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Royal Caribbean is getting rid of the Sky Pad on all of its ships

22 Mar 2023

There's only a few days left to experience the Sky Pad before Royal Caribbean retires it.

In an update to travel agents, Royal Caribbean announced it would replace the venue with an unnamed new activity.

Beginning March 31, 2023, Royal Caribbean will begin removing the trampoline experience.

It's not clear what will replace it, but it will become something else.

Sky Pad on Mariner of the Seas

"Starting in April, the Sky Pad will retire the bungee Virtual Reality experience and become a new versatile venue for exciting onboard activities."

Royal Caribbean says  all of the activities hosted in the Sky Pad venue will continue to be complimentary and included in your cruise fare. This sounds like the large yellow sphere structure itself will not be removed (at least not immediately), but the trampolines will be likely taken away.

Royal Caribbean did not say why they are making the change.

The Sky Pad is a trampoline where guests put on a virtual reality visor to engage in a game as they jump. 

Once inside, participants bounce up and down on the trampolines with the aid of the bungee cords. As you jump on the trampoline, you jump in the game. 

Similar to the FlowRider surf simulator and sky diving simulator, it was meant to offer guests a gravity-defying fun top deck experience.

The first cruise ship to get the Sky Pad was Independence of the Seas during her Royal Amplification, and it spread to a few other ships.

The ships with a Sky Pad include:

  • Independence of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas
  • Odyssey of the Seas

In 2019, Royal Caribbean temporarily suspended Sky Pad on all ships as part of a safety review. It's unclear if that pause was related to a guest that was injured on the activity and sued Royal Caribbean.

While on Mariner of the Seas, the guest's harness snapped off and he fell to the deck.

What will replace the Sky Pad?

Skypad at night

Royal Caribbean did not say what we can expect to find in the space going forward.

One thing is certain: whatever does go in the space will not have an additional cost and included in your cruise fare.

Royal Caribbean's signature activities

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

While the Sky Pad may be going away, there's still other great activities you can look forward to enjoying onboard.

Royal Caribbean is known for the array of onboard activities, including a few "I can't believe they put it on a cruise ship" offerings.

Miniature golf courses, surfing simulators and basketball courts are common on the biggest Royal Caribbean ships.

Rock wall

Rock wall

With varying difficulty levels, the rock wall is suitable for both kids and adults alike. 

Royal Caribbean makes sure your safety is paramount - that’s why we provide all the essential safety equipment including helmets, harnesses and shoes for every climber. All you need to bring are a pair of socks! 

Climbers must be at least 6 years old and complete a waiver prior to climbing. Best of all, it’s free and there’s no need to make advance reservations! 

The rock-climbing wall has been designed with both novice and experienced climbers in mind. For those looking to take their skills up a notch, there is advanced climbing sessions and speed-climbing competitions.  Royal Caribbean also hosts teen tournaments, which are a great way for young adventurers to explore their limits safely. 

Surf Simulator

Guest and crew member on FlowRider

Ready to catch that perfect wave? Royal Caribbean has you covered! With the incredible FlowRider surf simulator onboard some of their ships, you can experience the thrill of surfing in a controlled environment without ever having to leave the comfort and safety of your cruise ship. 

The FlowRider is a self-contained artificial surf area with an incredible 34,000 gallons per minute pumped in order to create realistic waves. Whether you’re looking to try boogie boarding or stand-up surfing, there’s something for everyone. 

Best of all, it’s open for free during scheduled periods during the day. Plus, if you want more than just free play time, private and group lessons are also available for an additional fee. 

But before you hop on board, be sure to check out the height requirements: 52 inches for boogie boarding and 58 inches for stand up surfing. 

Currently, the FlowRider is available on Quantum class, Oasis class, Freedom class and select Voyager class cruise ships. 

Zip Line

Ready to soar like an eagle?  Then you’re looking at the right attraction.  Oasis class ships boast a thrilling zip line that offers a bird’s eye view of the Boardwalk neighborhood.  This isn’t for the faint of heart; it stretches out a whopping 82 feet between two points and rises 9 decks high in the air. 

