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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! 

More than 80% done: How Royal Caribbean will finish work on world's largest cruise ship

12 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas is about 80% complete, but they aren't quite at the finish line yet.

Icon of the Seas under construction in May 2023

While touring the brand new cruise ship in Turku, Finland, Royal Caribbean's leadership provided an outline of what to expect between now and when the ship begins sailings with passengers in January.

At a panel question and answer session, one of the most important people in the company's history was present to provide an oversight of what's next.

Harri Kulovaara is the company's Executive Vice President of Maritime & Newbuilding, which means he is responsible for leading the design and construction of its new ships. He's been a part of the new ship build team for decades, and has been with the company for over 40 years.

Panel of speakers

When asked about how far along the work is on Icon, Mr. Kulovaara said, "The ship is ship is more than 70% done. The overall project, which includes also the design and so on, that is more than more than 80% done."

If you've seen the Icon of the Seas construction photos posted on this site, you may think the amount of exposed cabling and open walls doesn't seem like the ship is really that far long, but Mr. Kulovaara explained how the finishing of the work in the final stage really makes the ship look more complete visually, even though it's further along than you might think.

Icon of the Seas under construction in May 2023

"When the ship is coming to 90% level, that's when the panels, the final ceiling panels and the final finishes are coming."

"All the hard work is basically behind the visual panels. So it's in the machinery, it's getting all the air conditioning, all the electric cables, all that complexity. It's actually the technical execution, which is the cumbersome part."

Essentially, we saw the ship in the stage of construction where the wiring and infrastructure behind the walls and above the ceiling get put in, similar to how a new house under construction gets wiring put in before the dry wall is installed.

Icon of the Seas construction - Seaside

Also speaking at the panel was Meyer Werft CEO Tim Meyer, who explained more about the "Lego block" style construction of a cruise ship, "We start with panels, we build sections, we build a block out of this. We have 201 blocks which are then put together in the dock to generate the ship."

"And now we're starting with the machinery, commissioning, we're starting with the systems. And of course what you are seeing visually is then finalizing the public rooms."

Icon of the Seas under construction in May 2023

According to Mr. Kulovaara, the complexity of the work being done on Icon is second to only military projects, "This is the biggest and most complex maritime project outside probably military or oil and gas."

What's next for Icon of the Seas?

Aft of Icon of the Seas under construction

So what sort of work occurs in that final 20-30% yet to be completed?

About 2600 people work on Icon of the Seas every day, and Mr. Kulovaara estimates there's about 2 million working hours left remaining on her going forward.

"We do something a little bit more than 1% of the completion in in every every week."

AquaDome construction

He also outlined the next milestones for Icon of the Seas, such as sea trials "before midsummer".  Ship builder Meyer Turku posted last week they expect sea trials to commence in mid-June.

"Then in the fall, finalizing all the staterooms, finalizing the commissioning, all the all the special features, and then starting not only finishing the ship, but also starting the preparation for for the ship's entry to the service."

Icon of the Seas water park

He admitted that this there is still a large task remaining ahead, but it's something the company is well-versed in historically, "This is a large task. It's well scripted, and it is based on the history, the experience what we have."

Will the ship be ready on time?

Pool aerial on Icon of the Seas

Mr. Kulovaara also said Royal Caribbean has left some padding of time in, just in case there's any problems, "And for that purpose we have also reserved a little bit of time."

"We feel very comfortable at the moment in this situation," he said about Icon and further elaborated that his confidence stems largely from the company's history of ship building.

Icon of the Seas top down aerial

"We have worked on the project six years. The ship is built on relatively short time frame and that all is giving us a very high confidence on the work that we have ahead of us."

"And what helps is the fact that we have been doing this this so many times with Meyer this so many time here in Turku, so that we have a good practice on that."

Continuing the trend

Icon of the Seas is the first in a new class of cruise ship for Royal Caribbean, and it marks arguably the next evolution of the brand.

The Oasis Class ships have been the standard bearer for the line ever since Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2009, and while the Quantum Class was introduced since, the fact Icon of the Seas is larger seems to represent the new flagship.

When asked what will impress guests about Icon, Mr. Kulovaara said, "I think the overall amount of innovation and what has been able to put in one ship and being true for the history, what the brand is and the history, how the the industry has developed and really continuing that trend."

Symphony of the Seas docked

He is alluding to Royal Caribbean's track record of introducing ground-breaking ship after ground-breaking ship.  From the Sovereign Class to the Voyager Class to the Oasis Class, Icon seems to be well-positioned to continue forward.

While Icon is indeed larger than the Oasis Class, it's what the ship offers families that seems to be most important to the company.

Surfside family

Since last fall, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley has been touting how attractive Icon will be for families.  He repeated that claim again at the shipyard, "We're positioning this product as the ultimate family vacation. We think it's going to be the best family vacation in the world and all of the energy and time that's gone into creating this ship is just mind blowing."

That's a bold statement, but the ship looks like it could back up those words with amenities such as a full water park, dedicated neighborhood for young families, full production shows, and new cabin categories that are designed to handle 3 or 4 passengers.

Cruising in hurricane season: What you need to know

11 May 2023
Elizabeth Wright

You might think about avoiding booking a cruise during hurricane season, but the lower prices and demand might have you reconsidering.

Hurricane as seen from space

Going on a cruise during hurricane season can often be a topic of debate. The lower fares mean that you might be able to take your dream vacation for less; however, you risk your voyage being impacted by unfavorable weather. So, is going on a cruise during hurricane season a good idea?

In the past, storms have caused some itineraries to be modified or cancelled altogether. That being said, the majority of cruises are able to successfully depart without any issues. 

Here is everything you need to know about taking a cruise during hurricane season and predictions for the 2023 season. 

When is hurricane season? 

Hurricane aerial view

The Atlantic hurricane season, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, runs from June 1 through November 30, but the season's peak is primarily between August and October.

And while tropical storms are notoriously unpredictable, there are usually around a dozen or so storms in a given year, with some being stronger and weaker than others. 

The Pacific's season is a little bit different, beginning May 15 and ending on November 30. 

According to the National Hurricane Center, an average Atlantic hurricane season will produce 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. 

A major hurricane is defined as a Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, meaning that the cyclone reaches a maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher. 

Slightly below-normal hurricane season prediction for 2023


On Thursday, April 13, the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project released their first forecasts for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. 

They predict that this season will be "slightly below-normal," with a total 13 named storms, six of which being hurricanes. Out of six hurricanes, two are expected to be major hurricanes. 

The project team also expects 55 storm days, compared to the average of 69.4 days from 1991-2020.  

Moreover, current conditions indicate that a transition to El Niño at some point during the summer or fall is fairly likely. If it does develop, there is uncertainty over how strong it would be, and since sea surface temperatures are warmer than usual, there is still the potential for a busy Atlantic hurricane season even if El Niño does not develop. 


On the same day, researchers at North Carolina State University released a separate report in which they predicted anywhere from 11 to 15 named storms during the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Six to eight of these named storms may develop into hurricanes, with two to three becoming major hurricanes. 

As of now, no reports indicate a busier than normal Atlantic hurricane season, which is great news for cruisers! 

RelatedSafe at sea: what it’s like on a cruise ship when there’s a hurricane

Will a hurricane affect my cruise?

Storm near beach

Royal Caribbean's top priority is the safety of the guests, crew, and ship, and they will never send a ship near a hurricane. To that point, if a storm is predicted to go anywhere near where a ship is scheduled to be, Royal Caribbean will be the first to cancel scheduled port stops or even completely change the itinerary.

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet works year round to monitor weather patterns in order to keep ships safe. He has over 20 years of experience as a meteorologist in television and has covered locations from Texas to Florida. 

