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Royal Caribbean offering pre-cruise planner sale

09 Jun 2022
Hayley Phillips

Royal Caribbean is currently offering a pre-cruise planner sale that includes many favorite and popular add-ons for cruisers.

The pre-cruise planner sale begins today, June 9, 2022, and ends June 15, 2022. These deals and savings can be applied to cruise sailings from June 13, 2022 to April 30, 2023. This means that guests who wish to take part in the sale must book their cruise voyage before June 15, and the sailing they choose must take place between June 13, 2022 and April 30, 2023.

Independence of the Seas aerial view birds eye

Many destination itineraries are included in this sale including, Alaska, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Pacific, and transatlantic sailings.

This sale can be applied to almost all of Royal Caribbean’s ships, with the exception of the sailings to Singapore aboard Spectrum of the Seas.


Offer Details

Beverage packages: up to 40% off

Many of the beverage packages that Royal Caribbean offers on their sailings will be discounted as part of this pre-cruise planner sale.

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: over 30% off onboard prices.
  • Spring Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • San Benedetto Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

Shore Excursions: up to 25% off

The discount applied with the Pre-Cruise planner sale, is up to 25% off excursions, but will vary by ship.

Internet: up to 50% off

The discount will be up to 50% off, but will vary by ship.

  • VOOM Surf & Stream Voyage Package 1,2,3,4 Device(s).
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1,2,3,4 Device(s).

Dining: up to 40% off

The Unlimited Dining Package on 3 to 9-night sailings will be up to 40% off, but will vary by ship.

Gifts & Gear: up to 20% off

Guests can receive up to 20% off gifts such as birthday decor, anniversary champagne, wine, and more with the Pre-Cruise Planner sale.

  • Anniversary decorations with champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with chocolate cake & strawberries
  • Happy Birthday decorations with vanilla cake & strawberries
  • Inky beach set
  • Inky beach towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky travel set
  • Red wine and cheese
  • Royal Caribbean beach towel
  • Strawberries with champagne
  • White wine and cheese

Photo Packages: up to 70% off

Guests can receive up to 70% off photo packages, varies by ship.

  • Photo Package: from 5-100 print/and or digital options
  • Photo Package: private photo session
  • Photo Package: all digital

Casitas: up to 20% off

The discount included with the Pre-Cruise Planner sale, is up to 20% off onboard prices of Casitas.

To confirm if your desired sailing is included in this new sale, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean’s web site. Not all sailings are included in the Pre-Cruise Planner sale.

If you already purchased one of these items, and you wish to take part in the new sale, you may be able to cancel the purchase of an item, and repurchase it at the new sale price.

Serenade of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Juneau

09 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Juneau is Alaska's capital, and it's our next stop. We're in Alaska for over 12 hours, providing ample time to see a lot of what it has to offer.

Our ship docked at 7:30am, so the gangway was open well before we were prepared to get off the ship.

After a quick breakfast in the Windjammer, we headed off the ship for our tour. We booked a half day self-guided Jeep rental, where we drive the car along a route and explore at our own pace.

We could have driven anywhere, but the onboard iPad provides a map and narration of the places, animals, and history of Alaska.

The drive is 2 hours in total, but provides 2.5 hours of out of the car exploration.

Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier park, where we parked the car and walked the Nuggets Falls trail.

We had done this hike last time in Juneau, but it's so rewarding a view that we couldn't pass it up again. It's about a 1.5 mile roundtrip hoke, and we had absolutely stunning weather for the outdoors.

The skies were clear and blue, with the sun shining all morning. It was perfect for being outdoors and enjoying the views.

Along the trail you get to see Nuggets Falls right next to Mendenhall Glacier, although the views of the glacier are better from elsewhere along the trail.

While the kids found the trail a bit too long for their liking, it was very rewarding getting to the falls and enjoying it all.

Back in the car, our next stop was Eagle Beach, which is also one of our top spots in our local's guide to Juneau article. 

Eagle Beach is about a 40 minute drive from the glacier park, and offers a wide open lake front to explore. We had spent a lot of time at Mendenhall, so Eagle Beach was more of a quick walk.

The mountains that surround the beach are beautiful, and I loved sitting on a log and looking around. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.

Eagle Beach also has camp sites, if you happened to bring food.

Next up was a visit to The National Shrine of Saint Thérèse, which not only honors a local saint, but is situated on a beautiful piece of land.

Right outside was our first bear sighting, just along the highway.

He looked to be a younger bear, but he stood by the road just long enough to see him for a few seconds before he went back into the woods.

Our final stop was at a lookout point on North Douglas, which provided another lovely view of the surrounding area.

The natural beauty of Juneau was incredible, and I would have loved to have a few lawn chairs and a lunch to just sit at one of these places for a few hours and enjoy it all.

The Jeep rental idea worked out quite well, and I think the kids really enjoyed having a break in the car to relax between walking. Plus, my oldest daughter really found the narration to be fascinating.

We returned the Jeep at 1pm, and then went in search of lunch. We ran across an outdoor bar that had fire pits, along with a Mexican food truck right next door.

Beer, Mexican food, and fire is the perfect combination!

After lunch, we walked the streets of South Franklin Street and shopped around a bit.

We had hoped to stay in town for dinner as well, but it provided to be difficult to find a sit down restaurant that wasn't just another bar. Ultimately, we decided to head back to the ship to relax and have dinner.

Since we are coming back to Juneau next week, I wasn't too hard pressed to squeeze out every hour we could.  I really loved having so much time in port.

Back on the ship, it was time for dinner in the main dining room and then drinks in the Concierge Lounge.

Stray Observations

The pub opened up last night after the ship received 4 new crew members that transferred from Radiance of the Seas while in Sitka.

I stopped at Guest Relations to ask about how many passengers, and they said there are 2100 guests onboard, which constitutes 95% capacity.

At the Top Tier event on Monday, it was mentioned we had 778 crew members onboard (plus 4?).

