First Time Cruisers

First time cruisers: How to find a deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise


All this week, we are helping first time Royal Caribbean cruisers with all aspects of the cruise vacation.  Check back every day for a new post aimed at those who are new to Royal Caribbean!

So you are ready to book your first Royal Caribbean cruise but the savvy consumer side of you knows there must be a sale or promotion that you can take advantage of to reduce the cost of your cruise.  

And you would be right! Here's what you need to know about finding a deal on your Royal Caribbean cruise so your first cruise can be an affordable one too!

The deals you can expect

To remain competitive in the cruise market, Royal Caribbean will usually have promotions and deals out there at any given time to entice guests to book a cruise.

While Royal Caribbean does change its sales tactics up now and then, there are some general promotions that are available somewhat regularly that you should be aware of and what they mean.

BOGO deals

Royal Caribbean's go-to promotion these days is the BOGO sale.  Essentially, you pay full price for the first guest in a stateroom and the second guest is 50% off.

This promotion has been available regularly for the last 12-18 months as of the writing of this post.  

Royal Caribbean does tend to combine this promotion with other promotions to make each offering a little more exciting.

WOW Sales

In general, Royal Caribbean has a WOW Sale at an almost quarterly basis, and for first time cruisers, this may be your best promotion.

WOW Sales offer 50% off deposits and free onboard credit.

What makes WOW sales good for folks new to Royal Caribbean is you get onboard credit that usually is not available to first time cruisers.  

Last minute sales

Royal Caribbean is in the process of phasing out last minute deals on cruises, but they do still pop up now and then.  

Last minute sales are for deals on cruises that sail somewhere between 30 and 60 days from booking, so you will need to act fast and be flexibile in the sailing, stateroom and transportation options to the port.

These can be legimitately good deals but most people need more advanced notice and prefer different sailings.

The "throw ins"

There are other promotions Royal Caribbean keeps up its sleeve that they use to enhance some of the other deals.  

These can include free gratutities, free shore excursions, a small amount of onboard credit and more.

These promotions aren't deals on their own, but can be used in combination with other deals.

Where to look for Royal Caribbean cruise deals

Travel Agent

When you are new to Royal Caribbean cruising, your best place to start is with a travel agent that knows Royal Caribbean well.  

It is a travel agent's job to keep track of the various promotions and provide guidance to you for your best deals.

We always advocate using a travel agent for the services they provide you, which are free to you (Royal Caribbean pays them a commission, so there is cost to you).

Ask your travel agent about what promotions are out there as well as regional and vocational discounts available.

Travel agents may also have access to additional onboard credit or savings through agency-specific promotions.   It never hurts to consult a few different agencies to find the right one for you.

Check Royal Caribbean's deals page

Royal Caribbean maintains a list of deals available on their site that are also a good frame of reference to see what they are offering.

There may be a deal on Alaska cruises that you were not thinking about and find that to be a better deal for you.

Unline a grocery store, most promotions are applied automatically on Royal Caribbean's site.  So when you price out a cruise, it will use any deals that are out there, so you can track the cost of any sailing.

A word on prices

There are lots of places online and in-person that will sell you a Royal Caribbean cruise but keep in mind that Royal Caribbean maintains strict pricing on its cruises.  

That means the price of a given sailing at any given time will be the same no matter if you call Royal Caribbean directly, use a travel agent or find some web site selling a cruise. 

The difference can be travel agent specific deals, where perhaps a travel agency has a block of rooms reserved that lowers the cost of the stateroom or the agency is offering onboard credit that comes out of their pocket.  

The other important concept to understand about cruise prices is they are a lot like airline prices.  What you price out today may be completely different tomorrow, an hour from now and three months from now.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to rebook their cruise as many times as they want up until your final payment date.  

Once you hit final payment and make your final payment, your price is locked in and you cannot change it without a penalty.  

There is one caveat to this rule and that is if the price of your cruise drops to the point an upgrade in your cabin is as inexpensive or more than your current cabin, Royal Caribbean will upgrade you to that category.

Tricks to finding a deal on a cruise

Regardless of the promotion Royal Caribbean is running or where you live or anything else, there are some strategies to finding lower priced cruises.

Cruise during hurricane season in the Caribbean

The months of August through October are the height of hurricane season in the Caribbean and most folks avoid cruises during this time because of fear of a storm impacting their cruise.

