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Above-average hurricane season predicted for 2022: What that means for cruise ships

In:
03 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The first week of June kicked off hurricane season in the Atlantic, meaning there's a chance a tropical storm could form and disrupt cruise ship plans.

Cruise ship in a storm

Hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30, and there's no telling what to expect each year as it relates to storms.

While there is potential for a hurricane to get in the way of your cruise ship plans, avoiding cruising all together during this time of year seems an overreaction.

With hurricane season back, now is a good time to refresh yourself on the basics and what you should know for this season.

Above-average hurricane season predicted for 2022

Storm near beach

For what it's worth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published their outlook for the 2022 hurricane season.

According to the agency, they a 65% chance of an above-normal season, a 25% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

2022 hurricane season prediction

They believe there will be more storm than normal because:

  1. The ongoing La Niña that is likely to persist throughout the hurricane season
  2. Warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea
  3. Weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds
  4. An enhanced west African monsoon

They expect 14-21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence.

You can read the full outlook on NOAA's website.

Of course, these are just best guesses, so what will actually happen is still unknown.

Follow the man with the answers

Weather | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you have a Caribbean cruise booked this summer or fall, as your sail date approaches, you will probably start to wonder if a hurricane will impact your cruise.

Royal Caribbean employs its own meteorologist, who's job it is to track all the storms and provide each ship advice and insight.

While his job is to inform the fleet, he also shares his forecasts with the cruising public. You would be well served to follow James Van Fleet on any of his social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

While he doesn't post every day, when there is a tropical storm that could disrupt plans, he shares the various possibilities and gives much better insight into how the storm may (or may not) disrupt cruise ship plans. Watching the news forecasts rarely touch on cruise ship plans, so Mr. Van Fleet's insight is invaluable.

Basics of hurricane season

If you have a cruise planned during hurricane season, don't assume the worst about it being disrupted. More than likely, there won't be hurricanes around when you cruise.  But if there is, here are the basics.

Buy travel insurance

Travel insurance

Hurricanes don't just disrupt cruise ships, they can wreak havoc on many other aspects of travel. Getting to and from your cruise ship is just as likely, if not more so, to be impacted by a storm.

Travel insurance policies are relatively inexpensive and provide so much peace of mind should your plans not work out. 

Now is a good time to research the various travel insurance providers that are out there and review what a policy covers.

Keep in mind not all travel insurance policies are the same, so read the fine print about when it kicks in, and what it does and does not cover.

Ships will avoid hurricanes

If there is a hurricane predicted in the path of your ship, Royal Caribbean will go around the storm.

Itineraries can be flipped (port order changed), swapped out (eastern instead of western Caribbean or vice versa), or completely new itineraries created.

As long as the embarkation port is open, your ship will almost certainly sail, but there could be an itinerary change. Per the cruise contract you agreed to when you booked a cruise, no compensation is required to be given if your itinerary changes.

The bottom line is your ship will not sail anywhere near the storm.

What if the storm changes path and my ship is now in the way?

If the ocean starts getting too rough, cruise ships are able to outrun the storm.

A typical hurricane moves around 10 knots, but cruise ships can get up to 22 knots or higher in speed.

You can get a great deal

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Want to find some of the cheapest prices for a Caribbean cruise? Book something in late summer or early fall.

Some of the cheapest times of the year to go on a cruise are the months of September and October because it falls right in the peak of hurricane season (and school is back in session). Late August is also usually priced cheaply.

20 tips for a Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise

In:
03 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a wonderful way to honeymoon. Everything is taken care of for you, from dining to cleaning, entertainment, and transportation.

Being able to sit back and relax with your new husband or wife is a stress-free way to kick off your marriage, but there’s a lot of planning behind the scenes to ensure you have the best honeymoon cruise possible.

From choosing a ship to splurging on a stateroom and shore excursions, here are our top 20 tips for planning a Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise.

Choose a cruise ship wisely

The first step to booking a honeymoon cruise is choosing which ship will work best for your preferences. Not all Royal Caribbean ships are built the same, varying in size, amenities, dining options, itineraries, and entertainment.

Reading through our guide on each class of Royal Caribbean cruise ships can be a great starting point to determining which type of ships seem most interesting to you. Smaller ships, like Vision or Radiance Class, may not have as many bells and whistles, but offer fascinating itineraries around the world.

Royal Caribbean’s largest ships, like Quantum or Oasis Class, truly follow the mindset that the ship is the destination. From water slides to ziplines, countless bars and restaurants, and unique entertainment venues, big ships offer many amenities not found on other ships in the fleet.

Read more: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

Each type of cruise ship has its own pros and cons, so determining what you value in a cruise vacation can help you make a decision. Speaking with a good travel agent can be helpful as well, as they will be able to gauge your interests and cruising style to better help you pick the best cruise ship possible for your honeymoon.

Pick the best itinerary for you

Royal Caribbean offers itineraries around the world, from the fjords of Alaska to the beaches of the South Pacific. It’s important to choose your itinerary wisely to ensure you aren’t left disappointed while on your honeymoon.

Beach lovers will be pleased with either a Caribbean or South Pacific cruise, but individual islands can vary in terms of what activities are offered. Reading through reviews of ports and shore excursions can be a solid starting point for picking a cruise itinerary.

Read more: How to choose the right Caribbean sailing

Islands like St. Thomas and St. Maarten offer a totally different experience than the Western Caribbean ports of Costa Maya and Cozumel, whereas some itineraries will focus more on Royal Caribbean’s private destinations than others.

If you’re not a fan of laying at the beach, look for itineraries in more active destinations. Mediterranean cruises, for example, tend to focus more on visiting historical sites, monuments, and towns along the coast.

There is no “best itinerary” when it comes to a cruise, so taking a look at what types of activities you prefer doing when on shore is the first step toward picking the right itinerary for your honeymoon.

Splurge on an amazing stateroom

Say goodbye to interior cabins and say hello to balconies and suites. While it’s totally fine to cruise on a budget, consider splurging a bit more on your honeymoon. It is your honeymoon after all!

A balcony will be especially nice to have on a honeymoon cruise as it provides a private outdoor area where you and your spouse can relax, have a drink, and enjoy each other’s company.

If you’re looking to treat yourself even more, though, look into suite options for a more luxurious cruise vacation. Suites can vary by ship, but they all include benefits such as priority boarding and departure, concierge service, Suite Lounge access, priority dining reservations, luxury bathroom amenities, VIP pool deck seating, and more.

Oasis and Quantum Class ships have the Royal Suite Class, which provides all of the benefits above plus complimentary access to the suites-only Coastal Kitchen restaurant and–depending on your suite category–access to a Royal Genie.

If you're wondering whether or not a suite is worth it on your honeymoon, check out our YouTube video:

Use RoyalUp

While booking the biggest suite in Royal Caribbean’s fleet may sound nice, it’s definitely not in everyone’s honeymoon budget. If you’re looking for the chance to upgrade your stateroom at a lower cost, try bidding through the RoyalUp program.

RoyalUp is Royal Caribbean’s bidding system that can be used to make “bids” on upgraded stateroom categories. If you booked an interior room, for example, and are hoping to upgrade to a balcony stateroom, you can make a bid through RoyalUp. If your bid is accepted, you’ll be placed in the upgraded stateroom category.

RoyalUp is a bit of a gamble, so it’s not recommended to rely on winning a bid every time. However, if you want to try upgrading stateroom categories without spending as much money as booking the stateroom outright, it’s worth a try.

Read more: How to upgrade your cabin on Royal Caribbean

Consider an Alaska cruise for your honeymoon

While the word “honeymoon” tends to stir up images of sandy beaches and palm trees, a cruise to Alaska can be an unexpectedly amazing honeymoon idea.

Alaska cruises are undeniably gorgeous, with mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife around every corner. Unlike in the Caribbean where days at sea will have views of, well, the ocean, Alaska cruises almost always have picturesque scenery surrounding the ship.

Cruises to Alaska sail through the state’s Inside Passage, so you and your spouse can enjoy a peaceful morning in bed or on your balcony while viewing colossal mountains and glaciers. Alaska cruises make for some unforgettable shore excursions as well, from helicopter tours to whale watching and kayaking.

The weather on an Alaska cruise may be colder than what you’ll experience on a tropical honeymoon, but it offers the perfect excuse to cuddle up with a blanket in bed with your new husband or wife.

Read more: 50 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Book with a travel agent

Booking a Royal Caribbean cruise with a travel agent is always a good idea, but especially for a honeymoon cruise. With all the stress that comes with planning a wedding, you don’t want to worry about organizing all of the details of your cruise vacation, too.

A good travel agent will cost nothing extra and will be an extremely valuable resource for you and your spouse before and during the cruise. They can offer advice on itineraries, ship choice, things to do in port, and onboard amenities. If you have any questions or concerns for Royal Caribbean, they will be the ones to contact the cruise line, meaning you won’t have to waste time figuring out your own solutions and waiting on hold on the phone.

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

Book a specialty dining package

While you can enjoy plenty of complimentary dining options on a Royal Caribbean cruise, celebrating your honeymoon onboard is a great excuse to book a dining package. Whether you book the 3-night Dining Package or Unlimited Dining Package, you’ll have the opportunity to try Royal Caribbean’s diverse and high-quality specialty restaurants.

Specialty dining venues cover a wide range of cuisines, from Italian to Japanese and classic American steakhouse fare. Some of our favorites include 150 Central Park if you’re in the mood for an elegant meal or Izumi Hibachi if you’d rather have a more lively dining experience.

