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How to avoid the most irritating lines on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
08Aug2020

Just like the supermarket, DMV, baseball games and so many other aspects of life, waiting in a line on a Royal Caribbean cruise is going to happen sooner or later.

Perhaps part of Royal Caribbean's plans once cruising resumes is to implement new means to spread guests out in order to enforce social distancing, but you will likely run into an extended wait during your cruise.

While you cannot avoid waiting at all, there are some easy ways to mitigate these lines and reduce your stress at the same time.

Lines getting back on a ship

When you return to your cruise ship after a fun day on a shore excursion, lines can develop at the gangway to get back onboard the ship.

Usually in the afternoon when most tours wrap up, many guests return to the ship and lines can develop, with often times there being lines that lack shade.

The easiest strategy is to find a spot in the port area where you can sit down in the shade and keep an eye on the line while enjoying the port area.  Quite often, there are bars and restaurants set up near the pier that you could enjoy a drink while seeing when the line shortens.

Another strategy is to plan to return to the ship significantly earlier or later than most others. If you come back early, you sacrifice time in port but can pretty much walk back onboard.  Likewise, if you wait until the last couple of hours your ship is in port, you may find shorter lines since most others have returned.

One last option is if you bought The Key (or are a Star or Sky Class guest or Pinnacle member), you can take advantage of Fast Track boarding

Crowded Windjammer buffet

Dreaming of a lovely breakfast with a cup of coffee, bagel, lox, cream cheese and pile of bacon to go with it? So is everyone else on the ship, and that leads to a busy buffet.

The best way to avoid lines in the Windjammer buffet is to either have breakfast early (before 8:30am) or late (after 10am).

If you like your 9am breakfast, then consider an alternative option for breakfast such as:

  • Cafe Promenade
  • Johnny Rockets (Oasis Class ships only)
  • Park Cafe
  • Solarium Bistro
  • Coastal Kitchen (suite guests only)

These locations are vastly less crowded and allow you to get in and out with substantially less waits.

Waiting to get into the main dining room

If you have traditional dinner, you will inevitably find a lot of guests waiting outside the main dining room doors for them to open. 

Rather than join the masses and stand around, seek out an entertainer in one of the nearby bars, or play a few games in the casino. 

There is usually something else going on nearby, and that way if you wait until a few minutes after the doors open, you will find no wait to get in.

Waiting to get off the ship on the last day

Admittedly I do not have a great way around this line, but there are some ways to make it easier on yourself.

The last day of your cruise is when everyone has to get off the ship, and you are almost certainly going to encounter a line somewhere.  Not only is there a line to get off the ship, but everyone is tired from waking up early and disappointed their cruise is over.  It is a recipe for a lot of grumpy people.

The best strategy for an easy disembarkation is to stay in a suite.  Suite guests get escorted off the ship by the Suite Concierge and it is the simplest (albeit expensive) approach.

If staying in a suite is not practical, you should either plan to be among the first off the ship or the last.  Even if you wake up at 6am and get ready to go bright and early before the ship even docks, you will be waiting around with the other early birds.

The problem with waiting to be among the last get off the ship is there is nothing to do onboard.  You are requested to leave your staterooms by a certain time, and all the venues are closed.  So you could sit around on the pool deck one last time and enjoy the ocean breeze while the line winds down.

Muster drill

This used to be a quagmire of people trying to leave their muster stations, but Royal Caribbean has solved this for everyone.

Royal Caribbean recently announced an electronic muster drill process it will implement when cruises resume known as Muster 2.0.

Rather than going to a muster station, standing around and listening to safety instructions, guests can use mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs to learn important safety information.

One on the cruise ship, guests have a set time (indicated by a timer in the app) during which muster drill must be completed by all of the passengers.

So rejoice that we will never have to deal with this problem again.

Top 10 cruise questions first time cruisers are too shy to ask

In:
04Aug2020

New cruisers often have questions about what to do on a cruise, but are to timid to ask if they are doing the right thing or not.

Cruises are a very welcoming type of vacation, but there are definitely some traditions and unwritten rules that you should be aware of before you step foot onboard.

If you are among the many people going on your first cruise, here are the top questions newbies have but are too shy to ask (so I will answer them for you).

How much food can I order at the main dining room?

When you eat in the main dining room, nearly the entire menu is complimentary (there are a few add-ons for dinner that cost extra, like lobster) and you can order as much food as you want.

You can (and should) feel free to order as much as you want. In fact, the staff will encourage you to do so as a means of trying things out.

Unlike a land-based restaurant, the main dining room food is included and there are no limits on what you can order. Whether you cannot choose between two options, or want to nibble on a few different appetizers, you can order as much as you like from the menu.

You can even order more food in the middle of the meal.  If an appetizer or entree does not satisfy, you can always order something else off the menu.

Can I change tables if I don't like the people sitting with us at dinner?

Meeting people on a cruise is a fun maritime tradition, but occasionally you might be seated at dinner with someone that just does not jive with your personality.

The good news is you can be re-seated upon request if the people you are seated with are not a good fit. All you need to do is speak to the head waiter and request a table change.

You might be able to get a table alone, or be moved to a different table with different table mates. Occasionally, you may need to change your dining time or between traditional and My Time Dining.

Should I pack beach towels for the cruise?

After you break out your suitcases to pack all your clothes, be sure to leave your beach towels at home.

Royal Caribbean provides towels for guests to use at the pools on its ships and to take off the ship on shore excursions.

You can get as many towels as you need from the pool deck, and exchange them for clean ones at anytime.

Keep in mind that you just need to bring the towels back before the cruise ends, or Royal Caribbean will charge you a $25 per towel fee.  

How do I get a chair by the pool?

You may have heard that on sea days, the pool deck can get busy with lots of guests wanting to enjoy fun in the sun.

If you are looking to get pool chairs, you can definitely get chairs with a little bit of hustle.

The easiest way to get chairs is to make sure you get up to the pool deck early enough in the morning.  If you arrive before 11am, there are usually some chairs around. Moreover, there are chairs all around the pool deck, with plenty of extra chairs if you do not need to be in view of the pool.

Another tip is to not be shy about asking other guests if chairs are being used. 

Do I have to tip everyone?

Gratuity on a Royal Caribbean cruise has gotten easier over the last few years, but tipping is definitely part of the cruise culture.

All guests have the choice of pre-paying their gratuities before the cruise, or having a daily automatic gratuity that is charged each night of the cruise.  This automatic gratuity is charged per person, and covers the service provided by your stateroom attendant and dining room staff.

In addition, when you order or buy something on your ship, an automatic gratuity will be charged on top of the base price.  So if you order a beer, or go to the spa, expect an 18% on top of the price listed.

Speaking of drinks, if you buy a drink package, you will pay a service fee on top of your drink package that covers gratuity for all drinks you order with the drink package.

Do I have to dress up on my cruise?

It can be confusing and a little bit nerve-wracking to hear about dress codes on a Royal Caribbean ship, but it is not nearly as fixed as it sounds.

There are daily dress codes, but they apply to the main dining room only. Dress codes never apply to walking around the ship or most venues. 

If you do want to adhere to the dress codes in the dining room, it is far more relaxed than you might think.  Even on "formal night", that just means you wear something nicer than the other evenings, and that can be as simple as a button down collared shirt with slacks for men, or a cocktail dress for ladies.

