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Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - La Rochelle, France

In:
20 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

My first day in France was everything I could have dreamed of and more! I try not to have expectations when I cruise, but I'm sure if I did have expectations, they would have been blown away today.

As I walked to the Windjammer for breakfast this morning, Anthem of the Seas was arriving in La Rochelle, a small coastal city in southwestern France around two hours from Bordeaux. I've never been to France before, so I couldn't wait to get off the ship and experience the country's culture, history, and cuisine.

Part of the reason I picked this cruise itinerary was to visit lesser-known ports in Spain and France. While I'm sure I would have had an amazing day if visiting somewhere like Barcelona or Nice, the idea of visiting towns I had never heard of before was intriguing.

Samantha and I got off the ship around 8:30 and boarded a 15-minute shuttle bus from the industrial port to La Rochelle's city center.

I immediately found myself in awe of the quaint cobblestone streets of La Rochelle. The town is undeniably cute, and while I've visited plenty of seaside towns before, wandering through La Rochelle almost felt like a fairytale! It was a lovely first impression of France.

My first stop was a local bakery for a pain au chocolat. Not much makes me happier than chocolate, and enjoying a chocolate croissant in a charming French town? Yes, please!

Fueled on sugar, it was time to get active and see more of this picturesque port.

Cycling La Rochelle

I'm a big fan of renting a bicycle while in port as it allows you to see so much more than you can see on foot. La Rochelle is extremely bike friendly, with car-free paths throughout the city and along the coast.

There were two options for renting a bicycle. The first was through the town's public bicycle transport system. Dotted around La Rochelle are bicycle stations where you can rent a bicycle and pay as you go. I initially tried to reserve this option, but had trouble receiving the SMS verification code to my American phone number.

Therefore I went with the second option, a bicycle rental from Greenbike, a local shop. For €11, I rented a beach cruiser for 4 hours, and Samantha and I took off on our bicycles.

The cycling was gorgeous and brought us on fully car-free cycle paths around the coastline just south of La Rochelle's historic center. We stopped along the way for photos and to enjoy the sunny beach views.

After around two hours of leisurely cycling and stopping at nearby beaches, we made our way back to downtown La Rochelle for lunch. The town was more lively in the afternoon than it had been when we first arrived.

An ode to crepes

Having never traveled to France, I was looking forward to tasting local cuisine beyond the delicious pain au chocolat I enjoyed earlier in the day.

When walking around town, we came across a cute alleyway lined with shops and restaurants. The incredible smell of savory crêpes caught our attention when strolling the alleyway, so we immediately decided to dine at Crêperie L’epi de Blé.

I ordered the set meal, which came with a savory crepe, beer, and chocolate dessert crepe for €14. I settled on the ratatouille crepe, which is a buckwheat crepe with a cheese and vegetable filling and topped with a fried egg.

I've never tasted anything quite like this crêpe. In fact, after years of travel through Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia, this is undoubtedly on my list of the best meals I've ever had. I cannot stop thinking about how delicious it was, and I've opened my phone to look at the picture I took of my crêpe at least 20 times today. 

Strolling around La Rochelle

While Samantha stayed at the crêperie for an iconic afternoon of reading and sipping local rosé, I decided to explore more of La Rochelle on foot.

I walked in the opposite direction of the harbor to see what local life is like in town. We were in port on Sunday, so it was noticeably quiet with most shops closed, but plenty of locals were dining outdoors and shopping at the local produce market.

My impression of La Rochelle is that it is a port where tourism has not overtaken local life. It felt quaint and authentic even with the influx of passengers from Anthem of the Seas. I enjoyed the local feel of the town as opposed to a huge city, especially when visiting for only a few hours.

I spent the last hour or so in town sitting by the harbor, enjoying the sunshine, and watching life go by in downtown La Rochelle.

Back onboard

Not much is better than spending time in your stateroom after a busy day in port, so we relaxed for an hour or so before dinner. We had dinner in the Main Dining Room tonight, with the warm bananas foster a highlight of our meal.

After a terribly cloudy day yesterday, I took advantage of today's sunshine with a post-dinner walk around the pool deck. The primary reason I'm onboard is to film a full ship tour of Anthem of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel, so I spent a while collecting footage of the ship.

La Rochelle is the first of three port days in a row, so Samantha and I took it easy tonight with a frozen mojito in the Solarium followed by a game of cards in our stateroom.

Tomorrow we arrive in Bilbao, Spain!

La Rochelle: Overall thoughts

I had a wonderful day in La Rochelle and it got me even more excited for the next three ports on this itinerary.

Everyone in town was extremely friendly and welcoming. While I do not speak much French, every local I encountered in the historic center spoke some English. I think I'll have to start studying French to experience the country more in-depth!

France had never been on the top of my travel bucket list, and I often find myself traveling to other European countries like Italy and Spain. After today, though, I cannot believe I waited so long to experience small-town France.

Shore excursions are definitely not needed in La Rochelle as the town is extremely walkable and plenty of tourist sites (museums, a castle, etc ) are found right in the city center. There were also plenty of activities for kids to enjoy, from a carousel to a playground, merry-go-round, bungee trampoline, and nearby beaches.

More Anthem of the Seas Live Blogs

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea day

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 19, 2022

In:
19 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! I would like to wish all the dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day! Hope you get to have a relaxing and fun-filled day with your family!

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the latest Royal Caribbean news!

We might know the name of Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean registered 9 new cruise ship names recently with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Names include previously used names, such as Majesty and Splendor of the Seas, as well as new names, such as Titan or Nova of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean News

Read our Europe Live Blog

Our first live blog from a European cruise has begun, with Jenna sailing on Anthem of the Seas.

She is sharing everything from her 7-night Spain & France cruise, which sails roundtrip from Southampton, England.

New RCB Video: How to make Royal Caribbean's drink package work for you!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — How to make Royal Caribbean's drink package work for you! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Pros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute

What are the best reasons to book a cruise super early or at the very last minute?

