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Does it matter how old your cruise ship is?

22 Feb 2023

It's no surprise that new cruise ships are exciting and in high demand.

Granduer of the Seas

Royal Caribbean seems to redefine "bigger and better" with the launch of each of their new cruise ships, as they constantly break their own record for largest cruise ship in the world. The demand for these ships is larger than ever before, too. All standard cabins for Icon of the Seas' maiden voyage sold out in less than 24 hours!

What about older ships, though? It is evident that Royal Caribbean wants to keep them around as long as possible. If they didn't, they would not have spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading ships through their Royal Amplified fleet modernization. 

Don Goldstein, a retired Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, worked for the Coast Guard for about 30 years and was involved with the regulation and inspection of commercial vessels, including passenger and task vessels, and the ports that serve them.

He was also involved in cleaning oil spills in the marine environment, having completed over 20 discharged of 1 million gallons or more!

During Commander Goldstein's career, he was stationed on all 3 coasts of the United States: Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf. Additionally, he has represented the Coast Guard's business in North and South America, Europe, Africa, South East Asia, and the Far East.

In our conversation with Commander Goldstein, which has been edited for length and clarity, we talked about what a cruise ship's dry dock entails, today's environmental concerns, the life expectancy of modern day cruise ships, and what it takes to keep the older ships in service!

Today, there are cruise ships operating that are as much as 26 years old. How do cruise lines like Royal Caribbean ensure that they stay well-maintained?  

Commander Goldstein: Routine maintenance is an ongoing process, well-planned and supported. It is much more than periodic dry docks. Maintenance is done continually during the life of the ship. For instance, they can (and do) change out an entire piston on an engine while underway.

The maintenance is accomplished on a planned cycle for each system and happens every day in accordance with the plan. This includes changing filters, cleaning valves and piping, changing hydraulic fluids, testing emergency systems like emergency generators, testing backup steering systems, etc.

Dry docks are planned years in advance due to ordering necessary parts, having the right contractors present, etc. All hull openings are checked and the valves cleaned or replaced. All primary systems, including firefighting, navigation, and lifesaving are inspected or replaced.

Anchor chains and lifeboat cables may be “end-for-ended," and all lifeboat food and water are inspected and/or replaced. Other issues or concerns that have occurred may be dealt with, such as when Allure’s azipod need work.

Vision of the Seas docked in Alaska

How long is the life expectancy of new cruise ships? Take Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, for instance, which debuted in mid 2022. What do you think her life expectancy is with today's technological advancements?

Commander Goldstein: The life expectancy has increased over the years due to better materials, better design, and better maintenance. I would think Royal Caribbean expects to get at least 30 years of service out of any ship build in the last 15 years or so, including Wonder.

How does the life expectancy of today's ships compare to those from the early 2000s?  

Commander Goldstein: Every new ship probably has a longer life expectancy than the last one, but it is incremental. For ships built in the 1990s, I expect they wanted to get at least 25 years of service.

Voyager of the Seas in Barcelona

How do these older ships remain in service, and do they have to be serviced more frequently than newer ships? What goes into keeping older cruise ships alive and well?  

Commander Goldstein: All ships, old and new, go into dry dock twice in any five-year period, with no span longer than 36 months between dry docks. This is when they do major work on the engines, piping, life saving equipment, structure, etc.  Typically, the hull is at least inspected and cleaned, if not painted. Older ships may require more extensive work in the dry dock due to changes in technology, as well as normal wear and tear due to the ravages of the salt water environment.

Salt water and most metals don’t get along well. Just about everything on a ship will deteriorate over time, and require replacement or reconditioning. Newer coatings (i.e. pain) do a better job of protecting metal, but it’s still not perfect. Older ships have been exposed to this environment for a longer period of time and need more TLC. Since they do many things at one time while in dry dock, this does mean that older ships necessarily take longer.
What is the functional part of a ship that tends to wear out first?

Goldstein: That’s really hard to say due to the ongoing maintenance done throughout the life cycle of the ship.
Around what age does the ship's safety really come into question, or is it more about the cost of keeping it up-to-date?  

Goldstein: Again, due to the ongoing maintenance and inspection by both the Flag State and Port States, it is more a question of the cost of maintenance and if are they going to do keep paying for it.

What is the key indicator that a ship is ready to be retired and/or scrapped? 

Commander Goldstein: That is an easy answer: money and the cost of maintenance versus. the cost of the cabins and passenger loads. If one is willing to spend unlimited money, you can keep a ship running almost forever.

As was pointed out earlier by, I think, Michael Bayley, the older ships break even point is 50% of capacity, while the newer ships it is closer to 35%. He didn’t say word-for-word, but I suspect the introduction of azipod technology has a lot to do with this. Routine maintenance isn’t cheap, and there is a point where it is not economically feasible to maintain the ship.

At that point, they will typically sell the ship to a lower end cruise line, such as Sovereign of the Seas being transferred to Pullmantur in 2008 at the age of 20 years and renamed Sovereign. She was scrapped in 2020 after 32 years of service. Grandeur currently is Royal Caribbean's oldest ship at 27 years of service.

Engine issues seem to be common for older ships. I know Norwegian Star got theirs replaced in 2021, and Grandeur of the Seas' maximum cruising speed was slowed down in January 2023 due to engine troubles. In theory, could they go their whole lives and never have the engine replaced?

Commander Goldstein: Due to the ongoing maintenance, major engine problems are relative rare on cruise ships. The decision to change engines is not taken lightly.  These engines are HUGE, and they have to remove a section of the hull to remove and replace the major engines. In the case of the Norwegian Star, I’m sure a good part of the decision to replace the engines was based on efficiency. Grandeur reduced speed may have been at least partially the same thing.
With more and more ships turning to LNG, do you think this will impact the life of older ships? In other words, do you think they will be retired and/or scrapped earlier due to environmental concerns?

Commander Goldstein: LNG ships are more efficient than oil powered ships, but I think the bigger concern is the increased environmental awareness on the part of many littoral states and countries.  For instance, new international regulations are reducing ships’ speed as they approach many ports is an effort to reduce emissions from the ships.

I also think that the growing environmental regulations will cause older ships to be retired, or transferred to smaller cruise lines that go to more isolated ports. I live very close to Tampa, and I hope Royal Caribbean Group builds some newer and more efficient small ships that will fit under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, so they can continue to use Tampa as a home port (and places like Baltimore, too).


What is different about the process of how cruise ships are designed today compared to 30 years ago? I am sure that there's a lot more that must be taken into consideration!

Commander Goldstein: The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) set international standards for building and maintaining seagoing vessels. These standards are continually updated and modified to take into account new materials, technologies, and safety.  

