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Tigerlaw

What is your best secret/piece of advice for new RC cruisers?

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My family is going on its first Royal Caribbean cruise (Harmony of the Seas / Eastern Caribbean)  and I wanted to see if all of the experts on the board would be willing to provide any little secrets are pieces of advice to help me make this the best vacation ever for my family!  🙂

thanks in advance for the help!

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Don't over plan! There are a ton of things to do on that class of ship, but don't stress yourselves out trying to make sure you see and do everything. Enjoy the journey! 

Also, plan to board early on embarkation day. When you check in it'll SAY that you have a time (usually after 11 AM), but you can arrive at the port as early as 10 AM on embarkation day and be on board as early as 10:30 AM (as long as the previous sailing has cleared customs and is all disembarked). Then you can get to enjoying your first day straight away while the ship is still a little bit empty. 🙂 

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Reserve your shows and dining times (if you have my time dining) in the cruise planner online in advance of your cruise.

Almost everything is less expensive if purchased prior to your cruise (drink packages, excursions, etc.) and watch for the cruise planner sales.

 

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Always check your cruise compass and mark acclivities you  will like to do.
bring swimsuit in your carry on bag so you can use the pool/flow rider on the first day were its not really busy.
Consider staying on the ship on one of the ports days so you can enjoy it when its empty.
Remember that for each cabin you allow to bring two bottles of wine.
Check the Main dining room seating after you board the ship , if you do not like it , most of the time you can change it.

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Don't let the attitude of others dictate your enjoyment of the cruise.   So often we read stories of people having "bad" cruises because of things that didn't even effect them directly (how people dress, how others act,  unrealistic expectations etc).    A bad day as sea is better than a great day at work!

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To echo Kayla, don't over plan, but do some planning. Harmony is by far our favorite ship, but we did find that things we wanted to do were already fully booked ahead of time. Take some time and review the cruise planner and reserve things you know you want to do. Also, it's worth seeing about reserving seats at some of the main shows since they do tend to fill up. Some other thoughts:

- Park Cafe in Central Park on deck 8 is a hidden gem and is fully included with your on-board dining

- if you have kids, make sure to check out the kids area (Deck 15, forward?), there is a free Fisher Price play area for the younger ones. They also have day/night care you can pay by the hour for like $7/hour I think.

- Harmony is one of the only ships that has an escape room. it's right near the kids area and was fully booked when we went to go reserve, so get it early if you're into that sort of thing.

Which eastern ports are you heading to? As of last summer, St. Maarten/St. Martin was still pretty torn up from hurricane damage.

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22 minutes ago, b_resh_uh said:

To echo Kayla, don't over plan, but do some planning.

This is absolutely a better way of putting what I was trying to say. 

23 minutes ago, b_resh_uh said:

As of last summer, St. Maarten/St. Martin was still pretty torn up from hurricane damage.

... that said, still 100% worth visiting and still a beautiful island to wander out and see! Plenty of recommendations for tours available here. 

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2 hours ago, KLA said:

Don't over plan! There are a ton of things to do on that class of ship, but don't stress yourselves out trying to make sure you see and do everything. Enjoy the journey! 

Also, plan to board early on embarkation day. When you check in it'll SAY that you have a time (usually after 11 AM), but you can arrive at the port as early as 10 AM on embarkation day and be on board as early as 10:30 AM (as long as the previous sailing has cleared customs and is all disembarked). Then you can get to enjoying your first day straight away while the ship is still a little bit empty. 🙂 

To me this is the most important thing, don't stress, you are on vacation, on some cruises what I find might have been important at the beginning are not as important as the cruise goes on, that is when you know you are getting in full on cruise mode.

So one night you decide to not dress up and go to the MDR and you go casual and end up in the Windjammer, no big deal, go with your own flow...

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2 hours ago, b_resh_uh said:

To echo Kayla, don't over plan, but do some planning. Harmony is by far our favorite ship, but we did find that things we wanted to do were already fully booked ahead of time. Take some time and review the cruise planner and reserve things you know you want to do. Also, it's worth seeing about reserving seats at some of the main shows since they do tend to fill up. Some other thoughts:

- Park Cafe in Central Park on deck 8 is a hidden gem and is fully included with your on-board dining

- if you have kids, make sure to check out the kids area (Deck 15, forward?), there is a free Fisher Price play area for the younger ones. They also have day/night care you can pay by the hour for like $7/hour I think.

- Harmony is one of the only ships that has an escape room. it's right near the kids area and was fully booked when we went to go reserve, so get it early if you're into that sort of thing.

Which eastern ports are you heading to? As of last summer, St. Maarten/St. Martin was still pretty torn up from hurricane damage.

