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Just found this website and joined to get some advice on our upcoming trans-pacific cruise in April 2018, departing from Sydney and ending in Seattle. 

We are cruising on "Explorer of the Seas" and the cruise duration is 23 days!.

We don't intend dining in any of the "user pays" restaurants. Will only be dining in the buffet restaurant. We are teetotalers, so aren't interested in any alcoholic drinks packages.

TIPPING

From the Royal Caribbean website:

  • Stateroom attendant USD 5.00 a day per guest
  • Dining Room Waiter USD 3.75 a day per guest
  • Assistant Waiter USD 2.15 a day per guest
  • Head Waiter USD 0.75 a day per guest

Would our tips be USD 11..65 x 2 = USD 23.30 per day?
We should therefore budget around USD 535.90  for tips.

Are we expected to leave an additional tip each day for our cabin steward over and above that advised above?

BEVERAGE PACKAGE (Classic Soda Package)

From the Cruise Planner for our cruise:

  • Classic Soda Package USD 9.95 a day per guest

At USD 20.00 per day this would be USD 460.00 for the duration of the cruise. 
Is tipping then an additional 18% (USD 82.80) on top of that total?
Could anyone advise what the individual cost per soda would be?
We would consume between 3 and 4 sodas a day.
Does Royal Caribbean offer any discount soda packages?
Does Royal Caribbean allow passengers to BYO their own soda drinks?

If so, what would be allowed to be brought on board which would only be consumed in our cabin. 
Is there any restriction on whether soda brought on board is in plastic bottles or in aluminium cans?

LAUNDRY FACILITIES
 
As we will be on board for 23 days, are there laundry facilities on the ship whereby you can do your own washing and drying?
What would be the approximate cost per load be to wash and to dry.
We  anticipate taking between 4 and 5 days of clothing, each which suggests we would need to wash and dry at least 5 times during the cruise..
 
ANY THING ELSE TO CONSIDER
 
Is there any other "surprises" to be aware off with regard to possible hidden costs?
 
Does anyone have any suggestions as to how we might be able to minimize our on board expenses?
 
 
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Your "auto" gratuities will automatically be added to your account(13.50 per person, per day). You don't have to pay any other tips.

No laundry facilities I am familiar with. You can have some laundry done for a fee(ask your cabin attendant). 23 days is doable without laundry issues. 

The Windjammer is good, I like the Main Dining room better, especially for dinner.

You have mentioned the biggest extra expenses already(booze and specialty dining)

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Regarding tips: What @L454S said is correct. I'd also add that you are free to tip any additional amount you feel is merited to specific individuals like your cabin attendant or your waiter if you feel they went above and beyond. There are several here (count me among them) who do this, as these staff members are paid a minimum wage and depend on the tips they receive to make enough for an adequate living.

Beverage Package: Any package you purchase (alcoholic or not) has the gratuity added when you purchase the package. So that will be all covered by the time you board. I can't speak to the individual costs of sodas as I don't drink soda at all; I don't even know what a can of soda at a land restaurant costs nowadays. :3_grin: But I would say that if you drink 3-4 per day that you should definitely come out ahead with a package cost of $10 per person, per day.

Regarding your question about discounts on the soda package -- I've never seen one in months of looking at the cruise planner ahead of our first cruise, and others here have posted that they also have never seen a discount on that package or the Refreshment Package. It seems only the alcohol package is ever discounted; and now that might be going away as well, with a recent price reduction following the new requirement that all people in a cabin must buy that package if one person in the cabin buys it.

One other question -- do either of you drink espresso beverages regularly, or expect to drink freshly squeezed juices with breakfast regularly? If yes, you may want to consider the Refreshment Package instead of the Soda Package, as the Refreshment one covers those other drink types and would even cover the odd "virgin" (no alcohol) cocktail if you chose to try one.

Bringing your own soda: Officially, Royal does not allow this. But many here have brought on bottled water or a case of soda in their carry-on bag and the staff at the security checkpoint have turned a blind eye to it. Not to say that it will always happen; you could end up with the overzealous guy who follows the rules 100% by the book and would make you throw it out before boarding. But if you were to each bring an unopened case of soda in your carry-on bag and were willing to take the risk of getting that one overzealous guy, you'd probably be fine.