In order to participate, guests must be at least 52 inches tall and weigh no more than 275 pounds; children must also meet minimum weight requirements — 75 pounds or higher — for their own safety.  Plus, it’s free to use!  All you need is a signature on the waiver before boarding your flight. 


Located in the Boardwalk of Oasis Class ships, this full-sized, traditional carousel was hand-crafted and designed with turn-of-the-century carousels as its basis - right down to the very last detail. The original artwork scenery panels on the rounding boards feature custom painted scenes that pay homage to seaside boardwalks of the past. 

But, this is more than just a stunning tribute - it’s also a lot of fun!  18 figures are suspended from stainless steel poles along with one ADA accessible chariot created from poplar wood. There are 11 traditional carousel horses, including one Royal Caribbean lead armored horse complete with the crown and anchor logo. 

Water slides

Royal Caribbean has a wide variety of water slides that can offer the perfect mix of thrills and relaxation.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, they have some awesome speed and racing slides. There's also a spiral water slide on some ships that take you spiraling around each other until you reach the pool below.

Sky diving simulator

Are you looking for an unforgettable adventure while on your next cruise? Look no further than Ripcord by iFly! Located on board the ship, passengers can experience the thrilling sensation of skydiving without having to jump out of a plane. 

The complimentary flight starts with a short video tutorial teaching the basics of skydiving techniques. After that, all you have to do is change into the provided skydiving apparel and get ready for an action-packed one minute ride in the Ripcord by iFly wind tunnel! 

For those looking for an even more exciting experience, two minute rides are available at The North Star at a cost of just $49.99 per person. Advanced flying classes may also be offered onboard which comes with a separate fee. 

North Star

Onboard any of Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships, you'll find a unique experience that allows you to take in all the wonders of the sea from above. The North Star is a glass-enclosed observation pod that rises 300 feet above the deck of your ship, offering breathtaking 360° views of the horizon and beyond. 

The best part? During port visits, access to The North Star is completely free! You can book a time slot for yourself and up to three guests throughout most of the day. 

While at sea, each ride up The North Star comes with a cost of $29.99 per person, but it's well worth it for one-of-a-kind sights from up high. Soar above your cruise ship and take in stunning views that could only be made possible by this amazing feat of engineering! 

Royal Caribbean accidentally sells cruise ship passenger VIP pass and refunds purchases

14 Mar 2023

It turns out the amazing deal Royal Caribbean has for a new VIP pass was indeed too good to be true. 

Side of Navigator of the Seas

Over the weekend Royal Caribbean added a new package to its website that appeared to be a new extra cost pass. It included WiFi, exclusive tours and more at a bargain price.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. 

On Monday, Royal Caribbean sent guests an email to inform them that Premier Pass was a "system glitch" and was never intended to be put on sale in the first place.

Premier Pass logo

Premier Pass listed all sorts of benefits, such as dinner with an officer, internet access, and more.

Royal Caribbean removed the Premier Pass option, cancelled all purchases, and will issue refunds.

In the email sent to guests that purchased Premier Pass, the cruise line admitted the benefits sound incredible, but are, " all things that would be operationally unsustainable" to actually offer.

Royal Caribbean International Assistant Vice President of Guest Experience, Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, wrote in the email, " In reading all of the social media threads – I’ve seen many guests mention that it was “way too good to be true”, and unfortunately, that’s the truth."

The email alludes to the fact so many people purchased the pass simply by way of word of mouth, which also made it impossible to carry through with.

Royal Caribbean is offering guests $50 USD Onboard Credit as a way of making up for the mistake.

Unfortunately, it looks like some people got more onboard credit than they should have received, because the system gave them $50 per person initially.


Anyone that spent the money immediately on a new purchase, received an email to inform them that the purchase they made was no longer paid in full and they needed to make up the difference.

"Just got the same email- now I OWE Royal $100!!," is what Carlyn3 posted after encountering the onboard credit error.

