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I spent 7 nights on the world’s biggest cruise ship. Here are 6 things I did in advance to prepare for a stress-free vacation

23 Mar 2023

After spending a week on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, I had a great family spring break vacation, and I know I greatly benefitted from some pre-cruise planning.

Wonder of the Seas docked in St. Thomas

After years of cruising, it's become apparent to me how important just a little planning ahead of time can do to improve your vacation experience.

While you could simply show up to the cruise ship and have a good time without any forethought, planning out a few aspects of your vacation adds a lot to the experience and avoids some common cruise pitfalls.

Matt in CocoCay

On a ship as big as Wonder of the Seas, you're also competing in a way with your fellow guests for opportunities and things to do onboard. From dining, to entertainment, to waiting, there's a limit on how much you can do onboard and I firmly believe your time on a cruise ship can be optimized.

In retrospect, here are five super simple things I did before my cruise began to eliminate hassles before they could ever occur.

1. I did everything in the pre-cruise check-in

RC app

When you step foot into the cruise terminal, your cruise vacation begins and ideally, your time in the terminal is as quick as possible so you can get onto the ship.

Royal Caribbean has made it super simple to breeze through the check-in process by making the entire process digital via the Royal Caribbean app.

First and foremost, at 45 days before my cruise, I grabbed an early check-in time to ensure we could likely get onboard first. It's a good idea to set a calendar reminder to get a time right away, because a lot of people will be vying for those early times.

Next, complete every step of the check-in process before the cruise.  

  1. Scan your passport
  2. Take a selfie photo
  3. Add your emergency contact info
  4. Add a credit card

If you don't do these things at home, you're going to do it at the terminal with the agent.  It feels like the agents often struggle with their tablets working correctly, and it just wastes time.

Galveston terminal check-in agents

Because we did everything at home, every terminal representative we encountered merely had to look over our paperwork, verify it was all there, and sent us on our way.

Your vacation time is precious, so don't waste it in the cruise terminal.

2. Booked my shows early

inTENse show

If you're sailing on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, you can pre-book shows and you really need to do this as soon as it becomes available.

While you can probably still get into the shows without a reservation, having a reservation really makes the entire experience so much simpler.

At around 30 days before your cruise, the shows will become available to book and it's complimentary to book shows.

It's quite clear enough people have gotten the memo about booking shows that times go quickly, so you'll want to book it right away. Put a calendar reminder for this time too.

By having the show reservations, there was no concern once onboard if we would be able to see a particular show time or having to waste time standing in a standby line.

3. I took a ride share to the port instead of parking

Lyft sticker

This tip was not part of my original plan, but I was really glad to have taken a Lyft ride to the port instead of driving myself.

The day before the cruise, we discovered a nail in the tire of our family car and there wasn't enough time to get it patched before we left the next morning for the cruise.  As a result, I decided to use Lyft instead.

We live about an hour from Port Canaveral, so driving to the port so we've almost always driven ourselves in the past.

Terminal 3 in Port Canveral

The reason why I'm including getting a ride to the port on this list is because the parking situation in Port Canaveral (and other Florida ports) has become much more of a problem than in the past.  In short, the parking lots at the port seem to be fuller than ever before.

Wonder of the Seas departs from Terminal 1, and the main garage was already quite busy when we got there. There are more ships and bigger ships sailing than in the past, and the overflow lots are now the norm instead of the exception.

Lyft app

By taking Lyft, we pulled right up to the terminal, dropped our luggage with the porters and we walked right into the terminal.  It was a breath of fresh air compared to having to wait in the traffic to get back into the terminal and find a spot.

If this sounds like a "first world problem", it definitely is, but we saw the backup to get into Terminal 1 only get worse as the day wore on. 

4. I did traditional dining instead of My Time Dining

Main Dining Room

While 5pm is earlier than I would like to have dinner, the ease of which it is to have a fixed table and time seems to greatly outweigh the downsides to My Time Dining.

My Time Dining is great since you can eat at different times during your cruise. This is super helpful when you have a later day in port, but there's also more waiting and it always seems the people waiting to get in for My Time Dining look annoyed.

To be fair, our family has always done traditional dining when we eat in the Main Dining Room, but since this article is about how to be stress-free, there's no doubt having a set time every day with no waiting is the definition of that.

Menu from Wonder of the Seas

When it was our dinner time, we walked right into the Main Dining Room and sat at our table. We had menus in hand and a drink order being taken shortly thereafter.

I'm not advocating no one should do My Time Dining, rather, I think traditional is just easier.

Read moreMy Time Dining versus Traditional Dining

5. Pre-booked my shore excursions

Beach in St Kitts

It feels like waiting to figure out your plans on shore the day you get to the port is becoming a new mistake.

Royal Caribbean's shore excursions seem to be selling out much faster than in years past, and if you try winging it with a vendor in port, there's just too much ambiguity as to what the experience could end up being.

The issue is exacerbated in Perfect Day at CocoCay because Royal Caribbean's marketing machine has been so effective in getting the word out. The result is everything other than a floating mat is sold out months before the cruise begins.

Snorkel spot in St John

Prior to the cruise, we made reservations for shore excursions in St. Thomas and St. Kitts and we not only loved both of our tours, but I was glad to not have to deal with trying to navigate a last-minute tour decision.

Whether you book a tour through Royal Caribbean or on your own, it's a good idea to plan it out well before the cruise begins and to have a plan in place so that you can be assured you'll it's all waiting for you when you arrive.

