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Hi there! My family is trying to plan a RCCL cruise ... we have only ever cruised Disney ... I have been on all four ships there. We have done 3,4,7 night cruises ... I am a bit nervous cruising with someone else because I know (and love) Disney so well/much! 

Anyway, we are planning on Mariner of the Seas on July 16th ... 4 nights from Miami. Miami is a new port for us too ... only cruised out of Port Canaveral. 

We will be driving down from Augusta GA. 

Any tips are appreciated! I am doing a LOT of reading and trying to figure this all out .... I am excited about the changes that seem to be coming to Mariner of the Seas! There are a lot of different things between DCL and RCCL so I want to be aware of it all.... I don't like surprises, especially costs LOL 

Thanks and I look forward to learning lots here! 

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Hi @gray2402.  Welcome to the boards.  You've found a great community here to ask away.  It is hard to answer such a broad question.  Someone asked this a few days ago too and I've attached that thread.  Have a read through first.  There are lots of good links attached for first time RCCL cruisers and some interesting DCL comparisons.  I've cruised DCL a few times too in the last few years so happy to answer any specific questions you come back with.  I personally prefer RCL more.  I hope you enjoy Mariner.  From what I have read so far, I think it will be like the Dream/Fantasy but better up top on the sports/pool decks.

 

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@Lovetocruise2002 Thanks so much! It will be myself and my husband, and then our two kids ... a girl who will turn 14 on the cruise, and a boy who will be almost 11. The boy is into video games ... are there systems in the kid clubs? 

I guess a major question is what kind of communication is there onboard? On DCL they have the free app where we can text as well as a 'wave' phone ... I like that for my teen that we let go off on her own. I have a way to keep in touch. I know the RCCL app does not work on Mariner.... is our only option to pay for internet and text with imessage? If so, is the internet reliable to keep in touch? 

Also, there is a lot more on RCCL that seems to not be included food wise ... are the included options good still? We do not plan to do any OOP dining this time. Is the buffet/MDR good for all meals? 

Also drinks ... I see that lemonade/tea/coffee/tap water/milk is included ... is that all meals and also in places we can just refill to have if we bring like Tervis cups? 

For my 10 year old ... are the kids' clubs enclosed? Or do they have to get places on their own (seems like there are activities out an about on the ship... do the kids club staff take those kids to those places?) Also, is there a locked down area where kids cannot leave on their own? 

We have only ever cruised out of Port Canaveral also ... is there a recommended hotel to stay in at Miami port? We will drive down the night before we leave... is parking at the port easy? 

When my day to do online check in opens up, do I get to pick a port arrival time? Do I do all paperwork then? 

What is included on the Coco Cay island? (and is it pronounced Key, like Disney's Castaway Cay, or like actual Cay?) Is there food? Loungers? I know you have to pay for the water park area ... 

Is there a movie theater on ships? I feel like the information given is sort of generic about the ships ... 


That is it for now I think! Thank you!! 

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7 hours ago, gray2402 said:

One other question ... if one person purchases the soda package, can you essentially fill up like tervis tumblers and share? Or they monitor that and only the cups they give you work? 

Hello! Current soda packages give you a tumblr, but we have found the refill practice is different depending on the ship. Some ships have self serve machines that only work with the tumblr, so as long as you have one you can fill it, and a certain amount of time has to expire before you can use it again. However, we just returned from Navigator of the Seas and they didn't have them, you had to bring the tumblr to a coffee/water station or a bar for sodas. I don't recall them asking for your SeaPass card to confirm your package, seeing the cup was enough for a free refill.

Regarding sharing drinks - I know they have removed free drink privileges for sharing drinks if they catch you; but you would have to be incredibly up front about it (like having a child with you, get your free drink/soda, and hand it right to another person). I have found it works for me to purchase the full drink package for my wife and I and give the tumblers to my kids for the sodas.

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8 hours ago, gray2402 said:

@Lovetocruise2002 Thanks so much! It will be myself and my husband, and then our two kids ... a girl who will turn 14 on the cruise, and a boy who will be almost 11. The boy is into video games ... are there systems in the kid clubs? 