Every casualty will produce new requirements. For instance, the Costa Concordia disaster in 2012, although due to human error, produced may new requirements, including the requirement to do the passenger safety briefing (muster drill) prior to the ship's departure.

Royal Caribbean ships by age

Grandeur of the Seas (1996)

Rhapsody of the Seas (1997)

Enchantment of the Seas (1997)

Vision of the Seas (1998)

Voyager of the Seas (1999)

Explorer of the Seas (2000)

Radiance of the Seas (2001)

Adventure of the Seas (2001)

Brilliance of the Seas (2002)

Navigator of the Seas (2002)

Serenade of the Seas (2003)


Mariner of the Seas (2003)

Jewel of the Seas (2004)

Freedom of the Seas (2006)

Liberty of the Seas (2007)

Independence of the Seas (2008)

Oasis of the Seas (2009)

Allure of the Seas (2010)

Harmony of the Seas (2016)

Symphony of the Seas (2018)

Wonder of the Seas (2022)

Wonder of the Seas in Port Canaveral

The craziest things we've seen on our Royal Caribbean cruises

06 Feb 2023

Unexpected things can always happen on a cruise, and although you can dream about the perfect vacation, you shouldn't always expect a cruise to go as smoothly as you hope.

Realistically, you might experience a few unpredictable mishaps during your cruise. Here at Royal Caribbean Blog, our staff has collectively cruised more than 200 times. Needless to say, we have experienced a few crazy things ourselves during our cruises.

From being kicked out of the Diamond Lounge for wearing shorts to watching pier runners sprint their way to the ship before all-aboard time, we’ve seen it all!

Below are some of our craziest stories from our very own Royal Caribbean Blog staff members.

A ship struck Mariner of the Seas

During a quick sailing on Mariner of the Seas last spring, Allie Hubers was onboard when it was struck by a cargo ship.

“On embarkation day," Allie mentioned, "we were notified that Mariner of the Seas needed to dock in Freeport for some routine maintenance, which would replace our sea day.

"After wandering around for a bit in Freeport, we went back to our inside cabin, which was located at the aft of the ship. Suddenly, we felt a big jolt and the ship swayed. My sister and I joked, ‘we must have hit an iceberg!’ to one another.

"The captain came on the speakers almost immediately to announce that a cargo ship docked next to us had 'bounced' into the ship. We ran to the back of the ship to see the cargo ship's bridge nearly crumpled. Crew members blocked off the area where Mariner sustained minor damage. The captain assured us that Mariner was seaworthy and that this would not impact our sailing.

"Essentially, it was so windy that when the cargo ship tried to dock, the wind pushed the ship into us. Their bridge bounced off Mariner's aft on deck 5, creating a pretty noticeable hole in the ship. We were lucky it wasn't worse. I would have been more terrified if we weren't docked at a port when it happened.

"Only a few people were interested in what happened, as the belly flop contest was happening at the time of the incident and the spring breakers were having too much fun to know what was going on!”

A new stateroom for the night

Sailing onboard the now-retired Monarch of the Seas, Marcy Miyar and her husband were desperate to get some sleep, so they tried to find somewhere to go in the middle of the night instead of their extremely noisy cabin.

“It was our first time in a Junior Suite on Monarch of the Seas," said Marcy. "Back then, the three-night cruises didn't depart Nassau until midnight. Because of this, the ship would have a sail away party on the pool deck, but it would last until 3 or 4 AM!

"The junior suites are directly below the pool deck, so we could hear everything like they were in the room with us. The DJ on the microphone, the music, people singing and laughing, deck chairs scraping along our ceiling... we could hear it all.

"We went down to Guest Services and asked if we could be moved to a lower-category room, but of course, the ship was full. We were like zombies walking around the ship with our pillows, looking for somewhere to get some sleep. Luckily, we stumbled upon an unlocked conference room on deck 2. That's where we spent the night. 

"Now, we always make sure to check what is on the deck above us when picking out a stateroom!”

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar

Symphony of the Seas docked at CocoCay

While cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Haley Harnish experienced a scary announcement: Code Oscar.

“Shortly after noon, we heard an Oscar Oscar Oscar call over the PA system," said Haley. "The Oscar code is for man overboard, so it is the absolute last one you want to hear. We had just been seated in Izumi for a sushi and sake pairing, and everybody around us was distressed. The staff did a wonderful job keeping the lunch flowing, even though I'm sure they were just as worried.

"We could feel the ship slow and stop, and about ten minutes later, she turned around and headed back south. The captain announced about midway through lunch that there was an overboard situation and the Coast Guard was involved. The running track on deck 5 was closed to guests so that rescue operations could be activated from that portion of the ship.

"The captain made another announcement around 1 PM, this time telling us that a guest had claimed a person was in the water. To account for everyone on the ship, all guests had to go to the dining room to scan their SeaPass cards. Crew members were to do the same.

"Luckily, my guest and I were first in line to be scanned. It was a fairly easy process, like getting off the ship for an excursion. Then we were directed through the dining room to an emergency door and out onto the running track, up a set of stairs, and onto the Boardwalk.

"The captain let us know just after 3 PM that all crew and guests were accounted for. We had to wait about 30 minutes more to be cleared by the Coast Guard, as they had sent a helicopter to scan the area. At 3:40 PM, we were cleared. 

"This situation made us delayed going to Perfect Day at CocoCay, as we did not arrive until about 12:30 PM. However, we were all very relieved that this was the only negative outcome of the day!”

A surprise guest in our cabin

When boarding Liberty of the Seas, Nicole Feist and her husband were notified of someone else listed on their cabin.

“As we were scanning our SeaPass card to go up the ramp to the ship, we were asked where ‘Lisa’ was," Nicole explained. "We told them that we didn't know a Lisa, and we were the only two assigned to our room. The person scanning had us move to the side and get a supervisor over to check out what the issue was. 

"On their system, it was showing that all three of us were assigned to the same cabin. They told us that they would look into the issue and we were fine to board, so we went ahead and got on the ship. 

"My husband headed to Guest Services to see if they knew what the issue was. It turned out that Lisa was from the previous sailing and hadn't yet closed out her onboard account. That was why she was still showing as assigned to our room! We kept an eye on our account, and luckily we didn't get any of her charges placed on it.”

Late-night false alarm

Adventure of the Seas in St Maarten

During the mandatory muster drill, you never expect to actually hear the ship’s alarm during your cruise vacation. 

Onboard Adventure of the Seas, Matt Hochberg was enjoying himself in the pub when all of a sudden, the alarms sounded.

