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Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Juneau, Alaska

In:
29 Aug 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

The third day of my 7-night Alaska cruise brings us to Juneau, but we weren't scheduled to arrive until 1PM.

Because of this, the morning started off as a sea day and we caught our first glimpse of Alaska in the distance. While the seas were calm, it was foggy outside, so we weren't able to see much aside from few icebergs floating in the distance!

The Main Dining Room had brunch today starting at 9AM, so we enjoyed a quiet meal next to a window while looking at Alaska's scenery.

Following brunch, we relaxed in our cabin for a few hours until the ship's captain made an announcement that we were approaching Juneau.

Arrival in Juneau

Upon hearing the announcement, Reeham and I threw on our jackets, grabbed our cameras, and headed downstairs to the helicopter pad. Because our only views of Alaska so far had been blocked with fog, we couldn't wait to catch a more close-up look.

I remember last year during my first cruise to Alaska, my dad and I were in awe as we caught our first view of the state when our ship docked in Ketchikan.

The same thing happened today when we walked out on the helicopter pad. Huge mountains and thousand-foot waterfalls surrounded the ship on both sides. We couldn't have been more eager to disembark the ship and start exploring!

There was still an hour or so until the gangway opened, so we had lunch at the Windjammer before disembarking.

Radiance of the Seas docked at the AJ dock today, and we were the last ship to arrive in port. Getting to downtown Juneau from the dock is about a 15-20 minute walk, or you can opt to purchase a round-trip shuttle ticket to and from downtown.

While the shuttle ticket was cheap, we decided to walk as we had no plans for the day and thus were not in a rush.

The original plan for today in Juneau was to ride the Goldbelt Tram up Mount Roberts for stunning views of Juneau and the surrounding area. At the top of the tram are hiking trails, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop, so it seemed like a nice way to spend the afternoon.

When we got to Juneau, however, the sky had near full cloud cover and the tram was covered in mist, so we decided against it. It's still at the top of my list, but I'll have to try it on a day with clearer skies!

Instead of taking the tram, we ventured to the area around the port where local tour companies sell independent excursions. Whale watching tours, helicopter rides, glacier viewing excursions, and other Alaska adventures can be booked once on shore in Juneau.

The tours were all quite expensive (albeit standard Alaska excursion prices), so we opted for the cheapest one: round-trip transportation and entrance fee to Mendenhall Glacier.

I visited Mendenhall Glacier last year while on Ovation of the Seas, but it's such a beautiful place that I couldn't pass up visiting again.

Plus, while downtown Juneau has plenty of shops and restaurants, there isn't a ton to do directly in town, so I thought it made sense to visit Juneau's top attraction a second time.

Mendenhall Glacier

The shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier takes around 25 minutes, and our driver provided informational and entertaining commentary along the way, making the time pass quickly and giving us insights into Juneau's geography and lifestyle.

When we arrived, I was, once again, flabbergasted by the beauty and grandeur of Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding mountains.

The sky blue, icy glacier and towering Mendenhall Towers above are so beautiful that I could probably visit 100 times and not get tired of the view. We even saw two bald eagles resting on an iceberg!

We were a little short on time, so we hiked the quick trail to Nugget Falls instead of doing a longer hike. Visiting Nugget Falls is well worth the ~20 minute walk on mostly paved surfaces, as the waterfall is extremely powerful and impressive!

The view of the glacier from Nugget Falls isn't the best, though, as the view is mostly covered by rock. For the best viewing opportunity, be sure to visit the park's official scenic photo area located near the visitor center.

We spent around two hours at the glacier and before leaving, we walked into the Visitor Center. I found the information on the glacier at the center quite interesting, and they even had a theater and a live lecturer delivering information about Mendenhall Glacier, so it's well worth a visit.

Downtown Juneau

We took the shuttle bus back to Juneau and arrived downtown with an hour and a half left before all-aboard time.

Our first stop was the Alaska Fudge Co., which makes homemade fudge in a variety of fun flavors, from cookies n' cream to chocolate peanut butter. It was delicious!

Next, we stumbled across a cool food truck/food vendor park downtown. Everything from an oyster bar to fish tacos and crêpes were being sold from various vendors, and it seemed like an awesome place to hang out near downtown.

We tried panko-breaded salmon tacos from the taco truck and they were out-of-this-world delicious!

Our last stop for the day was a rest at a picnic table on the waterfront while en route back to the ship. Here we took in the last views of Juneau before making the 15 minute walk back to Radiance of the Seas.

Once onboard, we went straight to the Windjammer for a late dinner and watched as we pulled away from Juneau and began the journey to Icy Strait Point, our next port of call.

At this point it was already past 8PM and we were tired from a long day of walking, hiking, and sightseeing, so we headed back to the cabin to relax.