James Van Fleet

During hurricane season, he goes into overdrive to ensure that the ship's Captain and Royal Caribbean as a whole are making the best decisions possible for any impacted sailings.

While the odds of a storm affecting your cruise is low, you should be mentally prepared for that to occur; cruising during hurricane season means having a certain level of flexibility with your plans. 

If you are scheduled to visit the Eastern Caribbean but a storm arises, Royal Caribbean may drop a port of call or completely switch your itinerary, turning your Eastern cruise into a Western Caribbean one. 


On rare occasions, Royal Caribbean will cancel a cruise if a storm is projected to impact an area where the ship is scheduled to embark and/or disembark. 

Cancelling a cruise, though, is usually the last option for Royal Caribbean, and they are more likely to keep a ship out at sea for an extra day or two, subsequently shorten the next sailing, than outright cancel any given sailing.

If you decide not to go on the cruise at the last minute, you will not receive any compensation from the cruise line. Unless it is flat out cancelled by Royal Caribbean, the ship is still going to depart, and they will deliver a cruise vacation to all passengers, regardless of whether or not the itinerary stays the same. 

Do cruise lines provide any compensation if a sailing in impacted by a storm?


As mentioned, Royal Caribbean will do everything that they can to guarantee a safe voyage, even if it means that the port order is swapped or changed altogether. So long as the embarkation port is not closed, your cruise will almost certainly sail. 

Per the cruise contract that you agreed to when you booked the cruise, no compensation is required to be given if your itinerary changes. That means that if your cruise changes from an Eastern Caribbean cruise to a Western one, you will not be compensated for the change. 

If, however, they have to make the difficult decision to completely cancel the cruise, you will be issued a full refund. It must be Royal Caribbean's decision, though. If you elect not to sail at the last minute, you will lose the money that you paid for the vacation. 

Lower prices

Cruise fares tend to drop significantly in the fall. Not only is this due to the fact that the peak travel season has ended, but it is also to account for the uncertainty that arises when cruising during hurricane season. 


A 4-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Independence of the Seas, for instance, starts at $559 per person for an interior room during July 2024. The same itinerary drops to $300 per person in September. 

In the days leading up to the cruise, you will inevitably keep a closer eye on the news to see if there are any storm developments, which may lead to some pre-cruise anxiety. In the summer, it is unlikely that you will have these worries, even though June and July still technically fall within hurricane season. 

RelatedWhat is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

Make sure that you buy travel insurance

Dusk on deck

Purchasing travel insurance is recommended regardless of when your cruise is; however, it is a no-brainer when it comes to cruising during hurricane season. 

Whether you get travel insurance from Royal Caribbean when booking or from a third-party provider, you will want to ensure the policy covers disruption in case of weather-related events.

You may also want to consider a "Cancel For Any Reason" policy, as most travel insurance policies only kick in if your vacation is interrupted -- think if Royal Caribbean cancels the cruise or an airline cancels your flight. A hurricane forming in the Atlantic and your fear of going is not grounds for travel insurance to kick in.  


If you want the flexibility to cancel your trip before Royal Caribbean does, you will need a policy that includes Cancel For Any Reason. Note, though, that these policies tend to be more expensive! 

Finally, make sure that you purchase the travel insurance as soon as possible, as to file any claims under a travel insurance policy, you have to have bought the policy before the storm was formed and named. If you purchase the policy afterwards, you will not be entitled to any compensation. 

RelatedShould you buy annual travel insurance plans?

Importance of flying in before the cruise

Airplane on the ground

You should always fly in at least one day prior to your ship's departure. During hurricane season, however, you may opt to fly in even earlier, just to make sure that you are in the vicinity of the ship if there happen to be any disruptions to air traffic due to a storm. 

Even if, for instance, you are flying from the Midwest to Florida, a hurricane in the Western Caribbean can impact flight schedules across the United States. If you wait until the day of, you may find yourself missing the ship! 

Come prepared with medication to curb any motion sickness symptoms 


Cruise ships will do their best to avoid the path of a hurricane and chart a course with optimal sea conditions. Plus, modern cruise ships are built with stabilizer fins that help counteract the ocean’s movement, so there is less movement felt. 

That being said, you never know when you will hit a rough patch, whether you are sailing during a hurricane or not! 

When packing for your cruise, make sure that you buy some motion sickness medication, like Bonine or Dramamine. While medication will be available on the ship, having it on hand is best. 

Related: How to avoid getting seasick on a cruise

9 new things about Icon of the Seas I learned during my shipyard tour

11 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

In-between seeing the progress Royal Caribbean has made on its next cruise ship at the shipyard in Finland, there were a few interesting tidbits shared about what we can expect to find onboard when the ship sails.

Icon of the Seas things I learned

Royal Caribbean is excited to share as much of Icon of the Seas as they can, and in walking around the ship that is about 80% complete, I picked up on a number of details that was news to me.

Most of the walkthrough went over information previously disclosed, but a few interesting details were mentioned.

While some of these will not be ground breaking news by any means, if you're like me, you're eager to learn as much as possible to prepare in advance of the ship entering service.

Icon of the Seas shows revealed

Aqua Action show

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment Nick Weir talked about the plans Royal Caribbean has for entertainment on Icon, and we got a full line up of shows we can expect.

There will be three primary venues for shows: AquaDome, ice skating rink, and Royal Theater.

The premier show in the AquaDome will be "Aqua Nation!".

Pirates vs Mermaids

"Pirates vs Mermaids" is the name of of the other show in the AquaDome.

Starburst poster

"Starburst" is the name of the ice skating show in Absolute Zero skating arena.

Once Upon A time poster

And there will be one additional show in Absolute Zero, "Once Upon A Time".

Mr. Weir also talked about "Effectors", which is Royal Caribbean's own super hero produced show.  There's been two versions so far, and it appears a version may be headed to Icon as well.

Wizard of Oz musical poster

Of course, we already knew that "Wizard of Oz" will be the featured musical on Icon of the Seas, and Mr. Weir indicated it would have a targeted runtime of around 90 minutes.

Destination elevators

Unfinished elevator

Something else new on Icon will be destination elevators, instead of traditional elevators.

"You'll notice we don't have classic elevators on icon, we have destination elevators," said Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider.

"A destination elevator is I go to a panel. I tell you where I want to go. It tells you what elevator you should go to, and then I go to it."

Mr. Schneider said the impetus to go with destination elevators has three reasons.

The first is elevators go through their own historical innovation and evolution.

The second is the company is well-aware of the issue with waits for elevators, "even with the elevators that we have on the Oasis Class, we still can struggle with lines. And you see those comments as much as we do."

Third, Icon has more passengers than any other ship, "so really being able to effectively move up to 7500 passengers seamlessly and solve for some of the problems that we've seen from our elevator technology on other ships, this is a big step forward."

AquaDome panels

AquaDome demo

The fact the AquaTheater is now indoors is more than just a roof.  

Above the theater there are panels that move and can be projected upon. This adds a new dimension to the story telling of the show.

In addition, the fountains at the base of the theater will use lights and water to be part of the set, rather a showpiece.

Great storage in cabins

Icon of the Seas cabin under construction

We were able to tour two types of cabins that are still being constructed, but it was clear early on there will be plenty of places to store your belongings.

Royal Caribbean's ships have been steadily increasing storage space in their cabins for years, and Icon will be no different.

Cruise ships built more than 10 years ago had very limited storage space, but that's changed in recent years.

We saw a lot of extra spots to put your stuff, including shelves behind a full length mirror.

Shower on Icon of the Seas

Speaking of cabins, the old style "tube" showers have been replaced with more contemporary shower doors that swing out.  There's even a seat now in the showers.

Supper Club

Supper Club construction

Royal Caribbean wouldn't confirm it, but we're pretty sure we spotted a new dining venue.

