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Royal Caribbean updates: Harmony of the Seas, crew member hiring drive & more

In:
26 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Another week of Royal Caribbean cruise news to catch up on, and we have the latest morsels of updates you should be aware of over the past few days.

Not every piece of Royal Caribbean news is significant enough for its own article, so this weekly wrap-up has the happenings we've noticed.

You can always email anything you spot to [email protected]

Here's a look at this week's goings-on.

Harmony of the Seas backs into Falmouth pier

The Harmony of the Seas had a small incident on Thursday when she backed into the pier during the docking procedure in Falmouth, Jamaica.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader BobNoxiousUSA shared photos from onboard the ship.

In a statement by Royal Caribbean, the ship incurred very minor damage of no consequence as a result of the incident, "During arrival into Falmouth, Jamaica, Harmony of the Seas made contact with an extension part of the dock."

"There were no injuries to guests or crew and only minor cosmetic damage to the ship’s stern. The sailing will continue as scheduled."

Global crew member recruitment drive

Royal Caribbean is actively working to hire as many new crew members as they can, given the staff shortages noted by people that have been on cruises recently.

The company has been holding job fairs in Europe since April to get more crew members, which have taken them to countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia and more.

In addition, Royal Caribbean Group signed a deal in Trinidad and Tobago to hire more crew. The goal is to hire 2,000 people from the islands to work on Royal Caribbean Group ships.

Royal Caribbean Group partners with company for zero carbon shipping

Royal Caribbean Group signed a new deal to provide zero carbon technologies and solutions.

Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean Group and Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for zero carbon shipping, which is part of the company's overall Destination Net Zero goal to reduce net zero emissions by 2050.

The Moller Center explores viable de-carbonization pathways; facilitates the development and implementation of new energy technologies; builds confidence in new concepts and their supply chains; and defines and matures viable strategic pathways to the required systemic change. 

"Collective action is imperative as we deploy our Destination Net Zero strategy to decarbonize our business and catalyze innovation for our industry," said Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO.

"By joining the Center Royal Caribbean Group aligns itself with a network of like-minded companies with an unrelenting drive to find solutions for a sustainable future."

This is a long-term strategic collaboration between the two companies

What is the cheapest month for an Alaska cruise?

In:
26 May 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

An Alaska cruise makes for an unforgettable vacation experience, but the cost of sailing to Alaska can vary greatly from month to month. While some cruisers may not put a price on such a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, others prefer to travel as budget-friendly as possible.

While a cruise itinerary as beautiful as Alaska may seem like it would come with a shockingly-high price tag, visiting Alaska on a cruise can actually be surprisingly affordable. In fact, if you’re willing to be a little flexible with the time of the year you sail, itinerary, and stateroom selection, it’s possible to find Alaska cruise deals for as little as $85 per day, per person!

Let’s look at the cheapest month for an Alaska cruise and see just how much the cruise fare can change from month to month.

Alaska cruise season

The Alaska cruise season typically runs from late April to late September, and the cheapest months to cruise to Alaska are during the shoulder season months of April, May, and September.

Prices tend to be cheaper during shoulder season due to chillier temperatures and the fact that school is still in session. Weather can also be more unpredictable at this time, although, to be fair, that can be said about nearly every day in Alaska!

Read more: How to cruise on the cheap

Regardless, if booking the cheapest Alaska cruise is important to you, a good starting point is to look at fares during the months of April, May, and September. Let’s take a look at a few examples of an Alaska cruise fare for 2 adults in the shoulder season compared to the peak summer months of June, July, and August.

7-night Alaska Glacier Cruise on Ovation of the Seas

Price of 2 adults in a balcony stateroom, including taxes and fees:

  • May 19, 2023: $2,182
  • July 21, 2023: $3,613
  • September 15, 2023: $2,193

7-night Alaska Glacier Experience on Enchantment of the Seas

Price of 2 adults in an interior stateroom, including taxes and fees:

  • April 23, 2023: $1,215
  • July 2, 2023: $2,091
  • August 27, 2023: $1,571

7-night Alaska Glacier Cruise on Quantum of the Seas

Price of 2 adults in a 1 bedroom Grand Suite, including taxes and fees:

  • May 22, 2023: $9,674
  • June 19, 2023: $10,736
  • September 18, 2023: $9,574

It’s possible to have savings upwards of $1000 by sailing during shoulder season as opposed to mid-summer. These savings can easily be put toward Alaska shore excursions like whale watching, kayaking, and even helicopter tours!

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

Alternatively, you can use these savings and book a higher category stateroom. If a balcony room is out of budget for a cruise in July, it might be doable in April, May, or September.

Simply put, by cruising in shoulder season, you can get more bang for your buck on an Alaska cruise.

Benefits of booking an Alaska cruise during the cheapest months

Booking an Alaska cruise during shoulder season can lead to benefits beyond a cheaper cruise fare.

Cruising to Alaska in the early season of late April and May can come with a lower chance of rain than late summer and fall. In addition, daylight hours are from around 4AM to 10PM in May, giving visitors plenty of time to enjoy Alaska’s attractions. Temperatures can be quite comfortable as summer approaches, with highs in the 60s common in mid to late-May.

The early season also brings the chance to spot gray whales, bears, and orcas.

Read more: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise in the early season

Cruising in September brings the start of fall foliage and snow capped mountain peaks. You may also have the chance to spot the northern lights in late September, although this is not guaranteed.