More information:

6. I took naps

Suite lounger

This is such a small thing, but taking a nap really makes your day seem more care-free.

We had three sea days on this sailing, and I found myself taking a nap every day of them right after lunch.  While there is indeed so much to see and do on Wonder of the Seas, I relished a refreshing doze in my cabin.

It certainly helped with any FOMO that I had been on Wonder of the Seas a few times already, but if your goal is have an easy going time of things, I really think a good nap helps a lot.

Sunset off Wonder of the Seas

Plus, taking a nap meant I had more energy for evening activities. Especially late-night fun in the casino or bars around the ship.

Sometimes it's the little things that can put yourself at ease during your trip.

11 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise

20 Mar 2023

As your Royal Caribbean cruise approaches, there is one important step you shouldn’t overlook: selecting an early check-in time.

Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

45 days prior to your cruise, you can check in to your sailing via Royal Caribbean’s website or the Royal Caribbean app. During the online check-in process, you'll upload identification documents, provide credit card information, and, most importantly, select a check-in time.

Your check-in time is the time at which you can enter the cruise terminal on embarkation day. The earliest check-in time is around 10:30AM and the latest in mid afternoon, and we always recommend reserving the earliest time available.

The earlier you get onboard your cruise, the more quickly you can start the vacation you’ve been dreaming about for so long. Beyond just starting your vacation earlier, though, are a range of other benefits you can experience by boarding earlier than most other passengers.

Here are the top 11 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise.

Fewer crowds at the cruise terminal

Allure of the Seas in Galveston cruise terminal

One of the best reasons to get an early check-in time is to avoid crowds at the cruise terminal. The embarkation process is fairly straightforward, but it entails going through several lines before you can board your ship.

First you’ll enter a line outside the terminal for other passengers with your same check-in time. Then, as you enter the terminal, you’ll enter a line to have your documentation checked. Finally, you’ll enter a line to go through security.

Waiting in line is not anyone’s idea of a fun vacation, so make sure to get an early check-in time to be among the first in the cruise terminal.

Best parking spots at the port

Top of the terminal

If you have an early check-in time, you’ll be among the first to arrive at the cruise terminal. Even though 1,000 other passengers may have your same check-in time, there will be far less competition for a great parking spot compared to later in the day.

If your check-in time isn’t until 1PM and you plan to park your car in the lot, you’ll be stuck with the worst spots. Getting an early check-in time means you can snag the coveted spots near the entrance of the closest garage to the terminal.

Avoid parking garage delays

Terminal 3 in Port Canveral

It’s an all too common scenario: you’re ready to park your car but are stuck in a long, slow moving line of traffic. No one likes being stuck in traffic at any time, but especially when you’re ready to board your cruise!

Depending on your cruise ship, between three thousand and seven thousand people will board the ship on the same day. Managing thousands of people is never easy, and this can lead to crowds not only in the cruise terminal, but also in the parking garage.

Avoid delays to park your car by selecting an early check-in time. If you’re lucky, you’ll be among the first to park your car, which will surely be quicker than later in the afternoon.

Start your vacation sooner

Pool deck fun for kids

Who doesn’t want to start their vacation as soon as possible? Having an early check-in time for a Royal Caribbean cruise means you can get your vacation started earlier than other passengers.

The earlier you check-in and board your ship, the faster you can explore your ship, order your first cocktail by the pool, and hang out in a jacuzzi. With the earliest check-in times, it’s feasible to be onboard before 11:30AM, allowing you to make the most of your first day onboard.

Passengers with late check-in times—think 1:30 or 2PM—will feel a lot more rushed on embarkation day. After they get onboard and eat a quick lunch, they’ll have to rush to their eMuster safety drill station and get ready for dinner.

Why rush when you can relax? Reserve an early check-in time to kick your vacation off the right way.

Best selection of dining times

Royal Caribbean’s dining packages can offer a great value on specialty restaurants, but they come with one major disadvantage: you can’t make dining reservations until you board the ship.

This means you may be limited on dining times and restaurant availability compared to those who paid full price for each restaurant by booking their reservations without a dining package. And since dining packages are extremely popular, many other passengers will be rushing to make dining reservations on embarkation day.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Package

Popular dining times—from 6 to 7:30PM—can book up quickly. One way to snag the best dining times is by getting onboard early and immediately heading to a specialty restaurant. Luckily, you can make reservations for all specialty restaurants at a single location, so there’s no need to visit every single restaurant to book your dining time.

Note: The exception is with Izumi Hibachi. If you plan to make hibachi reservations, be sure to head to Izumi once onboard.

Beyond specialty dining, though, you can be among the first to head to the Main Dining Room to confirm or request reservations. If you have any questions about your dining time or would like to request a new table, you can do so before other passengers arrive.

Shorter lines for the buffet

Nothing screams “first day of a cruise” quite like rushing to the Windjammer for embarkation day lunch. Royal Caribbean’s buffet gets extremely busy on embarkation day as thousands of hungry passengers search for a quick lunch to start their vacation.

One of the best advantages to having an early check-in time is getting onboard before most other passengers, and this also means getting to the Windjammer more quickly. If you’re one of the first to board your cruise ship, you’ll encounter fewer lines and crowds at the buffet, making the start to your vacation much less hectic!

Related: Where can I eat on the first day of my Royal Caribbean cruise?

Alternatively, you could choose to dine elsewhere instead of the buffet. Other restaurants are open on embarkation day, from specialty dining venues like Chops Grille to quick grab and go spots like Park Cafe. While the Windjammer is convenient, it can be uncomfortably busy on the first day of your cruise.

