Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Royal Caribbean brought back the behind-the-scenes tour: here's what it's like

01 Sep 2022

Royal Caribbean has brought back its behind-the-scenes tours that provide a look at areas of its cruise ships passengers aren't allowed to see most times.

All Access tour badge

The All Access Tour is one of the last activities to return to service since cruises restarted last year due to the close proximity of guests and crew members. In the last few weeks, the tour is operational again and I decided to try it out while sailing on Mariner of the Seas.

The All Access Tour is a 2-hour walking tour of many areas of the ship, and costs extra. The goal is to provide a glimpse of what goes on while guests are enjoying their vacation to make the cruise ship function.

It's as much educational as it is eye opening to how much work goes on to keep the ship functional and optimal.

The tour was conducted on a sea day, and all guests are required to sign a waiver as well as wear a KN-95 mask, which Royal Caribbean provides.

Guests also have to wear pants and closed-toed shoes. Unlike the masks, this requirement was in place pre-2020 as well.

The tour visits 6 key areas along the way

  • Galley
  • Engine control room
  • Waste management
  • Laundry room
  • Food provisions
  • Bridge
  • Royal Theater

Guests are given an ear piece to wear during the tour, which makes hearing what is being said much easier. In the past I've done this tour without the ear piece and it makes things much simpler.

At each location, the tour leader usually hands off the narration to another crew member that works in the area you are visiting to explain in greater detail what goes on.

Prior to visiting the engine control room and bridge, the ship's security will pat down each guest since these are sensitive areas of the ship.

Photos are allowed in almost every area of the tour, minus the main I-95 crew corridor on deck 1 because there are posters on the wall with security information posted.

In the galley, you get to visit two galleys, which provides a look at a working galley that was serving breakfast at the time and another galley preparing for meals later in the day.

You get to see how they plan meals for guests and crew, which include seeing pastries, produce, and various cooking stations.

It's a round-the-clock operation to have the right logistics of getting food prepared and moved around the ship.

We also got to see where the food provisions are stored.

The engine control room is the heart beat of the ship, and we got to see all the controls for the systems that keep the ship moving and comfortable.

The trash area shows how waste is separated and disposed of properly. Royal Caribbean not only follows international maritime regulations, but actually goes above what's required as it relates to disposal.

To get to the laundry room, we had to go below the ship's water line and two decks below deck 1. I don't think I've ever been to this deck before.

There are machines for cleaning towels, sheets, table cloths and more.

This is also where laundry gets done for both guests and crew.

The highlight of the tour is going up to the bridge, where you can see the command center for Mariner of the Seas.

We got to not only see the primary bridge area, but also the bridge wings that allow for control during port operations.

The final stop was the Royal Theater, where we walked on stage and then headed backstage.

They explained both the technical operation of the show with rigging, lights, and scenery, as well as the cast prep for the performances.

In all, the All Access tour delivers on showing pretty much all the backstage areas you would want to see in order to fully appreciate how a cruise ship operates.

The tour doesn't include crew member quarters, restaurants, or bars. I think Royal Caribbean wants to limit the behind-the-scenes views to operational needs and let crew relax in those other areas.

It's insightful to see how a ship works, and if you've ever been curious about a cruise ship functions, then this is the tour for you.

I paid $86.99 per person for the All Access Ship tour when I purchased it prior to my cruise.

What is Friends of Bill W. on a cruise?

17 Aug 2022

Who is Bill W. and… why does he have so many friends?

Conference room on Anthem of the Seas

When browsing the Cruise Compass onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll likely come across a daily-scheduled event called Friends of Bill W.

If you’ve never heard of Friends of Bill W. before, you’ll probably be confused. No, Bill W. is not a passenger on your cruise ship, but he has plenty of “friends” onboard.

What is Friends of Bill W.?

Friends of Bill W. is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting found onboard a cruise that is named after William Wilson (Bill W.), one of the founders of the organization. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded to help members achieve and maintain sobriety throughout their lives.

Cruises can be a tough environment for those passengers in recovery, so cruise lines offer Friends of Bill W. onboard as a non-judgemental, helpful support group. At Friends of Bill W., passengers can meet fellow guests in recovery and form a support network once onboard.

The name “Friends of Bill W.” gives a subtle way for guests to know there is a support group onboard while maintaining privacy and anonymity.

When and where are Friends of Bill W. meetings located?