Booking a cruise during these months can be cheaper than other months of the year because there is less demand for these sailings.

If you are worried about what happens if a hurricane should strike, the good news is Royal Caribbean will reroute their ships around the storms. It is quite rare to have a sailing be cancelled due to a hurricane.

Book early for popular times

If you only want to cruise during popular times, such as summer in Europe or winter in the Caribbean, then book as far in advance as you can.

The earlier you can book your cruise, the better the price in most cases and by locking in the price early, you will be rewarded with the lower fares.

In addition, you can always pre-book your sailing if the price drops up until your final payment date.

Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry as a whole want guests to book early and not wait for the last minute so they will price their cruises lowest when sailings are first announced.

How early is early? If you can book at least 8-12 months in advance, you are in the right time frame.  If you can book even earlier, such as up to 24 months in advance, you may net even larger savings.

Sailings that will be always popular are

  • New ship sailings
  • summer Alaska sailings
  • Christmas and New Year's cruises
  • Panama Canal crossings

Use holds to your advantage

Royal Caribbean will allow guests to place a 24 hold on a particular sailing, so your stateroom and price can be locked in.  

Use this strategy to give yourself time to research and think about a cruise without fear of losing out on availbility or price.

When in doubt, it is best to use these courtesy holds to get more time to consider all of your options.  Working with a travel agent and using courtesy holds can be a good way to keep your options open.

What first time cruisers need to know about Oasis and Allure of the Seas


All this week, we are helping first time Royal Caribbean cruisers with all aspects of the cruise vacation.  Check back every day for a new post aimed at those who are new to Royal Caribbean!

Royal Caribbean has a large fleet of cruise ships and quite often new cruisers are attracted to the world's largest cruise ships, the Oasis class.  

Whether you are sailing on Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas, here is what you need to know about these ships if you are new to cruising.

The ship is big but easy to navigate

Yes, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the two largest cruise ships in the world (as of the writing of this blog post) but that does not mean these ships are impossible to navigate.  

Despite their size, Royal Caribbean designed these ships to be easy to get around.  Each ship has 7 distinct neighborhoods that have their own look and feel.  The neighborhood concept makes getting around easier because areas of the ship do not blend into each other.

One of the best things you can do once onboard these ships is walk around and explore.  There is a ton to see and do on the Oasis class ships and beyond just knowing where everything is, there is lots to discover.  Art, activities, live music, decor and more are in all the neighborhoods.

Embarkation day is a great time to just walk around the ship and explore because it is the one day of the cruise where there is not a ton of activities going on. 

Here are some areas you will definitely want to explore early

  • Central Park
  • Boardwalk
  • Take a spa tour
  • Walk the Royal Promenade
  • Find Adventure Ocean (if you have kids)

You will discover a lot more but just finding these handful of areas onboard will be a good starting point.

 Also be sure to explore these areas at night too.  Places like Central Park and the Boardwalk literally transform when the sun goes down and can be great spots to sit and enjoy the view.


Don't miss the shows

The entertainment on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are really hard to beat and Royal Caribbean has put on them some of the best shows you will find across Royal Caribbean's fleet.

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!

Speaking of Broadway, each ship has their own Broadway show.  Oasis of the Seas is showing Cats and Allure of the Seas is showing Mamma Mia!.

By far the Broadway shows and the shows in the Aqua Theater stand out as must-see entertainment on either ship.

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.  Don't worry, there is no cost to do this, but 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.

There are a lot of specialty restaurants (and you should try some of them)

There are plenty of complimentary restaurants to eat at on your Royal Caribbean cruise but you should really consider dining at some of the specialty restaurants available onboard.

Specialty restaurants are restaurants where there is an additional charge to dine there.  Usually, there is just a cover charge that includes the cost of the meal and gratuity, although some restaurants are priced a la carte too.

The reason you want to try some of these specialty restaurants out is because of the wide variety of really good food they offer.

Sushi, Italian, American, Mexican and more are available at these restaurants on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.  Either browse their menus online or walk by the restaurants during your cruise and check out what they offer.

Remember there are some good ways to save money off the cost of specialty restaurants, so there is no excuse to pay full price!

What would you recommend to someone going on Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas? Share your tips in the comments!

