it was moving forward with plans to build a beach club in Nassau, Bahamas, which is set to open in the first half of 2025.

This will be the first of its kind experience for the cruise line, as the beach club is not going to be another private island type of experience.  But how different will the Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island be and what can expect once the first passengers visit the beach club?

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider has a large hand in the planning of the new destination, and has been working with the Bahamian government for years through two different administrations to get approval for their work.

The Bahamian government gave Royal Caribbean "approval in principle from the government", which means the government of the Bahamas and Royal Caribbean have reached an agreement on kind of the key principles that they both think are important.

How is the beach club different than a private island?

Royal Beach Club concept art

Up until now, the only context cruisers have for a land-based experience offered by Royal Caribbean are the private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

Mr. Schneider calls the beach club, "a really rich Royal Caribbean service experience attached to a high volume destination or strategic destination for us."

"Whereas a Perfect Day it is the destination, it is the only thing you can do... and it's typically far flung."

Undeveloped site of the Royal Beach Club

To better explain the differences, Mr. Schneider confirmed that the beach club will cost extra, as it's not intended to be something for everyone to visit like it would be at CocoCay.

"Not everybody's going to have an opportunity to go to the Royal Beach Club. It wasn't designed for that purpose."

"Because we then hope you sail with us again the next weekend and have that opportunity. And so that's where it kind of fits into our strategy."

Royal Beach Club render

He also confirmed that the beach club admission will be all-inclusive, which means your admission cost will cover:

  • Water taxi ride to/from the beach club
  • All food and beverage, including alcohol.
  • Beach chairs
  • Umbrellas
  • Non-motorized activities (swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, etc)

"It's really meant to be this kind of all inclusive, ultimate beach day," Mr. Schneider said of the plans.

Royal Beach Club master concept plan

The beach club will have three primary areas:

  • Family beach zone
  • Active pool space
  • Quieter beach area on the western side

In addition to the beach, the pools are going to be a focal point, "At the heart of it, you'll find a series of pools. And part of the reason for a series of pools is you need heated pools in the Bahamas to have a really great experience year round."

Beach today in Nassau

Don't expect a giant pool akin to the Oasis Lagoon pool at CocoCay. Rather, for a better environmental footprint, these pool spaces will be smaller, "They're not terribly small, but smaller experiences. So imagine a Splashaway Bay sort of experience."

"Imagine if you were to take Oasis Lagoon and kind of break it into a couple different parts."

There will be live Bahamian music to enjoy, cabanas to rent for an additional cost, snack shack restaurants, along with beach bars around the club.

Full scale Nassau Beach Club rendering

One thing you will definitely not find at the beach club are thrills, "there's no massive thrill experience. And frankly, you know, there's two reasons not to have a massive thrill experience."

"One is the land is just not that big."

"The second is there's really great thrill elsewhere in Nassau. This wasn't meant to steal thrill from other things in Nassau."

How much will the beach club cost?

Paradise Island beach

You're probably wondering how much this experience will cost, and there isn't yet a price determined.

Mr. Schneider confirmed the all-inclusive admission will include food and drink (including alcohol), but said it was too early to know what the cost will be.

I then asked if admission will be a full or half day experience, and Mr. Schneider said he wasn't sure yet what to expect.

Why build beach clubs?

Adventure of the Seas sailing into Nassau

Why would a cruise line invest millions of dollars in a project like this when there are already lots of places to visit in Nassau, as well as destinations around the Caribbean.

On a high level, Mr. Schneider says the two predominant reasons people book a cruise are for destinations and food.

"The reason people go on a vacation is they want to go visit destinations. We break that down into destinations have two parts: the places we take you to and the ships and hardware that you sail on as a destination."

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

In speaking about the places Royal Caribbean already goes to, Nassau fell into a grouping of ports that have high volume but don't have high appeal or high satisfaction rates. This is the primary reason for leading Royal Caribbean down the path of planning a Royal Beach Club.

"Nassau is a great place to go. We wanted to add a Royal level service to that destination. This this gave us that model to to really expand."

Profiting the Bahamas too

Mr. Schneider was adamant about the fact the Royal Beach Club in Nassau isn't a cash grab by the company that only benefits the cruise line.  

He called it a "public private partnership", which has the goal of ensuring, "that the profits from the Beach Club stay in the Bahamas for generations to come."

How does it work? There's a few components to this deep partnership between cruise line and government.

New Providence Island

First is equity, "Bahamians will have the opportunity to own up to 49% of the Royal Caribbean Beach Club."

"And so we felt and the government felt as we went through our discussion that it was important that Bahamians have ownership in this as a result of the Bahamas contributing crown land."

"We want to make sure that that the Beach Club has real ownership of local Bahamians so that it's beloved for years to come.

Fort Fincastle, Nassau, Bahamas

"The equity comes in two parts. First is the government. The government sovereign wealth fund, which is called the Bahamas National Investment Fund, will get essentially equity for the fair market value of the four acres of crown land that they're contributing."

"The second part of the equity is really then individual Bahamians will have an opportunity through an investment fund to essentially buy shares in the investment fund to buy equity into the fund."

In addition to the equity being built up from the crown land, is to open up every kind of bespoke part of the operation to local Bahamians.

Jobs in Nassau

Mr. Schneider said this includes all sorts of jobs, such as security, lifeguards, environmental monitoring, food, music, and more, "All of those will be open to local businesses and entrepreneurs. And our hope is that the entire operation is through partnerships from Nassau."

He mentioned the first employee hired will be the new president of the Royal Beach Club, "the goal is to hire somebody who is Bahamian. So from the senior most executive down to the landscaper, the idea is all Bahamian or Bahamian partnerships."

Bahamian culture

On top of all of that, a new tourism tax will be part of this project that benefits local Bahamians, "one of the things we're really excited about is not just the growth of tourism, but we agreed to a new tourism levy that doesn't exist."

"We'll be the first new development kicking 1% of gross profits into a new tourism levy in perpetuity. And the purpose of that tourism levy is a new tourism fund to improve other attractions throughout New Providence in the Bahamas."

Mr. Schneider also took some time to address local press coverage regarding the beach club, "we've seen some negative press that people think this is just a mini Perfect Day at Nassau such that we'll suck all the air out of the local businesses and this will be the only place our guests go."

He was emphatic that is not the case, "Less than 40% of our guests will have an opportunity to go to the Royal Beach Club of our deployment to Nassau on an annual basis."

"It's important they have other things to do because the other 60%, we want to have a great destination as part of a rich itinerary."

Fort Fincastle in Bahamas

In 2017, Royal Caribbean was bringing about a million passengers to Nassau.  By 2027, the cruise line expects to be bringing 2.5 million visitors to Nassau.

"The number will have grown the number of calls and visits and guests into Nassau far in excess of the total capacity of the beach club."

Royal beach Club water taxi

Something else Royal Caribbean is doing to benefit local businesses is to build a water taxi service, "we're partnering with local Bahamians to create a new water taxi infrastructure."

"That water taxi infrastructure is serving the beach club will then also serve other attractions throughout the harbor and New Providence."

Water taxi

In short, Royal Caribbean is doing something no other company has done for the Bahamas, "We look at the totality of kind of the structure that we created with the government and the kind of net new employment opportunities and job creation and profit creation for  the government and individuals and the money that we're putting back into the Bahamas is really something that nobody's ever done before, for sure, for the Bahamas. And it's rare to see worldwide."

"We think this is a home run for the Bahamas."

First of many beach clubs

When The Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island, it will be the first, but not the last, beach club.

"We want to build multiple beach clubs around the world because every geography is is somewhat unique," stated Mr. Schneider. 

But don't expect each to be an exact replica of each other, "as we think of the future beach club kind of portfolio, our hope is they'll have similar components."

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: April 9, 2023

09 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Spring is here and it is also Sunday, which means we are celebrating warm(er) temperatures and Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean will open its own private beach club in Nassau, Bahamas and it looks incredible!

Royal Beach Club concept art

The Royal Beach Club in Nassau will open in 2025 and we have all the information we know so far about the project for you to catch up on.

This extra cost excursion will include beach access, pools, cabanas, and much more.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 494th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which answers as many listener emails as possible.

It's been a while since we had a podcast episode all about your questions, so this week's episode is just listener emails!

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.

New RCB Video: Best things to bring on a cruise under $10

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 — Best things to bring on a cruise under $10 I always regret forgetting to bring — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day

No one wants their cruise vacation to end, but on the last morning of the cruise, there are a few good reasons to hustle off the ship.

Just like the idiom of "ripping off a band-aid" to get it over with, disembarking your cruise ship when it ends sooner than later has a few advantages.

From beating the traffic, to getting on an earlier flight, here are the compelling arguments to plan on leaving your ship as soon as possible.

20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

Windjammer table

You don't want to be "that guy/gal" when it comes to committing a faux pas, so we have a guide to proper cruise ship etiquette.

Being polite to your fellow passengers and crew member should go without saying, but there are a few nuances of a cruise that you might not think are an issue, but in reality, should be avoided.

Knowing proper ship etiquette will help ensure that you do not feel disrespectful or underdressed, as well as make sure that you are able to contribute to a positive atmosphere. 

What it's like when a cruise ship is empty

70s dance party crew backstage

Mariner of the Seas just finished a dry dock in Europe and returned to the United States without any passengers.  Not having passengers onboard doesn't mean there's nothing to do for crew either.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Marc Walker shared a glimpse of what crew members do in the time there are no paying passengers onboard to prepare for a return to service.

Over the course of an 8-night crossing, we've got a look at what the crew did with no passengers to attend to.

What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?


If you are thinking about the best month to go on a Mediterranean cruise, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each month.

