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What other cruisers wish they knew before going on their first cruise

15 Mar 2023

Planning a cruise as a first-timer can be overwhelming, whether you're trying to pick the right cruise ship or book shore excursions. Fortunately, the internet is full of veteran cruisers eager to share their best tips for a successful cruise vacation.

We often hear many first-time cruisers sharing remarks and regrets about their cruise experience, from wishing they packed fewer items to wishing they did more research prior to their cruise.

Even after having a wonderful cruise experience, it’s common to wish you did or experienced things differently during your sailing, and these regrets are particularly common for first-time cruisers who are brand new to the Royal Caribbean experience.

To better help you plan a Royal Caribbean cruise, we asked veteran cruisers on Reddit what they wish they knew before going on their first cruise. From beating the chair hogs to asserting dominance in the elevator, here are our favorite answers.

People will try to get ON the elevator before you get off

One common pet peeve of many cruisers is the elevator etiquette (or lack thereof) you might encounter on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Waiting for elevators is a necessary evil on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and more often than not, the elevators are more crowded than any of us would prefer.

Reddit user LevarGotMeStoney explained how, when the elevator stops at your destination, many people will try to enter the elevator before letting you leave. The solution? Assert dominance.

“Be ready for this. Assert dominance,” LevarGotMeStoney advised. “Assume a 3 point stance like a lineman and when the doors ding, tackle anything on the other side.”

While we don’t recommend tackling other passengers on a cruise ship, it’s helpful to quickly exit the elevator before you get stuck inside!

Just use the stairs

Piano Stairs

User Sonakstyle has perhaps the best solution to avoiding trouble in the elevators: just use the stairs!

Using the stairs on a Royal Caribbean ship can often get you to your destination more quickly than the elevators, especially if you’re just going up or down a few decks. Not only that, but it provides an excellent workout, which can be especially beneficial after indulging in three course meals each day of your cruise!

Related: Why you should skip the elevator on your cruise

While we’re not suggesting climbing ten flights of stairs from your cabin to the pool deck, taking the stairs up or down a couple decks brings more advantages than disadvantages.

Wake up early to take advantage of a quiet ship

Liberty of the Seas pool deck

User Rubyfisch mentioned how early morning on the ship can be a magical time.

“Watch the sunrise from the deck,” they explained. “Walk around the empty ship coming to life. Take a free stretching class. Go to the Windjammer when it’s quiet and still. Grab a fancy coffee before the line gets too long.”

We agree with Rubyfisch in that the morning is one of the best times to enjoy your cruise ship. Many passengers prefer sleeping in on a cruise—it is vacation, after all—and this makes early morning on a cruise ship the quietest time of the day.

Of course, this rule holds true for sea days more than port days. Early morning on port days tend to be more chaotic due to passengers waking up eager to eat breakfast and disembark the ship for shore excursions.

Bring something magnetic to put on the outside of your cabin door

Cruise ship cabin walls and doors are magnetic, and Redditor Artandelfie advised bringing something magnetic to put on the outside of your cabin door. This will easily distinguish your cabin from others in the hallway, making it easier to find your room throughout the cruise.

This trend is popular in the cruising industry, and you can buy customized magnets on craft websites like Etsy. Customized magnets can include your family name, ship name, or be themed for a birthday or anniversary celebration.

It can be a lot of fun to decorate your cruise cabin door, and many families like to get their kids involved with picking and designing magnets. From nautical-themed decor to sea creatures, you can choose from countless colorful designs.

As another plus, it’s a lot easier to find your decorated cruise cabin door after a few too many drinks at the Schooner Bar!

Do research before booking

Symphony of the Seas

Redditor Rockaway2018 explained how the most obvious tip for cruisers is to research their sailing before booking.

“The amount of people on cruises that say they didn’t know swim diapers weren’t allowed in the pool, they didn’t know the MDR existed, they didn’t know soda/alcohol weren’t included, didn’t know there weren’t waterslides, etc. makes my head hurt!” Rockaway 2018 mentioned.

Knowing basic rules and information about your cruise ship and cruise line is extremely helpful. Not only can you avoid making unnecessary mistakes like packing prohibited items, but you can purchase extras like drink packages before your cruise begins for a better price.

Before boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise, make sure to have a basic idea of what’s included, what activities are offered on your cruise ship, and which excursions are most recommended in your ports of call.

These tips and tricks can help you plan:

…but don’t do too much research

Water slides

While doing some research before your cruise is helpful, try not to do too much research.

Redditor Mgt-d said how he did too much research before his cruise, and his extensive research made it less exciting once he was onboard.

“I knew what to expect from activities, restaurants, and bars, so I wasn’t as inquisitive once there,” he explained. “If I went on another cruise, I would do a quick search on room locations and included food locations and then leave everything else to discover onboard.”

Of course, one cruiser’s travel style may differ from another’s. Some passengers prefer to plan every day, hour, and second of their vacation whereas others like to go with the flow.

In general, we recommend doing at least a little research before your cruise vacation begins. This ensures you have time to book pre-cruise add-ons, understand which amenities are offered on your ship, and reserve onboard activities and entertainment in advance.

Avoid the buffet on the first day

Mariner of the Seas Windjammer

Redditor Cdash4321 mentioned one of our favorite tips for a Royal Caribbean cruise: avoid the buffet on the first day.

The Windjammer buffet is a staple of any Royal Caribbean cruise. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Windjammer offers the widest variety of food found anywhere onboard. From pancakes in the morning to a burger for lunch and tacos for dinner, it’s no question that the Windjammer will offer a quick, casual, and delicious dining experience.

That being said, we advise avoiding the Windjammer on the first day of your cruise. As thousands of passengers board your cruise ship on embarkation day, the majority head to the buffet. As a result, it can get extremely crowded, and no one wants to start their vacation navigating around tons of other hungry guests.

Related: Where can I eat lunch on the first day of my cruise?

In addition to the Windjammer, there are several other options for lunch on embarkation day. Complimentary venues such as El Loco Fresh, Boardwalk Dog House, and Park Cafe offer quick grab and go options with far fewer crowds.

You may also choose to reserve lunch at a specialty restaurant. While this option costs extra, lunch prices are reasonable at specialty restaurants—around $20 to $25 per person—and the peaceful atmosphere of a specialty venue instead of the buffet can be well worth the cost.

Bring a lot of $1 bills for tips

Crew member smiling at the bar

Tubbis9001 gave great advice for any first-time cruiser: bring a lot of $1 bills.

“Most tips are included, sure. But a dollar for the luggage porters here, a dollar for your shore excursion bus driver there, it makes things easier,” Tubbis9001 explained.

Related: How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Gratuities are automatically added to the price of a Royal Caribbean cruise, at $16 per person, per day for those in standard rooms and $18.50 per person, per day in Grand Suites and above. However, it’s customary (albeit optional) to tip crew members and other service providers extra during your cruise.

Having small bills on hand is helpful when you want to give a few dollars to porters, shore excursion guides, bartenders, waiters, and other staff onboard. $1 and $5 bills will be the most useful, and if you don’t have small bills, you can always break up a larger bill by going to Guest Services once onboard.

Pick the show or activity you want to do most and do it ASAP

AquaTheater show on Wonder of the Seas

User Elsie78 gave helpful advice for any cruiser. If there’s something onboard you’re eager to try, whether climbing the rock climbing wall or watching a Broadway show, do it as soon as possible.

Most activities, including entertainment productions, are held multiple times during a cruise. Because of this, many passengers wait to try activities or make show reservations until later in the cruise.

If there’s something you really want to experience onboard, though, we recommend doing it during the first few days of your cruise. Cruising is unpredictable, and you never know if unexpected scenarios like bad weather or illness will prevent you from doing an activity onboard.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

AquaTheater show on Wonder of the Seas

A great example of this is with Royal Caribbean’s AquaTheater shows. Even though the AquaTheater shows are often performed several days throughout the cruise, we recommend booking the first show available.

Why? These shows are dependent on weather and sea conditions. If it’s too windy, cold, or rainy, the performance might be canceled. If this happens on the first show of the cruise, you have plenty of other chances to catch the show before your cruise is over. If you wait to watch the performance until the last day and it gets canceled, though, you’re out of luck!

It’s okay to remove someone’s towel and sit down on a beach chair

The most controversial answer we received on Reddit was from Melodic_Oil_2486 who shared that you should feel comfortable removing someone’s towel on a chair to sit there yourself. Some Redditors agreed with the comment, but others weren’t so sure it’s the right thing to do.

Chair hogs—people who reserve a pool chair and don’t return until hours later—are a major problem on a cruise vacation. There are only a select number of chairs in prime spots on the pool deck, and it’s frustrating to see towels sitting on empty chairs for hours at a time.

Related: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

We don’t totally agree that you should move someone’s personal belongings from a beach or pool chair. You can, however, express concerns to a crew member, and they may take the belongings from the chair and place them in a pickup area.

Watch a ship tour on YouTube

Reditor Koolaid_Jef gave the advice to watch a tour of your cruise ship on YouTube before you set sail, and this is one of the best ways to learn more about your cruise before embarkation day.

YouTube is full of detailed ship tours on every Royal Caribbean ship. These tours provide a walkthrough tour of your cruise ship while explaining helpful information about the dining venues, entertainment, and other amenities found onboard.

