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Royal Caribbean CEO talks fuel surcharge, Icon reveal, smoking in the casino & more

In:
29 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Will Royal Caribbean ever ban smoking? When will we get more Icon of the Seas details? Can we expect a fuel surcharge?

Michael Bayley speaking at President's Cruise

These were some of the questions Royal Caribbean cruise fans asked President and CEO Michael Bayley during a Q&A session this week.

Royal Caribbean hosts a President's Cruise each year, and there's always an opportunity for the top executive from Royal Caribbean International to take questions from its loyal cruisers.

There's usually an assortment of questions, gripes, suggestions, and compliments included each time, and a few of the questions were intriguing to a wide audience.

In addition to talking about when pre-cruise testing and vaccine requirements might come to an end, Mr. Bayley touched on a few other hot button topics.

President's Cruise flag

Here's what Mr. Bayley had to say when asked some of the top questions.

Will Royal Caribbean ever ban smoking in the casinos?

Casino on Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean temporarily banned smoking in its casinos earlier this year during the Omicron variant in order to implement a stricter face mask rule, but that rule was rolled back a few months later.

When asked about revising the smoking policy indoors, Mr. Bayley admitted, "smoking in the casinos is a bit of a conundrum."

"The dilemma is that there are many people who do want to smoke in the casino. I know that's not a popular response, but it's it's the truth."

"I'm not judging anyone or anything, but there's a large group of people who do want to smoke in the casino."

Woman betting casino

He explained, "Every, I would say every couple of years, we do test this and we take one or two or three ships we ban smoking in the casino. And the result is less people go in the casino and that that's the reality of it."

While a full smoking ban in the casino doesn't seem likely, Mr. Bayley said they are looking at ways to create more non-smoking areas, "we're looking at trying to create more smoke free spaces in the casino, which I think will be helpful."

Will Royal Caribbean add fuel surcharges?

Harmony of the Seas aerial

While the price of oil is high, Royal Caribbean still has no plans to add a fuel surcharge to cruise guests.

"The fuel fuel bill for Royal Caribbean is, as you can imagine, it's massive and it's gone up by I don't know what the percentages, but it's a huge chunk. It's hundreds of millions of dollars."

"But at the moment, we're not planning on putting a fuel surcharge on."

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

The cost of West Texas Intermediate oil, a common benchmark, spiked above $120 a barrel at times this year, but has since dropped back to around $110 a barrel. That’s up from around $76 a barrel at the start of the year.

In 2008, the price of West Texas Intermediate peaked at around $146 a barrel. That’s around $192 in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation.

Mr. Bayley did admit, the issue is still up in the air, "We try to understand what the implications are of a fuel surcharge."

"I'd say we don't know. We've all seen the uncertainty of all of these dynamics. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or next week or the week after."

He mentioned the fact Royal Caribbean hedges its fuel quite a bit every year, with 50% of its fuel hedged for this year and a smaller percentage for next year.

When will Royal Caribbean share more information about Icon of the Seas

It seems like everyone can't believe Royal Caribbean hasn't shared more details yet about its next new cruise ship, but everything is still under wraps for a little while longer.

Icon of the Seas is set to debut in late 2023, and Mr. Bayley was asked when they will share more information about the ship, "We are launching Icon of the Seas starting this September."

"By launching, I mean, we are we are starting to communicate. We have a whole planning program of communication, social media, marketing, TV, radio, you name it."

He echoed previous comments about how impressive this new class of ship will be, "It is the next generation of Royal Caribbean ship and we're super proud of the work we've been working on for five years."

"It follows a normal formula of tradition, evolution, revolution."

"So there's much of Icon of the Seas is everything we all love about Royal Caribbean, much of Icon of the Seas is the next generation of thinking for many of the things that we really love about Royal Caribbean."

"And there's a chunk of stuff that we've never done before which is really going to be super cool."

The Pearl

Icon of the Seas sphere installation

Michael Bayley was pretty good at keeping all the Icon of the Seas details under wraps, until he accidently let slip the name of that mystery sphere we've seen photos of for months.

A guest wanted to know what the "big white ball" was, and Mr. Bayley immediately responded, "the Pearl?"

When someone pointed out he said it, he responded, "I know, but I did it by accident.

Sphere installation

Royal Caribbean filed for a trademark for the phrase, "The Pearl" earlier this month.

Will double points promotion return?

One guest wanted to know if Royal Caribbean would ever bring back its double points promotion, which allows guests to get double the usual points per night of the cruise in the Crown and Anchor Society customer loyalty program.

"I'm so tempted to say yes. But I got to tell you our Pinnacle members are not such advocates for the idea."

He then joked, "I know it's very popular and you've got to cling onto it as a memory."

"Unreasonable and unfair" treatment during pandemic

Photo by Liam Davison

Twice during the session, Mr. Bayley was asked about what it was like during the cruise industry shutdown as a result of Covid.

"I've got to be honest with media, particularly in the beginning of the pandemic... we felt like we couldn't get a break."

"It's like we were responsible for COVID."

"Relentlessly reporting was always, always negative about about the industry and Royal Caribbean. I don't think we ever saw a positive article."

