Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Best shore excursion in every Caribbean cruise port

In:
26 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

One of the best aspects of any cruise vacation is planning what to do in port, but it can quickly become overwhelming with hundreds of tours and ideas to choose from.

St. John Beach

If you’re cruising to the Caribbean, you’ll find a wide range of tours from beach days to catamaran cruises, zip line adventures, ATV excursions, and much more.

Although you’ll likely have an amazing port day no matter which excursion you book, there are some excursions that stand out from the rest, and every Caribbean island offers unique activities and attractions.

Let’s discuss the best shore excursion to book in every Caribbean cruise port to help you make the most of your next Caribbean cruise.

Antigua

Antigua is home to 365 beaches, so it’s no surprise that a beach day is a must while on the island.

If your cruise visits Antigua, make the trip to Valley Church Beach, located only 20 minutes by car from the cruise port. The beach remains relatively undeveloped, making it a serene day for those looking to relax in the sun and sand.

Excursion Focus: Valley Church Beach in Antigua

Aruba

Cruising to the ABC islands calls for beaches, culture, and unique excursion opportunities. If your cruise itinerary visits all three islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), we recommend making Aruba a beach day.

The most famous beach on the island is Eagle Beach, a wide stretch of sand with pristine turquoise waters. The beach offers excellent swimming as well as the opportunity to snorkel or rent water sport equipment.

Related: Visiting Eagle Beach in Aruba on Freedom of the Seas

Barbados

Visiting Turtle Bay in Barbados is among the most popular shore excursions on the island.

Royal Caribbean offers the Swim with Turtles, Shipwrecks, Snorkel, and Beach excursion, during which visitors take a boat ride to Turtle Bay where they can observe sea turtles in their natural habitat.

The excursion also includes snorkeling above a shipwreck and time to chill out at a nearby beach.

Belize City

Adrenaline seekers will love the opportunity to tube down the Cave Branch River, an underground cave system in Belize. Following a 45 minute hike through the rainforest, visitors can explore the cave's unique geology and ecosystem while cruising down the river.

Tubing the cave system is a popular excursion choice in Belize and can be booked through Royal Caribbean or independent tour companies. This excursion is not recommended for those with mobility issues.

Bermuda

Bermuda is a gem of a cruise port, and while it’s technically not located in the Caribbean sea, we’ve included it on this list because visits to the island can be found on many Caribbean cruise itineraries.

One major plus of visiting Bermuda on a cruise is that ships often dock overnight, giving you 2-3 days to explore the island’s highlights. Bermuda has excellent public transportation and it’s easy to get around without booking an official shore excursion.

Related: What to do in Bermuda on a cruise

Visiting Horseshoe Bay is a must while in Bermuda. There are on-site amenities including chair and umbrella rentals, bathrooms, and food.

Those looking for more active or cultural opportunities may also want to consider renting a bicycle to explore the Bermuda Railway Trail or walking the streets of downtown Hamilton to take in local culture and lifestyle.

Bonaire

Bonaire is a port perfect for an adventure-filled, active day. As one of the world’s best diving locations, many cruisers explore underwater to spot the coral reefs and marine life that make this island a diver’s paradise.

If scuba diving is of interest to you but you’re not certified, consider booking a Discover Scuba tour. This tour will give you the necessary skills to partake in an assisted dive with an instructor.

Excursion Focus: Discover Scuba tour

Snorkeling opportunities are fantastic on the island as well, and many passengers find that renting an ATV or golf cart provides the perfect way to explore as much of Bonaire as possible in one day.

Related: Renting an ATV in Bonaire

Costa Maya

As one of the most common cruise ports in the Caribbean, there is no shortage of things to do in Costa Maya. Instead of offering just one “best” shore excursion in this Mexican port, we have three, one of which is sure to fit your cruising style.

If you’re looking for a beach day, book a day pass to Maya Chan Beach Resort. This all-inclusive day pass includes transportation, beach beds, all-you-can-eat food, an open bar, use of snorkeling gear and glass bottom kayaks, bathroom facilities, lockers, wifi, and more.

Excursion Focus: Maya Chan Beach in Costa Maya

History lovers will want to book a visit to the Chacchoben Ruins, which were estimated to have been settled around 200 B.C. As the ruins are located a 45 minute bus ride away from the cruise port, booking an excursion through Royal Caribbean directly is recommended.

Excursion Focus: Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya

Finally, those interested in exploring more of Costa Maya’s culture may want to make the short trip to the nearby town of Mahahual. This small town has plenty of local businesses, restaurants, and day passes to beach clubs to enjoy.

Related: Visiting Mahahual while in Costa Maya

Cozumel

Cozumel is another of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, and we recommend booking a day pass to a beach club while in port.

There are several day passes to choose from, but our favorites are Nachi Cocom and Paradise Beach. Read our full reviews of each day pass here to pick the one best suited for you:

Curaçao

While there are plenty of excursions offered in Curaçao, many cruisers enjoy strolling through the capital of Willemstad without an organized tour.

Walking across the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is a highlight for many visitors in addition to visiting local shops, cafes, and restaurants and taking a trip to a nearby beach.

Related: Spending the day in Curacao without a tour

Dominica

Dominica has lush, dramatic landscapes, and one of the best ways to explore the island is by booking a shore excursion to the rainforest.

The River Tubing, Rainforest Drive, and Hibiscus Falls excursion offered by Royal Caribbean provides the best of Dominica’s natural beauty with an active adventure.

The tour begins with a tubing adventure and visit to Hibiscus Falls, a 40-foot waterfall leading to an emerald green pool perfect for taking a swim. Following a visit to the falls is a longer, 90-minute tubing adventure through mini-rapids and slower-flowing waters through the rainforest.

Falmouth

While some ports are best for exploring without an organized tour, we recommend booking a shore excursion in Falmouth to make the most of your day in port.

Falmouth offers beaches and jungles, so there’s something for everyone and every fitness level.

Active adventurers may want to book the Blue Hole, Dunn’s River Falls & Chill at Reggae Hill shore excursion. This tour includes diving and swimming at Jamaica’s famous Blue Hole followed by the chance to climb small waterfalls and explore caves. The excursion ends with a relaxing afternoon at a park with reggae music, lunch, and beverages.

If climbing waterfalls and diving sounds like the exact opposite of a relaxing day in the Caribbean, consider booking a day pass through ResortForADay.com. There are six day passes listed on the website, most of which are all-inclusive and include transportation from the ship.

Freeport

While Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay are the most popular cruise ports in the Bahamas, you’ll find plenty of itineraries visiting Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

Freeport may not offer as many shore excursions to choose from compared to other Bahamian ports, but many visitors plan for a beach day or visit the Lucayan National Park.

Booking the Lucayan National Park Kayak & Nature Tour is a fun excursion to book through Royal Caribbean, as it includes a guided kayak tour through mangroves and creeks in Lucayan National Park followed by a beach break.

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean: Seven Mile Beach, and visiting the beach is a popular excursion choice for those looking to explore Grand Cayman without an organized tour.

Related: 11 of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean

If you’d prefer to explore underwater as opposed to laying on a beach, book a tour through Stingray City, an area of shallow sandbars with an abundance of stingrays. Booking a tour to Stingray City means you’ll have the chance to snorkel and interact with not only stingrays, but turtles, starfish, and other marine life.

Grenada

Grenada is known as the Island of Spice, and we recommend splitting your port day into two sections: a cultural tour and time at the beach.