Specialty restaurants have their own dress codes that supersede the main dining room dress code, and these are usually smart casual. Specialty restaurants can be good alternatives to the main dining room on formal night if you do not wish to dress for that.

In addition, there are plenty of complimentary dining venues that have no dress code you can dine at for any mean (including dinner) to avoid having to wear anything resembling a collar or heels.

Do I need to take my passport with me on shore excursions?

The answer to this question depends on what you have to do versus what you should do.

Unless told otherwise, most Royal Caribbean shore excursions do not require you to bring your passport off the ship with you on excursions.  The exception can be some destinations where you may cross an international border.

I believe you should bring your passport with you off the ship to ensure that if on the very unlikely chance you were stranded in a foreign country, you could easily depart without the hassle of going to a consulate or embassy to get an exit visa. Yes, there is risk of having it lost or stolen, but that is true of any personal valuables you take off the ship with you, such as cash, phones, etc.

Am I going to gain weight on my cruise?

There is no shortage of food on your cruise, as you will find something to eat 24 hours per day around the ship. That sounds like a recipe for gaining weight, but it does not have to be like that at all.

Just like you have access to food at home day and night, just because it is there does not mean you have to eat at gluttonous levels. 

Royal Caribbean provides a good mix of healthy foods, in addition to comfort foods. You will find salads, fruit, stir fry bars, and even indications on main dining room menus of healthier alternatives.

There is also a fitness center available to use on every Royal Caribbean ship. The majority of the fitness center is included in your cruise fare, with access to free weights, weight machines, bikes, treadmills, and more.  Fitness classes are also available on a per-class cost basis.

You can also burn some of those calories by taking the stairs instead of using an elevator, or engaging in active shore excursion.

Will I get seasick?

Hopefully not, but getting seasick is a (unlikely) possibility.

Many first-time cruisers are very worried about getting seasick on a cruise, but cruise ships are massive vessels equipped with stabilizers that will chart the smoothest paths possible to ensure a comfortable voyage.

When it comes to cruise in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, sea conditions are most often calm, and repeat cruisers will tell you that getting seasick is a very rare occurrence.

If it does occur, there are lots of great remedies to quickly and effectively combat the symptoms. You can take over the counter medications, talk to your doctor about a prescription for special patch to put behind your ear, or try out one of the many homeopathic remedies, such as ginger supplements or acupressure wristbands.

Will I be bored?

It is not uncommon to hear from someone that has never cruised before that they fear they will be bored and/or feel trapped onboard, but this could not be further from the truth.

Cruises are so much more than bingo, ballroom dancing and eating. Royal Caribbean in particular has built a reputation for offering an incredible amount of activities and things to do on the ship. It is your choice to do as many (or as little) of them as you choose.

In addition to lounging by the pool, there is a wide variety offered. Since the exact offerings depend on the ship, try looking at a past Cruise Compass from the ship you intend to sail on to get a sense of what is offered. These past daily newsletters will give you a ballpark idea of what to expect on your sailing.

In short, you will absolutely not be bored. If anything, you will find too many good things you want to try.

Do you still have a question?

If you still have a cruise question, don't be shy, and please feel free to ask it in the comments below!

How to make the most of your time on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
09Jul2020

The saying "you don't know what you don't know" refers to the notion you cannot take advantage of something without being aware it exists, and on cruises, there is so much more to do see, do, and explore than going to the pool deck.

Royal Caribbean cruises offer quite a lot of activities, and since your time onboard the ship is limited, here are some simple ways to make the most of your cruise.

Read the Cruise Compass every day

Every day of your cruise there is a new copy of the Cruise Compass to read, which lists all the activities, events, and times of operations going on around the ship.

Each evening your stateroom attendant will leave the Cruise Compass on your bed for you to read, and you should at least take a glance before going to bed what is happening the next day.

Glancing down the Cruise Compass is more than just staying informed of what the Activities staff has planned, it is an opportunity to discover something new or different to do onboard. It also provides a good indication if you should plan to sleep in or get up earlier.

In addition, the Cruise Director will record a daily show that talks about what is happening onboard, and you can watch it from your stateroom television.

Read more: First timer's guide to the Cruise Compass

Plan breaks

While this post is all about getting the most out of your time onboard, do not over do it either.

First and foremost, you cannot do it all in one cruise. Royal Caribbean packs its ships with lots of activities, restaurants and fun, but trying to work everything in is a recipe for burn out.

Instead, prioritize the most important things to you, and make sure you give your family regular breaks along the way.  

Sleeping in one day, coming back to the ship early from a shore excursion for pool time, or even naps (especially for the adults) work wonders for the morale of everyone (and their feet).

Read moreWhat I wish I'd known before I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Get to the cruise as early as you can

On the day your cruise sets sail, plan to arrive to the terminal early to beat the crowds and start your vacation sooner.

By arriving to the cruise terminal early, you will beat the majority of guests who arrive later in the day and that means shorter waits to check-in and get onboard. Plus, you will have extra time onboard the ship on your first day!

If you are wondering what time constitutes early, sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. is a good target. The price you paid for the cruise is the same whether you get on board the ship at 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., so you may as well get the most time possible onboard your ship!

Read moreHow early can I board my Royal Caribbean cruise?

Plan shore excursions in advance

Want to save money and enjoy an awesome tour while in port? Do your research and book shore excursions before your cruise.

A very common mistake among first time cruisers is "winging it", where they simply walk off the ship in a port of call and try to figure out something to do.

Not researching in advance likely means paying more for a tour, and greatly limiting your choices to whatever you happen to stumble upon.

Instead, look up tours offered by Royal Caribbean or third-party services and learn about all the tour options available to you. In the process, you will likely save money as well, since you can price shop around to see who offers the tour at the lowest price.

Read moreHow to book a Royal Caribbean shore excursion

Try something new

I am the first to admit it is very easy to fall into a routine on a cruise, even if it is your first time sailing.

You find something that works and you like, so you stick with it.  While there is nothing wrong with doing what you like, try to sneak in something new or different to mix things up.

All too often I resist trying something, only to realize later it was a great idea. 

Here are some good ways to mix it up:

  • Try somewhere else for breakfast. Park Cafe, Solarium Bistro or Johnny Rockets (on Oasis Class ships) are great choices.
  • Order a different appetizer. Escargot is not nearly as gross as it may sound.
  • Book a cooking class. Sushi making, cupcake decorating, or guacamole making classes are a lot of fun and taste great too!
  • Try out the escape room. This a popular option on many ships that gives your group a limited time to solve a series of puzzles and clues.

Say hello to your fellow guests and crew

Something you will never see in a Royal Caribbean commercial, but a real highlight of any cruise, is making friends onboard.

The other people on your cruise already have something in common with you: you are all on vacation on the same ship, visiting the same places.  This makes for easy conversation starters, and you would be amazed how friendly other guests and crew members are to strike up a conversation.

You do not have to become everyone's best friend onboard, but do not shy away from a "good morning" when you walk in the elevator, or a "hello" as you sit down around the pool.

Crew members are especially friendly, and usually very willing to engage you in a quick conversation.

Read moreThe 25 best Royal Caribbean tips, tricks & hidden secrets!

The bottom line

A cruise is an inherently fun trip, but you can turn a good trip intro a great trip with these quick and easy tips.