Royal Caribbean drink package rules overview

08 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Thinking about purchasing a Royal Caribbean drink package for your upcoming cruise?  Drink packages have the potential to save money compared to buying the same amount of drinks without a package, but it is important to be aware and understand the rules of how these beverage packages work.

Drinks in suite area

The rules are not complicated, but there are a few important guidelines that anyone that purchases an unlimited drink package should be aware of first.

Sharing the package

Drink at the Lime and Coconut

Let us be perfectly clear: it is absolutely forbidden to share the Royal Caribbean drink package benefits with anyone else. Period.

Royal Caribbean warns that guests who share a drink with someone who does not have a drink package can risk having their drink package benefits revoked with no refund.  

The package is intended for only the guest who buys the package.  If you want to buy a drink for someone else, you can do so and pay for it individually along side your drink package transaction.

Drink limits

There is no limit to how many drinks a guest may consume on any day, or during the cruise. 

However, you can only order one drink per transaction.  Which means if you want to get a beer and another drink, you need to order each individually. 

If your group all have the drink package, you can take their SeaPass cards and place a group order.  You just need to provide proof that the amount of drinks ordered match the number of drink packages.

When you can buy the drink package

Getting a drink at the casita

Royal Caribbean provides the ability to pre-purchase the drink package on its Cruise Planner website.  There is often a discount associated with pre-purchase, which can save money compared to waiting to purchase it onboard.

If your cruise is too far in advance, the drink package option may not be available yet.  There is no set rule when drink packages become available for sale, so keep checking back later.

Couple with drinks on Suite Deck

If you decide to wait to buy a drink package on the ship, you can do so from any bar or lounge. On embarkation day, there are often tables set up around the ship to take just unlimited beverage package purchases.  

You do not have to purchase a drink package on the first day of your cruise.  Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages are available on all two-night or longer sailings, but as long as there are at least 4 days left in the cruise, you can purchase the package at a pro-rated amount.

Where the drink package works

Royal Caribbean's drink package covers beverages purchased at onboard restaurants, bars, and lounges.

It also works on the cruise line’s private destinations of CocoCay and Labadee.

Friends and family have to buy the package too

As of October 2017, Royal Caribbean has changed its policy and is requiring all adults in a stateroom to purchase an unlimited alcohol package if an adult purchases the package.


When you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package, gratuity (18%) will be assessed on your purchase at that time, which covers all of your subsequent drink orders.

When you order a drink later on, you will not owe any gratuity.  There will be, however, an optional gratuity on your receipt where you can recognize outstanding service.

Refunds and exchanges

Once onboard the ship, beverage packages are non-refundable and non-transferable.

Before a cruise, beverage package purchases can be cancelled and/or re-purchased via the Cruise Planner

Serenade of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sitka

08 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Our first port of call on this Alaska cruise brings us to Sitka, which is a port I've never been to before.

Scenic view of Sitka

We weren't scheduled to dock until 9:30am, so we had a few hours before getting off the ship.

The combination of our clocks going back one hour last night and the excitement of getting off the ship got to me, because I was up by 6am to have a look.

Our ship sailed through the Sitka Sound, giving us our first look at the Alaska scenery.

I went up to the upper decks to get a better look, and even spotted a whale coming up for air once (although I was too slow to get a photo).

Once the kids got up, we decided to have breakfast at Chops Grille, since it's open to suite guests as an alternative breakfast spot.

The menu is similar to the main dining rom, and offered a relaxed breakfast.

There were five cruise ships in Sitka today, although we were the only ship able to dock. The other ships tendered, including Radiance of the Seas.

The dock is located north of downtown, and is about a 10 minute drive.

We booked a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean for today, "Taste of Sitka". Our tour began at 10:45am, and it consisted of three stops.

Our first stop was at a local restaurant to sample fresh caught wild salmon and Alaska beers.

The chef prepared white Alaska salmon that was delivered earlier that morning to enjoy along with a selection of beers. They said we could choose between two beers, but they were happy to give more if you wanted.

The salmon was incredible, as white salmon is evidently a very rare type of wild salmon.  It was so good that even my oldest daughter, who claimed she hated salmon, tried it and really liked it.

The chef then brought out a salmon to filet it for us, and let us even sample slivers of sashimi-grade fresh salmon we could eat raw on the spot.

The food was better than anything I could have hoped for, and started us off on a great note.

Next up was a visit to the Sitka maritime center, where we learned about salmon life cycles and why and how they operate a salmon hatchery to help provide a sustainable source of the fish.

Afterwards, we were able to touch a variety of local marine life in the touch tanks.

The salmon explanation was much too long in my opinion, but the kids loved the touch tanks.

Afterwards, we took a short drive to a former World War 2 air base for a scenic photo.

At this point, the bus could either drop us off downtown or bring us back to the ship. We opted to stay downtown.

Sitka has a small downtown with lots of shops, restaurants, and bars. 

We stopped in for coffee at a book store, but stayed to get my kids a couple of books. I love finding small, independently operated book stores and support them whenever I can.

Sitka is known for being the former capital of Alaska when it was owned by Russia, and still has a few buildings from that era.

The orthodox church is by far the most prominent piece of this Russian history, but there's other buildings you can explore. We ran across a fort that provided some lovely views.

As we walked around, I saw a sign for the Fresh Fish cart, which is one of the places to see in our local guide to Sitka.

I met the owner, who served up salmon poke bowl that was incredible. There's just nothing like fresh fish, and the snack was just what I needed.

We wandered around Sitka a bit more and then headed back to the ship.

The weather could not have been better, and it was the perfect day for exploring Alaska. If we can have weather like this for the next two weeks, we're in for an amazing time.

The weather was stunning today, and it was so warm (mid-70s) that lots of people were up on the pool deck and in the pool.

Dinner tonight brought us to Izumi.

I love eating at Izumi because sushi always hits the spot without feeling overly stuffed like other foods do. 