Register kids at Adventure Ocean more quickly


Cruising with kids? If you plan to drop your kids off at Adventure Ocean, you can register them for the program on embarkation day.

Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean’s children's programming, is complimentary for ages 3-17, but all children must be registered. The best time to register kids for Adventure Ocean is on embarkation day, and registration opens around 12:30PM.

Related: 50 best cruising with kids tips & secrets

Registration only takes a few minutes, but you’ll want to avoid the lines you might find later in the afternoon. The earlier you register your kids at Adventure Ocean, the less you have to worry about, and the sooner you can start trying fun activities onboard.

Try activities before everyone else

Speaking of fun activities, the sooner you get onboard, the sooner you can try signature activities like the FlowRider, rock climbing wall, Skypad, and waterslides.

Not all passengers know that these activities are open as soon as you board the ship, leading to far fewer lines and wait times.

If you’re eager to try the zip line, head to the sports deck right after lunch. Unlike on a busy sea day, you might be one of the only passengers in line, allowing you to fly across the zip line several times in a row with no wait!

Be sure to confirm activity times in the Royal Caribbean app’s daily schedule to make sure the activity you’re interested in is open. We also recommend wearing tennis shoes on embarkation day if you plan to participate in sports activities.

Reserve entertainment and activities before other passengers

There are certain activities and production shows that must be reserved in advance, and spots can fill up quickly. Comedy shows, the escape room, and the North Star observation pod are all examples of activities that require a reservation.

Luckily, you can pre book some entertainment and activities ahead of time on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. Broadway shows, for example, can be reserved at no extra cost starting 30 days before your cruise. We recommend doing this to ensure you can reserve the best day and time that work for you.

Some activities, though, can only be reserved once onboard. If you’re sailing on a Quantum Class ship and want to try RipCord by iFLY, the ship’s indoor skydiving simulator, you’ll need a reservation. While you can reserve the paid option of this activity before your cruise (a 2 minute flight), the complimentary option (a 1 minute flight) is only available to book onboard.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

The limited amount of complimentary flights will fill up more quickly than you think, so having an early check-in time gives you a head start on reserving these activities.

Be the first at the pool

Crowded pool decks are a common sight on a cruise ship, but not on embarkation day. If you want to avoid crowds, pack your swimsuit in your carry-on bag and head to the pool right after you get onboard.

Embarkation day is perhaps the most empty you’ll see a cruise ship pool during your entire vacation. With so much happening on the first day, from exploring the ship to unpacking, many cruisers wait to use the pool until later in their cruise.

Related: 25 things you need to know for the first day on a cruise ship

Plus, most passengers don’t think to bring a bathing suit in their carry-on bag. If they dropped off their luggage with the porters at the cruise terminal, they’ll be swimsuit-less for the majority of embarkation day.

Even so, you can still encounter crowds at the pool on embarkation day, especially if you’re on a short weekend cruise. Having an early check-in time means you can eat lunch and change into your bathing suit before most other passengers have boarded the ship!

Hotel check-out

Many passengers stay at a hotel the night before their cruise begins, especially if they fly to the cruise port. Most hotels require you to check out around 11AM, which coincides perfectly with the earliest check-in times for a Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you need to check out of your hotel at 11AM but your check-in time at the terminal isn’t until 2PM, this could lead to several hours waiting around with your luggage.

Getting the earliest check-in time possible means you can wake up, have breakfast, and head to the cruise terminal as soon as you check out of your hotel.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Don't book the cheapest cruise you can find

09 Mar 2023

Listen to the Show

It's tempting to find pick a cruise based purely on price, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn't.

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

On this episode:
Running time:

Planning a cruise: What you need to know to get started

09 Mar 2023

Ready to plan your first cruise but not sure where to start?

Cruising is easier than it looks, but like any form of travel, there are lots of considerations and important do's and don'ts when it comes to doing it well.  After all, you're going to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, so you ought to get the most out of the investment.

From money saving advice to travel hacks to mistakes to avoid, here's our best advice on planning your first cruise so you can set yourself up for a super fun vacation.

Where you want to cruise to?

Allure of the Seas in Galveston cruise terminal

It's debatable what aspect of the cruise you should start with first, but I think it makes the most sense to pick which part of the world you want to visit on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Australia.  There are repositioning cruises and other sailings too, so there's lot of choices.

Many people that have never cruised before often have an idea in mind for where they want to sail to, so it makes sense to narrow your search to one region.

Allure of the Seas docked

There isn't a right or wrong choice, but there's no sense in going somewhere you aren't that interested in visiting just because it's cheaper.

You may pick one region and then decide to change to another region because of prices, logistics, or some other factor.  But it's easier to start with one area and plan from there.

More information


Icon of the Seas water park

We'd all love to book the most extravagant suite on the itinerary that visits the coolest places, but money is the ultimate equalizer when it comes to vacation, so you need to be realistic about what you can afford.

Like any vacation, you probably have a ballpark idea of how much you're willing to spend and it's a good idea to have that number in mind when picking the right cruise for you.

The truth is that the price of a cruise can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. For example, a 3-night weekend sailing for two adults can start as low as $550 for two adults. On the other hand, a splurge on an expansive multi-story suite could cost up to $80,000 for your entire family. 

Of course, the cost of a cruise can vary depending on itinerary, ship selection, how long you sail for, how many people are joining you onboard, and when your chosen date is. It’s important to do your research and compare different packages before selecting the best option for you.