If there’s just one thing you do during the cruise research process, make sure it’s watching a tour of your ship. We have fifteen full ship tours on the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel, each of which provides visuals of the ship and detailed commentary about everything to expect.

Bring a European power outlet

Cruise cabins, especially on older ships, have limited outlet space, and it can be challenging to charge all of your devices onboard. Reddit user Melvendestrange gave helpful advice for cruisers: take advantage of both the European (Type C) and North American (Type A) outlets in your cabin.

If you’re from North America, bring your standard chargers, but also bring an outlet adapter for the European Type C outlets in your cabin. If you’re from Europe, bring the opposite so you can utilize the Type A outlets in the cabin.

In addition to adapters, we also recommend bringing a USB outlet hub. This allows you to plug more chargers into the same outlet, which is helpful when cruising with a lot of electronics.

The coolest part of a cruise is meeting people

Lime and Coconut

User Jumpinjamminjacks finds the coolest part of a cruise to be meeting other people onboard.

“Most people on the ship are friendly,” they said. “Although there are a lot of people, you will keep seeing people. Smile and say hi; most people are trying to relax and have a good time.”

Related: How to meet people on a cruise ship

We agree that meeting other passengers is always an interesting aspect of a Royal Caribbean cruise. Cruisers come from around the world—from Florida to Japan—and it’s easy to strike up a conversation with other passengers.

You can join Facebook groups and forums for your upcoming sailing to meet other passengers before the cruise begins, or you can wait to meet other passengers once onboard.

Whether you chat with passengers at an onboard activity or on a shore excursion, you’ll be surprised by just how easy it is to make new friends on a cruise.

Best first-time cruises on Royal Caribbean

01 Mar 2023

Planning your first Royal Caribbean cruise? With 26 ships in the fleet sailing to destinations around the world, it can be challenging to figure out the best first-time cruise.

Although you can’t go wrong with any Royal Caribbean cruise, there are a few itineraries and ships we recommend most for first-timers. These ships offer a wide selection of activities for both kids and adults while providing an excellent value in a cruise vacation.

Before booking any cruise, though, make sure to research the itinerary, ship, and cabin choices before booking. By researching in advance and following our recommendations below, you’re guaranteed to have an enjoyable first cruise experience.

Here are the five best first-time cruises on Royal Caribbean.

7-night Caribbean cruise on Oasis of the Seas

If you see a Royal Caribbean television commercial, there’s a big chance the commercial is highlighting an Oasis Class cruise ship. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships are unlike any other cruise ship at sea, and they’re a fantastic choice for a first-time cruise.

Oasis Class ships are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they’re split into distinct neighborhoods, each of which offers its own ambiance, amenities, and activities.

Related: All about Oasis Class cruise ships

The sheer range of things to do on an Oasis Class ship—from zip lining to watching Broadway musicals and relaxing in the ship’s outdoor park—is unmatched on any other Royal Caribbean ship.

What makes Oasis Class ships so nice for first-time cruisers is that there are nearly endless options onboard. Many new to cruising are concerned they will feel bored and not know how to spend their time on the ship. On an Oasis Class ship, feeling bored is practically impossible!

There are five Oasis Class ships. While you can’t go wrong with any ship, we feel Oasis of the Seas is the best choice for a first-time cruise.

Oasis of the Seas is the first ship in the class, having launched in 2009, but she was amplified in 2019 to add exciting features to the ship, such as waterslides, the Ultimate Abyss dry slide, and a Caribbean-style pool deck.

Related: Oasis of the Seas guide: Cabins, itineraries, what to expect

Despite the new features, Oasis of the Seas is typically priced lower than newer Oasis Class ships like Harmony, Symphony, and Wonder of the Seas. This means you can still enjoy the perks of sailing on an Oasis Class ship while saving money on cruise fare.

Money saved on cruise fare can be put toward cruise add-ons like drink and dining packages, spa treatments, and shore excursions, which can greatly enhance your first cruise experience.

4 or 5-night Caribbean cruise on Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the Seas may not be Royal Caribbean’s biggest cruise ship, but she is a favorite among many cruisers. Recently refurbished in 2018, Mariner of the Seas features many of Royal Caribbean’s most popular amenities at a fraction of the cost of the fleet’s newest ships.

Related: Mariner of the Seas Guide & Review

During her 2018 amplification, a variety of activities were added to the ship, including waterslides, an escape room, virtual reality bungee jumping, and laser tag, among others. New dining venues and bars were added, too, including Izumi hibachi and the Polynesian-themed Bamboo Room lounge.

Bamboo Bar with people drinking

Due to these recent refurbishments, Mariner of the Seas provides an excellent value in a cruise vacation. She primarily sails 4 and 5-night itineraries to The Bahamas and the Western Caribbean, and these cruises are perfect for first-timers.

Booking a 4 or 5-night cruise offers a mix of sea days and port days, allowing first-time cruisers to experience the best of both worlds.

Mariner of the Seas sailing away from Port Canaveral

Related: Top things to do on a sea day on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Fun-filled port days in Mexico and The Bahamas mean passengers can enjoy delicious food, beautiful beaches, and diverse cultures. The sea days, on the other hand, give ample time to relax and explore the ship’s wide selection of activities, entertainment, bars, and restaurants.

7-night Alaska cruise on Ovation of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise season runs from May to September each year, and visiting Alaska can make a wonderful choice for a first-time cruise.

Alaska’s scenery is beyond stunning, with glaciers, rocky mountains, and quaint towns. Even when you’re not in port, you can still see gorgeous scenery on both sides of the ship as you sail through the state’s famous Inside Passage.

Related: Alaska cruise guide

What makes Alaska so special for first-time cruisers is that an Alaska cruise provides wildlife viewing opportunities and outdoor adventures like no other itinerary. Whether you book a whale watching tour or hike through the Tongass National Forest, there’s always something exciting to see and do in Alaska.

Royal Caribbean sends four ships to Alaska each year, but our top recommendation is Ovation of the Seas. Launched in 2016, Ovation of the Seas is a modern Quantum Class cruise ship offering 7-night itineraries departing Seattle.

Ovation of the Seas is perfect for guests of all ages. Built to sail in chilly climates, the ship features many indoor spaces including a pool, adults-only Solarium, SeaPlex sports center, and even indoor skydiving!

Passengers shouldn’t miss a ride on The North Star, an observational pod that rises 300 feet above sea level, offering unparalleled views of both the ship and Alaska’s scenery.

Related: All about Quantum Class ships

Outside of these activities are a variety of entertainment and dining venues. The most notable venue is Two70, an entertainment and lounge space featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with a 270 degree view of the outdoors.

Modernity is a theme around the ship, and the staterooms are equipped with plenty of outlets and storage space. They feature a sleek design, making the cabins comfortable for every passenger onboard.

3-night weekend cruise on Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

Planning a cruise with limited PTO time? There’s no better choice than Freedom of the Seas, which sails 3-night Bahamas cruises from Miami each weekend.

Freedom of the Seas was recently amplified in 2020, adding new bars, restaurants, activities, and amenities to the ship. A colorful, Caribbean-resort style pool deck was added along with the popular Lime & Coconut bar, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen restaurant, and waterslides.

Freedom of the Seas pool

3-night itineraries on Freedom of the Seas depart Miami on Friday afternoon and return Monday morning. Most itineraries visit both Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas, although some may visit just one port and spend the other day at sea.

Related: Guide to weekend cruises: Tips for taking a 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise

3-night itineraries can be an excellent time to try out Royal Caribbean’s drink package or dining package and splurge on a shore excursion in The Bahamas, such as visiting Pearl Island or spending the day at the Coco Beach Club.

What makes a weekend cruise such a great option for first-time cruisers is the short length combined with an exciting itinerary. A shorter cruise typically comes with a lower price, even if the price per night of a 3-night itinerary is higher than that of a 7-night cruise.

It’s important to note, however, that if you have to fly to Miami to embark Freedom of the Seas, it may be worth booking a longer cruise itinerary. Flying to Florida for a 3-night cruise won’t provide as much value as a longer sailing, and can significantly increase the daily price of your vacation.

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In addition, if you're driving from northern Florida or a nearby state, sailing on Independence of the Seas from Port Canaveral may be a more convenient option.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a short weekend getaway, cruising on Freedom of the Seas to the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of The Bahamas is sure to impress.

7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise on Explorer of the Seas

Explorer of the Seas docked

When planning a European cruise for the first time, many people look to book Western Mediterranean itineraries. These itineraries visit ports like Rome, Barcelona, and Florence, making them an enticing choice for those new to both cruising and European travel.

However, I wouldn’t recommend these itineraries to a first-time cruiser. Western Mediterranean cruises tend to be jam packed with sightseeing, and several of the ports are a far bus or train ride away from the main attraction.

Related: Western Mediterranean cruise guide

Unfortunately, busy days sightseeing combined with long travel times can make first-time cruisers feel exhausted rather than relaxed on their vacation, even if they are visiting some of the world’s most famous cities.

Instead, look at European cruise itineraries to Greece and the Adriatic. These cruises visit picturesque destinations such as Dubrovnik, Kotor, Mykonos, and Santorini, all of which are well suited for cruise ship travel due to their smaller size and more remote locations.

