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Royal Caribbean updates: Starlink on more ships, construction photos & more

In:
14 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Ready to catch up on all of this week's Royal Caribbean news?

Between all the major headlines, Royal Caribbean is busy with a variety of changes and the goal of this website is to keep everyone up to date with what's happening in all aspects of the cruise line.

We combed the internet to share with you all the latest news from this week.

With a fleet of 26 ships, there are always going to be things happening and in an effort to keep everyone up to date, here's a quick run through of the latest news from this week.

Starlink added to two more ships

Starlink receiver

It looks like two more Royal Caribbean cruise ships have gotten their onboard wifi upgraded to Starlink.

Based on reader reports, Starlink appears to be working on Liberty of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Steve Ritter shared photos of the Starlink receivers onboard, and verified that the ship is now offering the internet service as of a few days ago.

Starlink installed on Liberty of the Seas
Starlink receiver

Similarly, Jason Percival shared that Enchantment of the Seas now has Starlink active.

Starlink internet speed test

This means at least 4 ships now have Starlink active on them:

  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has not provided any timeline of when each ship will get it. They've only said the entire fleet will have it by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

For now, we're reliant on reader reports for confirmation of the switchover.

In case you're wondering, there has not been any update on if the cost of ship internet will change or not. For now, ships with Starlink are still offering the service at the same prices as the older technology.

Royal Caribbean wins Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award

Royal Caribbean won an award in the latest Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

In the "Mega Ships (more than 4,000 passengers)" category, Royal Caribbean edged out MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line for the top honor.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared the news on his Facebook page, "We are so proud to be recognized for the amazing vacations our ships deliver ― they are crafted with all of our guests in mind!"

Galveston construction photo update

Photo by Abe Hughes

Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal is just 26 days from opening, and we have an on-the-ground photo update to share.

Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Director (and now working in their sales department) Abe Hughes shared photos he took of the new terminal on a recent visit.

Photo by Abe Hughes

The $125 million terminal will be the world's first zero-energy cruise terminal.

Icon of the Seas construction photo

Icon of the Seas construction photo from October 2022

Speaking of construction updates, here's a close up photo from a new venue on the Icon of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, tweeted a photo of the ship that shows the front of the ship, with some kind of a venue present.

Mr. Weir's photo seems to point to it being related to entertainment, since the head of the cruise line's entertainment division posted it with the word, "Hmmmm" in the tweet.

New Allure of the Seas walkthrough video tour

Not necessarily news, but you might be interested to watch our new full walkthrough tour of Allure of the Seas.

Filmed last month, this video tour will show off the entire ship so you can be prepared for it when you board.  Or you can use it as an excuse for a virtual cruise escape!

Things you'll notice when cruising on an older cruise ship

In:
14 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

I think there's a lot of good reasons to sail on Royal Caribbean's older cruise ships, but there are at least a few nuances that you'll quickly notice if you're used to a newer ships.

Solarium on Serenade of the Seas

Older cruise ships is a relative term, as all ships age. Depending on your definition, this could include ships that are 5, 10, or 20 years old.  

Regardless of a ship's age, Royal Caribbean does a good job of maintaining its fleet with regular updates and even upgrades to some vessels. 

Read moreWhat was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment

Some of the best reasons to go on an older cruise ship is to take advantage of the lower prices because older ships tend to command a lower price than newer ones. Some of the best values in cruising can be found on a Radiance, Vision, or Voyager Class cruise ship. 

In addition, older ships tend to be smaller (relatively speaking), and that allows them to get to less-frequently visited ports, especially in Europe.

While the core experience is very much the same across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, you're going to pick up on a few differences on older ships. These aren't bad things in this list, nor do they mean you shouldn't book an older ship.  This is simply a way to point some differences since new cruisers often are curious about what's different between the ships.

Before you step aboard, here are the biggest changes you'll notice about Royal Caribbean's older cruise ships.

Cabin aesthetics

If you've been on a newer cruise ship and then go on an older ship, the cabin is one of the first places you'll become aware of a ship's age.

Just like how a house built 20 years ago probably has a different look and feel than a house built today, cruise ship cabins on older ships will not have the same modern style as a ship like Wonder of the Seas.

Certainly the wall color, art work, and bed skirts stand out on the older generation of cruise ships.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Starting with the Quantum Class ships and Harmony of the Seas within the Oasis Class, Royal Caribbean adopted a more modern look to its cabin design.

Another major difference with an older ship is the lack of outlets.

USB plugs in cabin

Older ships tend to have a couple of outlets at the most to use, whereas new ships have many outlets and even USB plugs you can use in your cabin.

Regardless of which ship you sail on, it's a good idea to pick up a cruise ship outlet expander to ensure you have plenty of outlets.

Old TV models

Whether in your cabin or around the ship, the televisions around the ship will reinforce a ship's age.

Just like when you visit your parents' house, televisions with a wide bezel are something you'll instantly recognize as an older look.

Don't worry, there are no cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV's left on ships, but flat panel televisions have come a long way in their feel.

A few Royal Caribbean cruise ships still don't have pay-per-view or any kind of interactivity within their cabin televisions. This may not matter much since most passengers are not staying in their cabin to watch a movie.

Not only do the newer ships have more channels and movies to watch, but you can review onboard charges via the television and even order room service.

On the oldest ships, you're also going to quickly notice the shower curtains that are there instead of the hard plastic enclosure.

Fewer specialty restaurants

It wasn't too long ago that a cruise ship with two specialty restaurants was pretty much the norm.  Today, a ship with only two specialty restaurants can be eye-opening.

Royal Caribbean upgraded many of its older ships over the last decade to add more specialty dining. The Radiance, Voyager, and Freedom Class ships all had new specialty dining venues added during refurbishments.

Of course, the brand new Oasis and Quantum Class ships will still have many more specialty dining options.

If you sail on a Vision Class ship, you can expect the fewest specialty dining choices. Enchantment of the Seas only has Chops Grill and Chef's Table for specialty dining choices.

Fewer app features

The Royal Caribbean app is now a must-use part of the cruise experience, but you'll have less icons to click on older ships.

On the newest ships in the fleet, the app can do things like being able to open your stateroom door, augmented reality experiences, and even open your cabin curtains.

To be fair, even a few Oasis Class ships don't have all these features yet, but you'll definitely not find these options in the older ships.

The good news is the core feature set across the entire fleet encompasses exactly the sort of things you'll want, so you'll be able to do online check-in, manage your onboard spending, and view activities.

No Broadway shows

Theater on Vision of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has made a name for itself by offering Broadway shows on some ships, but don't expect to find them on older vessels.

With the exception of Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, the Broadway shows are relegated to the Oasis and Quantum Class ships.

Of course, there will still be evening shows on older ships. These shows include plenty of dancing, singing, and music, but lack a coherent plot across the entire show.

Theater on Grandeur of the Seas

Another thing you may notice in these shows is the music selection is a reflection of the time the ship launched.  Some of the newer acts play up music that was new and popular at the time, but is now considered a classic hit.

The casts in these shows are just as talented as the Broadway casts, and they are fun to see.

No Royal Promenade

Centrum from Rhapsody of the Seas

If you sail on a Radiance or Vision Class cruise ship, you won't have a Royal Promenade.

Instead, there is a Centrum, which is a large, open area within the ship. A set of elevators runs up the Centrum, and shops, bars, cafe, and more.

You'll find activities throughout the day at the base of the Centrum, such as live music, demonstrations, and even game shows.

If you want to shop, you'll simply need to walk off the Centrum to the shopping district, which is a hallway of ship stores you can browse.

Larger Schooner Bar

Schooner Bar on Vision of the Seas

The newer the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the smaller the Schooner Bar footprint has gotten.

On the Vision Class, the Schooner Bar is massive with a much more pronounced nautical theme.

You'll still get a fairly good sized Schooner Bar on the Voyager and Freedom Class ships, but the size is significantly smaller.  The Oasis Class Schooner Bar feels much smaller than the rest of the fleet. 

Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas

There's also no ocean views from the Schooner Bar on Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ships.

If you sail on an older ship, you'll want to take advantage of these larger bars for the great seating and ocean views.

Print photo wall

Souvenir photos taken by the ship's photographers have largely gone digital, but the older ships still print out copies for you to browse.

You'll find in the photo gallery area a wall of printed photos that you need to comb over in order to find your photos. The crew categorize photos by the day they were taken and the location.

On newer ships, you just scan your SeaPass card and all your photos are displayed on the screen, allowing you to print only the photos you want to purchase.

Smaller ship size

Jewel of the Seas in Boston

This may be the most obvious thing you'll notice, but the ship will likely be smaller on older ships.

As Royal Caribbean has built new ships over the years, they have steadily built bigger and bigger cruise ships.

Grandeur of the Seas hallway

The good thing about a smaller ship is your "commute time" from one end of the ship to the other is noticeably less. This means if you forget something in your cabin, getting back and forth will feel less like a trek on a small ship.

Abandoned concepts

Enchanted Lounge

Mexican restaurants, self-leveling pool tables, and Brazilian steakhouse are all examples of things Royal Caribbean put on its ships and then gave up on in favor of something else.

You may run across a specialty restaurant concept that is only on a handful of ships, such as Sabor or Samba Grill.

The Radiance Class have these lounges with a safari or jungle theme to them that also include bars that rarely actually open.

There are also bars that don't exist on newer ships, such as the Champagne Bar or R-Bar. The bar in the Viking Crown Lounge on Radiance Class ships actually spins slowly at night.

Royal Caribbean is ready to open the world's first renewable energy cruise terminal

In:
13 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

A new standard for environmental stewardship has been set by Royal Caribbean.

Galveston cruise terminal

Photo by Alex Roberson

Next month, Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal will open in Galveston, Texas and when it does, it will set change the norm for all other terminals around the world.

The cruise line says by using solar panels, it will be able to generate 100% of its needed energy. This makes the terminal the first LEED Zero Energy facility in the world, and for exclusive use by Royal Caribbean International cruise ships.