Our tour visited an unnamed venue that the cruise line said they'd reveal more details in the coming weeks.

Supper Club concept art

Based on the ceiling, it looks like it could be the Supper Club.

Pool chairs that face both ways

Pool deck under construction on Icon of the Seas

One interesting anecdote about the pool loungers on Icon is that they can be adjust to face in either direction.

The advantage of this feature is you can always face the sun without having to lift and swivel the lounger.

Food trend

Pearl Cafe

One food trend Royal Caribbean wants to jump on with Icon of the Seas is birria sandwiches.

Royal Caribbean is testing out a mushroom birria sandwich for Pearl Cafe. It may not end up on the final menu, but it's an idea they're testing out.

Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, said the food trend is an interesting food trend they're playing with at the moment.

Crew member interest has been overwhelmingly good

Jennifer Goswami

The new ship has already drawn a great deal of interest from crew members that want to transfer to Icon once she launches.

New cruise ships come with many challenges, but some crew members love the opportunity to help "break in" a new ship.

Part of that interest with Icon may lie with the redesigned crew areas.

Royal Caribbean brought in a team of crew members to check out the crew cabins and crew areas of Icon, and they hated it.  As a result, Royal Caribbean reworked the crew spaces with a team of crew members that provided helpful insight.

The end result is a much better received design for crew areas.

An experience not yet announced for the AquaDome

AquaDome panels

Royal Caribbean is far from done with announcing everything for Icon of the Seas, including something else to see/do in the AquaDome.

During our tour, it was alluded to that there would be more to enjoy in the AquaDome beyond what has already been announced.

The vague tease infers we should expect another announcement down the line.

First look: Icon of the Seas construction tour in the shipyard

10 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas is still many months away from setting sail with passengers, but we have an early look at the progress being made onboard.

Icon of the Seas shipyard tour

At the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, Royal Caribbean showed an early look at its next-gen cruise ship. The line is excited for Icon to launch, and so is the public.  Sales for Icon bookings well before the ship begins operations have broken all sorts of sales records already.

Estimated to be 82% complete, Icon of the Seas will become the world's largest cruise ship when it launches.  She promises to offer a number of new innovations and activities that aim to rival any other family vacation destination.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley called the new ship "mind blowing", "I think everything about Icon is just unbelievable. We're positioning this product as the ultimate family vacation."

"We think it's going to be the best family vacation in the world and all of the energy and time that's gone into creating this ship is just mind blowing."

There's still plenty of work to do, as an estimated 2 million working hours are left to be completed.

If the ship doesn't look as far along as you might be lead to believe, it's because the final work is when they make it ready for guests. When the ship is at 90%, the panels and finishings get added and that makes it look far more "complete" to a guest.

Seeing the space gave a great perspective on the scale of the ship and general feel for the layout, which is difficult to ascertain from concept art or deck plans.

The cruise line expects sea trials to begin before summer.

We took a hard hat tour of the ship, walking through all of the ship's neighborhoods to get a sense of what looks like now, and what guests can expect once the vessel is ready.

Walking onboard

1400 Bar

Guests will walk onboard the ship and enter the 1400. Royal Caribbean wanted to design an entrance that wasn't just a gangway leading to a random area of the ship. Instead, they designed a true embarkation experience.

The 1400 name is an homage to the build number of the ship, and it features plenty of windows to see the ocean when the gangway is not present.

Royal Promenade

Just like many other Royal Caribbean ships, Icon of the Seas will have a Royal Promenade. Unlike other ships, the Promenade is a complete loop, meaning it has no beginning or end. This means guests will not have to walk up and down stairs to get from one side of the Promenade to another if the destinations are on separate decks.

The Royal Promenade will have restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities and be two decks high.

The Royal Promenade is a fan-favorite that has been around since Voyager of the Seas. On Icon of the Seas, the neighborhood is going to be redesigned and have windows to allow natural sunlight, something that the cruise line has yet to do here!

Many staples will be found here, including Sorrento’s, Starbucks, the Karaoke Bar, and pub. It will continue to be a center for excitement during all hours of the day. 

The Pearl

It's still not clear what Royal Caribbean has planned for the Pearl, but we got a preview of what it will be by walking through it.

The Pearl leads from deck 5 to deck 6, and it has specially designed walls that can change color and even move, along with music being played.

Pearl on the Royal Promenade

While inside, we heard the Perfect Day at CocoCay theme song as a demo of what they have in mind.  Royal Caribbean isn't prepared to discuss what guests can expect in the Pearl, but it's more than just a pretty space.

A fun fact about The Pearl is it also serves as a weight bearing device to physically support the weight of Central Park above it. For such a large ship, Royal Caribbean wanted to create a more innovative way to bear the ship's weight. Instead of adding generic columns, they created something that has never been seen on a cruise ship before, and it's undoubtedly impressive.

Pearl Cafe

As you walk through The Pearl from the Royal Promenade, you'll enter Pearl Cafe, a casual, complimentary grab-and-go coffee shop style venue.

Pearl Cafe

The cafe is located in front of the giant, 36x95 foot window found on Icon of the Seas, so amazing ocean views are sure to be in abundance at this venue. Comfortable seating and dining areas are located near the cafe, allowing guests to take in the ocean views with their coffee and snacks.


While Icon of the Seas will have plenty of new innovations, it will still have fan favorites, such as Boleros.

Boleros is the latin themed bar found onboard most Royal Caribbean cruise ships, and it's where you'll find live music each day of the sailing. From salsa to merengue and samba, it's a popular spot for dancing on the Royal Promenade.

Bubbles Icon concept

Like on other ships, Boleros will be located on the Royal Promenade on Icon of the Seas. The bar's convenient location makes it an easy place to stop by for a quick drink, whether a classic mojito or margarita.


Perhaps the crown jewel in Icon's family-centric design is the first neighborhood dedicated to young families.

Royal Caribbean wants Surfside to be a place for kids and parents to enjoy the space together, rather than something just for kids exclusively. 

A look down the Surfside neighborhood

The new area will have a carousel, pools, Splashaway Bay aqua park and eateries that cater to children and their parents.

There's even a bar where kids and adults have different choices. Once again, Royal wants families to be able to spend time together.

You'll be able to access Surfside by stairs or slide (the slide is meant for younger kids to quickly venture down), leading to all the options in this area.

There will also be cabins that face into Surfside, including the Surfside Family View Balcony and Surfside Family Suite.


We got a sneak peek at two different cabin types coming to Icon of the Seas.

The first type of cabin we saw was the Surfside Suite.

Surfside family suite

The Surfside suite can accommodate up to 4 guests (2 adults and 2 kids) and measures 269 square feet, with a 53 square foot balcony.

The other suite we saw was the Infinite Family Balcony.

Family infinite balcony

The room can be expanded with neighboring rooms. Being able to accommodate more larger families is a common theme, as over 70% of cabins on Icon of the Seas can handle 3 or more guests.  That's 60% more rooms than on Wonder of the Seas.

One neat feature of the room is a movable desk, so it can be used both as a desk or a dining table.

Central Park

One of the most impressive areas of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, Central Park, will be included on Icon of the Seas.

The park has living plants that create a beautiful landscape in the middle of a cruise ship.  

Central Park render on Icon of the Seas

 Lou’s Jazz and Blues will be a live jazz club with both indoor and outdoor seating, a staple of nearly every Central Park venue. There will also be Bubbles, a walkup champagne bar window. 

In terms of accommodations, Royal Caribbean has introduced the Infinite Central Park Balcony, which brings the balcony portion of the cabin into the living area. With the push of a button, you can control whether the window – balcony – at the end of the room is raised or lowered. 

Mystery dining venue

Royal Caribbean took us to a yet unnamed dining venue that they wanted to tease.

The only detail provided was it is dining related.

