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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.

Royal Caribbean answers cruise ship special needs and accessibility questions

In:
24 Aug 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Have you every wanted to know about going on a cruise if you or someone you know has a special need?

Side of Navigator of the Seas

Today, Royal Caribbean management participated in a discussion with travel agents, answering questions relating to special needs and accessibility while cruising.  

Ronald Pettit, Royal Caribbean’s Executive Disability Inclusion & Accessibility Officer, addressed several topics along with Renee Didier, Manager of the Sales Training Team.

Pettit has been with Royal Caribbean Group for over 16 years in varying positions and has led the cruise line as an industry leader in accessible cruise vacations. In the webinar today, Pettit elaborated on a number of Royal Caribbean’s practices in making the cruise experience more accessible.  

Wheelchair accessibility on Royal Caribbean - Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

Here are some of the questions and answers from today’s session.

How much advance notice should we provide about a disability?

Independence of the Seas aerial view birds eye

Ideally at the time of booking, but “no later than 30 days prior to sailing, except for sign language interpreting requests which must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing".

What are the steps Royal Caribbean takes to prepare for guests before coming on board?

Royal Caribbean collects and reviews all accommodation requests, working with relevant parties to prepare. C

loser to the sailing date, about 10 days beforehand, important details are disseminated to staff, such as housekeeping and dining. 

Where can you find the special needs form?

Royal Caribbean's website

The special needs form is a very important tool for anyone to use. As listed on the website, the form requires basic information, including:

  • Personal details such as name and address
  • What accommodations are requested
  • If an accessible stateroom is required
  • Accessible hotel room pre or post-cruise
  • Any equipment that needs to be brought on board
  • Dietary request
  • Accessible shore excursion
  • Any other request

The website notes that information provided on the form will be shared with only those who need it, such as crew members, housekeeping staff, and third parties, including ground transportation staff or shore excursions where required.

How can I get assistance with embarkation and disembarkation?

Photos: Royal Caribbean provides hurricane relief to people of Caribbean | Royal Caribbean Blog

The cruise line does provide a wheelchair and assistance in navigating the terminal and getting on the ship. Asking the day of can be an issue, as the information is collected and organized days in advance.

Pettit did note that staff does their best to make sure wheelchairs are available when needed, and organizing various boarding times is part of this process. Sometimes patience is required, though.

While onboard the cruise, scooters and wheelchairs are not provided unless it is a medical emergency. Royal Caribbean does work with companies that can provide mobility options that can be rented for the duration of the cruise and even delivered right to the guest’s cabin.

What can be done for guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Windjammer food on a plate

Pettit noted that dietary restrictions and allergies are the second biggest request after pier assistance. Royal Caribbean is very experienced in dealing with common needs such as gluten, dairy and lactose-free foods, which he noted are well highlighted on menus. However, there are less common allergies that can be problematic for guests.

He advised cruisers can request the following evening's menu with modifications.

What type of options do we have on board for those individuals with autism?

Royal Caribbean is known to be first autism friendly cruise line in the world, partnering with Autism on the Seas, which helps them with specific products and services, including sensory friendly movies, an autism channel, a social storybook to name a few.

 In addressing this, Pettit explained that there is lots of programming that can be offered on board the ship, and literally, they can make any of them accessible.

Read moreHow one group helps families with Autism cruise on Royal Caribbean

Can guests bring a service dog on a cruise ship?

When asked if service dogs are permitted onboard, the answer was an emphatic yes, with Pettit going on to discuss the critical, evolving role of service dogs play,  adding they do many things:  “Service dogs help retrieve object, alert people that somebody is at the door there now, medical alert dogs that help people to detect if they're going to have a seizure or to take their medication.

He did clarify that service dogs have been specifically trained to perform a very specific function or take to help a person with a disability, different than a therapy dog who may not qualify under the ADA as a service dog. 

Are there sharp containers and fridges for diabetics?

Sharps container

Yes, Royal Caribbean does provide these in the stateroom, and Pettit advised the need to clearly identify specific requirements.

For example, not all diabetes medicine needs to be refrigerated.  

If a guest needs oxygen, can Royal Caribbean provide it onboard?

Oxygen

Royal Caribbean does not provide oxygen for their cruise; it is only available for emergencies, so guests need to make their own arrangements in this regard.

He noted the advancements that have led to the portable oxygen concentrator that helps convert ambient air into on0demand oxygen, which may be of benefit to some passengers.