Cruise fan reactions

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

As soon as the emails went out, cruisers shared their thoughts on the mix-up.

On the Royal Caribbean message boards, there were plenty of comments on the cancellation.

Rakaia wrote, "Hey, $50 I didn't have before. I'll take it."

Montemy2419 posted, "Nice of them to give the gesture because if they didn't give a little something then the backlash would of been bad."

Wilson wrote, "This is a hot mess."

Shore excursion price mistake

Minutes after the email was sent about Premier Pass, another email went out to anyone that booked an Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark tour. 

There was a price mistake for this popular Bahamas shore excursion, and purchases will also be cancelled and refunded.

Just like the Premier Pass, anyone that booked the Aquaventure at the mistake price will receive $50 USD Onboard Credit.

Another glitch

This week's issues are not Royal Caribbean's first notable internet sale error.

The most notable one was in 2019 when Royal Caribbean's website listed the Deluxe Beverage Package for $18 per day, per person.

At the time, the drink package was usually listed for $40-50 per person, per day (it now costs significantly more than that).

Royal Caribbean went on to honor that pricing goof.

Royal Caribbean launches new cruise VIP package

11 Mar 2023

UPDATE MARCH 13: Royal Caribbean canceled and refunded any Premier Pass purchases.

UPDATE MARCH 12: It appears this package is a mistake and was never intended to be sold to Royal Caribbean guests.

On Sunday morning, Royal Caribbean's social media channels shared updates with guests that the package was mistakenly offered.

Thanks to Michael Poole for providing this screenshot.


If you want to get an all-in-one add-on for your Royal Caribbean cruise that includes a bunch of extras, there's a new option for you.

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Royal Caribbean is now offering Premier Pass, which is a new priority access program.

Royal Caribbean's original add-on perks package, The Key, is still available, but Premier Pass offers a different set of amenities aimed at offering the, "newest and most innovative vacation package."

Purchasing Premier Pass gets you VIP access, internet access, and service amenities you might not otherwise get unless you stayed in a suite or had an upper echelon Crown and Anchor Society level.

Premier Pass logo

Here's what's included with the Premier Pass:

  • Welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation
  • Inside Access tour (two guests)
  • Officer's lunch (two guests)
  • Unlimited internet access (two devices)
  • Captain's toast and photo
  • Wine pairing with sommelier (two guests) - wine is complimentary
  • Laundry service (one bag per stateroom)

Basically, it's a way to board the ship faster and get VIP treatment at select events.

Premier Pass description

This new package includes some perks of The Key, but excludes priority activity access. Instead, it has more experiences and tours as part of its deal.

"Introducing Premier Pass, our newest and most innovative vacation package for 2 guests. It offers a series of unique cruise experiences to elevate your vacation to the next luxurious level. Purchase the Premier Pass before you sail and enjoy VIP access to the ship, including priority boarding. You’ll have a bottle of Veuve Clicquot waiting in your stateroom when you arrive - just our way of saying Welcome aboard.

Your pass includes our most popular Inside Access Tour where you’ll discover the inner workings of the ship from the bridge to the engine room. Your pass also includes a meal with one of the ship’s officers, complete with a photo of you and the captain.

During your sailing, you’ll savor an exclusive food and wine pairing. Keep in touch with unlimited internet access for two devices. Look your best in every port with personal laundry service on board."

Cruise Planner on an iPad

The new option is located under the "Packages" tab in the Cruise Planner, although I was only able to spot it for one of my upcoming cruises on Mariner of the Seas. RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bob Rogers spotted it for his Allure of the Seas cruise, so it's possible it's only available on select ships so far.

The cost of the Premier Pass is advertised for both of our sailings at $88.99 and it covers two guests.

How can I buy the package?

Premier Pass in Cruise Planner

You must purchase Premier Pass online before your cruise begins. 

After a cruise is booked, go to Royal Caribbean's site, log in to your account and click on "Cruise Planner." 