Related: Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

Many of the ports on a Greek and Adriatic cruise are well-preserved medieval towns, which are excellent for exploring on foot. Others, such as Santorini, offer jaw-dropping scenery and some of the world’s most delicious cuisine.

You can’t miss the scenic sail through the Bay of Kotor, either, which will make you feel as if you’re in Norway instead of the Balkans!

Explorer of the Seas offers cruises to Greece and the Adriatic during the summer 2023 and 2024 cruise season. As a Voyager Class ship, Explorer of the Seas fits over 4,000 passengers, yet offers a fantastic value compared to Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ships.

Related: All about Voyager Class cruise ships

Onboard you’ll find an outdoor pool, adults-only Solarium, jacuzzis, mini-golf, rock climbing, a sports court, ice-skating, and a set of racing waterslides. Other activities include live music, trivia, production shows, and game shows.

While the ship has not yet received an amplification, she still boasts several dining venues and lounges, including Chops Grille, Izumi, Giovanni’s Table, and Johnny Rockets.

Although not as big as Royal Caribbean’s newest ships sailing in Europe, Explorer of the Seas is the perfect size for a port-intensive Greek & Adriatic cruise itinerary.

9 Common misconceptions about a Royal Caribbean cruise

20 Feb 2023

Someone that is brand new to cruising might have a few ideas about the experience that don't match up to what it's actually like onboard.

Royal Caribbean ships docked with gangway

There's a lot of nuances to cruising that makes it understandable why a first-time cruiser might have these concepts about what to expect. Given how frequently these mix-ups occur, it's clearly something that isn't just a problem relegated to a few people.

The good news is many of these misinterpretations can easily be cleared up before someone steps foot on a ship, and the result is very likely a better cruise experience.

We get a lot first-time cruiser questions on our Royal Caribbean message boards, but I wanted to highlight the top concerns raised that end up being the opposite of what the person thought. Perhaps one or more of these concerns will assuage your own anxiety about trying a cruise!

Liberty of the Seas

Read moreTop 10 cruise questions first time cruisers are too shy to ask

In case you're wondering, here are the top cruise misconceptions you should know about before you book or cruise!

You need a drink package if you want drinks that cost extra

Bamboo Lounge drink

Royal Caribbean's drink packages are so popular and well-advertised that some people think you need to buy a drink package if you want to venture past what's included.

On any cruise, there's a certain selection of beverages included with your cruise cost, but alcohol, soft drinks, and specialty coffees will cost you extra.

Perhaps because of how prominent a drink package is in the pre-cruise advertising, some people think you'll need to buy a drink package in order to enjoy any of those libations.

Cocktails on the bar

The reality is a drink package is only necessary if you'd like to enjoy unlimited extra cost beverages for a fixed price.  However, if you just want a coke or two per day, or a beer or glass of wine, paying for drinks a la carte is definitely an option.

When you order a drink that isn't included in your cruise fare, you'll be charged for the cost to your SeaPass account.  You can do this as many times as you want. 

Drink packages are designed to provide a fixed cost so that people that don't want to worry about running up a giant bill can do so.  But you absolutely do not need to get a drink package, especially if you'll only order a few drinks per day.

In case you're wondering, on average, it will take 6-7 cocktails per day to break even on the Deluxe Beverage Package, whereas the Refreshment Package breaks even around 4-5 mocktails.  The soda package takes about 3-4 soft drinks per day to break even.

Read moreHow much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean?

Kids need a drink package if adults get one

Kids together on Wonder of the Seas

Because Royal Caribbean requires all adults in a cabin to get a drink package if one adult elects to buy the unlimited alcohol package, the question about kids pops up as well.

It's the policy of Royal Caribbean to require anyone buying the Deluxe Beverage Package that all other adults get one too (although there's a hack for this).  But this rule does not apply to minors.

Anyone under the age of 21 in your cabin does not need to get a drink package, regardless if an adult in the same room has the Deluxe Beverage Package.

Piggy-backing on the previous misconception, kids in general, don't need to get a drink package either.

While you could purchase the soda package or non-alcoholic drink package, you don't need to buy them one unless you think it might save you money.

Travel insurance covers any reason to cancel

Allure of the Seas docked

I think almost anyone going on a cruise should purchase travel insurance to protect themselves, but travel insurance does not cover any scenario involving a cancellation.

First and foremost, travel insurance policies are not all the same. Similar to auto insurance, the exact coverages depend on the policy. So you'll want to check what the policy covers and doesn't cover.

Most importantly, most travel insurance plans do not allow a cancellation for any reason.  Unless you seek out a "Cancel for any reason" travel insurance policy, it only kicks in if a pre-designated scenario plays out that is typically out of your control.  

Storm near beach

Typical scenarios for travel insurance to cover include:

  • Loss of a job
  • Death in the immediate family
  • Travel interruption (i.e. cancelled flights)

There's plenty more, so check the policy.

The misconception about travel insurance is you can decide one day you don't want to go on the cruise when you still have the means to travel.  

A great example of this is when there's a hurricane. Someone who's booked on a cruise sees the storm out in the Atlantic and decided they want to cancel because of the storm, but the cruise is still happening and there's been no change to their flights. Travel insurance would not cover this situation.

Therefore, it's very important to double-check the details of any travel insurance policy you purchase to verify it would cover a scenario you have in mind.

The automatic gratuities cover all crew members

Crew member smiling at the bar

Royal Caribbean automatically charges a daily gratuity that you can either be pre-paid or will accrue every day of the cruise, but this doesn't cover every crew member or purchase made onboard.

The daily gratuity is for the complimentary dining room staff and your stateroom attendant only. 

This means drink, spa, souvenir, and any other purchase made onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is not included with that gratuity.  

As a result, you'll see an automatic 18% gratuity added onto these purchases and listed on the receipt.

You have to book a tour to get off the ship in a port of call

Enchantment and Brilliance of the Seas in Cozumel

When your cruise ship visits a port of call, you don't need to book a shore excursion in order to disembark the ship.

Certainly excursions are the most common and popular way to explore the places your cruise ship will visit. These organized tours provide an easy way to experience the best of these places, but you aren't obliged to purchase one.

Unless you're in a country that requires a visa to visit (Russia, China, Vietnam, et al), you can walk off the ship and walk around and explore on your own without any tour booked.

Some people will just walk around the port area, while others will venture into the city or countryside via taxi, bus, or even on foot.

Neither Royal Caribbean nor the place you are visiting places restrictions on getting off the ship to explore.

The same holds true for Royal Caribbean's private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee.

Read more:

If you don't pay for specialty dining, the food is going to be sub-par

Mason Jar restaurant

Similar to the drinks, a lot of first-time cruisers think the food included with your cruise fare is going to be disappointing and specialty dining is the only way to go.

Food is extremely subjective, but the food Royal Caribbean includes is more than adequate and enjoyable.

Whether in the main dining room, Windjammer buffet, or host of other grab-and-go locations, you wont go hungry on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  And I think you'll find plenty that's appetizing too!

Mariner of the Seas dining room

The specialty restaurants get a lot of attention because they are advertised quite a bit.  After all, these are sources of additional revenue for the cruise line, so they're going to make sure you're well-aware of them.

However, Royal Caribbean prides itself on the complimentary food served and you'll find lots of frequent cruisers who dine primarily in the complimentary venues.

There's nothing wrong with indulging in a specialty restaurant or buying a dining package, but don't buy them simply because you think it will be a terrible culinary experience otherwise.

Read moreFood on a Royal Caribbean cruise

You can bring marijuana on your cruise because it's legal where you live

Bow of cruise ship in Halifax

This has become a major source of confusion for new cruisers because of changing local laws related to marijuana in the United States.

In short, Royal Caribbean doesn't allow marijuana (or any illegal drugs) to be brought onboard.

The reason isn't because Royal Caribbean is being a stickler or is taking any kind of moral stance. Rather, it's because of the places you visit.

The cruise contract clearly states it's against the rules to bring marijuana on your cruise, even if it's allowed where you're from:

"Marijuana possession and/or use, including medical marijuana, and possession or use of any illegal drugs, is strictly prohibited in many jurisdictions visited and on the Vessel at all times, as well as in terminals, during shore excursions or any other part of the cruise, regardless of any local, state, or other laws which might
permit use or possession of marijuana."

The issue is the laws of the countries you are visiting, which are outside the jurisdiction of your home state or country.

Royal Caribbean goes onto warn about the stiff penalties with bringing marijuana on a cruise ship:

"Passengers who violate the laws of any jurisdiction are subject to being reported to law enforcement or customs authorities, arrest and prosecution. Passengers who bring on board dangerous items, marijuana in any form, or any illegal drugs or controlled substances are also subject to immediate disembarkation or denial of boarding."

You'll get loyalty program points if you pay for someone else

The scenario is you pay for someone else's cruise fare and assume you'll get the Crown and Anchor Society points.  

Whether they sail with you, or you're paying for them to go and you stay at home, the only person to get loyalty program points is the person taking the cruise.

It doesn't matter who pays for the cruise, the bottom line is points are only awarded if you actually go on the sailing.

This is the same policy that the airlines use in how points are earned.

You can cancel or change a cruise without penalty

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

If there's one billing discrepancy that pops up the most among new cruisers, it's what happens when someone wants to change their cruise reservation.

Admittedly, it's not easy to understand Royal Caribbean's deposit types and cancellation terms. It's why I always recommend everyone use a good travel agent when booking their cruise.

