First Time Cruisers

The most important advice I give my family after they book a cruise

In:
30Sep2019

There is a lot of advice doled out across this blog, and each anecdote, recommendation or tip is aimed at improving the cruise experience.  So when an uncle, cousin or parent asks me for advice on what they should do for an awesome Royal Caribbean cruise, here is what I tell them.

Fly into your cruise embarkation port at least one day early

When it comes to travel, there are always going to be certain factors involved in the trip that you have no control over: weather, canceled flights, flat tires, et al. With that in mind, do not let a travel delay put your cruise vacation in jeopardy. The last thing you want to do is plan to fly into the departure city of your cruise the same day your cruise leaves.

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

Do online check-in before the cruise

Another tip aimed at saving you time is to complete your online check-in before the cruise.  

Royal Caribbean's Online Check-In is a pretty simple tool to save you time at the pier and greatly simplify the entire check in process. 

You simply need to go to the Royal Caribbean web site to check in and complete the steps.  If your ship utilizes the new Royal Caribbean app, do the check-in via the app to make check-in even easier. 

At the end, you will have access to print out your SetSail Pass (your cruise boarding pass), as well as luggage tags. 

Arrive to the cruise terminal early

If you subscribe to the theory that time is money, then you definitely want to arrive to your embarkation port early.  By arriving early, you will beat the big crowds that descend upon the cruise terminal later in the day, and you also get the added benefit of having some extra time onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean may send you an email about boarding times, but those are suggestions and not enforced at all. If you followed our earlier advice about arriving to your port city early, then likely your hotel will have a check-out time in the early part of the morning, which is the perfect excuse to head to the cruise port.

If you are wondering what time constitutes, "early", we are talking about sometime between 10am and 11:30am. The earlier you arrive on embarkation day, the earlier you will board the ship. And the price you paid for the cruise is the same whether you get onboard at 11am or 2pm, so may as well get the most time possible.

Pre-book your 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.

The best reason to book certain activities or entertainment in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family. It costs nothing extra to reserve entertainment ahead of time. By having a reservation, you will be assured of a seat for that performance, provided you arrive on-time.

By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

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.

If you are sailing on another class of ships, there is no option to pre-book entertainment. Instead, show up to the theater 10-20 minutes before show time to get a seat.

Make dining reservations once onboard the ship

These days, Royal Caribbean's dining packages are an incredibly popular option because it allows guests to enjoy a number of specialty restaurants for a reduced rate.  If you purchase a dining package, then you probably know you cannot make reservations for restaurants prior to the cruise.

If you purchase a dining package, be sure to make reservations once you get onboard and do so on the first day of the cruise.  In general, you will find plenty of availability, but do not languish in making a reservation to avoid missing out on the most popular times.

Here is what to know about Perfect Day at CocoCay

I suppose Royal Caribbean's marketing strategy is working well, when one of the questions my uncle asked me recently about his cruise was what to do at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean's revamped and impressive private island in the Bahamas is catching a lot of attention and how to tackle your day there is a good first-timer question.

There are three primary areas of Perfect Day at CocoCay:

  • Beach (Chill Island/South Beach)
  • Pool (Oasis Lagoon/Splashaway Bay)
  • Water Park (Thrill Waterpark)

It is quite easy to move between any of these areas, but I feel most families will gravitate towards one or the other.  The key is to plan ahead which you want to do first and then go from there.

The decision to purchase water park admission is also something to consider prior to the cruise. Not only will you save money if you purchase admission prior to the cruise, deciding on going to the water park or not before you arrive on the island will ensure you waste less time.

Beyond that, there is plenty more Perfect Day at CocoCay tips and secrets, but at its heart, your visit there is about enjoying time in and out of the water.

Video: How much does it cost to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
05Sep2019

Are you curious how much a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation will cost? In this RoyalCaribbeanBlog video, we share how much it actually costs to go on a cruise.

There are quite a few considerations when it comes to calculating the total cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation, from cruise fare to gratuities to drinks to shore excursions and more. Our video will help break down the major costs of a Royal Caribbean cruise so you can budget for it properly!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Video: How to get ready for your first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
27Aug2019

If you booked your first Royal Caribbean cruise, you probably want to know what important steps you should take to get ready for an amazing vacation.  We have a brand new video sharing the absolute most important things you should be doing in the weeks and months leading up to your cruise.

Getting ready for your first Royal Caribbean cruise means planning, preparing and packing.  This new video explains a few of the most critical tasks to complete before you get to your cruise ship.

