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First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

In:
22 Jun 2017

You just picked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for you and your family and it sounds like it will be a blast, but you might be wondering what events, activities and specials may be offered on your cruise.  

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver to your stateroom the Cruise Compass, which is a daily guide to the news, events and activities that will be occurring on your ship the next day.

Royal Caribbean packs a lot of things to do into each day and you are best served by reading it each evening to be aware of what is happening onboard. 

The Cruise Compass is more than just knowing what time bingo is at.  It offers you insight into the next day's weather, which bars will have drink specials, shore excursion information and much more.

Some events are not repeated while other activities can change daily, so it is in your best interest to track what is happening so you do not miss any of it.

Cruise Compass structure

Regardless of which ship you are on, the basic structure of the Cruise Compass is fairly consistent.  Oasis and Quantum class ships have a slightly different look to the Cruise Compass, but the organization of the Compass remains similar.

Page One

The first page has an overview of what to expect that day, including where the ship will be (in port or at sea), a weather report, and various specials, offers and events that are highlighted.  By far, the weather report in the upper right hand corner is the most useful information on this page.

The first page also includes a section of "Important things to know today".  It is always good to skim over the list to see if there is anything that stands out.

Page Two

Opening up the Cruise Compass, you will find more events, sales and other offers.

The most important part of this page is the "Activity and Entertainment Highlights," which lists the headline show/performance of the evening.  Since the evening entertainment is usually the most popular and well-known acts onboard, it is always a good idea to see what performances are scheduled for the evening.

In terms of activities listed here, they will all be listed again in the full daily planner, which is coming up on additional pages.  Page two is usually best for glancing quickly over it for anything that jumps out as interesting.

Page Three

The third page is an important page for referencing which venues are open and what time. You will get a breakdown of open hours for many areas of the ship, and most importantly, restaurants.

On this page you will find the dress code for the main dining in the evening, as well as open hours for every eatery onboard the ship. Knowing when restaurants are open is always helpful, because hours stagger quite a bit.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the drink of the day, which features one cocktail that can be purchased at a discount.  If you do not have an unlimited alcohol package, this can be a good value.

Page Four

If you read only one page of the Cruise Compass, make sure it is this one because it lists all of the day's activities.  

Activities are broken down by time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) and provides a chronological list of events throughout the ship.  Each event has a time, title and location for quick reference.

A great strategy for managing this page is to use a highlighter and mark off any events of interest for easy reference later. 

You should also know that the activities listing can be teared off for easy reference later on. Many guests will tear them off, fold it up and place in their pocket.

Kids and Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean provides a lot of programming for children and teenagers on their ship.  Some events make it onto the regular Cruise Compass, but there are even more events listed in special daily planners just for the kids.

Just like the Cruise Compass, Adventure Ocean publishes a Kids Daily Planner for children 3-11 years old.  It breaks down the activities lined up for the day while the kids are enrolled in Adventure Ocean.  The activities are broken up by ages for easy reference.

Teenagers get their own planner too, specifically for kids that are 12-17 years old. The Teen planner is a bit more similar to the Cruise Compass in structure, with a chronological breakdown of events and activities that are just for teenagers.

Past Cruise Compasses

Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance.  Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. With that in mind, many veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers reference past Cruise Compasses to get an idea of what to expect on an upcoming sailing. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.

You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

Digital Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean's Royal iQ app is available on select ships and has among its features a digital copy of the Cruise Compass.

In addition to a listing of everything happening onboard, guests can add specific events directly to their own digital calendar for easy tracking. As you make reservations or add activities directly from the daily Cruise Compass to your calendar, your schedule is automatically updated. 

Royal iQ only works when onboard Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's onboard activities

In:
06 Jun 2017

When you are onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, there is a wide array of activities and events taking place every day of your sailing. Any notion of there not being enough to do is quickly dismissed once you take a glance at what is offered onboard.

