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Royal Caribbean updates: adults-only beach update, new Covid testing partner & more

26 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

There's a smattering of Royal Caribbean news to share from this week of interest to most cruise fans.

Harmony of the Seas 2017 Live Blog - Matt's Cruise Preview | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just halfway through the week, and I have news tidbits to share.

New partnerships, construction updates, and deployment changes are all changes that can easily be summed up in this post as a quick way to catch you up on what's happening.

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

New Covid testing partner

Royal Caribbean has a new Covid-19 testing partner in Quest Diagnostics.

Royal Caribbean has incorporated Quest Diagnostics as a pre-cruise and return home testing option. Quest Diagnostics is a lab with over 1,800 locations throughout the United States available to support testing needs.

You can visit for information on testing options.

The cruise line says guests can expect Quest to provide test results for most Royal Caribbean guests electronically (via email or through Quest’s secure patient portal, MyQuest) in 48 hours or less.

Hideaway Beach construction update

Construction is continuing at Perfect Day at CocoCay on a new adults-only beach.

Hideaway Beach is a new expansion on Royal Caribbean's private island that is scheduled to open at the end of 2022.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader twangster shared photos while Odyssey of the Seas visited CocoCay on January 24.

Wonder of the Seas is scheduled to begin sailings on March 4, 2022 from Fort Lauderdale.

Singapore cruises to expand to regional ports

Royal Caribbean announces new Singapore sailings on two cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Singapore was the first place Royal Caribbean was able to restart cruises after the shutdown of 2020, but they've only been short sailings to nowhere.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said yesterday that Singapore is working with various governments of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to allow cruises to visit ports.

Up until now, cruises on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore have been limited to "cruises to nowhere" that have no port stops.

First look: Royal Caribbean cruise ship begins sailing again in Singapore | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean has cruises on sale for sailings from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam on board Spectrum of the Seas. 

The Spectrum of the Seas cruises are scheduled to sail beginning on October 21, 2022, with the voyages between three and nine nights, subject to receiving the relevant governmental approvals.

Royal Caribbean returns to Jamaica

Good news to share that Harmony of the Seas docked in Falmouth, Jamaica today.

Photos by Wayland Hostetler

This is significant because Harmony is the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to visit the island since 2020.

The weirdest Alaska cruise questions

25 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

At some point, everyone is a newbie to something, including going on a cruise. While we all have typical first-timer questions, there are some questions that make you scratch your head a little bit.

An Alaska cruise is a very different experience from a Caribbean sailing in many aspects of planning and sailing, so it's understandable experienced and new cruisers alike will have concerns.

In looking at some common internet searches for questions about an Alaska cruise, I ran across a few questions that I was not expecting because they seemed just a little bit far out there.

Far be it for me to skip over a cruise question, I wanted to share answers to these concerns just in case any of you are thinking about the same thing.

Is it cold on an Alaska cruise?

How cold does it get on Alaska cruise depends on the time of year, but yes, it will be cooler than any Caribbean sailing that in the summer.

That isn't to say you will be shivering in below-freezing temperatures.  It is still summer, after all.

The reason Royal Caribbean sails to Alaska in the summer is because there are more temperate conditions.  However, yes, it can get cold in Alaska during the summer.

Matt Hochberg | Royal Caribbean Blog

Temperatures in Alaska will depend on the month you sail, and how far north or south your cruise goes.

Read moreWhat is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

Keep in mind your ship will be hugging the southeast panhandle of Alaska, and not visiting the Arctic Circle.

On average, you can expect mild temperatures in the summer, with average highs in the 60s and lows in the high 40s and 50s.

With all of that said, rain is a factor that can make a mild day feel much colder than it is.

Ovation of the Seas Live Blog | Royal Caribbean Blog

Rain is common in Alaska, but usually short lived. It is typical to see a day start out rainy, the sun come out and heat things up, and then an hour later another passing shower, before the sun returns. The bottom line is you should expect rain and pack accordingly so you don't get soaked and then feel colder.

Read moreWhat it's like to go on an Alaskan cruise at the end of the season

Do you see icebergs on an Alaskan cruise?

Royal Caribbean releases 12 photos of breathktaking views from the bridges of its ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Every Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska will (attempt) to visit at least one glacier.

So what's the difference between a glacier and an iceberg?

A glacier is a giant sheet of ice that can extend for miles that cover vast areas of land and sea. Icebergs are smaller pieces of a glacier that have broken off.

Royal Caribbean will restart cruises in Alaska in summer 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

So yes, you will very likely see icebergs in the water as your ship maneuvers in and out of the glacier area.

Typically these icebergs are small, although sometimes they can be a spot for seals to hang out on for a break.

The most common glaciers Royal Caribbean ships visit are Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier. 

Live blogging from Explorer of the Seas - Preamble | Royal Caribbean Blog

Tracy Arm Fjord extends over 30 miles alongside the wilderness of Tongass National Forest. 

As you sail along this deep and narrow passage, you will see mountain peaks and waterfalls burrowed into evergreen-clad cliffs.

Dawes Glacier is known for the granite cliffs that surround the glacier, mountain valleys, and drifting icebergs. Not to mention the harbor seals, brown bears, bald eagles, moose and wolves you may see around it.

Read moreHow to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

How bad are the mosquitoes in Alaska?

Depending on when you visit Alaska, mosquitoes can be a nuisance.

Mosquitoes are obviously not unique to Alaska, but just like in New Jersey, they're still annoying.

Typically, you will find "mosquito season" between the second week of June to the last week in July.

Despite what you may read about on the internet, the mosquitoes aren't really as bad as you may think. In fact, cruise ship passengers tend to spend most of their time in and around cities, which have a significant breeze that can deter the pests.

Mosquitoes tend to be found most commonly on near-windless evenings near a pond, interior forest, or moist tundra.

Read moreWhat Is an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise?

Can you gamble on Alaska cruises?

Spotted: Royal Caribbean bans smoking in casinos due to Omicron variant concern | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just like in the Caribbean, once your ship enters international waters, the casino will open up.

The casino will be closed while your ship is docked in an Alaska port of call, but once it sails away from land and into international waters, it's game on in Casino Royale.

Is it true it never gets dark during an Alaska cruise?

It will get dark at night, but only for a few hours at most.

Alaska cruises are too far south to truly experience why Alaska is known as "The Land of the Midnight Sun", but during the summer there can be up to 20 hours of sunlight.

How much day light versus night you experience will depend on the time of year you sail, as well as how far north your ship happens to be.

Will my cell phone work in Alaska?

What Is an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you're an American, yes, your cell phone works while in port in Alaska.

As a state in the United States, Alaska is included in American cell phone plans and you can expect service while you are in and around the ports you visit.

Unlike the lower 48 states, once you stray from the city, coverage can drop rapidly due to the terrain and vast unpopulated areas.

