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Royal Caribbean's online check-in requires a negative covid test before arriving to the cruise terminal

17 Feb 2021

Many aspects of the cruise experience are going to change, including the check-in process at the pier.

Between what has changed with Quantum of the Seas sailings in Singapore and comments from Royal Caribbean executives, we have known arriving at the cruise terminal was going to undergo significant changes to spread guests out and ensure everyone is healthy to board.

Royal Caribbean recently updated its online check-in process, and some guests who have cruises booked for May 2021 are seeing some of the changes listed.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Leroyr55 shared a screenshot of the check-in process that lists a few notable changes.

Wellness check

Guests arriving on embarkation day have always been asked some common questions about their health, but that process is now much more elaborate.

The wellness check is part of your pre-selected check-in time at the cruise terminal.

"We’re doing everything we can to ensure our ships sail with healthy guests and crew by implementing wellness checks for all guests."

Your arrival time is also when you take your pre-cruise wellness check.

What exactly the wellness check entails remains to be seen, but Royal Caribbean's cruise contract indicates it will likely include:

  • Providing an accurate, truthful and complete health questionnaire in a form
  • Pre-embarkation testing and temperature checks of each passenger

Read moreRoyal Caribbean adds COVID-19 into cruise contract for all passengers

Negative test required

Another major step is a negative covid test is required when you arrive to prove you have recently tested negative.

"We require all guests to complete SARS-CoV-2 (rtPCR) testing prior to sailing and bring the results to the pier prior to boarding."

Royal Caribbean committed to fully testing all passengers and crew in October 2020 (along with the entire cruise industry).

The check-in process does not indicate if the test taken before you arrive to the cruise terminal will be paid by the cruise line or by the guest, nor where they can get one done.

On-time arrivals

Another change is the check-in times matter.

Before the global health crisis, check-in times were never enforced, but now it appears that has changed.

"Your arrival time is also when you take your pre-cruise wellness check. Please plan to get to the terminal during that time window - not before or after - so you board smoothly."

You can get an arrival time by completing the online check-in before the cruise via Royal Caribbean's app.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean says its app is required when cruises restart

Should you use the porters to take your luggage on your cruise ship?

29 Sep 2020

When you arrive at the cruise terminal for the first day of your cruise, there are porters waiting to take your luggage so that it can be delivered to your stateroom on the ship.

Should you use their services, and if so, what is the "catch"?

They're there to make things easier

Porters are a convenience meant to simplify the process of getting your belongings on a cruise ship.

Think of porters like curbside luggage check-in at the airport.  You drive up to them, drop off all of your checked luggage and they lug the bags to be delivered to the ship.

There is no fee for their services, but a tip is customary for their services.  Usually $1-2 per bag is what most people pay.

You will give them anything you will not need for the first few hours after getting onboard.  Luggage gets delivered onboard the ship in the afternoon and early evening, once it gets scanned by security and delivered to the appropriate deck.

Be sure that each piece of luggage is tagged with luggage tags. If not, a porter can provide one on the spot.

What if you don't use a porter?

If you opt not to use a porter, you will have to take your luggage by yourself through the cruise terminal and onto the ship.

Keep in mind your luggage must be able to fit through the security x-ray machine in the cruise terminal, so if it cannot, you will have to send your luggage with the porters.

After the cruise is over

Upon disembarking your cruise ship on the last morning of your cruise, there will be porters available to help you with your luggage.

Just like on embarkation day, there is no fee to use their services, but tipping is expected.

Not only will porters make things easier on you on that final morning, but in many cruise ports, porters have their own line for getting through customs which can greatly speed up exiting the terminal.

Should you use a porter?

I always use porters on embarkation day or on disembarkation for the convenience they provide at very reasonable cost.

For $1-2 per bag, it is a bargain to have someone else lift and drag my bags around. 

Plus, I have found porters to be invaluable on the final day to get through customs faster. In some terminals there are special lines for them, and even when there is not, porters often shave time off by knowing where to go and when to expedite the process.

All too often I see some family with all of their bags dragging them through the ship, into the elevators, and stacking them on the pool deck or in the Windjammer while they wait for the room to be ready. 

In short, the low cost of having to tip is worth using them.

Helpful tips for using porters

  • Make sure your luggage tags are affixed to every piece of luggage before you get to the terminal.
  • If you run out of luggage tags (or forget them), porters can provide ones for you.
  • Luggage may not be delivered until the evening, so keep anything important with you (medicine, sunscreen, swimsuits, anything you need for dinner).
  • Keep a few small bills for porters for easy tipping.

