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Harmony of the Seas versus Anthem of the Seas

04 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

Two of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship that offers cruises from the United States, and have garnered a tremendous amount of interest from guests, is Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.  Today, we compare both cruise ships in a head-to-head comparison.

In comparing both ships, we break down each ship's offerings and summarize what the strengths and weaknesses of both ships to see how each ship stacks up. As objective as we may try to be, the reality is we are talking about opinions, and as such, personal preferences will vary from person to person. We will certainly try to convey why we liked or disliked something, but understand some may disagree (and that is okay). This should be a fun contrast.

Shows: Anthem of the Seas

Both ships offer a variety of productions for guests to enjoy, comprising original productions and Broadway shows. Let us be very clear: the shows on both ships are wonderful, so we are about do the cruise ship equivalent of argue about which cut of steak tastes better.

The Broadway show on Anthem of the Seas is, "We Will Rock You", which is a West End musical that uses the music of rock band Queen in the performance to tell its story.  On Harmony of the Seas, guests can enjoy, "Grease", the Broadway musical all about summer love in the 1950s. Both shows are identical to the original productions and we will call it a tie between the two of them.

Both ships also offer a slew of original productions to enjoy.  Anthem of the Seas offers shows such as "The Gift" and "Spectra's Cabaret", which are a mix of music, dance and special effects.  They represent the latest in Las Vegas-style entertainment and are anything but ordinary. Harmony of the Seas has Royal Caribbean's first original musical, "Columbus: The Musical", as well as two different ice skating shows. In fact, 1887 might be the best ice skating show we have seen on any Royal Caribbean ship to date.

The real X-factor for both ships are their specialized entertainment venues.  Anthem of the Seas puts its best shows in Two70, a massive theater on the aft of the ship that can be transformed digitally in a number of ways. In fact, the Vistarama and Roboshows in Two70 are absolutely stunning to watch.  Harmony of the Seas follows up with two shows in the AquaTheater, both of which are centered around eye-popping stunts and acrobatics. 

While Harmony of the Seas has a greater array of entertainment offerings, we feel the quality of Anthem of the Seas' shows gives it the edge.  Two70 alone is filled with a great variety of entertainment that has to be seen to be appreciated. 

Onboard activities: Harmony of the Seas

When we talk about onboard activities, there is a lot of options across each ship. Simply put, you will not run out of things to do onboard.

Guests on Anthem of the Seas will have their choice of a number of Royal Caribbean innovations that make the Quantum class ships quite different from other ships in the fleet.  North Star, the observational pod that takes guests 300 feet above see level for a 360-degree view of the ocean and area around them is very popular and equally impressive.  Ripcord by iFly allows all anyone who's mother forbid them from ever contemplating sky diving to give it a shot in a much safer environment.  Then you have the SeaPlex, an immense area of the ship dedicated to being active at sea. In fact, it is the largest indoor active space at sea, where guests can play on a full-size basketball court, go roller skating and even ride bumper cars.

Harmony of the Seas answers back with a ton of firsts of its own.  Harmony of the Seas features the three water slides that are sure to get everyone in the family asking to ride it one more time.  Speaking of slides, the Ultimate Abyss is the kind of slide experience that words cannot do justice.  It is large, intense and a lot of fun while descending the 10 stories down.  Harmony of the Seas has double the amount of FlowRiders that Anthem of the Seas has and a brand new aqua park for kids, Splashaway Bay.  If you prefer your activities a bit more sedate, Harmony of the Seas also has a very fun escape room experience, rides and games in the Boardwalk and more.

One advantage Oasis class ships have always enjoyed is that they offer much more than any other ship, and in this case, the staggering amount of activities on Harmony of the Seas gives it the win for things to do.

Specialty Dining: Harmony of the Seas

Perhaps no other area of the cruise ship experience has changed in the last few years as dramatically as specialty dining on Royal Caribbean ships. These additional cost options offer guests additional dining choices to consider, and the array of choices between both ships is impressive.

