Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Friday Photos

23 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

This week's batch of beautiful Royal Caribbean photos is here and it's always fun to share with all of you the great photos our readers take while on their cruise vacation.

The photos we have to show this week are fun and of course anyone can send us their Royal Caribbean photos to use as well!

Our first photo is from Michael Bonham, and it is of sail away from Cozumel on Allure of the Seas.  You can still see Liberty of the Seas docked in the background.

This is a great photo by D J Epstein of the aerial show on Grandeur of the Seas!

Check out the colors in this sunrise photo by Susan Widdowson! It was taken on Harmony of the Seas during the transatlantic crossing.

Dana Hall sent in this photo of savory bites while on Oasis of the Seas.  She noted that they had no savory bites on one night of the cruise, but the next day, the waiter brought over a whole plate full!

Next is a great photo of Liberty of the Seas backing out of Cozumel, taken by Megan Mathews.

Angela Wright shared this photo of Freedom of the Seas, which was taken from her snorkeling excursion in Grand Cayman.

We round out this week's edition with a photo of Anthem of the Seas in Labadee, taken by Thomas Lemmer.

Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this week and if you have Royal Caribbean photos, 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!

Royal Caribbean offering bonus instant savings on bookings made through the end of the year

23 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is tacking on extra instant savings for cruises booked through the end of the year, on top of the December promotion that offers every third night of your cruise free.

The bonus savings are valid on cruises booked between December 23 - 30, 2016 on sailings departing on or after January 21, 2017 (excluding China departures).

Qualifying bookings will be eligible for

  • Bonus instant savings
    • Interior/oceanview: $25 off per stateroom
    • Balcony/Suite: $50 off per stateroom
  • 1,2, Free
    • 3-5 night cruises
      • Includes 1 nights free
    • 6-8 night cruises
      • Includes 2 nights free
    • 9-11 night cruises
      • Includes 3 nights free
    • 12-14 night cruises
      • Includes 4 nights free
    • 15-17 night cruises
      • Includes 5 nights free
    • 17-20 night cruises
      • Includes 6 nights free
    • 21-23 night cruises
      • Includes 7 nights free
    • 24 night cruise
      • Includes 8 nights free
  • Kids Sail Free Bonus
    • Guests 12 & under sail free on 5 nights or longer sailings departing Jan. 5, 2017-Feb 15, 2018 Excludes sailings departing on or between 2/16/17-2/23/17, 3/10/17-3/20/17, 4/6/17-4/16/17, 5/16/17-9/4/2017, 11/16/17-11/26/17, 12/15/17-1/05/18, 2/15/18-2/22/18. (Excludes China, Cuba and Alaska cruises and Harmony of the Seas sailings)
  • ​Anthem Free Upgrade
    • From Ocean View to Balcony on Anthem sailings departing after 1/1/17.

1-2-Free Offer is combinable with adjoining Instant Savings, Kids Sail Free, Anthem Upgrade, Crown & Anchor discounts and rates, Next Cruise offers, and Shareholders benefits. Offer is not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Senior Rates, Resident Rates, Military Rates) or any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, prior promotions, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of the United States and Canada.

Passenger jumps off Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

22 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

A passenger jumped off Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas early this morning, prompting a search by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Local news is reporting the passenger is a 22-year-old man, who jumped off deck 12 of Independence of the Seas just before a.m. when it was 33 miles southeast of Key Largo.

Royal Caribbean issued a statement regarding the event,

"We are saddened to report a guest onboard Independence of the Seas was witnessed intentionally going overboard from deck 12 at 1:45 a.m.

The ship immediately alerted local authorities and turned around to help search for our guest. Two of the ship’s lifeboats and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search."

The Coast Guard is searching for the man.

Everything you need to know about the Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

22 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Have you heard about the robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas? While there are still plenty of bars staffed by human beings, Royal Caribbean created one bar on Harmony of the Seas that has its drinks created by one of two robots!

If you want to try the Bionic Bar out for yourself, here is what you need to know about how it all works.

Bionic Bar location

The Bionic Bar is located on the Royal Promenade (deck 5) near the aft elevator bank and across the Royal Promenade from Guest Services. 

The bar features a number of tables and couches that surround the robot bartenders that create the drinks.

How the Bionic Bar works

The Bionic Bar is as appealing to watch as it is to enjoy a cocktail crafted here. You will find quite often many guests simply watching the robots in action, although there is usually plenty of folks ordering drinks as well.

To order a drink, guests need to use one of the tablets found at any of the tables in the Bionic Bar.  

Thanks to Ashley Arbaugh-Chipps for providing many of these photos

Activate the drink ordering system by placing a SeaPass card or WOWband near the scanner on the top of the tablet.  The tablet will verify the guest's age to ensure they are old enough to order drinks.