If you’re on the fence of whether or not to purchase a dining package for your honeymoon cruise, our video on the pros and cons of a dining package should help you make a decision:

Book a beverage package

Just like a dining package, a Royal Caribbean drink package will also enhance your honeymoon cruise. Being able to order wine, cocktails, beer, and spirits without worrying about the cost of each individual drink will make your day to day onboard less stressful. Three types of beverage packages are available: the Soda Package, Refreshment Package, and Deluxe Beverage Package.

The Deluxe Beverage Package is best for passengers who drink alcoholic beverages, as it covers all alcoholic drinks up to $13. Nonalcoholic beverages are included in the package as well, such as fresh squeezed juices, soda, and specialty coffee drinks.

If your honeymoon cruise visits Royal Caribbean’s private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, your drink package will work on shore as well, giving extra value to your purchase.

Read more: Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons

Treat yourself to amazing shore excursions

While it’s fun to treat yourself onboard with dining packages, an upgraded stateroom, room service, and spa treatments, don’t forget about booking amazing shore excursions while in port. Royal Caribbean cruises visit some incredible destinations, each of which has a plethora of activities to fit all interests.

It’s important to research the ports you will be visiting and make note of any activities or places that look interesting to you. You want your honeymoon to go as smoothly as possible, so having a general idea of what you plan to do each day will be helpful.

Read more: Guide to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean shore excursion

If you’re in the mood for a fun-filled beach day, an all-inclusive day pass at a resort or a catamaran tour may be of interest. Adrenaline seekers may consider ziplining tours, snorkeling, or scuba diving. History lovers will enjoy visiting Mayan ruins, ancient European cities, and local museums.

If you’re visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay, a day pass at the Coco Beach Club can be a really nice enhancement to your day on shore. If you value having a more secluded, private area to enjoy with your spouse along with a delicious Mediterranean lunch at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, definitely look into spending the day at the Coco Beach Club.

Read more: Coco Beach Club: cost, tips & review

Start a Honeymoon Registry

Why book shore excursions, specialty restaurants, and massages yourself when your friends and family can purchase them for you? Royal Caribbean has its own Honeymoon Registry program, where you can start a registry tailored to your specific cruise ship and interests.

You can register for as many activities, room upgrades, shore excursions, dining packages, and other cruise addons as you wish. Your registry will have its own link, which your friends and family can access to purchase items from your wishlist. Purchases will be “delivered” to you via onboard credit during the cruise.

Reserve a private cabana

If your honeymoon cruise visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, consider reserving a cabana for your day on shore. Cabanas are available around the island, whether at Oasis Lagoon, Thrill Waterpark, Chill Beach, or the Coco Beach Club.

Cabanas offer a private enclave on the island, with seating, hammocks, shade, complimentary beach mats, lockable storage, cabana concierge service, charging outlets, and more.

If you’re really looking to splurge, reserve a floating cabana at the Coco Beach Club. These cabanas feature comfy seating, pool chairs, an over-the-water hammock, waterslide, freshwater shower, drink cooler, and cabana service. They also include lunch at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, which you can enjoy at the restaurant itself or from the privacy of your floating cabana.

Read more: Guide to CocoCay cabanas

If a cabana is too expensive for your budget, a daybed is a nice alternative, although Perfect Day at CocoCay has so many chairs and umbrellas that spending extra money is not totally necessary.

Cabanas are also available at Royal Caribbean's other private destination, Labadee, and may be available in various ports of call as well.

Consider booking a photo package

Once onboard your cruise, you will notice photographers who are available to capture memories of your cruise vacation. Having your picture taken by Royal Caribbean’s photographers is completely free, but purchasing the photos will come at an additional cost.

A photo package can be purchased ahead of time on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. Prices can vary, but expect to spend around $150-200 for packages with 20-100 photos, which can be delivered in print or digital format.

While you will likely take many photos on your phone, purchasing professional photos onboard can be a nice way to remember your honeymoon and all the fun memories, both onboard and in port, that went with it.

Request a private table in the Main Dining Room

If you’re hoping for a more intimate dining atmosphere in the Main Dining Room on your honeymoon, make sure to request a private table for you and your spouse. With so many passengers onboard, it’s not always guaranteed that you will, by default, be seated at your own private table.

While dining with strangers and making new friends can be nice, having a private table will mean more quality time to spend together.

Treat yourself to room service

Not much feels more luxurious than breakfast in bed with views of the ocean outside your window. Whether pancakes at breakfast or salmon at dinner, ordering room service on a honeymoon cruise is a must.

Royal Caribbean’s room service is not free, with the exception of continental breakfast. However, it comes at a price of only $7.95 per order, per room, so ordering room service occasionally is almost always worth the extra cost for convenience on any honeymoon cruise.

Read more: Royal Caribbean room service guide & tips

Book a spa treatment

A honeymoon is all about treating yourself and enjoying time together as newlyweds. Why not book a spa treatment together to enhance your cruise? Royal Caribbean offers a variety of couples treatments at the Vitality Spa, from a deep tissue massage to aroma stone therapy. Whichever treatment you choose, you’re guaranteed to leave the spa refreshed and relaxed.

If your ship has a thermal spa onboard, this can be another nice splurge on a honeymoon cruise. Thermal spas include hot stone loungers, steam rooms, saunas, and rainforest showers that bring the ultimate feeling of relaxation and luxury to a cruise vacation. Thermal spa passes can be purchased for the week and there’s often a discount if you buy a pass as a couple.

Go on a sunset stroll

All of Royal Caribbean’s ships offer plenty of places onboard to relax with a beautiful view, and heading outside for a casual stroll at sunset is a nice way to spend an evening on a honeymoon cruise.

The outdoor promenade deck or pool deck make for a nice walking path where you can take a few laps around the ship to take in the ocean and sunset views. Sometimes the most romantic of memories on a cruise vacation are found in the simplest of activities.

Purchase The Key

The Key is an addon you can purchase before a Royal Caribbean cruise that gives passengers exclusive amenities throughout the cruise. Benefits of The Key include:

  • Priority access into the terminal on Day 1
  • Carry-on bag drop off in the Main Dining Room with stateroom delivery
  • Exclusive embarkation day lunch in the Main Dining Room with the Chops Grille menu
  • Private time at onboard activities such as rock climbing and the FlowRider
  • Early access at entertainment venues
  • VOOM Surf & Stream internet for 1 device
  • Exclusive breakfast on disembarkation day and choice departure

There are pros and cons of purchasing The Key, but it can be a nice way to enhance a honeymoon cruise. Priority boarding, exclusive time at activities, and private meals can help bring that feeling of exclusivity to your honeymoon and allow you to experience more onboard with less time waiting in lines.

Surprise your spouse with a treat

Another addon that can be purchased prior to your cruise are surprises that will arrive in your stateroom on embarkation day. Plates of chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, chocolate cake, cheese trays, wine, and more are available to purchase on the Cruise Planner website.

Purchasing an item ahead of time means it will be delivered to your stateroom on the first day of the cruise, offering the perfect start to your honeymoon and a nice way to surprise your spouse with a treat.

Fly in the day before your cruise departs

One of our top cruise tips at Royal Caribbean Blog is to never fly to your cruise departure port on embarkation day. It’s always a better idea to fly in the day before your cruise begins. If your cruise leaves Miami on Monday, for example, make sure to arrive on Sunday.

Weather delays, flight cancellations, technical problems, highway congestion, and other unexpected circumstances can cause you to miss your cruise if you don’t leave enough buffer time. Flying in a day ahead of time gives you more wiggle room to catch a later flight or figure out alternate transportation options in case of delays.

It’s better to fly in a day ahead of time and spend the night in a hotel than to miss your honeymoon cruise altogether!

Read more: Why you shouldn’t fly to your cruise the same day it begins

Spend extra time on land before and after the cruise

Our last tip is to consider spending extra time in your cruise departure port before or after the cruise to make the most of your honeymoon. Royal Caribbean cruises tend to depart from cities or areas with many activities, beaches, culinary scenes, and nightlife to explore.

Whether sunbathing in Miami, sightseeing in Barcelona, or visiting Disneyland in California, spending an extra day or two prior to your cruise in your departure port can be a fun way to kickstart your honeymoon.

The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

In:
02 Jun 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Fresh off a 7 day cruise, with a few pre-cruise vacation days, I still have packing lists top of mind. Overall, I did a reasonably good job preparing for our 11 day journey, with a little room to spare in my suitcase for souvenirs, but there are a couple of things I could have included.

Packing for a cruise

There are so many fun things to do on a cruise in addition to all the great excursions. How to pack for everything? This post will provide a detailed list of what to pack, along with some helpful tips.

Planning ahead can be a great time-saver, as no one wants to use valuable vacation time doing detours while in port in a search for a forgotten item. Or missing out on a great activity, such as a galley tour, because you don't have closed toe shoes. 

Here are some of my best packing strategies and suggestions for your cruise:

Luggage

Before you start packing, it is always a good idea to make sure you have the right luggage. Royal Caribbean does not have a specific limit on the number of suitcases. For most, this will be guided by transportation options, especially flying, which has restrictions on both the size and weight of bags.

For ease of travel, I like a good, 4 wheel rolling suitcase, along with a travel style knapsack. I prefer a hard case, after an unfortunate experience with my soft-covered suitcase being out in the rain too long. Everything was completely soaked inside.

When cruising, it can be a couple of hours before you receive your suitcases, so consider carry-ons that you can easily manage with all your necessities until your cabin is ready. Your carry-on should have room enough for important valuables, required documents, and anything else you need right away, such as flip flops and a bathing suit.