Anthem of the Seas boasts quite a number of specialty restaurants that stand out.  Jamie's Italian, Izumi, Chops Grille and Wonderland top the list of popular places guests enjoy on Anthem.  We also like the easy grab-and-go nature of Johnny Rockets, which is a la carte instead of a more formal sit down experience on Harmony. 

Harmony of the Seas is equal to the task when it comes to specialty dining.  One big difference on Harmony of the Seas, compared to her Oasis class sisters, is the inclusion of Jamie's Italian.  Harmony also boasts its own version of Wonderland, which is significantly larger and encompasses two decks.  Even Izumi on Harmony of the Seas is larger, with an exclusive hibachi dining area. You will also find the ever-popular Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Harmony of the Seas, which heavily sways our vote.

Given the fact Harmony matches and exceeds Anthem's specialty dining offerings (and Anthem lacks a Sabor), we have to give Harmony of the Seas the edge once again.

Complimentary Dining: Harmony of the Seas

Of course, complimentary dining is at the heart of any cruise experience and both ships have a lot of great choices. In comparing the complimentary options, this is a war of attrition, where each ship offers very similar options. Both ships have a Cafe Promenade, Sorrentos, Solarium Bistro, Windjammer, Park Cafe/Cafe @ Two70, Dog House and room service.

The key differences here are in the details. First and foremost, Anthem of the Seas is handicapped by the fact it has recently undergone a change from Dynamic Dining back to traditional dining, although it still retains smaller dining rooms in lieu of a larger main dining room.  The hours of operations and size of the Windjammer are superior on Anthem of the Seas, but once again, size proves to be the benefit for Harmony.  There is a wider selection of choices at Cafe Promenade on Harmony, and the entire main dining room experience is far superior.  For that alone, Harmony of the Seas wins this battle.

Itineraries: Anthem of the Seas

This could be among the least subjective points to consider between the two ships: where they sail to.  

Harmony of the Seas only offers cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean throughout the year.  Essentially the same six to seven ports, no matter when you choose to sail on her.  

On the other hand, Anthem of the Seas varies her offerings on the time of year.  Depending on the season, she offers cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Bermuda, New England and Canada.  In addition, Anthem of the Seas is capable of visiting CocoCay, whereas Harmony of the Seas is not. Given the options between the two ships, this is a slam-dunk for Anthem of the Seas.

Pools: Anthem of the Seas

The pool deck experience is arguably one of the most important because it seems this is where guests will spend the most time aggregately during their cruise.  After all, when booking a cruise, isn't everyone envisioning sitting by the pool on a deck chair with a drink in hand?

Harmony of the Seas has a number of smaller pools, which helps with crowds, and its Splashaway Bay option for kids is the best kids pool area we have seen yet. However, Harmony of the Seas lacks a pool in the Solarium (it has hot tubs and a mister instead), which has bothered many adults who enjoyed having a pool of their own.

Meanwhile, Anthem of the Seas not only has a pool in the Solarium, but an additional indoor pool that is perfect for any kind of weather.  Combined with the main outdoor pool, pool days on Anthem are quite lovely. Admittedly, the "wave pool" on Anthem of the Seas for kids is less than stellar, so the kids might be better off in the regular pool.  Nonetheless, Anthem of the Seas wins the contest of aquatic adventure.

Kids & Teens: Push

Both ships offer the most activities and programming for kids that we have seen across any Royal Caribbean ship.  In general, Royal Caribbean has been consistently increasing the amount of space and variety of programming for kids on its ships, and your children will have a blast on either.

Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's supervised child program, and both ships have a large dedicated space onboard for kids ranging in ages from 6 months through 17 years old. Harmony of the Seas does have a larger footprint for its Adventure Ocean program, but the quality of offerings on both ships is nearly identical. Harmony of the Seas does have a few dedicated spaces that Anthem does not, such as the art and science labs.