The best way to do this is through a shore excursion that combines both attractions of the island. Royal Caribbean’s Spices and Sunshine tour first brings visitors to the Laura Spica Gardens, where they’ll learn more about the various spices and herbs produced on the island.

Following this cultural insight, visitors travel to Grand Anse Beach, often considered the best beach on the island.

Labadee

Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Labadee offers more than enough to enjoy without spending anything extra on excursions. However, there are several additional activities to book that can offer a more enhanced experience in port.

Those looking for a more luxurious experience in Labadee may want to rent a private cabana. Cabanas include a cabana attendant, bottled water, snorkel gear, floating mats, and more.

More information on Labadee cabanas:

Outside of cabana rentals, you may wish to book a ride on Labadee’s famous zipline or a ride on the Dragon’s Tail Coaster. Both activities are sure to get your adrenaline pumping and can be fun options when traveling with kids.

Excursion Focus: Zipline at Labadee

Martinique

Martinique is a French territory that is undeniably French, and while it may not be a very common port stop, the island offers activities for all interests.

Because you won’t find many cruises visiting Martinique, we recommend making the most of your time on the island through an island tour. Booking an island tour means you can see multiple of the island’s highlights, from beaches to markets and historic ruins, in one day.

You can choose to book a tour through Royal Caribbean or through an outsider provider.

Related: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

Nassau

Nassau is an extremely common port on cruise itineraries, and most visitors to New Providence Island will opt for a beach day.

Our favorite shore excursion in Nassau is a day trip to Pearl Island. Located 30 minutes away from the cruise port by boat, Pearl Island offers a small, turquoise beach, bar and lunch buffet, lounge chairs, watersports equipment, and more.

Excursion Focus: Pearl Island Beach Escape in Nassau

If you’re looking for other ideas of how to spend a day in Nassau, check out our article on the best things to do in Nassau on a cruise.

Ocho Rios

While most cruises stop in Falmouth, Jamaica as opposed to Ocho Rios, you’ll find that they offer several of the same excursions.

While we mentioned booking an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls from Falmouth, the waterfalls are much closer to the Ocho Rios cruise port.

If you are interested in exploring the natural beauty of Jamaica’s lush rainforest, your best bet for an excursion in Ocho Rios is one that visits Dunn’s River falls and the surrounding area. Due to the falls’ proximity to the cruise port, you won’t have trouble finding an excursion through Royal Caribbean or independent tour companies.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, is one of the most beloved ports among Royal Caribbean fans.

Included at Perfect Day at CocoCay is beach access, food, drinks (juices, water, tea, etc.), beach chairs, umbrellas, Splashaway Bay, Captain’s Jill’s Galleon, Oasis Lagoon pool, and more. Most is included in the cruise fare, so it’s not necessary to book an excursion on the island.

There are, however, several other activities on the island for an extra cost including Thrill Waterpark, a zipline course, jet skis, kayaking, the Coco Beach Club, and cabanas, just to name a few.

If you’re considering booking an excursion or rental at Perfect Day at CocoCay, you may find the following guides and reviews helpful:

Progreso

Located on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is the port of Progreso, and our most recommended shore excursion in this port is a visit to Chichén Itzá, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

While you can visit Chichén Itzá from Cozumel, it’s much easier to visit the site from Progreso as it does not require a ferry ride from the island of Cozumel to mainland Mexico.

Due to travel time required, we recommend booking an excursion to Chichén Itzá through Royal Caribbean directly. Excursions run around $104 to Chichén Itzá per adult and $164 for a combined trip to Chichén Itzá and a nearby cenote.

Puerto Plata

Natural beauty is in abundance in the Caribbean, and that remains true in the Dominican Republic, where visitors can enjoy beaches, jungles, and waterfalls.

One of the most popular excursions in Puerto Plata is a visit to the Damajagua Waterfalls, a lush area of the forest with 27 waterfalls to explore. You can swim, slide down, and jump off waterfalls, and it’s a fantastic way to cool down in the Caribbean heat.

You may also find an excursion option combining a visit to the waterfalls with a zip line for extra fun!

Roatan

Many Western Caribbean cruise itineraries include a stop in Roatan, an island off the coast of northern Honduras.

There are a lot of excursions to choose from in Roatan, from petting sloths and monkeys to spending the day at a beach resort.

Instead of choosing one excursion over another, we recommend booking a private tour of the island with Victor Bodden Tours. These tours can be customized to your liking and come at a reasonable price, even for solo travelers.

San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean cruise port where booking an organized shore excursion isn’t totally necessary.

Cruise ships dock directly in Old San Juan, the historic, colorful neighborhood of San Juan. Visitors to Old San Juan can spend time exploring the city’s historic forts, walking the old city walls, dining at a local restaurant, and relaxing in one of the city’s parks and squares.

Related: Things to do in Old San Juan

St Croix

Biking is one of the best ways to explore a new destination, and if you’re interested in an active excursion, consider the Bike St. Croix tour offered by Royal Caribbean.

This tour takes guests on a 10-mile bike ride along St. Croix’s coastline, through sugar plantations, and in the port city of Frederiksted. It includes commentary from a local guide, as well, meaning you’ll not only take in the sights, but also the culture and history of this Caribbean island.

St Kitts

A unique shore excursion opportunity in the Caribbean is taking a ride on the Caribbean Scenic Railway in St. Kitts.

The main industry in St. Kitts used to be sugar cane, and the train was originally built to transport sugar cane around the island. The train rides through the countryside of St. Kitts, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy beautiful views of the island’s natural landscapes.

Excursion Focus: Caribbean Scenic Railway Tour in St. Kitts

St Lucia

St. Lucia is famous for the Pitons, two mountainous volcanic plugs that rise over 2500 feet above sea level.

Many visitors to St. Lucia put the Pitons on their must-do list, and there are many shore excursions to take guests to these iconic peaks. Traveling to the Pitons via boat is recommended over a car or bus, as the roads can be quite windy and aren’t ideal for those prone to motion sickness.

Royal Caribbean offers the Coastal Cruise to the Pitons excursion, a four hour tour including roundtrip transportation to the Pitons and a swimming stop at one of the island’s bays.

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is a favorite port among cruisers for the wide variety of options offered on the island. From watching planes land at Maho Beach to walking the streets of Philipsburg and discovering the Dutch and French sides of the island, it can be difficult to decide what to do in port.

Therefore, we recommend booking a taxi for the day in St. Maarten to bring you on a private, customizable tour around the island. The island is fairly small, so it’s possible to see all of St. Maarten’s main highlights in one day on both the French and Dutch sides.

If you’re feeling more adventurous than traveling via taxi, consider renting a bicycle and exploring St. Maarten on two wheels!

Excursion Focus: Cycling in St. Maarten

St. Thomas

If you’re visiting St. Thomas and looking to experience one of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, book an excursion that visits St. John.

St. John is a true island paradise, and many excursions visit the famous Trunk Bay Beach, known for its soft, white sand and underwater snorkeling trail.

While you can visit St. John without an excursion, it can be challenging to find a taxi to bring you to the ferry terminal, travel to and from the island via ferry, and find a taxi back to the ship. Because of this, we recommend booking a tour to visit St. John.

Related: Guide to visiting St. John on a Royal Caribbean cruise

St. Vincent

Cruise itineraries visiting St. Vincent are few and far between, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to discover in this small island nation.

One of the most unique tours offered in St. Vincent is a hiking trip on Mount Soufrière, the largest peak on the island and an active volcano. Rising over 4,000 feet above sea level, the hike is no walk in the park, but offers unbeatable views of the country and the unique opportunity to experience an active volcano up close.