Drawbacks of booking an Alaska cruise during the cheapest months

October is the rainiest month of the year in southeast Alaska, with September coming in second. This can lead to high chances of cloud coverage and precipitation as well as colder temperatures. It may also lead to rougher seas when outside of the Inside Passage and a higher chance of ports being changed at the last minute. 

There are also fewer daylight hours in September, with only around 12-13 daylight hours in Juneau as opposed to 18 in June.

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

If you are planning an Alaska cruise with kids, the shoulder season falls during the school calendar. Cruising in April, May, or September may require taking kids out of school for a week, which can lead to extra logistics with making up homework and tests.

Likewise, if you are interested in booking an Alaska Cruise Tour before or after your cruise, it’s important to note that visits to Denali National Park & Reserve are limited to when the park is open to visitors. The earliest and latest Alaska cruises of the season will likely not offer a Cruise Tour option.

Open-jaw sailings

The cheapest Alaska cruises tend to be in the months of May and September, but booking an open-jaw Alaska cruise can lead to even bigger savings not only in the shoulder season, but during the peak summer months as well.

Open-jaw Alaska sailings are one-way cruises to or from Alaska. One-way cruises travel between Vancouver, Canada and Seward, Alaska, visiting a variety of ports and glaciers along the Inside Passage. They can be booked either Northbound (departing from Vancouver and ending in Seward) or Southbound (departing from Seward and ending in Vancouver).

Read more: Ultimate Alaska cruise guide

One-way cruises exist primarily to serve Royal Caribbean’s land-based Cruise Tours, which are multi-day land tours before or after an Alaska cruise. However, one-way cruises are open to all passengers regardless of whether or not they booked a Cruise Tour.

Let’s compare a few one-way cruises to roundtrip sailings and see how much prices can differ. This pricing is for a guaranteed interior cabin for 2 adults during the peak summer season, including taxes and fees.

One-way 7-night Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier cruise on Radiance of the Seas

  • June 17, 2022: $1,126
  • July 29, 2022: $1,258

Roundtrip 7-night Alaska Glacier Cruise on Quantum of the Seas

  • June 27, 2022: $1,956
  • July 25, 2022: $2,096

As you can see, it’s possible to find fantastic cruise fares on one-way sailings if you want to sail during the warmest months of the year in Alaska. 

Why one-way cruises are cheaper

Cheaper prices can be found on open-jaw Alaska cruises due to the travel logistics needed on a one-way cruise, including flying into one city and out of another, figuring out transportation from Seward to the Anchorage airport, and being unable to drive to port.

If you don’t mind the extra logistics, open-jaw sailings can lead to great savings and the opportunity to visit Alaska more in-depth. Because there is less travel time required as opposed to a roundtrip cruise, open-jaw sailings often include more port stops and fewer sea days.

As a plus, you can also visit Alaska’s inland destinations such as Talkeetna and Denali National Park & Reserve by starting or ending your cruise in Seward.

Is it worth it to cruise to Alaska in the shoulder season?

While prices may be cheaper in May and September compared to June, July, and August, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each month before selecting a sail date.

If an Alaska cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you and you want the warmest temperatures and most daylight, booking the cheapest fare in, say, late September, may lead to disappointment.

Read more: Why you shouldn’t book the cheapest cruise you can find

Temperatures on an Alaska can actually be quite comfortable in late spring, so while it’s of course recommended to pack a jacket, hat, and gloves, you may be surprised with sunny skies and somewhat warm weather.

Regardless of the month you book an Alaska cruise, it’s important to remain flexible. Temperature, precipitation, port changes, and unexpected mishaps can happen at any time of year in Alaska, so keeping an open mind will help you have the best experience possible.

More Alaska cruise resources:

What to pack for a Bahamas cruise

In:
25 May 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

A cruise to the Bahamas offers a classic Caribbean cruise experience. From snorkeling in crystal clear waters to spending the day at Perfect Day at CocoCay, there’s always something to enjoy in the Bahamas.

Packing for a cruise efficiently means you can enjoy your vacation as much as possible without having to worry about forgetting essential items or lugging around extra weight.

From packing lightweight clothing to remembering sunscreen and comfortable shoes, here is our list of the top items to pack on a cruise to the Bahamas.

Breathable, casual clothing

Lightweight fabrics are key on a Bahamas cruise, where you’ll encounter warm temperatures nearly all year round. Heavy fabrics and non-breathable clothing are not recommended unless you plan on overheating!

Lightweight shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sundresses, and rompers are all acceptable clothing options in the Bahamas. Packing loose-fitting clothing is recommended over tight, restrictive outfits to ensure you remain comfortable.

It can also be fun to pack colorful, tropical patterned clothing to fully immerse yourself in vacation-mode. Leave the boring, black clothes at home and opt for a floral sundress or Hawaiian-print shirt instead.

If you opt to wear only a swimsuit and coverup, be sure to pack a change of clothes or a lightweight dress to throw over your swimsuit. It’s common courtesy to wear real clothing if you spend time walking around port and entering local businesses after the beach. 

Footwear

Packing footwear for a Bahamas cruise can be a bit challenging, as you want to ensure your shoes are comfortable for walking through town and also for the beach.

Flip flops are acceptable to wear both on the beach and in Bahamian ports, but reconsider wearing flip flops if you plan to do a lot of walking. Sturdier sandals with an ankle strap, such as Chacos, will fare more comfortably during a port day with various activities.

If your only goal is to go from cruise ship to beach with little walking in between, flip flops will be totally fine.