There is a definite advantage for older kids (tweens and teens) on Anthem of the Seas because of SeaPlex.  SeaPlex offers so much for this age group, that it is undeniably fun for them and because it is indoors, there is rarely any excuse to miss out on it. Bumper cars, Xbox gaming, ping pong, roller skating, dancing, circus school and more are part of the SeaPlex offerings. I am not certain how much Royal Caribbean was targeting teens when they developed the SeaPlex, but it is a homerun with these adolescents.

Of course, Harmony of the Seas has water slides and the Ultimate Abyss slide, which provides plenty of thrills for teens.  There is also the zip line, mini golf course and the rest of the sports deck.  You are just as likely to find plenty of teens hanging out here, as anywhere else. As we mentioned earlier, Splashway Bay is far superior a kids pool area than Anthem's H2O water zone.

The nursery facility on both ships is excellent and quite large. Parents of children under three years old will do well with either option.

In the end, we might give a slight edge to Anthem of the Seas for older children and Harmony of the Seas for younger children, but the differences are too minute to pick a clear winner.

Value: Push

When comparing these ships, they represent the two newest cruise ships in the United States cruise market and also come with a premium price tag because of that distinction. While rates will vary from sailing to sailing and month to month, you can expect to pay more for either ship compared to other ships in the fleet. These ships offer the best that Royal Caribbean has to offer, and it comes with the price tag to match.

Even with their premium price tags, both ships offer guests a lot to see, do and eat onboard. Royal Caribbean designed these ships to be destinations in and of themselves, and that means a lot of return on the money paid to cruise on them. Until further notice, we declare the value proposition for either ship a tie.

Verdict: Harmony of the Seas

Picking a winner was a lot like picking a favorite child: it depends on the day, but we are giving a slight edge to Harmony of the Seas.  It is the newest, shiniest and down right most enjoyable ship we have cruised on to date.  In most cases, Harmony of the Seas matches what Anthem of the Seas offers and gives back even more.

Harmony of the Seas also benefited greatly from the fact Royal Caribbean added a number of Quantum class features to the ship, such as a Bionic Bar, stateroom design and upgraded technology. If this were a comparison between Oasis or Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas might have done considerably better.

Once again, it is worth noting that we really like Anthem of the Seas. Her entertainment is quite impressive and there is nothing like Two70.  Moreover, North Star, Ripcord and the entire SeaPlex is tons of fun, especially if you have older kids with you.

However, we are here to declare a winner and the "face that runs the place", the stylin', profilin', limousine riding to the port and wheelin' n' dealin' cruise ship is Harmony of the Seas!

In the spirit of fairness, we also posed this question to the public, with a twitter poll and Harmony of the Seas also seems to win the popular vote.

My Favorite Royal Caribbean Ship on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

04 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 179 is available for downloading which has a look at the internet options while on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Matt broadcasted this episode live and invited Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders to call in and share their thoughts on what their favorite Royal Caribbean ship is and why.

Here is the podcast page for Episode 179. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

6 ways to make the most of a Royal Caribbean cruise as a family

03 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

For a lot of us, a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation is a family affair.  This could be a large family gathering on the cruise with the entire extended family, or this could be just a vacation with your immediate family.  Either way, you will want your cruise experience to hit all the high notes and create lasting memories that you will want to talk about for years after the cruise completed. 

Here are a few tips we put together to help ensure you have the best family vacation experience.

1. Plan together

Before you ever set foot on your cruise ship, get the cruise fun started early with some planning.  Including everyone in the cruise planning is a great way to ensure not only that everyone's ideas are accounted for, but it also helps foster the excitement for this cruise.

It is important to get everyone's input on what they want to do during the cruise so that there is something for everyone to look forward to. It could be reservations at a restaurant, plans for a specific port of call you are visiting or just ensuring there is enough ice cream and pool time together.