We had a wonderful day in Juneau today, and the rain somehow avoided us throughout the majority of the day. I even saw blue skies peeking through the clouds!

Thank you for following along on this live blog and I'll be back tomorrow from Icy Strait Point!

Spotted: Digital copy downloads of the Cruise Compass

In:
29 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Some guests are seeing a new way to get a copy of the daily guide to events on their Royal Caribbean cruise.

Cruise Compass on bed

Royal Caribbean has traditionally provided guests with a paper copy of the daily guide to activities and events, known as the Cruise Compass.

Traditionally passengers receive a copy each evening in their stateroom that outlines the following day's events.

On Liberty of the Seas, guests have the option to get a digital download of the Cruise Compass directly to their phone in the form a PDF file.

Karen Fraser shared photos in the Liberty of the Seas Facebook group of the new option.

Ms. Fraser reported there are QR codes at both Guest Services and sent to the cabin that you can scan with your phone's camera.

Assuming you're on Royal Caribbean's wifi, after scanning the QR code, the day's Compass appears for use.

 

 

It's unclear how many ships offer this option yet, and if it will remain an option on future cruises or is simply a short-term test.

What Is Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass?

The Cruise Compass is the name of the ship newsletter.

There is a new copy every day that contains times and locations for activities, special events, show times and more. 

You can also find listed special offers or discounts available for dining, drinks, onboard merchandise purchases and even shopping in port.

Daily activities

Additionally, there's an hour-by-hour schedule of everything happening on the ship, including live performances, children's programming and dining options.

Each day's newsletter also includes opening and closing times for all of the ship's facilities, a list of onboard services, medical contacts and information for each port of call, including law enforcement.

You can find past copies of Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass in our archive.

A new digital option

The option to download a copy of the printed Cruise Compass is a new way to learn about what's happening onboard the ship.

For years, the printed Cruise Compass was the only option, but Royal Caribbean's app has also offered a list of activities.

While the app is designed to mirror the printed Compass, in practice, there have been discrepancies from time to time between the two.

Depending on the ship, there are also other ways to see activities, such as on a designated channel on the in-room television and/or via the wayfinders in the hallways.

Moving away from a printed copy

Cruise Compass on the desk

For years, the move to paperless daily newsletters has been discussed among cruise fans as an almost inevitability.

On some Royal Caribbean ships, printed copies have not been automatically distributed to all guests. Some guests have reported the need to request a copy be delivered by their stateroom attendant, or go down to Guest Services for a copy.

Cruise Compass in hand

Royal Caribbean has not announced any formal change in the printed Cruise Compass policy in terms of how it will be distributed.

With society shifting towards digital consumption, many cruise fans have assumed a digital-only Cruise Compass is an inevitability.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 28, 2022

In:
28 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of the Royal Caribbean post round-up, where we summarize all of the Royal Caribbean news and information from this week into one handy-dandy post! There is plenty of great content to enjoy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's round-up!

Royal Caribbean updated its Covid protocols this week to allow unvaccinated cruisers onboard most of its ships.

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

Beginning September 5, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, can cruise on the following itineraries, as long as they meet testing requirements to board.

This includes cruises that sail from any Florida homeport, as well as Los Angeles, Galveston, New Orleans, and most European cities.

While vaccination is not required, Royal Caribbean kindly asks all guests to disclose their status during check-in to ensure they maintain a highly vaccinated onboard population.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 466th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Rebecca reviews her Quantum of the Seas Alaska cruise.

Quantum of the Seas gets lost in the shuffle of Alaska cruises to consider, so Rebecca talked about her recent sailing on Quantum.

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.

Video: All the LEVELS & PERKS of Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: All the LEVELS & PERKS of Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society!

Exclusive Icon of the Seas aerial photos

We have a new batch of Icon of the Seas construction photos to share from the shipyard.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog commissioned its own aerial drone photos to share what we can see so far from the shipyard.

These photos were taken earlier this week, and show off the progress being made on a ship we still largely know little about.

Royal Caribbean will increase gratuities

Beginning September 7, the daily gratuity rate is going up.

Royal Caribbean will charge guests in non-suite staterooms $16 per person, per day. Guests in suites will be charged $18.50 per day.

This is the first gratuity rate change in well over 4 years. The daily gratuities are shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Allure of the Seas is the last Oasis Class ship with some classic features

Allure of the Seas

Because Allure of the Seas did not get a Royal Amplification yet, she remains the last Oasis Class ship with amenities and venues that have since been removed on other ships.

In the meantime, guests can enjoy a few classic features you either can’t find on the others or are slowly being phased out.

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

In:
28 Aug 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Today is the second day of my 7-night Alaska cruise on Radiance of the Seas and we are enjoying a sea day as we travel from Vancouver to Alaska's Inside Passage.