Read moreCellphone Use Onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise

Can you see Russia from Alaska?

The short answer is, no.

This question is rooted in the now famous quote from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but unless you are on Little Diomede Island, you cannot see Russia from anywhere in Alaska.

Do I need a passport to go on an Alaska cruise?

How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just like the Caribbean, if your cruise sails roundtrip from an American port (i.e. Seattle) and you are an American citizen, you don't need a passport.  But it's still a really good idea to have one.

Instead, United States citizens on cruises that begin and end at the same port in the United States can use a original government-issued picture ID (i.e. driver's license) and an original government-issued birth certificate or original Naturalization Certificate.

Keep in mind you would need a passport if you chose a shore excursion that visited Canada.

If your cruise sails out of Vancouver, then you would need a passport to enter Canada.

My recommendation is get a passport regardless of where your cruise sails from.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Planning an Alaska cruise? Check out these articles:

Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program info, tips & secrets

25 Jan 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

Whether this is your first Royal Caribbean cruise or your 50th, you can earn points through the Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program. Earning points for your cruise vacation enables you to move up in the loyalty program, giving you exclusive access to pre-cruise discounts as well as onboard benefits and events.

At first glance the Crown & Anchor Society may seem a bit overwhelming, so we wanted to give you a comprehensive overview of the program’s benefits and offers.

How do I earn Crown & Anchor Society points?

Earning Crown & Anchor Society points is fairly simple. Each night on a cruise earns you one point. Therefore, if your cruise is seven nights, you will earn seven Crown and Anchor points.

There are a few ways to earn points more quickly. If you are staying in a suite, you will earn double points per night, making a 7-night cruise worth 14 points. Likewise, you will also earn double points by cruising solo in a regular (non-studio) cabin. If you happen to be cruising solo and are staying in a suite, you will earn a whopping 21 Crown and Anchor points on a 7-night cruise.

Points are not rewarded until after you have completed a sailing. This means that if you technically reach the next tier of the Crown & Anchor Society on day two of a cruise, your upgraded status will not be recognized until your next cruise.

Joining the Crown & Anchor Society is free and we recommend creating an account prior to your first cruise. If you did not have a Crown & Anchor Society account before your cruise, you can create one and link past sailings from the previous 12 months.

Crown & Anchor Society Tier Overview

There are six tiers to the Crown & Anchor Society:

  • Gold - 3 points
  • Platinum - 30 points
  • Emerald - 55 points
  • Diamond - 80 points
  • Diamond Plus - 175 points
  • Pinnacle Club - 700 points

There is also the Pre-Gold level, which is where every guest will start on their first Royal Caribbean cruise. As most sailings are 3 nights or longer, the majority of guests will reach Gold status after their first cruise.


Ranging from 3-29 points, the Gold level is the first official tier of the Crown & Anchor Society. As a Gold member, you do not receive an extensive list of benefits, but you will receive the following:

  • Crown & Anchor Society Onboard Offers
  • SeaPass card recognition
  • Crown & Anchor Exclusive Rates
  • Priority notice on special offers, new ships and itineraries
  • Additional cruise points for purchasing suite accommodations and/or single pricing type
  • Exclusive email offers
  • Crown & Anchor Society Desk for membership inquiries
  • Crown & Anchor Society Exclusive member newsletter


From 30-54 points you will be a Platinum member of the Crown & Anchor Society. If you have accumulated this many points, you are likely a seasoned cruiser compared to your Pre-Gold days. Platinum members receive all benefits listed above with the addition of:

  • Robes for use onboard
  • Signature Lapel Pin
  • Discounts on Balcony and Suite staterooms
  • Matching Celebrity Cruises Captain’s Club


An Emerald member does not see a substantial increase in onboard and cruise planning benefits compared to at the Platinum level. Emerald members, from 55 to 79 points, receive all benefits listed above with the addition of:

  • Welcome Waters & Snack + Beverage Selection
  • Bigger discount on Balcony & Suite staterooms compared to a Platinum member


Becoming a Diamond member is a right of passage for Royal Caribbean cruise fans. Whereas Gold, Platinum, and Emerald all see a few benefits, the Diamond level, from 80 to 174 points, is where you begin to receive benefits that will better impact your cruise vacation.

As a Diamond member, one of the biggest benefits you receive is access to the Diamond Lounge. Reaching 80 points means that you now have access to a completely new area onboard and all of the benefits that come with it, like complimentary food, coffee, and access to the Diamond concierge.

Diamond members receive all benefits listed above with the addition of:

  • Milestone recognition
  • Priority waitlist for Shore Excursions/Vitality Spa services
  • Diamond Club (on select ships)
  • Exclusive Nightly Diamond Event
  • Entertainment Tour
  • Priority waitlist seating request in the Main Dining Room
  • Bigger discount on Balcony & Suite staterooms compared to an Emerald member

Diamond Plus

The jump from Diamond to Diamond Plus in the Crown & Anchor Society is a big milestone. Whereas you can reach the Diamond level after “just” 80 points, reaching Diamond Plus requires more than double that at 175 points. And once you reach Diamond Plus you will likely stay in this tier for a long time, as Diamond Plus ranges from 175-699 Crown & Anchor points.

Diamond Plus members receive all benefits listed above with the addition of:

  • Personalized Gift/Amenity (per household)
  • Exclusive Top Tier Event
  • Early access at theater, ice show, and AquaTheater events
  • Cheers with an Officer for members with 340+ cruise points
  • Upgraded bathroom amenities for members with 340+ cruise points
  • Bonus Gift for members with 340+ cruise points (per household)
  • Bonus Gift for members with 525+ cruise points (per household)
  • Exclusive access to Diamond Plus & Pinnacle Club call center staff members
  • Single supplement cruise fare reduced to 150% from 200% for members that have 340 or more cruise points
  • Bigger discount on Balcony & Suite staterooms compared to a Diamond member

Pinnacle Club

The most coveted tier of the Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society is the Pinnacle Club. Making up only a very small percentage of C&A members, a whopping 700 points must be earned to reach the Pinnacle Club level.

Reaching Pinnacle is a huge milestone for Royal Caribbean fans. As Royal Caribbean Blog writer Marcy Miyar explained, though, you don’t necessarily have to spend 700 nights on a cruise ship to reach Pinnacle. Booking suites or cruising solo allows you to earn more than one point per night, thus making your pathway to pinnacle a little bit quicker.

Pinnacle Club members receive all benefits listed above with the addition of:

  • Flexible arrival
  • Personalized lapel pin for Pinnacle Club
  • Pinnacle Club SeaPass Card with exclusive privileges
  • Daily breakfast at a specialty restaurant
  • Exclusive nightly pinnacle club event
  • Milestone cruise certificate valued at the prevailing rate of a 7-night balcony stateroom for 700 and 1050 cruise points
  • Milestone cruise certificate valued at the prevailing rate of a Junior Suite stateroom for 1,400 and every 350 cruise points thereafter
  • Bigger discount on Balcony & Suite staterooms compared to a Diamond Plus member

Member Benefits for Youth & Companions

Family members in the same household of a Crown & Anchor Society member can be added into a relationship with the member and receive equal tier status. Points listed in the family member’s account will be according to the amount of cruises that individual has taken. However, they will still receive all benefits of the tier level they earned as someone in the household of a Crown & Anchor Society member.

