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Royal Caribbean raises prices at some of its specialty restaurants

23 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

The price to eat at a few of Royal Caribbean's extra cost restaurants appears to have gone up recently.

Portside BBQ

Specialty restaurants are an optional add-on passengers can indulge in that is not included with a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Depending on the restaurant, there could be a cover charge to dine there that includes all the food, or a la carte pricing.

Read moreFood on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Playmakers on Oasis of the Seas

It seems some of the restaurants have had price increases this summer that point to a trend in the change.

Across at least 4 restaurants, we've spotted new prices to dine there. 

It's not clear exactly when the prices went up because Royal Caribbean does not announce these sort of changes.  At the very least, it seems prices were raised at some point over the summer.

Of course, the cost of food in general has been going up around the world, and is not just a cruise ship issue. Last year, U.S. consumers saw the largest annual increase in food prices since the 1980s. 

Brunch at Mason Jar

Due to global disruptions to the food supply chain and inflation, food prices have gone up overall, so it's likely these fiscal pressures had an effect on what Royal Caribbean had to charge.

The U.S. Labor Department reported earlier this year restaurant prices outpaced grocery prices on a 12-month basis.

Walt Disney World increased prices across-the-board on countless food & beverage items in late 2022.

Izumi sushi

During Royal Caribbean Group's first quarter earnings call with investors, Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Naftali Holtz said inflation was impacting the cost of food, "We continue to actively manage persistent inflation across categories, including food and beverage, airfare, and shoreside human capital."

He added the company was taking measures to find ways to mitigate inflation, and that work was mentioned by Chief Executive Officer Jason Liberty in the second quarter earnings call, "the actions that we took to position ourselves to really kind of outperform and to grow our margins. A lot of all that work really helped absorb the vast majority of -- a pretty significant inflation that we saw across a lot of the items that impact our product."

Here's a look at the recent price increases we've noticed when comparing menus on Wonder and Oasis of the Seas to older copies of the menu we could find elsewhere.

Read moreWhat's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade


In comparing prices of food at Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade on Wonder of the Seas, it's clear prices have gone up.

Food is served a la carte, and its known for offering bar food that you can enjoy while watching one of the many television screens to catch a game.

All the entrees went up from $9.00 to $11.99.

Burger at Playmakers

The wings went up too:

  • 12 wings: $10 to $13.99
  • 24 wings: $14 to $19.99
  • 50 wings: $25 to $29.99

Appetizer prices were increased:

  • Pile on nachos: $6 to $8.99
  • Poke nachos: $8 to $12.99
  • Chicken tenders: $4 to $6.99
  • Fries: $3 to $5.99
  • Pigskin sliders: $7 to $10.99
  • Onion ring tower: $6 to $7.99
  • Buffalo chicken crunch roll: $5 to $7.99
  • Jalapeno poppers: $5 to $7.99

Old menu

Playmakers October 2022

New menu

Playmakers August 2023 menu

It is important to note that Playmaker's menu prices hadn't changed since at least 2019.

Portside BBQ

There's only one Portside BBQ, and it is on Oasis of the Seas, and it also had a price jump.

bayportkat on the Cruise Critic message boards posted a photo of the new dinner menu, which indicates the prices changed in the past sailing.

Here's a look at changes for the Portside BBQ dinner menu.

The Signature combo went from 2 cuts for $12.49 and 3 cuts for $15.39 to $16.99 and $21.99, respectively. 

The Pitmaster Special price was changed from $9.99 to $14.99.

  • Single cuts: $3.89 to $5.99
  • Sides: $2.99 to $3.99
  • Pitmaster Faves: $6.49 to $9.49
  • Desserts: $2.79 to 3.99

Old menu

Original Portside BBQ menu

New menu

August 2023 menu for Portside BBQ

Just like Playmakers, the menu prices at Portside BBQ had not changed since the restaurant opened in 2019.

Mason Jar Brunch

Mason Jar with kids

Whereas the other restaurants are priced a la carte, it looks as though the cost for brunch at the Mason Jar on Wonder of the Seas has also gone up.

Last month, Royal Caribbean Blog message board user OCSC Mike reported the normal price had gone up from $24.99 to $34.99. 

Mason Jar brunch price

This is the onboard price for brunch, and Royal Caribbean usually provides a discount if pre-purchased before the cruise on the Cruise Planner website.

Izumi sushi

Izumi sushi over the top view

In comparing prices on Wonder of the Seas, our team also noticed a price change for sushi at Izumi for its sushi offerings.

All the appetizers have gone up one dollar in cost when comparing today's menu to a menu from earlier this year.

  • Vegetable fried rice: $9 to $10
  • Shrimp and pork wonton soup: $7 to $8
  • Seaweed wakame salad: $7 to $8
  • Pork gyoza dumpling: $8 to $9
  • Tofu-ginger salad: $7 to $8
  • Crispy Rice Spicy Tuna: $13 to $14
  • Crispy Chicken Kara-Age: $8 to $9
  • Shrimp firecracker spring roll: $9 to $10
  • Shrimp & vegetable tempura: $11 to $12

All the signature rolls are now $15, whereas some had been $13 or $14 previously.

Chef's Signature Rolls are now $18. Previously they had been priced between $15 and $17.

Chef's Sushi Selection went from $16 to $17 and the assorted sashimi went from $21 to $22.

Bowls & More

  • Beef or Chicken Teriyaki: $17 to $19
  • Yaki Udon: $19 to $20
  • Tonkotsu Ramen: $13 to $14
  • Spicy Miso Ramen: $13 to 14
  • Poke Bowl: $17 to $18
  • Hibachi Vegetables: $13 to $14

Desert prices at Izumi have not changed.

Old menu

Izumi menu

New menu

Izumi menu in 2023

6 compelling reasons to avoid booking cruises with lots of sea days

22 Aug 2023
Elizabeth Wright

When you begin thinking about what kind of cruise you want to take, you have to decide if you want one that is port intensive or one with more sea days in between stops. 

Depending on what type of traveler you are, you may find sea days to be boring, especially if you have two or three in a row. Some people would rather spend their vacation time in a new place each day than lounging on the pool deck with a cocktail in hand. 

That is one of the best conveniences of cruising-- you only have to unpack once to visit numerous different places! Why not take advantage of that on a port intensive itinerary? 

Here are 6 reasons to not book a cruise with a lot sea days.

Fewer days at sea means more time to explore different destinations

Odyssey of the Seas docked in Haifa

If you are someone who values the ports over the ship as a destination, you'll want to choose an itinerary with fewer sea days. 

Plus, visiting multiple places on a cruise is more convenient than doing so during a land-based vacation. You will not have to worry about unpacking and repacking your suitcase or lugging it through multiple train stations and airports. 

It's amazing that on a 7-night cruise, you can visit places like Athens, Rhodes, and Mykonos, Greece; Palermo, Italy; and Valencia and Barcelona, Spain.

If you want, you can even find busy itineraries in the Caribbean, too. If this interests you, look at sailings from San Juan, Puerto Rico. On a 7-night cruise, you'll visit more exotic destinations than you would on a cruise from Florida, such as Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten. 

Of course, one of the major drawbacks is that you cannot fully immerse yourself in a new culture in a single day.

Europe family

You should think of port intensive cruises as a way to get a sample of what each destination has to offer. That way, you can plan an extended trip back in the future and know what to expect!

I recently took my first European cruise, and while I was a bit disappointed to only have a few hours in cities like Rome and Aix-en-Provence, I learned which places I would be willing to return to and which places I'd skip! 

Fewer days at sea means fewer opportunities to feel seasick 


No matter your itinerary, no sailing is guaranteed to avoid all rough seas.

If you are someone who is worried about feeling seasick during your cruise, booking a port intensive itinerary gives you fewer opportunities to be subject to harsh sailing conditions, especially if you are only cruising overnight!

During the day, you will be ashore exploring new and exciting destinations, and at night, you'll only be awake for a little bit since you will want to get a good night's rest to prepare for another long day. 

Rough sea conditions in the ocean

Other tips to help you beat seasickness include bringing the right motion sickness mediation (i.e., Dramamine or Bonine), selecting a stateroom in the middle of the ship on a lower deck, and staying hydrated. 

In short, you should not be afraid of booking a cruise because you are worried about getting seasick. Booking a port intensive itinerary kills two birds with one stone, meaning that you will have less time onboard and you will be able to cross off more places from your bucket list during a single trip!

RelatedHow to beat seasickness on a cruise ship

Less time onboard means that you can save money on a cheaper cabin category 

Inside room on Adventure of the Seas

Once you have selected the ship and itinerary you want, you have to decide which Royal Caribbean cruise ship cabin is best. On a cruise with a lot of sea days, you might feel the need to splurge on a larger cabin with more outdoor space.

Cruises with more days in port, however, mean that you won't be in your stateroom as much! Rather than spending more money for a balcony or suite, you can allocate it towards fun shore excursions in port. 