If a guest needs dialysis, can they sail with Royal Caribbean?

Suite living room

Guests who can bring their machines and do self-administered dialysis are welcome to sail, and this has been happening for decades.

Royal Caribbean is unable to provide medically supervised hemodialysis; however, some guests have been using self-administered NxStage equipment, which which are permissible.

Guests can book through Dialysis at Sea (https://www.dialysisatsea.com).

Are there accessible shore excursions available?

Family on the beach

Discussing accessible short excursions, Pettit describes his team's effort, "I have a small six seven member team that deals exclusively with accessible shore excursions, which are akin to a concierge service."

"They work in various ports of call with tour operators to provide guests with what they are looking for. This is also why it is key to communicate well heard of time."

Are Royal Caribbean's private islands accessible?

Perfect Day at CocoCay seen from ship

Yes, they are, and Pettit elaborated that both Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas and Labadee in Haiti have a good amount of access with hard pathways throughout the island, accessible trams,  beach wheelchairs to navigate the sand, pull lifts to get in and out of the pool and accessible cabanas. 

Royal Caribbean will give leftover cruise credits as onboard credits instead

In:
24 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is going to stop issuing leftover future cruise credits as cruise credits to be used to book another cruise.

Travel agents were informed on Wednesday that Royal Caribbean decided it would make more sense to let clients redeeming a future cruise credit that has a leftover amount to become an onboard credit instead.

Many cruisers still have future cruise credits from the global cruise industry shutdown of 2020 and 2021 that remain unused.

In a situation where a future cruise credit is applied to a booking, but the full value is not utilized, instead of a new future cruise credit being created for the remainder balance, it will be issued as onboard credit on the cruise that they're using the cruise credits in the first place.

Ship docked in Caribbean

The announcement only applies to future cruise credits that get applied first towards the deposit of a new cruise.

Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service at Royal Caribbean International  explained the new policy to travel agents during a webinar, "if somebody has a left over amount, we're giving them that amount now as an OBC, an onboard credit, on the cruise that they're using the FCC."

"We're not going to reissue FCC's. It's strictly going to go back as an onboard credit for the existing cruise that they're using their FCC."

Simplifying cruise credits

Royal Caribbean has been steadily simplifying the future cruise credit process for guests to ensure they can easily use the money they are owed.

As of June 1, 2022, Royal Caribbean announced all unredeemed future cruise credits (FCC) offered under the Cruise with Confidence program will no longer expire.

Royal Caribbean wants changes like this and today's change to provide more flexibility for anyone with a FCC, instead of them acting as a kind of boondoggle.

How do I redeem my credit?

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how to redeem online for existing bookings:

  1. Visit the Redemption page.
  2. Enter your booking information.
  3. Enter your Future Cruise Credit number(s).
  4. Click “submit.”
  5. You will receive an email letting you know if your credit was valid.

Royal Caribbean increases gratuities for crew members on its cruise ships

In:
23 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

After four years, Royal Caribbean is increasing the gratuity rate cruise ship passengers will pay for the service they receive from crew members onboard its ships.

Each passenger pays a daily gratuity that covers the services of the crew members they interact with the most, and this daily rate is charged automatically unless the guest pre-pays it prior to the cruise.

As of September 7, 2022, the automatic daily gratuity charge will increase:

  • Standard cabin (Junior Suites and below) going from $14.50 to $16.00 per day, per person
  • Suite gratuity rate will change from $17.50 to $18.50 per day per person

Royal Caribbean last raised gratuities January 2, 2018.

The daily gratuities are shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Royal Caribbean stipulates in the unlikely event that a guest onboard being charged the daily automatic gratuity does not receive satisfactory service, the guest may request to modify the daily amount at their discretion by visiting Guest Services onboard up until the morning of their departure.

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

For new reservations, the adjusted gratuity amounts are effective as of September 7, 2022.

Guests who booked prior to September 7, 2022 can opt to prepay gratuities prior to sailing to take advantage of the current rates. On or after September 7, 2022, regardless of when the booking was created, gratuities paid while onboard are subject to the new, increased rates.

Pre-existing bookings confirmed prior to September 7th , 2022 will not be subject to the increased guidelines as long as gratuities are paid in advance of sailing. Should guests opt not to pay gratuities until onboard, they will be subject to the newly suggested gratuity amounts.

This automatic gratuity does not cover other onboard purchases. A 18% gratuity is automatically added to all beverages, mini bar items, and spa & salon purchases.