 While there isn’t necessarily a “perfect” time to take a Mediterranean cruise, this guide should help you decide which season works best for you.

8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

Before you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, it's a good idea to go over some important considerations.

Depending on your preferences, one ship might be a better idea than another to sail on.

Here's a look at the questions you should be asking yourself prior to selecting a Royal Caribbean ship to ensure you find the best ship for you.

Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

07 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you are looking for the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you have plenty of great choices to consider.

Overhead view of Oasis Class ship

Royal Caribbean offers cruises around the world on more than two dozen ships that will provide a great family vacation. Wonder of the Seas is the newest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but does that make it the best ship? Is the oldest ship necessarily the worst ship?

Read moreI sailed on Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest cruise ships: here's what it's like to cruise on each

Narrowing down the best ship means finding the right ship for you, depending on your personal tastes, budget and who is cruising with you.

Royal Caribbean prides itself on a consistent experience across all of its ships, but they aren't carbon copies of each other either.

The best ship depends on you

Symphony of the Seas at night

Picking the best ship is a lot like picking out the best movie or best restaurant: it is a subjective choice based on a variety of factors that every person weighs differently.

Since no one likes to hear that the answer is "it depends", here is as objective a breakdown as possible of what to look for in the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Amenities, activities, and accommodations

At the heart of any cruise ship is what the ship offers onboard, and where you will call home during your vacation.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have four basic types of staterooms: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins. These types of cruise cabins offer varying amount of living space and luxuries, and the some ships have more impressive cabins than others. 

Ultimately, the decision for which room you want is a question of what you can afford, but the larger and newer ships tend to offer the most expansive and luxurious accommodations.

What you do onboard is what makes Royal Caribbean stand out, and you will find various signature activities, fun things to do and multitudes of dining choices across an expansive layout.

Each cruise ship is made up of a different combination of onboard offerings and over the last decade, Royal Caribbean has varied these amenities considerably from ship to ship. So it behooves you to figure out which are the most important and pick the right ship for you.

Oasis Class

Best ship: Symphony of the SeasWonder of the Seas, or Oasis of the Seas

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they simply offer the latest and greatest that Royal Caribbean is known for onboard.

The five Oasis Class ships (with Utopia of the Seas eventually joining the fleet sometime in 2024), have FlowRider surf simulators, zip lining, rock climbing, waterslides, clubs, specialty and complimentary restaurants and scenic evening strolls.

There is no shortage of things to do on an Oasis Class ship, including waterslides, Ultimate Abyss slide, two FlowRiders, mini-golf, zip line and more.

There are seven neighborhoods (eight on Wonder of the Seas) on an Oasis Class ship, including Central Park outdoor space and the seaside-inspired Boardwalk. 

The shows on an Oasis Class ship are the best in the fleet, with three different theaters offering entertainment throughout your cruise. Watch a full Broadway show (such as Mamma Mia or Hairspray), check out the thrills of the AquaTheater performances, and be dazzled by ice shows in Studio B.

Oasis Class ships also have the most dining options of any Royal Caribbean ship, such as Chops Steakhouse, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Portside BBQ, classic Italian and much more.

Where they sail: Wonder of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offer 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that include stops at the private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Some years, one Oasis Class ship sails from Europe for the summer.

Quantum Class

Best ship: Anthem of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas

The newest class of Royal Caribbean ship does not compromise on entertainment, dining, or things to do with the Quantum Class ships.

Looking for some incredible things to do on a cruise ship? How about a skydiving simulator, or smash bumper cars into your fellow guest vehicles.  Then there is the observation capsule that takes you 300 feet in the air for breathtaking, 360-degree views. 

The Quantum Class ships are the only ones that feature Two70, which is a large circular space at the back of the ship where you will not only find a great view of the ocean, but also floor-to-ceiling screens that can transform the space along with their Roboscreen technology.

Music Hall is the perfect venue for anyone that loves live music performances, where cover bands perform and you can dance the night away.

The Royal Esplanade is located in the center of the ship and features dining and shopping opportunities.

Where they sail: Anthem of the Seas sails primarily from Bayonne, New Jersey to destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canda. She also started spending summer in Europe, sailing from Southampton, England for the summer, visiting coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.

Spectrum of the Seas sails in Asia.

Odyssey of the Seas splits her time between winter cruises from Florida to the Caribbean, and summer cruises in Europe around the Mediterranean.

Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas sail to Alaska in the summer, and then spend the other part of the year in Australia.

Freedom Class

Best ship: Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas

One of the most versatile cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, the Freedom Class vessels combine large size with lots to do onboard. In fact, the Freedom Class ships have been upgraded in the last few years with waterslides and other new features onboard.

You will find Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids on all three ships, along with Perfect Storm waterslides on Independence and Freedom. Liberty of the Seas has her own set of water slides, including the only ship to feature a boomerang slide.

Independence of the Seas is the only Freedom Class ship to offer the Sky Pad virtual reality bungee jump trampoline experience.

If you are looking for dining, Independence has Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and Fish & Ships, a poolside eatery where guests can grab quintessentially British seaside treats. Freedom of the Seas launched the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen specialty restaurant concept in the fleet, that features made-to-order pizzas, freshly made pastas and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos.

All three ships offer great shows onboard, including ice skating performances in Studio B.  Independence of the Seas has its own Broadway show with Grease, while Liberty of the Seas has Saturday Night Fever Broadway show.

Where they sail: Independence of the Seas sails three and four night cruises the Caribbean from Port Canaveral.

Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston, Texas and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Freedom of the Seas is homeported in Miami, Florida, where she offers short 3- and 4-night cruises.

Voyager Class

Best ship: Navigator of the Seas or Mariner of the Seas

One of the best values in Royal Caribbean is the Voyager Class ships. These multifaceted vessels are a great choice for first-time cruisers, as well as anyone on a limited budget.  They are still "big ships" and offer plenty to do onboard, but at a fraction of the price of their mega ship sister vessels.

The Voyager Class is perhaps the most varied ships in the fleet, as the Royal Amplification process has added so many new and different options to these ships.

Mariner and Navigator of the Seas received the most striking changes in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mariner of the Seas has a Sky Pad and Perfect Storm waterslides. Navigator has The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Both ships also now feature Battle for Planet Z and Royal Escape Room: The Observatorium.

There are plenty of other additions to both vessels, including hibachi on Mariner and Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant on Navigator. Both ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, as well as a Bamboo Room Polynessian-themed bar.

The other Voyager Class ships also have their own share of fun onboard, including a FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and shows each evening. Adventure of the Seas has its own set of water slides that were added a few years ago.

Where they sail: Mariner of the Seas offers Caribbean cruises of various length from Port Canaveral.

Navigator of the Seas is homeported from Los Angeles, where she sails short cruises to Ensenada, Mexico, as well as 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises.

The other Voyager Class ships move around a bit more, offering cruises around the world. Adventure of the Seas will sail from Galveston and Bayonne in the winter, in addition to cruises in Europe from Copenhagen and Stockholm in the summer.

Explorer of the Seas also splits time between North America and Europe, with cruises from Rome in the summer, and Galveston or Miami in the winter.

Voyager of the Seas offers cruises in Australia or China, depending on the cruise season.

Radiance Class

Best ship: Brilliance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas

An underrated, yet impressive class of ships is the Radiance Class ships that combine sleek elegance with varied itineraries around the world.

Just because they are smaller than other ships, does not mean they compromise on the fun onboard. Royal Caribbean added new features and amenities to these ships, and you will find an outdoor movie screen, full-scale entertainment productions in the three-story theater, and plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges.

Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Radiance Class ships have one of the best adults-only Solarium areas across the entire fleet.

Where they sail: The Radiance Class ships are world travelers, offering lots of places to visit. Brilliance of the Seas spends her winters in Tampa with short sailings to the Caribbean, along with cruises from Boston and Miami.

You can cruise on Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam to Northern Europe in the summer, while choosing between cruises from Galveston or Miami to the Caribbean.

Radiance of the Seas offers some really interesting cruises, including open-jaw sailings (one-way) to Alaska in the summer.  She then transitions to Australia and sails the South Pacific.

Serenade of the Seas also splits her time between Australia and Alaska itineraries.

Vision Class

Best ship: Grandeur of the Seas or Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean uses the Vision Class ships to offer cruises to the most exotic locations around, because they can fit almost anywhere.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships still offer plenty to do onboard and have amenities such as a rock climbing wall, great pool deck, poolside movie screen, specialty dining and a grand Atrium area.

The lounges on these ships are equally impressive, and many repeat cruisers love the warm and thoughtful staff onboard these ships.

Where they sail: Vision of the Seas offers cruises in the winter from Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona in the summer.

Rhapsody of the Seas calls Tampa and Venice/Ravenna, Italy home, with cruises to the Western Caribbean and Greek Isles.

Enchantment of the Seas (the last Royal Caribbean ship to be stretched) sails year-round from Baltimore.

Grandeur of the Seas offers cruises from Galveston & Miami to the Caribbean.

What should you look for in the best cruise ship?

When you want to find the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship for you, the key is to understand what the ship offers and what it does not offer, and then weigh that against how much it will cost you.

Some important considerations you should look at in any ship is what it offers in:

  • Kids Programming
  • Signature activities (waterslides, Broadway shows, thrill attractions, open spaces, et al)
  • Where it is sailing

If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  

If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine.

The important thing to remember is to figure out if the ship you are looking at has a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship.

My recommendations for the best ships

If you just want to know which ships I think might be best for certain people, here are my top picks for best Royal Caribbean ships.

