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Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Advice for anyone new to Royal Caribbean

In:
06 Apr 2022

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Matt shares advice for anyone that's new to cruising or just Royal Caribbean and how to get started.

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What's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

In:
01 Mar 2022

If you’re going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you might be wondering what aspects of the cruise experience are included in the cruise fare.  There are a lot of components to any cruise vacation and it can seem overwhelming to distinguish between what is and is not included in the base fare.

Royal Caribbean includes a lot of activities, food, entertainment, and destinations in your cruise fare. When you consider all that the base fare includes, a cruise can be a fantastic vacation value.

Over the years, though, Royal Caribbean realized some of its guests prefer to add extras on to their core cruise experience. As a result, Royal Caribbean created cruise add-ons like specialty dining packages, drink packages, fitness classes, and more. These add-ons come at an extra fee on top of the cruise fare.

It can be helpful to have an idea of what is and is not included in your Royal Caribbean cruise to make your time at sea and in port stress-free. Here’s a breakdown of what is and is not included in your cruise fare.

Accommodations

Accommodations are included in your cruise fare, with a stateroom exclusively for your use. 

Depending on which type of stateroom you book, the exact size, amenities and layout of the room will vary.  But at the very least, your cruise fare includes your own private room and bathroom.

In general, staterooms can accommodate between one and four guests, with two guests per room being the most common option.

Gratuities

Guests sailing on Royal Caribbean have two choices when it comes to gratuities for service-oriented crew onboard. They may elect to prepay gratuities prior to the cruise, or have gratuities automatically charged on a daily basis to their SeaPass account. Cruise fares in some countries, such as Australia, include the gratuities with your cruise fare.

As of March 3, 2022, guests will pay a $14.50 per guest, per day service charge. For guests in a Grand Suite or above, the amount is $17.50 per guest, per day.

Purchases and services rendered onboard a Royal Caribbean ship will have gratuities added at the time of purchase.  If you buy a drink, get a massage at the spa, or eat at a specialty restaurant, you will be charged an 18% gratuity automatically.  Your receipt will display the cost breakdown.

Drink packages and specialty dining packages will be charged an automatic gratuity upon purchase of the package, which means no additional gratuity is required when taking advantage of the package benefits (i.e. ordering a drink at a bar with a drink package).

In addition to the gratuities listed earlier, there are opportunities to give crew members an additional tip for excellent service.  Even crew members who receive an automatic gratuity can receive additional gratuities if you feel it is warranted.

Meals & Snacks

All Royal Caribbean cruise fares include most meals and snacks onboard your ship and at any private destination you visit (such as Labadee or CocoCay).  This means there will be ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks without additional cost.

The exact venues included with your cruise fare will depend on the ship you sail on, but here are some venues found on nearly every Royal Caribbean ship:

  • Main Dining Room, the hub of dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It is open for breakfast and dinner every day, and for lunch on sea days.
  • Windjammer buffet, Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet featuring a wide assortment of cuisines, dishes, and flavors. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
  • Solarium Bistro, a Mediterranean-style restaurant open for breakfast and dinner on Oasis and Quantum Class ships
  • Grab and go spots for food, such as Cafe Promenade, El Loco Fresh, Sorrento's Pizza, Boardwalk Dog House, Park Cafe, Cafe @ Two70, etc. These are casual venues with quick service meals, and the selection of grab and go venues changes by ship.
  • Johnny Rockets (for breakfast on Oasis Class ships only)

There is an extensive amount of complimentary dining options on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It’s easy to go an entire cruise by eating at only the restaurants included in your cruise fare. Plus, Royal Caribbean maintains excellent food quality in all of its dining venues, complimentary or specialty.

You may find a few extra cost items on the Main Dining Room menu, such as a filet or lobster.  These items are available for free on cruise ship formal nights during your cruise, but come at an extra cost on other nights.

Royal Caribbean offers its guests pizza at some of its restaurants and buffets, as well as at Sorrento’s on the larger ships. Pizza at these locations is included in your cruise fare.

Soft serve ice cream can be found near the pool deck and is in operation for most of the day. The Windjammer and Main Dining Room also offer their own selection of hand-scooped ice cream.  Some Royal Caribbean ships offer Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which has an additional cost.

In addition to complimentary dining, Royal Caribbean offers specialty restaurants which come at an extra cost. Specialty restaurants follow either a cover charge or a la carte pricing model.

Here is a list of the specialty restaurants in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.  Specialty restaurants vary per ship, with some smaller ships offering 2-3 specialty venues and large ships offering up to 7 or 8 different restaurants.

  • Johnny Rockets, Americana fare with burgers, fries, and milkshakes
  • Chops Grille, the classic Royal Caribbean steakhouse
  • Giovanni's Table, a traditional Italian restaurant
  • Sabor, a Mexican-style restaurant with a tequila bar and build-your-own tacos
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, a Japanese teppanyaki and sushi restaurant
  • Jamie's Italian, a modern take at Italian cuisine
  • Samba Grill, an all-you-can-eat-meat Brazilian rodizio
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, modern Italian cuisine featuring a pizza and pasta menu
  • Wonderland, a unique, molecular dining experience themed by the tales of Alice and Wonderland
  • Portside BBQ, with a selection of barbecued meats and comfort food like mac and cheese, cornbread, and baked beans
  • Chef's Table, a 6-course tasting menu where each course is paired with a different type of wine
  • 150 Central Park, an elegant venue focused on locally-sourced ingredients
  • Hooked Seafood, a seafood restaurant with oysters, fish sandwiches, lobster rolls, and more
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, a sports bar with standard bar food including nachos, burgers, and chicken wings
  • The Mason Jar, a southern style restaurant with separate brunch and dinner menus

Specialty restaurants offer cuisine options not otherwise available onboard your ship, as well as an opportunity to indulge in meals that you may prefer to enjoy at your own pace. 

In addition, the ambiance is usually enhanced at these locations and the prices charged are not exorbitant. Even though Royal Caribbean’s complimentary dining options are very good, specialty restaurants can be a great way to enhance or splurge on your cruise. Dining at specialty restaurants can also be a nice way to celebrate a special occasion.

Drinks

Royal Caribbean provides a selection of beverages included in your cruise fare.  These drinks are available at any time, and include tap water, tea, coffee, lemonade, iced tea, milk, juices (not fresh squeezed), and hot chocolate.

These drinks are available at a number of locations onboard, such as Cafe Promenade and the Windjammer. Water can be found at any bar onboard as well, and it’s safe to drink the tap water onboard, as it is of high quality.

Alternatively, if you want beverages like alcohol, soda, fresh juices, mocktails, specialty coffee drinks, milkshakes, canned water, and Starbucks, you can purchase them for an additional cost during the cruise.

