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Royal Caribbean CEO talks about upcoming end of CDC's Conditional Sail Order

In:
13 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate over Covid-19 protocols is set to expire at the end of this month, leaving many to wonder what will happen next.

The Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) is a phased approach for cruise lines to follow in order to get ships approved to sail from the United States again. It is set to expire on November 1, 2021 unless extended.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was asked about the upcoming end to the CSO and what it means for his cruise line going forward.

He was asked to provide the latest information related to the CSO, and he shared his thoughts on what is still very much an unknown situation.

Why haven't cruise lines been more aggressive with the CDC? | Royal Caribbean Blog

"There has been discussion with the CDC and with other government entities that are part of this process," Mr. Bayley explained. "We're waiting to get guidance on what could be the next steps."

Mr. Bayley then offered some ideas of what options might be possible, "One of those next steps could be that the Conditional Sailing Order would just expire, and we would continue as we are voluntarily working with the CDC and operating with various protocols and guidelines that have been recommended."

Mr. Bayley believes the success cruise lines have had in getting back to service has been a result of the work with the CDC, "We've got 15 ships operating and the protocols are really working."

Friday Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Everything is operating extremely well, and that really was only possible through a lot of collaboration with the CDC and working with them and other health authorities around the world."

"We don't know what the next step will be. I think what's important is that, there's different ways of doing it, but everybody has the same goal and that is to keep people safe."

He added the CDC has been largely been supportive of what the cruise lines have been doing under the CSO, I think in many of the calls I've been on with the CDC, I think they have a sense of accomplishment that that the cruise industry really now is used somewhat as a gold standard example for other forms of travel and transportation on how things can really operate well."

Protocols

Face masks not listed on Royal Caribbean's August health protocols | Royal Caribbean Blog

Dovetailing into that conversation is the question of protocols on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships, and when a change may occur there as well.

Related to the CSO, Mr. Bayley added, "I think what's what we're all hoping for is a continuation of an improvement of the environment and a decrease in all of the protocols that are currently in place."

When asked about protocols being changed, he pointed to the fact the stringent protocols are mostly tied to what is happening with Covid-19 case counts around the country.

First look around Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"The relationship between these protocols...masks, testing vaccines, et cetera, is directly related to what's really going on with COVID and how the in the case of the United States, the CDC views that."

Mr. Bayley provided a possible outlook at protocols changing, "I think what we'll see is as infections decline and continue to to to decline, these things will will change."

He admitted while he is not "a big fan of masks," he said wearing it on the ships "was really no big deal."

Adventure of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I would pop it on when I was walking through corridors or if I was going to get into an elevator. And most of the time I didn't have it on. I was outside most of the time. You don't have to wear a mask outside plenty of places in spaces where it's not required, so I didn't find it to be too too bothersome."

"I think we just have to try and work within these, these these guidelines that have been offered to us. But I do think it's all going to start stripping away as the environment gets better."

Update on Perfect Day at Lelepa

Perfect Day at Lelepa | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Bayley also briefly talked about previously announced plans for a new private island in the South Pacific.

Royal Caribbean announced Perfect Day at Lelepa, which is an island in Vanuatu that would be used to bolster the Australian cruise market.

"That project, we paused, you know, for obvious reasons. But we will plan is to re-engage and restart that project in the coming months."

Next President's Cruise will be in Alaska 2022

In:
13 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It looks like the next Royal Caribbean President's Cruise will be in summer 2022 and visiting Alaska.

During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley hinted the next President's Cruise will be held in Alaska on an unspecified sailing in June 2022.

The President's Cruise is centered around celebrating its most loyal customers, who get the chance to cruise with Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley, as well as attend special events just for them.

"I'm not sure whether we've communicated the next President's Cruise, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be it will be in Alaska next June or July."

"I am pretty sure it's going to be in Alaska in June, so we haven't communicated it. I'm sure we'll be communicating it shortly after what I've just said."

Royal Caribbean CEO updates on resuming cruises, President's cruise, which ships will sail first and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Bayley did not specify which ship or sailing it would be hosted on.