  • Best ships for new cruisers and families: Oasis of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas
  • Best ship if on a budget: Mariner of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Best ship if you don't care about crazy activities: Brilliance of the Seas or Grandeur of the Seas
  • Best combination of value (price for what you get): Freedom of the Seas or Liberty of the Seas
  • Matt's favorite ships: Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas

8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day

07 Apr 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

The end of a cruise vacation can stir up many emotions, but most (if not all) passengers feel a hint of post-cruise depression set in on disembarkation day. Thoughts of returning to work, cleaning your house, and cooking your own meals can make even the toughest passengers dread returning home.

Serenade of the Seas in Tampa

Nonetheless, you have to return home eventually after your time onboard, and we recommend that you get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day. For most cruise itineraries, this means disembarking around 7AM instead of, say, 8 or 9AM.

While shortening your time on a Royal Caribbean cruise may sound unappealing, the truth is that by disembarking just an hour or two earlier than other passengers, you can reap a wide range of benefits.

From shorter wait times in the cruise terminal to avoiding chaos at the parking garage, here are 8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible.

How can I get off the ship as early as possible?


Before explaining the top reasons why you should disembark your cruise early, you should have a basic understanding of how Royal Caribbean’s disembarkation process works.

You have two options for disembarkation: self-disembarkation or using luggage tags.

Self-disembarkation is when you carry your luggage off the cruise ship with you. By transporting your own luggage off the ship, you have the freedom to leave whenever you want. This works well for cruisers who packed light or who don’t mind lugging suitcases off the ship, down the gangway, and through the cruise terminal.

Self-disembarkation is also a nice option for those who want as much flexibility as possible when leaving the ship. If you booked an early flight, you may prefer to disembark your ship as soon as the gangway opens instead of waiting until your luggage tag number is called.

Related: Self-disembarkation on a Royal Caribbean cruise

If you opt not to do self-assist disembarkation, you should adhere to the disembarkation time on your cabin’s luggage tag number. Near the end of the cruise, luggage tags will be delivered to your stateroom. Each of these luggage tags has a number, and this number coincides with the time in which your luggage will be ready for you in the cruise terminal.

If you don't like the disembarkation time given on your luggage tag, you can change your luggage tag number to the time that works best for you—simply head to Guest Services and get a different luggage tag.

Now that you have a better idea of how to disembark a cruise ship, let’s move into the top 8 reasons to get off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day.

There’s nothing to do onboard on disembarkation day

Although Royal Caribbean cruise ships are packed with activities and entertainment, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything interesting to do on disembarkation day.

With such a short turnaround time between cruises, there’s no time for activities like waterslides, trivia, and production shows.

Truthfully, there’s a rushed atmosphere onboard on disembarkation morning. If you’re suntanning on the pool deck at 9AM, you might get a few strange looks from crew members.

While there are no activities offered on disembarkation day, select breakfast venues, including the Windjammer and Main Dining Room, are open. We recommend grabbing a quick breakfast and getting off the ship as early as you can.

Avoid lines to leave the ship

While you won’t usually encounter an exceptionally long line to disembark your cruise ship, it’s best to avoid waiting in lines whenever possible. More often than not, the earlier you try to disembark your cruise ship, the shorter of a line you’ll experience.

Related: How long does it take to get off a cruise ship?

Not only will you avoid a long line just to leave the ship, but you won’t have to wait as long to have your passport and documents checked in the terminal. This is even more true if you’re traveling with a birth certificate and ID instead of a passport.

Those with passports can usually go through a fast-moving line during which a facial recognition device confirms your identity. Those without passports, on the other hand, have to wait in a line to have their documents manually checked.

If you disembark at the same time as everyone else, there’s a chance you’ll have to wait in line longer than you'd prefer.

Get taxis and Ubers more quickly than other passengers

In addition to lines in the cruise terminal, disembarking your ship early means you’ll spend far less time waiting in line for transportation to the airport.

With thousands of passengers leaving the cruise port at the same time, disembarkation day can be a bit hectic. Taxis and rideshares see high demand all at once, and unfortunately, many passengers end up waiting longer than they would like for a ride to the airport.

By getting off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day, you can be among the first to call an Uber or Lyft, and it’s unlikely there will be any wait at the taxi line.

Beat the traffic in the parking garage

If you drove to your cruise port, you don’t want to get held up at the parking garage on disembarkation day. It’s typical for long lines of cars to form as thousands of other passengers try to exit the parking garage all at once.

No one enjoys waiting around in their car when they could be on the way home. By getting off your ship as early as possible on disembarkation day, you can be one of the first out of the parking garage.

Get home earlier if you’re driving

Driving to your cruise port? The earlier you disembark your cruise ship, the earlier you can hit the road.

It’s always hard to relax knowing there’s a long drive ahead of you. Getting home earlier means you can start to unpack and relax, even if it means you’re no longer on a cruise ship.

Our recommendation is to wake up early, grab a takeaway coffee and pastry from Cafe Promenade, and hit the road before most passengers have even made it to breakfast.

More time to make a flight

We’ve all seen frantic, disheveled passengers sprinting through an airport terminal to make their flight on time. Many of us, in fact, have been those exact passengers ourselves—I know I’m guilty. By disembarking your cruise ship as early as possible, you give yourself more time to make a flight.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend booking flights no earlier than noon on disembarkation day, but the exact time can vary from airport to airport. If you’re flying from Fort Lauderdale, which is only 5 minutes away from the cruise port, you will (more than likely) be able to make an 11AM flight with little rush.

Making a noon flight from Venice, Italy when your cruise ends in Ravenna would be much more stressful—the cruise port is over two hours from the airport.

Related: The 20 worst cruise mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation

As long as you don’t book a flight too early, disembarking your cruise ship as early as possible will give you enough time to make your flight and account for any unexpected delays.

Account for security lines at the airport

My small, regional airport at home almost never has a line at security, but the same cannot be said about airports near popular cruise ports.

Many of the world’s busiest cruise ports are also located near the world’s busiest airports. Whether at the Los Angeles, Miami, or Orlando airport, you might encounter longer-than-anticipated lines at security.

If you don’t have TSA Precheck or an alternative priority security screening like CLEAR, you want to make sure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your flight. There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to the airport only to find out a long security line could cause you to miss your flight altogether!

Fly standby on an earlier flight

When I disembarked Symphony of the Seas earlier this year, I was off the ship by 7:45AM. My flight home, however, didn’t depart Miami until 12:30PM, and I was dreading waiting around the airport for several hours.

On route to the airport, I opened my American Airlines app and realized I could fly standby on a 9AM flight to my connection in Los Angeles. I never would have booked this flight outright as it left very little time to get to the airport and go through security after disembarking.

As a standby passenger, though, I could attempt to make the earlier flight with no risk of missing my flight later in the day.

To my surprise, I was able to fly on both my flight from Miami and my connecting flight home as a standby passenger. I was home over five hours earlier than I would have been on my initial itinerary!

Had I dilly-dallied around the cruise ship for another hour before disembarking, I never would have made the standby flight at 9AM. From now on, I’ll always get off the cruise ship as early as possible on disembarkation day if I can get on a standby list for an earlier flight.

Celebrity Cruises announces new CEO to succeed Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

06 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Laura Hodges Bethge will take over as CEO of Celebrity Cruises in May, the cruise line announced on Thursday.

Celebrity Cruises logo

Laura Hodges Bethge will take over the role from Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who has been CEO since 2014.  Hodges Bethge was most recently executive vice president,
shared services operations at Royal Caribbean Group.

In her current role, Hodges Bethge was responsible for Royal Caribbean Group’s safety, security and environment, risk management and crew movement teams.

"I look forward to building on the incredible achievements of Lisa and this world class team, as we continue to break boundaries and chart new courses in the industry," she said in a statement announcing the change.

Laura Hodges Bethge

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty welcomed Laura Hodges Bethge to the new role, "I would also like to congratulate Laura for her appointment as the next brand president of Celebrity Cruises. With her operational experience, business acumen and deep understanding of our company and the cruise industry, I know Laura is the right person to lead Celebrity Cruises to its next phases of growth."

Hodges Bethge has been a part of many aspects of the cruise industry. She served as senior vice president of Product Development for Royal Caribbean International, where she spearheaded the Royal Amplification ship upgrade program, and the Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover.  She also oversaw the design and construction of six new ships, including Spectrum of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas.

She joined the company in 2000 and has been a part of the Hotel and Marine Operations, Sales, Marketing, Product Innovation and Investor Relations teams.

She was also based in Shanghai as vice president of Market Development, where she oversaw commercial operations for this strategic market.

Departing Celebrity

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

Celebrity's current CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, will transition to Vice Chair, External Affairs for Royal Caribbean Group, effective May 1.

Mr. Liberty thanks Ms. Lutoff-Perlo for her hard work as CEO, "Lisa has been instrumental in transforming the Celebrity Cruises brand to what it is today."

"From helping us introduce the revolutionary Edge Series of ships to advancing the role of women in maritime careers, Lisa has had an incredible career during her time leading Celebrity Cruises, and multiple parts of our Royal Caribbean International brand. I have had the pleasure of working with Lisa for almost 18 years, and I know her expertise will be invaluable as she transitions to serve as my Vice Chair, External Affairs.”

Lutoff-Perlo’s career started with Royal Caribbean Group in 1985, when she was a district sales manager. 

She leaves behind a legacy of many firsts: In 2005, Lutoff-Perlo became Celebrity’s first female senior vice president of hotel operations. In 2012, she was named executive vice president of operations for Royal Caribbean International, the first woman in the industry to oversee both hotel and marine operations. Two short years later, she was the first woman appointed to president and CEO of one of Royal Caribbean Group’s brands.

As CEO, Celebrity Cruises added four new cruise ships to the fleet, and implemented cruise ship revitalizations under the Celebrity Revolution program.