This morning I tried to do something I very rarely do: sleep in! I'm a morning person and love having a quiet ship to myself in the early hours of the day, but I definitely needed to catch up on sleep after two busy days of travel.

That being said, I woke up this morning to the alarm someone set at 8AM in the room next to me! That's definitely a first on a Royal Caribbean ship.

We ate breakfast at the outdoor seating area in the Windjammer. Because the outdoor seating at the buffet is only found on a few Royal Caribbean ships, I'm trying to take advantage of it as much as I can.

Side note: If you haven't tried French toast topped with whipped cream and chocolate morsels from the Windjammer, you're missing out!

The weather was quite dreary today, so Reeham and I hung out near the windows at the champagne bar and looked for whales. Unfortunately we did not see any, although some passengers mentioned they saw a few whales from the ship earlier in the day!

The second day of an Alaska cruise heading north from Seattle or Vancouver is a sea day in more open waters, so it is the least scenic day of the cruise itinerary. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with a panoramic ocean view, but I'm definitely eager to see Alaska's mountain landscapes tomorrow!

A relaxing afternoon

Lunch in the Main Dining Room is available on sea days, and with today's chilly weather and relaxing atmosphere, having a nice sit-down lunch seemed like the perfect way to start the afternoon.

We started the meal with salads and had butternut squash risotto for the main course, which far exceeded my expectations. It may not be the most appealing dish out there from a visual standpoint... but the risotto was one of the best courses I've had in the Main Dining Room yet!

After lunch, I decided to experience one of the unique features found only on Radiance Class ships, the Cinema!

Radiance Class ships have a complimentary movie theater onboard, and I loved it! While other ships show movies in the theater or on the pool deck, watching a movie in a cinema is a much better atmosphere. I'm hoping to visit the cinema a few more times on this cruise as it makes for a perfect cold weather activity.

Each day has a different movie playing, and there are showtimes roughly every 3 hours during the day. The only thing missing was popcorn!

Following the movie was a round of Friends trivia at Schooner Bar. Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas is huge! It was packed throughout the day... a little too crowded for my liking! When the weather is so cold outside, the indoor spaces always feel way more crowded.

We also stumbled across the Quill & Compass Pub. I didn't even realize there was a pub on Radiance of the Seas until I stumbled across it, as it's tucked in a weird location between the casino and theater. The pub is dimly lit and without windows, which doesn't totally match the theme of the Radiance Class!

The next two hours or so were spent relaxing in our stateroom. I haven't spent much time at all in our cabin because there are so many other nice places to hang out onboard. I'm happy with the decision to book an interior stateroom instead of a balcony considering we've spent minimal time in the cabin.

Evening onboard

Because we had eaten in the Main Dining Room for lunch, we decided to dine at the Windjammer for dinner. Tonight's dinner theme was Mediterranean and it was really impressive! From hummus to falafel, pita, fish, and baba ghanoush, I really enjoyed the meal.

I think the Windjammer is totally underrated for dinner compared to the Main Dining Room. I actually tend to prefer the buffet because of the wide range of options available and specialty cuisines from around the world each night.

The Windjammer was eerily empty tonight! I've never seen so few people there for dinner, but I suppose most guests went to formal night in the Main Dining Room.

Following dinner, I went for a walk several times around the outdoor Promenade deck. The weather had not improved much throughout the day, although I was grateful for calm waters.

The wind was insane whenever I lapped around the helicopter pad! I always feel like the crew members in the bridge are looking down and laughing at the passengers crazy enough to venture to the helipad with 20mph winds.

My last stop for the night was to the Aurora Theater for the production show of Piano Man. I usually avoid shows in the theater (aside from Broadway shows) as I feel they are rarely geared toward my age demographic, but I decided to give it a try.

The show had singing and dancing to the tunes of Elton John, Billy Joel, and Barry Manilow. The performers were talented and the music was certainly catchy, but I can't seem to get interested in the shows in the theater as much as live music elsewhere onboard or the more unique shows found in venues like Studio B and the AquaTheater on other Royal Caribbean ships.

The show ended around 9:15 and I headed back to my stateroom to finish this blog before calling it a night. As I went to bed, I noticed the ship rocking way more than earlier in the day. Luckily we'll be in the Inside Passage tomorrow where we should (hopefully) encounter calmer seas!

Tomorrow we arrive in Juneau at 1PM and I am looking forward to the first day of exploring Alaska!

Icon of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

In:
27 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Icon of the Seas will be the first of Royal Caribbean's Icon Class cruise ships when she launches, marking the first new type of vessel for the cruise line since 2014.

Royal Caribbean has not divulged many details about Icon of the Seas, but this page will be updated periodically when Royal Caribbean announces what the ship will offer to guests.