Tortola

If your cruise visits the British Virgin Islands, consider making a day trip to the small island of Jost Van Dyke from Tortola. While on this small island, you can swim and snorkel in a protected cove with extremely soft sand and clear waters.

Planning a shore excursion? Here are more of our top tips & tricks:

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 25, 2022

In:
25 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy weekend! We have a look back at all the Royal Caribbean news from this week to share with all of you.

Royal Caribbean shared another sneak preview of Icon of the Seas with everyone this week.

Royal Caribbean released a new teaser video that provided glimpses of features the new cruise ship could have onboard.

The 7 minute video did not reveal the ship's design or announce anything formally, but eagle-eyed viewers noticed Icon of the Seas will have a few areas onboard that seem to confirm previous rumors.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 469th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt shares his top recommendations for what to do in the Western Caribbean ports his ship will visit.

Matt is headed out on Allure of the Seas this week, and talks about the popular things to do in each of the ports on this itinerary.

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

Video: 5 most desirable cabin locations on a cruise ship!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: 5 most desirable cabin locations on a cruise ship!

New Icon of the Seas construction photos

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Because Royal Caribbean hasn't shared full details yet about Icon of the Seas, I decided to share construction photos to preview what we can expect.

These new aerial drone photos show the progress being made on building Icon of the Seas, which will be Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship and first ship in the Icon Class.

What is the best way to spend an extra $1,000?

Grand Suite on Freedom

Whether money burns a hole in your pocket or you just want to splurge a little, what is the best way to spend $1,000 on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Certainly there are a lot of ways to budget for an affordable trip, but what if you want to step out a little bit and go bigger?

Even if you're not looking to "make it rain" with cash, these tips could still help those out on a budget because it can illustrate the best ways to spend your money and make it go further. After all, you might be surprised the difference one thousand dollars can make.

I reached Diamond status: here's why this loyalty tier matters

In less than a year, Jenna went from no cruises to Diamond in Crown and Anchor Society and she's realized this tier makes a difference.

Diamond offers impressive benefits, including access to the Diamond Lounge and free drink vouchers every day of the cruise.

Jenna shares how she was able to reach Diamond status so quickly along with her favorite benefits, and how her day-to-day life onboard has changed as a Diamond member.

I reached Diamond status with Royal Caribbean: here's why this loyalty tier matters

In:
23 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Reaching Diamond status in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society is a significant milestone for any cruiser and leads to some impressive benefits, including access to the Diamond Lounge and free drink vouchers every day of the cruise.

Diamond Club sign

A few months ago I reached 80 points in the Crown & Anchor Society, marking the beginning of my experience as a Diamond member with Royal Caribbean. Since then, I’ve been able to take advantage of the best Diamond benefits available to share with you how my cruising experience has changed since reaching Diamond.

Let’s take a look at how I was able to reach Diamond status so quickly followed by my favorite benefits and how my day-to-day life onboard has changed as a Diamond member.

How I reached Diamond so quickly

I went on my first cruise in August 2021 and became a Diamond member just seven months later in March 2022. It took me only 6 cruises to reach Diamond, but accumulating 80 points so quickly is not common.

I was able to reach Diamond status quickly through a combination of cruising solo and booking several cruises during Royal Caribbean’s double points promotion they ran last year.

Here’s a rundown of how I reached Diamond status in record time:

Mariner of the Seas 4-night cruise: 4 points

Mariner of the Seas sailing away from Port Canaveral

My first cruise was booked during Royal Caribbean’s double points promotion, but as I did not yet have Gold Status in the Crown & Anchor Society, I did not receive double points.

Total C&A Society points: 4

Odyssey of the Seas 6-night cruise: 24 points

Odyssey of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea

My Odyssey of the Seas cruise was booked during the double points promotion and I was booked solo in an interior room.

I would have received 2 points per night by cruising solo, but this was doubled, so I received a whopping 4 points per night.

Total C&A Society points: 28

Related: Solo cruises on Royal Caribbean

Ovation of the Seas 7-night cruise: 28 points

Ovation of the Seas on a sunny day

Just a month later, I cruised in my own interior cabin on Ovation of the Seas. Like on Odyssey of the Seas, I received 4 points per night of the cruise as it was booked during the double points promotion.

Receiving 28 points from one cruise was an awesome deal, especially when considering that my cruise fare with pre-paid gratuities was only $727!

Total C&A Society points: 56

Independence of the Seas 4-night cruise: 8 points

Independence of the Seas as seen from tender

My 4-night cruise on Independence of the Seas was booked after the double points promotion had ended, but since I was cruising solo I received 8 points total.

Total C&A Society points: 64

Harmony of the Seas 7-night cruise: 14 points

Harmony of the Seas front part

Just like Independence of the Seas, I booked this cruise without the double points promotion but was cruising solo, so I received 14 points total.

Total C&A Society points: 78

Wonder of the Seas 7-night cruise: 28 points

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

The cruise that brought me to Diamond status was the inaugural sailing of Wonder of the Seas. I booked this cruise during the double points promotion and was cruising solo, so received 4 points per night. I was just 2 points away from Diamond status at the beginning of the cruise.

My total Crown & Anchor Society point balance after this cruise was 106 and I officially became a Diamond member!

My favorite Diamond benefits

Diamond drink vouchers

By far my favorite benefit of being a Diamond member are the 4 free drink vouchers I receive each day of the cruise.

Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Club members receive 4, 5, and 6 free drink vouchers per day respectively, and this leads to significant savings throughout any cruise.

I can use these beverages on both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, each of which would cost between $4 and $13+ without the voucher!

Related: How Royal Caribbean’s free drink vouchers for Diamond and higher members work

Diamond Lounge

The Diamond Lounge is another perk I enjoy about being a Diamond member. This exclusive space is a more private, relaxing environment to spend time in while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Complimentary food is available in the mornings and evenings, and a coffee/latte maker is found in the lounge.

The only downside of the Diamond Lounge is that I’m rarely cruising with other Diamond members, and since non-Diamond members are not allowed into the lounge, I don’t frequent the space as often as I’d like.

Related: The Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise

$10 off Wash & Fold Laundry Bag

While not a huge savings, I’ve enjoyed the $10 discount I receive on the Wash & Fold Laundry Bag as a Diamond member. These small bags of laundry usually cost $35.99 each. I find this quite expensive, so paying $25.99 is more reasonable.

Returning home from a cruise with clean laundry is convenient, and I’m looking forward to reaching Diamond Plus status so I can receive a free bag of laundry on cruises 5 nights or longer.

Onboard offers

Every tier of the Crown & Anchor Society has onboard offers available, from coupons for 50% off drinks to discounts on onboard shopping and a free day of Surf internet.

While I haven’t taken advantage of all the onboard offers you receive by reaching Diamond status, I’ve come to enjoy these the most:

  • $6 free play in the casino: I’m not a gambler and hate losing money, but it’s always fun to use my $6 in “free money” on each cruise to see if I win! On a recent cruise I turned this $6 into $100 within a few minutes (although I lost it all a bit later).
  • One free photo: I travel with a professional camera and certainly don’t need any pictures taken by Royal Caribbean’s photographers, but it’s fun to receive one photo for free each cruise! My friends, family, and I have had fun doing silly poses and picking out a photo each cruise.
  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda: If I know I am going to have more than 4 drinks and therefore go over my allotted Diamond vouchers, I use one of my two coupons per sailing for wine, beer, or soda. I’ve used this several times when I don’t want to waste a drink voucher worth $13 on a $3.50 can of soda!