Essentially, you can't change or cancel a cruise anytime, and when you can, there can still be a penalty.

Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

Royal Caribbean offers refundable and non-refundable cruise fare. Non-refundable cruise fare is cheaper, but incurs a penalty if you change the ship and/or sail date. 

Then there's the final payment date, in which once you past final payment, a new set of penalties kick in if you decide to change your cruise. 

And no, extenuating circumstances don't matter. The policy applies to everyone.

It's critical to understand the cancellation and change policies before you book a cruise.  Once again, a good travel agent can help you with this (and so many other possible issues).  Plus, a good travel agent should cost you nothing extra to use!

Guide to cruising with a birth certificate

27 Jan 2023

Many first time cruisers want to know whether or not you can cruise with a birth certificate in lieu of a passport, but the answer depends on a few key factors. And, just because you can cruise with a birth certificate doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Galveston cruise terminal with Allure of the Seas behind it

Whether or not you can cruise with a birth certificate instead of a passport depends on your citizenship status and cruise itinerary. Sailings from the U.S. permit U.S. citizens to show a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, but additional documentation is required for those over 16 years old.

If you’re considering cruising with a birth certificate instead of a passport, be sure to read this guide thoroughly to understand the rules before embarkation day.

Who can cruise with a birth certificate, and on which sailings is this allowed?

Galveston terminal entry

Cruising with a birth certificate is permitted for U.S. citizens, but only in specific cases. The only time U.S. citizens can cruise with a birth certificate (and ID) as their official identification is on sailings departing from U.S. homeports. These must be roundtrip sailings starting and ending in the U.S.

U.S. homeports include:

  • Cape Liberty
  • Miami
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Port Canaveral
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Galveston
  • Boston
  • San Juan

For any cruises departing from outside the U.S. (Canada, Italy, Australia, etc.), U.S. citizens must provide a passport valid at least 6 months after the cruise ends.

Which type of birth certificate is allowed?

Walkway to cruise ship

Only official U.S. state-issued birth certificates are accepted. Note that state-issued birth certificates are different from hospital birth certificates (baby feet birth certificates), and are issued directly from your state’s vital records office.

To obtain a state-issued birth certificate, contact the vital records office in the state or territory in which you were born, and follow the instructions for requesting a copy and paying any applicable fees.

Do I need other documentation in addition to my birth certificate?

Galveston terminal check-in agents

Guests 16 and older who are providing a birth certificate as their citizenship document before a cruise must also provide a valid driver’s license or government issued picture ID.

If your name has changed since the birth certificate was issued, you must also provide a supporting document (marriage license, legal name change document, etc.) that provides proof of the name change.

Remember that both documents must match the name provided on your cruise reservation.

What documentation is required when cruising with minors?

While guests 16 and above must provide a state-issued ID in addition to their birth certificate, minors under 16 may cruise with just a birth certificate. This is, of course, only valid on cruises departing from a U.S. homeport (otherwise a passport is required).

If the name of the parent and minor child do not match, however, the names of the parent and child must be linked through legal documentation.

If an adult is traveling with a minor who is not the parent or legal guardian of the child, they must present:

  • A passport or visa (when required) OR
  • The child’s state-issued birth certificate AND
  • A notarized letter signed by one of the child’s parents stating that the adult has permission to take the child on a cruise

A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or Certificate of Naturalization are also permitted in lieu of a passport or birth certificate on sailings from U.S. homeports.

Are there any exceptions?

Gangway entrance

If you sail from a U.S. homeport but are on a cruise visiting Colombia, all passengers–regardless of citizenship status–must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months after the cruise’s return date. No other travel documents will be accepted.

Puerto Rican citizens should note that a birth certificate issued before July 1, 2010 is not a valid proof of citizenship. Therefore, it’s required to obtain a renewed birth certificate. These renewed documents can be ordered through

Permanent residents of the United States can provide a United States Permanent Resident Card, but a passport from their home country is recommended.

Can citizens of other countries cruise with a birth certificate in lieu of a passport?

Citizens of other countries sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise from the U.S. must provide a valid passport from their home country. The only exception to this is with U.S. permanent residents, although bringing a passport is still advised.

Should you cruise with a birth certificate?


We recommend cruising with a passport instead of a birth certificate, even when a birth certificate is permitted as your proof of citizenship documentation.

Traveling to a foreign country without a passport puts you at risk for a variety of headache-inducing scenarios should you miss the cruise ship, require emergency transportation back to the US, etc.

You cannot board a flight from a foreign country back to the United States without a passport. If you miss the ship in Cozumel, for example, you’ll have to travel to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and obtain a replacement passport.

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Beach at La Romana

Getting stranded in a foreign country without a passport is not how you want to spend your vacation. You never know when an unexpected scenario may occur, so it’s better to be prepared and have a passport handy.

In addition, having a passport makes disembarking the ship easier once the cruise is over, as there’s a separate line for those with U.S. passports versus those traveling with state-issued birth certificates and other forms of identification.

Simply put, it’s always better to have a passport than to travel with just a birth certificate, and it opens up a wide selection of cruise itineraries and international travel choices for the future.

You can view the full list of Royal Caribbean’s required documentation to board here.

More cruise tips & tricks:

12 things I'd tell anyone new to cruise ship travel

29 Dec 2022

Warm sunny days, savory food at every turn, and family memories. Taking your first cruise has high hopes for a great vacation experience.

Woman standing in front of pool deck on Symphony of the Seas

When you're new to cruising, there's all sorts of emotions you may be feeling, including excitement, anxiety, impatience, and hope. 

In talking with new cruisers I'm reminded of the highs and lows pre-vacation planning brings from when I first started cruising.

Now, with over twenty years of cruising experience under my belt, I go into almost any cruise with a sort of "auto pilot" sense to the planning process.  My brain is tuned to what to expect and what to do next in a variety of scenarios.

Of course, I made plenty of rookie cruise mistakes along the way as I got to this point. Everyone learns along the way in becoming a veteran cruiser.

I know what it’s like to just be starting out and have a mind filled with questions, anxieties, and concerns.

So, if you’re new to cruise ships and looking for advice to help you prepare, here are 12 tips that I’d tell a new traveler to help them avoid some of my early mistakes:

1. Don't worry

It may feel daunting when you look at all the things to consider when booking a cruise: 

It's easy to feel overwhelmed seconds after you decide on taking a cruise, but you're very capable of handling this kind of a trip.

By virtue of the fact you're asking these questions, you're already many steps ahead of most other cruisers that will be on your ship.

Inside cabin on Icon of the Seas

Unfortunately, most people on a cruise ship book the ship and then that's about it.  They may buy a drink package or internet plan before their cruise because of a Royal Caribbean marketing email, but a lot of people simply show up for the vacation. This sets them up for more pitfalls than you because you're already asking the right questions.

A cruise ship vacation is designed to be very approachable, so even if you do no research in advance, you'll still probably have a good time onboard. The fact so much is included compared to a land vacation makes it easier to plan around.

Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas

You’ll make mistakes. Everyone does (myself included). But that’s just part of the experience.

The good news is by being on this site and learning about cruises, you're already going to side-step a few common pitfalls and at the end of the cruise, you're very likely to come away loving the experience and wanting another trip!

2. Use a good travel agent

Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

Before you book any cruise, find a really good travel agent to work with.

Yes, travel agents are still a thing, and they are invaluable when it comes to cruise ship travel, especially for those new to cruising.

Note that I included the word "good", as not all travel agents are created equal.

CocoCay helium balloon

A good travel agent has a great deal of experience with the cruise line you are sailing on, and knows the ins and outs of the experience. They've "been there, done that" and have a host of satisfied clients that swear by their travel agent.

You might be thinking "booking a cruise can't be that hard", and you're right. But the booking process is just the starting point for where a good agent comes into play.

As a new cruiser, you're going to have a lot of questions.  Certainly articles on this site can help answer some, but many questions you have will be personal and related to your situation.

Balcony cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Basically, you don't know yet all the questions you will have between now and your cruise beginning. A good travel agent is there to help you along the way.

They'll save you so much time, and maybe some money too.

If it matters, I always use a travel agent to book my cruises.

How do you find such an agent? Ask friends and family for a recommendation. Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean

3. Learn as much as you can before you get onboard

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

"Knowledge is power" isn't just something we tell our kids so they'll study harder in school. It's a fact when it comes to travel.

The more you know about your ship and itinerary, the better prepared you'll be and less likely to waste your time or money along the way.

If there's a regret I hear from new cruisers the most, it's they wish they knew about something before they ever went on their first cruise.

Some easy ways to learn about your cruise are:

4. Choose your cruise ship based on what is important to you

Pool deck fun for kids

There are so many cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, so when choosing the right one, prioritize what you care about.

The TV commercials show all these fun things you can do onboard, but do you need waterslides, surf simulators, or observation pods?

Are you looking for water slides? Skip the Vision class. Need a full Broadway show? Liberty of the Seas has it, but not Freedom of the Seas. Want a nursery for your toddler? Don't book Explorer of the Seas.

Don't feel like you have to book the ship that has the most to do onboard just because it has everything. You may find a great choice in other ships too because it has just what you need.

5. Pack light

Packing for a cruise

I admit that I still struggle with this, but overpacking is so tempting when it comes to a cruise.

