First Time Cruisers

First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

In:
31Jan2017

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is among the cruise line's most popular, and well-known cruise ships.  She debuted in 2009 and remains one of the largest cruise ships in the world, with a wealth of activities and entertainment onboard.  Frankly, it is a floating destination that offers so much and for someone new to Royal Caribbean, or just new to Oasis of the Seas, there can be a lot to consider.

Despite the fact Oasis of the Seas is a rather large cruise ship, it is best to paraphrase Yoda and remember not to judge anything by its size. The ship is large, but believe it or not, very manageable for a first time guest and even more fun.

Anyone considering a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas will want to consider this planning guide for an optimal first time experience.  Let us jump in and get started!

Overview of Oasis of the Seas

Looking at Oasis of the Seas, it is easy to notice how large of a cruise ship she is.  When Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2009, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. In the years since, she has been eclipsed barely by her sister ships, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.  Despite losing the title of largest in the world, seeing Oasis of the Seas in person will reinforce the notion of how large the ship is.

The good news is despite her imposing stature, Royal Caribbean spent a lot of time coming up with a means of making the ship easy to navigate. The last thing the cruise line wanted was to have a cruise ship that is super big and super crowded.  As a result, Royal Caribbean broke up the ship into several themed areas, known as "neighborhoods."  These distinct areas of the ship serve as visual cues to where you are and it's important to know about them so you can more easily get to wherever you are going.

The Oasis of the Seas neighborhoods are

  1. Central Park
  2. The Pool and Sports Zone
  3. Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
  4. Boardwalk
  5. Royal Promenade
  6. Youth Zone
  7. Entertainment Place

When talking about size, a common concern is if the ship gets and/or feels crowded. The good news is while it might seem like a ship this size must have crowding issues, Royal Caribbean spent a lot of time working on strategies to make the ship feel quiet. The neighborhoods help with the flow of crowds, and the ship's reservation system integrates tightly with the dining and show management to control crowds.  Lines can occur on any cruise ship, but they are rarely awful. 

TOP 10 OASIS OF THE SEAS HIDDEN SECRETS

A good strategy for getting your bearings on Oasis of the Seas is to walk around and explore the ship as early in the cruise as you can.  There is a lot to see and do on Oasis of the Seas, and walking around the ship will quickly provide a good understanding of where things are relative to each other, plus there is a lot of great things to discover. Art, activities, live music, decor and more are found in all the neighborhoods.

Oasis of the Seas Dining and Restaurants

With the great size of Oasis of the Seas comes a lot of dining choices.  Royal Caribbean wanted to ensure there was plenty of options for guests to choose from, as well as a good variety of culinary choices. Guests will find the various eateries onboard fall into one of two categories: complimentary and specialty.

Complimentary dining options are included with your cruise fare and guests can enjoy as much food as they like from these locations.  There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The alternative dining option are specialty dining, in which there is an additional cost to dine there.  Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

A very common concern among new cruisers is how important is specialty dining and how good or bad is the complimentary food.  We often hear from readers who are concerned they will be forced to pay for food while onboard their cruise.  The fact of the matter is there is plenty of good complimentary food available on Oasis of the Seas.  One can easily go their entire cruise and never spend a dime on specialty dining and have a fulfilling and tasty dining experience on Oasis of the Seas.  Specialty dining is an option for guests who want something more than what is offered in the complimentary dining, with an emphasis on certain foods that are otherwise unavailable all the time. Think of specialty dining like you would going out for dinner versus staying home and cooking something.  You would be perfectly content with a home-cooked meal, but going out for dinner is a nice treat that comes with a higher cost. 

In short, you do not have to go to any specialty restaurants while on Oasis of the Seas, but we feel it is a good idea to give a couple of specialty restaurants a try.  Royal Caribbean put a great deal of emphasis on its specialty dining options and enjoying a specialty restaurant or two will likely not "break the bank," and can really enhance your cruise experience.

Here is a good overview of the complimentary and specialty dining options you will have to enjoy

Complimentary dining

  • Windjammer
  • Park Cafe
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Solarium Bistro (breakfast and lunch only)
  • Wipeout Cafe
  • Sorrento's
  • Cafe Promenade
  • Room Service
  • Main Dining Room
  • Johnny Rockets (breakfast only)

Specialty dining

Most guests spend a majority of their dining time at the Windjammer buffet, main dining room and smaller venues like Park Cafe or Cafe Promenade. Those four options can provide meals throughout the day, and represent the most most popular options with a good variety of food.

It is hard to go wrong with any of the specialty dining, but we recommend first timers check out Chops Grille, Sabor and the Izumi Hibachi for great experiences.

Activities on Oasis of the Seas

If you thought there was a lot to dining choices on Oasis of the Seas, wait until you discover all the things to do onboard.

Oasis of the Seas can feel like a floating city with all the activities onboard.  The ship bustles with planned events, swimming pools, sports, shows and plenty more.  Your guide to knowing what is going on and when is the Cruise Compass.  Every Royal Caribbean ship offers a daily Cruise Compass, which is part newspaper and part TV Guide.  It documents everything happening during that day, and it is a must-read for any guest onboard.  A copy of the Cruise Compass will be delivered to your stateroom each evening by your stateroom attendant.