Trip is not until next year and we are doing the San Juan, St Maarten and Coco Cay stops. 

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Don't try to do every activity available on the ship or you'll need a vacation after your vacation.

Take time to relax.

Don't let small stuff ruin your vacation.  Not receiving a towel animal on day 2 shouldn't ruin the whole cruise.

If you fall in love with cruising as much as all of us have, consider this a practice cruise.  Practice makes perfect.

You've already make a great start by finding this web site.  Look at the top of this page for the "Getting Started" tab:

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/getting-started

Enjoy your time planning and preparing.  Look over the "Live Blog" section of the message boards for any Harmony live blogs. 

Once onboard take time to talk to the crew.  

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Get to know your crew.  Say hello, make small talk (it fascinates me hearing about their home countries), it might not get you anything extra, but it cant hurt.  If you're alcohol inclined or even mocktail inclined, get to know your bartender.  Be kind to your bartender.  Keeping these in mind may not get you anything extra as well, but, they potentially can get you something nice (like an extra shot in your drink, a drink magically not appearing on your bill, etc)  I like asking my bartender to make me their favourite drink.  I almost always get an amazing story out of how they came to love their particular drink.  On one of the last days I also like asking my bartender for a recipe for one of the signature drinks.  Most have recipe cards or they'll even write it down on a cocktail napkin for you.  

 

Get to know your ship!  Time to put on those walking shoes and explore.  Allow yourself to get lost!  

Speaking of walking shoes.  BREAK IN YOUR SHOES BEFORE YOU CRUISE.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT wear brand new shoes on your cruise.  Your feet will curse your existence if you wear brand new shoes on your cruise.  From blisters to raw spots to just general foot pain, break in your shoes ahead of time.  Noone's going to care if you wear your old grubby sneakers, or a pair of well worn pumps.  Your feet will care if you wear a pair of brand new stiletto heels.  Speaking of high heels.  Especially if new to cruising.  Explore the wonderful world of "dress sandals" or "dress flats".  You're on a ship.  Ships move.  If you're not accustomed to walking on a moving, rocking, pitching vehicle in sky high heels, just leave your Jimmy Choos at home.  

And speaking of walking.  If you're not accustomed to a fair bit of walking, start getting accustomed early.  Walk a mile a day and then start increasing your distance until you're up to about 5 miles a day.  A fitbit can help keep track of distance walked.  That way your feet (and body!) arent screaming at you after your first day of going from your cabin to the pool deck to the MDR, to a stroll along central park, back to the pool deck, back to your cabin, off to the MDR.... yah you're going to put in some walking.  Might as well not walk in agony!

Create a nice folder for your cruise documents.  Have any checklists you want to use to keep yourself organized (I'd be lost without checklists) and include copies of your credit cards you plan to bring with you, copy of your passports (yes another tip, get a passport, you "can" use a birth certificate and drivers license for most caribbean destinations but the passport just makes your life so much easier) copy of your itinerary, copy of your cruise tickets, copy of any purchased in advance items (beverage package, shore excursions, etc) copy of any medical documentation for controlled substances (note, medical cannabis is NOT allowed, even with a valid prescription) just in case of customs, copy of emergency contact information.  Once you have these copies, make copies of them.  And keep them in 2 separate locations.  So your original documents go in a folder with you.  The copy folder goes with your travelling companion or spouse, the third copy goes in your carryon luggage (because of the sensitive information associated with travel docs, dont put it in checked luggage)  If you're a solo traveler, you keep the originals and the first set of copies, the other copy goes in your carryon.  Want to be super neurotic like me?  Have a 4th set of copies, but digital and stored in an encrypted cloud storage solution (again I'm neurotic about security, so I dont trust just slamming something into dropbox, I live for encryption).    Kids can also take a part in the decorating of the cruise document folder with stickers and drawings!

Watch a lot of cruise videos.  Matt does an amazing podcast and videos where he answers common questions as well as additional questions.  They can really help with packing tips, shore excursion tips, stuff to do on the ship tips, tips about the ultimate dining package and deluxe beverage packages, travelling with kiddos, travelling without kiddos, etc.  

Ask questions.  The cruising community here is absolutely delightful and its like having an extended family you can ask questions of.  Ask more questions.  No question is too stupid and noone gets horribly offended or upset that there are 20 questions about travel documents or the beverage packages.  Ask even more questions.  We wont get sick of hearing from you.  

To echo the sentiment of many.  Take things easy and be flexible.  If you book shore excursions and onboard activities and meals all on top of each other, you're going to need a vacation from your vacation.  Not to mention if you book back to back to back like that, if anything winds up running long or off schedule, it has a domino effect.  I like to list things in terms of "NEED to do, WANT to do, and 'it would be nice' to do"  Have one need to do taken care of every day.  Then fill in with the wants, and then fill in further with the "it would be nices".  This leaves you flexible to just crash by the pool or in your cabin if you want to or if something goes off schedule, then you can shift accordingly.  Or if a NEED appears at random, you can do that and flex the wants and nices away from the NEED.  