The fear of getting onboard a cruise ship only to realize you forgot something really important is an all too real concern.

I think all too often people pack for “just in case” and “what if” instead of the reality of the trip.

While it can be tempting to bring more than you need “just in case,” remember this: you can wear clothing more than once, such as pants or shorts. Plus, you can send clothes out to be dry cleaned and it won't be terribly expensive.

Pack light and you'll have less to carry, saving you the hassle and stress of lugging suitcases around the airport.

Read moreThe Ultimate Cruise Packing List

6. Get travel insurance

Travel insurance

Whether you’re a cruise veteran or a brand new cruiser, don’t leave home without making sure you’re protected in case something goes wrong. 

Between lost luggage, broken bones, medical emergencies, deaths in the family, and a host of other unexpected problems, life gets in the way.

To ensure you’re protected, buy travel insurance.

I never go on a cruise without it because I know just how quickly things can go sideways.

You never know what might happen. Make sure you’re protected. It will also give you peace of mind and help you travel with confidence.

7. Go with the flow

Ovation of the Seas on a sunny day

No matter how well you plan your cruise, something will go awry. You can plan out every day, but you’ll rush around and be unhappy if there are any glitches in your well-curated schedule.

And there will be hiccups. And glitches. And all kinds of inconveniences, both major and minor. 

I think it's a good idea to plan ahead and look forward to certain activities, but you should also be prepared to sometimes adopt a "que sera sera" approach if things don't go your way.

Is it raining the day you wanted to go swimming? The performance you booked cancelled? Restaurant you wanted booked up? You'll still have a good time doing something else.

Don't let an inconvenience or cancellation ruin your entire cruise. Shrug your shoulders and look for something else you can do to make up for it.

If you run into a true game-stopping issue, leverage that really good travel agent I implored you to book with and they can get on top of it too.

8. Take a tour of the ship on the first day

We have full walkthrough tours of Royal Caribbean cruise ships on our YouTube channel that you can watch over and over again, but it's so helpful to get your bearings once onboard.

It can be helpful to get a lay of the land shortly after you board so that you can truly understand where your cabin is located relative to the amenities, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues that appeal to you. 

After you board your ship, head to the pool deck and work your way down the ship, deck by deck, walking the main public areas on those decks. 

This is a great way to quickly acclimate yourself to the ship layout and set yourself up for a great start.

9. Do the online check-in as early as you can

Your time is everything on vacation. Once you clock out of work and head to your cruise, the amount of vacation time starts to tick away, so don't waste any of it in the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean provides a super easy way to do online check-in before the cruise.

Check-in begins up to 45 days before the cruise sail date, so the first thing you'll want to do is download and install the Royal Caribbean app now.

At the 45 day window, grab a check-in time immediately. You can come back to the rest of the check-in later, if you prefer.

Then at some point before the cruise, finish everything in the online check-in. Yes, including taking a selfie photo.

The more time you spend at home doing the check-in, the less you'll spend in the cruise terminal. That means more time on the ship.

10. Remember everyone is in the same boat ship

Sometime very different about a cruise than a land vacation is how much more talkative and friendly cruise ship passengers are than what you're used to on land.

In an elevator, on a shore excursion, at the blackjack table, you'll run into other guests and it's easy to ignore them, but you never know who you may meet on a cruise. Just like you, they're probably new to cruising too. And if they aren't, you may be able to learn a lot from them.

I'm no social butterfly, but simply saying, "hello" is a great first step. You don't have to make friends with everyone you meet, but people that cruise a lot will tell you the fellow passengers they meet are often a real highlight of the cruise.

Crew member smiling at the bar

This applies to crew members too!

Crew members are working onboard, but are people too! Many love to get to know their guests and have plenty of interesting and amusing stories to share.

Don't be afraid to take a minute and talk to your stateroom attendant, waiter, bartender, NextCruise agent, or trivia host. They come from all over the world, and I've found the more crew members I meet, the more respect I have for what they do.  Plus, you learn all sorts of things about the places they've visited, the countries they call home, and fun insight into the cruise experience.

11. Talk to someone if there's a problem

The RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards are filled with people that come back from a cruise and complain about an issue that they could have gotten fixed onboard.

If something is not as expected or disappointing, do not just accept it. Instead, speak up while onboard and nicely inform crew members of the issue, and ask how it can be resolved.

If something is disappointing you, or not as expected, you should seek out a crew member to remedy the problem.

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Whether it is a broken fixture in your stateroom, another guest causing a problem, or a medical concern, don't just suck it up and let it ruin your cruise.

Crew members are there to make your cruise fantastic, and they will do what they can to address your concerns. Even if you think there probably is no chance they can do something, you never know the lengths crew will go to enhance your trip.

12. Get your travel documentation set

A common rookie mistake is not checking that you have all the right documentation for a cruise.

If you don't have a passport, be sure to get one. If you do have a passport, double check the expiration date that it will not expire before your cruise ends.

Make sure you booked the cruise under your legal name, which matches what your passport has listed.

Not only should you ask this question, but ask it well in advance of your cruise. All too often, people dig out their passports or birth certificates only to realize it is too late to change things.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

More cruise advice

I sailed with a first-time cruiser to see what she thought about a Royal Caribbean cruise

19 Dec 2022

Once you start cruising frequently, it’s easy to forget how it feels to go on a cruise for the very first time. From formal dinners in the Main Dining Room to the spectacular shows you see onboard, your first-ever Royal Caribbean cruise brings memories you’ll cherish for a long time.

One of my favorite parts of working for Royal Caribbean Blog is cruising with friends and family, most of whom are first-time cruisers. Hearing their thoughts about the cruise experience is always interesting, whether it’s the surprise at realizing they can order unlimited items off the menu or their reaction to the World’s Sexiest Man Competition on the pool deck.

I recently took my cousin Keli on a cruise on Liberty of the Seas, and I sat down with her to see what she thought—the good and the bad—about her first Royal Caribbean cruise.


First-time cruisers are often impressed with the level of service on a Royal Caribbean cruise, especially if they’ve never experienced an all-inclusive style of vacation before.

“As far as customer service goes," Keli mentioned, "it was far better than anything you get on land. Everyone was so happy. After learning they live on a ship for a long time, to keep up that energy and cheerfulness is amazing!”

Her favorite staff members, though, were the “Washy Washy” workers in the Windjammer Cafe. As you enter the buffet, these crew members encourage all guests to wash their hands through song, dance, and cheers.

“God, those ladies! They’re the best thing ever. Far better than any experience on land.”


Food is synonymous with a Royal Caribbean cruise, and I was interested to see how Keli felt about the variety of food available onboard.

Right off the bat, she exclaimed that “I was literally never hungry.” This could not be more true, as we indulged in a variety of cuisines in the Main Dining Room, Windjammer, and Chops Grille during our sailing.

Breakfast was Keli’s favorite, and when asked about her favorite dish onboard, she immediately answered with “French toast, for sure!” I certainly agree with Keli, and you’ll never find me skipping breakfast on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

As far as options, Keli appreciated how a buffet provides a way to try foods you wouldn’t normally try, and that there were a lot more dinner options than she initially thought.

I think this is a huge benefit of the cruise experience, and I’ve definitely expanded my palette on a cruise far more than I ever would on land. Being able to try new dishes without worrying that I'll have to pay for something I don't like enhances the dining experience on any cruise.

Time in port

Our first surprise on our cruise was a last-minute itinerary change. As we entered the cruise terminal, we received a paper detailing a schedule change due to a storm. Instead of the Bahamas itinerary we originally planned for, we would be setting course to the Dominican Republic.

As a first-time cruiser, Keli had no idea an itinerary could change. “That was super surprising,” she mentioned. “I didn’t know that they could just send you somewhere different.”

Luckily we took our itinerary change in stride and we were beyond excited for our day in the Dominican Republic.

Puerto Plata’s cruise port is brand new, and the facilities within the port itself can keep visitors occupied for a full day. From a large pool to several bars and restaurants, I was impressed with the space, but was interested to hear what Keli had to say about this port.

“The port itself was gorgeous. If I couldn’t speak Spanish (which I can’t), leaving the port by myself would have been a little intimidating. Even if I didn’t feel comfortable doing that, staying at the port would have been gorgeous. The free pool was amazing and they had all those really cool bars. I would have been satisfied just staying at the port all day.”

Related: 7 things I did right (and 3 mistakes) on my recent cruise ship port day

This was Keli’s first time out of the United States. I’ve always thought cruises are a nice, stress-free vacation for those new to international travel, and Keli’s comments reinforced this opinion.

She mentioned how choosing a cruise for her first international trip was great due to the structure of the vacation.

“It’s a little less intimidating than going off by yourself. When you go to the port, you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want in the country. It’s not like they drop you off at the curb and say ‘See ya!’. You can go galavant by yourself or stay in the port.”

Do cruises spend enough time at each port?

A common concern of new cruisers is that they won’t have a lot of time to spend in port. To make the most of our few hours in the Dominican Republic, we hired a private taxi driver for the day. I asked Keli her thoughts on the time we had in Puerto Plata.

“I felt like we had a good amount of time. We went and saw a lot of the local stuff but then were still able to spend time at the port. Without the guide, I think we would have spent a lot more time finding our way around, so I think that was really helpful. Since we were able to get a local guide, we were able to come back and relax before we got back on the ship.”