"It has always been difficult for me to imagine leaving the incredible Celebrity brand, but the time is right for me to start an exciting new chapter and turn the helm over to a new leader," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

"It has been my great honor to lead this brand and work alongside the phenomenal Celebrity shoreside team and crew. Together, our accomplishments have been extraordinary. I'm excited to now work closely with Jason on broader initiatives as we sail toward an even brighter future."

20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

06 Apr 2023
Elizabeth Wright

If you are planning your first cruise, you may be wondering what proper onboard etiquette is like. 

Cruise etiquette

You can relax knowing that many protocols have relaxed, and cruising is neither as formal nor traditional as it used to be. That, however, does not mean that you can act however you want to. 

It is, for instance, important to be polite to fellow passengers and crew members. While that may seem like common knowledge, you would be surprised how many cruisers are rude to those around them. 

Knowing proper ship etiquette will help ensure that you do not feel disrespectful or underdressed, as well as make sure that you are able to contribute to a positive atmosphere. 

Be polite to crew members

Crew members work hard to ensure that you have a great vacation experience. If you pass your stateroom attendant in the hallway, time a moment to strike up a brief conversation by asking them about their day; they will appreciate it. 

If an issue arises that requires a visit to Guest Services, stay calm and level headed. The Guest Services representative will want to help you as best they can, and getting angry will not help the situation. 

Get a new plate when returning to the buffet

Windjammer table

While you might think that you are helping the crew members out by reusing your plate at the buffet, it actually is frowned upon. Serving yourself on a used plate could lead to the spread of germs. 

If you want another serving of food, simply leave your dirty dishes at the table. The Windjammer has staff walking around to clear the table in between servings and at the end of the meal. 

Do not be a chair hog

Please do not be one of those people who try and reserve pool chairs for the entire sea day. If you do not plan on using a chair for hours after claiming it, you should not leave your belongings there and prevent people who want to enjoy the pool deck in that moment from doing so. 

Cruisers on select Royal Caribbean vessels have reported that staff members have begun taking measures to prevent guests from saving chairs on the pool deck for a prolonged period of time. After a certain amount of time, they will remove your belongings and leave a note telling you where you can collect them. 

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

Be patient

With thousands of people onboard a cruise ship, you may find yourself having to wait in lines more than you thought, whether it is at Windjammer for breakfast, during the day at the waterslides or FlowRider, or when disembarking the ship.

Do not push and shove others trying to get to the front of the line. Be patient, as everyone is trying to enjoy their vacation, too. 

Wait for people to get off of the elevators before getting on

Regardless of the time of day, cruise ship elevators are usually packed. Before you try and squeeze on, see if anyone is getting off. 

As an alternative, you can take the stairs and bypass the elevators. Not only is this often a quicker way to move about the ship, but it also leaves space on the elevators for those who rely on it. 

Related: Why you should skip the elevator on your cruise

Be mindful when navigating throughout the cabin hallways

Grandeur of the Seas hallway

If you were trying to sleep, you would not want to hear a loud group of people outside of your stateroom. Even if it is 2:00pm in the afternoon, you do not know who has returned to their cabin for an afternoon nap. Likewise, your neighbor might be someone who enjoys sleeping in or retiring early. 

Avoid blasting music from your stateroom or mingling for too long in the hallways, especially late at night or early in the morning. This can be disruptive to other guests. 

Quiet down when the captain or other personnel are making announcements

Royal Caribbean veteran Captain Sindre Borsheim

Whenever an announcement comes on, it would behoove you to listen to what they have to say. Often, they will be  regarding disembarking in ports of call, weather, onboard activities, etc.

Rather than chatting amongst yourselves, take a moment to pause and listen to what they are saying, as their announcements pertain to making your cruise vacation better!

Maybe it is about show getting cancelled due to weather conditions or the ship being cleared faster than anticipated. 

Do not share your drink package with others


Due to how expensive a drink package can be, it is tempting to want to share your drink package benefits with others. Sharing, however, is strictly prohibited. If you are caught, you risk getting your package revoked without a refund. 

If one person in your stateroom who is of legal drinking age purchases a package, you must get it for every other guest the same age. In other words, drink packages are bought per person, not per room. Sharing is less likely to occur if everyone 21-years-old and older (or 18 depending on the market) has their own drink package. 

Additionally, you should not give drinks to minors. While you will not be kicked off the first time you are caught, you face expulsion from the ship if you continuously disregard their warnings. 

Make sure that you are on time to any reservations that you make, including shore excursions

Family on Alaska tour

Out of respect for everyone else, you should always arrive on time to your reservations. 

If you are late to a shore excursion, you will likely be left behind. Even if they do happen to wait, you do not want to be the reason that you kept everyone else waiting. 

Likewise, arriving to onboard reservations is polite to those who might have reservations after yours. Perhaps the specialty restaurant you are dining at is fully booked for the evening, and there is another party dining right after you. And if there is a show that you want to see, you may find that you cannot be seated if you show up late. 

Know your alcohol limits


Purchasing a Royal Caribbean drink package does not give you the excuse to drink until you are belligerent.  

Drinking is often the root of the cause when it comes to issues between passengers. Someone may have had one too many drinks and decide that they want to try and instigate something. The best way to minimize this type of behavior is to limit your alcohol intake. 

Plus, you do not want to be stumbling around the ship and feeling ill while in port the next day. Staying hydrated throughout your cruise is key, especially if you are consuming alcohol. 

Respect the dress code

Family in dining room

While you will not be denied service for dressy casually on formal night, you may feel out of place. Don't worry, though. You do not have to pull out a ballgown or tuxedo, but you will want to wear a nice pair of pants and shirt or dress.

This also means that you should dress for the occasion and not wear anything too revealing or that might otherwise be deemed inappropriate around families with children.

You do not have to dress for the themed nights, but it sure does make the cruise more fun!

Related: What to wear on a cruise that works for all dress codes

Do not throw anything overboard

Junior Suite balcony on Anthem of the Seas

Cruise lines are actively working to decrease their environmental impact. By throwing things into the ocean, you are choosing to disturb a delicate ecosystem. 

If you are caught, you could face a fine or removal from the ship at the next port of call. If you have trash, dispose of it properly in one of the trash bins.

Take responsibility for your children

Kids together on Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has various rules in place for minors. Those under 18, for instance, have curfews that they should abide by. 

Likewise, children should not be left unattended on the pool deck. Parents, please make sure that you have an eye on your kids at all time! Should they need to use the restroom or get hurt, you should be able to immediately assist them. 

When it comes to the youth clubs, children should be picked up by the designated closing time in the evenings. It is likely that the staff has other duties elsewhere on the ship, or it may one of their only times off. 

Do not remove your daily gratuities to save money

Crew member smiling at the bar

Crew gratuities are an additional fee that you pay on top of your base fare. As of April 2023, guests in standard staterooms (including Junior Suites) pay $16 per person, per day, while those in Grand Suites or above pay $18.50 per person, per day.

They can either be prepaid or added to your onboard account to be settled at the end of the cruise. And while you can go speak to Guest Services to have the amount adjusted or completely removed, you should first speak to them and let them try to resolve the issue. 

Some guests opt to remove them in order to give cash tips to the crew members they interact with; however, this impacts those who work behind-the-scenes and receive a percentage of your daily gratuities. 

Related: Tipping on a cruise ship: what you should and shouldn't do

Be polite to fellow passengers

Rising Tide

A little kindness can go a long way! If you find yourself in a situation where tensions are raised, do not try and resolve it yourself; find a crew member and alert of them of what is going on, whether it is a chair hog or someone picking a fight or another reason. 

The last thing you want is to spend any part of your cruise speaking with security!

Everyone is onboard to have a great time. Working together to treat each other with respect will create a better environment for all. 

Wash your hands 

Even though many covid protocols have been relaxed, you should still frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially before entering the buffet. At minimum, you should be using the hand sanitizer that is located throughout the ship. 

There are other precautions that you should take, such as coughing and sneezing into your elbow. With thousands of passengers onboard a single vessel, it is easy for illnesses to spread! 

Make sure that you complete the muster drill as soon as possible

Crew member emuster

Royal Caribbean's muster drill is done primarily through their app, meaning that you will not have to worry about gathering with everyone else onboard the ship at a dedicated time. 

This means that completing the drill is easier than ever. In fact, you can watch the mandatory safety video prior to even boarding the ship!

The only thing you will have to wait to do is visiting your assigned muster station. When you get there, a crew member will scan your Set Sail pass or SeaPass to mark that you have attended. 

The ship cannot set sail until everyone onboard has completed all parts of the drill, so make sure you get yours done as soon as possible!

If you want to smoke, do only in a designated smoking area


In order to facilitate a pleasurable experience for all guests, cruise ships have designated smoking areas onboard. This means that you cannot start smoking a cigarette whenever you want to. 

Smoking on your stateroom balcony, despite being outdoors, is strictly prohibited. If caught, a cleaning fee will be added to your onboard account.  

Common smoking areas include one side of the pool deck, as well as a section of the casino. Note that e-cigarettes can only be used in smoking areas, too. 

Do not try and bring any prohibited items onboard 


There are some prohibited items that are obvious, such as illegal drugs, candles, and fireworks. Others, however, are common household items like clothes steamers and electrical extension cords. 

While showing up with a steamer will not get you kicked off the ship, when your luggage is delivered to your stateroom, you will find a note that says the item was confiscated and can be picked up at disembarkation. 

To avoid this hassle, make sure that you have not packed any items that Royal Caribbean does not allow onboard their ships. 

Moreover, if you show up with anything dangerous or illegal, you may be denied boarding!

Do not leave a big mess for your cabin steward

Oceanview cabin on Liberty of the Seas

Your cabin attendant is responsible for making sure that you cabin is clean and tidy throughout the cruise. They will refresh your towels daily, make your bed, empty the trash, deliver important documents, and leave fun towel animals!