Sneakers can be a solid footwear option for comfortability, but they aren’t the best choice for a beach day. If you want to wear sneakers, consider packing sandals in your daypack so you can change shoes once at the beach.

Evening and formal wear

In between colorful shirts, shorts, and a swimsuit, don’t forget to pack for evening wear you’ll need once you get back onboard the ship.

While you can choose to eat at casual restaurants like the buffet every night of the cruise, if you want to eat in the Main Dining Room or specialty restaurants you should dress in clothing a bit nicer than what you wore to the beach.

Slacks, collared shirts, polos, jumpsuits, dresses, skirts, and blouses are all acceptable outfits for the dining room and restaurants onboard. Additionally, your cruise may have at least one formal night, so packing your best formal wear can be a good idea.

While dress codes are not strictly enforced, it’s common practice to pack a few nice outfits for evenings onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Read more: What to wear on a cruise ship formal night

Water-resistant daypack

Bahamas

Our top recommended accessory for a Bahamas cruise is a water-resistant daypack. A good daypack is extremely valuable to have, as it offers a safe place to store your phone, camera, wallet, ID, and SeaPass card while on shore.

As it is common to encounter rain in the Bahamas, even if only for a few minutes at a time, having a water-resistant daypack will cause less concern over your electronics and valuables being damaged.

Some daypacks even have “hidden” pockets that rest against your back, which can offer extra security when walking through busy port areas.

Miscellaneous accessories

Once you have your water-resistant daypack, be sure to pack it full of accessories that will come in handy on your cruise, whether onboard or on shore.

Sunscreen is of utmost importance on a Bahamas cruise, so remember to apply it regularly throughout the day. If you run out of sunscreen or forget it altogether, you can purchase extra onboard, but it will come at a higher price than at home.

Sunglasses and a sun hat are also important to ensure you remain covered, cool, and comfortable. If you plan on reading while at the beach, don’t forget to put your e-reader or book in your daypack as well.

If you booked an excursion in the Bahamas that requires traveling on a small boat (i.e. a catamaran tour), be sure to pack medication like Dramamine if you are prone to motion sickness. While your cruise ship will have stabilizers to reduce motion, it’s common to feel the seas much more on a smaller boat.

Bahamas cruise in winter

If you’re traveling to the Bahamas in the winter months, we recommend packing a few outfits to keep you warm in case of chilly weather. While you’ll likely encounter sunny skies and comfortable temperatures, short “cold” stretches can appear in the winter months.

Having a lightweight cardigan or pair of jeans on hand will be helpful in case of unexpectedly cold weather.

Packing list for a Bahamas cruise

Now that you know the basics of what to pack for a Bahamas cruise, use this list as a reference point when it comes time to pack:

  • 1-2 swimsuits
  • 2-3 pairs of lightweight shorts, preferably one pair of “nicer” shorts like jean shorts and one casual, lightweight pair
  • Casual, lightweight t-shirts or tank tops (1-2 shirts per day of your cruise)
  • 1-2 sundresses or rompers (for ladies)
  • Evening wear (slacks, blouses, etc.)
  • Lightweight cardigan or jacket for winter months
  • Water-resistant daypack
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat (straw hat, baseball cap, etc.)
  • Beach toys if traveling with kids
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 pair of sandals with an ankle strap (Chacos or similar)
  • 1 pair of formal shoes for dinner
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash)
  • Hairbrush, razors, and other personal hygiene products
  • Book or ereader
  • Underwear and pajamas
  • Lightweight socks

More packing tips:

Live Blogging from Serenade of the Seas in Alaska - Preamble

In:
25 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Not only is my next live blog ready to go live, but I'll be headed to Alaska for the first time since 2018.

After taking my first Alaska cruise in 2018, I instantly knew I wanted to return.  We had plans to do so in 2020 and 2021, but Covid and family obligations cancelled those.  Nonetheless, this is the year we're headed back!

This is an opportunity to not only cruise to Alaska, but hopefully visit all the major ports in Alaska over the course of two weeks.

Why we chose this cruise

Serenade of the Seas in Alaska

If you've never been to Alaska, you've probably heard others tell you how amazing and beautiful it is. And they're absolutely right.

I wasn't prepared for the splendor of Alaska my first time, so this time I'm even more excited to return and focus more on what Alaska has to offer.

Royal Caribbean has four ships sailing to Alaska in 2022, so I picked Serenade because I wanted to be able to get to more ports than Ovation or Quantum of the Seas could offer. Plus, Serenade's prices were great and I like some of the upgrades Serenade received that Radiance did not (even though they are the same class of ship).

I think what sealed the deal for choosing Serenade is we were able to snag a rather special suite category, the 2 bedroom Panoramic oceanview suite. 

Read moreWhat are the different types of cabins on a cruise ship?

After a recent Serenade of the Seas drydock, the Concierge Lounge was moved to a higher deck and they converted this large space into a Family Oceanview Stateroom.

There is only one of these suites on this ship and unlike similar suites on other classes of ships, this one is midship, facing the port side instead at the front of the ship. 

Since there's no balcony, but it has large panoramic windows, you can enjoy the Alaska scenery without dealing with the cold weather from the comfort of our bed.

My plans on shore

Juneau aerial view

Our cruise is all about doing as much as we can in Alaska while in port.

There are two x-factors when it comes to seeing as much as possible in Alaska: the weather and my children.