First time cruisers: What drinks are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise?


All this week, we are helping first time Royal Caribbean cruisers with all aspects of the cruise vacation.  Check back every day for a new post aimed at those who are new to Royal Caribbean!

There is so much to see and do onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, and for a lot of guests, dining is a big part of that activity.  

Even if you aren't a foodie you still will be eating quite a few meals onboard and that has some folks wondering which drinks are included and which drinks cost extra.  Here is a quick guide to what you need to know about the drinks on a Royal Caribbean ship.

What Royal Caribbean includes

Royal Caribbean provides all its guests on all its cruise ships a few different drinks throughout the day that are included in your cruise fare.   These drinks include

  • tap water
  • milk
  • tea
  • coffee (regular and decaf)
  • lemonade
  • iced tea
  • flavored waters
  • juices (at breakfast and 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.

What costs extra

Alternatively, guests may purchase other beverages for an additional cost during the cruise.

This list is essentially anything else available onboard, including

  • soda
  • beer
  • wine
  • liquor
  • cocktails
  • premium coffee and tea, such as Starbucks
  • bottled water (still or sparkling)
  • fresh squeezed juice

For all of these drinks, you may purchase each drink individually or purchase a beverage package that will give you either a set allotment of beverages or unlimited access onboard to them.

Where to get premium beverages for free

During your cruise, there are opportunities to get drinks that would otherwise cost extra for free.  If you keep an eye on your Cruise Compass, you should see many, if not all, of these opportunities on your next cruise.

Crown and Anchor members with level Diamond or above

Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members will get free alcoholic drinks before dinner.  Since this post is aimed at first time cruisers, that is probably not you, but it is something to keep in mind for the future.

Welcome Back Parties

If you are at least a Gold member or above in Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society, there are welcome back parties held, where wine and cocktails are served for free.

Art Auctions

There will be regularly held art auctions onboard your cruise and as a means of enticing guests to attend, there is complimentary champagne available.

Suite Guests ( excluding Junior Suites)

Guests that are staying in a suite will have access to free drinks in the Concierge Lounge.

First time cruisers: What makes Royal Caribbean different from other cruise lines


All this week, we are helping first time Royal Caribbean cruisers with all aspects of the cruise vacation.  Check back every day for a new post aimed at those who are new to Royal Caribbean!

You may be asking what does Royal Caribbean do that makes it different from its competitors and why should you consider a Royal Caribbean cruise over a different cruise. 

Listed here are the ways Royal Caribbean seperates itself from the pack and why so many Royal Caribbean fans have come back again and again over the years.

Leader in offering more to do onboard

Photo by Graham Cairns

For years, Royal Caribbean has been blazing a path of innovation on its cruise ships, especially when it comes to the really neat activities to do onboard its ships.

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to offer a rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator, ice skating rink, Broadway shows, true high speed internet at sea and a lot more.

What many fans like about Royal Caribbean is they are continuously pushing the envelope in terms of what a cruise ship can offer.  If you are looking for a cruise experience that offers more onboard activity options than you can possibly do in one week, Royal Caribbean is perfect for you.

Many of these innovations are still exclusive to Royal Caribbean and they have become staples of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience.  The FlowRider, bumper cars and Promenade shopping are all Royal Caribbean signature offerings.

All of this is in addition to the great variety of onboard activities available each day of your cruise.  Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for being a cruise line that offers a lot to do onboard.

The biggest cruise ships in the world

They say size is not everything, but it sure does help!

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are among the largest in the world.  Its Oasis class cruise ships redefined not only how big a cruise ship can be but also what it can offer.

These ships are not just built to be big, rather, they are built to be large enough to house all the really cool adventures that await you.  Looking back to our first way Royal Caribbean differentiates itself, all those innovative activities need to go somewhere and so Royal Caribbean has built its ships bigger and bigger to offer more and more to its guests.

If you are worried that the ships might be too big, don't worry.  Folks that have been on these mega-cruise ships will tell you that they are truly designed with crowd control in mind and despite the ship's size, the layouts work to help spread the crowds around.

These large cruise ships go hand-in-hand with the wonderful activities available onboard to create a fun vacation experience.

Focus on families

Royal Caribbean cruises are designed to be family experiences, where kids, parents, grandparents and friends can share in the vacation together.