Why buy Premier Pass?

The appeal of any VIP package for a cruise is a way to enjoy added benefits without spending the money for a suite or having sufficient loyalty program points.

Buying Premier Pass gets you VIP benefits at a more affordable price, especially for new cruisers.

Stock VIP pass

In short, the Premier Pass is all about getting exclusive benefits, if you value them. It's a way to feel like a VIP on your cruise, especially on embarkation and disembarkation day.

Like The Key, it's not essential to have, but it's certainly a nice add-on for those that want something special and wouldn't otherwise have similar benefits.

How is Premier Pass different than The Key?

Key entrance

It appears thus far, The Key and Premier Pass will both be offered, as both options were available on sailings I was able to see Premier Pass listed.

Having not tried Premier Pass yet, it seems based on the description they are some benefits that are similar with most not.

First and foremost, one Premier Pass purchase is for two people, whereas The Key has a per-person price.

Additionally, The Key must be purchased prior to sailing by each guest age 6 or older assigned to the same stateroom. There is no such requirement of Premier Pass.

The Key is priced per night of the cruise, whereas Premier Pass is a fixed price for the entire voyage.

Both passes include Internet access for the duration of the cruise. Both will get you on the ship faster with priority embarkation, as well as priority disembarkation.

Beyond that, the list of benefits diverge from each other.

What's included with The Key

  • Priority access into the terminal (within booked arrival time) on Day 1.
  • Carry-on bag drop off and delivery to stateroom. Drop-off your carry-on bags in the Main Dining Room until 1:30pm.
  • Private time at onboard activities including Rock Climbing, FlowRider and more.
  • Priority departure at tender ports of call from ship-to-shore.
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille Lunch menu.
  • Seats in the exclusive VIP seating section at shows in the Main Theatre, Aqua Theater, Studio B and Two70 (reservation is needed).
  • VOOM ® Surf & Stream 1 Device high speed internet.
  • On debarkation day, enjoy an exclusive à la carte breakfast and choice departure.
water slides on Symphony

What's included with Premier Pass

  • Welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation
  • Inside Access tour (two guests)
  • Officer's lunch (two guests)
  • Unlimited internet access (two devices)
  • Captain's toast and photo
  • Wine pairing with sommelier (two guests) - wine is complimentary
  • Laundry service (one bag per stateroom)

Reserved times for shows and activities are at the heart of what The Key offers, whereas Premier Pass includes more experiences.

I learned how to surf on a weekend cruise. Here is my advice if you want to try it too

31 Jan 2023

On all of my cruises, one thing I have never made it around to was trying the FlowRider. While I’ve enjoyed watching others try it, I hadn’t taken the plunge for myself. I set out to find out if I could really learn to surf on a 3-night cruise.

Learn to surf on cruise ship

Royal Caribbean is known for many things, but one of the activities that they are known for the best, is the surf simulator better known as the FlowRider. The FlowRider has 30,000 gallons of rushing water, mimicking what it is like to surf on the ocean. I’ve seen boogie boarders struggle to stay on, so watching stand up surfers being able to stay up has always been impressive.

When I noticed that Royal Caribbean offers a FlowRider surf lesson for my upcoming 3-night Liberty of the Seas sailing, I decided to sign up and find out if it is possible to learn to surf in only 3 days. 

Prior to getting onboard, I had some nerves about attempting to try it.

As a previous spectator of the FlowRider, I’d been scared about falling and hurting myself, or not being able to actually stand up on the board, especially in front of a crowd of people watching.

While I couldn’t guarantee that those wouldn’t happen to me, I did take the one preventative measure I could, purchasing a rash guard and swim shorts to wear over my bathing suits to prevent any “wardrobe malfunctions”, which the force of the water has been known to cause. 

Trying out free sessions first

With my nerves in full force, I decided that I should head straight to the FlowRider after getting on board to get my feet wet, hoping to beat the long lines and spectator crowds.

The first session was a "Mixed Wave" session on embarkation day.