Royal Caribbean's activities staff plan a variety of events to fill your time onboard the ship. These activities are optional for anyone to enjoy, and first time cruisers will find a great deal of options to pick from.  From trivia contests to dance lessons, exercise programs to dodge ball games, wine-tasting to surfing, there really is something for everyone.

Type of activities

From start to finish, your Royal Caribbean cruise will be filled with different activities to take part in.  Each activity is optional.  Think of them like a restaurant menu: you only enjoy what you want.  

Most of the activities listed for guests to enjoy are complimentary, which means there is no additional fee.  There are, however, certain events that have an additional cost associated with them.  It will be clearly labeled whether an event is complimentary or costs extra. 

In general, Royal Caribbean tries to offer its guests a wide variety of choices.  Having thousands of guests onboard its ships means the staff will try their best to have something for everyone.  The exact activities offered will vary from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing.  Royal Caribbean does not publish its activities prior to a cruise, but if you learn about the most common activities available onboard, it should provide a good idea of what to expect once onboard.

Physical activities

  • Rock climbing wall
  • Mini golf (not available on all ships)
  • FlowRider surf simulator (not available on all ships)
  • Sports court activities (basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc)
  • Water slides (not available on all ships)
  • Zip line (not available on all ships)
  • Ice skating (not available on all ships)
  • Fitness classes
  • Skydiving simulator (not available on all ships)

Educational

  • Trivia contests
  • Napkin folding demonstrations
  • Towel animal folding
  • History and port lectures
  • Dance lessons
  • Wine/alcohol tasting
  • Escape rooms (not available on all ships)
  • Culinary classes
  • Behind the scenes tours

Gambling

  • Bingo
  • Casino gaming lessons

Shows

  • Poolside games
  • Theatrical performances
  • Live music
  • Comedians
  • Acrobatic/dive shows
  • Karaoke

Family activities

  • DreamWorks character meet opportunities
  • Parades
  • Movies
  • Teens-only events
  • Dance parties

Cruise Compass

If you are wondering how to find out which events will happen and when, then you will want to consult the daily publication provided each day to guests, known as the Cruise Compass.  

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver a paper copy of the Cruise Compass to your stateroom.  Inside, you will find a list of the next day's activities, shows and entertainment.  It also lists the times venues such as restaurants, shops, bars and the spa will be open.  There is even a weather report and information about the port you will be visiting.

Most importantly, there is a chronological listing of events from the early morning to the late evening. Each event has a time, event name, location and possibly brief description listed.  There will also be an indication if this event costs extra.

As mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean does not provide a copy of its Cruise Compass in advance of a cruise, but we keep an archive of past Cruise Compass' on this website, so that you reference them.  While a past Cruise Compass will not provide an exact list of events for your cruise, it does serve as a "ballpark overview" of what to expect.

On Royal Caribbean ships that offer the Royal iQ smartphone app, a copy of the Cruise Compass can also be referenced there.  In fact, the app provides the ability to select events from the Cruise Compass and add them to your own personal calendar.  Royal Caribbean also announced that it is working on a new smart phone app, which should debut later this year.

Tickets and shows

Most activities and entertainment on a Royal Caribbean cruise require no reservations or tickets in advance.  Guests simply show up at the designated time and location and an activities crew member will be present to coordinate the function.

Certain events do offer advance tickets for the performances.  Oasis and Quantum class ships will even offer tickets for its theatrical products prior to the cruise, via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website.  Tickets are complimentary, and guarantee a seat in the show, but not a specific seat.  Royal Caribbean also requires guests with tickets arrive to the show a certain amount of time before show time or risk losing that guarantee.

Activities such as exercise classes, wine/liquor tastings, or culinary demonstrations may require and/or offer advanced tickets to secure a spot.  The nature of these events are that there is a limit on how many guests may attend. You can certainly show up at the given time and hope for a spot, or speak to a crew member about reserving them.  Tickets to certain events are even available online via the Cruise Planner, where guests may purchase the tickets before getting onboard. 