All cabins on a Royal Caribbean cruise come with the same basic amenities, including a bed, ensuite bathroom, safe, television, vanity area, and closet. They are all meant to be a comfortable home away from home. 

RelatedWhat are the different types of cabins on a cruise ship?

Even if you book an interior to save a little bit of money, it's not like you will not be able to take in the passing scenery. You can always find a place to hang out on the top deck while watching the ship pull in and out of port. 

Revisit destinations you've already been to

You do not have to stay onboard the ship if you have already been to one port of call on your itinerary. 

On port intensive cruises, especially in places like the Caribbean, you are likely to revisit somewhere you have already been. That is not a bad thing, though! On your last visit, it is very unlikely that you got to experience everything that port has to offer.

This time, you can do something different. If, for instance, you went to Maho Beach on your last cruise to St. Maarten, consider doing something a little bit more active, like zip lining from Pelican Peak or doing an ATV tour. 

You don't have to worry about sailing on the newest ship

Icon of the Seas concept art

If you book a cruise on Icon of the Seas or Utopia of the Seas, chances are that you see the ship as a destination, rather than the ports of call. 

Most of the time, the more unique itineraries are offered on smaller ships anyway, simply because not all ports can handle ships as large as Oasis or Symphony of the Seas! 

On a port intensive cruise, you are most likely choosing the itinerary over the ship. You will not need all the onboard thrills, as you will most likely just want to enjoy a nice dinner and perhaps a show before heading to bed. 

Utopia of the Seas concept art

When I took my first port intensive European cruise, I found myself to be pretty exhausted by the third day. I didn't want to spend too much time waiting for the evening entertainment. Thankfully, I found a great pianist and was able to relax while listening to live music for a little bit. 

That, however, doesn't mean you can't do both! Royal Caribbean sends an Oasis Class ship to Europe each summer, meaning that you can cruise the Western Mediterranean on one of the largest ships in the world. 

If you are a seasoned cruiser who has visited the ports before, you can take advantage of fewer crowds onboard

Kids in the pool on Freedom of the Seas

On sea days, the pool is the place to be, especially on warmer itineraries to places like the Western Mediterranean and Caribbean. 

When the ship is docked, however, all the onboard amenities tend to be less crowded, as the majority of passengers have either booked shore excursions or are off exploring on their own. 

Let's say you want to cruise onboard Oasis of the Seas and don't want to worry about lines for the Perfect Storm water slides, zip line, or FlowRider. If you stay onboard -- at least for a little while during the hours of operation -- you are more likely to be able to go again and again!

Disney and Royal Caribbean in Nassau

Plus, if you want a prime pool lounger, you won't have to worry about chair hogs! Similarly, the buffet lines at lunch will be minimal. 

On sea days, you are almost guaranteed to have a relatively lengthy wait for either of these, unless you are one of the first in line. This is especially true if there are very few sea days during your sailing, as most passengers will use this time to check those items off of their list. 

You do not have to stay onboard the entire day, either. Book an early morning tour that will get you back hours before sail away. You'll be able to take advantage of both exploring a new place and a relatively empty ship. 

I sailed in an interior cabin on Carnival and a balcony room on Royal Caribbean. Here's the one I'd pick next time.

22 Aug 2023
Allie Hubers

Within the last year, I sailed on two of the most popular cruise lines in the world: Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line. While Royal Caribbean is known for its innovative and resort-style mega ships, Carnival Cruise Line is best known for having affordable cruise fares to sail on the cruise line's FUN ships.  

(Left: Royal Caribbean balcony guarantee stateroom on Jewel of the Seas. Right: Standard inside cabin on Carnival Cruise Line's new Carnival Celebration). 

To appeal to a wide demographic, both cruise lines offer a variety of cruise ship cabins to choose from when booking a cruise vacation. Everything from budget-friendly inside cabins to spacious, luxurious suites are available on each cruise line.

Last fall, I sailed on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Celebration, during one of its inaugural sailings in the Caribbean. This modern cruise ship debuted some of the cruise line’s chicest, most stylish accommodations to date. During my week onboard, I sailed in the cruise line’s standard inside cabin with my sister.  

Similarly, I just returned from sailing on one of Royal Caribbean’s older cruise ships, Jewel of the Seas. During this 12-night European cruise, we opted to upgrade to a balcony guarantee stateroom so we could enjoy the scenery while sailing around Iceland. This vacation was taken with my husband, who prefers to have a balcony if it’s within our budget. 

When comparing these two cabins, there is one stateroom category that I’d choose again in a heartbeat while the other one left a little to be desired. 

As an avid-cruiser for most of my life, I have stayed in all different types of cabins on a variety of cruise ships. Some of these cabins were fantastic, while others left me disappointed and frustrated. Everything from the cabin’s storage to the bathroom size and cabin’s location can play key roles in determining whether a stateroom is one that I would choose again. 

Read moreThe 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

Most of the time, you can find me sailing in an inside cabin because I prefer to spend my money on excursions, specialty dining, internet packages and more. Also, choosing a cheaper cabin option usually saves me thousands of dollars compared to other staterooms categories, which means I can cruise more frequently.

However, sometimes I do splurge on a higher-end stateroom. This is usually when I plan to cruise somewhere very scenic, like Iceland, Norway or Alaska. I find there to be great value in booking a balcony so I can marvel at the scenery without needing to leave my room.

One of the most obvious differences was the price between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line's accommodations.

My balcony guarantee cabin on Royal Caribbean was more expensive in comparison to the inside cabin on Carnival Celebration. 

To start, newer ships tend to be more expensive when the vessel first debuts because the ship is in high demand. With Carnival Celebration just entering its inaugural season, the price was likely inflated compared to a typical 7-night sailing onboard Carnival Celebration.  

(Standard inside cabin on Carnival Celebration)

My inside cabin on Carnival Celebration was $1,300 for the 7-night Caribbean sailing. This was the second sailing for the brand-new cruise ship, which should be noted. However, it was the absolute cheapest cabin available onboard. This adds up to be about $92.85 per person for each day of the Carnival cruise. 

Read moreI always stay in an inside cabin on a cruise ship. Here's why I actually like these rooms

On the flip side, my balcony guarantee staterooms was right around $3,000 for the 12-night cruise to Iceland. Jewel of the Seas is one of the older vessels in Royal Caribbean’s fleet; however, Iceland is an expensive destination and the cruise was a longer itinerary, which can drive down the price sometimes. At a daily cost, this was $125 per person per day to sail with Royal Caribbean. 

A guaranteed balcony means that you select the category of stateroom you desire, but you do not get to choose your balcony’s location. Once the cruise departure approaches, you are typically assigned a cabin number at random. 

(Balcony on Royal Caribbean)

Had we booked an inside cabin on Jewel of the Seas (which we originally did before upgrading to the balcony), this would have cost $2,700. This adds up to be around $112.50 each day for an inside cabin onboard the same cruise. 

I’d also like to note that these prices do not include gratuities, which are automatically applied each day of your cruise unless you choose to prepay. 

Regardless, it was more expensive to sail with Royal Caribbean even if I had stayed in a comparable inside cabin. This is not surprising, as Carnival Cruise Line is the most affordable cruise line in the industry while Royal Caribbean is almost always more expensive. 

The ship’s age was a key factor in comparing these two staterooms, as Carnival Celebration was brand-new while Jewel of the Seas was worn and tired looking.

It is pretty hard not to be wowed by a brand-new cruise ship. Even as someone who typically sails with Royal Caribbean, staying in a new cabin onboard Carnival Celebration was quite impressive. I was surprised by how thoughtfully designed the inside cabin was, even though it was the cheapest category available onboard. 

First, Carnival Celebration, being the newest ship for the cruise line, featured very stylish and functional staterooms. The cabin was modern with light wood and blue accents. Of course, the carpet, furniture and beds had only been used by a few people before us. Everything felt spick-and-span, as it should!

(Inside Cabin on Carnival Celebration)

We appreciated the little details in our inside cabin with Carnival too, like having a USB plug at our bedside and numerous outlets to use on the vanity. 

On the other hand, our balcony cabin on Jewel of the Seas was nearly 20 years old with little updates made in the last decade. While the decor was certainly dated, there were other aspects of the balcony guarantee cabin that we did not particularly like either. 

(Worn table on Royal Caribbean)

The furniture was certainly worn down in our cabin, as was our balcony. Additionally, the carpet was far past its expiration date, with a few obvious stains throughout. Finally, our balcony itself had very dry wood that looked poorly maintained - I was almost worried about getting splinters!

(Balcony view on Royal Caribbean)

It was pretty clear that Royal Caribbean had not updated these staterooms on Jewel of the Seas in many years - and refurbishment was long overdue. But, we anticipated our cabin to look outdated because of the ship's age and we planned to spend most of our time exploring Iceland. 

Along with price, another obvious difference between Royal Caribbean’s balcony cabin and Carnival’s inside cabin was the size. 

It should come as no surprise that our balcony guarantee with Royal Caribbean was more spacious than the inside cabin with Carnival Cruise Line.