“Once the alarm went off, crew members instructed us to go to our muster stations," Matt explained. "It was 11:20 PM, and my kids were in Adventure Ocean. Being on the Promenade, we were close to our station so we were among the first out to the station. In fact, we beat a lot of the crew members out there. 

"All this time, the alarm was repeating. A few minutes later the alarm stopped and the captain came on the intercom to let us know it was a false alarm. The crew later told us something was up because when the alarm goes off in drills, they expect to hear an announcement after the first time the alarm is sounded.”

Unexpected scenarios can always occur on a cruise, and these are moments we'll never forget! Have you ever seen anything out of the ordinary on a cruise? Let us know in the comments below!

8 ways my cruising style has changed over 100 sailings

23 Jan 2023

Last December, my husband and I hit a personal milestone as we celebrated our 100th cruise together. Coincidentally, that sailing was also my 100th cruise with Royal Caribbean.

I was curious to see how my approach to cruising has changed since our first sailing in 2004, and also how things have changed in the cruising industry.

From cruising more frequently to booking better cabins, we've made several key changes to our cruising approach in the past 19 years. Here are the top ways my cruising style has changed after 100 sailings.

Frequency of cruising

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

When we first started cruising, we sailed once a year, and always in October for our anniversary, which usually coincided with Halloween sailings. 

As time went on, we started doing two weeklong cruises and two weekend sailings each year.  Once we realized that reaching Pinnacle Club status was a realistic goal, we began cruising ten or more times per year, which is pretty much where we still are today.

Related: Pathway to Pinnacle: How I reached the top of Royal Caribbean's Loyalty Program

Ports vs. Ship

Early on, whenever we booked a cruise, we always made sure to pick an itinerary with at least one port that was new to us. However, when you frequently sail to the Caribbean, that gets harder to do.

Of course, you can take cruises to Alaska, Europe or Australia to find new destinations, but for me, that involves a lot of flying, which I am not a fan of doing. Therefore, it’s basically the Bahamas and Caribbean. I like to choose an itinerary with Cozumel as it’s a personal favorite of ours.

The ship itself, though, has become more of a selling point for us when booking a cruise. A Voyager, Freedom, or Oasis Class ship is a must. Then again, we still haven’t been on a Quantum Class ship, so who knows, maybe that will be a favorite in the future.

As far as departure ports go, Port Canaveral will always be our first choice. Sure, it’s the one closest to home, but we also feel it's the most efficient.


Crown Loft Suite

In the beginning, our approach to picking a stateroom was always “whatever is cheapest”. That meant a lot of interior cabins, some of which were so tiny you could lay on the bed sideways and stretch out to touch both walls! We figured since we weren’t in the room that much, the size didn’t matter. 

Today we find ourselves spending more time enjoying the room. We typically book Junior Suites with the occasional Crown Loft Suite. I’m at the point where I need to have a balcony, even if it’s an interior-facing cabin like the Central Park balcony we recently tried on Wonder of the Seas. I just like to have the option of fresh air.

Onboard Activities

I would guess everyone new to cruising feels the same way about onboard activities: you have to do everything in the Cruise Planner to make the most of your vacation. That certainly was us when we started cruising; we went to every show and trivia game available! 

Today when it comes to trivia, I only show up to the ones that I have the most interest in, such as classic rock and Disney-themed trivia.

Long gone are the days of the Flowrider, ziplining, and ice skating. Instead, I find myself enjoying a more relaxing experience.

Sailing on the same ships over and over again means you have seen the main theater shows multiple times, although there are favorites that I still look forward to. I never miss a performance of Ice Games! on Allure of the Seas or Aqua80 on Oasis of the Seas. Plus, there are always guest entertainers that keep the shows fresh for frequent cruisers.            


Our early days of cruising were all about the Main Dining Room for dinner. One of our goals was always to score that elusive table for two by the window (which rarely, if ever happened). Breakfast and lunch were exclusively in the Windjammer. 

Dining venues included in your cruise fare have come a long way since we first started cruising. The Oasis Class ships now offer the Solarium Bistro, Park Café and El Loco Fresh, to name a few.

Recently, we’ve migrated to mostly specialty dining restaurants, especially on embarkation day.  The crowded Windjammer at lunch that first day just stresses me out! It’s worth the cost for me to be able to enjoy nachos and wings at Playmakers at a leisurely pace.

We’ve also found ourselves ordering more room service than in the past, and I really enjoy having breakfast on the balcony.


In 100 cruises, I think we bought the Deluxe Beverage Package three times. Once we became Diamond members, we just enjoyed our free drinks during happy hour in the lounge each evening. 

After the restart of the cruising industry in 2021, the Crown & Anchor Society changed the free drinks to an allotment of drink vouchers per day. These vouchers can be used anywhere onboard at any time, and they have definitely changed our approach to drinking onboard.

I get a vanilla latte most mornings at Café Promenade, then enjoy cocktails throughout the day. These drink vouchers also work at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee!

These drink vouchers are the second best thing to come from the pandemic (the first being the virtual muster drill, but I digress).


When we first started cruising, we used to do an excursion in every port. From swimming with dolphins in Cozumel, visiting Stingray City in Grand Cayman, ziplining in Labadee, and horseback riding in Montego Bay, we literally did it all!

The excursions we book now are primarily at Perfect Day at CocoCay. It’s not unusual to find us at Thrill Waterpark, and we’ve also been known to book the Coco Beach Club or floating cabanas.

Related: Coco Beach Club: cost, tips & review

In Europe, we did ship excursions and explored on our own. Tours booked through Royal Caribbean are easier, but if you’re a planner like me, you can see so much more on your own. Just make sure you’re back by all aboard time!

Onboard expenses

Nowadays when we cruise, we no longer purchase photo packages, massages, and gifts for everyone we know. I will, however, always buy an ornament of the ship the first time I sail on a new one. I started this with our very first ship and have kept up with the tradition all this time.

After 100 cruises, I’ve noticed that my spending has transitioned more from charging things on my SeaPass card to needing more cash. I use this cash for extra gratuities to the bar staff, dining servers, stateroom attendants, and concierges (and for the occasional slot machine).

Even though the way we cruise has changed over the past 19 years, our love for it has not. I look forward to the next 100!

5 things that surprised me about going on my first solo cruise, from enjoying my own stateroom to conversing with others

17 Jan 2023

I recently went on my first solo cruise during a 7-night Eastern Caribbean sailing on the Symphony of the Seas, and it was nothing like I expected it to be.


When you embark a cruise ship, you’ll see families in matching t-shirts, eager to kickstart their vacation and spend time together.

