Jump to content
Royal Caribbean Blog

Our First Cruise! We choose RCI...but have some ???'s


Recommended Posts

Hi,

I have been reading as much as I can (including this message board) and have watched a ton of YouTube videos but still have a few questions I can't seem to find.

We are going to the Western Caribbean next month on Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston.

1.  For the specialty dining locations, I know there is a "up" charge for them, but does the food work the same way as the main dining room?  For example, can I have 2 appetizers, 2 orders of Steak, and 3 desserts?  Or is it Ala-carte or set menus?.  I caught a glimpse of a video on the CHOPS steakhouse and was confused because it appeared to have some pricing next to some entrees and not by others.

2. We are getting to Soda package.  Does that include the dining locations?  I assume it does, but how does it work?  Do we have to bring our issued cups?  Do we just tell the waiter and he checks our cards?  In the buffet, same question.

3. Cruise Cards.  For the cards that they issue, do they need to swipe those at all of the locations...like Sorrentos or the main dining room?  We are getting lanyards but did not know if they will need to come out of the plastic holders often.

4. Getting off the boat.  I have read conflicting tales about this.  I am parking the rental car literally across the street from the dock.  If we haul our own luggage off the ship, how long does it take to debark?  We have flights out of Houston at 2pm and I don't want to stress about that if possible.

5.  Are all the restaurants available on the first day?  If we get on the ship at say 10 am, is it possible to have all 3 meals or just 2....just 1?

Thanks, I am sure I will have more as we get closer.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to the message boards!

Each specialty dining venue has it's own menu as you've seen.  Most items are included but there are typically a few items that cost more than the cover charge you pay to eat there.  Full Maine Lobster in Chops for example carries an additional charge above the cover charge.  Those extra charge items have a price on the menu.

The specialty dining restaurants tend to have some rules.  You can't order 10 steaks in Chops for example.  You might be able to order 10 side dishes though.  To be honest it's so much food I've never tried.  Your waiter will explain it all.  Ask as many questions as you like.  

Soda packages typically work anywhere on the ship except room service.  

SeaPass cards are handed over when there is a chargeable item involved.  When you visit the MDR (main dining room) they will ask your cabin number.  You'll never have to produce your SeaPass card unless you request something that isn't free.  If you have the soda package they'll ask for your card to confirm you do indeed have the soda package.  Sorrentos is included so no SeaPass card involved.  Asking for a chargeable beverage at Sorrentos will require a SeaPass card.  

Debarking - A letter will be provided a day or two before arriving back.  The letter will explain the process and times for "self-assist" guests like yourselves who carry their own luggage off.  Self assist typically starts as soon as US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) give them the clearance to start.  There will be a stated time in the letter such as 7:30am to 8:30am for self-assist.  Early birds will go to the designated self-assist meeting point before the stated start time.  A line will begin to form and your place in the line is based on when you arrive at the self-assist meeting point.  Once CBP give the go ahead, the line begins to move and you leave the ship.  Once the line starts moving it typically is pretty fast to get through CBP so budget 30 to 60 minutes to reach your car.  

On my Liberty cruise last year the scheduled arrival was 8am.  i lined up at 7am and was about 30 from the front of the line.  They started letting us off at 7:30am (early).  I was outside hailing a Lyft at 7:45am.  I got lucky, have cruised a lot, know the routine and CBP was kind that day.  My Lyft ride share had me at Hobby airport at 8:40am.

On boarding day they always have some restaurants open typically starting around 11:30am.  Getting on the ship right at 10am is unlikely.  The terminal typically opens around 10am to begin check in and the ship has to wait for all previous guests to leave and only when US Customs says the ship is clear can they start taking on new guests.  That is typically closer to between 11am to noon but if you are lucky could happen before 11am.  Consequently there usually isn't much of a wait to enjoy lunch.    

Link to post
Share on other sites

On this site there are a collection of "Cruise Compass":

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/cruise-compass?ship=277

This is a daily newsletter left in your cabin highlighting all that's going on around the ship and open times for activities and restaurants.  Familiarize yourself with one from Liberty.  They won't be identical to your cruise but usually close enough so you'll get an idea.  

This one is from my cruise on Liberty and contains the departure letter explaining self-assist:

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/cruise-compasses/liberty-of-the-seas/sun-2018-02-25-0000

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great info!  Thanks!