Both options offer have their benefits, whether saving money by booking far in advance or coming across a last-minute cruise deal.

We've got a look at the pros and cons of booking your cruise late and early to help determine which option works best for you.

What happened when I tested positive for Covid on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Unfortunately, Matt tested positive for Covid at the end of his Alaska cruise, and shared what the experience was like from start to finish.

From getting tested, to quarantine, to being escorted off the ship, Matt shares what his experience was like so you have an idea of what to expect if it were to happen to you.

Royal Caribbean wants to add Starlink high-speed internet to its cruise ships

If Royal Caribbean gets its way, we could all benefit from faster onboard internet.

Royal Caribbean is looking to add SpaceX's Starlink internet access to its cruise ships, but first needs to get approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

"Working with SpaceX Services, Inc., we believe we have identified a true next generation solution for our vessels that meets the rigorous technical and operational requirements commensurate with our growth plans," John Maya, Royal Caribbean Group's Vice President, Operational Excellence, said in a letter to FCC international bureau chief Tom Sullivan.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
19 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the second day of my cruise on Anthem of the Seas, and it is a sea day as we make our way to La Rochelle, France.

We are sailing through the Bay of Biscay today, a patch of sea that has been feared by sailors for hundreds of years. Due to its exposure to the open Atlantic waters, the bay often encounters treacherous weather conditions and swells making ports inaccessible.

While we did not encounter treacherous seas like many unlucky sailors in the past, the sea was far from calm and the weather was quite dreary throughout the day. There was no rain, but was quite cloudy and chilly outside. I'm hoping we encounter more sunlight later on in this cruise!

Despite traveling west, the ship's time shifted one hour forward today to match with Spain and France's time zone. I took it easy this morning with a small breakfast at Cafe @ Two70 while catching up on blogging.

I had reserved a 12PM lunch at Jamie's Italian on this cruise, so I was looking forward to a delicious Italian meal! While I plan to eat primarily at complimentary dining venues on this cruise, I did treat myself and my friend Samantha to lunch at Jamie's with onboard credit I received when booking the sailing.

Jamie's Italian is my favorite Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant, and we ordered quite a few dishes to try. Starting our meal was the black truffle arancini, ultimate garlic bread, and burrata.

For the main course, I ordered my go-to dish of eggplant parmagiana and penne pomodoro. Samantha loved her baked lasagne and truffle tagliatelle.

I was far too full, so I took my dessert (Amalfi lemon cheesecake) to go!

The meal was fairly quick, with us in and out in a little over an hour. The food was up to par (and maybe even a bit better) with Jamie's Italian on other ships, and our server Ronald was fantastic!

Funny enough, Jamie Oliver himself was onboard Anthem of the Seas for the day yesterday to work with the staff on training and quality! It definitely paid off as the meal was delightful.

After lunch I decided to test my luck with my Crown & Anchor Society free play money at the casino. I quickly turned $8 into $30, but I am not much of a gambler, so I decided to cash out my winnings instead of losing it all.

Following today's (extra large) winnings, I took a walk around the pool deck to get some air. I fully expected the pool deck to be nearly empty, so I was extremely surprised to see a ton of guests "sunbathing" under the cloudy skies!

I've never seen so many guests on the pool deck during a dreary weather day in the Caribbean, so it was fun to see the cultural differences in attitude toward far from ideal weather.

After a few rounds of cards in the Solarium, we attended an afternoon "Where in the World?" trivia session at Schooner Bar. We were given a series of clues in order to guess where in the world the trivia host was describing. To my surprise, we did pretty well!

After such a large lunch at Jamie's Italian, we decided to skip the Main Dining Room in favor of a lighter meal at Solarium Bistro.

Solarium Bistro is a Mediterranean-inspired complimentary restaurant served buffet style (with main dishes ordered via a menu). From hummus to falafel, grilled vegetables, and salmon, it hit the spot for a quick dinner. Not many people even know this restaurant exists, so it was relatively empty.

This evening's festivities first brought us to karaoke in Boleros followed by tonight's big band jazz performance in Two70. I love jazz music, and Royal Caribbean always has amazing big band jazz performances, so I was excited to check it out.

Tonight's performance definitely did not disappoint and it has been my favorite entertainment thus far onboard. Samantha and I were both in jazz band throughout high school, so we are total geeks when it comes to jazz music! From the musicians' excellent improvising skills to watching guests dance to the tunes, it was a wonderful way to end our second day on Anthem of the Seas.

Tomorrow we are docked in La Rochelle, France!

Stray observations:

There was a Titanic staircase backdrop for formal night photos tonight.

There are no chairs on the promenade deck aside from the smoking area. Usually there are chairs to sit and watch the view, but I haven't seen any on this ship.

Comparing the biggest cruise ship in the world vs. Titanic

In:
18 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas is among the largest cruise ships in the world, so how does it compare to the most well-known ship of all time?

Photo by By F.G.O. Stuart (1843-1923)

The Titanic is more than likely the most well-known ocean liner because of its famous accident in 1912. Her sinking has never been eclipsed in the public imagination, despite decades of larger and safe cruise ships.

Nonetheless, if you mention cruise ships to someone who is new to cruising, inevitably the Titanic references usually follow. So if your baseline for understanding what a cruise ship is is based on a vessel that sailed over 100 years ago, here is a look at how much different big ships are now.

Meet Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

At about five times the size of Titanic, the world's largest cruise ship is Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas.

Spanning 18 decks, Wonder is the fifth Oasis Class cruise ship to be launched.

Size is everything with Symphony, as she is 1,188 feet in length.  If you were to stand her up, she's almost as tall as the Empire State Building (1,250 feet without any antennas).