For example, if you are a Diamond Plus member, your kids will automatically be Diamond Plus members as well after their first cruise, even if their own Crown & Anchor Society account only has a few points. The only exception to this rule is with the Pinnacle Club. Dependents are not able to receive Pinnacle Club status from their parents or guardians and must achieve that milestone themselves. Spouses and domestic partners are able to reach Pinnacle status through their partner.

Other benefits for youth members of the Crown & Anchor Society include onboard offers and a commemorative gift for Diamond level and above.

Recent Policy Changes

Since the restart of cruises in 2021, Royal Caribbean has added enhancements and temporary adjustments to the Crown & Anchor Society benefits. These benefits include:

  • Daily drink vouchers for Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Members for drinks with up to a $13 value that can be used at any bar, Diamond Lounge during Happy Hour, or private destination at any time
  • Flexible arrival for Pinnacle Club and Suite guests, allowing early check-in at the terminal
  • Pinnacle members are still able to dine in Coastal Kitchen, but reservations are required
  • Pinnacle members on Oasis and Quantum class ships receive a $25 dining voucher for a specialty restaurant of their choice
  • “MasterClass-type experience” for an insider view into the ship’s entertainment
  • Early access at onboard entertainment for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members
  • Pinnacle members cannot currently access the Suite and Concierge lounges, but can enjoy private nightly gatherings at other locations onboard
  • “Meal with an Officer” for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members has been evolved to a physical-distanced “Cheers with an Officer”

What is the Diamond Lounge?

Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle guests can access the Diamond Lounge while onboard. The Diamond Lounge is open 24 hours a day and is an exclusive area only for Diamond members. Comfy seating and complimentary snacks and coffee are available throughout the day.

In addition, the Diamond Lounge has a concierge available that can help with booking things like dining, entertainment, shore excursions, and spa appointments while onboard. They are also available for general questions about the ship and any problems you may encounter.

The Diamond Lounge also has a happy hour each evening. Prior to the cruise industry shutdown, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages in the Diamond Lounge were complimentary during happy hour. This benefit has temporarily changed, though. Now Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Club members are given a select number of drink vouchers per day to be used at happy hour or at bars around the ship. Diamond members receive 4 vouchers, Diamond Plus receive 5, and Pinnacle Club members receive 6 vouchers per day.

Most Royal Caribbean ships have a Diamond Lounge. If a ship does not have a Diamond Lounge, a Diamond-exclusive event will be held each night at a designated venue onboard.

Crown & Anchor Society Onboard Offers

When you board a cruise ship as a member of the Crown & Anchor Society, there will be a paper waiting for you in your stateroom listing your exclusive onboard offers. These offers increase by your Crown & Anchor Society tier and help you save money on your cruise vacation. Here are the current offers by membership level:


Wine & Dine

  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons per sailing)
  • 25% off any Coffee Beverage (Starbucks not included)
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 10% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass


  • Buy a Bingo Package, get one free Jackpot Card
  • 10% off any Internet Package
  • $2 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • Buy one, get one 50% off - Photo
  • 10% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • 10% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)


Wine & Dine

  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons per sailing)
  • 25% off any Coffee Beverage (Starbucks not included) (two coupons per sailing)
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 10% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass
  • Receive one free non-alcoholic Specialty Coffee with the purchase of one Specialty Restaurant dinner


  • Buy a Bingo Package, get three free Jackpot Cards
  • 15% off any Internet Package
  • $4 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • Buy one, get one 50% off - Photo
  • 10% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • 15% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)
  • $5 off a $25 Dry Clean or Press
  • $5 off a $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)


Wine & Dine

  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons flouper sailing)
  • 25% off any Coffee Beverage (Starbucks not included) (two coupons per sailing)
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 10% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass
  • Receive one free non-alcoholic Specialty Coffee with the purchase of one Specialty Restaurant dinner


  • Buy a Bingo Package, get six free Jackpot Cards
  • 15% off any Internet Package
  • $6 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • Buy one, get one 50% off - Photo
  • 10% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • 15% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)
  • $5 off a $25 Dry Clean or Press
  • $5 off a $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)


Wine & Dine

  • Four free drinks daily up to $13 value (except Starbucks & Bionic Bar)
  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons per sailing)
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 20% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass
  • Receive one free non-alcoholic Specialty Coffee with the purchase of one Specialty Restaurant dinner


  • One free day of Surf Internet for 1 device or $25.99 off any Internet Package
  • Buy a Bingo Package, get six free Jackpot Cards
  • $6 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • One free photo
  • 15% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • 20% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)
  • 10% off a Photo Package or Photobook
  • $5 off a $25 Dry Clean or Press
  • $10 off a $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)
  • Receive a discounted Stateroom Phone rate of $2 per minute

Diamond Plus

Wine & Dine

  • Five free drinks daily up to $13 value (except Starbucks & Bionic Bar)
  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons per sailing)
  • 25% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 30% off Deluxe Beverage Package
  • Buy one Specialty Restaurant cover charge, get one free. For dinner on Day 1 or 2 only (except Chef’s Table & Hibachi/Teppanyaki)
  • Receive one free non-alcoholic Specialty Coffee with the purchase of one Specialty Restaurant dinner


  • Two free days of Surf Internet for 1 device or $51.98 off any Internet Package
  • Buy a Bingo Package, get six free Jackpot Cards
  • $6 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • A free $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)
  • One free photo
  • 15% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • Complimentary add-on Spa Service (excluding Medi-spa)
  • 20% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)
  • 10% off a Photo Package or Photobook
  • $5 off a $25 Dry Clean or Press
  • $10 off a $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)
  • Receive a discounted Stateroom Phone rate of $2 per minute


Wine & Dine

  • Six free drinks daily up to $13 value (except Starbucks & Bionic Bar)
  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda (two coupons per sailing)
  • 25% off any wine, beer, or soda by the glass 
  • Two 50% off coupons for Johnny Rockets Milkshakes
  • 40% off Deluxe Beverage Package
  • Buy one Specialty Restaurant cover charge, get one free. For dinner on Day 1 or 2 only (except Chef’s Table & Hibachi/Teppanyaki)


  • One free Internet Package 1 device, Surf & Stream, full voyage
  • Buy a Bingo Package, get six free Jackpot Cards
  • $6 Free Play

Shopping & Services

  • A free $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)
  • One free photo
  • 15% off RCCL Logo Products (must spend $25)
  • Complimentary add-on Spa Service (excluding Medi-spa)
  • 20% off any Spa Service (excluding Medi-Spa)
  • 10% off a Photo Package or Photobook
  • $5 off a $25 Dry Clean or Press
  • $5 off a $17.49 Express Press (Redeemable on Day 1 only)
  • $10 off a $34.99 Wash & Fold Laundry Bag (5+ night sailings)
  • Receive a discounted Stateroom Phone rate of $2 per minute

Read more about the Crown & Anchor Society

Perfect Day at CocoCay beach bed review

24 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

There are many ways to plus your visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay, such as renting a bed bed for the day.