While I love sushi, my wife and kids prefer the non-sushi items on the menu, such as the terriyaki or udon options.

We rounded out our evening with songs in the Schooner Bar with the guitarist. Speaking of the guitarist, the bartenders told me that 4 new crew members transferred while we were in Sitka from Radiance of the Seas, so the pub should open tomorrow!

I was ready to call it a night when we noticed an amazing Alaskan sunset happening.

Have I mentioned I love Alaska cruises yet?

Tomorrow we will be in Juneau.

Stray Observations

There's a free shuttle to and from downtown Sitka. The line got pretty long in the morning to get downtown if you didn't have a tour.

They were actively repairing the other docking area at the port that was damaged this season when Radiance of the Seas struck a dolphin mooring.

Advice for visiting Vancouver before your Alaska cruise

07 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Vancouver is one of Canada's premier cities, and it's also a wonderful place to visit before or after your Alaska cruise.


Royal Caribbean usually bases a couple of its cruise ships in Vancouver for the Alaska cruise season (in addition to ships sailing from Seattle, Washington).  Since Vancouver is outside the United States, there are a few nuances that make the cruise experience just a little bit different from other embarkation ports.

Whether you have an Alaskan cruise booked from Vancouver, or are thinking about reserving one, here are some important tips for how to enjoy and plan a cruise that sails from Vancouver.

Fly in two days early

Vancouver aerial

When you have to fly to a cruise, you should always fly in at least one day before the cruise begins to guard against travel delays impeding your ability to board the ship.

If you are flying from the east coast, coming in two days before the cruise is an even better idea because of the time change.

The shift up to three hours later means you'll be struggling to stay up past 9pm. By coming in two days early, you have more time to adjust to the west coast time zone and once you get on the ship, be able to stay up later for the fun evening activities.

Another advantage to coming in more than a day early is it provides you ample time to explore Vancouver without feeling rushed, or fatigued from the trip over.

Drive, train, or fly

Vancouver map

To actually reach Vancouver, you could get to the city a few different ways, and each has their advantages.

The most straight-forward way to get to Vancouver is to fly there. Vancouver has a major international airport, although getting a direct flight may not be so simple.

Depending on where you live, there may be multiple flights required, with layovers in other cities along the way.


An alternative to flying to Vancouver is to fly to Seattle instead, which tends to be cheaper (for Americans) and has many more direct flights.

Once in Seattle, you could then either take the train, rent a car, or even take a car service into Vancouver.

As of 2022, the Amtrak train service between Seattle and Vancouver has not resumed yet, but the Cascades train ride is a beautiful ride. In the interim, Amtrak offers bus service to get across the border.

There's no separate line if you buy The Key

When you check-in for your cruise, there's no special line for guests who purchase The Key.

Vancouver is one of the few places where priority access is not offered for The Key (Australia and Singapore are the other places).

The weather changes a lot, so plan for it all

Canada Place in Vancouver

Just like Alaska, it will likely rain and then go back to being sunny, and then alternate between chilly and warm, before restarting the cycle again.

Vancouver's weather can vary greatly, so plan on experiencing it all.  They key is to have a good waterproof jacket, along with warm clothes.  But don't rule out a warm spell, because it is summer after all.

While you probably won't need super warm clothing (unless you are visiting in the beginning or end of the Alaska cruise season), being able to deal with the rain is a good idea while you're exploring the city.

The Pan Pacific hotel

Canada Place

If you are looking for the ultimate convenience for the day your cruise begins, you might consider staying at the Pan Pacific hotel.

The Pan Pacific is built on top of Canada Place, which is where your cruise ship will be waiting for embarkation.

Guests who purchase a cruise package can actually have bell services come to their hotel room on the morning of the cruise and take their bags directly to the cruise ship. No need to lug luggage back downstairs and give it to porters.

Of course, the Pan Pacific hardly the best deal in town or the cheapest hotel you can find, but if you value convenience, then a stay in this hotel might not be a bad idea.

Fun spots to visit

Street in Vancouver

Like any major city, you'll have a lot to explore while in Vancouver.

Depending on where you stay, there are lots of fun things to do around town.  Assuming your hotel will be closer to the cruise port, here are a few suggestions:

  • Walk around Stanley Park, which features walking, jogging, and bike trails. There's also the Vancouver aquarium here.
  • Gastown is a neighborhood that has a lot of great restaurants and shops.
  • Even if you aren't staying at the Pan Pacific hotel, you can go there to watch cruise ships depart.
  • Granville Island Market is an indoor market featuring lots of food and produce stores, showcasing handcrafted products and unique gifts.
  • Vandusen botanical gardens are beautiful

I also recommend making a point to get coffee and a bite to eat at a Canadian staple: Tim Horton's. Tim Bits are great, along with their sandwiches.

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

07 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Technically, today was our inside passage day I discovered, which means the day our ship passed through the inner waters from Vancouver up to Alaska. Basically, it was just a sea day as we made our way up to our first stop.

I was up around 7am to start getting some work done on RoyalCaribbeanBlog. If that seems early, I'm still somewhat adjusting to west coast time, and the fact 7am is 10am on the east coast was really bugging me that I was missing what was happening in the world, so to speak.

The day started out gray, with clouds dominating the sky.

When the rest of the family got up, we headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. One benefit of being a suite is we have a private breakfast place in Chops Grille, but the variety the Windjammer provide won out for at least this morning.

My kids loved the waffle station in the middle of the Windjammer, and my wife admitted those waffles were pretty darn good.

I also spotted the avocado toast station.

We took our food to the outdoor seating formerly known as Rita's Cantina. One of the waiters brought us coffee and our kids hot chocolate.

After breakfast, we headed to the Solarium to enjoy some open air. As noted yesterday, from 8am to 11am, the Solarium is open for kids (excluding the hot tub).

My girls brought their sketch pads to draw, and I decided to get an early start on my Diamond Plus drink vouchers with a bloody mary.