Do note that you must not put the sodas in your checked luggage; that will be flagged during the X-ray, they'll hold your luggage and make you come down to the security area to get it, and odds are that you would absolutely be told to get rid of it. Just keep it in your carry-on and be willing to lug it around until your room becomes available (usually around 1 PM).

Dining: In addition to the Windjammer buffet and the main dining room, you also have Cafe Promenade as another dining option included with your cruise fare. If you find the Windjammer to be extra-crowded, that can be a good alternative if you're looking mainly for a sandwich or snack or something else that's quick and basic.

Additional costs: Be sure to bring some small bills to tip the porters at the cruise dock, as they do not get included in the automatic gratuities. Recommendation is $1-$2 per bag being checked. Also be sure to check your final bill statement the night before you disembark to make sure there are no erroneous charges for things like pool towels they claim were not returned, or beverages purchased through the room mini bar (which could happen if you do bring your own soda and then the room attendants see the cans in the fridge).

 

Have a great cruise! I've heard lots of great things about Explorer and the Voyager class in general. I see it's your first cruise on Royal, but I'm guessing this is not your first cruise ever? If it is -- Wow, you're really diving in full bore with a 23-day trans-Pacific!

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We've never been on long as you have, but on the longer sailing we've been on they've offered a deal on a bag of laundry, which is good free socks, undergarments, t-shirts, and shirts, but not your dinner clothes. You could launder sooner in your dinner and hang dry. 

We've never been stopped from bringing soda on at embarkation or at any port. 

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Another option as far as laundry is to bring some of the travel type packets of laundry detergent and hand  wash some clothes out in the shower or sink.  We use nylon type shorts and cargo pants and are able to hand wash and dry them easily.  There is  a retractable cord in your shower that you can use to hand clothes and swimming attire. Good luck and have a happy cruise!  Dont hesitate to ask your room steward with these types of questions they have always helped us through the years

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21 hours ago, JLMoran said:

I see it's your first cruise on Royal, but I'm guessing this is not your first cruise ever?

Correct! We've been on several cruise lines.

  • Norwegian Pearl - 7 day Alaskan Cruise (Seattle, Junea, Skagway, Ketichan to Vancouver)
  • P&O Arcadia - 11 day Scandinavian/Baltic Cruise (Southampton - Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn,  St Petersberg, Helsinki to Zeebrugge)
  • CMV Astor - 5 day Australian Cruise (Adelaide, Hobart, Burnie to Adelaide)
  • Carnival Legend - 8 day South Pacific Cruise (Sydney, Mare, Isle of Pines, Noumea to Sydney) 

Our best experience to date was on the Norwegian Pearl.

22 hours ago, JLMoran said:

Dining: In addition to the Windjammer buffet and the main dining room, you also have Cafe Promenade as another dining option included with your cruise fare. If you find the Windjammer to be extra-crowded, that can be a good alternative if you're looking mainly for a sandwich or snack or something else that's quick and basic.

Thank you for the advice regarding dining experiences.

22 hours ago, JLMoran said:

I don't even know what a can of soda at a land restaurant costs nowadays. :3_grin: But I would say that if you drink 3-4 per day that you should definitely come out ahead with a package cost of $10 per person, per day

I usually order cold water when dining out, so also have no idea of soda costs at a land restaurant. Good to know that on board soda costs are likely to be more than the cost of a soda package. 

15 hours ago, MikeK said:

Another option as far as laundry is to bring some of the travel type packets of laundry detergent and hand  wash some clothes out in the shower or sink.

We've done our laundry like this with most of our extended holidays. We've always requested additional towels for our room.
Once we've hand washed we wrap the washed clothes in the towel and then wring the towel to remove as much moisture as possible.
Once wrung out, clothes are hung to air-dry during the day.

15 hours ago, MikeK said:

Good luck and have a happy cruise!

We intend to! 

RESTAURANT DRESS CODE

We're not into dressing up, preferring to dress casually.
Are you able to dine in the restaurants wearing black "Lee" jeans and a smart button up polo shirt?
Or, must you wear dress trousers with a full button shirt?
Is it worth purchasing the restaurant vouchers to dine at any restaurant up to 5 times for an additional USD $105 per person.
What are the "one off" restaurant surcharges as a comparison?