"Even on the crewing situation, where we were working night and day to get our crew home, we just received criticism for the current situation."

He went on to say, "At the beginning of the pandemic...the cruise industry was generally regarded as the bad actor, which I have to tell you was totally unreasonable and unfair."

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Mykonos, Greece

In:
29 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Island hopping in Greece has always been a dream of mine, and today that dream became reality! Our second day of my 7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas brought us to our first port of call: Mykonos, Greece.

Mykonos is an island in the Aegean Sea, nearly halfway between Athens, Greece and Izmir, Turkey. Known for its party atmosphere, picture-perfect towns, fresh Greek food, and turquoise beaches, Mykonos is a bucket-list destination for those hoping to discover what makes Greece so special.

I usually don't have expectations for the ports I visit, but I was pretty worried Mykonos would feel extremely overhyped and overcrowded. After all, it’s one of the most popular islands to visit in Greece! The moment I arrived in Mykonos, though, I realized that it is absolutely worth the hype and I loved every second of my time on the island.

Arrival in Mykonos

We sailed into Mykonos around 6:30AM. While Mykonos is the name of the island, cruises visit “Mykonos Town”, otherwise known as the town of Chora.

Mykonos is a tender port, so small boats take guests from ship to pier. Tender tickets were being distributed starting at 7AM. We received a note in our stateroom mentioning that peak time for tendering was estimated to start at 8AM. The idea of waiting in line to leave did not sound appealing, so we had a quick breakfast at the Windjammer and were off the ship by 7:35.

The ride to Mykonos lasted only a few minutes and was full of beautiful views of the island's iconic white buildings atop the mountainside. Because it was so early, Mykonos was relatively empty when we arrived.

Mykonos is a maze of bright white buildings with blue and red windows and doors, making it one of the most picturesque places I've ever seen. You can't help but wander around town taking photos and admiring the architecture.

Navigating the narrow streets and getting lost reminded me of Venice, Italy (although it’s lacking the canals and bridges, of course). You're also bound to run into plenty of cats calling Mykonos home!

Windmills and views

Mykonos is known as “The Island of the Winds” because of the strong winds that tend to blow on the island. I can attest to this, as it was definitely quite windy today in port!

We stumbled upon the most famous set of windmills on the island, which have an unbeatable view of the port and town. These windmills were built in the 16th century to grind grain into flour, and are now one of the most iconic symbols of the island.

The view from the windmills is stunning, offering a panoramic view of the ocean, mountains, town, and cruise ships. Needing a break after walking around in the sun all morning, we relaxed on a rock overlooking the harbor to take in the views. We also had a brief photoshoot, as is mandatory with such incredible scenery.

Note: Go early to see the windmills before hoards of other tourists arrive. When we visited around 9AM we were among the only people there, but when we walked past the windmills just an hour or two later it was packed!

Time to eat!

When it came time for lunch, we weren't expecting to find any type of "hole in the wall" spot near the Mykonos cruise port. The main area near the port is full of restaurants catered toward tourists, but we were hoping for something more off the beaten path.

We somehow stumbled upon Gioras Pastry Cafe, an unassuming bakery tucked into a side street in Mykonos that was formed in 1420. Yes, 1420! It is the oldest bakery on the island, and it was maybe the only place I encountered all day that seemed to exist without extensive marketing to tourists. I guess you don’t need much marketing when you’ve been in operation for 602 years!

Located partly underground, the bakery has a selection of freshly baked pastries situated on baking trays placed atop a large table. In the bakery's cases are smaller sweets, from pistachio phyllo desserts to chocolate almond and sesame honey cookies.

We ordered spanakopita, a traditional spinach and feta pie, along with iced cappuccinos and a selection of baklava and cookies. It was absolutely delicious (especially the spanakopita), so much so that we went back for seconds!

The bakery workers spoke little English and were very friendly and welcoming, without any of the pressure you'll often find in touristy restaurants and businesses. My sister Lauren even called the bakery “the highlight of her day” despite being surrounded by gorgeous mountains and oceans all day! It really was that good.

Beach and gelato adventures

Full and caffeinated, we continued walking around the charming streets of Mykonos with one goal in mind: the beach. There are a few beaches within walking distance of Mykonos Town, so taking a taxi or excursion to the beach is not entirely necessary.

We walked along a coastal road to Paralia Megali Ammos, a beach located only 15 minutes walking distance from the town center. With a nice strip of sand and refreshing clear water, it was the best mid-day break we could have asked for. There were also smaller beaches scattered along the coast, although this seemed to be the most spacious of them all.

When we left the beach and arrived back in the main part of town, we found the streets to be much more crowded than we had experienced earlier in the day. The crowds were not unmanageable or overwhelming, though, even with three ships in port.

We walked along the street surrounding the Mykonos port, which was filled with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. There’s also a small beach there, but it was really crowded, so I would recommend traveling a bit further from the cruise ships if you’re interested in a beach day.

Gelato was calling our name, so we sat at DaVinci Gelato for a delicious cup of pistachio and vaniglia nera (Madagascar vanilla) gelato. It definitely hit the spot and was the perfect treat to enjoy before getting back onboard Rhapsody of the Seas.

