Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

I’ve been on 3 European cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

17 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

As someone who cruises for a living, I always see passengers making the same mistakes over and over again. From flying the same day as their cruise to wearing the wrong shoes, there are rookie mistakes that should be avoided when cruising anywhere in the world.

I recently returned from my third European cruise, a Western Mediterranean itinerary visiting Italy, Malta, Spain, and France. European cruises are among the most popular itineraries Royal Caribbean offers, but navigating the ins and outs of cruising Europe can be challenging for first time travelers to the continent.

During my most recent sailing, along with two others last year, I noticed passengers making the same few mistakes that were negatively impacting their experience both in port and onboard. Whether cramming too many activities into one day or walking around with a painful blister, I couldn’t help but wish those passengers could have read these tips before their cruise began.

Here are the top 12 mistakes you should avoid on a European cruise.

Booking shore excursions in every port

Many cruisers, especially those visiting Europe for the first time, think they need to book an excursion in every port. For most case scenarios, I advise against doing this, and instead having a mix of excursions and self-exploration.

Shore excursions are convenient when on a European cruise, as they allow you to experience each port’s top destinations, whether the Colosseum in Rome or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that shore excursions are necessary in ports where the city center is far from the port. If your itinerary visits Florence, as an example, it will take around 90 minutes to reach the city center from where your ship docks in Livorno.

Although you could try to visit Florence on your own, traveling so far without an organized excursion may increase your risk of missing the ship.

Related: What happens if you miss your cruise ship?

So while excursions are almost required in some ports, they aren’t necessary in others. Some cities, such as Valletta in Malta, are located just a few minutes’ walk or a short shuttle bus ride from the port.

In these ports, I find it more enjoyable to walk around on my own without worrying about a tour group. With a little research ahead of time, you can experience the destination’s attractions on your own, which can save you time, money, and increase flexibility while visiting.

Cramming too much in one day

Shore excursion or not, try not to cram too much into a single port day on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

It’s tempting to try and experience as much as possible during each port day. With only a few hours in each port, I always see cruisers rushing around trying to tick items off a list. More often than not, they don’t look like they’re having fun.

Sometimes less is more, especially when planning a cruise ship port day. Try not to rush from museum to cathedral to restaurant to souvenir shop to museum to cathedral. Instead, pick one or two things you’d like to see and spend ample time at each destination.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

I find that when I try to cram too much into one day, I see “everything” but at the same time experience nothing. Picking one or two attractions allows me to fully immerse myself in the destination without feeling too overwhelmed and exhausted.

In fact, my favorite moments when cruising Europe haven’t necessarily been the port’s “highlights” but the small moments, such as people watching in a park or strolling through picturesque, cobblestone streets without a destination in mind.

Not accounting for hot temperatures

Royal Caribbean’s cruise season runs from late April to October each year, and temperatures can get uncomfortably warm during the peak summer months.

On a Caribbean cruise you can counteract a hot, humid day by swimming in the beach or pool. On a European cruise, though, you’re more likely to spend your days walking around cities and sightseeing rather than taking a dip in the ocean.

In the middle of summer, walking around cruise ports in Europe can get extremely warm. It’s possible to see temperatures in the 90s which, under a beating sun, can quickly make you feel miserable.

Related: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

Keeping temperatures in mind when planning your cruise is recommended. If your schedule is flexible, consider cruising in the early or late season when temperatures are more mild. If you are cruising during the summer, be sure to stay hydrated and plan the majority of sightseeing in the morning before it gets too warm.

Taking an afternoon break in the shade, such as when dining in a restaurant or grabbing a drink, can also help make warm summer days more tolerable.

Flying in the day before a European cruise

Airplane in the clouds

Most flights to Europe are red-eye flights, meaning they depart North America in the evening and arrive in Europe the following morning. Although we always suggest heading to your cruise port the day before your cruise begins, it’s advised to fly to Europe two days before embarkation day.

If your cruise starts on Wednesday and you fly to Europe Tuesday night, you will arrive in Europe just a few hours before your cruise begins. This does not leave much, if any, wiggle room for airline delays and cancellations.

Related: 7 tips for a great Mediterranean cruise

Plus, extensive travel time from airport to port may be required in select European cruise ports. If your cruise embarks in Ravenna, Italy and you fly into Venice, you’ll need to take a multi-hour train or shuttle bus journey from the airport to the Ravenna cruise port.

Therefore, flying two days before your cruise begins gives you an entire ~24 hours to spend in your embarkation city before your cruise begins. You can use this time to sightsee, recoup from jet lag, and kick off your vacation early.

Only booking Western Mediterranean itineraries

Western Mediterranean itineraries are the most popular cruise itineraries in Europe. They visit some of the continent’s most famous cities—Rome, Florence, and Barcelona, among others—and offer a nice starting point to exploring Europe.

Regardless of their popularity, I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed cruising on other itineraries in Europe far more than the Western Mediterranean. I found ports in the Western Mediterranean to be much more crowded than other destinations and many required lengthy distances to reach the city center from the port.

Related: Western Mediterranean cruise guide

Most of these destinations really require several days to experience the city’s highlights—I personally find (most of) them more suitable for a land-based vacation.

When visiting Naples, for example, it’s practically impossible to visit the city, Pompeii, and Amalfi coast in just one day. The same goes for a city like Rome, where you’ll be so rushed on a one day tour that it could be more stressful than relaxing.

There’s nothing wrong with booking a Western Mediterranean itinerary, and I definitely enjoyed my recent cruise in the region, but don’t overlook cruises to other European destinations like the Adriatic, Greece, Norway, and northern Spain and France.

If you are planning a Western Mediterranean cruise, I highly recommend spending a few days in your embarkation/disembarkation cities before and/or after the cruise. This will give you extra time to see and experience things you simply cannot fit into a short port day.

Not grabbing lunch in port

I always have lunch or snacks in port while cruising in Europe even though there’s included food onboard my cruise ship.

As delicious as the food on a Royal Caribbean cruise can be, I still make it a point to try local cuisine while in port. After all, how could you cruise to Italy and not try fresh pasta or visit France without eating a crêpe?

Related: Must-eat foods on a cruise to Italy

One of the most common mistakes I see cruisers make, whether they realize it or not, is avoiding spending money on food in port. Instead of heading back to the ship for lunch, why not enjoy a meal at an outdoor restaurant? Not only will you get to taste local cuisine, but it will provide ample people watching opportunities and allow you to take a breather on an otherwise busy port day.

Even if you don’t have time for a full sit-down meal, hop in a local bakery or ice cream shop for a snack. Trying local food can offer just as much insight into a port’s culture as visiting monuments or museums, and it’s a whole lot tastier!

Wearing brand new shoes

I should really follow my own advice.

Here at Royal Caribbean Blog, I constantly advise readers to never wear new shoes in port, especially if your port days will require heavy walking.

Just last month, as I prepared for my Western Mediterranean cruise, I bought a new pair of white sneakers. Not wanting to get them dirty, I decided to wait until I got to Europe to break them in. Let’s just say this was a huge mistake, and I spent the next five days with a massive blister that negatively affected my time in port.

Related: 22 unpleasant cruise ship problems you aren’t prepared for

If you’re planning a European cruise, be sure to break in any new shoes before the trip. Wear them to run errands, take your dog for a walk, and even to work. While blisters are not enjoyable regardless of when you get one, it’s a lot better to recover from a blister at home rather than on a cruise.

Getting tender tickets too late

Depending on your cruise itinerary, you may have to use a tender port to travel from ship to shore on a port day. One of the most common mistakes I see cruisers making when visiting Europe is waiting too long to get tender tickets.

Certain ports in Europe, including Mykonos, Santorini, and Kotor, are tender ports, meaning you cannot walk directly off the ship onto a pier. For these ports, you must collect a tender ticket which you will use to board a smaller boat to bring you ashore.

Related: What does tender mean on a cruise ship?

Royal Caribbean will provide information on where and when you can collect tender tickets. I strongly advise getting a tender ticket as soon as you can, even if it means waiting in line for a few minutes before tickets begin being distributed.