Parents will drag their children to Adventure Ocean to get them properly registered before setting sail, while the teens might be nose first into their phones trying to soak in the last bit of cell service.

For older groups of adults, you might find them hopping from bar to bar to figure out which bartender is their favorite as early on as possible.

Symphony of the Seas zip line view

Cruises are a great vacation for small and large families alike because there’s something for everyone.

Before my first solo cruise, the extent of my independent travel was limited to airports and planes. I was nervous, excited, and everything in between!

Here are five things that surprised me about going on my first solo cruise.

I enjoyed having a stateroom to myself


Initially, I was nervous to be in an interior cabin alone for one week. Prior to this sailing, I had only ever stayed in balcony cabins, and even then I often slept in and nearly missed breakfast.

However, I found coming back to my own stateroom each evening after being around masses of people to be relaxing.

I never had to ask anyone if they wanted to shower first or share closet space; there was no bumping into or bickering with family members while trying to rush to get ready for dinner.


Having an interior cabin to myself made it feel larger, too. I was able to keep everything pretty neat throughout the week, so it never felt cluttered. While I would’ve enjoyed a balcony, I think it would have almost felt like too much space for one person.

Plus, it forced me to get out and mingle on the top deck, rather than stay secluded on my own private terrace.

I will say that I did keep the television channel with the cruise map on all week, and I think having constant music playing in the background helped the room feel more cozy and less lonely!

I prefer exploring ports on my own, rather than going on cruise line sponsored shore excursions


This one truly surprised me, as I made it a plan to only go off with the cruise line due to safety concerns. I don’t have an international cellular plan, so I didn’t want to be wandering in a relatively unfamiliar place without the ability to contact anyone.

I bought a ticket through Royal Caribbean for the Pelican Peak Zip Line in St. Maarten. I had been zip lining in Jamaica before, and all parties were laughing and cheering on each other by the end of the excursion. I had similar hopes and expectations for this tour. 

My group consisted of one family of four, one couple, a brother and sister duo, and another solo guest. Everyone kept to themselves during the ride to Pelican Peak, and the guide was speaking so much that there weren’t any opportunities for participants to mingle.

At the end of the 1,500 foot zip line, all parties dispersed. I thought people would talk about their experiences while waiting for the shuttle back to the cruse terminal, but I found that I was the only person who waited. And after about thirty minutes of waiting, I opted to walk the fifteen minutes back on my own. 

While docked in St. Thomas, I went off on my own to explore Water Island, a quiet and secluded island off the coast that's the smallest of the four U.S. Virgin Islands.

Honeymoon Beach Water Island

The plan I thought I had went to shambles pretty quickly, but I enjoyed my day talking with locals and other visitors. It made for a more unique experience, and I know that if I ever return, it won’t be quite the same!

It was easy to strike up conversations with other guests


On my first afternoon onboard, I grabbed a strawberry blonde to take back to my stateroom to work on an article about the first look at Royal Caribbean’s new main dining room menus.

In the elevator on the way there, I was asked about the drink by another couple, and we had a full-blown conversation about our favorite cruise drinks before I got off.

That same evening, I went to the first Hyperlink event of the cruise (the Hyperlink program is for guests between the ages of 18 and 25 and aims to bridge cruise ship activities following the teen club to more common adult offerings).

While I was there, I found everyone to be more social and welcoming than I anticipated, and I met two individuals whose family “adopted” me for the week, allowing me to join them at dinner and other activities, including Perfect Day at CocoCay’s Thrill Waterpark.

It was so great to have a buddy that was willing to tag along to the Hyperlink events with me throughout the rest of the week, especially since a few of them were after 11:00pm. 

Seeing how willing people were to jump into conversations at the Hyperlink event made conversing with others a breeze, like when I met a nice couple in Water Island who offered to give me a ride on their golf cart, and I didn’t feel as lonely as I thought I would the rest of the trip.

Dining alone in the Main Dining Room can be a little awkward

When I first moved to New York City, I had immense anxiety about eating alone. Now, I do it at least once per week, albeit in a more fast casual way. Regardless, I had reason to believe that I would have similar experiences solo dining onboard a cruise ship.

In reality, I found it to be much more uncomfortable than I expected, and I felt the loneliest on this trip when I did eat alone.

On the first night, I was tucked into a dark corner seated at a table for two on deck three, and my wait staff was confused at the concept of me sailing alone. I was checked up on at least three or four times asking if anyone was going to be joining me.

Main dining room table

Even if I saw other guests hanging out alone during the day, dinner brought travel parties back together.

I’m grateful for the family who let me dine with them each night, as it made my solo cruising experience much more enjoyable!

I’m looking forward to my next solo cruise where I can skip the Main Dining Room, eat in the Windjammer, or dine with others at Izumi’s Teppanyaki!

I didn’t have to prioritize what I wanted to see and do


Since my first solo cruise was also my first work trip, I had to manage experiencing what the ship had to offer, as well as getting all of my assignments done.

That being said, balancing work with cruising felt like a family trip, minus the family.

On those kinds of trips, there’s rarely enough time for everyone to get to do everything that they want to do, so there have to be some compromises made.

The same concept applied to my solo trip, but I got to pick exactly what I wanted to do in my free time, whether that was lounging in the Solarium during the day or watching a show at night.

I didn’t get to zip line, try out the FlowRider, or ride down the Ultimate Abyss, but those are all activities I have done in the past; I was more focused on using my leisure time to relax and enjoy some entertainment!

Overall thoughts on solo cruising


While I enjoyed my trip and am thankful for the new friendships I made, cruising is a whole lot more fun when you're sharing the experience when your loved ones! I often felt myself reminiscing on trips I've taken with my dad and sister and wishing that they were with me. 

In the future, I won't immediately cross a solo cruise off the list, especially now that I know what to expect. To me, a solo cruise equates more with work than for leisure! 

Things I wish Royal Caribbean would copy from other cruise lines

05 Jan 2023

It's no secret that I love cruising on Royal Caribbean, but there are a few things I wish my favorite cruise line would borrow from the competition.

Two cruise ships docked side by side

Overall, I think Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line out there for its approach to mainstream cruising.  Suffice to say, I have no issues with continuing to cruise with Royal Caribbean.  But like any company, there's always room for improvement.

Over the years, the cruise industry as a whole tends to follow trends and it's not uncommon for one line to introduce a change or new concept and for other lines to take notice of it and incorporate it into their approach.

A great example of this is the change from a traditional muster drill to eMuster drill that occurred in 2021. This was a change Royal Caribbean was among the first to introduce, and other lines quickly adopted it as well.