In 2022, Royal Caribbean will send four cruise ships to Alaska on Ovation, Quantum, Serenade and Radiance of the Seas.

Ovation and Quantum of the Seas will sail from Seattle, and offer 7-night Alaska cruises.  

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

Radiance of the Seas will offer alternating 7-10 night open-jaw itineraries Alaska cruises from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Serenade of the Seas, which will sail out of Vancouver and offer 7-night Alaska cruises.

The President's Cruise has become a popular annual Royal Caribbean tradition that invites fans of the cruise line to sail with the cruise line's CEO, and enjoy a series of special events, surprises and offerings.

Canada will meet with Alaska Senators to discuss cruise ships skipping Canada | Royal Caribbean Blog

The 2020 President's Cruise was cancelled due to the global cruise shutdown, and a 2021 President's Cruise was never scheduled.

More about Alaska cruises

Ovation of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Skagway

In:
13 Oct 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today was another wonderful day in Alaska as we explored Skagway, our last port of call.

Ovation of the Seas docked in Skagway around 2AM. After enjoying breakfast and coffee in the Windjammer, we grabbed our bags and disembarked the ship.

Today's plans were to travel on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, a scenic train ride that leaves from the center of Skagway and ends in Canada's Yukon territory. We booked the White Pass Scenic Railway excursion from Royal Caribbean.

The train would not be traveling all the way to the Yukon, of course. Our ride would be approximately two hours round trip and take us 2,000 feet up to a stop called Glacier Station.

Another popular excursion offered by Royal Caribbean is on the same train, but it travels even further into the mountains to the White Pass Summit. This is under maintenance in 2021 but should be available for the 2022 season.

Boarding the White Pass is super convenient, as the train has a stop directly in front of the port.

Inside the train car are large windows to view Alaska's scenery. Each car also has a heater to keep the train warm as it passes through the snowy landscape.

Once everyone boarded, the train began heading into the forest. Our engine ended up having a technical issue a few minutes into the ride and we made a quick detour back to town, but a few minutes later we were on our way.

The railway has an antique feel to it, with train cars designed from the Gold Rush era. A conductor came through each car to collect tickets and it almost felt like we had stepped back in time.

The ride starts by passing through Skagway and the historic Gold Rush Cemetery near town. It continues along a river and begins to gain elevation. The guide onboard highlights interesting points along the way, telling the history of Skagway's role in the Gold Rush era.

At around 900 feet elevation, the autumn colored landscape below was now covered in snow. It was absolutely beautiful and like a true winter wonderland.

Even though it was cold, the best spot to view the landscape is from the outside platforms at the front and back of each car.

When we reached Glacier Station, the engine car was moved to the back (now front) of the train, our seats flipped around to face the other way, and we rode back to Skagway.

Once we got off the train, it was time to explore Skagway. Similar to Ketchikan, the architecture in Skagway was like something you could see in an old western movie. Shops, saloons, and restaurants lined the streets.

It was much colder today than in our previous ports of Ketchikan and Juneau, and since this sailing is the last ship to go to Skagway for the 2021 season, many businesses in town were closed. However, we were still able to find several places to explore.

First up was Klondike Doughboy, a small store which makes Alaskan Fry Bread. Fry Bread is a giant piece of sweet fried dough covered in cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Shivering and hungry, my dad and I split a giant warm, sweet fry bread and it was undoubtedly delicious. I highly recommend visiting Klondike Doughboy if your cruise docks in Skagway!

Conveniently located next to the warm, doughy fry bread was Glacial Coffeehouse, where we enjoyed hot chocolate while looking through the window at Skagway's rainy streets.

After warming up in the coffeehouse, we continued walking through town and checking out the shops.

The weather was unfortunately very cold and wet, so we called it a day a little early and got back onboard with one thing in mind: the hot tub.

The indoor pool area on Ovation of the Seas has two large hot tubs, so we relaxed there for a while before getting ready for dinner.

Dinner tonight was in the Main Dining Room. We watched the choppy waters pass by as we sailed out of Skagway while enjoying our meal. From steak to curry, ice cream, and apple pie, it was excellent.