You will generally find Friends of Bill W. meetings every day on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The time may change based on ship and itinerary, with some meetings held in the morning and others around 4PM.

Friends of Bill W. meetings are held in quiet, less crowded areas of the ship, are complimentary, and are open to any passengers. The meetings are often located in places like the Library, offering a more secluded spot where guests can feel comfortable.

Passengers in recovery as well as family members may find the meetings helpful. You do not have to sign up for the meetings in advance. The meetings are self-led, so there are no Royal Caribbean staff members present.

Why is Friends of Bill W. on a cruise ship?

Friends of Bill W. is found not only on Royal Caribbean cruises but also on many other cruise lines. Cruise ships tend to have a significant drinking culture onboard, with many guests enjoying cocktails, beer, wine, and spirits throughout the day.

While relaxing with an alcoholic beverage in hand is common for many passengers, it can be a challenging environment for those recovery. 

Friends of Bill W. meetings help passengers in recovery avoid the temptation of drinking by having regularly scheduled meetings. Having a support system on a cruise is huge, as many passengers will find themselves without the support network they have built at home, such as local AA meetings and online forums.

What is Friends of Dorothy on a cruise ship?

Royal Caribbean cruises also used to have a meetup called “Friends of Dorothy” onboard, which was for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Similar to how Friends of Bill W. is used as a more abstract name for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Friends of Dorothy was used as a name for the LGBTQ+ meetups on a cruise ship.

In recent years, though, Royal Caribbean has stopped using the name Friends of Dorothy. There are still LGBTQ+ meetups on all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but they are listed as "LGBTQ+ Meet (self led)" in the Cruise Planner. Like Friends of Bill W. meetings, these meetups also tend to occur nearly every day of the cruise.

8 Cruise ship activities Royal Caribbean abandoned

05 Oct 2021

Just like any theme park, entertainment plaza, or local attraction, cruise ships will try out an idea for an activity and later on decide to get rid of it.

What is new and interesting today could become passé and old hat tomorrow. Cruise lines are always looking for ways to keep their offerings in line with customer trends, so it is not uncommon for a ship to offer a certain activity but have it replaced later on.

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has tried many different activities for guests. Some have become staples of the Royal Caribbean brand, while others had a short run and were replaced by something else.

Here is a look at eight things you used to be able to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that are now gone.

Golf simulator

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

Royal Caribbean is known for having a surf simulator and even a sky diving simulator, but they used to also have a golf simulator.

A number of cruise ships had a golf simulator, including Voyager and Radiance Class ships, where you could practice your golf swing on a variety of virtual golf courses.

It cost $25 for up to 4 people, and there would be a selection of a few different clubs, including  a driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 3-9 irons and a sand wedge.

Just like the real thing, one passenger would stand in front of the simulator to take their swings, while the others in the group stood off to the side to watch.

Golf simulators are no longer offered onboard, with the space taken up during recent sports deck refurbishments.

Inline skating rink

Another sports deck feature found primarily on the Voyager Class ships was an inline skating course.

Alongside the mini-golf course was an inline skating track for guests to use. Royal Caribbean would provide helmets and skates and navigate the course.

The track had padded barriers in case you (likely) slammed into the wall on your way.

Like the golf simulator, the inline skating was ditched to make room for water slides and a FlowRider.

Night clubs

Royal Caribbean used to have dedicated night clubs on many of its cruise ships, including the Voyager and Freedom Class ships.

Each had its own name, such as The Crypt or The Labyrinth, and they were a two-deck level space with an entrance near the Schooner Bar.

During the day, the night clubs were closed, but at night, they became a loud party zone.

Royal Caribbean decided the space was not being utilized well by only being open at night, so they converted the lower portion to new staterooms and the upper part became a specialty restaurant.

Not to worry, there is still a night club experience offered onboard, just not in a dedicated area.

Pets at Sea

Remember when Build A Bear was a really big deal? As a parent, I remember my kids always wanting to go get a new pet every time we went to the mall, and I guess that trend made it to Royal Caribbean as well.

Royal Caribbean's first Oasis Class ships had a dedicated shop in the Boardwalk neighborhood where you could create your own stuffed animals, many with a nautical theme.

Pets at Sea was a souvenir option where guests picked an animal and outfit, and then stuffed the pet with a fun machine before taking it home with them.

Alas, the shops were replaced during ship refurbishments to make way for other retail experiences.