I walked from the Solarium to the pool bar to get a drink. The Solarium Bar wasn't open today (it had been yesterday).

As the morning went on, the temperature warmed up and peaks of sunlight began to break through. I enjoyed spending some time on the pool deck with the fresh air and plenty of chairs to choose from.

My wife had her spa appointment this morning, and later in the morning I took the girls to get their nails done at the spa. With my title of husband and dad of the year simultaneously in tact, I headed to the Safari Club for the Top Tier event.

On the non-short cruises, Royal Caribbean invites guests to attend a get together to welcome Crown and Anchor members who have reached Platinum or above, and recognize those members with the most points or reaching Pinnacle Status.

There are over 700 Crown and Anchor Society members onboard, and the ship's Captain welcomed everyone.

I always make a point of attending the Top Tier events to show I appreciate them putting on these events for us.  The complimentary mimosas and champagne are not a bad excuse to go either.

With everyone finished in the spa and salon, we went down to the main dining room for lunch.

The food was fine, and enjoyed the ease of the being able to sit and enjoy a meal rather than another visit to the buffet.

Chicken sandwich

Mediterranean lamb sandwich

After lunch we headed to the NextCruise office to look into some future cruise options. Looking over new cruise ideas is the closest thing as an adult I have as a thrill to walking around KB Toy stores as a kid.

My kids wanted to go watch Encanto in the ship's cinema, which gave me the perfect excuse for my favorite sea activity: a nap.

Tonight was formal night, and we reserved a table at Giovanni's Table for dinner.

While this may not be the new Giovanni's Italian Kitchen update, we still enjoyed the menu selections, especially the filet mignon option.

The soup of the day special, Minestrone, was really good, and of course the main courses did not disappoint.

Minestrone soup

Tuna Tartare

Spaghetti pasta of the day


After dinner, it was time for a show.  Tonight, there was a Broadway medley in the theater that highlighted Broadway songs that crossed over to Hollywood films.

There were songs from West Side Story, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors and more.

I hadn't seen this show yet on a Royal Caribbean ship, so it was nice to see something different.

Walking out of the show right around 10pm, I could see there was still daylight out. Getting closer to Alaska!

After the show, we watched karaoke in the Safari Club. My oldest daughter really enjoyed seeing people give it their best.

Tomorrow we will be in Sitka.

Staffing situation on Serenade

Speaking of things that aren't open, it's no secret that Royal Caribbean cruise ships are understaffed currently due to the same staffing struggles all businesses are dealing with.

Read moreThe top problems Royal Caribbean is facing as it returns to full capacity

I had read other people's accounts of long waits for drink service, dinners taking longer than usual, and other issues of the sort related to waits. Truly over the first two days, I have not run into anything that made me think twice about my experience.

While I would love to enjoy the pub, the pub singer performs at the Schooner Bar instead. The casino isn't operating the craps table, but I found many open seats for blackjack or roulette instead.

Dinner on the first night in the main dining room took an hour and fifteen minutes, while dinner at Giovanni's was an hour and a half. Those times are well-within the norm for meals I would have had pre-2020.

It's still early in the cruise, but I wanted to share I'm constantly looking to gauge how much the experience has changed between myself and other guests I've been chatting with onboard.


Stray Observations

We got a note in our room that we had reached enough Crown and Anchor Society points for a crystal block.  We have the choice to take it home now, ship it home, or pass on it completely.

Crystal blocks are given to Diamond Plus guests periodically after they accrue enough points. Once you reach 140 points in Crown and Anchor Society, you earn a crystal block from the ship you happen to be on at the time.

You then earn a new block every 70 points you accrue thereafter. 

I also got a letter in the room to inform us as a Diamond Plus guest we would not be able to use the concierge lounge because there were too many Diamond Plus and Pinnacle guests onboard. Not a problem since I'm staying in a suite.

One nice change you'll find on an Alaska cruise versus a Caribbean cruise are the enrichment events, where speakers provide a lecture on a given topic. Today, there was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that spoke about the work he does in Canada's national police force.

Ultimate Guide to last-minute cruise deals

06 Jun 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway but don’t want to wait months for vacation, consider booking a last-minute cruise. Royal Caribbean’s last-minute cruise deals can often lead to incredible savings, allowing you to visit crystal clear beaches in the Caribbean, historic cities in the Mediterranean, and breathtaking fjords in Alaska on a budget.

Knowing the ins and outs of booking a last-minute cruise fare can help save you money and avoid any mistakes along the way. While last-minute cruises can be tempting, they aren’t always the best choice available for all passengers, and they require much more flexibility than booking a cruise ahead of time.

Let’s go over everything you need to know about last-minute cruise deals to help you make the right decision before booking.

What is a last-minute cruise?

A last-minute cruise is considered any cruise you book past the final payment date for that sailing. Royal Caribbean requires final payment to be made for a cruise at least 75 prior to departure for 1-4 night sailings and 90 days prior to departure for sailings 5 nights or longer.

Royal Caribbean monitors the demand for a particular sailing date and may lower the cruise fare as the sailing date approaches. While last-minute deals do not happen on every cruise itinerary, they can make for some amazing savings on a cruise vacation.

How to find a last-minute cruise deal

If you're wondering how to get a last minute cruise deal, there's a few good considerations.

Be flexible

The first step to finding a great last-minute cruise deal is to remain flexible. If you’re already set on the ship, itinerary, and time of year you want to cruise, it’s probably better to book a cruise further in advance rather than wait for a last-minute deal that may or may not happen.

Last-minute cruise deals are often unpredictable, with deals appearing one day and disappearing the next! If you’re truly looking for the best last-minute deal you can find, you won’t have much choice over itinerary, ship, cruise length, or stateroom options.

Use Vacations To Go has a "90-day ticker" on their website, providing an extensive list of cruises departing within the next 90 days across major cruise lines. This is an excellent way to quickly search for last-minute cruise deals when you’re flexible on port, stateroom choice, ship, and even cruise line.