Dinner was followed by live piano music at Schooner Bar and later the guitarist at the pub. I love how there are so many places to listen to live music onboard and it is always a nice way to end the day.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed all of our port stops in Alaska and am already itching to visit again! Tomorrow we will sightsee at the Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier while staying on the ship before starting the journey back to Seattle.

Stray Observations:

I was happy I booked the train excursion today because Skagway did not have much going on. This probably isn’t the case in summer, but since it was the last day of the season, there wasn’t much to do.

The pub guitarist on this sailing is awesome!

I prefer a larger Main Dining Room to the smaller venues offered on Ovation of the Seas. The small venues have nice decor, but I miss the big open feeling of one large dining room.

The internet onboard has remained consistently good throughout this sailing. If you’re booking an Alaskan sailing and need good internet, a newer ship like Ovation of the Seas would be a good option.

Getting from the ship to the center of Skagway was a longer walk than in Ketchikan and Juneau but there were small shuttles available.

It may have been cold and rainy some of the time, but don’t let the weather forecast scare you when selecting a date for your Alaska sailing. The weather in Alaska seems to change every five minutes! Plus, going to Alaska later in the season brings wonderful fall colors and snow capped peaks.

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Royal Caribbean offering up to 35% off Cruise Planner purchases with Set Sail & Save sale

In:
13 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

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

The "Set Sail & Save" sale runs between October 13 - 21, 2021 and is valid on sailings between October 17, 2021 - October 31, 2022.

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices. (excl. Rhapsody, Vision, Voyager, and Wonder of the Seas)
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

DINING: Up to 55% off

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

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

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

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 25% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship? | Royal Caribbean Blog

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

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

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

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

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

ACTIVITIES: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes Grandeur, Quantum, Rhapsody, Radiance, Voyager and Wonder of the Seas)

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

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

More helpful information

Royal Caribbean registers new trademarks for possible Southern United States restaurant

In:
12 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

A trio of new trademarks registered by Royal Caribbean could point to a new dining concept for a Southern cuisine restaurant.

Fall off the bone" BBQ Ribs recipe from Royal Caribbean | Royal Caribbean Blog

On October 5, Royal Caribbean registered three trademarks that seem to evoke a Southern motif:

  • Mason Jar
  • Savannah's Table
  • Palmetto Room

Savannah is a prominent Southern city, located in Southeast Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. The palmetto tree is on the flag for South Carolina. Mason jars are widely used in the south, and used for canning, preserving, or storing food. In fact, southerners commonly refer to any glass storage vessel used for these purposes generically as a Mason jar.

All three of the trademarks simply state the trademark is "intended to cover the category of cruise ship services."

The new trademarks line up with surveys sent to cruise passengers in September 2021 asking them their opinion of a new restaurant based around the concept of "southern hospitality."

The classic BBQ restaurant idea was sent in an email survey and described as offering smoked brisket, rubs, fried chicken and plenty of appetizers, sides and desserts.

In the survey, Savannah's Table, The Mason Jar, and Palmetto Room were all listed as possible names for this new BBQ restaurant.

It is worth noting that Royal Caribbean regularly trademarks names and not all trademarks end up becoming actual venues.

Quite often Royal Caribbean trademarks words and phrases with little to no detail on how it may or may not be used.

Video: Royal Caribbean debuts its first Barbecue Restaurant on Oasis of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

If a southern BBQ restaurant becomes a reality, it would be the second BBQ restaurant concept for Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean first introduced a BBQ venue on Oasis of the Seas during her 2019 amplification known as Portside BBQ.

Portside BBQ is priced a la carte, with a menu of tender brisket, pulled pork, chicken, beef ribs, burnt ends and even turkey legs. In addition, there's sides like homestyle cornbread and irresistible mac & cheese.

Currently, Portside BBQ is only available on Oasis of the Seas. There were plans to add it to Allure of the Seas, but Allure had her amplification cancelled in 2020.

Ovation of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Juneau

In:
12 Oct 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today was filled with glaciers, "duck farts", and amazing views of the Alaskan Inside Passage. Here's everything we did on day four of our sailing to Alaska on Ovation of the Seas:

We were not due to arrive in Juneau until 10AM, so had a few hours this morning to relax onboard.