Two ships side by side

Along those lines, I can't help sometimes but see what other lines are doing and wish Royal Caribbean would at least take some of those ideas or approaches into their ships.

For the record, this wouldn't be the first time Royal Caribbean took inspiration from another cruise line. A classic example is the virtual balcony, which was copied from Disney Cruise Line's virtual porthole.

While the grass may not necessarily be greener on the other side of the cruise line fence, these are a few ideas I like that I wouldn't mind seeing Royal Caribbean add to their ships.

NCL: Add new venues to older ships

Pinnacle Lounge on NCL Sky

I was watching a video from Emma Cruises of the NCL Sky, which was launched in 1996, and was impressed this 25+ year old ship has as many new venues as it does.

When Norwegian refurbished the ship in 2019, they added 8 new venues (along with updated public spaces and refreshed cabins).

To be fair, Royal Caribbean's Royal Amplified program added some wonderful new venues to existing ships, but the program bypassed the Vision and Radiance Class cruise ships. NCL Sky is a ship even older than the Vision Class ships.

Starbucks on NCL Sky

I was impressed when I saw NCL added a sushi bar, pub, mojito bar, Starbucks, and a few new lounges to a ship as old as NCL Sky.

Of course, this refurbishment occurred pre-2020 when the cruise industry was flush with cash. Times are very different now, but eventually cruise lines will recover financially and be in a position to refurbish older ships again. When they do, I'd love to see more love for the older vessels.

Carnival: Variety of free (and good) restaurants

Blue Iguana

When Royal Caribbean introduced El Loco Fresh to its ships as a complimentary restaurant on the pool deck, it was a revelation in having quick access to good and free food.  I wish we'd get more of these sort of venues.

I hear a lot from cruise fans that if there's one thing Carnival Cruise Line does well, it's their complimentary food offerings.

BlueIguana Cantina, Guy’s Burger Joint, Carnival Deli and Big Chicken are all great examples of complimentary dining venues that offer some really good food.

El Loco Fresh

What makes these restaurants stand out is not just that they're complimentary, but they're pretty darn good too.

If you wanted a quick bite to eat without paying extra on Royal Caribbean, you probably had to go the Windjammer. Newer ships might have had El Loco Fresh or Boardwalk Dog House, but these are few and far between and lack the variety of food Carnival has.

While it's early, I think Royal Caribbean is going to move more in this direction with Icon of the Seas when it launches. However, the rest of the fleet could use these sort of options too.

Guy's Burger

Piggybacking on the first point in this article about adding new venues to older ships, let's also get more great complimentary dining added to existing ships to keep up with Carnival's food game.

Disney: Split bathrooms

DCL cabin

Since Disney Cruise Line launched, their approach to offering families more space and options in cabins has been a big deal.

I believe Royal Caribbean has taken notice of the family cruise market more than any other line in their approach to offering equally compelling options for kids (and their parents) onboard, but the cruise cabins could still benefit from something Disney does well.

In short, I like the split bath concept that comes in standard cabins.

DCL Split bath

With a split bath, there's two bathrooms. One has a shower with a tub (rare on cruise ships) and a sink; the other has a toilet and sink.

Having a split bathroom is super helpful for families, as well as almost anyone sharing a cabin with another person.  While I think two bathrooms helps families out a lot, this concept can benefit just about anyone.

Unrelated, but Disney's brand of shampoo, conditioner, and soap smell great too!

Surfside family suite

When Icon of the Seas launches next year, it will have more family cabins than before. Icon will have 82% of rooms with a high occupancy of 3 or more guests, which is more than double the Oasis Class ships.

Read moreGuide to Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

Celebrity: Include gratuities in cruise fare

Crew member smiling at the bar

It's time we stop pretending gratuities for the crew members are some kind of a separate cost that isn't inherently part of the overall cruise price.

Royal Caribbean still charges an automatic gratuity that you either pre-pay or get charged each day of the cruise.  So one way or another, you're going to pay it.

I think Celebrity Cruises did the right thing by just incorporating gratuities into the cruise fare and taking the ambiguity of tips out of the equation.

In 2020, Celebrity Cruises rolled out the "Always Included" plan, which means cruise fares now include automatically Wi-Fi, drinks and gratuity.  

The cruise line says they made this change in an effort to avoid "confusing promotions, complicated add-ons and limited-time offers."  

Other than cruises from Australia, Royal Caribbean doesn't include gratuities in its fare.  This is likely because it helps market the price of the cruise as being lower.

Celebrity Beyond

While I don't think Royal Caribbean needs to include as much it its cruise fare as Celebrity does, gratuities should absolutely be part of the base cruise fare.

Not only do the crew members deserve it, but the notion that tipping on a cruise is somehow optional is antiquated.

Princess: Alaska cruise itinerary variety

Princess cruise ship in Alaska

I have loved every single Alaska cruise I've ever taken, and I'd love to see Royal Caribbean offer more options.

While Royal Caribbean has added more cruise ships to Alaska in recent years, the market leader in Alaska cruises is arguably Princess Cruises.

In 2023, Princess will have six ships sailing to Alaska that feature 14 unique itineraries, including stops at Glacier Bay National Park.

Princess Alaska itinerrary

A great example is on the Majestic Princess, which offers a cruise tour where you visit four national parks: Glacier Bay, Denali, the Kenai Fjords and America’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias. The 15-night trip combines a seven-night cruise from Vancouver to Whittier, Alaska, with another week on land, ending in Fairbanks.

Princess also offers Alaska cruises from San Francisco, an embarkation port Royal Caribbean doesn't serve.

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

I think Royal Caribbean has a compelling Alaska program, but I also think there's more opportunity here than what we've seen thus far. Alaska has so much to offer, and it seems to sell so well that investing more in the region seems like a no-brainer.

MSC: Late-night visits to its private island

Ocean Cay evening

They say turnabout is fair play, so I think it's time for Royal Caribbean to take a page out of MSC's play book.

MSC has been known to certainly borrow other cruise line ideas, so if there's one thing MSC does well it's their late-night visits to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

Just like Perfect Day at CocoCay, MSC has a private island in The Bahamas. Whereas Royal Caribbean ships will stay until the late afternoon at best, MSC's ships offer evening activities.

Ocean Cay at Dusk

MSC's ships don't allow overnight visits (although sometimes the ship will stay docked overnight), but they do allow guests to stay on the island until around midnight.

By staying late into the evening, it opens up so much more time to enjoy arguably one of the best features of any Royal Caribbean cruise: private island visits.


