First Time Cruisers

Top five things to do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
29Jun2015

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

In:
30May2015

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.

Conclusions

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

In:
19May2015

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

In:
28Feb2015

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. 

5 completely untrue Royal Caribbean myths

In:
15Dec2014

Royal Caribbean offers fantastic cruise vacations and many millions get to enjoy these voyages each year.  There are, however, misconceptions about what a Royal Caribbean cruise is all about and they're just plain wrong.

We've got five of the biggest Royal Caribbean myths to debunk for you, which will set the record straight.

1. Only new Royal Caribbean ships have the cool stuff onboard

Royal Caribbean is about to wrap-up a $300 million project that brought many of the popular Oasis-class ammenities to all of the ships across its fleet.

Nearly all the ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet have gotten better wi-fi access, FlowRiders on select ships, brand new restaurants, nurseries, upgraded kid facilities, giant outdoor movie screens, digital wayfinders and a lot more.

The result has been an infusion of "new life" into the fleet, which gives guests more options to choose from when they select their ship.  Just because a ship is a little older than others, does not mean it lacks those cool new features that were first found on the Oasis-class.

2. You have to get really dressed up for dinner on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Cruising has changed quite a bit over the years and today, cruising is about relaxing in all aspects of the experience.

It's quite easy to go on a Royal Caribbean ship and never dress up if you don't want to.  In fact, on Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has dropped dress codes.  

Royal Caribbean does have dress codes for dinner on most of its ships, but they are suggestions and only relate to the main dining room and specialty restaurants.

Simply put, you can go on a Royal Caribbean cruise with just something that you might wear to a religious service or an upscale restaurant at home.  

3. Royal Caribbean internet is slow

Royal Caribbean just activated high-speed internet aboard its Quantum and Oasis-class ships that deliver speeds like you're at home.

On these ships, you can not only browse the internet and check email quickly, but you can stream your favorite movies or make a video call to friends or family at home.  

Royal Caribbean also has plans to roll this new high speed internet across its fleet in the coming years.

4. Royal Caribbean isn't the best cruise line for families

I could cite all the awards Royal Caribbean wins each year for being the best at family cruises but the fact is Royal Caribbean built its ships to be the perfect family vacation.

Royal Caribbean has been a partner with DreamWorks Entertainment for many years now, which offers character meets, parades, movie screenings, character breakfasts and more onboard a number of its ships.

In addition, there's the Adventure Ocean program for children that is complimentary and offers structured supervision throughout the day and night.  Even toddlers and babies can enjoy the Royal Nursery that will allow parents to get away for a bit.

Teens have dedicated areas of the ship just for them to hang out, meet other teens and make their own fun onboard. There's also the great onboard activities such as bumper cars, surf simulator, mini-golf, ice skating and more.

In short, Royal Caribbean offers a lot for kids (and their parents) to do onboard.

5. Royal Caribbean has some of the biggest cruise ships in the world, which means it will be super crowded

A ship that carries 5000 passengers can sound like it would be crowded but Royal Caribbean has been working on making the ship seem as uncrowded as it can.

Using the latest in crowd control strategies, these massive ships help spread people around and have plenty of space per passenger along with sprawling common areas that help reduce that "sardine can" feel.

Ask someone who's been on Oasis of the Seas and they'll tell you it doesn't feel like you're onboard with the population of a small town.  Rather, the ships are designed to keep people moving and for you to feel like you can stretch out anytime you want.

First time cruisers: How do I wash my clothes on my Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
10Nov2014

You're on your first Royal Caribbean cruise and you spill something on your favorite shirt.  Or maybe your kids were a little too rambunctious in port and got their clothes dirty.  Or perhaps you want to re-wear something again.  How do you launder your clothes on your Royal Caribbean cruise?

Photo by Jeff Goldberg

Send it out

The simple answer is Royal Caribbean provides a laundering service.  Just like the dry cleaners at home, Royal Caribbean charges per item to have it washed and press, pressed only or dry cleaned only.

The price for this service depends on the item. Refer to the list below for prices for each item and its corresponding service.

Depending on when your order goes in, you often can get your clothes back the next day.

Having your clothes simply pressed is a great way to have nicer clothing, like dress shirts, suits or dresses, wrinkle free for just a small cost.

You will find order forms for laundry in your stateroom (check the closet or ask your stateroom attendant).  Fill out the paperwork, deposit the clothes in the provided bag and leave it for your stateroom attendant or hand it to him/her to take care of for you.  The cost of the order will be deducted from your SeaPass account.

Can I do it myself?

The answer to this is mostly, no.  

Royal Caribbean prohibits passengers from bringing irons onto the ship and there are no self-service laundry facilities.

However, many passengers have found you can bring single-packet detergent and fill your sink up with water to wash small loads of laundry, like soiled shirts.  It's a good solution for kids clothes mostly.