Breakfast today was at the Solarium Bistro. I enjoy eating at the Solarium Bistro because not many people even know it exists! Therefore, it is always much quieter and peaceful than eating in the Windjammer or Main Dining Room.

The breakfast food is similar to what you will find in the Windjammer at breakfast, with eggs, potatoes, bacon, pastries, parfaits, and more. At dinner, the bistro features a Mediterranean-inspired menu and offers plenty of healthier and vegetarian-friendly options.

After breakfast, I grabbed a latte from La Patisserie and brought it up to the running track deck to catch some incredible views of the Inside Passage as we made our way to Juneau.

While drizzling slightly, the weather was fairly mild this morning and many passengers were walking the track. We stood by the railing watching the mountains go by on both sides of the ship. Waterfalls flowed from snow-capped peaks and the sun continued rising from the clouds as Ovation of the Seas sailed through the calm water.

We even caught a few quick glimpses of whales popping in and out of the water, which is always beautiful to see.

It started raining and we took a seat at the upper area of the North Star Bar to continue watching the scenery. I think this is one of the best areas to sit and sightsee on an Alaskan sailing since it is covered and not very windy. We stayed outside for about two hours until Ovation docked in Juneau.

After a quick pit stop to my cabin to grab my waterproof backpack, which I am very glad I brought with me, we disembarked the ship.

While we had no shore excursions planned for Juneau, I wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier. Luckily, there was a ticket booth at the port offering round trip tickets on the Glacier Express bus to Mendenhall for a reasonable price.

The ride on the Glacier Express took about twenty minutes, and the driver pointed out interesting sights and history of Juneau along the way. The ride was in a school bus, so it wasn't the most comfortable ride, but doable for twenty minutes. We also saw a few sneak peak glances at the glacier.

Upon arrival at the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, stunning views were in every direction we looked. I could not stop looking up at the rocky peaks, wildlife, and, of course, Mendenhall Glacier itself.

We walked on a sandbar to catch great views of the glacier and snap some photos. Its magnitude is difficult to capture in a photo, and I can only imagine how incredible it would be to view the glacier above from a helicopter or plane.

To the right of the glacier is Nugget Falls, which is accessible via a short, 2-mile round trip walk on a paved path. At the end of the path, you can view the powerful waterfall up close.

We stayed in this area for a while enjoying the scenery and looking through our binoculars. I highly recommend bringing a pair of binoculars on an Alaskan cruise.

It started to rain more heavily, so we walked back to the Visitor's Center, which offers information about the glacier and has an indoor viewing area, before boarding the bus back to town.

For lunch in Juneau, I ordered traditional Russian dumplings at Pel'meni near the port.

Pelmeni are small dumplings filled with potatoes or meat. Topped with curry flavor, butter, cilantro, and vinegar-based sauce, the pelmeni were delicious and unlike anything I had ever tried before. It was a perfect warm and hearty meal to enjoy in the cold, rainy weather that we encountered in the afternoon.

I had one task left for the day in Juneau: to try the Alaskan Duck Fart shot, and the best spot to try it in Juneau is at the Red Dog Saloon.

The Red Dog Saloon was established over a hundred and twenty years ago and it has a very fun atmosphere, with frontier-themed decor and live music.

We tried the Alaskan Duck Fart, made with Kahlúa, Crown Royal, and Baileys. I'm glad I didn't know about this in college!

The saloon also has food and the prices of both food and drinks are reasonable.

The weather did not seem to be improving, so we went back onboard. Dinner tonight was at the Windjammer. After a long day in port, I did not feel like having a long sit down dinner. Since the buffet is open for dinner on this sailing, we were able to have a quick, casual meal while sailing out of Juneau.

After dinner, we relaxed in Two70 for a while before going to the SeaPlex to try Ripcord by iFLY.

Ovation of the Seas is offering a 1-minute flight option that is complementary and a 2-minute flight option for $49. Since this was my first time trying the skydiving simulator, I opted for the complimentary option.