You can purchase each drink individually or purchase a Royal Caribbean beverage package. There are several types of beverage packages available. A Deluxe Beverage Package gives unlimited access to alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty beverages. A refreshment package includes all beverages without alcohol, and a soda package includes only soda onboard.

Royal Caribbean does allow its guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom with them onboard a ship.  It must be brought onboard on embarkation day, and is subject to a corkage fee if opened in a public venue.

Room service

Room service on Royal Caribbean is available 24 hours per day, but there is a $7.95 fee per order, per room. As the fee is per room and not per person or per item, you can order as much as you like off the menu and only incur a $7.95 charge.

The continental breakfast option is complimentary and does not have an order fee. Continental breakfast includes items such as toast, yogurt, fruit, coffee, and oatmeal.

Child programming and care

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean offers complimentary programming to children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old.  From when Adventure Ocean opens each day until 10pm, there is no additional cost. From 10pm to 2am, Adventure Ocean incurs an hourly cost.

While in Adventure Ocean, kids take part in activities led by the staff. There's a lot for kids to do at Adventure Ocean and the programming is specialized for each age group. It's a mix of learning, play time and socializing.

Select ships have science lab and craft workshop rooms within Adventure Ocean, where kids can participate in staff-led scientific experiments and crafts.

Teens aged 12-17 onboard have access to a complimentary teen club and hangout area.

Children between the ages of 6 months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies & Tots program. Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge.

Some ships often have an open play area set up during the day, where parents can bring toddlers to play. This is unsupervised play time and the parents must remain present.

Activities and Shows

A vast majority of cruise activities are included with your cruise fare.  Your daily Cruise Compass or the Royal Caribbean app will list a schedule of activities offered onboard, and most have no charge. 

Performances in the Royal Theater, as well as the AquaTheater, Two70, and Studio B are included in your cruise fare. Likewise, comedy shows, magic shows, live music, audience participation shows and more are included as well. Even the Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean ships are included in the price of your cruise.

There will be shows each evening, along with additional performances during the day on sea days. Live music is also included in your cruise fare, which comes in many genres and is offered throughout the day at multiple locations onboard.

Other activities like pool games, movies, trivia, dance classes, and scavenger hunts are regularly offered on Royal Caribbean and have no additional charge.

There are some activities offered that have an additional fee, such as some fitness classes, bingo, casino activities, drink seminars, spa services and more.

Signature activities and games

Royal Caribbean offers fun and unique signature activities onboard its cruise ships, the majority of which are included in your cruise fare.  If you watch any Royal Caribbean cruise commercial, you will inevitably see people tackling the FlowRider, rock climbing wall, skydiving simulator, and more.

Signature activities included in your cruise fare include the FlowRider, rock climbing wall, mini golf, waterslides, zipline, the Ultimate Abyss, sports court, SeaPlex, bumper cars, aqua parks (H20 Zone and Splashaway Bay), and ice skating.

RipCord by iFLY, the skydiving simulator found on Quantum Class ships, has both complimentary and extra cost options available. Complimentary time slots often get reserved quickly, so it’s important to reserve a time slot in the Royal Caribbean app as soon as you get onboard the ship.

Also on Quantum Class ships is the North Star observation pod. This activity is complimentary on port days and comes with an extra cost when the ship is at sea.

Fitness and Spa

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a fitness center that offers cardio and weight lifting machines, free weights, and more for no additional cost. Some, but not all fitness classes are included in your cruise fare, such as stretching and ab workouts.

Each Royal Caribbean ship also has a jogging track, which is available to use throughout the day at no additional cost.

The sports court (referred to as the SeaPlex on Quantum Class ships) also offers complimentary use of its facilities, with organized sport games held throughout the sailing.

Outside of the select few fitness classes included in your cruise fare, the fitness center offers extra fee classes for yoga, spinning, pilates, and more. The fitness center also offers personalized training and consultations for an additional fee.

The spa is not included in your cruise fare, and spa treatments, salon services, and day passes all come with an additional cost.

Some Royal Caribbean ships have a sauna, hot tub and/or steam room available for no additional cost. Others have a thermal spa for which you can purchase a pass.

Tours of the spa are available at any time during your cruise and have no additional cost or obligation. In fact, these tours are a great way to learn about what the spa offers.

Pool and sun decks

Access to Royal Caribbean's pools are included in your cruise fare, including the lounge chairs, hot tubs, water slides, aqua parks and more. The Solarium area has no additional cost, but is limited to adults only.

Some areas of the pool deck are reserved for suite guests only.  If you are a suite guest (Grand Suite and above), you will have complimentary access to these areas.  Depending on the ship, the suites-only area can be a small section of reserved lounge chairs or an entire deck area.

Wonder of the Seas has an entire Suite Neighborhood dedicated for suite guests with its own pool, bar, outdoor hangout area, lounge, and restaurant.

Miscellaneous services

The following services and activities onboard are also not included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare:

  • Gambling (Including Bingo)
  • Art Auction
  • Any purchases made in the gift shops onboard
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs
  • Video Arcade
  • Medical Services
  • Internet Access
  • Transfers (Unless guest has purchased our air/sea package)
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Ship to Shore Telephone calls

Back-to-back cruises tips and advice

In:
17 Dec 2021

Going on a back-to-back cruise means doing more than one cruise on the same cruise ship, and it's a popular way for passengers to extend their vacation fun beyond any published itinerary.

If you have ever gotten to the end of a trip and thought to yourself, "wouldn't it be nice to stay longer?", then a back-to-back cruise might be exactly what you want.

Many veteran cruisers will do multiple cruises in a row as a way to spend more time on a ship. Doing a back-to-back cruise comes with its own set of nuances and procedures that may give someone trying it for the first time a little bit of concern.

The good news is a back-to-back cruise is as fun as it sounds, and a very smooth process. Here's what you need to know about it all.

What is a back-to-back cruise?

When someone says they are doing a back-to-back cruise, it means they are doing multiple cruises in a row on the same ship.

Rather than get off the ship at the end of the cruise, they are remaining onboard for another sailing.  

Royal Caribbean refers to such guests "Consecutive Cruisers".

A similar concept is when someone goes on a sailing on one ship and then disembarks to board a different ship right after. That is known as a "side-to-side" cruise.

Why would you want to do a back-to-back cruise?

There are many reasons to consider doing more than one cruise in a row. The most obvious is to prolong your vacation, but there are other rationales as well.

Back to back cruises can allow you to maximize the value of your airfare. Rather than fly down for a 3-night cruise, doing a back-to-back means you get more time on the ship to justify the airline price.