Shows

Without a doubt, the premier entertainment on Oasis of the Seas are the shows.  Included in your cruise fare are the amazing shows Royal Caribbean has put together that have a New York or Las Vegas feel to them.  Even if you aren't "a show person", Royal Caribbean puts on some impressive entertainment that caters to a lot of tastes. You will find Broadway shows, ice skating, water shows and a whole lot more offered onboard and all of these shows are included in your cruise fare.

Guests can enjoy one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, Cats, in the Royal Theater. This is the full Broadway production, complete with intermission. In addition, the original Royal Caribbean production show, "Come Fly With Me" is also shown in the Royal Theater, along with other headliner acts.

In the Studio B ice rink, guests will find the ice skating performance of, "Frozen in Time."

The outdoor Aqua Theater features the dining show, "Oasis of Dreams."

When planning your cruise, be sure to carve out time for these shows.  The performances in the Royal Theater and AquaTheater are must-see events, and the ice skating show is very good as well.  Considering there is no additional cost to see these shows, you will want to check them out because Royal Caribbean has put a lot of energy and talent into the performances.

One important tip if you are new to cruising is on Oasis class ships you can book your entertainment in advance from the comfort of home.

Select shows offer the ability to book reservations in advance via Royal Caribbean's web site.  There is no cost to do this, and we recommend booking any entertainment you can in advance to avoid lines at show time.

All you have to do is go to My Cruises and then log in (register an account if you have not done so already).  Then find your cruise reservation and go to the Cruise Planner.  A few clicks later and you should be able to reserve your entertainment.

Keep in mind that reservations for entertainment is usually available for booking 64-60 days in advance of your cruise.  Check our planning timeline for more information on when things like entertainment can be reserved.

Pools

The Pool and Sports Zone is the area of the ship with plenty of outdoor space and a good variety of pools and swimming options. Oasis of the Seas has 4 separate pool areas. All pools are located on Deck 15 and are salt water.

  • Solarium: Adults only (age 16 and over) pool area with two cantilevered whirlpool hot tubs, which extend 12 feet from either side of the ship.
  • Sports pool: area for playing pool games such as synchronized swimming and volleyball. The sports pools area may have designated times for swimming laps.
  • Beach pool: Themed area that is supposed to look like a beach
  • H2O Zone: interactive kids aqua park, where kids and their families can enjoy geysers, sculpted fountains, and waterfalls.

For parents with young children that are still wearing diapers, there is a designated baby and infant splash pool, designed specially for them.  Children wearing diapers are not allowed in any other pools.

Unless otherwise posted, there will always be pool and whirlpool hot tubs open 24 hours a day. Pools will be closed occasionally when they need to be cleaned as well if weather or sea conditions make the pools unsafe for swimming.

The pools tend to also be a hub of activities, with lots of events held in or around them during the day.  In fact, during the day, a vast majority of events happen in the pool area.  Royal Caribbean is a huge proponent of live music and you can often enjoy bands playing music at the main pool throughout the day.   These bands will play reggae, classic rock and even contemporary hits.  For fans of live music, sitting by the pool and enjoying music is perfect.

If you consult your Cruise Compass, you will find a number of activities happening at the main pool.  Exact activities differ depending on your ship and sailing but here are some common ones 

  • Belly flop competition
  • World's sexiest man competition
  • Scuba classes
  • Fitness classes
  • Poolside bingo
  • Dance classes
  • Poolside movies

When going up to the pools, be sure to stop by the towel station to pick up as many towels you may need during your time there.  Complimentary pool towels are provided for guests near the main pool and can be returned when convenient.

Signature Activities

Oasis of the Seas was designed with impressive onboard activities, including a few things to do that are unique to Royal Caribbean. Oasis of the Seas has plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as bingo, trivia, demonstrations and more, but the ship is known for some noticeable activities that are as fun as they are intriguing to watch. Plus, they are complimentary to enjoy.

  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Zip line across 82-foot distance that is nine decks up
  • Ice skating rink
  • Two 43-foot rock climbing walls
  • Mini golf course
  • Full-sized basketball court
  • 3D movie theater

All of these activities are available for guests to enjoy for most of the day. There will be posted hours in the Cruise Compass and plenty of opportunity to experience once or many times.

Staterooms

Choosing your stateroom for Oasis of the Seas involves a lot of choices.  There are traditional cabins categories, as well as a few new categories that blend categories together. Depending on your budget, family size and preferences, there are quite a few options to consider.

Like all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas cabins fall into four distinct categories.

  • Interior rooms
  • Oceanview rooms
  • Balcony rooms
  • Suites

The price for any of these rooms will depend on factors, such as time of year, demand for rooms on the particular sailing, and how many guests in each room. You can refer to our guide to choosing a stateroom for more information on the basics, although there are some special room types worth discussing.