My kids are old enough now to be able to handle a reasonably adventurous day, where we do a fair amount of walking. I'm not talking about strenuous hikes or going for miles, but I think they can handle more walking than when they would need to be carried at a younger age. Plus, they seem to enjoy walking trails based on other recent trips we took.

Of course, the weather can be so hit or miss in Alaska. I'm hoping the rain will be at a minimum so we can enjoy lots of outdoor time. June is one of the driest months in Alaska, so I'm hoping for the best while also packing lots of waterproof layering. 

Over the course of the two sailings, we are scheduled to visit Ketchikan, Juneau (x2), Sitka (x2), Haines, & Skagway. We've only been to Skagway and Juneau.

Whale watching in Juneau

I've booked a few tours through Royal Caribbean, but some of our recent articles about what locals recommend doing in Alaska opened my eyes to how much you can do on your own without a cruise tour. 

Read moreLocal’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

Plus, I greatly prefer not doing group tours.

Radiance of the Seas in Vancouver

Plus, we sail out of Vancouver and that means my first time exploring Vancouver since I was a kid. We're spending an extra day in Vancouver before the cruise, so we'll check out some of the major landmarks the day before the sailing.

My plans onboard

Serenade of the Seas dining room

Believe it or not, my kids have never been on a Radiance Class ship, so this will be an introduction for them into small ship cruising.

While they've been on Majesty and Rhapsody of the Seas many years ago, I think it's been quite a while since they've sailed on something smaller than Voyager Class.

In terms of dining, we did not buy a dining package.  Since we are Diamond Plus, we get a BOGO deal with our benefits.  I think with the busy port schedule, we may end up just doing Windjammer a lot for dinner.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't talk about the elevated cases of Covid onboard, based on various readers sharing their observations recently. I'd be lying if I said I'm more concerned about catching Covid this time around than on previous sailings.

I think we're going to plan to wear our masks while indoors, even though they are not required. It's not ideal, but since we're traveling so far to see Alaska, I think taking extra precautions is prudent.

Nothing is risk free, and I'm not letting Covid stop my plans anymore.  But taking extra precautions is also not a bad idea. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

What's next

On Friday, May 27th, we fly to Seattle from our home in Orlando. It's a morning flight, so we should be on the west coast by lunch time.  The plan is to then rent a car and drive to Vancouver, which is roughly 143 miles on very scenic highways.

Once we arrive in Vancouver, we'll be staying at the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel because it was so highly recommended by others that have cruised out of Vancouver.

We board Serenade of the Seas on May 29th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter for live updates throughout the day.

Haines brewery

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

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

In:
25 May 2022
By: 
Mollie Breese

Perched at the northern end of the Taiyla Inlet, Skagway, Alaska is one of the only destinations in Southeast Alaska that you can drive to. This made it a hot spot for thousands of prospectors during the turn of the 20th century. 

Skagway ship at end of street

Skagway was a boomtown unlike any other. Over 40,000 eager gold-rush prospectors landed in Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush before heading north to the Yukon along the Chilkoot Trail. Over just a few years, this fisherman village grew into a bustling metropolis and played host to characters from around the world.  

Now, this town has returned to a sleepy fisher’s paradise, except for the short months of summer when it transforms into a tourist destination. Over 8,000 visitors a day disembark at this port to adventure through old saloons and pose for photos on Broadway Avenue.

It is easy to get caught up in the crowds, but Skagway offers more than just old Gold Rush charm and pretty backdrops. If you know where to go, this is a town ripe for an outdoor adventurer. So pack your bag and grab your raincoat as we launch into the local’s guide of top things to do in Skagway on your Alaska cruise

4. Attend a Ranger Chat at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center

Klondike Goldrush National Historic Visitor Center

The Klondike Gold Rush Visitor Center is on Broadway Street, within easy walking distance of the docks. While this isn’t a local’s secret, the Visitor Center is the perfect spot to start your day in Skagway. 

Entrance into the center is free, and you can access an array of great interactive exhibits that document the history and cultures of the area, including great exhibits on the Klondike Gold Rush and the individuals that headed north. A free 25-minute movie plays throughout the day to show how much this town has transformed throughout the decades. By starting here, you can walk around town and easily spot historical landmarks on your own. 

One of the biggest benefits of starting at the visitor center is the Ranger presentations given each morning. These 30-minute talks change daily and are a quick way to gain some history and knowledge of the area before heading out on some trails or excursions. Skagway has one of the richest gold rush histories of any town in Alaska, so this is worth checking out. 

Local Tip: Head north down Broadway when you’re done for some photo ops and to admire historical buildings. Pop into Klondike Doughboy on 3rd Avenue for a delicious pastry and coffee to start off your walk. 

3. Go for a Walk at Yakutania Point

Yakutania Point 

At the cruise port, you can walk towards the Skagway Airport to access one of the best hiking areas in town. At the airport, walk across the pedestrian bridge to Yakutania Point. Only about 1.5 miles roundtrip from the port, this is a very accessible walk to any visitor looking to get out in nature during their time in town. 

Yakutania Point is directly west of town and overlooks Tailya Inlet. There are multiple trails to explore in this area, but turn left after the bridge and head towards the point for the best view. This is a great spot to watch eagles fish or explore the rocky beach. If it’s sunny, grab a picnic on your way over, and enjoy lunch at one of the numerous picnic areas in the park. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, continue on the path past the point to Smuggler’s Cove. This path dips into the forest before dropping into the quiet inlet, with a picnic area and outhouse. Most crowds turn back at the point, so the trail is much more peaceful by continuing to the cove. Be sure to pack bug spray, rain gear, and sunscreen during this outing. The cruise port to Smuggler’s Cove is a 2-mile round trip with very little elevation gain.