An evening onboard

We got back onboard around 3:30PM. Crowds (and the temperature) on the island were increasing rapidly as the afternoon went on, and we felt satisfied with our busy 8 hours in port. Our first stop once back onboard was the Solarium for a much-needed cool-off session after walking around port all day.

We had another nice dinner in the Main Dining Room tonight before relaxing outside to watch the ship set sail from Mykonos. While I am only two days into this cruise, I cannot believe how amazing the itinerary, weather, cuisine, and culture is on this sailing. I’m happy the ports are all close to the main attraction, too, so I don’t have to worry about spending hours in transit from the port to reach cities or landmarks.

We haven’t done much of anything onboard after dinner during this cruise so far. After long, busy port days, all we’ve wanted to do in the evenings is relax on the pool deck and watch the world go by. That’s exactly what we did this evening!

Tomorrow we are in our second port of call: Chania, Crete. Known as “The Little Venice”, I cannot wait to see what another day in Greece has in store.

I tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In:
28 Jun 2022
By: 
Nicole Feist

I went on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put the SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet to the test. 

Starlink towers on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi speeds have been hit or miss, depending on the ship. Even ships with the higher speeds (typically new ships), it was still slower than our internet at home.

For those of us that don't completely disconnect on cruises, it is often frustrating to get websites and videos to load, and even connect with friends and family at home. I considered it a cost of cruising, as being on a ship in the middle of the sea doesn't give you many options.

That is, until now.  

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Group filed with the Federal Communications Commission, disclosing a partnership with SpaceX Services, Inc. While certain airline carriers, including Hawaiian Airlines, have worked out deals to offer Starlink to their passengers, Royal Caribbean is the first cruise liner to file the request. At the time of filing, Starlink was not approved for use on moving vehicles, and the filing called on the FCC to speed up the process.

Around the same time of the filing, passengers started noticing that the Freedom of the Seas was outfitted with Starlink satellite dishes, and quietly testing the service for those onboard.

Hoping that Starlink would still be actively testing, I booked a weekend cruise on Freedom to try it for myself. 

My goal was to test the Wi-Fi speeds on board, while sailing and at Perfect Day at CocoCay. There was no indication that Starlink would still be offered by the time I got onboard, as it can be pulled down at any time during its testing. It also isn't clear if or when other ships will get this service. 

For this sailing, we purchased both the Voom Surf and Voom Surf & Stream internet packages to test. Royal Caribbean’s Voom service is boasted as the fastest internet at sea, being 6x faster than other internet at sea.

On embarkation day, we headed to the Royal Promenade on deck 5 to start the testing process. Using two laptops, my husband John tested the Surf & Stream while I tested the Surf speed.

Once we started the speed test, it showed that we were connected to SpaceX Starlink, meaning that the Starlink trial onboard Freedom was still active.

It was instantly clear that this internet service was above and beyond what Voom typically offered.

The Surf package showed a download speed of 9.01 Mbps and upload speed of 20.34 Mbps. The Surf & Stream gave a download speed of 77.03 Mbps and upload speed of 15.72 Mbps.

On both devices, we tried watching YouTube videos and Netflix shows to see how they would work. Both packages allowed us to instantly start watching the videos, with no lag or buffering time. 

Shortly after these tests, John moved to the Star Lounge to take a Zoom call using the Surf & Stream service. The zoom call connected easily, and there was no buffering or freezing for his video and audio.

Later that afternoon, he moved to our stateroom to take another Zoom call, but realized that the service in our interior stateroom (7121) was taking longer to connect, and buffering his video. He ended up moving back down to deck 5 to finish the call.

Being in an interior stateroom, between plenty of metal walls, we weren’t surprised that the quality wasn’t as clear as it is in the open areas that have minimal Wi-Fi signal interference.

After he wrapped up his calls, the ship began to sail away, while we waited to see how the service held up once we were farther from port.

That evening, about 3 hours after we set sail, we tried the tests again, from inside our stateroom. This time Surf gave us a download speed of 2.85 Mbps and upload speeds of 3.74 and Surf & Stream gave us a download speed of 19.9 Mbps and upload speed of 5.42 Mbps.

While the Surf & Stream speeds were higher, we found that we were both able to stream shows on either package, with just a slight loading time for the Surf package.

The next morning we docked in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal’s private island in the Bahamas. We were excited to test the speeds while on the island, which includes wifi access if you purchased a package on the ship.

To our surprise, the service remained strong even on the south side of the island, with Surf showing download speeds of 19.93 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.19 Mbps, while Surf & Stream showed download speeds of 52.50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10.10 Mbps.

Later that day while sailing between CocoCay and Nassau, we tried using Facetime on each package to see how the video and audio quality would be. We were happy to see that both were crystal clear on each end.

On other cruises while using Royal’s Voom service, the video would cut in and out, become blurry, and the audio would lag, making it a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

On the last day of our cruise, we decided to take our test up a notch and live stream on the Royal Caribbean Blog TikTok account for both the International Belly Flop competition and the Battle of the Sexes game show. Both events were able to stream without interruptions or buffering. 