If tickets are available prior to a cruise for an event, we generally recommend guests take advantage of the option to secure a spot for them.  Once onboard the ship, admission to certain events gets quite competitive, so taking advantage of pre-cruise reservations is a good practice.

Pools and water slides

During the daytime, the pool deck tends to be a hub of activity for guests of all ages.  Depending on the ship, guests will find a variety of pools and even water slides to enjoy.  Royal Caribbean designed their pools to be fun, relaxing and most of all refreshing experiences. Whether you are there for the ambiance, the cooling effect or the activities, time at the pool is a great idea.

Pools

Royal Caribbean's pools are a hub of activity on most cruises.  It is where the activity staff will hold many events and you will find by just spending time at the pool, you will encounter a lot of the ship's going-on's. 

Nearly all the events happening at a pool will occur 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

Water slides

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has begun adding water slides to its cruise ships.  Guests of most ages can enjoy the slides, which are complimentary and the kind of activity guests can enjoy as many times as they want.

Currently, water slides are available on

  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas

Some other ships feature slides for kids, such as the Radiance Class ships, as well as Majesty of the Seas.

Fitness Center and Gym

One popular onboard activity is staying physically fit while onboard.  Whether you love spending time at the gym, or are just looking for a way to work off the delicious food served onboard, Royal Caribbean's fitness center is the right place for you.

The fitness center is usually located near the ship's spa, and is open for most hours of the day.

Fitness center aboard Harmony of the Seas

Inside the fitness center are a variety of choices, ranging from cardio to strength-training equipment.  The equipment in Royal Caribbean's fitness center are complimentary and available on a first-come, first served basis.  There is no cost to use the machines and free weights at the fitness center.  In fact, Royal Caribbean tends to stock its gyms with top equipment for guest use.  

In addition, there are spaces for fitness classes, such as spin, yoga, and Pilates. These classes have limited capacity, and there is usually a sign up sheet near the entrance to the fitness center where guests can write down their name and stateroom number for a particular class they want to attend. Guests are charged for each class they attend, so you can attend as few or as many as you like, provided there is space available.

Family and children's activities

The heart of things to do on a Royal Caribbean ship for kids is centered around the Adventure Ocean program.  Adventure Ocean is the supervised children's program, which is kind of like camp, where parents drop the kids off and pick them up anytime while Adventure Ocean is in operation.

Adventure Ocean is available for children who are at least three years old and fully potty trained, all the way through the age of seventeen.  Counselors lead the Adventure Ocean programming while the children are in attendance, and activities are age appropriate.  These activities include art, dance parties, games, scavenger hunts, supervised play and more. Adventure Ocean is complimentary, unless your child stays in Adventure Ocean past 10pm, at which point an hourly charge is assessed. Kids may remain in Adventure Ocean until 2am during the after-hours time.

Children are split up into groups based on their age.  Older children and teenagers will find their own dedicated areas of Adventure Ocean that include lounges and teen-only events listed in the Cruise Compass.

On sea days, Adventure Ocean usually is open

  • 9am - noon
  • 2pm-5pm
  • 7pm-10pm
  • 10pm-2am (Extra cost after hours)

During port days, Adventure Ocean will be open as long as the ship is docked in port, allowing parents to leave their children in Adventure Ocean while they enjoy a time on shore.

Royal Caribbean publishes a special daily version of the Cruise Compass, just for kids and teens.  Your stateroom attendant will deliver a copy of this if there are kids in the room, and it lists Adventure Ocean programming for the coming day.  The regular Cruise Compass will also list teens-only events as well.

For children younger than three years old, Royal Caribbean's Royal Babies & Tots Nursery offers infants and toddlers supervised care for an hourly charge. 

The nursery has limited space, and it is recommended to make reservations for the times you wish to bring your child.  You can always call the nursery and inquire if there is open space to drop off at the time, but ideally you will want to make reservations. Like Adventure Ocean, the nursery is has set hours, and opens in the morning, going late into the night.  If it is a port day, the nursery can open earlier to match the time the ship is in port.

