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My girlfriend, myself, and 4 other friends are planning to take a cruise sometime next year (2020). We want to do a 7 day Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbeans on board one of their Oasis class ships. This is the first time any of us have been on a cruise and to the Caribbeans, so we have some questions.

  1. We want to go on the Oasis ships because they are gigantic and offer lots of things to do. Is there a difference between Allure/Oasis of the Sea vs Harmony/Symphony of the Seas? I've noticed that Harmony/Symphony is much more expenses.
  2. We are hoping to go when the airfare and cruise tickets are at the cheapest, the weather is warm (not crazy hot) so we can wear shorts and t-shirts, and to avoid as much rainy weather as possible. We are flying from Vancouver, Canada. Looking at pricing and weather charts, I was thinking of sometime after September Labor Day to November Black Friday. Any alternative suggestions?
  3. Do we get any discounts booking with a larger group?
  4. Should we be booking through a travel agency?
  5. Which cruise route (Eastern, Western) should a first timer? We looked at the various ports and nothing stood out. In addition, is a Royal Caribbean 'Perfect Day' worth it?
  6. How far in advance should we be booking our flights and cruise tickets?
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10 minutes ago, icu222much said:


  1. Which cruise route (Eastern, Western) should a first timer? We looked at the various ports and nothing stood out. In addition, is a Royal Caribbean 'Perfect Day' worth it?

Perfect Day opens this weekend so there will be reviews.  I would choose any route that includes Perfect Day.

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26 minutes ago, icu222much said:

Is there a difference between Allure/Oasis of the Sea vs Harmony/Symphony of the Seas? I've noticed that Harmony/Symphony is much more expenses.

Harmony and Symphony are newer, and they are a "mini-generation" ahead of Oasis and Allure. I don't think anyone here would tell you going on Oasis or Allure is a mistake.  It really comes down to do you want certain features on your ship (waterslide? You need Harmony or Symphony)

27 minutes ago, icu222much said:

We are hoping to go when the airfare and cruise tickets are at the cheapest, the weather is warm (not crazy hot) so we can wear shorts and t-shirts, and to avoid as much rainy weather as possible.

The best weather where it is still warm but not ridiculously hot in the Caribbean is going to be December - March.

28 minutes ago, icu222much said:

Do we get any discounts booking with a larger group?

If you form a group, then you have the possibility of getting money back for the person organizing the group. More on group cruising here: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast/episode-296-planning-cruise-friends-and-family

29 minutes ago, icu222much said:

Should we be booking through a travel agency?

Absolutely yes!

Our sponsor travel agency (and one I personally use) is MEI Travel.

29 minutes ago, icu222much said:

Which cruise route (Eastern, Western) should a first timer? We looked at the various ports and nothing stood out. In addition, is a Royal Caribbean 'Perfect Day' worth it?

Doesn't matter that much. These days, I might lean towards any itinerary that includes a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

29 minutes ago, icu222much said:

How far in advance should we be booking our flights and cruise tickets?

You should book your cruise as far in advance as you can.  The earlier, the better. Prices only tend to go up over time.

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One thing I’d add to Matt’s comments is that the earlier Oasis Class ships might be able to catch up a bit as Oasis is being Amped later this year, and Allure is being done next year. So depending on when the cruise is both may be covered. If they improve the ships anywhere near what they did with Navigator it may close the gap a bit. Also, the 2020 sailings on those earlier ships are way cheaper than the later ships. 

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Just now, Matt said:

Great point @Andrew72681 ! Totally forgot about that fact.

In short, all the Oasis class ships are a great choice. I'd look at other factors (price, itinerary, room availability, etc) in determining the right sailing for you.

When we priced out AT2BR suites Oasis was less than half the price of Symphony or Harmony. Those two were in Disney Cruise territory ?

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One of the most affordable times to cruise are the weeks around, but not including, the major US holidays.  The first few weeks in December tend to be priced very affordably and it will still be warm enough to enjoy the Caribbean and the Bahamas.  October cruises can also be very affordable.  Whichever you choose, you want to plan to arrive the day before the cruise and I would highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance.  This time of year is also hurricane season and while that will have little to no impact while you are on a cruise ship, it would affect your travel plans overall.

Cruise prices tend to be the most affordable the earlier you book them.  If you use a good travel agent, they can help you find what you want and also will assist you in repricing the cruise if there is a price drop after you book.  As mentioned, MEI Travel that sponsors this blog is an excellent agency to use and there will be no additional costs to you for using them.  Also there is zero obligation if you have them help you pick out a cruise that works best for you.

Flights tend to be cheapest at around the 45-60 day out mark which sometimes makes it difficult to pick your cruise so far in advance as you don't know what to expect for flight prices.  You can use Google Flights to easily play around with flights to get an idea of what price ranges can be.  You're looking at flying into Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, or Orlando depending on which ship you end up taking.

As for ports, if you have absolutely no preference then just pick what the cheapest cruise that works.  All of the ports on the standard eastern/western routes are good for first time cruisers.  Oasis class ships are also so big that you could just stay on the ship while it's in port and enjoy an empty ship.