It was SO fun! The instructors guided my group on how to position our bodies for the best flying experience, and we put our skills to the test as we tried to fly in the chamber. I definitely will not miss the chance to fly again whenever I am on a Quantum class ship.

After flying, we walked around the Royal Esplanade for a bit before heading to bed.

Tomorrow morning we arrive in Skagway for another adventure-filled day!

Stray Observations:

A few fellow cruisers at the Red Dog Saloon commented that they wished Royal Caribbean offered more entertainment in the afternoon before dinnertime. Most shows and live music don't start until about 8pm on port days, and I agree that it would be nice to have more going on onboard before then! 

In this season, bringing a rain coat is essential and I am very grateful I have one!

Since there are a lot of booths offering tours and shuttles right outside the ship in Juneau, I was glad we didn’t book an excursion before getting off the ship.

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What it's like to go on a cruise with unvaccinated kids right now

In:
12 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The cruise ship restart process has seen plenty of policy changes along the way, and while many aspects have gotten more predictable, going on a cruise with kids that are not old enough to be vaccinated is one part of the experience that is a bit different.

I'm going on my first cruise: Here's what I think I should do | Royal Caribbean Blog

While I have been on quite a few cruises since Royal Caribbean restarted operations in June, my kids have mostly not been with me since school restarted very shortly after cruises did.

I took the kids on two sailings in early June, but that was before the Delta variant hit the United States hard, and I wanted to see what it was like to take unvaccinated kids on a cruise now.

To that point, we booked a 3-night cruise on Mariner of the Seas to see what the experience is like for vaccinated parents taking their unvaccinated kids onboard.

Pre-cruise testing

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

Luckily for us, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased the pre-cruise test protocols a few weeks before our cruise, which made things simpler.

Unvaccinated kids have up to 3 days before their cruise to get either a PCR or antigen test before their cruise. The only restrictions are the test cannot be done on embarkation day, and they cannot do the at-home test.

I scheduled my kids to get a complimentary test at CVS.  Using my recommendations for getting a pre-cruise Covid test, I booked an appointment exactly 13 days before I needed it and had no problem finding a CVS location less than 30 minutes away that would do an antigen test for them after school.

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

I've done many tests at CVS because it's complimentary and easy to schedule in advance, and this was no different. We were in and out of CVS in less than 15 minutes for both kids, and test results emailed back in less than hour.

If you're wondering, my wife and I did the at-home test with the Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test and it was even easier than CVS.

Check-in

The biggest difference in protocols for going on a cruise with unvaccinated kids is the test required on embarkation day.

For vaccinated guests, the pre-cruise test is sufficient, but unvaccinated kids have to get an additional test at the cruise terminal on the first day of the cruise.

In the weeks leading up to your cruise, Royal Caribbean will email you with a way to register the kids for the test, which is complimentary.

ACFE3096-B4E4-4E6C-A427-0B5AB612A2D3.jpeg

After walking into the terminal to do the pre-check-in and through security, families head into the luggage area to get their kids tested.

Just like CVS, the nurse checks you in and administers the test.  No "brain tickler" as we had feared, just shallow nose swab. 

After that, they instruct you to have a seat and wait for your results.  An estimate of 40 minutes is how long it should take to process.

In our case, one of my kids' test came back almost exactly 40 minutes after we took the test, but my other daughter's test was invalid (which means they have to run the test again).  

We ended up waiting about 90 minutes in total while the test could be re-run again.

Even without the invalid test scenario, I don't know why anyone would want to have their test done at the terminal. It's a lot of wasted time that you could be onboard, and I would gladly prefer to get my test done on my own and be able to get onboard the ship faster on embarkation day.

I understand that getting a test is a bit of a challenge, but with at-home tests or a little bit of foot work to get an appointment in advance, I would never advocate getting the test done at the terminal if you have a choice. The fear of missing out on that first day is just too much.

Masks

Vaccinated or not, you have to wear a mask while indoors and can remove the mask while outdoors, in your stateroom, or while dining.

Kids cannot go into the unvaccinated only areas of the ship, where masks can be removed, but these are almost all bars, lounges, or the casino.  These are areas of the ships my kids rarely hung out at pre-Covid.