Looking over the array of things to do onboard and onshore, you will see there are activities that can be great for certain ages and other activities that blend demographics together.  A Royal Caribbean cruise is meant to be fun for all.

The Adventure Ocean program for kids and the teen-only lounges and activities will give the underage set ample opportunity to have fun on their own in a supervised and fun environment.  Royal Caribbean has built these programs to appeal to each age group and they want it to be somewhere the kids want to be all day (and night).

Both Adventure Ocean and the teen program are complimentary and included in your cruise.  

If you are cruising with the babies or toddlers, Royal Caribbean has been adding nurseries to many of its ships to give parents a safe and inexpensive option for child care.

Of course, there is plenty for kids and adults to do together.  Evening shows, parades, dance parties, restaurants and shore excursions are just the beginning of what is available and they are great for all ages.


There are a lot of choices for a cruise vacation but what brings back many guests to Royal Caribbean cruise after cruise is the tremendous value of a Royal Caribbean cruise.  

Royal Caribbean prices its cruises competitively and it offers a great balance between what you pay for the cruise and what you get out of the cruise.  In fact, Royal Caribbean prides itself on offering cruise vacations that are not only affordable, but very comparable to a land based vacation elsewhere.  

Prices for a Royal Caribbean cruise vary from sailing to sailing and region to region, but generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sells its cruises on the notion guests are going to get a lot of value back from their time onboard.  

Top five things to do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise


You have decided on the right Royal Caribbean cruise for you, made a deposit on your sailing and have your stateroom reserved just for you. What should you do next?

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise can be a fun exercise in planning, as you discover there is a lot to do before you ever set foot on your ship.  

Once you have your cruise booked, here are five things you should look into as your next step and really jump into the pre-cruise excitement!

1. Select your dining preference

Dinner on a Royal Caribbean cruise has a few options to choose from, and you will want to make sure you pick the option you want.  Depending on your ship, there can be a few choices: traditional, My Time Dining or Dynamic Dining.

Traditional dining is where you have a set time each night of your cruise, where you will be seated at the same table in the main dining room and have the same wait staff and table mates.  This is the most common choice available and is also the most widely available option.  There are two times, early and late seating.

My Time Dining takes place in the Main Dining Room as well, but instead of a fixed time and table, you reserve times during the evening or show up and get the first available table.  My Time Dining allows for more flexibility in when you eat, but requires more planning to ensure you have a spot each night to dine at.

Dynamic Dining is the newest choice, and is available on Quantum class ships currently.  There is no Main Dining Room, but instead you have a choice among complimentary and specialty restaurants to book reservations at.  You can pick the same restaurant or as many as you want, with different waiters and times each evening.

To enroll in any of these options for your cruise, contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly and request the one you want. There can be times where the choice you want is full, but you can request to be put on a wait list and in our experience, wait list requests usually are fulfilled.

2. Register your cruise on My Cruises

In order to gain access to all of Royal Caribbean's pre-cruise planning options online, you will want to register yourself on Royal Caribbean's web site and tie your reservation to your account.

If you have not done so already, create a My Cruises account on Royal Caribbean's web site. It's free and should take just a few minutes to complete.

Log into your account and then add an existing reservation to your My Cruises account.

Now, you will have access to every detail of your sailing, including shore excursions, beverage packages, entertainment, dining reservations and more.

3. Research your pre-cruise transportation

We recommend arriving to your cruise embarkation port at least one day early, to avoid transportation delays that can potentially cause you to miss your cruise.

For those that are flying on an airplane to your cruise, booking airfare in advance is a good idea.  It is also a good idea to research a hotel to stay at and lock in a price now before others do the same.

Depending on the port you are leaving from, there can be lots of hotels and resorts to choose from.  Use consumer review web sites to find which hotel will offer you the amenities you want for the price you can afford.  

It is easy to overlook your pre-cruise transportation and lodging and then have to pay more than you should later.

4. Review your travel documents

Before you can get onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will need to provide local authorities the proper documentation to prove who you are, and you definitely do not want to arrive at the pier missing something important.

Research what proof of identification you may need for everyone in your party, such as birth certificates, drivers licenses and/or passports.  If you are traveling to another country for your cruise, look into if you will need to apply for a visa.