In addition, doing a back-to-back cruise can expand the ports you visit. It is not uncommon for a ship to sail one itinerary and then follow it up with a different itinerary. In the Caribbean, ships often alternative between Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries. A back-to-back allows you to do both.

Speaking of itineraries, it also has an advantage if you are considering an open-jaw sailing.  In Alaska, some sailings begin in one port and end in another. By doing a back-to-back, you can avoid having to deal with flying to and from different cities.

How does a back-to-back cruise work?

The procedure for a back-to-back cruise is usually the same for most passengers.

Once on board the first cruise it's always a good idea to stop by Guest Services and ensure they have you on the list as a consecutive cruiser, otherwise they expect you to leave like a regular guest at the end of the first cruise.

Towards the end of the first sailing, passengers staying onboard for the next sailing will receive a letter in their stateroom on what to do on turnaround day.

Royal Caribbean pushes back final payment for cruises departing through January 2022 | Royal Caribbean Blog

In most cases, the letter instructs the passenger to report to a venue at a specific time.

When they arrive, a crew member will take their name and stateroom and sign them in.  Once all the other passengers are off the ship, guests staying onboard are escorted to the gangway where they scan their old SeaPass card and then are given new SeaPass cards to scan to begin the next sailing.

In the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) dictates the process for consecutive cruisers.  More often than not they will require all guests disembark so that the ship reaches "zero count" before they allow guests for the next sailing to begin boarding. 

In some ports, consecutive cruisers are sometimes walked off the ship and into the terminal before returning onboard.  In either case, back-to-back cruisers are the last passengers off the ship and the first ones back onboard.

Sometimes consecutive cruisers are offered a special lunch or sometimes they are offered sparkling wine and mimosas upon reboarding.  This varies from ship to ship. 

How do I book a back-to-back cruise?

There are no specific back-to-back cruises to book; you simply book two cruises that happen to be one right after the other.

You book them as two separate cruises.  It's on you or your travel agent to find cabins that meet your needs.  

Royal Caribbean updates cruise booking website with cleaner design | Royal Caribbean Blog

A good idea is to use two web browsers so you can do searches for cabins on two different dates at the same time. Find two dates and looking at each in a different browser to find cabins that are the same... or better yet, ask a travel agent to look for you

You can always book another cruise later on and turn it into a back-to-back, but you are less likely to find the same cabin.

Can I book the same stateroom for both sailings?

7 things you should know about your cruise ship cabin | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you booked the same stateroom, yes.  Ultimately, it is up to you to book the same room.

The most desirable back-to-back sailing often means booking the same cabin for both cruises.  There is no check box for this when searching for cruise, it's up to you or your travel agent to find a cabin that is available to book for both cruises.  This is easier to do when booking cruises that are far in the future.  

When booking the cruises closer to sail date, it's often difficult or impossible to book the same cabin for both cruises.  The cruise line offers no assistance in this effort and they will not ask someone to change cabins so that you can stay on for the next cruise.

The advantage of having the same cabin for both sailings is you can leave your belongings in the cabin between cruises and even access your cabin while other rooms are being changed.

If I change cabins, how does my luggage move?

Cruise FAQ: Cabins | Royal Caribbean Blog

This is a bit of gray area, but usually your stateroom attendant will assist in the moving of luggage from one cabin to another.

Talk to your stateroom attendant towards the end of the first sailing about how to best move your belongings. Some attendants will offer to move everything for you, and some will instruct you to leave your bags outside the room to be moved.

To be perfectly honest, I always tip the stateroom attendant first for a job well done, and then ask about how to best move my luggage for the next sailing.

Is there a discount for back-to-back cruises?

Oasis of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan | Royal Caribbean Blog

Generally there is no discount for doing multiple cruises in a row.

Royal Caribbean does not recognize a back-to-back cruise as anything but two separate reservations that just happen to be right after each other.

In some situations, there has been a discount offered for passengers to stay onboard for another sailing by booking the next sailing at the NextCruise office. This tends to be rare, and not something to count on being offered.

Do I need to do the muster drill for each sailing on a back-to-back?

Yes, maritime law requires all passengers to conduct the mandatory safety drill on a cruise, regardless of if you did it last week or not.

While you are doing consecutive cruises, each cruise is a separate sailing, and the Coast Guard makes no distinction between someone going on more than one sailing and someone on for just one cruise.

Are there any restrictions on back-to-back cruises due to Covid-19?

Live Blogging from Adventure of the Seas - Preamble | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean welcomes guests to do as many back-to-back cruises as they as they wish, including kids of any vaccination status. 

There was a restriction on unvaccinated kids doing back-to-back cruises on the first sailings to return in 2021, but that has since changed.

The travel requirements and health protocols are the same as a single cruise, and back-to-back cruisers will need to meet all those requirements.

All guests 2 years of age and older, regardless of vaccination status, are required to take a COVID-19 test producing negative results between each sailing. This test will be arranged by Royal Caribbean at no expense to the guest, as long as your consecutive cruises are less than 3 days apart. 

Packing for a back-to-back cruise

Something easily overlooked when planning to do more than one cruise in a row is laundry. You'll need to pack wisely when your overall journey is longer.  

Some items can be repeated such as formal wear for both cruises.  Some items, like bathing suits, can be rinsed and hung to dry so they work for both cruises. 

Sometimes you just need to bring more clothes and more suitcases to last for both cruises, or just plan to pay for laundry services on board.  Royal Caribbean offers "wash and fold" specials that are not cheap, but not overly expensive either.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Mistakes passengers make on disembarkation day

In:
15 Dec 2021

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Getting off a cruise ship is different from checking out from a hotel, and there are some good tips for having a smooth process getting off the ship.

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From a former cruise kid: Why you should go on a cruise ship with your kids

In:
18 Oct 2021

From unlimited ice cream on the pool deck to the teen clubs and lucrative loyalty perks, there are plenty of reasons to bring your kids on your next Royal Caribbean cruise. 

As a former cruise kid myself, I am a huge advocate for cruising as a family. The fun is endless onboard for kids, and the quality family time can’t be matched. Also, adding a 3rd or 4th person to a reservation is usually heavily discounted, making it very affordable to cruise as a family.  

While there’s certainly a time and place for childless vacations, taking your kids on a cruise can have a lasting impact on their lives. 

Lifetime Crown & Anchor Status

7 things Royal Caribbean veterans always do (and you should too) | Royal Caribbean Blog

One of the biggest reasons I would encourage you to take your kids on a cruise is to take advantage of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor program. This is a lifetime loyalty program that can have huge benefits for your kids down the road. 