Boardwalk and Central Park balcony

When you hear about a stateroom with a balcony, you are probably envisioning a view of the ocean but Oasis of the Seas introduced cabins that have balconies that overlook two of their most popular neighborhoods: Central Park and the Boardwalk.  Both offer great views of their respective areas and they can be just as fun as an ocean balcony given the beautifully decorated areas.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has begun a new program in November 2016, where guests that book neighborhood balcony rooms receive certain benefits.  The new EAT • DRINK • PLAY complimentary amenities offer guests in Boardwalk balcony staterooms

  • Complimentary meal for four at Johnny Rockets.
  • Complimentary Royal Refreshment soda package for two guests.
  • Exclusive rock climbing wall experience for the entire family.

The new EAT • DRINK • PLAY complimentary amenities offer guests in Central Park balcony staterooms

  • Complimentary lunch for two at Giovanni's Table.
  • Complimentary bottle of red wine in your stateroom.
  • Private casino gaming lessons from an onboard expert.

One common question about these balconies is noise, since other passengers will be who you can see and hear from your balcony.  Generally speaking the noise factor is not a consideration and we would recommend trying either type of neighborhood stateroom.

Loft Suites

Among the different suites available are loft suites, which are an Oasis class option that come with two floors of living space, in addition to a large balcony.

The two floors break up the room and offer an unique option for guests that want something more than a traditional suite experience.  It offers a lot of space for a small footprint and are part of the revamped suite program that Royal Caribbean unveiled in 2016, known as the Royal Suite class.

Kids programming

If you are bringing kids with you on your Oasis of the Seas cruise, they will have lots to do onboard. Royal Caribbean re-invented its award-winning Adventure Ocean program to offer one of the largest kids areas at sea.

Adventure Ocean is divided into three age-appropriate groups

  • Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5)
  • Explorers (ages 6 to 8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)
  • Royal Babies and Tots nursery (ages 6 to 36 months)

Children must be registered and fully toilet trained to take part in activities. There are dedicated spaces for each age group, plus specialized areas like science labs and a theater for enhanced programming.  Plus, Royal Caribbean has partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer the DreamWorks Experience, which has character meet-n-greets throughout the ship, parades, movies and integration into the Adventure Ocean programming.

Adventure Ocean is open most of the day, but their hours vary depending on if it is a port day or sea day.  On Sea days, Adventure Ocean can open as early as 6:30am.  Guests that have Royal Caribbean excursions booked and need to drop their children off earlier, can arrange with Adventure Ocean for that benefit.  For lunch, kids are brought to Wipe Out Cafe or Windjammer between noon and 1pm, and then again to the Windjammer for dinner between 5pm and 7pm. Adventure Ocean programming is included with your cruise fare.

The nursery operates with similar hours to Adventure Ocean, although there is an hourly charge for nursery services.  The hourly rate depends on if it is daytime or nighttime.

Adventure Ocean closes at 10pm, but parents can leave their children with Adventure Ocean until 2am for an hourly fee.  The Late Night Party Zone runs from 10pm to 2am in Adventure Ocean, and is billed at $7 per hour, per child for children who remain after 10pm.

Tweens and teenagers also have their own club, plus a variety of activities onboard such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line. Teens meet at the Living Room, on Deck 15 aft and also have exclusive access to their own night club, known as Fuel on deck 15. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.

Royal Caribbean offers daily programming for teens, with their choice of as little or as much as they want to do.  This includes things like teens-only FlowRider time, speed climbing on the rock wall, prom night, glow in the dark party, teens-only ice skating and more.

Embarkation day plan

When it is time to get onboard Oasis of the Seas, be prepared for the start of an amazing vacation experience. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to do on your first day, here are some good ideas for tackling day one on Oasis of the Seas.

1. Arrive early

If you read the Royal Caribbean documentation, there is a fairly large window of time you can arrive to the ship, but ideally plan to arrive early to check-in.  Your best bet is to arrive before noon for check-in.  If you can, try for check-in in the 10:00am hour, to ensure you are among the first to board the ship.

2. Have lunch first

Once onboard, grab something to eat before everyone else has the same thought. The Windjammer buffet will offer the most variety, but it can easily get crowded there.  If you board Oasis of the Seas early, crowds will not be an issue, but if you find lines, consider alternative options that have great food without the lines.  Park Cafe in Central Park and Wipe Out Cafe on Deck 15 are great choices.  

If you do not mind spending some money, Sabor and Giovanni's Table are open for lunch and will ensure a very tasty start to your cruise vacation.

3. Walk and explore

With food in your belly, if your staterooms are not open yet, take the opportunity to start walking the ship.  Oasis of the Seas is a large ship, and there is lots to see, so walk around to get an idea of where things are located. 

Exploring Central Park, the Boardwalk or the pool decks area great starting points. Do not force yourself to try to "see it all" on day one.  You do not want to burn yourself out with running around the ship on day one, so focus on areas that appeal to you and branch out from there.

4. Staterooms open usually at 1pm

On most sailings, your staterooms will open at 1pm, which is an opportunity to drop off any belongings you brought with you in your carry-on items.  It is also the first chance to check out your home for the duration of your cruise.