It, however, is disrespectful to clutter around your room that interferes with their ability to do their job. 

In fact, if you leave a big mess, they will often clean around it! This is to mainly protect themselves in the event of being accused of taking something from a passenger's cabin. While having things lying about in your cabin is inevitable, try to consolidate the mess. You will also appreciate coming back to a tidier space! 

What happens when an empty cruise ship returns to service without any passengers

05 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Following a dry dock in Europe, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas concluded a transatlantic crossing without any passengers onboard, and yet, the crew still do a great deal of work to prepare for paying guests.

What happen on an empty ship

About every five years, Royal Caribbean's cruise ships go into dry dock for maintenance work.  This is when ships are taken out of the water and preventative work is done all around the ship.

In the case of Mariner of the Seas, she went back and forth between North America and Europe without any cruise passengers onboard. You might think the crew would have nothing to do, but there's a surprising amount of things happening on a ship with just the crew.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Marc Walker shared a glimpse of what happens via his Facebook page, and it's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of the work done to prepare for passengers.

Cruise Director Marc Walker

"Understandably you may think we don’t do much during dry dock, but there is a lot to do, especially our 8 day crossing back," he posted at the start of crossing home.

"We are now in dress rehearsals for the ice show and theater production shows, live music runs, all theme nights are now rehearsed and ready, many safety trainings and Royal standards being presented, and lots of dusting."

Through Mr. Walker's posts, here's a look at some of the things crew members do on a cruise ship even without any passengers to service.

Mock boarding day

Marc Walker on Royal Promenade

One one day of the crossing back to Florida, the ship pretended it was embarkation day so that crew members could practice the muster drill process.

Royal Caribbean's eMuster process means guests don't have to line up and hear safety information at their muster station.  Instead, they complete most of the process on their digital devices before reporting to their muster station so they are aware of where it is located.

The change to an eMuster process has been a revelation in the cruise industry, and a huge hit with passengers.

Since the goal of this return trip is to get everything and everyone ready for passengers, every process of the cruise experience needs to be refined.

Flush all the toilets at the same time


Part of the process to prep the ship for a regular day is to ensure all of its systems work well, including the toilets.

Mr. Walker noted on the second day of the return trip was, "super chlorination day", which means all the crew members need to run all faucets, showers and toilets manually,  "to make them nice and clean."

In fact, every 10 minutes starting at 7:30am, Mr. Walker would get on the ship's public address system to tell crew members to flush.

Dining room dry run

Main dining room staff preparing

As Mariner of the Seas gets ready to return to service, crew members need to get back into their routines, including the dining room staff.

In order to prepare the Main Dining Room staff for passengers, Mariner of the Seas treated a number of crew members to dinner in this venue, where other crew played the role of guests so that the wait staff can get practice.

Not only does this give the Main Dining Room a good exercise, but it also rewards other crew members with a meal in a venue they don't ordinarily get to enjoy.

Dance parties with no one in attendance

70s dance party crew backstage

The ship's entertainment staff needs practice too, so they practice the popular dance parties held in the Royal Promenade, even if there's no one really there.

Mr. Walker talked about the putting on these shows, "Tonight we performed our classic 70s Disco Inferno for the fabulous Mariner of the Seas crew. We have a lot of new Royals so as part of our simulation cruise, we are treating them to all of our shows and theme events, plus tonight we gave away some amazing prizes!"

Empowering crew members

Crew member advancement

Crew members on a ship may start out in one role, but many will advance through the ranks in part due to the cruise line's programs aimed at advancing their careers.

Mr. Walker highlighted the "Getting Started as a New Leader" program that promotes crew members from within, instead of looking to hire new managers outside the company.

"Myself, Natalie my assistant, and Gemma my Sports Manager today congratulated Sports Staff Natalia, and Cruise Staff Nenad and Milos for their certification. They are our future leaders - and really cool people!"

Prepare the shows

Center Stage crew and cast

Each Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a cast of performers, as well as an array of technicians, that produce shows for guests.

The featured show on Mariner of the Seas is, "Center Stage", and on the final night before Mariner of the Seas returned to Port Canaveral, the cast and crew held an opening night performance.

The cast for a show will be onboard a ship for a few months before a new cast comes onboard to replace them.  

"Here are all the amazing and talented cast, orchestra, stage stage, techs, and Miami install team. Yes it’s a lot for one show, but that’s how we roll," Mr. Walker noted.

"Very proud of them all."

backstage view of show

The "Gallery of Dreams" cast also got their opening night performance, and they put on the show for other crew members.

"The crew got to enjoy this show tonight which is something they don’t usually get to see," noted Mr. Walker.

Best hotels near Port Canaveral before the cruise

05 Apr 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Traveling to Port Canaveral for a cruise? We’re sharing our top hotel recommendations for a pre-cruise stay.

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Port Canaveral is a cruise port located on Florida’s central coast just 45 miles from Orlando. It’s among the busiest cruise ports in the world, with over 4 million passengers sailing from the port each year.

If you’re cruising from Port Canaveral, we recommend arriving in Florida the day before your cruise begins. Depending on your travel schedule, you may choose to book a hotel near the airport in Orlando or one closer to the port.

Anthem of the Seas in Port Canaveral

Arriving a day early provides ample wiggle room in the case of travel delays when driving or flying to the port. Plus, it allows you to start your vacation one day early before embarkation day, whether you visit Orlando’s theme parks, spend time at the beach, or simply rest in your hotel.

Here’s our list of the best hotels near Port Canaveral to book before your cruise.

Where to stay in Port Canaveral before your cruise

Cape Canaveral

Many passengers prefer to spend the night before their cruise close to Port Canaveral. The port is located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, otherwise known as Florida’s Space Coast.

Staying in Cape Canaveral offers a wide selection of activities, from visiting the Kennedy Space Center to spending time at Cocoa Beach. The area is home to many restaurants, bars, and beach shops, providing more of an “I’m on vacation” atmosphere compared to staying in Orlando.

Related: How to get to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise

There’s no question that staying in Cape Canaveral instead of Orlando makes it easier to reach the cruise terminal on embarkation day. Many hotels are located just a five minute drive away from the port.

If you arrive in Orlando early the day before your cruise, we recommend traveling to the coast to spend the night in Cape Canaveral instead of staying in Orlando.

Near Orlando airport

Most travelers flying to Orlando will arrive at Orlando International Airport (MCO). If your flight arrives late (after ~6PM), we recommend staying near the airport instead of traveling to Cape Canaveral for a pre-cruise hotel stay.

You’ll more than likely be tired from a long day of traveling, and the 40 minute drive from the airport to Cape Canaveral can add to your exhaustion. Instead, reserving a no-frills airport hotel for one night gives you the chance to catch up on rest as soon as possible without any extra travel time.

Luckily, because MCO is such a major airport, there is a huge variety of hotels to choose from in the surrounding area. In addition, you usually cannot board the ship until around 11 AM on embarkation day, so you can travel from your airport hotel to Port Canaveral with plenty of time to spare the morning after your arrival.

Shuttles from Orlando to Port Canaveral

Many hotels in the Orlando and Cape Canaveral area will offer a shuttle service from the hotel to port. When traveling to Port Canaveral, you can choose to book a shuttle service or handle transportation on your own by reserving a taxi, Uber, or Lyft.

Here is what to consider when choosing between a shuttle versus a rideshare service:


Most shuttles are priced per person instead of per car like a taxi or Uber. For a solo traveler, a per person rate can be the most budget-friendly, but the cost can quickly add up when traveling with a larger group.

If you’re staying at a hotel in Cape Canaveral and need to travel to the cruise port just 1 mile away, your hotel might charge $10 per person for a shuttle. If traveling with a group of four, this amounts to $40, but you could call a Lyft instead for just $10-15 total.

Nevertheless, Port Canaveral differs from other Florida cruise ports in that the port is located far from the main airport in Orlando. It takes around 40 minutes to drive from the MCO airport and nearby hotels to Port Canaveral, and a taxi or rideshare service could cost over $100.

If a shuttle from the airport to Port Canaveral is only $25 per person, it may be the same price (or even cheaper) to take a shuttle when traveling with a larger group.

Traveling on your own time

Something else to consider when deciding whether to reserve a shuttle service or order an Uber to the cruise port is convenience. Shuttles leave at set times throughout the day whereas you can call a taxi or rideshare at any time.

If there is only one shuttle leaving from your hotel at 11AM, for example, but you want to leave at 9AM, a shuttle probably is not the best option. Instead, you should reserve a ride independently to have full control over when you head from the airport or hotel to Port Canaveral.

Here is our list of the best hotels near Port Canaveral before your cruise:

Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $220 to $450
  • Address: 8959 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

The Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Canaveral is an all-suite hotel located just a three minute drive from Port Canaveral. The convenient location of the hotel—combined with its comfortable rooms and amenities—make it hard to beat for a pre-cruise stay in Cape Canaveral.

Studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom suites can all be booked at the Residence Inn. Each room includes one or two beds, a sofa bed, dining area, and desk. Booking a suite can provide more space during your pre-cruise stay, which is especially helpful if traveling with kids or a large group.

Amenities at the Residence Inn include complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool and hot tub, kitchenette, fitness center, and convenience store.

Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

  • Average nightly price: $240 to $400
  • Address: 1550 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
  • Location: Cocoa Beach

The Hilton Cocoa Beach is the perfect hotel for a pre-cruise stay on the beach in Cape Canaveral. The hotel is just ten minutes away from Port Canaveral and offers oceanfront views and direct beach access.