Processing times for documents like visas and passports can take weeks, if not months, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get any necessary documents ready for your sail date.

5. Research if you should purchase travel insurance

Insurance is one of things that you do not think of until you need it and then it is worth every penny.  The thing is, not everyone needs travel insurance but you should look into what travel insurance offers and if you are at an elevated risk and would benefit from it.

Royal Caribbean offers travel insurance, as well as many third party companies.  Read exactly what the insurance covers and the scenarios in which you can make a claim.  It is important to be aware that travel insurance does not cover every scenario, but issues such as personal illness, death of a family member, airline delays, lost baggage and more are common times when insurance will be of great benefit.

There is no easy way to determine who does and who does not need travel insurance, but you should at least consider the option now to safeguard yourself in the future.  

First time cruisers: comparing Royal Caribbean's Oasis class to Voyager class


When you are looking to pick the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for your family, often you will find a few good choices to choose from and in many cases, it can come down to the ship class as the big difference. 

With over 20 ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, there are a lot of choices and today we will compare two of the most popular classes of ships, the Oasis-class to the Voyager class.

The ships

The Voyager-class ships include Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

The Oasis-class ships include Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

Ship size

The Voyager class ships were built between 1999 and 2003 and set the standard for what a large cruise ship is these days.  You will have a little over 3000 passengers onboard with you, has 15 decks and is 138,000 GT.

The Oasis class was first built between 2007 and 2010 with some new ships under construction since 2013.  On these ships, there are somewhere between 5400 and 6200 passengers, has 16 decks and is 225,282 –227,700 GT.

Both classes of cruise ships are large but the Oasis class is currently the largest in the world.  While the Oasis class dwarfs the Voyager class, they are both really big ships and essentially we are talking about a big class and a bigger class.

What's onboard

Voyager class ships are best known for their 350-foot indoor mall known as the Royal Promenade,that features indoor pubs, shops, cafes, and bars.

Activity options on all five ships board include a basketball court, at least 3 pools, a mini-golf course, a rock wall, an ice skating rink and on some ships a FlowRider surf simulator.

Royal Promenade on Navigator of the Seas

The Oasis class is known for having it all and have seven different "neighborhoods" that are areas of the ship with a distinct theme, such as a Royal Promenade, Boardwalk, Central Park and more.  There's also a slew of dining choices (25 in total) and Broadway shows.

You will find onboard Oasis class ships many of the same features of the Voyager class but larger and in some cases more of them.  For example, there are two rock climbing walls and two Flow Riders on the Oasis class.

Central Park on Oasis class

Both classes of ships have the same core offerings, such as the Adventure Ocean kids club, dining rooms, specialty restaurants, pools and more.

Significant differences

Besides the size of the ships, there are some key differences that will either be a plus or minus for you.  

The Oasis-class ships have a special pool splash area just for kids and babies.  On the Voyager class, you will find pools but no water play area for kids and no pool access for children with diapers. This can be a big factor for families with younger children.

H2O Zone on Oasis class ships

In terms of pricing, generally speaking the Voyager class ships tend to cost less and offer more variety in their itineraries.

Voyager class ships also offer a lot of the same onboard activities and entertainment that the Oasis class does, such as the ice skating rink, FlowRider, and Royal Promenade.

Both classes of ships have recently been refurbished over the last few years and have gotten new specialty dining options as well as updates to their staterooms.

For families with children under 18, the Oasis class offers a lot more in kids activities, both in terms of the Adventure Ocean club as well as activities.

In terms of dining, if you enjoy specialty restaurants and do not mind the extra cost, the Oasis class offers far more choices than any Voyager class ship.  If you want a Voyager class ship with a lot of specialty dining, Navigator of the Seas should be your pick.

Sabor Modern Mexican on Navigator of the Seas

Another key difference is the Oasis class ships have Broadway shows, such as Cats (Oasis of the Seas) and Mamma Mia (Allure of the Seas).  The Voyager class ships have Broadway caliber shows but they do not feature former Broadway shows.

Where the ships sail

The Voyager class ships have spread to nearly every corner of the globe.  At the time of this blog post, there are two Voyager class ships based in Asia and Australia, one in the United States, one in Puerto Rico and many traveling to Europe in the summer.  You will find a great deal of port options on a Voyager class ship.