The earlier you get a tender ticket, the earlier your ticket’s number will be called, which signals when you are allowed to disembark the ship. If you wait too long to collect a ticket, you might find yourself waiting onboard for a few hours before you can disembark.

Being careless with belongings while in port

One of the worst situations that can happen on a cruise is losing your personal belongings, whether a phone, camera, wallet, or passport.

It’s easy to be distracted on a port day. You’re in a completely new environment where your senses are engaged with the sights, smells, and sounds of the destination. Nevertheless, it’s critical to remain aware of your surroundings at all times, including where you put valuables while sightseeing, or you may lose your belongings.

Related: Where to keep SeaPass card, phone, and cash when on a shore excursion?

I’m not innocent of making this mistake. Last year, when on a cruise to Kotor, I accidentally left a personal belonging on our table at lunch. Luckily I realized my mistake before getting back onboard and the waiter recognized me and immediately handed me the belonging.

Fortunately the situation resolved itself without any issues, but it easily could have gone worse if I didn’t realize I had left something or if someone else had taken the item before the waiter cleaned our table.

You should never keep valuables in your back pocket while sightseeing, especially in busy areas. Likewise, I recommend putting your backpack or purse at your feet or on your lap while dining outdoors—hanging it from the back of your chair makes it easier for pickpockets to snatch.

My favorite travel essential is an anti-theft backpack that only opens from a zipper against my back. I never have to worry about someone opening the bag without me knowing, making me feel secure when on busy public transportation or in tourist areas.

Related: 40 essential things to bring on a cruise

Not walking leading up to the trip

Most cruisers will experience a lot more walking on a European cruise compared to their day to day life at home. One of the most common mistakes on a European cruise is not realizing the amount of walking that may be required in your cruise ports.

Most places in North America are not nearly as walkable as European cities. This means that many Americans and Canadians, especially those living in the suburbs and rural areas, are not accustomed to walking long distances every day.

Because of this, many visitors to Europe find themselves (and their feet) exhausted from walking. To avoid feeling exhausted, one of the best ways to prepare for a European cruise is to increase your walking time while at home.

If you don’t already, start incorporating daily walks into your routine. If possible, walk a few miles each day in the shoes you plan to wear on your European cruise. Although you might feel sore initially, it will make your time sightseeing in Europe more enjoyable.

Taking out currency ahead of time

First time cruisers to Europe may assume they should take out European currency in the United States before flying to Europe, but this isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s almost an antiquated practice.

Avoid the hassle of figuring out where to order euros from the United States and visit an ATM once in Europe instead. ATMs are widely available in all European ports, and it’s much easier to take out cash once you arrive.

Related: How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Plus, you probably don’t need much cash, either. Most places in port will take credit card payments, even family-owned businesses. In fact, some destinations, such as the United Kingdom, may have businesses that are completely cashless.

If you’re cruising to countries using the euro, I still recommend taking out around 100 euros. It’s possible you may come across small restaurants and souvenir stands that do not accept cards, so having cash on hand may be useful.

Disembarking the ship too late

I’ve been to over a dozen diverse European cruise ports, but one thing remains the same in all of them: the earlier you get off the ship, the fewer crowds you’ll experience.

One of the worst mistakes I see people making over and over when cruising Europe is disembarking the ship too late. Your experience in port can vary widely if you disembark at 8AM versus 11AM, so waking up early is completely worth it.

I always make sure to disembark the ship in port as soon as the gangway opens. During the morning hours, temperatures are more pleasant and crowds are far fewer. Even in a busy cruise port like Mykonos, which is known for huge crowds, I’ve had areas of the town completely to myself.

Around 11AM you will begin to notice huge crowds in many ports. Streets become crowded and hard to walk through, beaches fill up, and transportation from the port to the city center may require waiting in line.

If you wake up early and do your sightseeing in the morning, you can take the afternoon to relax, whether enjoying a glass of wine at a waterfront bar or swimming in the Mediterranean. Navigating crowds isn’t fun for anyone, and getting off the ship early helps make your experience much nicer.

Woman on TikTok shares planning hack for her Royal Caribbean cruise to make packing easier

17 May 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Packing for a cruise vacation can be stressful. Some people will put it off until the last minute, while others start planning their outfits as soon as the initial deposit it made. Regardless of when you choose to begin the process, trying to visualize what you want to bring can be difficult. 


TikTok user Alexandra Goeders shared a planning hack for her Royal Caribbean cruise that she claimed was "sooo helpful." 

The eight-second video, which has amassed over 8 million views and 540,000 likes since being posted in February, illustrates how Goeders utilizes the notes app to help plan her outfits. 

"decided to try this hack I saw from @Ashley Lopes," reads the caption, "and it’s sooo helpful for planning out what to bring on vacation! I’m heading to Miami on Saturday and then going on a @Royal Caribbean cruise 🚢 ☀️ perfect timing since it’s supposed to snow here this weekend."

Here is a breakdown of the packing hack just in time for your next cruise!

Related40 essential things to bring on a cruise

Copy and pasting into the iPhone notes app


In the TikTok video, Goeders shows a screen recording of her phone where she has taken various pictures of herself in a full-length mirror wearing different outfits. 

She holds down the image of herself and copies it, effectively cropping out the background. She then pastes the image into her notes app to help her plan when she will wear each outfit, whether it is for "sports/gym/activities," "casual/beach/pool," or "dinners/shows/dancing." 

Of course, your itinerary might mean that you make some adjustments to the categories. If, for instance, you are sailing to Alaska, you will want to think about what layers you want to bring. You will be less focused with beach and pool attire!


When on the ship, it is easy to refer back to the notes app with the pictures, rather than wasting precious vacation time trying to figure out what you want to wear and trying on different outfits. You also do not want to have to scroll through a photo album trying to remember how you styled a specific outfit. 

While it is helpful for all outfits, thinking ahead to evening wear might be the most important, especially if you want to partake in any of the themes. It would be harder to throw together an outfit for White Night or 70s Disco at the last minute!

Piecing together what you have and figuring out what you need to buy in advance will let you redirect your focus to important check-in and travel logistics as the cruise approaches. 

RelatedThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Shrinking the pasted image


When I went to try the hack out myself, I noticed that when I pasted a copied image of myself into the notes app, the image was pretty large, so I had to do some research to figure out how to shrink the image!

Once the copied imaged is pasted, you have to hold down on it until a menu appears with the options "copy," "share," "small images" and "delete." Selecting "small images" will help you be able to use this hack for your next cruise vacation! Otherwise, the images will be too large for you to organize into categories like Goeders did.



TikTok users are a fan of Goeders' video. Even Royal Caribbean's official TikTok commented, "Pack smarter, vacay harder." 

User @mommypleaseagain said, "As a person who LOVES lists…. You have just made my heart so happy," while user @jetnerd737 wrote, "I thought I was doing good writing them out day by day for vacations!! Like I’m jaw dropped!! Game changer!!!" 

@katiana_maz commented, "Super helpful when I’m trying to pack light! Someone thought I was crazy when I showed them I did this lol," meaning that even if you are packing for a weeklong cruise in a carry-on, there is nothing wrong with trying to stay organized during the packing process. 

Other helpful packing tips

Bring a carry-on bag

Hyc00 Travel Duffel Bag

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, you will be greeted by a porter who will check in your larger luggage; you will not see it again until later that afternoon. To ensure that you are prepared for embarkation day, make sure that you have a carry-on bag to hold your travel documentation and other valuables, such as electronic devices, medication, jewelry, etc. 

You do not want to accidentally pack your passport in your suitcase! 

Related: 15 things to pack in your cruise carry-on

Do not pack any prohibited items


Read up on what items are prohibited onboard Royal Caribbean ships. If you try and bring something on that is not allowed, it will be confiscated and kept until disembarkation. Sometimes, they will discard the item and provide no compensation. 

Some things -- such as candles, weapons, drugs, and hard liquor -- make sense. Others, however, might slip your mind! You cannot bring steamers or electrical extension cords. 