Based on the ceiling, I think it could end up being the Supper Club, which was leaked in December.

Supper Club concept art


Guests who love the Oasis Class’ AquaTheatre will find the 363-ton AquaDome to be even more impressive.

The multipurpose space will host shows that feature aerialists, acrobatics, high dives, and the tallest waterfall at sea at 55 feet tall.

This was the most fleshed out venue we saw, and the size and height of the AquaDome is really impressive.

Aquadome render

The space will offer 220-degree views through massive floor-to-ceiling windows and will be home to The Overlook. This elevated lounge will be perched on top of the bridge and feature laidback pods for those who want to get together on a more intimate level, whether that is to enjoy each other’s company over a drink or play a card game or two. 

We also toured The Overlook area in front of the AquaDome.

Aquadome bar

During our tour, Royal Caribbean Vice President of Entertainment Nick Weir, provided details on the shows that will be performed onboard in the AquaDome, ice skating rink, and Royal Theater.

AquaTheater show: Aqua Action!

Starburst ice skating show

Chill Island

Next on the tour was the outer decks, starting with Chill Island.

Chill Island is going to completely redefine the cruise ship pool deck. The three-deck pool area will have the largest pool at sea, Royal Bay Pool, as well as the first swim-up bar at sea called Swim & Tonic.

On the port side of the ship, guests will find the Cove Pool, an infinity pool that faces the ocean and will have in-water lounge chairs, and Cloud 17, the adults-only retreat for guests 16+ that is replacing the well-known Solarium.

It will have a dedicated Lime & Coconut Bar. 

Thrill Island

Water slides were being actively installed for the Category 6 water park, which is the center piece of the new neighborhood.

Thrill Island is one of five brand-new neighborhoods that will debut on Icon of the Seas. This neighborhood is for the ultimate thrill seekers and will be home to the record-breaking complimentary Category 6 water park.

All six water slides are either the “first” or “longest” slide at sea. The Frightening Bolt, for instance, will be the tallest drop slide at sea, while Hurricane Hunger will be the first family raft slide at sea. 

Other thrills include a FlowRider surf simulator; Sports Court; Adrenaline Peak, the ultimate rock-climbing wall; a reimagined mini-golf course that is themed around a lost island; and Crown’s Edge, which is part skywalk, part ropes course, and part thrill ride.

As you make your way over the edge of the ship, you will have to be prepared for the floor to retract and send you soaring over the sea. 

Suite deck

The final area we toured is the new Suite Neighborhood.

The Suite Neighborhood first debuted on Wonder of the Seas. With three decks of dedicated space available only to those staying in the Royal Suite Class, this will be their largest Suite neighborhood yet!

Suite Sun Deck render on Icon of the Seas

Guests will find a sun deck and exclusive Coastal Kitchen restaurant, as well as a brand-new restaurant called The Grove, which will serve up Mediterranean cuisine. 

How to get the best cruise deals: 15 easy tips

09 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

If you’re planning a cruise on a budget, then you’ll want to find a cheap cruise deal. No one wants to pay more than they have to for a cruise vacation, and luckily there are several easy tips you can use to find the best cruise deals available.

The cost of a cruise can be a deterrent for many travelers, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re flexible during the cruise planning process, you can find cheap deals that will save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Finding a “cheap” cruise deal does not mean you’re sacrificing a quality vacation, either. Cruise deals are due to a combination of factors—time of year, demand, and departure port—which means a good deal doesn’t equate a bad cruise.

The most important factor when looking for the best cruise deals is flexibility. The more flexible you are when planning a cruise, the better chance you have at snagging an amazing deal for your vacation.

If you’re wondering how to get the best cruise deals, here are 15 easy tips.

Book early


More often than not, the best cruise deals are found on sailings one to two years in the future. In most scenarios, if you’re looking for the best deals, we recommend booking as soon as possible rather than waiting until the last minute.

Most cruise itineraries are announced around two years in advance. As itineraries open up for bookings, you can often find great deals, especially if you’re hoping to book a balcony room or suite. Plus, if you’re searching for a rare cruise cabin, such as the cow-themed Ben & Jerry’s Sweet, it’s important to book early not only to find a cruise deal, but to book before the cabin sells out.

Look for last-minute deals

Navigator of the Seas in Miami

Booking a cruise at the last minute might seem counterintuitive to our advice about booking a cruise early. And although we usually recommend booking early as opposed to later, you can often snag a cheap cruise deal by booking at the last minute.

Related: How to get last minute cruise deals

If a cruise itinerary still has a significant number of empty cabins in the months leading up to the sailing, Royal Caribbean may drop the price in order to increase demand. This is most common after the final payment date for a particular sailing has passed—between 75 and 90 days before the cruise.

To find a last-minute cruise deal on Royal Caribbean, search the website for cruises and filter the results to see the lowest price first. You can also use a website such as, which has a 90-day ticker showing the best, cheapest cruise deals departing within the next three months.

Sail a one-way Alaska itinerary

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Alaska cruises have a reputation for being more expensive than other itineraries. After all, it’s not uncommon to spend over $2000 for an interior cabin during the state’s peak summer season.

Despite this, we’ve noticed a pricing trend for the past two years on select Alaska itineraries. One-way Alaska itineraries tend to offer fantastic cruise deals, often as low as just $550 per person including taxes and fees.

One-way Alaska cruises travel from Vancouver, Canada to Seward, Alaska and vice versa. These 7-night itineraries allow guests to visit more Alaska ports as well as spend time in Alaska’s interior before or after the cruise. While providing an excellent itinerary, one-way cruises see less demand compared to roundtrip sailings due to the inconvenience of starting and ending in different ports.

If Royal Caribbean sees low demand in the months leading up to the sailing, the prices for these sailings will drop drastically. Keeping an eye on one-way Alaska cruise deals 3-6 months before the cruise begins is a sure-fire way to find a deal on cruising to the Last Frontier.

Book with a travel agent

I book every single cruise with a travel agent, whether a short weekend cruise to the Bahamas or a two week trip to Greenland. Doing so has saved me hundreds of dollars over the past few years, and that’s not even mentioning the added service and resources my travel agent provides before, during, and after the sailing.

Whenever I book a cruise, I first email my travel agent for a quote; the quote I receive is often cheaper than what I could find on Royal Caribbean’s website. Depending on the travel agency you work with, they may offer group rates on select itineraries, which can save you money on your cruise fare.

Related: Top 5 things to look for in a good travel agent for your cruise vacation

Additionally, I almost always receive extra onboard credit through my travel agent. Having onboard credit means I can enjoy my cruise even more, whether I use it to book a specialty restaurant dinner or order an extra cocktail on the pool deck.

Aside from potential savings, though, are other benefits to using a travel agent. Travel agents are available to answer any questions you may have about your Royal Caribbean cruise, and they provide service in the case of any problems you encounter leading up to your sailing.

Book during the off season

Vue Bar

If your schedule is flexible, you should book a cruise during the shoulder or off season instead of the peak season.

Peak season varies by destination, but generally coincides with school holidays. Summer, holiday weekends, and school breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break tend to see the most demand for cruises.

Therefore, if you’re able to cruise outside of these peak times, you can almost always find cheaper cruise deals. Sailing to Alaska in early September, for example, can be hundreds of dollars cheaper than sailing in mid July.

Likewise, booking a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season is typically much more affordable than during Thanksgiving. While there’s a slight chance of a hurricane affecting your cruise, most itineraries will sail smoothly with no itinerary changes or cancellations.

Related: What to know about cruising during hurricane season in the Caribbean

While not everyone can take advantage of sailing at non-peak times, particularly if they have kids still in school, it can lead to great cruise deals for those with more flexibility.

Sail on older and smaller ships

Royal Caribbean markets their newest and biggest cruise ships more than the fleet’s older vessels, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid smaller cruise ships. By searching for cruises on older ships, you’re almost guaranteed to find cheap cruise deals.