The best spot for sailaway on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship

25 Sep 2020

When your Royal Caribbean cruise ship begins to sail away from port and your cruise actually begins, you will probably want to have the best spot to enjoy the view as your ship departs.

There is plenty going on during sailaway on a Royal Caribbean ship, and if you want to find my recommendation for the best spot to enjoy sailaway, here is a list of the top spot on every ship in the fleet.

Keep in mind that this is a very subjective list, as there is no way to qualitatively determine the superior spot. I have chosen some good places that should fit most people's needs, but keep in mind you should scout out your own spot ahead of sailaway and determine what you want in a sailaway spot.

Some people prefer there to be music and a party, ample beverages available, or perhaps the best view possible.

Top sailaway spots for every ship

Spectrum of the Seas: Bridge wings near Solarium, or anywhere on top deck

Symphony of the Seas: Bridge wings on deck 14

Ovation of the Seas: Bridge wings near Solarium, or anywhere on top deck

Harmony of the Seas: Bridge wings on deck 14

Anthem of the Seas: Bridge wings near Solarium, or anywhere on top deck

Quantum of the Seas: Bridge wings near Solarium, or anywhere on top deck

Allure of the Seas: Bridge wings on deck 14

Oasis of the Seas: Bridge wings on deck 14

Independence of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Liberty of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Freedom of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Jewel of the Seas: Helipad on deck 5

Serenade of the Seas: Helipad on deck 5

Mariner of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Brilliance of the Seas: Helipad on deck 5

Navigator of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Radiance of the Seas: Helipad on deck 5

Adventure of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Explorer of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Voyager of the Seas: Helipad on deck 4

Vision of the Seas: Solarium or anywhere on top deck

Enchantment of the Seas: Solarium or anywhere on top deck

Rhapsody of the Seas: Solarium or anywhere on top deck

Grandeur of the Seas: Solarium or anywhere on top deck

Majesty of the Seas: Viking Crown Lounge

Empress of the Seas: Anywhere on top deck

Other great spots for sailaway on any ship

Your balcony

If you are staying in a balcony or suite cabin, you have access to your own private spot to enjoy sailaway.

Having a balcony is a quieter experience than sailaway on other decks of the ship, and it allows you to see the scenery going by from the comfort of your balcony, or even from inside the room with the blinds open.

Families with young children may find sailaway from their balcony room a great choice, since the child can nap or play quietly while you still get to see everything going by.

Pool deck party

Weather permitting, there will be a party somewhere on the ship that coincides with sailaway. 

You can expect a DJ playing fun music and crew members leading everyone in dancing.  In addition, the nearby bars are open and waiters taking drink orders as well.

The sailaway party is usually a safe bet if you are new to cruising, or looking for where to go where most others will congregate.


If you are looking for an alternative way to enjoy sailaway, how about from the massage table at the Vitality Spa?

The spa is open on embarkation day, and some of the best deals are offered to anyone who wants to book a treatment on the first day of the cruise, especially during sailaway. Since there are less people willing to skip sailaway, the deals can be quite lucrative.

Plus, getting a massage is a fun and relaxing way to kick off your cruise vacation.

What is your favorite sailaway spot?

Which sailaway spot do you love to go to? Share the ship and place you love to go for sailaway in the comments!

Video: Royal Caribbean boarding day tips

12 Mar 2020

The first day of your cruise is such an awesome feeling, and I have some great tips for making it as super smooth as possible.

There is a lot happening on boarding day, so to ensure you avoid any hiccups, I have some basics for keeping things trouble-free.

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 best tip for having a great first day onboard?

How early can I board my Royal Caribbean cruise?

12 Feb 2020

The day your cruise begins is full of excitement, and naturally, you may be wondering what time you can board the ship.

Many guests are curious how early they can board a Royal Caribbean ship on embarkation day, so here is a guide for what to expect.

In the weeks leading up to your cruise, be sure to complete online check-in. Check-in opens up 45 days before your cruise begins.

Depending on when you go to select a time, there will be variety of 30 minute windows for you to choose from.

You'll want to do this as early as you can in order to get an early check-in time and avoid wasting time in the cruise terminal.

If you do not complete check-in online, you will be required to complete this process at the pier at least two hours prior to the published sailing time. 