There is a lot of excitement about what's planned for Icon of the Seas, with the promise from company executives it will be a "game changer" for the industry.

Here is a look at the most important things we know about Icon of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas facts

Icon of the Seas metal

 

Icon of the Seas is the first Icon Class ship.  Since it's the first, we don't know yet what the ship looks like or any substantial details.

The ship is under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. The new class of ship was announced in late 2016.

According to filings made by Royal Caribbean, Icon of the Seas will have a capacity of approximately 5,600 passengers.

She will be 200,000 gross tons in size.

This would make the Icon class ships larger than the Quantum Class ships, but slightly smaller than the Oasis Class ships.

Back in April 2021, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley talked briefly about the new ship, "We have the brand new Icon class coming, which is going to be a real game changer."

Royal Caribbean has not announced any onboard activities, entertainment or things to do yet.

When will Icon of the Seas be delivered?

Icon of the Seas plaque

Icon of the Seas is expected to be delivered in the third quarter of 2023.

She was originally scheduled to be delivered in second quarter of 2022, but the Covid-19 pandemic caused her construction plans to be delayed by a year.

Next-gen power

Debuting in fall 2023, Icon will be the cruise line’s first of three ships to be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas).

LNG and the state-of-the-art ship’s additional environmentally friendly applications, such as shore power connection, will boost energy efficiencies and reduce carbon footprint. More details about Icon’s advanced environmental technologies will be revealed at a future date.

The LNG fuel tank on Icon of the Seas is 307 tons and 90 feet long.

Traditionally, cruise ships are powered by diesel. The advantage LNG has over diesel is it is more energy-efficient and will reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley talked about the efficiency of Icon of the Seas, "Our new Icon class is coming with LNG-hybrid but, basically it's LNG. It's 35% more fuel energy efficient than regular fuel. And the ship itself, because of the design, is about 30% more efficient."

In addition, Icon of the Seas will utilize a shore power connection that removes emissions while connected at port.

What is the sphere?

Icon of the Seas sphere installation

 

In January 2022, a large pearl-shaped object appeared in the shipyard that capture the attention of cruise fans who are curious to know what it might be.

Royal Caribbean has not announced what it will be, but it is going to be a feature on Icon of the Seas.

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

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

Some guessed it could be a LNG fuel tank, but LNG tanks are substantially larger.

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

On the 2022 President's Cruise, Michael Bayley accidently let it slip the name of the sphere is "The Pearl".

When can we book Icon of the Seas?

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Michael Bayley said they expect to start marketing Icon of the Seas in September 2022.

"We are launching Icon of the Seas starting this September. By launching, I mean, we are we are starting to communicate. We have a whole planning program of communication, social media, marketing, TV, radio, you name it."

According to Mr. Bayley, there is a media event planned for September in New York onboard Oasis of the Seas. They picked Oasis to host the event because she was the first ship of the then-record breaking Oasis Class, just as Icon will be the first in the new Icon Class.

Icon of the Seas unconfirmed rumors

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

I love a juicy rumor, and there are at least a few good ones out there about what to expect with Icon of the Seas.

Caution, here by dragons and information about Icon of the Seas that isn't confirmed, but worth mentioning.

Icon of the Seas will debut first in England

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said Icon of the Seas will sail from the UK when she first begins sailing with passengers.

"I promise you will bring Icon of the seas into Southampton. The UK will be the first country and market that we will bring this incredible ship into [when it launches] in ’23."

Bayley also emphasized how important the UK market is for Royal Caribbean, which helped solidify the cruise line’s decision to debut Icon of the Seas to the country first. 

Icon of the Seas will be homeported in Miami

Terminal A in PortMiami

Mr. Bayley also said in an interview that Icon of the Seas will offer cruises from Miami.

“We will take [Icon of the Seas] across the Atlantic to Miami, which is where it’s going to be homeported.”

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation in Vancouver

In:
27 Aug 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

The first day of a cruise is always exciting, but it's even more anticipated when you're about to board a cruise to Alaska!

Today is the first day of my one-way, 7-night cruise from Vancouver, Canada to Seward, Alaska on Radiance of the Seas, and I'm looking forward to an amazing week ahead.

Alaska is one of the most scenic places to visit in the world, and I can't wait to sail through the state's inside passage and experience several ports I have not been to yet, including Sitka, Icy Strait Point, and Hubbard Glacier.

Arrival in Vancouver

I arrived in Vancouver yesterday morning at 11AM, so I had a full 24 hours to explore the city prior to boarding Radiance of the Seas.

Vancouver's walkable downtown area makes it a breeze to explore on foot before a cruise. Getting to the city center from the airport was only $10 via Vancouver's metro, which dropped me off right in the city center.