Beyond Adventure Ocean, many of the activities listed in the Cruise Compass are open to kids, as well as adults. 

Nightlife

After the sun sets, Royal Caribbean ships are filled with lots of evening activities. 

Music is a big part of Royal Caribbean's nightlife.  Guests will find live performances around the ship (primarily at bars), along with the opportunity to dance at many of them.  Dance parties on deck and in select venues are common as well, with usually a music event lasting well into the early hours of the next morning.

Each evening, there will be theatrical performances offered in the Royal Theater, as well as other venues such as Two70, the AquaTheater and/or ice skating rink.  Depending your ship, the variety and scope of nighttime entertainment will vary, but there will be something going on each evening that is clearly the primary performance.  In addition, there will be alternate times provided for most of these productions, to allow guests time to enjoy dinner without having to sacrifice seeing the show.

Royal Caribbean's shows are its signature activity, with some ships even offering full Broadway shows.  The shows are included in your cruise fare, and seating is provided on a first-come, first served basis.  We recommend arriving to any show at least 15 minutes early to secure a (good) seat.

Royal Caribbean will also regularly show feature-length films near the pool, provide sing-along music at the pub, offer karaoke performances, and much more.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Best tips for first time cruisers

In:
31 May 2017

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To celebrate our 200th episode, we recorded this episode live with the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders, and shared our best tips for someone who is new to cruising and wants to try Royal Caribbean.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

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Ten commonly asked first time Royal Caribbean cruise questions

In:
08 May 2017

Are you about to go on your first Royal Caribbean cruise? If you answered yes, then very likely you have a lot of questions.  You might have questions about concepts that are completely new to you, or you simply want verification about what to expect.

We receive many questions from our readers about their first Royal Caribbean cruise, and here are answers to ten of the most common questions from first time cruisers.

How do I get the lowest price for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Everyone wants to save money on their vacation and get the best possible price, so the question most first timers have is how does one get a deal on their Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you were to ask veteran cruisers who have taken many Royal Caribbean cruises over the years how they get the lowest prices, they will tell you the key is to book a cruise as early as possible. In general, Royal Caribbean fares are the lowest when sailings first go on sale, and as the ship fills up with guests, prices tend to go up.

How early do you need to book? Ideally, booking anywhere from 12-24 months in advance is a great strategy.  Not everyone can plan that far ahead, but if you really want to lock in the best possible price, the best strategy is to book early and then re-price the cruise if new promotions come out that lower the price.  Check with Royal Caribbean what the rules/laws are that pertain to you and the country you reside in for the ability to re-price a booked cruise. North American residents have the ability to re-book and adjust prices with no penalty up until their final payment date.

The other secret to getting the lowest possible price on your cruise is to use a travel agent. Trust us.

What time can I arrive to the cruise?

When you complete the online check-in for your Royal Caribbean cruise, a boarding time will be assigned to you.  However, that time is more of a suggestion than a rule.

What that means is you can arrive to the cruise port earlier than the posted time.  In most cases, arriving before noon will ensure minimal waits at check-in and during boarding.

If you plan on arriving later, keep in mind what time you have to be onboard prior to the sailaway time.  Check with Royal Caribbean on the later boarding times, but plan on arriving earlier than that to ensure no delays.

When can I start booking shows, drink packages, or shore excursions for my cruise?

The simple answer is, it depends. There is no rule that applies to all sailings when these kinds of activities become available for booking. Based on our experience, here are some basic guidelines for when Royal Caribbean usually makes them available for guests to reserve.

Generally, they become available around 90 days, although they can show up earlier than that.

If you do not see any options available, keep checking back for updates.

Can I bring bottled water and/or soda to my cruise?

Yes, you may bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages in a carry-on or hand luggage onboard only on boarding day. Checking in non-alcoholic beverages will no longer be permitted.

Specifically, non-alcoholic beverages brought onboard may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Distilled water or specialized beverages such as, milk for medical purposes, dietary or infant use, are permitted.