The biggest difference I saw her was bingo was for vaccinated only, which was not the case on our Adventure of the Seas cruise in June. I took it as an omen to avoid spending money on bingo I likely would have lost, but it was one instance where the rule stopped our plans.

Dining

Chef's Table | Royal Caribbean Blog

Another significant change for cruising with kids is there are certain venues you cannot go into, including dining.

Restaurants like Izumi and many bars are only for fully vaccinated guests.

My kids love Izumi, so unfortunately we had to forgo dining there.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

More problematic is the fact kids cannot walk through vaccinated only zones, which means kids cannot walk through Deck 4 of Mariner of the Seas because the casino and Schooner Bar are for vaccinated only. 

Luckily, kids can still dine at the other specialty restaurants onboard, and we had a nice meal at Jamie's Italian, Chops Grille, and the main dining room.

For the main dining room, deck 4 has areas for all parties (vaccinated and those with unvaccinated children.)  My Time Dining is not available to unvaccinated children, which is not a problem for us since we always do traditional dining.  Of course, that may be a problem if you prefer My Time Dining.

I think the biggest issue was simply not being able to dine at Izumi. I wish we could have taken them to Izumi, but understand the reasoning for that being vaccinated only as there is no way to socially distance at the hibachi tables.

Adventure Ocean

Our experience with Adventure Ocean was identical to our cruise in June on Adventure of the Seas.

Adventure Ocean operates on a limited capacity, and each family is only allowed to sign up for a certain amount of sessions on the first day of the cruise.

On this 3-night sailing, Voyagers (9-11 years old) were limited to one session sign up, whereas Explorers (6-8) were able to register two sessions. 

They allowed us to sign up for other sessions later on, and it was never an issue in our case to get our kids into Adventure Ocean while on Mariner.  We did encounter more demand for Adventure Ocean back in June, as more families opted to use the service back then.

My advice for anyone who wants to use Adventure Ocean is to register on the first day in the afternoon when they hold their open house, and book as many sessions/hours you can up front.  Then ask when more hours will become available to book and be sure to sign up at that time.

Shore excursions

Another big hurdle for families is if you have unvaccinated kids, you can only get off the cruise ship if you have a Royal Caribbean shore excursion booked.

At Perfect Day at CocoCay, there are no restrictions because it is run by the cruise line. By far, visiting CocoCay is the easiest to plan day for families with kids.

Our only other port stop was Nassau, and we decided to stay onboard.

For our cruises coming up later this year with the kids, this restriction is particularly problematic and I foresee us leaving the kids in Adventure Ocean because if only the vaccinated people in your family wish to disembark, they can do so and tour on their own.

Depending on the port of call you visit and your kids' interests, there can be very limited options. On our Navigator of the Seas cruise in December, there are only three shore excursions to choose from in Puerto Vallarta.  Two of those three tours are for kids at least 12 years old.

While the shore excursion rule did not impact us for our 3-night cruise on Mariner of the Seas, it could prove to be a bigger problem on longer sailings.

Bottom line

Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

In short, cruising with my unvaccinated kids was still plenty fun, even with a few extra hurdles.

The embarkation day test was by far the worst issue we encountered, but even that was a fleeting issue.

I think the shore excursion limitation and the Adventure Ocean limited capacity have the potential to be problematic for some, depending on what you like to do and the itinerary you are on. I think some people will find this a major problem, while others may not mind at all. 

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

Overall, I still felt much safer taking my kids on a cruise than sending them to school.  My kids underwent two different covid tests on the cruise, and strict mask wearing rules were in place.  At school, there are multiple calls from the principal each week about some student or staff member that tested positive for Covid-19 with absolutely no changes to address that there.

As a parent, I greatly appreciated the "bubble" Royal Caribbean created for all passengers, and compared to other land vacation alternatives that have no testing and/or vaccine requirements, the cruise lines are doing an admirable job.

Perfect Day at CocoCay October 2021 photo update

In:
11 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

With cruises sailing again, changes are happening at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

While visiting Royal Caribbean's private island on a Mariner of the Seas sailing this past weekend, I took a look around some of the most recent changes happening on the island.