You'll need to not only consider the cruise fare, but also shore excursions, getting to and from the ship, and other incidentals.

A cruise is one of the best vacation values out there because of everything included in your fare, but you need to realize how much more is going to cost extra and be able to afford all of it. New cruisers may be surprised to find many extras not included in a Royal Caribbean cruise, such as drink packages, internet access, shore excursions, spa services and more.

Having a budget in mind will help narrow your choices when you select a ship or cabin.

More information

How to choose a cruise ship

Royal Caribbean operates a fleet of almost 30 cruise ships, so you might be wondering how to pick the right cruise ship for you.

First and foremost, not every cruise ship is the same. In fact, many ships differ from their sister vessels of the same class!

There is no bad ship to pick, but you need to figure out which activities and amenities are important to you to figure out which ship has those.

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

In the first step, you determined which region you want to sail to, and that will dictate which subset of ships are available. If you want a summer Caribbean cruise, you may find many ships in Europe and that leaves you with less choices than a winter Caribbean cruise.

It's a good idea to make a list of the things you absolutely want to have on a cruise ship to help narrow the list. Some popular considerations include if a ship has:

  • Water slides
  • A nursery for toddlers & infants
  • Has lots for kids/teens to do
  • A Broadway show
  • Is one of the newest ships
  • Has a specific specialty restaurant

There's plenty more, but these are the usual things people think about when choosing a cruise.

Odyssey of the Seas at dusk

If you have kids, you might pick an Oasis Class or Quantum Class ship because of all the things there are to do for kids onboard.  But if you're seniors cruising as a couple, those same activities might not matter to you.

More information

Why is this ship so much cheaper/expensive than the others?

In your search, you may find one ship or sailing coming in significantly less than the rest. If you're like me, you might be wondering is there a good reason for one to be so much cheaper.

The pricing of any cruise relies on many factors, but usually it boils down to one of these:

  • How new or old the ship is
  • Which homeport it is sailing from
  • Overall demand for that particular sailing

In general, newer ships tend to cost more than older ships. This is just because newer vessels offer more to do, and they command a premium price.

In addition, certain homeports are less desirable than others.  Cruises from Florida's east coast tend to have higher prices than cruises from Florida's west coast, or Baltimore, or Galveston. This is because newer and bigger ships are on Florida's east coast, whereas older ships tend to sail from the other ports.

The exact itinerary can also play a role in pricing, as there can be less demand for cruises that are longer than 7-nights. This has more to do with family's abilities to take that much time off school or work.

How to choose a cruise ship cabin

Junior Suite on Harmony of the Seas

Related to your ship choice will be what type of stateroom you want to stay in.

There are lots of cabins across many categories. Rooms come in various sizes, layouts, views, and amenities. Just like the cruise ship, what matters to you is the important consideration here.

Oceanview cabin on Liberty of the Seas

There are four basic types of cabin categories:

  • Inside
  • Oceanveiw
  • Balcony
  • Suite

As you probably guessed, inside cabins cost the least but offer the smallest space and no outside views. A Royal Caribbean suite is the largest cabin with lavish furnishings and plenty of space, but will cost significantly more.

Royal Suite

When it comes to selecting an ideal cabin for a vacation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people will prioritize price over luxury, and others will rationalize a vacation is worth a splurge.

In choosing the best stateroom, weigh these factors:

Your vacation budget may dictate which cabin categories are within reach. Someone on a tight budget may not be able to even consider a balcony or suite.  But if you can spend more, then there's a wider range of choice.

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

For those looking to save money or make the most out of their time on board, an inside room might be the way to go. These rooms offer all the comforts of a traditional hotel room without having natural light or outdoor settings. Inside staterooms are generally more affordable than other options, but they still come with various amenities such as comfortable beds, private bathroom, and flat-screen television. 

If you want to take in some ocean views while onboard, an oceanview room could be just what you’re looking for. These staterooms come with large windows that allow you to enjoy plenty of natural light during your stay.

Of course, a balcony room has indoor and outdoor space at usually a very affordable rate (compared to suites). You'll get a private balcony that you can enjoy at your convenience. 

Royal Loft Suite

Finally, if you’d like the ultimate in luxury onboard experience then a suite might be the right choice for you. Suites come with extra amenities such as separate living areas and luxurious bathrooms equipped with spa-like showers or whirlpool tubs - perfect for taking some time out from sightseeing or partying! Plus many suites are located in prime locations on board giving you easy access to all that ship has to offer - from top-notch restaurants and bars to on-deck pools and entertainment venues.

If you’re going on a shorter cruise, it may not be worth investing in an expensive room – since you’ll likely be running around trying to enjoy as much as possible during your voyage.

Independence of the Seas at sunset at sea

But if you’re embarking on a longer journey, having a larger and more luxurious room can make all the difference in terms of comfort and relaxation. Having more space means being able to spread out and truly indulge in your cruise experience. You can take naps, read books or watch the beautiful landscape pass by from your private balcony – creating an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after the ship docks back home. 

More information

What to look for in a cruise price

Voyager of the Seas at dusk

Cruise ship prices are advertised as being simple, but when you dig in there are some important things you should know.

The price of a cruise will vary widely. Inside cabins can cost just a few hundred dollars, while some suites go for as much as $75,000

Almost any cabin you pick is based on double occupancy, so that means Royal Caribbean is assuming there will be two people in the room and charge you for each person. It doesn't matter how old these first two people are, the price doesn't change.

If you're looking to cruise by yourself as a solo cruiser, you will still have to pay a single supplement fee to make up for the loss of revenue from that second passenger in your room.  While there are studio cabins that don't have a single supplement fee, they are few and far between.