When you complete online check-in, you will be assigned a check-in time.  Since 2021, Royal Caribbean has mostly been enforcing check-in times, so it's important to get a good time as early as you can,

Can I show up earlier than my check-in time?

Royal Caribbean asks its guests to arrive within their check-in window to avoid crowding in the terminal.

Most cruise terminals enforce the boarding times, but occasionally you find situations where a particular pier agent doesn't pay attention to the check-in time or say anything about it.

While frustrating to not have the rules enforced across the board, we still recommend adhering to the check-in time window to avoid any possible denial of boarding until later.

What if I'm late and miss my check-in time?

While showing up early can be a problem, coming in later is not as much of a concern.

Try your best to adhere to the check-in time, but they will still admit you for check-in if you were to arrive later. Royal Caribbean warns there could be a delay in beginning the check-in procedure if you're late, but you will still be able to get to the cruise.

I only see check-in times later than I want. Will earlier times be added?

Possibly, but not likely.

If someone cancels their cruise, their check-in time goes back into the system for someone else to grab. There's no way to know that's happened without checking manually.

As for Royal Caribbean opening up additional earlier times, it's not usually the case.

Should I get The Key for an earlier check-in?

The Key is an optional add-on you can purchase to get VIP benefits, including an early check-in time.

Usually, guests who book The Key are allowed to check-in with the first group (an exact time will be emailed later).

There are two problems with buying The Key for an early check-in.

First, if you miss The Key check-in window, you have to fall back to whatever time you had before. 

Second, you're spending extra money for a benefit that is not cheap. You'll need to buy The Key for every guest in the cabin (age 6 and above) for every night of the cruise. That seems like a lot to save an hour or two on embarkation day.

Read moreHere’s what ‘The Key’ is (and why some cruisers like it)

What time can I check-in for my cruise if I'm staying in a suite?

Suite guests still need to get a check-in time for their sailing, but usually they will be give more flexibility in their times.

About a week before the cruise, the Suite Concierge will email suite guests with an introduction and outline basic suite policies, including a flexible arrival policy, where suite guests can arrive one hour before or after their check-in time.

When you get the terminal, be sure to tell the pier agent you are staying in a suite so you can be directed to the right place.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Embarkation Day tips & advice

29 Jan 2020

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The first day of your cruise is filled with excitement, plenty of anticipation and lots to see and do.  This week, Matt offers advice on how to tackle your first day onboard with important do's and don'ts.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

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How Royal Caribbean will make check-in, Adventure Ocean and its app easier & faster

27 Nov 2019

Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being a leader in a variety of areas, including integrating technology to make the guest experience easier.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. SVP Digital Experience Jay Schneider has been at the helm of Royal Caribbean's next-gen tech, known as Project Excalibur, for three years and shared the plans, challenges, and successes the company has with leveraging technology.

The origins of Project Excalibur

All good stories have a beginning, and Project Excalibur began with a simple task from the very top of Royal Caribbean.

"Project Excalibur started as a result of really a passion from Richard (Fain); Seeing what was happening elsewhere, both across the industry, travel and hospitality overall, and just frankly, the planet. With more and more Millennials sailing with us, with more and more digitally enabled consumers at all ages, it really became an opportunity for us to step back and look at how do we transform our company through the use of technology."

"It really became an opportunity for us to step back and look at how do we transform our company through the use of technology."

"It wasn't really an idea of what it exactly meant, but the goal was to unpacking how to digitize everything. Digitize the things that we could remove the hassles from guests, put them on vacation faster, pull friction out of the experience."

"We see friction in a number of different ways; It's interacting with the Cruise Planner website, it's doing your check-in process... Friction can be digital, it can be physical. There's real friction: your key doesn't work, you'll have to go Guest Services. Sitting through muster is friction. Not being able to get into your room is friction. Not wanting to have to wait in line for a cocktail, or have to run down to Sorrentos, is friction."

App development isn't easy

Like all software development, creating a brand new Royal Caribbean app that sought to simplify the cruise experience for guests is not an overnight task. Moreover, developing an app to work on a cruise ship comes with its own set of challenges.

"Everything you expected on land, is designed for you to be on land. Your phone wakes up through a push notification, because you're connected to the cloud somewhere, whether through WiFi or cellular. There are so many ways where technology on land is easier."