You can also include other non-cruise related planning, like creating custom t-shirts for the trip together.  Building anticipation for the trip together sets the tone for a fun family trip!

2. Try a specialty restaurant

Families typically save money for their family vacation and one of the best experiences that is worth a few more hard-earned dollars is a specialty restaurant on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The cost will vary depending on how many people are in your party, but working at least one in during your cruise can top off the dining experience when you can get everyone included for a special meal.

This could be as simple as lunch with the family at Johnny Rockets, a hibachi table for your family at Izumi or a fancy evening out at Chops Grille. Each specialty restaurant offers something different, and there are a good variety of restaurants to choose from that offer different cuisines and different prices.

Having a meal together at a specialty restaurant is a great way to get a break from the "hustle and bustle" of a busy day onboard the ship and take some time to enjoy a meal together.

3. Book an immersive shore excursion

Your Royal Caribbean cruise will take you to some exciting ports of call, and one really tip for a fun family experience is to pick at least one shore excursion to do as a family that is more than just hanging out by the beach. We love the beach, but going on an adventure as a family can really create lasting memories.

Royal Caribbean's Family Connections shore excursions are designed to create memories, while taking guests on fun explorations of the wildlife, nature, history, and cultural experiences that can be shared among kids, parents, and grandparents. These tours are a great starting point for finding something that everyone can agree on, and more importantly, look forward to trying.

4. Character dining

Did you know on select Royal Caribbean ships there are character breakfast meals available for guests to enjoy? If your family has young children (or adults who are young at heart), then this meal can be fun for all to enjoy.

The DreamWorks Character breakfast is usually held in the main dining room on select mornings in the main dining room. Royal Caribbean offers a breakfast with some of your favorite Dreamworks characters, including characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar. 

Breakfast here is of the sit-down variety and you get a little entertainment to go with it. For kids, it's free but anyone over the age of 10 will have to pay a $10 fee.

5. Be flexible

We all want our family vacations to be perfect, and create the kind of memories everyone will speak fondly of for years to come.  However, family dynamics are rarely known for being simple and the secret to a great family vacation is to sometimes be able to take a step back and be flexible with your plans.

While we love to plan as much of the cruise as possible, it is important to allow room for spontaneous moments or just a "go with the flow" sea day.  Planning out each part of your day is aimed at ensuring you get a chance to "do it all", but you also do not want to frustrate family members because they feel like there is a strict regiment for what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Planning is important and should be done where it make sense, but do not plan every minute or even every hour of the day.

Plan ahead your general plans, shore excursions, entertainment and even dining.  Then, go with the flow.  Maybe you sleep in and then eat breakfast in the Windjammer one day and wake up early to hit the pool another day.  You never know what everyone will be in the mood for, but allowing for time to everyone to relax and simply hang out can be just as fun a family experience as an organized shore trip.

6. Try something new

There is nothing wrong with doing things that you love, but make a note to try something completely new. Forcing yourself to get out there and try something new can be just the ticket to discovering a brand new activity, food or experience that you never thought you'd like.  

Depending on the Royal Caribbean ship you will be cruising on, there can be a variety of new things to try out.  Be sure to bring your family with you to try it out too, or just document the experience for all to enjoy later.  Here are some of our favorite activities worth the try:

It really does not matter which you pick, because the point is to do things together as a family and create memories (even if it is of you falling down on the FlowRider a few times).

Your thoughts

What advice would you offer to a family going on their first Royal Caribbean cruise together? Are there lessons you would share with others for an even better cruise experience together? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Royal Caribbean UK looking for Instagramer to be the cruise line's summer intern

03 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean UK is kicking off a search for an Instagram user to be the cruise line's "summer intern" and share the cruise experience via Instagram.

The 3 week Instagram Intern-ship will take place over the summer of 2017 and involve, "capturing incredible content and uncovering amazing stories." The successful candidate will be responsible for finding and documenting the extraordinary on a daily basis via Instagram.