When you choose a cabin, Royal Caribbean may give you the choice of you picking a cabin or letting them pick.  By letting them pick, you'll get a guarantee cabin.  This means you will not get any cabin of lesser category, but the cruise line will pick it later.  

Guarantee cabins have an advantage of being cheaper, but the exact location is up to Royal Caribbean and you may end up with a room at the end of the ship, or an obstructed view.

The price of a cruise will include:

  • Cruise fare
  • Taxes
  • Port Fees

You optionally add gratuities or travel insurance to that cost. Then there's the extras we talked about earlier that are not included in your fare, such as wifi, beverages, excursions and more.


Equally important is the fare type you select. Royal Caribbean offers non-refundable and refundable cruise fare.

Just like an airplane ticket, non-refundable cruise fares are cheaper but come with penalties for cancelling or changing.  Refundable cruise fares allow changes, but you'll pay more overall.

Before deciding on any cabin or fare type, pay special attention to the cancellation policy.

One of the top first time cruise mistakes is booking a cruise and wanting to change or cancel it later. There are strict policies related to changing your reservation, so check when final payment date is, and what sort of penalties come with changing your mind later.

How to save money on a cruise

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

Before you book anything, there are a few ways you could knock off a few hundred dollars or more from your total cost.

Book as early as you can

Desk calendar

Try to book your cruise as early as you can because prices tend to be cheapest when booked early.  

If you can book a cruise 6, 12, or 18 months ahead of time, you can really get a much better price than someone that books closer to the sailing.

Plus, you'll have a greater selection of cabins.

Cruise during the shoulder season

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

One of my favorite ways to save money is go on a cruise during times of the year that most others cannot go.

Every region cruise ships visit have a peak season, low season, and shoulder season. 

Shoulder season is the time period between peak and low season when you'll find slightly cooler temperatures but at an affordable price point. This is a great option if you're looking for a balance between temperature and cost-effectiveness. 

Odyssey of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea

Prices will be higher in peak, and lower other times of the year.  But there can be tradeoffs of cruising in lower demand times of year, such as temperatures, crowds, or precipitation.

Book a guarantee cabin

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

If you're not picky about where your cabin is located on the deck, guarantee rooms can save lots of money.

Some people want to be in a specific location, but if you don't mind a longer walk from your room to the elevators, a guarantee cabin reservation might save a lot.

When you book a guarantee, you won't know your cabin location until closer to your sail date. There's no specific time Royal Caribbean will pick the room, as it could go right up until the day before your cruise. 

Purchase cruise add-ons and extras

Once you have your cruise booked, you'll want to tackle all the extra purchase you could buy.

Royal Caribbean gives guests two choices for its gratuities: pre-pay them before the cruise or get charged automatically every night of the cruise. 

Gratuities are compulsory and cover your stateroom attendant and dining room staff. It does not include gratuities for other crew members or purchases, such as drinks or spa services.

The advantage of pre-purchasing gratuities is you lock in the gratuity rate (in case the price goes up later), and it's one less charge on your final bill at the end of the cruise.

Travel insurance is an optional add-on that you can buy through Royal Caribbean or on your own through a third party.

Like all insurance, travel insurance is probably a waste until you need it, and then, it's the best investment you've ever made.

Hurricane aerial view

Travel insurance doesn't cover every scenario, but it does help a lot if there's unforeseen circumstances that require you to cancel a cruise (especially at the last minute). Without it, you'll be left with a major penalty for cancelling and lots of money lost on a vacation you didn't go on.  For piece of mind, I recommend travel insurance.

Next, you're up to the optional add-ons that can be purchased prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner website.

You can buy drink packages, dining packages, wifi, excursions and many other extras, and buying them in advance will cost you nothing more than if you bought it onboard. In fact, many of these items are cheaper if you buy them before the cruise.

How to pack for your cruise


What to pack for a cruise seems to give a lot of first time cruisers a lot of anxiety because they are worried they will be ostracized for not being properly dressed.

Yes, there are dress codes on Royal Caribbean ships, but they're far less stringent than it seems on paper.

Consult a cruise packing list for a good starting point on what you need to bring with you.

Whale watching in Sitka, Alaska

Also keep in mind the weather you're going to, as warm weather destinations will need more comfortable and lightweight clothing than a cruise to a cooler weather climate. Packing for an Alaska cruise involves much more than packing for a Bahamas cruise.

Think about what your plans are for each port you will visit, as well as what to wear to meals at the ship's restaurants.

Clothing steamer iron

You should also be aware of what things you cannot bring on a cruise ship because they are prohibited.

More information:

Do online check-in

If you want to make the check-in process as fast and easy as possible at the cruise terminal, be sure to download the Royal Caribbean app and do the online check-in process.

45 days before the cruise sails, you can get a check-in time via the app.  It's important to do this early to get a convenient time for you, and it's very simple via the app.

RC app

Use Royal Caribbean's app to do the check-in because the app has a a feature to scan your passport, saving you time from entering the information manually if you do it on a computer.

Completing all of these questions, and especially taking the photo, saves so much time in the cruise terminal.

How to find shore excursions

Family excursion in St Kitts

Your cruise ship will visit at least one port, with most cruises going to more than one, so you'll want to have plans for the day there.

When a cruise ship visits a port, you don't need to have a tour booked. You could disembark the ship and walk around on your own, but not every port is conducive to this approach because often cruise ports are far from a city or cultural center.