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Hello new cruiser!!   


A few things to take into consideration.  Those gigantic ships are beautiful with lots to do, but remember gigantic also means gigantic amount of people and possibly long lines to do those fun things.


 As long as you don’t mind sharing your vacation with over 5,700 people, you’re good to go.  Since you are looking to cruise after the kids go back to school (off peak), you have a better shot at it not being filled to the max with 6,700 adults and kids and you “might” get a chair by the pool when port. 


Cruise lines make sure every room gets filled, but you shouldn’t have too many kids which is always nice.  Gigantic also means lots of walking to get from point a to point b.  In my option, we prefer a mid/large-sized ship which has about 3,100 people on it.  We never go when school is out because that is the ultimate worst and crowed.  Also be careful with spring college breaks (usually March) which could be horrible.


I believe discounts on rooms start with 8 rooms or more.  Getting the “best” price is always a gamble.  If you watch the prices after you book and it goes down “before” your final payment (90 days prior to cruising) you can always get a refund back, however you may lose a perk because sometimes they make you “rebook”. 

Perks and pricing go hand in hand.  Better perks, more expensive cruise, less perks better cruise price.  It is a game.  I noticed that it seems “Black Friday” Royal offered great deals cruise wise as well as on excursions and especially the drink packages.  Again, you can always cancel and rebook excursions and packages up until a week prior to sailing if they go down in price.  But I notice that it was never as cheap or cheaper than it was with their black Friday sale.  So keep your eyes open for Black Friday 2019 prices. 


Whether to book directly through Royal or go through a travel agent is a personal opinion.  However, I have never found going through the cruise line directly to ever be cheaper, sometimes it’s just easier because you can talk to them directly.  Going through an agent, they are your voice to Royal.  Search the internet and see which TA has the best prices and what perks “they” may offer as well.  Free gratuity is a biggie and can save a couple over $200.  Royal will never offer free drink packages and neither would the TA, it’s just not a royal thing.


Yes, I would do perfect day.  It’s pretty reasonable and looks like fun.  We leave in a few weeks on the Adventure of the Seas and for $24 we bought a half day package which basically includes the slides and wave pool.  A lot of the stuff is included.  Large pool, etc.  You can find that online - what’s included and what’s not.

I hope this gave you some of the info you were looking for  Good luck and happy cruising. ?

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Welcome new cruiser!

My suggestions would be as follows.

1.  Look at the perks of the Oasis class ships, and then compare them to the perks of the Freedom or Quantum class ships.  Not anything to knock on the giant ships (Freedoms are massive as well) but many Freedom class ships have similar perks to Oasis class ships with less people and less crowding.  While on an Oasis you may need to make reservations for everything and have a little less impetuousness in terms of what you want to do for the day, on a Freedom class ship, you may just be able to walk into a show or an activity. 

2.  Make a list of your "must do" activities based on the perks of the Oasis class ships vs the Freedom class.  Do you need an ice rink at sea?  Do you need a zipline?  Waterslide?  Robot bartender?  Water show?  Look at your list and there will likely be a ship that matches your requirements.  Have an honest talk with yourself about what you'll be doing a lot, and what might be kinda ok to try once but isnt a necessity.  

3.  A travel agent can help with these decisions as well.  Not to mention they can be your advocate in case something isnt as great as it could be.  

4.  I'd recommend an eastern itinierary for a first timer.  Not to say that the westerns arent fun, but most western itineraries are mostly just a trip to mexico, while easterns can include several islands but I'm a "see a lot of different stuff" kind of person with not a lot of "on the ship" time.  Going to mexico just doesnt appeal as much to me as the multiple destinations of an eastern.  But thats me.  Maybe Mexico and western itineraries have exactly what you want.  

5.  In terms of getting the best price, the rule of thumb is buy early as you possibly can with the cruise tickets.  Airfare tends to get in its sweet spot about 3 months prior to when you need to fly. 


Remember when booking airfare, do yourself a favor and fly in to your cruise port city at least 1 day before your cruise.  Stay in a hotel overnight but with as often as there's weather that can cancel flights, you dont want to be that person who is trying to fly in to your cruise port 2 hours before embarkation time.  Plus its a chance to "pregame" for your cruise.  You can get full size toiletries that arent airline friendly, you can go to a local dollar store to pick up some sticky notes, some travel size toiletries that might be a bit bigger than the 3oz limit or some travel medication (there are TONS of youtube videos out there of pre cruise dollar store runs)  This saves luggage room and luggage weight!  Since its dollar store stuff, you can feel less guilty about throwing away those things at the end of your cruise.   I like doing the same after my cruise as well.   Especially with cruise ports like Galveston and Tampa, they can get affected by weather (the fog is real with those 2 places) and a cruise can be delayed by several hours or even a day due to the fog.  Save yourself some post cruise stress and arrange for your flight to be the day after you disembark.  Its a great chance to come down from your cruise, arrange your luggage for the weight limits of your flights and get in a whole lot of sleep before you fly back to reality.  