Voyager of the Seas in Sydney

The Oasis class ships are traditionally based in Florida although Royal Caribbean has started to send them to Europe for the summer.  As of the time of this blog post, the home ports for all Oasis class ships will still be in Florida.


Voyager class ships offer a lot for very likely less cost than the Oasis class.  You still get a decent variety of specialty dining, pools, and lots to do .  

The Oasis class offers it all and has more for families with young children to enjoy.  It still has premium pricing so you will likely pay more for it on average.

Both classes are large ships and with the recent refurbishments to the Voyager class, the differences are not as wide as they once were.

Honorable mention for the Voyager class goes to Navigator of the Seas.  It seemingly had the best refurbishment with a slew of restaurants, virtual balconies and more.

Honorable mention for the Oasis class is Harmony of the Seas, which will debut in 2016 and will have water slides, a first for Royal Caribbean ships.

Which class do you prefer? Is Voyager class a better choice or do you think there's no beating Oasis class? Share your opinion in the comments below!

First time cruisers: What you need to know about gratuities on Royal Caribbean


When you take a Royal Caribbean cruise, one of the costs to passengers are gratuities (tips) to crew members during your cruise.  Gratuities are the way guests can recognize great service aboard their cruise.

We provide this guide to help you understand how gratuities work on the cruise, when you can expect to pay them and how much it is.

Automatic gratuities

Royal Caribbean automatically adds a daily charge to each cruise passenger's SeaPass account to reward the great service its passengers receive.  

Each day of your cruise, Royal Caribbean will add a charge per person that will be divided among several people that you interact with likely on a daily basis:

  • stateroom attendant
  • head waiter
  • waiter
  • assistant waiter

As of January 2, 2018, the daily gratuity amount is $14.50 per guest, per day for those guests in standard accommodations.  Guests in suites will pay $17.50 per person, per day in gratuities.  The daily gratuity amount is the same for all passengers, regardless of age.

Guests have the choice to pre-pay their gratuities before their cruise to help split up the cost of their cruise vacation.

If you are a My Time Dining guest, you must prepay your gratuities.  

In addition, if a guest feels they want to alter the amount of gratuity they pay, guests can go to Guest Services aboard their cruise ship and ask to have their automatic gratuity charges changed or removed. 

Beverage gratuities

If you order beverage onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, such as alcohol, you will be charged an automatic 18% gratuity when you receive the bill.

The gratuity amount is for the service you receive from the wait staff to serve your drink.  The gratuity amount is added to what you purchase and indicated at the bottom of your receipt.

You can add an additional tip on the receipt if you wish. 

Specialty restaurants

The surcharge you pay to dine at a specialty restaurant aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise includes the tip.

There is no need to pay a tip on top of the surcharge amount, unless you would like to.

Discretionary gratuities

In addition to the gratuities listed earlier, there are opportunities to give crew members an additional tip for excellent service.  

As the name implies, this is up to you and not expected in all cases.  Even crew members who receive an automatic gratuity can receive additional gratuities if you feel it is warranted.

Some instances where a discretionary tip may be appropriate are for room service deliveries or luggage service by porters.

You can remove the auto gratuities

As previously noted, Royal Caribbean will automatically charge you for every night of the cruise but that does not mean you have to pay it if you are not satisfied with the service. 

You can go to Guest Services at any point in your cruise and have them reduced or removed from your account if you would prefer to tip a different amount.

WOW Cards

While a monetary tip is always appreciated, if you want to recognize great service by a Royal Caribbean crew member that will have a lasting effect on their career, fill out a WOW card.

Royal Caribbean will sometimes dispense to guests at check-in special cards to write about why a particular crew member went above and beyond the kind of service you might expect.  A guest can fill out the card, give it to the crew member and the crew member will then turn the card into their manager, which will in turn be placed on their permanent file.

WOW cards can help elevate crew members when it comes time for promotions and help their careers in the long run. 

If you do not receive a WOW card at check-in, you can go to Guest Services and request them.

First time cruisers: What you need to know about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise


Whether you are new to cruising or just new to Royal Caribbean, there's some important things to know about taking a Royal Caribbean that can definitely improve your cruise experience.  

We're big fans of planning ahead for any cruise vacation and these tips will give you some good starting points to be prepared for your first cruise onboard Royal Caribbean.