With just a little bit of planning, you can avoid common cruise mistakes and enjoy a memorable vacation. 

5 Costly lessons learned on a cruise (and how to avoid them!)

In:
22Jun2020

The proverb, "Experience is The Best Teacher" holds true even on cruises, because there are a few mistakes that could cost you a lot of money.

Going on vacation means spending money to splurge and enjoy yourself, but it does not have to mean wasting money. There are plenty of first-time cruise mistakes to avoid, and a few of them could really cost you in the long run.

Here are the top five mistakes not to make on your Royal Caribbean cruise, which will cost you if you were to make them!

Leaving your cell phone on

One of the most common mistakes is guests who leave their cellphone antenna on while on a cruise.

If you leave your cellphone active while on a cruise ship, it can connect to the ship's cell phone antenna while at sea, or to a local network at one of the ports you are visiting. Nearly every cell phone plan calls this "roaming", and that means you pay a hefty price for placing calls, sending texts and using data.

Every so often there is a horror story that makes its way around the internet of someone who left their phone up and racked up thousands of dollars in roaming charges.

To avoid this mistake, simply put your phone into airplane mode once you get onboard on the first day. Airplane mode will disable your phone's antenna and prevent it from connecting to any network.

You can still use apps and other functions of your phone while in airplane mode, including connecting to WiFi

Once the cruise is over, you can disable airplane mode to instantly return to normal service, and no giant bill waiting for you at home.

Booking non-refundable cruise fare

There will be some readers who may disagree with me, but I think booking non-refundable cruise fare is a mistake waiting to happen, especially for first-time cruisers.

Other than certain stateroom categories that can only be booked as non-refundable (such as suites), guests have the choice at the time of booking to make a refundable or non-refundable deposit.

Non-refundable cruise fare will usually save $100-200 or so compared to booking refundable cruise fare, but non-refundable cruise fare comes with penalty charges if you want to cancel, or move your reservation to a different ship or sail date.

While it can be tempting to book non-refundable cruise fare to save a little off the top of your vacation cost, I think the flexibility refundable cruise fare offers is worth the extra cost.

By booking refundable cruise fare, you can cancel without penalty prior to final payment date, and/or change ships or sail dates without incurring a $100 per person penalty per change.

Cruises are typically booked many months in advance, and situations change a lot these days that can greatly alter the parameters of the vacation you envisioned.

A great example of this issue recently occured when Royal Caribbean announced Allure of the Seas would not sail from Galveston in 2021 and initially, guests could not get a refund if they did not want to sail on Liberty of the Seas instead. Many readers were upset because changing ships or cancelling would have incurred a fee due to their non-refundable cruise fare. 

While Royal Caribbean did eventually offer more choices in this situation, it stands as a cautionary tale, and prime example of why I prefer to book refundable cruise fare. You just never know.

Waiting to buy add-ons on the ship

If you wait to purchase drink packages, shore excursions, restaurant reservations or spa appointments onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, you are wasting money.

Royal Caribbean offers pre-cruise discounts in the months leading up to its cruises and these discounts are significant enough to make it well worth your time to pre-book instead of waiting to buy it on the ship.

Royal Caribbean will run sales periodically that lower the cost on many of these add-ons, making it even more lucrative to pre-book.

In order to pre-book any add-on, you simply need to log onto Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site and follow the easy-to-follow steps for reserving it for you.

Not only will pre-purchasing save you money compared to onboard prices, it will also save you time from waiting to purchase them. That means more time relaxing and having fun onboard.

Not bringing your own wine onboard

Love wine? Me too, so if you are not bringing two bottles of wine onboard your cruise, you're either missing out by not drinking or overpaying for wine that you could have gotten at retail prices at home.

While Royal Caribbean does not allow guests to bring alcoholic beverages on its ships, it does allow up to two 750ml bottles of wine to be brought onboard its ships.

Not only will bringing your own wine cost you less than buying similar bottles on the ship, it also helps keep your alcohol budget lower!

You have to bring it with you on embarkation day and keep it in your carry-on luggage, but you are free to drink it anywhere on the ship.

If you choose to drink the wine at a bar, restaurant or lounge, you may be subject to a corkage fee, but in my experience, the corkage fee is rarely enforced.

Art auctions

Art auctions remain a fixture on Royal Caribbean ships, but they can go from "fun diversion" to "expensive reminder" very quickly.

Unfortunately, art auctions have a pretty bad reputation on all cruise lines because the valuations, delays in shipping and add-on costs for framing and shipping muddle any perceived value from the artwork itself. Not to mention the fact the piece you bid on, is not something you just take home with you.

My recommendation is avoid art auctions all together, but if you do go inside, be aware of what you are bidding on, and keep prices and valuations as an opinion, and not fact. I think you are better off buying your art elsewhere, and spending that art auction money on something else onboard.

Your advice

Do you agree with our list? Is there an expensive cruise mistake to avoid that you would add? Let us know in the comments your experiences!

How do I pick the perfect first cruise?

In:
15Jun2020

After you decide to go on a cruise, you might be wondering which itinerary to pick for your first cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of cruises to ports around the world, so what is the perfect duration and destination for someone who wants to go on their first cruise?

There are a few factors to consider on which sailing is the best choice for you, but take all of these into consideration before picking the right one for you.

How many nights should your cruise be?

A good starting point is picking how many nights for your first cruise. Royal Caribbean offers cruises as short as 3-nights, and as long as two weeks. There is a great variety in what you can choose, depending on the region of the world.

Short cruises tend to go over weekends, or can have just a port stop or two.  They come and go quite quickly, but they are relatively inexpensive.

A slightly longer cruise (5-7 nights) offers a more complete cruise experience, with a good mix of sea days and port visits. The longer duration means you get to visit more exotic ports, as well as experience more of what your ship has to offer.

The even longer cruises (9 nights or longer) offer some truly fascinating voyages to places not usually visited by cruise ships.

While it may be tempting to pick a short sailing for a first cruise, I think the best choice for a first-time cruiser is a 7 night cruise because these offer a good mix of port days and sea days.  In addition, a week on a cruise means you will have more time to experience what the ship has to offer onboard. 

Those weekend cruises are over before you know it, and they are the type of sailings to augment your cruises as you continue to take more cruise vacations.

Where should my first cruise go to?

With so many places around the world to visit while on a cruise, which itinerary makes the most sense to book first?

First and foremost, where you live may dictate which itineraries are most practical to go on.  If you live in Australia, a cruise to the Caribbean is not exactly practical.

At the very least, I would recommend picking a sailing that has a good mix of sea days and port days.  A cruise with too many sea days or too many port days is not a great choice for a first time cruiser because you want to ensure you have a chance to experience both equally, without getting burnt out on shore excursions or days at sea.

Many first time cruisers love Royal Caribbean's private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee. These private destinations are extensions of the cruise ship experience, and offer a contained and easy to plan port day visit that is very inviting to families and guests of all ages.

During the summer months, cruises to Europe and Alaska offer 7-night and longer sailings to some incredible places.  These are some of the most sought after cruise destinations outside of the Caribbean.

For first time cruisers, picking a Western or Eastern Caribbean sailing has that right blend of port days and sea days that is a good fit for most people to try out a cruise vacation.

Which ship should I pick?

Once you narrow down the region of the world and length of cruise, picking the right ship for you will be a lot easier since you will have narrowed down the field of choices.