Beach beds are an optional rental you can purchase to use while visiting Royal Caribbean's private island for the day. reader Shannon Ford tried one out on a recent Freedom of the Seas cruise, and shared her thoughts on what to expect if you get one.

Beach bed review

My family and I recently rented a Beach Bed at Chill Island at Perfect Day at CocoCay. This was a last minute decision that we booked 3 days before we set sail. The price is typically $199, however, about 2 weeks before our sailing, the price dropped to $149, which is the price we paid.

There are two areas with Beach Bed Rentals. The first are the Chill Island Day Beds, which is where we were. When looking at the map of CocoCay, these are at the bottom lefthand corner.

The second area are the Breezy Bay at Chill Island Day Beds. These are behind the Oasis Lagoon near the Floating Cabanas.


Upon arriving to the area, there was a stand where we checked in and received our wristbands. Each Day Bed receives 4 wristbands, and yes, children count.

We were given a quick lay of the land and were on our way. The Day Beds are pre-assigned and we were given Bed #12, which was a perfect location.

Of the 30 Day Beds in this area, 21 had been rented and they were accepting walk-ups for the remaining beds. With two ships in port, 15 beds were allocated per ship. Beds 1-5 were for Freedom of the Seas, Beds 6-10 were for Harmony of the Seas and so on and so forth.

The beds have a roof but no walls, however there are white curtains on two sides for privacy (and shade). They proved very helpful for our nap later in the day.

The rental also includes 2 loungers, 2 floating mats and a cooler filled with ice and 4 cans of spring water. Your name is also written on a chalkboard on your assigned day bed. I think this is done for two reasons. One, so you can easily find your bed and two, so crew know which beds are not rented.

We did see a couple lay out in the bed directly behind us (#29) which had not been rented. A crew member came over and politely inform them that the day beds needed to be rented in order for them to be used.

Bartenders typically walk the area and will serve you at your day bed. However, due to Covid, we were told upon check-in that they were extremely short-staffed and not to expect them. We never saw a bartender in the area. This was not an issue for us. If you do plan to drink, the closest bar is The Wacky Seagull and is fairly close.

Unlike the cabanas, the day beds do not have a safe to store any personal belongings. However, you can store any items you like in the lockers nearby, free of charge. We never felt the need to do this and just let down the curtains when we went to get food and left whatever we had on the bed. With that said, we didn’t leave anything of real value either.

That leads us to the food. Unlike the cabanas, no one is there to serve you lunch, you need to go and get it yourself. Again, this was not an issue for us. Our original plan was to bring our food back to the day bed to eat, but it’s a good walk, so we decided just to eat at the picnic tables at the Chill Grill. Considering what a messy eater my 6 year-old is, this was a wise choice.

And finally, the beach area for this section of Chill Island was perfect. Our son enjoyed building sand castles (more of a sand house), playing in the water and lounging on one of the floating mats.

It also seemed to be the area for snorkeling, as we saw many many snorkelers in the area. If you have young children, this is a great area as there are no waves. My son who absolutely loves the Splashaway Bay on CocoCay, never wanted to leave the beach, so we never made it over to that area.

We finished off our time at the Day Bed with a family nap. It was amazing! I had set my alarm to make sure we didn’t miss the ship, but there was also a crew member checking each of the beds to make sure everyone was awake.

We had to be back on board by 5pm and we left the area around 4:20pm. There are nearby showers and bathrooms which we all visited before heading back to the ship.

Final thoughts

Breezy Bay at Chill Island vs chill island day bed on coco cay - Shore Excursions - Royal Caribbean Blog

So do you need to rent a Day Bed? Absolutely not. Loungers were plentiful all around the island. Will we rent a Day Bed again. Absolutely!

Having the day bed just made our day at CocoCay better and simply Perfect (pun intended). We currently have an Oasis Lagoon cabana booked for our March cruise that we booked on Black Friday, but we are considering switching to a Day Bed Rental if they become available. Currently, they are sold out.

We paid $149 which was an excellent value, but would I purchase it at $199? I think so. It just makes the day easier, especially with a child and I’ve spent $200 on stupider things.

When you also factor in, the dedicated loungers, the two floating mats and a cooler, it all adds up.

In my opinion, the Chill Island day beds are a great choice for smaller families that want a private, dedicated area with easy access to the beach.

Check out Shannon's YouTube channel for lots more travel information & tips.

I tried The Key on an Oasis Class ship to see if it's worth it

24 Jan 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

I purchased The Key on my recent Harmony of the Seas cruise to experience what the program offers and decide if it is worth the extra cost.

The Key is an add-on offered by Royal Caribbean that can enhance your cruise experience. It provides a more “exclusive” feel to embarkation, onboard activities, entertainment, and disembarkation. 

So far, the Royal Caribbean Blog staff cannot agree whether The Key is worth it or not. Matt Hochberg thinks The Key is not worth it whereas staff writer Haley Mills thinks the Key is worth the extra cost.

I went into my sailing with an open mind, but my overall impression of The Key throughout this week was in agreement with Matt. I think the benefits sound better on paper than they do once onboard.

Here were the benefits of The Key for my January 2022 sailing on Harmony of the Seas:

  • Early access at the terminal
  • Drop off your carry-on luggage in the Main Dining Room on Deck 3 by 2:00PM - your carry-on luggage will be hand delivered to your stateroom
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille menu
  • Private time at some onboard activities such as rock climbing, FlowRider, etc.
  • Priority departure from ship-to-shore at tender ports
  • Early access at shows in the Main Theater on Deck 4, however a reservation is needed
  • VOOM Surf & Stream package (1 device per guest)
  • Private a la carte breakfast and choice departure on disembarkation day

Originally I thought complimentary room service would be included with The Key, as it had been recently on other itineraries and ships, but it was not listed in my benefits. Also, our itinerary did not have any scheduled tender ports, so this benefit was not needed.

The cost of The Key for my 7-night cruise was $279.93, or about $39/day.

If I did not purchase The Key, I would have purchased an internet package separately at $19/day. If you take that cost into consideration, purchasing The Key was technically around $20 extra per day than just buying an internet package.