RelatedWhat can you not bring on a cruise

Use packing cubes or compression travel bags

Packing cubes

Packing cubes or compression travel bags will help you organize your suitcase when you are in the middle of packing. Plus, they help you to pack more, which is great if you are limited on space. 

They help make unpacking a breeze when you get on the ship, too. Simply take the cubes out of your suitcase and place them in the dresser and/or closet and get back to doing the fun sail away activities! 

7 ways to do things differently on your next cruise

16 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

There are a few things you can do differently on a Royal Caribbean cruise to make your vacation as smooth and stress-free as possible, and we’re sharing seven of our best tips.

From making dining reservations to planning port days and attending shows, there’s a lot to remember on a cruise vacation. Even though there’s no “incorrect” way to cruise, there are several mistakes or decisions passengers make that we think could be done differently.

Instead of eating at the buffet, why not choose a specialty restaurant? Or, instead of arriving at the theater ten minutes before a show begins, why not arrive earlier to find the best seats?

Doing things slightly differently on a cruise can save you time and stress and make your overall vacation more pleasant. Here are seven ways to do things differently on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

Apply sunscreen while onboard instead of when you get to the beach

Before you pack away sunscreen in your port day daypack, lather yourself with a generous amount… or face the consequences.

Once you disembark your cruise ship in a port of call, there may be a few minutes’ walk from the ship to the port entrance. Walking under the scorching sun is an expressway to a painful sunburn, and no one wants to spend their vacation burnt to a crisp.

You should apply sunscreen onboard before you disembark the ship to help prevent sunburn before getting to the beach.

Related: 10 worst cruise fails by our readers

Depending on the port, you may spend more time in the sun en route to the beach than others. Some ports, like Perfect Day at CocoCay, have beaches easily accessible from the port entrance. In other ports such as Roatan, you’ll need to take a shore excursion or taxi to the beach from the cruise port.

Although you might assume you’ll remember to apply sunscreen when you get to the beach, some cruisers may forget altogether. Port days are exciting, but it’s easy to be distracted with the new culture, beautiful destinations, and when navigating an unfamiliar place.

Applying sunscreen before you leave the ship helps prevent regret (and pain) later on.

Get beach towels at the gangway instead of the pool deck

If you’re planning a beach day in port, you’ll want to bring Royal Caribbean towels with you ashore. Checking out towels is free for all guests, but you must scan your SeaPass card at the towel station so Royal Caribbean can keep track of how many towels have been checked out.

Before leaving to go ashore, most passengers head to the pool deck to check out towels for the day. This can, unfortunately, lead to lines at the towel station. Even if there are no lines, the pool deck is in the opposite direction of where you disembark the ship.

Instead of heading to the upper decks to grab a beach towel, visit the towel station on your way out of the ship! When visiting beach destinations, Royal Caribbean crew members will set up a towel station near the gangway. Here, just like on the pool deck, is where you can check out beach towels for the day.

Related: Our best 75 travel tips to make you the world’s most savvy cruiser

Grabbing a beach towel on the gangway is far more convenient than making a special trip to the pool deck. In addition, you can grab water bottles and other beverages here as well to ensure you stay hydrated during your time in port.

Of course, don’t forget to return the towel after a port day! All misplaced towels will incur a $25 USD fee at the end of the cruise.

Try onboard activities on port days to avoid the lines

Hoping to try activities like the FlowRider, waterslides, zip lining, and rock climbing on your cruise? As fun as these activities are for passengers, they often come with long lines. On your next cruise, try onboard activities on port days instead of sea days to avoid waiting in line.

Most passengers go ashore on a port day, leaving the ship far emptier compared to sea days. While most passengers are in port, you’ll encounter less crowded pools, dining venues, and activities.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

It’s possible to ride waterslides with no wait on port days, climb the rock climbing wall several times in a row, and slide down the Ultimate Abyss without waiting in a long line. Because lines are one of the most common “pet peeves” on a cruise, ticking off your ship’s activities on a port day makes the experience more enjoyable.

Trying activities on a port day doesn’t mean you have to skip going ashore, either. Even if you spend the majority of your day in port, you can do an activity immediately after getting back onboard.

After a busy day in port, the majority of passengers head to their cabins to rest and get ready for dinner. There’s simply less demand for onboard activities immediately after returning to the ship, leading to short lines (if any) at these activities.

The only downside of waiting to try activities on a port day is that there may be fewer options available. Because so many guests go ashore, there’s less impetus for Royal Caribbean to offer an extensive list of activities while the ship is docked. Be sure to look at the list of activities in the Royal Caribbean app so you know which activities will be available on a port day.

Go to an event you would otherwise overlook

Whether it’s your first cruise or twentieth, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of programming offered each day on a Royal Caribbean cruise. From pool deck parties to production shows, scavenger hunts, escape rooms, and live music, there’s truly an abundance of activities to choose from on any cruise ship.

Due to how many activities are available, it’s easy to overlook exciting programming that may not jump out at you on first glance. Activities like craft workshops, ice skating, stretch classes, and comedy shows are just some of what could be available on any given day.

Related: 50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once

Many cruisers find themselves falling into the trap of participating in the same activities over and over, whether they start each day with a pickleball game or participate in a daily afternoon trivia session. Doing the same thing over and over can become monotonous over time, so why not jazz things up with a new activity?

On your next cruise, try something new. Scroll through the Royal Caribbean app, find an activity you would otherwise overlook, and participate in the activity!

Maybe you finally decide to watch (or participate in) the World’s Sexiest Man Competition on the pool deck. Or, if you’re feeling something more refined, why not reserve a wine tasting seminar or learn to play table games in the casino?

If you try something you’ve always avoided or overlooked, you might be surprised with how much you enjoy it. Cruising can be a whole lot of fun when you try something new, and you may end up finding a new favorite activity.

Eat lunch at a specialty restaurant on embarkation day instead of at the buffet

As thousands of passengers embark a cruise ship at the same time, the vast majority head to the Windjammer Cafe, making the venue crowded and chaotic. There’s nothing glamorous about a crowded buffet, so why not eat somewhere else?

On your next cruise, book a specialty restaurant for lunch on embarkation day instead of eating at the buffet. Depending on your sailing, one or two specialty dining venues should be open for lunch on embarkation day—usually Chops Grille or one of the cruise line’s Italian restaurants.

Related: 30 Do’s and Don’ts for the first day of your cruise

Even though lunch at a specialty restaurant costs extra—around $25 USD—the peaceful environment amongst the chaos of embarkation day makes the cost well worth it for plenty of passengers. And, as a plus, you’ll enjoy some seriously delicious food as well.

The best way to reserve a specialty restaurant lunch on embarkation day is to book it ahead of time on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. You can use a credit card or, if you prefer, onboard credit to make the reservation.

Those with dining packages must wait until they get onboard to make all dining reservations, including lunch on embarkation day. Waiting until you are onboard may result in little to no availability for lunch, but in most cases, there should be a table available at one of the restaurants on your ship.

If you’d rather eat at a complimentary venue on embarkation day, you could opt for a quieter venue instead of the buffet. Dining somewhere like Park Cafe or El Loco Fresh may offer a more relaxed lunch compared to the Windjammer, although it won’t compare with the tranquility of a specialty restaurant on the first day of your cruise.

Arrive early for entertainment shows to get the best seats

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

Let’s face it: not everyone can afford to book front row seats at a production show on land. The best-located seats at a Broadway show, for example, can easily cost several hundred dollars.

One of the major perks of cruising is that all production shows are included in your cruise fare, from Royal Caribbean’s original productions to their Broadway performances. From high diving shows in the AquaTheater to ice skating productions in Studio B, there’s always an impressive performance to watch onboard, so why not watch it from the best seat?

Not only are shows complimentary, but, aside from a small portion of seats reserved for suite guests and Pinnacle members, you can sit anywhere in the theater at no extra cost.

Yes, this means seats in the front rows are available to all guests, but you’ll have to get to the theater early to snag one.