The 90-day ticker allows you to filter the results by stateroom type, currency, and price per night. The price per night feature is useful for those looking for the cheapest cruise per day, with some last-minute cruises listed for as little as $40 per day!

Once you find a cheap cruise you’re interested in on Vacations To Go, you can search for the same cruise directly on Royal Caribbean’s website or contact your travel agent to book the cruise for you.

It can be difficult to sort through cruise itineraries, ships, and cruise lines to find the cheapest deal, so Vacations To Go comes in handy when looking for a last-minute cruise.

Look at older, smaller ships

If you’re hoping to sail on one of Royal Caribbean’s brand new cruise ships, such as Odyssey of the Seas or Wonder of the Seas, you’re better off booking a cruise far in advance rather than waiting for a last-minute deal.

Ships in high demand are unlikely to have last-minute deals available, as they’re more likely to be booked further in advance.

Read more: Why you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships

Instead, take a look at Royal Caribbean’s older and smaller ships when searching for a last-minute cruise. Radiance Class ships, for example, may have better last-minute deals to Alaska compared to Quantum Class ships.

In addition, Voyager and Freedom Class ships come with great savings in the Caribbean compared to the Oasis Class, which rarely have last-minute deals available.

Consider short and long itineraries

A 7-night cruise is the “standard” length of a cruise vacation, offering just the right amount of time for a mix of sea and port days. This is the most common option you’ll see when browsing Royal Caribbean cruises.

Therefore, when searching for a last-minute cruise deal, you might have better luck searching for short (3-4 night) and long (8+ night) sailings.

Itineraries on Navigator of the Seas out of Los Angeles, for example, tend to have regular deals available on both the 3-night and 4-night cruises.

Longer cruises, including repositioning sailings, also tend to have more deals available. A long cruise, especially one that is 10 nights or longer, has less demand due to vacation time required for the cruise. Because of this, it's possible to find last-minute cruise deals on long itineraries if your schedule permits.

Sail during non-peak times of year 

Last-minute cruise deals are more frequently found during non-peak times of year. The peak cruise season in North America and Europe is from May to August, aligning with the school calendar. Peak season is also found during holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break).

Read more: What is the best time to cruise to the Caribbean?

Outside of peak season, you’re much more likely to find cheaper cruise fares and last-minute deals. Here are some of the best times to find a last-minute cruise deal:

  • January and February
  • March (before the spring break season)
  • April (after the spring break season)
  • May
  • September and October
  • November (before Thanksgiving)
  • December (first two weeks only)

Contact a travel agent

Travel agents can be a fantastic resource when trying to book a last-minute cruise.

Royal Caribbean regularly sends information to travel agents about deals on upcoming cruises. Therefore, travel agents may have a better understanding of what ships and sailings are offering last-minute deals.

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

Plus, if a travel agent knows you are looking for a last-minute cruise, they’ll be able to contact you whenever a deal appears to see if you would like to book the cruise.

Sail from a port close to home

While last-minute cruise fares can lead to some amazing savings, these savings can sometimes be negated by last-minute airfare prices. A plane ticket that would otherwise cost $200 when booked months in advance can increase dramatically when booking at the last minute.

Therefore, we recommend looking for last-minute cruise deals closer to your home port than ports across the country (or world). If you live in the northeast, look for deals out of Cape Liberty rather than Los Angeles or Miami.

Likewise, if you live anywhere on the west coast you’re better off searching for last-minute deals from the ports of Los Angeles, Seattle, or Vancouver.

If you do not live within driving distance to a cruise port, be sure to look at airfare prices before booking a last-minute cruise. The last thing you want to happen is to book a cheap cruise only to find out the airfare is astronomically expensive!

Sign up for Royal Caribbean’s emails

An easy way to be notified of last-minute cruise deals is to sign up for Royal Caribbean's emails. If you’ve never been on a Royal Caribbean cruise before, click on the “Deals” tab on Royal Caribbean’s website, scroll to the bottom, and fill out the contact information form.

Once your email is added to the form, you’ll begin receiving emails from the cruise line regularly detailing not only last-minute cruise deals, but information on new activities, ships, and news from the cruise line.

Last-minute cruise cabins

Booking a last-minute cruise deal may come with cheap prices, but stateroom categories will often be limited. If you’re booking a cruise just a few weeks (or days) before the cruise departs, some cabins may be sold out. Whether a balcony, interior, or oceanview stateroom, there’s no guarantee a particular cabin will be available on a last-minute cruise.

If you are hoping to book a balcony, you may find that only interior cabins and suites are available, leaving you to sacrifice on either comfort or budget.

In addition, if you have a particular suite in mind, you may end up disappointed with suite selection on a last-minute cruise. Many suite categories may be completely sold out, leaving you with fewer options to choose from. In fact, it's not uncommon for all suites to be sold out when booking a last-minute cruise!

While you can still have an excellent cruise vacation in a different room category, it might not be the experience you were hoping for in a suite.

Guarantee staterooms

The last-minute deals you see for a cruise may be for a guarantee stateroom. This means that you do not have the chance to select your stateroom location yourself. Instead, you pay for a guaranteed room in a specific stateroom category. Royal Caribbean will then assign you a stateroom close to the sail date depending on which rooms are still available.

Read more: Should I book a guarantee stateroom on a cruise?

There are pros and cons to booking a guarantee stateroom. The biggest benefit is the lower price available, meaning you can save more of your cruise budget for things like drinks, shore excursions, and specialty dining.

There’s also the slight chance of an upgrade if there are no more staterooms available in your guaranteed category. If you booked a guarantee oceanview room, for example, and those rooms are sold out, you could be upgraded to a balcony cabin at no extra cost.

The major downside to booking a guarantee cabin, though, is that you have no control over your stateroom location. If you prefer being midship and close to the action onboard, you may end up in a cabin located very far forward or aft. Not only will this lead to longer walking times, but you may feel more of the ship’s movement in your cabin.