Other cruise lines already made similar changes

NCL logo on side of ship

Other major cruise lines already increased their gratuities this year.

In April 2022, Carnival Cruise Line raised their gratuities to $14.50 per person, per day for standard staterooms and $16.50 per person, per day for suites.

Norwegian Cruise Line also raised their gratuities in April, when they changed their rates:

  • Balcony and lower cabins: $16.00 per person, per day
  • Haven and Suite guests: $20.00 per person, per day
  • Club Balcony Suite guests remains at $18.00 per person, per day

In July, Disney Cruise Line increased their gratuities to $14.50 per night, per person for standard rooms and $15.50 per night, per person for suite guests.

How gratuities work on a cruise

Wonder of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you do absolutely nothing, then you can expect an automatic charge on your SeaPass account each day of the cruise.

The exception is in certain markets where tipping is not as ingrained as part of their culture, so Royal Caribbean includes daily gratuities as part of the price of the cruise.  This occurs in the Australian cruise market.

Each guest, regardless of age, will be assessed the daily gratuity as recognition for the hard work crew members do each day.

An alternative is to pre-pay the gratuity before the cruise begins.  When this opted into by the guest, then you'll pay the full gratuity amount before the cruise begins at final payment date.  It will show up as a line item on your final payment.

Pre-paid gratuities can be added to an individual reservation at any time outside of 48 hours of the sail date.

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

Guests that booked directly with Royal Caribbean can pre-pay gratuities by calling 866-562-7625 or logging into www.royalcaribbean.com before their sailing.

Guests that booked through a travel agent can request their agent add pre-paid gratuities to the guests' booking prior to sailing.

More info:

The Oasis Class features that are only left on Allure of the Seas

In:
23 Aug 2022
By: 
Marcy Miyar

Royal Caribbean has steadily updated each of its Oasis Class cruise ships, but Allure of the Seas is the last ship that has features from the original design.

Allure of the Seas aerial with sunset

When Oasis of the Seas started sailing in December, 2009 it was the largest, most innovative cruise ship in the world. Thirteen years later it is still a marvel in the industry.

Four other Oasis class ships have come along with different features including new restaurants, dry slides, water slides and escape rooms.

Read moreWhat was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment

Due to the global pandemic, Allure of the Seas has had her scheduled upgrades suspended for at least the next three years (according to the current Hotel Manager).

While I’m here on my favorite Oasis class ship for the next eight days, I thought I’d share some classic features of the ship you either can’t find on the others or are slowly being phased out.

Royal Promenade

One of my favorite venues is the Champagne Bar. I’m always looking for a good martini and the Champagne Bar consistently delivers with my classic favorites. The bar staff also is great at coming up with new flavors I’ve never thought to try.

That space has been replaced with the Bionic Bar on the other Oasis Class ships. This is where you can get your drinks made for you by the robotic bartenders. I, myself am not a fan of the Bionic Bar which obviously puts me in the minority or Royal wouldn’t keep adding them to their ships. I miss the personal connection to the bar staff and the inviting ambiance of the Champagne bar. The Bionic Bar always seems to be very bright and stark in contrast.

Deck 5 is also where you’ll find the On-Air Club. It’s here that karaoke and some visual trivia takes place. While it still exists on other ships, Oasis and Wonder have re-named it “Spotlight Karaoke” and it is now a designated karaoke bar.

Pool Deck

The biggest difference between Allure and the other Oasis class ships is the absence of the water slides.

The other four ships have “The Perfect Storm.” They consist of two twisting slides, The Typhoon and The Cyclone along with a separate bowl-style slide named Supercell. In this area on Allure you’ll find three hot tubs.

Another missing feature is the Lime and Coconut bars that are found on Oasis and Wonder. The Sand Bar and Pool Bar are in these locations but they don’t deliver the Caribbean theming that the Lime and Coconut brings to those ships.

The Solarium Bistro is available on all ships for breakfast and lunch however, Allure is the only one that turns the restaurant into the Samba Grill in the evenings. Samba Grill is Royal’s take on the Brazilian Steakhouse, with gauchos serving meats tableside.

Deck 15 on Allure is also where you’ll find the last of the Wipe Out Café’s. This outdoor restaurant serves breakfast daily. You can find hamburgers and sandwiches during lunch hours. It has been replaced by El Loco Fresh on Oasis and Symphony.