Packing strategies

Suitcase open for packing

I have a couple of primary considerations, my packing philosophies if you will, that I use to help make sure I pack what I need for my vacation,  Clothes and shoes must be multi-purpose, looking at everything head to toe. There is nothing that goes in my suitcase that will be worn only once.

It is essential to pick fabrics that travel well and can easily be rolled (my favorite packing technique). I swear linen just wrinkles from looking at it, so it is a definite no for me. Also, keep in mind you can’t bring irons or steamers onboard, as they are considered a fire hazard.

Some people like packing cubes, and I have tried them in the past but was not overly impressed  by them. A couple of years ago, I did convert to rolling most of my clothes, which decreases seams and maximizes space.

Daytime clothes and accessories

How many outfits to pack? That depends on the length and type of cruise. There are no self-service laundry facilities onboard but washing, pressing, and dry-cleaning services are offered (prices vary per item). It is best to plan clothes for the number of days plus a return home outfit. Two outfits per day is a good rule of thumb (day and night).

Pack clothes that are appropriate for the climate. For the warm Caribbean sun, consider garments to keep you cool and comfortable at the pool. I monitor the weather several weeks ahead of time, looking at average temperatures and projected rainfall amounts.

For general daywear pack:

  • Clothes for lounging and the pool such as tees and tank tops, shorts, sundresses, swimwear, and cover ups
  • Comfortable pair of flip flops and sandals
  • Jeans and pants
  • Active wear including running /walking shoes
  • Clothes for onboard activities, such as the all-access ship tour, zip-lining, and rock climbing which require closed-toe shoes.
  • For chillier spots like the ice rink, include pants and a sweater
  • Don’t forget socks!
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat or visor
  • Lanyard for SeaPass

Tip: Magnetic hooks can be helpful in organizing clothes while onboard.

Evening clothes and accessories

Pile of belongings

For evening events, the dress code varies, but cruisers are less formal than they use to be. Many guests wear "Smart Casual" for formal night; Royal Caribbean's website explains the dress code to help with packing for evening wear.

  • "Smart Casual: Think of this as a step up from your typical dinner wear. Dress to impress with collared shirts, dresses, skirts, blouses, or pantsuits. Jackets, sports coats, and blazers are snazzy and welcomed.
  • Formal: Make it a night out in your best black-tie look – suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, or evening gowns, although I have to say less and less of this.
  • There are also fun theme nights, such as the White Party, 70s or 80s nights. They differ by ship, but a previous Cruise Compass will indicate what can be expected.
  • Again, think about shoe selection. Neutrals or metallics go a long way as they match with so much.
  • Sleepwear for when your fun evening comes to an end

Jewelry

It is a good idea to keep jewelry to a minimum, the less flashy the better. I don’t want to worry about losing a piece of jewelry while swimming or attract unnecessary attention in ports.

Personally, I don’t even bring fancy costume jewelry as some of it is so real looking and again, I don’t want to attract unwanted attention.

Waterproof items are also a plus, so consider them if you plan on doing anything that can get you wet like swimming and boating.

Ports and excursions

Whether it’s a beach day, bicycle tour, or snorkeling, there are a few things you should probably include for your port days.

It's always a good idea to keep valuables such as a phone and wallet safe when venturing out in ports. Cross-body bags with secure locks or a money belt are good options. It never hurts to stick an umbrella or rain ponchos in your bag in case any tropical showers pop up.

For general water/ beach outings, consider:

  • Mask, goggles and snorkel
  • Water shoes (where needed)
  • Life jackets /flotation devices (especially for children)
  • Waterproof phone carrier
  • Towel clips (the ship provides towels)
  • Beach bag
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen and lip balm

Bring good, comfortable shoes for walking and what is considered appropriate for the activity. Some people like goggles or bandanas for ATV tours, which can be dusty.

Colder Climate Packing

Cruising to colder climates, like Alaska, has become increasingly popular, and requires different considerations for weather and activities.

The amount of rain and temperature can vary during an Alaskan cruise, so you should be prepared to keep warm and dry. Layered dressing is the way to go in this climate. Here are some suggestions:

  • Shirts and t-shirts for inner layers
  • Warm layers, such as fleece pullovers
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Suitable closed toe shoes
  • Boots for hiking where needed
  • Gloves, hat and scarf
  • Binoculars
  • Water-resistant backpack/cross-body bag for onshore
  • Insect repellant is especially important for Alaska

Tip – Hand warmer packs are helpful to keep hands nice and cozy on a cold day.

Location specific requirements

The cruise planner will list important details for excursions. For example, in Rome, there is no access to the Vatican or St. Peter’s Basilica with exposed shoulders or knees (common for churches in the region). This applies to both men and women.

For those who love camouflage clothing, it is important to note that it is illegal in some Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia as it is reserved for military use. Some non-camo options should be included when packing.

Sunscreen is a must and cruisers should be aware that some destinations require reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the health of their coral reefs. These products don’t contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone, octocrylene and octinoxate. Reef-safe sunscreens are readily available in popular drugstores and other retailers. Ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba and Hawaii are some of the locations that require these types of sunscreens.

Kid stuff

Traveling with younger kids can definitely add more to your packing list. Beyond the standard clothes suggested for adults, consider including:

  • Diapers – pack plenty of extra ones, including regular and swim
  • Baby wipes
  • Rash cream
  • Extra plastic bags for wet items
  • Extra clothes
  • Light blanket
  • Stroller
  • Car seat where necessary
  • Bottles/sippy cups
  • Baby food and formula
  • Activities like coloring, stickers, books, etc.
  • Download favorite shows and games on tablets

Kids love sand toys, which are a great part of any beach day. Collapsible silicone toys are a fantastic option for saving space in lieu of traditional bulky toys.

Many parents prefer a bath for young children and bring small blow-up bathtubs that can be placed in the shower during a cruise.

Toiletries

Most of us use several products throughout the day, from our morning routine to bedtime regime. This can translate into a fair number of things to bring along. When I start the packing process, I walk through everything I do to get ready and make brief notes.

The cruise line provides soap and shampoo, but many people prefer to bring their own. Here are some of the main things to consider:

  • Shampoo and conditioner, and other hair products.
  • Skin care products
  • Makeup
  • Eye care – glass cleaners and contact solution
  • Dental – toothbrush and toothpaste (and floss for the 1% that actually do as their dentist tells them)
  • Curling / flat irons (cabins have blow dryers)
  • Shaving products
  • Brush, comb, elastics/ hair accessories
  • Deodorant
  • Nail products

Many travelers find an over the door shoe rack and magnetic hooks helpful in organizing toiletries. Many people also suggest a small sewing kit as well. 

Tip - For some reason, travel sized products can be pricey despite their size. Reusable travel bottles are a good solution, especially if you don’t need a large quantity of product..

First Aid and Medications

 

While some items can be purchased onboard, it is a good idea to have a ready made first aid kit for easy access during the cruise. The last thing you want to do, is spend time running around in port to find something,

Unfortunately, some people suffer from sea sickness, but there are a number of well known remedies such as Gravol, wrist bands and patches. Don't assume that there will be an adequate supply on the ship. Best to pick them up at the local drugstore pre-cruise; a pharmacist can assist with determining what is best for you.

Here are some common medications/ first aid items to pack:

  • Sea sickness remedies
  • Pain and allergy products
  • After-burn care (aloe), lip balm (SPF), and bug spray
  • Anti-itch cream/ hydrocortisone
  • First aid items such as band-aids and anti-bacterial ointment
  • Upset stomach medications
  • Cold medicine
  • Eye drops

Valuables / Carry-on

The last bag to pack is your carry-on. Once the luggage is dropped off at the terminal, this should contain everything needed until the cabin is ready.

Cruisers will need all their required travel documents such as personal identification -  passports, and driver’s license.  Also:

  • Money (small denominations for tips/ foreign currency), credit cards
  • Electronics – phone, tablet, earbuds, charger, camera
  • Required medication (at least 3 days extra worth)
  • Eyewear – glasses, sunglasses, contacts
  • Comfort items such as  gum/ mints/ snacks
  • Phone battery (can’t be packed)
  • Masks (where required)
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes
  • Covid 19 test kits if you plan on doing proctored tests
  • Pens

Although most people keep documents on their phone, I always feel better having hard copies as well just in case something happens to my phone. Documents to consider:

  • Boarding passes
  • Negative Covid-19  test results  
  • Country specific entry requirements
  • Hotel reservations
  • Transportation details
  • Insurance details
  • A list of key numbers and reservations
  • SetSail passes
  • Luggage tags
  • Excursion details
  • Tip:  Passports applications are taking longer right now, so do keep this in mind if you are traveling to a destination that requires one. It is important to check the expiry date as some countries require passports to be valid for at least 6 months.

Drinks and Beverages

Royal Caribbean allows its guests to bring a specific quantity of drinks onboard. This can be a great money saver or is nice if you have a specific beverage you really love. These must be carried on and cannot be packed in your suitcases.

According to Royal Caribbean, each stateroom (not guest) can bring:

  • Two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne, as long as one guest is of legal drinking age.
  • Guests can also bring non-alcoholic beverages up to 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom.
  • Milk and distilled water brought on for infant, medical, or dietary use are permitted. 

Corkscrews will be provided for guests to enjoy their drinks in their stateroom, and if guests wish to enjoy their wine or champagne in our dining or bar venues, there will be a corkage fee applied.

Guests who purchase alcohol bottles onboard, in a port-of-call, or bring more than the two permitted bottles on boarding day, will have their items safely stored by the ship. These bottles will be returned on the last day onboard for enjoyment once home.