How my onboard experience has changed since making Diamond status

Before I was a Diamond member, I would always dread the $13 bill for a single cocktail. I don’t drink enough to make a beverage package worth it, but paying $15 with a tip for one drink got old pretty quickly!

Since being a Diamond member, I’ve been able to try a variety of beverages I likely wouldn’t have ordered before. Spending $13+ for one drink made me more selective about what I was ordering since I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t like the drink. It’s been fun to taste different cocktails each day of my cruise and find new favorites.

Related: 8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Cafe Promenade menu on Wonder of the Seas

I also used to purchase the specialty coffee card before making Diamond status. I usually get a latte each morning of the cruise, so the coffee card led to ~$20 in savings throughout the course of a cruise. Now that I have Diamond drink vouchers, I do not need to do this!

I’ve also started to frequent the Diamond Lounge most evenings when they offer complimentary appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. Having a small snack before dinner keeps me satiated, and I realized I tend to eat dinner later in the evening when I visit the Diamond Lounge before.

Outside of these benefits, I haven’t noticed a huge change in my day-to-day life on a Royal Caribbean cruise since reaching Diamond status. I haven’t taken advantage of benefits like the Diamond Concierge, backstage tours, 20% off spa service, etc., but I intend to do so in the future!

What I’m looking forward to most about reaching Diamond Plus

I currently have 141 Crown & Anchor Society points and should be on track to reach Diamond Plus sometime in the spring. Diamond Plus sees more significant benefits compared to the Diamond level, and here are the benefits I’m looking forward to the most:

BOGO specialty restaurant deal

Diamond Plus members receive a buy one, get one deal on specialty restaurant cover charges. These deals can be used on the first or second day of the cruise and can easily lead to savings of $40+ dollars for a specialty restaurant meal.

Related: What is the best Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant?

Free Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)

While I take advantage of the $10 off coupon for a Wash & Fold Laundry Bag now, it still means shelling out $25.99 for the service. I can’t wait to be Diamond Plus so this service is complimentary on sailings 5 nights or longer!

5 drink vouchers per day

While 4 drink vouchers per day is usually enough, having an extra voucher per day will mean I won’t feel like I'm “sacrificing” a drink voucher by using it on a $4 fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of a cocktail or glass of wine.

Final thoughts

Becoming a Diamond member has significantly enhanced my Royal Caribbean cruise experience and I appreciate the consideration Royal Caribbean makes to its loyal cruisers. While I'm not sure I'll ever reach 700 points and become a Pinnacle member, I'm thoroughly enjoying the perks I receive as a Diamond member on every Royal Caribbean cruise.

Planning a cruise? Start here:

The best travel tech gadgets for a cruise ship vacation

In:
23 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

What tech can you buy for your cruise vacation that will enhance your trip?

Couple using tablet in Europe

When I tried out Apple's AirTags on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, it opened my eyes to how certain gadgets can make the experience better. Whether it's peace of mind like tracking luggage or just supplementing the fun you're having, there are plenty of gadgets and add-ons to assist.

Despite my overall geekiness, I'm the first person to be leery of bringing more tech for the sake of tech on a cruise. I try to keep the amount of bulk down, so if something is going to require additional baggage or more effort to bring onboard, it had better make a real difference.

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Please note that I linked to each item on Amazon which contains an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but I make a small commission if you purchase it.

With all of that in mind, here's my top picks for the best tech travel gadgets you should consider bringing on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Portable charger

Anker battery

For years I've brought a portable charger with me on a cruise to ensure my phone doesn't run out of power.

Because there's such a greater need for phones to be used on a cruise, battery drainage seems to occur more quickly than ever before. Even compared to at home, I find myself using my phone more often.

Part of the reason is Royal Caribbean's shift to making its app far more critical than pre-2020. The other aspect is simply enjoying being online while lounging at the pool, or staying in contact with friends and family.

Portable charger

With my oldest daughter reaching the age where she has the opportunity for limited "free roaming" during the day, staying in contact with her via text message also takes a hit on my phone's battery usage.

I've always been a fan of Anker's product line for its svelte design, reasonable prices, and durable quality. 

The Anker PowerCore 20 External Battery Pack provides enough power to charge an iPhone multiple times before it needs a charge.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Noise cancelling headphones

Before I ever got noise-cancelling headphones, I foolishly thought there wasn't that big of a difference compared to regular headphones. I especially did not think it mattered to have them on a cruise ship.

I was very wrong.

Not only are noise-cancelling headphones useful outside of an airplane, they make a tremendous difference in being able to enjoy "me time" onboard a ship.

Allure of the Seas

I really love putting them on when I'm on the pool deck so I can enjoy the breeze and sun while laying out in a lounger, without all the conversations, music, and noise you'd have to put up with around you.

Then of course there's the benefit these headphones have while travelling to and from your cruise. I just cannot imagine not having them these days.

For years, I've used and recommended the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelling headphones for over-the-ear comfort and unbeatable noise cancellation.

I know a lot of other people that prefer the Apple AirPods Pro because they offer noise cancelling without the heft and size.

E-reader

Woman reading her kindle

When my wife told me she needed an e-reader in addition to her iPad, I didn't understand why until I saw the difference when we were on the pool deck.

If you're a reader, Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is the best option to bring on a cruise so that you can read outdoors when the sun is shining overhead.

Outlet extender

I cannot imagine going on a cruise today without an outlet extender.

Even if you cruise solo, the lack of outlets in a cabin is quite annoying. I recently tried the appropriately named "Cruise ship power strip" by Cruise On and was quite happy with how well it worked.

Read moreI tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

It takes up one outlet space and offers 3 new outlets along with 2 USB plugs.

European travel adaptor

A few readers recommended getting an European Travel Plug Adapter instead or as well, since your cabin has those outlets too.

AirTags or Bluetooth tracker

AirTag

Another item I've converted over to using are AirTags in my luggage.

The AirTag is a small, button-shaped tracking device that can be tracked using Bluetooth right alongside Apple devices in the Find My app.

single AirTag will cost $29 and a 4-pack costs $99. If you have an Android phone, the Tile Pro costs $92.99.

AirTag directions

While AirTags aren't GPS trackers that provide precise location information, they work well-enough to have an idea where your luggage happens to be, especially if you're playing the "is my luggage on the cruise ship yet" game.

Just like noise-cancelling headphones, AirTags will benefit you beyond just the cruise.  Peace of mind that comes with being able to have an idea where your luggage is located is worth it.

Royal Caribbean teases new features coming to Icon of the Seas

In:
22 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean released a new teaser video that didn't reveal everything about its next new ship, but it did provide more of a glimpse of what to expect.

Icon of the Seas construction photo

Icon of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's first in a new class of cruise ships and they still have not shown what the ship looks like, nor confirmed features onboard.  But they have steadily offered brief glimpses of what we might expect.

The newest video teaser was released today, where eagle-eyed viewers might spot a few features that seem to point towards what guests can expect onboard.

Here's what we found in the 7 minute video that stands out as interesting, intriguing, or just plain wow.

Infinite verandahs

Royal Caribbean is borrowing a feature first seen on sister brand Celebrity Cruises with the design of some or all of its balcony staterooms.

While not mentioned, the video did clearly show a new type of balcony stateroom that offers a convertible indoor/outdoor space.

Sister company Celebrity Cruises debuted the infinite verandah on the Edge Class ships.