Wonder of the Seas Fun Facts Infographic

There are four pools and 10 hot tubs on Wonder of the Seas to enjoy

Getting around the ships is pretty easy, thanks to the neighborhood concept Royal Caribbean developed for these ships. There are eight neighborhoods inside the ship to help distinguish areas from each other and make navigation for guests simpler.

You will find 2,867 staterooms, including 175 suites.

Read moreInteresting facts you might not know about Wonder of the Seas

How big was the Titanic?

Titanic was a large ship for its time, coming in at 882 feet 9 inches long and encompassing 9 decks.

  • Beam: 92 feet 6 inches
  • Height: 175 feet
  • Weight: 46,328 gross tons

Titanic was the largest ship built up to that point in time.

Comparing Wonder of the Seas to Titanic

Not only is Wonde rof the Seas larger than Titanic, all of the Oasis Class cruise ships are larger than the Titanic in gross tonnage, as well as size.

The Titanic measured in at 882 feet and 9 inches long, and weighed 46,328 gross tons.

Wonder of the Seas measures 1,188 feet in length and has a gross tonnage of 236,857.

In terms of gross tonnage, Titanic doesn't even make the list the top 64 world's largest cruise ships by gross tonnage.

Ditto for length; Among the top 64 largest cruise ships in the world today, the "shortest" ship comes in at 984.1 ft with the AIDAprima and AIDAperla.

Titanic was built at an estimated cost of $7.5 million in 1912, which in today's dollars would cost approximately $400 million.

Wonder of the Seas cost $1.35 billion to construct.

Titanic could handle 2,453 passengers, while Wonder of the Seas has a capacity of 5,734 passengers at double occupancy.

 Wonder of the SeasTitanic
Passengers5,734 passengers at double occupancy; 6,680 passengers maximum2,435
Crew Members2,300892
Length1,188 ft882 feet
Weight236,857 gross tons46,328 gross tons
Max speed22 knots23 knots
Decks189
Cost to Build$1.35 billion$400 million (today's cost)

Illustration by PA Graphics

In terms of things to do on each ship, Titanic offered a heated pool, gym, squash court, and Turkish bath.

Wonder of the Seas has 25 pools, a FlowRider surf simulator, two rock walls, a full-sized basketball court, ice-skating rink, mini golf course, and a carousel.

In the evening, Titanic would feature smoking rooms, billiards, music, and dancing.

On Wonder of the Seas, you can find original production shows, ice skating shows, piano bars, karaoke, live music, movie screenings and production shows in the AquaTheater.

How much is a ticket on Titanic vs. Wonder of the Seas?

Any cruise fan knows that there is no standard price for a cruise.  Cruise fares vary from ship to ship and even sailing to sailing.

It is not unreasonable to pay around $2,000 for a balcony cabin for two guests on Wonder of the Seas.

The prices of tickets on the Titanic in 1912 ranged from £30 (equivalent to £3,000 in 2019) and £870 (equivalent to  £100,027.45 in 2021) for a parlour suite and small private promenade deck in first class, to £8 for a third-class adult fares and £3 for children. That's roughly equal to between $100,000 to $345 in today's prices.

Unlike modern cruise ships, Titanic had different classes of fares. First, second, and third class, which were distinguished by social status and ticket cost.

First class was for the wealthiest and most prominent passengers.  These were upper class people, who had careers in business, politics, the military, or industry. These were the well-to-do and most well-known people sailing.

Second Class was essentially the middle class people, which might include tourists, members of the clergy, and educators.

Third class (sometimes known as steerage) was mostly made up of immigrants moving to North America. 

How do these ships compare?

Wonder of the Seas aerial aft

In short, Wonder of the Seas and Titanic don't have a ton in common besides being ocean going vessels. Today's cruise ships are very different than ocean liners, like Titanic.

What many people who are new to cruise ships fail to understand is the fundamental shift leisure cruising underwent in the second half of the 20th century. Ocean liners and ferries evolved into the cruise ships that we know today.

Ocean liners were primarily used to bring passengers across the ocean from one point to another, whereas cruise ships go on pleasure voyages, closer to the coast, sailing between ports.

Unfortunately, many cruise novices have Titanic as their only frame of reference when it comes to non-cargo ships, so it ends up being the defacto benchmark.

Not only are ships like Wonder of the Seas immensely larger, the experience onboard is vastly different, with more to see, do, and eat than Titanic could have ever dreamed.

When is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

In:
18 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Want to know when is the best time to go on an Alaska cruise for great weather, low prices, or fewer crowds?

The beautiful natural scenery of Alaska is simply unparalleled, and the spring and summer months are when cruise ships visit each year. You'll find many hours of daylight in the summer with long days.  It's why Alaska is known as the land of the midnight sun.

It is hard to top the majestic beauty of rugged glaciers, plethora of unique animal sightings, or huge mountains. Going on a cruise to Alaska is an extremely popular kind of cruise, because it offers an easy way to see so much in a compact amount of time.

The peak of the Alaskan cruise season is between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September because of the warmer temperatures. All the cruise lines will be operating in Alaskan waters during this peak season.

Royal Caribbean also sails to Alaska in early May and into late September or even October, where you can find some great deals.

While it is impossible to see and do it all over the course of a one week cruise, Alaska has the power to enchant even brief visitors.  So while you are stuck at home, this may be the perfect time to start planning a cruise to The Last Frontier.

Here is your guide for figuring out the best times to visit for your first (or 50th) Alaska cruise.

The best time for an Alaska cruise to avoid crowds

The Alaska cruise season runs between May and September, but there are definite ebbs and flows to demand and crowds in the ports you will visit.

If you are looking for the months with the lowest crowds in Alaska, try for May or September.  These are the "shoulder season" months, which is when the season begins and ends, and is when you will find less people vying for a cruise. 

Moreover, going during May or September is also when most kids are still in school, which means families are unable to cruise during this period.

Skagway ship at end of street

The downside to these months is the weather tends to be the most unpredictable, and that can be an issue with possibly impacting your shore excursions.  Most notably helicopter and boat excursions are the most at risk for cancellation.