Outlets

USB plugs in cabin

Royal Caribbean ships have standard plugs and most Caribbean ports have the same electrical outlets as those in the United States. However, for your pre-and post stay for international cruises, you may require adaptors and converters.

Adaptors are inexpensive to purchase but do vary by destination, so check what is required for your travels destination. 

In addition, some items may need a converter that, as the name implies, converts it to the proper voltage. This is more likely to be an issue for items like flat or curling irons. These can be much more expensive, so best to do your research ahead of time to determine what is needed.

Miscellaneous

Although there is plenty of food and drinks on the cruise, there are times when it is helpful to have a pre-packaged snack on hand. Protein and granola bars can be great options, as well as favorites like goldfish or cheerios that can calm down a tired toddler.

A water bottle is a definite plus, and an item I wish I had brought along on my most recent cruise. There were plenty of places to fill up, and with the hot weather, this would have been well used.

If you are worried about water-borne illnesses or bacteria, water bottles from companies such as LARQ and Lifestraw will clean the water, getting rid of E.coli and bacteria. Helpful if you are unsure how safe the drinking water is.

Other items to consider:

  • A night light, as cabins can be dark
  • Reading material – some people love reading on a kindle or their tablet, but for those that don't remember to bring a book or magazine.
  • Flashlight
  • Straws
  • Towel clips to keep your towel from blowing away
  • Fan, but must be cordless (can plug into USB)
  • Multi-outlet USB Charger (non-surge)

Tip – Ziplock bags are invaluable. I suggest bringing a couple of different sizes, they can be used for shoes, dirty clothes, organization etc.

E-Packing

This is a growing category that I have added to my packing list. With more and more apps and Covid protocols, and other health requirements, I have to give more thought to what I need to have on my phone for travel, what I consider e-packing.

Some people like to print out everything, which is a good strategy as well, but for some things, it is best to have an app. 

  • Royal Caribbean App you will need this onboard, to get information on activities, your schedule, book entertainment etc.
  • Airline and transportation apps
  • Boarding Passes
  • Vaccine proof
  • Negative Covid-19 results 
  • Any country specific entry codes, for example for Spain, you need to complete a health form and receive a QR code for entry
  • Excursion details/ tickets
  • Country specific requirements like Canada’s ArriveCAN app, that much be completed prior to arrival

 

I also create a specific travel folder for all of my travel related emails, such as transportation details, and cruise planner purchases.

What to leave at home

There is a whole list of items that can’t be brought onboard, so it's best to know about this ahead of time and not waste space or risk losing them.

There is a detailed list of prohibited items on Royal Caribbean's website, and among many are items that heat up, which can cause a fire hazard on the ship. Anything that could interfere with the safe operation of the ship or the safe and secure environment of guests and crew are prohibited.

Here are some common items that the cruise line does not permit onboard:

  • Beer, hard liquor and spirits
  • Marijuana (even if medical products), CBD Oil / CBD Products
  • Irons and steamers
  • Kettle, coffee maker or hot plate
  • Candles
  • Any other device that produces heat
  • Baby Monitors
  • Extension cords
  • Perishable foods and meats
  • Hookahs and water hookah pipes
  • Weapons including pepper spray
  • Toy gun replicas
  • Hoverboards
  • HAM radios

Royal Caribbean updates: Tropical Storm Alex, infant policy & more

In:
02 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to the first week of June, and we have a few different Royal Caribbean news updates to share.

Cruise ship docked in Miami

There are many facets of cruising, and in an effort to keep you informed, here is a quick summary of the cruise news stories this week you should also be aware of, in addition to our other articles.

If you ever have a news tip, feel free to email it to [email protected] for possible inclusion in a future update!

Early Tropical Storm Alex could impact outlook

Tropical Storm Alex

It looks like we will have our first named storm of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season this weekend when a depression comes over Mexico and into the Gulf of Mexico to form Tropical Storm Alex.

Given that it will likely pass through Florida over the weekend, there's a chance it could impact cruises. While no decision has been made yet to change or cancel any Royal Caribbean cruises yet, Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet produced a series of videos on Thursday morning to provide an outlook for what to potentially expect.

Mr. Van Fleet warned if there was going to be any kind of closure at the ports, it would probably be on Saturday, June 4.

If and when Royal Caribbean announces any cancellations or changes, guests will be directly notified.

The system is likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm while it moves northwest over the northwest Caribbean and southeastern Gulf of Mexico. It is not expected to become a hurricane.

Follow James Van Fleet on Twitter for additional updates.

Cruise industry calls again to end international air travel covid testing

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) publicly called on the United States government to once again end pre-departure Covid-19 testing for air travelers coming to the United States.

The testing requirement is in place for all travelers, including U.S. citizens, whether they are vaccinated or not, to show a negative Covid test result before taking an international flight into the United States.

CLIA represents the interests of all the major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean reverts infant policy

Royal Caribbean has changed back a policy for the minimum age of infant cruisers.

In early May, Royal Caribbean made a change that considered St. Kitts and Perfect Day at CocoCay "sea days" as it relates to infants. Sailings with three consecutive sea days require infants to be 12 months or older at the beginning of the cruise, instead of 6 months.

This week, that policy change was reversed and Royal Caribbean's website no longer lists those islands as part of the policy.

Royal Caribbean meets with Alaska tour operators and local leaders

Alaska Stakeholders

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley highlighted a recent visit with Alaska's port officials and community members.

Mr. Bayley shared on Facebook that Royal Caribbean stakeholders recently visited Anchorage, Seward, Ketchikan, and Sitka to meet with more than 15 community partners, tour operators, and local leaders.

"Throughout the 7-day visit to Alaska, stakeholders saw Royal Caribbean’s donations put into action! The donations will help expand programs like Ketchikan’s ocean preservation and community resilience, Sitka Trail Works’ scenic trail development, and support marine science programs in local high schools."

Sitka port opening

"One of our top pillars is caring for the communities we visit, so it is exciting when we get to see partnerships unfold!"

"Thank you to all of our partners in Alaska for your dedication to unmatched cruise guest experiences, and to our shoreside employees who continue to support Alaska in ensuring amazing cruise vacations across the board! Cheers to an amazing cruise season in Alaska!"

Michael Bayley message on June 1

Royal Caribbean removes future cruise credit expiration dates

In:
01 Jun 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

You won't have to worry every again about your unredeemed Royal Caribbean Cruise with Confidence future cruise credit expiring.

The change applies to future cruise credits a guest has received during the pandemic between 2020 and early 2022.

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.

Future cruise credits were given to guests as a kind of voucher to represent the amount paid for a cruise. Guests either elected to receive them in lieu of a refund when Royal Caribbean cancelled a cruise, or took them when they decided to cancel a cruise reservation during the pandemic.

Rock wall on Allure of the Seas

Prior to today's announcement, each credit had an expiration date when it had to be redeemed by, which gave some guests concern that they would lose out on the value of their money paid because they are unable or unwilling to cruise before the end of this year.

Royal Caribbean hopes this change will provide more flexibility for anyone with a FCC, as most FCCs were set to expire at the end of 2022.

A cruise credit issued as part of the Global Sailing Suspension (when Royal Caribbean cancelled the cruise, instead of the guest), the portion of the FCC value that represents 100% of the cruise fare paid on the original reservation will no longer expire. 

The incremental 25% bonus value, however, will maintain the current expiration date noted on the Future Cruise Credit and will remain active until this point.

All other FCC types remain unchanged and will continue to enforce the expiration date noted on the Future Cruise Credit.

The change in policy not only applies to Royal Caribbean International, but also Celebrity Cruises.

How do I redeem my credit?

Royal Caribbean has made it quite easy to redeem a future cruise credit, whether you are booking directly or with a travel agent.

The easiest way is to let your travel agent redeem it by providing them with the Certificate Number and booking ID.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

If you book on your own, here's how to redeem a FCC for a new booking on Royal Caribbean's website:

  1. Find the sailing that you are interested in.
  2. Select your cabin type and location.
  3. Proceed to the payment page.
  4. Enter your payment and personal information.
  5. Enter your Future Cruise Credit number(s).
    • If you are booking multiple cabins, you can enter your Future Cruise Credit number(s) for each room.
  6. Click “submit.”
  7. You will receive an email letting you know if your credit was valid.
    • Any remaining balance of your Future Cruise Credit (FCC) will be reissued to you as a new FCC after you complete your cruise.

Here’s how to redeem online for existing bookings:

  1. Visit the Redemption page.
  2. Enter your booking information.
  3. Enter your Future Cruise Credit number(s).
  4. Click “submit.”
  5. You will receive an email letting you know if your credit was valid.
    • Any remaining balance of your Future Cruise Credit (FCC) will be reissued to you as a new FCC after you complete your cruise.

Alaska cruise excursions

In:
01 Jun 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

An Alaska cruise is a highly-anticipated vacation not only for the experience onboard the ship, but because of the wide range of unique shore excursions available in Alaska cruise ports.

Cruising to Alaska brings many of the same onboard features as cruising elsewhere in the world, such as entertainment, dining, and activities, but the cruise excursion experience could not be more different.

In contrast to a Caribbean cruise, an Alaska cruise means trading sunny beach days for mountains, sloths for bears, and jungle for rainforest.

Whether spotting humpback whales, dogsledding atop a glacier, or kayaking through scenic fjords, you want to make sure you do proper research before booking a shore excursion to ensure you have the best experience possible in the Last Frontier.

Here’s what you need to know about Alaska cruise excursions before deciding what (and when) to book.