When we started to cruise with Royal Caribbean in 2006, my sister and I inherited our parents’ Gold Crown and Anchor status. Taking a family cruise became a yearly tradition for us, one that I eagerly looked forward to each year. My sister and I continued to earn loyalty points for each night at sea, allowing us to slowly work our way through each tier. 

Once we turned 18, we each retained our earned Diamond status. Effectively, we earned this through a combination of inheriting points from our parents and continuing to cruise as a family. 

We still loved to cruise even as my sister and I went to college, which allowed us to earn Diamond+ status in our early 20s. This is something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives!

My Diamond Plus status also transferred to my husband after we got married in 2018. With one phone call to Royal Caribbean, they joined our accounts together.

Moving forward, our C&A points are tied; so even if we cruise without the other, our statuses will always be the same. This has been a huge benefit for us, as the Diamond+ drink vouchers alone save us $800 on a 7 day cruise!

Similar to my experience, I believe our future children would also inherit our Diamond Plus status, creating 3 generations of Crown and Anchor loyalty with Royal Caribbean.

Make Lifelong Friends

Aside from loyalty perks, Royal Caribbean truly creates an awesome environment for kids of all ages. Onboard activities are plentiful, from insane waterslides to ship-wide scavenger hunts. 

There is also a unique opportunity to meet other kids through the Teen Program and Adventure Ocean. This program is an excellent resource to keep your kids entertained throughout your cruise.

As a young cruiser, Royal Caribbean’s Teen Program totally transformed cruising for me. I made friends from all over the world, which was such a unique experience to have as a teenager. I would spend the day with my family and then meet up with my new friends after dinner. On the sea days, we would spend the whole day exploring the ship and having the best time. 

More than 12 years later, I still keep in touch with friends that I met through the teen program. Luckily, social media makes it easy to stay connected through all these years. I’ve actually met up with one friend multiple times since we first met onboard the Explorer of the Seas in 2008. 

Exposure to New Foods and Experiences

Cruising as a kid also offers the opportunity to try many new foods and experiences. 

My parents would encourage us to try something new each night at dinner. In fact, this was the first time I tried caesar salads and steak! My parents emphasized that I could always order something different if I didn’t like what I tried. My sister, who was notoriously picky, expanded her palette immensely because of cruising. 

At a young age, I also started to develop a worldly perspective by experiencing different cultures. We were exposed to so much at a young age by visiting different ports of call. 

Locals and tour guides in each of the ports were always excited to share their culture with us. My parents loved to chat with our wait staff each night at dinner, asking about their families and home countries. I didn’t really experience this type of diversity back home in South Dakota. 

In high school, we started to take cruises with more interesting itineraries. We found that cruising around Europe was a great way to visit numerous new countries without worrying about logistics. Not only did we have really cool experiences in the ports, but we also met so many nice cruisers from all over the world onboard.   

A Lasting Impact 

Cruising played an instrumental role throughout my childhood and into my adult life. I have no doubt that cruising at a young age instilled within me a deep appreciation for travel.

My love for being at sea has followed me through life. In college, I jumped at the opportunity to study abroad by enrolling in a program called Semester at Sea. I spent 105 days traveling the world on a ship, visiting 12 countries and 4 continents. We took classes during sea days and spent 4-6 days in each port. To this day, it’s been the most rewarding and extraordinary experience of my life. 

Some of my biggest life moments have also happened while cruising.

At the ripe age of 16, my lifelong travel dream came true when we cruised around Northern Europe. Our ship docked in Le Havre, France, which is the closest port to Paris. We spent the day touring the City of Love, cruising down the River Seine and gawking all day at the Eiffel Tower. It was just as magical as the movies!

After graduating college, my now-husband and I got engaged on a bridge in Venice while cruising the Mediterranean with both of our families. We went back the following year to visit the bridge again and cruise from Venice to Croatia and Greece for our honeymoon. 

Just this summer, we celebrated my MBA graduation and my husband’s military pilot training completion on an Alaskan cruise. It’s been so special to commemorate these life events at sea. 

I’ve also continued to cruise with my family. In July 2019, we cruised around Japan from China. We have 2 cruises planned for 2022 (fingers crossed!). Even as my sister and I have become adults on our own, we still love to cruise as a family and appreciate the time we can all spend together at sea. 

I’m forever thankful that my parents valued the opportunity for me to travel, learn and experience different cultures throughout my childhood.

Traveling on a budget? Why you should skip hostels and go on a cruise instead

In:
04 Oct 2021

When you think of budget travel, cruising might not be the first thing that comes to your mind. Budget travel can often be associated with sleeping on overnight trains and lugging around an oversized backpack from one hostel to the next. However, cruising can be a hidden gem for those looking to travel on a budget.

Cruises offer an incredible travel experience with an easy, all-inclusive vacation style that cuts out nearly all of the typical logistics of traveling. Each morning you’ll wake up with a new view of a different country or city without even needing to repack your bags.

Here's a break down of how cruising with Royal Caribbean can not only ease your travels, but also offer a very affordable vacation.

Cruising isn't what you think

Time is limited on vacation, and it’s understandable you want to squeeze in as much experience and culture as possible.

Unlike land-based vacations, cruises give you the ability to easily see multiple countries on a single voyage without worrying about any logistics or coordination. Lucky for Royal Caribbean cruisers, there’s so much to see both on and off the ship that you’ll undoubtedly get the most bang for your buck.

Most travelers might not consider cruising because of a preconceived notion that it’s too expensive or doesn’t cater to a younger demographic. While some cruise lines still market towards older travelers, Royal Caribbean has continued to both innovate and renovate its ships to appeal to younger travelers.

Royal Caribbean is an excellent choice for younger travelers looking to spend their hard-earned money on memorable travel experiences - without sacrificing cultural experiences!

Most itineraries allow for 8-12 hours in each city if you’re looking to optimize port stays. Some cruises even offer multiple nights in one port to allow extra time for exploration.

More affordable than you might think

Royal Caribbean announces new Gulf Coast cruises in 2018 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Take a note from Millennial travelers - you don’t need to skimp on luxury to enjoy an affordable vacation. Millennials have actually been lowering the average age of cruisers within previous years. Gone are the days where budget travel means staying in a hostel and backpacking between cities.

While hostels can certainly be affordable, there could be multiple strangers sleeping in close quarters and sharing your bathroom. You might be paying for train tickets, taxi rides, airline tickets and bus fares to travel between cities. Buying 3 meals a day can also add up quickly unless you prefer living off granola bars or skipping meals.

In this way, cruises can end up being more affordable when adding together daily travel expenses - from food each day to transportation costs and accommodations. Also, the time you typically spend traveling between cities is now spent as extra time relaxing onboard or exploring the port.