The new cruise terminal will be the home of Allure of the Seas when she begins offering cruises in November 2022.

Galveston cruise terminal construction

The $125 million, 161,334-square-foot Galveston Cruise Terminal will be able to accommodate up to 630,000 guests per year. 

The opening of the terminal will mark the first time Galveston welcomes Royal Caribbean International’s signature Oasis Class, the world’s largest cruise ships, with the arrival of Allure of the Seas and the first time the company is bringing its frictionless arrival and departure process to Texas.

Sustainable cruise terminal

Galveston terminal infographic

When you think of a cruise terminal, you think about almost any large building that can accommodate a lot of people in that they are on the power grid. In fact, I bet you don't think about it because you just assume it's like any other building.

In building this new cruise terminal, Royal Caribbean Group approached design strategies that aligned with its wholistic environmental goals, its focus to advance the development of sustainable infrastructure as well as its decarbonization strategy.

Last year, Royal Caribbean Group announced it wanted to get to net zero emissions by 2050 under a program it calls, "Destination Net Zero".

Solar panels on Galveston terminal

The new cruise terminal in Galveston will be the first in Texas to achieve LEED Gold certification, an industry-leading certification expected to be received within the first two quarters of 2023.

Here's how Royal Caribbean Group reached this goal with the Galveston terminal:

  • Improved Sustainability in Construction
    • The project prioritized using materials that produce less carbon based on energy used and the transportation process.
    • During construction, the team has diverted 75% of its waste from landfill.
    • Minimized interior sources of pollution through the installation of materials with low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content, and enhanced air filtration media, focusing on occupant thermal comfort and controllability.
  • Renewable Energy and Carbon Reduction
    • The terminal will rely on 30,000 square feet of on-site photovoltaic solar panels, enabling the port’s self-sufficient energy usage. Any remaining energy not used by the terminal will be sent to the local power grid.
    • Carbon emissions are being offset through the purchase of carbon credits.
  • Regional and Global Environmental Benefits
    • Materials and construction selection contribute to the reduction of “heat island effect” in the Galveston area, a region that experiences higher temperatures than outlying areas due to an over-stimulated energy grid.
    • Implement strategies to reduce exterior lighting pollution, which may help minimize negative effects to the night-time sky and the surrounding community.
  • Community Connectivity
    • By offering bicycle facilities and electric charging stations, the project promotes alternative means of transportation for guests and staff from the surrounding community, reducing transportation-related carbon emissions.
    • As the Port of Galveston increases its Electric Vehicles (EV) charging stations, Royal Caribbean International’s terminal, T10, will supply infrastructure for the future installation of eight EV charging stations within its parking lot.
Galveston cruise terminal construction

Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty celebrated this achievement, "We are focused on innovating across all aspects of our company, especially in our work to advance sustainability in the communities we visit."

"We deeply value both the oceans we sail and the communities we visit and operate in, and the modern design and development features at our terminal in Galveston will work in service of both."

The Galveston terminal is the fourth LEED certified facility, but first to be Gold certified.

Terminal A in PortMiami

Other projects getting LEED certified include:

  • Terminal A at PortMiami
  • The Springfield, Oregon campus
  • The Innovation Lab at Royal Caribbean Group’s corporate headquarters in Miami

15 most commonly asked cruise questions we've been asked in 2022

In:
13 Oct 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise can bring up endless questions. Which ship should I book? Should I buy a drink package? Which itinerary is best for my family?

Harmony of the Seas front part

While planning a cruise is almost as fun as the cruise itself, it can be challenging to figure out the right answers to these questions, especially for first time cruisers.

Here at Royal Caribbean Blog, we aim to make the cruise planning process as seamless as possible by providing our best tips & tricks for planning a cruise vacation.

One way we do this is through a live broadcast every Monday on the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel. During this broadcast, our viewers can ask any questions they have about all things Royal Caribbean.

While we always receive unique questions each week, there are many questions we are asked time and time again. Here are the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about Royal Caribbean cruises this year.

What should I do in Cozumel, Costa Maya, Nassau, etc.?

We’ve been asked countless times for our recommendations on the best things to do in popular cruise ports.

Whether visiting Nassau, Falmouth, Ensenada, or Rome, it’s important to do a little research ahead of your visit to ensure you find the best shore excursion to fit your interests.

We have several helpful guides highlighting ideas of what to do in popular cruise ports:

These guides should help you have a better understanding of what is offered in popular cruise ports.

Is the Coco Beach Club worth it?

Infinity pool

The Coco Beach Club is Royal Caribbean’s exclusive enclave at Perfect Day at CocoCay. It features a private infinity pool, beach access, lunch at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, and comfy seating areas. There are also two types of private cabanas to reserve at the beach club, including the highly coveted over-the-water cabanas.

Related: Coco Beach Club: cost, tips & review

The price of the Coco Beach Club can vary by sailing, but it has recently been priced around $160.99 per person.

What is “worth it” or not is highly subjective. Some guests may have no interest in spending $160.99 per person when there are free activities elsewhere on CocoCay. Others, however, may value the exclusivity of the Coco Beach Club and decide it’s worth it to treat themselves to a more luxurious day.

Consider your travel style and budget before reserving a day pass at the Coco Beach Club. What is “worth it” to one guest may not be worth it to another.

Which ship is best when cruising with kids?

Wonder of the Seas in Labadee

A Royal Caribbean cruise makes for an excellent family vacation. It will be difficult for kids to get bored with activities like water slides, arcades, carousels, rock climbing, and kids programming at their fingertips.

We’re often asked which Royal Caribbean cruise ship is best for kids. While all cruises will offer enough to keep kids busy, not all ships are created equally.

We usually recommend sailing on an Oasis, Quantum, or amplified Freedom or Voyager Class ship when cruising with kids. These ships offer the best of the best of Royal Caribbean’s kid-friendly activities, such as the FlowRider, bumper cars, and zip lines.

Bumper cars

Related: Here are the absolute best cruises for families

However, you’ll still find that kids can stay busy on even the smallest Royal Caribbean cruise ships. All ships have Adventure Ocean kids programming, a rock climbing wall, and child-friendly activities offered every day of the cruise. 

Should I upgrade my stateroom with RoyalUp?

Grand Suite on Liberty of the Seas

RoyalUp is Royal Caribbean’s bidding program for cruise ship cabins. It allows passengers to bid on higher category cabins before their cruise. If they win the bid, they’ll be assigned an upgraded stateroom.

Listeners ask us nearly every week on our YouTube live whether or not it’s worth it to upgrade their stateroom with RoyalUp.

More often than not, our answer is the same. If you want to upgrade your cabin, it’s best to contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly. Check how much it would cost outright to upgrade your cabin, and determine if the price is reasonable for your vacation budget.

Related: Royal Caribbean’s RoyalUp guide, tips, and tricks

Aft balcony

The problem with RoyalUp is that cabin upgrades are not guaranteed. If you are 100% certain you would like to upgrade from a balcony to a suite, for example, it’s better to upgrade without an uncertain bid.

That being said, some cruisers enjoy the RoyalUp bidding process. It is possible to score a cabin upgrade for a lower cost than upgrading outside RoyalUp. As long as you understand that you may not win an upgrade, there’s no harm in placing a bid.

What does Royal Caribbean do for holidays?

If you’re cruising on a Royal Caribbean ship during a major holiday, you’ll find that there are many special events offered throughout the cruise.

Cruising during Thanksgiving and Christmas means the ship is decorated with festive decor, from inflatable turkeys and pumpkins to a Christmas tree in the Royal Promenade.

Related: How Royal Caribbean celebrates Christmas and New Years holidays on its cruise ships

Special activities are offered throughout the day, including gingerbread cookie decorating, holiday movie screenings, holiday crafts, and scavenger hunts.

In addition, there are special menus offered in the Main Dining Room for holiday dinners. You’ll find courses like honey baked ham, oven-roasted turkey, and chestnut truffle risotto on the menu.

You’ll also find special events on days like Halloween, New Year’s, and Super Bowl Sunday. Be sure to pack a costume for Halloween, and don’t miss the celebration in the Royal Promenade to ring in the New Year onboard your cruise!

How does the Unlimited Dining Package work?

Hibachi

There always seems to be confusion with the ins and outs of Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Package.

The Unlimited Dining Package is unlimited, meaning you can dine at as many specialty restaurant locations as you’d like onboard. This includes lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Reservations cannot be made in advance with the Unlimited Dining Package. Instead, guests must visit a specialty restaurant on embarkation day and make all dining reservations for the cruise.

Chops top view

You do not have to visit each specialty restaurant individually to make reservations. If you visit Jamie’s Italian to make a reservation, for example, you can make reservations for all other restaurants at the same time.

The only exception to this rule is with Izumi Hibachi. All hibachi reservations must be made by visiting Izumi once onboard. We recommend that you do this as soon as possible, as hibachi tables can fill up quickly.

Related: Royal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Burger at Playmakers

The Unlimited Dining Package covers both cover charge restaurants and à la carte options. Cover charge dining is offered at most venues, including Italian restaurants, Chops Grille, 150 Central Park, Wonderland, and Johnny Rockets. The cover charge is included in the dining package, and you won't have to consider the cost per item on the menu at these venues.

Izumi, Portside BBQ, and Playmakers are à la carte. At Izumi, each guest with a dining package receives a $35 food credit. Portside BBQ and Playmakers offer $20 in food credit per guest.

One exception to the Unlimited Dining Package is at Izumi Hibachi, where an additional $10 surcharge will be added to your bill once onboard.

Related: How to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package

Alaska cruise tips & tricks

Whale watching in Sitka, Alaska

Alaska cruises are some of Royal Caribbean’s most popular itineraries, and we receive countless questions from viewers planning an Alaska cruise.

Whether choosing an Alaska cruise itinerary, picking the best ship for Alaska, or planning which shore excursions to book in each port, there’s a lot to consider.

Luckily, we have plenty of helpful guides for planning the best Alaska cruise:

No matter which ship, itinerary, or time of year you sail to Alaska, you’re guaranteed to see stunning scenery, wildlife, and culture. Both small and big cruise ships sail to Alaska each year, so there’s really something for every type of traveler.