Royal Caribbean spreads its ships around the world, and in the popular regions, you will often find a few ships to pick from after narrowing down your choices.

While there is not one Royal Caribbean ship I would not recommend to sail on, I do think there are some ships better suited for first time cruisers.

The Oasis and Quantum Class ships are Royal Caribbean's newest and largest cruise ships and have the latest and greatest features that you typically see in any television commercial. The size of a cruise ship is not the end-all, be-all of what makes a ship great, but it does mean there is more space to offer a greater variety of onboard experiences.

The Freedom and Voyager Class ships are big ships in their own right, and most have been recently upgraded with water slides, new restaurants and other fun activities onboard.

Any of these ships are great choice for a first time cruiser who wants to get in on the kind of cruise fun you would see in any commercial or social media post online.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean questions people are asking Google

In:
11Jun2020

The internet is such a powerful tool for researching pretty much any topic, including learning about Royal Caribbean cruises.

Many cruisers, regardless of if they are first-timers or veterans, will take advantage of the wealth of information online to help answer questions and learn about new topics.  Heck, it is why this site was created!

One of my favorite video series are WIRED's Autocomplete interviews, where celebrities are asked questions based on what people are searching Google for about them.  In the spirit of those types of questions, here are the top 10 questions people are searching Google for about a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the best?

The "best" is a relative term, because what makes something great for one person may not matter to another. Just like favorite sports teams, restaurants, or airlines, every person ranks certain attributes higher than others.

I truly believe there is no one ship that is better than the rest, and I recommend a cruise on any of their ships.

However, I also recommend a first time cruiser research what a ship offers to ensure it is a good fit for them.  Not all Royal Caribbean ships are the same, and what the ship offers (and does not offer) may make it a better fit for someone.

What you want to do is identify which amenities, activities, venues and itineraries are included on a particular vessel and then determine which combination works best for you.

The key to finding the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship is not some arbitrary list compiled by a writer in Boca Raton. Rather, the best ship for you is the one that offers the types of features you are looking for in a ship.

Do you want a ship with a nursery? Water slides? A lot or a few specialty restaurants? Broadway shows? Top-level suites?

Picking the best cruise ship is about determining which ship has just the right combination of what you want onboard.

How much is the drink package on Royal Caribbean?

The exact cost of a Royal Caribbean drink package will vary from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing. There is no set amount across the fleet, so it greatly depends on which sailing you end up booking.

There are three types of drink packages offered on Royal Caribbean ships:

Deluxe Beverage Package

Better known as the unlimited alcohol package, this package offers a combination of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine by the glass, cocktails, most liquors, premium coffees & teas, bottled water, juice and more.

If purchased prior to your cruise on the Cruise Planner site, the Deluxe Beverage package often costs between $48 - $65 per guest, per night (excluding gratuity). The price will be higher if purchased onboard, usually between $63 - $70.00 per guest, per night.

Refreshment Package

The non-alcoholic drink package includes pretty much any drink that does not include alcohol on your cruise, such as mocktails, juices, coffee and teas.

The price per night of the Refreshment Package is $29.00 per guest (excluding gratuity).

Soda Package

A drink package that includes just soft drinks will cost you $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity).

What is the newest ship from Royal Caribbean?

As of the posting of this article, the newest Royal Caribbean cruise ship is Spectrum of the Seas. She is the first Quantum-Ultra-class cruise ship, and sails exclusively in Asia.

Spectrum of the Seas had her maiden voyage on April 18, 2019.

There are a number of new ships on order, set to debut at some point in the next few years. Prior to the global cruise shutdown, the schedule for new ships was for Odyssey of the Seas to debut in November 2020, and Wonder of the Seas in 2021.

What is included in a Royal Caribbean cruise?

There is quite a lot of value packed into what's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare, but understanding the breakdown of what is complimentary and what costs extra is a common concern.

The basics of what is included are:

  • Your stateroom cabin
  • Meals and snacks (at complimentary venues)
  • Select non-alcoholic beverages
  • Children's programming
  • Activities & shows
  • Signature activities & games
  • Fitness center access
  • Pools

The exact specifics of what is included will vary from ship to ship, but there is a general baseline across the fleet of what is included across the board. 

If you happen to book a suite, or are a top tier member of Crown and Anchor Society, you may get additional benefits and amenities included.

The bottom line is you can go on a cruise and never spend another dime and have a great vacation that leaves you rested, well-fed, and entertained. I do not think it is very likely many people actually go on a cruise and never spend anything extra, but there still is a tremendous value when you consider what is included with your cruise fare.

Why is Royal Caribbean the best cruise line?

Just like the question about the best cruise ship, what makes Royal Caribbean the best cruise line has no universal answer for everyone.

Royal Caribbean is known in the industry for offering fun vacations on cruise ships that pack a ton of entertainment and activities for a great price.

Their ships visit incredible destinations around the world, have two lovely private islands, and are very popular choices for families.

When it comes to picking the best cruise for kids, Royal Caribbean's newest and recently refurbished ships tend to be the best choices.  Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships offer the most dedicated space to kids programming, as well as the most onboard activities that kids (and their parents) will enjoy.  This includes rock climbing walls, ice skating, water slides and more.

How do I get the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Everyone wants to save money and get the lowest possible price on a cruise, so it is natural to seek out the best strategies for getting a great deal.  Here are the top ways anyone can do this:

Book early

The best prices for cruises are found early on when cabin inventory is highest. 

Royal Caribbean sells its cruises largely based on the concept of supply and demand. When a sailing is first offered, supply is at its highest because no one has purchase a stateroom yet. As time progress, more and more staterooms are reserved and stateroom inventory drops, so the price increases conversely.

The earlier you can book, the best chance you will have at getting a good price on your cruise.

Use a travel agent

Perhaps the most common mistake I see among first time cruisers is not using a good travel agent.

Travel agents should cost you nothing extra to use, and offer a substantial amount of experience and advice in helping you find the perfect sailing at the lowest price.

Having a travel agent will save you time, and perhaps money too.  They can also steer you away from common pitfalls, and are invaluable when problems occur. 

Take advantage of price drops

Throughout the year, Royal Caribbean offers various cruise sales: BOGO deals, 72 hour sales, WOW sales, leap day sales and more are offered and each promotion comes with it different pricing and booking incentives.

From when you book your cruise until the final payment date of your cruise, North American guests can cancel and rebook under the new promotions without any penalty (residents of other parts of the world need to check local laws and policies).

Go during slower times of the year

An easy way to knock hundreds of dollars off the cost of your cruise is to book a sailing when most others cannot go on a vacation.

In general, you will find lower fares if you are willing to cruise during the "shoulder seasons" and/or when school is usually in session.

This includes:

  • January (minus New Years holiday)
  • Most of February
  • May
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

Is Carnival or Royal Caribbean better?

This is a tough question to answer because it is is a very subjective question.

Both are mass-market cruise lines with big fleets of ships and visit a lot of common destinations. So what makes one better than the other?

First, I need to disclose I have never sailed on a Carnival cruise ship, and I run a blog about Royal Caribbean. So I am far from the most objective person in the world on this topic.

What makes Royal Caribbean stand out is their dedication to being a market leader. Their cruise ships are built to be destinations in and of themselves, and the cruise line has repeatedly been an innovator in the industry with many accomplishments.