Once in the Bionic Bar menu system, guests have the choice of selecting from pre-defined drink recipes, or creating their own concoctions.  You can name your drink, save it for later and customize the drinks to your liking, with the ability to define how many shots of liquor, soda or other beverages in the drink.  Keep in mind that the Bionic Bar is limited to liquids that are non-refrigerated.

Once the drink order is complete, guests will verify and submit the order.  At this point, the guest's drink will appear on the electronic display located to the side of either robot.  These displays act as virtual queues, and explain which drink the robot is making and how long until your drink is created.

After the robot creates your drink, the robot will place it on the table, at which point you must walk up to the bar, swipe a SeaPass or WOWband at the scanner location, and the drink will be delivered to the end of the bar.

What is the price of drinks at the Bionic Bar?

The price of drinks at the Bionic Bar is about what you would pay anywhere else for a cocktail on the ship.

Drinks ordered by guests will be charged to their SeaPass account.  Alternatively, guests with a Royal Caribbean drink package may order drinks at the Bionic Bar and it will be included with their package benefits.

Any drinks ordered at the Bionic Bar still come with the automatic 18% gratuity, which is later pooled and distributed to the bar staff.

5 things you need to know before buying a Royal Caribbean drink package

21 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's drink packages are quite popular with guests, and we get lots of questions from our readers if a drink package purchase is worth it.  The unlimited drink packages offer a lot of convenience, flexibility, and a wide variety of drinks to enjoy.  

Before you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package, you will want to consider these five important factors to ensure a drink package purchase makes sense for you.

1. Package prices

Royal Caribbean's drink packages are priced on a per-day and per guest basis, which means once you purchase a drink package, you will be charged for every day of the cruise going forward. The exact price of the drink package can actually vary from ship to ship.  Over the last year or so, Royal Caribbean has been offering its drink packages at various prices depending on the ship, itinerary and time of year.

There is one universal truth about the drink packages, and that is they are often discounted if purchased prior to cruise, but will come with a full price onboard.  These pre-cruise discounts are available from Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site, and discounts are regularly offered on the Deluxe unlimited alcohol drink package.  Other non-alcoholic drink packages have had discounts offered in the past, but the availability of discounts seems to vary.

Anyone interested in a drink package should check what discount is available for a drink package prior to the cruise, and understand what the costs will be.  While drink packages will be sold onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, they are rarely discounted.  Moreover, purchasing the drink package online will ensure less time spent waiting to purchase it onboard.

2. Drink prices onboard

It greatly helps if you have a good idea of how much drinks will cost onboard the ship if you were to purchase them a la carte, instead of using a drink package. After all, one of the key benefits of a drink package is to pay a fixed cost and be able to enjoy as many drinks as you like, often saving money versus buying those same drinks individually.

You can refer to this list of Royal Caribbean drink prices for a good idea of how much the popular drinks cost.  Drink prices may vary from ship to ship, but it will provide a good ballpark of estimating how much your indulgences onboard may cost you. It is entirely possible that you may find your drinking habits may not make a drink package purchase a financially suitable arrangement.

3. Your itinerary

An often overlooked consideration for purchasing a drink package is your Royal Caribbean cruise itinerary.  The drink package benefits are only useful to you while onboard a Royal Caribbean ship (or private destination), which means if your itinerary is port intensive, you will have far less time to take advantage of the drink packages. Conversely, if you have many sea days, a drink package may make more sense since you will have ample time onboard to take advantage of the package.

As mentioned earlier, beverage packages do work at both CocoCay and Labadee, which are Royal Caribbean's private destinations. If your cruise happens to stop at one of these ports, that is another full day of drink package value to reap.

It is important to weigh how many sea days versus port days you will have, if any of those stops include a private destination, and what your plans are for any ports you visit.  You may find with touring onshore, a drink package purchase will not be so conducive to getting a good return on your package investment.

4. What the drink package does not include

While the drink packages do include quite a lot of beverages, not everything can be had with a package.  Depending on your habits and preferences, this may or may not be a deal breaker.

Royal Caribbean's deluxe drink package allow for guests to enjoy drinks such as Labadoozies, Coco locos, after dinner shots or the drink of the day with the but does not include the souvenir mugs/glasses they are often served in.

Likewise, Starbucks on Oasis-Class ships and those little bottles of alcohol in your minibar are not included either.  

5. You can (usually) cancel the package

If you find yourself with buyer's remorse when it comes to a drink package, there are options available for cancelling and getting your money back.

The simplest means is to cancel the drink package prior to your cruise.  If you followed our advice and booked a drink package but want to cancel it, this can be easily done via the Cruise Planner site. Just follow these steps

  1. Log into your Royal Caribbean account and proceed to the Cruise Planner for the sailing you have in mind.
  2. At the top right corner of the pick, click Order History.  You will want to cancel the item you bought first, and then re-book it later.
  3. Once at the Order History page, you will be able to see everything you have reserved or purchased for your cruise. From here, find the item you want to cancel and click cancel.
  4. Follow the next few steps to confirm the cancellation.  You should find yourself at a screen that displays a confirmation message with the exact refund to the form of payment used.  It may take a few business days for the refund to be made.