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Consider going from November to May. That way you avoid the hurricane season. While a hurricane will probably not cause you cruise to be cancelled, it could cause it to be diverted to different ports. If you wait until May (which I am doing) you also have the best chance of having ports that were damaged last hurricane season to be repaired and ready for tourists.

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Oasis of the Sea is a great choice, we went in September when its the cheapest, and yes there was a hurricane  but the ship re-routed its stop and we hardly noticed it when aboard.Use royal Caribbean to book you cruise and flights, it anything goes wrong their responsible to correct it, much easer. Had a friend that was cruising when Katrina hit and they were delayed one day at sea. The people that booked their own or used a travel agent were busy on the phone. Royal Caribbean took care of those that book with them.

Entertainment is fantastic, strongly suggest my make reservation online before you go.

Had a nice balcony room overlooking the Boardwalk, but the ac was not very cold, might have because it was on the same level as the garden. Ocean view balcony is a better choice

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If as you say Harmony and Symphony are significantly more than I would go on Oasis or Allure instead.  Oasis is a great ship.  It does not have some of the slides/water slides that are on Harmony and Symphony but is quite similar otherwise.  I have been on it and I would recommend it.  It may get some of those new added features by the time you cruise anyway.

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  • 3 weeks later...

You might also look into the ten day Vancouver to Hawaii itinerary on the Ovation of the Seas. I think it sails In September. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sailings if you have nothing prior to compare it to. Enjoy! And safe travels!

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Here is support for travelling the day before, with a story:

Our first cruise was for our 25th Wedding Anniversary.  We live just outside of Toronto, and we took a direct flight to Miami on January 8th for boarding January 8th on Radiance.  First cruise, no Royal Caribbean Blog to help, a middle of winter departure and a trusting Canadian nature ... the perfect recipe for a disaster.  As you can guess:

Snow storm the day of our flight, we skipped breakfast and drove quickly to the airport.  Up at 3AM for the 6AM flight that left at 10AM instead.  Luckily we had booked the RC Transfer and they were waiting for a few of us as soon as we got off the plane.  No breakfast, and now no lunch.  We made the ship just in time (absolutely no wait for check in).  As we boarded the ship, we were extremely hungry.  As a ship prepares for the Muster Drill everything closes.  No food, no drink, no fun.  We were like animals trying to find anything to eat.  We snagged two oranges on a Drink Package table display ... that was it until about 4:30.  This was the first and only time we were hungry on a cruise ship.  In retrospect, it could easily have been even worse.  24 cruises later we always travel the day before.

Lately, we have been staying a little bit further out of New York or Baltimore and driving an hour or so the day of the cruise.  

Regardless, always travelling the day before the cruise.

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9 minutes ago, Curt From Canada said:

Regardless, always travelling the day before the cruise.

^^^ +1

Somewhat similar story...First cruise.  No RCBlog to help.  It was our honeymoon.  7am direct flight to San Juan from DTW.  We had to drive over from Canada (which we had done many times before).  Left the house at 3am (thinking there is plenty of time).  Who would have thought the the bridge to the US would be backed up all the way into Canada at 3am???! 

To make a long story short, we got to the ticket counter at 6:30am!  The lady who checked our bags told us we better run to the gate.  Literally.  It was like something out of the movies lol.  We got to the gate just as they were closing the door.  After that experience, we always fly the day before.  That doesn't take away the risk of border traffic but at least if we miss our flight, there is more time to get there.

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  • 1 month later...

I have sailed on multiple ships of different sizes and I think all have positives and negatives.

Several random pieces of info/ideas:

Oasis is getting amplified (upgraded) soon so will have slides & etc. One of our favorite ships is the Freedom. She is scheduled to be amplified in early 2020.

Do you like to have a variety of eating venue options? The Oasis class has many. We are not fond of the Windjammer buffet, and find many other non-upcharge venue alternatives for breakfast and lunch. We can also recommend the Solarium Bistro as a non-upcharge dinner option, reservations required, though. 

We love the Coastal Kitchen for suite guests on the larger ships. We love Central Park on Oasis class ships. Places to eat, shop, relax, & traverse ship w/o crowds.

We also prefer the Royal Promenade, available on some ships- I know the Mariner, Freedom class, and Oasis class ships have the Royal Promenade, while Enchantment & Radiance do not. Great place for shops, bars, music, snacks, and people watching  ?

Are you someone who wants to spend multiple days at sea? Or are the ports-of-call more important? Will you be getting in the water for snorkeling or scuba diving when visiting ports? Give this some serious thought before you decide. 

Are you someone who likes Broadway musical shows on board?  Check out the shows on the ships if this would be a consideration. 

There are many ways to avoid the other 6000 people on board, so please do not let the size deter you. 

If you can sail when school is in session, it should be less crowded. Please know that September-November 30 are in hurricane season in the Caribbean. September & October can be active. (Although things can change with all other climate changes.)

Whatever you decide, I hope you have a wonderful time! We are taking family members on their first cruise soon, and shared much of the same info with them as we did with you before we made a decision. 


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