The value offered is also something that stands out to me. How much you pay versus what you get for that money is something that seems to provide a great balance on Royal Caribbean's side of things.

Royal Caribbean's ships are the largest in the world, offer some incredible things to do onboard, and include the best private island experience in Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Which Royal Caribbean ship is best for adults?

The good news is there a lot of great choices for adults on any Royal Caribbean ship, so I think the best ship for anyone will be based on which options the ship has onboard.

If you want the greatest variety of dining and entertainment, an Oasis or Quantum Class ship is a solid choice because it offers the latest and greatest offerings by the cruise line.

That being said, the rest of the fleet offers a lot to like for adults. The Radiance Class ships have arguably the best adults-only solarium across the fleet, the amplified Voyager Class ships have a lot of the features from the Oasis Class at a fraction of the price, and many veteran cruisers appreciate the simplicity (and low price) on Majesty or Empress of the Seas.

The key is to look at what each ship offers (all Royal Caribbean ships have an adults-only Solarium pool), and weigh price, activities and where the ship sails.

Which is the oldest Royal Caribbean ship?

The oldest Royal Caribbean ship sailing in the fleet is Empress of the Seas.

Formerly known as Nordic Empress, Empress of the Seas was launched on August 25, 1989. The ship was actually retired, and then returned to Royal Caribbean's fleet after an 8 year absence.

Is Royal Caribbean all inclusive?

In short, no, Royal Caribbean cruises are not all inclusive, however, there are some add-ons you can purchase that will get you pretty darn close to an all inclusive cruise experience.

While a Royal Caribbean cruise includes a lot of things to do, dining, beverages and activities, there are still some elements that will cost you extra beyond the cruise fare:

  • Soft drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Shore excursions
  • Gratuities
  • WiFi
  • Specialty dining
  • Spa
  • Casino
  • Souvenirs
  • Photos

For all of these extra costs, you can opt to pay along the way (pay for it if/when you choose to use it), or purchase a package that includes some of these items for a fixed cost.

Regardless of which direction you take, in almost every case it is less expensive if you pre-purchase via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

What I wish I'd known before I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
10Jun2020

Whether you are new to Royal Caribbean, been on a cruise and going back, or even a cruise veteran, I have some helpful tips to share for maximizing your cruise experience.

Looking back on the cruises I have taken, I compiled the top things I wish I knew before I ever got onboard any Royal Caribbean ship.

There is no single way to cruise, but there are some "best practices" that anyone can use to make their next sailing free of common mistakes.

Read an old Cruise Compass

When you are trying to pick the right ship for you, reading a past Cruise Compass is a great way to learn about what the ship offers.

You will likely have questions about what there is to do onboard. In fact, the activities offered onboard may play a major role in which ship you end up booking. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will, or will not, offer, because Royal Caribbean does not publish activities or entertainment schedule in advance.  However, you can learn about what to expect on your sailing by consulting a past Cruise Compass to see what was offered on similar sailings.

The Cruise Compass is the ship's daily newspaper that is distributed to guests on each day of the cruise.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered. There will be some discrepancies, like perhaps the movie selection or comedian, but you will get a ballpark idea of what to expect.

With this information, you can have a good idea of what is offered onboard and how often it is shown.

Pre-purchase to save money

You will want to pre-purchase some of the extra add-ons before your cruise because it is going to save you a lot of money.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of packages, and whether it is a drink package, internet package, or a dining package, they are all significantly cheaper if you buy them before the cruise.

Besides being able to split up the total cost of your cruise, it will save you money overall because Royal Caribbean offers a discount if you pre-purchase instead of waiting to buy it on the ship.

In addition, it will save you time onboard the ship as it means you will not have to take time on the ship to stand in line to book something.

What you want to do is track prices periodically by logging into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. The cruise line usually runs sales every few weeks that can sometimes reduce the price even more, so it is a good idea to take advantage of these deals when they are offered.

The best part about these price drops is if there is a lower price, you can always cancel and rebook your purchase and take advantage of the lower price without any penalty.

Don't skip specialty restaurants

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants, which have an additional cost to dine there, are among the best dining locations at sea, and I think you may be missing out if you do not try one or four of them.

You can, and should, still dine at the complimentary restaurants, but working in a specialty restaurant or two on a few nights of your cruise can really give you a nice change of pace and exposure to cuisines that are not available elsewhere on the ship.

I think it is worth it to spend a little bit extra for specialty restaurants because I think they are great choices.

If you think you might want to dine at more than one specialty restaurant, a dining package is a great way to save money overall on the cost.

Don't fear the dress codes

I know it sounds scary, and the idea of having to dress up on your Royal Caribbean cruise may seem like an arduous task, but you should know the dress codes onboard are not nearly as bad as you might think.

Even though on one or two nights of your cruise there is something called formal night, do not worry.

Formal night is a dress code where the main dining room requests guests wear something a little more upscale than usual. For men, a collared shirt and nice pants (tie and jacket optional). For ladies, it means a cocktail dress or something similar.

On most seven night sailings, there will be two formal nights, so pack accordingly. On shorter cruises (3-5 night sailings), there will be one formal night.

Keep in mind that formal night dress code only applies to the main dining room, and no where else on the ship. If you are not dining in the main dining room on formal night, you do not have to dress up because the dress code does not apply anywhere else on the ship.

And of course, the inevitable question is what do you wear on formal night? If you are wondering how formal is formal, the answer is it is really not that bad. 

Formal night is not going to look like a scene out of early 1900s cruising. Rather, it has become a relative term that means "something nicer than the other nights of the cruise". It is not to say you need to wear a tuxedo or ball gowns or recreate your senior prom.

If you wanted to skip formal night and the dining room, there are specialty restaurants that have usually a more relaxed dress code to them, or just skip it altogether and go to a place like the Windjammer or another complimentary grab-and-go style restaurant and enjoy your meals there while wearing whatever you want.

Book your cruise as early as you can

To get the best possible price on your Royal Caribbean cruise, booking as early as you can is critical.

The reason why booking early is so important is because the best prices are found the earlier one books a cruise. Royal Caribbean sells its cruises largely based on supply and demand.

When a sailing is first offered to the public, supply is at its highest because no one has purchased a stateroom yet. As time progresses, more and more staterooms are reserved, and thus, inventory drops, so prices tend to rise.

So the earlier you book the cruise, the best chance you will have at getting a good price on your cruise.

How early is early? Essentially, it means as early as you can afford to do so. Royal Caribbean puts its itineraries on sale as much as two years in advance of the sail date, and while that may be a bit too far in advance for most to plan a vacation, the earlier you ca book the cruise, the better chance you have for that lower price.

If you live in a country like the United States or Canada, you can take advantage of price drops between when you book and the final payment date. Royal Caribbean will allow you to re-price the cruise if the price goes down, assuring yourself of the lower price.

While last minute deals can sometimes work out to nab a deal for some people, last minute cruise discounts are few and far between these days, and it is just too risky to put your entire vacation on the line for trying to find a great price close to when your vacation begins. Not to mention the fact waiting until the last minute means very few choices of the type of staterooms available.

Choose your cruise ship based on what is important to you

Royal Caribbean has over 20 ships in its fleet, and while they have a common core experience across all of them, each vessel offers different amenities and activities. This means you need to be aware of what each ship offers (and does not offer), and make sure these are things that are important to you.