The balcony guarantee on Jewel of the Seas was 180 square feet. This is about 10 square feet bigger than an inside cabin on the same ship. Our balcony was an additional 27 square feet, which is a little larger than a standard balcony onboard due to the location of our cabin as well. Overall, it was pretty spacious and we comfortably moved into the cabin for our 12-night adventure!

Read more8 reasons to book a balcony cabin

When comparing to Carnival’s inside cabin, this cozy stateroom was only 162 square feet. The stateroom was noticeably smaller than Royal Caribbean's especially when we noticed there was no place to sit other than our beds. In comparison, our balcony cabin with Royal Caribbean featured a loveseat and a small coffee table. Having this extra place to sit, along with chairs on the balcony, made the cabin feel much more spacious. 

(Inside cabin on Carnival Celebration)

Finally, Carnival’s inside cabin had exposed bunk beds. Even though it was just me and my sister sailing together, this cabin could technically accommodate four people. The unused bunk beds made the space above our beds feel more cramped, as the beds could not be tucked into the ceiling like I’ve seen on other cruise ships. 

Royal Caribbean’s bathroom design was one our least favorite parts of the cabin, while Carnival Cruise Line’s spacious shower was a highlight. 

Let me first set the record straight that a cruise cabin bathroom absolutely does not make or break my overall experience! However, when comparing these two cabins, the bathroom discrepancies really emphasized areas of improvement for Royal Caribbean.

As we had expected, our bathroom on Royal Caribbean was equally as outdated as our stateroom. This meant that we had the dreaded capsule-style showers. My husband is 6’4 and I am 5’11, so these tiny showers are not well suited for taller-than-average cruisers.

(Left: Shower on Royal Caribbean. Right: Shower on Carnival Celebration)

Much to the contrary, our budget-friendly cabin on Carnival featured an unusually large shower for such a tiny cabin. I would guess that our shower in this inside cabin was double to triple the size of our shower with Royal Caribbean. 

(Shower on Carnival Celebration)

The bathroom overall felt more spacious and well-designed on Carnival compared to our balcony cabin with Royal Caribbean. Perhaps this is an industry shift towards more comfortable stateroom bathrooms, but the improved shower situation was a welcomed change for this unusually tall cruise writer. 

The deal breaker for us was the undesirable cabin location onboard Royal Caribbean, which is a huge disadvantage to booking a guaranteed stateroom.

Anytime you book a guaranteed cabin, you take a huge gamble. In all honesty, I started to sail in guarantee cabins more frequently in the early post-pandemic cruising and I think this gave a false perception. 

(Balcony stateroom on Royal Caribbean)

Much to my delight, I never had much of an issue with a bad stateroom location when cruises first restarted after the pandemic; however, I have realized this is no longer the case. People are booking cruises far in advance - thanks to built-up cruise credits - and choosing the best cabin locations.

With ships filling up to capacity for most itineraries these days, guaranteed cabins are pretty much guaranteed to be terribly located onboard. Within the last year, I’ve had some pretty horrible cabin locations when booking guaranteed cabins. 

Back in March, I booked an inside cabin guarantee on Celebrity Silhouette and ended up right next to a Crew Service door. Each morning at 4am, I was woken up by the crew members starting their day and shuffling around the decks. I slept so terribly that I ended up getting sick and rundown by the last night because I was not able to get quality sleep each night. 

(Celebrity Silhouette inside cabin directly next to crew service door)

After this experience, I seriously contemplated whether I wanted to move forward with our upcoming balcony guarantee selection on Jewel of the Seas. However, it was an additional $1,000 to choose a balcony location on our sailing. Unfortunately, most of the cabins were in undesirable locations because the sailing date was approaching, so we opted to take the risk. 

(Room service on Royal Caribbean balcony)

As you can probably guess, we ended up with a horrible balcony location on our Royal Caribbean cruise. Our balcony was obstructed, although it was not categorized as such. This did not bother us, as we had only spent $300 to upgrade. But, we were located directly above one of the music lounges onboard, which greatly impacted our sleep. 

Each evening, our stateroom would thump and shake to the music playing from the live band and singers down below. We had to start planning our evenings around when the music would start and stop at the Safari Club. Some evenings, music played well past midnight and we couldn’t sleep with the loud bass that echoed throughout our cabin. 

(Watching the midnight sun in Iceland off our balcony on Royal Caribbean)

With our inside cabin on Carnival, the mid-ship location was perfect. We were surrounded by staterooms, so there was no source of unwanted noise. I slept perfectly in this pitch-black cabin. 

Gambling with a guarantee stateroom is not in my future cruise plans, especially during highly-anticipated vacations or long cruise itineraries.

When comparing these cabin experiences on Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line, there is an obvious winner in my book. I’d pick the inside cabin on Carnival in a heartbeat, but another guaranteed stateroom with Royal Caribbean is not in my future. 

(Carnival Celebration inside cabin)

Being able to comfortably sleep is a top priority for me when I am on vacation. Getting rundown and aggravated (at the consequences of my own prior decisions, I know) is not how I want to spend vacation. If anything, I need to sleep more than normal because we typically spend our days in port exploring new places.

(Beds and nightstands in Carnival's inside cabin)

I am no longer comfortable risking a bad cabin location to save extra money on a cruise vacation, especially on a longer itinerary. My husband and I both agreed that we would spend the extra money to ensure we could choose our cabin location in the future. In fact, we upgraded our cabin for next summer already because we did not want another terrible guarantee location. 

Even though our cabin on Carnival Celebration was tiny, it had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. We weren’t kept up late with loud music from the bars or lounges. Most importantly, I was able to get restful sleep each evening onboard thanks to our cabin’s prime mid-ship location. Rest and rejuvenation are crucial for a fantastic vacation - and guaranteed cabins simply cannot guarantee any of that. 

More on picking a cruise cabin

Royal Caribbean's most expensive specialty restaurant ever will take 3 hours and cost $200 per person

21 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

When Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship starts sailing, it will have its most ambitious and expensive extra-cost restaurant ever.

Empire Supper Club

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas is being designed from the water line up as a brand new evolution in cruising, and there are plenty of firsts, including 20 unique dining options.

One of the new restaurants on Icon of the Seas will be a high-end specialty restaurant that offers a "taste of old New York" and it wont be cheap.

The cruise line calls it the Empire Supper Club, and this throwback restaurant is unlike any other dining venue on its ships so far. Top quality food along with entertainment in a paced meal is what Royal Caribbean hopes will be a very cool idea that provides another option for those seeking a refined meal.

Icon of the Seas

Icon's most elegant dining establishment is something brand new and has a lot of people curious what we can expect.

Welcome to old New York

Old New York

The Empire Supper Club looks to be the most elegant restaurant created by Royal Caribbean to date.

Guests will enjoy an eight-course meal, all paired with with cocktails that have been specially created for Royal Caribbean by a world renowned mixologist. Tony Abou-Ganim has worked with James Beard Award-winning chefs, Bellagio and more.

When you eat at the Empire Supper Club, expect an experience, not just dinner.

Live music in Empire Supper Club concept art

The venue can only seat 38 people and there will be only one seating per night, which means this will be a hot ticket to get into given its low capacity.

Each meal will take approximately three hours, and there will be a three-piece band playing, which means guests get not just a top quality meal, but entertainment too.

Royal Caribbean hopes it will be a throwback to old New York. Appropriately enough, you'll find the New York-themed restaurant in the part of the ship that is also inspired by the same city, Central Park.

A pricey dinner

langoustine meal from Empire Supper Club

While no prices have been listed yet, Royal Caribbean did give a ballpark estimate for how much a meal will cost.

In talking with travel agents recently, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, said she expects the price to be right around $200 per person.

"It'll probably be about $200 a person," she explained in talking about the restaurant. "We haven't landed exactly on the price, but it's going to be worth it because it's going to be a beautiful eight course meal paired with the mixologist, the cocktails and the wines."


Royal Caribbean has plenty of specialty restaurants that have cover charges, but none that have a per-person price tag approaching the Empire Supper Club.

In comparison, here are prices for other specialty restaurants from the upcoming inaugural sailing of Icon of the Seas (with a 10% discount off onboard prices):

  • Chops Grille: $62.99 per person
  • Giovanni's Italian Kitchen: $48.99 per person
  • Izumi: $35.99 per person
  • Hooked: $57.99 per person
  • Izumi Hibachi: $57.99 per person

While the price is higher than other restaurants, it's also different from any other specialty restaurant the cruise line has come up with.

While the Chef's Table experience on other ships is also a curated meal experience, The Empire Supper Club is taking things to a new level with the menu and drink pairings.

Royal Caribbean said caviar and wagyu beef would be among the items that we can expect to see on the menu (the full menu has not been released yet).

"Most elevated dining experience we've created"

Central Park render on Icon of the Seas

The high price tag isn't without merit, as Royal Caribbean wanted to come up with something that is substantially different from anything else.

Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, spoke about the Empire Supper Club a few months ago and he is excited to bring something so different to guests to try, "Empire Supper Club is what I would say is the most elevated dining experience we've created at Royal Caribbean."