Hideaway Beach progress

As you may or may not know, Royal Caribbean is expanding Perfect Day at CocoCay with a new area called "Hideaway Beach".

There are no details yet as to what this area will offer, but here is a look at where the new venue will be located.

These photos were taken from the family tower in Thrill Waterpark, as well as from the cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean recently sent guests an email survey with ideas for what Hideaway Beach could offer.

South Beach reopened

This weekend saw Royal Caribbean re-open South Beach.

Since cruises restarted, South Beach had been closed since ship capacity was so low that there was no need to open up South Beach.

However, Freedom of the Seas and Allure of the Seas were in Perfect Day at CocoCay this past Saturday, bringing around 7,000 guests in total to the island. As a result, South Beach was opened up again for passengers.

South Beach has two bars, Coconut Willie's Bar and South Beach Bar.

There are also cabanas for rent at South Beach.

Not only did Royal Caribbean re-open South Beach, they moved the floating bar back to South Beach. It was previously located at Breezy Bay at Chill Island, but that was a temporary location while South Beach was closed.

Royal Caribbean on list of companies possibly under investigation for violating Florida's vaccine passport ban

In:
11 Oct 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Florida's Department of Health released a list of groups and companies under investigation for possibly violating Florida's ban on companies asking for proof of vaccine, and Royal Caribbean is on the list.

6 interesting facts from Royal Caribbean's second quarter earnings call | Royal Caribbean Blog

In May 2021, the Florida Legislature passed a new law that states all business entities “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or services from the business operations in this state,” subject to the imposition of a fine not exceeding $5,000 per violation.

The list of 120 groups was released by the the Department of Health in response to a public records request by the Orlando Sentinel.

Royal Caribbean is among many other companies that made the list, including the Miami Marlins, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s counterterrorism squad, and AT&T.

PortMiami Prepares for Record 52,000 Cruise Passengers on Sunday - Royal Caribbean News and Rumors - Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line on the list. Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line also made the list.

Violators could face a $5,000 per violation fine, which is enforced by Florida's Department of Health.

If a violation is issued, there is a right for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Norwegian Cruise Line warns it could move cruise ships from Florida due to vaccine passport ban | Royal Caribbean Blog

Florida Governor's press secretary said Christina Pushaw has said the state would not enforce the law for the cruise industry until a decision is made on the injunction.

Last week, Florida announced it would appeal the decision against it in its fight with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) over the vaccine passport ban.

According to court documents, Florida believes the U.S. constitution gives companies no right for private companies to refuse service to prospective customers who fail to disclose private medical documentation.

NCLH said in the court proceedings Florida's law violated its First Amendment rights and dormant Commerce Clause claims.

Ovation of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Ketchikan

In:
11 Oct 2021
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Our first port stop on Ovation of the Seas brings us to the small town of Ketchikan in southeast Alaska. The scenery, history, and culture of the island far exceeded my expectations, making today a truly unforgettable travel experience.

After waking up just as the sun was rising around 7am, we ate a quick breakfast in the Windjammer. We continued our daily tradition of heading to the Windjammer’s outdoor deck to see some amazing views of Alaska on both sides of the ship.

Prior to my sailing, I researched what Alaskan weather would be like in October and expected every day to be extremely cold, rainy, and windy. However, the weather today was only slightly chilly and had only very light rain throughout the day! Watching the fog roll over the rainforest and the slow movement of the glassy water was a peaceful start to the day.

We took advantage of the nice weather and disembarked the ship around 7:30am. As we booked a shore excursion later in the morning, we had a little time to explore Ketchikan before the tour began.

Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s first city and the salmon capital of the world. Non-natives were attracted to the resources Ketchikan offered, such as fish and lumber, and formally established the town in 1892. Ketchikan is very small and walkable. In fact, there are no roads out of the island and many of the locals I talked with said they do not own cars.

The port is located right in the center of town. Once you get off the ship, there is a Visitor’s Center where you can learn more about the island and excursion opportunities. There are also many souvenir shops and restaurants nearby.