Since Alaska cruises are so dependent on outdoor activities, your best chance for sunny days can be opposite of when the best time for crowds are each season.

Read more: What is the best month to cruise to Alaska?

The best months for an Alaska cruise for good weather

The weather in Alaska can, and will, change multiple times per day, but you will find the warmest months to be June, July and August.

The median months will see higher temperatures and longer days for touring, and it represents the limited summer that Alaska enjoys. However, July and August tend to also have higher levels of precipitation.

Here's a look at the average temperatures in Southeast Alaska:

  • May: average high 54 degrees and average low is 39 degrees
  • June: average high 62 degrees and average low is 47degrees
  • July: average high 65 degrees and average low is 51 degrees
  • August: average high 63 degrees and average low is 48 degrees
  • September: average high 55 degrees and average low is 41 degrees
Franklin Street

If you do book a cruise during summer, be sure to plan your shore excursions well in advance to avoid tours selling out.

If you are willing to trade warmth for less precipitation, then go for May. In fact, the end of May and early June offers some of the best weather in the region throughout the year.

Sitka, Alaska

If you want to see snow on the ground, April or early May is the best month for that.

Most cruise passengers tend to avoid the early season because of the school calendar and cooler weather.  By going in the summer months, many people get to enjoy Alaska when things are in full swing and of course the warmer weather.

Read moreComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2022

The best months for an Alaska cruise for low prices

Alaska is not a cheap cruise, but if you want to save money on your cruise fare, then your best bet is May or September.

For the same reasons May and September feature lower crowds, these months see most often the lowest prices for a cruise because of the combination of colder temperatures and the school calendar.

Read moreWhat is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

The best time to see the Northern Lights on an Alaska cruise

Few places allow for viewing of the aurora borealis, and the best time see the Northern Lights is in September.

September is the time of year when the sun sets earlier during the cruise season, which means the sky gets darker and makes for the most ideal viewing conditions.

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

Of course, temperatures during September will be lower than other times of the year, but the opportunity to see the Northern Lights is a real treat.

As mentioned in this article, not only does September provide the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, but you will also enjoy less crowds and likely lower prices on a cruise.

Read moreTop 10 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

The best time to see wildlife on an Alaska cruise

You will see plenty of wildlife during your Alaska cruise throughout the cruise season, including whale watching, sea lions, bears, & birds.

The best months to catch a glimpse of the amazing fauna that call Alaska home are the months of June and July. 

  • Moose: Moose give birth around June.
  • Caribou: June is the best month to see herds of caribou
  • Humpback Whales:  June and July is when the humpback whales migrate through Alaska's Inside Passage.
  • Black bears: Spring is ideal because the new vegetation lures back in sheep, mountain goats and black bears. July is also good because that is when salmon runs start to get busy.
  • Brown bears: July and August are when you will have a better chance to see brown bears since they are near rivers and streams.
  • King Salmon: King salmon runs start in late May.
  • Bird watching: June is when you have a good chance to see unusual birds migrating.
  • Bald eagles: You'll find eagles throughout the season, but August is a great time since they are found near the sockeye salmon spawning locations.
  • Killer Whales:  Your best chance at seeing Orcas is from May to the beginning of June.

Read moreWhat Is an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise?

What month should I book my Alaska cruise?

Ultimately, there is no perfect time to sail to Alaska, as each month offers its own advantages and disadvantages, and choosing when to cruise to Alaska comes down to your preferences.

If you prefer fewer crowds and lower pricing…

Empty Skagway street

If a cruise with fewer crowds is important to you, it might be a good idea to avoid Alaska cruises in June, July, and August. Not only will there likely be more guests onboard during the summer, but in the ports you are visiting as well. If you are looking for a more quiet experience onboard and on shore, consider cruising to Alaska in May or September.

Plus, as prices are cheaper in the shoulder season, it can be an excellent opportunity to upgrade your stateroom category or splurge on add-ons like excursions, dining packages, or beverage packages.

A suite that costs $2000 per person in May may cost upwards of $3300 per person in mid-July. Such a large price difference allows you to enhance your Alaska cruise experience in other ways, whether booking a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter tour or kayaking through fjords.

However, it’s not necessarily a good idea to pick a cruise based solely on price. While price should definitely be a consideration, it’s important to consider other factors before choosing an Alaska cruise.

If you want the best weather…

If having the highest chance of warm temperatures and sunny days is important to you, cruising to Alaska in the peak summer months is your best bet.

Weather can get fairly warm in June, July, and August, which can make port days more comfortable. It’s not uncommon for the weather to be nice enough for t-shirts in the summer as opposed to the raincoats and down jackets you may have to wear in early spring or fall.

That being said, while the shoulder season in Alaska may lead to cooler temperatures and more rain, packing appropriately will keep you dry and warm when exploring Alaska’s ports.

White Pass train in Skagway

Additionally, June, July, and August may come with more crowds, but offer several more hours of daylight compared to in the fall. This can be a huge advantage for Alaska cruises in the summer.

More hours of daylight on an Alaska cruise means more time to sightsee, whether in port or when sailing through the Inside Passage. Juneau, for example, sees around 18 hours of daylight in June compared to just 12 in September.

If you’re hoping to spot wildlife…

If spotting wildlife is a priority for you on an Alaska cruise, pick your sailing date carefully. June, July, and August are fantastic times to cruise Alaska to view wildlife, as these months bring the highest chances of spotting whales, bears, and salmon.

If you plan to book a whale watching excursion or want to see bears, you may be left disappointed if you cruise to Alaska at the very end of the season.

Nothing is guaranteed

No matter how much planning you do before selecting your cruise dates, it’s very important to remember that nothing is guaranteed on an Alaska cruise. Sure, it may be more common to view Alaska’s wildlife in the peak of summer, but it’s also possible you’ll see little to no wildlife at all on your cruise, or that you will see a plethora of wildlife in the shoulder season!