"Food will be paired with cocktails, and then we'll pair it with music as well. So it'll be a full immersive dining experience."

playing the cello

From the sounds of it, this will be an intimate setting.

Just as food and drinks get commonly paired together, Royal Caribbean thinks pairing music to the meal will add to the sensory experience.

As mentioned earlier, the menu isn't set yet, but Mr. D'Souza's team is working on a variety of concepts for the menu, including an elevated oyster course, butterflied Caesar salad, and even testing out a rabbit dish. Don't worry, even if the rabbit course makes it to the menu, Mr. D'Souza said there will be other meat options too to pick from.

"It's really a set menu that allows you with a couple of choices around entrees."

Old supper club

Almost all the ingredients will be American sourced ingredients to match the New York menu they are aiming for.

He used the word "elevated" a lot to describe the meal at Empire Supper Club because of how fundamentally different it will be from other restaurants, "it really is an elevated food experience that's tied together with a really elevated beverage experience."

"It's really challenging us to come up with food and now figure out how to pair it, because you can pair wine easily. But, we're saying how do we pair a cocktail in a really meaningful way so that it's really an experiential combination between the food and the cocktail, and now you're layering music."

How early to book a cruise? Our readers say at least 6 months early

21 Aug 2023
Calista Kiper

Wondering when is the best time to book a cruise? If you do what the top cruise fans do, then you’ll be booking earlier than you might think.

Compared to land vacations, people new to cruising might be surprised how early you can book a cruise and why so many cruise experts recommend booking a cruise months, if not years, in advance.

But is there such a thing as too early? Or too late?

While there’s plenty of advice on sites like this, that ties better prices to earlier booking windows. Then again, booking more than a year out is really hard to plan due to work obligations, family events, vacation schedule and more.

Read more: Pros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute

Party on the pier in Nassau

The timing of your booking could make a difference in the cost, availability, and overall experience of your cruise.

To help you consider when to book your next cruise, we asked readers what they recommended. Read ahead for three different options, and the reasons why fans have a preferred timeline. 

Read more: First time cruisers: What to know before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

instagram pol lbooking time

On our Instagram, we polled readers about which timeline they usually use for booking: more than one year in advance, 6-12 months in advance, or less than six months in advance.

More than one year in advance

Icon of the Seas render at CocoCay

41% of viewers, 502 votes to be exact, said they book their cruises more than a year in advance.

On our Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook page, readers expanded on why they prefer that timeline.

Balcony cabin

John Mavros said he books “always more than a year in advance. Best cabin selection.”

Booking early gives you a wider selection of cabins to choose from, allowing you first pick of the best staterooms. Especially if you have specific preferences or requirements for a room, being one of the first tickets will ensure you have the best availability.

Karen G. Zucker commented: “At least one year in advance.. sometimes two years. We need a handicapped room so we strategically plan!”

Odyssey of the Seas

If you need a specific type of stateroom, like a handicapped-accessible room, booking early will confirm that one is still open for you. Whether you want a suite, balcony, or a specific location on the ship, early booking increases your chances of getting exactly the cabin you desire.

Readers also said that booking gave them a better price.

“More than a year in advance gets the best deals generally,” Justin Revell commented.

Joy Pralle wrote that she books “more than a year in advance.” and has seen “prices double or even triple when I try to do a mock booking closer to the cruise date.”

Cruise lines often offer rewarding deals and promotions to travelers who book their cruises more in advance. These deals include reduced fares or onboard credits, and can usually save you some money.

Several readers, like Michael Ott, said they book as soon as itineraries open “to get the best price.” 

If you have to make any other travel arrangements to arrive at your cruise ship, this benefit of an improved price will also include those, such as any planes or shuttles you’ll have to take to your cruise line. Purchasing those flights and other rides earlier will get you a better deal. 

For those excited about popular excursions or destinations, booking further in advance will also ensure that you get the best availability for your activities. 

If price or room availability are important factors, and you don’t mind planning a while in advance, booking a year or more ahead could be the best option for you. 

Between 6-12 months in advance

47% of readers, the majority on our poll, voted that they usually book their cruise between 6-12 months ahead of time. 

Brian Fluno said he usually books “between 6-9 months” earlier, and hasn’t had a problem, despite usually booking “prime dates like spring break, Christmas, and New Year’s.”

Booking 6-12 in advance can save some of the earlier availability and allow you to plan ahead while still reserving time for any unexpected changes.

Allure of the Seas

Cruisers traveling in groups might also find that this is the best timeline, as it allows everyone to work around their own schedule, accommodations, and needs.

When it comes to scheduling conflicts, Carlos Varela said they “used to book further out” but now pick this timeline because “price differential refundable/nonrefundable has increased so much we cannot risk losing a deposit because of unanticipated scheduling conflicts.”

If you want to avoid disappointment and losing a deposit, booking 6-12 months ahead is the right time slot.

Freedom of the Seas in CocoCay

Jamie Fordham added that this timeline gives her “enough time to save and pay off and plan the rest.”

For Michele Saunders, it depends on the length of the cruise: “Short cruises about 6 months. Something like Alaska—a year to 18 months.”

Adjusting to the length or price of your cruise is always a good option for the best travel experience. To avoid any mishaps, allow yourself more time to plan those longer cruises. 

Freedom of the Seas

6-12 months was our most popular option. For planners with busier schedules or those who don’t want to risk losing money in a refund, this is the perfect time to book your cruise.

Read more: When is the best time to book a cruise?

Less than six months

13% of our readers said they plan a little more short-term, booking less than six months before their cruise.

Shakira Liz Estades Pérez wrote: “I'm that type of person who always think everything can change in a while and don't feel comfortable with booking for so many time in advance.”

It can be hard to plan more than six months ahead of time. If you prefer spontaneous travel or have less flexible vacations or paid time off, this may be a more realistic timeline for you.

For a booking this close to the cruise, it takes away more of the pressure around planning for months at a time.

Additionally, if the cruise line has any last-minute deals or cancellations, this would be the time to look for them. Staying flexible and spontaneous could save you money in the end.

Airplane in airport

Justin Hollon added that airfare deals are usually in the 3-6 month range as well, so keep that in mind if you need other travel arrangements. 

Last-minute bookings also allow you to travel during the off-season, avoiding busier crowds or higher prices. 

More experienced cruisers who are familiar with the cruise industry and booking process will also feel more comfortable booking last minute. 

Planning a cruise? Start here:

41 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips and secrets (2023)

20 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

A cruise to CocoCay means a day filled with sun, beach, and lots of ways to enjoy this private island.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is reserved exclusively for use by Royal Caribbean cruise ships, and it's a very impressive place for anyone to go to and enjoy, no matter how many times you visit.

Royal Caribbean sought to deliver the ideal private island experience with its expansive offerings at CocoCay. There's multiple beaches to choose from, a water park, giant freshwater pool, beach club, zip line, and much more.

Odds are your Caribbean cruise will make a stop at CocoCay, so how do you best take advantage of your time there? We came up with the absolute best advice for anyone to maximize their visit.

Before you hit the beach, pool, or slides, here is everything you need to know about Perfect Day at CocoCay!

1. What is Perfect Day at CocoCay?

CocoCay is Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, which means only Royal Caribbean cruise ships can go there.

Just like any port your cruise ship will visit, your ship docks there and it is up to you if you want to get off and visit.

There is no cost to walk around and explore the island, and much of the offerings are complimentary, such as the beaches, pool, and food.

Freedom of the Seas in CocoCay

Basically, the island is one enormous shore excursion run by Royal Caribbean that you do not have to spend any extra money (although you certainly can in some cases) to enjoy a fun day at the beach.

You might be wondering what the appeal is of visiting a cruise line operated island in lieu of a Caribbean country, and the answer is everything that you can do here.

Unlike other Caribbean islands, there are lots of activities centrally located within a short walk off the ship. From swimming, to the beach, to waterpark, and plenty of food, you've got everything in close proximity and run by Royal Caribbean to ensure there is consistency with the experience across the board.

Wonder of the Seas in CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay is almost an extension of the cruise ship experience, making it easy for cruise ship passengers to enjoy without the "middle man" of shore excursion and outside vendors you would have to navigate on another island.

2. What's new at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

You might be wondering what is the difference between Perfect Day at CocoCay and the "old" CocoCay, if you happened to visit that in years past.

In 2019, Royal Caribbean expanded and refurbished the entire island. To say there’s a lot more to do now would be an understatement.

Guests can now choose among a great variety of activities, including:

  • Multiple beaches
  • CocoCay water park (extra admission cost)
  • Freshwater pool
  • Zip line (extra admission cost)
  • Private beach club (extra admission cost)
  • Various dining options (nearly all included)

In 2023, Royal Caribbean will add a new adults-only area at Hideaway Beach.

In short, there are many more choices of how to spend your day.

3. What should you bring to Perfect Day at CocoCay?

Since Royal Caribbean operates the island, there is a bit less to have to bring than to a regular cruise port.