In this guide:

Best cruise excursions in Alaska

Whale in Alaska

Whale watching tours

Whale watching is one of the most common Alaska cruise excursions, where you’ll have the opportunity to spot the world’s largest mammals up close. Humpback whales, gray whales, and orcas are commonly spotted while on an Alaska cruise, and seeing these magnificent animals up close is sure to leave you speechless.

Whale watching tours are offered in many Alaska cruise ports, but the most common ports for whale watching are Juneau and Icy Strait Point.

Read more: Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

Helicopter and flightseeing tours

Helicopter in Alaska

One aspect of cruising to Alaska that’s sure to take your breath away is just how grand the state’s nature is in every direction. Jetting out from the ocean are massive mountain peaks covered in trees and waterfalls. These mountains create Alaska’s iconic fjords in the Inside Passage, which can be viewed either from the cruise ship… or the air!

Helicopter and flightseeing tours are both popular shore excursions in Alaska, offering the unique opportunity to view the state’s nature from above. Helicopter tours often include a landing atop one of Alaska’s glaciers, where visitors have the chance to walk–or dogsled–on the glacier itself.

Flightseeing tours take visitors up and over majestic destinations including Hubbard Glacier and Misty Fjords National Monument in Ketchikan.

Read more: Local’s guide of places to visit in Ketchikan, Alaska

While not the most budget-friendly excursions, seeing Alaska from above is well worth the splurge for many cruisers.

Wildlife tours

Outside of whale watching, an Alaska cruise provides the chance to spot bears, sea otters, sea lions, eagles, and more. It’s possible to see wildlife by simply walking around port, but if spotting wildlife is a big priority for you on an Alaska cruise, it might be better to book a wildlife excursion.

If you’re in Juneau, consider booking an excursion to Admiralty Island, home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears and accessible only by boat or floatplane.

Read more: Local’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly way to spot brown bears, consider a visit to Fortress of the Bear, a bear rescue facility and sanctuary located in Sitka. For only $15, you can visit the sanctuary and learn about how the facility rescues orphaned bears that may otherwise have died in the wild. You’ll be able to get relatively “up-close” to the bears and witness their behavior as well.

Read more: What is the best time of year to see wildlife in Alaska?

Active shore excursions in Alaska

A cruise to Alaska is less about lounging on the beach and more about getting active and exploring all that the state has to offer. Alaska is a paradise for those who love the outdoors, and you’ll find plenty of excursions catered to active travelers.

One of the most popular active activities is a kayak tour along Alaska’s scenic fjords, lakes, and glaciers. Kayak tours are offered in most cruise ports, offering passengers the chance to feel connected with nature by the gentle rock of a kayak.

Bicycle excursions are also offered on an Alaska cruise, taking visitors through the state’s forests and historic towns. If you’re feeling really adventurous, consider a 15-mile downhill bike ride following the path of the White Pass & Yukon Railway in Skagway.

Read more: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Outside of kayaking and biking, visitors to Alaska can enjoy canoeing, hiking, ziplining, and even snorkeling!

Cultural and historical tours in Alaska

Cruising to Alaska provides the chance to learn more about the state’s culture and history. Food tours, visits to Native villages, and touring museums can offer unique insights into the region.

If learning more about Alaska’s Native history is of interest to you, you’ll be amazed by the hand carved, detailed totem poles dotted throughout Southeast Alaska. Some excursions may even offer the chance to visit where totem poles are carved and see this impressive handiwork in action.

Read more: Visiting Saxman Native village in Ketchikan

Alaska’s gold rush history is another fascinating topic to discover. From saloons to historic hiking trails and Ketchikan’s red-light district, you don’t need to travel very far off the ship to spot remnants of the gold rush era.

Lastly, if tasting Alaska’s fresh seafood is on your Alaska cruise bucket list, consider booking a tour that includes a “salmon bake”. Most salmon bakes will occur in the rainforest, where you can feast on freshly-caught salmon, chicken, baked beans, salads, and blueberry cake.

Read more: Where to eat like a local on your Alaska cruise

What to do in each Alaska cruise port

Depending on your cruise itinerary, you’ll be visiting 3-4 different ports on an Alaska cruise, each of which offers plenty of shore excursions to book. While you can find excursions like whale watching, hiking, and kayaking in several ports, certain ports are better suited for these activities than others.

Juneau is the most commonly visited port on an Alaska cruise. Popular cruise excursions in Juneau include whale watching, visiting Mendenhall Glacier, tasting local seafood, and riding the Goldbelt Tramway to Mount Roberts.

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan is the southernmost Alaska cruise port. While exploring this quaint town, visitors can enjoy viewing Native totem poles, walking historic Creek Street, watching the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and hiking the Tongass National Forest.

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska

If your cruise visits Skagway, be sure to immerse yourself in the town’s gold rush history through a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railway, hiking the Chilkoot trail, and perhaps even crossing the border into Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska

Visitors to Sitka will be impressed with the blend of Russian, Tlingit, and American cultures. Whether visiting Russian Orthodox churches, the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, and the Sitka National Historic Park, there’s plenty of history and culture to explore in this small Alaskan town.

Wildlife viewing opportunities are in abundance as well, with the Alaska Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear nearby.

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

Icy Strait Point is a small cruise port owned and operated by the Huna Tlingit Native Alaskans. Visitors to Icy Strait Point can choose from a variety of unique excursions, from riding the SKYGLiDER tram ride up a mountain, ziplining or bird watching in the rainforest, and taking a back country Jeep adventure. Icy Strait Point is also one of the best ports for whale watching on an Alaska cruise.

Haines is another small Alaska port offering a selection of outdoor activities including kayaking and hiking. If visiting Glacier Bay is on your bucket list, you can book a flightseeing tour of the massive glacier from Haines.

Victoria, British Columbia is visited on Royal Caribbean Alaska cruises departing from Seattle. One of the most popular activities in Victoria is visiting the Butchart Gardens, a 55-acre floral display dating back to 1904. Walking around the city to admire the area’s British heritage is another fun way to spend the day, whether enjoying afternoon tea, shopping on Wharf street, or indulging in local cuisine.

Read more: Visiting Victoria while cruising on Explorer of the Seas

How to book Alaska cruise excursions

When it comes to booking an excursion for an Alaska cruise, you have two main options: book through Royal Caribbean directly or with an outside provider.

Booking through Royal Caribbean

Booking directly through Royal Caribbean tends to be more expensive, but is a safe option in terms of reliability and cancellation policies. Royal Caribbean vets tour operators thoroughly before offering an excursion to guarantee you’ll have the safest, most authentic experience possible.

On the chance a Royal Caribbean excursion runs late, the cruise ship will wait for the tour group before leaving port. If for some reason the ship is unable to wait, Royal Caribbean will make arrangements and cover the cost of the tour group's return to the ship.

Read more: Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?

Booking through Royal Caribbean directly also tends to be convenient, as all excursions are listed directly on the Cruise Planner site. You won’t have to browse the internet and read reviews from independent companies prior to booking an excursion. Plus, if you have onboard credit, you can put that toward an amazing excursion!

Booking through an independent provider

While there are several pros to booking an Alaska cruise excursion through Royal Caribbean directly, booking through an independent tour operator can provide a wider range of excursion options, lower prices, and smaller groups.

Read more: Top ways to avoid crowds on an Alaska cruise

Simply put, there are many more shore excursions available in Alaska than the limited supply offered by Royal Caribbean. A quick search on Tripadvisor or Viator for Alaska cruise excursions will result in far more choices than what may be offered on your cruise.

Ketchikan charter boats

Royal Caribbean excursions tend to be priced higher than independent excursions because the cruise line receives a cut of the excursion cost from the tour operator. Booking on your own eliminates the middleman, often leading to more affordable prices.

While the cruise ship will not wait for you if you’re running late on an excursion through an independent provider, this is a rare scenario as reputable tour providers have years of experience getting tour groups back to the ship on time. In addition, tour operators may offer similar cancellation policies to Royal Caribbean on the chance your cruise itinerary changes.

Read more: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

How much do shore excursions cost in Alaska?

While it’s possible to find great deals on cruise fares to Alaska, shore excursions can often be more expensive than what you are used to on a Caribbean cruise. Knowing how much you’re willing to spend on Alaska cruise excursions can better help you budget your vacation while still having an incredible cruise experience.

Shore excursions can run anywhere from $50 to well over $500. To give an example of how varied prices can be, here are a few sample prices you may see for Royal Caribbean excursions:

Juneau

  • Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest ($158.99/adult, $110.99/child)
  • Helicopter Glacier Walkabout ($406.99)
  • Mendenhall Glacier River Rafting ($141.99)
  • Mount Roberts Tramway ($59.99)

Skagway

  • Klondike Bicycle Tour ($115.75)
  • Ghost and Goodtime Girls Walking Tour ($45.99)
  • White Pass Scenic Railway ($140.99/adult, $74.99/child)
  • Glacier Discovery by Helicopter ($379.00)

Sitka

  • Taste of Sitka ($78.99/adult, $62.99/child)
  • Siginaka Islands Cruise & Kayak Adventure ($163.99/adult, $125.99/child)
  • Tongass Forest Nature Hike ($84.99/adult, $60.99/child)
  • Native Cultural and Historical Tour ($55.99/adult, $42.99/child)

Prices of shore excursions through independent providers are often cheaper than Royal Caribbean’s pricing, so be sure to look outside of Royal Caribbean for better deals.