Overall, Starlink has blown my cruising Wi-Fi expectations out of the water.

While we did notice that the service slowed in our interior room, we were still able to stream shows and use the internet much faster than the typical Voom packages we’ve experienced in the past.

We were particularly impressed with the Surf package, which to our surprise allowed us to stream almost as well as the Surf & Stream package. That may or may not remain a feature if Starlink gets approved for general use on cruise ships.

While many people continue to work remotely, if adopted permanently Starlink will be a great solution for working from a cruise, or just stay connected while out at sea. 

The only downside to the Starlink service on Royal Caribbean that we found will be having to adjust our Wi-Fi expectations when sailing on other ships without Starlink.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation in Athens, Greece

In:
28 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the start of an extremely anticipated cruise: a 7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas! Over the next week, I'll be visiting the ports of Mykonos, Chania, and Zakynthos (Greece), Kotor (Montenegro) and Split (Croatia).

I have wanted to visit Greece and the Adriatic for years, so I made sure to pick the most port-intensive itinerary I could find. While Rhapsody of the Seas may be one of Royal Caribbean's oldest and smallest ships, she is able to fit into many ports inaccessible by larger cruise ships.

I've never been on a Vision Class ship before (the smallest I've sailed on has been the Voyager Class), so I'm interested to see how much the cruise experience can differ on the smallest ships.

My sister Lauren and brother Dominic are traveling with me on this cruise! Lauren came with me on my first ever Royal Caribbean cruise, and this is Dominic's first cruise. It's been three years since our last "sibling trip" to Italy, so we are happy to be back in Europe together this year!

I just finished a 7-night cruise on Anthem of the Seas last week (check out the live blog here). After two days in London full of touring the city and geeking out at the Harry Potter movie set, it was time to fly to Athens for my next cruise!

Arrival in Athens

We arrived to Athens on a flight from London yesterday afternoon. Upon arrival, we needed to get a Covid test at the Athens airport. Greece implemented strict testing protocols for cruises; telehealth tests are not accepted and your test must be taken just 1 day ahead of time. These protocols are much stricter than any others I've encountered so far, and flying to Greece not knowing if I would make it on the cruise or not was very stressful!

The Athens airport conveniently has a Covid testing site with results ready in 20 minutes. Each rapid antigen test costs €20. Luckily all tests were negative!

We stayed at an Airbnb in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, which had plenty of amazing views of the Acropolis and nearby mountains. The neighborhood was touristy, but it was pleasant and walkable with plenty of shops and restaurants right outside the door.

Embarkation in Athens

We took a taxi from our Airbnb to the port, which took around 20 minutes with traffic. I mistakenly put directions to the "Port of Piraeus" and not the cruise terminal directly, so I had to get a second taxi to Cruise Terminal B. I used Uber to order the taxis, which seems to be the way Uber operates in Athens.

Upon arrival at the terminal, we dropped off our bags and went through the brief safety screening. When entering the waiting area, we were given a colored slip that would indicate when we could get on the ship. Arrival times were not being checked, and we waited around 15 minutes before our color was chosen.

This was followed by another room where our vaccine certificates and passports were checked again. It was the most thorough document check I've experienced yet, with the Greek authorities carefully checking our vaccination documents and dates.

After an additional 10 minutes or so, it was finally time to get onboard!

First impressions of Rhapsody of the Seas

By now I have a pretty good understanding of the layout of most Royal Caribbean ships, but because the Vision Class doesn't follow the newer Royal Caribbean design, I was a bit lost once onboard and had to keep checking the deck maps!

Our first stop was the Windjammer for a classic Royal Caribbean embarkation day buffet lunch. I was a bit surprised to not see any hand sanitizing enforcement (there are no hand washing stations on Rhapsody, just hand sanitizer).

We plan to eat at complimentary venues every day on this cruise and save our money for a nice lunch each day in port instead!

Staterooms were ready at 1:30PM. I am staying in an interior cabin on this cruise, and we had the bed separated into two twin beds which increased the living space and made the room feel more open. Because Rhapsody of the Seas is an older ship, I was nervous the stateroom would feel extremely old and outdated.

While the cabin may not feel as new as a ship like Harmony or Odyssey of the Seas, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of storage and space in the room. The cabin actually seems a bit more updated than staterooms I've had on some Voyager and Freedom Class ships.

I explored the ship for the rest of the afternoon. Vision Class ships do not have a Royal Promenade. Instead the ship has the Centrum as a main meeting point on the ship, a multi-story lobby which is home to venues like a cafe, the art gallery, Next Cruise, Guest Services, and more. I listened to a live violinist for a bit, which is definitely something I've never seen on Royal Caribbean before!

The Solarium is beautiful and decorated with hieroglyphics. Ancient Egyptian design is incorporated throughout the pool and spa areas on Rhapsody of the Seas. I also checked out the Vitality Spa & Fitness Center. The spa on Rhapsody seems huge considering the ship's size! It had the most beautiful relaxation room I've seen on any ship yet.

While in the fitness center, I unexpectedly met the Captain of Rhapsody of the Seas. I guess these things are bound to happen on a smaller ship!