The most important things you should bring to the CocoCay are:

  • SeaPass card
  • Cash: Tipping cabana attendants requires cash.
  • Sunscreen
  • Closed-toe shoes: If you are going on the zip line, these will be needed.
  • Beach towels: You can get these from the ship.  If you are in a cabana or Coco Beach Club, towels are provided for you.
Two cruise ships at CocoCay

It's also a good idea to bring sunglasses, hats, and wear a rashguard to protect yourself from the sun. Most of the year, the sun will be shining and the last thing you want to do is bring home a sunburn from your time there.

Don't forget anything special you may need for kids, such as baby supplies.

I also recommend a good beach bag to carry everything with you on and off the island. 

4. Your drink package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Oasis Lagoon pool

If you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package for your cruise, you can use the drink package benefits while at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

This means if you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can enjoy unlimited alcoholic beverages, along with bottled water, sodas and more. Likewise, the Royal Refreshment and Soda Package benefits extend to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Perfect Day at CocoCay October 2021 photo update | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just like on the ship, souvenir cups or drinks served in pineapples/coconuts are not included with your drink package benefits.  If you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can get a discount on the souvenir cup.  Or you can ask for the drink in a regular cup to pay no additional charge.

If you are a Diamond, Diamond Plus, or Pinnacle Club guest, your daily drink vouchers are accepted at CocoCay as well!

5. Your Voom package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you have a Voom internet package, you will have internet connectivity at Perfect Day at CocoCay.  

WiFi coverage extends across the island, which means you can stay connected and share photos or videos with friends back home.  Heck, you can even post updates on our message boards!

6. Best times for shortest water slide lines

Thrill Waterpark is home to Perfect Day at CocoCay's incredible water slides, and as you might imagine, a lot of cruisers are going to want to try them all. 

While lines for the slides are usually quite manageable, here are the best times to try the slides to have a minimal wait:

  • Before 11am
  • After 3pm

7. Secret menu item at Snack Shack

Snack Shack serves up some great food, but they also have a menu item that is not listed on the printed menu.

If you ask nicely, you can get a chicken parmigiana sandwich that is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce.

8. Prebook to save money

Whether you want to visit Thrill Waterpark, go for a ride on the Up, Up & Away helium balloon, snorkel or pretty much anything else that will cost extra at Perfect Day at CocoCay, be sure to pre-book it before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean regularly discounts activities and add-ons you can enjoy while at CocoCay, and this means money saved compared to waiting to reserve it once onboard.

Moreover, booking in advance assures you of a spot and protects against something selling out. It is common for the Coco Beach Club, cabanas or the water park to sell out, so book early.

You can view prices and make reservations on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planer site.

9. There is lots to do that costs nothing extra

There is a lot of attention for the activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay that costs extra, but there is a lot of fun things to do that costs absolutely nothing extra.

First and foremost, you can walk around Perfect Day at CocoCay without paying extra.  Just like any port of call, you can walk off the ship and explore on your own.

Here is a list of things that is included with your cruise fare when you visit Perfect Day at CocoCay:

  • Splashaway Bay
  • Captain Jill's Galleon
  • Skipper's Grill
  • Chill Grill
  • Snack Shack
  • Oasis Lagoon pool (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Chill Island (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • South Beach (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Sports Courts
  • Fitness Classes
  • Freshwater showers
  • Tram service
  • Beach access wheelchairs

10. Free tram service around the island

Keep an eye out for the complimentary trams that are found around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Beginning when you walk down the pier, you will find tram service to take you down the pier to save some steps (you will have plenty at Thrill Waterpark).

Once on the island, there is complimentary tram service that can take you all corners of Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

As a bonus, many of the trams are solar powered!

11. If you want a quiet spot, go to Chill Island

Chill Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If your idea of a fun day is quiet time getting away from it all, head to Chill Island.  Chill Island is accessible via the green pathway that is towards the left side when you walk onto Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Once at Chill Island, keep to the left side of the area for pristine ocean views that has no music or the sounds of people at the pool or water park.  Instead, you will find only the sound of the ocean waves.

Perfect Day at CocoCay aerial of South Beach

Another good option for a quiet spot is South Beach.

While South Beach has a floating bar and some music playing, it gets far less crowded than anywhere else because it's a longer walk and not as obvious a place to find when walking off the ship.

The further down South Beach you walk, the less people you will find.

12. DIY Ice cream sandwiches

You will find self-serve soft serve ice cream machines at Perfect Day, along with chocolate chip cookies.  See where I am going with this?

Grab two cookies, dispense ice cream between the two and combine for an awesome dessert.

13. Keep an eye out for chickens, iguanas and birds

This is a fun tidbit, but Perfect Day at CocoCay is home to more than just beautiful views.  If you walk enough of the island, it is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Seagulls can also be found flying around, so be sure to keep an eye on your food.

Regardless of the animal, please do not feed any of them.

14. Got kids? Don't miss the free slides

It is easy to gravitate towards Thrill Waterpark, but Royal Caribbean provides two water splash areas for kids that costs absolutely nothing extra.

Captain Jill's Galleon and Splashaway Bay are located immediately at the entrance to the island from the pier.

If you have younger kids (elementary school age or younger), you may find these areas a great fit for kids, with seating around both areas for adults to supervise.

Both of the splash zones include small slides, water cannons, geysers and more.  

Children up to 42″ and 200lbs are able to use these areas.

Given there is no cost to go here, and many of the slides in the waterpark have height requirements, families with younger children may prefer Splashaway Bay and Captain Jill's Galleon.

15. Chairs & umbrellas cost nothing extra

You don't have to worry about hustling to find a spot at CocoCay.

There are chairs and umbrellas in every region of the island, with plenty to go around. If you visited CocoCay in the past, you may recall shade being at a premium, but Royal Caribbean has added a ton more seating and umbrellas to go with it.

The only seating that truly goes quickly are the seats at the swim-up bar in Oasis Lagoon, but it is easy enough to swim up and place an order without a chair.

16. Don't miss the floating bar

Located near South Beach, Royal Caribbean operates a floating bar in the ocean.

It is less of a swim-up bar, and more of a wade-up bar, but once you get to it, you climb a short ladder to get onboard the tiki bar and enjoy drinks in the ocean.

The floating bar has a limited selection of drinks, and no blender, so plan on beers or basic mixed drinks.

17. Your SeaPass card works almost everywhere

Just like on the ship, Royal Caribbean designed Perfect Day at CocoCay to be reliant on the SeaPass card instead of cash.

Your SeaPass card will get you into Thrill Waterpark, Coco Beach Club, and any shore excursion you book. Don’t worry about losing shore excursion tickets. Everything is loaded to your SeaPass card. 

It is also how you pay for drinks or souvenirs.

18. First visit strategy

Royal Caribbean hoping to reopen Perfect Day at CocoCay soon | Royal Caribbean Blog

Is it your first time to Perfect Day at CocoCay? Here is what you should consider when planning your day.

First and foremost, get up and and out to the island as early as you can. By being ashore early, you can beat the crowds that descend later on.

Since there is so much to see and do on the island, it may make sense to try a few places out during your visit, rather than commit to just one.

Keep in mind that you can't do it all in one visit. While you can certainly knock out a few big parts of the island, don't try to visit every inch in one visit. Plan to come back again!

A good idea is start with the Oasis Lagoon pool first, and then hit the beaches after.  The pool tends to get busier as the day progresses, so going to Oasis Lagoon earlier means you can enjoy more of the space without as many people.

Once you get your fill of the pool, decide on a beach to visit, or perhaps beach hop to get a sense of what each offers.

Chill Island and South Beach are the two most popular beaches. Chill Island is closer to more activities (and the ship), so if mobility is an issue, it may be a better choice.

Thrill Waterpark and the Coco Beach Club are extra cost options, and if you elect to book one of them, plan on spending most of your day there. If you do book one of these, be very certain to get onto the island as early as you can to maximize your time.

I would not recommend booking Thrill Waterpark and Coco Beach Club for the same day, because there is not enough time to enjoy both options.

19. There is no breakfast on CocoCay

I advocate getting off the ship as early as you can to take advantage of your time there, but make sure you grab something to eat on the ship first.

There is no breakfast option on the island, and food does not open up until the lunch offerings begin later in the morning.

The Coco Beach Club is the one exception, and offers coffee and pastries to its guests.

20. Book a Thrill waterpark cabana if your family is going to the waterpark

Whether or not you should book a CocoCay cabana for the day is a tough decision usually, unless you are going to the waterpark.

If you have at least 3 or 4 people that want to buy admission to Thrill Waterpark, you should take a hard look at the Thrill Waterpark cabanas.

Not only does a Thrill Waterpark cabana offer a relaxing and private spot for your family to enjoy, but it includes admission to the waterpark for up to 6 guests into the waterpark.

If you have 4-6 guests, then the decision becomes a near slam dunk to get the cabana, in my opinion, because the extra cost of the cabana will be substantially less since you were going to pay for the waterpark passes.