I guess a major question is what kind of communication is there onboard? On DCL they have the free app where we can text as well as a 'wave' phone ... I like that for my teen that we let go off on her own. I have a way to keep in touch. I know the RCCL app does not work on Mariner.... is our only option to pay for internet and text with imessage? If so, is the internet reliable to keep in touch? 

Also, there is a lot more on RCCL that seems to not be included food wise ... are the included options good still? We do not plan to do any OOP dining this time. Is the buffet/MDR good for all meals? 

Also drinks ... I see that lemonade/tea/coffee/tap water/milk is included ... is that all meals and also in places we can just refill to have if we bring like Tervis cups? 

For my 10 year old ... are the kids' clubs enclosed? Or do they have to get places on their own (seems like there are activities out an about on the ship... do the kids club staff take those kids to those places?) Also, is there a locked down area where kids cannot leave on their own? 

We have only ever cruised out of Port Canaveral also ... is there a recommended hotel to stay in at Miami port? We will drive down the night before we leave... is parking at the port easy? 

When my day to do online check in opens up, do I get to pick a port arrival time? Do I do all paperwork then? 

What is included on the Coco Cay island? (and is it pronounced Key, like Disney's Castaway Cay, or like actual Cay?) Is there food? Loungers? I know you have to pay for the water park area ... 

Is there a movie theater on ships? I feel like the information given is sort of generic about the ships ... 


That is it for now I think! Thank you!! 

Mariner of the Seas is getting A LOT of upgrades for summer of 2018, so based on your sail date I don't know what you will have but here are some basics:
Communication - only the newest ships (not renovated ships) have apps where you can text each other. You either have to use short wave walkie talkies or purchase the internet package and use an internet based service like facebook messenger, etc.

Food - The Windjammer is a buffet for all 3 meal times and has plenty to offer if you don't want to go to any sit down restaurants. There will also be food available at at least 1 cafe area no charge for pastries, pizza, desserts, coffee, etc 24 hours.

Drinks - the items you listed are always available. Read my other reply regarding tumblers.

Kids - If you surrender your children to the care of the kids club staff they will always be under proper supervision. I don't know if they take them outside or not, perhaps someone else can help you in that area, we didn't take our kids until they were in their late teens.

Hotel - I'm sure any inexpensive hotel will do. I would ask if any of them allow you to park at the hotel and take a shuttle to the port. That would save you the port parking fee.

Online Check In - This is done to prefill your identity information (passport info, etc). It is most of your paperwork. A few weeks before your departure date you will also get your SeaPass document. This is the main document you print out for 1 representative in your stateroom for check in purposes, and includes the credit card info for any onboard purchases. You will never pay with cash or credit card onboard - all purchases will be via SeaPass cards and charged to your master account. You can arrive at the port any time after the standard boarding time, I like to arrive between 12-1pm so I can get access to the ship as early as possible.

Coco Cay - For your younger kids I highly recommend you pay for access to the floating water park areas. It is an extra 'excursion' fee, but your kids will have a blast!

Movies - There is an outdoor movie screen that plays movies throughout the day, and sometimes movies are played inside one of the theaters.

Lastly, as I said earlier, Mariner is getting upgraded for this summer so none of us will be able to say anything about your ship specifically, just what we have experienced on others. I have been on 5 ships so far, and some aspects are the same, but there are some unique things about each ship too! It looks like Mariner is getting some cool waterslides and more for some extra onboard fun.

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10 hours ago, gray2402 said:

@Lovetocruise2002 Thanks so much! It will be myself and my husband, and then our two kids ... a girl who will turn 14 on the cruise, and a boy who will be almost 11. The boy is into video games ... are there systems in the kid clubs? 

There are not video game systems in the kids clubs. I have 2 boys who spend too much time on the x-box so I'm pretty happy for the break.  There is an arcade for a fee.