Related: Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean: Everything you need to know

Evenings are a busy time on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and many passengers find themselves scrambling to get to a show on time after dinner or another activity. Rushing to the theater means many guests pick whichever open seats they can find, even if it means the location is not ideal.

On your next cruise, get to the theater as soon as doors open to snag the best seats. In most cases, doors open 30-45 minutes before the show begins. While arriving early means you’ll have to wait in the theater until the show starts, you can always use this time to enjoy a pre-show drink and take a breather on an otherwise busy day.

Use an anti-theft backpack while in port instead of putting belongings in your pocket

One of the most effective ways to keep your belongings safe while in port is to wear an anti-theft daypack.

Anti-theft backpacks are designed to deter pickpockets from your bag. Most commonly, these bags are made with tough, anti-slash material that makes it difficult for potential thieves to cut open the bag.

Related: Where to keep SeaPass card, phone, and cash when on a shore excursion

Additionally, anti-theft backpacks feature hidden or well concealed openings and zippers. Some pockets only open against your back, making it difficult for anyone to get your bag open without you noticing. Others have a zipper hidden by flaps, which makes the bag appear as if there’s no opening into the backpack.

Fortunately, theft and pickpocketing is not as common as you might think, but it can still happen, especially if you’re traveling through busy areas. Instead of placing your phone and wallet into a pocket or easy-to-open bag, wear an anti-theft bag for added security.

Norway cruise: Taking a boat to visit an amazing fjord and waterfall in Haugesund

16 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

If there's one aspect of a Norway cruise that draws almost everyone, it's the opportunity to see the fjords.

Visiting Haugesund and the fjord

Norway is well-known for these amazing natural wonders, and it's certainly why I wanted to take a cruise to this part of the world to be able to see the fjords up-close.

Similar in the breathtaking nature of an Alaska cruise, fjords offer scenic views that surround you, and it's the kind of experience that photos simply don't do it justice.


The first stop on my Anthem of the Seas cruise brought me to Haugesund, Norway, and it was my first chance to see a fjord.  

Royal Caribbean offers a boat tour, in which you sail through the Åkrafjord and right up to Langfoss waterfall.

Langfoss Waterfall

Langfoss waterfall

The ride to Åkrafjord is about 90 minutes by coach bus, but the drive is worth it when you emerge from the final tunnel with Langfoss waterfall in view.

Langfoss is a massive waterfall that is almost 2,000 feet tall.  It splashes right into Åkrafjord, and it's quite impressive.

Langfoss waterfall

Visiting Norway in May meant the winter snow was melting in full force, and that meant the water pressure was at its height.  Certainly no trickle of water here.  In fact, if you got close enough, you'd feel the mist of the water.

The nice thing about Langfoss is it's right against the road that brings you into the area, so it's an easy walk to see all angles of the lower section of the waterfall.

We'd see more of the waterfall later in the tour.



The best way to see the fjord and waterfall is by boat, which gives you the perfect perspective to see the entirety of the area along with the waterfall.

We boarded a small ferry that took us on a grand circle tour of the fjord, bringing us right up to the sides of the mountain that form the fjord.


In case you're wondering, a fjord is defined as a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier.

We slowly made our way around Åkrafjord, with ample time to see it all.

The highlight is when the ferry approaches Langfoss, and the ferry actually comes right up to the waterfall.  

Åkrafjord with Langfoss waterfall
Åkrafjord with Langfoss waterfall

At this point, you have the best view possible of the waterfall without actually getting wet.

Åkrafjord with Langfoss waterfall
Åkrafjord with Langfoss waterfall

The captain even extended a bucket into the falls to get water from it for everyone to sample.


Once again, it's hard to convey in photos just how majestic the entire fjord looked.  Given how cooperative the weather was, we had a picture perfect day enjoying time in the fjord.

Lunch at the fjord

Lunch near Åkrafjord

What's better than seeing a fjord? How about eating local food with the fjord in view!

Located steps from where we boarded the ferry and within full view of Langfoss is a small family-owned farm that opens its doors for meals.

We were greeted by the matriarch of the family, who set up a smorgasbord of local food. 

Lunch near Åkrafjord

Goat cheese, cured meats, potatoes, salmon, and fresh baked bread were set up for our enjoyment.

We also had samples of brunost, which is a Norwegian brown cheese.

All the food was sourced from providers in the area, no more than 50 km or so away, with the exception of fruit they bought that came from Spain.

Lunch near Åkrafjord

I took my food out to the porch, and enjoyed my meal with Langfoss and the Åkrafjord in sight.  I wish I could have my lunch every day with a view like tis!

Booking the Åkrafjord and Langfoss Waterfall tour

Norwegian fjord

I booked the Åkrafjord and Langfoss Waterfall shore excursion through Royal Caribbean on the cruise planner website.

The cost was $299.00 per person, and included a roundtrip bus ride, guided narration, and the lunch.

The tour lasted 7 hours, and we made one additional stop at a monument the honors Norway's first king, Harald Fairhair.

Viking monument

While the time required to commute back and forth to the fjord is not short, it's well worth the trip given how beautiful the views were of the area. Add onto that the lunch that was provided, and I was quite satisfied with the cost and duration of the trip.

Norway has many appealing traits, but certainly the fjords have to be at the top of anyone's list for a Norwegian cruise.  As such, it's quite important to prioritize a fjord visit, and I started off my Norway cruise with a wonderful shore excursion.

About Haugesund


Haugesund is a vibrant and historic town dating back to Viking times. This is where, a thousand years ago, King Harald Fairhair united Norway into a single kingdom. It was from this area that the Viking Kings ruled Norway for more than 500 years.

The region has laid claim to the title of Norway's Birthplace - the Homeland of the Viking Kings.

The cruise port in Haugesund is located on the small island of Risøy that is attached to the mainland and downtown Haugesund by the Risoy Bridge.


The city center is a comfortable 10-15 minute walk. Limited shuttle buses are also available for a charge of approximately 7 Euros.

Haraldsgata is the popular pedestrian street in Haugesund where you can find the main tourist information center and a variety of shops.

I boarded my first European cruise. How different is it from a USA cruise

15 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

How different is a Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe from one in North America?

Cruising from England

I asked myself that question when I booked my first cruise on the other side of the pond, sailing on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton.

Royal Caribbean strives itself on providing as consistent an experience as it can across the fleet, but there are bound to be regional differences. In fact, cruises from Asia on Spectrum of the Seas have their own suite class and benefits!

Read moreRoyal Caribbean suites guide & review

In my pre-cruise planning, I realized there would be a few nuances that would make this different from most other Royal Caribbean cruises I've sailed on.  Of course, "different" doesn't mean "bad" either.

Arriving in Southampton

Yesterday I boarded Anthem of the Seas and the experience could not have been smoother, but I found as we sailed away a few differences than I was used to when it comes to embarkation day. I'll have another post later to cover the nuances of the entire voyage.

Read more30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

Here are the 4 things I noticed that were different about a European cruises compared to one from the United States.

Jet lag makes getting acclimated difficult

Cabin on plane

Many of you know not to fly to your cruise the same day it begins, but when you're flying to a different continent, you need more time pre-cruise to get in position.

Read moreFlight attendant shares 20 tips to minimize air travel fiascos

The tip of flying in a day early is meant to ensure a travel delay doesn't impact your ability to make the cruise if there were a travel delay, but the time change can wreak havoc on your ability to enjoy the beginning of the cruise.

Street in London

Jet lag is annoying enough on its own, but if you're extremely tired in the afternoon and wide awake at 2am, that can lead to a very frustrating start to the cruise.

Most people acclimate to their new time zone in 2 or 3 days after arriving, but that's more than a quarter of your cruise. Considering how much is happening onboard, you don't want to spend your days sleeping and nights awake and annoyed.

Empty London street

If at all possible, it's a good idea to fly in and spend a few days pre-cruise in the city you're sailing from.  

Read more4 mistakes & 7 things I did right on my Royal Caribbean European cruise

I flew in two days before my cruise set sail, which meant I was set with England's local time. The added bonus of exploring London was lovely as well.