21. Will it be too cold if I am visiting in December, January, or February?

Generally speaking, the tropics do not experience the same kind of winter temperature swings found further north.  It remains mostly temperate, if not warm, throughout the winter months.

That being said, cold fronts can certainly make their way down to the Bahamas, and it is not unheard of for the temperature to drop into 70s at times.

The good news is the ocean temperature does not change much, and will remain warmer for longer periods of time after the air temperatures drop.  

Oasis Lagoon can be on chillier side during winter months, but one person's "cold" is another person's "you just have to get used to it".

I have found CocoCay to be more than enjoyable in the winter months, including the swimming options. If you are coming from somewhere that has snow during winter, CocoCay in December through February will feel divine.

22. Is it worth it to rent a cabana?

If you can afford it, a cabana rental is a great way to splurge during your day.

Cabanas offer privacy, shade, fantastic waiter service, and a "home base" for your family during your day. Your cabana attendant will bring you complimentary food throughout the day, as well as take drink orders.

Of course, cabanas have an extra cost and they are not cheap.  Not to mention you may feel a sense of obligation to stay in the cabana to "get your money's worth".

The reason to book a cabana is for the privacy and service it provides.  There is plenty of umbrellas and shade around the island, so don't worry about that.   

The more people you have, the more compelling a cabana is to book. If you have 6-8 guests, the price per person makes the choice far more reasonable.  If you can split the cost between two families, then you really have a great value.

23. Where should you eat at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

One of the unheralded improvements Royal Caribbean made to CocoCay is the upgraded dining choices.

The days of only having burgers and hot dogs are gone (although you can get them still), and there is a wide variety of complimentary food on the island.

The two main areas to eat are Chill Grill and the Snack Shack.

Chill Grill is like the island's Windjammer, with the most variety of food  to pick from, along with shaded seating nearby. You will find salads, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, and much more.  Chill Grill is also where to go to get soft serve ice cream.

Skipper’s Grill is centrally located and very similar to Chill Grill.

The Snack Shack offers more grab-and-go choices, such as chicken sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, burgers, and even a light Greek salad. Snack Shack is the only restaurant inside Thrill Waterpark.

The Coco Beach Club has its own restaurant and you will not find burgers, hot dogs and other typical island fare here.  Instead, there is lobster, steak, grilled fish, ceviche, babaganoush and plenty more to enjoy.

Moreover, you can order unlimited entrees at the Coco Beach Club restaurant, so feel free to try a couple of dishes while you are there.

Captain Jack's is an extra cost restaurant near the pier, which has wings and fries. Unless you are craving chicken wings and would be disappointed not to get them, you can skip this.

24. Day beds at Coco Beach Club go very quickly

If you bought admission to the Coco Beach Club, plan to get there as early as you can for prime seating.

There are a handful of day beds and in-pool loungers at the infinity pool that are available to whomever claims them first.

While there are plenty of beach lounge chairs and umbrellas to go around, seating around the pool goes very quickly.  So if you want one, plan to arrive early.

25. You can get fresh towels on the island

Bringing pool towels to use on Perfect Day at CocoCay is what most people do, but don't feel like you need to stick with the same towels all day.

There are towel stations strategically located around the island for you to go to and exchange your wet towel for a fresh one.  This is really helpful for kids who love to use their towels early and often.

If you bought admission to the Coco Beach Club, they have their own branded towels, so don't bother bringing one off the ship.

26. No rash guards on slides

Something you should know about is the lifeguards are pretty strict about not wearing rash guards while going down the water slides in Thrill Waterpark.

You can certainly take off the rash guard and hold it as you go down, and then put it back on, but in my experience I had to do this every time I went down a slide without a raft in the water park.

Why? Because rash guards (or shirts) cause drag on the slide, and can slow you down to the point you could actually stop.

27. You can snorkel at CocoCay

Whether you bring your own snorkel equipment or rent gear from Royal Caribbean, there is a spot for snorkeling.

You can use your own snorkel gear and not have to pay anything to access the snorkel area.  Alternatively, you can rent gear on the island.

There is even a lifeguard on a platform near the deeper part of the snorkeling area, and you will see plenty of marine life, including fish, stingrays and perhaps even a sea turtle.  

There is a plane wreck under water, which attracts marine life too.

28. Excursions available too

If you want to mix in some fun excursions to your day in the sun, you can find a few interesting choices.

The two most popular add-ons are the zip-line and Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride.

The Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride takes you up to 450 feet above the island on a tethered balloon.  Not only are the views amazing, but it provides the best photos while visiting.

The Perfect Day CocoCay Zipline takes you across three zip lines around the island, and it is a really fun experience, perfect for anyone that has never zip-lined before.

Keep in mind you need to be at least 48 inches tall, and weigh between 75 lbs and 275 lbs to go on the zip line.

There are also a few other excursions you can book:

  • Jet ski rental
  • Floating beach mat rental
  • Scuba diving
  • Kayak rentals

29. Water slide height restrictions

Before you book a pass to Thrill Waterpark, you should know about the minimum height and maximum weight restrictions to ensure there are no unexpected surprises later.

Daredevil's Peak® waterslide135 feet48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Dueling Demons waterslides75 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Screeching Serpent waterslide50 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Green Mamba waterslide50 feet 48 inches minimum300 lbs.
Manta Raycers waterslides25 feet40 inches minimum300 lbs.
The Slingshot waterslide60 feet 48 inches minimum or 42 inches with swim vest and supervising adult companionMax single person: 300 lbs.
Total raft weight limit: 550 lbs.
The Twister waterslide60 feet48 inches minimum or 42 inches with swim vest and supervising adult companionMax single person: 300 lbs.
Total raft weight limit: 400 lbs.
Splash Speedway waterslides40 feet 42 inches minimum 300 lbs.
Adventure PoolN/AGuests under 42 inches  must wear a swim vest at all timesN/A
Wave PoolN/AGuests under 42 inches  must wear a swim vest at all timesN/A

30. Lost? Look for signs

While Royal Caribbean provides you with a nice Perfect Day at CocoCay map in your cabin before your visit, I think you can leave the map in the room.

There are lots of signs throughout CocoCay to tell you where to go, and navigating is a lot easier than you might imagine.

When you get to the Arrivals Plaza, the pathways are color coded:

  • Light green: Chill Island
  • Orange: Oasis Lagoon, Coco Beach Club
  • Light blue: Thrill Waterpark

As you walk around the island, there are directional signs you can refer to as well to get your bearings. In addition, the Royal Caribbean app has a map you can refer to while on the island.

You can also hop on one of the free trams for a tour!

31. Free lockers you can use

Cococay lockers

Need somewhere to put your stuff? There are free lockers to use around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Lockers can be found near the entrance to Thrill Waterpark and zip lines, Chill Island (north and south), and near the  helium balloon.

 Lockers are first come, first serve.  

32. Is Perfect Day at CocoCay accessible?

Yes, most of the island is accessible, although there are af ew exceptions.

  • Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool and the infinity pool at Coco Beach Club have pool lifts
  • Wave Pool in Thrill Waterpark is wheelchair accessible
  • In Thrill Waterpark, the towers to the slides have stairs
  • The tower to the Zip Line has stairs
  • Accessible trams are available on regular rotation throughout the island

33. Do the helium balloon ride early in the day

The weather changes a lot, especially at CocoCay, so if you want to ride the Up, Up & Away Helium Balloon Ride, plan to ride it early.

Depending on the winds, the balloon may only go up part of the way, and in general, winds are calmest in the morning.

Your best strategy for taking a ride up with best chance at it not being delayed/cancelled is to book it as early in the morning as you can.  

Royal Caribbean will shut it down if the winds are not favorable, and there's no guarantee it will reopen later.

34. Looking for a party?

If your idea of fun is a drink in hand, splashing around with some tunes, head to the Oasis Lagoon pool.

Near the swim up bar is a DJ that plays plenty of pumping music to enjoy.  There are even in-water tables and coves to enjoy it from.

If the music is too much for you, either end of the pool is sufficiently far away from the DJ.

You can even hear music underwater in the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, which is a neat feature.

35. Want live music?

If you prefer live music, head to Captain Jack's, where there is usually a live guitarist performing for part of the day.

The bar even has rope swing seats you can enjoy, and the whole area is covered, which means lots and lots of shade.

36. Try the Coco Loco

The official drink of Perfect Day at CocoCay is known as the Coco Loco, and it is really tasty.

The Coco Loco is the kind of frozen concoction that is sure to put a smile on just about anyone's face.

It comes with rum, but you can get non-alcoholic version as well for the kids.

37. Life jackets are available for no cost

If your child does not know how to swim, or just is not a very strong swimmer, swim vests are available to use throughout the island.

38. Drones are not allowed

While an aerial shot of the island would be pretty darn sweet, Royal Caribbean prohibits the use of drones at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

You are allowed to bring a drone on the ship to use in other ports, but drones are not to be operated onboard the ship at any time, nor on Royal Caribbean’s private destinations: Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti.