First time cruisers: What are the differences between Royal Caribbean's ships?

In:
07Nov2014

When you're trying to pick the right Royal Caribbean cruise for you, there's a lot to choose from.  Royal Caribbean currently has 22 ships in its fleet and that's a lot to choose from.  Let's discuss what the differences (and similarities) are and which one is great for you.

Royal Caribbean ships do vary considerably in size, from ships that can handle around 2000 passengers to ships that top out over 5000 passengers.  

Ship Class

The first thing to understand are the classes of ships. Royal Caribbean has 7 classes of ships in active service to choose from.  

  • Quantum
  • Oasis
  • Freedom
  • Voyager
  • Radiance
  • Vision
  • Sovereign

Ship classes are categories of ships that have a very similar size, amenities and layout.  Think of ship classes like car models.  Every Ford Mustang for any given year is based on the same build, but individual cars can have slightly different options.

By looking first at ship classes, you get to more easily see key differences between the ships.  Each class is fairly unique but you will notice similarities too.

Understanding the what each ship offers is important.  Even among sibling ships, there are some differences. For example, Liberty of the Seas offers a Broadway show whereas none of its sibling ships have one.

The differences between ships used to be much larger but Royal Caribbean embarked upon a fleet-wide refurbishment in the last few years to bring innovations first developed for the Oasis-class onto older ships in the fleet.  To be honest, the changes have breathed new life into these older ships and now the differences between all ships has been greatly reduced.

Ship age

That brings up ship age.  The tendency in the cruising industry is to build bigger ships each time, so typically the smaller ships are also the older ships.  That's not always the case but generally speaking, the last few classes of Royal Caribbean ships (Quantum, Oasis, Freedom, Voyager) are signifigantly bigger than the older classes of ships. 

The newest class of ships are Quantum, Oasis and Freedom class. The oldest are Vision and Sovereign class.

Of course, age doesn't tell the whole story. In fact, many Royal Caribbean fans will tell you the older ships are their favorite ships. Smaller ships offer a much more intimate cruise experience and they often have things the larger ships do not, like more vantage points to the ocean.

Newer cruise ships have more of the fancier and newer technologies, which can factor into your decision but the recent fleet-wide refurbishment mentioned earlier did help quite a bit in "leveling the playing field".

You shouldn't make your decision based purely on ship age but it's a key difference between the ships.

What you should pay attention to

When picking the right ship for you, look at these key factors

Ammenities for your group

Each Royal Caribbean ship offers a lot to do but if the hyped up features don't interest you, then it may not be perfect for you.  Oasis of the Seas offers zip lining, Broadway shows, a surf simulator and over a dozen restaurants but if all you want to do is enjoy pool time and read, then perhaps it's more than you need.

Likewise, if you've got children, the newer ships in the fleet have larger and newer kids club facilities that will be a better fit.  Look at the features each ship has and see which are relevant most to you.

Price

I love the newest ships Royal Caribbean rolls out, but if I can get a similar cruise on a smaller ship for a fraction of the cost, then I'll gladly take it.  

Pricing fluxuates a lot but newer ships command a higher price, so if there's a deal to be found, then consider that option too.  You shouldn't let price solely dictate which ship you pick, but it's a powerful factor.

Where it's going

One advantage smaller Royal Caribbean ships have over larger ones is they can go to many ports the big ones cannot.  

Many ports in Europe, Asia and the Pacific can't handle the new mega-cruise ships Royal Caribbean has built so if you have your heart set on certain ports of call, make sure the ship you pick can get you there.

What first time cruisers need to know about Quantum of the Seas

In:
30Oct2014

Royal Caribbean is once again changing our idea of what a cruise ship can offer with its soon-to-debut Quantum of the Seas in just a few weeks.  But with this new ship comes arguably the most planning required to take advantage of this new ship and experience everything to its fullest.  If you're new to cruising, here's what you need to know about this new ship.

Pre-plan online

Before you ever step foot onboard Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is strongly encouraging all guests to plan ahead online.  

Using their new Cruise Planner online app, guests can make reservations for the new Dynamic Dining restaurants, shows, excursions and more.  

Royal Caribbean says you can wait to book these things onboard the ship but availability will be subject to if space is still available.  That's a big if.

Previous to the Quantum-class, online planning was available but not nearly as important as with this new ship.  Checking into your cruise online allows you to upload a photo of yourself, set up your credit card and do everything you can now to skip the lines at the embarkation pier.  In fact, you can pre-book what time you want to arrive to ensure you get from curb to ship in 10 minutes.

Dining onboard is completely different

With Quantum of the Seas we get our first taste of what Royal Caribbean is calling Dynamic Dining.

Instead of a main dining room with set dinner times, there are a number of restaurants that you can choose to dine at.  Some restaurants are included in the cruise fare while others have an additional cover charge cost.  