Both rooms and suites are available to book at the Hilton, many of which have views of the water. Amenities at the property include beach access, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant, although free wifi is not included. Volleyball courts and surf lessons are also available.

Staying in a hotel so close to the ocean typically comes with a higher price tag compared to hotels further from the water. Therefore, an oceanfront hotel in Cape Canaveral is recommended only for those who plan to take advantage of the location.

If you arrive early the day before your cruise and want to make the most of your time, the Hilton Cocoa Beach can be an excellent choice. Plus, who doesn’t love a morning walk on the beach before heading to the cruise port?

Homewood Suites by Hilton Cape Canaveral-Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 9000 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

Located just a mile from Port Canaveral is the Homewood Suites by Hilton, an all-suite hotel with studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom rooms. Suites feature a fully equipped kitchen, bedroom space, and living room.

Amenities at the Homewood Suites include free breakfast, free wifi, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and tiki bar.

The hotel’s location along Astronaut Boulevard—which leads to Port Canaveral—means it is not directly on the beach. However, it’s near several restaurants and bars that you can enjoy the evening before your cruise begins. Plus, the beach is only 1.5 miles from the hotel, so it’s easy to access for those hoping to kick off their vacation a little early.

There are several shuttles available through Port Hotel Shuttle:

  • Hotel to cruise: $5 per person
  • Hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $25 per person

Radisson Resort at the Port

  • Average nightly price: $275 to $350
  • Address: 8701 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: Near cruise port

Also along Astronaut Boulevard is Radisson Resort at the Port. This hotel is a popular choice among many cruisers due to its convenient location, amenities, and offerings specific to cruise guests. Both standard rooms and suites are available to book.

The hotel features a large outdoor pool with a hot tub, which is a major attraction of the property for many guests. Other amenities include an on-site restaurant, fitness center, free wifi, tennis courts, and room service.

In addition, the Radisson offers four separate cruise packages to guests:

  • Park three or four nights and cruise
  • Park five to eight nights and cruise
  • Fly, stay, and cruise (includes shuttle from MCO airport)
  • Snooze and cruise (does not include parking)

While taking the shuttle from Orlando or parking your car is optional, many cruisers appreciate the added convenience of this service provided by the Radisson.

Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 3425 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
  • Location: Cocoa Beach

Just steps from the beach (and a ten minute drive to the cruise port) is the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral. The hotel’s location on the main road in Cocoa Beach means it’s near plenty of restaurants, bars, and shopping, making it an enjoyable place to spend the night before your cruise.

Amenities at the Hampton Inn include complimentary breakfast, an outdoor heated pool, poolside bar, free wifi, electric vehicle charging, and a fitness center. The hotel does not offer suites, but has king and queen rooms with balconies facing the ocean.

We recommend the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral for those who value staying near the beach and who don’t mind a few extra minutes drive to Port Canaveral on embarkation day.

There are several shuttles available through Port Hotel Shuttle:

  • Hotel to cruise: $10 per person
  • Hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $30 per person
  • MCO to hotel, hotel to cruise, cruise to MCO: $52 per person

Springhill Suites by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach

  • Average nightly price: $200 to $325
  • Address: 655 W Central Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
  • Location: near cruise port

The Springhill Suites Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach is a new hotel just a four minute drive to the cruise port. As an all-suite hotel, rooms provide ample space, making for a comfortable place to relax and unwind before your cruise begins.

Amenities at the Springhill Suites include complimentary breakfast, free wifi, an on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool and hot tub, poolside bar, fire pit, and fitness center.

A shuttle service is offered from the hotel to the cruise port for $10 per person, but an Uber or Lyft may be a cheaper option.

Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport

  • Average nightly price: $300 to $400
  • Address: 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, FL 32927
  • Location: Inside Orlando International Airport

Arriving in Orlando late at night? Your best bet is to stay at a hotel near the airport and head to Port Canaveral the morning of embarkation day.

The Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport is, by far, the most convenient hotel option, as it’s located inside the airport! The hotel is located between the security checkpoints at Terminal A and Terminal B, meaning you can get from baggage claim to your hotel room in just a few minutes!

Not only is the hotel’s location helpful for travelers arriving late, but it offers several great amenities including a rooftop pool with runway views, fitness center, jogging/walking track, and free wifi.

Additionally, three dining venues are available on-site:

  • Lobby Bar, a bar with signature drinks, sushi, and sandwiches
  • McCoy’s Bar and Grill, featuring a global-inspired menu and sushi bar
  • Hemisphere Restaurant, a contemporary restaurant with runway views from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows

The Hyatt Regency also offers optional Park, Stay, and Go packages for cruise guests. These packages include accommodation the night before your cruise in addition to parking for up to seven nights.

Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport

  • Average nightly price: $150 to $275
  • Address: 7100 Augusta National Dr, Orlando, FL 32922
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

If you’d prefer to leave the confines of the airport, there are many hotels located just a few minutes drive away. Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport is a no-frills property near the airport that offers a pleasant place to rest before traveling to Port Canaveral in the morning.

The Fairfield Inn Orlando Airport has complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, hot tub, free wifi, and a fitness center. Not only is it close to the airport, but it’s a short walk away from restaurants, bars, shops, and even a movie theater!

The hotel offers a Fly Snooze Cruise Package, which includes:

  • Transportation from Orlando International airport to hotel
  • Accommodation for one night
  • Transportation from hotel to cruise port
  • Transportation from cruise port to Orlando International Airport

Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport

  • Average nightly price: $165 to $225
  • Address: 5750 T G Lee Blvd, Orlando, FL 32822
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

Another hotel option near the airport is the Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport. Located just one mile from the airport, and with bright, modern rooms, the property is a great option for those arriving late to Orlando. 

Amenities at the Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport include an outdoor pool, wifi, on-site restaurant, and fitness center. They even have a 275” big screen TV in the lobby.

Breakfast is not included in the standard hotel rate, but there are several breakfast options nearby including IHOP and Denny’s. The hotel also features the Drift Kitchen & Bar (restaurant/bar) and a 24 hour marketplace.

The Holiday Inn offers a free shuttle from MCO to the hotel. Shuttles from the hotel to Port Canaveral can be booked through Go Port for $34.99 per traveler. However, you can also book a Fly Snooze Cruise package that includes:

  • Transportation from MCO to hotel
  • Pre-cruise accommodation for 1 night
  • Transportation from hotel to cruise
  • Transportation from cruise to MCO

Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel

  • Average nightly price: $190 to $220
  • Address: 5445 Forbes Pl, Orlando, FL 32812
  • Location: Near Orlando International Airport

Our last hotel recommendation near the Orlando airport is the Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel. Like other airport hotels, the Renaissance is located just a few minute’s drive away from the airport and offers convenience for a pre-cruise stay.

Rooms with either one king bed or two queen beds are available, some of which provide Club Lounge access. Amenities at the Renaissance include an outdoor pool with cabanas and a hot tub, fitness center, free wifi, a grab and go eatery, concierge lounge, and convenience store.

There is both an on-site restaurant and cocktail bar at the Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel, which is convenient for travelers looking for a quick bite to eat and drink after a long travel day. Breakfast is available at Fresco, the on-site restaurant, for an extra cost.

15 things to pack in your cruise carry-on

04 Apr 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Boarding your cruise ship is one of the most exciting parts of a cruise vacation, and you want to ensure you’re prepared for embarkation day by placing valuables and documents in a carry-on bag.

Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, you can choose to leave large suitcases with porters who will then deliver your luggage onboard. This service is extremely convenient, as it allows you to board the ship without lugging around a heavy suitcase.

However, a few hours typically pass between the time you drop your luggage with the porters and the time at which your suitcase arrives in front of your cabin door. Because of this, you must have everything you need for the first day of your cruise in a carry-on bag.

Here are the top 15 things to pack in your cruise carry-on on embarkation day, from your passport to a swimsuit and bottles of wine.

Travel documents and identification

Perhaps the most critical item to pack in your cruise carry-on are the identification documents you’ll need to board the ship.

Whether you’re traveling with a passport or a birth certificate and driver’s license, keeping your identification documents on hand will be necessary in order to successfully board.

The last thing you want to happen is to put your passport in the luggage you drop off with the porters at the cruise terminal! This can severely delay your boarding as you will have to track down your luggage among the thousands of other suitcases in the terminal.

Aside from your identification, you might need the following documents handy:

  • Name change form or marriage certificate (if traveling with a birth certificate and driver’s license with mismatched names)
  • Authorization for a minor to travel without a parent form (if you’re cruising with a minor of whom you’re not a legal guardian)
  • Printed SeaPass boarding pass (if you’re not using the Royal Caribbean app)

Money and credit cards

You should always keep your money and credit cards with you in your carry-on bag on embarkation day. Although the chances are extremely slim that your luggage gets lost at the cruise terminal, there’s always a small possibility of delays in receiving your luggage.

Because of this, keep your wallet in your carry-on bag to avoid added stress if you cannot promptly find your suitcase.

Prescription medication

Traveling with prescription medication? Make sure to put it in your carry-on bag instead of the luggage you drop off at the cruise terminal.

There’s no guarantee when the luggage you dropped off at the cruise terminal will arrive in front of your stateroom door. It could arrive at 3PM, but it could just as easily arrive at 5 or 6PM instead.

If you have medications you need on the first day of your cruise, no matter the time, be sure to keep the medication with you at all times during the embarkation process.


One of the best times to enjoy time on the pool deck during your cruise is on embarkation day.

With all the excitement and chaos found on the first day of a Royal Caribbean cruise, many passengers forget to bring a swimsuit in their carry-on bag. This means far fewer guests are using the pools and jacuzzis, as they have to wait until their luggage arrives to change into a swimsuit.