39. Some people actually live on the island

Nearly all of the supplies and personnel you see around CocoCay come from your cruise ship, but there is a contingent of Royal Caribbean employees that live there.

Before the cruise industry shutdown, Royal Caribbean had up to 375 employees living on CocoCay.  That number likely changed with there not being cruises operating, but there are dormitories on the eastern end of the island, where crew return to after a day working on the island.

You can see these buildings from the top of the water slide towers, or if you go up on the zip line.  They are located behind Thrill Waterpark.

40. Perfect Day at CocoCay Fun facts

Impress your friends and family with these fun facts about CocoCay!

  • Daredevil's Peak at 135 feet high it's the tallest waterslide in North America.
  • There are 6,000 lounge chairs on the island
  • There are 12,000 umbrellas dot the island
  • Thrill Waterpark has the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean
  • Thrill Waterpark also has 13 waterslides – the most anywhere in the Caribbean
  • Upgrading the island to Perfect Day at CocoCay cost Royal Caribbean over $250 million.

41. A new adults-only area is opening in 2024


The next phase of CocoCay will open in January 2024 when the Hideaway Beach Club opens.

It will be located to the right of the water park (when standing at the entrance to Perfect Day at CocoCay).

We don't have a lot details yet, but the area will be reserved exclusively for adults. No word yet what age constitutes an adult.

In addition, there will be no cost to go to Hideaway Beach, although it's expected there will be add-on extras that will cost extra.

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: August 20, 2023

20 Aug 2023
Calista Kiper

Thanks for joining us for another weekly look at all of the Royal Caribbean news from this week.  The late-summer heat is still on, and we have plenty of Royal Caribbean news to share from this week.

Fear not, Royal Caribbean will not charge extra for pizza

Sorrento's Pizza on Oasis Class ship

After passionate backlash, Royal Caribbean’s CEO, Michael Bayley, took to Facebook to announce the cruise line will not be charging for Sorrento’s pizza.

Mr. Bayley wrote that 80% of readers responded “no” to an email survey that asked readers whether they would still dine at Sorrento’s pizza if an extra fee was applied.

Mr. Bayley assured readers that the change will not take place: "To calm all our Pizza lovers don’t worry we are not charging for Pizza."

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Video: Latest Royal Caribbean News 

Is charging for pizza on the menu? And an Icon update and changes to the Diamond Lounge.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, go ahead and check it out for regular cruising updates. 

Our latest video also shows what it’s like at the top: After 70 cruises, I reached Royal Caribbean’s TOP loyalty level!

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

Sign of Royal Caribbean

Click here for the 508th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast, to hear one of our listeners, Craig Storm, talk about his first experience trying Royal Caribbean after sailing on several other cruise lines.

We update our podcast weekly, so subscribe for more updates via iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or RSS.

You can also leave us a rating or review on iTunes, so go ahead and check it out! We appreciate your feedback.

The biggest cruise hack that has saved me thousands of dollars

Allie saving money

Are you getting the best rate possible for your cruise fare? Saving money on your cruise will allow you to splurge on your cruise, such as purchasing drink packages, excursions, or specialty dining. 

Additionally, getting a good price will allow you to travel more often instead of breaking your bank in one trip.

Depending on when you book your cruise, you may be able to use this surprising hack to save money on your fare.

We asked our readers what one thing they wish they packed for their cruise

quantum of the seas balcony side cabin

No one wants to forget an important item on their cruise. Either you will go without it, and suffer a steeper charge to buy it onboard. 

We asked our readers what item they wished they had packed on their cruise, and made a list of the most important responses.

From travel fans to aloe vera, make sure you’re not missing any essentials when you pack.

I stayed in the cheapest cabin on Adventure of the Seas

cheapest room adventure of the seas

What does a night look like inside the cheapest cabin on Adventure of the Seas?

Angie recently chose a guarantee stateroom for her cruise, ensuring a lower-priced room but a random, often less favorable location.

Although clean and tidy, the room was small and windowless. Check out our link for a full cabin tour of the $300-a-night stateroom.

10 genius things cruise ship passengers brought to CocoCay to make it even better

Perfect Day at CocoCay as seen from cruise ship at pier

Perfect Day at CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island, where cruisers can have a complimentary island and beach experience.

While crew members will work to make sure your day there is perfect, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared.

Here are 10 items cruisers brought to Perfect Day at CocoCay that made their experience even better.

30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

What should (and shouldn't) you do on the first day of the cruise to ensure you have a great start?

There's lots of good advice out there, so we whittled it down for you.

From arriving at the cruise terminal to making dining reservations, exploring the ship, and finding the best spot for sailaway, here are some of the best do’s and don’ts for the first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean's new Chief Meteorologist worries about the weather for your cruise so you don't have to

19 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has a new weather expert on staff who's job it is track bad weather and ensure cruise ships aren't near potential problems.

Craig Setzer at work

Craig Setzer is the company's new Chief Meteorologist, and as as we know, the only chief meteorologist working in the cruise industry.

Mr. Setzer took on his new role in August, and has over 25 years of experience in the field. He's an Emmy-winning former TV Meteorologist, having worked at CBS News and a few local television stations. In fact, he was CBS' Chief Meteorologist.

He also remains involved with the National Hurricane Center, teaching at World Meteorological Organization workshops, and presenting at American Meteorological Society conferences around the country.

Craig Setzer at CBS

Following his television career, he spent considerable time in providing his expertise in court cases related to marine weather, atmospheric lighting and visibility, storm-related damage and losses, wind drift, and human exposure in extreme conditions. 

Mr. Setzer posted on his Twitter account that working with Royal Caribbean is a dream role, "It’s a dream job utilizing my tropical & marine meteorology experience and allowing me to explore/advance operational maritime science in a way I couldn’t before."

Craig Setzer tweet

According to Royal Caribbean Group's job posting for the Chief Meteorologist position earlier this year, Mr. Setzer will be responsible for providing expert analysis of weather systems, such as hurricanes, typhoons and any other kind of severe weather that could impact cruise ship sailings.

His guidance to the fleet with weather-related support and guidance is what ensures ships can alter itineraries, or simply take a different route to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for passengers.

Storm in Port Canaveral

Royal Caribbean was the first line to create the role of a meteorologist following a weather-related incident involving a Royal Caribbean ship in 2016.  

Historically, cruise lines used outside vendors to provide them with forecasts. 

After an internal investigation of the unsettling event, the cruise line decided they needed an in-house, dedicated resource.

Since then, the cruise line decided it was time to mitigate the chances of that sort of event from happening again by hiring someone in-house to provide better direction.

Royal Caribbean's first Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, also came from a television background, and worked in the role from its inception until earlier this year when it was announced he was leaving the position.

Already busy tracking storms


If Mr. Setzer's social media postings are any indication, he's been busy tracking weather events in just the first few weeks on the job.

Hurricane Hilary is headed towards California, and he's been sharing key details about the intensity of the storm and what people can really expect.

He debunked some headlines related to the storm, sharing that he expects the storm to be much weaker by the time it reaches the United States.

Tweet by Craig Setzer

"Some folks see this headline, 
& see the center point cone headed toward California, thinking cat 4 is going to hit California. That's not correct."

"Looking at the forecast details reveal Hilary will be a much weaker but very wet storm by the time it reaches the US. Flooding will be main threat for Calif, AZ, much of the western US."

Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas had her itinerary changed, and Mr. Setzer was involved in that decision.

Letter sent to passengers on Navigator of the Seas

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader YoungFamilyExplorers shared a photo of a letter sent to passengers onboard the cruise ship with the new times in port, and the decision was made with the assistance of the Chief Meteorologist. 

Of course, he's also focused on the Atlantic for tropical storm development.  Hurricanes in the Atlantic are usually where the greatest impact to itineraries occur.

The U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) originally predicted a "near-normal" year with 12 to 17 named storms for the 2023 hurricane season, with five to nine would become hurricanes.

NOAA increased its forecast on August 10 to a prediction of an "above normal" year for hurricanes, because of record-warm sea surface temperatures.

The new prediction is for 14 to 21 named storms for the season as a whole, of which six to 11 could become hurricanes. Two to five could become major hurricanes, according to NOAA.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30.

10 genius things cruise ship passengers brought to Royal Caribbean's private island to make it even better

18 Aug 2023
Elizabeth Wright

When docked at Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas, crew members both ashore and onboard will work to make sure that your day is, in fact, perfect, but it doesn't hurt to come prepared with a few items that can help elevate your experience at this one-of-a-kind destination. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay as seen from cruise ship at pier

Perfect Day at Cococay is designed to be a place anyone can go and have a wonderful time, but are there ways to further enhance your day there?

Past cruisers who are part of the Facebook group "Coco Cay - The Perfect Day" shared some things they brought with them or wish they had while they were there. 

Here are 10 genius things you should bring to Royal Caribbean's private island to make it even better.

Please note that we have linked some items on Amazon, which contains an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but Royal Caribbean Blog makes a small commission if you purchase it. 