Boxing ring

Liberty of the Seas Photo Report | Royal Caribbean Blog

A neat idea to enhance the fitness center offerings was to include a boxing ring on Freedom Class ships.

For an additional fee, the full-sized boxing ring allowed guests to spar with an experienced instructor.

Whether it was not popular enough to warrant keeping it, or perhaps another reason, the boxing ring was removed, leaving a fairly large dance studio space in its stead.

Eco-learning station

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

On at least Explorer of the Seas, there used to be something called the Eco-learning station.

The ship's Eco-Learning Stations were located either side of the Aquarium Bar on deck 4. The stations produced a large data set of complementary, comprehensive atmospheric and oceanographic measurements along the cruise ship's itinerary and provided over 80,000 cruise ship passengers with guided tours of the research laboratories aboard.

Data collected by the Ocean Lab program was placed in the public domain, and made available to researchers, students, and the public through an online portal.

Royal Caribbean then downsized the scope of the station, allowing it to still acquire atmospheric and oceanographic data, but the outreach program aboard with a full-time marine technician and a different visiting scientist researcher or lecturer on each cruise was removed.

Eventually, the area was completely removed and replaced with The Tavern in a 2015 refurbishment.

Barbie Premium Experience

In 2013, Royal Caribbean introduced a new program aimed at girls with a partnership with Mattel.

The Barbie Premium Experience was available for girls aged between four and eleven and included a pink Barbie themed stateroom and signature gifts, including a Barbie Doll to take home.

In addition, there was a Tiaras & Teacups party; Mermaid dance class; Fashion Designer workshop and a Barbie Fashion Show. 

The premium experience cost $349.00 and was only available on cruises over 5 nights long.

At some point, Royal Caribbean removed the offering from its ships.

So many things from the 1970s

All of the activities listed so far are go back to the late 1990s, but going on a cruise in the early days of Royal Caribbean was a completely different experience all together.

The cruise experience, and the ships, have radically changed since the 1970s and 1980s, and with it what you used to be able to do onboard.

Song of Norway had its own radio station where you could send radiograms or make ship-to-shore telephone calls.

Passenger talent night allowed passengers to sing, dance, make magic, or just about anything else they were brave enough to demonstrate in public.

Casino night was held on two-week cruises, and the crew would allow guests to run the games.  

Lest we forget skeet shooting was available on sea days where you could shoot clay pigeons off the back of the ship.

Read moreWhat it was like to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the 1970s

CDC rules force Royal Caribbean to cancel culinary classes on cruise ships

14 Aug 2021

Guests will have to wait a bit longer before Royal Caribbean can offer certain culinary classes on its ships again.

Royal Caribbean sent an email to guests who had select culinary events and classes reserved that these are now canceled.

According to the cruise line, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance does not allow the cruise line to offer certain group culinary events.

"As part of the guidance received from the Centers of Disease Control, we've had to adjust some of our special culinary events and classes," the cruise line said in an email sent to guests.

"We're sorry for the impact and inconvenience this may have on your time with us."

These group events allow guests to try their hand at making certain foods in a fun environment, with a crew member leading the guests in the techniques to create (and then eat) their creations.

This includes cancelling:

  • Sprinkle Time Cupcake
  • Sushi classes
  • Guacamole classes

Guests who had these classes booked will receive a refund to the original form of payment within 30 days.

It is not clear when these classes will be offered again onboard.

The cruise line confirmed that Taste of Royal and Sushi and Saki Pairing will still be offered to guests.

15 really cool things to do that you can only find on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

26 Jun 2020

Cruise ships are more than floating hotels. They offer lots of entertainment, activities and things to do, and many Royal Caribbean ships even offer some incredible signature activities found no where else at sea.

If you are wondering what makes Royal Caribbean stand out from other cruise lines and their ships, here is a look at the best activities onboard that no other cruise line can match!


Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

What happens when you combine sports courts, dance floor, table games, video games and bumper cars? You get the SeaPlex.

The SeaPlex is an indoor multi-purpose sports venue that transforms throughout the day depending on the activity. 

This multi-deck facility offers basketball courts, ping pong tables, dance floor, circus school, dodge ball arena and even bumper cars to ride. Since it is indoors, there is never an issue with it being rainy, too hot, or breezy.

The SeaPlex is busy from morning until night, and it is a big hit with teens, kids, and pretty much anyone that enjoys a little physical fun.

Ripcord by iFly

Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

Have you ever wanted to try skydiving without the danger of actually jumping out of an airplane?