When MSC offers a late night stay, passengers can go to a party that has DJ, bonfire, and dancing. Bars on this part of the island stay open late, as well.

This seems like an easy win for Royal Caribbean to offer more out of their highly-rated private island, especially in the summer months when the sun doesn't set until much later.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Three Royal Caribbean wishes for 2023

04 Jan 2023

Listen to the Show

Happy New Year! A new year is a new opportunity to take some time this week and wish for the sort of changes to Royal Caribbean we want to see in the coming year. From policy changes, to new ideas, or just self-serving improvements, this week we are sharing what kind of changes we would hope to see in 2023.

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

On this episode:
Running time:

10 Ways to splurge on your cruise

12 Jul 2022

Taking a cruise is a wonderful escape on its own, but what if you want to make the entire trip extra special?

Allure of the Seas aerial with sunset

There are lots of occasions when people want to make their cruise memorable, such as for an anniversary, birthday, graduation or other life event. For these kind of celebrations, I'll see questions about ways to enhance the experience.

Think of these tips as the proverbial "cherry on top" for a traditional cruise.

Couple at Giovannis

To be fair, these tips all deal with spending extra money on your cruise.  You certainly don't need to spend money in order to have a memorable vacation, but throwing money around can certainly make a cruise stand out given the extras it provides.

Hopefully these tips can help transform any cruise you have booked into an even more special occasion and something you'll look back on fondly.

Upgrade your cabin

Photos: Voyager of the Seas completes $97 million renovation | Royal Caribbean Blog

A straight forward way to surprise someone would be get them a more lavish cruise ship cabin.

Whether you move up from an inside cabin to a balcony, or a balcony to a suite, getting a bigger cabin is noticeable difference.

There are two ways you can upgrade your cabin.

Owner suite balcony

The first, is contact your travel agent and simply pay more to move up to a higher category. This is the simplest way, although you're subject to the prevailing rates for that cabin. How much more will vary considerably, but you're likely to get a better price for an upgrade if you do this many months before your cruise.

The alternative is to roll the dice with a RoyalUp upgrade, which is a way you can bid for a stateroom upgrade.

Once you get to final payment date, you can let Royal Caribbean know how much you would be willing to pay if an upgrade situation presented itself.

There's no guarantee that because you see a RoyalUp upgrade opportunity that there's a cabin available, but there's no harm in trying either. Just keep in mind your bids are binding if it were to be accepted.

Fly first class to your cruise

First class seats

One of my favorite ways to travel and get excited even before stepping onboard my ship is to fly first class.

First class airfare is not cheap, but if you book it early, there can sometimes be a good deal.  Moreover, this is a good way to use up those credit card points you may have stacked up.

You could also take a limo to the airport or stay in a suite at your pre-cruise hotel to complete the Hollywood treatment.

Book a cabana

Is your cruise visiting one of Royal Caribbean's private islands?

At both Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee, you'll find cabanas you can rent for the day.

When you rent a cabana, you not only get a dedicated spot to enjoy with shade, bottled water, and floating mats to enjoy, you'll have a cabana attendant who can bring you drinks (and food at Perfect Day at CocoCay).

Chill Island cabanas

Staying in a cabana gets you

  • Private ocean view cabana rental for the full day
  • Furnished with 2 luxurious resort-style lounge chairs & a sofa
  • Four bottles of water (in a cooler)
  • Floating beach mats and snorkeling gear.
  • Towels for your use during the day

If you really want to go big, try one of the cabanas at the Coco Beach Club.  While pricey, these are the most lavish cabanas Royal Caribbean has and the lunch you get is unrivaled.

Read moreGuide to Perfect Day at CocoCay Cabanas

The level of service with a cabana, along with the plush accommodations, make it a must-book nearly every time I visit either destination.

Spa treatments

Massage at the spa

Perhaps no other is more synonymous with treating yourself (or someone else) than the Vitality Spa.

Spa treatments are all about being pampered, so it makes perfect sense to book a spa appointment.

You can book spa treatments and salon appointments online via the Royal Caribbean cruise planner before your cruise. There's a wide selection of choices to consider.

Read moreWhen should you buy Royal Caribbean add-ons

Stateroom decorations

Royal Caribbean makes it very easy to decorate your cabin for a birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon with decoration kits.

You'll find these items in the cruise planner site.

The room decorations include door décor, mirror clings, photo frames and more.

Book a private shore excursion tour

There's nothing quite like exploring a port of call without having to wait for anyone else.

A private tour shore excursion can be not only liberating in the sense you get to do what you want, when you want, but it's also a great way to feel special since the entire tour is about your group.

There are a few ways to book a private tour, depending on the port you are visiting.

Eagle Beach

Royal Caribbean offers its own private shore excursion option through Private Journeys.  Be sure to contact them at least a month or two before your cruise, as it takes them a while to get options together.

In most ports, you can also arrange a private tour on your own. It's important to do your research for reputable options, but there's usually a few operators that can do this.

Some good ideas for a private tour would be a sightseeing tour, catamaran ride, or ATV tour. But your imagination is usually the limit.

Dress up for photos

Royal Promenade on Adventure of the Seas

With all these splurges, you're going to want to capture the memories with a great photo.

Each night of the cruise, there will be photographers around the ship to take your photo. There is no cost to take the photos, and later you can stop by the Photo Gallery to see how the prints came out.

Whether it's formal night or not, get everyone together and dress to the nines, put on matching pajamas, or find that eclectic outfit at Target for ironic photos.

You could also arrange a private photo sitting. Most ships have the option for a sitting, where you can go to a studio and have a photo session. There is an obligation to pay for the time and photos, but these are where you might get some really great shots.

Eat only at specialty restaurants

Izumi hibachi on Mariner of the Seas

While I really enjoy the main dining room, there's nothing quite like specialty dining as a way to enjoy additional cuisines and cooking styles.

Royal Caribbean offers an unlimited dining package, where you can eat at a specialty restaurant every night of the cruise for dinner and lunch on sea days (and embarkation day).

Giovanni's Table on Allure of the Seas

Depending on which ship you're sailing, there's quite a few different choices to consider. On a 7-night cruise, you'll have opportunity to repeat a few (or all) of the restaurants so you can try one of everything.

Read moreHow to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package

Form a group

This tip requires more coordination, but if you're going to sail with a few other families and friends, then you could really splurge in style.

If you can book at least 8 cabins with a single travel agent, you could create a group with Royal Caribbean.

When you have a group, then you can work with Royal Caribbean's groups department to arrange special events onboard, such a renting out certain venues. Imagine having the water slides or bumper for just your group for an hour. Or renting out a lounge to have a private party? Your imagination (and budget) are the limit.