Likewise, while weather should be colder during the shoulder seasons of May and September, Alaska’s weather is quite unpredictable. You might be surprised with warm days in September or chilly, rainy days in July! Packing for all seasons is a must when cruising to Alaska.

In addition, sailing in the shoulder season does not necessarily mean there won’t be crowds onboard. While it’s possible the ship will not be sailing at 100% capacity, it’s unlikely you will encounter an empty ship. Plus, Royal Caribbean will adjust prices according to demand, so if a shoulder season cruise is not selling well, prices may drop until more people book the cruise.

Whatever month you choose for your Alaska cruise, though, is sure to bring the opportunity to visit charming towns, explore phenomenal nature, and make memories with family and friends. There’s no right or wrong time to cruise to Alaska, but having an idea of the pros and cons of each season should help decide which time of year works best for you.

Read more on when to cruise to Alaska:

What it's like to go on an Alaska cruise in the early season

What it's like to go on an Alaska cruise at the end of the season

What is the best time to cruise to Alaska? (month by month)

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
18 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the first day of my first ever European cruise! Over the next week, I'll be onboard Anthem of the Seas for a 7-night cruise, visiting four ports in northern Spain and France. The next week should lead to some fun adventures in La Rochelle, Bilbao, La Coruña, and Le Havre, so be sure to follow along on this live blog!

I arrived in London yesterday after spending the previous few days visiting friends in Edinburgh and Manchester. Upon arrival, I checked into my hotel in the city center, the Hilton London Bankside.

Staying the night in London

When checking in, I was pleasantly surprised with a complimentary upgrade to a suite! We were placed in the hotel's Vegan Suite, a room made with 100% vegan materials. With one bedroom, a living room, full bathroom, and half bath, it was very comfortable and spacious!

I ended up spending most of the evening relaxing in the suite, as I will be returning to London for sightseeing the weekend after my cruise. I realized it's a good idea that I'm never booked in a suite on a cruise ship. If how much time I spent in my hotel suite is any indication of how much time I would spend in a cruise ship suite... I would probably never leave my stateroom!

Suites at the Hilton London Bankside also come with complimentary access to the Executive Lounge, similar to the Diamond Lounge on Royal Caribbean ships. Complimentary soft drinks, coffee, and snacks are available throughout the day and a happy hour is served from 6-8PM with alcoholic beverages and a hot food selection.

The hotel had an impressive breakfast selection as well, with both cold and hot foods served buffet style and cooked to order.

I enjoyed the hotel's location near the river. Tourist sites and plenty of restaurants and bars were just a short walk away, and the hotel was well located for public transit. I’m glad I spent the night in London instead of Southampton, as it was extremely easy to get to the port the next day!

Getting to the Southampton cruise port

Southampton is around 75 miles from London and is easily accessed via train. I booked roundtrip train tickets on the app Trainline for $70. I booked the “Off-Peak Return” ticket which meant I could take any train during off-peak hours. I liked the flexibility of this ticket as I did not have to rush to the station and I can return to London on any train of disembarkation day.

My friend Samantha and I walked around 15 minutes from the London Hilton Bankside to London Waterloo station. Boarding the train is extremely simple, as there is no security and you simply scan your e-ticket at the appropriate platform. The train was comfortable and air conditioned and it was a brief 80 minute ride through the English countryside to Southampton.

When we arrived, we took an Uber to the port. It would have been about a 20 minute walk, but with luggage we figured it was worth the $6 Uber.

My arrival time was slated for 12:30, but when we got to the terminal no one was checking arrival times. In fact, there was hardly anyone at the terminal when we arrived at 11AM! After the quickest check-in process I've had yet, we were onboard and ready to explore the ship.

First impressions of Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas is a Quantum Class cruise ship and was launched in 2015. The ship is in excellent condition and is basically identical to Ovation of the Seas, which I sailed on to Alaska last year.

In an effort to skip the crowds at the Windjammer, we ate lunch at Cafe @ Two70, one of my favorite quick lunch spots on any Quantum Class ship. Two70 is an amazing venue, both for entertainment and lounging during the day, and it’s my favorite place to relax so far on Anthem of the Seas.

After lunch we opened the Royal Caribbean app to make show reservations for the week. Surprisingly, the only show requiring reservations was Spectra’s Cabaret in Two70. I also made a reservation for the North Star, which is complimentary on port days and $19.99 on sea days.

Our North Star reservation was for 2PM, so we headed to the pool deck after lunch to board the 360 degree observation pod that would take us 300 feet above sea level! The weather was perfect in the afternoon, leading to clear skies and excellent views of the ship from above.

Stateroom impressions

Staterooms were ready at 2PM, so I checked out my stateroom right after finishing the North Star. I booked an interior guarantee stateroom for this cruise and was placed into a deck 9 forward room.

Because Anthem of the Seas is a relatively new cruise ship, the staterooms have plenty of storage and outlets. The decor is modern compared to older ships like Freedom of the Seas, and the room features a virtual balcony, allowing us to see “outside” even from our interior room!

We were able to get our bed separated into two twin beds, which made the room feel bigger due to the extra walking space between the two beds.

Robes, a fruit plate, and San Benedetto water were in the room as a perk of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. A kettle was also provided for tea and coffee.

Sailaway and dinner

We spent an hour or so relaxing in the room to unpack and chill before a busy evening onboard.

Sailaway was at 5PM, so we headed to the Solarium bridge wings to watch Anthem of the Seas depart Southampton and begin her journey to La Rochelle, France.

After sailaway, we made our way to the Main Dining Room for our 5:30PM traditional dining reservation. Initially we were going to be seated at a table for 8-10 guests, so I asked if we could have a small table instead. To my surprise, we were brought to a 2-person table right by the window! I couldn’t have asked for a better table location, and we spent the meal enjoying views of the Isle of Wight and English Channel.