RipCord by iFly allows guests to don a special suit and jump into a vertical wind tunnel for a few minutes of free-fall fun.

Set in a recirculating indoor vertical wind tunnel, guests can feel like they're falling from the heavens in a safe environment.  You wear the gear and goggles as if you were jumping out of an airplane, so it's as authentic an experience as you can get without the airplane.  

Trained instructors are with you the whole time in a totally controlled environment.

RipCord is going to be one of those experiences that you tell your friends and family about when you get home because it's not too often you get to experience something like this.


Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum, Odyssey, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Explorer of the Seas.

The FlowRider surf simulator offers guests the opportunity to try surfing onboard a cruise ship.

The self-contained surfing area pumps 34,000 gallons per minute and allows passengers to try stand-up surfing as well as boogie boarding. 

While the FlowRider experience is far more of a controlled environment than the ocean, learning to stand up (and stay standing up) on your surf board is not so easy, so Royal Caribbean offers lessons for an additional price.  Both private and group lessons are available.

The FlowRider has scheduled times of operation during the day when it is open to all guests for no additional fee.  Guests must sign a waiver and there is a height requirement of 52" for boogie boarding and 58" for stand up surfing.

Royal Promenade

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Voyager, Explorer of the Seas.

The hub of activity on Royal Caribbean's largest ships is the grand canyon concourse known as the Royal Promenade.

Spanning three decks in height, this focal point for the ship offers shopping, dining and dance parties to enjoy during the cruise.

The Royal Promenade also features special staterooms that have a window view of the promenade, instead of a view of the ocean. This prime people-watching spot is not only a money-saving stateroom choice, but a great way to keep an eye on what's happening.

Studio B

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Mariner, Navigator, Adventure, Explorer of the Seas.

Did you know you can ice skate at sea on Royal Caribbean ships?

Studio B is home to a functional ice rink, where you will find impressive ice skating performances in addition to the opportunity to put on a pair of skates and enjoy free skate time.

Free skates are offered throughout the cruise for no additional fee.  Be sure to pack long pants and socks so you can participate.

Ultimate Abyss

Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean sought to create a truly unique thrill experience on its ships, and the Ultimate Abyss slide was born.

Ultimate Abyss is a dry slide (no water involved, you slide down on a mat) and is located on the aft of the ship.

It is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send guests down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour.

Guests board the slide by climbing stairs that lead directly into the mouth of a giant angler fish, where they get into a customized mat and then descend down the slide, traversing 216 feet of a multi-sensory tunnel. Guests can reach a speed of 9 miles per hour, and it is the kind of thrill experience unlike anything else at sea.

The Ultimate Abyss is free and available for rides mostly during the day.


Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure of the Seas.

Exclusive to the Oasis Class ships, the hand-crafted carousel is a tribute to the seaside boardwalks of the past.

Located in the Boardwalk neighborhood, the carousel uses turn-of-the-century carousel designs as its basis down to the very last detail.  Even the original artwork scenery panels located on the carousel’s eight Rounding Boards feature custom painted scenes to highlight the wistfulness of life on the historic boardwalks.

Eighteen figures are suspended from stainless steel poles along with one ADA accessible chariot that were created from poplar wood populate the carousel. 

Be sure to also check out the carousel at night because like the fairs of the past, nighttime is when these rides really shine when they are all lit up.

Broadway shows

Ships available: Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure, Liberty, Independence of the Seas.

On select Royal Caribbean ships, you can watch full Broadway shows performed in the Royal Theater for absolutely nothing extra.

Hit shows such as Hairspray, Cats, Mamma Mia and more are performed on Royal Caribbean ships and when you combine Tony Award-winning shows with no extra cost, that is a tremendous opportunity.

North Star

Ships available: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

On Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships, you can rise 300 feet above sea level to enjoy unparalleled views in North Star.

Available only on the Quantum Class ships, this observational pod is a calm and fun way to see everything around you, including the cruise ship below.

Tidal Wave slide

Ships available: Liberty of the Seas

The only boomerang raft slide on a cruise ship can be found on Liberty of the Seas.

Guests get into the raft slide, and then descend down quickly before going up a near vertical wall for a moment of weightlessness before heading right back down for a splashy end.


Ships available: Independence, Mariner, Spectrum, Odyssey of the Seas.

Combine virtual reality and a bungee experience and you get the SkyPad.

The SkyPad straps guests into bungee chords, where you can bounce up and down with an optional VR helmet on to provide the sensation of moving through an augmented reality world.