Do not book flights on embarkation or disembarkation days.  Book a hotel at both ends of your cruise.  1, this extends your vacation!  And gets you some much needed sleep before flights.  It also allows for travel delays, cancellations, and just general weird stuff.  It keeps you flexible and relaxed in case of fog delay, rough weather delay, customs delays, cancelled flights, delayed flights, etc etc etc.  

Remember to remain flexible.  If the ship needs to change its itinerary due to weather or port issues this is for your safety and security.  Can it be disappointing to miss a really wanted to visit port?  Sure!  But if you're staring down a Category 4 hurricane, I think you'd be much happier being safe and secure, rather than barrelling straight into a hurricane.  Same with delays or itinerary changes due to someone needing to be evacuated from the ship for medical reasons.  Be compassionate to the person who is in such a dangerous condition that they have to be airlifted from the ship because their condition couldnt wait for them to reach the shore.  

Get travel insurance.  Stuff happens.  And medical care onboard a ship or being airlifted off of the ship is likely not covered by your standard healthcare.  Bags can get lost.  Travel delays and cancellations can happen.  Yes it can be pricey.  But so can the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars associated with an emergency at sea.  So can the cost of the cruise that had to be cancelled after your final payment date due to illness, family emergencies, and in some travel insurance cases, work!  Often times we book our cruises years in advance, and job situations can change, health can change.  And you dont want to be "that guy" who boards a ship hacking up a lung because he didnt get travel insurance and doesnt want to lose thousands of dollars potentially by cancelling the cruise despite being so sick that he'd call out of work.  Dont be that guy.  Get travel insurance.  Another cruise can always happen, infecting an entire ship and you not being able to even enjoy your own vacation due to illness is just foolish.  

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  ThyriC made many good suggestions here.  I would like to add to the last paragraph.  Not wanting to sound paranoid but it is important to keep your hands as germ free as possible considering the large volume of people on a cruise ship.  A few things I get in a habit of doing is never passing a disinfecting gel bottle station without getting a small squirt on my hands.  It only takes a few seconds to do that and you can rub it in while you are walking to your next fun stop.  These gel bottles are all over the ship.  When using the elevators use your knuckle instead of your finger tip on the button to choose a floor.  If you are using the stairs instead of the elevator dont drag your hands on the stair railing.  Walk next to the railing in case you lose your balance and need to grab it.  Washing your hands is a bit plus.   Dont be so obsessed with this that your ruin your cruise but just be aware of it.

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1 hour ago, MikeK said:

  ThyriC made many good suggestions here.  I would like to add to the last paragraph.  Not wanting to sound paranoid but it is important to keep your hands as germ free as possible considering the large volume of people on a cruise ship.  A few things I get in a habit of doing is never passing a disinfecting gel bottle station without getting a small squirt on my hands.  It only takes a few seconds to do that and you can rub it in while you are walking to your next fun stop.  These gel bottles are all over the ship.  When using the elevators use your knuckle instead of your finger tip on the button to choose a floor.  If you are using the stairs instead of the elevator dont drag your hands on the stair railing.  Walk next to the railing in case you lose your balance and need to grab it.  Washing your hands is a bit plus.   Dont be so obsessed with this that your ruin your cruise but just be aware of it.

I laughed and received some affirmation when I read your knuckles on the elevator buttons! I'm an elbow button pusher!! 

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On 2/27/2019 at 4:03 PM, ThyriC said:

Get to know your crew.  Say hello, make small talk (it fascinates me hearing about their home countries), it might not get you anything extra, but it cant hurt.  If you're alcohol inclined or even mocktail inclined, get to know your bartender.  Be kind to your bartender.

Nice people get their drinks faster!

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Follow this link: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/cruise-ships/harmony-of-the-seas/deck-plans/1819/03 for the ship deck plans. I always find it very helpful to know where things are on the ship before boarding. That way you don't spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly. Enjoy your cruise! :27_sunglasses:

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Lots of great ideas in this thread!  Here's a suggestion for something small that really enhanced our stateroom:  magnetic hooks.  

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VRQ3VQ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It didn't dawn on me until reading these boards that the stateroom walls and ceiling are made of steel.  So you can place magnetic hooks just about anywhere.  They work great for hanging sunglasses, hats, lanyards, etc, or for making a hanging divider out of sheets to create sections in the room for a bit more privacy.

Enjoy Harmony--it's an awesome ship!

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