Should I wait until the price goes down on ______ before booking?

Frozen cocktail

Another common question we are asked is if it’s better to purchase a pre-cruise add-on right away or wait to see if the price drops.

Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner is where you’ll purchase cruise add-ons like drink packages, dining packages, shore excursions, and internet packages before a cruise.

Let’s say you visit the Cruise Planner website and see a shore excursion listed for $120 per person. It may be tempting to wait and see if the price lowers to $80-100 per person before booking.

This is never a good idea. Why? You’re always able to cancel a Cruise Planner purchase and rebook later on if you notice a price drop. You can cancel and rebook up to 48 hours before your cruise.

Therefore, if you know you want to purchase a cruise add-on, it’s best to purchase right away so the price doesn’t increase while you’re hoping it will decrease!

Should I wait to book my next cruise at Next Cruise?

Next Cruise is a cruise booking office found on every Royal Caribbean ship. It’s where passengers can book a future cruise while onboard their current cruise–and receive several perks for doing so.

If you book a cruise at Next Cruise, you’ll see deposits as low as $100 per person and receive up to $600 in onboard credit on your future cruise.

These perks can make it tempting to wait to book a future cruise until you’re onboard an upcoming sailing, but this is usually not the best idea.

Explorer of the Seas docked

Let’s say your Caribbean cruise is a month away and you’re waiting to book next summer’s Mediterranean cruise once onboard. In that month, the price of the Mediterranean cruise may increase by several hundred dollars, thus negating any “savings” you would receive by booking the cruise onboard.

Therefore, it’s best to book a cruise today instead of waiting weeks or months to book it at Next Cruise. If you’re onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, however, and suddenly get the urge to book a future cruise, there’s no harm in booking the cruise at Next Cruise.

Do both people in the room have to get the Deluxe Beverage Package?

Vue Bar

Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package offers unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. However, Royal Caribbean states the following about the Deluxe Beverage Package policy:

The Deluxe Beverage Package policy requires all guests wishing to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package to do so for ALL guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom.

Related: Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons

This policy creates a problem for some guests when one person in the stateroom wishes to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package but the other doesn’t consume alcohol.

In this scenario, call Royal Caribbean at 1-800-398-9819 to ask for an exemption on the second guest. In most cases, you will be required to purchase a Refreshment Package (non-alcoholic package) for that guest.

Should I be worried about hurricane season?

Hurricane aerial view

You’ve come across an amazing cruise deal, but you’re hesitant to book. Why? The itinerary sails right in the middle of hurricane season!

Many of those new to cruising are concerned about sailing during hurricane season. After all, the idea of sailing through a hurricane does not sound like the best way to spend vacation.

However, it’s important to dispel the myths regarding cruising during hurricane season.

Cruise ship in a storm

Royal Caribbean will not sail a cruise ship directly into the eye of a hurricane. Itinerary changes, postponed embarkation, or delayed disembarkation may be necessary in order to keep all passengers and crew safe.

Related: What it’s like on a cruise ship when there’s a hurricane

More often than not, you won’t run into any hurricanes when cruising during hurricane season. On the off chance that your cruise happens at the same time a hurricane is approaching the Caribbean, it’s important to remain flexible and realize that your itinerary may change.

What should I wear on formal night?

Many newbie cruisers are concerned with packing the right outfit for formal night.

Formal night is typically offered only once on 3, 4, and 5 night cruises, and twice on 6-10 night cruises. It only applies to dinner in the Main Dining Room.

Before you pack a tuxedo and ball gown, it’s important to realize that formal night is not nearly as glamorous as it once was. Many cruisers choose to wear a nice pair of slacks and a polo, a sundress, or a button-up shirt.

For more information on formal night, check out our guide on what to wear on a cruise formal night

Is a suite worth the extra cost?

Royal Suite

Many viewers have asked us if they should book one cruise with a suite or spread the money out and book two or more cruises in a lower category cabin.

Whether a suite is worth the extra cost is subjective. Some passengers love the extra space and perks that come with a suite, but others would prefer booking multiple cruises for the same cost as one cruise in a suite.

Related: Is a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it?

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

If your budget is tight, we recommend booking multiple cruises in a regular category stateroom over just one cruise in a suite. You likely won’t spend much time in your room anyway while onboard, and more days on a cruise ship is always a perk!

However, if budget isn’t an issue and you’re looking to treat yourself, you may find that a suite is worth the extra cost. Priority boarding, extra cabin space, Suite Lounge and Sun Deck access, exclusive dining options, and concierge service can be well worth the extra cost for many cruisers.

Related: Royal Caribbean suites guide & review

What tips do you have for solo cruisers?

Studio cabin on Harmony

Sailing solo on a Royal Caribbean cruise may seem daunting at first glance, but it’s actually a lot more common than you might think.

We often receive questions from viewers asking about our advice for planning a solo Royal Caribbean cruise. Here are a few of our best tips:

Consider a studio cabin

A major drawback of cruising solo is paying a single supplement fee for a standard cruise cabin. This means you are charged extra for cruising with just one person in a stateroom. This charge makes up for the lost revenue that a second person would otherwise bring.

However, several Royal Caribbean ships offer solo staterooms that do not come with a single supplement fee. These staterooms are smaller than a standard cruise cabin but can easily lead to large savings on cruise fare.

Participate in group activities

Cruising solo does not mean you have to spend the whole cruise alone. Consider attending onboard activities like drink seminars, wine tastings, and sports tournaments to get to know your fellow passengers.

Related: What I learned from my first solo cruise

Join Facebook groups for your sailings

Prior to your cruise, consider joining a Facebook group for your sailing. Here you can connect with other passengers on your cruise and organize onboard meetups.

For more tips & tricks on cruising solo, check out our guide to solo cruises on Royal Caribbean.

Do I need a passport to cruise?

Planning a cruise but you don’t have a passport? Depending on your sailing, you may not need a passport.

If you’re a U.S. citizen on a cruise beginning and ending at the same port in the U.S., you do not need a passport. Instead, you can provide proof of citizenship via a government-issued birth certificate and laminated government-issued picture ID (such as a driver’s license).

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

While there are some itineraries where passports are not required for U.S. citizens, we still recommend getting a passport before your cruise.

Not having a passport can lead to problems down the line, especially if you encounter any emergencies where you must fly back to the U.S. from a foreign country. Without a passport, you will need to travel to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in a foreign country and apply for a temporary visa to re-enter the United States.

This process is not quick and can be a huge headache. Therefore, we always recommend having a passport before your cruise.

2022 Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons

In:
12 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

A Royal Caribbean beverage package offers the choice to enjoy an unlimited amount of drinks for a fixed daily price. This post offers tips for saving money with these drink packages and our reviews of the various plans.  

We will get to what each version of Royal Caribbean's Beverage Packages include and whether the Royal Caribbean Drink Package is worth the money below.  Our tips and opinions are based on our first-hand experiences with the drink packages, and the current versions for this year.  

Before we get to the dollars and cents, let us cover some basics. 

What is a Royal Caribbean drink package?

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Royal Caribbean's drink packages are a fixed daily cost plan offered on all Royal Caribbean ships so guests can budget their beverage costs in advance and (potentially) save money.  The various plans provide guests with unlimited drinks that can be used at any bar or restaurant on Royal Caribbean ships (and private destinations).  

Bamboo Bar with people drinking

The drink package benefits are available on the guest's SeaPass card, which any waiter or bartender can verify they have the package.

Royal Caribbean guests wishing to purchase a drink package can do so either prior to their cruise via the Cruise Planner web site or once onboard their ship. Once purchased, you must pay for the package for the duration of your cruise.  If purchased during your cruise, guests will pay for the remaining nights of their cruise.

Let’s get more into the nitty-gritty of the 2022 Royal Caribbean drink package…

Coco Loco drinks

The drink packages can be redeemed at pretty much any restaurant or bar on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship or private destination.  There are only two places a drink package cannot be used: room service and stateroom mini-bars.

Frequent users of Royal Caribbean's drink packages become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the packages, but with some advance planning, first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers can also make the most of the packages.

From time to time, Royal Caribbean may offer a drink package discount. These discounts are offered selectively and can vary in terms of how much the discount is and for which sailings they are eligible.  Nearly all discounts we have seen are offered prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner web site.

Bamboo Lounge drink

Will these sales save you money? These discounts have the potential to add to the potential value a guest can get from a drink package, but remember any discount does not necessarily make the value proposition a drink package offers a "slam dunk" deal.

That is probably enough background on Royal Caribbean's drink packages.  You likely still have some more questions, and we will dig into them below and get them answered.  For a simple system, it can be surprisingly complex, do not feel bad if it takes some reading before you fully understand how the drink package works and whether it is a good for for your party.

Will a drink package save me money?

Drink package table

Before even booking a drink package, you should determine roughly how many drinks per day you think you can and will drink over the course of your cruise.  For some folks, 5-6 drinks per day is easy, while others may think that is a lot every day of a cruise.

There's no question that a Royal Caribbean drink package can save you money if you can drink enough to make it worthwhile. Some people don't care so much about "breaking even" on their purchase, because they just like the fact they pay one price and all their beers, cocktails and other beverages are included.

It really boils down to your habits on a cruise and how much you think you might drink. 

2022 Royal Caribbean Beverage Package Overview

Royal Caribbean offers a few drink packages to consider.  Each package provides guests with an unlimited allotment of servings of the specific beverages their package includes.

None of the packages include mini bar items, Evian water, canned sodas, bottled juice and souvenir glassware, specialty beers as listed on bar menus, or super premium category beverages.

Refreshment Package

Royal Caribbean Refreshment Package

This drink package pretty much includes all beverages onboard that do not contain any booze.  It is popular with older children and those that like having juices, coffee and teas.

For each guests that purchases this package, it includes

  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Bottled still and sparking water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Mocktails
  • Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
  • Coca-Cola Souvenir Cup included

The price per night of the Refreshment Package is $29.00 per guest (excluding gratuity).