The Living Room is the onboard club for teens. I wouldn’t say it’s being phased out, as there will always be an area for the younger cruises, however, that space on Oasis has been replaced by Port Side BBQ and on Wonder by their expanded Windjammer Café.

Deck 14: No Escape!

The card room on Deck 14 (named Seven Hearts) has board games and computers; along with plenty of tables.

This area on Oasis and Wonder has been replaced by Escape rooms Apollo 18 and The Observatorium, respectively.

Diamond Lounge

Allure is the only ship that still has their Diamond Lounge on Deck 11, overlooking the Boardwalk. It is, by far, my favorite location in the fleet. The lounge is for Crown and Anchor members, Diamond and above.

Here, you have access to a specialty coffee machine. Food includes continental breakfast in the morning, some snacks during the day (cookies, fruit etc.) and hors d’oeuvres in the evening, with cocktail service.

There is also a dedicated concierge to help you with things like dining and show reservations.

There are stairs leading up to Deck 12 that used to be part of the lounge but is now reserved for Chef’s Table dinner.

On the other Oasis class ships, the Diamond Lounge (and the Library next door) has been replaced with the Wonderland specialty restaurant or in Oasis’ case, additional staterooms.

Boardwalk

The other major difference between Allure and the others is the absence of The Abyss, the dry slide. You will not find the two purple tubes at the end of the Boardwalk blocking your view to the ocean. I happen to love that, especially if you have Boardwalk balcony room.

Sabor, the Mexican specialty dining venue has been replaced on Oasis, Symphony and Wonder with Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.

Allure’s Boardwalk Donuts, Cups & Scoops ice cream parlor and the Arcade also occupy the space that has been taken over by Playmakers on the other ships.

In addition, Sabor has a separate bar in the center of the Boardwalk that on the other ships is the landing area of The Abyss slide.

Comedy Club

Deck 4 is where you’ll find the dedicated comedy club on Allure.

On her sister ships, that has been turned into the Diamond Club lounge.

No need to fear, comedy lovers. You can still find the comedians in Blaze, The Attic or even in the main theater.

Specialty Suites

Allure and Oasis are the only ships in the class that feature the Owner’s and Grand Panoramic Suites.

These suites are pretty much the same layout with the Owner’s being approximately 160 square feet larger. They are on opposite sides of deck 17 (1701 and 1758).

What makes them particularly unique is the private hot tub on their balconies.

Final thoughts

There hasn’t been an official date for Allure’s amplification beyond a vague three year timeline. No word on what she will receive but you can pretty much bet it will include the Abyss and Perfect Storm slides. In fact, I noticed that in the gift shop, the ship ornament for Allure already has the addition of the Abyss.

This winter Allure will be leaving Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale and moving on to Galveston, Texas. In the fall of 2023, she’ll be back in Florida doing three and four night sailings from Port Canaveral. I look forward to sailing on her many more times in these next three years to enjoy the venues I love before they’re gone forever.

Why fall is a great time to cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia

In:
23 Aug 2022
By: 
Chantal McPhee

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the natural beauty of the Canadian maritime provinces, and Halifax is a star attraction, popular on many east coast cruising itineraries. Established in 1749, the historic city is full of east coast charm, with plenty of activities that take advantage of the natural surroundings and seaside location.

Peggy's Cove

With mild temperatures and warm afternoon sun, it is an ideal season to explore the outdoors and the magnificent Atlantic views. The quaint, historic city center with classic red brick buildings takes guests back to the area’s 17th-century colonial roots.

Whether it be for scenic tours, outdoor activities, food, or relaxation, there is something for everyone to enjoy. And, with the busy summer tourist season ending, the atmosphere is perfect.  

Here are some of the top reasons to cruise to this east coast destination in autumn.

Weather and Climate

Halifax is located in Eastern Canada, on the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated in the aptly named Halifax Harbour, one of the largest, deepest harbour’s in the world, perfect for a cruise ship's port of call.  

Fall makes for great temperatures in this region. September can see cooler mornings but generally warms up to temperatures in the 70s as the sun warms the land, perfect weather for sightseeing. The Atlantic Ocean is still relatively mild in the 60s, which makes it great for boating activities.

In October, as the leaves start to turn into their most vibrant colors, visitors can expect temperatures in the low 50 and 60s and slightly more rain than in September. Make sure to pack a jacket, as the mornings can be cool.