Inflatable floats from Amazon


Sure, you can rent $20 mats through Royal Caribbean. Wouldn't it be smarter to just bring your own, though? Not only are they a better investment, as you can use them when docked in other ports of call, during the summer at the pool, or on future trips, but they are also more stylish. 

Nicole Fedoryka wrote, "Used at 4 different places on our cruise last month. Easy to blow up and let air out..."


The key is to make sure that they are inflatable, though. You do not want them to take up too much space in your luggage before you get on the ship. You should also refrain from using them in the ship's pools, as they are already limited in space. 

On Amazon, a 4-pack of inflatable mesh floats is only $21.99. If you want, you can also research inflatable tube floats, if you'd rather sit in a donut-shaped float. 

Baby powder


Did you know that baby powder makes sand fall off of your feet? That's what Debby Smith advised everyone to bring with them ashore. 

Don't put it on before you go in the water, though. Smith recommended applying it after you've finished hanging out in the ocean. 

View of cruise ship at CocoCay

Kate Zingarelli seconded this item: "[It] also makes getting dressed after swimming easier. After you take off your swimsuit, powder the sticky not quite dry areas. Clothes go on smoothly. Great for helping kids get dressed." 

This is a common household item that many have in a drawer or cabinet in their bathroom already. If you don't, though, a bottle is less than $5 on Amazon

Towel clips


Towel clips should be on any upcoming cruiser's packing list. They are great for sea days when there might be a steady breeze blowing throughout the pool deck. 

Being able to use them at CocoCay is just another reason as to why you should get them! They will be useful in keeping your towels secure while you take a refreshing swim, use the restroom, or grab a bite to eat. 

Wonder of the Seas in CocoCay

Marshall Upright wrote, "Towel clips to hold the towel on the chair. Amazon 16 for $9." 

You might not need 16, though. If you are a family of four, eight clips will most likely do the job! Plus, at $5.99 smaller pack is even cheaper than $9. 

SPF lip balm


Sunscreen is usually not an overlooked item when packing for a cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas. I'll admit, though, that I don't think I have ever packed SPF lip balm!

With how easily I burn, this is something that I am going to start making sure is at the top of my life. 

Infinity pool

Unfortunately, Facebook user Katie Foster learned this lesson the hard way, as her lips got burnt on a recent cruise. 


Whether CocoCay is your first or last stop, it is important to protect your skin at every port. If they get swollen, you won't enjoy yourself as much. 

Full-face snorkel mask


"I really debated getting [a mask], said Bill Wyszomirski, "but oh boy was I glad I did. I must've told my wife 4 times afterwards that I was so glad we had our won stuff. Don't regret it one bit." 

Full-face masks mean that you do not have to mess with a breathing tube or goggles; it is just a single piece of equipment!

If you're someone who loves capturing vacation memories, this one is great because it has a GoPro attachment.

While equipment can be rented while ashore, purchasing your own means that it can be used at other points during your vacation or on next year's trip! Like the inflatable beach mats, they are a better deal.

Locking privacy pouch


Like SPF lip balm, this is another item that I wish I had thought about sooner! As someone who travels solo on cruises pretty frequently, I am always worried about my belongings. 

"...we can leave our phones and purse while we [are] in the water or [go] to grab food/drinks," commented Shaunna Pion. 

Upon during some research, I found that there are some bags that just lock without any sort of attachment to secure to your beach chair. 

I stumbled upon a water-resistant pouch with a security tether for only $26.99. It's perfect to protect your phone, cash, SeaPass card, and more. 

Liquid band-aids


Packing your own first-aid supplies is crucial for any trip. It is always smart to have band-aids on hand, especially when you are off the ship visiting a foreign country. 

One commenter reminisced on a time in which she wished she had liquid bandages after her son got injured. Brandi Leigh said that even though she had regular band-aids, she wished that she had liquid ones because standard band-aids kept falling off in the water, and the salt water stung his wound. 

Utopia of the Seas at CocoCay

Thankfully, another cruisers onboard had a tube of liquid bandage that she shared, so they could get back to having the best trip possible!

Liquid bandages do not actually adhere to the skin like traditional ones. Instead, the glue-like substance forms a touch protective barrier to seal out water, dirt, and germs. 

A spray fan


The Bahamas can get hot, like hot. The last time I was in CocoCay was over the week of the 4th of July. I was sitting in a shaded area of Chill Island sweating at 10 in the morning! 

Jenna Sprehe says that she had a spray fan to cool down while on the island. 

beach chairs

Even though the ocean and pool are always steps away, sometimes you just want a little mist while eating or reading a book on the beach! You don't always want to submerge yourself in the water. 

Many of them, like this $15 one from Amazon, do require batteries, though! Once you purchase it, you may find yourself needing it again in the future, like at the beach, a ballgame, camping, or waiting in line at a theme park. 

Collapsible folding wagon


If you're flying, you probably will not have the space for this, but those who live within driving distance should consider bring a collapsable folding wagon to CocoCay with them. 

LS McGallagher said, "Saw several people w fold up wagons (like we use for sports games) to lug stuff on/off boat. Seemed like a good idea if you have a lot of stuff."

Chill Island beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Even though you will not have to worry about bringing your own beach chairs or umbrellas, there's still a lot of beach stuff that you might want to bring ashore with you. 

You will need towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a change for clothing for sure. What about beach toys? Inflatable mats? Snorkel masks? Things can take up room in a standard backpack or beach bag pretty quickly. 

Water shoes


If you are a first-time cruiser, you should come prepared for hot surfaces on the ship, especially on sunny days at sea. "Pool decks are hot," wrote Tina Kupfer-Fisher.

When docked, though, your water shoes can protect your feet on the pier, sand, and pathways when navigating the island. 


If you are spending the day in South Beach, for instance, you will have to walk to the Chill Grill for lunch, unless you are okay with the limited offerings at the Snack Shack. At 12:00pm and 1:00pm, you will not want to be barefoot! 

Don't worry, flip-flops will work just fine if you don't have water shoes. They just tend to be more secure and slip-proof. 

Fear not: Royal Caribbean CEO declares cruise line won't charge for pizza to delight of fans

17 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

Fear not, Royal Caribbean won't be charging you for pizza on your next cruise.

Sorrento's on Allure

A customer survey made its way around the internet that posed the question if people would consider paying extra for the pizza that is currently free onboard.

Cruise fans erupted in an avalanche of condemnation that the cruise line would even consider charging cruise ship passengers for pizza.

The controversy reached Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley's desk, as he took to social media to calm concern over such a change.

How it all started

Sorrento's Pizza

Last week, a RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader shared a copy of an email survey he received from Royal Caribbean asking about many topics, including opinions on making the free pizza an extra charge item.

Royal Caribbean surveys are a commonly used tool for the company to evaluate and get feedback on all aspects of its operations.  However, the question of charging for pizza was something new, since the Sorrento's Pizza onboard has always been a complimentary option.

Email survey

The question on the survey was, "If Sorrento's Pizza was offered for a fee, would you still dine there?".

It then asked if changing Sorrento's from complimentary to an extra cost venue would stop them from cruising with Royal Caribbean, "How would Sorrento's Pizza being offered for a fee impact your likelihood to choose Royal Caribbean in future?"

As word spread about this question, a lot of cruise fans began to worry that charging for pizza was a step on the slippery slope of higher cruise costs.

Pizza and beer

In fact, it seemed many people were more upset with the precedent it sets, rather than actually paying for the food.

Dawn Thompson's comment on social media exemplified many people's thoughts ont he matter, "I understand cruise ships lost a lot of money during Covid, but trying to make up all that money at once by putting an up charge on everything! They will lose their base and limit the amount of new customers and lose more!"

"We are not charging for pizza"

Michael Bayley

Mr. Bayley posted on his Facebook page an update that addressed the pizza survey and to assure guests there will not be a change.

He first explained how the survey question came to be, "A couple of weeks ago we conducted one of frequent small group guest surveys. As usual we asked questions on this n that!  Including customer thoughts on $ charges for Pizza!   The question was posted with the result that many emails and comments were sent! "

According to him, 80% of the respondents said they were against Royal Caribbean charging for pizza onboard its cruise ships.

"The survey said 80 per cent of guests were opposed, 20 per cent of guests said they would still go for Pizza with a charge."

Bayley Pizza quote

He also said about a quarter of the people would consider changing other cruise lines if Royal Caribbean began charging for pizza.

Most importantly, Mr. Bayley assured cruisers the free pizza isn't going anywhere, "To calm all our Pizza lovers don’t worry we are not charging for Pizza."

A relief to cruise fans

Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

For many cruise fans, this update was a welcome sigh of relief.

Nancy Bridges posted, "Thank you for listening, Michael."

Tracey Garner added, "Thank you for listening to your loyal customers! It is very much appreciated!"

Mike Barngrover joked, "That's a relief Michael. I did not want to move my cruises to Carnival."

Russel Lomas suggested working on the surveys so they aren't as easily misconstrued, "You may want to think about how the question was worded in the survey so that in future people to do not get into an uproar on social media about issues or questions like this."