The architecture in Ketchikan reminded me of a historic mining town and it was fun to walk around and explore on our own. The town is dotted with totem poles created by the native Tlingit people of Ketchikan, which was really fascinating to see, and spectacular views were abound everywhere we looked.

At 9am, we headed back to port to board a bus for our shore excursion. Originally, our cruise was not supposed to go to Ketchikan. Due to a storm in the Sitka area, though, our itinerary changed. Therefore, we decided to book the Saxman Native Totem Village excursion in Ketchikan.

This excursion brought us to Saxman, a small town right next to Ketchikan primarily inhabited by the Tlinget people. The tour began with a brief lesson on the history and culture of the Tlinget people, who have inhabited Alaska for thousands of years.

We then enjoyed a dance ceremony by a group of locals dressed in traditional wear. It was fascinating to see and learn about a culture that has existed for so long in the place we were visiting for just a a few hours.

We then walked outside to a path lined with totem poles, which tell traditional stories passed down through history or are created to honor a specific person or animal. The totem poles are traditionally painted black, blue, and red.

After a quick stop to see where the totem poles are carved, we made our way back to the center of Ketchikan to continue exploring on our own.

While we originally planned to eat at the Alaska Fish Market right on the water, the line was pretty long, so we looked for somewhere else to eat. On the way, we passed the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, which looks like a really fun activity to do in Ketchikan.

Lunch took us to the Pioneer Cafe, where we enjoyed classic diner food in a 50’s inspired setting.

There were still a few hours left in port after lunch, so we walked to Creek Street, the former red light district in Ketchikan. This was one of my favorite areas of the city, with historic buildings and walkways lined up against a creek.

We explored the walkways and got out our binoculars to watch two seals playing in the water.

At the end of Creek Street, a path continued into the forest which led to a lodge up the hill. Ketchikan is in the Tongass National Forest and is covered in lush greenery, so the walk was especially beautiful and featured great views of the city, the rushing water, and Ovation of the Seas.

My dad and I have a goal of visiting a brewery in each Alaskan port we visit, and today we visited the Bawden Street Brewing Company in Ketchikan. It was a quaint space with fresh beer on tap and we had no complaints!

Before getting back onboard, we stopped by one of the souvenir shops lining the street in front of the port to buy gifts to bring back home.

Once onboard, I headed to my cabin to relax before walking over to the North Star. Unfortunately, the captain decided to leave port a little earlier to avoid storms at sea, so our North Star time would not be operating. I was hoping to get the chance to get on the North Star on this sailing, but it looks like I may be out of luck since it is fully booked!

Sailaway featured more unbelievable views, and we grabbed a drink at the pool bar to watch the scenery pass by.

Dinner tonight was at Silk, one of the main dining areas on Ovation of the Seas, where we enjoyed Indian curry, chicken parmesan, arugula salad, and dessert.

Tired from a long day of exploring, we relaxed in the Solarium briefly before heading to Two70 to watch Pixel’s Cabaret.

I failed to understand the storyline of the show, but the dancing and technology was impressive as always! So far, my favorite show onboard any Royal Caribbean ship has been “The Book” in Two70 on Odyssey of the Seas.

After Pixel’s Cabaret, I brought my laptop to the pub to listen to the guitarist and write this blog post. And now I’m off to bed!

Tomorrow we are due to arrive in Juneau at 10AM.

Stray Observations:

The shows and activities filled up quickly on this sailing due to a higher capacity. If you’re sailing soon, be sure to book entertainment and activities as soon as they appear in the Cruise Planner.

Royal Caribbean’s app often has several tech problems. The biggest problem I’ve encountered is that there is no option to change a time of a reservation without canceling the reservation first. I wanted to switch the time of our Ripcord by iFLY flight, but I had to cancel the reservation first and then the time I planned to switch to was no longer available.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Gene from Massachusetts informed me today at the pool bar that there are no Ovation of the Seas magnets available to purchase onboard, so he can’t add to his collection!

Don’t trust the weather forecast too much in Alaska. Like in the Caribbean, the weather changes frequently throughout the day here. I thought it would rain all day today, but the rain was very light and only happened on and off throughout the day.

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