Did you love this video? We have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

Have you subscribed to our YouTube Channel yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

Check out the video and then let us know: What is the most important things to do in order to get ready for a cruise?

Video: 5 myths people use to avoid trying Royal Caribbean

In:
22Aug2019

There are plenty of people who have never gone on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but unfortunately many do so based on completely untrue myths.

If you have not taken a Royal Caribbean cruise for one of the five reasons outlined in this video, you need to cut it out and give one a try.  Here are five commonly cited reasons people avoid taking a cruise, and why these myths are just plain wrong.

Did you love this video? We have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

Have you subscribed to our YouTube Channel yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: Have you heard (or debunked) any cruise myths when helping friends or family plan their trips? 

What's the earliest time I can get off my cruise ship when it's over?

In:
12Aug2019

No one likes to think about when your cruise vacation will come to an end, but inevitably planning for that last morning is a necessity to ensure you can get to work, school or flight on time.

The docking time listed is not the time you get off the ship

A very common misconception among first time cruisers is looking at the scheduled time a ship returns to port and assuming that is the first opportunity to disembark their Royal Caribbean ship.

Often, Royal Caribbean ships return to port in the early morning, around 6:00am or so.  Just because the ship returns at this time, does not mean it is ready to let passengers off the ship.  A couple steps need to be completed first:

  • The ship must dock at the pier and be tied up properly.
  • Local officials must inspect and clear the ship

There is no set time how long each of those steps can take, and that is why answering the question of what time someone can disembark the ship is so difficult. Moreover, the inspection by local officials is completely out of Royal Caribbean's hands.

Disembarkation process

There are two main groups who can disembark from a cruise once it is over: guests carrying their own luggage and guests picking up their luggage.

Carrying own luggage

The first group who may disembark the ship once the ship is cleared by local officials is guests who carry their own luggage off the ship (sometimes referred to as Express Departure). This means anyone that elects to not rely on Royal Caribbean to deliver their luggage to the cruise terminal and is capable of carrying their own luggage may disembark the ship. Guests who elect to carry their own luggage off the ship will be required to take their luggage from their stateroom, and take it all the way off the ship and through customs.

Most often, the Express Departure option is preferred by guests who want to depart as early as possible due to travel plans, work requirements, or other needs.  However, if you opt to carry your own luggage off the ship, you may depart at any time.  On disembarkation day, an announcement will be made once the gangway is opened and cleared by local authorities, and at that time, guests carrying their own luggage may depart the ship.

As stated earlier, the exact time of when self-assist begins will depend on certain factors, but usually it will commence around 7:00 or 7:30am. Keep in mind these times are generalizations and it will vary.

Luggage Pickup

To make things easier and simpler for guests, Royal Caribbean offers to deliver guest luggage to the terminal for pickup.  This is a very popular option, and most guests elect for this option.

Royal Caribbean gives every cruiser luggage tags with a number at the end of the cruise in sequential order.  The number corresponds to what time your luggage will be ready for you to  get off the ship.  

Do not worry if your number seems high because you can always go to Guest Relations and get a lower number if you need to be one of the first off the ship.

If you elect to have Royal Caribbean take your luggage, you need to have your luggage packed and in the hallway outside of your stateroom by a certain time (usually 11:00pm).

The advantage of picking your luggage up in the terminal building is it makes the disembarkation process simpler.  Guests can enjoy breakfast on the last morning and wait comfortably in a lounge or restaurant until their luggage tag number is called.

Just like guests carrying their own luggage off the ship, the exact time luggage pickup begins will vary, but it usually begins 30-60 minutes after guests carrying their own luggage are able to start walking off the ship.  Keep in mind that it takes time for Royal Caribbean to deliver all the luggage from the ship to the cruise terminal.

Video: Worst Royal Caribbean advice you will get

In:
30Jul2019

Our newest RoyalCaribbeanBlog video is sharing some of the worst advice you will get!

Planning a Royal Caribbean vacation can feel overwhelming at times, so it is only natural to seek advice throughout the process. But the truth of the matter is that there are two sides to just about every piece of advice. And what may be the absolute best decision for one group may not be the best for another. So we’re sharing our thoughts on some common bits of advice that get passed around regarding Royal Caribbean and when the advice might (or might not) work for your group in our latest YouTube Video!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your favorite piece of Royal Caribbean advice?

Video: 5 Royal Caribbean tips you will be surprised you need to know

In:
26Jul2019

Check out this RoyalCaribbeanBlog video, featuring five things first-time cruisers might be surprised to know that they need to know these things.