See the world in a more reasonable way

Cruising is so efficient that you’ll be shocked how much you can squeeze into your travel days.

Picture this: you spent all day exploring the ancient temple of Kek Lok Si in Penang, Malaysia. You hiked up so many steps to visit the temple and enjoyed some local shopping along the way. Lunch was enjoyed at a Malaysian food-court where you tried the coolest shaved-ice dessert concoction. You learned all about the history of the city from your local guide.

It was a great day immersing yourself in the culture and sights of the city; however, you’re sweaty and sticky from exploring in the scorching heat of Southeast Asia.

Instead of heading to your hostel or budget accommodation, you head back to your ship docked in the city. You’re welcomed back to your air conditioned cabin, which has been meticulously cleaned by your stateroom attendant.

Photo tour of 2 Bedroom Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

After taking a much-needed shower, you head to dinner for a delicious 3-course meal in the dining room.

The evening ends with a Broadway-style musical onboard in the theatre. While you loved trying the local delicacies at lunch, relaxing with a familiar meal at the end of the day is just what you needed. Tomorrow you’ll be arriving in Phuket, Thailand for another full day of exploring, so it’s time for bed in your cozy, clean cabin.

This scenario is a great example of why you should consider cruising - you can have elements of luxury and vacation while still immersing yourself in different cultures. Visiting different ports and exploring the world is exhilarating, while coming back to the ship is both comforting and relaxing.

Cheap cruise deals are there for you to find

The ship is a safe and comfortable home base to return to each night. Not having to worry about logistics and travel coordination is also a huge benefit of cruising that will definitely put your mind (and wallet!) at ease.

When it comes to pricing, cruise fares cover lodging, transportation and food all in one price and place. If you’re flexible with your travel schedule, off-season itineraries and dates can offer very low fares.

Repositioning cruises and last-minute sailings can also offer very low rates if your schedule allows. For an inside cabin, plenty of Royal Caribbean cruises can cost less than $100/day. You can even find some cruises for half that price depending on the sailing date.

Royal Caribbean moves summer 2021 cruises from Venice to Ravenna | Royal Caribbean Blog

For example, you could cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas from Venice and visit Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome and Florence for 7 nights in June 2022 for $75/day. One repositioning cruise in November 2022 sails from Barbados to Spain with stops in Portugal, France and The Azores. This sailing costs only $49/day for an inside cabin.

Another affordable option includes a 7 night cruise to Russia, Sweden, Finland and Estonia for only $88 a day on the Voyager of the Seas in July 2022. These are just a few examples of affordable and culturally immersive itineraries offered by Royal Caribbean.

Rhapsody of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

While you could easily spend more on your sailing, it’s not difficult to stick to your prepaid cruise fare throughout your trip. Independent exploration while in port can cut down extensively on costs, along with enjoying meals on the ship whenever it fits your schedule.

With some planning and flexibility, cruising gives you the opportunity to see the world while traveling in luxury, even on a budget.

Why I went from hostels to cruise ships

When I first started to travel in my early 20s, I was all about budget accommodations, including hostels, cheap motels and sketchy Airbnbs. I wanted to be as cheap as possible, even if it meant sacrificing comfort. I’d pack a protein bar to get me through lunch, meaning I only had to buy 1-2 meals a day.

I learned quickly that these accommodations were not worth the savings. I ended up having elevated anxiety when traveling. I was constantly worried about my belongings getting stolen, especially my passport or money.

I also didn’t love the idea of sharing a room with a stranger or staying in a private room of an Airbnb host.

Once I started doing the math, I realized that cruising was essentially the same price when I added in all my travel costs.

Staying on the ship also offered safety, reliability, and comfort that I couldn’t find with other budget accommodations.

I started to cruise because I wanted to see the world on a budget – and I never returned to the hostel life.

5 Reasons Cruising Isn’t Just for Older Travelers - From Ship to Shore!

In:
25 Sep 2021

From the time of its inception, cruising was immediately stereotyped as an exclusive type of vacation geared towards older travelers.

Within the last decade, many cruise lines have opted to innovate ships and experiences to attract a younger generation of cruisers. Ships are tossing out classic cruising protocol to create a more relaxed and adventure-packed atmosphere at sea. Cruise lines have shifted marketing efforts to attract thrill-seekers, foodies and world travelers alike.

From ship to shore, below are 5 reasons that young travelers should consider cruising for their next adventure.

Exotic Locations

Thailand

When you think of cruising, the Caribbean likely comes to mind. Although Royal Caribbean loves to focus its itineraries on ports throughout the Caribbean, there are plenty of itineraries that feature exotic ports of call.

These itineraries often appeal to those looking for a more unique experience, one that packs multiple countries and cultures into one voyage. Some of these cool locations include: the Arctic Circle, the Holy Land, Japan and China, Southeast Asia, British Isles, South Pacific, the Canary Islands and Russian Baltic cruises. 

Bucket List Adventures

Dubrovnik Croatia

So you’ve always wanted to climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing or cliff jump into the Adriatic Sea in Croatia? Maybe you’ve dreamed of sipping wine in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or gorging on authentic pasta in ancient Rome. You may not realize that you can actually visit all of these bucket-list locations by cruising!

Other incredible experiences include visiting the Church of Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, walking around the floating villages of Thailand, crossing the famous Shibuya Scramble in Tokyo, watching a gorgeous sunset in Santorini, riding a gondola in Venice, and seeing the Northern Lights in Norway.

Onboard Trendy Entertainment

Grease Broadway musical on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

70's discos and casino night not your thing? No worries!

Cruise ships have all kinds of high-quality and trendy entertainment for your enjoyment. Full-length Broadway shows, including Mamma Mia, Grease and Hairspray, are widely available on Royal’s ships (likely to be found on Oasis and Quantum-class ships).

Other premium entertainment options include world-class acrobats, Olympic figure skaters, famous comedians, talented vocalists and crazy jugglers.

Ship Thrills

Royal Caribbean has been actively building and renovating ships that scream ‘thrill-seeking’. Ice skating and rock climbing have been classic thrills offered by the cruise line for years.

Recently, the thrills have been amplified for onboard activities. The North Star on Quantum-class ships allows travelers to board a glass-enclosed pod that lifts above the ship to provide 360-degree views. The SkyPad trampoline park gives cruisers virtual-reality glasses to take their jumping to the next level.

Ultimate Abyss rider

For newer ships, huge waterslides and the 10-story Ultimate Abyss slide will surely have you smiling from ear to ear. Oasis-class ships featured the first zip-line at sea, giving cruisers the opportunity to fly over the ship’s Central Park with stunning views of the sea. Your adventurous heart will run out of time to partake in all the onboard thrills!