Evening onboard

We enjoyed dinner tonight in the Main Dining Room, otherwise known as the Edelweiss Dining Room on Rhapsody of the Seas.

I love the look of Rhapsody's dining room, a two-story room with a lighted art piece and piano in the middle. We have a nice table location with views of the entire dining room and windows.

I started my meal with the French onion soup, which is quickly becoming my favorite thing to eat onboard. It's delicious! For my main course I ordered the polenta and for dessert the warm chocolate hazelnut cake. Everything was prepared nicely and it was the perfect way to start our weeklong cruise.

Because we had missed sailaway, we took a post dinner walk along the Promenade deck to take in the views of Greece's stunning coastline. I didn't realize how mountainous the coast would be and it was gorgeous! The weather was also perfect, especially considering last week's chilly sea days on Anthem of the Seas.

There was live music and a headliner show scheduled for tonight, but my siblings and I decided to hang out on the pool deck instead for one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen at sea.

Tomorrow we are in our first port of call: Mykonos, Greece! Be sure to follow along on this week's live blog for Mediterranean cruise inspiration and tips.

Flight attendant shares 20 tips to minimize air travel fiascos

In:
27 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Before you can get on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you may have to fly to your destination city and air travel is anything but simple these days.

Plane landing in Miami

Likely you've seen headlines about air travel chaos that is affecting airlines around the world. There were over 19,000 cancelled flights in the U.S. this past weekend alone.

Whether its bad weather, air traffic control, staffing issues or reduced security personnel, you should expect problems when flying this summer.

While these issues are problematic, it doesn't mean it's impossible to get to your cruise ship either. In fact, there are some good strategies for ensuring your movement between home and where your ship sails from encounters minimal issues.

Airport

An unnamed flight attendant penned a post on Facebook that has been shared thousands of times, and it lists 20 tips for dealing with air travel this summer.

I found many of these tips to be good pieces of travel advice, so in an effort to get the word out there, here are two air travel tips you should know about if you plan to fly to your cruise ship anytime soon.

Airplane landing

1.  If its less than 7 hours - drive!

I'm not kidding. There is nothing enjoyable about flying right now. On any airline. If you must fly, keep reading. 

Airplane taking off and landing

2. Download and use the app of the airline you are flying

You can do everything on it - get your boarding pass, track your bags, see your incoming plane, and change a flight. It sure beats waiting in the long line to talk to an agent! Trust me - Usually these apps will tell you a flight is cancelled before the crew even knows! 

British Airways airplane

3. Fly much earlier than you need to - a whole day early if its important!

This week I saw many people miss important things like weddings, funerals, cruises, international connections, and graduations. The tears were very real, for very real reasons, and there was nothing I could do! I

f you have to be somewhere, spend the extra money, go a day early. Have a glass of wine and stay in a hotel, enjoy your night not being stressed while everyone else misses their events. 

Read moreWhy you shouldn't fly to your cruise the same day it begins

Airplane wing view

4. Always fly the first flight in the morning

This way, you have all day to be rebooked if bad stuff happens. Yes, that means it might be a 3:00 alarm, but morning flights don't cancel nearly as often.

Raining in airplane

5. Summer is thunderstorm season

A single storm can shut down a whole airport. We can't fly through them. Storms usually build as the day gets later. Book early flights!

Airport with boarding pass

6. Schedule long layovers

Your 1 hour layover is not  enough anymore. 30 minutes, not a chance. 3 hours minimum.

Airplane on the ground

7. What you see on the news is an understatement.

We are short staffed and overworked. Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews.

Without ground crews there is no one to park the planes, drive jetways, get your bags on/off planes, or scan boarding passes. This causes many delays that snowball throughout the day. Sometimes hours.(Another reason morning flights are best!)  

Underbelly of airplane

8. When flight crews get delayed we time out

We can not fly longer than 16 hours. Its illegal. So it doesn't matter if you have a wedding to get to, when we are done we are done.

The way things are now, there are no back up crews, so when this happens your flight cancels.

Now you are starting to see why those morning flights are best!

Newark airport

9. Avoid connecting in Newark (Or any New York airport for that matter)

It is literal hell. You have a 50/50 chance your flight will cancel or missing your connection. They have been cancelling flights at their starting points just to keep the planes out, because there just aren't enough people to manage the planes, so the gates stay full.

Also the restaurants are expensive, it is not a great place to be stuck. 

Airplane in the clouds

10. Be nice

As stated above, we are overworked and tired. We will not help you if you are mean. No one cares that you are going to miss your cruise if you are mean.

So even if we can help, we will save our help for someone nice. Tensions are high. Our patience is gone. If you make us mad - you will not be flying on our planes. We will leave you behind without a second thought, and laugh about you later. 

Airplane at the gate

11. Being drunk on an airplane is a federal offense, so don't overdo it

If you drink too much at the bar waiting for your delayed flight you risk not being allowed to fly at all. We are too tired to deal with you when we have legitimate issues to deal with.

Airplane landing

12. Get trip insurance if you have a lot of money invested

I hate the whole idea of this, but I also hate the idea of losing money.  