2: Look for Wildlife at Dewey Lake

Lower Dewey Lake

For those seeking a longer hiking excursion than just Yakutania Point, Skagway has a plethora of trails extending directly out of the town, accessible by foot from the cruise port. One of the best is the Dewey Lake Trail System. While this area is full of a network of tails, my two favorites are the Lower Dewey Lake Trail and the Upper Lake Trail. 

You can access the trails by going across Pullen Creek bridge at the end of Second Avenue. Head north along the path for a quarter of a mile, before seeing the trail marker on the right. This will bring you onto the Lower Dewey Lake loop. 

Lower Dewey Lake Trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail that meanders through pine forest around Lower Dewey lake. Grouse, marmot, and pikas are frequent visitors in this area. In the summer, this trail is filled with wildflowers and colorful mushrooms that make you feel like you are walking in a fantasy world. Expect some climbing in the beginning, as this trail goes up 500 feet before reaching the lake. The climb is worth it for the fantastic views or the town and harbor.

Alaska's Upper Dewey Lake

If the trail is crowded, you can continue onto Upper Lake Trail at the north end of the loop. This trail continues for 3 miles to Upper Dewey Lake, where the landscape transforms from pine forest to alpine meadows. Mountain Goats and ptarmigan can be spotted along the route and on the surrounding ridgelines.

If you are hiking this loop, be sure to pack a lot of water and snacks as the trail goes up 3,000 feet. This trail is for only confident hikers with proper footwear. If you want a leisurely meander through the woods, stick to the Lower Dewey Lake Trail or Yakutania Point. 

Skagway brewing beer

Local Tip: Treat yourself to a beer at the Skagway Brewing Company when you’re back in town. This brewpub has a delicious selection of microbrews and comfort food that are the perfect ending to a long hike. 

1. Take a Drive along the Klondike Highway

Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you’re in Skagway for a more extended stop or finishing your cruise here, then renting a car is a great option to see the area. While Skagway is a cute gold rush town, the natural beauty and history lie just beyond the town. Many tours operate rides between Skagway and Emerald Lake for cruise travelers, but these tours cover over 180 miles, with limited options for getting out and exploring.

Instead of taking a tour, opt to rent your own car and go exploring along the Klondike Highway. This gives you the flexibility to stop and explore any places that catch your interest along the way.

If you have at least 10 hours at port, you can do the entire drive to Emerald Lake on your own. If you get to the lake, consider continuing on a bit further to Robinson Roadhouse. This old rail station is a great place to see marmots. 

If you’re limited on time, you can do the shorter 20-mile drive between Skagway and Fraser. This drive crosses into Canada and follows along Summit Lake. The road goes through tundra and high alpine meadows, which is also a great opportunity to spot wildlife. 

Be sure to pack your passport for this excursion, as you will be crossing into Canada before returning. If you have more time, go past Fraser to the Yukon Suspension Bridge. This stop offers a small gift shop, restaurant, and bridge that spans the infamous Yukon River.

Local Tip: If you are planning to drive to Emerald Lake, leave Skagway right away and don’t stop on your way. Get to the lake first, and then plan your stops on the way back. This will allow you to avoid tour buses and traffic on your outward journey and not feel pressed for time.

You can also walk to the rental lot directly from the cruise port. It is about a 10-minute walk, and you will be in front of the shuttle buses that drop off visitors from the port. This will maximize your time with your car rental and time exploring the road. 

What it’s like to cruise in Europe right now

In:
24 May 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

I recently returned from an incredible week cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. We sailed the western Mediterranean with port stops in Spain, France and Italy.

Wonder of the Seas in Malaga

This was our family’s first cruise since the pandemic. My husband and I, along with our two university-age daughters, explored the region's marvelous food and historic sites. Both the ship and itinerary were fantastic, and we are already talking about another cruise, perhaps to the Greek Islands.

With a bit of planning, we were able to navigate the travel requirements and Covid testing and thoroughly enjoyed our vacation.

Here is a recap of our journey and my thoughts for those wanting to cruise in Europe.  

European travel requirements

Having never been to Barcelona, we wanted to spend a couple of days pre-cruise to enjoy the city's famous sites and legendary cuisine.

Woman taking covid test

We did not need to take a Covid test to fly into Spain but had to complete an online form through the Spain Travel Health (SpTH) portal a couple of days prior to arrival. Once verified, you receive a QR code that you need to present upon landing.

Because we flew in early, we had to do our pre-cruise testing in Barcelona. To be honest, it was a little nerve wracking flying all the way to Europe, knowing there was the possibility that we could test positive and not cruise. But after a couple years of lockdowns, we decided it was time to travel again.

Testing in Barcelona

Covid test

While exploring Barcelona and indulging in endless tapas, we did take some time out to complete our pre-cruise testing. Royal Caribbean recently added Canada’s Switch Health tele-proctored tests as an accepted testing option, so we purchased the kits in advance of our flights. They are available through Air Canada’s loyalty partner, Aeroplan (at a discount for members), or through Switch Health.

We did the tests in our hotel room, and they were quick and easy, with results in less than 15 minutes.

There are also many places around Barcelona, in central tourist areas, that do tests (around 40 euros) and can be booked two weeks in advance. I did not see any testing available at the port.