Nova Scotia lighthouse

The surrounding ocean and rolling hills of Halifax can create dynamic weather patterns, so it is always a good idea to have layers and an umbrella for a quick shower. Fog is common in the coastal city but most often burns off, so not to worry.

Crowds and Prices

Halifax sunset

Halifax has become a prime tourist destination, with millions of regional, national and international travelers visiting each year. The summer months, with the warmest weather and lots of festivals, see the most visitors.

In the fall, students start back to school after labour day, seeing a significant decrease in crowds. This makes for less traffic, leisurely strolls and easier to get into sought after restaurants along Halifax’s seaside boardwalk.

Also, the latter part of the fall seas better pricing. On select Royal Caribbean cruises, prices drop as much as 40% between September and October. Money that can be spent on fun excursions and lobster feasts.

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

One of the foremost reasons to visit the east coast is the fall foliage. Trees change from their summer greens to the most spectacular colors, brilliant reds, oranges, to soft yellows. So beloved are these leaves that a red maple leaf is the centerpiece of the Canadian flag.

There are lots of ways to take part in this scenic transformation, which is at its height from mid-September to October. For a more relaxed pace, stroll the downtown areas of Halifax and its many parks and tree lined streets. Don’t miss the Halifax Public Gardens. Established in the Victorian age, this free park is a stunning showcase of flora and fauna. The crimson colored bandstand is a great spot to take in the views or catch a concert.

The area also has a number of parks, including Point Pleasant Park which features almost 200 acres of serene, forested landscape in the southern end of the Halifax Peninsula.

Outdoor activities

halifax Harbour Hopper

The east coast provides a wide array of activities and sights to see. Many great beaches, boating, kayaking, and trails; the possibilities are endless. For the more adventurous, there is whale watching, or perhaps a “Harbour Hopper” a bus that turns into a boat for a tour of both the land and sea.

Another must see is Peggy’s Cove, a fishing village not far from Halifax. Home to its famous lighthouse and rocky shores, it is truly a picture perfect postcard. A recent upgrade to the area provides a fully accessible viewing deck on the Atlantic Ocean, which is great news for tourists.

For those wanting an authentic mariner experience, Royal Caribbean offers a local excursion where guests get to be crew for the day on a lobster boat. As they sail out of the harbour, cruisers get to learn about the importance of lighthouses, followed by a hands-on experience retrieving a lobster from its trap.   

Seafood and much more

Halifax harbor

The Haligonian food scene has been shaped by its proximity to the sea and its French, English, and Scottish settlers. In particular, this Atlantic region of Canada is renowned for its bountiful fresh seafood. Throughout the fall, guests can enjoy lobster served with butter in the traditional Nova Scotia style. Don't worry; most places provide plastic bibs for the somewhat messy process of consuming this delicacy.

September is also a great time to take part in Canada’s largest oyster festival. Try a variety of oysters in differing preparations, and see how to shuck oysters from the pros. Fresh mussels, Digby scallops, and even dried seaweed are all on the menu

Oysterfest

The region is known for its wild blueberries and freshly harvested apples, which are used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Casual eats include a donair, which consists of spicy meat in a pita with a genuinely unique creamy garlic sauce. A product of the Scottish influence (Nova Scotia means New Scotland in Latin, after all) are oatcakes; a perfect afternoon treat with coffee. And, before you leave, make sure to pick up some authentic, locally made maple syrup for those who weren't lucky enough to cruise with you.

Waterfront  

Halifax Port

Some of the best places to try out activities and try some local delights is the waterfront. The impressive 2.5 mile waterfront boardwalk weaves amongst some of its glories from the past, as well as great food and activity options. With fewer crowds in the fall, it is particularly a nice place to explore.

Rent a bike and peddle the whole of the path to get the full experience. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops of all types. Don’t miss Amos Pewter along the waterfront, which makes unique handicrafts and jewelry out of the metal alloy. To cap it all off, try your hand at cards or the slots at the local casino, also located on the boardwalk.

After a walk, visit the Alexander Keith Brewery, which has been making beer since 1820. Listen to some Celtic music at the 200 year old Historic Properties while chatting with locals. The relaxed atmosphere of fall makes it so enjoyable.

Historic Sites

Museum in Halifax

If the weather turns to rain, or simply you are interested in the history of Halifax, there are plenty of attractions that are easily accessible in the downtown area.

Located on the Halifax waterfront, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic takes you back in time as you can learn about the region’s maritime history, including its role in the Titanic recovery. Not far away is Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the final resting place of over 100 victims of the Titanic.