When I checked in to my cruise on Harmony of the Seas online a few weeks ago, I received an 11:30AM check-in time. When I purchased The Key a week before my sailing, it also told me to arrive at 11:30AM for priority boarding, so it wasn’t any earlier than my original time.

I will say that the priority boarding was really quick. From arrival at the terminal to stepping foot on the ship was only about 15 minutes, and there were only a few people in front of me in line.

I breezed past a longer line of non-Key passengers at check-in, although their line did seem to be moving reasonably quickly.

I honestly don’t think The Key saved me a huge amount of time, though, as I probably would have been able to get on the ship in 30 minutes without The Key as opposed to 15 minutes with The Key.

Once on the ship I headed straight to the Main Dining Room for the The Key’s exclusive embarkation day lunch.

The lunch uses a limited menu from Chops Grille and it was a relaxing meal far removed from the hectic atmosphere of embarkation day. While it was a nice benefit of The Key, I do not think it necessarily adds much value to me for a few reasons:

  • You can always just reserve lunch at Chops Grille on your own during the cruise. The cover charge for lunch is usually only around $25 and you will get access to the full menu as opposed to a limited one.
  • What I usually do on embarkation day is eat a quick lunch at the Windjammer. I am always eager to explore the ship right away, so having an easy lunch at the buffet means I can start exploring sooner as opposed to a more lengthy sit-down meal.
  • This is a personal preference, but I prefer other specialty restaurants like Jamie’s Italian and Izumi to Chops. Therefore, for me, Chops is not a huge selling point of The Key.

One aspect of embarkation with The Key that I did enjoy was being able to drop off my carry on luggage in the Main Dining Room. After I finished lunch, my stateroom was ready and my luggage was waiting for me in the cabin.

Reserved activities

One benefit of The Key is having special times reserved for Key guests at onboard activities. On ships like Harmony of the Seas there are a ton of activities available for guests. Lines often appear, of course, meaning that you may not be able to try an activity as many times or as quickly as you want.

On my sailing, these were the reserved activities and times for Key guests:

  • Day 2: Flowrider from 9am-10am, Zipline from 2pm-2:30pm
  • Day 3: Ice Skating from 8:45am-9:45am, Ultimate Abyss from 12:30pm-1pm
  • Day 5: Ultimate Abyss from 3pm-3:30pm
  • Day 6: Zipline from 10am-10:30am, Rock Climbing Wall from 12pm-1pm

Having reserved activity times was something I took advantage of during my cruise, so I was able to try every signature activity onboard without waiting in lines. All things considered, though, I don’t think these few activities make the extra cost of The Key worth it.

My sailing had around 50% capacity and there were hardly ever lines for activities anyway. I could have waited maybe 5 minutes for the zipline during a regular time instead of 1 minute during the reserved time for Key guests.

Perhaps the reserved activities are more useful when the ship is at full capacity and lines are longer, but for now I don’t think it is a huge selling point.

Early access to entertainment

Another benefit of The Key is early access to entertainment onboard, meaning you can get the best seats in the venue. I, however, don’t want to wait around for over a half hour before the show starts. I usually walk in only 5-10 minutes before the show and easily find a seat. 

Again, maybe this would be a better benefit if the ship was at a higher capacity. With limited capacity, it is not difficult to find a good seat even if I show up right before the show begins.

One way I feel this could be better is to have select seats reserved for The Key members so you do not have to show up so early before the show begins, but still be able to get a good seat.


An exclusive a la carte breakfast is available for Key guests on disembarkation day. This is similar to the embarkation day lunch and it provides a more peaceful atmosphere than eating elsewhere before getting off the ship.

I enjoyed the disembarkation breakfast and having a quiet place to go on my last morning of the cruise. The menu is largely the same as you can get during breakfast in the Main Dining Room on other days of the cruise.

Another disembarkation benefit of The Key is having a select luggage area in the terminal just for Key guests. As I only travel with a carry on which I take off the ship myself, I did not use this benefit.

Final Thoughts

I think The Key would be more beneficial during a sailing with higher capacity. I thought many of the benefits listed were fine in theory, but did not make much of a difference once onboard. Reserved activity times and early access to entertainment aren’t as important when the ship is at half capacity.

Likewise, getting on the ship with The Key was not significantly quicker than without. And while the embarkation lunch was nice, eating lunch at Chops Grille is something you can do at any point during the cruise for a reasonable price. 

I do wish room service was available for free on my cruise like it had been a few months ago, as I would have used this service several times throughout the sailing.

Some guests may love the exclusive embarkation experience and other Key Benefits. For me, though, I would rather purchase an internet package separately and use the money spent on The Key for other purchases onboard like a dining or beverage package. I think these would have a bigger impact on my day-to-day cruise experience as opposed to the benefits through The Key.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 23, 2021

23 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

Hope you had a great week and are staying safe out there. Hopefully you had a chance to keep up with what's new with Royal Caribbean this week. But if not, here's a roundup of this week's news.

Royal Caribbean announced it has extended its stricter mask rules once again.

What it's like to go on a cruise with Royal Caribbean's stricter mask rules | Royal Caribbean Blog

Due to the Omicron variant, anyone sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise between now and February 14, 2022 can expect to wear their face mask while indoors, even in vaccinated-only areas of the ship.

In addition to the stricter mask rules, smoking in the casino will also remain prohibited through February 14, 2022.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 438th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt dedicates this episode to answering as many cruise questions as he can.

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: Rookie cruise mistakes you should not be making in 2022!

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 — Rookie cruise mistakes you should not be making in 2022! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

A new Southern restaurant is coming to Wonder of the Seas

Are y'all ready for a new kind of specialty restaurant?

The Mason Jar is the name of a new Southern American food restaurant that will be launched on Wonder of the Seas.

The menu will feature Low Country classics, Bayou staples, and BBQ. Not only that, but there will be a brunch menu available.

What are you most concerned about going on a cruise right now?

Why do cruise ships float? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Going on a cruise ship definitely has some changes to the experience, and I wanted to know what our readers are thinking about the most before they get onboard.

I polled Royal Caribbean cruisers on Facebook to see which issues cruise fans thought about, and which concerns were less important.

In less than 24 hours, 2,893 people participated in this unscientific poll and the results were a bit surprising in some cases.

My first impressions of an Oasis-class ship


Jenna sailed on her first Oasis Class cruise ship, and shared her thoughts on how one of the biggest cruise ship's in the world compares to her previous sailings.

She sailed on a 7-night Harmony of the Seas cruise this past week, and got to experience an Oasis Class ship after trying out Quantum, Voyager and Freedom Class ships.

Jenna wanted to see how going on a big ship stacks up compared to (relatively) smaller ships.

Q&A: What is it like to sail on Grandeur of the Seas this week?

22 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

Are you wondering about the onboard experience on Grandeur of the Seas?

Grandeur of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

We had so much fun answering questions about what it's like to sail on Harmony of the Seas this week, that RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Keeley reached out to volunteer to answer questions about sailing on Grandeur of the Seas.