10 hours ago, gray2402 said:

I guess a major question is what kind of communication is there onboard? On DCL they have the free app where we can text as well as a 'wave' phone ... I like that for my teen that we let go off on her own. I have a way to keep in touch. I know the RCCL app does not work on Mariner.... is our only option to pay for internet and text with imessage? If so, is the internet reliable to keep in touch? 

We will get the 4 device internet package and use WhatsApp to keep in touch.  I've found the internet pretty reliable.

10 hours ago, gray2402 said:

@Lovetocruise2002Also, there is a lot more on RCCL that seems to not be included food wise ... are the included options good still? We do not plan to do any OOP dining this time. Is the buffet/MDR good for all meals? 

Also drinks ... I see that lemonade/tea/coffee/tap water/milk is included ... is that all meals and also in places we can just refill to have if we bring like Tervis cups? 

Food is subjective but I think the food is fine. I think of the MDR as better than wedding/convention style food but not as good as a high end restaurant. We eat every dinner in the MDR as a family as I don't want to pay extra for 6 at a specialty restaurant.

There are places to refill your cups with free beverages. Just use a clean cup to fill up your Tervis cup.  Besides the WJ and Cafe Promenade, there are water dispensers at the pool bars.  If you drink soda, just get the soda package.  It would be easier.

 

10 hours ago, gray2402 said:

 

For my 10 year old ... are the kids' clubs enclosed? Or do they have to get places on their own (seems like there are activities out an about on the ship... do the kids club staff take those kids to those places?) Also, is there a locked down area where kids cannot leave on their own? 

Your 10 year old will be in the Voyager club for 9-11. You can choose to allow him to be a self signer, which means he can sign himself in and out anytime except on port days. You do this when you register him in the club on the first day. I've allowed my 11 yo son to be a self signer but we go over the ship and where he is allowed to go (arcade/WJ/meet at our pool chairs). I don't allow my child free reign but that is up to you.

I think @cakerins answered the other questions. Ask questions more as they come up.

 

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10 hours ago, gray2402 said:

@Lovetocruise2002 Thanks so much! It will be myself and my husband, and then our two kids ... a girl who will turn 14 on the cruise, and a boy who will be almost 11. The boy is into video games ... are there systems in the kid clubs? 

I will echo what @cakerins said.  Mariner is undergoing a major overhaul so no one really knows what kind of game systems will be available for kids.  Perhaps @Matt or someone else might have some insider info?  I can only confirm that Anthem of the Seas has gaming systems that are complimentary.


I guess a major question is what kind of communication is there onboard? On DCL they have the free app where we can text as well as a 'wave' phone ... I like that for my teen that we let go off on her own. I have a way to keep in touch. I know the RCCL app does not work on Mariner.... is our only option to pay for internet and text with imessage? If so, is the internet reliable to keep in touch? 

I personally hated the wave phone and the DCL app.  We have always paid for VOOM on our RC cruises and have found it to be excellent, there was never delays or stoppage.  We either text through iMessage or WhatsApp.  That being said, I have not sailed anything other than Oasis class or Quantum class in the last few years so I don't really know what Mariner's internet is like.  I'm going to ping @twangster on this one because he might know more here.

Also, there is a lot more on RCCL that seems to not be included food wise ... are the included options good still? We do not plan to do any OOP dining this time. Is the buffet/MDR good for all meals? 

Funny you should mention food, because we just got off the Disney Fantasy in December and my parents, sisters, and I were actually saying how there seem to be more complimentary options on RC.  The WJ is very similar to Cabanas.  The food offerings are almost identical.  Then you have the main dining room.  It is available for all 3 meals just like on DCL.  There is also usually some complimentary food option by the pool (hot dogs, burgers, etc.), and like @cakerins already  mentioned, there is always a promenade cafe with snacks, finger foods, small sandwiches, etc.  This is something DCL does not have that I wished they did.

Also drinks ... I see that lemonade/tea/coffee/tap water/milk is included ... is that all meals and also in places we can just refill to have if we bring like Tervis cups? 

To add to that there is also a variety of fountain fruit juices available too.  Dinner in the dining room the beverages would be served to you.  For health reasons, we always take the cups that are provided and then dump it into our own drink containers.