It turns out that they only allow you to try stand up surfing during their mixed wave sessions, which were offered only once a day.

On the third day, the other sessions offered were “Boogie Boarding” or “Advanced Standup Surfing” only. 

The first Mixed Wave session was at 3pm, so I made my way to the FlowRider for my first attempt.

Upon arriving I had to sign a lengthy waiver, which included many safety videos about how to properly fall to avoid injury. Once I finished signing those, I was given a blue wristband.

It turns out that everyone who wants to attempt to surf during open sessions is given a blue wristband. You’re then given 1 “turn”, consisting of 2 attempts to prove that you can stand up on your own.

If you pass, you’re given a white wristband and can continue surfing during both the Mixed Wave and Advanced Standup Surfing sessions. 

I had assumed that while I would be limited to my one turn at a time, that once I fell twice I would be able to get back in line and try again. They told me that they didn’t allow this due to trying to limit injuries from guests not being able to stand up and getting knocked over time and time again.

At that point I was glad that I had booked a lesson, as it was a dedicated hour for a small group to try as many times as you could. 

With it being the first day, the lines were very low with only 5 of us out there. Three of the other riders were very experienced, and even brought their own boards with them to ride on. I was the only one trying to stand up for the first time. 

When signing the waiver I saw that everyone has to prove that they can ride the boogie board before attempting to stand up, so when my turn was up I headed over to the boogie board. The staff told me to go out into the middle of the FlowRider on the board, and then come back to the sidelines.

I'm not sure what the thought process behind that was, but nevertheless after my 15 second ride, I was deemed worthy to try stand up surfing.

Years ago my husband had tried surfing, and the instructors held his arms to help get him out into the water, from which he was able to stay up for a while. I was expecting that they would do the same for me, but I learned that after the shut-down, they no longer could hold guests' arms to guide them out into the FlowRider.

This meant that once you got yourself onto the board, you had to bend over and bounce backwards into the rushing water, and then try to stand up and steady yourself.  

Of course, with this not being the lesson I booked, I also got very minimal instruction from the staff. They can’t be spending the whole open session training people how to stand up, with the typically long lines of people waiting to take their turn. I was hoping for some more tips and guidance, but they gave me the basics and sent me out on my way.

On my first attempt, I got knocked off my board in just a few seconds. I rode the waves up to the back and made my way back down for my second attempt.

Hoping that now I had a feel for the water I would be able to stay on longer and at least make it farther out into the waves.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and after around 10 shaky seconds I was knocked off for my second time. While walking to bring the board back to the front of the line, one of the instructors not-so-encouragingly told me to stick to boogie boarding. 

With my single turn being over, I couldn’t try again until the next mixed wave session which was the next day.

While I understand that they’re trying to limit injury, it was frustrating that the line was so small and I couldn’t keep trying until the session was over. This made me more nervous that I wouldn’t be able to learn to surf in just three days if I was only getting 1 turn per session. 

Trying again on day 2

On the second day, I woke up early to head out for another surfing session.

There were only three other people there for the session, and the instructors seemed a bit more relaxed and willing to offer me guidance, which I very much needed.

During my first attempt, I wiped out again after about 10 seconds.

Nicole learning to surf

Before starting my second attempt, I received even more instructions from not only the staff, but also other surfers who had mastered stand up surfing. With their tips, I was able to stand up and surf for 45 seconds on my own. 

Knowing that my single turn was over, I headed to dry off and watch the rest. The staff ended up letting me try for a second turn, citing that they were in a good mood that morning.

I took them up on it, and was able to again stand up for around 45 seconds on my next two attempts. This still wasn’t good enough for a white bracelet, so I had to wait until my lesson later that evening to ride again. 

Trying a private surfing lesson

At 8pm on the second day of the cruise, we headed back up to the FlowRider for my lesson, which was a group lesson. There were 7 of us total, with no one having tried to stand up before.

During the lesson we again had to prove that we could ride a boogie board, but this time they had us get up onto our knees on the board and navigate the board across the FlowRider.