Related: 11 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise

Beat the crowds on the pool deck by packing a swimsuit in your carry-on bag. You can change into the swimsuit in one of the public bathrooms on the pool deck and enjoy nearly empty pools for the first few hours of your cruise.


In addition to a swimsuit, don’t forget to pack sunscreen in your carry-on!

By the second day of your cruise, you’re almost guaranteed to see several passengers with shockingly bad sunburns. More often than not, these passengers spent the first day of their cruise in the sun without applying sunscreen.

Don’t forget to put sunscreen in your carry-on bag. Even if you forget and want to buy sunscreen onboard, all shops will be closed until your cruise ship sets sail, leaving you to either risk getting burnt or spend the whole day in the shade.

Phone and electronics

Before entering the cruise terminal, make sure you have your cell phone! It’s far easier to board a Royal Caribbean cruise with a phone handy. You can easily open the Royal Caribbean app to scan your SeaPass card, which will be scanned several times during the boarding process.

Make sure you don’t accidentally leave your phone in your car (or worse, at home) en route to the cruise terminal!

In addition to your phone, make sure you pack any other important electronic devices in your carry-on bag. Laptops, cameras, and tablets are just some of the items you should keep with you instead of in your suitcase.

Not only is it better to keep valuables on hand, but you may want to use these items on embarkation day before your checked luggage arrives.


In addition to electronics, we recommend keeping chargers in your cruise ship carry-on bag.

Your phone or other electronic devices may run out of juice on embarkation day, and it’s always better to have easy access to a charger rather than wait for your luggage to arrive with a dead phone!

If you travel with several electronics, you may even want to use a handy organizer to keep your electronics and cables in one place.

Sunglasses and glasses

Most cruises visit sunny destinations, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. Because of this, sunglasses are a necessity for most passengers to remain comfortable throughout the sailing.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

We advise packing sunglasses in your carry-on bag, as you will likely spend significant time outside in the sun on embarkation day. Whether relaxing at the pool or watching the sunset during sailaway, you’ll want access to sunglasses before your luggage arrives to your stateroom.

Additionally, if you occasionally use glasses but aren’t wearing them in the cruise terminal, make sure to keep them in your carry-on bag to avoid damage in your checked luggage.

Wine, water, and non-alcoholic refreshments

Wine brought onboard

Do you plan to bring drinks on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Be sure to bring drinks with you into the cruise terminal rather than dropping them off with the porters.

Passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise are permitted to bring select beverages onboard:

  • One 750ml bottle of wine per adult in stateroom
  • Up to twelve 17 oz. cans, bottles, or cartons of non-alcoholic beverages
  • Milk and distilled water for infant, medical, or dietary use

If you have drinks in the bag you give to the porters, it will get flagged by security when it goes through the scanner. Security has the right to check luggage for prohibited liquids like hard liquor, beer, and seltzer.

If they check your bag, there’s a good chance it will be delayed and you may find yourself at Guest Services in the afternoon inquiring about when your bag will arrive.

It may be a hassle to carry drinks with you during the embarkation process, but it’s the best way to bring these beverages onboard.

Supplies for kids

If you’re cruising with kids, a little more preparation is necessary in order to ensure you have everything you need in your cruise carry-on.

To account for several hours without your main pieces of luggage, place items like diapers, wipes, extra clothes, baby food, formula, and a sippy cup in your carry-on.

Related: 50 best cruising with kids tips & secrets

You might also want to consider packing snacks for your kids on the first day of the cruise. While the embarkation process is usually relatively quick, a small delay could cause kids to get irritable and hungry. Having a granola bar or bag of chips on hand can avoid any potential temper tantrums!

Tennis shoes

We always recommend wearing tennis shoes on the first day of a Royal Caribbean cruise. 

Tennis shoes take up more space in your luggage than most other footwear, and wearing them on embarkation day (and the preceding travel days) can save room in your luggage for extra clothes or cruise ship necessities.

Related: 40 essential things to bring on a cruise

Not only does wearing tennis shoes save luggage space, but you might need tennis shoes to participate in select onboard activities on embarkation day. The zip line, for example, requires guests to wear closed-toed shoes, so your trusty pair of flip flops won’t cut it.

Other activities, like the Sports Court, also require closed-toed shoes, and the rock climbing wall requires guests to wear socks.

Change of clothes

Royal Caribbean main dining room

If you have space in your cruise carry-on, pack a change of clothes in case your luggage does not arrive promptly to your cabin.

Packing a change of clothes is particularly important if you have an early dinner time. If your dinner in the Main Dining Room starts at 5:30PM, there’s a good chance your luggage will not make it to your cabin by the time you’re getting ready for dinner.

Without fail, you’ll see a number of passengers wearing exceptionally casual outfits to dinner on embarkation day. Most of these passengers had likely packed something different than flip flops, ripped jeans, and a tank top, but their luggage failed to arrive in time for dinner.

Related: What to wear on a cruise that works for all dress codes

In addition to changing before dinner, you might want to pack an extra change of clothes in case you feel uncomfortable in the outfit you wear to the cruise terminal. Unfortunately, sweating in warm temperatures and high humidity is common on a cruise vacation, and you’ll appreciate a clean set of clothes if you find yourself breaking a sweat.

Valuable jewelry

If you are cruising with expensive or treasured jewelry, put the items in your carry-on instead of your checked suitcase.

If your luggage is delayed, you don’t want to ruin the first day of your cruise by worrying about whether or not your jewelry is missing or damaged. Plus, you may want to wear the jewelry to dinner on your first evening, and there's no guarantee your luggage will arrive in time.


It’s a good idea to pack small toiletry items in your cruise carry-on, such as a toothbrush, deodorant, and travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles. You never know when your luggage will arrive, so you’ll want important toiletries in case you have to get ready for the evening without the rest of your luggage.

You might also want to consider packing a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer to use on embarkation day. We recommend, for example, using hand sanitizer after touching the tongs in the buffet to avoid coming into contact with germs.


Many cruise passengers carry their SeaPass card in a lanyard around their neck. This helps prevent the card from being lost and is convenient when making purchases around the ship.

If you plan to use a lanyard while onboard, we recommend putting it in your carry-on bag so you can place your SeaPass card in the lanyard as soon as you get to your cabin.

Best Royal Caribbean cruise ships for Kids [2023]

04 Apr 2023
Matt Hochberg

Ready to take your family on a great cruise vacation but want to know the best cruise ships for kids?

Splashaway Bay on Liberty of the Seas

From water slides and pools to rock climbing walls and ice skating rinks, there is no shortage of fun and exciting things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Additionally, the company offers a variety of family-friendly dining options and stateroom accommodations, making it easy for families to travel together and enjoy all that the ship has to offer.

In considering the perfect cruise for families, we're not just talking kids. Which ship has something for mom, grandpa, the older cousins, and your brother's girlfriend. Not an easy task for any vacation choice.

Royal Caribbean offers a range of itineraries that cater to families, with destinations that include popular family vacation spots such as the Caribbean and Mexico.

Whether you're looking for "wows", a multitude of things for the kids to do, or just a family vacation that won't break the bank, here's my top picks for the best cruises for families.

Why Royal Caribbean ships are good if you have kids

Adventure Ocean

It's important to talk about why Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line for families before we pick a ship. Someone new to cruising may not be aware of how Royal Caribbean separates itself from other lines in the family travel market.

Royal Caribbean is known in the cruise industry for building cruise ships that are floating destinations, with lots of amazing things to do onboard.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a supervised kids club, fun activities on the pool deck, and visits to private islands in the Caribbean. Many ships have babysitting for younger children, water slides, surf simulators, bumper cars and more.

Bumper cars

Royal Caribbean doesn't put things on its ships just for kids, rather, they design experiences that kids and their parents can enjoy together. FlowRider, bumper cars, carousels, laser tag are all things guests of all age can find fun.

If getting your adrenaline pumping isn't your idea of fun, Royal Caribbean also has Broadway musicals on select ships, parades, ice skating shows, and expansive pool decks.

Arguably as important for parent and child alike is Adventure Ocean. Every day of your cruise there's a kids club where kids can go to meet other kids and play together in a supervised environment. Adventure Ocean isn't just a large room that kids get put in. There's activities, art, games, video games, and books for kids to enjoy. 

Revamped Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean revised its Adventure Ocean program on its newest ships and a few amplified ships, which revamped the spaces and greatly expanded the offerings.

Adventure Ocean is included in your cruise fare, with the exception of late night (after 10pm), so your vacation budget won't break.

There's even teen spaces on many ships, including dedicated lounges for teens and tweens to go and find their own enclave. The teens club is less programmed as the younger kids club, but there's still fun activities for them.  In fact, Royal Caribbean will dedicate certain times of the day at the FlowRider or other signature activities just for teens.

If you have toddlers, the nursery program is a fantastic offering for parents and kids alike. The nursery has an additional hourly cost to it, but it provides a safe place for children between 6 - 36 months to go and play, nap, eat, and play some more. For parents to have a place to drop infants off and be able to enjoy dinner and evening entertainment while their baby gets to play and be put down for sleep is a boon.

If all of this sounds great, you might be wondering how much this will cost you.  Royal Caribbean's prices are quite reasonable, with cabins and cruise fares to match nearly any family vacation budget.

Family in waterpark

Another ace Royal Caribbean has up its sleeve for families are its private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

These are ports your ship can visit on a Caribbean itinerary that are run by Royal Caribbean, which means lots of activities, beaches and a freshwater pool (at CocoCay) included with your cruise fare. A visit to either island is a highlight for nearly any family.

Other cruise lines may be more synonymous with kids, but Royal Caribbean's onboard programming stacks up favorably and offers more for children of all ages without compromising on the adult experience. Plus, Royal Caribbean routinely offers a kids sail free deal where children in the same cabin as the adults pay nothing for their cruise fare.