Your best bet is to book a tour before the cruise begins to assure yourself of a spot, and have a plan locked in to avoid wasting time figuring out what to do.

Royal Caribbean sells its own shore excursions through its website before the cruise, as well as onboard the ship.

Excursions through the cruise line are curated and generally reliable. Nearly all are run by third party operators, but they are vetted by Royal Caribbean to ensure it meets certain criteria. Plus, booking them is super simple through the website.

Of course, tours booked through the cruise line will probably cost more because the cruise line is taking a percentage of the cost for themselves. Plus, tours offered by the cruise line are not necessarily indicative of every type of activity available.

Paddle boarding in CocoCay

At CocoCay and Labadee, you can only book tours through Royal Caribbean.

Alternatively, you could book a tour on your own.

In any port you visit, there are a myriad of excursion operators that you can book through. You can usually find out about most of them through an internet search.

When booking a shore excursion on your own, it's important to look up reviews of them to determine how reliable and reputable they are. You want to make sure they're not a "fly by night" operation, and that you'll be able to get back to the ship before it departs.

This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that the all-aboard time your ship has is a requirement to be onboard, or you will be left behind.

One advantage Royal Caribbean shore excursions have is if a tour is running late, Royal Caribbean will ensure you get back to the ship.  If you book a tour on your own, it's up to you to figure out the logistics of getting back on time.

Martinique Suspension Bridge

My advice is look at what Royal Caribbean offers and then look at what you can book on your own and determine the best option for you. There isn't a right or wrong answer whether to book a shore excursion on your own or through the cruise line. Each has its pros and cons.

Regardless of who you book your tours through, it's critical to book your shore excursions before the cruise because tours often sell out.

More information

Royal Caribbean laundry services on your cruise

11 Feb 2023

When your clothes get dirty, soiled, or just need to be pressed, how do you handle laundry on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Navigator of the Seas in Miami

Going on vacation for even just a few days will likely result in a lot of dirty clothes, and you may want your options are to take care of wrinkles, stains, and what to expect if you want to have your clothes laundered.

Laundry options on a cruise ship are limited compared to on land, especially if you're used to doing it yourself.

Since keeping clothes clean and wrinkle-free is something a lot of cruisers worry about, here's what you can expect when it comes to cruise ship laundry.

Self-service laundry options

Clothes in a closet

If you'd like to do your own laundry on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you wont find any facilities to do it yourself.

Royal Caribbean does not offer any self-service laundry options. This includes washing machines or dryers.

Desk in a suite

Moreover, Royal Caribbean does not provide irons to use in any cruise staterooms.

Keep in mind that Royal Caribbean prohibits passengers from bringing irons onto the ship, because they are a fire hazard. It will be confiscated for the entire voyage.

Paid laundry and dry cleaning options

I cruised in a suite for the first time. Here are 5 things I learned from the experience–and 3 I'd do differently next time | Royal Caribbean Blog

While you wont be able to do laundry on your own, there are paid laundry services available to Royal Caribbean passengers.

Both washing and dry cleaning services are available on all Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

For either option, you need to provide your stateroom attendant with the clothes to be cleaned, as well as a form listening all the garments. Look for a bag and form hanging in your cabin closet that you can use.

Once you have the form filled out and the clothes in the bag, just leave it on your bed and the cabin attendant will pick it up at their next cleaning.

Royal Caribbean offers:

  • Wash & Press
  • Pressing only
  • Steaming only
  • Dry Clean & Press

 The cost of the order will be deducted from your SeaPass account.

How much does laundry cost on Royal Caribbean?

Royal Caribbean laundry price list

The exact price depends on which laundry service you want, if it's expedited or not, and the type of clothing.

Pressing or steaming only will be the least-expensive laundry option, with dry cleaning being the most expensive.

How long does it take for Royal Caribbean to do your laundry?

The standard turnaround time for laundry on a Royal Caribbean ship is the next day by 5:30pm. This assumes you drop the clothes off with your stateroom attendant the day before.

Royal Caribbean also offers same day laundry service at a 50% extra charge.

Same day service must be picked up before 11am, so that it can be done before 5:30pm.

Wash and fold specials

Royal Caribbean ships usually offer a "Wash & Fold" special, where you can get as many clothes washed and folded that you can fit in one bag for a fixed cost.

For $34.99, you get a bag (usually plastic) that you can fill to be washed and folded for $34.99. Royal Caribbean says you can "fit as much as you can into the bag provided."

Just as your stateroom attendant for this special, although it's also advertised in the Cruise Compass as well.

How to get free laundry on Royal Caribbean

One of the best Crown and Anchor Society perks are for passengers that are at least Diamond Plus actually get this for free once per cruise.

Read moreThe Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise

While not free, there are discounts for the Wash & Fold bag for Gold members and higher (basically anyone that's cruised before).

Sky Loft Suite

If you're staying in a suite (Grand Suite or above), you automatically qualify for complimentary clothes pressing for the first formal night only.

Since the first formal night is usually the second night of the cruise, all you need to do is ask your stateroom attendant about the service on the first day so that there is sufficient time for it the pressed and returned to you before formal night.

Read moreWhat are the Royal Caribbean suite perks?

Laundry hacks to clean clothes yourself

Family in dining room

While you wont find laundry machines you can use, there are a few ways to get laundry done on your own without paying the cruise line.

The tried-and-true method is to bring single-packet detergent on the cruise and then fill your sink up with water to wash small loads of laundry.