This seemed much more useful than my boogie board test out earlier in the cruise, and truly gave us a feel for how the littlest of movements in your body can affect how your board turns. 

With that out of the way, it was time to try standing up again.

For the lesson, the instructors use a rope that both they and the rider hold onto while on the board. This imitates the holding onto each other's arms that they used to do during open sessions, and allowed them to help us out into the middle of the FlowRider.

Immediately I realized how much more efficient using the rope was was than trying to bend over and stand up while in the middle of the waves. 

The instructor that wasn’t holding the rope was on the sidelines giving us tips to stand up straight, open our chest, put our weight onto our back leg and more to keep us up.

We exclusively held the rope for our first two attempts, which were well over a minute each. On our third attempt, we were instructed to drop the rope once we got out to the middle, where it was time to put our lesson to the test. 

Our biggest pieces of training were:

  1. Put all of your weight in your back leg
  2. Stand up straight with your chest open
  3. The slightest shift in weight will dictate where your board goes

With the training behind me, I stayed out there and upright for almost two minutes.

I was able to focus on my form, and attempt to navigate back and forth across the area. I even got a spin in there, though it did ultimately cause me to fall off at the end.

I went out for my last attempt of the trip, and not only was able to stand up and stay on, but also was able to walk off on the side rather than falling off the board. 

With 7 people in the group, and the lesson being only an hour, we didn’t get as much time to ride as I would have hoped. However, even with the limited time, the instructors were able to help all 7 of us learn how to surf on the FlowRider. 

Does it hurt when you fall?

Falling on the FlowRider

If you're like me, you're worried about falling and how much it hurts when you lose your balance on the FlowRider and hit the pad.

I was pleasantly surprised at how cushy the pad was, and it had quite a bit of bounce to it, designed with falling in mind.

In the waiver and lesson, they stressed the importance of holding your head once you fall and riding the wave back up, to limit head injuries.

Though I didn't notice any pain in the moment, I did start to develop bruises on my elbows from falling on them. However, these were minor and I was anticipating much worse injuries. 

Can you really learn to surf on a cruise ship?

If the timing of the private lesson works for your schedule, it is the best way to learn how to stand up. Not only do you get the use of the rope, but you also get specific advice to help you. And of course, you get more than one turn during the lesson. 

While I’m not ready to go out and invest in my own board quite yet, and my bruises are still healing, I am happy to know that I was able to learn how to surf on a 3-night cruise.

Who knows, maybe you’ll catch me out there on my future cruises! 

Royal Caribbean added new cruise ship activities for Gen-Z cruisers and I tried them out

18 Jan 2023

Recently, Royal Caribbean soft launched their new Hyperlink Program onboard select vessels, and after reading some mixed reviews, I decided to see what the activities were all about while sailing on Symphony of the Seas.


Hyperlink targets guests between the ages of 18-25 and aims to bridge the gap between the Fuel teen club, which is limited to guests 12-17, and other more common adult activities where drinking is more present.

Since I'm only 23, I'm within the age range for this program, so I attended at least one Hyperlink activity everyday while on my cruise to see what I thought. 

I wanted to check out the activities and share with all of you my opinions on how well it all worked.

First impressions


On the very first night, there were two Hyperlink activities: a social gathering near the Solarium Bar, followed by a private table event at the Attic. 

Since I was on my first solo cruise, I was looking forward to the opportunity to get to know other guests around my age. 

When I arrived, the Hyperlink "promoter," who was dressed up in a suit and tie, greeted me and shook my hand. A small speaker playing some of today's hits provided good background noise, and everyone entered a raffle where names would be pulled at the very last event to win "a free cruise or keychain, but probably a keychain." 

There were about ten other attendees present already, so everyone restated their names and where they were from. This kept occurring throughout the event whenever other people would arrive. 

I did notice, however, that while we all said our ages when introducing ourselves, they were never checked by the promoter. In theory, someone who looks like they are between the ages of 18 and 25 could have shown up without question. 