Tonight’s meal in the Main Dining Room was really tasty and the service was prompt. I noticed the Main Dining Room menu had an Indian curry option and a more traditional UK option available, with Chicken Saag and Guinness Pie. This is just one of many differences I’ve noticed on a UK sailing from the US so far!

Evening activities

We finished dinner around 7PM and spent some time in the Solarium hot tubs. I love the Solarium on Quantum Class ships; the area is spacious, climate-controlled, and has plenty of pool areas and hot tubs to enjoy.

We then spent an hour or so in the pub listening to the live guitarist before heading to Two70 for the venue’s signature show, Spectra’s Cabaret.

The show was extremely similar to Pixel’s Cabaret, which I saw on Ovation of the Seas last year. Combining electronic effects, robotic television screens, projection mapping, dance, and vocals, the show was entertaining… although I could not make out any type of storyline at all.

I feel like the Two70 venue has such impressive, immersive technology that a show with a better storyline would be absolutely incredible to watch. The cabaret shows don’t make much sense to me, although I did enjoy the performance overall and the crew member who played Spectra was excellent!

As the show ended around 11PM, we headed to bed. Tomorrow is a sea day as we make our way through the Bay of Biscay to France!

Stray observations

There are occasionally rail strikes scheduled throughout the year in the UK. Be sure to keep an eye on if there will be any strikes when you plan to travel to port so you can schedule a backup option for arrival to Southampton.

While I frequently encounter small businesses that do not take card payments in mainland Europe, paying with contactless debit or credit cards is the norm everywhere I've been in the UK. Therefore, it is not necessary to take cash out in pounds when cruising out of England.

From my initial observations, I would say the guest makeup is at least 80% guests from the United Kingdom. I didn't see any UK outlets, so be sure to pack either a mainland European or American-style converter if you're coming from the UK.

5 best cruise ship suites on Royal Caribbean

In:
17 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

While we love cruising in any type of cabin, there’s something magical about cruising in one of Royal Caribbean’s spacious and lavish cruise ship suites. The blend of extra living space, luxury, and service offers the best amenities and perks of any stateroom onboard.

From in-suite slides to wraparound balconies and private jacuzzis, here are the top 5 cruise ship suites we recommend when you’re looking to splurge on a cruise vacation.

Ultimate Family Suite

Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Family Suite is an oasis for kids of all ages. Designed to be the most kid-focused stateroom onboard, the Ultimate Family Suite is packed with bright colors and kid-friendly games and activities.

The Ultimate Family Suite is currently available on three ships: Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. While the suite on Symphony of the Seas is a bit smaller than on Spectrum and Wonder, each suite has a similar two-story layout and concept.

Related: Is a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it?

Inside the Ultimate Family Suite you can find an in-suite slide, private bedrooms for kids and adults, gaming area, family room, and dining table that converts into a tabletop game such as ping pong or air hockey. The spacious balcony features a private jacuzzi, in-suite kids step climbers, plenty of loungers, and a dining table.

The suite on Wonder of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas even has a set of “piano stairs” which guests can use to make music as they go up and down the stairs.

AquaTheater Suite

Available only on Oasis Class cruise ships is the AquaTheater suite, which overlooks not only the ocean, but the ship’s AquaTheater entertainment venue. Both 2-bedroom and 1-bedroom AquaTheater suites are available to book. 

All AquaTheater suites have an extremely spacious balcony that wraps around the back of the ship. Due to the design of the ship’s aft, AquaTheater suites gradually get smaller the higher on the ship they are located. 

One important distinction between the suites is that 1-bedroom AquaTheater suites are in Sky Class and 2-bedroom are in Star Class. This means that those in the 2-bedroom AquaTheater suite have access to Star Class benefits such as a Royal Genie and complimentary specialty dining, while those in the 1-bedroom suite do not.

Related: A beginner’s guide to sailing in Star Class

Royal Loft Suite

Any loft suite is impressive on a Royal Caribbean ship, but if you’re looking for the most spacious, open-air living space you can find, look no further than the Royal Loft Suite. The Royal Loft Suite is available on Quantum and Oasis Class ships, although the suite’s layout and features can differ from ship to ship.

These 2-story suites feature a spacious living area downstairs including a private bedroom, bathroom, and media space. Upstairs is the master bedroom, complete with a king-size bed and spacious private bathroom with a bathtub, shower, double vanity, and bidet.

Related: A look at the big suites on Wonder of the Seas

Guests in a Royal Loft Suite will love the panoramic, floor-to-ceiling windows spanning the suite’s two stories, offering expansive ocean views.

Royal Loft Suites have an extra spacious balcony, complete with a dining table, bar, lounge chairs, and private jacuzzi. Select Royal Loft Suites even have a grand piano with a self-play feature so you can enjoy piano tunes even if you don’t know how to play!

Panoramic Suite

While the idea of a suite may make you imagine an extra-large, wraparound balcony, there’s one impressive Royal Caribbean suite without a balcony at all: the Ultimate Panoramic Suite.

The Ultimate Panoramic Suite is a 914 square foot suite with 200 degree views of the ocean through panoramic, floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The suite has a separated living room and bedroom area as well as a large bathroom complete with a bathtub and luxury bathroom amenities.

The suite is included in Royal Caribbean’s Star Class, so even though there is no balcony, you’ll be able to enjoy the best of the best of Royal Caribbean’s suite experience.

Junior Suite

While not the biggest or most luxurious suite on a Royal Caribbean cruise, a junior suite can be one of the best staterooms to book if you’re hoping to get a (small) taste of the suite life onboard. This article, after all, is about the “best” cruise ship suites to book, not necessarily the most expensive.

Junior Suites, while technically classified as a suite, tend to have more in common with a balcony stateroom than a large, lavish suite. There may not be in-suite jacuzzis or self-playing grand pianos, but a junior suite does provide some extra perks compared to a regular balcony room.