I decided to upgrade our cabin at the last minute from an interior to a spacious ocean view balcony room. Not only would this provide more room in our cabin, but it would be a nice way to kick off Keli’s first cruise.

Related: I spent $250 to upgrade my cruise ship cabin: Was it worth it?

“The cabin was bigger than I expected because we upgraded our stateroom. I was a little concerned about being in an interior room, so I’m glad we had the window. I think the window was really beneficial. In the future, I would definitely book one with a window or I would love to have one with a balcony. A balcony would be amazing!”

If there’s anything I’ve learned about cruising with first-timers, it’s that they’re often worried about feeling seasick. When I initially upgraded our stateroom, I realized our cabin was far aft and was nervous we would feel too much movement in the room.

Keli, too, was nervous, but she mentioned how “The dramamine worked well. I was surprised I enjoyed the ship rocking at night when I was going to sleep!”.

If you’re traveling with first-time cruisers, be sure to pack motion-sickness remedies in case anyone in your travel party is nervous about feeling too much movement.

Overall experience

I asked Keli if there’s anything she would change about her first cruise. Other than wishing she knew Spanish for our time in the Dominican Republic, she mentioned how she would have researched more had she not been cruising with me.

“Because I was going with you, I didn’t research anything! However if I was going to go by myself I would research the itinerary better.”

Researching your cruise ship, itinerary, and what’s offered onboard is definitely a helpful tip for any first-time cruisers. Knowing the ins and outs of what to expect both onboard and in port can ensure you don’t run into any surprises along the way.

Related: What to expect on your first cruise

Finally, I was curious about Keli’s favorite aspects of her cruise on Royal Caribbean. 

“My favorite thing was being on the tour with Ramon (our private taxi driver) in Puerto Plata. That was the best! My favorite thing on the ship was karaoke 100%. It was one big party. You had kids and elderly people and everyone in between having a good time. That I loved."

Cruising solo can be fun, but I always enjoy my cruise experience more when sailing with friends and family. Taking first-time cruisers onboard helps me to relive the “WOW” feeling I had when stepping onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise for the first time, and that was the case during my four nights onboard with Keli.

If you’re traveling with first-time cruisers (or are planning your first-ever cruise!) check our our helpful tips and tricks:

The 20 worst cruise mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation

23 Nov 2022

Planning your first cruise is always exciting, but it can be difficult to know what to expect. From packing to embarkation day and exploring new ports, there’s a lot to consider when preparing for a cruise vacation.

Solarium on Harmony of the Seas

In order to make sure you have the best cruise possible, you’ll want to avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes many newbie cruisers make. Even a small mistake can have a negative impact on the enjoyment of your cruise, and you’ll want to avoid making decisions that can ultimately ruin your time onboard.

Here are the top 20 worst cruise ship mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation.

Packing important items in your checked luggage

When you arrive at the cruise terminal on embarkation day, you have the option to check in your luggage with porters. Most passengers opt to do this to avoid the hassle of lugging their suitcases around the ship on embarkation day.

Before handing off your suitcases to the porters, double check to make sure you have everything you’ll need to embark the ship in your carry-on bag.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

It’s important to keep identification, medication, items for your kids, etc. in your carry-on bag to ensure they’re handy on embarkation day.

Bringing the wrong documentation

Walkway to cruise ship

One of the top ways to ruin a cruise is by being denied boarding in the first place! Before you book a cruise, make sure to review which necessary documentation is required for your sailing.

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Necessary documentation for your cruise depends on your citizenship, residency, and from where in the world you are embarking a cruise ship. Review Royal Caribbean’s official policy on necessary identification here to ensure you have the proper documentation for your cruise.

Having an expired passport


In addition to having proper documentation for a cruise, make sure it will be valid at the time of travel. You don’t want to realize your passport expired as you’re packing for the cruise!

You must ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your cruise. If your cruise is in June but your passport expires in July, you may be denied boarding.

Be aware of when your passport (or driver’s license) expires and plan accordingly if it will expire before the cruise. Passport renewals can take several weeks, so it’s important to plan ahead to ensure you don’t miss your cruise.

Not researching anything in port

We don’t recommend “winging it” when it comes to visiting a new cruise port. With limited time in each destination, you’ll want to make the most of your time and have the best experience possible.

While you don’t have to plan your port day down to the minute, knowing the basics of what your port has to offer can help you plan the perfect day.

Related: Best shore excursion in every Caribbean cruise port

Research the port’s top attractions, culture, food, and language. It’s better to be knowledgeable about what you can do in port so you don’t regret not experiencing something in the destination later on.

Not putting your phone in airplane mode

One of the most expensive mistakes you can make on a Royal Caribbean cruise is forgetting to put your cell phone in airplane mode. Leaving your phone’s data on can lead to expensive international roaming charges, and no one wants to be surprised with a huge bill.

Cell service on cruise ships is not covered even if you have a phone plan with international coverage. Therefore, regardless of your phone provider or where in the world you are cruising, always make sure to put your phone on airplane mode when your ship is sailing.

Booking a flight the same day your cruise begins

Airplane on the ground

One piece of advice we give over and over again is to arrive in your embarkation port the day before your cruise.

Booking a flight that arrives the same day of your cruise is risky. Weather delays, technical issues, and unexpected mishaps can easily cause you to miss the ship. Booking a flight that arrives the day before your cruise provides extra wiggle room in case of any travel issues.

Airline travel has always been unpredictable, so be sure to plan for extra travel time.

Booking flights too early on disembarkation day

Newark airport

Just like traveling to your cruise port, you’ll want to plan wiggle room for any delays you might encounter on disembarkation day.

Most cruise ships return to port around 6AM on disembarkation day. This does not mean, however, that you are able to disembark the ship at 6AM.

Disembarkation usually starts around 7AM, with most guests off the ship by 9:30AM. Disembarkation, travel to the airport, checking bags, and going through security can take a few hours, especially if the port is far from the airport.

We don’t recommend booking a flight before 12PM, although it’s important to research travel times from your cruise port to the airport. Some airports, like Fort Lauderdale, are located just a few minutes from the cruise terminal whereas others require more travel time.

Picking the cheapest cruise you see

Independence of the Seas as seen from tender

Everyone loves finding a good deal, but don’t book a cruise based solely on price. Booking a cruise based on price ignores other important factors like ship size, itinerary, activity options, and stateroom choices.

Related: Why you shouldn’t book the cheapest cruise you can find

Before you book the cheapest cruise you can find, be sure to consider these factors. You don’t want to book a cheap cruise only to realize the itinerary isn’t what you wanted or that there are limited activities for kids onboard.

Do research before booking to make sure your cruise vacation is as amazing as possible.

Picking the wrong ship

Promenade deck

Royal Caribbean cruise ships may all offer a classic Royal Caribbean experience, but amenities, size, and activity options vary widely. Although you can have an excellent cruise on any ship, you might prefer one style of cruising over another.

If you’re traveling with kids, for example, you might want to consider a ship with an abundance of family-friendly activities. Voyager, Freedom, Quantum, and Oasis Class ships have activities like waterslides, Splashaway Bay, a FlowRider, zip line, and ice skating.

Related: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

If your main goal is to visit exotic ports, you’ll want to look for a cruise on a smaller ship. Royal Caribbean deploys its older, smaller cruise ships on more unique itineraries to places like Fiji, the Panama Canal, and Croatia.

The more research you do on Royal Caribbean ships before booking your cruise will help avoid any disappointment upon boarding.

Not packing sunscreen

No one likes getting sunburned, and a bad burn can severely impact the enjoyment of your cruise vacation.

If you’re cruising to a warm destination, you’ll probably be spending much more time in the sun than you’re used to. Whether lounging on the beach or sightseeing in a city, it’s important to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

Booking shore excursions in every port

If you’re new to cruising, you might assume you should book shore excursions in every port you visit, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

While shore excursions can offer a stress-free way to see the top sights of any port, they come with several drawbacks. Large tour groups, little time spent in each destination, and a higher price than exploring independently are just some of the cons of booking a shore excursion.

Family on Alaska tour

Many ports can be easily explored without an organized tour. Plenty of passengers prefer disembarking the ship and spending their day exactly how they want to spend it. Whether that means taking a taxi to a local beach or shopping downtown, there are many ways to spend time in port without an excursion.

If you’re debating between booking an excursion or exploring on your own, these tips should help you make a decision:

Getting upset about itinerary changes

Adventure of the Seas sailing into Nassau

Itinerary changes are possible on a cruise, so it’s important to understand that the cruise you originally planned for may encounter changes.

Changes can occur due to weather, port restrictions, medical emergencies, unrest in a port of call, etc. Therefore, it’s extremely important to be flexible with any itinerary changes.

Instead of declaring your cruise “ruined” due to an itinerary change, view the change with excitement instead of anger. If you will be visiting a new destination, research the best things to do in port, local cuisine, and culture. If your port stop was replaced with a sea day, plan something special for the extra time onboard, such as visiting the spa or reserving dinner at a specialty restaurant.

As with everything in life, changes can happen unexpectedly, but you shouldn’t let an itinerary change ruin your cruise.

Being rude to crew members

Royal Caribbean’s crew members work extremely hard on their multi-month contracts. Most crew work 7 days a week while still maintaining a positive attitude and helping guests in every way they can.