Classic Soda Package

Coke cup

The Classic Soda package is what was once called by many guests, "the soda card".  It is unlimited soda and quite popular with kids.  

For each guests that purchases this package, it incudes

  • Fountain Soda and refills in any venue
  • Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
  • Coca-Cola Souvenir Cup included

The price per night of the Classic Soda Package is $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity).

 

Deluxe Beverage Package

Royal Caribbean Drink Package Information and Planning Tips | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean offers just one unlimited alcohol package, the Deluxe Beverage package.

It offers "the best of both worlds," with access to nearly the entire stock of beverages with or without liquor. Enjoy virtually unlimited combinations on everything from cocktails with top-shelf spirits to premium teas and every beverage in between.

For each guests that purchases this package, it includes

  • Cocktails, spirits, liqueurs
  • Beer
  • Wine (by the glass)
  • Mocktails
  • Premium coffees & teas
  • Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
  • Coca-Cola souvenir cup included
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Fresh squeezed juices
  • 40% discount on wines under $100. Wines above $100 will receive a 20% discount.

The Deluxe Beverage Package includes drinks with liquor up to $14 in value.  Drinks that are served in a souvenir cup/glass/mug and/or drinks served inside fruit (i.e. pineapples) are not included with the drink package, however a portion of the drink price is subsidized by the beverage package.

The best reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package on your cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

The price per night of the Deluxe Beverage package varies from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing. Royal Caribbean seems to employ a variable pricing model that considers time of year, ship class and other factors in offering the price of the drink package.

Due to the varying prices across the fleet, we hesitate to publish any kind of pricing here. If purchased prior to your cruise on the Cruise Planner site, the Deluxe Beverage package often costs between $48 - $79 per guest, per night (excluding gratuity). The price will be higher if purchased onboard, usually between $63 - $89.00  per guest, per night.

One significant recent change to the Deluxe Beverage package is all Royal Caribbean passengers 21 years of age and older (18 years in Australia and the U.K) are  required to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package if at least one other person in their cabin has one.

If the other adult(s) in the same stateroom do not wish to purchase a Deluxe Beverage Package, you can call Royal Caribbean and ask for an exemption.  Usually, Royal Caribbean will allow the other adult(s) to purchase a less-expensive drink package, such as the Refreshment Package.

Coffee Card

If all you want are lattes, espresso, or something stronger than regular coffee, then perhaps Royal Caribbean's Café Select Coffee Card is the right choice for you.

Unlike the other drink packages, the coffee card is not unlimited.  Instead, you get a physical card that will be punched every time you use the card.  Each card is good for 15 punches.

For every brewed coffee you order, the barista will punch a hole in the card to note how many of the drinks you've ordered.

Where to eat breakfast on Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

You can use the coffee card at Royal Caribbean coffee locations, such as Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-tudes. It does not work at freestanding Starbucks kiosks.

Royal Caribbean usually prices the coffee card at $31 per card.

Another difference from the other drink packages is you are allowed to share the coffee card benefits with another guest.

Is there a limit on Royal Caribbean drink packages?

There is no limit on a Royal Caribbean drink package in terms of how many drinks a guest may consume in a day or throughout the cruise.

The only limit on a drink package is that you may only order one drink per order, per drink package.

If multiple people are ordering a drink with a drink package, the bartender or waiter may take each guests' SeaPass card to place the order.

There are a few other drink package rules that you should be aware of as well.

Is a Royal Caribbean Drink Package Worth It? - Pros and Cons

We have used Royal Caribbean's drink packages on a number of occasions and we have also paid out of pocket for our drinks on even more cruises.  The drink package has an equal number of fans and critics.  We tend to fall somewhere in the middle, disagreeing with both extremes. We think the drink package has its pros and its cons, so let us take a look at some of them!

Savings - You can save money with a drink package (versus paying for each drink a la carte), but you have to be a certain kind of drinker and not waste the daily package benefits.  If you are someone that enjoys having many drinks every day, it can definitely save you money with a Royal Caribbean drink package.  This requires anyone that buys the package to be willing and able to enjoy a good half-dozen drinks every day of their cruise.  

There is no question a drink package has an excellent value proposition associated with it, but you need to be able to drink enough to "break even" on the package versus buying the drinks on your own.  If you knew you would not be drinking enough every day of your cruise to break even, why would you over pay for a package?

With that said, prices for Royal Caribbean drinks have been on the rise over the last few years. Cocktails are regularly priced at around $10-13 per drink, which means bar tabs can quickly get expensive. And with so many tantalizing choices on each bar menu, the temptation to grab a drink is always present.

The drink package benefits will save the most money for folks that drink a lot during the day and spread their drinking out throughout the course of their day and night.  

Is the drink package worth it on Royal Caribbean? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Amount of Drinks - One common regret we hear about drink packages is a phenomenon known as "drink fatigue," where guests drink more than they really would ordinarily order and they end up ordering drinks for the sake of ordering drinks.  When using a drink package, I always struggle with the question of, "Am I ordering a drink because I want one or because I have a drink package?"  There have been plenty of times with a drink package, I know I am ordering a drink because I have the package and the show, activity or event I am attending offers drinks, so why not get a drink.

If you are on a short cruise and are looking to have a good time, the drink package can make a lot more sense, since there are less days to use the package benefits.  Likewise, shorter cruises have a tendency to have more of a party atmosphere than longer cruises.  

It is important to keep in mind what your goal is when ordering a drink package.  Are you going to be spending much of your time by the pool or are you someone that will be doing other activities where drinking may not always be an option.  

Convenience - Many guests swear by the convenience of Royal Caribbean's drink packages.  It makes enjoying drinks simple, with no-fuss involved.  There is no worrying about how much the drink costs and if you should get it or something cheaper.  Heck, there is not even the concern about if you can afford to get a drink or not.  

It is a fair point and among the most commonly cited reasons people love the drink packages.  We love the convenience of the drink package too, especially to have the freedom of trying new drinks without fear of ordering something we do not like and being "stuck" with it.  Or relegating ourselves to drink the same old drinks because we know we like them.

The thing is, the number one reason to buy a drink package is to save money, otherwise why would it exist.  Royal Caribbean would not roll out something that offers no savings and expect people to pay for it, right?  With that in mind, while convenience is important, we believe the cost savings still supersedes whatever convenience the drink package offers.

How much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Budgeting - This is probably the most contentious point.  In addition to being convenient, a lot of its fans advocate the unlimited drink packages help them stay on a budget and avoid thinking about money on a vacation.

On the surface, this makes sense because you can buy a drink package before your cruise and break up the cost of the cruise, or opt to purchase it onboard and cap your drinking spending.  In either scenario, it goes to making your total cost more predictable.  It reminds us of cell phone plans and why so many people prefer unlimited data plans rather than fixed-data plans.  Simpler to have one cost that covers everything, than worry about "going over."

There is a point to be made about pre-purchasing a drink package months before your cruise, paying it off then and then later going on your cruise and not dealing with a bill at the end of your cruise that makes you cringe (or worse).  It does not mean you will actually save any money, as you still need to drink enough each day of your cruise to make a drink package worthwhile.  Otherwise, you overpaid earlier than usual.

The whole notion of not having to worry about receipts, gratuity or how much a drink costs holds less water for us.  Sure, it is nice to have, but far from essential.  If someone told me I could save more money by doing some simple math every day, you bet I would bring my calculator onboard.  There are a lot of fun things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and the more money I can save, the more fun stuff I can afford.

Royal Caribbean revamps its unlimited drink package offerings | Royal Caribbean Blog

Sticker Shock - Even if you are not on a tight budget, drink prices on a Royal Caribbean cruise can be somewhat shocking. There might be the most amazing drink on the menu, but you cannot bring yourself to spend $14 (or more) on it because that sounds too expensive for just one drink.

It is debatable how much any drink should cost.  Go to a concert or theme park, and you will find prices for drinks that make Royal Caribbean's pricing strategy look pedestrian.  

On the other hand, your local restaurants may serve up drinks for a fraction of the cost of what you will find at Boleros. Having the drink package does help ease your mind about paying $14 for that cucumber martini.

Everything you need to know about the Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

It is important to note that you are not always forced into paying full prices for drinks.  Every day there will be a "drink of the day," where one drink is discounted about 20%. 

You can usually find other drink specials throughout your cruise.  In addition, guests that are members of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society are eligible to receive discounted and complimentary drinks during the cruise.  Diamond and above members get complimentary drinks every evening, which can be a big money saver.  

Moreover, guests are allowed to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise.  All of this contributes to bringing down the cost of drinks on a cruise, especially if you forgo a drink package and pay a la carte for your drinks.

Drink Package Frequently Asked Questions

How to buy a Royal Caribbean drink package?

What to think about before buying a Royal Caribbean drink package | Royal Caribbean Blog

The easiest way is to purchase it via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  

You can buy the drink package at any time up to 48 hours before your ship sails.  Buying a drink package in advance is the best strategy to save money, because it will cost more onboard the ship.

Alternatively, guests from the U.S. or Canada can buy the drink package by calling (800) 398-9819.

Read moreHow to purchase Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages

Does a Royal Caribbean drink package include gratuity?

Yes.

When you buy any drink package, you will see a line item charge for a "service charge."  This includes the gratuities for any beverages you order.

How to cancel a Royal Caribbean drink package?

Log into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner for your sailing, and then click on your initials at the top right corner.

Then click Order History. Find your drink package and click View Details, followed by Cancel.

Where can I use my drink package?

Any bar, restaurant, or lounge will accept your drink package benefits. This includes the Windjammer, main dining room, and specialty restaurants.

The drink packages also work at Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee.

The only places you cannot use your drink package are with room service, minibar or Starbucks.

Conclusion

Overall, whether a Royal Caribbean beverage package is right for you is a highly personal decision, based on a lot of variables.  There is no flat "yes" or "no" answer to determining if a drink package makes sense for everyone, but hopefully the considerations in this post can help with your decision.  