When to book Alaska cruise excursions

It’s always a better idea to book excursions as far in advance as possible to ensure you can pay the lowest price and secure a spot on the chance the excursion sells out. Because shore excursions are so popular on an Alaska cruise, it’s not uncommon to see popular tours like whale watching, glacier visits, and helicopter tours sell out.

If excursions sell out, Royal Caribbean will occasionally add more tour options and times to book, but this is not guaranteed. Therefore, booking as early as possible is recommended.

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

When you book an excursion through Royal Caribbean, you are allowed to cancel with no penalty up to 48 hours before your cruise, so there’s no harm in booking an excursion and changing your mind later.

Additionally, if you book an excursion far in advance and later see the price drop, you can cancel your reservation and rebook the same excursion at the lower price. Waiting to book an excursion in hopes that the price will go down is unnecessary and will usually leave you disappointed and forced to pay a higher fare!

Do I need a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise?

It’s not necessary to book a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise. In fact, some passengers prefer to explore on their own to have maximum freedom over activities, dining, and travel pace. While excursions are an “easy” option due to the fact that all logistics are handled by the tour operator instead of yourself, they can be a bit too limiting for some travelers.

Read more: Top 50 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Luckily, Alaska cruise ports are small and walkable, allowing visitors to experience the town’s history, culture, and nearby nature on foot. Even Juneau, the largest Alaska cruise port, still has plenty of walkable areas and ways to get around without booking an excursion, such as the Goldbelt Tramway and Mendenhall Glacier shuttle bus.

Some activities, like kayaking, whale watching, and ziplining, tend to be easier with a shore excursion than without, as all equipment, lifejackets, transportation, etc. is provided for you. Others, like hiking, visiting museums, and trying Alaska’s cuisine can easily be done without a pre-booked excursion.

What to bring on an Alaska cruise excursion

Packing for an Alaska cruise excursion is a bit more complicated than bringing a beach towel and flip flops. You’ll want to make sure you are prepared for any weather conditions you may face so you remain comfortable and warm throughout the day.

Read more: What should you bring on an Alaska cruise?

Clothing

Family on Alaska tour

Packing layers is key on an Alaska cruise. Depending on the month you’re cruising to Alaska, packing a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt as a base layer is essential. Even though you’ll be surrounded by glaciers, it can get relatively warm in southeast Alaska, especially in the summer months.

A waterproof jacket is another necessity, as rain is extremely common to encounter on an Alaska cruise. Instead of an umbrella, wear a waterproof jacket with a hood that you can take on and off throughout the day.

Read more: What should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

Packing a warm layer is also important in case of chilly temperatures. Sweatshirts, sweaters, and down jackets will keep you warm on the coldest of days!

Choose your footwear carefully before an Alaska cruise excursion. If your excursion involves hiking through the rainforest, tennis shoes with non-slip soles or hiking boots will be helpful. If you’re just planning to walk around town, regular sneakers will be fine. It’s a good idea to make sure the shoes you pack for an Alaska cruise are water-resistant. Having water seep through your shoes is very uncomfortable!

Accessories

Bringing a waterproof or water-resistant daypack on an Alaska cruise is essential to ensure your electronics, identification, and any other valuables remain protected throughout the excursion.

Packing a warm hat and gloves is also recommended, particularly if you’re cruising to Alaska in the shoulder season months of May and September.

Read more: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise at the end of the season

binoculars

Binoculars can be another great item to pack for an Alaska cruise excursion, as they give you the chance to view Alaska’s wildlife and scenery up close. Bringing binoculars will definitely come in handy if you book a wildlife excursion.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are also important to pack. While you may not associate an Alaska cruise with needing protection from the sun, it can be strong on sunny days, as sunlight shines not only from the sky but also from glaciers and snow. A travel-sized sunscreen container should be adequate for an Alaska cruise.

You may also want to consider packing snacks to bring with you on your excursion, especially if traveling with kids. Alaska shore excursions can be more active than what you’re used to, so having a bag of trail mix or granola bars on hand is helpful.

More Alaska cruise resources:

Royal Caribbean will keep full deposit if you cancel your non-refundable cruise fare going forward

In:
31 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's rules for cancelling a cruise are about to change.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

There are two types of deposits a guest can make when booking a cruise: refundable and non-refundable.

Travel agents were alerted of the new policy change regarding non-refundable deposits.  There is no change for guests that book refundable deposits.

Beginning with reservations made on or after June 1, 2022, if a guest were to cancel their non-refundable fare, the full deposit amount will be withheld by the cruise line. Any additional payments made will be refunded.

If a guest elects to change their original ship and/or sail date, then a change fee of $100 per person will apply.

The Future Cruise Credit component is being discontinued and will no longer apply when canceling under this policy outside of the final payment period.

Instead, the deposit amount will be withheld in-full.

Deposit policy change on June 1

Guests booked prior to June 1, 2022 are protected under the prior policy terms. Guests who booked a non-refundable fare prior June 1, 2022 can elect to request a Future Cruise Credit in the amount of the deposit paid per guest, less the $100 fee. 

Impact for suites

Crown Loft Suite

This policy change is especially important to note if you book a suite.

Royal Caribbean made suites non-refundable only a few years ago because of the high demand for them, especially when new sailings were announced. Prior to the non-refundable fares, suites would be booked up early by cruise fans and later decide if they would sail or not. To deter the practice of dumping suites closer to sailing, Royal Caribbean changed suite fares to non-refundable.

With this change, booking a suite well in advance comes with additional risk if you choose to cancel later, especially considering the deposit amount of suites tends to be higher than non-suite rooms.

Typically, the deposit amount for suites is double regular room fares.

Refundable vs non-refundable cruise fares

Just like non-refundable fares found with airfare, rental cars, and hotels, these rates come at a reduced rate as an incentive to lock in plans.

In short, guests get a lower price and the cruise line gets more protection against a last-minute cancellation.

Refundable cruise fares cost more, but allow more flexibility when cancelling a cruise.

The exact price difference between a refundable and non-refundable fare can vary depending on the sailing.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean refundable versus non-refundable cruise fares

Best Price Guarantee change

In addition to the cruise fare changes, Royal Caribbean also tweaked the Best Price Guarantee program.

Effective immediately, the Best Price Guarantee onboard credit option value will be 100% of the price difference (previously 110%). 

This change refers to the original Best Price Guarantee program and not the Cruise With Confidence program.

Read moreDo cruise prices drop?

Freedom of the Seas Guide & Review

In:
31 May 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

If you’re looking for a fun-filled weekend cruise getaway, look no further than Freedom of the Seas, which was recently amplified to add the latest and greatest of Royal Caribbean’s activities and amenities onboard. Sailing 3 and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas, Freedom of the Seas makes for a perfect mini-vacation.

Freedom of the Seas name

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.

Freedom of the Seas Overview

Freedom of the Seas in front of Rocks

Freedom of the Seas is the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class. Freedom Class cruise ships were once the largest cruise ships in the world, and despite no longer having that title, they are still considered big vessels with no shortage of things to do onboard.

Freedom of the Seas was completed in 2006, but was amplified in early 2020 through Royal Caribbean’s Royal Amplified program. Her amplification added many new features to the ship including water slides and a revamped pool deck.

Read more: Freedom of the Seas completes $116 million Royal Amplification

Measuring 156,271 in gross tonnage, 1,111 feet long, and 185 feet wide, Freedom of the Seas is no small ship. She has a capacity of nearly 4000 guests at double capacity, 14 guest-accessible decks, and 1,963 staterooms.

The ship has a promenade-style layout, with thoroughfares on decks 4 and 5 that run through the ship, complete with dining, entertainment, bars, lounges, guest-service areas, and retail stores. These decks, along with the outdoor space on the pool deck, tend to be the main hubs of activity onboard.

Freedom of the Seas Pool deck

The pool deck on Freedom of the Seas offers a classic Caribbean cruise experience. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and reggae music bring a party vibe to every sailing.

There are two main pools on the pool deck and several jacuzzis open to guests of all ages (excluding children in diapers). Outside of the main pools is a full-sized Splashaway Bay aqua park for kids, which features slides, dump buckets, water sprayers, a baby splash pad, and a shallow pool.

The adults-only Solarium is also located on the Freedom of the Seas pool deck. The Solarium is open to guests aged 16 and older. Unlike on some other ships, the Freedom of the Seas Solarium is not enclosed, so the pool is in direct sunlight. There are plenty of seating areas and jacuzzis located within the shade, however, and the pool chairs in the Solarium are padded, making for an extra comfy place to relax.

Freedom of the Seas’ pool deck was upgraded to a Caribbean resort-style design during her amplification in 2020. Colorful decor dots the deck, including in-pool lounge chairs that are perfect for the warmest of days.

Part of the Caribbean pool deck design was the addition of The Lime & Coconut bar, where guests can enjoy a variety of signature cocktails including the Watermelon Rita and Rum Runner. The Lime & Coconut spans 3 decks on the ship, creating a fun party atmosphere onboard.

Casitas are also available on the pool deck of Freedom of the Seas. These are private, covered daybeds available for reservation at an extra cost. Outside of casitas, the pool deck has a variety of seating, from pool chairs to comfy loungers. Suite guests can also enjoy a private seating area on Deck 12.

If you’re hungry while on the pool deck, be sure to try El Loco Fresh, Royal Caribbean’s grab-and-go Mexican restaurant located adjacent to Splashaway Bay. Unlimited, complimentary soft serve ice cream is available as well.

Freedom of the Seas dining

Freedom of the Seas may no longer be the biggest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, but she has plenty of restaurants and lounges to enjoy. Whether you choose to eat exclusively at complimentary dining venues or splurge on specialty dining, you won’t go hungry during a Freedom of the Seas cruise.