"The problem is we also operate 50 data centers at sea that have to work in a redundant way, and so if you think about that, our challenge is to figure out how, you, the consumer can work with us when you're on land and then when the guest is onboard, how everything is localized."

How close are we to chat across the fleet

One of the most-requested features for Royal Caribbean to offer is a guest-to-guest chat communication feature. Royal Caribbean has been testing a chat function in its app on Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas for months, so we asked Mr. Schneider when chat will roll out to the entire fleet.

"One of the things we've gotten complaints for, is the pace of our evolution. In fact, the number one reason people rate us poorly in the app store is, 'You're not on my ship.' That's deliberate. We want to make sure that the technology we put onboard every ship works flawlessly, and chat isn't there yet."

"We know people want chat. We know it's the number one feature they ask for, and it's something we're trying to rush to the market."

"I hope in early 2020, we will be able to light chat up on every ship that has the app. I think we're a couple months away of final testing."

"You asked the question around why it's hard to put technology on a ship, chat is the hardest. There is a number of ways Apple, and even Google on an Android platform, expect you to operate that doesn't exist at sea in the ocean."

"We know people want chat. We know it's the number one feature they ask for, and it's something we're trying to rush to the market."

How to make embarkation super smooth

We asked Mr. Schneider how his team's work is making embarkation as easy as possible, and he shared a few easy tasks anyone can do to take advantage of the cruise line's expedited arrival process.

1. Create a guest account with Royal Caribbean before the cruise.

2. Download the Royal Caribbean app from either the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

3. Begin check-in and make sure you do a few steps:

a. Fill out all the questions in the short form provided.
b. Scan your passport with the app (do not manually enter the passport information).
c. Take a security selfie photo. Make sure you do not have a hat on or sunglasses, and have as muted a background as possible.

Adventure Ocean: A new challenge

On Oasis of the Seas, the Project Excalibur team faced a brand new challenge: Adventure Ocean kids programming.

"The reboot of Adventure Ocean on Oasis is amazing...We wanted to bring technology to the experience that was contextual for each of the different age ranges that we serve."

"We wanted canvases that we could continue to tell amazing creative on, and digital gives us the ability to do that."

"You'll see technology that we've partnered with companies and bought. You'll see custom content that we've created. We wanted canvases that we could continue to tell amazing creative on, and digital gives us the ability to do that."

"I think one of the game changers is kids registration, instead of filling paper out for parents. Parents no longer have to fill paper out, it's tap your SeaPass card, we know who you are; tell us what we need to know about your kid and go on.  Eventually that'll be available pre-arrival in the app, so you could just do it pre-arrival and not even hassle onboard."

"For kids, there's games they've never played before, stories they haven't come through yet, really ways to entertain them that we haven't put on ships yet, that I think is going to be awesome."

Video: Mistakes to avoid on the first day of your cruise

26 Sep 2019

The first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise should be the start of an amazing vacation, so be sure to avoid these common embarkation day mistakes!

Before you set foot on that cruise ship you have been dreaming about for months, you will want to skip any of these gaffes for a great beginning to your cruise.

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 is an embarkation day mistake you always avoid?

Royal Caribbean offering guest expedited arrival options to speed up check-in process

12 Mar 2019

Royal Caribbean is now offering an expedited arrival option on about a half dozen of its ships that aim to get guests onboard quicker than ever.

With expedited arrival, available for select ships and terminals, guests can go from sidewalk to ship faster and easier than ever. All it takes is three simple steps:

Step One: Download and check-in via the Royal Caribbean International app to obtain their mobile SetSail Pass. 

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Step Two: If eligible for Expedited Arrival (indicated on their mobile SetSail Pass), follow the Expedited Arrival signs at the terminal to pass through accelerated checkpoints.

Step Three: Skip the check-in desk, scan their SetSail Pass at the gangway, and board the ship!

Expedited Arrival is currently available when embarking the following ships at these terminals:

PortMiami (Terminal A)

  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas

Port Everglades (Terminal 18)

  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas

Port Canaveral (CT1)

  • Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - What to pack in your carry-on bag

17 Oct 2018

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What you pack in your carry-on for the first day of your cruise can sometimes be the difference between a great start to your cruise and a not-so-great start.  In the hours before your luggage is delivered to your stateroom, you will need to plan what you want to have with you, contrasted with what you are willing to carry around until that time.  To get your cruise started off on the right foot, I’ve come up with my list of the most important things to pack for your upcoming cruise to avoid any embarkation day woes. 

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