Before purchasing any drink package, be sure to do your homework and do the math of how much you have to drink, every day of your cruise for it to make sense.

First-time cruisers will hopefully find this post as a good jumping off point for further reading on the drink packages.  The drink packages can make sense for some people and others no sense at all.  It is foolish to assume any drink package is a good or bad value without first considering how you cruise.

How to make the drink packages on Royal Caribbean work for you | Royal Caribbean Blog

Keep in mind that you can always purchase a drink package even after your cruise begins, if you find yourself drinking more than you thought.  Royal Caribbean advertises that its drink packages can be purchased at any point in a cruise, provided there are at least four days left in the cruise.

The key is to know how you like to cruise and which pros and cons of the drink package are more important to you.  At worst, you are going to overpay for a drink package or for drinks on your own.  In either case, you will still likely have a great vacation experience.

Your thoughts

What is your experience with Royal Caribbean's beverage package? Thinking about using it? I would love to hear your thoughts about a Royal Caribbean beverage package, and how it works (or does not work) for you, in the comments! If you have questions, ask them there, too.

The ultimate kids cruise packing list

In:
12 Oct 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Packing for kids is a lot like any cruise packing list, but any parent will tell you that kids come with their own set of requirements and nuances you don't get when packing for just adults.

Kids on Odyssey of the Seas

There are also some child specific items that you should bring, especially if you are traveling with the youngest of sailors.

We’ve put together the ultimate kids packing list to help make your pre-cruise packing effortless and get you on your way to cruising.

Here’s what to make sure you pack for your next family cruise vacation.

Getting to your cruise  

Traveling with kids, especially younger ones, does call for additional consideration, even before you get on the ship. Whether you are flying or driving straight to the port, there are a few major items that you should pack:  

  • Stoller – A stroller is a must have for young kids; however, you may not want to bring your large double stroller from home, as this can be tricky to navigate in the narrow hallways of a cruise ship or some port areas. Many people go for a cheaper umbrella stroller, something light and easy to carry and maneuver.
  • Car Seat – While you don’t need one on the ship, some people like to bring theirs for excursions, especially not knowing what is available in port and the likelihood of taxis and buses having them. 
  • Cruise paperwork – Like adults, kids need identification for their cruise, so don’t forget their set sail passes along with required ID, vaccine, or covid-testing requirements where needed. 

Travel requirements

Passport

Many parents have questions about what is acceptable identification for kids. For US citizens under 16, Royal Caribbean accepts either an original, notarized or certified copy of a birth certificate. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by DOS, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are also acceptable. The cruise line will not accept baptismal papers or hospital certificates of birth as a form of identification. 

Do your research, though, as some cruises require passports, such as those leaving for Alaska from Canada. In this case, a birth certificate won’t do.

Although most cruises no longer require pre-cruise Covid-19 testing, there are a few itineraries, such as Bermuda, Australia and transatlantic/ transpacific sailings, that still require them. It is best to consult the Royal Caribbean website for your specific sailing to see what exactly you need. 

Carry-on items

Once you are on the ship, with all the paperwork out of the way, you should have everything you need until your luggage arrives at your cabin. As with adults, kids need to pack for any activities as well as must haves such as glasses and prescription medication.

Make sure to bring a change of clothes, diapers, and any other immediate needs for your younger kids. A bathing suit, sandals, and a sun hat are all good to have. We can all get a little tired, especially if you travel far, so remember to add anything your kids may like such as their favorite stuffed animal or baby bottles, to help soothe an unhappy traveler.

It can be fun for kids to have their own backpacks to carry a few specialty things, like a toy. Or if they are teens, many want to bring their own phones and tablets. This, along with spending money, should be packed in a carry-on.

Clothes

Pile of belongings

How much to pack depends on the length and type of cruise. There are no self-service laundry facilities onboard but washing, pressing, and dry-cleaning services are offered (prices vary per item). The cruise line also offers wash and fold specials during sailings whereby guests can fill up a bag for the fixed amount of $34.99 per bag.

It is best to plan clothes for the number of days plus a return home outfit. Two outfits per day is a good rule of thumb (day and night) for adults. So you may want to increase this to at least one extra outfit, especially for younger kids.

Be sure to include:

  • Clothes for having fun on the pool deck, such as a bathing suit, sundress, t-shirts and shorts. Tip: Since many kids spend lots of time in the water, it is a good idea to bring extra bathing suits (three at least). No one likes putting a wet bathing suit on.
  • Sandals
  • Jeans and pants
  • Active wear, including running /walking shoes – especially for sports activities
  • Pants and a sweater for chillier spots like the ice rink
  • Don’t forget socks and underwear
  • Pajamas
  • Sun hat/ visor
  • Packing cubes can be helpful in organizing clothes in your suitcase or for your cabin.
Mason Jar entrance

Evening for kids can run the full gamut, depending upon how formal your family wants to be: 

  • Pants, jeans or leggings
  • Nicer top, collared shirts
  • Dresses
  • Dress up shoes
  • Suit and tie 

For cruises with colder itineraries, consider:

  • Shirts and t-shirts for inner layers
  • Warm layers, such as fleece pullovers
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Suitable closed-toe shoes
  • Boots for hiking/walking where needed
  • Gloves, hat and scarf

Baby specific items

Toddler

Traveling with younger kids can definitely add more to your packing list. Beyond the standard clothes suggested, consider including:

  • Diapers – pack plenty of extra ones, including regular and swim
  • Baby and disinfectant wipes
  • Rash cream
  • Extra plastic bags for wet items
  • Light blanket
  • Bottles
  • Baby food and formula
  • Sippy cups

Excursions

Whether it’s a beach day, a bicycle tour, or snorkeling, there are a few things you should probably include for your port days.

Like adults, kids need comfortable, weather appropriate clothing and other items to make the best of their day. Don’t assume you can buy extra diapers when visiting ports.

For general water/ beach outings, consider kid sized/specific items such as : 

  • Mask, goggles and snorkel
  • Water shoes (where needed)
  • Life jackets and flotation devices 
  • Waterproof phone carrier
  • UV swimsuit (for those who prefer)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Collapsible silicone toys are a fantastic option for saving space in lieu of traditional bulky toys

Comfort items/ miscellaneous

Teddy Bear

After a busy day of fun, it is nice to take a break and relax in your cabin. Kids will feel better with some of their favorite comfort creatures from home. Cruise lines do provide pack and plays; just make sure to request them as soon as possible, as they are in limited supply. 

Other items to pack:

  • A tablet with pre-downloaded movies/ games, as tv is limited onboard
  • Bring a few toys, including their favorite stuffed animal
  • Coloring supplies
  • Books
  • A nightlight – especially if you are in an inside cabin
  • Many parents prefer a bath for young children. A small blow-up bathtub that can be placed in the shower during a cruise
  • You may also want to bring your kid's favorite snack, like fish crackers or cheerios.
    • You can only bring non-perishable items, so no fruits or vegetables.
  • Refillable water bottle
  • A pack of cards
  • Kids' shampoo and conditioner

With your family and all their stuff in a cruise cabin, it is a good idea to think about some organizational and storage techniques. Magnetic hooks and an over the door organizer, as well as ziploc bags for convenient storage, are all good options. 

First aid and medications

While some items can be purchased onboard, it is a good idea to have a ready made first aid kit for easy access during the cruise. The last thing you want to do is spend time running around in port to find something. Don't assume that there will be an adequate supply on the ship. Best to pick them up at the local drugstore pre-cruise; a pharmacist can assist with determining what is best for you.

Here are some common medications/ first aid items to pack:

  • Pain and allergy products
  • Seasickness meds
  • After-burn care (aloe), lip balm (SPF), and bug spray
  • Anti-itch cream/ hydrocortisone
  • First aid items such as band-aids and anti-bacterial ointment
  • Upset stomach medications
  • Cold /flu medicine

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise? Start here:

My European cruise wasn't what I expected: here's why

In:
12 Oct 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

When I boarded a flight for Europe en route to my first European cruise, I was doubtful a cruise would be the best way to travel Europe. While I was certainly excited to cruise around the continent, I didn’t have the highest expectations that cruising Europe would be better than a land-based vacation.

Rhapsody of the Seas in Greece

Only spending 8 hours in world-renowned cities? Spending more time on the cruise ship than in port? Navigating around thousands of other passengers in tourist areas? At first glance, the drawbacks seemed to outweigh the benefits.

The moment I stepped foot in my first European cruise port, however, I realized my concerns were totally unnecessary. My European cruise experience wasn’t at all what I initially expected, and it quickly became my favorite destination to cruise in the world: here’s why.

Slow travel versus cruising

Before I worked for Royal Caribbean Blog, most of my travel was done at a slower pace. I would regularly spend a few months living or traveling in different countries around the world, giving me time to truly soak in a region’s culture, cuisine, and language.

There’s no doubt that traveling slowly allows you to gain a better understanding of a place compared to spending just 8-10 hours there on a cruise. I certainly experienced more of Puerto Rico on my two week vacation, as an example, compared to my 8 hour port day.

That being said, even though I still love traveling slowly, I’ve grown to appreciate the more fast-paced nature of traveling via cruise ship.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much you can experience in just a few hours on a port day, and being able to visit several destinations on one cruise gives you a small taste of places you can visit on longer, land-based vacations.

While planning my European cruise vacation, I wanted to keep an open mind, remembering that even though this would not be a “slow travel” type of trip, it would come with its own set of benefits.

Let’s take a look at the expectations versus realities I encountered on my European cruise experience.

Expectation: Europe is better for a land-based vacation

Many of Europe’s most popular cities are not located along the coast, so I was skeptical of cruising as a way to experience Europe’s top attractions.

Spending only 8 hours in Rome? 5 hours in Paris? These cities easily require several days, and I didn’t feel spending such a short amount of time in these destinations would do them any justice.

Related: Western Mediterranean cruise guide

Because of this, I looked for itineraries that had little travel time from port to city. I knew I didn’t want to spend hours in transit on port days, as this can quickly get exhausting.