Therefore, if choosing your stateroom is extremely important to you, you will want to make sure the last-minute cruise deal is still available when choosing your own cabin location.

Are last-minute cruises always cheaper?

Booking a last-minute cruise does not necessarily mean you’ll find the cheapest fare. In fact, a quick search on Royal Caribbean’s website shows that many of the cheapest fares listed when filtering the search from “Price: Low to High” are for many months in advance.

Cruise pricing is extremely dynamic and quite unpredictable, so just because a cruise is departing in a few days does not mean the price will always be cheaper than a cruise several months later. In fact, the cheapest cruise fares are usually found right when Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries, which is usually around two years prior to the departure date.

Read more: How to find the cheapest cabins on Royal Caribbean

That being said, it's still possible to find last-minute deals, but you should not expect to always see cheap fares close to departure.

Repricing non last-minute cruise deals

While the prospect of booking a last-minute, cheap cruise fare may seem tempting, it's not necessarily the best way to find a cheap cruise.

Booking in advance can actually offer a cheaper (and more flexible) cruising experience due to Royal Caribbean's repricing policy.

No matter how far in advance you book a cruise, you're able to reprice your cruise an unlimited amount of times prior to final payment. If you initially paid $1500 for a 7-night cruise and the price drops to $1200, Royal Caribbean will refund you the difference in fare.

Read more: Do cruise prices drop?

The only downside to repricing a cruise is that you are unable to reprice the cruise after final payment date. Therefore if the cruise suddenly drops in price ~50 days prior to departure, you'll be stuck paying a higher fare than those booking last-minute.

However, booking earlier is recommended. More often than not, a last-minute cruise deal will not occur for your sailing. Extremely cheap last-minute cruises are the exception, not the rule.

Cancellation policy for last-minute cruises

Because last-minute cruises are booked so close to departure, there is not as much cancellation flexibility compared to booking a cruise months or years in advance. Depending on when you book a last-minute cruise, you may have to pay a cancellation charge if you decide to cancel the sailing.

Ranging from 25% to 100% of the total cost of your cruise, cancellation fees can easily reach thousands of dollars. Therefore, it’s important to be 100% certain you plan to cruise before you book a last-minute sailing.

Royal Caribbean has the following cancellation policy, with cruise cancellation charges varying depending on how far in advance you cancel a cruise:

Cancellation charges on 1-4 night cruises

  • 75+ days prior to departure: no charge (except nonrefundable deposit)
  • 74 to 61 days: 50% of total price
  • 60 to 31 days: 75% of total price
  • 30 days or less: 100% of total price (no refund)

Cancellation charges on 5+ night sailings

  • 90+ days prior to departure: no charge (except nonrefundable deposit)
  • 89 to 75 days: 25% off total price
  • 74 to 61 days: 50% off total price
  • 60 to 31 days: 75% off total price
  • 30 days or less: 100% of total price (no refund)

Pros of booking a last-minute cruise

Great savings

If you’re lucky enough to find a cheap last-minute cruise deal, you can have a truly amazing cruise experience on a budget. Saving money on cruise fare can mean splurging on extras like spa treatments, drink packages, or even a higher category stateroom.

Spontaneous vacation

Spontaneous adventures, whether road trips, date nights, or vacations, are a whole lot of fun. Transitioning from normal life to life on a cruise with little notice can be exhilarating. After all, why spend the weekend watching TV at home when you could be relaxing in the Caribbean?

Cons of booking a last-minute cruise

Cruise addons

Booking a last-minute cruise means you are late to the game when it comes to booking cruise addons like shore excursions and dining packages. By the time you book your cruise, you may find much less availability on excursions and dining packages may be sold out.

Prices of cruise addons may be more expensive as well, as you don’t have the ability to book addons far in advance and later cancel and rebook if you see a cheaper price.

Airfare and hotel prices

Booking a last-minute cruise may mean spending more on transportation to and from the cruise departure port. Airfare, rental cars, train tickets, and hotels tend to only increase in price over time.

You’ll also have less choice when it comes to booking a flight schedule and hotel, which can lead to less than ideal scenarios.

Fewer stateroom choices

One of the biggest cons of a last-minute cruise is that fewer stateroom choices are available. How much this matters to you depends on your cruising style, as some passengers spend a lot of time in their cabin and others view the cabin as just a place to shower and sleep.

Booking at the last minute comes with far fewer stateroom categories than booking in advance, which could leave you disappointed.

Logistics can get complicated

If you have pets, figuring out who can watch them while you’re away on short notice is not always easy. If you have kids, it can be difficult to take them out of school at the last minute when homework, tests, and activities are happening throughout the week.

Planning a last-minute cruise can be more complicated for some passengers than others, so it’s important to consider logistics before booking.

More cruise planning resources:

Serenade of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

06 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

A cruise delayed is not a cruise denied.

Serenade of the Seas pool deck

We were supposed to sail on Serenade of the Seas last week, but my kids caught the flu from school, so we had to push our plans back a week. We cancelled the first sailing (which we got a 100% future cruise credit because we booked under Royal Caribbean's flexible cancellation policy known as Cruise with Confidence) and then booked a new sailing for the following week so we can still do a back-to-back cruise.

Our cruise sails from Vancouver, so we flew from Orlando to Seattle and then rented a car to drive from Seattle to Vancouver.  After spending two nights in Vancouver to explore, it's time to cruise!

We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel, which is attached to cruise port at Canada Place.  The hotel's cruise package allows for bell services to take your baggage down to the ship and you can then take the elevator downstairs and board the ship. Perfect for our family!

For check-in, we took the elevator downstairs and walked through the convention center to find the check-in area. There were three ships in port today, each with a line for them.

I had 11am check-in window, but the suite concierge emailed us before the cruise to say we had the option of coming in up to an hour early, so we arrived at 10am.