The oldest Royal Caribbean ships—Vision, Radiance, and Voyager Class ships—often see some of the lowest prices. Despite the smaller size, many cruisers appreciate the more relaxed atmosphere of these ships and the unique ports on their itineraries.

Related: I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest cruise ships: here’s what it’s like to cruise on each

If you’re hoping for a blend of a cheap deal and "new" ship, look at cruising on an amplified cruise ship. As part of Royal Caribbean’s Royal Amplified program, the cruise line made significant refurbishments on select older vessels. During the process, they added features such as waterslides, new dining venues, and revamped pool decks.

Despite the addition of new features, cruise fares are still reasonable on amplified vessels—some of the best values in a cruise vacation can be found on amplified ships like Mariner of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, and Navigator of the Seas.

Be flexible with your departure ports

Walkway to cruise ship

Flexibility is key to finding the best cruise deals; if you’re flexible with your departure port, you may have a better chance at finding a cheap deal.

Instead of cruising from Miami, look at sailings from Tampa or Port Canaveral. Or, if you live in the Northeast, check if there are any cheap deals from Cape Liberty, Boston, or Baltimore. You might be surprised to find a cheap cruise leaving from a less common cruise port.

Don’t overlook more faraway departure ports as well. As someone who lives on the west coast of the United States, I’m often shocked at the price of domestic flights to South Florida from my home airport. In fact, it’s often nearly the same price to fly to Barcelona, Spain as it is to Miami!

While there’s certainly more travel time required to get to Europe as opposed to Florida, searching a wider range of departure ports means opening up the possibility for more cheap deals.

Look at any and all cruise itineraries


Just as it's important to be flexible on your cruise ship and departure port, you should also be flexible on your cruise itinerary in order to find the best deals.

If you’re set on visiting a particular port—whether Bermuda or Santorini—you’ll be more limited in cruise options. Having more limitations means you have fewer options available, meaning you’ll miss out on some of the best cruise deals.

Related: 15 countries you didn’t know you could cruise to on Royal Caribbean

If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest, best cruise fares, keep your destination availability open. All of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ports have something to offer, from the coral reefs of Australia to the cruise line’s private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The more flexible you are in itinerary choice, the better chance you’ll have at scoring a great deal.

Book a guarantee cabin

Family oceanview on Brilliance

Booking a guarantee cabin on Royal Caribbean means you can save money on cruise fare with the caveat of not being able to choose your exact cabin location.

When you book a guarantee cabin, you give Royal Caribbean the power to select where on the ship your room will be located. If you book a guarantee balcony cabin, for example, you will be assigned (at least) a balcony room, but it could be located anywhere on the ship, from deck 7 forward to deck 12 aft.

Related: Should I book a guarantee stateroom on a cruise?

The advantage of booking a guarantee room, of course, is to save money—depending on the offer, you may be able to save over a hundred dollars by not choosing your cabin location. The disadvantage is that you cannot select the location. If you’re picky on cabin location, it’s best to pay extra to select the location yourself.

Despite the lack of flexibility, booking a guarantee cabin is one of the best ways to make a great cruise deal even cheaper.

Book during a Kids Sail Free promotion

Family playing mini golf

If you’re planning a cruise with kids, the best time to book is during one of Royal Caribbean’s Kids Sail Free promotions.

As the name implies, a Kids Sail Free promotion is an offer in which kids can sail “free” on a Royal Caribbean cruise. In reality, this means that any third guest and higher in a cabin who is 12 years old or younger can sail free on a cruise longer than four nights.

Related: Royal Caribbean Kids Sail Free 2023-2024 Dates & Tips

Of course, there are a few conditions to the Kids Sail Free offer. First are blackout dates, which are commonly found during school holidays. The second caveat is that you still have to pay taxes, fees, and gratuities for all kids—the “free” deal is for the base cruise fare only.

Despite these exceptions, booking during Kids Sail Free can usually save families money on a Royal Caribbean cruise if their schedule is flexible.

Book a longer itinerary

Harmony of the Seas aerial

The shorter the cruise, the cheaper the cruise will cost… right? Not exactly!

Most people assume that booking a shorter cruise will lead to a cheaper cruise fare, but that’s not necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, some of the cheapest cruises are found on Royal Caribbean’s longest itineraries!

If you’re cruising with a limited budget, don’t search for only the shortest itineraries. While a 3-night weekend cruise might seem like it would be the cheapest option, this is hardly ever the case!

Instead, keep your search flexible and search for cruises of varying lengths. Royal Caribbean’s cruise fares aren’t necessarily priced according to cruise length, but are based on a variety of factors including ship age, time of year, itinerary, and demand for a particular sailing.

Some of the longest itineraries—such as repositioning cruises and transatlantic itineraries—see the lowest price per day of any cruise itinerary. Being open to more unique, longer itineraries can be a good way to stretch your vacation budget further and have more time onboard.

Keep an eye on Going, Going, Gone rates

Couple at Mason Jar

Every week, Royal Caribbean publishes a PDF flyer online of their “Going, Going, Gone” rates. This list of last-minute cruise deals is one of the most convenient ways to check for the cheapest cruise fares available. You can view the list here.

The flyer is published once per week (usually late on Monday) but it is not updated throughout the week. Therefore, it’s recommended to check the flyer on late Monday night or early Tuesday morning in order to help ensure all deals listed are still available. As cruises book up during the week, the deals listed on the PDF may no longer be valid.

Subscribe to email newsletters

Hoping to be notified about the best cruise deals? Subscribing to email newsletters from your favorite cruise lines and cruise websites helps you stay in the loop.

The Royal Caribbean Blog newsletter, for example, is a weekly email in which we send out the week’s top stories, some of which may include information on cruise deals. Likewise, you may want to subscribe to Royal Caribbean’s official newsletter here—the cruise line sends promotional emails listing the current top deals and offers.

Stay loyal to a cruise line

Diamond Club sign

The higher your loyalty status with a particular cruise line, the better chance you have of finding cheap cruise deals. If you cruise often with Royal Caribbean, we recommend sticking to the cruise line in order to grow your loyalty status in the Crown & Anchor Society.

Platinum members and above in the Crown & Anchor Society receive discounts on balcony and suite staterooms in addition to exclusive Crown & Anchor rates. Not only that, but single supplement fares are reduced for select Diamond Plus members and Pinnacle Club members receive a free 7-night cruise at 700 and 1050 cruise points.

Related: 11 of our favorite under-the-radar Crown & Anchor perks

Although most passengers “Loyal to Royal” won’t reach Pinnacle Club status, they can still receive the benefits of discounted cabins and onboard offers. Even if you don’t find the cheapest cruise deal available, you’ll still save significant money with Crown & Anchor benefits like free drinks and complimentary laundry.

Book with special rates for military, senior, and residency deals

Fun times on a cruise

Select groups of people may be eligible for special rates on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Knowing if you qualify for a special rate is helpful before you book in order to ensure you find the best cruise deal for your sailing.

Royal Caribbean’s list of guests who may qualify for discounts includes:

  • Guests 55 years of age and older on select sailings
  • Police and firefighters (active or retired employee or volunteer)
  • Active or retired personnel in the military
  • Airline personnel

We recommend checking Royal Caribbean’s detailed list here to check if you qualify for any discounts.

10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day

08 May 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Most passengers enjoy spending a sea day relaxing by the pool, participating in onboard activities, and exploring their ship, but there are a few mistakes you should avoid while your ship sails from port to port.

Compared to port days, sea days on a cruise are typically slower paced. Instead of rushing to disembark the ship and spend time on shore, passengers can take their time and enjoy the day onboard however they wish.

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.