I ended up picking two itineraries in two very different regions of Europe:

  1. A 7-night Spain & France cruise visiting La Rochelle and Le Havre (France) and Bilbao and La Coruna (Spain)
  2. A 7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise visiting Mykonos, Chania, and Zakynthos (Greece), Kotor (Montenegro), and Split (Croatia)

Despite selecting itineraries visiting both touristy and lesser-known destinations, I couldn’t help but remain skeptical of whether or not this would be the best way to travel Europe.

Reality: Cruising Europe can be a perfect way to see certain cruise ports

While I initially thought I wouldn’t enjoy a European cruise as much as a land-based vacation, I was surprised at how much I loved my experience. I found that many ports were better to visit via cruise ship than independently.

While cruising around Greece, for example, it was hard to miss the crowds of tourists embarking and disembarking ferries. Getting around the Greek Isles requires traveling via boat or constantly flying from island to island.

Traveling via cruise ship meant I could travel to several islands without booking separate ferries that would, undoubtedly, be less comfortable than a Royal Caribbean ship.

On two 7-night cruises, I visited 9 ports in 5 countries. When you count embarkation and disembarkation ports, I experienced 12 unique destinations in Europe, from the bustling metropolis of Athens to the quaint village of Ravenna, Italy.

Related: 30 best European cruise tips

I could never have done this on a land-based vacation in the same amount of time. Catching trains, buses, and ferries from destination to destination would have been exhausting. Being on a cruise ship meant we traveled when I was eating dinner, catching a show, or sleeping.

It was so nice to not have to worry about transportation logistics, which is often a huge pain when taking a land-based vacation.

Expectation: Every port would be a tourist trap

Thousands of passengers disembarking from multiple cruise ships in port each day seemed like it would be the exact opposite of what I was looking for in a vacation.

While I don't mind visiting tourist sites, I much prefer traveling to small towns where I can truly experience a region’s culture. I enjoyed seeing the Colosseum in Rome just as much as sipping an espresso in small town Sicily. I don’t travel just to tick items off a list, but to immerse myself in a destination.

I was worried each cruise port would be way too busy and I would spend the whole day in huge crowds unable to discover even a hint of local culture.

Reality: All ports, even touristy ports, offered authentic experiences

While walking along the quiet streets of Le Havre, France (baguette in hand), I was surprised at how local the city felt. After so many Caribbean cruises filled with ports built specifically for tourists and far too many Señor Frog locations, it was refreshing to feel like I was having a more genuine travel experience.

I didn’t have to worry about navigating huge crowds, worrying about pickpockets, and getting scammed into paying higher prices. My days were simple: walk around town, visit a local coffee shop, enjoy an outdoor lunch, hang out at a park or beach, and chat with locals to learn more about each destination.

My Greek & Adriatic cruise was definitely more touristy than my Spain & France sailing, but I never found the crowds unbearable. If you woke up early and were off the ship by ~8 AM, there were virtually no crowds in any cruise port.

I had the lowest expectations for Mykonos, Greece after realizing how touristy the island could be, but this ended up being one of my favorite ports I visited all summer.

Even though there were three ships in port the day we visited, we disembarked the ship early and were able to explore without a ton of crowds. While the island certainly got busier in the afternoon, it wasn’t hard to escape the crowds by walking further away from the main streets.

Related: Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

Exploring the side streets of Mykonos led us to a small, hole-in-the-wall bakery formed in 1420.

Little English was spoken at the bakery, which was a surprise in such a touristy area, and I navigated ordering through a combination of sign language, pointing, and laughing. The result?

One of the best meals I had throughout my vacation that was worlds away from the restaurants nearby where you’re constantly being pushed to purchase overpriced food and drinks.

I never expected to have these types of experiences in touristy cruise ports when I initially booked my cruise, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Expectation: I wouldn’t be able to taste local cuisine

If there’s one thing that makes me excited about exploring a new country or city, it’s food. Whether empanadas in Argentina or pho in Vietnam, food has been an important part of my travels over the past decade.

One of my initial concerns about cruising to Europe is that I wouldn’t be able to try local cuisine due to how many meals I would have on the cruise ship.

Don’t get me wrong... I love dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but eating Greek salad on the ship did not seem as appealing as eating Greek salad at an oceanfront restaurant in Crete.

Reality: I had amazing cuisine every port day

When cruising, you have to make a decision of whether you want to spend money on food in port or head back to the ship for meals you already paid for in your cruise fare.

Even though I could technically get “free” food onboard, I made a point to budget roughly $20 for food in port each day. I couldn’t imagine cruising to Greece and not trying moussaka, visiting Spain and not ordering sangria, and exploring Italy without eating fresh pasta!

Related: Must-eat foods on a cruise to Italy

From spanakopita in Mykonos to tapas in Bilbao, I loved the variety of cuisine I could enjoy when visiting a new port each day.

As a matter of fact, the ratatouille crepe I ordered in La Rochelle was so delicious that I briefly considered packing up and moving to France!

I would cruise to Europe again and again just for the opportunity to try so many cuisines in a short amount of time.

The major benefit of cruising Europe: unpacking only once

Whenever I picture a European vacation, I picture beautiful squares, pretty sunsets, outdoor dinners, and historic monuments. What I always forget about, though, is how terrible it is to carry luggage from place to place while traveling through Europe.

I have not so fond memories of walking around Europe with my large backpack on my back, waiting on the floor of train stations with my luggage, and constantly living out of a bag from city to city. While visiting multiple cities around Europe is always an amazing experience, constantly unpacking and packing my bags gets old quickly.

It was beyond freeing to be able to disembark the cruise ship at a new port with only a few items in our daypack. Whenever we saw a group of flustered tourists walking around Europe’s cobblestone streets with tons of luggage and bags, we were extremely grateful our luggage was on the cruise ship.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

It certainly spoiled us, and we struggled immensely once off the ship and traveling on our own throughout Italy after the cruise! Only having to unpack once was one of the biggest benefits of cruising Europe.

Another reason to cruise Europe: The fantastic value

Cruises always offer a great value for a vacation, and I found this to be especially true in Europe.

My 7-night cruise to Greece, for example, was priced at only $1300 for 2 guests in an interior stateroom including gratuities. This brought the daily cost to only $92 per person, per night.

Related: How much does a Mediterranean cruise cost?

Considering this price included accommodation, food, and transportation to 5 different ports, I thought it offered an unbeatable price compared to doing this itinerary on a land-based vacation.

Even if I had stayed at a cheap hostel and found budget-friendly restaurants each day, I still would have spent a similar amount of money on a land-based vacation with far fewer comforts. I’d much rather stay in a comfortable cruise cabin than a hostel dorm room!

So… do I prefer traveling Europe via cruise ship or taking a land-based vacation?

While I was initially concerned cruising would not be a nice way to travel Europe, it quickly became my favorite region to cruise in the world.

Each cruise port offered so much history, culture, and activities to discover. From dining at outdoor cafes to hiking along gorgeous coastal paths and exploring quaint alleys, every day offered authentic, diverse experiences.

I sometimes find Caribbean cruise ports way too touristy, and it can be difficult to find local culture in between touristy restaurants and souvenir shops. While I’ll take laying on a pristine, white-sand beach over working in the office any day, I found that a European cruise fits my travel style better.

I have to say that I’m still a bit skeptical that a Western Mediterranean cruise would be worth it compared to traveling that region on a land-based vacation. It’s hard for me to justify spending 1-2 hours in transit each way to visit world-class cities like Rome and Florence just to spend only a few hours in the city.

I think I'll just have to plan another European cruise to visit the Western Mediterranean and experience it for myself!

Will I stop planning land-based vacations to Europe? Definitely not. I still love traveling slowly not only in Europe, but anywhere in the world, and it offers a way to immerse myself in new cultures that is impossible to do on a cruise. In fact, I recently spent two weeks traveling Portugal and Spain by bicycle. It doesn’t get much slower than that!

So while I’ll certainly still plan land-based vacations in Europe for more in-depth travel, I’m already looking forward to discovering more coastal destinations in Europe via cruise ship.

Norway? Canary Islands? Sicily? Turkey? Iceland? Count me in.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean raises base price for cocktails and drink package benefit

In:
11 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The cost of a cocktail on your cruise will probably be a bit higher on your next sailing.

Drinks at the Lime and Coconut

Guests sailing on a variety of ships are reporting seeing the average price of a signature cocktail up from $13 to $14 per drink, before gratuity.

The exact cost of a cocktail depends on a few factors, such as the type of liquor, but Royal Caribbean had priced many of its drinks on its menu at $13 per drink for a few years.

For years some ships had cocktails priced at $12, while others had them at $13. Since cruises restarted in 2021, the price stabilized across the fleet at $13.

Certain drink menus are now showing a $14 drink cost on sailings that have departed over the last few days. An automatic 18% gratuity will be added to that cost for drinks purchased a la carte.

In case you're wondering, the price of a beer is listed at $7.49 for domestic beers and $7.99 for imports. Red Stripe will cost you $8.25.

Many wines by the glass are still around $10-14 per glass.

While the individual Royal Caribbean drink prices have gone up by a dollar, your Royal Caribbean drink package benefits have also gone up to match it.

Guests who have gotten letters from Crown and Anchor Society with their Diamond benefits noted their vouchers now cover drinks in value up to $14.

Many cruisers opt to purchase an unlimited drink package to help control drink prices while onboard.  For a flat fee, you can enjoy all the beers, cocktails, juices, sodas, premium coffees and teas, and bottled water you want.

The cost of a Royal Caribbean drink package will vary from sailing to sailing, and ship to ship.

Drink package table

On average, the Deluxe Beverage Package (unlimited alcohol package) will cost somewhere between $65.00 - $90.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.

Read moreHow much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean?

While the overall cost a drink package isn't necessarily cheap, a lot of people like the fact a drink package offers fixed costs and convenience of being able to order drinks anytime they see fit, without concern of running up a big bill or being stuck with a drink they do not like.