I booked the Blue Horizon Hotel for my night in the city and was pleased with the hotel's location, price, and amenities. The views from my room were fantastic as well!

After 24 hours of delicious food, a peaceful walk through Stanley Park, trying out Tim Horton's, and relaxing near Vancouver's waterfront, it was time to head to the cruise terminal.

Embarkation in Vancouver and first impressions

Canada Place is the name of Vancouver's cruise port, and it is conveniently located on the waterfront in the heart of downtown. Walking to the port from our hotel took only 15 minutes.

Embarkation was seamless and we were quickly boarding the ship. While we arrived at our scheduled boarding time of 11:30, no one was checking boarding times.

This is my first time on a Radiance Class ship, so I've now officially sailed on every class of Royal Caribbean cruise ships! My first impressions of Radiance of the Seas were that the ship has tons of windows and viewing areas onboard.

I have noticed that certain areas of the ship feel a little more cramped and closed off in its design compared to other classes of ships, even the Vision Class, but this could just be a result of the hectic atmosphere of embarkation day.

Related: Royal Caribbean ship classes guide & explanation

We headed to the Windjammer once onboard for our embarkation day lunch. Radiance Class ships, like some Quantum Class ships, have an outdoor seating area in the Windjammer, so we took full advantage of British Columbia's beautiful views while enjoying our meal.

We also put our binoculars to the test to look at Vancouver. I can't wait to use these throughout this cruise! Having binoculars on an Alaska cruise is a must.

I'm never sure what to do in the time period between lunch and my stateroom being ready, so after our binocular extravaganza we waited in comfy chairs on our cabin's deck for the staterooms to open.

We are staying in an interior room for this cruise. The room is the same size as most other interior cabins I've stayed in and appears well-maintained. Our beds were separated when we entered the cabin, and this was well-appreciated so we didn't have to track down our stateroom attendant!

The walls in the cabin seem pretty thin, though, as I could hear the TV in the room next to ours, but this is to be expected on an older ship. Other than that, everything in our stateroom is up to par.

After a quick rest in the room, I decided to try something different and take the spa tour with the selfish goal of winning the spa raffle later in the day. The tour was actually relatively enjoyable (to my surprise) and like the rest of Radiance of the Seas, the spa has wonderful ocean views.

After a quick rest in the cabin, Reeham and I headed to the spa raffle before sailaway. While mostly a sales pitch, it was entertaining enough to pass the time even if I didn't win.

Sailaway and evening activities

Reeham and I headed aft as Radiance of the Seas departed Canada Place en route to Alaska. Sailing out of Vancouver was beautiful, and my favorite part was definitely passing under the Lions Gate Bridge!  It was an unforgettable way to say goodbye to Vancouver and start the journey up north.

We enjoyed dinner tonight in the Main Dining Room, and I was happy to find out that our table is near a window, so we'll never be too far from Alaska's gorgeous scenery.

We enjoyed arancini, French onion soup, battered seafood, and the warm hazelnut chocolate cake. I had never seen the arancini on the Main Dining Room menu and was impressed!

Following dinner was a walk around the outdoor Promenade deck, my favorite spot on any Vision, Radiance, Voyager, or Freedom Class ship. We ventured all the way forward to the helipad, too, which offered a tranquil spot to take in the views.

Reeham and I were pretty tired after waking up early to explore Vancouver, boarding the ship, and having a full day of fun onboard, so we crashed in our stateroom pretty early.

Tomorrow is a sea day and I'm excited to explore more of Radiance of the Seas as we make our way to Alaska!

Aerial photos show Icon of the Seas cruise ship construction progress

In:
26 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

While Royal Caribbean has been quiet about what Icon of the Seas will look like when completed, we have our own construction photos to share of the progress.

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

Icon of the Seas is the next new cruise ship Royal Caribbean is building, and it's a brand new class of cruise ship. This means we don't yet know any details about the features or activities offered onboard, or even what the ship design looks like.

Royal Caribbean has been keeping the entire project as secretive as possible up to now in order to maintain a competitive edge, as well as to likely drum up intrigue among cruise fans eager to know more.

While we wait for an official update from Royal Caribbean, RoyalCaribbeanBlog comissioned its own aerial drone photos to share what we can see so far from the shipyard.

Since these are exclusive photos, please do not share these photos on social media.

Construction of Icon of the Seas began in June 2021 with a steel cutting ceremony at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland.

Icon of the Seas is being built behind the new Carnival Celebration cruise ship.

These photos were taken earlier this week, and you can see the bottom half of the hull is mostly there, with just the bow missing.

Icon already has a baby blue hull color to it, which has been a design change Royal Caribbean has been steadily making with its newer ships.  Instead of a plain white hull color, new ships are debuting with a light blue hue to it.