Be sure to check-in online

In years past, Royal Caribbean used to mail you your cruise documents with everything you needed to get onboard but since we are in the digital age, Royal Caribbean now has it all online and you'll want to fill it all out in advance.

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.  

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

Remember, you must complete and print out your SetSail Pass 3 days prior to your sail date.

Use a travel agent

We're big fans of using travel agents in general to book our Royal Caribbean cruises but if you're new to the brand, having someone who knows Royal Caribbean really well and costs you nothing extra is a great bonus.

Royal Caribbean has 22 ships in its fleet and sails to destinations around the world, so it can be difficult to be aware of all the differences and changes going on.  A good travel agent will be able to guide you in the right direction based on the kind of cruise vacation you're looking for.

There's also lots of deals and discounts to be found and between that and the general questions you may have, a travel agent will help make your first Royal Caribbean cruise a big success.

Your stateroom won't be ready until 1pm

In most cases, your stateroom may not be ready for you to go into until 1pm.  We've seen situations where the time is earlier or later but it's usually in the early afternoon.

It's important to keep this time in mind because until you get into your stateroom, you will have to carry all the luggage you opted not to check with the porters.  

I've seen plenty of families camped out with there many bags in the stairwell waiting for their stateroom to be open.  What you ought to do is only take with you what is really necessary and that way you can stay mobile and explore the ship.

Read the Cruise Compass every day

Each day of your cruise, you will find in your stateroom Royal Caribbean's daily newspaper of events called the Cruise Compass.  Inside is a listing of all the events, sales and information you need to know.

The Cruise Compass is your best way to be aware of all the interesting things going on onboard your ship.  It also included a weather forecast so you can know what to expect when you step outside or on shore.

Essentially, you're reading the Cruise Compass so you don't miss out on an event that you may have wanted to check out.  Royal Caribbean offers so much onboard their ships, it can be difficult to know what's going on, so the Cruise Compass is a great tool.

You can also get extra copies of the Cruise Compass at Guest Relations if you need additional copies for the kids (or if you're a bad sharer.  We're not judging).

Sign your kids up for Adventure Ocean on your first day

One of the must-do's for your first day aboard your Royal Caribbean ship is any children who are eligible for Royal Caribbean's complimentary kids program, Adventure Ocean, should be registered at some point that day.

Adventure Ocean is a wonderful program for kids as young as 3 years old and as old as their late teens.  On embarkation day, Adventure Ocean isn't usually open but the staff will be there to give tours of the facility as well as register your kids.  

By registering on day one, you're assured they can jump right into the fun on day two and you don't have to waste time at that point.  Embarkation day is the right time to register kids for Adventure Ocean and it will set them up for a days of great experiences.

Make reservations for the specialty restaurants

No matter which Royal Caribbean cruise you will be on, there's a number of great specialty restaurants to choose from and if you opt to dine at one of them, be sure to make a reservation.

Specialty restaurants come with an additional surcharge, either in the form of a cover charge or a la carte pricing.  Regardless, they can be quite popular for dinner, especially at peak times.  

Whether you choose to make a reservation online before your cruise or onboard, you should make a reservation to avoid waiting for a table or being locked out of dinner.  

It's easiest to make a reservation online at Royal Caribbean's website but if you prefer to wait for the cruise, you can always book a reservation onboard by visiting the restaurant, Guest Relations or calling the dining reservations phone number in your stateroom.

Don't double tip (unless you want to)

If you order a beer or alcoholic beverage, Royal Caribbean will automatically add a gratuity to your bill, so unless you really loved the bartender or waiter, don't tip them twice.

Often guests don't really read the receipt and are so accustomed to adding a tip that they don't realize gratuity has been automatically applied to the bill. 

We're not advocating not rewarding very good service, rather, be aware of what you're really paying.

There will always be something to eat available at any time

Cruises in general have a reputation for offering a lot of food to eat and it's definitely the case on Royal Caribbean too.

Check your Cruise Compass, but there's always at least one venue open 24 hours in addition to room service which has its own menu items.   You don't have to worry if you get the late-night munchies onboard because there will always be somewhere to grab a bite.

If you are looking for an after-hours meal and opt for room service, keep in mind Royal Caribbean has a $3.95 surcharge on meals ordered between midnight and 5am.