Infinite Verandah on Celebrity Edge

Celebrity’s design team sought to solve that problem by creating a versatile area that could transform from a balcony into a sun room fully enclosed within your cabin. These cabins are excellent for cruisers on colder-weather itineraries, or who want the option of fresh air but don’t tend to spend much time on their balcony.

With an infinite veranda, there is no permanent wall between the cabin and the balcony. Instead, the balcony area is enclosed on its outer edges with glass windows; the one facing the sea can roll down just like a car window at the touch of a button. 

Accordion-fold doors can be closed to separate the open-to-the-air “veranda” from the cabin interior.

When not in use, roll up the windows, open the doors, and you have a roomier cabin with a sunny seating area at one end.

The inclusion of these types of cabins is not a surprise, as Royal Caribbean first surveyed customers about the idea back in 2018. Then in 2019, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley confirmed that the cruise line is looking at bringing the Infinite Veranda idea over to Royal Caribbean.

“Edge has a lot of innovation. We need time to assess what works well and what doesn’t but we will take on some elements and put them on the new class of ship – Icon class and potentially Oasis 5."

Later in the video, more traditional balcony cabins were shown as well.

Central Park

Something else we've all assumed was coming and now appears to be all but confirmed is a Central Park area of the ship.

First introduced on the Oasis Class ships, this open air part of the ship has trees, bushes, and lots of plants to help liven up things.

Looking at construction photos, it appears a space was left for a Central Park neighborhood based on the look of the area matching up with the Oasis Class.

While at Royal Caribbean's Innovation Lab in Miami, the video showed executives seeing a virtual reality view of what looks like Central Park on Icon of the Seas.

Of course, the video did not specifically mention it so it's not confirmed.  But the similarities are uncanny.

Big ship name

Icon of the Seas will follow in the new style of a larger sizing of the ship's name on the hull.

Both Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas made the change to the larger ship name look on its hull.

In the case of Odyssey of the Seas, the "O" alone measures 11.2 meters (36 feet) in height.

Pearl

Once again, we have a look at The Pearl on Icon of the Seas and still have no idea what it is.

This time, we not only saw exterior photos, but also got a look at some of the panels.

In January 2022, a large pearl-shaped object appeared in the shipyard that capture the attention of cruise fans who are curious to know what it might be.

Royal Caribbean has not announced what it will be, but it is going to be a feature on Icon of the Seas.

"More water and weight than ever before"

Icon of the Seas 2023

Let your imagination run wild with the teaser at the end of the video about water weight.

The narrator mentions, "...how and where will the teams add more water and weight than ever before."

In the last video update, Royal Caribbean said Icon of the Seas will feature, "unrivalled water experiences."

Watch the video

When does Icon of the Seas launch?

Icon of the Seas bow construction

Icon of the Seas is set to debut in late 2023.

By December, Icon of the Seas will be 80% complete from a construction perspective.

In the video it was disclosed there's about 3,000 people working on the ship every day.

More information on Icon of the Seas and a big reveal is slated for October 2022.

Royal Caribbean updates: CocoCay adults beach construction, Icon of the Seas sale date & more

In:
21 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Cruise news has been a bit slow lately, but we have a few important tidbits and updates to share.

Ship at CocoCay

In order to keep everyone informed, here's a look at various pieces of news that have crossed my desk during the past week.

If you ever have a news tip, feel free to email it to [email protected] for possible inclusion in a future update!

Icon of the Seas will go on sale in October?

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

While we may not know anything yet about Icon of the Seas, a lot of people are ready to book a cruise on her anyway.

It looks like bookings might open up for Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship in October.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

According to a travel agent that was on an update call, "mid-October" is the time when bookings will open up.

From what I understand, Royal Caribbean National Account Sales Manager Joseph Casal, told agents on the call Icon of the Seas is expected to open for bookings in mid-October.

Hideaway Beach construction photos

It's been a while since we shared construction photos of the new adults-only beach area coming to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Steve Cohen took photos of the area while sailing on Harmony of the Seas.

He said while no buildings are under construction, a lot more trailers and construction equipment has moved in since the last time he was there.

Dr. Pepper on Texas cruises

Galveston cruise terminal construction

If you love Dr. Pepper soda, you'll have to cruise from Texas in order to enjoy it on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Travel agents on a webinar call on Wednesday were told cruises sailing from Galveston will soon serve Dr. Pepper in addition to the Coke products the line always carries.

Dr. Pepper is a soda brand based in Texas and due to local demand, Royal Caribbean will begin serving it as well.

No timeline was given on when it will begin being offered, but the information was shared with the context of Allure of the Seas and the new cruise terminal opening in November.

Icon of Vacations

One more Icon of the Seas update comes in the form a trademark filing.

Royal Caribbean Group filed a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on September 15, 2022.

The trademark is for, "Icon of Vacations" which sounds like a marketing slogan tied to the new Icon of the Seas cruise ship.

 

Royal Caribbean plans to hire over 1,400 new entertainers for its cruise ships

In:
21 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has always emphasized the importance of live entertainment on its cruise ships, and it plans to expand that commitment with a host of new hires.

Starwater on Quantum of the Seas

The cruise line announced a new plan that will open up more than one thousands new positions to fill.

In the next year, Royal Caribbean will look to hire more than 1,400 musicians, entertainers and production teams across the entire fleet. These new hires will join it's 3,000-plus cast members and production staff.

Not only will the new hiring's augment the existing fleet of 26 cruise ships, but some will be hired to work on Icon of the Seas when she launches in 2023.

AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean hopes to fill roles for artists and behind-the-scenes teams to bring to life entertainment experiences across original and West End productions, music performances, ice skating shows, high diving and acrobatic feats, and much more.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, talked about the importance of hiring new entertainers, "Music and entertainment are essential to making Royal Caribbean holidays memorable."

Theater on Mariner of the Seas

"We keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible in entertainment in front of 105,000 guests each night, and the choice of career opportunities available to entertainment professionals is in the thousands. To continue raising the bar, we are expanding our incredibly talented roster of world-class vocalists, Olympic athletes, Broadway and West End stars, acclaimed producers and directors, to name a few."

We are also committing more resources than ever before to music and entertainment for 2023."

Helping the industry

Royal Caribbean dancers

Royal Caribbean not only needs to hire new employees as a way to staff their ships, but they see this as an opportunity to help an industry still struggling to get back to full operation.

According to a report by Help Musicians in January 2022, seventy-five percent of musicians worried about their financial situation at least once a day, and a quarter of them considered leaving their profession altogether.

Technician for Royal Caribbean show

The survey was conducted in partnership with Censuswide and surveyed 3,000 emerging musicians and 4,500 music-loving consumers in U.K., Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Norway. Highlights include:

  • Eighty percent of Europe’s emerging musicians said that live performances are what they are most excited about in 2022.
  • Seventy percent noted that performing for live audiences is the most rewarding part of their work.
  • More than 35% of them said travelling and seeing new destinations is what they are most excited to do in 2022.
  • A total of 68% of Europe’s music-loving consumers said that live music makes them feel at their happiest.
  • One-third of consumers also said that live music was what they were most excited about in 2022.
  • Eighty-five percent of people associate their best holiday memories with a music track, and 67% said that music and entertainment is important when choosing their next holiday.
Royal Caribbean dancer

As many as 25,000 performers from across the world audition for Royal Caribbean every year, with many training at its 132,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art entertainment studio facility in Miami. 

What getting hired by Royal Caribbean means to a performer

Effectors 2

Rachael Hudson works on Wonder of the Seas in the Royal Caribbean original production “Effectors II: Crash ‘n’ Burn”, and has been employed by the cruise line for more than five years.