In a slightly elevated aerial view, we can see there are at least three open air sections visible.

Read more3 hints what Icon of the Seas could look like

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from August 2022

The Oasis Class ships first introduced the idea of open parts of the ship for the Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods. 

Whether Icon has its own Boardwalk and Central Park, or Royal Caribbean is developing a new concept, remains unknown.

A view of the rear of the ship shows an opening at the end of Icon that could be theater of some kind at the very bottom.

We also have a better look at one of the open air sections, which certainly mirrors the Boardwalk general layout.

The ship's name is not yet painted onto the back of the hull.

It also appears the shipyard is working on what is likely a feature for the front of Icon of the Seas. 

While we don't yet know what this is, the overall design reminds me of the glass enclosure that sits atop of the Solarium on the front of other Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

The Solarium glass for Wonder of the Seas seems to have a similar look to it.

Much of the middle of the ship will be the future home for stateroom balconies.

You'll notice most of the cabins are still wrapped up. Cruise ship cabins are assembled elsewhere and then inserted into the ship later as a more efficient construction method.

Some of the balconies towards the rear of the ship are unwrapped, which provide a glimpse of what to expect elsewhere.

Icon of the Seas is scheduled to start sailing in late 2023.

It's not quite clear yet when exactly Royal Caribbean intends to reveal the look of the ship, but earlier this summer, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley hinted at September 2022.

One other key detail about Icon of the Seas is it could be bigger than the Oasis Class ships.

Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, Sean Treacy, said in May 2022 that Icon of the Seas will be larger than the Oasis class cruise ships.

What you need to know about Royal Caribbean accepting self-administered Covid tests

In:
26 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

In addition to allowing unvaccinated cruisers back onboard cruise ships, Royal Caribbean will also begin accepting self-administered Covid tests that don't have to be proctored.

Royal Caribbean was one of the first cruise lines to allow at-home Covid tests to be used, but up until now they had to be supervised by a health professional.

Beginning September 5, Royal Caribbean will allow guests on U.S. cruises the choice of taking a home test or a test professionally administered by a health professional.

At-home test

Before you grab the inexpensive home tests to use, there are some important considerations and exceptions you should be aware of.

Who needs to test?

Whether or not you'll need to take a covid test before your cruise depends on the port your ship sails from, vaccination status, and date you sail.

Royal Caribbean maintains a master list of requirements on their website, which you should refer to prior to your cruise.  

Below you'll find a look at testing requirements for the major itineraries that Royal Caribbean sails.

Mariner of the Seas back of the ship

If your cruise departs before September 4, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Guests 2 to 11 years of age who are not fully vaccinated must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen or PCR test taken within the 3 days before boarding day, regardless of the duration of their cruise. 

Fully vaccinated guests must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen or PCR test taken within the 3 days before boarding day on sailings that are 6 nights or longer only. 

Fully vaccinated guests do not need to test at all on cruises 5-nights or less.

Independence of the Seas at sunset at sea

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Guests 5 years of age and older who are not fully vaccinated must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen or PCR test taken within the 3 days before boarding day, regardless of the duration of their cruise.

Guests younger than 5 do not have any testing requirements.

Fully vaccinated guests 5 years of age and older must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen or PCR test taken within the 3 days before boarding day on sailings that are 10 nights or longer only. 

Fully vaccinated guests do not need to test at all on cruises 9-nights or less.

St. John`s Harbour, Newfoundland

If your cruise has any stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Vaccinated guests must show a negative test result for a supervised 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 supervised PCR test (not antigen) taken no more than 3 days before boarding day.

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

Royal Caribbean ship in Copenhagen, Denmark

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 from England and the Netherlands:

Guests 12 years of age and older who are not vaccinated or not up to date with their vaccination, must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen test taken within 24 hours before boarding day, or PCR test taken within 72 hours before boarding day, regardless of the duration of their cruise. 

Guests who are up to date with their vaccination status must bring a negative test result for a Covid antigen test taken within 24 hours before boarding day, or PCR test taken within 72 hours before boarding day, on sailings that are 10 nights or longer only. Testing is not required for up to date guests on shorter itineraries. 

Guests younger than 12 do not have any testing requirements.

Which telehealth test at home can I use for my cruise?

I tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts | Royal Caribbean Blog

Required testing for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, can be completed using any type of PCR or antigen test. 

Tests must be arranged on your own and are at your own expense.

Royal Caribbean will begin offering consecutive cruisers at-home Covid tests | Royal Caribbean Blog

If your cruise departs before September 4, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

The At-home tests must happen under live supervision on a video call with a telehealth representative.

The telehealth provider must issue you a result document that includes all the necessary information.

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

The test you take can be professionally administered by a health professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, or you can use a home test kit.