Before anyone books a cruise, talk with a travel agent about arranging this so you can get the important group backend logistics set up first.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

Buy jewelry

Just like a photo can remind you of a wonderful vacation, a piece of fine jewelry can be an everyday reminder of one too.

There are jewelry stores on Royal Caribbean ships, with some ships even having name brand jewelry, like a Tiffany's store at sea.

You could also go jewelry shopping while in port, as nearly every port I've ever been to has plenty of jewelry shops.

Whether you look for a new ring, earing, or necklace, picking out a new piece of jewelry can be a wonderful way to top off the cruise.

Comparing Titanic vs biggest cruise ship in the world

18 Jun 2022

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas is among the largest cruise ships in the world, so how does it compare to the most well-known ship of all time?

Photo by By F.G.O. Stuart (1843-1923)

The Titanic is more than likely the most well-known ocean liner because of its famous accident in 1912. Her sinking has never been eclipsed in the public imagination, despite decades of larger and safe cruise ships.

Nonetheless, if you mention cruise ships to someone who is new to cruising, inevitably the Titanic references usually follow. So if your baseline for understanding what a cruise ship is is based on a vessel that sailed over 100 years ago, here is a look at how much different big ships are now.

Meet Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

At about five times the size of Titanic, the world's largest cruise ship is Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas.

Spanning 18 decks, Wonder is the fifth Oasis Class cruise ship to be launched.

Size is everything with Symphony, as she is 1,188 feet in length.  If you were to stand her up, she's almost as tall as the Empire State Building (1,250 feet without any antennas).

Wonder of the Seas Fun Facts Infographic

There are four pools and 10 hot tubs on Wonder of the Seas to enjoy

Getting around the ships is pretty easy, thanks to the neighborhood concept Royal Caribbean developed for these ships. There are eight neighborhoods inside the ship to help distinguish areas from each other and make navigation for guests simpler.

You will find 2,867 staterooms, including 175 suites.

Read moreInteresting facts you might not know about Wonder of the Seas

How big was the Titanic?

Titanic was a large ship for its time, coming in at 882 feet 9 inches long and encompassing 9 decks.

  • Beam: 92 feet 6 inches
  • Height: 175 feet
  • Weight: 46,328 gross tons

Titanic was the largest ship built up to that point in time.

Comparing Wonder of the Seas to Titanic

Not only is Wonder of the Seas larger than Titanic, all of the Oasis Class cruise ships are larger than the Titanic in gross tonnage, as well as size.

The Titanic measured in at 882 feet and 9 inches long, and weighed 46,328 gross tons.

Wonder of the Seas measures 1,188 feet in length and has a gross tonnage of 236,857.

In terms of gross tonnage, Titanic doesn't even make the list the top 64 world's largest cruise ships by gross tonnage.

Ditto for length; Among the top 64 largest cruise ships in the world today, the "shortest" ship comes in at 984.1 ft with the AIDAprima and AIDAperla.

Titanic was built at an estimated cost of $7.5 million in 1912, which in today's dollars would cost approximately $400 million.

Wonder of the Seas cost $1.35 billion to construct.

Titanic could handle 2,453 passengers, while Wonder of the Seas has a capacity of 5,734 passengers at double occupancy.

 Wonder of the SeasTitanic
Passengers5,734 passengers at double occupancy; 6,680 passengers maximum2,435
Crew Members2,300892
Length1,188 ft882 feet
Weight236,857 gross tons46,328 gross tons
Max speed22 knots23 knots
Cost to Build$1.35 billion$400 million (today's cost)

Illustration by PA Graphics

In terms of things to do on each ship, Titanic offered a heated pool, gym, squash court, and Turkish bath.

Wonder of the Seas has 25 pools, a FlowRider surf simulator, two rock walls, a full-sized basketball court, ice-skating rink, mini golf course, and a carousel.

In the evening, Titanic would feature smoking rooms, billiards, music, and dancing.

On Wonder of the Seas, you can find original production shows, ice skating shows, piano bars, karaoke, live music, movie screenings and production shows in the AquaTheater.

How much is a ticket on Titanic vs. Wonder of the Seas?

Any cruise fan knows that there is no standard price for a cruise.  Cruise fares vary from ship to ship and even sailing to sailing.

It is not unreasonable to pay around $2,000 for a balcony cabin for two guests on Wonder of the Seas.

The prices of tickets on the Titanic in 1912 ranged from £30 (equivalent to £3,000 in 2019) and £870 (equivalent to  £100,027.45 in 2021) for a parlour suite and small private promenade deck in first class, to £8 for a third-class adult fares and £3 for children. That's roughly equal to between $100,000 to $345 in today's prices.

Unlike modern cruise ships, Titanic had different classes of fares. First, second, and third class, which were distinguished by social status and ticket cost.

First class was for the wealthiest and most prominent passengers.  These were upper class people, who had careers in business, politics, the military, or industry. These were the well-to-do and most well-known people sailing.

Second Class was essentially the middle class people, which might include tourists, members of the clergy, and educators.

Third class (sometimes known as steerage) was mostly made up of immigrants moving to North America. 

How do these ships compare?

Wonder of the Seas aerial aft

In short, Wonder of the Seas and Titanic don't have a ton in common besides being ocean going vessels. Today's cruise ships are very different than ocean liners, like Titanic.

What many people who are new to cruise ships fail to understand is the fundamental shift leisure cruising underwent in the second half of the 20th century. Ocean liners and ferries evolved into the cruise ships that we know today.

Ocean liners were primarily used to bring passengers across the ocean from one point to another, whereas cruise ships go on pleasure voyages, closer to the coast, sailing between ports.

Unfortunately, many cruise novices have Titanic as their only frame of reference when it comes to non-cargo ships, so it ends up being the defacto benchmark.

Not only are ships like Wonder of the Seas immensely larger, the experience onboard is vastly different, with more to see, do, and eat than Titanic could have ever dreamed.

6 Royal Caribbean trademarks that sound like they could be really cool things

14 Apr 2022

Royal Caribbean has trademarked a lot of interesting names over the last couple of years, and perhaps these could be a hint at future projects they have planned.

In the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean has secured a spot for itself as a market innovator.  They have consistently used technology and lessons learned from previous innovations to create new onboard experiences that capture the attention of the cruising public.

It began with adding a rock climbing wall to cruise ships, but has since graduated to AquaTheaters, North Star, Bionic Bar, Ultimate Abyss, and much more.

Royal Caribbean is on the verge of launching a brand new class of cruise ship with Icon of the Seas, and there's still another Oasis Class ship to go.  While we wont know what Royal Caribbean has up their sleeve until they announce something, perhaps trademark filings will give us a clue of what to expect.