Royal Caribbean describes this "intern-ship" as a hybrid between being a photographer, documentary maker and a storyteller. A typical day will see the successful candidate immerse themselves in the extraordinary moments, experiences and stories that take place on land and at sea, and share them with the world via Instagram.

Anyone interested in applying needs to ensure they meet the following criteria

  • Skilled in Instagram with extensive knowledge of all 23 filters
  • Exemplary ability to capture stunning views, extraordinary experiences, beautiful sunsets and amazing stories on social media
  • Available to travel for three consecutive weeks between June –July 2017 to regions including New York, the Caribbean, Asia and the Mediterranean.
  • Inquisitive nature, love storytelling and enjoy sharing experiences
  • Unbeatable sense of adventure and hunger for the extraordinary
  • Own a smartphone
  • Note: Photocopying, administrator and tea-making skills are not required

Successful candidates will receive

  • Travel package including transport via three company cruise ships
  • All travel, accommodation and daily expenses included
  • £3,000 in prize money
  • Uniform is not supplied. Bring your own swimmers, sandals & shades
  • You will be traveling on three cruise ships over a three week period including Ovation of the Seas (Beijing), Anthem of the Seas (New York) and Freedom of the Seas (Barcelona)
  • Complimentary access to climbing walls, Flowrider, restaurants, swimming pools, zip wires, water-slides and onboard fitness facilities

If you want to apply, you must be 21 years old and a resident of the UK and Republic of Ireland with a full passport, no criminal record and no travel restrictions. If you meet these requirements, just post your most extraordinary travel photo or short video on Instagram, tagging @RoyalCaribbeanUK and #ExtraordinaryExplorer.

Participants may enter this free of charge competition from 09:00 GMT on 03 January 2017 until 23:59 GMT on 31 January 2017.

Royal Caribbean offering 30% off all guests plus instant savings for WAVE season offer

02 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is kicking off 2017 with a brand new WAVE season promotion with 30% off standard cruise fare for all guests in a stateroom, plus reduced deposit and instant savings.

The new WAVE season sale will become available on cruises booked between January 5 - 31, 2017 and is valid on all sailings departing on or after February 4, 2017 (excluding China departures).

The deal includes

  • 30% off standard cruise fare for all guests in a stateroom
  • 50% reduced deposit
  • Up to $150 instant savings per stateroom
    • Sailings 5-nights or less
      • Interior/oceanview: $25 per stateroom
      • Balcony/suite: $50 per stateroom
    • Sailings 6-nights or longer
      • Interior/oceanview: $50 per stateroom
      • Balcony: $100 per stateroom
      • Suite: $150 per stateroom
  • Anthem Free Upgrade - From Ocean View to Balcony on Anthem sailings on or after March 1, 2017. Please note that the "upgrade" will be reflected as "purchase a balcony at the price of an ocean view"
  • Crown and Anchor Society Members enjoy an extra discount on Balconies and Suites onboard Anthem of the Seas sailings departing on or after Feb. 4, 2017. Gold CAS members and higher will be eligible for the discount for the tier above them. Pinnacle members will receive an additional $25.

30% Savings is combinable with adjoining Instant Savings, Anthem Upgrade, Crown & Anchor discounts and NextCruise offers. 30% Savings, Instant Savings and Anthem Upgrade are not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, and Military). Instant Savings is not combinable Crown & Anchor discounts. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates, Shareholder Benefits. 

Offer available to residents of United States and Canada.

5 questions about what to wear on a Royal Caribbean cruise

02 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

We get a lot of questions from our readers regarding one aspect of what to wear on a Royal Caribbean cruise or another, and so today, we are sharing five dress code questions and answers to help everyone know what to expect on their cruise.