Can I bring wine on my cruise?

While Royal Caribbean prohibits guests from bringing beer, hard liquor, or fortified wines onboard, wine is allowed.

Guests wishing to bring personal wine and champagne onboard may do so only on boarding day, limited to two (2) 750 ml bottles per stateroom. Wine may be consumed in any shipboard restaurant, dining venue, or within the guests' stateroom.

Keep in mind that you may be charged a corkage fee for opening your wine in a restaurant, bar or lounge onboard.

What drinks and food are included with my cruise fare?

Guests will find plenty of complimentary food and drink available throughout the cruise. While there are some food and drink that come with an additional charge, there is lots provided at no additional charge.

For breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking times inbetween, there will often be a variety of options available at different venues. There are dining rooms and buffet options, as well as grab-and-go snacking stations throughout the ship. The Cruise Compass (Royal Caribbean's daily newspaper of events and happenings), will list times and locations for all dining options.

In terms of which beverages are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise, Royal Caribbean provides all its guests on all its cruise ships a variety of drinks throughout the day that are included in your cruise fare.

  • 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 is formal night, when is it, and how dressed up do I need to be?

Formal night is an evening where the dress code at the main dining room is more upscale. For men, this means collared shirts with nice pants (tie and jacket optional) and for ladies, it is a nice cocktail dress, dress or something else similar.

A typical Royal Caribbean 7-night cruise will feature two formal nights, so be sure to pack accordingly. Keep in mind that formal night dress attire only applies to the main dining room and no where else on the ship.

The first formal night will usually be on the second night of the sailing, whereas the second formal night can vary between the fifth or sixth nights of a 7-night cruise. Shorter cruises (5-nights or less) will only have one formal night.  Cruises 14 nights or longer will have three formal nights.

If I buy a drink package, does the other adult in my stateroom also have to buy a drink package?

Yes, as of 2018, Royal Caribbean requires if one adult elects to purchase an unlimited alcohol package, all adults in the same stateroom must each buy a drink package.

What is the best way to communicate with other guests onboard (like my kids)?

Depending on the age of the people you want to stay in contact with and you/their budget, there are a few different options to allow for easy communication onboard.

Each stateroom has a phone that can be called from any other stateroom or public phone onboard.  If you are trying to reach a guest onboard the ship, you can make a call to their stateroom and optionally leave a message. Use of the phones for calls to a guest's stateroom is complimentary. Of course, it requires the guest to be in the room to answer the call and/or check the voicemail. This can result in "phone tag," where it seems like you are always missing each other.

Some guests opt to use their cell phones, although it is important to understand how to use cell phones on a cruise without racking up a very large bill. There are a variety of messaging apps that can be used with a Royal Caribbean internet package. Alternatively, text messaging may be simpler and more economical.

There are also some low-tech options, such as walkie-talkies or leaving notes on the stateroom door of the person you are trying to contact.

How do I make a dietary restriction/request?

Whether you have a dietary restriction or just a special request with your meals, you will want to make dietary requests up front.

Royal Caribbean can accommodate dietary needs such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

In additional, vegetarian meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room.  Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available no extra charge. All you have to do is notify Royal Caribbean at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

You may also send an e-mail request to [email protected]; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It's best to make requests like this at least 90 days in advance of your sailing.

If you forget to make the request in advance, you can always speak to the head waiter in the main dining room. These requests can be for a table or dining rotation change, dietary request or anything else special you want to make certain is covered.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - First time Royal Caribbean itinerary recommendations

In:
30 Nov 2016

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Of all the Royal Caribbean questions I am asked, it is very common to hear from first time cruisers who are concerned that they are making a mistake when booking their first itinerary. There are a lot of options, so this week, I am taking some time to go over Royal Caribbean itinerary recommendations for first-time cruisers.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

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

In:
29 Oct 2016

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:
03 Sep 2016

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:
20 Aug 2016

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:
13 Aug 2016

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.

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