Most of the guests at the social event were under 21, and those who were over the age of 21 arrived drink in hand and did not stay for long, especially those who were looking forward to continuing the gathering in the Attic. 

I ended up meeting a nice guy from Colorado who became my buddy for the week. In fact, we've been in contact since the cruise already! 

A large group of attendees stayed in the Solarium rather than heading down to the club event, myself included. It was nice to get to know everyone instead of heading to a venue where conversation would be minimal. 

Other events offered

Throughout the week, there was at least one Hyperlink event per day, all happening after 10:30pm.



The second night's activity was international beer trivia in On Air. It was supposed to begin at 11:30pm; however, it didn't start until closer to 11:45, and the same promoter was the host of the event. 

The room was packed, but once again, no ages were checked. The parents of the friend I made the night prior even stopped in for a little bit.

Additionally, everyone came in groups. If you showed up solo, I think it would've been hard to find a team to play with. There wasn't any real time to talk with others. 

I really didn't find this theme suitable for guests 18-20. Even though I am 23, I am not a beer drinker. In fact, I avoid it at all costs. 

Personally, I think it should have been something more universal, like music or movie trivia. 

In total, the event lasted twenty minutes, as it ended at 12:05am. I'm surprised at how well my new friend and I did; we got eight out of twelve correct, albeit many (if not most) were just great guesses. 

"Frat" games


The next night's event took place in the alcoves located in the forward of the ship off of the running track on deck five. 

I believe that both cup pong and flip cup were supposed to be played, but because of how popular the event was, there was barely enough time to let everyone play cup pong. 

The same friend and I made accompanied me to all the Hyperlink events the rest of the week, which made them more enjoyable, as there weren't any more "get to know each other" opportunities; everyone arrived in pairs or groups. 


At this point, I noticed a recurring theme: ages were not going to be checked. The promoter assigned teams without so much as asking a single person their age. 

The energy at this event was high: loud music was playing; people were screaming and yelling; and you could tell some had a few drinks prior to coming. 

Thus far, the events seemed to be more targeted towards passengers ages 21-25, rather than 18-25, as I felt like this event was not appropriate for the ship to be promoting for those under 21. 


Spotlight Karaoke

It was on this cruise I discovered how much I enjoy watching people sing karaoke. Prior to this trip, I usually skipped the karaoke events, as they were often very crowded, and it was difficult to find seating if you didn't arrive ahead of time. 

I was looking forward to the Hyperlink karaoke night because I figured it would be a smaller, more "exclusive" event! 

It turns out that they merged it with "adult" karaoke; however, ages were not checked at all. It was truly just another karaoke night with the only difference being that the same Hyperlink promoter was the host. 

Hyperlink was never even mentioned, and before every song, the promoter would say this was "for you, for me, [and] for everybody!" 

That being said, I really enjoyed myself! The promoter's energy carried the event, as it was evident that he was enjoying himself.

He was often seen dancing off to the side, and at one point, he even ran across the stage throwing tissues! It was quite entertaining. 

'70s club night


Just like the previous night, the event at Studio B's "RED" nightclub was merged with the overarching event. Technically, though, it was just a "meet up" that was scheduled to last thirty minutes. This time,  I never even saw the promoter. If he was there, he was buried in the sea of people on the dance floor. 

About fifteen minutes before it began, there was already a decent sized line. And because this was in a nightclub, all SeaPasses were scanned, so everyone was over 18.

It was nearly impossible to find anyone else who had been to other Hyperlink activities because of how crowded it was. 

Right at the beginning of the dance floor was a bar, and nearly every attendee visited it or carried in another drink. 

Game night


Game night had so much potential! It was slated to be held in the Card Room on deck 14, but when I arrived there were only a few people there; the promoter was nowhere to be found. 

A good age range showed up, too; two 23-year-olds, two 19-year-olds, and one 18-year-old, including myself and friend, were there and ready to play some card games. 

This event would have thrived with some enforcement, like setting up multiple game stations that were ready when people arrived. 