If you decide to cancel the drink package onboard the ship, usually Royal Caribbean will allow it, but not always.  You will need to go to Guest Services onboard and ask to cancel and refund the drink package.  Keep in mind that if they do cancel your drink package purchase, any drinks you purchased will be charged to your SeaPass account individually.  We have heard from lots of guests this has worked, but cannot guarantee cancelling a drink package onboard will be available for you.

Your best bet is to consider the drink package prior to your cruise and make any cancellations before you get onboard.

Three Royal Caribbean wishes on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

21 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 177 is available for downloading, in which Matt and Billy share three wishes they would make if they were in charge of Royal Caribbean.

With the new year right around the corner, Matt and Billy dreamed up some changes to Royal Caribbean they would like to make if they were in charge of the company. 

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 177. 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!

Video: The Fine Line on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas Soars to New Heights

20 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

From high-flying aerial stunts to sensational swimming and diving, “The Fine Line” offers all the elements of astonishing entertainment. Performers leap from high diver platforms, glide across slacklines and fly suspended above the crowd, using every inch of Harmony of the Seas’ unique AquaTheater. From beginning to end, extreme stunts and skill, keep audiences engaged in this immersive entertainment venue.

Royal Caribbean named Best Cruise Line Overall by Travel Weekly for 14th consecutive year

19 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

At the 2016 Travel Weekly Readers Choice awards, Royal Caribbean came away as being named the Best Cruise Line Overall for the 14th consecutive year.

Royal Caribbean also claimed the top spot in a few other categories including

  • Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean
  • Best Cruise Line Sales & Service
  • Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship (Allure of the Seas)
  • Best New Cruise Ship (Harmony of the Seas)

"It is such a great honor to sweep the top categories in the cruise sector of these notable awards selected by Travel Weekly readers and so many valued travel agents," said Vicki Freed, senior vice president, Sales and Trade Support and Service, Royal Caribbean International. "Being recognized as ‘Best Cruise Line Overall’ since the inception of the Readers Choice Awards, as well as ‘Best Cruise Line Sales & Service’ for nine years in a row, is testament to our incredibly strong relationships with travel partners built on years of working together, learning together and innovating together. We thank Travel Weekly and valued agents for their ongoing support, and will continue to deliver on our commitment and promise to our travel partners’ success."

Travel Weekly honored the winners of its Readers Choice Awards at a gala dinner and ceremony on December 15 at the Conrad Hotel in New York. Winners were selected in 78 categories, ranging from hotels to tours to airlines to GDSs to cruise lines, represent the best of the best in travel.

Royal Caribbean releases new sustainability report

19 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. released today its Sustainability Report, which documents the Company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and showcases improved efficiencies across its fleet.

In the report, the company noted the expansion of its Advanced Emissions Purification program, as well as a new set of goals for the year 2020 that were established with input from the company's global conservation partner, World Wildlife Fund.

2015 marked the 10th-year of the Save the Waves program, which focused on emissions and waste reduction, as well as increasing the number of shore excursions that met an internationally recognized sustainability standard.

In line with these goals, over the past decade RCL built its most efficient cruise ships and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 25 percent. In 2015, 17 ships reported 100 percent re-purposed waste on certain itineraries.  

"At Royal Caribbean, we are working to put sustainability into the heart of our business," said  Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We bring 5,000,000 guests to nearly 500 ports around the world every year, and we understand our responsibility to do so in a way that protects the oceans that we sail every day. Our mantra is continuous improvement, and that especially applies to our environmental performance."

Royal Caribbean also achieved a few other notable highlights during this year, including

The full Sustainability Report may be viewed at

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 18, 2016

18 Dec 2016
Matt Hochberg

Good news, we are all one week closer to our next Royal Caribbean cruise!  In case you missed any of the Royal Caribbean fun from this week, here is our weekly round up!

A small nugget of information regarding Royal Caribbean's next cruise ship to be delivered was revealed this week, shedding light on where the ship will call home.

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley mentioned in an interview that the fourth Oasis class cruise ship will be coming to the United States, following a brief European summer season.

This plan mirrors the plan for sister ship, Harmony of the Seas, which also did a summer season in Europe prior to her arrival in the United States.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 176th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, Matt countsdown his top five favorite experiences on Harmony of the Seas.

In this episode, Matt considers everything there is to see and do on Harmony of the Seas, and lists his favorite spots, entertainment and of course, food.

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

Wall Street Journal has a look at how Royal Caribbean's CIO deploys containers to modernize an old system.

Cruise News UK has an interview with the Captain of Allure of the Seas.

Eat Sleep Cruise has a list of 10 ways to save money on cruise drinks.

Hello His recaps their cruise on Harmony of the Seas.

Cruise Critic has a list of 7 things not to do on an Oasis class ship.

Travel Weekly sees more sailings to Cuba, but at what price?