Example: I was working a flight yesterday that waited over an hour for a gate. A family of 8 missed their flight to Rome. The only flight of the day. They were going to a cruise which they would now miss. They were all crying, there was nothing I could do. (Also a reason to fly a day early!)

Cabin on plane

13. Flights are full

If you buy the cheap seats you will not be able to sit with your family. It says so when you purchase your ticket!

Flight Attendants aren't there to rearrange the whole plane just so you can sit with your family because you tried to save $100 on a third party website. 

Passengers on a plane

14. The people that get bumped first

Speaking of third party websites and saving money..... Like I said flights are full.

If a flight is oversold, and no one volunteers to give up their seats, who do you think is the first to be bumped? You guessed it, the family that saved a few $$ by using sites like Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire etc. 

Clouds

15. Pack smart

Don't be "That guy." Don't hold up boarding because you have your extenders open till they are busting and you can't figure out how to make it fit in the overhead. Passengers are stressed too, they can be aggressive when boarding a delayed flight.

16. Practice good personal hygiene

Take showers, brush your teeth, leave the perfume off, don't eat stinky food (caesar salad and tuna fish I'm talking to you!), and bring headphones.

Trust me. These things sound basic, but add to stress on crowded planes. If you are stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours after a 4 hour flight, you will thank me for this. 

Airplane cabin

17. Bring a sweater if you tend to be cold

So tired of half naked girls asking me to turn the heat up. 

Airplane bathroom

18. That's not water on the bathroom floor

For the love of God wear shoes to the bathroom!

Airplane cabin

19. Don't tell a Flight Attendant they look tired

We are and we know. You may cause us to ugly cry right there in galley. 

Tampa airport

20. Happy Travels!

Royal Caribbean CEO talks when pre-cruise Covid testing and vaccine mandate will last

In:
27 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

How much longer will cruise ship passengers have to take a covid test before their sailing and be required to be vaccinated?

Michael Bayley

Those two questions are among the most frequently asked since cruising restarted in 2021, and it was asked of Royal Caribbean's top executive this weekend.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley took questions from cruise fans during a question and answer session while aboard Ovation of the Seas for the 2022 President's Cruise.

Here's what he had to say about both topics.

Pre-cruise testing

Woman taking covid test

There has been a little bit of conjecture tied to the cruise industry looking for pre-cruise testing to be reviewed as a requirement.

"I think pre cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Mr. Bayley answered.

"We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

CDC headquarters

He talked about the long journey the cruise lines have had with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and how initially the CDC flat out refused to talk to them.

"And they were in many ways successful in working as we were working with them in creating the protocols that allowed the industry to return last July."

How successful have these health protocols been? 

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Mr. Bayley mentioned in a call with the CDC two weeks ago, the CDC shared an amazing statistic, "the cruise industry sailing out of the US ports over the past 12 months and how many people have been hospitalized with Covid and how many deaths occurred from Covid from people who'd sailed on the industry's ships, which is in the millions.

"And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two."

"Two is terrible. But but but against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success."

Vaccine requirements

So if pre-cruise testing is still "another couple of months" of away, when might the requirement for adults to be vaccinated against Covid-19 remain?

Mr. Bayley admitted it's still a big unknown, "The no vaccine question is is a huge question that none of us know the answer to."

"I'm skeptical that's going to change in the in the real short term. Many and most of the destinations that we visit require a high degree of vaccination, and they expect our crew to be vaccinated."

"So many of the destinations in the Caribbean simply don't have the kind of medical facilities and care that we've got back in the States. So they genuinely are very vulnerable. And so they're obviously very concerned."

Many unvaccinated people point out how Covid cases still pop up on the ship, and Mr. Bayley talked about that, "I understand if you're vaccinated, you can be Covid positive and all that kind of stuff. But it's the societal response to this and it's and governments have responded to it."

"We're constantly talking to different destinations. And I would say this is one of the areas where they're pretty fixed on it."

"Who knows how it's going to change as we move through the months."

 

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 26, 2022

In:
26 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! Hope you are having a relaxing weekend and enjoying summer! It is time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the recent Royal Caribbean news!

Want to sail with Royal Caribbean's CEO in 2023?

Royal Caribbean announced the date and sailing for its next President's Cruise, which will be held on Allure of the Seas on the July 23, 2023 sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

The President's Cruise is an annual event where Royal Caribbean invites its loyal members to sail together.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 458th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, featuring a review of Matt's Alaska cruise.

Matt took a 7-night cruise on Serenade of the Seas to Alaska and shares a look back at what he did and how his cruise went/

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! 

New RCB Video: What's included with your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

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 — What's included with your Royal Caribbean cruise fare — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Read our Europe Live Blog

Have you ever taken a Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe?

We shared a day-by-day look at what it's like to sail on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton.

Read our 7-night Spain & France cruise live blog and see all the fun you can have on a 7-night cruise to France and Spain!

Royal Caribbean extends European cruise ship Covid protocols

Stockholm

Health protocols have been extended for European sailings that depart on or before July 31, 2022. 

The existing protocols have been extended without any notable changes to vaccine, testing and onboard health requirements.