Did not want to sound like we would be ordering all that food at Chops, just  how it worked.

Thanks for allowing me to not stress about debarking.  So let me ask a follow-up...

On arrival day, and since we will lug our own bags, if we decided to stay and eat breakfast, how will that complicate things?  Can passengers with their own bags leave at any time?  I did read where there are time slots for those with checked bags, but if we decide to eat at around 9 am then leave, will it still take about an hour?  Can we leave the bags in our room as we go eat?

Link to post
Share on other sites

On the last morning, we usually aim to eat breakfast by 7:30am and we leave our bags in the room.  We vacate the room entirely before 9am.  If you are not planning to eat until 9am, then you might want to take your bags with you out of courtesy to the attendants.  Turn around day is always very hectic for them.

Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, Kansas Eagle said:

On arrival day, and since we will lug our own bags, if we decided to stay and eat breakfast, how will that complicate things?  Can passengers with their own bags leave at any time?  I did read where there are time slots for those with checked bags, but if we decide to eat at around 9 am then leave, will it still take about an hour?  Can we leave the bags in our room as we go eat?

On my cruise here were the breakfast time for the last morning:

661321201_GalvestonBreakfast.jpeg.071be867a8627d9c32926ae5ca9047fe.jpeg

My normal routine (as a morning person) is to be be up early, shower and head to the Windjammer for breakfast.  It opened at 6am on my cruise and I was there close to that.  Then I go back to my cabin, brush my teeth, finish packing last minute items I didn't pack the day before and then I head down to the self-assist meeting venue and join the line.  

14 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

On the last morning, we usually aim to eat breakfast by 7:30am and we leave our bags in the room.  We vacate the room entirely before 9am. 

I'm shocked!  This must be the only cruise day you are up before 9am!  (I know you are NOT a morning person)  🙂 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great info and ??? We too are going on first cruise in a few weeks to Southern Caribbean on Freedom. We leave from San Juan,

one ? For us, on last day when arrive back to San Juan our ship arrives at 6:00 AM, which is very early to be able to be off, NO BREAKFAST that early, or can we eat and be ready to disembark at 7:00-8:00, how does the 6AM arrival time work?

Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Nay said:

Great info and ??? We too are going on first cruise in a few weeks to Southern Caribbean on Freedom. We leave from San Juan,

one ? For us, on last day when arrive back to San Juan our ship arrives at 6:00 AM, which is very early to be able to be off, NO BREAKFAST that early, or can we eat and be ready to disembark at 7:00-8:00, how does the 6AM arrival time work?

6am is just when the ship arrives .. It's not when everyone has to be off the ship.  You will have plenty of time to eat and get off after.. you don't need to get up at 4am!  Have a great cruise... We have done 2 cruises on freedom and a cruise out of San Juan on adventure.  You will have an amazing time!!  Jane

Link to post
Share on other sites

To add to what has been said above, if you are carrying your own bags, yes, you can really leave any time on debarkation day.  Those with early flights will want to carry their bags and get in line right away so they don't have to wait for the staff to unload their luggage or search for it in the terminal.  Once you are done with breakfast, you just get in line whenever you want (with those no carrying bags).  The lines to get off the ship and the lines at customs will probably be longer at this point but you'll still have plenty of time for a 2PM flight.  After all, the whole ship has to be cleared by around 10 so the next cruise can begin.

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Nay said:

one ? For us, on last day when arrive back to San Juan our ship arrives at 6:00 AM, which is very early to be able to be off, NO BREAKFAST that early, or can we eat and be ready to disembark at 7:00-8:00, how does the 6AM arrival time work?

Assuming that you are flying, you will be assigned a departure time dependent on your flight, they will provide numbered tags to go on your luggage, you have to put your luggage out of your room by 11pm the night before disembarkation, on departure morning they will start calling numbers to disembark, not all of the numbers at once.

As experienced cruisers we choose to do self-disembarkation, we keep our bags in the room with us until the morning of disembarkation and roll them off with us.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, tiny260 said:

As experienced cruisers we choose to do self-disembarkation, we keep our bags in the room with us until the morning of disembarkation and roll them off with us.