Embarkation day  

The cruise terminal is centrally located in Barcelona, and traffic was super light on a Sunday morning, resulting in a quick and easy ride.

We arrived right around our 11 am check-in time, and there were no lines. Staff completed a cursory review of our vaccines, passports, and negative Covid test results with no problems. In less than 15 minutes, we were onboard and enjoyed a delightful brunch at the Mason Jar.

This itinerary was a little unusual in that guests can join in Barcelona or Rome, so while we were getting on, some cruisers were getting off for a port day. Lucky for us, our cabins were ready before 1 pm.

Capacity

How full was the ship? I spoke to the head of housekeeping and was advised that there were around 4,000 passengers on our cruise. This is well shy of the 6,988 maximum, at 57%.

Unlike many Caribbean itineraries, our western Mediterranean cruise had only one sea day at the end, which meant most days passengers were off on excursions, making it feel even less crowded.

Our only sea day was the busiest on the ship, although there were still plenty of chairs left by the pool mid-morning. As usual, there were some chair hogs onboard.

Tourists everywhere

While the cruise ship did not feel crowded, places like Barcelona and Rome were full of tourists of all kinds. I have previously traveled in Europe during the peak summer season and was surprised at how busy things were, especially in Rome.

The Vatican was like nothing I had ever seen with wall to wall people, although most wore masks. People have asked me about being nervous about traveling on a cruise ship. Cruising pales in comparison to the density of people in the Sistine Chapel and other tourist hot spots and airports,

Even the famous Trevi Fountain was swarming with people without masks. The close proximity was more alarming than anything on the ship, and with heat in the high 80s, no one wanted to wear a mask.

Masks

While masks are optional on the ship, the rules for transportation vary by country in Europe. In our first stops in Palma de Mallorca and Marseilles, Royal Caribbean offered shuttles from the ports to the city centers, We were required to wear masks onboard the busses, but this was not uniformly enforced.

While waiting in line to return to the ship, the bus driver would not let a few passengers on the bus as they did have masks. Apparently, their previous driver had said nothing about the requirements and had let them travel maskless.

I had a few spare masks that I offered to the couple behind me, but some people were left behind. There weren’t many pharmacies close by, an inconvenience to say the least.

Protocols in Italy

Italy had the most protocols for cruise passengers.  

We had booked a tour for Rome through Royal Caribbean, and as we assembled in the theatre, they advised that we needed to wear an N95 mask on transportation and in the Vatican, as well as to bring along our proof of vaccination. They provided us each with an N95 mask for our day.

Some of the guests simply walked off the ship, missing this detail, and had issues once in Rome getting on the bus as they did not have N95 masks. It is imperative to review the Cruise Compass for each port day, especially when the requirements change by port.

Staff and service

Having worn a mask during our hot day in Rome made me appreciate the hardworking staff all the more, who wear them all day long on the ship (even outdoors).

The ship was well maintained, with workers constantly cleaning, and I noticed senior crew doing inspections. I chatted with lots of crew, and many mentioned that they were looking forward to going onshore after so much time on the ship. A few commented that the lack of shore leave and expensive internet was an issue for them.

Overall, the food was excellent. We bought the dining packaging for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed trying a variety of restaurants. 150 Central Park was delicious, and we went there twice for dinner savoring beef tenderloin and lobster thermidor. We also enjoyed the Mason Jar. 

Excursions

I wasn’t sure how relaxing the cruise would be if we did lengthy excursions every day, so I booked a couple of activities, and for port stops in Palma de Mallorca, Marseilles, and La Spezia we explored on our own.

For Rome, we chose a small group tour to visit the Vatican, Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. The day started at 7 am, and it took us almost 2 hours to get to Rome, but it was an unforgettable experience. Our guide was top notch, an art historian at the Vatican Museum.

For Naples, I initially thought we would spend the day sampling pizza in the birthplace place of the famous food, but my travel agent had recommended Pompeii, which is only a 30 minutes drive away. I am glad she did, it was my favorite excursion, and again we had a fantastic guide who made the experience that much better.

Although you pay a premium to book with the ship, not worrying about time and logistics was a major benefit. Thanks to our guided tour, we skipped a lot of lines and had special access to areas at the Vatican.

Activities and Entertainment

There is currently no Broadway show on the ship, but there was plenty of entertainment as always. We really enjoyed listening to jazz in Central Park, and my family raved about the show Intense.  

My daughters enjoyed rock climbing and ice skating, and the lineups for activities like zip-lining were not long. There were fewer kids than on the Caribbean cruises we have sailed on previously.

I have to say, having back to back ports, in addition to easily walking 15,000 steps a day, evening entertainment was not the main concern for me. Sunset was as late as 9 pm, so it was lovely to sit out and savor the picturesque views of the Mediterranean coastline and islands.

Disembarkation

The worst part of a cruise is the day you have to leave. We carried our bags off early, around 7 am. As you are still in the European Union, you do not need to clear customs/ immigration, just a simple walk off the ship.

There are plenty of taxis waiting at the cruiser terminal, although I did notice that most were not that large, We just fit out four suitcases and us in our car, so I would suggest arranging something specific if you have a large party/ lots of bags.

The airport is about 20 minutes, and check in was quick. Thankfully we did not have to do a Covid test to return to Canada. Barcelona airport has Covid testing that you can pre-book. The lines for those who did not pre-book were quite long, so it may be best to arrange ahead of time.  