"Do men have to wear suits for formal night or will dress pants shirt and tie be acceptable?" by Shirley Cridland

Men do not have to wear a suit on formal night on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Suits and ties or tuxedos for men are suggested attire for formal night, however, they are far from required.  The formal night dress code applies to the main dining room (specialty restaurant dress codes always super cede any other dress code, if you happen to be dining there).  

You will find many men opting for a collared shirt and nice pair of pants.  So Shirley's alternative idea of a shirt, tie and dress pants are certainly acceptable.

"Are dress slacks and a dress shirt considered formal night clothes or do I need a jacket also? I do not believe in tuxedos" - Manuel Pataca

Absolutely, dress slacks and a dress shirt are more than enough for formal night.  Jackets are rarely required dress wear anywhere on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

"How formal is dress code on formal nights?" - Louis

This is a pretty common question that gives many first time cruisers anxiety about what they should wear on a cruise.  As you might be able to tell from the answers above, it is not nearly as formal as one might imagine, given the use of the word "formal."

Essentially, Royal Caribbean's dress codes are relative terms. There are three possible dress codes you will encounter onboard:

  • Casual
  • Smart Casual
  • Formal

All of them are suggested dress codes, and by no means required.  When it comes to formal dress code, it is suggested guests dress up the nicest of any of the evenings onboard.  There is, however, no requirement for what exactly does and does not constitute formal wear.

You will see other guests in suits, long dresses and even a few tuxedos or ball gowns.  A majority of guests tend to wear collared shirts (with or without ties) and cocktail dresses. If you prefer a more relaxed formal night motif, a polo shirt and slacks for men will suffice, as will a nice blouse and skirt or pants for women.  There is no fashion police to look for what guests are wearing, and entry to the main dining room will only be denied for those wearing "pool clothing" (tank tops, hats, etc).

"How close to my cruise date can I book a tuxedo?" - Robert Rayner

Royal Caribbean provides tuxedo rentals for guests to use on its cruises via the tuxedo rental website, but you will need to make reservations in advance of your cruise.

Ideally, you will want to reserve it as far in advance as possible to ensure they have your size available.  Tuxedo rentals are also available onboard the ship, but will be subject to availability. They carry a good stock on every ship so chances are very good they will have what most sizes.

"There are two options for a tuxedo rental, but our cruise is only 4-nights, so getting two shirts seems pointless. Are there cheaper options?" - Brian Leather

The pre-cruise tuxedo rental options are a standard offering that is available fleet wide.  I understand your concern, and you could alternatively rent or purchase a tuxedo prior to your cruise from somewhere other than through Royal Caribbean.

Before your cruise, shop around and see what is available in stores near your home. If you plan to use it more than once it is probably cheaper to buy. Remember, you do not need to spend a fortune on a tux.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 1, 2017

01 Jan 2017
Matt Hochberg

Happy New Year! We wish everyone a very happy new year, and a year filled with plenty of Royal Caribbean fun.

It was a quiet week overall, but we heard from plenty of our readers about new sunbeds that are available for rent on Anthem of the Seas.

These sunbeds are located near North Star, and are available to rent for $150 each (plus 18% gratuity).  The sunbeds come with a bottle of Moët Chandon Ice Imperial, and offer a dedicated spot to enjoy near the pool throughout the day.

Many of our readers voiced their opinion of value of these sunbeds, so be sure to share your thoughts too.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 178th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we list ideas of things you might not consider packing for a Royal Caribbean cruise.

In this episode, Matt talks about the various events onboard that may necessitate packing other items you have not considered.  Also, Matt discusses the items on Royal Caribbean's prohibited items list.

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

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

USA Today counted down the top cruise stories of 2016 (Harmony of the Seas made the list).

Royal Caribbean has packing tips for a cruise by style expert, Sydne Summer.

Totally Tourists has an interview with Oasis of the Seas' Food & Beverage director.

Cruise Hive named Harmony of the Seas the best new cruise ship of 2016.