Big ben

Not only will this allow you to get on local time, but you'll likely want to explore these historical cities.

Getting to the cruise port requires more steps and planning

Train station in England

You might disagree with me on this point, but I found the logistics of getting from airport/city to cruise terminal more complicated than in the United States.

No matter which city you sail from in the United States, you can easily go from airport or hotel to cruise terminal via taxi, bus, or ride share.  Each cruise terminal in the United States is located less than an hour from a major airport (assuming traffic isn't a factor).


My cruise from Southampton required a great deal more forethought and planning than anything I've done before.

To get from London to Southampton, I had to:

  1. Take a taxi or subway ride to Waterloo Station
  2. Take a 2 hour train ride from London to Southampton
  3. Take a 2 minute taxi ride or walk 10 minutes to the cruise terminal

On top of all of this, I had to factor in the issue of a nation-wide rail strike that crippled mass transit in the two days before the cruise departed.  

England train

I tried to think of the worst commute to a cruise terminal in the United States, and settled on Galveston or Los Angeles as being the most difficult to get to the terminal from where you might start your journey.

Galveston used to be very difficult given the distance from the Houston area airports to Galveston island, but now that Lyft and Uber are allowed to operate, it's become considerably simpler.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships sailing from Los Angeles actually sail from San Pedro, and that's just a longer car ride away.

Trains in England

In both cases, most people use a taxi or car service to get to them, and it's essentially one step to go from their starting point (i.e. hotel or airport) to cruise terminal.

I might be overly critical of a cultural difference in attitudes towards public transportation, but at the very least, planning my commute from London to Southampton required more planning than any US cruise.

Different beers available

English beers

One nice benefit of cruising in Europe is there are more beers to choose from.

I've always found Royal Caribbean's beer selections to be lacking, especially in today's world of craft beers. If you want something more than big-name beers, it's slim pickings on Royal Caribbean.

In an attempt to be more appealing to the high number of Brits onboard, Royal Caribbean offers more beers than normal.

You'll find more ciders, as well as a few different brand of beers.

When a ship returns to the United States after a European cruise season, they sometimes have a few leftovers on the first sailing back, but they go quickly.

Read more30 Best European cruise tips

Some examples of beers you won't find in the States include Magners Irish Cider, Old Speckled Hen, Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger, and Sipsmith.

Beer drinkers are sure to find more brews to enjoy on a European cruise.

Electric kettle in the cabin

Electric kettle

One thing you'll never find on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the United States is an electric kettle in your cabin.

Since tea is such a big part of English culture, an electric kettle is included in cabins for guests to use.

Usually electrical appliances are forbidden because of a fire hazard, but I'm guessing these kettles are vetted for safety and offer the convenience English passengers want.

Read moreWhat can you not bring on a cruise

Boarding was as easy as the USA

Boarding ship in Southampton

Not all cruise ports are built equally when it comes to the embarkation process, but I'm happy to say the check-in and boarding process in Southampton was just as good as any port in the United States.

I arrived around 11:30am and boarding had already begun, so it was quite a quick process.

Checking in at Southampton

There were ample porters to take luggage, and then the security check and checking in went quite quickly.  

Since I completed my pre-cruise check-in, it was just a matter of double-checking everything and being on my way.  

Considering how janky the pier check-in process has been in ports like Los Angeles, Southampton was a breeze!

Royal Caribbean will send Anthem of the Seas to Asia for the first time

15 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

There will be a new Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from Singapore in 2025.

Anthem of the Seas in Spain

One of the last pieces of the 2024-2025 cruise deployment has fallen into place with Royal Caribbean's announcement that Anthem of the Seas will sail from Asia for the first time ever.

Anthem of the Seas will begin sailing from Singapore in October 2024, replacing Spectrum of the Seas.

Singapore has been a stronghold for Royal Caribbean, having been the first homeport to allow cruises to restart in late 2020.

Spectrum of the Seas with sun setting

Since then, Spectrum of the Seas has sailed short 3- and 4-night cruises primarily from Singapore.

Spectrum of the Seas will shift to China, where she will sail from Shanghai and re-open China and Far East cruises for Royal Caribbean.

Spectrum will begin sailing from Shanghai, China in April 2024.

Spectrum of the Seas in Japan

Spectrum of the Seas, sailing from Shanghai, will offer 4- and 5-night cruises visiting popular destinations in Japan. Spectrum will also offer eight sailings from Hong Kong starting in December 2024, to places in Japan, China and Vietnam.

Royal Caribbean will open bookings from July.

“This is the moment we – along with Chinese holidaymakers – have been waiting for. Our return to China is an exciting milestone that could only be marked with Spectrum of the Seas, which became a household name with Chinese families and travellers alike when it debuted in Shanghai as the latest and greatest Royal Caribbean ship in 2019,” said Bert Hernandez, senior vice president, International, Royal Caribbean International.

“We thank the government of China for establishing a pathway forward and continue to be committed to expanding the cruise industry in a region we have sailed from for more than a decade. This has also opened up a world of opportunities to expand the variety of holidays in Asia, as another award-winning ship sets sail in the region with the introduction of Anthem of the Seas in Singapore.”

Best features of Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas is one of the Quantum Class ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and she was the second Quantum Class ship to be launched.

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is considered a great cruise ship to book for several reasons:

Innovative Features: The ship boasts innovative and exciting features like the North Star observation capsule, where guests can enjoy panoramic views, and the Ripcord by iFly indoor skydiving simulator.

Variety of Activities: Anthem of the Seas offers a wide array of activities to suit different interests and ages. From bumper cars and roller skating at the SeaPlex to surfing on the FlowRider, there are plenty of options to keep guests entertained throughout their cruise.

Anthem of the Seas at dusk

Entertainment Options: The ship offers Broadway-caliber shows, such as "We Will Rock You" and "The Gift," providing high-quality performances that rival those found on land.

Guests can also enjoy live music, comedy acts, and various themed parties onboard.

Dining Experiences: Anthem of the Seas provides a diverse range of dining options, including specialty restaurants such as Jamie's Italian, Wonderland, and Chops Grille. The ship also offers complimentary dining venues and casual eateries.

Bumper cars in SeaPlex on Anthem of the Seas

Family-Friendly Amenities: The ship caters to families with children, offering dedicated spaces like the H2O Zone water park and the Adventure Ocean youth program, which provides age-appropriate activities for kids and teens. 

Relaxation and Wellness: Anthem of the Seas features a tranquil Solarium, an adults-only retreat with pools and whirlpools, as well as a luxurious spa and fitness center. Guests can unwind and rejuvenate while enjoying ocean views and indulging in spa treatments.

Modern Accommodations: Anthem of the Seas offers comfortable and modern staterooms, including spacious suites, balconies, and virtual balconies. These well-appointed accommodations provide a relaxing and enjoyable environment for guests to retreat to.

Best features of Spectrum of the Seas

Spectrum of the Seas was designed for the Asian cruise market, and has a few special offerings. 

Suite Enclave – Royal Caribbean’s first and exclusive space for the exquisite Royal Suite Class Star, Sky and Sea accommodations in a private area, featuring exclusive floor access, an elevator, private restaurants and a dedicated lounge area.

Two70 – Boasting stunning 270-degree ocean views by day and transforming into a multidimensional theatre by night, this transformative space flaunts six agile Roboscreens, breathtaking live performers and mind-bending aerialists to create unimaginable visuals.

SeaPlex – The largest indoor active space at sea, featuring bumper cars, laser tag, fencing, archery and more.

Star Moment – A lively and energetic karaoke venue where family and friends come together to belt out and sing like stars.

Family Friendly Accommodations – From exterior balcony staterooms to interconnected rooms, to the signature two-level Ultimate Family Suite, an expansive, multiroom retreat complete with its own slide and cinema that also doubles as a karaoke stage, there’s an array of staterooms designed for the whole family.

Signature Experiences – A bold lineup of guest favourites are on deck, including the FlowRider surf simulator, the North Star, an all-glass observation capsule which ascends 300 feet above the ocean to deliver incomparable 360-degree views; and RipCord by iFly, the first sky diving experience at sea.