She has been a featured singer on Explorer of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Quantum of the Seas.

“In our industry, the opportunity to perform live and hone your skills every day is so rare, and I am truly able to build a career at Royal Caribbean."

Production studio

"I work alongside the world’s most experienced producers, choreographers and coaches in the business while travelling to amazing places like Miami, The Bahamas and Rome."

"After the last few years, it is incredible to be back performing live in front of audiences from all over the world.”

Ultimate Mexico Cruise Guide

In:
21 Sep 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Mexico is one of the world’s most common places to visit on a cruise ship, and odds are if you cruise enough, you’ll find yourself visiting the country at one point or another.

Cozumel sign in port

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Mexico year-round on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country, with itineraries between 4-7+ nights on both big and small cruise ships.

In this guide, we’ll review the top tips & tricks to know before your Mexico cruise to help you plan the best cruise vacation possible.

In this guide:

Why go on a cruise to Mexico

Ancient history

History lovers will relish the opportunity to visit Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Caribbean ports. The Yucatán Peninsula is home to around 200 public ruins, including the well-preserved Chichén Itzá ruins.

Amazing cuisine

One of the first things that comes to mind when planning a cruise to Mexico is the food. Whether tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, guacamole, salsas, or churros, your taste buds are sure to be satisfied in Mexico.

Diverse Nature

Regardless of whether you’re cruising the Caribbean side of Mexico or the Mexican Riviera, you’ll find plenty of nature to discover. From cenotes to jungles, lagoons, and coral reefs, Mexico offers plenty of natural beauty to enjoy on a cruise vacation.

Established tourism

Mexico is no stranger to tourism, and the influx of both land-based and cruise tourists every year means that the country is well-acquainted with catering to tourists.

You surely won’t have trouble finding tour operators, day passes at resorts, and cultural opportunities to seek out during your day in port.

Caribbean Mexico vs Mexican Riviera

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to two distinct areas of Mexico: the Caribbean side of Mexico and the Mexican Riviera.

Caribbean Mexico

Most cruises to Mexico visit the country’s Caribbean coastline along the Yucatán Peninsula. When you picture a vacation to Mexico, you’re likely picturing the turquoise water and resort-lined beaches of the Caribbean, and that’s exactly what you can find on a cruise to Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Mexican Riviera

Cabo San Lucas Arch

The Mexican Riviera refers to cruise ports on the western coast of Mexico along the Pacific ocean. This side of Mexico is drier and more mountainous than the Caribbean side and is home to many of Mexico’s most popular resort towns like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta.

Cruises to the Mexican Riviera depart from the Port of Los Angeles on Navigator of the Seas. Some repositioning cruises will also make stops at Mexican Riviera cruise ports.

Related: Mexican Riviera cruse guide

Mexico cruise ports

Cozumel

Ship in Cozumel

Cozumel is an island located off the eastern coast of the Yucatán peninsula known for its tropical, lush environment, beaches, and water recreation (scuba diving and snorkeling).

Cozumel is regarded as one of the premiere scuba diving locations in the world, as it’s located near the Mesoamerican reef system, the second-largest reef on Earth.

Visitors to Cozumel will find no shortage of tours taking guests to nearby resorts, coral reefs, and beaches.

Costa Maya

Costa Maya is another commonly visited port on Mexico’s Caribbean cruise itineraries and offers a classic Mexican vacation experience: beaches, Mayan ruins, tasty cuisine, and all-inclusive day passes are at your fingertips.

The immediate port area of Costa Maya is well-developed and has a complimentary swimming pool, restaurants, bars, cafe, ice cream, and shopping opportunities.

Outside the port of Costa Maya is the small town of Mahahual. Visitors hoping to get a more local feel for Mexico’s culture should make the short trip to Mahahual and walk the town’s boardwalk, where they’ll find locally owned and operated beach resorts, restaurants, cafes, and more.

Yucatán (Progreso)

The port of Progreso is located on the northern side of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Like other ports on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Progreso offers beaches and Mayan culture mixed with the chance to discover the country's modern culture and cuisine. 

Progreso offers the easiest access to the world-famous Chichén Itzá ruins, so many visitors book a tour to visit this Wonder of the World while in port. Other activities in Progreso include visiting cenotes, taking a cooking class, and tasting local spirits and beers.

Ensenada

Ensenada

Located just 2 hours driving distance from San Diego, Ensenada is located on the coast of Baja California and is a common stop on short, 3 and 4-night cruises from Los Angeles.

Ensenada is arid and mountainous and is located a short distance away from Valle de Guadalupe, known as the “Napa Valley of Mexico”. Other than wine tastings, visitors to Ensenada can walk around the city streets, take a tour to La Bufadora blowhole, go horseback riding on the beach, and taste local cuisine.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Ensenada, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is located at the southernmost point of Baja California and is an extremely popular tourist destination known for its party atmosphere.

The most famous landmark in Cabo San Lucas is Land’s End, a rock formation marking the point at which the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulf of California. The port is also known for fantastic whale watching opportunities.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Cabo San Lucas

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is one of the busiest resort towns in Mexico and offers a mix of calm beaches and historic city streets. The town is known for its Zona Romántica neighborhood, a charming area of the city with bars, restaurants, and shopping.

Most visitors will opt for a beach day in Puerto Vallarta, whether by spending the day at an all-inclusive resort or booking a catamaran tour in the Bay of Banderas.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Mazatlan

Mazatlan El Faro

Mazatlán is home to 500,000 people, making it the largest port visited on a Mexican Riviera cruise. Mazatlán’s Old Town is a main attraction for visitors, and the walkable, cobblestoned neighborhood boasts museums, restaurants, cathedrals, and plazas to discover.

Beach days are common in Mazatlán, too, and many visitors choose to take a trip to nearby Stone Island to soak in the sun. If you’re feeling active, consider a stroll down Mazatlán’s boardwalk, which spans around 13 miles on the waterfront.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Mazatlán

Other Mexico cruise ports

Royal Caribbean ships occasionally make port visits to other towns along the Mexican Riviera, such as Huatulco and Manzanillo, but these are infrequent.

Best time of year for a Mexico cruise

Caribbean ports

Mexico’s Caribbean cruise ports stay warm year-round, so you can have a perfect beach day whether it’s January or August. However, there are a few considerations to make before picking the date of your cruise.

More comfortable, drier weather can be found from October to April as opposed to the higher, more humid conditions found in the summer months. You may still encounter rain, but it will be less frequent. These are generally considered the best months for a cruise to Mexico.

Related: The best time to go on a Caribbean cruise

Additionally, cruising during the fall and winter months can be better for those passengers planning to explore Mayan ruins or have other active adventures while in port, as the temperatures won’t be as uncomfortably hot as in the summer.

Cruising to Mexico’s Caribbean ports during the summer season (May to September) will still offer a fantastic cruise experience, but be prepared for higher temperatures and more rain.

Mexican Riviera ports

Mexico’s Pacific coast can encounter more varying temperatures compared to the Caribbean coast.

Expect temperatures with highs in the mid 70s to low 80s in ports like Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta during the winter months. This is also the dry season, running from November through June.

Springtime and summer bring temperatures in the mid 80s, although temperatures can occasionally rise to the low 90s in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán. Expect more rain from late July through October, with most rainfall in August and September.

Mornings and evenings can feel crisp onboard when sailing through the Pacific ocean on a Mexican Riviera cruise at any time of year.

Related: When is the best time to cruise the Mexican Riviera?