Wash the clothing in your sink and then hang the clothes to dry in your shower on the laundry line provided by the cruise line. This is best for undergarments and shirts, and kids clothing.

Balcony smooth seas

If the clothes don't dry fast enough, there is a hair dryer in the room you can use on anything that stubbornly won't dry.

Some cruisers on longer sailings (or back to back cruises) will bring their own clothes lines so they can dry more clothing at the same time.

Another idea is bring wrinkle-release spray that is useful for keeping clothes looking good after being packed away in your suitcase.

Cruise ship passengers are booking activities months earlier than in 2019 - and paying more too

09 Feb 2023

It's not your imagination: more people are booking up activities and things to do before their cruise than ever before.

Liberty of the Seas

If your approach to cruising has been to wing it and leave things to the last minute, you're likely going to face an uphill battle going forward if you want to try certain activities onboard.

One of the interesting anecdotes to come out of Royal Caribbean Group's quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts was a revelation about how soon customers are booking things to do on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty talked about a change his company is seeing in how far in advance people book up experiences once booked on a cruise, "Approximately 60% of our guests book some of their onboard activities in advance of their cruise, representing double digit growth in pre-cruise purchase penetration when compared to 2019 at significantly higher rates."

Aerial view of CocoCay from balloon

So not only are people booking things sooner, they're also willing to pay more for it.

Prices of shore excursions, drink packages, and just about anything you can reserve before a cruise have anecdotally gone up by cruise fans.  The exact price of these items varies from ship to ship and sailing to sailing, but without a doubt, prices are generally higher for 2023 cruises compared to a few years ago.

This is exactly what Royal Caribbean wants from a business standpoint, because people that book things early generate more revenue for the cruise line.

"Every dollar a guest spends before the cruise translates into about $0.70 when they sail with us, and over double the overall spending when compared to other guests," said Mr. Liberty during the call.

Casita on Wonder of the Seas

While the dollars and cents of the cruise industry business may not matter much to you, the trend of booking earlier should.

Royal Caribbean offers many different activities and things to do on a cruise, and these are quite popular.

Chill Island cabanas

Cabana rentals, shore excursions, culinary classes and more are popular among cruise ship guests, and Royal Caribbean sees more people booking them sooner.  This puts people that wait to the last minute at a disadvantage if they want to lock in these activities for themselves.

"Our guests are now engaging with us to book on board activities much earlier than in 2019."

"So far, guests booked on 2023 sailings purchased onboard experiences an average of more than two months earlier than in 2019."

For the company, they see this as a win-win for the company and passengers, "This translates into more revenue, stickier bookings and happy guests."


What's driving this change? Royal Caribbean thinks at least part of it is a consumer that is more comfortable making online purchases.

"The consumer at all different levels have gotten more comfortable using digital commerce to make their purchases," Mr. Liberty said.

Higher prices for cruises too

Symphony of the Seas docked at CocoCay

Besides excursions, wifi, and drink packages, the price for a cruise will cost you more than in 2019.

At the onset of the earnings call, Mr. Liberty talked about how cruise prices cost more today, "Pricing for our vacation experiences was higher than record 2019 levels when we operated with normalized occupancy."

North American itineraries in particular are trending up in terms of costs, which is where about 70% of its deployments are in 2023.

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

"From a cumulative standpoint, these itineraries are now booked at the same load factor as they were in 2019 and at higher prices," Mr. Liberty stated.

So far in 2023, Royal Caribbean Group has enjoyed busier than normal cruise bookings during wave season, which is an industry term for a popular time to book new cruises.

Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona

Demand has been so strong that even higher prices haven't diminished interest in new bookings.

"The demand is that is that strong that we're able to raise price across these different products and really not seeing a pullback from the consumer as we continue to do so."

"And that is really a reflection of what we've seen since our last earnings call, or really since the announcement of the protocols being dropped."

"Just acceleration and the propensity to cruise across all three categories of new to cruise, first to brand first cruise has returned and in many cases is better than what we saw pre-COVID."

More helpful information

How a cruise is totally different from other kinds of vacations

02 Feb 2023

A cruise ship vacation offers an experience that in many ways is completely different from land vacations, which is actually a benefit.

Mariner of the Seas docked in Labadee

Cruise lines consider their primary competition not other cruise lines, but rather, land vacations. To that point, they have ensured that the experience and value differs enough from their land-based alternatives in order to highlight the advantages a cruise has.

When comparing a cruise to a land trip, you'll find some inherit nuances and differences between cruises and other forms of travel. For many people that choose to cruise, these subtleties are a compelling rationale to cruise instead.

From value to entertainment to experiences, here are the major ways a cruise vacation is completely different from a land vacation.

Cruises are still the best value

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

When you consider that a cruise ship is a floating hotel that includes meals, snacks, shows, and transportation during your voyage, it's easy to see how much more value a cruise vacation has over a land vacation.

If you choose to visit a theme park or city, you'll not only need to pay for lodging, but also be on the hook for food and activities.

Cruises include much of that in their cruise fare.  There are certainly optional add-ons that will cost you extra on a cruise, such as specialty dining or excursions, but more is included with the base cost than on land.

Odyssey of the Seas pool at night

To illustrate that point, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors in November 2022 that the value gap is sizeable, "We've seen this 40% gap to land-based vacation [this year]. It used to be about 20%"

When travel insurance comparison site compared the price of a land vacation to a cruise, it noted customers were paying about 30% less for cruises, with the average land trip costing $6,426 — $1,469 more than the average cruise.