Still cheaper than a lot of places on land

Oga's Cantina

If paying $14 for your next pina colada sounds like a lot, you may feel a little bit better knowing a cocktail on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is likely cheaper than a lot of other tourist destinations.

Walt Disney World charges anywhere from $17 - $20 for a margarita at its La Cava del Tequila bar in Epcot. A Star Wars-inspired specialty cocktail at Oga’s Cantina in Hollywood Studios will run you $17 or $18 (not counting the Yub Nub $45 cocktail).

If you visit the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, you'll pay $14.75 for a Classic Caribbean Mojito, and $15 for a Cosmopolitan. 

At the Super Bowl earlier this year, the signature cocktail, "Monday Morning Quarterback," cost $16.

How to save money on drinks during your cruise

While Royal Caribbean's drink packages are quite popular with guests, they do require a moderate amount of drinking every day of your cruise to make the investment worthwhile financially. For those that do not want to drink quite that much every day, there are a number of alternative strategies to the drink package that can still save you some money. 

Bring wine

Did you know that Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise?

Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in your carry-on luggage. Do not put the wine in your checked luggage.

Wine lovers will be able to bring a couple of bottles of their favorite wine on their cruise at a savings compared to purchasing the wine onboard.  Moreover, bringing your own wine means you will save money on your total bar tab during your cruise.

My favorite aspect of bringing your own wine is if you do not finish the bottle of wine, Royal Caribbean can store the wine for you and deliver it another restaurant at that time.

Look for drink specials onboard

Drink of the day

One of the best ways to get a deal on a cocktail is to order the drink of the day.  The drink of the day is a select cocktail that changes every day, which has about a 20% discount on it and is available from most bars onboard.  

You can just ask the bartender or waiter what the drink of the day is and take advantage of those savings.

To find drink specials, consult the Cruise Compass for some advertised deals, as well as walk around bars and look for posted signs.

Get free drinks

Diamond Club sign

Free drinks on Royal Caribbean? Yes. Seriously!

Believe it or not, there are ways to get free drinks on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Granted, there is no way to effectively drink all day like this, but any free drinks you can get are less drinks you have to buy!

One of the best ways to get free drinks is by being a Crown and Anchor Society member.  Diamond level and above members are eligible for free beverages each day.

All Crown and Anchor Society members will have special coupons pre-loaded on their SeaPass account that provide deals like Buy One, Get one beer, wine or soda by the glass.  In addition, Royal Caribbean holds Crown and Anchor Society events onboard for members, with complimentary cocktails served.

Free champagne can also be found at select events, including art auctions, Captain's Welcome and during holiday celebrations.

Drink in port

There is no question you will save money by drinking at the ports of call you visit compared to onboard.

Bars and restaurants at the ports your Royal Caribbean ship will visit regularly offer cheaper drink prices for beers and cocktails and that can mean big savings if you can wait to enjoy some drinks when on land, compared to on your ship.

Depending on your itinerary, this strategy may be more lucrative than others, but it is a good way to indulge in your favorite mixed drink or cerveza for a lower cost.

I sailed on Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships the same week: Here's how they ranked

In:
10 Oct 2022
By: 
Sylvia Pinegar

The magic of Disney or the epicness of Royal? 5 things to consider when choosing between two of the most popular cruise lines – Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean and Disney

You’re long overdue for a vacation, but there are so many options for how to spend your precious PTO! With getaways ranging from unique vacation home rentals across the country, cruises across the globe, and even luxurious all-inclusive resorts, the decision can be tough, but let’s be honest here - nothing quite rivals the care-free, thrilling experience that you can only get on a cruise ship. 

Once that you’ve decided you’re ready to hit the high seas, the next decision you have to make is a tricky one – choosing the right cruise.

While any cruise is better than no cruise, you can’t go wrong with the cruise industry’s two prominent leaders – Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line. While Disney is a brand that everyone knows and loves, renowned for world-class guest service and creating magical, family-friendly memories, Royal Caribbean has become synonymous with epic adventures and mind-blowing experiences.

Disney and Royal Caribbean next to each other

Earlier this summer, I sailed on the Disney Wish and Mariner of the Seas the same week, which gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast the two lines in quick succession.

To help you figure out which cruise is best for you, here are five major things to consider when picking your cruise line.

Wallet economics

Disney and Royal Caribbean in Nassau

For most, budget is the big deciding factor when making most of your vacation decisions.

If you’ve ever been to one of the Disney parks, it should come as no surprise that Disney cruises often come at a premium cost. Until the most recent Disney+ subscriber promotion, discounted rates are extremely limited, almost exclusively to military members and Florida residents.

With that in mind, once you’ve locked in your Disney Cruise Line stateroom, if you do manage to see a better rate, you have to cancel and rebook in most cases. Luckily, you can save money on your Disney cruise with Disney Visa rewards dollars using your Disney Visa credit card or by purchasing discounted Disney gift cards from places like Sam’s Club or Costco.

Alternatively, Royal Caribbean is known for offering great sales during the year, ranging from $550 off + 30% off guests, kids sail free, and more. With that in mind, Royal Caribbean also runs sales on their cruise add-ons like drink packages, wi-fi and more.

Read more45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Owner suite balcony

Often cruisers get the option to bid on upgrading to a better category room close to the departure date with Royal Caribbean’s Royal Up program. Just like Disney, Royal Caribbean has their own Visa card that offers rewards ranging from onboard credits and stateroom upgrades to cruises.

Read moreIs the Royal Caribbean credit card worth it?

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

To put this in full perspective, looking at two similar cruises out of Miami, Royal Caribbean offers a 4-night cruise starting at $896 for two adults, whereas Disney is offering a 3-night cruise for two adults starting at $1734. 

When it comes to counting dollars and cents, the undeniable winner is Royal Caribbean.

Sleeping arrangements

One major consideration that often goes overlooked is your stateroom.

The common misconception is that all cruise staterooms are tiny hole-in-the-walls akin to a can of sardines where you all pack in just to sleep.

Wrong!

With the right stateroom, you can create a home on the high seas that keeps everyone happy, and most importantly, comfy!

Ultimate family suite

Cruise staterooms range from budget-friendly, space-efficient inside staterooms, some with virtual portholes to create a faux window to the seas outside, to luxurious suites like the fun-tastic Royal Caribbean Ultimate Family Suite or the extra-magical Disney Cruise Line Funnel Tower Suite.

While actual staterooms available vary ship to ship, on average, Disney Cruise Line takes the win when comparing the size of the most common stateroom types.

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

For example, an inside stateroom on most Royal Caribbean ships is around 150 square feet, while on most Disney ships, inside staterooms are closer to 170 square feet.

Similarly, ocean view rooms on Royal Caribbean start at 180 square feet compared to Disney’s 204 square feet, with ocean view balcony rooms on Royal Caribbean starting at 188 square feet and Disney’s verandah rooms starting at a stunning 246 square feet.

DCL bed

Although Disney Cruise Line undisputedly boasts the larger rooms, Royal Caribbean is not to be overlooked with its wide variety of room types, including staterooms with a view of their Promenade or Boardwalk area (perfect for people-watching and observing onboard fun right from your interior balcony), a variety of suite class staterooms with upgraded amenities, and the favorite for larger groups – the ultra spacious rooms.

On many Royal Caribbean ships, the ultra spacious ocean view or ocean view balcony staterooms offer a larger stateroom with a separated bunk bed area that’s ideal for adding some privacy and extra space when you’re traveling with a larger crew. The closest option to this on Disney Cruise Line is the deluxe family staterooms. These rooms are slightly larger to accommodate up to five and have a curtain you can pull out to create a partition. 

DCL porthole

Another great accommodation for bigger parties is the connecting balcony stateroom category on Royal Caribbean, which allows two staterooms to share a balcony and even a connecting door inside as well, if you’d like. This creates a spacious option for larger parties. With this in mind, both cruise lines offer swanky one- and two- bedroom suites that come with concierge service and extra perks for when you want both space and to treat yourself to luxury on the high seas. 

Read moreWhat's the best cruise ship cabin for my family?

Obviously, your options for staterooms are plentiful on both cruise lines, and any stateroom is better than being stuck on dry land. That said, there’s no clear winner in this category, so it’s up to you to pick which one better suits your sailing needs.

Forktastic dining options

Main dining room table

The food on a cruise is truly the best part. Did you know the average cruiser gains upwards of seven pounds on a cruise? If you go hungry while cruising, that’s truly your own fault. That said, there are some big differences between the dining experience on Royal Caribbean and that of Disney Cruise Line.

Dinner is where Disney Cruise Line truly shines, as they bring the magic and performance art you’re used to seeing at the parks straight into the main dining room.

Once onboard, you’ll receive a dining rotation to let you know which dining room to report to each night for your decadent dinner show. Disney Cruise Line’s dinner is an event in itself, as each dining room and menu is heavily themed, along with some form of entertainment you’ll enjoy while you please your tastebuds.

Disney Marvel restaurant

These shows range anywhere from musical performances like New Orleans-style jazz to singing along with the your favorite Frozen moments to interactive conversations with digital Disney characters like Crush from Finding Nemo and Olaf or watching Ant-Man and The Wasp showcase their latest and greatest technology. 

While Disney truly does dinner like no one else at sea, Royal Caribbean still satisfies your palette with a diverse list of specialty options that varies from ship to ship.

Each night, you can choose to enjoy your evening meal at the Windjammer buffet, sit down to a divine three-course meal in one of the main dining halls, or you can take it up a notch with the heat of hibachi of Izumi or the mind-boggling wonders of molecular gastronomy found in Wonderland, among a myriad of other options, depending on the ship you’re on.

Pastry

However, when considering dietary options, like vegan and gluten-free for instance, Royal Caribbean doesn’t quite keep up with Disney in this category. All of Disney’s destinations, cruise ships included, truly shine when it comes to special dietary needs. They don’t just give you a few run-of-the-mill dietary friendly options, they craft delicious culinary creations that are on par with everything else they serve.