For my 10 year old ... are the kids' clubs enclosed? Or do they have to get places on their own (seems like there are activities out an about on the ship... do the kids club staff take those kids to those places?) Also, is there a locked down area where kids cannot leave on their own? 

My own girls hated both Oceaneer club and RC's Adventure Ocean so I cannot really comment on this.  However, there are some people here who know a great deal about Adventure Ocean so I will let them comment.

We have only ever cruised out of Port Canaveral also ... is there a recommended hotel to stay in at Miami port? We will drive down the night before we leave... is parking at the port easy? 

In the last month, I have researched the port of Miami area greatly as we are leaving from there in July also.  I have not sailed out of Miami in over a decade so it's fairly new to me too.  We are flying so we don't have the parking issue.  From what I have found out, there are really good hotels along the biscayne bay area (we are staying at Intercontinental, others have recommended Holiday Inn right across from Bayside Marketplace).  Another area that has great hotels (from what I have researched is the Brickell area.  There is a Hamptons Inn and Suites there that has great reviews).  Again hopefully someone who knows more about the port of Miami can chime in here.

When my day to do online check in opens up, do I get to pick a port arrival time? Do I do all paperwork then? 

Here is where RC rocks DCL.  You do get a port arrival time but it is not enforced.  I always try to get to the terminal around 10am and check in is always a breeze and we are usually on the ship within a 1/2h after that.  Again, I have not left from Miami for a while but imagine RC is pretty consistent with how they run embarkation.  And the terminal is never the mad house that it is in PC with DCL.  I absolutely hate the check in process with DCL.

What is included on the Coco Cay island? (and is it pronounced Key, like Disney's Castaway Cay, or like actual Cay?) Is there food? Loungers? I know you have to pay for the water park area ... 

I have not have any success over the years in getting to Coco Cay.  But from what I know there is food (lunch provided), loungers and pretty much the same as Castaway Cay.  I will let others chime in here with the specifics of Coco Cay.

Is there a movie theater on ships? I feel like the information given is sort of generic about the ships ... 

There is a movie theater on some ships.  Not sure what Mariner will have after refurb.  Sometimes, some ships even show movies in the main theater when the theater is not in use for shows.

That is it for now I think! Thank you!! 

No worries!  Any time!  There are so many knowledgeable people here! And we all love to talk cruising!

 

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Thank you to everyone!!! We are very excited and I'm hoping to love RCCL!!! I picked Mariner because of all the upgrades coming ... we really love cruising Disney, but cannot afford it yearly! So hoping this will be a nice yearly thing and save Disney for special events .... I appreciate all the advice and information, and I am sure I will be back as I keep planning!! 

 

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1 hour ago, gray2402 said:

Thank you to everyone!!! We are very excited and I'm hoping to love RCCL!!! I picked Mariner because of all the upgrades coming ... we really love cruising Disney, but cannot afford it yearly! So hoping this will be a nice yearly thing and save Disney for special events .... I appreciate all the advice and information, and I am sure I will be back as I keep planning!! 

 

Hopefully you love RCI way more and say good bye to DCL. Then, with all the money you save you can take extra cruises lol.

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On 4/13/2018 at 8:56 PM, gray2402 said:

Thank you to everyone!!! We are very excited and I'm hoping to love RCCL!!! I picked Mariner because of all the upgrades coming ... we really love cruising Disney, but cannot afford it yearly! So hoping this will be a nice yearly thing and save Disney for special events .... I appreciate all the advice and information, and I am sure I will be back as I keep planning!! 

 

You're in good company. Many of us (myself included) came to RC due to DCL's crazy expensive prices.  You will not regret it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi everyone!! A few more questions as we get closer ?
 