Since the ship lost our luggage on Liberty last summer Dan refuses to put out bags outside anymore.  we do self-disembarkation 100% of the time now.

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Since the ship lost our luggage on Liberty last summer Dan refuses to put out bags outside anymore.  we do self-disembarkation 100% of the time now.

Same thing happened to me on Allure AND Anthem. Ever since then we always carry our luggage off. Even if I am in a suite. On the Allure cruise we were in a Suite and they still lost our bags so I just don't trust them. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Like an airport baggage claim area there is no one checking guests who grab a bag and leave the terminal with it.  Anyone can grab any suitcase and leave.  Deliberate or mistaken identity is anyone’s guess.  

Once my suitcase was mysteriously in the wrong area near the path towards the exit like someone started to leave with it then realized it wasn’t theirs so they left it at that spot.  

That is one reason why I use self assist.  More for the convenience of getting off early before CBP queues get crazy busy.  When I get off early there is usually minimal wait to exit, often I walk up to waiting CBP agents and I’m out in seconds versus a 20-30 minute queue at CBP.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, kate7723 said:

We are first time cruisers too and I'm glad I read this thread.....I guess we should do the self disembarking! 

If you decide to do this, just remember you have to lug off all of your luggage yourself, so if there are more than 2 of you (Family of 4) that can be a lot of luggage. Once you are in the building you can get a porter to help carry your luggage but not before.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, tiny260 said:

If you decide to do this, just remember you have to lug off all of your luggage yourself, so if there are more than 2 of you (Family of 4) that can be a lot of luggage. Once you are in the building you can get a porter to help carry your luggage but not before.

We are exactly that (family of 4) with kids a bit too young to help with the lugging so this may not be an option, guess I will just have to find the most obnoxious ribbons I can find to tie all over my suitcases lol

Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, kate7723 said:

We are exactly that (family of 4) with kids a bit too young to help with the lugging so this may not be an option, guess I will just have to find the most obnoxious ribbons I can find to tie all over my suitcases lol

I explained this in another thread, depending on your departure conveyance (Driving/flying, etc.) you will provided a colored, numbered tag for your luggage (That has to be put out the night before by 11pm), when they are put back out they are organized by number, so you will not have to sort through thousands of pieces of luggage, just go to your number and then they are relatively easy to find. I'm getting old so I still grab a porter to help, but that is up to you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/7/2019 at 3:11 PM, tiny260 said:

I explained this in another thread, depending on your departure conveyance (Driving/flying, etc.) you will provided a colored, numbered tag for your luggage (That has to be put out the night before by 11pm), when they are put back out they are organized by number, so you will not have to sort through thousands of pieces of luggage, just go to your number and then they are relatively easy to find. I'm getting old so I still grab a porter to help, but that is up to you.

I'd like to emphasize this.

 

Here's my experience:

Our first cruise was Jan 30-Feb 4 on the Mariner.  I STRESSED over debarkation unnecessarily.  Against (what I thought was) my better judgement, we put our bags out the night before with the tags supplied attached.  In the morning, we went to the Windjammer for breakfast then to the Cafe Promenade for coffee while we waited for our luggage tag number to be called.  Our time was 830.  

Getting off and getting our bags was such a simple process.  Our luggage was in the terminal at the numbered section that coincided with our luggage tag.  Facial recognition made the CBP interaction seamless.  We were outside with our luggage in less than 10 minutes.  We were at the Miami airport before 10 am.
 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just on my Mariner cruise and had the lanyard with the plastic sleeve. It was a total pain. I got really sick of digging it out everytime i wanted a drink or needed to get into my cabin. On day 3 i saw someone who had a hole punched through his and he told me that he had a staff member do it. By then it was too late to bother for me, but given the same situation again I'd definitely go that route. I did have a clip option on my lanyard..

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, SpeedNoodles said:

I was just on my Mariner cruise and had the lanyard with the plastic sleeve. It was a total pain. I got really sick of digging it out everytime i wanted a drink or needed to get into my cabin. On day 3 i saw someone who had a hole punched through his and he told me that he had a staff member do it. By then it was too late to bother for me, but given the same situation again I'd definitely go that route. I did have a clip option on my lanyard..

This is what I always do and love it.  I hear it may be a problem on the Oasis class ships.  Jane

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...