Freestyle Dining for Foodies

Main dining room

One of the best features of cruising is all of the amazing food available! Nearly all the food onboard is included in your cruise fare, making the ship a foodie’s paradise.

For many years, dining onboard felt stuffy, formal and too-structured. Royal Caribbean introduced My Time Dining to offer cruisers flexibility each day to choose their dining time. Food is from the moment you wake up until your bed hits the pillow each night. Quantum-class ships offer 15 different restaurants for cruisers to choose from.

Izumi food

Specialty dining also offers luxurious food options, such as Izumi for sushi and Jame’s Italian by Chef Jamie Oliver. 

What I wish I did differently on my first cruise

In:
07 Sep 2021

Ten days ago, my first cruise came to an end as I disembarked Mariner of the Seas in Port Canaveral.

Before my sailing, I wrote about what I thought I should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Having worked as the video editor for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel for the past year, I felt adequately prepared for my first cruise experience.

Inevitably, though, I found myself saying “I wish I had done that!” several times during and after the cruise. Things like booking a shore excursion, packing differently, and pre-planning in the Cruise Planner would have made my cruise experience smoother.

And while I don’t have any major regrets about my first cruise experience, here are a few things I wish I did differently.

Planned my day in Nassau better

Nassau | Royal Caribbean Blog

Looking back, I wish I had planned my day in Nassau better. I was originally considering booking a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean but ultimately decided against it. As a newbie, I figured that I could easily go with the flow in Nassau, but this was not necessarily the case.

Nassau is still fairly quiet following the cruise industry shutdown. As I walked off the pier, many shops were still closed and the port area was slightly eerie. After asking some locals where to go, my sister and I decided to walk to Junkanoo Beach. We weren't that impressed with Junkanoo, so we decided to taxi to Atlantis. When we got to Atlantis, we realized we needed a day pass to explore the resort, but it was really pricey. Therefore, we decided to taxi to Cabbage Beach, a free beach nearby.

Finally, we arrived in paradise! Cabbage Beach is very clean, with turquoise water and soft white sand. However, at nearly the exact moment we laid down, it started to thunderstorm.

Needless to say, we decided to taxi back to the ship and call it a day.

Since Nassau is such a popular port for cruises, I thought that it would be much easier to navigate and figure out what to do once I got off the ship. I didn't find this to be the case, though, and I would recommend doing more research beforehand if your cruise stops in Nassau.

Purchase the coffee card

Spotted: Cafe Select Coffee Card offers specialty coffee beverages | Royal Caribbean Blog

The coffee card is something I did not know about before my cruise but wish I had!

Royal Caribbean offers a "Cafe Select Coffee Card" available on the Cruise Planner website. By purchasing the card, you can enjoy up to 15 specialty espresso-based beverages during your cruise, such as lattes, macchiatos, and iced coffees.

I wrote in my last post how I did not regret not buying the drink package because I didn't think I would have gotten the value out of it. At $71 per day, I would have to drink 5-7 drinks to meet the daily price, which I personally don't think I would have been able to do.

Cafe Promenade coffee menu on Navigator of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

A few days during my cruise, though, I purchased a latte from Cafe Promenade. It was nice to sip a coffee while people watching at the Promenade, or take the latte back to my balcony and watch the waves go by. At around $5 each, though, these added up quickly. 

For my upcoming sailing next week, I purchased the Cafe Select Coffee Card for $31 on the Cruise Planner website. Since I can get up to 15 espresso-based beverages with the card, the price works out to around $2 per drink instead of $5.

However, after searching for information about the coffee card on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards, it seems that there may be different rules depending on the ship. Some guests mentioned that “15 espresso-based beverages” actually means 15 shots of espresso, so if you were to order a large size, it may count as two punches on the card. This is something to keep in mind if your usual coffee order consists of two or three shots of espresso!

Brought better hair products

In each stateroom, Royal Caribbean provides a combination hair and body wash which is on the wall in the shower. Matt neglected to tell my sister and I that he refers to this as “mystery liquid” until the last day of our cruise. Needless to say, mystery liquid is probably a great description for it.

I am used to staying in hotels, where fairly good quality shampoo and conditioner are complimentary. I assumed this would also be the case on Mariner of the Seas. By the second day of using the provided hair/body wash, though, my hair felt dry, hard, and was extremely tangled.

On my next cruise, I will definitely be packing my own quality shampoo and conditioner to bring onboard. 

Packed more dress clothes

Mariner of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Before my cruise, I knew that people often dressed up onboard. I made sure to pack a few nicer outfits like sundresses and skirts, but I didn't pack anything too dressy. I thought the days of being dressed to the nines on a cruise ship was something in the past.

And while I wouldn’t say guests were, in fact, “dressed to the nines,” many guests were dressed in formal wear one notch up than what I had packed. 

And since I ended up eating at most of the specialty restaurants onboard, such as Chop’s Grill and Jamie’s Italian, I found myself wishing I brought more outfits I would wear to a wedding and less outfits I would wear to a semi-casual dinner with friends. 

Then again, some guests wore shorts, sneakers, and tank tops to the Main Dining Room, so you don’t necessarily have to dress up. 

Bought the fitness class package

Photos: Voyager of the Seas completes $97 million renovation | Royal Caribbean Blog

I know it might seem crazy to go to the gym multiple times on vacation, but Royal Caribbean has excellent fitness facilities and I was eager to workout onboard. The fitness center offers a variety of classes such as yoga, pilates, bootcamp, and spinning.

While browsing Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website prior to my sailing, I saw that there was an option to pre-purchase a fitness class package. On my four night sailing, I could have purchased an unlimited class package for around $40. And since each fitness class was $20 onboard, it was a great deal. I decided not to purchase it, though, as I thought I would mainly use the free equipment.

Once onboard, though, I decided to sign up for a spinning class and I had a blast! The instructor was very encouraging and it was a nice way to get a strenuous workout on a sea day. I immediately wished I had purchased the class package so I could have attended more classes at a lower price.

Did more activities on the sports deck

Inevitably, with so many activities to do onboard, I was not able to do everything I wanted to on my cruise.

While boarding Mariner of the Seas, I looked up at the sports deck and pictured myself riding the Flowrider, flipping on the Skypad, and blasting down the waterslides.

Yet how many of those things did I do? None of them!

For whatever reason, I went into full relaxation mode the minute I stepped foot on the pool deck. Suddenly, the thought of falling on my face on the Flowrider or having to go back to my room to change out of my bathing suit for the Skypad didn’t seem as intriguing. What did sound nice was continuing to sip my Aperol spritz on the pool chair.