SHORE EXCURSIONS

What is recommended - Royal Caribbean organised shore excursions or arrange you own through Tripadvisor or similar?
I acknowledge that cruise line organised shore excursions ensure you won't be left behind, but then some of these shore excursions seem quite pricey.

Thank you to all that have provided comments to my initial post - it is appreciated.

 

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You'll be fine in the Lee's and polo.  Royal doesn't enforce the "formal" attire, but many people stick to it out of tradition.  The dress codes are for the main dining room (MDR), and specialty restaurants, the Windjammer buffet has no dress codes (well, you have to have shoes, shirt, and shorts.  We walked in, dry, from the pool deck, and I didn't even think about the fact that I had no shirt on...I was quickly asked to leave, or wrap a towel around my torso).

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1 hour ago, Jardry said:

Is it worth purchasing the restaurant vouchers to dine at any restaurant up to 5 times for an additional USD $105 per person.
What are the "one off" restaurant surcharges as a comparison?

On Explorer, the specialty ("one off") restaurants are Giovanni's Table (Italian-style cuisine), Chops Grille (steakhouse), and Izumi (sushi and hot rock meals)*. I want to say Giovanni's is about $23 or $25 onboard, while Chops is typically $30; hopefully someone else here who's been on Explorer recently can confirm that, as I haven't sailed her. Izumi is a la carte, and the dining package description should say how much credit you'll get if you dine there; an earlier thread in the Dining forum here seems to peg a typical (quite filling) sushi meal at Izumi will run between $35 and $50 a person, depending on your tastes in sushi and your appetite.

So that 5-night dining package for $105 pp could be worth it on a 23 day trip, just to give some variety. That's $21 a meal per person, which is definitely a savings vs booking on board. You'd just have to decide how much those three cuisine types appeal to you and how many times you think you'd want to dine at each over the three weeks you'll be on board. All three venues get pretty consistently high marks both here and on other sites, as well as on podcasts I've listened to.

 

* There's also Johnny Rockets, but that's not a specialty restaurant, just a casual burger joint that happens to separately charge for meals.

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As far as shore excursions, we have never done a Royal Caribbean sponsored one. I tend to look at trip advisor and other sites for good reviews and then book on my own. I like more private or extremely small group tours and at that point we can choose when to leave and head back to the ship (we don't push the return time). We have been on the same beach excursion as one sponsored by RC. We had to take a taxi there and back but it was still cheaper to pay on our own and we had more time at the beach. You have to do what feels right to you but as I feel comfortable on private tours knowing that I plan on returning to the pier at least 90 minutes before the all aboard time.

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  • 3 weeks later...
6 hours ago, JaeBoogie said:

Has anyone tipped the waiter BEFORE DINNER? I just read on another blog that you should do this so that your waiter takes notice and makes sure that you are WELL TAKEN CARE OF.

Just wanted to know how much if so.

 

That's not tipping...that's bribing. And another example of how/why I think mandatory tipping is terrible.

 

I have never seen anyone do that before, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. More common to see that at the bars.

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7 hours ago, JaeBoogie said:

Has anyone tipped the waiter BEFORE DINNER? I just read on another blog that you should do this so that your waiter takes notice and makes sure that you are WELL TAKEN CARE OF.

Just wanted to know how much if so.

 

I will not say who but a few people I know who are frequent cruisers do this.  I actually just had a conversation with them about this last week and was surprised to hear that they have been doing this for years.  They basically tip on the first night (wait staff in the MDR and stateroom attendant) and then tip again on the last night.  On top of this they tip their automatic gratuities as well.  These people that I know, they are genuinely kind people who do this primarily because they know that the crew is often underpaid and are supporting families back at home.  However, they have noticed also that the service seems to be better when they do this. But they would do this even if the service isn't better.  This is the only case I know of.

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7 hours ago, JaeBoogie said:

Has anyone tipped the waiter BEFORE DINNER? I just read on another blog that you should do this so that your waiter takes notice and makes sure that you are WELL TAKEN CARE OF.

Just wanted to know how much if so.

 

Yes I have been tipping before dinner for quite awhile.  I usually tip the head waiter at least $20 and the assistant waiter at least $10.  Is it bribery ?  Probably but so what.  Have a fun time and remember your on vacation so slow down and take it all in.

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