Complimentary dining venues on Freedom of the Seas:

  • Main Dining Room, the main restaurant on any Royal Caribbean ship, offering a classic sit-down dining experience in a 3-story venue
  • Windjammer Marketplace, a buffet open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a variety of both American and international cuisines
  • El Loco Fresh, a grab-and-go Mexican-style restaurant with burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and tacos
  • Cafe Promenade, a small cafe offering specialty coffees and teas along with small grab-and-go items like muffins and sandwiches
  • Sorrento’s, offering unlimited pizza all day and night

Specialty dining venues on Freedom of the Seas:

  • Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, an Italian restaurant with pizzas and fresh pasta
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, the best spot for Japanese cuisine onboard
  • Playmakers, a sports bar serving up classic American bar food like wings and nachos
  • Johnny Rockets, a 1950s style American restaurant with milkshakes, burgers, and fries
  • Chef’s Table, an intimate group dining experience where each course is paired with wine
  • Ben & Jerry’s, serving scoops of ice cream, sundaes, and milkshakes

Deciding whether to eat at complimentary or specialty dining venues ultimately depends on your preferences and budget. Many passengers opt to only eat at complimentary venues, having most meals at either El Loco Fresh, the Windjammer, or Main Dining Room. Both venues will offer a wide range of cuisines and rotating menus, so it’s unlikely you’ll get bored with the complimentary options on Freedom of the Seas.

If you’re looking to enhance your dining experience while onboard, though, consider trying out specialty dining. Specialty restaurants are more specialized in one type of cuisine and tend to provide the highest-quality menu items on the ship.

Read more: How to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package

If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, specialty dining venues can be a great choice. Restaurants like Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi, and Chops Grille offer a more private, exclusive dining experience than complimentary venues.

Freedom of the Seas bars & lounges

A Royal Caribbean cruise is synonymous with sipping a tropical cocktail on the pool deck, and there’s no shortage of places to grab a drink onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The following bars and lounges can be found onboard:

  • Schooner Bar
  • Boleros
  • Solarium Bar
  • The Lime & Coconut
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Casino bar
  • Star Lounge
  • Bull & Bear Pub
  • Vintages
  • R Bar
  • The Plaza Bar (Windjammer)
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Diamond Club
  • Suite Lounge

Each lounge has its own atmosphere, with venues like Vintages offering a relaxed atmosphere perfect for enjoying a glass of wine. Venues like Boleros are more lively, offering live music and dancing in the evening.

The Viking Crown Lounge offers some of the best views on Freedom of the Seas, with a 180 degree view of the pool deck and ocean. If you’re looking for a place to relax and get away from the crowds during the day or night, this can be a great spot.

Things to do on Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas offers a wonderful cruising experience for all ages and interest levels due to the wide range of activities available onboard. While there have always been plenty of activities to keep guests busy, the 2020 amplification added several more of Royal Caribbean’s signature activities to enhance the cruise experience.

The Perfect Storm water slides can be found on the sports deck of Freedom of the Seas, which are a set of two racing water slides: the Cyclone and Typhoon. The slides twist and turn (even jetting off the side of the ship) and they are a popular activity for kids and adults alike.

The FlowRider, rock climbing wall, and basketball court are also found on the sports deck, and mini golf is located at the forward section of the pool deck. Inside the ship guests can enjoy ice skating and Battle for Planet Z Laser Tag. All of these signature activities are complimentary for passengers.

If surfing simulators and water slides aren’t your cup of tea, there’s a wide range of other activities onboard as well. Fitness classes, dance classes, table tennis, scrapbooking, karaoke, outdoor movies, trivia, and the casino are sure to make for a fun day at sea.

Adventure Ocean

If you’re traveling with children on Freedom of the Seas, you’ll likely want to enroll them in Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean’s childcare program for ages 6 months to 17 years.

Freedom of the Seas follows Royal Caribbean’s updated Adventure Ocean programming, which is focused on giving kids more freedom and flexibility in choosing activities that they are interested in doing. Craft stations, dodgeball, video games, books, science experiments, and more are available to kids throughout the day.

Adventure Ocean is broken into four age groups, with each group having their own programming and rooms suitable to the age range:

  • AO Babies (6-36 months)
  • AO Juniors (3-5 years old)
  • AO Kids (6-12 years old)
  • Teens (13-17 years old)

In addition to an indoor hangout spot, teens also have access to Social 033, a private outdoor space with lounge chairs and a selfie station. Parents may also opt to bring their children to Play Place, an indoor playground, but as this space is unsupervised parents must be with their children at all times.

Adventure Ocean is mostly complimentary, with the exception of AO Babies and childcare after 10PM. An arcade is also located in Adventure Ocean and open to guests of all ages, although it comes at an extra cost.

Entertainment

There are two main entertainment venues on Freedom of the Seas: the Royal Theater and the Studio B ice skating rink.

While Freedom of the Seas may not have a Broadway show like the other Freedom Class ships, she still offers plenty to enjoy in the Royal Theater. Once Upon A Time, a Royal Caribbean Original Production, brings the rarely told stories of fairy tales to the stage through music and dance. The other signature show, Marquee, brings Broadway spectacles on stage, from shows like La Cage Aux Folles to choreography by Bob Fosse.

In Studio B, guests can enjoy FreedomIce.com, an ice skating show which features disco music and showcases the importance of freedom throughout time. Projection mapping and set design transforms the rink into a scene from the 1970s as Royal Caribbean’s professional ice cast dance, jump, and twist their way around the ice.

Outside of signature production shows, a variety of other entertainment can be found on Freedom of the Seas, including live music, karaoke, and game shows.

Wellness & Relaxation

Freedom of the Seas may be packed with activities, entertainment, and excitement, but she offers plenty of ways to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Like all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Freedom of the Seas has the Vitality Spa & Fitness Center, where you can enjoy a variety of spa treatments and fitness facilities. The fitness center offers cardio and strength equipment at no extra charge, although fitness classes like yoga and spinning are available for an extra cost.

Massages, facials, and salon treatments are available to book on Freedom of the Seas, which you can purchase before your cruise or once onboard. Port days often have better discounts available than sea days, so be sure to ask about any onboard specials in the spa.

If you’ve sailed on other Freedom or Voyager Class ships, you may be accustomed to having access to steam rooms and saunas in the fitness center’s locker rooms. Following her amplification, Freedom of the Seas no longer has steam or sauna facilities available, although there are still lockers and bathrooms in the fitness center.

If you’re looking for a quiet space to relax onboard, whether to read a book, watch the ocean, or take a walk, head to the outdoor Promenade deck on deck 4. Unlike on newer Royal Caribbean ships where much of the Promenade deck view is blocked by lifeboats, the Promenade deck on Freedom of the Seas offers unparalleled, expansive views of the ocean.

This can be an excellent spot to take a morning walk or watch the sunset. You can also access the helicopter pad from the Promenade deck, which is one of the best places onboard to watch sailaway or relax with an ocean view.

Freedom of the Seas also has a Library/Card room where you can truly escape to some peace and quiet by reading a book or playing cards and board games.

Freedom of the Seas staterooms

When it comes to picking a cruise ship cabin, there’s a lot to consider. All cabins on Freedom of the Seas include basic amenities like a bed, shower, vanity, television, telephone, chair or couch, closet, nightstands, and cooler. Staterooms can differ widely, however, in size and layout.

Because Freedom of the Seas tends to only sail short cruises, it’s unlikely you’ll be spending much time in your stateroom. Between visiting ports and trying out all the fun activities onboard, your cabin might end up being a place you visit only when you need to sleep or shower.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know which stateroom categories are available on Freedom of the Seas to ensure you book the cabin that fits your budget and preferences best.

Interior

Interior cabins are the most basic of staterooms, offering no window, balcony, or natural light. While basic, they offer an excellent value while still providing a comfy place to rest your head at night. Interior cabins can be a nice choice for those who want to plan a budget cruise, would rather save money on a stateroom to splurge on extras like a drink or dining package, or who don’t plan on spending much time in their cabin.

Oceanview

Oceanview cabins are a step up from an interior cabin as they come with a small porthole that looks out to the ocean. Oceanview cabins on Freedom of the Seas can be found in a variety of locations, from those on the side of the ship to cabins overlooking the helicopter pad.

Interior Promenade

The Promenade on Freedom of the Seas is always a hub of activity throughout the cruise. Dotted along the Promenade are interior promenade staterooms. Unlike a regular interior stateroom that offers no window, promenade view rooms have a window looking down into the Royal Promenade.

Balcony

Balcony staterooms are the quintessential cabin for a cruise vacation, offering a private, outdoor space to enjoy ocean views. Balcony rooms may cost more than interior and oceanview cabins, but still tend to come at an affordable price.

Suites

If you’re looking to treat yourself during your Freedom of the Seas cruise, consider booking a suite. A variety of suites are available, from Owner’s Suites to 1 or 2-bedroom Grand Suites.

A new suite stateroom added to Freedom of the Seas during the recent amplification was the Panoramic Suite. These are suites with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows of the ocean. While they do not have a balcony, they offer plenty of sunlight and views to enjoy.

Aside from a bigger stateroom, suites come with nice perks, including concierge service, Suite Lounge access, upgraded toiletries, and priority embarkation.

Have you cruised on Freedom of the Seas? What were your favorite activities, dining venues, and entertainment options onboard? Let us know!