Best ship for families of all ages: Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear

If you want something for everyone, look no further than Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship.

Wonder of the Seas (as well as the other Oasis Class cruise ships) is not just the largest cruise ship in the world, but it has just about everything kids, teens, and grandma will find enjoyable.

Read moreSee how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size

Playscape on Wonder of the Seas

Oasis Class ships are packed with the best offerings Royal Caribbean has, and there's very few activities or amenities found on other ships that you can't find on these vessels.

You've got water slides, a giant aqua park, surf simulator, two rock walls, playscape, and a carousel if you need to burn some energy. Then there's the zip line, ice skating, hot tubs, and 10-story dry slide.

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

The adults-only solarium pool area is found on every Royal Caribbean ship, but like everything on an Oasis Class ship, the solarium on Wonder is just bigger.

Another great amenity on Wonder of the Seas are the shows. There are three entertainment venues with shows almost every night: AquaTheater, Royal Theater, and Studio B.

You can expect to see comedy shows, ice skating show, diving show and more.

AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas

If you're new to cruising, or are traveling with a wide variety of ages, it's hard to go wrong with an Oasis Class cruise ship like Wonder.

If there's a downside to going on Wonder of the Seas, it's that you'll pay more on average for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas compared to other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes guide & explanation

Wonder of the Seas at night aerial

If your budget is tight, perhaps one of the other ships in this list might be a better fit, but that isn't to say Wonder will cost you an arm and a leg either. Relatively speaking, newer ships tend to cost more.

You can save money on just about every cruise by taking advantage of certain planning tips for getting the lowest price, so there's no excuse for paying top dollar, even for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas.

Best ship for families with older kids: Odyssey of the Seas

Let's say you have tweens or teen in your family and want to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise that caters more to them than younger children.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships have always been the best choice for families with older children because of the more sophisticated offerings onboard.

Just like Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas is the newest ship in its class and has the latest offerings available. Moreover, Odyssey is a very new ship too, which means you're going to find lots to enjoy.

If you have a teen, be sure to start off by showing them the teen club and teen sun deck.  Teens not only have an indoor area for them, but they have a reserved area of the pool deck just for them.

Read more6 things you can only do on Odyssey of the Seas

Then there's the SeaPlex on Odyssey of the Seas, where throughout the day activities are swapped that include bumper cars, roller skating, basketball, and more. Parents can "observe" from the nearby Playmakers sports bar located on the upper level of the SeaPlex.

Something to do with your teens would be Zone Zero, an immersive virtual reality experience where you put on a full virtual reality suit.

Everyone will be able to also check out North Star observational pod, which is a glass capsule that takes you 300 feet above the ocean.  

If your teens ever wanted to try skydiving, Odyssey has a sky diving simulator too!

Seniors and parents

Grandparents and parents will find their enclave in the Solarium, which is as beautiful to look at as it is to relax in and enjoy.

For your evening entertainment, head to Two70, which has performances that incorporate amazing technology at the rear of the ship.  You'll be wowed by how Royal Caribbean has taken traditional stage productions and infused tech enhancements.

Best ship for families on a budget: Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

You want to take your family on a fabulous cruise but also need to make every dollar count? Check out Freedom of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean revamped this ship in early 2020, and it offers plenty to do without the price tag newer cruise ships come with.

Freedom is still a "big ship", so there's no compromising on what there is to do onboard. You're going to find a surf simulator, beautiful pool area, aqua park, water slides, rock climbing wall, and much more.

Freedom of the Seas pool

In fact, the resort-style pool deck stands out as a big win for families. Kids can enjoy time at Splashaway Bay aqua park while adults will find serenity at the Solarium. The Lime & Coconut spans 3 decks, which creates a fun party atmosphere onboard.

Freedom has Royal Caribbean's new take on kids club and teen area, just like the newer ships.

Since Freedom sails 3- and 4-night cruises from Miami, you can find an inexpensive price tag along with all the cruise fun.

Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Best yet, every single one of Freedom's itineraries visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, which means a full day of fun in the sun. So much of what you can do at CocoCay is included with your cruise fare, which is more money saved.

Read moreDo's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay

In short, Freedom of the Seas delivers on the promise of something for everyone, but at far less of a cost than newer ships.

Best cruise for families visiting Alaska: Ovation of the Seas

There's simply nothing like an Alaska cruise, and families will love everything Alaska has to offer as well as onboard Ovation of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Alaska on four ships, but I like Ovation the best for families, especially if it's your first Alaska cruise.

RelatedComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2022 and 2023

Based out of Seattle, you'll be able to find more direct flights to get you onboard and if you're an American, at a lower price than if you flew to a ship departing from Canada.

Once onboard, there is lots to do and most of the activities are indoors. Just like Odyssey of the Seas, Ovation has a North Star, Flowrider, SeaPlex, indoor Solarium and more.

Since Ovation has an indoor pool for guests of all ages (in addition to the Solarium), it's the perfect ship for Alaska.

While Alaska is worthy of dedicating as much time as you can on shore, once you get back to the ship, there's no compromise with things to do aboard.

Best cruise to take your parents: Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Whether your kids are with your or not, if you are ready to take mom and dad on a cruise too, you might look at a ship that focuses more on the classic cruise experience.

Brilliance of the Seas is a Radiance Class ship, which is actually one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships in the fleet.

Don't let her size fool you, there's still activities onboard to enjoy.  There's still the rock climbing wall and a fun pool deck. If you do bring young kids with you, there's a water slide on the back of the ship too.

Solarium in Brilliance of the Seas

The adults-only solarium might be my favorite solarium across the entire fleet. It's enclosed and climate controlled, and has lots of great seating for reading, napping, or both.

Something I've always loved about the Radiance Class are the floor-to-ceiling views, which are perfect for taking in the sunsets and watching your destinations come into view.

In addition to the main dining room, you'll find three great specialty restaurants worthy of a visit.  After dinner, take a show in at the Royal Theater.

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

So why Brilliance over her sister ships? The upgrades Brilliance received a few years ago stand out from her sister vessels (although Serenade has very similar features). Sailing from Tampa in the winter, there's also a good chance mom and dad are nearby.

Something else you'll love when you invite your parents to sail with you is the price. Quite often the value of Brilliance is unmatched.

Best Royal Caribbean ships for babies and toddlers

Toddler with a baloon

If you have young kids under the age of 3, there are a subset of Royal Caribbean ships you'll want to book for the better offerings they have for this age group.

Look for ships that have these important features.


Not every Royal Caribbean ship has a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery, and it's a difference maker to go on a ship that has one.

The Royal Babies & Tots Nursery has an hourly cost to it, along with limited capacity. They are available for children between the age of 6 and 36 months old.

The fee for this service is $6 per hour between 9 am and 6 pm and $8 per hour from 6 pm until midnight.


The ship's nursery is a boon for parents because the nursery is a place you can drop off your infant or toddler and have someone take care of them for a few hours, allowing you to go to dinner, see a show, and otherwise enjoy the ship.

Heck, you can leave the child in the nursery while you get off the cruise ship in a port of call for a fun shore excursion.

Royal Caribbean ships with Royal Babies & Tots Nursery:

  • Allure of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Icon of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Wonder of the Seas

Baby splash zone

Splashaway Bay on Wonder of the Seas

Did you know children in a diaper cannot go in the pools or hot tubs on Royal Caribbean?

Babies still in a diaper can, however, go in designated splash zones that are part of Splashaway Bay or the H2O Zone.

Royal Caribbean ships with a baby splash zone:

  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Icon of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Wonder of the Seas

Money saving tips for cruising with kids

Splashaway Bay on Wonder of the Seas

No matter which cruise ship you sail on, there's a few ways you can make your money go further.

Book two cabins instead of one


My favorite family cruise hack is to get two connecting cabins rather than one room.

I love my kids, but sleeping in the same room as them is not enjoyable.  Plus, sharing one bathroom is not a great experience.

Instead of booking a suite that will cost lots, or cramming into a smaller room, book two cabins that have a connecting inside door.

You'd be surprised how affordable two cabins are, especially when compared to a suite.

Soda packages for the teens

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

If your children drink a lot of soda, you may be better off with a soda package for them than paying for soft drinks individually.

Royal Caribbean has unlimited drink packages that help keep your budget intact. 

The price per night of the Classic Soda Package is $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity). If your kids can drink 3-4 sodas every day, then it can really save you money.

Look for kids sail free deals

Kids in splashaway Bay

Royal Caribbean regularly runs kids sail free deals that include the cruise fare of the third or fourth passenger in the same cabin as first two people paying normal price.

The "catch" with kids sail free are the blackout dates.  If you can find a qualifying sale, it can really save you a lot, especially if you book a suite.

Bring more baby supplies than you think you'll need


If you're cruising with a child still in diapers or drinking formula, be sure to pack much more than you think you'll need.

One lesson I learned from my kids is they go through a lot more baby supplies on a cruise than at home. 

Baby wipes, diapers, and other essentials are hard to come by on a ship or in the ports you visit.

Feed your kids at the complimentary restaurants

If you want to dine at a specialty restaurant, don't feel like your children have to eat there too.

If your kids are picky eaters, you might consider simply taking them to get a slice of pizza at Sorrento's or something to eat at the Windjammer first.  They can dine with you at the restaurant and nibble while you eat without paying for a cover charge for them.

Or drop them off at Adventure Ocean and then schedule your specialty restaurant meal after.  This tip works even for the main dining room if you have a later seating time.

Disable your kids spending ability

Kids at arcade

You have the option of disabling spending on your kids' SeaPass cards to avoid a potential problem later.

Just stop by Guest Relations and ask them to cut off your kids ability to spend.