Royal Caribbean categorizes its ships by class, which are groupings of ships that share a common structure and layout.  Think of ship classes like types of cars: pickup trucks, sedans, minivans, etc. Within each type of vehicle, you have individual car models.  This is akin to how Royal Caribbean categorizes its cruise ships.

In addition to just size and tonnage, each ship includes various entertainment, activities and onboard amenities.  What you want to do is think about which features you want to have on your ship and then see if that ship offers it.

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 Majesty of the Seas.

Working with a good travel agent can make this process easier, as they can assist in narrowing down the choices for you.

You should also be aware that within each class, ships can vary greatly due to a number of recent upgrades.  Do not assume all ships in a class are necessarily identical.

Ask if the food is not what you want

If the food selection you find in a restaurant is not what you are looking for, be sure to speak up and ask for something different. Do not just "suck it up" and assume what is on the menu is the only things available.

Royal Caribbean offers a fantastic variety of dining choices across its ships, but you might want something cooked or prepared differently. 

Perhaps you have a dietary restriction or preference that you would prefer. Or you just feel limited in your choice. Politely talk to your wait staff about what options you have. In general, as long as they have the ingredients and you make the request in advance, they can absolutely accommodate a great variety of requests.

Be aware that some changes take extra time, so give the staff advanced notice. Usually 24 hours will suffice for special meals or foods.  You can ask to speak to the head waiter on the first day if you have a pattern of food prep that you would like to have while onboard and discuss options.

The bottom line is the staff wants to make you happy, so do not feel like you are being bothersome for asking.

You do not need a drink package

It seems like a lot of first time cruisers find the idea of getting an unlimited drink package quite attractive, primarily due to the convenience and potential savings offered by them. However, a drink package is not a must-have for everyone.

First and foremost, there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks included with your cruise fare. Some first time cruisers mistakenly believe a drink package is necessary to have anything other than water onboard.

There are some great alternatives to getting a drink package that will not break your budget, while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite cocktails and beverages onboard.

To be clear, I usually buy an unlimited drink package for my cruises because I have found it works for the way I like to cruise, but many other cruisers cite the fact it does not make financial sense to have a package for them.

The key is to determine in your case if a drink package is worth it. Weigh the costs of the package, your itinerary, how often you like to drink, and your vacation budget and make a decision off those considerations.

Get to your cruise port early

Being early is a great strategy on Royal Caribbean ships for two important reasons.

First, you want to arrive to the city your cruise will sail from at least a day ahead of time to guard against travel delays, such as cancelled flights, car accidents or any travel delay that might put your cruise vacation in jeopardy.

Seasoned travelers know the key is to give yourself extra time so if you do encounter a delay, you have a buffer.  Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, plan to arrive at least one day early to assure yourself that even a cancelled flight means you can still make the ship.

Arriving a day early means you start your vacation sooner, and you get the added bonus of being able to explore and enjoy the city your ship departs from.

In addition, you will want to get to the cruise port early on embarkation day to beat the crowds.

By arriving to the cruise terminal early, you will beat the majority of guests who arrive later in the day and that means shorter waits to check-in and get onboard. Plus, you will have extra time onboard the ship on your first day!

If you are wondering what time constitutes early, sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. is a good target. The price you paid for the cruise is the same whether you get on board the ship at 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., so you may as well get the most time possible onboard your ship!

Shore excursions can be exhausting

One of the things that sold me on cruising was waking up in a different port every day, but when you plan your shore excursions, you should know they can be exhausting.

What you want to do is know your family's limits and plan breaks, or alternate excursions between intense touring and more casual relaxation.

A good example is if in one port you want to visit historical sites and explore a city, that will likely involve a lot of walking, so perhaps plan the next day to be something more laid back.  Perhaps a day at the beach, or sleep in before heading out for another adventure.

I find if you try to go back to back with lots of walking, it is easy to burn out and end up with not-so-happy feet and family members.

A good idea is to plan breaks and generally take it easy. Sure, the places you visit and the activities offered look amazing and you want to do it all, but downtown is not a problem or something to be avoided.  Vacation is enjoyable from a lounge chair or at the top of a mountain, so make sure you are not over doing it.

Your thoughts

What advice did you wish you had for your first cruise? If it is your first time, what concerns or questions do you have? Share your tips, suggestions and questions in the comments below!

Top 10 things to do before going on a cruise

In:
04Jun2020

Before your first cruise vacation begins, there are some important things everyone should before going on their cruise ship.

A cruise vacation does not mean simply showing up to the embarkation port on the first day of your cruise and seeing how things go. In order to avoid some common first time cruise mistakes, I have tried and true advice to share for anyone with a cruise planned.

10. Research shore excursions

Your cruise ship will visit different ports of call during your sailing, so picking a great shore excursion for the few hours you have in each stop is very important.

Your first step is to determine the most popular activities in each port. Then, start looking at what tours are available, either on your own or through the cruise line.

The key is to determine which tours you want to book, and reserve it in advance. In some cases booking in advance will save you money, and everyone can benefit from having the luxury of time to consider all options.

9. Pre-book to save money

Royal Caribbean offers discounts on many packages and cruise add-ons if you buy it before the cruise.

Log into Royal Caribbean's website and head over to the Cruise Planner site to find pricing on things like a drink package, onboard WiFi, specialty dining and more.

Drink Packages

The most common question is if a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth it, and the answer depends on the person.  The price of a drink package before the cruise will always be cheaper than compared to buying it onboard.

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to if you need any of these options, but if you want to buy any of it, be sure to do so before the cruise because it will cost you more onboard the ship.

The decision to get a drink package is totally dependent on your drinking habits, and a drink package has the potential to save money, provided they drink enough every day of the cruise.

WiFi

Royal Caribbean's cruise ship WiFi will allow you to stay connected and surf the web, check email, and post to social media.

It is not uncommon to find discounts of up to 60% off the onboard prices for a Voom internet package. Regardless of the discount offered, pre-purchasing internet will save you money compared to buying it onboard.

Dining Packages

While there are lots of great places to dine on your ship that cost nothing extra, indulging in specialty dining offers more choices at an extra cost. Royal Caribbean has designed its specialty restaurants around themes or cuisines (Italian, steakhouse, sushi, etc).

The exact amount extra will vary from restaurant to restaurant, and ship to ship.

You have the option of pre-booking a specific restaurant, or purchasing a dining package that offers a set amount of restaurants for a lower per-meal cost.

8. Book flights & hotels

Something you should keep an eye on as soon as you book a cruise are flight prices and hotel rates.

First and foremost, be sure to plan to fly in at least one day ahead of time before your cruise.  A common cruise mistake is trying to fly in the same day your cruise ship leaves and risking putting your entire vacation in jeopardy if there is a travel delay.

Not only does flying in at least a day ahead of your cruise guard against travel delays impacting your vacation, but it starts your vacation earlier!

You should also monitor hotel prices, but never book anything that is non-refundable.  Hotel prices tend to be very volatile, and I have observed significant price changes in the weeks and months leading up to a cruise.

Your best bet is to make a refundable deposit for a hotel, and then keep an eye on prices and cancel and rebook as necessary. Most hotels tend to offer no-money down reservations and flexible cancellation terms, which allows you to take advantage of price drops and sales closer to your sail date.