The Street looks at a partnership between Royal Caribbean and Mattel to target kids and teens through online content.

The Wall Street Journal highlights Royal Caribbean's work with AwesomenessTV to target teens.

Cruise Habit answers the question if using a travel agent is a good idea for booking a cruise.

Best of 2016 Friday Photos

30 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Happy Friday! This is the last Friday of 2016, and for this edition of Friday Photos, we decided to go back through all of this year's Friday Photos posts and find our favorite photos to share once again.

Photo by Beci Mahnken

Photo by Daniel

Photo by Krisztina Benko

Photo by Denny Allen

Photo by Earl McGrath

Photo by Zoltán Marton

Photo by Justin

Photo by G.Spindler

Photo by Dave Rimington 

Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this year, and if you have Royal Caribbean photos that you want to share, well, we want to see them!  You can use this form to send us your photos and we will feature them on an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!

Top 10 Royal Caribbean stories of 2016

29 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

With 2016 nearly complete, it's time to look back on the year and see which news stories generated the most interest.  There's no doubt that 2016 was a busy year for Royal Caribbean and so it is interesting to see which stories rose to the top of people's interest.

This year's top ten list is based on the Royal Caribbean stories we feel generated the most buzz and interest.  There's some stories that made the top ten list that surprised me and others I'm more surprises did not make the list.  Let's dive in!

Anthem of the Seas ran into an unexpected storm

In February 2016, Anthem of the Seas was beginning a normal cruise from the New York area to somewhere much warmer when it ran into a winter storm off the coast of the Carolinas, which generated waves of over 30 feet and hurricane force winds. As you might imagine, that caused quite a bit of motion onboard the ship and even some minor damage.

At first, the plan was to continue with the sailing but the news of the encounter with the storm generated a ton of negative coverage in the media, and Royal Caribbean decided to cancel the remainder of the sailing and offer refunds to guests.

This event was as noteworthy for the storm it encountered, as much as the negative publicity the event generated. Luckily there very few injuries, and Anthem of the Seas was back in operation very quickly.

Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas arrived

Royal Caribbean took delivery of two new cruise ships this year, which made for a very busy spring.

Ovation of the Seas, the cruise line's third Quantum class ship, was delivered to Royal Caribbean in April 2016 and then promptly headed to Southampton, England, where she offered a few quick cruises. Following those getaway cruises, Ovation began a 52-night “Global Odyssey” cruise that culminated in the arrival to her homeport in Tianjin, China.

Just one month later, Harmony of the Seas was delivered to Royal Caribbean, and she spent the summer in Europe before heading to the United States in November 2016.

Political protests in Haiti prevent Royal Caribbean guests from going to Labadee

The year started off with a series of unexpected protests in Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee.  Civil unrest related to the Haitian political situation caused some locals to protest in the waters of Labadee. 

Royal Caribbean decided to skip the scheduled stops in Labadee because of the protests. Although the protest was peaceful in nature, Royal Caribbean felt it was clear that if the protest continued, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee.

The protests continued for a few more days before subsiding, and cruise ships were able to resume visits shortly thereafter.

Three Oasis class ships met in one place

It was an undeniably fun sight to witness Royal Caribbean's three Oasis class cruise ships meeting each other for the first (and perhaps only) time.

The three ships rendezvoused off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a celebration of the arrival of Harmony of the Seas to her new homeport of Port Everglades. It was the kind of cruise eye candy that any Royal Caribbean fan relished seeing.

Royal Caribbean abandoned Dynamic Dining on Anthem of the Seas

Filed in the "I cannot believe it actually happened" category, Royal Caribbean dropped the bombshell news that it decided to abandon the Dynamic Dining concept on its ships.

Guest feedback proved to be too loud to ignore, and Royal Caribbean decided to offer on Anthem of the Seas My Time Dining program, with traditional and flexible options, as well as introduce new, upgraded dinner menus.