While in your room, check to see everything is operating correctly and that you can operate the in-room safe, as this is your dedicated spot to store valuables and you want to make sure this is working correctly and you know how to operate it.  If anything is not working, or you are unsure how to operate something, contact housekeeping or maintenance immediately to have it taken care of quickly.

5. Go for a swim

Did you know the pools, FlowRider and H2O Zone are open on embarkation day? Take advantage of the low crowds in these areas by going for a swim. After a long morning of getting to this point, a dip in the pool can be a great idea.

By far the least crowded time at the pool will be embarkation day because most guests have their swimsuits in their luggage, which is in the process of being delivered to their staterooms.

If you bring your swim suits with you (or wear them before you get onboard), then head to the pool and enjoy uncrowded pool time. 

6. Go to any specialty restaurant for reservations

If you have not made dining reservations prior to your cruise, your first day is the best time to make a reservation onboard.  Popular days, like formal nights and holidays, will see specialty restaurants book up quickly, so if you are interested in dining at any of them, make your reservations sooner than later.

Guest Services typically has lines on embarkation day, so instead, you can go to any specialty restaurant and make reservations for that and any other specialty restaurant.  Their booking systems are linked, and that means no need to go to each restaurant individually (unless you want to).  

7. Find a spot for sailaway

A very common choice is the sailaway party, which is usually held at the pool deck. There will be music, dancing and a whole lot of celebrating with the ship's activities staff.  If you want something quieter, consider finding a spot near a railing that overlooks the port area. A hidden spot for sailaway are the wing viewing areas, located on deck 14 near the Solarium. 

If you are staying in a stateroom that has a private balcony, it is hard to beat that kind of a spot for sailaway.  Grab some drinks from the bar and bring it down to your stateroom to enjoy on the balcony. After all, having a balcony stateroom means you do not have to compete with anyone for a spot (except perhaps your kids).

How to cancel and rebook pre-cruise purchases on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner

In:
29Oct2016

You might have read the news earlier this weekend that Royal Caribbean is offering discounts on select drink packages, internet packages, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and more, which has you thinking if this new promotion can save you some (more) money. But what if you had already purchased an internet package and now the price is cheaper?  Here is your guide to canceling and rebooking with Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner!

The good news is, anything you purchase via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner is fully refundable up to two days before your cruise is set to begin.  If you cancel the item, the value will be refunded back to the form of payment that was originally used within 3-4 business days.  This means, if you are debating if you want to buy something from the Cruise Planner, but have not made up your mind, you can lock in these prices and still have time to cancel with no penalty.

You can still cancel one of these items onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, but be aware that the refund will come back in the form of onboard credit, instead of back to your credit card.

How to rebook something you bought in the Cruise Planner

If you find there is a better price for a package, service or experience and want to take advantage of that lower price, here is what you have to do.

1. Log into your Royal Caribbean account and proceed to the Cruise Planner for the sailing you have in mind.

2. At the top right corner of the pick, click Order History.  You will want to cancel the item you bought first, and then re-book it later.

3. Once at the Order History page, you will be able to see everything you have reserved or purchased for your cruise.  From here, find the item you want to cancel and click cancel.

4. Follow the next few steps to confirm the cancelation.  You should find yourself at a screen that displays a confirmation message with the exact refund to the form of payment used.  As stated earlier, it may take a few business days for the refund to be made.

5. Now that you have canceled the original purchase, you can proceed with re-purchasing the item at its lower price.

How to rebook something you bought via the phone

Alternatively, you can call Royal Caribbean directly and have them cancel and/or re-purchase the items to take advantage of the new price. Find the Royal Caribbean customer service number in your country and then work with the agent to make the change.

We recommend using the Cruise Planner because it is quite simple, and will end up being quicker than dealing with phone hold times and repeating to the agent all of your booking information and billing details.

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's SeaPass card

In:
03Sep2016

One of the first events on every Royal Caribbean cruise is when guests get their SeaPass card to use onboard their cruise. Every guest must use one and it is your figurative and literal key to your cruise experience and here is what you need to know about your SeaPass card and account.

SeaPass basics

When you hear the word, "SeaPass," it refers to your onboard expense account that is a lot like a credit card account, where all of your onboard purchases are charged against.  Since Royal Caribbean ships are cashless, your SeaPass card is how you make purchases, gain access to designated areas of the ship and identify yourself to Royal Caribbean easily.

Each person on the ship (including kids) will receive a SeaPass card with their information stored in the account. At embarkation, you will put down a credit card (American Express, Optima, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club) to place against your purchases.  At the end of your cruise, all of your purchases are added up and charged to that credit card.

Royal Caribbean also allows you to use traveler's checks, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo, or cash to activate your SeaPass charging.

Once onboard your ship, you can use the SeaPass card to do things like

  • Get into your stateroom
  • Make onboard purchases
  • Check-in when returning back to the ship in ports
  • Accessing your onboard photos

Your SeaPass card is something to bring with you anywhere you go onboard or onshore. 

Making purchases

Using your SeaPass card to make purchases online is pretty simple and identical to using a credit card. Present your SeaPass card to a Royal Caribbean crew member and they will swipe it, provide you with a receipt to sign and that is about it.