7. Make sure you have enough cash

While a Royal Caribbean cruise is cashless, there is still a need to have cash on hand for a variety of scenarios, including:

  • Tips for porters, bus drivers and almost anyone else who gets you to or from the cruise terminal
  • Taxis, souvenirs and most transactions while in your ports of call
  • Casino spending money on the ship
  • Optional extra tips for bartenders/waiters onboard

It is impossible to know exactly how much cash you need, but plan on at least having some on hand. Depending on your spending habits, the amount of ports your cruise will visit, and the size of your family, the more or less cash you will need.

You can always get cash onboard the ship from Guest Services, the onboard ATM or the casino, but these come with transaction fees.

6. Learn about your cruise ship

If your goal is not miss out on anything fun or interesting on your cruise, you are best served by learning as much as you can about your ship before you set sail.

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about what to expect on your Royal Caribbean cruise, the better prepared you will be and I think that leads to a better vacation experience. Learning about Royal Caribbean cruises has never been easier, and there is so much great information at your fingertips.  

Take advantage of the internet by reading trip reports, consulting a past Cruise Compass, listening to podcast episodes, and otherwise learning from others.

In particular, reading a past Cruise Compass from the ship and itinerary you are booked on is a really good way to get answers to commonly asked questions, such as:

There is a wealth of great information from past cruisers on what to expect from your ship. Essentially, you want to be certain what the ship offers onboard so there are no surprises during your vacation.

Check out the 2020 Royal Caribbean cruise planning guide for an in-depth starting point.

5. Check your travel documents

In order to go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will need to have the proper documentation to actually board the ship.  Depending on which country your cruise begins and ends in, the exact documentation will vary.

A good starting point is to make certain you know exactly where everyone's passport, birth certificate and/or state issued identification is located.  Moreover, check expiration dates of these documents and verify that they will not be expiring anytime soon.  

If you are wondering do you need a passport for a cruise, the answer will depend on your citizenship and which country your cruise is sailing and returning. If you are a U.S. citizen and going on a cruise that begins and ends in the U.S., you do not need a passport to sail, but it is still a good idea to get one anyway. It is simpler and safer to have a passport, and a fantastic investment for any traveler.

4. Consider travel insurance

While everyone may not need to buy a travel insurance plan, you really should at least consider it before your cruise begins.

Travel insurance comes in many forms, and covers a variety of possible scenarios. It is available to purchase through Royal Caribbean directly, your travel agent, or any number of third parties.

Trip insurance can protect you against a multitude of emergencies, unforeseen events and accidents.  It is one of those things that you are glad you have it, if you need it.  

It is important to not just look at price but consider what is actually covered by the plan.  A common misconception surrounds hurricanes.  Many people think trip insurance will cover them if there is a hurricane in the general vicinity of their cruise and they can cancel with a full refund.  The reality is most plans only cover hurricanes if the cruise is canceled or otherwise directly impacted by the storm.  A guest's desire to cancel because they fear a storm is not usually grounds for the insurance to kick in, so it is important to understand what the plan does and does not cover and what circumstances allow for the insurance to kick in.

Be sure to check if any of your credit cards include complimentary trip insurance as part of the card benefits.

3. Complete online check-in

The easiest (and best) way to check-in for your cruise is via Royal Caribbean's app.  It is free to download, and will save you time later, when you arrive to the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean's app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

After you download the app, log in and complete the check-in process. Doing this now will save you time later.  In fact, in some ports, you can qualify for expedited arrival simply by completing all the necessary paperwork in advance.

2. Print luggage tags

After you complete online check-in for your cruise, you can print out luggage tags to attach to your suitcases that will be delivered to your stateroom.

These tags tell the Royal Caribbean crew members which deck and stateroom to deliver the luggage to later in the day.

You can print the luggage tags by logging onto Royal Caribbean's site and accessing your online cruise documents.

1. Pre-book entertainment

If you are sailing on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, you can pre-book select shows before the cruise via the Cruise Planner website.

There is no extra cost to make reservations for shows, and it assures you of a seat for that performance, provided you arrive on-time.

There is no set timeframe when entertainment becomes available for booking on Oasis or Quantum Class ships. It is usually closer your sail date, so check the Cruise Planner periodically for if the option appears.

You can find shows to book on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

10 weird things about Royal Caribbean cruises that no one tells you

In:
01Jun2020

I have been lucky enough to cruise on Royal Caribbean for many years, but there are definitely a few odd things about cruising that someone new to a cruise might not expect.

Going on a cruise is a fun family vacation, but there are definitely some nuances and experiences that just do not exist in everyday life. These are not problems or bad ideas, rather, a heads up to anyone going on their first cruise with what to expect as it relates to cruising culture.

I have come up with my own list of interesting differences first-timers may not know about.

A lot of people wear matching shirts

A relatively new phenomenon is buying matching shirts to wear on the ship.

While group t-shirts are not a new idea, there has been a surge in nautical-inspired cruise pun shirts to help kick off family vacations.

On embarkation day especially, you can spot plenty of groups walking onboard in matching colored shirts that have a phrase like, "Getting Nauti" or "Get ship faced" or my favorite, "Yea Bouy!"

In addition, family reunions, birthdays, bachelorette parties and other special occasions see lots of matching shirts.  Some even take the next step and customize the shirt with names or nicknames.

You certainly will not be out of place without one, but perhaps it would be something your family would want to do to help show everyone how excited you are for the cruise.

There a lot of people that cruise almost all the time

I used to think going on a cruise once or twice every year was a big deal, until I started talking to other cruisers.  

There is a large contingency of cruisers who cruise a lot. By "a lot", I am talking monthly, weekly, or even more often! In fact, one cruiser practically lives onboard Royal Caribbean's ships.

As someone that started off cruising once a year, and now is close to cruising once a month, I can say with certainty the idea of cruising a lot does not surprise me anymore, but if you are new to it, expect many others to be regulars.

Crown and Anchor ranks are (literal) badges of honor

Royal Caribbean has its own customer loyalty program known as the Crown and Anchor Society, and the cruisers towards the top of the program take it very seriously.

The cruise line rewards its top cruisers with special perks, and these rewards mean a lot to its members. 

In fact, people that reach the very top status (Pinnacle Club) will walk around the ship wearing their pin that has their name engraved on it.

Weather forecasts in the summer months are pretty useless

If you have a Caribbean cruise booked in the summer months, as you get within days of your sailing, the weather forecast likely shows rain every day.

During the warmer summer months in the tropics, it may rain every day, but usually for short periods and is gone before you know it.

Just because rain is in the forecast, does not mean your day in port or onboard will be washed out.  In fact, the forecast may call for rain and it never actually rain where you are located.

You certainly should plan for the possibility of rain on your cruise, but do not take the forecast of precipitation as a guarantee of getting soaked.

Dining on a cruise ship is an adventure

It is likely safe to say that first time cruisers know there are different dining venues on a cruise ship, but Royal Caribbean's food game as been elevated to a point that it rivals most downtown dining districts.

Royal Caribbean's ships are packed with complimentary and specialty restaurant choices, each with different cuisines and cooking styles.

Eating onboard is more than just "more of the same", and you will often have a good variety of choices. In addition, Royal Caribbean has been actively upgrading its culinary offerings to keep it in line with any land-based resort.