Ok, so a friend who sails RCCL told me that if my family all has iPhones that we can iMessage WITHOUT having to pay for VOOM! Is that true? She said we can connect to the wifi and iMessage will work ... so only with Apple devices, which my husband, daughter and I all have! I will have one VOOM account (I am a travel agent and will get that free due to my training I did). But trying to avoid buying a second one since we only will want to talk to each other on the ship

Second, dress code ... rumor I am hearing is that RCCL is more strict than Disney for MDR dining ... my son (10 1/2) will be disappointed LOL But I need to know for sure so I can buy him some khakis and polo shorts, and plan to pack accordingly ... the rest of us will be fine, but my son lives in sweats and athletic shorts. So will he need khakis and polos? Will khaki shorts work or must be long pants? Plain tee shirts or must be collared? 

THANKS EVERYONE!!! ?

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39 minutes ago, gray2402 said:

Hi everyone!! A few more questions as we get closer ?
 

Ok, so a friend who sails RCCL told me that if my family all has iPhones that we can iMessage WITHOUT having to pay for VOOM! Is that true? She said we can connect to the wifi and iMessage will work ... so only with Apple devices, which my husband, daughter and I all have! I will have one VOOM account (I am a travel agent and will get that free due to my training I did). But trying to avoid buying a second one since we only will want to talk to each other on the ship

Second, dress code ... rumor I am hearing is that RCCL is more strict than Disney for MDR dining ... my son (10 1/2) will be disappointed LOL But I need to know for sure so I can buy him some khakis and polo shorts, and plan to pack accordingly ... the rest of us will be fine, but my son lives in sweats and athletic shorts. So will he need khakis and polos? Will khaki shorts work or must be long pants? Plain tee shirts or must be collared? 

THANKS EVERYONE!!! ?

The free iMessage only works on Quantum class ships and Harmony. 

Be aware this is not a published feature, rather a hidden side effect that many of us cruisers have discovered.  It's believed to be a side effect of the RoyalIQ app and the four ships mentioned above are the only ships that use RoyalIQ.  Royal is putting their future app development into the new 'Royal Caribbean' app which doesn't have the same side effect (iMessage for free).  As ships convert to the new Royal Caribbean app we are not certain what will happen to this side effect but many of us anticipate them closing this loop hole.  The side effect includes YouTube and notifications.  For example without a paid Voom plan, an iPhone app such as a news app might display a 'breaking news alert' on your phone but when you go to tap it,  it can't load the content unless you have a paid Voom plan.

As a TA you might want to be careful to spread the word about this side effect because they could kill it any day.  It's not officially offered or published by RCI as a feature.

As far as dinner in the MDR, this is a common topic with many opinions voiced.  On most nights (non-formal nights) a t-shirt and long pants (jeans even) will suffice.  Shorts are frowned upon but YMMV.  Enforcement varies and a 10 yo. with parents who are not also in shorts might have no issue on casual nights. 

On formal nights the recommended attire for men is jacket, tie and dress pants.  That is 'recommended' and not always enforced as strictly as some people would like.  Sweats and athletic shorts (or any shorts) on formal night are frowned upon and more likely to result in denied entry but that too varies ship to ship, YMMV.   For a 10 y.o. they will be somewhat more lenient but could have issue on formal night with overly casual sweats/shorts.   I wear a jacket but no tie and khakis and never have an issue.  Many people will just have a long sleeve collared shirt  and long pants of some sort.  Dress jeans are most likely okay, jeans full of rips and tears more likely an issue. 

Generally speaking,  dress code is more strictly enforced on non-US cruises (Europe, Asia, etc) compared to the Caribbean but shorts are more likely to be an issue even in the Caribbean. 

 

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For a 10 year old, Khaki shorts and a nice polo will suffice, as @twangster says, this is a big debate here on MDR dress code, I will be taking my 11yr Grandson on a cruise in July, and I have told his Mom, Khaki and Polo are fine.

From a packing stand point I would only take a couple of each and then rotate them through the week (Unless dinner gets on them), If someone notices and cares that he is wearing the same thing on Thursday as he wore on Monday, they shouldn't be looking so hard, IMO...