Once the line opened, check-in was easy and we breezed through check-in, security, and customs. Interestingly we went through U.S. Customs even though we were in Canada because I assume to save us the trouble when we get to Alaska later.

It took a while for the ship to be cleared and for boarding to begin. I think boarding didn't begin until around 11:30am.

Once we got onboard, our first stop was the Windjammer for lunch. 

Our next stop was the Vitality Spa to book my wife a massage. In a moment of fatherly weakness, I agreed to let my girls get their nails done in the spa.

We then walked around the ship to check out the various spaces, such as the cinema, fitness center, Schooner Bar and more.

We waited for our room to open on the pool deck. The morning rain had subsided, so it was nice to be outdoors with the breeze.

The cabins were ready at 2pm. For this cruise, we are booked in the two bedroom panoramic oceanview suite. 

There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a giant window in the living room. I'm hoping this will be perfect for glacier viewing.

We then headed down to the Schooner Bar to complete our muster drill.

We scoped out the main dining room table assignment. We are in the first seating, and got a table right by the window just for our family.

Adventure Ocean opened up for registration at 2pm, where we signed them up in case they end up going.

Our last stop on the list was the Suite Lounge to meet the suite concierge

By now the kids wanted to get back to the cabin to relax, so headed back to the room.

We had early dinner for this cruise (5:15pm), so we just enjoyed time in the room while we waited for our luggage to be delivered.

Dinner was right before sailaway, so we placed our order and then ran up to the helipad to enjoy sailaway out of Vancouver. 

Almost immediately, the ship passes under a bridge, and while windy and a little chilly, it was a great way to start the cruise.

I thought dinner went well for the first day, with the entire meal complete in just about an hour and fifteen minutes. Our waiters kept things moving and I enjoyed my Indian curry.

After dinner we walked through the Centrum shops. They had a lot of Alaska souvenirs. In fact, it seemed most of the store was exclusively Alaska gifts, with a few generic Royal Caribbean souvenirs in the back.

The kids quickly got bored of hanging with us, so they went back to the cabin to play on their devices.  My wife and I took the opportunity to grab a couple of cocktails in the Suite Lounge.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Stray Observations

Here's the price of the Royal Caribbean drink package (alcohol) if you bought it onboard.

Every Radiance Class ship has a piece of "art" at the top of the Centrum elevator bank. On Serenade, it's a pair of cows.

There are set times where kids can use the pool in the Solarium on this cruise because of the cold weather.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 5, 2022

05 Jun 2022
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! It is getting hot outside these days, and the Royal Caribbean news this week is equally heated.

Royal Caribbean updated guests still holding a future cruise credit with some good news this week.

Any future cruise credit you may have from the Covid-era now has no expiration date and is good indefinitely.

As of June 1, 2022, Royal Caribbean announced that all unredeemed future cruise credits (FCC) offered under the Cruise with Confidence program will no longer expire.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 457th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, reviewing Kurt's recent Enchantment of the Seas cruise.

Kurt shares what is experience was like having recently sailed on Enchantment of the Seas from Baltimore.

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.

New RCB Video: What everyone should include in their cruise carry-on!

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 everyone should include in their cruise carry-on! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Subtle changes Royal Caribbean made on Wonder of the Seas

Wall hooks on Wonder of the Seas

Every cruise ship Royal Caribbean builds is slightly different from the last, and Wonder of the Seas has its own set of tweaks.

Besides the amazing new shows and areas you wont find any other Oasis Class ship, here are a few subtle changes Royal Caribbean made to Wonder of the Seas that I noticed (and most of them I liked).

Freedom of the Seas Guide & Review

Freedom of the Seas in front of Rocks

Freedom of the Seas currently sails 3- and 4-night short Bahamas cruises from Miami, and it's a popular weekend getaway ship

If you’re considering booking a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, be sure to read this planning and overview guide so you are fully prepared for your upcoming cruise vacation.

Things I've tried on Royal Caribbean that I won't do again

Allie listed the things she's done on a cruise ship that she won't be doing again.

We all have our own set of "one and done" lists, and this week focuses on the activities and choices Allie made on Royal Caribbean that she'll skip next time around.

Things I've tried on Royal Caribbean that I won't do again

04 Jun 2022
Allie Hubers

While I absolutely love cruising and traveling, we all know that sometimes things don’t go exactly as we planned. Sometimes we try things that just don’t live up to our expectations. Other times, we are wowed by something that we never had on our radar.

Symphony of the Seas pool deck

Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships are built to appeal to a wide demographic, so we aren’t necessarily meant to love everything a cruise ship has to offer. 

Traveling can also just be unpredictable - I’ve definitely had my fair share of travel woes over the years.

Take for instance the time my family flew all the way to Brazil to meet up with me on my Semester at Sea - just in time for the Brazilian embassy to go on strike and hold our passports hostage. I’ll also never forget the time I traveled 9 hours inland for a safari in Senegal only to see zero animals in the wild. 

With cruising back in full force, I’ve been reflecting on my Royal Caribbean cruising experience over the years. After 30 cruises, there are certainly things that I won’t be doing in the future after learning some valuable lessons. 

Here’s a list of everything that I tried on a Royal Caribbean cruise that I won’t do again.

Booking an excursion every day

Royal Caribbean excursion sign

In our early days of cruising, we would have an excursion planned for every single port day. After doing this a few times, we all decided that an excursion each day was simply too much. 

Most of the time, we had to get up earlier than we wanted to on vacation so we could have breakfast and get ready in time. We’d be in the sun all day doing whatever fun activity we had planned. By the time we got back to the ship, we would be exhausted!

Of course, having some excursions planned can really maximize time in port. Excursions definitely have a time and place.

I just don’t think we will be booking back-to-back excursions anymore. Not only is this very expensive to book multiple Royal Caribbean excursions, but it doesn’t allow for flexibility. Sometimes it’s nice to have a slow start to your morning and not have any plans set in stone. It’s good to have rest days, even if it means being on your own schedule. 