Eating only at the buffet

Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer buffet is extremely popular, and for good reason: this complimentary venue offers a wide variety of cuisines and cooking styles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Related: Guide to Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe buffet

Due to the restaurant’s popularity, it’s almost always crowded on sea days, especially for breakfast and lunch. One of the mistakes you should avoid making on a cruise ship sea day is to eat only at the buffet.

Instead of dining at the busy Windjammer, why not grab a salad from Park Cafe, burrito from El Loco Fresh, or slice of pizza from Sorrento’s? Or, if you’re hoping for a sit-down meal, start your day with a quiet brunch at the Main Dining Room or at a specialty restaurant.

Mason Jar

We recommend checking the Royal Caribbean app for alternative options to the Windjammer on a sea day. While the Windjammer is a fantastic place to dine, a sea day is a great time to try other restaurants onboard.

Not checking the activities

Royal Caribbean offers an extensive list of activities on all days of your cruise, but especially on sea days. In fact, there are almost too many activities to choose between!

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to check the Cruise Compass on a sea day. Scrolling through the list of daily activities on the Royal Caribbean app helps you plan your day and ensure you don’t miss out on any exciting programming.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

Whether watching a Broadway show, attending a trivia session, or trying your luck at bingo, there’s no shortage of fun and interesting ways to spend a sea day on Royal Caribbean. 

Planning too many activities

Bumper cars

Even though we recommend checking the Royal Caribbean app for activities offered on your sea day, don’t plan too many activities.

Sea days are meant to be relaxing, and packing your day with back-to-back programming can be tiring. Instead of rushing from bumper cars to basketball to karaoke and a game show, plan your day loosely. Maybe attend one or two activities instead of five, or none at all!

If you would rather spend a sea day napping on the pool deck, you shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in other activities onboard. After all, you are in total control of how you spend time on a cruise vacation!

Forgetting to apply sunscreen

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

Without fail, you’ll see a few passengers sporting bright red, painful sunburns after every sea day, and you should try to avoid becoming one yourself.

It’s common to spend time in the sun on a sea day, whether lounging at the pool, sliding down waterslides, or playing pickleball on the sports court. Regardless of how you enjoy time in the sun, remember to generously apply (and reapply) sunscreen throughout the day.

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

A sunburn can turn any cruise vacation into a miserable experience, especially if you end up with sun poisoning. Instead of burning to a crisp, wear sunscreen to avoid any painful, unfortunate problems later on.

Forgetting to take seasickness medication

Although feeling seasick on a cruise is not as common as you might think, it can still happen. If you’re prone to motion sickness and your ship is traveling through high seas, don’t forget to take seasickness medication before it’s too late.

The last thing you want to occur on a sea day is feeling seasick. Feeling ill can ruin any chance at an enjoyable sea day, so remember to take precautions in advance. Taking Dramamine, Bonine, or natural remedies like ginger tablets can prevent or lessen your chance of feeling seasick while onboard.

Waking up early

A cruise vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but you might find yourself feeling downright exhausted while on a cruise, especially if your itinerary is port-intensive.

Most port days start early, with the ship docking at 7 or 8AM. To make the most of your time in port, you’ll likely wake up early on port days in order to disembark the ship as soon as possible. After a few days, however, many passengers find themselves tired from the early morning wake-up calls.

On a cruise ship sea day, we recommend sleeping in instead of setting a 6AM alarm. There’s nowhere to be while your ship sails from port to port, so take this time to catch up on sleep to ensure you’re well rested for the remainder of the ports on your itinerary.

Getting to the pool deck too late

The pool deck is far busier on sea days compared to port days. If you want to snag the best spot by the pool, remember to head there earlier rather than later.

If you want a pool chair in a prime location on the pool deck, we recommend heading to the pool deck around 8:30-9AM. Although this may seem early, the truth is that pool chairs can rapidly fill up by mid-morning, leaving you with a less-than-ideal chair location.

Just remember: don’t be a chair hog! Some passengers visit the pool deck early to “reserve” a chair by placing an item on the chair before heading to breakfast, grabbing a coffee, or going back to their cabin. This is not permitted but still occurs, so don’t add to the problem by becoming a chair hog yourself!

Forgetting to make specialty dining reservations

Hoping to eat at a specialty restaurant on a sea day? Be sure to make dining reservations in advance.

It’s popular for cruisers to dine at specialty restaurants on sea days, which means restaurants can book up quickly on these days. If you’re planning to dine at Izumi Hibachi, Chops Grille, Wonderland, or any other specialty dining restaurant, it's best to make reservations before the cruise.

The best way to secure a specialty dining reservation is to reserve a table in advance on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. If you have a dining package, though, you’ll have to wait until you get onboard to book reservations.

Those with dining packages should head to a specialty restaurant immediately upon boarding the ship on embarkation day to reserve all dining times for the week.

Booking a spa appointment

Unsurprisingly, it’s common for passengers to book spa appointments on sea days. On a cruise ship sea day, passengers’ schedules are completely open. There’s no need to worry about getting ready for port or making it back to the ship on time for a massage.

While booking a massage on a sea day isn’t necessarily a mistake, you can almost always find better prices on port days. If your schedule is flexible, consider booking a spa appointment on a port day to save money.

Booking a spa treatment on a port day does not mean you have to forgo spending time in port. Instead of booking the appointment at noon, for example, book it at 8AM or 4PM. This ensures you can enjoy your treatment before or after a port day, all while saving money at the same time.

Related: 45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Going to bed early the night before a sea day

Because port days can start early in the morning, many passengers go to bed early the night before waking up in port. After all, staying awake until 1AM when you have a shore excursion early the next morning can leave you feeling worn out.

Therefore, the night before a sea day is the perfect time to stay up late. As there is no reason to wake up early on a sea day, many passengers enjoy spending the prior evening at bars, entertainment shows, or the nightclub.

From dancing at a midnight disco to doing shots in the pub, it’s fun to get (a little) wilder than normal before a sea day. While you might feel hungover the following morning, it’s better to rest in bed rather than feel nauseous while exploring port!

Three important lessons for how to plan a cruise from Royal Caribbean's earnings call last week

08 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group's first quarter earnings call with analysts shed light onto how strong their business is right, and why you may need to adjust your own planning strategy.

Wonder of the Seas in St Thomas

Reading the tea leaves of what executives said during the hour-long call, it's clear demand for cruises is the highest it's been since 2019, and that has ramifications for how to effectively budget and schedule your upcoming cruise.

"While demand has been strong across all products and markets, we continue to see exceptional strength from the North American consumer. This strength, in combination with the incredible Perfect Day at CocoCay has resulted in record yields for our Caribbean sailings," said Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty.

The demand for cruises is so strong right now that it's not only erased any doubt about the cruise industry's ability to bounce back from the events of 2020 - 2022, but demonstrates how competitive things are going to be this year in terms of booking a new cruise.

Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

These earnings call may sound like just another financial discussion, but it sheds light on trends we can expect when it comes to cruise planning.

In looking at the numbers, there are two trends you should be aware of if you're either going to book a 2023 cruise, or have one booked already.

Don't expect prices to come down

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

With demand so high for cruise bookings right now, I wouldn't expect to find bargain basement rates for cruises in the near future.

"Strong demand for Caribbean itineraries translated into higher load factors at better than expected pricing for both ticket and onboard," is what Mr. Liberty said at the beginning of the call.

"Yields grew 5.8% compared to record 2019 levels and were significantly above our guidance."


What this means is there were more people booked on Caribbean cruises than before, specifically with more than 2 people in the cabin, and those passengers paid more for the cruise fare and their add-ons.

Here are more quotes about how strong the business of selling cruises is in the first quarter.

"Our brands are stronger than ever and our yield in Q1 blew away previous records."

"The acceleration of demand, coupled with our team's incredible execution, is also translating into higher revenue and earnings expectations for the full year."