That’s not to say that you can’t have your dietary needs met on Royal Caribbean, as they also do a great job making sure all diners eat incredibly well, but there truly isn’t a major cruise line that offers the specialty food options that Disney does.

For this particular category, it’s a close call, as Disney wins in the dinner and dietary needs arena, but Royal Caribbean takes the cake for overall dining variety across the ship.

Entertain me!

When choosing a cruise, it’s important to think about what you ideally would like to actually do once you get on the ship.

Are you in need of some intensive rest and relaxation? Maybe you need some dedicated time to really burn some calories or you want to release your inner dare devil? Have you always wanted to try your hand at a blackjack table? Has it been too long since your last live theater show?

With so many things to experience on cruise ships, and with the vast array of options you can find on different ships, knowing what activities and entertainment options you would like can help solidify which cruise line and even which specific ships are perfect for you. 

Senses Spa

If you’re looking for rest and relaxation, Disney Cruise Line surprisingly boasts one of the most unique spa experiences at sea – the Rain Forest Room, by Senses Spa.

This is a private area with a limited number entries (purchased separately), offering guests a number of ways to unwind from steam rooms to hot tubs (on most ships), heated tile loungers, rain showers, and more. This is also the most quiet, zen space you’ll ever find on a cruise ship.

If you don’t want to pay extra for the Rain Forest Room but are still looking for a kid-free place to relax, have no fear, there are adult-only pool and hot tub areas across all Disney ships.

Senses Spa

While Disney ships do specialize in rest and relaxation, they also have a lot to do on their ships. Every ship has a gym with great equipment, including treadmills overlooking the water and a variety of fitness classes (some included, some cost extra). There are also sports courts, jogging tracks, pools and hot tubs, water slides and so much more.

There’s also incredible entertainment for all ages, ranging from first run movies in a relaxed movie theater setting to stellar entertainment akin to the amazing shows you see in the parks. Depending on the ship, there are classics like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, as well as unique shows like The Golden Mickeys and Seas the Adventure.

Of course, don’t forget about the character experiences across the ship and the infamous Pirate Night on select cruises where you’ll celebrate your inner scalawag with pirate activities and even fireworks at sea.

If you’re ready for some blood-pumping thrills at sea, Royal Caribbean has dedicated their entire fleet to creating a bolder experience at sea that you’d never even think was possible.

Over the past few years, Royal Caribbean has taken cruising to a whole new level by “amplifying” their fleet of ships with a bevy of new experiences from dining and Broadway-style entertainment to never-before-seen activities. For those who can’t sit still, this ranges from ice skating, rock climbing, Flow Rider simulated surfing, and laser tag to RipCord by iFly simulated skydiving, SkyPad bungee trampoline, escape rooms, and so much more.

Read moreTop 14 best free things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise

If you’re looking to be entertained, the unique Aqua Theater brings you water shows with spectacular stunts and incredible feats of athleticism like you’ve never seen. Once you’ve dried off, you can head to the indoor theater for classic performances like Grease and Mama Mia!, many ships also feature ice skating shows, or you can check out any number of musical acts at venues across the ship. If you’re looking to test your luck with cards or slots, each ship also boasts a casino, with your choice of games to try.

If you’ve never gambled before, don’t worry, at the start of each cruise, there are classes to teach you how to play.

Spa

While there might be a ton of things on the itinerary, there are also great ways to unwind, from adult pool and hot tub areas, to booking your very own spa, mani/pedi, or hair appointment at the Senses Spa, which is the exact same spa you’ll find on Disney Cruise Line as well. 

This particular category is tough one to choose a winner for, depending on what kind of cruise you’re really looking for, but ultimately, if you’re looking to find some zen, Disney Cruise Line takes the gold, but if you’re in the market for thrills and shenanigans, Royal Caribbean is the undisputed champion in that arena.

Private islands & destinations

Wonder of the Seas docked at CocoCay

While a big part of what makes a cruise special is what happens on the ship, the destination ports are a hugely important consideration, as this is a great way to get a bite-sized taste of places and cultures you’ve never experienced.

Disney Cruise Line boasts 5 very lovely ships with itineraries heavy in the Caribbean, as well as Alaska, the Mexican Riviera, the Mediterranean, and a few other locations depending on the time of year, with new itineraries being added on a regular basis.

The tricky part for Disney Cruise Line is that with such a small fleet in comparison to other cruise lines, they are mildly limited on the variety of available ports and destination options. That said, there are still plenty of options to choose from, including their magical private island, Disney’s Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay is an intimate, Bahamian escape with some really special unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else. For the runners and walkers looking to get some extra steps in, there’s a complimentary, steamy hot 5k course, complete with a finisher’s medal upon crossing the finish line.

There’s also a beautiful bike route that cruises by a lookout tower, multiple cabana areas (including the adults-only Serenity Bay), and a massive snorkeling area with special sunken treasures ready for you to come and find them. In the works for 2024 is a brand new Bahamian private island, Disney’s Lighthouse Point. Little has been released about what should be expected at this new location, but it’s sure to be spectacular.

On the other side, Royal Caribbean boasts an astonishing fleet of 25 ships in varying sizes that offer itineraries visiting over 240 destinations in 61 countries, ranging from the Caribbean and Alaska to Asia and Australia, even the upcoming 274-night Ultimate World Cruise, as well as two fabulous, private islandsLabadee, Haiti, and Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Bahamas.

Labadee aerial

Labadee is absolutely picturesque, with lush, green mountains overlooking a crystalline sea. The coastline is dotted with experiences of all types, from relaxing, private cabanas to epic water slides and aquatic fun, even a roller coaster that will take you on a scenic journey across this totally Instagram-able escape.

Perfect Day at CocoCay seen from ship

Not too far away is the new Perfect Day at Coco Cay, which is no lie, there’s a perfect day awaiting for everyone, no matter your interests. If you’re into high-speed water park fun, there’s Thrill Waterpark featuring Daredevil’s Peak – the tallest water slide in North America. Looking for to soak up some rays in your own private cabana? Check out Coco Beach Club or Chill Island, with incredible snorkeling, private cabanas, and delicious food options.

There’s also Oasis Lagoon for those looking for a party – with the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, a swim up bar and live DJ. There’s truly a little something for everyone at Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

Comparing Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean when it comes to destinations and private islands is a tough call, as they both will take you to amazing places across the world and both offer fun-tastic private locales, Royal Caribbean has more ships departing from more ports with more itineraries across the world, giving you more options to explore on your cruise-cation.

While there are a lot of things to consider when selecting your perfect cruise, any cruise is better than no cruise! Whether it’s the magic of Disney Cruise Line with their classic character experiences and delicious dining room rotation, or the epic adventure of Royal Caribbean featuring giant thrills and endless activities, you’re in for the vacation of a lifetime.

Independence of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau

In:
10 Oct 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The last day of our cruise on Independence of the Seas takes us to Nassau, Bahamas for a short visit.

It's always odd when you only spend a few hours in a port, and the timing of the port times stand out when we are only in Nassau from 8am to 2pm. It also limits what you can do.

Since we didn't have a ton of time in port, we didn't book any shore excursions.  The plan was to treat it like a sea day and stay onboard.

First and foremost, we all took this opportunity to sleep in after a busy couple days at the beginning of the cruise. 

We managed to roll into the Windjammer at 10am for breakfast, followed by a visit to Cafe Promenade for a morning coffee.

My wife and I took our coffee down to deck 4 and outside to the promenade deck. While it's hot and humid out, if you can sit in the shade with a breeze, it's quite comfortable.

Maybe it was the caffeine, but I started getting an itch to do something and get off the ship for a little bit. So we grabbed our stuff to take a short walk around Nassau.

Your best bet when visiting Nassau is to have some kind of a tour or activity planned, as the area near the pier is a rather large tourist trap of shops and bars. 

Read moreBest things to do in Nassau on a cruise

Just walking off the ship, you could see the progress the port is making to upgrade everything. The pier and port area are in the process of being completely upgraded, which is a multi-year effort.

We started off doing a little bit of window shopping at the various souvenir stores.

We stopped for a drink at my favorite bar, Pirate Republic Brewery.

They had a limited amount of beer today, so I decided to try their hard seltzer since I like Truly. 

It was good, but too much of a seltzer taste compared to Truly, so I think next time I'll stick to whatever beer they have available.

We made our way back to the ship and I got exactly what I wanted out of our visit: a short excuse to walk around port for a bit.

Back in the cabin, I had one thing on my mind now: a nap.

Independence of the Seas departed Nassau right around the time I got up, and I made a quick run to the Windjammer for a late lunch.

My wife went with my oldest daughter to see the Broadway musical, Grease, while I napped/stayed with my youngest daughter in the cabin. I would have enjoyed seeing it, but naps are serious business.

After my nap, I went up to the Diamond Lounge to have a drink and spend a few minutes up there.

One of the many fabulous benefits of being at least Diamond in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society is access to a dedicated lounge for Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Guests. It's kind of like their own clubhouse, meeting place, and bar wrapped into one.

On Independence of the Seas, it's located on Deck 14 near the Viking Crown Lounge and it has great views. Plus, there's a nice outdoor part to it as well.

Dinner tonight was at Izumi hibachi, which is always a popular restaurant on almost any ship that has an Izumi location.

Food was great, and the kids enjoyed the experience. If you want to dine at hibachi, you definitely want to make reservations as early as possible. With the dining package, I recommend going immediately after you board the ship to get a reservation.

After dinner, it was back to the pub for music for one last evening.

Overall, we had a great time on Independence of the Seas. Three night cruises always feel like they go by so quickly because of the fact it's only a few days, but it's better to have cruised quickly than not to have cruised at all!

Weather was great, sea conditions perfect, and the ship itself was lovely. The crew members did a great job of taking care of us, and I hope we can do another weekend sailing sooner than later.

This wraps up my live blog here, but Allie will be live blogging in a few days from Odyssey of the Seas in Europe, and I'll be back with another live blog on Allure of the Seas from her new home in Galveston next month!

Thanks for reading and all the wonderful comments!