Home test kits for these sailings are not required to be administered under live video supervision.

If your cruise visits Canada:

Unvaccinated guests cannot use a telehealth test if their cruise visits Canada.

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 from Europe with no stops in Greece:

The test you take can be professionally administered by a health professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, or you can use a home test kit. Home test kits for these sailings are not required to be administered under live video supervision. 

Telehealth tests and self test kits are not accepted if your cruise departs from Athens. 

What you need to bring to the cruise terminal at check-in

Covid test result

Regardless of the type of test you take, you'll need to bring with you proof of a negative test result.

If your cruise departs before September 4, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

You must receive a valid results document from your test provider that includes the name of the lab that processed the test, the lab’s CLIA Lab Number or Certification Number, the address of the lab, your name, the date the test was taken, type of test, and your negative result. 

 This can be a printed document, email, or telehealth app notification that you show on your phone.

Fully handwritten doctor’s notes (such as those written on a prescription pad) will not be accepted.

Minimal handwritten components (such as a check mark on a “negative” box) are acceptable as long as the other required information is printed on the document.

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 U.S. Home Ports with no stops in Bermuda or Canada:

You can show it in the form of a printout, an email, or an app screen from the test provider. Or you can show a picture of your negative home test on your phone, or present the actual negative test itself.

Rhapsody of the Seas sailing away in Haifa, Israel

If your cruise departs on or after September 5, 2022 from Europe with no stops in Greece:

You can show it in the form of a printout, an email, or an app screen from the test provider. Or you can show a picture of your negative home test on your phone, or present the actual negative test itself. 

How online cruise planning is getting easier

In:
25 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It's not your imagination, the Royal Caribbean website experience has been refreshed to make things hopefully just a little bit easier in getting what you want.

Royal Caribbean's website has mirrored the larger travel industry trend of trying to improve its web presence and make things easier and faster for its customers.

New cruisers looking to book a cruise are likely to find the options - 2600 rooms, a dozen decks, shows, dining - are overwhelming. It’s no wonder users skip the aging websites and try calling instead.

Ship design in app

Making its website easier is important considering that Royal Caribbean Group disclosed during an earnings call last month that every day there are "millions of interactions on our websites".

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said web traffic is higher than ever, "Our websites are receiving close to double the visits compared to 2019, and we are generating record level of direct bookings."

Cruise planner results


To that point, Royal Caribbean sees opportunity with its online travel tools. Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley talked about the importance of enhancing its web portal, "I think, certainly, the investments that we made in our technology as it relates to getting to customers about their cruise experience and the opportunities and experiences that are available to them has proven to be successful."

"And I think that's connected and reflects the kind of the acceptance that the consumer has now at a much greater level to buy online."

"And I believe that everything that we've done with our pre-cruise marketing is really proving to be very effective."

Here's a look at some of the recent updates and enhancements Royal Caribbean has made to allow guests to book and manage their cruises with greater ease.

Making search easier

Royal Caribbean's website

Finding the perfect cruise vacation starts off with lots of possibilities, which requires the user to comb through the search results for the right option.

Royal Caribbean recently updated its cruise booking site with the goal of returning results in an easier manner.

While the search form looks the same on Royal Caribbean's homepage, the results come through a new simpler layout that is not only easier to use on a mobile device, but provide filtering options with less clicks.

Search results

The search results are in a cleaner layout with less "fluff" around it so you can drill into the itinerary and ship you want. You'll find clear and simple messaging and pricing throughout the booking process. Visuals are important, but text is crucial.

Read moreHow do I pick the perfect first cruise?

Royal Caribbean also included advanced paths, alternate routes, and exits throughout the booking process - so that experienced users can rapidly dial in the exact cruise they want.

Search results

The new search results seem to come up some of the time, which perhaps indicates they are testing it out until it's ready to fully replace the legacy search results. 

Upgraded cruise planner

Just as important to Royal Caribbean's bottom line as someone booking a cruise is someone booking a cruise add-on.

According to Royal Caribbean Group executives, every dollar a guest spends before the voyage, translates into about $0.70 more on the dollar when they sail and double the overall spending compared to other guests.

This year, guests are spending 30% more across all categories of pre-cruise spend than they did in 2019 before the pandemic.

It certainly is easier for guests to buy a drink package, wifi, or shore excursion if the website is simpler.

In early 2021, Royal Caribbean began rolling out a new look to its cruise planner tool.

Dubbed, "My Royal Cruise", it has slowly replaced the old Cruise Planner site where guests can browse the various add-ons for their sailing.

Read moreEverything you should book before the cruise to avoid it being sold out

The goal for this refresh was to make it more intuitive for guests to plan their sailing.

My Royal Cruise features a cleaner look, which takes advantage of contemporary web design.  It is simple and functional, while still visually appealing.