Local’s guide of what to do in Sitka, Alaska

In:
31 May 2022
By: 
Mollie Breese

Sitka, Alaska, sitting on the westward side of beautiful Baranof Island, captures the quintessential essence of wild Alaska. This is a town steeped in history. Originally settled by the Tinglit people over 10,000 years ago, Sitka became Alaska’s first capital city following the signing of the Alaska Purchase in 1867.

Sitka, Alaska

While downtown Sitka is a small cluster of quaint buildings set the backdrop of towering mountains, the town of Sitka spans over 4,800 square miles. This makes it the largest incorporated city in America. 

Though the city limits are expansive, less than 10,000 residents reside in the city year-round. Tourists flock to the historical enigma, swelling the population by thousands throughout the summer. This town is only accessible by plane or boat and is a perfect stop when voyaging through Southeastern Alaska. Here, visitors can enjoy all the incredible sights of an Alaskan journey in one-stop – bears, mountains, glaciers, whales, and endless Alaskan beauty. 

While there are plenty of things to do to fill your hours in port, this guide will give you some of our top local favorites. So, prepare to go along back roads and the forgotten paths on your Alaska cruise.

Enjoy a quiet walk through an old Russian cemetery  

Russian cemetery in Sitka

Prior to the United States’ purchase of the Alaskan territory, Russian fur traders and fishermen were the principal foreign inhabitants of coastal Alaska (then called Russian America). Reminders of these past adventurers remain embedded throughout Alaskan communities, and if you talk to a local, the chances are high that they have a Russian relative in their bloodline. 

As the once capital of Russian America, Sitka maintains strong ties and cultural undertones to this period of Russian heritage. Visitors can see this history firsthand at the old Russian Orthodox cemetery located in the heart of downtown Sitka. This 200-year cemetery contains beautiful tombstones marking the graves of Russian Orthodox parishioners. Each tombstone is remarkably unique, with some falling to the test of time and nearly completely covered in moss. Placed in the moss-covered forest, a walk in this cemetery will make you feel miles away from town. 

While walking a cemetery may not seem like an exciting affair, this walk allows visitors to see a lasting mark of history today. When visiting, remember to be respectful, as this cemetery is still in use today by local families.

You can access the cemetery off Seward Street, near the Sitka Lutheran Cemetery. The cemetery was vandalized in January 2022, but local organizations continue restoring the area and returning it to its former beauty. 

Take a hike along Beaver Lake Trail and look for wildlife 

Beaver Lake in Sitka

If you’re up for a little more adventure, head over to Beaver Lake Trail to enjoy a 3-mile hike through old-growth forests and along a pristine mountain lake. You will need to rent a car or pay for a taxi to access this route. The trailhead is outside of town at Blue Lake Campground. However, there are plenty of sights to enjoy in the area, making the trek worth it. If you have a more extended stay in the area, you can hike to the trailhead from downtown Sitka via the Herring Cove Trail. This trail departs from Sitka road and is about a one-hour trip. 

Beaver Lake Trail is a 3-mile trail with a steep elevation gain in the first quarter of a mile. The trail rises sharply up 200 feet with a series of switchbacks before leveling off to its ascent to Beaver Lake. The huffing and puffing is worth it once hikers reach the lake and behold the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. This trail is short enough to be combined with other sightseeing stops throughout the day. Wildlife is common along this path, so keep your eyes out for bears, eagles, deer, and ermine. 

Local tip: Pack rain gear, bear spray, and bug spray for this outing. While the Alaskan wilderness is beautiful, it is also incredibly buggy in the summer months. Bears can be frequent visitors along this route, so take extra precautions and always be Bear Aware.  

Grab lunch at the Fresh Fish  

Fresh Fish in Sitka

While you should visit Sitka for the scenery, you will want to stay for the food. Sitka is not short on delicious restaurants and cafes, and you could spend weeks experiencing all the wonderful flavors found in this city. However, if you’re only in town for a short bit, make a stop at the Fresh Fish food truck for one of the best meals in town. After all, you can’t visit Alaska without trying the local seafood! 

Fresh Fish cart in Sitka

Fresh Fish offers a bare menu of locally-caught poke, chowder, and ceviche. The menu changes often, so it is always fun to swing by and see what they are offering. Meals are made quickly, so you can grab a delicious treat quickly before heading out on your next adventure. 

Local tip: Fresh Fish is typically open Friday-Wednesday from 11:30-3:00. Depending on the day, the cart does move around in town. Check out their Facebook page or Instagram @thefreshfish.ak for the latest updates. 

Take a boat ride to Goddard Hot Springs

Even in the summer, Sitka can experience chilly temperatures and gloomy days. One of the best ways to still enjoy the outdoors, even on a cloudy day, is to catch a boat to Goddard Hot Springs. The boat ride from Sitka is about an hour and offers splendid views of Baranof Island from the water.

Keep your eyes on the lookout for whales and other marine mammals on your journey. Located to the south of Sitka, visitors can plan to spend at least half of a day exploring these natural wonders and enjoying a dip in the warm waters. 

The city of Sitka owns the Goddard Hot Springs, and the springs are free to the public. Each spring is protected within wooden huts, keeping out the worse of the Alaskan weather. Pack plenty of layers for the return trip, as temperatures can dramatically vary on the water. 

Look for Puffins at St. Lazaria Island

Lazaria Island sitka

Sitka sits on the outside of the Interior Passage, making it an excellent destination for bird viewing during the short summer months. Thousands of sea birds flock to the Sitka area between May and September to breed and nest along the sea cliffs and islands. One of the best places to see this natural phenomenon is St. Lazaria Island. 

St. Lazaria is the summer home of dozens of bird species, including puffins, petrels, auklets, and oystercatchers. These birds nest along volcanic cliffs and feed upon the abundant Fish and marine life that congregates in the waters around the island. St. Lazaria is one of 2,500 Alaskan islands that comprise the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. It is estimated that over half a million birds return to this location each year to raise their young. 

St. Lazaria Island is located to the north of Sitka and is only accessible by boat. Numerous charters and water taxis depart from Sitka every day to take eager birdwatchers, photographers, and wildlife enthusiasts on a cruise along the edges of this protected island. Otters, seals, and humpback whales are also a common sight on this journey. 

Local tip: This may not be the best choice for visitors prone to seasickness. Pack a pair of binoculars for this journey, as there will be much to see! While much of the water around Sitka is protected from weather, the ride out to St. Lazaria can be rough if the weather turns.  

Regardless of how you choose to spend your day in Sitka, Alaska, you are guaranteed to enjoy it. This makes it one of the top stops to enjoy your Great Alaskan Journey! Fair winds and smooth sailing! 
 

Subtle changes Royal Caribbean made on Wonder of the Seas

In:
30 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

You probably heard about the new suite neighborhood, shows, and restaurants Royal Caribbean added to Wonder of the Seas, but the cruise line also tweaked a few things that I really liked.

Wonder of the Seas night lit up

With each new cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's teams look for ways to improve the guest experience, and not just on a grand scale. Tweaking, swapping, and trying new ideas is part of the new build process. Often, these changes aren't heralded in reviews, but people that cruise a lot are sure to notice them when they run across it and say something like, "That's different."

Read moreWonder of the Seas vs other Oasis Class ships

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).

Magnetic bathroom doors

Bathroom door on Wonder of the Seas

The first time you use your cruise cabin bathroom, you'll probably notice it's missing that typical "ka-chunk!" sound the door makes when slamming shut.

The bathroom doors in your cabin are magnetically sealed on Wonder of the Seas. I assume it's so that the door is quieter when it closes, but I don't know that for a fact.

The bathroom doors use a magnetic element which pulls shut the the door when it's within about 1/2 -1” from closure. 

Read more: 8 things you should know about your cruise ship cabin

Some showers have dual showerheads

Keeping with the "changes in the bathroom" theme, another pleasant change was my balcony cabin had two different showerheads. 

Not all cabins have this, but there is a handheld showerhead and a standard showerhead that you can alternate between in the balcony room I stayed in. While you can't use them both at the same time, it is nice to be able to switch as needed.

Keep in mind if you do switch showerheads, the water coming out will likely be initially cold until the warm water comes rushing through the pipe.

Read moreA look at the big suites on Wonder of the Seas

More USB outlets

USB plug near bed on Wonder of the Seas

A trend Royal Caribbean has embraced is adding USB outlets to more places, and that continues on Wonder of the Seas.

There are more USB outlets in bars than I've seen on any other Royal Caribbean ship. This is great for being able to charge your phone while you hang out (and not have to drag around a battery pack).

USB plugs in cabin

In the cabin, there are more USB outlets than normal.  In addition to the USB outlets at your desk, they've finally added USB outlets near the beds.

Read moreThe Mason Jar Southern food restaurant on Wonder of the Seas

Wall hooks

Wall hooks on Wonder of the Seas

One of my favorite cabin hacks has been to recommend bringing your own magnets with hooks, but Royal Caribbean has offered some hooks on Wonder of the Seas.

Below the television are a series of hooks that came installed already.

Wall hooks are very helpful in a cabin because you can use them to keep apparel off the ground, and more importantly, free up drawer space.

Read moreMy favorite Royal Caribbean cruise hacks

Jazz music in Central Park

When we learned there would be no Jazz on 4 on Wonder of the Seas (it was replaced with a casino space), it seemed like an entertainment loss, but that's not the case.

Wonder of the Seas was designed with a high roller casino area in lieu of a jazz club to appeal to the Asian cruise market. When Royal Caribbean changed plans to keep Wonder of the Seas in the United States, they decided to keep the VIP room.

Royal Caribbean moved the jazz performers to Central Park to offer music each evening. There's also jazz music from time to time in Music Hall.

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

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