I went through the last two years of trademark applications to see which names stand out as sounding like they could be really cool.

It's important to note that just because Royal Caribbean trademarks a name, doesn't mean it will be used for anything. Moreover, I know nothing more than anyone else outside of Royal Caribbean, so these names could all end up being something completely different or not relevant at all.

So in the interest of purely day dreaming, here's my picks for names Royal Caribbean trademarked that just sound enticing.



Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean trademarked "cruiseverse" and while I don't think this will be a ship-based experience, it sounds very different.

Usually trademark applications are quite vague, but this one had more details about what the cruise line intends to do with it.

It's meant for "virtual cruise ship services" and is described as featuring, "operating a virtual cruise ship ship vessel featuring virtual cafes, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and virtual excursions."

Whether or not this is meant for an online world, or something totally different, you have to admit this is more than just a new water slide.


In early 2021, Royal Caribbean trademarked "AquaDome" under the generic category of "Cruise ship services Restaurant and bar services"

Breaking apart the name, we have "aqua" and "dome", which seems to infer something involving water and a rounded structure.

Royal Caribbean likes to use the word "aqua" in the name of a few of its existing onboard features:

  • Aquanauts (Adventure Ocean room for younger kids)
  • AquaTheater (ampitheater on Oasis Class ships)
  • aqua coaster (type of water slide on Navigator of the Seas)
  • Aqua Class (name of suite amenities on Celebrity Cruises)

Pressure Drop

Royal Caribbean trademarked the name of what sound like brand new water slides in December 2021.

The new trademarks included:

  • Category 6
  • Hurricane Hunter
  • Storm Surge
  • Pressure Drop
  • Storm Chasers

Pressure Drop seems the most exciting of the bunch, and it could point to new water slides for its cruise ships or on its private islands.

Playaway Park

When I read the trademark for "Playaway Park", I immediately thought of Splashaway Bay since the names sound similar.

Splashaway Bay is an aqua park for kids on many cruise ships. Playaway Park sounds like it could be the name of a dry playground for kids. 

Absolute Zero

Ice bar

Could "Absolute Zero" be the name of a new ice bar?

Ice bars are a fad on land and on some other cruise lines, where the bar is cooled to such a low temperature the bar is made of ice and guests usually have to wear jackets to enter.

NCL ice bar

Norwegian Cruise Line has an ice bar on the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Escape.

Perhaps Royal Caribbean is considering its own version of a chilly drink venue.


In the grand scheme of trademarked names, I think this is my favorite sounding name.

Given that it's a play on words from Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, I have to think it's some kind of tall activity.

8 cruise ship activities I'd like to see return this year

03 Feb 2022

Royal Caribbean restarted cruises about eight months ago, and yet there are still some activities and entertainment onboard that have not returned.

The reason most of these activities have not resumed is due to social/physical distancing requirements. While we understand the rationale behind the decision, it doesn't mean we don't miss these fun things to do on a ship.

Here are just a few favorites that I hope can be brought back this year.

Pool Games

Friday Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

A staple on almost every cruise line is the belly flop competition.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching your passengers throw themselves into the main pool to see who will make the biggest splash?

And it’s not just the belly flop. Also missing are the hairy chest and the world’s sexiest man competition.


50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you’ve never seen the Quest game show, you have missed out. It’s an adult themed scavenger hunt that not only has the teams participating but the audience too!

The cruise director will ask the teams to produce items (think “Let’s Make a Deal”) and if they don’t have it, they will look to the spectators to help them out.

Things can get a little racy, so if you’re easily offended, it may not be for you. It is such a hysterical show, even my 80-something year old grandmother was laughing harder than I’d ever seen.

Adventure Ocean

Symphony of the Seas family cruising guide | Royal Caribbean Blog

The kids club is open currently, but what is still missing is full capacity.

Pre-covid, you could drop your children off at Adventure Ocean and you may not see them again for the rest of the cruise due to all the fun they’re having.

These days though, you are required to make a reservation for a certain block of time to allow other guests access. It’s no surprise that the evening hours book up fast.

Main dining room seating

How to not eat with strangers on a Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

For now, the main dining room is only seating you with your immediate travel party, but I miss being able to sit with new friends for a meal.

Cruising can be a very social vacation, and to that point, there are many people who sail solo and like to meet new people. After meeting new friends at the pool or on an excursion, you may want to get together for dinner that evening.

As of right now, you are limited to sitting with people in your own stateroom, or those that have multiple rooms that were linked before the cruise.

Bar seating

Royal Caribbean announces $165 million upgrades and enhancements to Allure of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Even though the “meet and mingle” gatherings aren’t available, you can still sit with new friends in the lounges. What you can’t do is sit at the bar itself.

Watching the bar staff make your martini can be part of the entertainment but to keep the distance between the bartender and the guests, the stools have “unavailable” signs placed on them.

Production shows

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog | Royal Caribbean Blog

While you can still find Cats, Mama Mia and Grease on the Oasis class ships, what is noticeably absent are their other main theater shows.

Come Fly With Me, Blue Planet and Columbus! The Musical still remain dark. In fact, the main shows on most of the fleet have not returned. They are offering special guest entertainers in their places. I think this is due to a staffing issue.

This is probably what I hope comes back first. I enjoy having dinner and then going to the production shows with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Even with the condensed 90 minute version of the Broadway shows, it’s still a bit too long for me. The 45 minute production shows are perfect.

Cooking classes

Top 10 best ways to spend $100 on a Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Prior to your sailing, you would find cooking classes in your cruise planner available for booking.

Two that spring to mind are the cupcake decorating class, which we did on one of our anniversary cruises and the sushi making in Izumi. These were very popular, unique activities that are definitely missed.

Ship tours

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

The behind the scenes tour was offered pre-cruise and could also be booked onboard. We did the tour on the Freedom of the Seas. It was held on the last sea day. The tour took you to the laundry rooms, the crew areas (we saw their “grocery store” named “Freedom Mart”), the backstage of the production and ice shows, the engine rooms and the bridge. After a nice lunch in the main dining room, we went to the galley to see the chefs in action. The tour ended with a toast in the champagne bar.

Abbreviated ship tours have also been a long-standing perk for higher tier Crown and Anchor members but they have also been suspended. One captain I spoke to recently said he hopes they never return but this is something I definitely miss. I never passed up an opportunity to visit the bridge.

As time goes on and we get the pandemic more under control, it is expected that these beloved activities will make their way back to the ships. In my opinion, it can’t come soon enough.

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