What to do on a cruise to Mexico

All-inclusive day passes to resorts

One of the most raved about activities on a cruise to Mexico is spending the day at an all-inclusive beach club or resort.

These all-inclusive packages are found throughout Mexico’s cruise ports and typically include unlimited food, beverages (including alcoholic beverages), beach chairs and umbrellas, and beach access. Some resorts may also have a swimming pool available whereas others may rent water sport equipment to visitors.

Check out our top recommendations and reviews for day passes in Mexico:

Visit Mayan ruins

Cruising to Mexico offers the perfect opportunity to visit Mayan Ruins. Both Royal Caribbean and independent tour operators offer excursions to various archaeological sites accessible from the ports of Cozumel, Progreso, and Costa Maya.

Costa Maya is located only an hour away from the Chachobben Mayan ruins and 2 hours from the Kohunlich and Dzibanche Mayan ruins, making visiting these impressive archaeological sites a popular activity for visitors.

Related: Excursion Focus: Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya

Immerse in local cuisine

While tasting local cuisine will surely be delightful, there are a few tours offered in Mexico where you can immerse yourself in the country’s culinary traditions.

Many cruisers rave about the “Salsa, Salsa, and Margaritas” shore excursion, during which you learn how to make various types of salsas, guacamole, and margaritas.

If you have a sweet tooth, consider a visit to the Mayan Cacao Company, where you’ll be able to learn more about the history and process of making chocolate and indulge in some artisanal chocolate yourself!

If booking a tour doesn’t interest you, you’ll find plenty of other ways to explore Mexico’s culinary scene, from chic restaurants to street food.

Scuba diving (or snorkeling)

Mexico’s Caribbean coast is known for having some of the best scuba diving in the world. Anyone interested in exploring the underwater world up close will have plenty of opportunities to do so on a cruise to Mexico.

If you don’t have a scuba diving certification, consider a Snuba or Discover Scuba excursion. These diving excursions are beginner-friendly yet you’ll still be able to explore coral reefs and other marine life.

Related: Excursion Focus: Discover Scuba Diving experience

Visit Pueblos Mágicos

Located throughout Mexico are 132 pueblos mágicos (magic towns), which are small towns admired for their intricate architecture, natural beauty, history, and traditions.

Several pueblos mágicos are located near cruise ports like Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta. If you’re looking for a unique experience far from the hustle and bustle of a busy port, consider a day tour that visits small towns like San Jose del Cabo and Sayulita for a relaxing and culturally enriching experience.

Shop at local markets

One of the most fun activities to do on a cruise to Mexico is also one of the most budget-friendly: shopping at local markets.

Many Mexican cruise ports will have a local market nearby where residents can purchase produce, meats, cheeses, home goods, and more. Walking through a market in Mexico will ignite all your senses, from the savory smell of tacos at a food stand to sweet breads from a pastry shop.

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail to Mexico?

Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona

Because Mexico is such a common country to visit on a cruise, the majority of Royal Caribbean’s fleet visits Mexico at one point or another during the year.

You’ll find everything from Royal Caribbean’s smallest Vision Class cruise ships to the largest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas, sailing to the Caribbean side of Mexico.

Navigator of the Seas is the only ship offering cruises to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles.

If you’re planning a cruise to Mexico and struggling to decide which cruise ship to book, check out our helpful guides on picking the best ship for your vacation:

How much does a cruise to Mexico cost?

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

You'll find a wide range of Mexico cruise itineraries, from short 4-night sailings to week-long cruises and repositioning itineraries. Prices vary greatly, but there is a Mexico cruise to fit any budget.

If you’re schedule is flexible and you can travel during the off-season (anytime kids are in school), you can find some great cruise deals to Mexico.

Here are a few sample prices for what you may pay during the off-season. These prices are for 2 adults in an interior stateroom, including taxes and fees:

  • Navigator of the Seas - 3 night Ensenada cruise: $481 total
  • Adventure of the Seas - 5 night Western Caribbean cruise: $673 total
  • Oasis of the Seas - 7 night Western Caribbean cruise: $1367 total
Oasis of the Seas next to Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

Expect prices to be several hundred dollars more expensive during peak times of year, especially if you’re planning a cruise during the holiday season.

7-night Western Caribbean cruises on an Oasis Class ship during the summer months, for example, can be over $2300 for two adults in an interior stateroom.

Related: Which family cruise can you book for $2000?

Tulum beach in Mexico

Outside of cruise fare, you’ll want to budget for the following additional costs:

  • Gratuities ($16 per person, per day in interior, ocean view, or balcony staterooms)
  • Transportation (airfare or gas, parking, etc.)
  • Hotel the night before your cruise
  • Shore excursions
  • Cruise add-ons (drink packages, dining packages, etc.)

Do I need to bring pesos on a Mexico cruise?

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXP). While visiting the country on a cruise, you'll find that USD is universally accepted, although you will typically receive change back in pesos.

There's no need to take Mexican Pesos out of an ATM or currency exchange prior to a Mexico cruise. While you might not always receive the standard exchange rate when paying in USD, saving a few dollars here and there is usually not worth the hassle of bringing pesos.

What to bring on a Mexico cruise

Packing for a Mexico cruise to the Caribbean means bringing your favorite summer clothes: shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, sandals, a swimsuit, and a sun hat. 

You’ll also want to pack clothes to wear onboard your cruise ship, including nicer outfits for formal night and other evening activities, along with pajamas and loungewear.

Related: What to wear on a cruise formal night

While rare on the Caribbean side of Mexico, it can get chilly on a Mexican Riviera cruise. Be sure to pack a few clothing items to keep you warm, like a pair of jeans and light jacket.

For more in-depth packing information for your Mexico cruise, read our article on the Ultimate Cruise Packing List.

Planning a cruise? Check out our other Ultimate Guides to some of the world’s best cruising destinations:

What is the best way to spend an extra $1,000 on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
20 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

You've got a great Royal Caribbean cruise booked, so what's the best way to splurge to plus the vacation?

Cruise vacations are a fun tradition for many families, and part of the fun of a holiday is treating yourself to things and experiences you wouldn't do at home.

Certainly there are a lot of ways to budget for an affordable trip, but what if you want to splurge? What are the best ways to spend some extra money, such as $1,000 on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

There are a lot of different things you can spend your money on during a cruise: dining, shore excursions, staterooms, drinks and plenty more.

Couple at Mason Jar

While I've shared many ways to save money and make your vacation budget stretch over the years, there are plenty of times people want to spend extra on their vacation to make it more special.  Perhaps it's an anniversary, honeymoon, graduation gift, or something else celebratory. If you fall into this category, there are definitely quite a few ways to put your money to use on Royal Caribbean.

Even if you're not looking to "make it rain" with cash, these tips could still help those out on a budget because it can illustrate the best ways to spend your money and make it go further. After all, you might be surprised the difference one thousand dollars can make.

Moving up to a suite

Grand Suite on Freedom

I think a lot of people think about their cruise cabin first when thinking about ways to spend more on a cruise.

Moving up to a larger balcony, especially a suite, means more living space and more amenities during your cruise. Suites include some of the best perks you'll get onboard, short of hitting the top tier of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program.

 Suite Concierge

The suite concierge is a dedicated resource exclusively for suite guests that provides a lot of services to you, some of which are unavailable to other guests.

Read more10 Surprising things you didn't know the Royal Caribbean concierge can do for you

Then there's the special areas of the ship being in a suite gets you, such as the suite sun deck (or reserved seating at the pool deck) and suite lounge.