While most ship operations run smoothly, there’s always a chance something will go astray. If your dining room waiter accidentally brings you the wrong appetizer or a bartender charges for the wrong drink, approach the situation politely.

Being rude and yelling at crew members is never a nice way to go about your cruise vacation. If something bothers, you can calmly ask a crew member to resolve the problem.

Missing the cruise ship

Two ships docked in Cozumel

A sure-fire way to ruin any cruise vacation is by missing your cruise ship and being left behind in port. Whether you arrived late on embarkation day or lost track of time at the beach in Mexico, missing the ship is an unfortunate scenario.

Related: What happens if you miss your cruise ship?

Missing your ship is, more often than not, an expensive and time-consuming ordeal, especially if you’re traveling without a passport.

Visits to the US embassy for emergency identification documents and last-minute airline prices are not ideal. Be sure to keep track of time when in port to ensure your cruise ship doesn’t leave without you.

Not purchasing travel insurance

Medical center

Another way to ruin your cruise vacation is by not purchasing travel insurance.

Traveling can lead to many surprises, from canceled flights to emergency doctor visits. Having travel insurance ensures you are financially covered in the most unpredictable situations.

Related: Should you buy annual travel insurance plans?

In fact, Royal Caribbean’s onboard medical services are not covered under most insurance plans that work at home. Travel insurance, on the other hand, should cover any medical services you may require once onboard.

Not leaving clothes out for disembarkation day

Before you put luggage outside your stateroom door the night before disembarkation, be sure to leave clothes to wear the following morning.

The night before disembarkation, you can opt to place luggage in the hallway which will be transported to the cruise terminal for pick up the next morning. Although this is a hassle-free way of moving your luggage from place to place, be sure to leave daytime clothes for disembarkation day.

You don’t want to disembark the ship in your pajamas!

Forgetting medicine

One of, if not the most important thing to pack for a cruise is any prescription medication you require. Check and double check to make sure all necessary medication is in your carry-on bag before leaving for a cruise.

While you’ll find pharmacy options in port and in the ship’s medical center, there’s no guarantee your specific medication and brand will be stocked.

It’s a good idea to pack over-the-counter medications with you as well, such as motion-sickness medication, ibuprofen, anti-nausea tablets, etc.

Selecting the wrong cabin type

One sure-fire way to negatively impact your cruise vacation is by selecting the wrong cabin type or location.

Before booking the cheapest or first cabin you see, consider what you’re looking for in a cruise vacation.

If you plan to spend the whole day outside of your cabin, an inside room can be a budget-friendly option. If you’d rather enjoy the privacy of a balcony, however, consider booking a higher category room.

Related: Guide to balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Your cabin location is another important factor to consider before booking a cruise. Some cabins may be more prone to movement than others, whereas some are located closer to certain venues onboard.

Before picking a cruise ship cabin location, be sure to read our guide on the best cabins on a cruise ship.

Arguing with other passengers

Did you know every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a jail onboard? Make sure you don’t end up there.

With thousands of passengers on any cruise ship, arguments and conflict can occasionally occur.

Just like in any land-based setting, it’s best to avoid conversations about politics and controversial topics with fellow passengers. Be courteous of those around you on a cruise and you’ll avoid any major issues.

Not checking your bill at the end of the cruise

Every purchase you make onboard is charged to your SeaPass card. You can check your account balance throughout the cruise via the Royal Caribbean app, and we recommend looking at the balance periodically to check for any errors.

You may occasionally encounter an incorrect charge, and it's always better to catch this mistake while onboard instead of at home. If you don't check your invoice until the cruise ends, you'll have to call Royal Caribbean and wait on hold. It's much easier to go to Guest Services while onboard to take care of any billing issues.

More cruise tips & tricks:

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - What veteran cruisers would tell first time cruisers if they could

02 Nov 2022

Listen to the Show

Cruising a lot changes your outlook on how you cruise, and I have a list of 5 things I think people that cruise a lot would tell first time cruisers about how the process changes.

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

On this episode:
Running time:

30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

17 Aug 2022

The first day of a Royal Caribbean cruise is an exciting time. Your vacation has just begun and you have an entire cruise full of discovering new ports, eating delicious food, watching top-notch entertainment, and relaxing by the ocean ahead of you.

While it’s tempting to get onboard and immediately start partying and enjoying the day, there are a few things you can do to maximize your time, money, and vacation time later on.

From arriving at the cruise terminal to making dining reservations, exploring the ship, and finding the best spot for sailaway, here are some of the best do’s and don’ts for the first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Do: Explore your embarkation port

If you arrived at your embarkation port the night before, take some time in the morning on embarkation day to explore the city. Walk around South Beach in Miami, visit the Opera House in Sydney, or shop at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Treat the morning of embarkation day as an extra port stop as opposed to waiting around in your hotel.

Do: Have required documents easy to access at the terminal

Be sure to keep items like passports, negative Covid-19 test results, vaccine cards, etc. easily accessible at the terminal on embarkation day.

You’ll likely be asked to show these items several times throughout the check-in process, so keeping them all in one place is helpful.

Do: Drop off luggage with the porters

When you arrive at the cruise terminal on embarkation day, leave your luggage with the porters. We recommend taking a small carry-on bag (backpack or purse) on the ship with you, but leaving bigger luggage with the porters.

Bags will be delivered to your stateroom later in the day, so you won’t have to worry about lugging your big suitcase or duffel bag around the ship. It's customary to give a small tip for each bag you leave with the porters.

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

Do: Pack important items in your carry-on

Carry-on suitcase

If you’re leaving your luggage with the porters at the cruise terminal, be sure to pack important items into your carry-on bag. Passports, money, credit cards, medication, phone chargers, etc. should all be packed in a carry-on bag to ensure you have access to the items if your luggage encounters any delays getting to your stateroom.

Do: Bring wine, soda, or water bottles onboard

Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring two 750ml bottles of wine or champagne onboard per stateroom.

In addition, guests can bring up to 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles, or cartons of non-alcoholic beverages like soda or water per stateroom.

Keep these beverages with you in the cruise terminal instead of placing them in the luggage you give to the porters.

Read moreWhat food or drinks you're allowed to bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Do: Finish the eMuster drill early in the day

Royal Caribbean’s eMuster drill is easy and convenient, so be sure to complete all three steps early in the day once you get onboard. Don’t be the cause for constant announcements reminding guests to complete the drill!

Related: What to expect with Royal Caribbean’s virtual safety drill

Do: Reserve entertainment

inTENse show

As soon as you get onboard, open Royal Caribbean’s app and reserve entertainment shows for the week. Not all shows require a reservation, but the most popular productions (Two70 shows, AquaTheater shows, etc.) will require reservations.

Our recommendation is to make entertainment reservations for the first day of the show each week. Shows can be canceled due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, so making reservations for early in the week will ensure you have plenty of time to see the show if it has to be rescheduled.

Do: Make dining reservations

If you have a dining package, be sure to make reservations as soon as you get onboard to ensure you can select the restaurants and dining times that work best for you. You don’t have to visit each individual specialty restaurant to make reservations, as the crew member at one restaurant can make reservations for other restaurants onboard.

The only exception to this is at Izumi Hibachi/Teppanyaki. Reservations for hibachi can only be made at Izumi, so it’s a good idea to head there first for dining reservations.

Related: Royal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Do: Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on

Pools, whirlpools, and water slides are available to use on embarkation day, and you’ll often find that they are much less crowded than other days onboard. Make sure to pack a swimsuit in your carry-on bag so you can start your vacation right away with a sunny afternoon at the pool.

Related: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

Do: Enjoy lunch onboard

One of the first things many passengers do once onboard is eat lunch. Many venues are open on embarkation day, including the Windjammer, Park Cafe, Cafe @ Two70, Cafe Promenade, Sorrento’s Pizza, some specialty restaurants, and more!

Do: Confirm Main Dining Room reservations

While exploring the ship on embarkation day, be sure to head to the Main Dining Room to confirm your dining reservation and table. If you would prefer your own table but are seated at a table with other passengers, see if the staff can accommodate your request.

If you have any dietary restrictions that you informed Royal Caribbean of in advance, be sure to confirm that the request has been received.

Related: Top 10 insider tips for Royal Caribbean’s Main Dining Room

Do: Meet your stateroom attendant

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Your stateroom attendant will visit your cabin twice a day for housekeeping service. It’s recommended to meet your stateroom attendant on the first day of your cruise to introduce yourself.

Stateroom attendants will go door to door to try and meet everyone in the cabins they service on embarkation day, so take a minute to say hello!

Do: Check your cabin

Once cabins are ready on embarkation day, do a quick check to make sure everything is working properly. Test the lights, outlets, television, etc. If you need beds separated or have any additional preferences, make sure to let your stateroom attendant know.

Related: 8 things you should know about your cruise ship cabin

Do: Walk around the ship

Taking some time to explore the ship on embarkation day can give you a better sense of what is available onboard and where everything is located.

Exploring the ship will probably come naturally throughout the day as you make your way to and from your cabin, the pool deck, lunch, entertainment shows, etc.

Do: Register kids at Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean programming for kids holds an “open house” on embarkation day where you can explore the facilities and sign your children up for Adventure Ocean.

It only takes a few minutes to register kids for Adventure Ocean, so it’s a good idea even if you aren’t sure that your kids will attend.