Related: Royal Caribbean’s Junior Suites: What you need to know

In addition to a larger living area and balcony, junior suite guests receive a variety of benefits including double C&A Society points, luxury bathroom amenities, an in-suite Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine, and priority boarding. Those staying in a Junior Suite on Oasis or Quantum Class ships also have access to Coastal Kitchen, the suites-only restaurant, for dinner only.

The reason why we’ve included a Junior Suite in this list is because of its position as an entry-level way to experience what a Royal Caribbean suite experience can offer. A Junior Suite is far less expensive than booking, say, a Loft Suite, so it can be a nice way to “treat yourself” without breaking the bank.

Royal Caribbean trademarks 9 potential cruise ship names

In:
17 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Could you be sailing on Titan of the Seas? Or perhaps a new Monarch of the Seas?

Royal Caribbean registered 9 new cruise ship names recently, which could be used for a new cruise ship.

The registrations were made between June 10 and June 11 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Here are all the new names trademarked:

  • Nova of the Seas
  • Splendor of the Seas
  • Star of the Seas
  • Monarch of the Seas
  • Titan of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas
  • Sun of the Seas
  • Marquee of the Seas
  • Hero of the Seas

Three of the names are names of former Royal Caribbean cruise ships: Splendor, Majesty, and Monarch of the Seas.

Majesty and Monarch are the names of two former Sovereign Class cruise ships that were sold off during the pandemic. Monarch was scrapped and Majesty's fate remains unclear.

Read moreA last look at Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Splendor (spelled previously as Splendour) was a Vision class cruise ship, which is now sailing for Marella Cruises. 

Royal Caribbean had also registered Splendor of the Seas back in December 2021.

To date, Royal Caribbean hasn't ever re-used the name of a former ship, although it did once bring back a ship to the fleet and restore its name (Empress of the Seas).

What do these ship names mean?

Before you start planning your Nova of the Seas cruise, keep in mind Royal Caribbean often trademarks a bunch of names together while it figures out which one it will use.

Quite often they register a few names together before deciding on which they may use. Not only does it give them flexibility in choosing a name, but it keeps the public from knowing a new ship's name before they are ready to announce it.

Think of this list as the finalists in a naming competition. In short, it's better to have more names than you need to ensure no one takes up a name later.

What's your prediction?

Now is your chance to show us how much you (think you) know! Share your predictions what these trademarks will be used for the name of a new ship in the future!

Royal Caribbean updates: Starlink wifi, Icon fuel & more

In:
16 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Each week we get another batch of cruise news to share covering what's happening in the world of Royal Caribbean cruises.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

In an effort to cover it all for you, this week's update is a look around a few tidbits and updates you should know about.

Starlink installed on Freedom of the Seas?

SpaceX satellite

Last week, Royal Caribbean sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for permission to use Elon Musk's Starlink internet service on their cruise ships.

It appears one cruise ship may have Starlink installed as a test.

Brandon from The Weekend Cruiser shared an update from onboard the ship with a look at an array of satellite receivers installed onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The antennas are installed at the front of the ship by the mini-golf course, with six on each side of the ship for a total of 12 receivers.

Before you can expect to get super-fast wifi on a Royal Caribbean ship, the FCC needs to approve the technology because right now Starlink isn't allowed on moving vehicles.

Royal Caribbean finds company to provide LNG for Icon of the Seas

Eagle LNG

For those of you keeping score at home, Royal Caribbean has signed a deal with Eagle LNG Partners LLC to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering for Icon of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to run on LNG.

The LNG supply will be sourced from Eagle LNG’s liquefaction facilities in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Eagle LNG’s facilities are designed for loading bunker vessels and LNG carriers for the Caribbean while maintaining economies of scale using modular liquefaction technology. The facilities will be capable of blending in renewable feedstocks to help customers achieve their carbon reduction goals.

Celebrity raises minimum age for unvaccinated guests

Something to keep an eye on is a change for sister-company Celebrity Cruises and their vaccination policy.

For all Celebrity Cruises Europe sailings, guests 17 years of age and younger will no longer be required to be vaccinated in order to sail.

Also, unvaccinated guests sailing in Europe now have the option to either bring a negative pre-arrival test taken within 1 day of sailing or get tested at the terminal.

Royal Caribbean has not made any similar change to their European cruise protocols.

Pros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute

In:
16 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Determining the best time to book a cruise is a highly debated topic, with some cruise passengers booking years in advance and others preferring to book at the last-minute.

Labadee aerial

Both options offer their own pros and cons, whether saving money by booking far in advance or coming across a last-minute cruise deal.

While there is no “best time to book a cruise,” it’s helpful to know what to expect if booking a cruise years in advance or just a few weeks before your cruise departs. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of booking your cruise late and early to help determine which option works best for you.

Pros of booking your cruise early

Best prices

The best prices for a Royal Caribbean cruise tend to be found right after Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries, which are usually for cruises departing two years from the release date. Keeping an eye on when Royal Caribbean releases new cruise itineraries is a good idea for those hoping to book a cruise at a lower price.

Signing up for Royal Caribbean’s newsletters and following our blog are two ways to be notified as soon as new itineraries are released, which can lead to some nice savings if you are able to plan a cruise several years in advance.

Read more: 10 tips for saving money on booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

Reprice until final payment date

One of the best benefits of booking a Royal Caribbean cruise early is that you are able to reprice your cruise an unlimited amount of times prior to final payment date. For example, if you initially pay $1000 for a stateroom and later find the price has dropped to $650, you’ll be able to reprice the cruise and save the difference.

Repricing is not done automatically and requires periodically checking Royal Caribbean’s website to see if your cruise fare has dropped. You can also contact a travel agent to ask if your cruise price has decreased.

Money saved on cruise fare can be put toward amazing shore excursions, dining and drink packages, and onboard activities, making repricing a cruise well worth it.