A running tab of all your purchases will be kept under separate folio numbers for each guest and an itemized statement left in your stateroom the night before disembarkation.

Normally to activate this SeaPass account, most guests provide a credit card, (American Express, Optima, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club), to have these purchases charged to at the end of their cruise. Additionally, the SeaPass system may be activated with traveler's checks, debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo, or cash.

Onboard credit

Often, guests have onboard credit from a variety of channels. This onboard credit is effectively free money that is credited to your SeaPass account that will offset purchases made onboard.

If you have any onboard credit, it will automatically post to your SeaPass account on the first night of your cruise.  All charges you make your SeaPass card are first deducted from your onboard credit before you start accruing a tab.

You cannot designate certain charges to go against your onboard credit in lieu of others. Rather, it's a first charged, first debted system.

Kids

Children receive a SeaPass card too and they are essentially no different from an adult account, although there can be differences if you would like.

Minors receive SeaPass cards that have a different design to easily identify them to any crew member. 

In addition, parents can opt to revoke charging privileges completely or give a daily limit.

First time cruisers: The most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Aug2016

Whether you are new to cruising or not, what to pack (and not pack) can be quite a challenge.  Inevitably, the question boils down to what is essential to pack for a cruise and this blog post should assist in providing a guide of must-pack items.

There are tons of cruise packing guides available on the internet, but I sought to compile a packing list of things that pretty much everyone needs.  This packing list is about the basics that should be in almost everyone's luggage. Of course, there might be an item or two on this list that does not apply to you, and there will be plenty more that you think you should bring, but we wanted to include the basics.

If you are wondering what to pack for a Royal Caribbean cruise, then here is what you need to know.

Travel documents

These items are the most critical things to pack, because without them, you are not getting on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  You could forget to pack everything else on this list, but all of that can be bought, whereas these items are not so easily replaceable.

You might notice we only listed passport and not a birth certificate, and that is because I firmly believe you ought to invest in a passport to safeguard you and your family in the event of a travel emergency.  While you can cruise on some Royal Caribbean cruises with just a birth certificate, a passport is a far better option and it is worth the extra investment.

  • Passport
  • SetSail Pass
  • Credit card
  • Travel insurance documentation (if purchased)
  • Cash in the form of small bills for tipping

Clothing

It is self-explanatory that you will need to bring clothing on your cruise to have for each day.  How much clothing one person goes through on a cruise will vary, but this should be the basics.

The most difficult decision for this list was how many outfits per day to pack.  Depending on your activities, you will be changing during your day a few times.  If it is a sea day, you might wake up and put on your bathing suit, change in the afternoon into regular clothes and then change again for dinner.  Port days, you might put on one outfit for your adventure on shore and then change into something else when you return and again for dinner.  Or you might just wear one outfit the entire day.  Everyone's habits are different.  Still, I felt most guests will wear 2-3 outfits per day.

  • Couple of swimsuits per person (at least two)
  • Water shoes
  • 2-3 outfits per day of your cruise
  • 3-6 outfits for evenings on a 7-night cruise
  • Sunglasses
  • Sweater or wrap for when it is cold indoors

Toiletries

Like clothing, you may end up packing much more than is on this list, but there are likely to be some basics to bring with you to ensure you have what you need to get through your cruise without any issues.

  • Prescription medicines
  • First aid kit
    • Fever reducer medicine
    • Anti-diarrheal medicine
    • Band-aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra contacts/glasses
  • Deodorant
  • Hair conditioner and/or shampoo
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Accessories

Arguably, this is the toughest category of packing to plan for, because there are things on this list that may depend on your definition of "important."  I think enough people pack these items to warrant bringing them on the cruise with you and they are ubiquitous enough among cruise guests.

  • Electric strip (no surge protectors)
  • Highlighter for the Cruise Compass
  • Camera (your phone may double as this)
    • Extra memory cards for the camera
  • Chargers for electronic devices (phones, cameras, laptops, iPads)
  • Small bag for excursions

Your thoughts

This is not a total packing list, just a listing of the most important things you should pack on a cruise that apply to pretty much everyone.  Do you think we missed something?  Or is there something on this list that you think should be bolded, circled and posted on highway billboards because it is that important? Share your suggestions in the comments!

First time cruisers: What clothing do I wear on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
13Aug2016

What to wear on your Royal Caribbean cruise seems to be a question we get a lot because no one wants to do the wrong thing.  Cruising has changed a lot over the years, but some traditions of dress codes remain to this day.

Before you go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, here is a handy guide to help you understand what cruise clothing you should wear onboard.

Cruise clothing for embarkation day

The first day of your cruise is a bit of an odd day, with guests arriving onboard and getting acclimated to their new home.  Moreover, luggage deliveries to staterooms can take a bit of time, so not all guests have access to all of their belongings throughout the day.

Nearly all guests will arrive to their Royal Caribbean ship wearing something comfortable and relaxing.  Depending on the weather conditions at the embarkation port, you will find most guests with t-shirts, shorts/jeans, etc.