A World of Flavours – There are 19 dining options that serve up a variety of cuisines, including Hot Pot, an authentic Chinese dining experience; Teppanyaki, a celebration of Far East flavours cooked in Japan’s traditional teppanyaki style; and Sichuan Red, a new specialty dining experience tailored just for Spectrum, where diners can savour a bold tapestry of spices and Sichuan flavours. Signature classics include imaginative cuisine at Wonderland, American steakhouse Chops Grille and authentic rustic fare and handmade pasta at Jamie’s Italian.

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: May 14, 2023

14 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Happy Mothers Day! All the moms out there deserve a big hug, thank you, and hopefully a new cruise booking too.

We got our first look around Icon of the Seas during a construction tour earlier this week.

Icon of the Seas under construction

The 250,800 gross tons, 20-deck-high vessel is under construction at Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, and we were invited to see its progress.

We took a deck-by-deck tour of Icon of the Seas at the shipyard, and it was a fascinating look at how cruise ships are built, as well as sneak peek at what Royal Caribbean has planned for the new ship.

Royal Caribbean News

20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

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 — 20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should) — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

Sea days are the perfect time to take advantage of everything your cruise ship has to offer, but you'll want to steer clear of some common sea day mistakes.

Even though sea days come with no requirements on how you should spend your time, there are a few things you should avoid doing on a sea day.

From avoiding the buffet to waking up early, here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day.

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival

If you’re considering a cruise with Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line, there are a few considerations before booking either.

These cruise lines represent the two largest in the cruise industry, and they're both popular because how much they offer guests of all ages.

Let’s go head-to-head, Carnival versus Royal Caribbean, to highlight their similarities and differences and help you choose the line that’s right for you.

Can I remove cruise ship prepaid gratuities?

Mason Jar restaurant

Some passengers new to cruising may be confused with how gratuities work on a Royal Caribbean cruise: how much they cost, when you pay gratuities, and whether or not they’re mandatory.

Because gratuities are an extra cost that is in addition to the cruise fare, new cruisers wonder whether or not you can remove these service charges.

The issue comes down to the ethics of tipping and ensuring the crew members taking care of you during your cruise are being tipped appropriately.

Can I remove cruise ship prepaid gratuities?

13 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

All passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise are charged a daily gratuity rate during their time onboard, but can gratuities be removed?

Getting a drink at the casita

Some passengers new to cruising may be confused with how gratuities work on a Royal Caribbean cruise: how much they cost, when you pay gratuities, and whether or not they’re mandatory.

Because gratuities are added as an extra cost on top of a Royal Caribbean cruise fare, we’re often asked whether or not you can remove these service charges. Perhaps the better question, however, is not whether or not you can remove gratuities, but whether or not you should.

Let’s take a look at the basics of Royal Caribbean’s gratuities, including how much they cost and when you’ll pay them, before discussing whether or not you can (or should) remove these service charges.

What are gratuities, and how much do they cost?

Gratuities are service charges that go towards various crew members on your cruise ship, including the dining room staff and stateroom attendants. They are a way to reward crew members for excellent service and hard work throughout the cruise.

Gratuities are not included in the base cruise fare on most sailings; instead, they come at an additional charge. The only exception to this rule is for cruises from Australia—gratuities are included in the fare structure when booking from Royal Caribbean’s Australia website.

For all other passengers, gratuities on a Royal Caribbean cruise are charged on a daily basis. The daily gratuity rate depends on the type of cabin you book for the cruise.

Guests in standard stateroom categories (interior, oceanview, balcony, and Junior Suite cabins) pay $16 USD per person, per day in gratuities. Those guests in Grand Suites and above pay $18.50 USD per person, per day.

When and how do I pay gratuities?

Main dining room staff preparing

There are two options for paying gratuities on a Royal Caribbean cruise: prepaying before the cruise or incurring the daily charge once onboard.

If you choose to prepay gratuities, the total amount of gratuities for your sailing will be added to your cruise fare upon booking. Therefore, if you’re booking a 7-night cruise in a balcony room, $116 will be added to the total price of your sailing.

Related: Should you prepay gratuities for your Royal Caribbean cruise?

The second option is to incur a daily charge once onboard. If you opt not to prepay gratuities, your SeaPass account will be charged $16 or $18.50 each day of your cruise. You can see the daily amount added to your cruise charges in the Royal Caribbean app.

Main Dining Room

Once the cruise is over, the gratuity charges, in addition to any other purchases made onboard, will charge to your credit card.

While both options are allowed, we recommend prepaying gratuities for several reasons.

First, paying gratuities in advance allows you to pay off the entire balance of your cruise before the sailing begins. Most passengers find that seeing a $16 daily charge while you’re onboard is more noticeable than having that fee added to your overall cruise fare upon booking.

Plus, it allows guests to pay off as much as possible before their vacation begins, which can make budgeting much easier, especially when traveling with a large family.

The other benefit of prepaying gratuities is that you’ll lock in the current gratuity rate. Royal Caribbean occasionally increases gratuities by a few dollars; if you prepaid gratuities and the rate increases before your cruise begins, you won’t be charged the difference in price. If you wait to pay onboard, however, you’ll be charged the new daily rate.

Can I remove cruise ship gratuities?

Technically speaking, you can remove gratuities on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but you absolutely shouldn’t do this.

Although Royal Caribbean gives you two options for paying gratuities (prepaying or being charged daily once onboard), some passengers try to opt out of paying any gratuities whatsoever.

Related: Tipping on a cruise ship: what you should and shouldn’t do

If you do not prepay gratuities and are instead being charged a daily amount onboard, you can go to Guest Services and request to remove or modify this daily charge. Passengers can change the daily amount or opt out of gratuities altogether until the morning of departure.

Some passengers interested in removing gratuities want to do so in order to reward crew members individually with cash tips. Others, unfortunately, want to avoid paying an extra charge.

Regardless of why you would want to remove gratuities, you should think twice before doing so.

Crew members work extremely hard during their cruise contracts, and while they receive paychecks each month, gratuities are an additional part of compensation they come to expect. Removing gratuities takes away well earned compensation from these crew members.

And although you may not agree with how cruise lines handle gratuities, removing gratuities will not hurt anyone who can change the way crew members are paid. Ultimately, removing gratuities only hurts the crew members who rely on these service charges as part of their salary.

Therefore, if you want to tip crew members in person, you should do so in addition to prepaid gratuities as opposed to removing them altogether.

Even if you prefer tipping crew members individually after receiving excellent service, you won’t come into contact with the majority of crew members onboard during your sailing. Unfortunately, this means that, if you remove gratuities, you’re taking away gratuity from those crew members working behind the scenes who may have otherwise received part of the daily gratuity rate.

To put it bluntly, if you can afford a Royal Caribbean cruise, you can afford to pay gratuities and you should not remove them. Opting out of gratuities is not a way to boycott service charges and save money on your cruise. While many passengers would prefer gratuities be included in the cruise fare, that’s not the way it works for most cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean.

Is additional tipping expected after paying gratuities?

Massage at the spa

No additional tipping is required on a Royal Caribbean cruise after paying gratuities, although certain purchases will come with a service charge.

Drinks, specialty dining, mini bar items, and spa and salon purchases come with an 18% gratuity added on top of the listed price. This gratuity rate is charged automatically, and it’s also added to beverage packages and specialty dining packages.

Additionally, many passengers enjoy tipping crew members extra for service throughout their cruise. It’s customary to tip your dining room waiters, stateroom attendant, bartenders, and shore excursion guides.

Tipping is also common when ordering room service, when handing luggage to porters at the cruise terminal, and to reward the service of a suite concierge or Royal Genie.

New Amex offer could get you hundreds of dollars in points for booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

13 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you're considering booking a Royal Caribbean cruise soon, you might want to use your American Express card.

Wonder of the Seas in Labadee

Many American Express cardholders are seeing a new offer for 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when spending $1,000 or more on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

The exact offer seems to vary depending on who the cardholder is, but if you have an American Express card, it is worth checking out if the offer is for you. 