When planning for a cruise vacation, there are certain things that we think first timers may not be aware are a thing, and definitely need to know before they step onboard.  This video will help you be fully prepared for your cruise vacation with five very important planning tips!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your best need-to-know tip when it comes to going on a cruise?

Video: Top things Royal Caribbean pros never do — and neither should you!

In:
23Jul2019

Our brand new RoyalCaribbeanBlog video is out, and we are sharing the top things Royal Caribbean pros never do, and neither should you!

We have some tips from Royal Caribbean veterans on the things to avoid doing to make sure you have an awesome Royal Caribbean cruise. After all, veteran cruises have been through the wringer a few times, and we can all learn from their experiences! And if you have a tip of your own to share, we would love to hear about it in a comment below!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your Royal Caribbean pro tip?

Video: What to know before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
07Jun2019

We have a brand new RoyalCaribbeanBlog video to share with you, all about the important things to know BEFORE you book a Royal Caribbean cruise!

We love going on Royal Caribbean and freely advocate others try it out as well, but it is important to know a few things before you put down a credit card to book that first cruise. Between logistics, saving money and learning about what each ship offers, we have some essential advice for anyone looking to book a cruise vacation.

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your top tip for anyone booking their first cruise?

How to complete Royal Caribbean online check-in

In:
04Jun2019

As the days get closer to your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will want to complete online check-in to expedite the process of getting onboard your ship once you arrive at the cruise terminal.

While online check-in is optional, it is a good idea to take care of it before you leave home to minimize the time needed to do the same paperwork at the terminal. When you check-in online, it saves time. You will not have to fill out any forms at the pier.

Keep in mind that you must complete and print your SetSail Pass up to 3 days prior to your sail date

When can I check-in online for my Royal Caribbean cruise?

Online Check-In opens 90 days before your cruise and must be completed no later than 3 days prior to sailing. 

Documents needed for online check-in

  • Personal Information for each guest are checking in online
  • Identification Document information for each guest you are checking in online
  • Crown & Anchor Society Membership Number (if you are a member)
  • Onward Travel Plans
  • Onboard Expense Account Information (i.e credit card and the reservation information that is authorized to charge against the account)

You will also need to establish an Onboard Expense Account via either credit card or cash.

How to check-in online via the website

  1. If you have a Royal Caribbean account already set up, simply login, find your sailing and click Start check-in.
  2. If you do not have an account set up yet, you can check-in via this page. We recommend creating an account with Royal Caribbean, linking your reservation and then completing online check-in. 
  3. Select the guests you wish to check-in
  4. Enter personal information for each guest. You will need their name, address, emergency contact information and travel documentation.  
  5. Next, you will need to decide on if you will assign a credit card or go with a cash account.  Our recommendation is to put a credit card against your account to expedite embarkation and disembarkation.
  6. You will have to read and accept the cruise contract.  This is where all those little details about what Royal Caribbean can and cannot do is listed, and while it is quite a lengthy read, it is important to be aware of the policies you are agreeing to.
  7. The next step is to pick an arrival time.  The good news is these times are not enforced, so regardless of which time you pick, you can show up to the cruise terminal at whichever times you like (especially earlier).
  8. Online check-in is now complete, and you can proceed to view your SetSail pass and/or luggage tags. It is a good idea to print a copy of each before you forget.

    These documents are available up to 3 days prior to sailing. Any closer to sailing, and they are unavailable.

    A good idea is to save each as a PDF document that you can print anytime you want later on.

How to check-in online via the Royal Caribbean app

On select Royal Caribbean ships, you can download and use the Royal Caribbean app to check-in via your phone.  The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Here are the easy to follow steps for completing online check-in via the app. 

  1. After you download, install and log into the app, find your upcoming sailing and tap Start check-in.
  2. Select the guests you wish to check-in.
  3. You will enter the personal information, travel documentation and payment details. 
  4. One nice feature of the app is it can scan your passport with the phone camera and quickly input the data for you.
  5. You will enter your onboard expense account and agree to the cruise contract. This is where all those little details about what Royal Caribbean can and cannot do is listed, and while it is quite a lengthy read, it is important to be aware of the policies you are agreeing to.
  6. The next step is to pick an arrival time.  The good news is these times are not enforced, so regardless of which time you pick, you can show up to the cruise terminal at whichever times you like (especially earlier).
  7. With online check-in complete, you will be able to view your SetSail Pass.

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