More stateroom options

Booking a cruise early brings far more stateroom options than booking a cruise close to the sail date. The further in advance you book, the more flexibility you have to book the exact stateroom you want.

While most room categories will not sell out very far in advance, certain cabins are more likely to fill up than others. Suite categories in particular are known to sell out, so if you know you want to book a certain suite it’s important to do so far in advance.

The limited studio cabins for solo travelers on select ships also tend to fill up quickly. If you have a certain stateroom in mind, be sure to book early so you don’t end up disappointed in stateroom options.

Excursion options and cruise add-ons

Booking a cruise early will give you the most options for shore excursions and cruise add-ons, which you can book on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website.

While it’s unlikely all shore excursions will sell out, popular tours are more likely to fill up quickly. This is especially true for ports that tend to be further away from the main attractions, such as excursions to cities like Rome or Paris. In these ports, many guests opt to book an excursion directly through Royal Caribbean to avoid traveling several hours to the city from port without the added security of a Royal Caribbean excursion.

The same can be said for Alaska cruises, where popular excursions like whale watching and kayaking are in high demand. Booking early ensures you have the most flexibility in excursion options.

Read more: When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

Other add-ons, such as dining packages and restaurant reservations, are also better to book further in advance. A limited number of dining packages are sold for each cruise, and sometimes certain packages may disappear from the Cruise Planner closer to the sail date.

If you know you want to dine at a specific specialty restaurant on a certain day or book a dining package, having a cruise booked early will ensure you have the chance to purchase these add-ons.

Repricing add-ons and excursions

Booking a cruise far in advance gives you more time to reprice cruise add-ons before your ship sets sail.

Just like repricing a cruise, you can reprice any excursions or add-ons like dining, beverage, and internet packages. If you notice the price has dropped on something you purchased, simply cancel the add-on on the Cruise Planner website and rebook it at the lower price.

There’s no charge for canceling and rebooking, and there’s no limit on the number of times you can cancel and rebook, so it’s an easy way to save money if you notice a lower price!

Cons of booking your cruise early

Planning for years out

While being able to snag the greatest deals is more likely when booking a cruise far in advance, this isn’t always possible for all guests.

Whether unpredictable school and extracurricular activities with kids, time off work, or family obligations, planning vacations years in advance can be challenging.

While Royal Caribbean offers flexible cancellation policies, especially if you’ve booked a refundable cruise fare, it’s not always worth the trouble to book a cruise far in advance if you’re unsure you can set sail.

Read more: How to cancel a Royal Caribbean cruise

Itinerary and ship may change

While not extremely common, it’s possible that Royal Caribbean’s plans for a particular ship or itinerary can change over time, leading to a cruise with a new itinerary or ship as opposed to what you originally booked. Unexpected events, scheduling changes, ship charters, and other unpredictable scenarios can cause your cruise vacation to change.

Those who booked cruises to northern Europe far in advance with the hope of visiting St. Petersburg, for example, faced itinerary changes in light of current political events.

Royal Caribbean can also change itineraries and cruise departure dates without warning. Earlier this year, the cruise line announced that several sailings on Mariner of the Seas would be canceled and modified due to “itinerary planning”. While refunds and alternate sailings were offered to guests, there’s always the chance of an unexpected change when booking so far in advance.

Changes are not always bad, though. Those who booked summer 2022 European cruises on Allure of the Seas were automatically switched to Wonder of the Seas when it was announced the ship would replace Allure in Europe for the summer. This meant that passengers who booked on Allure were upgraded to a newer ship at no extra cost!

Pros of booking your cruise late

Now that we've seen the pros and cons of booking a cruise far in advance, what are the pros and cons of booking at the last minute?

Spontaneity

Booking a cruise at the last minute, or even just a few months in advance, can lead to a feeling of increased excitement and spontaneity! Having a last-minute vacation planned can offer a fantastic getaway with little waiting required.

While booking a cruise years in advance is often preferred, it can lead to extremely long wait times. Booking a cruise just a few weeks in advance means you have something to look forward to without much of a wait at all!

Last-minute cruise deals

The best cruise deals can often be found as soon as Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries, but it’s not unheard of to find fantastic last-minute cruise deals.

Royal Caribbean will sometimes lower a cruise fare closer to the sail date if demand is low, leading to low prices for those who can sail at the last minute. These last-minute deals tend to be found during shoulder season and on older, smaller cruise ships, but can offer nice savings for those with more flexibility.

Cons of booking your cruise late

Fewer options

Booking a cruise closer to the sail date offers fewer options overall, from stateroom choices to excursions, ship choices, itineraries, and cruise add-ons.

If you’re cruising on a budget and need to book an interior stateroom, you might be disappointed if interior rooms have sold out close to the sail date. Likewise, if you’re hoping to splurge on a Star Class suite, these rooms are not always available at the last minute.

Read more: Choosing a cabin for your cruise

Cruise add-ons can be fewer and far between closer to the sail date as well. While add-ons like beverage packages and internet will always be available, others, like shore excursions and dining packages, can sell out.

Flight prices are higher

Booking a cruise at the last minute can sometimes lead to great deals and added flexibility, but keep an eye on airline prices before booking.

Airline prices tend to only increase over time, so it’s not unheard of for a flight that could have been $200 if booked months in advance to increase to $400-500 closer to the sail date.

If you’re traveling on a budget, be sure to check airline prices before booking a cruise to ensure you don’t come across any unexpected surprises!

Less time to figure out logistics

If you book a cruise at the last minute, it’s important to consider any logistics you must take care of at home before leaving for your cruise. Whether childcare, finding someone to watch the dogs, or finishing up projects at work, it can be challenging to figure out logistics with little time to spare.

The last thing you want to happen is book a last-minute cruise, especially after final payment date, only to find out there is no one available to watch the dogs (or your kids!) during your vacation.

How far in advance do you prefer to book a cruise? Let us know in the comments below!