Having a stateroom at the very front of the ship

When I sailed to Hawaii with my family, we were offered an upgrade to a 2-bedroom suite onboard the cruise ship. We were so excited to have a huge room because we normally cruise in inside cabins.  

Our Hawaii stateroom was absolutely gorgeous. It had a separate bedroom for kids down a long curvy hallway. We also had our own bathroom, which was so nice. It felt like cruising in luxury!

But we learned immediately why no one had booked it. The hallway to our bedroom was so curvy because it wrapped around the very front of the ship. Maybe we just had bad luck with rough seas, but we were all sick every night that the ship was sailing. 

Odyssey of the Seas

We heard that the Pacific Ocean is often more rocky than the Atlantic or Mediterranean, so we really should have done some thinking about that before jumping on the upgrade offer.

I won’t be booking a cabin at the very front and top of the ship, regardless of how good of a deal it is! It isn’t worth it to be seasick every night, regardless of how beautiful the stateroom is. 

Not making dinner reservations

This seems to be a problem that’s getting progressively worse with cruising. On a recent Harmony of the Seas cruise, we didn’t make any reservations for dinner because we wanted to have some flexibility. We had booked My Time Dining, so we thought we could eat whenever we wanted.

That was clearly not the case. Apparently, everyone had booked dinner reservations prior to coming onboard. My Time Dining used to mean we could just show up and be seated whenever we wanted. Now, everyone makes reservations for My Time Dining and if you don’t have one, you’ll be waiting in line before getting seated.

We were panicked at first, as my dad prefers to eat earlier than most people. The hostess was able to get us a set table each night for the early dining time, which resolved our issue thankfully. 

But, we learned a valuable lesson! We won’t be winging it with reservations on future cruises, especially on Oasis class ships.

Taking a red eye flight the night before a cruise

We never fly into a port the same day as our cruise, but my husband and I found ourselves stuck with a red eye flight that landed in the early morning on our cruise departing. 

We were sailing right after Christmas on Jewel of the Seas from San Juan. We booked a direct flight from Minneapolis to San Juan that landed at 6 a.m. on the morning of the cruise. This flight was reasonably priced on Sun Country for $200, but every other airline was charging astronomical prices for non-direct flights. 

I was so stressed about the possibility of a delay that I had a hard time getting excited about the cruise. Even though it seemed like the best flight option, I was so worried about having a delay or cancellation that would prevent us from boarding our cruise. 

In the future, I will continue to spend extra if it means we can get into a port the day before the cruise. It’s not worth risking your cruise entirely, even if it saves a bit of money!

Wasting time at the spa giveaway

One time, we got roped into attending a spa giveaway in our early days of cruising. It was during the set sail party too, so we were hoping it would be worthwhile to miss the departure views of the ship sailing off. 

We should have known that nothing onboard is really free once you get on the cruise ship, as Royal Caribbean wants you to spend money onboard. 

My sister is notoriously lucky and won the "giveaway." We were all thrilled for her, clapping and cheering when they called her name. We were obviously thinking it was going to be a really nice prize.

Of course, it was far from a free spa treatment or service. The prize was something like, “Spend $300 and save $100 on a spa treatment if you book by Day 2.” This is probably a decent deal if you were already going to spend money at the spa, but we didn’t have any plans to spend money there in the first place. 

As such, we’ve never gone back to a spa giveaway on our Royal Caribbean cruises - or any other giveaway for that matter! We would rather spend our time on other activities that we enjoy more, like hot tubbing in the Solarium with a cocktail in hand.

Splurging on a spa treatment

Massage at the spa

Since we are on the topic of going to the spa, I won’t be returning for any spa treatment on future Royal Caribbean cruises. 

I know some people have great experiences with going to the spa and that’s a big part of their vacation. I am not really a spa person to begin with; I don’t get my nails or hair done often and rarely have massages. 

I had never had a spa treatment on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship before, but I was feeling proud that I had survived my husband’s deployment and wanted to treat myself to a massage. I had woken up with a sore neck after our ship hit some rough waters, so what better time to indulge!

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Tracy's Arm Fjord | Royal Caribbean Blog

The treatment was $200, which is half of what the entire 7-night cruise cost. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I figured this was a special treat to myself and not something I do often.

Halfway through the hot stone massage, the masseuse told me I had a mass on my shoulder. I was confused and asked her if she meant that I had a knot, as this was the reason I came to the spa in the first place. 

She said no, it wasn’t a knot, and I needed to go to the doctor back home for a biopsy to be done on the mass. She even stated, “Early detection is good.”  

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa | Royal Caribbean Blog

I was absolutely shocked and flabbergasted. I broke down in tears with the stress overwhelming me. I wondered how I was supposed to enjoy the rest of my vacation with this looming thought. 

She then asked if I wanted to schedule a consultation with the acupuncturist to help with my anxiety. I was so disheartened by the experience that I left in tears. I’m a naturally anxious person, so she probably couldn’t have said this to a worse person. 

Luckily, I spoke to the spa manager and she was deeply sorry about the issue. She offered me a full refund and assured me that this should have never happened. Of course, I just had bad luck that this happened. I am sure the masseuse had good intentions, but she isn’t a medical professional.

After this unfortunate experience, I won’t be treating myself to anything at the spa again though. 

Sliding down the waterslides

My last few cruises had brand new waterslides that I was excited to try out. Both times, we had to wait in short lines but I was excited to try them out. 

As I flung myself down the entrance of the slide, it seemed that I was barely putzing my way down the waterslide. I don’t know if that’s the intent of the slides and perhaps smaller cruisers have a more exhilarating time. 

I guess I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I won’t be spending my time trying the waterslides anymore. These are definitely aimed at kids, but are meant to be family friendly for cruisers of all ages. 

Even though I didn’t have to wait long, I would have been bummed if I had waited in a long line to have an underwhelming experience.