Plus, sending your kids to Adventure Ocean on the first day of the cruise can allow them to make friends right away, as the first day is a prime time for making new friends onboard.

Do: Unpack

Quantum of the Seas cabin drawers

Once your luggage is delivered to your stateroom, take some time to unpack your belongings. While it’s acceptable to live out of your suitcase all week, taking time to unpack clothes and other personal items into your stateroom’s closets and drawers can help you feel more “at home” in your cabin.

Do: Enjoy an embarkation day drink

Nothing screams “cruise vacation” quite like a tropical cocktail by the pool, and that’s exactly what you should enjoy on embarkation day!

After having lunch onboard, head to one of the many bars on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship to order a cocktail (or mocktail!) and get your vacation off to a fantastic start.

Related: 8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Do: Find the best sailaway spot

Each class of Royal Caribbean cruise ships differ in layout and design, so be sure to scope out the best sailaway spot on embarkation day to ensure you have the best views of your ship leaving port.

Here are some of our favorite spots for sailaway:

  • Vision Class ships: deck 10 forward
  • Radiance, Voyager, and Freedom Class ships: helicopter pad
  • Quantum and Oasis Class ships: Solarium bridge wings

Do: Take time to relax

Vue Bar

Embarkation day can be a bit hectic onboard, with thousands of passengers navigating their way around the ship. From getting through the cruise terminal to making reservations, completing the eMuster drill, and unpacking, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Remember to take some time to relax on embarkation day, whether lounging on a pool chair, enjoying the hot tubs in the Solarium, or simply sitting in a lounge with a drink.

Do: Order multiple items in the Main Dining Room

One of our top tips about the Main Dining Room on a Royal Caribbean cruise is that you can order as much as you’d like. If you’re having trouble deciding between appetizers, main courses, or desserts on embarkation day, order multiple items!

After all, why choose between the key lime pie and chocolate hazelnut cake when you can have them both!

Related: 7 cruise ship Main Dining Room rules to follow– Plus 1 to break

Do: Sign up for onboard activities

While most onboard activities do not require making a reservation in advance, there are a few that do: RipCord by iFLY, North Star, Zone Zero, and the escape rooms.

Open the Royal Caribbean app on embarkation day and make reservations for these activities to ensure you can select the date and time that works best for your schedule.

RipCord by iFLY and North Star offer both complimentary and extra cost options, so if you don’t want to pay for these activities it’s recommended to reserve the activity ASAP once onboard.

Do: Take a spa tour

Massage at the spa

The Vitality Spa offers free tours of their facilities on embarkation day, which can be a nice way to see what the spa has to offer and learn more about which treatments are available.

This is also a good time to confirm your existing spa reservations or book an appointment.

Do: Download the Royal Caribbean app

The Royal Caribbean app is an extremely useful tool on your cruise, as it’s where you’ll find a list of daily activities, your billing information, deck maps, and more.

Having the Royal Caribbean app downloaded on your phone in preparation for the first day of your cruise is recommended so that you don’t waste any time once onboard.

Now that we’ve reviewed what you should do on the first day of your cruise, let's take a look at the don’ts.

Don’t: Fly to the port the same day as your cruise

One of the most critical things not to do is fly to the cruise port on the same day as your cruise. Unexpected delays, missed connections, and cancellations are extremely common in air travel, so be sure to arrive the day before your cruise to allow for some extra wiggle room.

Related: Why you shouldn’t fly to your cruise the same day it begins

Don’t: Arrive at the port before your check-in time

While it is hit or miss whether a departure port strictly adheres to the scheduled check-in time you picked when checking in online, it’s still best practice to show up to port at your scheduled check-in time.

If your check-in is at 12PM and you arrive at 11:15, you’ll probably be allowed to board. If your check-in time isn’t until 2PM, however, and you arrive at 10AM, you’ll most likely have to wait a while.

Don’t: Go to Guest Services on the first day

Guest Services is an extremely valuable service throughout the cruise, as crew members can answer any questions you may have, settle billing discrepancies, etc.

On the first day of the cruise, however, Guest Services can be prone to long lines. It’s best to save any questions for the second day of the cruise or go to Guest Services during less busy times of the day such as during dinner.

Don’t: Only consider the Windjammer for lunch

While the Windjammer buffet offers nearly endless choices, it can be extremely busy for embarkation day lunch. Consider skipping the crowds and eating at another venue instead, such as Park Cafe or Sorrento’s.

If you are hoping for a more relaxed feel to embarkation day lunch, make a reservation at a specialty restaurant for a much calmer atmosphere than what you’ll find at the buffet.

Related: Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer Cafe buffet

Don’t: Leave your phone service on

Remember to put your phone on airplane mode before sailaway! Even if you have international service, it most likely does not count cruises into the phone plan. Avoid extremely high phone bills by placing your phone on airplane mode.

Don’t: Try to do everything

It can be tempting to pack the first day of your cruise with activities. There are so many fun things to do on a cruise, from watching Broadway musicals to indoor skydiving, bumper cars, zip lining, surfing simulators, mini golf, and more.

Don’t try to do everything on the first day, though, and remember that you can spread out activities throughout the cruise. You are onboard to relax, after all, so don’t make yourself exhausted by trying to fit everything in one day!

Don’t: Wait to book excursions

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a Shore Excursions area onboard where you can learn more about which excursions are available, talk to crew members specializing in excursions, and book tours for your cruise itinerary.

It’s recommended that you book excursions in advance instead of waiting to do so on the ship so that the excursions you are interested in do not sell out. While it can be helpful to talk to crew members about the tours in more detail, you run the risk of far fewer tours being available compared to booking ahead of time.

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise? Start here:

How to cancel a Royal Caribbean cruise

01 May 2022

No one likes to think about it, but occasionally there is a need to cancel a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Whether you are flat out cancelling the reservation or opting to postpone the cruise to a future sail date, there are important rules and policies to be aware of before you call in to change your booking.

No matter what the rationale, here is what you need to know on how to cancel a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Updated: February 9, 2023

Know the cancellation policy

Before you cancel, you should be aware of the terms of cancellation you agreed to when placing that initial deposit.

Cruise Fares

There are two types of cruise fare deposits: refundable and non-refundable.  

If you booked refundable cruise fare, and have not yet made your final payment, you can cancel for a full refund of your deposit and any money paid.

If you booked a non-refundable cruise fare, and are outside of final payment, you will receive a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise deposit, less a $100 per guest change fee.

Once you pass the final payment date, you may be subject to cancelation charges that vary depending on how close you are to your sailing. 

A traditional cruise cancellation will provide cash back, but potentially with penalties.

Cancellation Window

Once you pass the final payment date, cancellations that occur may incur a cancellation charge that depends on how close to sailing you decide not to cruise.

(including Holiday sailings)
75 days or more prior to the first day of the CruiseNo charge (except for Nonrefundable Deposit amounts)
74 to 61 days50% of total price
60 to 31 days75% of total price
30 days or less100% of total price (No refund)


(including Holiday sailings and Cruisetours)
90 days or more prior to the first day of the CruiseNo charge (except for Nonrefundable Deposit amounts)
89 to 75 days25% of total price
74 to 61 days50% of total price
60 to 31 days75% of total price
30 days or less100% of total price (No refund)

How to cancel a cruise

Once you determine you want to cancel your cruise, you need to contact whomever you booked your cruise with to make the change.

If you booked directly with Royal Caribbean, you can call Royal Caribbean to cancel the reservation.

If you booked the cruise with a travel agent, and/or any website other than Royal Caribbean's site, you must go through your travel provider to cancel the cruise.

Can I get a refund on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

You may be able to get a refund for your cruise, depending on how far in advance you cancel you cruise and the type of cruise deposit booked. It is critical you understand the terms and conditions of your cruise contract before booking a cruise to prevent any surprises if you decide to cancel later on.

Refer to the chart above for specific cancellation charges, but if you inform Royal Caribbean at least 90 days prior to your sailing date for 5-night or longer cruises (including Holiday sailings and Cruisetours), or 75 days for 1-4 night cruises (including Holiday sailings), you may qualify for a full or partial refund.

The type of cruise fare deposit on the reservation and timing of the decision to cancel will ultimately dictate how much of a refund you will receive.

Does travel insurance cover the cost if I cancel my cruise?

Travel insurance covers a great deal of scenarios, but cancelling your vacation because you want to cancel is usually not covered.

Refer to your travel insurance policy, but unless you have a 'Cancel For Any Reason' policy, most travel insurance does not kick in until an outside influence occurs that prevents you from going on the cruise, such as becoming ill or another covered scenario.

Non-Royal Caribbean related refunds

Of course, you may have other purchases made in conjunction with your cruise vacation that is outside of Royal Caribbean. 

Each company you work with will have different cancellation policies, with some being far more flexible than others.

The airlines have modified their cancellation terms to be more flexible, although each airline has different rules regarding travel credits, refunds, or both. One loophole to getting a refund is if the airline cancels or changes your flight time, you may be able to jump in on a refund request.

Hotels have traditionally offered flexible cancellation terms, provided you did not opt for a non-refundable deposit. 

Perhaps car rentals have the most customer-friendly cancellations available; but you will have to refer to your rental reservation. 

Regardless of which refund you are requesting, the key is to be persistent and polite about getting answers to options available to you.

More information

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