In short, look up the restaurants available on the ship you book and learn more about dining on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Pre-book as much as you can

While you certainly can book a cruise and then show up to the embarkation port with no research or planning and probably have a good time, your best bet is to plan as much as you can.

Royal Caribbean has made learning about and booking activities, dining, excursions and events incredibly easy, thanks to its free app and Cruise Planner website.

Simply log in and browse around to get an idea of what to expect.  The more you learn, the better off your vacation experience will be, and the more money you will save.

The entire muster drill

I have yet to find anything on land the rivals the nuances of the ship safety drill, better known as the muster drill.

Somewhat similar to the safety demonstration you would hear on an airplane before takeoff, the muster drill is a required drill on the first day of the cruise where everyone stops what they are doing and reports to their muster station.

The drill lasts about 20-30 minutes, and involves becoming acclimated with where your muster station is in case of an emergency. You will be lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow guests, and hear and see how to put on a life jacket, as well as be informed about certain safety & health procedures and policies.

Yes, everyone must do it, even if you have cruised before.

Hiding rubber ducks on the ship

Social media has spawned a new cruising "tradition" where some guests hide rubber ducks around the ship for other guests to find.

Known colloquially as "cruising ducks", this practice is about if you find a duck, you take a photo of where you found it and post it on Facebook.  Then you either hide the duck for someone else to find, or take it home as a souvenir.

So if you spot a rubber duck in a bush or behind a desk, it is likely the work of cruise fans and not a child who misplaced their toy.

Decorating stateroom doors

Something you would never see in a hotel, but happens all the time on a cruise ship is door decorations.

Similar to the matching t-shirt idea outlined earlier, stateroom door decorations are about guests sharing their excitement and joy of a cruise vacation with everyone else.

Door decorations can consist of name tags, lights, paper creations and pretty much anything else that can be attached to a door via magnets.

Basically, it is a fun way to share who is cruising and why, and your family can get in on the fun too if you bring the proper materials. Just be sure not to use any adhesives like tape or glue (magnets work best).

The Quest

The best way to describe The Quest is it is an adult scavenger hunt that is held towards the end of nearly all Royal Caribbean cruises.

Hosted by the Cruise Director, The Quest sounds like a fun romp among guests to complete a series of challenges in a short period of time. Sounds tame, right?

Teams of guests compete to find certain items, as well as perform certain actions. What tends to happen is the challenges become more and more adult in nature, and (fun) mayhem ensues.

You have to see it to fully understand it.

Top 9 bad mistakes to make on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
26May2020

Going on a cruise vacation is a great choice, but you definitely want to avoid certain pitfalls and bad advice to ensure you do not have a terrible experience.

All too often, I hear from first time cruisers who make one of these rookie mistakes that costs them time, money or both. So prevent yourself from becoming "that guy" and heed this advice!

Booking a flight the same day your cruise leaves

Perhaps the most common mistake made by anyone is booking a flight that arrives to the city their cruise departs from on the same day the cruise is set to begin.

It may seem like the logical thing to do, especially if you are trying to balance your work commitments or save money on a hotel room. But flying in the same day means a flight delay/cancellation or lost luggage could ruin your entire vacation before it starts.

Instead, book a flight that gets you in at least a day before the cruise is scheduled to depart. You can book a hotel near the port or airport, and take advantage of not only an earlier start to your vacation, but an opportunity to explore the surrounding area.

Waiting to book shore excursions until on your cruise

The ports of call your cruise ship will visit offers plenty to see and do, but if you try to "wing it" and book something in the port or onboard your ship, you are denying yourself the opportunity to learn as much as possible about what is available to you.

Trying to figure out what to do on the ship or in port means less time to see all options, as well as price shop. You also risk the activity you really wanted to do selling out.

Take advantage of the weeks and months leading up to your cruise by learning about everything you can do online, and have it planned before you get on your cruise.

Intentionally break the rules

Perhaps the dumbest mistake to make is thinking the cruise ship rules do not apply to you and purposefully circumventing them.

Whether smoking on your balcony, skipping muster drill, sneaking in alcohol, or any other clearly stated rule that you choose to ignore out of spite or "for fun" is just plain wrong and puts others at risk, as well as has the potential to get you in trouble.

The rules are in place for a reason, and more importantly, you must abide by them while on Royal Caribbean's vessels. It is their way, or the highway (back home).

Not keeping track of your time while in port

While it may seem easy to think you have plenty of time to get back to your ship, you definitely do not want to forget the all-aboard time.

Royal Caribbean provides set hours for each port stop it makes, and you absolutely need to be keeping track of the local time, as well as how long it may take to get back to ensure you are back onboard before they pull up the gangway.

Keep in mind that the ship may be scheduled to leave at a certain time, but the all-aboard time is usually 30 minutes or more earlier. So if you are scheduled to be in port until 8pm, that means guests may have to be back by 7:30pm.

Not putting your phone into airplane mode

Want to avoid coming home to a cell phone bill in the thousands of dollars? Make sure once you get on your ship on embarkation day, you put your phone into airplane mode.

Your phone connecting to the ship or island cell tower can mean huge roaming charges, since the local carriers will charge your carrier exorbitant prices for the privilege of using their network.

After getting onboard the ship on day one, be sure to switch your phone over to airplane mode to avoid it connecting to any cellular network. You can still use the ship's wifi while in airplane mode.

Looking at only price when picking a sailing

The cost of a cruise is a major factor to consider when picking the right vacation, but it should not be the only consideration. Looking purely at the price may mean you pick a cruise during a time of year that compromises on the weather.

Prices are typically low during the fall months because of hurricane season, as well as prices for Alaska cruises in May and September will be cheaper, but you may find significantly colder and/or wetter weather waiting for you.

While there is never a sailing that is guaranteed to have great/perfect weather, be sure to weigh the cheapest month to go on a cruise versus what you are giving up by going during those times.

Not considering travel insurance

Travel insurance is an optional add-on to consider, but completely ignoring it is a big mistake.

While not for everyone, travel insurance is something that if you ever need it, will feel like the best money you ever spent. People who have higher risk factors, such as chronic health issues or sensitivities, would be well suited to consider travel insurance.

While most have health insurance, that coverage may not extend to situations outside your home country, especially on cruise ships.

In addition to the health issues, travel insurance can protect you in case of any other type of catastrophe, including cancellation, a missed connection, lost or delayed baggage, or a dental or legal problem.

Not leaving clothes out for the last morning

When your cruise is nearly over, you will need to pack everything up and place your luggage outside your door the night before the cruise ends so that it can be delivered to the cruise terminal to pick up later. Be very certain to leave one last outfit out to wear off the ship!

Inevitably, there is always someone who just packs everything up and then realizes the next morning that they have nothing to wear.  

Avoid the walking off the ship in your PJs by ensuring you leave something else out to wear on that last morning.

Wait until your kids are older to cruise

One bit of advice that I always disagree with is that your kids should be a certain age before taking them on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean allows children as young as six months old to go on a cruise, and I do not believe there is any age too young to start taking them onboard with you.

The cruise line offers tremendous child care programs and activities for families to enjoy on a cruise. It is far from an adults-only experience, and many ship offerings were designed with kids in mind.

In addition, traveling together with children and enjoying a vacation together as a family is time well-spent, and positive experiences, even if the kids do not remember them precisely as adults later on, are worth having together.

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