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My wife and I stayed at the quality inn and it was fine. Nothing special but not too expensive. The bayside shopping center is a neat place to visit the night before the cruise. It's an outdoor shopping center on the water with a few outdoor restaurants. Mariner is going to be pretty sweet with the major renovation! I hope you have fun. Also, there are land line type phones in your state room and at various places around the ship. If it came down to it you could set up a time frame when you want your daughter to call the room and check in. Kind of inconvenient but only for 10 minutes or so. 

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In a nutshell get the beverage package for the kids if they want soda.   Get to the port by 10 a.m. Done that forever in a day.  You get a good spot in the parking garage and you are on board in no time.  Also do the carry off when you disembark. Saves tons of time. Being you are new to the ship and R.C. you can explore before it gets crowded . As our son found out you put on pants or nice khakis shorts and eat in the M.D.R. change after dinner and off you go.   On formal nights he can wear pants and a polo shirt.  As far as hotels the recommendations from this blog are spot on.   Or check out trip adviser or cruise critic.  Pack light also.  You can wear the same outfit more than once.  The fashion police will never know.    You are not on the red carpet.  You are on VACATION.   If you drink wine you can bring two bottles on board. Don`t forget a corkscrew.   Keep an eye on cruise planner as beverage packages go on sale.    Welcome to Royal Caribbean and enjoy the cruise.  

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New cruiser to RCCL here as well, also going on the Mariner but in November.  We are all booked in junior suites and I believe I read somewhere that this gives us priority boarding of some sort.  Does that mean we can get on the ship earlier?  Assume not worth getting there earlier than the 10am timeframe mentioned above since the passengers from the previous cruise would be disembarking that morning...definitely want to get on the ship as early as possible as I will want to explore.  I recall reading that our carry-on luggage can be stored somewhere on the ship so we don't have to lug it around?

Has anyone been successful in finding wine lists for the different venues on board the Mariner?  We have the ultimate beverage package and I am a wine drinker so would love to see what is available.  I've been looking but haven't found anything that I can tell is a recent list.  Adding corkscrew to my packing list now since we will probably also bring 2 bottles!

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Yes, as a suites guest you will be able to take advantage of priority boarding, assuming you get there before boarding begins.  We are talking about a matter of maybe 5 minutes here....priority boarding doesn't really get you much.  You will simply be among the first to get on, once they begin boarding.  If you arrive after they have already begun boarding, priority boarding gives you no advantage at all.  You will also have priority check-in, however, which is often much more valuable than priority boarding.  Being in a suite, you will you have a check-in queue that will often save you considerable time, depending upon when you get there.  So once boarding has begun, your shorter (usually) suite line will get you through the gauntlet more quickly and therefore, onto the ship sooner.  Again, we aren't talking about more than a few minutes either way unless the general check-in queues are moving REALLY slowly for some bizarre reason.

When to arrive ?  I think most everyone here will advise somewhere between 10:30 - 11:30.  Before then, you will likely not be able to get into the terminal and much later than that and you are dealing with overwhelming volume.  I think most people will agree that it is better to get there a bit early and wait a few minutes in the Suites area than to get there after boarding begins with the chance of getting caught up with the hordes.  Waiting outside with nowhere to sit, however, is NO fun so getting there too early is not a good option either.

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39 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Waiting outside with nowhere to sit, however, is NO fun so getting there too early is not a good option either.

One exception to this might be Cape Liberty, which has a small memorial park you can visit while waiting for the boarding lines to open up. I remember @iamjohnbamber writing about this and posting a few photos of the park area in one of his live blogs. Long as the weather isn't unbearable (dead of winter, dog days of summer), can be a pleasant way to kill a half hour if you're slightly too early.

1 minute ago, Boston Babe said:

So why am I spending all this money??

To show you're a winner! ?

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4 hours ago, fonemanbob said:

 If you drink wine you can bring two bottles on board. Don`t forget a corkscrew.   Keep an eye on cruise planner as beverage packages go on sale.    Welcome to Royal Caribbean and enjoy the cruise.  

Thanks so much!! For the wine, is it per adult over 21 that can bring two bottles? Or per stateroom? That is great to know!! 

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