While Royal Caribbean offers guests the option to check their luggage and have it delivered later to their stateroom, you might consider retaining a day bag that has a change of clothes, swimsuit, work out clothes and anything else you might need between when you board the ship and when your luggage will actually be delivered.  This is especially important for kids, because the pools will be open on embarkation day, but swim suits packed away in checked luggage could lead to disappointment.

Cruise clothing during the day

During the morning and afternoon, there is no dress code and your itinerary will largely dictate what you should wear onboard.

Caribbean, Mediterranean and other warm-weather cruises will see a mix of t-shirts, shorts, blouses, bathing suits and whatever else is comfortable.  Since much of the activities and things to do onboard your ship are outdoors, a vast majority of guests will be dressed for a pool day, and swim suits and associated clothing are quite prevalent.

Cruises to cold weather destinations will see guests wearing heavier clothing, including jeans, sweaters, lounge wear and more. Depending on the season and destination, layering your clothes is common, where t-shirts are worn underneath sweaters to allow for greater flexibility with the changing temperatures.

If you are planning to visit the fitness center, be sure to bring extra shorts, t-shirts, socks and running shoes/sneakers to work out in.

The reality is, there are no guidelines about what you wear during the day on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Restaurants retain some basic dress guidelines, including a casual dress code in specialty restaurants and the main dining room.  Quick service venues, such as the Windjammer, Cafe Promenade and other grab-and-go locations have just basic guidelines when it comes to dress code, such as shoes and a shirt.

Cruise clothing in the evening

During the dinner hours, Royal Caribbean does have a dress code for its main dining room.  The dress code is only for the dining room, and outside that venue, there is no special dress code .

When people hear dress codes, it causes a great deal of anxiety about what is and what is not allowed.  It is a complicated issue because "appropriate" attire for each dress code will depend on the interpretation of the rules.  Royal Caribbean tends to be a bit ambiguous about its dress code rules, especially when it comes to enforcing them. In practice, Royal Caribbean's dress code is more a guideline that can be used as an enforcement tool, but is not frequently administered to all guests.

There are three basic dress codes Royal Caribbean uses.  We will list each one, along with what Royal Caribbean lists as suggested dress for each one.

  • Casual: Sport shirts and slacks for men, sundresses or pants for women. Pants should have no holes, rips or tears.
  • Smart Casual: Jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women.
  • Formal: Suits and ties or tuxedos for men (black tie is optional), cocktail dresses or pantsuit for women

Swimsuits, robes, bare feet, tank tops, baseball caps and pool wear are not allowed in the main restaurants or specialty restaurants. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are acceptable for lunch.

Formal night

Despite the name, formal night is not nearly as fancy as you might think.  Formal night is certainly the most dressed up evening attire required on your Royal Caribbean cruise, but it is not as ornate as you might imagine.

Evening wear for formal night will vary, and you will see some guests wearing tuxedoes and gowns.  It is our opinion that most guests tend to dress a bit less fancy than that, with men wearing suits or sports coats and women wearing cocktail dresses.  Essentially, it is clothing that is a bit nicer than you might wear on other nights of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean does provide a tuxedo rental option, which can save on packing space.

If the idea of formal night really bothers you and you, the good news is you absolutely do not have to get dressed up on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  The formal night dress code is only for the main dining room and specialty restaurants, so anywhere else on the ship is fair game for shorts, flip flops and tank tops.  The Windjammer and other quick service venues will be open and without any formal wear.

Cruise clothing for kids

Children on a Royal Caribbean cruise will follow similar patterns to adults in terms of what they wear.  During the day onboard and onshore, it will be casual for kids, so nothing really important to worry about.  Just something they will be comfortable wearing.

In the evening, the dress code for children is the same for adults. There tends to be more leeway in terms of the degree of formality for children's clothing, but at the same time children are expected to be dressed up more than what they would wear during the daytime. The exception would be infants.

For boys, polo shirts and nice pants will suffice for most evenings and girls can wear dresses, skirts and sweaters.

First time cruisers: Can I get a table for two people in the main dining room on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
06Aug2016

Royal Caribbean's main dining room is elegant, sophisticated and serves guests some amazing food.  It is a staple of the cruise experience, but some guests do not love the idea of sitting with other guests at the same table.

Whether you prefer some time alone at dinner, or just would prefer to sit at your own table, there are some options for getting a table for two on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you are in My Time Dining, tables for two are generally easy to get.  If you do not arrange anything in advance, simply go up to the My Time Dining reservations table and when you make your dinner reservation, simply ask then for a table for two. It shouldn't be a problem, even if you don't have a reservation, although if it's a peak period, you might have to wait about 15 minutes.

If you are in traditional dining, when you make your initial cruise reservation, you can request a table for two.  You also send an email to rcldining@rccl.com about 2-3 weeks prior to your sailing with your request.  This strategy usually works for most folks. 

Once onboard the ship, you can still make the request.  On embarkation day, go to the main dining room and speak to the head waiter and ask for a table for two.  They are usually quite accommodating.  