Some final thoughts

  • I strongly recommend using a good travel agent. Connie, my trusted travel agent of nearly 10 years, was invaluable in planning this trip. From hotels to excursion ideas, she was a huge resource.
  • Ensure you keep up to date with Royal Caribbean’s communications, as protocols can change at any time.
  • Review all your travel requirements and arrange testing beforehand.
  • Ensure you have adequate travel and medical insurance.
  • If you do excursions on your own, be mindful of distance and traffic.
  • The cruise planner has a glitch in the system and did not work well for guests joining the cruise in Rome.
  • Many of the excursions involved lots of walking, especially on old cobblestone streets. Make sure to bring good, comfortable footwear.
  • Euros are preferred for small purchases and local vendors, especially if you are negotiating price.
  • The weather was warmer and drier than normal for May, but it cooled down quickly at night.

Icon of the Seas construction update: mystery sphere installed on ship

In:
24 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

While we don't know what it is yet, the sphere-like object that is part of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship has been installed onboard.

Icon of the Seas sphere installation

Royal Caribbean released a new construction update teaser that talks about the pearl-shaped object being added to Icon of the Seas.

We first spotted this object in December 2021, and it remains a mystery as to what it possibly could be.  Royal Caribbean has not confirmed what it is, but we do know now where it is located.

In the video update, the object was placed about mid-ship, amidst the various blocks of Icon of the Seas during her construction progress.

Sphere installation

It measures 46 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter, with 578 aluminum external panels.

According to the update, the object is 175-metric tons and was transferred on a barge down to the shipyard for installation.

Icon of the Seas is under construction in Turku, Finland.

Other interesting facts:

  • 9 miles of cables for power & lighting
  • 1,323 feet of air conditioning ducts
  • Steel mounting frames on the inside
  • It required two tugboats to move it to the shipyard
  • 5,600-metric-ton-crane lifted it into position
  • It's taken 45,000 working hours to construct the sphere

What is the sphere?

Since news of the sphere's existence came to light, Royal Caribbean has not confirmed what it is.

In fact, Royal Caribbean has released no information about what the design of the ship will be at all.

In March 2022, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider said about the new class of ship, "everything you'll see on icon will will be an evolution or revolution."

"And and we'll push forward again us being the at the top of the mantle on the ultimate family vacation."

There has been quite a lot of guesses shared on social media as to what the sphere might be, but it remains a question.

Whatever it ends up being, we'll have to wait for Royal Caribbean to reveal it at a later date.

Icon of the Seas will be the first ship in the Icon Class to launch.  She is scheduled to be delivered in Fall 2023, and there are two other Icon Class ships on order.

The other two ships will be delivered in 2025 and 2026.

Royal Caribbean's Memorial Day Sale offers up to 35% off savings

In:
24 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is celebrating Memorial Day weekend with a new Cruise Planner sale that offers up to 35% savings on pre-cruise purchases.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

The Memorial Day Sale runs between May 24, 2022 - May 31, 2022 and is valid on sailings from May 29, 2022 - March 31, 2023.

The offer is valid on certain shore excursions, drink packages and internet packages.

Royal Caribbean states guests can expect to see:

Beverage: Up to 40% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Over 20% off onboard prices.
  • Spring Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • San Benedetto Water Cans: Discount varies by ship.
  • Evian Water Bottles: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices.

Shore Excursions: Up to 25% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship. 

Internet: Up to 50% Off

  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship. 
Giovanni's Table on Allure of the Seas

Dining: Up to 55% Off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship.

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

Photo Packages: Up to 70% Off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: All Digital: Discount varies by ship.
Casita on Oasis of the Seas

Casitas: Up to 20% Off

  • Casita Packages: 20% Off Onboard Prices

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

Royal Caribbean cruises in June 2022: What to expect

In:
23 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

June is the official start of the summer cruise season, which means warm temperatures on pretty much every Royal Caribbean ship you can sail on (outside of Alaska).

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Have a cruise planned in June? This should provide you the important information for navigating a cruise this month.

June is when summer cruises get into full swing in Europe and Alaska. This means all the ships are in position to offer a full assortment of cruises this month.

Depending on where you live, school begins to let out for summer break during the month of June. This means as the month progresses, so do the crowds and demand for sailings.

Amalfi Coast

If you're looking to get a deal on a cruise, your best is to look for a last-minute cruise deal for early June. Of course, that may be easier said than done, as available cabins may be limited.

Ships sailing in June 2022

This month will see every single Royal Caribbean ship back in service again, as Rhapsody of the Seas restarted operations on May 23.

  • Freedom of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Anthem of the Seas from Cape Liberty, New Jersey until she moves to Southampton
  • Allure of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Symphony of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Independence of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Harmony of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Liberty of the Seas from Galveston, Texas
  • Adventure of the Seas from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Explorer of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Navigator of the Seas from Los Angeles, California
  • Spectrum of the Seas from Singapore
  • Grandeur of the Seas from Galveston, Texas
  • Enchantment of the Seas from Baltimore, Maryland
  • Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver, Canada or Seward, Alaska
  • Serenade of the Seas from Vancouver, Canada
  • Voyager of the Seas from Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Quantum of the Seas from Seattle, Washington
  • Ovation of the Seas from Seattle, Washington
  • Oasis of the Seas from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Brilliance of the Seas from Rome, Italy
  • Wonder of the Seas from Barcelona and Rome
  • Odyssey of the Seas from from Rome, Italy
  • Vision of the Seas from Barcelona, Spain
  • Rhapsody of the Seas from Rome, Italy
  • Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Royal Caribbean's ships will be operating out of three primary markets: Alaska, Europe, and Caribbean.