Moreover, returning guests have more of their personal information saved so purchases can be completed significantly faster than with the old site that required the user to enter all their information in over and over for each transaction.

App upgrades

Royal Caribbean app

Royal Caribbean's app has evolved from "nice to have" to "essential" since cruises restarted in June 2021.

For most cruises, scanning your passport and uploading a security photo will generate a mobile boarding pass that’s going to help make for a better experience at the terminal.

You can then choose your arrival time from a list of staggered options so you know what time to arrive.

The new eMuster process has also been rolled into the app, which allows you to start the mandatory safety briefing even before you board.

On several ships, like Odyssey of the Seas, the app can also be your very own Digital Key to unlock your stateroom.

Once inside, you can control the TV and even stream content right from your phone. The room temperature, lights and curtains for some staterooms can also be controlled.

Book a pre-cruise hotel

Miami hotel

Because a lot of its guests were already booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel, Royal Caribbean made that option easier.

The Royal Caribbean Hotels program was launched in March of this year, and it gives cruisers an easy way to lock in a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Royal Caribbean says this new program offers exclusive rates with thousands of hotels in every Royal Caribbean departure and arrival port, including those in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific as well as North, South and Central America.

Hotel search results can easily be filtered based on the number of travelers in your group, the sailing’s departure or arrival city, and dates — plus preferences such as hotel rating, amenities and more.

Royal Caribbean announces Singapore cruises in 2023-24

In:
25 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean revealed new 2023-2024 sailings from Singapore on Spectrum of the Seas.

Spectrum of the Seas sunset

The year-round season brings back long cruises, offering a new mix of 5- to 12-night sailings to Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan & more.

Spectrum will also offer short cruises to Malaysia and Thailand.

The new cruises are available to book immediately.

A look at the new itineraries

15 countries you didn't know you could cruise to on Royal Caribbean | Royal Caribbean Blog

Spectrum of the Seas will offer a variety of longer cruises to Southeast Asia, including 5-, 7-, 9- and 12-night itineraries. Guests can choose from cruises that visit Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Manila, Philippines.

Read more15 countries you didn't know you could cruise to on Royal Caribbean

The upcoming cruises include two 12-night sailings, which mean guests can visit as many as seven destinations across three countries, all in one sailing. If you do a back-to-back cruise, then you can take advantage of a 24-night cruise to places such as Hong Kong; Tokyo, Osaka and Mount Fuji, Japan; and Nha Trang and Hue/Danang, Vietnam.

Phuket

In addition, Royal Caribbean will offer short 3- and 4-night cruises that will visit Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket in Thailand.

Read moreBest Royal Caribbean itineraries with overnight ports

What makes Spectrum of the Seas different from other ships

Spectrum of the Seas arrives in first Asian port | Royal Caribbean Blog

Spectrum of the Seas is different than the other Quantum Class cruise ships in the fleet.

Royal Caribbean designed the ship to be an innovator, that offers plenty of innovations and touches of eastern culture infused with the ship.

Here are some of the major things to do on Spectrum of the Seas:

  • Asia’s first Sky Pad, a virtual reality, bungee trampoline adventure
  • Royal Caribbean’s first and exclusive Suite Enclave, which features the exquisite Royal Suite Class Star, Sky and Sea accommodations in a private area supremely positioned at the forward end of the ship. Guests booked in these luxury suites have exclusive floor access, an elevator, private restaurants, and a dedicated lounge area.
  • Cutting-edge and transformative venues such as Two70. Boasting stunning 270-degree ocean views by day and transforming into a multidimensional theater by night, this transformative space flaunts six agile Roboscreens, breathtaking live performers and mind-bending aerialists to create unimaginable visuals. 
  • Star Moment, a lively and energetic karaoke venue where family and friends can belt out and sing like stars.
  • The signature two-level Ultimate Family Suite, an expansive, multiroom retreat complete with its own ensuite slide and cinema, which also doubles as a karaoke stage.
  • A bold lineup of signature activities, including the FlowRider surf simulator, the North Star, an all-glass capsule that ascends 300 feet above the ocean to deliver incomparable 360-degree views; and RipCord by iFly, the first sky diving experience at sea.
  • Nineteen distinct dining options serve up flavors from around the world, including Hot Pot, an authentic Chinese dining experience; Teppanyaki, a celebration of authentic oriental flavors cooked in Japan’s traditional teppanyaki style; and Sichuan Red, a new specialty dining experience tailored just for Spectrum, where diners can savour a bold tapestry of authentic spices and Sichuan flavours. Signature classics include imaginative cuisine at Wonderland, top-notch, aged beef at Chops Grille, and authentic rustic fare and handmade pasta at Jamie’s Italian.