Based on points calculators we found online, 20,000 points is worth about $400, which means you'd get back about 40% of that $1,000 cost.

Icon of the Seas render at sunset

It's also important to know you must enroll in the offer before making the purchase for the Amex Offer to be redeemable.

In addition, this offer can only be used with one American Express Card and it's valid only on cruise bookings made online at, by calling 866-562-7625, using American Express Travel, or through a travel agent. Reservations must be booked on U.S. websites only.

The $1,000 spending threshold excludes onboard purchases, e-gift card and physical gift card purchases made online, transfers/transportation to the ship, MGM Resort International Joint Vacation and Royal Wedding Packages.

Celebrity Reflection and Independence of the Seas

This offer only works for Royal Caribbean International, and does not work for Celebrity Cruise, TUI Cruises and Silversea brands.

The offer expires July 31, 2023.

Typically, Amex offer statements appear on your statement within a day or two, it can sometimes take several days for the statement credit to hit your account. 

American Express gold cards

Not every AmEx cardholder will get the offer, but we've seen it so far across these credit cards:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • Blue from American Express
  • American Express Gold Card

A few of our RoyalCaribbeanBlog writers also reported seeing the offer, which seems to point to it being fairly well-distributed.

How much are 20,000 AmEx Membership Rewards Points worth?

American Express website on laptop

Getting 20,000 points sounds great, but what kind of a benefit is that to you?

There are many ways to possibly redeem your points, especially depending on which American Express card you have.

AmEx card corner

According to a NerdWallet analysis, AmEx points value is between 1 cent when used to book travel directly and 2 cents when transferred to partners.

The Points Guy estimates Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents each.

Using your points for airfare is typically the best value, while redeeming them for cash to erase eligible charges from your statement is widely considered a poor value.

How to activate the offer

Person using computer

Before you can utilize an Amex Offer, you generally have to activate it on your account, so before paying for anything, be sure to do that. By using your credit card at a qualifying merchant, you can instantly take advantage of the discount, credit or bonus by using your American Express card there.

Simply log into your American Express account on their website or via their app.

AmEx offer

Look for the Amex Offers & Benefits section, which is usually located towards the bottom of the main page.

Categorized under "Travel", you should see the Royal Caribbean offer there.

How to use this if you use a travel agent

You may notice in the fine print for this offer it states you can use a travel professional with this offer, which means you can still support your favorite travel agent.

You could simply book this offer with them, or book it on your own and transfer it to the agent immediately afterwards.

Even after booking a cruise with Royal Caribbean directly, you have up to 30 days to transfer it to a travel agent after initial booking. It must be outside of Final Payment and the booking is not paid in full.

I would recommend informing your travel agent what you are doing first, so they can be prepared for the necessary paperwork to transfer it to them.

All you have to do is complete this online form and the booking gets transferred to the agent.

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival: Which is a better choice?

12 May 2023
Allie Hubers

Are you debating if you should book Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line for your next cruise vacation?

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival

While there is an abundance of cruise lines in the industry, the two biggest cruise lines in the world are Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line. Both of these mainstream companies offer an affordable approach to cruising, with a major focus on family and fun.

Although it might sound cliched, these two well-known cruise lines truly have something for everyone. Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean aim to offer the complete family vacation, with plenty to do on their ships. While your kids will have a blast trying out the onboard thrills and the kids clubs, parents and grandparents alike will undoubtedly enjoy the food, entertainment and service offered on both. 

Millions of passengers set sail onboard these cruise lines each year. Carnival’s current fleet of 24 vessels competes closely with Royal Caribbean’s fleet of 26 cruise ships. With a literal boatload of fun to be had, it’s no surprise that these two cruise lines are very popular with the cruising population.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival in Nassau

Personally, I’ve set sail on more Royal Caribbean cruises than I can count, although my Diamond Plus status should be an indicator of my likeness and loyalty towards the brand. Growing up, I cruised with Royal Caribbean and have continued to do so into my adulthood. 

Read moreCrown and Anchor Society loyalty program info, tips & secrets

However, I’ve also taken five sailings with Carnival, with the majority of these having taken place within the last year. The debut of Carnival’s new Excel-class ships, which rival some of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis- and Quantum-class ships, have piqued my interest in the brand again.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are seemingly two types of people in the cruising world: those who love Carnival and those who love to hate on Carnival. However, Carnival has its place in the cruising industry - and I’d argue their newest and most innovative Excel-class ships will redefine the cruise line in the years to come.

Here’s everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean versus Carnival Cruise Line, including how Carnival’s “Fun” ships compare to those seeking Royal Caribbean’s “WOW” cruising experiences.

Overview of Fleet

While Royal Caribbean’s fleet is slightly larger than Carnival’s with two more vessels, the two cruise lines are very similar in size. Today, both cruise lines are focusing on building modern and massive cruise ships that can hold more than 5,000 passengers.

Both lines have relatively smaller ships as well, with passenger counts ranging between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers. And the ships ages range between brand new and going as far back as approaching 30 years old.

For many years, Carnival’s approach to ship design was implementing “tried-and-true” deck plans that had already proven successful for the cruise line. Each ship class was built similarly (some nearly identical) to the last with only minor changes to accommodate larger vessels. 

Wonder of the Seas docked in St. Thomas

This approach was used until 2021 when Carnival Mardi Gras set sail. The building of this ship started a new era for the cruise line with the Excel-class of ships. Mardi Gras paved the way for the equally modern and advanced Carnival Celebration to set sail in late 2022, in which my sister and I were onboard one of the inaugural sailings.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean has always been pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation across its fleet. The cruise line is constantly creating ship classes that are bigger and better than ever before. 

The Oasis Class ships hold the title as the largest in the world, and Royal Caribbean has held the title as world's biggest ships for many years now.

With the upcoming release of Icon of the Seas, the first of a new astonishing class of ships, this approach still stands. Royal Caribbean continues to be a pioneer in the cruising industry and sets the bar for other cruise lines, like Carnival, to follow.

Regardless of which line you pick, you'll find big ships that have plenty to do.  Neither line truly offers a small ship experience, but they have sister brands that fill that gap.

Dining Options 

Food is arguably one of the most important aspects of a cruise, right after the places in the world the ship visit.

Comparatively speaking, I think Royal Caribbean comes out on top with its traditional and specialty dining, while Carnival’s plethora of complimentary, quick dining options onboard are second to none.  

Where Carnival truly shines is its approach to casual dining onboard its ships - and the food is pretty darn good too. Carnival crushes the competition when it comes to its complimentary dining. Cruisers have a wide range of eateries to choose from on their ships.

To start, Carnival has partnered with Food Network celebrity chef, Guy Fieri, to create the popular Guy’s Burger Joint and new Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and Brewery.

In addition, the cruise line debuted a new partnership with Shaq’s Big Chicken, which is nearly as good as Chick-fil-a in my opinion.

This is just the start of the complimentary dining options and doesn’t even include the pizza shoppe for Napoli-style pizza, fresh made sandwiches from the panini grill and authentic tacos from BlueIguana cantina. 

Another favorite onboard Carnival is the SeaDay Brunch, hosted into the early afternoon for those who stayed up past their bedtime. Some signature dishes include (possibly the best) 12-hour French toast topped with roasted peaches and skillet pancakes with freshly whipped ricotta. 

Finally, Carnival’s newest ships have debuted complimentary, speciality-style restaurants called ChiBang and Cucina del Capitano. While ChiBang serves up Mexican and Asian dishes on two separate menus, Cucina del Capitano is the Italian speciality restaurant onboard. While other cruise lines would certainly charge for this experience, it’s free for guests on Excel-class ships.

This isn’t to say that Carnival’s main dining experience is lackluster (that award goes to the cruise line’s buffet, which has always left me disappointed); rather, the cruise line truly shines with its quick service options. 

And don’t even get me started about Carnival’s Chocolate Melting Cake. It’s the best dessert at sea for chocolate lovers and the cruise line has perfected this molten, warm decadence. Best of all? It’s on the menu every day. 