Read moreComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2022

Summer is actually a off-peak time for cruises to the Caribbean. You will find far less ships sailing to the Caribbean because many vessels have been redeployed to Europe and Alaska. It's also as hot as it gets in the Caribbean during the summer.

The advantage of a summer cruise to the Caribbean is there are less ships overall to contend with, making for favorable conditions in the ports you will visit since there will be less passengers in port.

Health protocols for June 2022 cruises

Royal Caribbean's Covid-19 protocols are fairly consistent across the board, although there can be a few variations for certain European departures.

All Royal Caribbean guests age 12 and older must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

Boosters are not required, except for some European sailings require anyone that hasn't had their last shot more than 270 days ago to get a booster.

Royal Caribbean does not require kids younger than 12 to be vaccinated.

Masks are optional for vaccinated guests & recommended for unvaccinated children while onboard. Masks are no longer required at Adventure Ocean for kids 2 years and up, they are recommended for unvaccinated kids.

Masks are also now optional while in the cruise terminal before or after your cruise, unless mandated by local authorities.

Guests under 2 years old do not need to wear a mask.

Covid test

Vaccinated guests must show a negative COVID-19 test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day. 

Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR test (not antigen) taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. This test cannot be taken on boarding day for unvaccinated kids.

Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test. 

June weather on a cruise

Couple walking in Italy

June temperatures in the Caribbean typically range from about 78 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and 70 to 80 at night. 

Expect water temperatures around 81 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

This means hot and humid conditions for a Caribbean cruise with very warm ocean temperatures as well.

Officially, the hurricane season begins on June first, but tropical storms don't usually get going until later in the season.

Read moreWhat to know about cruising during hurricane season in the Caribbean

Kayaking in Palma de Mallorca

Let's move over to Europe, where you will find the sunniest month of the cruise season. June is a fabulous time to take a Mediterranean cruise because of the warm, but not yet hot, temperatures that come later in the summer. On top of that, there are less crowds in June compared to next month.

June is also the time of year when the Mediterranean Sea is finally warm enough to swim, with an average water temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Read moreWhat is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

copenhagen denmark rosenborg

If your European cruise goes to Northern Europe, expect high temperatures in the low 60s, and night time temperatures in the low 50s.

Downtown Ketchikan

In Alaska, expect the least rain of the year. This is the perfect month for outdoor shore excursions, such as hiking.

Read moreBest things to do on an Alaska cruise

The average temperature for an Alaska cruise are lows in the upper 40s and highs in the mid-60s Fahrenheit. Towards the end of June, you benefit from additional daylight, with up to 18 hours of sunlight.

You're going to need layers for this sort of weather, so it's important to pack for your Alaska cruise effectively.

More information

Full Royal Caribbean fleet returns to service with Rhapsody of the Seas restart today

In:
23 May 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's taken many months, but every single Royal Caribbean cruise ship is back in service.

Rhapsody of the Seas in Bay of Kotor, Adriatic Sea, Montenegro

Rhapsody of the Seas returned to service on Monday, which was the last cruise ship in the fleet to resume cruises following the shutdown due to Covid-19 in 2020-2021.

Rhapsody is beginning to offer 7-night Mediterranean and Greek Isles itineraries from her summer home in Rome (Civitavecchia).

As of today, all 26 ships are back in service. To date, Royal Caribbean International has carried more than two million passengers, cruising to 160 destinations across 2,000 voyages. 

Royal Caribbean had methodically resumed service on 13 of its ships since August 2021, which involved gathering crew members to staff the ship, prep the vessel for operation, and get everything going onboard.

Onboard cruise ships, the Cruise Compass daily newspaper celebrated the entire fleet's return.


Photo by Nick Vitani

A long journey back

The entire cruise industry voluntarily shut down operations in March 2020 at the onset of Covid-19, and the trek to get all of its ships back has been quite a process.

Quantum of the Seas was the first ship to restart sailings, when she resumed cruises in December 2020 out of Singapore. 

It would take another six months for the next ship to restart, with Adventure of the Seas resuming cruises from Nassau, Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean's plan to restart sailings was centered around a slow and methodical process.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and former CEO Richard Fain talked about their plan at the onset of ships returning, "We don't expect that... someday somebody blows a horn, and all the ships start operating right away. We think that it will be a gradual start, a little bit like society is opening up gradually."

"So we would imagine that we would start with fewer ships, and more likely to be more drive markets in the beginning, and then it would then evolve and grow from there."

Since then, ships have been able to resume cruises from the United States, Europe, and select ports in the Caribbean.

The only market that remains completely shutdown still is China, although Royal Caribbean remains hopeful cruises will be able to sail from there again soon.

Odyssey of the Seas

In addition to getting all the ships back in service, Royal Caribbean also launched Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.

Full capacity soon

Promenade deck

With every ship back in service, Royal Caribbean is also on the verge of its ships sailing full once again.

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley indicated with every ship back in service, full capacity is around the corner as well.

"And as we head towards Memorial Day weekend," Mr. Bayley explained to a Wall Street analyst during the call. "We're going to see significant percentage of our ship sailing at 100% and greater."

By the time Royal Caribbean Group gets to the third quarter of 2022, they expect the entire company to be at "triple digits" in terms of capacity.