First time cruisers: Which drinks are included in my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
30Jul2016

A Royal Caribbean cruise vacation provides a tremendous value for guests in terms of what they get for the price they pay, and a very common question among first time cruisers is like this one from Fay Jones.

"Are there any beverages that are included with the meals that is not an additional charge? Also is the tap water safe to drink?"

It is a good question which drinks are included in your cruise, and here is an overview of what to expect in terms of which drinks are included.

Drinks included

You can expect these drinks to be included and available during your cruise for no additional cost

  • regular coffee
  • decaffeinated coffee
  • tea
  • iced tea
  • tap water
  • milk
  • chocolate milk
  • lemonade
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast, not fresh squeezed)
  • hot chocolate (via instant packets)

These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free.

Anything not on this list will cost you extra, including soft drinks, beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Drinking the water

Yes, there is tap water provided on your cruise to drink and it is indeed very safe to drink.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a meticulously maintained water treatment/storage system that supplies all of the ships potable water.

Some guests report the tap water is not as cold as they would like, in which case your room attendant can bring you ice at any point in your cruise.

If you prefer not to drink tap water, there is bottled water available for purchase or included in a Royal Caribbean drink package.

First time cruisers: When can I prebook entertainment, dining and more for my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
23Jul2016

We get a lot of questions from those new to cruising and one of the most common questions is about when can guests begin to reserve shows, restaurants, drink packages and more prior to their cruise.

Right after booking a cruise, Royal Caribbean allows guests to register their cruise on their My Cruises section of the Royal Caribbean web site and manage their reservation, with the option of booking dining, entertainment and other purchases prior to the cruise.  Often, not all options are available for prebooking and it leaves some guests wondering when they can do it. 

Why prebook?

The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise.

There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. 

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

When can I prebook?

Royal Caribbean will post its cruises to purchase years in advance, but shore excursions, specialty dining, shows and more may not be available to reserve that far in advance.

The truth is, there is no rule about when these kinds of activities become available for booking, and every sailing can be different. Based on our experience, we do have some basic guidelines for when Royal Caribbean usually makes them available for guests to reserve.

Please keep in mind all of the time frames discussed here are general observations, and your sailing may be vastly different.

Entertainment: Royal Caribbean only allows guests to reserve seats for shows on Oasis and Quantum-class cruise ships.  All other ships, will have seating available on a first-come, first-served basis and/or complimentary tickets once guests are onboard.  

If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary.

Dining: Specialty restaurant reservations can become available 90-60 days prior to a cruise.  The exact time frame will depend on a variety of factors.

Shore Excursions: Royal Caribbean shore excursions will be among the first activities to become available for pre-booking.  We have seen them available as early as 24-12 months prior to a cruise.  

Spa treatments: In my experience, spa treatments are almost always available for pre-booking via the web site. 

How to book your first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
20Jul2016

Have you heard all about how amazing a Royal Caribbean cruise is and been intrigued by the incredible options available onboard?  Then perhaps it is time to take that proverbial leap and book a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Whether you are new to cruising or just new to Royal Caribbean, taking that first step and picking that first cruise is easier than you think. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Decide: Travel agent or On Your Own

Before you take your credit card out and before you pick your ideal sailing, stateroom and dining rotation, you should figure out how you will book a cruise.

There are two main options for booking a cruise: on your own or via a travel agent.  

Both have their advantages, but I strongly recommend the use of a good travel agent when booking a cruise for the tremendous assistance and convenience they offer. A travel agent can help pick out the right first Royal Caribbean cruise for you based on your preferences.  They are well-versed in the many options out there and they are your partner in the process.

There are lots of great travel agents out there and a good starting point is to find one that has been accredited by the Cruise Lines International Association for assurance they have first-hand experience across the industry. 

With 25 ships in their fleet and 30 different stateroom types, a travel agent will simply make your life easier and save you time.  In fact, the entire booking process is significantly easier when using a travel agent, because a travel agent is the one pricing out options, sitting on the phone with Royal Caribbean and making adjustments on your behalf.  While anybody can book a cruise on their own fairly easily, a travel agent is there to assist you every day at no additional cost to you.  

To find a good travel agent, I recommend asking family and friends who they have used and liked.  A good referral can be a great way to find a talented travel agent.  I recommend our site's sponsor for your booking needs.

Booking online

If you decide to book on your own, then you will be booking your cruise via Royal Caribbean's web site.  Keep in mind that if you book a cruise at any other web site, you are essentially booking through a travel agent.  This includes sites like Expedia, Costco and American Express.

Reserving a cruise on Royal Caribbean's web site is fairly straight forward, requiring you to filter through cruise results on the site and select the sailing you desire.

Since it is your first time booking a cruise, you will have the option of creating an account on Royal Caribbean's site or just filling out all the personal information during the checkout process.  Creating an account is a better option, just because it allows for easier management of this and future reservations.

To book a cruise online, you will need some basic information about each guest sailing:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

Before you can fully reserve a cruise, you will need to submit some form of payment.  Depending on how close you are to your sailing date, you may have the option to put down a deposit or be required to pay the full amount of the cruise. Regardless of which option is required, a credit card payment will be made available to you in the final step of the checkout process.