Where Carnival falls short is where Royal Caribbean sparkles. Specialty dining on Royal Caribbean is top-notch food and service, from Chop’s Grille steakhouse, Izumi Sushi and Teppanyaki and Jamie’s Italian - to name a few. 

Royal Caribbean’s main dining room service is also more sophisticated with a diverse menu compared to Carnival. You won’t find the servers dancing each night on tables like you will in Carnival’s dining room where you get a small ‘show’ each evening you dine. Royal Caribbean focuses on offering a varied menu with quality food for cruisers. 

The onboard buffet is the main spot for meals on the majority of the cruise line’s fleet. The food is similar quality to what you’d find at a hotel; while it might not be the most impressive thing you eat onboard, it will hit the spot. 


Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer an excellent range of daily entertainment for cruisers. You might even run out of time to see everything during your cruise; however, the cruise line take a different approach to entertainment. 

Royal Caribbean offers large-scale production shows on most of its Oasis and Quantum-class ships. You can find 90-minute, Broadway-style shows like “Hairspray” and “Mamma Mia”. The cruise line also offers one-of-a-kind aquatics shows on Oasis-class ships, along with jaw-dropping, ice skating spectacles on some of the larger vessels.

Ice Skating Show

Older Royal Caribbean ships will still offer a variety of entertainment, but on a smaller scale. You can still find production shows, comedians, magicians, acrobatics and more on a Royal Caribbean cruise. 

On the other hand, Carnival’s entertainment leans into a variety of comedy shows with singing and dancing productions. Something unique to Carnival is the cruise line’s Punchliner Comedy Club with daily comedy shows and rotating comedians. Each show lasts just 30 minutes, so you have plenty of time to try the other entertainment available. 

Carnival also features Playlist Production shows where the singers and dancer’s showcase familiar tunes with dazzling choreography. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might enjoy live gameshows of Deal or No Deal or Family Feud, which can only be found on Carnival’s cruise ships. 

With Carnival’s newest Excel-class of cruise ships, the entertainment has been kicked up a notch. The cruise line has developed some really incredible shows for its transformative Center Stage, like the Most Magnificent Circus on Carnival Celebration. This acrobatic-style headliner show was quite possibly one of the best shows I’ve seen at sea. 

Kids and families

Playscape on Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean program offers programmed activities for kids and teens to mingle with peers their own age. It's supervised, which means parents can drop their kids off and then enjoy time with their children.

Adventure Ocean caters to kids and teens between the ages of 3 and 17, dividing them into five different groups:

  1. Aquanauts (3-5)
  2. Explorers (6-8)
  3. Voyagers (9-11)
  4. Pre-teens (12-14)
  5. Teens (15-17)

Now, depending on which category your child falls into, they'll likely be able to take part in karaoke showdowns, pajama parties, carnival games, epic games of crazy tag, sports tournaments, and dance parties that will have them busting moves all night long.

RelatedBest Royal Caribbean cruise ships for Kids

If you have younger kids, there is also Royal Babies and Royal Tots, which costs extra and is for toddlers between the age of 6 and 36 months years old.

Camp Ocean is Carnival's complimentary youth club and is also split by ages:

  1. Penguins (2 - 5)
  2. Stingrays (6 - 8)
  3. Sharks (9 - 11)

Tweens and teens have their own spaces, too, in the form of Circle C and Club O2. They can keep themselves busy with stuff like video and board games, sports and karaoke.

Attractions and Thrills


When it comes to onboard thrills, no one in the cruise industry does this better than Royal Caribbean. This has been Royal Caribbean’s bread and butter for decades. 

In fact, the cruise line pioneered many firsts for the cruise industry, like the first zip line at sea, the first FlowRider surf simulator, and the first ice skating on a cruise ship. This doesn’t even encompass all of it, like the waterslides, rock climbing walls, bumper cars, bungee jumping and skydiving you can try!

For the most part, these onboard thrills are all complimentary for Royal Caribbean cruisers (other than the iFly sky diving simulator). 

Read more15 free things to try on your next cruise

Comparatively, Carnival’s showcase plenty of pools, hot tubs and waterslides. The biggest ships, Carnival Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, feature The Ultimate Playground where guests can find the cruise line’s onboard thrills. Here, you can take your turn on the ropes course or dare to try the thrilling waterslides for free. 

This is also where you’ll find the first rollercoaster at sea, called Bolt. Costing $15 each for two laps, cruisers can twist and turn around the aft of Carnival Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration!

Although pricey, my sister and I would recommend this unique experience at least once for all Carnival guests.

Experience Onboard

Undoubtedly, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line offer incredible cruise experiences. Both cruise lines aim to provide affordable, family-friendly cruises with something onboard for everyone. 

Carnival’s entire brand revolves around having “the most fun ships at sea”. You can’t get off a Carnival cruise without seeing the word “fun” multiple times each day.

As such, the environment onboard is very casual with a major focus on fun. No one takes themselves too seriously and this creates a very carefree style of cruising. 

Entertainment Carnival Mardi Gras

Carnival attracts a younger crowd, including young adults and families. It’s a popular cruise line for spring breakers because of its notoriously cheap cruise fares. Carnival cruises have a lively nightlife scene with plenty of parties, although this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily out of control. Imagine everyone - even your mom and grandma - simply letting loose together on a cruise!

I will say, nobody does a sailaway party like Carnival Cruise Line. Everyone onboard shows up with their drinks in hand, ready to celebrate the start of vacation. In fact, I would verge to say it’s a right of passage to attend a Carnival sailaway party if you consider yourself a seasoned cruiser! 

With Royal Caribbean’s cruises, you’ll find a more varied crowd thanks to the cruise line’s international presence. Comparatively, Royal Caribbean offers more international cruises to places like Europe, Asia and Australia.

Along with young adults and families, you’ll also find solo travelers, couples and grandparents onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. Because of Royal Caribbean’s slightly higher cruise fares thanks to high-end suites, the parties onboard tend to be more subdued and upscale. 


For those traveling without kids, Royal Caribbean’s adult-only areas are superior for relaxing during your cruise. Each ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet offers a serene space for adults called The Solarium - it’s my favorite place to relax.

Comparatively, Carnival also offers an adults-only area called Serenity, although it’s not as large or secluded. I also prefer the motif of the Solarium over Serenity. 

If you’re sailing around spring break or on a short getaway itinerary, your Royal Caribbean cruise will likely entice a more energetic crowd.

Read moreEverything you should book before the cruise to avoid it being sold out

Itineraries and where they sail

Aerial view of CocoCay from balloon

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival focus primarily on North American cruises, with lots of cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico.  Both have seasonal sailings to Alaska, Bermuda and Canada.

Royal Caribbean has a larger presence in Europe and Australia compared to Carnival.

Both have private destinations in the Caribbean, although Carnival has one more than Royal Caribbean: Amber Cove, Half Moon Cay, and Princess Cays vs Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

Read moreThe best cruise itineraries for every type of traveler

Final Thoughts

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

When it comes to comparing Royal Caribbean and Carnival, the two cruise lines are more similar than they are different. Each aims to provide an amazing and affordable cruise vacations for families. You can’t really go wrong between the two, as long as you have the right expectations. 

If you’re a major foodie or someone who loves to really let loose and party the night away on a cruise, you might find that Carnival is the best cruise line for you. The upbeat and carefree atmosphere is perfect for cruisers who want a casual getaway without any of the fuss. 

Those who might want a slightly more upscale experience with better specialty dining options and innovative onboard thrills would probably prefer Royal Caribbean. This is also the best cruise line for an adults-only cruise vacation or those looking to truly relax. 

Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to book another cruise on Carnival’s Excel-class ship, as it truly changed my opinion of the cruise line and amplified the fleet. I’m excited about the future of the cruise line as it starts to put innovation and technological advancement at the forefront.

However, I still prefer Royal Caribbean overall as a cruise line as it fits my budget and travel style; of course, the lucrative loyalty benefits don’t hurt either!