Keeley is on a Southern Caribbean cruise on Grandeur of the Seas, and answered questions about her experience sailing so far on this itinerary.

You can follow Keeley on her blog, which she describes as focusing on great food, even better booze and balanced travel. 

Can you describe the pre-arrival process for sailing from Barbados, and how difficult or easy was it to get everything?

Our flight from the UK arrived at the same time as 3 other flights so there was a bit of a wait at the first check point at Barbados airport with no air conditioning, so it was a little uncomfortable but not unbearable. The queue moved steadily for the vaccination/test staff to check our documents. We were then given a coloured wrist band depending on our test information. 

After this, our suitcases were already waiting for us and we went straight through immigration. Onto the bus to go to the port and we were there in 30 minutes. 

At the port we had already booked a time for our pre-boarding antigen tests, so we waited 10 minutes and then 30 minutes for the results. 

From getting off the plane to being in our cabin, was around 2.5 hours. 

How many passengers are onboard?

There are 630 passengers onboard. 

Have you noticed any changes to the entertainment line up?

There has been some technical difficulties with the silent disco so this hasn't happened. Roki rokie karaoke was cancelled 2 nights for the same reason.

Last night's tango show was cancelled due to potential Covid symptoms amongst the dance team, but it was replaced by the guest act, who were fabulous! 

How is Adventure Ocean operating on this cruise?

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

There are very few kids onboard this Grandeur of the Seas sailing, but it is open. An Adventure Ocean crew member described the current situation as follows:

Adventure Ocean is open, although there are only 11 kids in total onboard (5 are registered for Adventure Ocean).  For these kids, all sessions are there 9:30-12:00, 14:00-17:00, 19:00-22:00 + Late Night Party Zone for parents who want to leave their kids until midnight.

The Teens Club is not open because there is only one teen onboard. The staff indicated they offered the teen other forms of entertainment.

The nursery is not open all day because there is just one toddler onboard. In fact, the Adventure Ocean manager has informed parents that they can book nursery any time they seem fit, which they did a couple of times.

What is the embarkation process like in Barbados?


From arriving at port to boarding, was around 45 minutes. After the antigen test, we were advised that we would receive our result by email. I didn't get mine but they checked their system and were able to confirm my results with no issue.

There was ample space for people to wait with seating and water should people want it whilst waiting. 

Have there been any itinerary changes?

Before leaving the UK, we had Trinidad and Tobago changed to St Lucia and Dominica. St Lucia was further changed to Antigua.

On boarding we were advised that Colombia had been removed and changed for a sea day, so only the 1 stop to be removed completely.

Not itinerary changes but we have had a few trips cancelled, so it is worth asking excursion services which trips are the most popular to prevent this from happening. 

Any advice for someone sailing on Grandeur soon?

I'd recommend booking the antigen test required for boarding ahead of travelling as you will need to complete the same request whether you do it at the port or before, so it definitely saves time! 

In a similar vein, I'd recommend bringing a printed copy of vaccination documents so they are to hand easily to show. 

Check the itinerary carefully as some ports currently do not allow you to get off the ship without a trip booked through Royal Caribbean. 

Trying out the free activities on Harmony of the Seas

22 Jan 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

I’m onboard Harmony of the Seas this week for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day cruise. As this is my first time on an Oasis-class ship, I wanted to try out all the free signature activities this ship has to offer.

From water slides to a zipline and rock climbing, there was no shortage of things to do during my time onboard and I found myself trying a new activity every day.

The Ultimate Abyss

A unique activity only found on Oasis-class ships is the Ultimate Abyss. The Ultimate Abyss is a pair of two 70ft high slides (150 feet above sea level) located in the aft of Harmony of the Seas. The slide departs from the Sports Court on deck 15 and slides down to the Boardwalk neighborhood on deck 6.

The Ultimate Abyss is not a water slide, but is a dry slide in which you use a mat with a pocket for your feet and hold on to a handle. As there are two slides side by side, you can race to the bottom with a fellow passenger.

The slide starts by climbing through the mouth of an entrance designed like an anglerfish predator, with 35 teeth, two eyes, and a photophore (light source to attract prey). The entrance has a glass floor and views of the aft below, which gets your adrenaline pumping even before the slide starts.

This was probably my favorite new activity that I tried! The ride takes an average of 13 seconds from top to bottom as you twist and turn through a tunnel with sound effects, music, and lights. It was much more thrilling than I imagined it would be and I found myself wanting to do it again as soon as I reached the bottom!

I liked the fact that it wasn’t a water slide, so I didn’t have to wear a swimsuit in order to try it. Plus, the slide brings you to an entirely different neighborhood on the ship! Who needs elevators when you have the Ultimate Abyss?

The Ultimate Abyss has a minimum height of 44 inches and a maximum weight of 300 pounds.

Water slides

Harmony of the Seas has three water slides which comprise what is called the “Perfect Storm water slides”. These are one of the most popular activities onboard Harmony of the Seas, and for good reason. They are thrilling, tall, and a fun activity for guests of all ages. I had actually never done the water slides on any Royal Caribbean ship, so I was excited to try them out.

The first slide I tried was the blue one on the Cyclone and Typhoon slides. These are the yellow and blue racing slides on Harmony of the Seas which twist and turn several times as you race to the bottom.

To be honest, this slide made me feel uneasy as it was mostly pitch black and I had no idea where I was going and for how long I would be sliding down. It made me pretty claustrophobic and panicky! Because of this, I decided to skip trying the yellow slide. Other guests and especially kids seemed to be enjoying the Cyclone and Typhoon slides, though!

Next up was the Supercell side, otherwise known as the “toilet bowl”. This yellow and green-colored slide takes you on a couple twists and turns before sliding you into a giant “toilet bowl”. Once in the bowl, you will slide around a few times before falling into the middle.

I much preferred the Supercell slide over the Cyclone and Typhoon slides. I liked how there were no pitch black sections of the slide, so it was not as disorienting. The slide has both clear and rainbow-colored sections before sliding you into the bowl, where you are in the open air again. It was actually a ton of fun so I did it three times in a row!


Who ever thought you would be able to zipline on a cruise ship? Oasis-class ships are the only Royal Caribbean ships to have a zipline. The zipline flies 9 decks above the Boardwalk neighborhood on Harmony of the Seas and spans 82 feet from start to end.

When you arrive at the zipline station, a staff member will put a harness on you and guide you to the launching area.

I felt confident in doing the zipline until it came to the point where the crew member clipped me in and told me to start. At this point, it really hit me that I was about to fly through the air! As you take your feet off the ground and start flying to the other side, though, you realize that it’s actually a lot more fun than it is scary.

