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  1. Hey Everyone, I wanted to share a tool that I created to help you get the best and lowest prices for beverage packages, excursions, and activities! The tool is called RoyalPriceTracker.com Using the tool you simply enter links to any beverage packages, excursions, and any other onboard activities that you can buy before your cruise. RoyalPriceTracker will monitor the prices for all of them every day then once their is a price drop on an item your tracking you will receive an email notifying you of the drop and that it’s time to go book the lower price! You can then cancel and rebook or buy for the first time! Plus, it’s completely free to use! Feel free to check it out and start using it!
  2. We went on our first cruise in 20 years last year and I just thought I would share what we learned. You don’t need a huge fancy ship on a long cruise to see if it’s a good fit. A smaller older ship has plenty of sun, sea, music and new things to experience. Do grab any available discounts (in advance on the royal website) for things like drink or water packages if you can get them. The offers do go away. Rookie mistake in waiting. if you are doing a shorter budget cruise you will be just fine without premium dining. This may vary from port, but we toured Cozumel on our own and were really glad we did that. There are lots of beach clubs you can do on your own or go into town. I am glad we rented a car. I’m not glad we got a parking ticket. In Galveston we did a hotel with a shuttle but it was a SLOW process, might not have made that a priority. An air b and b and an Uber booked ahead would have probably done the trick, though do plan for parking. We made the trip to the port and the port stay an important part of our vacation, we stayed 2 nights before and that helped us feel less stressed embarkation day and we loved Texas. if you don’t have a passport BRING YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE! Our travel agent never mentioned this and thank heavens we had backup documents. There are beer buckets on board but we didn’t really budget enough for drinks. We did bring soda and water on and grabbed more in port. The ship has plenty of food but grabbing a quick snack isn’t always easy, not the worst idea to bring a few nibbles. It can be cold and hot and everything in between. Layers are great. Talk to people, make friends, we got to interact with all sorts of folks from all over. Try things you would not normally do, trivia, shuffle board, hide ducks, dance class, ICE SHOW. We ate a lot of Indian food on board. We avoided crowds by doing everything on the late side, later meals all day. Grab a paper cruise compass. Don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else. We didn’t have all the magnets or sparkle water bottles or fancy outfits but we had a great experience.
  3. So thanks to the heads-up from @Sabrinaklai, I've been tracking the flight prices on United and JetBlue for the last few weeks. It's been interesting, not leastwise because yesterday was the 90-day mark before my cruise, and today United's fares dropped like a rock to just barely more than the best price I'd seen when I'd started. Flight itinerary -- EWR to FLL on Wednesday, March 29; returning April 9 JetBlue "Blue Plus" fare selected for all price checks, since it includes one checked bag for $2 less than checking it at the terminal United regular Economy fare for all price checks, since I need the freedom to choose our seats at booking and be sure the family is grouped together as much as possible JetBlue was holding absolutely steady at $494.40 per person ($1,977.60 total; taxes included) for the entire time I had been checking, going back to mid-December. But on Friday, they suddenly jumped up $40 per person for the departure flight ($2,138.40 total), and for no visible reason (apart from maybe that it's a holiday weekend right now); almost all regular seats still available, nothing else to account for it. Meanwhile, United had started at $408.40 per person ($1,633.60 total; again taxes included). It very quickly jumped by a lot, to just shy of $600 per person at one point. It started coming back down a bit going into this weekend, and then this morning it dropped to $423.60 per person ($1,694.40 total), just a little more than the lowest I'd seen when I'd started tracking. For those who want to stop reading here, the key takeaway is that this "90-day flight pricing rule" that Sabrina mentioned really does seem to be a real thing. So a big thanks to her for letting us all know about it, and to watch the flight prices like a hawk both decently ahead of this window, and also going into it. For those who care what happened next with me, go ahead and continue reading. For everyone else... I've gone ahead purchased my tickets on United, contrary to my original plan to fly JetBlue. The main driver was the opposite swings in the two prices. The gap went from just under $300 more for JetBlue to just under $500 more. Between that, and the fact that United allowed me to upgrade just my own seat to Economy Plus (for the extra leg room I need) for what I considered a reasonable $150 roundtrip, it was really a no-brainer. Even after tacking on trip insurance for $110, the final price was $1,952.96 -- less than JetBlue at their lowest price I could find, and $340 less using JetBlue's current rate and adding their $160 trip insurance option. If I had upgraded my own seat on JetBlue like I did on United, the difference would bump up to $454. Now, what's missing here is the checked luggage costs. With United I'll still have to pay $25 per bag when I check in each way, so there's another $200 out of pocket, putting me within $150 of the current JetBlue fare after their trip insurance is tacked on, but I'm still coming out ahead. All that said, I'm going to take advantage of United's 24-hour no questions asked cancellation policy and re-check the fare tomorrow morning to see if it's gone down again (following a tip I'd read about many lower rates coming out on a Monday night going into Tuesday), and also to see if JetBlue comes back down after we're outside the holiday weekend. But given the daily fluctuations in the United prices, I figured I'd better lock this in while it seems to have come back down. If JetBlue drops and United stays the same, I'll cancel the United flight and switch over to JetBlue. And if I do stay with United, I'll just have to hope they don't come on board and demand I give up my seat because of overbooking.
  4. Matt announced on the blog today that Royal is having a repeat of the earlier Sip, Tour, and Save sale on Cruise Planner purchases. If you already did the cancel and rebook dance with the last sale, do not assume there is nothing new to see here! Re-check all of your purchases and make absolutely sure! I discovered that the Dolphin Push, Pull, and Swim on St. Kitts had dropped another $15 per person to $119, having just rebooked it on the last promo for $134 each (and original purchase price of $149 each). I canceled and rebooked yet again, even though I just did this dance a week (two?) ago. That's another $60 saved for taking five minutes to through and re-check everything.
  5. I searched the site for anything on the above, but I'm coming up empty. It's frustrating that I can log in to My Cruises, go to my itinerary, and see the Cruise Planner tool, but not actually use it. Especially when the tool initially loads with a bunch of little clickable panels for Voom internet, drink packages, etc. But clicking any of those panels just shows a message that I'm trying to purchase something too far in advance of my cruise or too close. I do realize that with my cruise over a year away, I may well have to wait until I'm in some "valid time window" to use the tool. But couldn't they just let me know that right on the opening page? And give me some indication of when that valid window starts? As Matt and others have noted, it will let me spread out the total cost of my cruise over all those months. But only if it actually becomes usable a reasonable amount of time before my cruise! What I'd like to do is buy each of the following on separate months / billing cycles: internet, refreshment drink packages, deluxe drink package (me only), St. Kitts excursion, St. Maarten excursions (family may well split up that day for separate things), Labadee purchases (zip line, alpine coaster, maybe a watertop cabana?), pre-paid gratuities, possible photo package. That's 8 items, combined with monthly payments toward the cruise, so I'd certainly hope that the Cruise Planner becomes available at least that far in advance of my cruise date (more if the planner locks out a month or more ahead of departure). Related question -- My kids are in their own cabin and show up in My Cruises as a second itinerary. When I'm reserving / buying these things on Cruise Planner, do I have to do one set of purchases on the itinerary for my wife and me, and a separate set of purchases on the second itinerary? Or does the Cruise Planner have the smarts to know that both of them belong to me and consolidate it all into one planning tool?
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