If you are booking a cruise on your own, you should review the terms and conditions of Royal Caribbean's cruise cancelation policy (this will vary from country to country of residence) as well as consider trip insurance through Royal Caribbean or a third party.

2. Itinerary or ship?

The next step is to determine which is more important to you: the ship you are sailing on or the ports you are visiting.

Often the answer is, "it depends," but the exact answer will vary from person to person. Perhaps you read about the incredible features on Harmony of the Seas, or you have always dreamed of visiting Bermuda.  Regardless, your personal preferences will dictate whether the ship or the itinerary is more important.

There is no wrong answer here, but keep in mind that certain ships can only fit in certain ports, while some of the more exotic ports have limited cruise service.  

In terms of those that are new to cruising, I recommend an Oasis- or Quantum-class cruise ship because they offer the most options and seem to match up well with what first time cruisers expect on a cruise ship.  Even if you have never taken a cruise before, these two classes of ships offer the kind of gee-whiz features that many first timers read about being on the latest cruise ships.

That should not come as a knock on any of the ships in the fleet, and many Royal Caribbean fans will tell you all about what an amazing time they had on their first cruise on ships like Freedom of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas or Explorer of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean does an amazing job with all of their ships, but the Oasis- and Quantum-class ships offer so much variety and the latest features, that make for great first cruises.

3. Stateroom

The cabin you select is where you will call home for the duration of your cruise and it can be as utilitarian or luxurious as you prefer.  Royal Caribbean provides stateroom choices across many different prices, layouts and views.

Categories

Most staterooms fall into one of four categories: inside, outside, balcony and suites.

Inside staterooms are the smallest and offer no view out of your room, but they are also usually the least expensive option.  They are basic, but functional and their price is what many guests look at when choosing these.  Often the argument is made that while on a cruise, staterooms are just used for sleeping and showering, so why invest in a more expensive room.

Outside staterooms offer a porthole, or some other window to the sea or somewhere else outside your room.  Outside rooms tend to be a bit larger than inside staterooms and not much more to reserve one.

Balcony staterooms are cabins with a private balcony attached to your room.  This balcony provides access for you to enjoy at any time, with at least a small table and two chairs for your use.  Some of the larger balconies will have lounger chairs. Balcony staterooms are very desirable because of the balcony views and ambiance that come with it.  Many guests justify the additional cost for the experience of being able to enjoy their balcony.

Suites are the most expensive kind of staterooms and offer the most space, amenities and sheer luxury.  You can often find in suites several bedrooms, dining rooms, hot tubs and more.  

Location

In addition to picking the type of stateroom you want, where your stateroom is located is important.  Factors such as convenience, noise and access are common considerations when looking at where your room is located.

Those that may be prone to seasickness will want to choose a room that is towards the middle of the ship and lower, as that tends to be the area of the ship with the least sensation of motion.

Given the size of some of Royal Caribbean ships, you may want to also consider how close or far your room is from certain public areas of the ship.  Truthfully, no distance on a ship is too great for anyone, but everyone enjoys a convenient walk, so it is important to think about if you want a room near elevators, the pools, the fitness center, etc.

4. When to book

If you are wondering when is the best time book a Royal Caribbean cruise, the answer is simple: as far in advance as possible.

There are certainly promotions and sales throughout the year, but in general, the best prices for cruises will be found when booked as early as you can manage.  Cruise fare is determined largely by supply and demand.  When an itinerary goes on sale, all the inventory is available, but as rooms start to be reserved, inventory drops and that can coincide with prices rising.  Most Royal Caribbean fans will tell you that the best fares they find are those booked one to two years prior to their cruise.

The other really good reason to book early is for airfare.  Airfare pricing is notoriously in flux, so you want to get an acceptable rate for your air travel in coordination with reserving your cruise.

If you are considering last minute bookings, there can be some deals available, although Royal Caribbean is actively working to reduce/remove those sorts of deals. Last minute deals tend to be available for quick getaway cruises, although your mileage may vary.

Regardless of when you book, be sure to consider new promotions and sales that may come out later.  Residents of the United States and Canada are free to re-book under new sales promotions until their final payment date with no penalty.  Moreover, getting the best price for your Royal Caribbean cruise is why I once again recommend using a good travel agent.  Travel agents will be the ones to price things out when new sales come out, advise you on the current state of pricing and sit on hold with Royal Caribbean to make adjustments.

5. Next steps

After you book your cruise, the real fun of cruise planning comes into play and there is plenty to keep you occupied in the weeks, months and even years leading up to your cruise.

We have a list of the top 8 things you must do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, which should give you some immediate things to start doing.  These are the kind of planning steps everyone should engage in close to their booking to ensure they are off to the right start.

In addition, you will want be ready to start investigating cruise options such as

There is lots more to consider after booking a cruise, but the planning is almost as much fun as the cruise itself!  Enjoy it.

Your thoughts

If you have cruised with Royal Caribbean before, what first time "lessons" would you add so that first-timers have an easy booking experience? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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