I enjoyed the zipline overall, although it was a short experience so I’m not sure I would wait in a huge line for it. The zipline itself only takes around 10 seconds, but I think it is still a fun activity to try at least once on your cruise. Be sure to wear laced shoes or bring socks to borrow shoes, as non-lace tennis shoes, such as sandals, are not allowed.

Passengers must be at least 52” tall to ride the zipline and weigh between 75-275 pounds. 

Rock climbing

The next activity I tried was rock climbing. I go to a rock climbing gym at home and climb a few times a week, so this is always my favorite sports activity to do onboard. Royal Caribbean’s rock climbing walls have routes with varying levels of difficulty, making it a fun activity for any fitness level.

There are two rock walls on Harmony of the Seas which are located in the Boardwalk neighborhood, overlooking the Aquatheater and wonderful views of the aft.

Before you go to the rock climbing wall, make sure you have socks and are not wearing a bathing suit. My recommendation is to wear a t-shirt and shorts to ensure you have the proper attire on for climbing. The staff will give you rock climbing shoes and harness before clipping you into the wall!

I went up the wall twice in a row to get a quick workout in and was blown away by the 180 degree view of the ship’s wake from the top of the rock climbing wall.

My one complaint with the rock climbing wall is that the colorful holds on the wall are not properly tightened. When you grab many of the holds, they turn slightly. This is not ideal because you can unexpectedly fall when you grab something or when you put your foot on a hold.

The rock climbing wall is available for guests 6 and older and guests must be able to fit into the harness. Socks, dry clothes, shorts, or pants are required.


Located in the Boardwalk neighborhood on Harmony of the Seas is a colorful, intricately-designed carousel that seems to transport you back in time. Animals of all kinds line the carousel and it is an activity available during both the day and evening onboard.

I thought the carousel was fun, although it is geared toward small children so it wasn’t the most thrilling activity I tried. For children, though, I think that the addition of a carousel on a cruise ship adds to the family-friendly environment created on Harmony of the Seas.

Guests must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the carousel without an adult. If under 42 inches, an adult must be standing next to the child and have their hands on the child at all times during the ride.


The Flowrider surf simulator is a common activity on Royal Caribbean’s ships, but it is one that I had never tried before. Harmony of the Seas has two Flowriders in the aft of the ship. 

I had never tried the Flowrider because I wasn’t sure I would be very good at it. While I took surfing lessons several years ago, I was not exactly the most skilled surfer out there (and that’s an understatement). However, I figured that after six Royal Caribbean cruises, it was finally time to give the Flowrider a chance.

As a beginner, I started off by boogie boarding. The staff give you a very brief introduction into how to hold the boogie board and how to launch into the water. As soon as I launched, I was nearly overtaken by the water rushing all around me and I kept getting sent all the way to the back of the Flowrider instead of boogie boarding around the middle.

To be honest, I was pretty bad at this and cannot imagine being able to surf standing up on the Flowrider! That being said, I did not wipe out and send the boogie board flying away, so I was pretty happy about that. It was fun, although it wasn’t my favorite activity which was probably due to my lack of skill. I think I will have to try it again in the future, though!

Be sure to wear a swimsuit to the Flowrider and be aware that there is the slight possibility of a loose swimsuit falling off as the water rushes around you. I would recommend a one piece swimsuit to avoid any potential mishaps… you’ve been warned!

Guests must be at least 52 inches tall to use the Flowrider.

Ice Skating

Harmony of the Seas has an ice rink onboard in Studio B, where the ship’s figure skating cast perform impressive ice skating shows throughout the cruise. During the day, though, the ice rink is often open for free skate sessions where passengers can test out their skills on the ice.

Guests must sign up for an ice skating session by heading down to Studio B when sign ups are listed in the Cruise Compass. When you arrive at your scheduled time, the staff will give you skates and a helmet and you are free to skate in any way you like.

I really enjoyed my time ice skating onboard as it was something I definitely don’t usually do at home. It is also a great indoor activity to do when the weather outside is not cooperating. There are rails on the side of the entire ice rink so if you are a beginner you can hold onto the side.

Parents must supervise minors at all times at the ice skating rink and must be on the ice with children under 6.

10 tips that worked out for our staffers in 2021

21 Jan 2022
Matt Hochberg

Here at, we love to cruise, just like you. We book as many sailings as our work and spouses will tolerate, and are always on the hunt for the next tip that makes our sailing easier.

Getting back on a ship this past year has come with its own challenges, but thanks to a lot of trial and error, we find something that just works.

I asked our writers and moderators for which cruise tips they used in 2021 that really helped them out.  I wanted to know which cruise tips they found really helpful in their own experience.

1. Book shows as soon as you board

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

One unexpected change since cruises returned is Royal Caribbean has not brought back the ability to pre-book entertainment via the Cruise Planner site.

As a result, writer Marcy Miyar was adamant it's important to book all of your shows as soon as you board, "The vaccinated ice shows seem to fill up especially quick so I like to get that done right away."

Top 25 free things you can do on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

You can easily do this by connecting to Royal Caribbean's wifi network once onboard the ship and pulling up the Royal Caribbean app.

Don't worry, you don't need an internet plan to use the app. Once you connect, you can click the option to just use the app, and it will allow you to book the shows.

Read moreA Royal Caribbean to-do list after you board a cruise ship

2. Use a good travel agent

Oasis of the Seas Live Blog Day 3 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Staying on top of all the policy changes, cancellations, and new options is no easy task. Working with a good travel agent is an easy way to make it all simpler.

Chantal McPhee is one of our writers from Canada.  While she was not able to sail yet, she found a travel agent invaluable, "I did not get to cruise in 2021 as I switched my Christmas cruise to May 2022."

"Having a good travel agent really pays off as she handled cancelling flights and hotels as well as dealing with Royal Caribbean. Saved me tons of time."

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Writer Allie Hubers also found tremendous value in using a good travel agent, "The last year, I have really grown to appreciate having a travel agent. It's a great resource that doesn't cost you (as a cruiser) anything additional."

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

3. Specialty restaurants for lunch

Everything I ate on Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Marcy also shared a way to enjoy embarkation day more by slowing down with lunch.

"My favorite tip that I use on every cruise is to do a specialty restaurant for lunch on embarkation day."

"The crowds on embarkation day stress me out so to avoid the mayhem in the Windjammer, we always head straight to Playmakers when we board and have a nice, relaxing lunch to ease in to vacation mode."

4. Rumors and reality

Video: Top 12 cruise terms you should know | Royal Caribbean Blog

Chantal also shared there is a lot of speculation these days, so don't assume everything you read is necessarily true.

"Keep up with what's going on with cruising and protocols from trusted sources and not just internet gossip. It put things in perspective."

5. Learn about your cruise before you sail

Independence of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Writer Haley Mills thinks it's super important to research the ship before you sail so you know what to expect.

"Watch YouTube videos, TikTok, read blogs. It really helps to know the lay of the land before embarkation so I don't feel so overwhelmed."