Following my cruise, I found myself wishing I tried more of the activities on the sports deck. After all, how many opportunities do I have to try a surfing simulator or ride a waterslide that goes over the side of a ship? 

I guess now I have an excuse to book another cruise and try these activities.

Overall, my first cruise experience was unforgettable and I’ll never forget that feeling of being out in the open water for the first time. While I do wish I did a few things differently, I ultimately enjoyed every day of my time on Mariner of the Seas and am already looking forward to my next cruise... which is this week!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel to see brand new videos coming out soon from our sailing on Mariner of the Seas.

8 Things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
30 Aug 2021

I have officially finished my first cruise EVER, and I am hooked!

Last week, I wrote a post here on Royal Caribbean Blog about what I thought I should do on my first cruise. I was about to board Mariner of the Seas’ first revenue sailing, a 4-night itinerary to CocoCay and Nassau leaving from Port Canaveral.

The primary reason for this cruise was to create new videos for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel. With a camera in hand and my sister tagging along as my guest, I boarded Mariner of the Seas ready to experience all that a cruise has to offer.

And in what seemed like a split second, the cruise came to an end. While I researched a lot ahead of time to prepare, it is a whole different ball game when you experience something first hand.

After experiencing it for myself, I wanted to share 8 things I learned on my first Royal Caribbean cruise.

The crew is extremely friendly

One aspect of my cruise that I was consistently impressed with was the friendliness of the crew. It is clear that the crew are excited that guests are back onboard, and I have never seen such a high level of customer service in any other form of travel. From the second I arrived at the terminal, Royal Caribbean’s crew was helpful, sociable, and especially joyful.

I lost count of the amount of times I was told “Good morning!” while on my way to breakfast. If I got lost or had a question, I knew I could ask any crew member and they would point me in the right direction.

I really enjoyed sitting at Cafe Promenade with a coffee in the morning and getting to know the crew members who were equally as eager to learn more about the guests onboard. 

My sister and I kept saying “Everyone is so nice!” over and over throughout the entire cruise and the crew made our experience that much better.

Read moreThe top questions people want to know about crew members on a cruise ship

Specialty dining is delicious

Thanks to Royal Caribbean’s Best Price Guarantee program, I started my cruise with a lot of onboard credit (around $530 to be exact). So after boarding, I had a big task at hand: figuring out how to best spend my onboard credit. It was a great task to have.

I took advantage of this by trying out a few specialty restaurants onboard. As you can read on Matt’s live blog from the sailing, we ate at Playmakers, Chop’s Grill, Izumi, and Jamie’s Italian. Yes, it was an enormous amount of food. And yes, I was impressed by all of the restaurants.

From the quality of the ingredients and unique menu items to the level of service we received at each meal, specialty restaurants added a more elevated dining experience to the cruise. A few of my favorite menu items were the warm sesame balls for dessert at Izumi, fresh penne pasta at Jamie’s, and loaded nachos at Playmakers.

I would say it is worth it to try a couple specialty restaurants onboard. Even though the food included in your cruise fare is excellent, trying the diverse cuisine available in specialty dining is a nice addition to the normal dining options.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Perfect Day at CocoCay lives up to the hype

While Perfect Day at CocoCay looked incredible in all of Royal Caribbean’s marketing materials, I was curious to check out the island in person. Would it be crowded? Were the beaches as nice as they looked in pictures? Was it going to seem like a theme park instead of a secluded, tropical island?

Perfect Day at CocoCay exceeded all of my expectations and then some! Because I was filming a full tour of CocoCay for an upcoming video on the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, I explored every inch of the private island.

The beaches on CocoCay are exceptionally clean and crystal clear, which is excellent for snorkeling, kayaking, or simply floating on a raft with a drink in hand.

I was impressed by the amount of free things to do as well. You can easily spend a day on the island without spending any extra money and still have a “perfect day” at CocoCay. My favorite complimentary experience would have to be the Oasis Lagoon. The swim-up bar is magnificent.

The island is easy to navigate and has shuttles going around the island all day. There are way too many activities to do in a single day on the island, soI am looking forward to visiting CocoCay again.

Read more40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets

Don’t miss the Indian food

Hot take here… the Indian food at the Windjammer is some of the best food on the ship. I know what you’re thinking… is the buffet food that good? But I’m serious! It is delicious.

A significant number of Royal Caribbean’s employees come from India, and you will see their cultural influence at the Windjammer. During each meal on my sailing, several options of Indian curry and flatbreads were available in the buffet. I love Indian food at home, so I made sure to try some each time I ate in the Windjammer and I was never disappointed.

Even if you don’t usually eat Indian food at home, a cruise is a great place to try new cuisines. Plus, the staff from India were always happy to see me enjoying food from their culture!

Read moreHow to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room on your Royal Caribbean cruise

Choose an itinerary with a sea day

Our itinerary on Mariner of the Seas included one sea day, the last day of the cruise. For first time cruisers, I think it can be tempting to book a cruise that visits as many destinations as possible in the shortest amount of time. However, I would recommend making sure you have at least one sea day in your itinerary.

A sea day is the ultimate relaxation mode. Port days tend to be busy, as you will want to experience as much of the destination as you can.

On a sea day, though, there are no obligations. You can wake up on your own time, enjoy a late breakfast in the Main Dining Room, and spend the rest of the day exploring the ship. A sea day is also a good time to try out activities on the sports deck and attend events at different venues onboard.

Sitting on the pool deck on the sea day and looking at the ocean around me was mesmerizing. I’ll definitely be looking at itineraries with sea days for my future cruises.

Read moreTop things to do on a sea day on a Royal Caribbean cruise

You might not spend too much time on your balcony

I was thrilled to have a balcony room for my first cruise, and I’m not going to lie… I think booking a balcony is totally worth the extra cost. Being able to have your own area to relax outside and watch the waves go by is a huge benefit. Plus, having room service breakfast on the balcony was nothing short of awesome.

That being said, I don’t think a balcony is 100% necessary, especially for a first-time cruiser. I spent the majority of my days experiencing all that Mariner of the Seas had to offer outside of my room. I also loved heading up to the pool deck as it gives a 360° view of the ocean.

My advice would be to book a balcony if the price is within your budget (or splurge a little!). If you can’t, though, and opt for an inside or ocean view stateroom, that’s okay too. You probably won’t be spending too much time there anyway!

Read moreInterior vs Balcony staterooms on a Royal Caribbean cruise

The drink package isn’t always necessary

I did not end up purchasing a drink package for my cruise and I don’t regret it. 

Before my cruise, I kept going back and forth about whether to purchase a drink package or not. In the end, though, I did not think I would be able to get the value out of the drink package, so I decided to just purchase drinks individually as I wanted.