Adventure of the Seas review & guide

Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas is one of the most popular cruise ships to sail on given its competitive prices and interesting itineraries.

There's a great mix of fun activities onboard, and since it's a Voyager Class ship, it has a big ship feel to it.

Here's our complete look at what you should know about sailing on Adventure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean will host next Presidents Cruise on Allure of the Seas in summer 2023

In:
25 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced it will go to Texas for its next President's Cruise.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

While onboard the 2022 President's Cruise, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley announced the dates and location for the 2023 President's Cruise.

Mr. Bayley held an impromptu poll during an event onboard Ovation of the Seas and asked for a show of hands who would vote for Allure from Galveston or a European cruise. The crowd overwhelming voted for Allure.

"You've done a great job today. We're going to sail out of Galveston, Texas," Mr. Bayley said following the vote.

It will be held on Allure of the Seas on the July 23, 2023 sailing from Galveston, Texas.

This is a 7-night western Caribbean cruise that visits Roatan, Costa Maya and Cozumel.

It should not come as a major surprise that Allure of the Seas was chosen given Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal will be opening there in November 2022.

Terminal 3 is where Royal Caribbean's new $125 million home for Allure of the Seas and is located at Pier 10 for exclusive use by Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean says it will be a state-of-the-art building that will measure 161,300 square feet.

Not only can Terminal 3 handle Oasis Class ships, it will also be able to accommodate Royal Caribbean's new Icon Class ships.

What is a President's Cruise?

President's Cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Essentially, a Royal Caribbean President's Cruise is a regular sailing that anyone can book, but the appeal is for Royal Caribbean fans who want to go on a cruise together.

Hosted by the President and CEO of Royal Caribbean, it is a giant celebration of the cruise line for its loyal guests.

On past President's Cruises, there have been special events such as celebrity musicians who have performed onboard. This year's lineup includes classic rock band, "Foreigner".

President's Cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog
Patti LaBelle & Michael Bayley on a past President's Cruise

In addition, there are surprises and commemorative opportunities for anyone onboard.

Part of the appeal of a President's Cruise is a lot of loyal Royal Caribbean fans book it, making it a kind of homecoming experience among cruise fans.

More about Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean extends European cruise ship Covid protocols through July 2022

In:
25 Jun 2022
By: 
Allie Hubers

Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise line has extended its health protocols for European departures.

Health protocols have been extended for European sailings that depart on or before July 31, 2022. Travel advisors and passengers were notified of the update this week. 

The existing protocols have been extended without any notable changes to vaccine, testing and onboard health requirements.

Vaccine Requirements

Marseilles

Royal Caribbean requires all guests 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Guests must provide proof of vaccination with the final dose being administered no later than 14 days before sailing. 

Guests must have received their most recent vaccine dose no more than 9 months (270 days) ago. This includes either a booster dose or the final dose of the original vaccine series (or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson).

For clarification purposes, Royal Caribbean states that guests who have received a booster vaccine dose will qualify as up to date regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the dose was administered. 

Covid vaccines

Vaccines must be on the list of EMA-approved vaccines, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Nuvaxovid.

Children age 11 years old and under do not require Covid-19 vaccinations to cruise. Those aged 5 to 11 can choose to provide vaccination proof to be considered up to date for their sailing and follow health protocols of up to date guests. Children who have received only one dose of a vaccine will not qualify as fully vaccinated (unless they received Johnson & Johnson). 

The health protocols also encourage guests to be “up to date” on their Covid-19 vaccination per the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

Stockholm

Of note, for sailings departing from Stockholm, the age requirement states that all guests 18 years and older are required to be fully vaccinated. 

Testing Requirements

Covid-19 antigen test

All guests are required to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to boarding European departures. 

  • Fully vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more than 2 days prior to boarding
  • Unvaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more than 1 day prior to boarding. 

Royal Caribbean continues to recommend that guests traveling from the United States take advantage of eMed antigen testing kits that provide supervised virtual video visits and can be accessed 24/7. 

Notably, guests traveling back to the United States are no longer required to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to flight departures. 

Depending on the departure port, testing requirements can vary slightly, so it's best to confirm country-specific policies before sailing. 

Onboard Testing

Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean requires that unvaccinated guests (by EMA standards) or those not up-to-date with their vaccines will require additional testing during European sailings.

  • Onboard testing will be at the expense of guests if they are 12 years or older and considered to be unvaccinated or not up-to-date. Tests are $55 USD each
  • For unvaccinated guests age 6-11 years old who require testing, onboard testing will be complimentary
  • Guests who are 2 years and younger will not require any testing
  • Guests will receive registration information once onboard. Guests 12 years or older (6 years and older for Italian ports) will have additional requirements during the cruise. Additionally, these guests might be required to test prior to disembarking depending on country requirements

Masks

Mask guidance march 2022

Royal Caribbean states that masks for fully vaccinated guests are optional onboard. The cruise line continues to recommend masks for unvaccinated children while onboard.

Guests under 2 years old will not be required to wear a mask at any time. 

In terminals, masks are optional unless required by the country’s local policies and regulations. 

