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Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Is a weekend cruise worth it?

12 Oct 2022

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I just got back from a 3-night Independence of the Seas cruise and it had thinking if taking a short weekend cruise is worth it or is it over far too quickly?

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Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Independence of the Seas to sail

13 Aug 2021

Royal Caribbean has successfully received permission for Independence of the Seas to sail from the U.S. government.

After completing her test cruise earlier this month, Royal Caribbean announced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the ship for service with paying passengers.

Independence received her Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC, which means the ship is ready to sail with passengers on August 15.

Just last week, Royal Caribbean received a Conditional Sailing Certificate for Allure of the Seas.

This certificate is the final phase of the CDC's phased approach, known as the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), to allowing cruise ships to resume operations from the United States, and is yet another ship in the fleet to get approval by the U.S. government to sail.

Independence of the Seas completed her test cruise from Galveston on August 1st.

This is now the fifth ship to get approval from the CDC to restart cruises, following Freedom, Serenade, Ovation, and Odyssey of the Seas.

Independence will offer 7-night Western Caribbean sailings from Galveston, Texas.

Read more8 things to love about Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

For cruises departing Galveston, Texas in August 2021 onboard Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean guests age 12 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

All crew onboard Independence of the Seas will be fully vaccinated.

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 must undergo 2 more COVID-19 tests at the cruise terminal and prior to disembarking.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Royal Caribbean has also outlined the mask rules for guests onboard Independence of the Seas in August that are age 2 and up:

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants and shows.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors onboard the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

Dining & Lounges
In the Main Dining Room, which spans multiple decks, we will designate areas for everyone, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only. My Time Dining will not be available to parties that include unvaccinated guests.

Most specialty restaurants will be open to everyone, while a few will be for vaccinated parties only. If you prefer a buffet, Windjammer will be open to everyone for breakfast and lunch, and the food will be served by our crew.

Grab-and-go cafes will also be available for everyone.

Theaters and activity venues will offer spaced seating with options for everyone and for vaccinated guests only. 

Two Royal Caribbean cruise ships will begin simulated cruises today

01 Aug 2021

Two more Royal Caribbean ships will begin their test cruises today, including the world's largest cruise ship.

Independence of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas will both begin their simulated voyages so that they can get permission from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to sail with paying passengers.

So far four other Royal Caribbean ships have done test cruises, and one other is underway right now.

Symphony of the Seas will sail from PortMiami on Sunday, and is the second Oasis Class cruise ship to start a test cruise.

Symphony will sail a 3-night cruise that visits Perfect Day at CocoCay before returning to Miami.

Meanwhile, Independence of the Seas will begin her test cruise from Galveston, Texas.

If all goes well, both ships could restart operations with paying passengers later this month.

The CDC requires these test cruises with unpaid volunteers to demonstrate new health protocols can keep guests and crew members safe onboard from the spread of Covid-19. 

On other Royal Caribbean ships that have restarted operations, the new protocols have worked extremely well at isolating and limiting the spread of the virus among passengers.  The handful of cases across different sailings have been few and quickly dealt with.

This approach to safe cruising has been a mantra for Royal Caribbean, which has long sought to make cruising "safer than main street", according to Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain.

In his most recent video update, Mr. Fain talked about the importance of making cruises safer than other aspects of life, "We wanted to be not only just as safe as the places, we wanted to be safer."

"We established a goal of being safer on board than a ship on Main Street. We've shown that an ambitious goal can be achieved based on hard work and an unemotional review of the facts and the science."

Simulated voyages test out many facets of the cruise experience, including a new approach to embarkation and disembarkation, medical evacuation procedures and procedures for transferring symptomatic passengers and crew to isolation rooms set up on board the ships.

Other onboard protocols include restricting certain venues to vaccinated passengers only, changes to dining onboard, and modifications to the entertainment lineup and seating.

Royal Caribbean is electing to conduct test sailings instead of mandating 95% of its passengers be fully vaccinated because the cruise line feels very strongly about allowing children to sail, whom are not eligible to be vaccinated.

Cruise ships that sail from the U.S. and can guarantee at least 95% of its passengers are vaccinated do not have to conduct test sailings and can go right to revenue sailings.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley recently explained his cruise line's restart plans are different than other lines because of their commitment to families, "In a normal year the majority of our guests are families. At any time throughout the year we carry approx 10 percent plus of our guests who are kids 12 and under and they of course travel with their family."

"Because of the kids we have been sailing at around 90 percent vaccinated and so we would not be able to operate at the CDC 95 / 95 and so like Disney Cruises or MSC all family brands we chose this path."

CDC approves test cruises for Independence and Mariner of the Seas

04 Jun 2021

Two more Royal Caribbean ships are approved to begin test cruises.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved test cruises for Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, which makes them the fourth and fifth Royal Caribbean ships approved for test cruises.

Earlier this week, Symphony and Allure of the Seas were approved. Freedom of the Seas was the first ship to get approved.