Ships available: Wonder, Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Allure of the Seas.

The AquaTheater is a distinct high diving, acrobatic performance space designed for Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships.

The venue has two 10-meter high platforms and the hydraulic-floored pool, the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea, below will serve as podiums for high-diving, hair-raising aerobatics that AquaTheater audiences have come to love.

On select evenings, you can enjoy performances held in the AquaTheater that combine music, dance, acrobatics and high-dives. It is something you have to see to believe.

Escape Room

Ships available: Harmony, Symphony, Oasis, Mariner, Navigator, Anthem, Independence of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean ships are home to a popular new attraction: escape room games.

Guests participating in the escape room try to solve a series of puzzles before time runs out, that requires them to man their stations from Mission Control and successfully launch Apollo 18 to the moon. 

When you arrive for your session, a short video will explain some ground rules of the puzzle. A crew member will supervise your group and will go over a few items in the room that are not part of the game, such as fire sprinklers and emergency exits.

Bionic Bar

Ships available: Harmony, Symphony, Oasis, Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas.

You can have your favorite cocktail mixed and served by a robot at the Bionic Bar.

Royal Caribbean teamed up with Makr Shakr, a company with ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create the Bionic Bars. The idea is simple: guests place orders via tablets and then can watch the robot bartenders start mixing the cocktails. Bionic Bar combines two big trends, robotics and mixology.

The single armed robot will get the ice, mints and lemon and then squeeze and shake them to make your drink. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Ships available: Most itineraries visiting The Bahamas

While not available onboard the ship, Royal Caribbean's private island is so impressive that it is worth mentioning as a good reason to book a sailing that visits here.

Perfect Day at CocoCay spans nearly a mile across, and features incredible beaches, a water park, pool, private club, zip-line and more.

There is a lot to see and do for guests of all ages, whether you want to simply relax on a quiet beach, or mix it up with some of the tallest water slides in North America, or enjoy one of the many luxurious cabanas.

Royal Caribbean spent a lot money revamping its private island, and since its opening in 2019, it has become a huge hit with cruise guests.

Royal Caribbean testing family steel drum lesson activity

18 Feb 2020

Royal Caribbean is quietly testing a brand new family activity that could be coming to a cruise ship near you soon.

The Steel Pan Family Jam is being tested on select ships, that allows families to learn how to play the steel drums while on their cruise.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, shared a video of one of these lessons and mentioned it is in pilot mode, but "will go fleetwide soon."

In addition, the cruise line filed a trademark for the "Steel Pan Family Jam" name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Royal Caribbean added a mini steel drum set to the bar area of the Lime & Coconut on Oasis of the Seas, with example sheet music. This was offered without musical instruction.

Is this an activity you want to try on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Video: 12 Things You Can Only Find on Royal Caribbean

13 Feb 2020

I have a brand new video today that shows off 12 things you can only find on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

From the FlowRider to full Broadway shows to robot bartenders, I've got a look at the things you can only find on Royal Caribbean. Check out all twelve things in our latest RCBlog YouTube Video!

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your favorite activity on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Spotted: Sip Tour Brunch galley tour

19 Dec 2019

Royal Caribbean has effectively rebranded the Bottomless Galley Brunch tour and relaunched it as the Sip Tour Brunch.

Available to pre-book on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site, the Sip Tour Brunch offers guests a tour of the galley, along with brunch in the dining room that comes with unlimited champagne. 

The tour promises to give guests an inside look at how Royal Caribbean prepares three meals a day for thousands of guests.

Video: 10 awesome FREE things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

12 Dec 2019

Royal Caribbean packs its cruise ships with so many fun things to do, and many have no additional cost to enjoy.

In this video, we have a look at some of my favorite things to do on a Royal Caribbean ship that is included with your cruise fare.

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your favorite free activity on a Royal Caribbean ship?

Video: The BEST thing to do on every Royal Caribbean ship!

01 Oct 2019

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are designed to be destinations that offer a ton for family and friends to enjoy while onboard. Each ship offers different activities, dining and entertainment, so today we have one must-do on every ship in the fleet.

It is not easy picking just one thing to do, but if you were going to go on any ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, you will want to make sure you check off one particular onboard offering that we have listed in this video.

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

So check out the video and then let us know: What are your top picks for must-do activities on any Royal Caribbean ship?

Subscribe to Cruise Ship Activities