"Bookings outpaced 2019 levels by a very wide margin throughout the entire first quarter and into April."

Mariner of the Seas sailing away

He also emphasized the people are booking cruises back in a "normal" way, meaning some of the trepidation we saw following the cruise industry restart is pretty much gone now.

"The booking window is now completely back to normal, demonstrating consumers desire to continue to plan their vacation travel with us well in advance."

Grand Suite on Liberty of the Seas

After hearing all of this, it sounds to me that even though Royal Caribbean has raised cruise fare prices (compared to 2019), consumers are still booking and in record numbers.

This means the chances of cruise fare prices going down on average seem remote, and if anything, I think it could embolden the company to continue raising fares.

My advice is if you haven't booked a cruise yet but want to, go ahead and lock in a price now before prices go up again.  If you can book your cruise more than 6 months before the cruise begins, it will greatly benefit you.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

One of my best Royal Caribbean cruise tips is to book your cruise as early as you can to lock in the best rates, keeping in mind residents of many countries (US and Canada, for example) can reprice the cruise if the price does drop up until the final payment date.

That isn't to say there won't be any last-minute deals for a cruise, but you shouldn't bank on it as your primary cruise booking strategy.

Cruise add-ons will sell out, so book early

One lesson I'll apply from the earnings call is when I book my Royal Caribbean shore excursions in the future.

Not only are people booking cruises like never before, but they're also buying more before the cruise begins.

"About two thirds of our guests booked some of their onboard activities in advance of their cruise," Mr. Liberty explained.

"The comparable figure in 2019 was 48%. So you can see we have used our time well to upgrade our systems."

Cruise planner results

Getting people to book things before the cruise commences is a big deal to the company, because it ends up being more profitable for the company, "Every dollar a guest spends, pre-cruise translates into approximately $0.70 of incremental spend."

What this means to me is the days of waiting until you got onboard your cruise ship to book a tour, drink package, or other add-on would be a mistake.  I've always felt this way about drink packages, but excursions are a shift.

Alaska glacier scenery

If more than half the people on your cruise are shopping for cruise add-ons in advance, that means more competition to book shore excursions and consequently a higher chance tours will sell out before the cruise begins.

Read moreGuide to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean shore excursion

I'd go one step further and recommend booking your tours months before your cruise, instead of weeks or days.

Couple using tablet in Europe

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for cruisers is when there are limited or no shore excursions left to book through the cruise line, and booking shore excursions on your own through a third party provider is a daunting prospect.

Read moreWhat to do if Royal Caribbean's shore excursions are sold out

It's not just shore excursions that can sell out, as specialty restaurants and dining packages are often selling out.

Street Cafes in Ensenada, Mexico

Remember, anything you book in the Cruise Planner website is fully refundable before the cruise begins.  So if you book a tour or package four or five months before the cruise begins but change your mind later, there's no risk.

Read moreHow to cancel and rebook pre-cruise purchases on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner

More cabins could become available later

Oceanview balcony cabin on Anthem of the Seas

Perhaps the most cryptic thing said during the earnings call was a short comment about cruise ship cabin availability.

Read moreThe 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

Near the end of the call, Mr. Liberty talked about cruise cabin inventory, and how the increased demand might change how Royal Caribbean sells rooms next year.

I've always worked under the assumption when Royal Caribbean puts a new sailing for sale, every single cabin is available at once to book.  But perhaps that is no longer the case.

"We used to kind of put everything out there and all the suites would be sold basically right off the bat. And then you would kind of work your way down to the inside cabins," he said in answering the question.

"While now, we we hold back inventory, and we release it based off of our what are much more sophisticated revenue management models that we have today."

Suite lounger

Unfortunately, there was no other clarification or insight into what that statement means. For context, here's everything else he said immediately after that.  Perhaps you can decipher it better than I can.

That's why I think sometimes when we get into conversations around "what percent booked are you", "how does it relate to this period versus that period", what we're really focused on is optimizing yield. And so there might be periods where quarter over quarter, or year over year, we want to be in a in a stronger booked position or lesser than what we were booked in a previous period. Because what we're focused on is maximizing yield, which sometimes comes with us having more inventory to sell.

The call wrapped up immediately after that comment, so it's hard to know precisely how Royal Caribbean is managing their stateroom inventory. It certainly sounds like when a new sailing becomes available to book, not every cabin is available off the bat.

Side of Freedom of the Seas

Without having additional context, I simply wanted to provide this information so you can keep it in mind when booking new cruises, especially when Royal Caribbean adds new cruises to book.

It might mean if a certain cabin category is sold out initially, that it becomes available to book again down the road.

Or it could be a comment we're not properly understanding and stateroom inventory is not nearly as opportunistic as it sounds.

Planning a cruise? Start here:

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: May 7, 2023

07 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

Stay up-to-date with all the Royal Caribbean news from this week with our roundup of all this week's news.

Royal Caribbean is breaking its own records for cruise sales with Icon of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas under construction in May 2023

During Royal Caribbean's first quarter results call with Wall Street analysts, cruise line executives said they are "getting exceptional demand with bookings well surpassing previous records," for Icon of the Seas.

"Despite being on sale for only five months, Icon is significantly more booked for her inaugural season at materially higher rates than any other Royal Caribbean ship launch," said Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 498th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, previewing Matt's upcoming cruise to Europe.

Matt is taking his first cruise in Europe, and provides an overview of how he's planning his first time in this part of the world.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

21 Tips for the Best Cruise Ship Main Dining Room Experience

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 — 21 Tips for the Best Cruise Ship Main Dining Room Experience — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Crew member shares what it's like to work on a cruise ship


Jordan Bauth is an ice skater on Wonder of the Seas and shared what a week of working and living on a cruise ship is like.

She shares regular updates from her life working on a cruise ship as a professional ice skater, and it's a fascinating look at how someone balances their duties, and opportunities to explore the world.

Ms. Bauth offers a behind-the-scenes look at her work life and personal life onboard.

Matt is going on his first European cruise: Here’s what he thinks he should do

Ship in Geiranger

After years of only cruising around North America, Matt is headed to Europe!

Matt is booked on a 7-night Norwegian fjords cruise, and sailing from Europe introduces a variety of new challenges.

From taking a long-haul flight to balancing currency requirements, Matt shares how he's planning his first time going across the Atlantic for a cruise.

Answers to your really dumb cruise ship dining questions

In case you're wondering, there's no shame in asking questions about eating on a cruise ship that you may be too embarrassed to ask.

What seems like basic knowledge to frequent cruisers can cause confusion for first time cruisers. So much confusion, unsurprisingly, leads to a lot of questions about dining on a cruise ship.

To make your first cruise experience stress-free, we’re answering 17 of your really dumb cruise ship dining questions.

15 ways to speed up the embarkation process and board your cruise ship faster

06 May 2023
Elizabeth Wright

The day of your cruise has finally arrived! You are pulling up to the terminal and see the ship in the distance, only to be confronted by massive crowds waiting to get on the ship just like you. 

Embarkation split

You do not want to spend your precious vacation time waiting inside of the terminal when you could be sipping on a cocktail on the pool deck or getting acquainted with the ship before sail away. 

Boarding early also allows you to enjoy a more leisurely lunch before the Windjammer gets crowded, as well as attend to some check-list things, including confirming dining reservations and signing children up for Adventure Ocean programming. 

If you plan ahead, you might be able to reduce the amount of time spent checking in and get to the fun stuff faster! 

Related30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

Here are 15 ways to speed up the embarkation process and board your cruise ship faster. 

Arrive a day early

Underbelly of airplane

If you do not live within driving distance and are flying to your cruise port, you will want to ensure that you make arrangements to arrive the day before the ship is scheduled to depart.