Royal Caribbean announces Harmony of the Seas details | Royal Caribbean Blog

Haley also writes up a plan so she doesn't forget anything once she gets onboard, "I usually make an embarkation to do list, so we can get those little but necessary items out of the way.

"For example, scheduling specialty restaurants or any shows we want to see."

Listen: Podcast episode 256 - How to learn everything about your ship before you sail

6. Re-price often

What I wish I did differently on my first cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

There are great deals on cruises out there, and one of the best ways to ensure you have the best price is to re-price.

Video editor and writer Jenna DeLaurentis loves the enhanced Best Price Guarantee, which allows re-pricing of cruises up to 48 hours before the cruise departs, "My travel agent repriced my cruise on Mariner of the Seas several times before I set sail."

"By the time I boarded the ship, I had over $400 of onboard credit that I used to purchase specialty dining, drinks, and souvenirs throughout the cruise."

A look at Royal Caribbean's Grand Suites | Royal Caribbean Blog

Message board moderator Lovetocruise2002 added it's a good idea to not only track prices, but look for upgrade opportunities, "Keep checking the site if you are looking to upgrade especially with all the cancellations lately."

7. Get travel insurance

With the unknowns and last-minute changes, Allie thinks getting travel insurance is a must-do.

"Travel insurance is very important during the pandemic, although Royal really seems to have great policies in place that other cruise lines don't have."

8. Be generous to the crew members

If you've been on a cruise in 2021 or 2022, then you know how much harder the crew members have been working to make your vacation fun.

Between the added demand of filling in for fellow crew that have contracted Covid-19, and trying to make up for lost wages during the shutdown, it's clear the crew are doing everything they can to deliver on the promise of a great experience for guests while balancing their own sanity.

Jenna advocates taking care of the crew too, "Being generous about tipping the crew is a good one too maybe since there is limited capacity so they have less guests tipping onboard."

Read more8 cruise ship tips from a former employee

9. Be flexible

Don't expect Royal Caribbean to extend flexible cancellation terms again | Royal Caribbean Blog

A mantra of travel during the pandemic has been to go with a certain amount of flexibility and understanding given the realities of travel right now.

Allie said to go into a cruise vacation with the right mindset, "Be prepared for flexibility. I never dreamed of traveling to Alaska but the opportunity presented itself and we just wanted to cruise. Policies and itineraries change - you can't expect to board a cruise and it will be the same experience that you had pre-pandemic."

To that point, having contingency plans is not a bad idea either, according to Allie, "I think it's important to know your rights and have a plan in place when there's a change in travel plans, such as cancellations, testing positive onboard or beforehand, changing itineraries, refund vs FCC, etc."

Read moreWhy you need to be flexible if you want to go on a cruise right now

10. Do online check-in as early as possible

Royal Caribbean looking at major expansion in Miami | Royal Caribbean Blog

Want to get your vacation started as soon as possible? Then get a check-in time as soon as you can.

Jenna shared she always tries to check in for her cruise as early as possible to get an early boarding time.

Read more22 Do's and Don'ts for your Royal Caribbean cruise in 2022

'It was a pleasure being here for the quarantine': What it's like to be on a cruise ship quarantining crew members

21 Jan 2022
Chantal McPhee

With the growing number of Omicron cases throughout the world, so too have cases increased on cruise ships across the industry.  

In an effort to improve the care of those crew members completing quarantine, Royal Caribbean has designated the Serenade of the Seas as a hospital ship for those who have tested positive for covid-19.

What's it like onboard? News stories have sensationalized the poor conditions onboard cruise ships, however, this does not seem to be the case currently.

Martina, a Royal Caribbean crew member onboard the Serenade of the Seas has provided a glimpse into her day to day experience, showing us what it is really like to live and work on a quarantine ship.

Onboard the Serenade of the Seas

Recording her experience during a week of sailing, crew member, Martina, who is from Argentina, gives her opinions and interviews crew members as the Serenade of the Seas sails from its current homeport of Tampa to Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.

The ship takes on fuel, food and mail in Tampa before it voyages out to pick up and transfer crew members. Serenade of the Seas takes on infected crew members who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are largely asymptomatic.

Once the crew completes their 10 day isolation period, they can leave. Some stay the night in a hotel before going back to a ship or others take an early vacation prior to their next assignment. 

Why is a quarantine ship necessary?

Talking about the transformation of Serenade of the Seas from a ship for leisure travel to caring for crew members, Martina explains the importance of their mandate, “to relieve the pressure on the amount of Covid Cases around the fleet”.

She also notes that there are a number of challenges in caring for quarantining crew along with cruise passengers. Onboard the hospital ship they get the care they need from medical staff and guest services, along with good food.

Normally crew live in compact quarters on cruise ships, so this gives them the opportunity to spread out, along with separating them from the healthy crew members.

Quarantine conditions

Photo by The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina

Martina sat down with 4 crew members from the Adventure of the Seas who had finished their isolation period and were now enjoying a couple of days off before returning to work.

She prefaced the interview by acknowledging that on some occasions, quarantine conditions could have been improved and it was tough managing crew and passengers on an operational ship.

The process on Serenade of the Seas now seems to be running more smoothly, based on feedback.

Crew feedback

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Ensenada | Royal Caribbean Blog

During the informal discussion, the crew members had high praise for their treatment onboard the ship, adding that the food was “amazing”.

On a ship with no passengers, they have more cabins and access to more spacious rooms, including some with balconies. The staff chime in saying it was great to get fresh air, a significant improvement from windowless cabins, and they did not have to share rooms. One lucky crew member was quite pleased to have received a junior balcony cabin.

There was also more staff/resources to take care of them since there were no guests onboard. Frequent check-ins from guest services and the medical personnel made them feel well cared for.

Impact on crew positions

Royal Caribbean moving Covid positive crew to Serenade of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Many have speculated as to the impact on crew jobs, due to the Serenade’s reassignment.

Martina spent some time explaining how the conversion to a quarantine ship has affected the crew since they were no longer serving guests. “Going home doesn't meet losing your job," she said.

The Serenade of the Seas was scheduled to go into to dry-dock for refurbishment in a couple of months.  So, for some, they were given the opportunity to take an early vacation.

For those with more time left on their contracts, they were given the option to reassign to other ships.

Progress to date

U.S ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members | Royal Caribbean Blog

Although there have been some issues in the past, Martina says that “we need to celebrate when the right decisions are made". And that the strategy of having a separate quarantine ship has improved the overall conditions for staff.

Although the media portrays these ships negatively, most of the crew Martina spoke with were asymptomatic and just needed to wait out their quarantine time. Being on the  Serenade of the Seas made that process much easier and more comfortable.

Time on the ship also provides the opportunity to provide booster shots to crew members for enhanced immunity. Royal Caribbean already requires staff to be fully vaccinated.

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