Some destination ports might have masking requirements in place, which will need to be followed by guests. 

Policies remain subject to change. 

Guide to Royal Caribbean's coffee card package

In:
24 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

If you love having an espresso, latte, or any other brewed coffee every day on your Royal Caribbean cruise, then perhaps a coffee card package is right for you.

Cafe Select Card

Royal Caribbean offers a number of drink packages that include premium coffees, but it also has a coffee card that includes a select amount of coffee drinks.

Will the coffee package save you money and is it worth it to buy?

Here's a breakdown of Royal Caribbean's Cafe Select Coffee Card and what you should know.

What does the coffee card include?

Cafe select card

The Cafe Select Coffee Card is the name of what many people call the "coffee package" and it is essentially a punch card of drinks.

Royal Caribbean says the card includes 15 specialty espresso-based coffees that you can use during your cruise. The coffee card issued to you will have 15 punches to use.

This means for every premium coffee you order, the barista will punch a hole in the card to note how many of the drinks you've ordered.

Cafe select card sign

According to Royal Caribbean, the coffee card can save up to 50% on individually purchased coffees.

The coffee card does not include coffees from Starbucks kiosks.  Instead, you can use the card at Royal Caribbean coffee locations, such as Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-tudes.

You can also use the card at any location onboard that serves espresso-based drinks.

You cannot use the card for any coffee drinks that include alcohol.

Punch per card or per shot?

Cafe Promenade menu on Wonder of the Seas

One inconsistency with Royal Caribbean has been how the coffee cards are punched.

Some passengers report getting one hole punch per drink ordered, while others have reported getting a hole punch per espresso shot in the drink.

On the Royal Caribbean website, there's no mention of getting a hole punch per espresso shot, but you should be aware on some ships they make that distinction.

Can you share the coffee card?

Cafe Promenade coffee menu

Yes, unlike Royal Caribbean's other drink packages, the coffee card is not restricted to one person.

You are allowed to purchase a coffee card and allow your friends and family to utilize the card benefits. Because the card is not unlimited, Royal Caribbean doesn't care who utilizes the benefits.

How much does the coffee package cost?

Coffee card

The coffee card price is usually at $31 per card.

A gratuity charge is added onto the cost of the card, which covers the gratuity for all the drinks you order while onboard. This means no additional tip is required.

With gratuity, the total cost comes out to $36.58.

Espresso shot

Keep in mind Royal Caribbean may change the price of the coffee package at any time, so prices are subject to change.

If you're wondering, a premium coffee purchased individually will run about $2.50 to $5 per drink.

Can you use the same card on different sailings if you don’t use it all at once?

No, the card is good for only the sailing you purchase it on.

Is the coffee card worth it?

Without a doubt, the coffee card will save you money on the equivalent amount of coffee purchased onboard, assuming you order all 15 coffees.

You should be aware that your Royal Caribbean cruise fare includes regular brewed coffee and tea. This card is for espresso-based beverages.

Coffee included

The first reason you might not want the coffee card is if you wont order enough coffees to use up all your hole punches. Since you can share the coffee card with others, it's easier to get your money's worth than with a regular drink package.

Speaking of drink packages, the question of if a coffee card is worth it may lead into the question of should you get a coffee card or another drink package.

Both the Deluxe Beverage Package and the Royal Refreshment Package include premium coffees and have no limit to how many premium coffees you can order. Moreover, they include other beverages such as alcohol, juices, sodas, and more.

Coffee card sign

Of course, one of the other drink packages will cost you significantly more than a coffee card. The deluxe beverage package can run between $50 - $90 per person, per day. You won't be able to break even on that investment on coffees alone.

If you aren't much of an alcohol drinker, then the Royal Refreshment package might be a good alternative. It includes unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, such as bottled water, coffees, teas, soda, and mocktails. 

The average cost of a Royal Refreshment package is between $29 - $38 per person, per day.

Just like the alcohol package, it still requires you to drink a fair amount of non-alcoholic drinks per day to make it worthwhile.

Ultimately, if you consider the coffee package, you should also look at the other drink packages to ensure your money is well-spent.

If you don't drink a lot of alcohol and sodas or bottled water doesn't do it for you either, then the coffee card is a good choice for those that purely want premium coffees.

Funny coffee sign

Another consideration is your Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society status. Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Club members get complimentary drink vouchers every day of their cruise, which can be used for premium coffees.

If your cruise ship has a Starbucks kiosk onboard, you might prefer those coffees. Since Starbucks beverages from a Starbucks kiosk is not included with the coffee card, you could alternatively order your drinks there and pay as you go.

As you can see, the determination of if a coffee card is worth it really comes down to the individual person. Here's a summary of the key considerations:

  • How many coffees will you drink each day of your cruise?
  • How many alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks will you likely have every day of your cruise?
  • Does your ship have a Starbucks kiosk?
  • Would sharing coffee card benefits with another person make the investment easier?

The good news is the Royal Caribbean Cafe Select Coffee Card has the potential to save money compared to buying the same amount of drinks without the card. The question is really if you should spend the money on the coffee card or get a different drink package to better take advantage of your drinking habits.