The concept is brand new to Royal Caribbean and it's a big push to get away from the formality of cruising's past.  Once again, you are encouraged to book reservations in advance to avoid being locked out of the places you want to go to.

Don't worry, there's still plenty of complimentary dining options as well as more casual fare, including a 24-hour buffet restaurant at the Windjammer Marketplace.

Check out the unique things on Quantum

Each new class of cruise ship that Royal Caribbean designs has amenities and activities unique to that class and Quantum of the Seas comes with quite a few of them herself.  Here are the ones not to miss

  • North Star - An observation pod that brings you 300 feet above sea level for impressive views all around you. (Complimentary)
  • SeaPlex - A brand new multi-purpose sports complex that will allow guests to roller skate, shoot hoops, learn to be a clown and drive bumper cars all in one cruise. (Complimentary)
  • Two70° - A two deck high space that offers sweeping views of the ocean that begins as a lounge by day but at night transforms into an eye-poppinmg show that utilizes robots. (Complimentary)
  • RipCord - Ever dreamed of sky diving? Me neither but now you can experience what it's like to sky dive in a safe simulator onboard. (Complimentary)
  • Music Hall - A new music venue that was designed to be the place for live musical performances.  (Complimentary)
  • Mamma Mia! - The hit Broadway show is available to see onboard this ship every sailing. (Complimentary)

There's a lot more new and really cool innovations on Quantum of the Seas but you're likely the ones we listed are the most noteworthy.

Research your rooms

Quantum of the Seas offers a number of different staterooms to choose from.  It's always a good idea to know all the options out there, but Quantum of the Seas has even more new types of staterooms than any other Royal Caribbean ship.

If you're cruising solo, there are brand new studio staterooms just for you. No more single supplement fee, these staterooms offer those going solo an affordable vacation choice.

Also really different are the virtual balcony staterooms.  Instead of a boring interior stateroom with no view, how about an 80-inch LCD screen that delivers live views outside the ship that mimic what a balcony would look like, including the sound!

If luxury is your game, then check out the Royal Loft Suites that are two-story accomodations meant to wow everyone.  If you're going to spend enough money to buy a used car on the cruise, this is the stateroom for you.

Your Thoughts...

If you're a veteran Royal Caribbean cruiser, what advice do you think is important for a first time cruiser to be aware of?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

First time cruisers: Dinner on Royal Caribbean

In:
24Oct2014

If you're new to cruising or just Royal Caribbean, dinner onboard may seem different than you're used to, so here's a guide to how dinner is handled in the main dining room on your cruise ship.

There are two types of dinner experiences you can expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Which type you have the opportunity to get to experience depends on the ship you pick.

Traditional dining

As the name implies, traditional dining is the classic means of experiencing dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise.

There are two seatings, first and second seating.  First seating is usually around 6:00pm and second seating is usually around 8:00pm. Exact times will vary.

When you book your cruise, you can choose which seating you like. Typically families choose first seating because it's harder to keep kids up later for the second seating.  You will still see kids in second seating, but there tends to be more families in the first seating.

You will be assigned a table in the main dining room that can be as small as two people or as large as 16 or even larger.  Royal Caribbean can also place you at a table with other guests onboard your ship.  Who you sit with (if anyone else) depends on a few factors but it's usually the norm to be seated with others.  

You can change your seating if you prefer not to sit with others or are unhappy with whom you are seated with.  Speak to the head waiter to arrange a change, although changes are subject to availability.

Once seated, you will be taken care of by your main waiter, assistant waiter, and to a lesser degree, head waiter.  

The main waiter takes your orders and brings you your food.  Your main waiter is your primary point of contact and will do most of the serving.  The assistant waiter is the head waiter's help and brings you beverages, bread and otherwise assists the main waiter.

The head waiter largely manages the wait staff he or she is responsible for and can handle special requests.  You may not see the head waiter that much but it's usual to have the head waiter visit your table once every night or two.

Eating at the main dining room is a lot like eating at any restaurant at home in that you get a menu of appetizers, entrees and dessert and you can choose anything on the menu.  In fact, you can order as much food as you want so feel free to get a few entrees and appetizers.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DINNER DRESS CODES

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a lot like traditional dining with one big exception: you do not have a set time that is the same every night of your cruise.

You will still dine in the main dining room, but you can choose between making reservations or showing up and waiting for a table.  

My Time Dining advertises its benefit as being you do not have a set time to eat each night.  So if one night you feel like dinner at 6pm but another night you want to stay at the pool later, you can come eat at 8:30pm.

Like the main dining room, you may be seated with other people at your table.  Where you sit is subject to availability.  Unlike the main dining room, you may not have the same wait staff each night.  You can request certain waiters but you may have to wait to be seated at a table they serve.

The my time dining experience once seated is nearly identical to traditional dining.  You order off of the same menu as traditional dining and can order as much food as you like from that menu.

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