The CDC was busy with other approvals, for ships from Celebrity Cruise Line and Carnival Cruises.

Mariner of the Seas will begin her test cruises on August 11, 2021.

Independence of the Seas will begin her test cruises on August 1, 2021.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the test cruise start dates, which coincide with Royal Caribbean's other big announcement of restart plans for this summer.

Royal Caribbean plans to start revenue cruises on Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral, beginning on August 23, 2021.

Likewise, Independence of the Seas is scheduled to sail from Galveston with paying passengers on August 15, 2021.

Of the ships confirmed for restart earlier today, we are still waiting on test cruise dates for Serenade, Ovation, and Odyssey of the Seas.

Each cruise ship needs to be approved by the CDC in order to conduct test cruises.

During these test cruises, Royal Caribbean will go through a variety of scenarios to prove to the CDC that the ship can conduct sailings in a safe manner. Specifically, the new protocols aimed at preventing Covid-19 from getting onboard the ship are at the heart of these dry runs.

Each ship must conduct at least one simulated cruise, and each voyage must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.

According to the CDC, passengers and crew must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

Independence of the Seas summer 2020 sailings now available to book

05 Jun 2019

Guests can now book summer 2020 sailings on Independence of the Seas following a deployment change that will keep the ship in Port Everglades.

Instead of sailing from Southampton in summer 2020, Independence of the Seas will offer 3, 4 and 5-night sailings from Port Everglades to the Western Caribbean and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The new bookings range from May through October 2020 and are available to book via Royal Caribbean's website.

In May 2019, Royal Caribbean announced it would cancel scheduled Independence of the Seas 2020 sailings from Southampton, and instead keep her in Port Everglades, Florida in an effort to offer additional sailings to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Thanks to RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Jaymac Radio for alerting us to this addition.

Royal Caribbean redeploys Independence of the Seas in 2020 away from UK

09 May 2019

Royal Caribbean announced it has decided to redeploy Independence of the Seas in 2020 from the UK market, and instead keep her in Port Everglades, Florida to offer more cruises to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

As a result of the change in homeport, Royal Caribbean has begun informing guests that had cruises booked on Independence of the Seas from Southampton in 2020 that their sailings are canceled.

On Royal Caribbean's UK website, the cruise line explained the change, "Responding to strong booking interest in our exciting new Caribbean private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean International has announced a 2020 deployment change for Independence of the Seas. The ship will now sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida rather than Southampton. Guests affected by the itinerary change will be offered full refunds and a ‘Future Cruise Credit’ for use on alternative sailings. The popular Quantum Class ship Anthem of the Seas will return to the UK market for 2020, adding more options for guests sailing from Southampton."

As a result of the change, Independence of the Seas will remain in the Caribbean instead of sailing to Southampton in 2020.

Royal Caribbean UK also apologized for canceling sailings some guests have booked, "Our goal is provide our guests with the best itineraries that take you to exclusive parts of the world and have decided to make these changes for the 2020 season to maximize our capacity in the Caribbean. We are terribly sorry. We know this news is disappointing."

Spotted: Updated Diamond Happy Hour drink menu

28 Jan 2019

Royal Caribbean has updated the Diamond member happy hour drink menu on Independence of the Seas, which features a new look and a few additions.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Twangster shared a photo of the new menu while onboard Independence of the Seas.

Diamond drink menu from Independence of the Seas January 2019

Diamond drink menu from Jewel of the Seas January 2019. Photo by Steve Pellegrino

Diamond drink menu from Serenade of the Seas February 2018

Glenfiddich scotch has been added to the menu, along with Captain Morgan rum.

Each evening, Royal Caribbean offers complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in its Diamond lounges for Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members. In addition, Diamond members and above receive three complimentary drink vouchers to use at bars and lounges around the ship during the same time.

Spotted: Sky Pad pre-cruise reservations

05 Nov 2018

If your next Royal Caribbean offers the Sky Pad virtual reality jump experience, then you might be able to pre-book it before the cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

We have spotted the option to pre-book Sky Pad sessions on the Cruise Planner site for upcoming Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas sailings. The Sky Pad option is under the Entertainment & Activities menu.

There is no cost to reserve a time, and you can select times from 30 minute blocks.

Thanks to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Jason Cook for alerting us to this change.

Royal Caribbean expands new smartphone app to Independence of the Seas

02 Sep 2018

Royal Caribbean has added Independence of the Seas to the list of ships supported by the cruise line's new smart phone app.

While the app store updates do not list Independence of the Seas, the app itself lists Independence among the list of supported ships.  

Independence is the seventh Royal Caribbean ship to be added to the list of ships that can take advantage of the new smart phone app, following Mariner of the Seas, which was added in August.

The new smart phone app is still under development, which new features rolling out periodically.  In addition, not all ships have the same features supported quite yet.  Expedited arrival, folio management, deck plans and Cruise Planner are just a few of the features the new app provides.

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

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