In reality, most people left within ten or fifteen minutes. 

Farewell event


The last activity was another meet up with a DJ, but this one was located in Dazzles.

The overall age of attendees was younger than the RED nightclub event, but that's probably because it was 12:00am, and everyone had to be off the ship in roughly nine hours. 

It was similar to the last clubbing experience, down to the fact that there was no promoter to be found, even though there was supposedly a raffle. 

Now, this could have actually happened, but since it was the last night and I had an early morning, I did not stay longer than fifteen minutes. 

Final thoughts on Hyperlink


The Hyperlink Program is a great idea, but it is lacking in execution.  

None of these activities truly seemed to bridge the gap for those who were between 18 and 20. Rather, they just encouraged drinking behavior (i.e., beer trivia, cup pong, nightclub events). 

Plus, I think that if events are going to be targeted towards a specific age group, there needs to be some method verification, and there should be staff present at every Hyperlink advertised activity. 

Perhaps, even, Royal Caribbean should focus solely on those 18 to 20, as anyone over 21 can partake in all events throughout the cruise ship and most likely are using the time to drink.

Not that I am a sports girl, but I know that exclusive sporting events would've been widely popular, but they were not offered on my sailing. 

All events that were offered were late at night, and sports could be a way to provide entertainment during the day as well-- I found myself struggling to stay awake every single night and would have loved a few events during the day. 

I think, too, that they should have more opportunities for social interaction and meeting new people throughout the week.

Like I said earlier, I am a huge fan of the idea of Hyperlink; I just hope that Royal Caribbean uses feedback from guests to continue improving it! 

Royal Caribbean experiments with new entertainment for younger Millennial guests

03 Jan 2023

If you're between the age of 18 and 25, there's now more activities for you to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship than before.

Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has quietly unveiled a new activities program aimed at an age group that has traditionally found itself on the periphery of things to do on a cruise ship.

The new activities are referred to as the Hyperlink program, and they aim to bridge cruise ship activities following the teen club age to the more common adult offerings.

Symphony of the Seas aft aerial

Speaking to travel agents on Wonder of the Seas last week, Royal Caribbean Director of Entertainment Activities & Media Operations, Ken Rush, talked briefly about the new option.

"We have been doing we've been doing a trial on the Symphony of the Seas of what we're calling the Hyperlink program, which is going to be a new program for the 18 to 25 year olds. So we're doing that right now and it's coming."

Since then, the program has been spotted in the Cruise Compass of other ships across the fleet, including Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.

It's not clear yet which ships offer it or not.

Addressing a need

Teen club on Wonder of the Seas in Social100

For many young adults on a cruise, they see a gap in programming that appeals to them once they are too old for the teen club.

Royal Caribbean limits the teen club to passengers 17 years and younger, which means anyone between the age of 18-20 is found in a middle ground of being too old for the teen club, but not old enough to drink.

Examples of events

Rock wall on Allure of the Seas

In looking through the Royal Caribbean app, we can see examples of the events the Hyperlink program includes.

Similar to the teen events, there are now special events listed that cater only to guests between the age of 18-25.

It appears the goal is to gather passengers of this age so they can meet and spend time together with the intention of fostering new friendships.

Just like other events, there's no pre-registration needed. Guests of this age can simply show up at the selected time and location.

Royal Caribbean's activities staff curate the event, just like other events onboard.

More for millennials

Symphony of the Seas pool deck

There are an estimated 80 million millennials in the United States, making them the largest generation currently.

The Hyperlink program is aimed at guests at the younger end of the spectrum, as the millennial generation spans anyone born between 1980 and 2000.

An estimated 32% of millennials have already taken a cruise in the last five years, and Millennials seem to like the idea that cruises are transportation and accommodation in one. The appeal of leaving your bags unpacked the entire trip has caught on, and cruise lines are highlighting this as they expand their offerings.

While millennials may not make up the majority of cruise passengers right now, getting them on board will become increasingly more important as they get older.

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.

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