Speaking of the suite lounge, you'll enjoy complimentary alcoholic beverages each evening in the suite lounge, which will return some value for the money spent to move up to a suite.

The caveat to spending your $1,000 on a suite is sometimes it may not be enough to move up. Depending on your group size, sail date, and ship, the cost to move up to suite may exceed the budget you have to spend, but if it's in the cards, a suite is tough to beat as a binge.

Making your cruise nearly all-inclusive

Couple at Bar on Wonder of the Seas

They say "money can't buy you happiness" but it sure can buy you a lot of unlimited add-ons which should help keep you happy.

Royal Caribbean sells various extra packages to its guests as an optional way to cap and include certain popular add-ons.

This includes a Royal Caribbean drink package, specialty dining package, or a photo package.

Mason Jar restaurant

Each of these will include as many drinks, specialty restaurants and photos as you can handle on your cruise. As the name implies, each of these truly is unlimited, so you can go through your cruise not worrying what your final bill will be at the end of the cruise. The peace of mind that comes with these unlimited packages is a major relief.

Depending on the length of your cruise and how many people are in your group, $1,000 might not cover all three of these add-ons. The drink package alone often costs hundreds of dollars for a 7-night cruise with just two adults.

A way to still enjoy these popular add-ons at less of a cost is to purchase one of their lesser packages. The Royal Refreshment or Soda packages are significantly cheaper than the Deluxe Beverage package because it does not include alcohol. The 3-night dining package is going to cost less than the unlimited option. Ditto for a fixed photo package.

Whichever add-ons you buy, there is a tremendous amount of value you can unlock from them.

Read moreWhat's worth paying extra for on a cruise?

The Key

While I don't recommend Royal Caribbean's VIP add-on program as a must-buy for everyone, if you're spending a grand anyway, it's not the worst investment.

Read moreCounterpoint: why we love The Key

The Key is an option Royal Caribbean provides guests with special perks and access while onboard.

Water slides

Internet access, early check-in, special times at signature attractions and more are included with The Key.

Having The Key removes anxiety and stress primarily at the beginning and end of the cruise, which is worth something to a lot of cruisers (especially first-timers).

You'll have to buy The Key for everyone in your cabin that is at least 6 years old, but it's likely your $1,000 should cover the entirety of your group.

If you do purchase The Key, be sure to take advantage of everything it offers so you can maximize its value.

Cabana rental

Family in a Cabana

Ever since I tried a cabana for the first time at one of Royal Caribbean's private islands, I've been hooked on this optional purchase.

There are cabanas to rent at Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee and they come at various prices.

The reason a cabana rental could be the right choice for your money is it provides lavish benefits during your visit to either of these destinations. For families with kids, having shade, food and drink service, and a base of operations for the day really makes a difference.

Labadee barefoot beach cabana

There's plenty of seating around both CocoCay and Labadee, but the couch and loungers that come with a cabana are lovely.

The waiter service also makes it extra enjoyable so you don't have to flag down anyone and there's prompt service too. I especially love the CocoCay cabanas will deliver lunch to your cabana.

Behind-the-scenes tour

All Access tour badge

How about spending your extra money on something most guests will never see?

Royal Caribbean has brought back the behind-the-scenes tours, and they are really interesting and fun to take.

The All Access Tour is a 2-hour walking tour of many areas of the ship that will take you to the bridge, engine control room, laundry room, galley and more. The goal is to show you areas you'd never see and get a better understanding of how much work goes on to keep the ship functional and optimal.

Navigator bridge

A lot of us wonder what goes into making a cruise ship work so well. It's insightful to see how a ship works, and if you've ever been curious about a cruise ship functions, then this is the tour for you.

More than likely this tour won't blow through your entire $1,000 budget, which will leave you with extra cash for something else.

If you're looking to save $1,000

These extras all sound nice, but what if you'd rather save $1,000 instead of spending it?

If you're looking to cut back on spending on a Royal Caribbean cruise, there are a few different things you can do to keep more money in your pocket for perhaps one of the splurges mentioned in this post.

First and foremost, work with a good travel agent that specializes in cruise vacations so you can take advantage of every discount offered. Did you know there are discounts for residents of certain states or countries? Discounts for active and retired military? Discounts if you're a senior citizen? Money off balcony rooms if you are Platinum or above in Crown and Anchor Society? Interline discounts?

Not only can a travel agent find all the discounts, but their agency or consortia may offer special rates that you would otherwise never know about if you booked on your own. 

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

If you live in the United States, Canada, or Australia, you can also take advantage of re-pricing if there's a price drop. This strategy has saved me the most money over the years, and it's all thanks to my wonderful travel agent.

Ovation of the Seas in Hubbard glacier

It's equally important if you want to shave lots of money off your cruise by booking a cruise during certain times of the year.

Known as "the shoulder season", these are times of the year when cruise prices are a fraction of what they usually cost. Sail the Caribbean in September, Alaska in May, or Europe in October to find incredibly low rates.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

In addition to time of the year, you'll spend far less if you skip the new ships. Instead of sailing on Wonder of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas, take a cruise on Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, or Freedom of the Seas. These ships are older, but were recently amplified with new features and are a great choice for families.

There's also plenty of waves to cut costs, such as bring your own wine or non-alcoholic drinks onboard.

Read more45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

New aerial photos show off Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas construction progress

In:
19 Sep 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship is under construction in a shipyard in Finland, and we have a new look at what it looks like now.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Because Royal Caribbean has not shared what Icon of the Seas will look like when complete, cruise fans can only guess what the final product will entail, including features onboard.

The cruise line is likely to reveal more details about Icon of the Seas soon, but there remains significant intrigue surrounding the ship.

In an effort to keep our readers up to date, RoyalCaribbeanBlog commissioned its own aerial drone photos to share what we can see so far from the shipyard.

Since these are exclusive photos, please do not redistribute these photos. Feel free to share a link to this article instead.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

These photos were taken on September 19, 2022 with an eye at the progress being made.

Icon of the Seas is being built at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, and has been under construction since June 2021.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Compared to construction photos from last month, there has been noticeable progress made in the ship's height, with new decks added.

The aft section on the starboard side is reminiscent of the aft AquaTheater decks found on the Oasis Class ships with the rounded ends.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

More progress has been made just behind the ship on what could be a part of the ship's front, which theoretically would be hoisted and installed later to the front.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Looking at the top of the deck, we see what look like support columns towards the rear.  Perhaps supports for a water slide?

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Elevated photos reveal a cavernous middle to the ship, which is an area likely to be similar to the Central Park neighborhood found on Oasis Class ships.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Moving to the front of the ship, there appears to be stadium-style seating in the middle.  Traditionally, Royal Caribbean places its theaters in the front of the ship, but this appears to be on a much higher deck than where the Royal Theater is located.

Since Royal Caribbean has not announced new features for Icon of the Seas, we can only speculate as to what things might be.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

This aerial photo shows the bow nose piece has been installed.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022
Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from September 2022

Icon will be the first Royal Caribbean ship to feature a parabolic bow design.

A parabolic bow is a functional design element that creates a curved indentation in the bottom of the vessel’s hull.  This new bow design helps increase overall stability of the vessel by shifting the center of gravity forward. In addition, parabolic bows allow the ship to be less likely to capsize or heel. This is due to the bow creating an area of low pressure beneath the ship’s hull. 

Icon of the Seas is scheduled to start sailing in late 2023.

Royal Caribbean's series of video updates has promised a new video update sometime this month, but the September update has not been shared yet.