There are also several great museums and galleries located in the downtown area, such as the Museum of Natural History, The Canadian Museum of Immigration, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which features local renowned artist Maud Lewis. Topping it all off is Citadel Hill, is mid-18th century fort with an impressive star-shaped footprint.

Cruises going to Halifax

Serenade of the Seas in Halifax

For cruisers wanting to explore the picturesque East coast with a stop in Halifax,  Royal Caribbean offers a variety of fall itineraries and ships to choose from:  

  • Liberty of the Seas – 4 nights leaving from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Oasis of the Seas – 5 nights leaving from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Voyager of the Seas – 7 nights leaving from Boston, Massachusetts
  • Serenade of the Seas - 7 nights leaving from Boston, Massachusetts
  • Adventure of the Seas – 9 nights leaving from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Liberty of the Seas – 9 nights leaving from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Vision of the Seas – 9 nights leaving from Baltimore Maryland
  • Jewel of the Seas – 11 nights leaving from Quebec City, Quebec

Royal Caribbean updates Covid protocols to open more sailings to unvaccinated cruisers

In:
22 Aug 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has updated its Covid-19 protocols to allow more unvaccinated people to sail on their ships.

Royal Caribbean had opened the door for unvaccinated adults to sail with them from select homeports, but the line updated the policy on Monday to open up more sailings.

"The time has come for us to welcome all adventurers back onboard," Royal Caribbean said in an email to travel agents.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean says this change in protocols are "to more closely align with the broader travel industry."

This change is likely a reflection of many countries opening their borders up to unvaccinated cruisers as well.  

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

  • Any cruise from a Florida home port.
  • Any cruise on Oasis of the Seas from Cape Liberty
  • Any cruise from Los Angeles, California
  • Any cruise from Galveston, Texas
  • Any cruise from New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Any cruise from a European home port
    • (Note: Guests that are not "up to date" on their vaccination per EMA standards will need to take a test onboard in order to get off the ship in Greece and Spain)

There are two notable changes with this policy update: allowing unvaccinated from Florida ports, as well as Oasis of the Seas from Cape Liberty.

Due to local regulations, sailings to or from Australia, Bermuda, Canada or Singapore still require guests to be vaccinated.

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

When Royal Caribbean announced a change to allow unvaccinated back onboard, all sailings from Florida and Bayonne were not included.

Since then, other cruise lines have opened up their ships from Florida ports, which lead many to question why Royal Caribbean had not done the same.

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.

The cruise line continues to practice health and safety measures that exceed other types of vacations. These measures include the routine monitoring and vaccination of all crew members and keeping them up to date with boosters when they are eligible, enhanced testing and care capabilities in every onboard medical center, and more.

Testing changes

Covid-19 antigen test

Royal Caribbean also updated its testing requirements, calling them easier.

Starting with September 5th, for U.S. cruises that don’t visit Canada or Bermuda:

  • Vaccinated guests won’t have to take a pre-cruise test on cruises that are shorter than 10 nights.
  • Unvaccinated guests age 5 and up will need to test within 3 days before boarding, regardless of cruise length.
  • Royal Caribbean will begin accepting results from self-administered home tests. 

This change greatly makes it easier for vaccinated cruisers to go on a cruise without a test at all, unless they take a longer sailing.

All guests welcome

Starting with September 5th, for Europe cruises that don't visit Greece:
 

  • Guests who are up to date with their vaccinations won’t have to take a pre-cruise test on cruises that are shorter than 10 nights.
  • Unvaccinated guests or guests not up to date with their vaccinations age 12 and up will need to test within 3 days before boarding, regardless of cruise length.
  • Children age 11 and under will not need to test.
  • Royal Caribbean will begin accepting results from self-administered home tests on most sailings. 

Requirements in other regions

Halifax Port

Starting September 5th, guests who are not vaccinated can also sail on European cruises. Currently published testing and vaccination requirements remain in place for cruises from Australia and Singapore; cruises that depart from or visit Canada or Bermuda; and transatlantic sailings, until further notice.

Refunds if the policy doesn't match your needs

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

Royal Caribbean promises protocols for each sailing will be sent to the guest via email and on the website, no less than 30 days before you sail.

Should protocols for your sailing change upon that confirmation, and you are unable to travel due to your vaccination status, Royal Caribbean will move you to a new sailing where your vaccination status is accepted or provide you a refund.