Aside from any delays or cancellations that could cause you to miss the ship, by being in the vicinity of the ship first thing in the morning, you can secure an early check-in time and have time to relax at your hotel beforehand! 

Reserve a suite

Royal Suite on Liberty of the Seas

When you book a suite on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you are able to begin reaping the benefits before you even step onboard! The specific perks vary based on the ship and suite category, so it is important that you understand the differences if priority boarding is something you want to look forward to. 

All suites on Vision, Voyager, and Freedom Class ships get priority boarding as a benefit, regardless of whether it is a Junior Suite, Grand Suite, or Owner's Suite. 

Suites onboard Oasis and Quantum Class ships are part of what is referred to as the Royal Suite Class. All suites onboard are divided into three categories -- Sea, Sky, and Star -- that receive different perks. 

Sea Class guests, or those staying in a Junior Suite, do not have any priority boarding boarding benefits. Likewise, Sky Class suite guests are only eligible for flexible arrival. Star Suites are the only suites onboard Oasis and Quantum Class ships that guarantee expedited boarding. 

Print your luggage tags in advance

When you finish the online check-in process, you will be able to print your luggage tags. These tags are what help ensure that your luggage gets delivered to the correct stateroom, and by having them ready, you will spend less time outside of the terminal-- you can simply drop off your bags with a porter and go.

Note: it is customary to tip porters $1 or $2 per bag, so you will want a few small bills on your person!

If you do not have them printed and attached upon arrival, you will have to wait to speak with a porter, who will have to fill out a tag and attach it to your luggage before collecting it. 

To make this process even easier, you can purchase luggage tag holders on Amazon. That way, you do not have to worry about them getting damaged. 

Do not take big bags through security

Luggage drop off at PortMiami

Speaking of porters, they exist for a reason! Do not try and take your big suitcases with you onboard. While trying to navigate the lines, physical check-in, and security, it is inevitable that these bags will slow you down. 

Moreover, you do not want to have to worry about lugging them around the ship with you until your stateroom is available! You should only bring a manageable carry-on bag with you that has all of your essentials--you will not need all of your belongings the second you board. 

Have your carry-on bag packed and ready

Before you get to the terminal, you will want to make sure that you have a separate carry-on bag packed with your essentials, such as medication, travel documentation, boarding passes, valuable items, and more.

You do not want to be scrambling to pull these items from your luggage at the last minute. That might require pulling out tons of stuff and having to repack it on the sidewalk! 

The carry-on bag is also a great place to pack some items that will keep younger children entertained during the boarding process and let you attend to the logistics without any distractions. This might include some snacks, toys, an iPad, etc. 

Know your stateroom number


If, by chance, you forgot to print your luggage tags, you will have to tell the porter your stateroom number. Instead of lengthening bag drop off even more, have your stateroom number handy. They will use it to fill out a luggage tag and staple it to the big. 

Even if you came prepared with the tags, there is a chance that someone will ask you your stateroom number at another point during the check-in process. 

Plus, once you get onboard, knowing your stateroom number will help you locate your cabin. You will not find yourself in a position where you walked too far forward or on the wrong side of the ship. 

Purchase The Key

Key entrance

The Key is a cruise add-on that guests may purchase to unlock (pun intended) some benefits meant to enhance their cruising experience, such as priority access into the terminal within a specific time frame.

When you get to the terminal, you will be able to wait in an exclusive area just for those who purchased The Key where employees will handle your in-person check-in procedures. When boarding begins, you will be let on first. 

The Key comes with other benefits, too, that may help justify the extra cost, such as a VOOM Surf & Stream internet package. Sometimes, the price difference between purchasing an internet package and The Key is so minimal that the upgrade is worth it. 

Plus, you will also be able to drop off your carry-on luggage in the Main Dining Room and have it delivered to your stateroom, enjoy an exclusive lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille menu and private time at onboard activities, and be one of the first people off with priority departure from ship-to-shore at tender ports.

Other perks include VIP seats at shows in the Main Theater, AquaTheater, and Studio B, as well as a private à la carte breakfast and choice departure on disembarkation day. 

Related: I tried The Key (again) to see if it's worth it 

Strive to reach Pinnacle Club

Pinnacle logo

Pinnacle Club is the top-tier of Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society. To reach this level, you have to amass a whooping 700 cruise points! 

On embarkation day, Pinnacle Club members are able to arrive at the terminal up to an hour before or after their scheduled check-in time. 

Of course, there are other benefits that make reaching such a coveted tier worth the effort, including daily breakfast at a specialty restaurant, milestone certificates for free cruises, and others from lower tiers. 

Even if you are seemingly light years away from reaching Pinnacle Club, you should enroll in the Crown & Anchor society, as you will start to receive perks after your very first cruise. 

Complete your online check-in in advance 

Weeks before your cruise is scheduled to depart, you will be asked by Royal Caribbean to complete your online check-in. Here, you will input your home address, travel documentation (i.e., passport or birth certificate), emergency contact information, take a security photo, and confirm your date of birth. 

Making sure that this is done in advance will speed up your physical check-in time at the terminal. 

Have all of your documentation readily available

Even though you will submit your travel documentation online, you will still need to present it at the port. Do not waste your time or hold up the line by digging through your carry-on bag for your passport or birth certificate. If it is readily available, you can move through this part of the check-in process quicker. 

This includes your Set Sail pass, too, as it will have to be scanned in order for you to board the ship! You will not get your physical SeaPass card until staterooms become available. 

Cruise with a passport instead of a birth certificate 

Photo opp

While you technically can use a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID to take a closed-loop cruise in the United States, it is recommended that you use a passport.

Having a passport means not only a simpler embarkation and disembarkation process, but it protects you against an unexpected situation that may arise during your cruise vacation, such as a medical emergency in a foreign country. 

When boarding the cruise, the port agents will not have to spend more time verifying your birth certificate, meaning that those with passports will be able to start their vacation a little bit faster. 

RelatedDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Book private transfers


Making arrangements for a private transfer to the terminal will bring you peace of mind on embarkation day, especially if your cruise port is far from a major city (i.e., Rome to Civitavecchia) or airport. 

You will not have to worry about hiring a ride share service the morning of or hauling your luggage through train stations. You can enjoy your breakfast before your ride shows up at the requested time!

Plus, while cruise line transfers might seem convenient, they are often overpriced, and you will have to wait for the entire bus to fill up before you depart. 

Avoid peak check-in times

If you get to the cruise terminal around noon, do not be surprised to find that a large crowd has already gathered. While most cruise lines have implemented check-in windows to prevent this from happening, you cannot account for those who want to try and get on the ship earlier than they are scheduled to. 

Another way to speed up the time spent in the terminal is to select a later check-in time, as most people want to try and board as soon as they can. Do not, however, push this too far-- you might arrive to find that you missed the final call. 

Keep prohibited items at home


Before you are able to board the ship, you will be required to go through a security process similar to that at an airport. You will have to send your belongings through an x-ray scanner while you walk through a body screener. 

If you bring anything that is strictly prohibited -- like a clothes steamer, iron, alcoholic beverages (outside of one 750ml bottle of wine or champagne per person), drugs, candles, etc. -- this will delay your check-in process. Plus, you may even find yourself denied boarding. 

Before you leave home, read up on what is and is not allowed on Royal Caribbean ships and make sure that your packed belongings do not violate their guidelines. 

Finish the e-muster drill before you arrive at the terminal 

eMuster process

While completing the virtual muster drill in advance will not help you get on the ship any faster, it will allow you to spend more time on the ship doing what you want once you get through the boarding process, rather than watching a video regarding safety procedures when you would rather be getting a drink or exploring. 

Do not forget that you will still have to visit your physical muster station, though!

RelatedWhat to expect with Royal Caribbean’s virtual safety drill