This worked out well for me. I found myself satisfied with the complimentary drink options onboard like fruit juice, coffee, lemonade, and tea. Outside of these complimentary drinks, I averaged two alcoholic drinks per day. With a cost of around $11-14 per drink, I did not spend nearly as much money as I would have spent on a drink package.

I was also consuming so much food throughout the cruise (which was well worth it), so I found myself too stuffed to order drinks all day.

If your primary reason for going on a cruise is to relax at the pool with a drink in hand, though, I’d say you should surely purchase the drink package ahead of your sailing.

Be sure to try my favorite drink onboard, the Banana Colada, in the Bamboo Room.

Read moreThe best reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package on your cruise

You won’t have time to do everything

I love how Royal Caribbean turns a ship into a destination. Mariner of the Seas isn’t even close to being Royal’s largest ship, and it was still unbelievable to me how there was so much to do onboard. Whether watching an ice show in Studio B, flipping around on the Skypad, or listening to live music at Boleros, I did not have a second to be bored.

An important thing to note, though, is that because there are so many activities offered, you likely will not have time to do everything you want to do. I ran out of time to try many of the activities on the sports deck, visit the spa, and go to several events in the evening that I originally planned to attend.

My takeaway from my first cruise is to not get too caught up in trying to see and do everything on the ship. Sometimes the best moments of cruising are when you are looking at the sunset on the horizon and doing nothing at all.

Read more15 Free Things to Do on Mariner of the Seas

In the end, my first Royal Caribbean cruise was certainly an experience to remember and I am already looking forward to cruising again. It’s funny how my browser just somehow seems to open up to Royal Caribbean’s booking page…

Be sure to subscribe and turn on notifications to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, as we will be sharing new videos from our Mariner of the Seas cruise in the upcoming weeks.

I’m going on my first cruise: Here’s what I think I should do

In:
19 Aug 2021

One year ago, I knew next to nothing about cruising. Three days from now, I will be boarding my first ever cruise!

Over the past year, I’ve edited around 100 videos for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel. When I started working with Royal Caribbean Blog, I’ll admit that I was quite clueless about the cruise industry and thought that most of these cruise stereotypes were true.

Having been to twenty countries on five continents, it’s not like I hadn’t traveled before. However, a cruise seemed like a whole new ball game. Are cruises boring? Do I have to dress up? Is a cruise only for “old people”? I was very uninformed about the cruise industry.

Needless to say, after my first week working with Royal Caribbean Blog, my views on cruising completely changed! I soon found myself browsing Royal Caribbean’s website and daydreaming of tropical cocktails at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

So when Matt asked me to join him on Mariner of the Seas’ first revenue sailing, I immediately said yes and began preparing for my cruise.

After my research, here’s what I think I should do to ensure a successful and unforgettable first cruise experience:

Research protocols in advance

Traveling during the pandemic is almost always unpredictable, but Royal Caribbean is putting forth a great effort in order to ensure that travelers are prepared for their upcoming cruise.

There is a list of updated protocols on the Royal Caribbean website where you can learn about what is required of you before and during the cruise in order to keep everyone onboard safe.

One of the latest protocols is that Royal Caribbean requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of sailing. I scheduled my test at CVS about two weeks in advance in order to ensure I could get tested without any added stress.

Fly in the day before my cruise

One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve read about cruising is to fly in the day before your cruise departs.

While it might be tempting to reserve an early morning flight that should get you to the cruise terminal in time, the truth is that this is way too risky due to the uncertainty of cancellations and delays.

Therefore, I’ll be flying to Florida the day before my cruise departs so that I can leave a little buffer room in the case of any travel mishaps. And hey, I get to extend my vacation by one day, so how can I complain?

Read moreWhy you shouldn't fly to your cruise the same day it begins

Pack wisely

If there’s one thing I absolutely dread about going on vacation, it’s packing.

On a regular vacation, I can always stop into a local store and purchase anything I forgot. On a cruise ship, though, I don’t think it will be that easy since I’ll be in the middle of the Caribbean!

Luckily, there is a ton of advice online that is helping me create a packing list better suited to a cruise. A couple things I am packing that I usually don’t pack for a land vacation are motion sickness medication and a USB hub so I can charge several devices at once. I’m also packing a few dressier outfits in case I run across any dress codes onboard.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Look at the Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean provides a Cruise Compass on every sailing that gives a detailed look at everything happening onboard. And while I am generally someone who goes with the flow while on vacation, I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any fun events happening on the ship.

I browsed a few past Cruise Compasses and I am very impressed with the amount of activities and events that Royal Caribbean offers each day. I can’t wait to get onboard and see what’s in store for my sailing!

Use the Royal Caribbean App

I have the Royal Caribbean app installed on my phone and it is already proving to be immensely helpful.

On the app, I can look at deck maps, dining information, activity locations and times, my daily calendar, and much more. I think the app will also prove to be useful during the check-in process, since I can use it to show my SetSail pass at the terminal, complete the required wellness check, and do the e-Muster drill.

Ask for the special menus in the Main Dining Room

From what I’ve researched, Royal Caribbean has excellent options when it comes to dietary restrictions, whether Kosher, gluten free, and even vegan! Apparently Royal Caribbean even has a special Indian cuisine menu in the Main Dining Room.

I eat primarily a vegetarian or pescatarian diet, and while there are many options onboard, I may also ask for a special menu to see what other options are available. It’s important to note, though, that some dietary restrictions may require a 90-day notice so Royal Caribbean can ensure that they can accommodate you.

Bring workout clothes

If there’s one thing I can guarantee about my upcoming cruise, it’s that I’ll probably be eating a lot. Whether endless soft serve ice cream on the pool deck, unlimited pizza at Sorrento’s, or an extra helping of garlic bread at dinner, I’d say I’m pretty excited about trying all of the delicious cuisine onboard.

However, I’ll definitely be packing some workout clothes so I can hit the gym and work (some) of it off. Now… will I actually get off the pool chair and go to the gym? I guess we’ll see.

Carry a small amount of cash

From what I understand, I’ll be making any extra purchases onboard using my SeaPass card, but I plan to bring around $100 in USD for any “extra” purchases that may arise while on my cruise.

I paid my gratuities in advance, but I want to keep some cash on hand for extra tips or purchases I make on land. Tipping protocol seems to be a little confusing, so I’ll be reviewing some tipping and gratuity advice before my cruise to make sure I don’t mess this up!

Even though I’m a cruising newbie, I think I have a pretty good idea of what to expect onboard a Royal Caribbean ship and am excited to set sail in just a few days. Be sure to subscribe to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel to stay up to date with live broadcasts and brand new video content from Mariner of the Seas!

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