The decision to change how guests dine on Anthem of the Seas marks a tremendous reversal in fortunes for the Dynamic Dining program, which at one time was arguably heralded as the future of cruise ship dining. Nonetheless, the cancelation is a great example of how important guest feedback is to Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean announced Icon class ships

Royal Caribbean made a big impact with the announcement it was ordering two new cruise ships that would be powered by liquefied natural gas and fuel cell technology.

These ships would represent the first two members of the new Icon class of ships. The Icon ships would likely accommodate approximately 5,000 passengers, but details are still being worked out.

The vessels will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024. In the meantime, the company said, it will begin testing fuel cell technology on an existing Oasis-class ship in 2017, and will also run progressively larger fuel cell projects on new Quantum class vessels being built in the next several years.

Royal Caribbean began offering cruises to Cuba

Royal Caribbean had been hinting at offering cruises to Cuba for most of this year, but it finally received the go-ahead to offer sailings in December.

In fact, Royal Caribbean had a very quick turnaround from when it received permission from the Cuban and American governments to offer cruises to when sailings on Empress of the Seas went on sale. As expected, Empress of the Seas was the ship chosen to offer the company's first sailings to Cuba, which will take place in late spring of 2017.

Royal Caribbean will build a new cruise terminal in Miami

Royal Caribbean is making a comeback in Miami in a big way, with the announcement over the summer that it will build a brand new cruise terminal.

Terminal A will open in late 2018 and be able to handle Oasis-class ships (which has spawned a great deal of speculation as to which ship might call PortMiami home).

The new terminal features a cutting-edge design and has been nicknamed the ‘Crown of Miami’ because of its distinct shape. The design evokes the points of the symbolic headgear when viewed from the water; the ‘M’ of Miami when viewed from the east or western approaches; and a sense of waves rising or ships passing when viewed from the terminal side. At night, the terminal’s facade will be lit ensuring that the building makes a striking impression and providing a dynamic addition to the PortMiami landscape.

Changes to the unlimited alcohol packages

Royal Caribbean's drink packages have been quite popular since they were first introduced, but in 2016 we saw some big changes to the offerings that seemed to resonate with many guests.

Prior to 2016, drink packages rarely had discounts to them, but early in 2016 we began seeing a steady stream of discounts for the drink packages if they were purchased prior to a cruise. These new discounts helped "push" many guests over the proverbial fence of making that decision to invest in the package.

In addition, Royal Caribbean revamped its drink package options in September 2016, but simplifying the options available. Three unlimited alcohol packages became just one package and the non-alcoholic packages were also reconsidered. The idea behind the change in the drink package options was to make things simpler to understand for guests and crew.  

Liberty of the Seas received a major refurbishment

Speaking of refurbishments, the revitalization of the year goes to Liberty of the Seas, which added a ton of new activities and experiences including water slides and an aqua park way before Harmony of the Seas had one.

Royal Caribbean regularly uses the Galveston cruise market as a "testing ground" for new ideas that make it to the fleet later on, and Liberty of the Seas was the beneficiary of these new ideas.  Chief among them was the new Tidal Wave water slide, which took a bit longer than expected to get working correctly, but has since become quite popular with guests.

Your thoughts

What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2016? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Spotted: Sunbeds for rent on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas

28 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Guests on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas can reserve their own special spot on the pool deck that will be just for them throughout the day in a prime spot.

Thanks to Christy McLarty for providing this photo

The sun beds are located near North Star and overlook the pool deck in the North Star Private Lounge area on deck 15. The sun beds offer not just a private chair for you, but they are furnished with added cushions and pillows and come with a bottle of Moët Chandon Ice Imperial.

The cost is $150 per sun bed (plus 18% gratuity), and offers access to it throughout the day. These sun beds are available for all guests to reserve once onboard the ship.

Thanks to Rich Freudenberg for providing this photo

Do you want to reserve one of these chairs? Tell us what you think about this option in the comments!