When you consider a mass-market cruise line like Royal Caribbean to land-based hotels and resorts, the value offered is hard to beat.

Sunrise at sea

Part of that gap is because land resorts have seen their prices sky rocket, despite the global health crisis of the last few years.  Meanwhile, cruise ship prices did not move much at all during the same time.

While cruise ship prices are certainly on their way up now, a cruise vacation remains a terrific value.

People are more social on cruises

If you've ever walked through a hotel versus a cruise ship, you'll probably get more greetings and get to know your fellow passengers on a cruise ship.

So many cruise ship activities result in passengers participating together, such as shore excursions, shows, and even just sharing a table in a dining room.

The result is you're likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger on a cruise ship more than on land.

Similar to being at a bar on land, there's more opportunity on a cruise ship to be seated next to someone you don't know and that tends to breed conversations.

People that cruise a lot will tell you the friendships they've formed on cruise ships have been life changing in many cases. Passengers meet someone in a lounge or bar, and they become good friends and they end up cruising with.

Even if you don't find your BFF on a cruise ship, the nature of being with other people on a cruise ship in certain situations tends to lead to far more conversations with strangers than I've found when I'm on land.

Stateroom door decorations

Cabin door decorations

One phenomenon of cruising is that some passengers will decorate their cabin door, which is something I've rarely (if ever) seen on land.

I'm not sure where or when this cruising tradition began, but a great number of passengers will bring print-outs, magnets, and all sorts of decor to attach to their stateroom cabin.

Many first time cruisers are unaware of this tradition, but I've seen plenty of them that love the idea and make plans to do it also on their next cruise.

Door decorations

Stateroom door decorations are a fun way to share your excitement about the cruise, as well as convey to others special occasions you're celebrating, or who you're cruising with.

In short, it's a fun excuse to celebrate being on vacation and you probably won't see the same at your land hotel.

Incredible customer loyalty benefits

Diamond Club sign

If you compare a cruise line's customer loyalty benefits to any hotel or resort's program, I think you'll be shocked how much more cruise ship guests get.

Using Royal Caribbean as an example, after just one cruise, you're entitled to a number of discounts that you can use every day of the cruise. The Crown and Anchor Society perks for Gold members include:

  • 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda
  • 25% off any coffee beverage
  • 10% off any wine, beer or soda by the glass

Once you hit the higher tiers, the perks really start to come in, such as free photos, discounts on balcony cabins, wifi plan discounts, and even free alcoholic beverages every day of the cruise.

Read moreThe Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise

Good luck finding any kind of similar benefits at a land based resort or hotel, even at their top levels.

You're somewhere different every day

Aruba beach

It's pretty obvious a cruise ship will take you somewhere different every day, but this is a really big advantage for a cruise ship vacation.

When you do a land vacation, you pick a city, town, or resort and you're there for the duration of the trip.  While that place may be wonderful, variety is the spice of life, and being able to move around and see other places means more opportunity to mix things up.

You could do a beach day in one port, but then take in the culture and history of another.  Or double down on the beach. It's up to you.

El Morro

Not to mention the fact that if a hurricane is headed for where you're going on a cruise, the ship can go elsewhere.  On land, you're stuck.

Beyond the weather, a cruise affords you the opportunity to visit cities and places in short order that are otherwise difficult to get to on your own. A great example are Alaska cruises, which visit cities, towns, and glaciers that are so remote it would be a more difficult task to see them on land.

And while you could travel around on a land vacation to try to replicate the same experience on land, you only have to unpack once on a cruise!

You don't have to worry about where to stay

Grandeur of the Seas hallway

If there's one aspect of planning a land vacation that gives a lot of travelers anxiety, it's where to stay to ensure it's clean, safe, and a good location.

With a cruise, you don't have to worry about picking a hotel in a bad part of town, or that the hotel you chose is rated poorly.

Royal Caribbean cruises in February 2023: What to expect

31 Jan 2023

Despite February having the fewest days of any month, there are still plenty of Royal Caribbean cruises you can sail on this month.

This article is an effort to share what you need to know about going on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the month of February, with important news, tips, and helpful information along the way.

With the exception of President's Day holidays in the middle of the month, February is generally a slower month in terms of demand for cruises since school is in session.

Friday Photos - February 8, 2019 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Deal hunters will find good prices in the first two weeks, and the last week.

President's Week can see more families hopping on a cruise since there is either a long weekend or the entire week off for many schools.

Ships sailing in February 2023

How to tell if your Royal Caribbean ship is almost full | Royal Caribbean Blog

  • Freedom of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Anthem of the Seas from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
  • Allure of the Seas from Galveston, Texas
  • Symphony of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Independence of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Harmony of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Liberty of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Adventure of the Seas from Galveston, Texas
  • Explorer of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Navigator of the Seas from Los Angeles, California
  • Spectrum of the Seas from Singapore
  • Grandeur of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Enchantment of the Seas from Baltimore, Maryland
  • Radiance of the Seas from New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Serenade of the Seas from Tampa, Florida
  • Voyager of the Seas from San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Quantum of the Seas from Brisbane, Australia
  • Ovation of the Seas from Sydney, Australia
  • Oasis of the Seas from Miami, Florida
  • Brilliance of the Seas from Tampa, Florida
  • Wonder of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida
  • Odyssey of the Seas from from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Vision of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Rhapsody of the Seas from Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Jewel of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida

Health protocols for February 2023 cruises

The top questions people want to know about crew members on a cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean's health protocols have not changed this winter, and they're fairly straight forward.

If your cruise doesn't visit Colombia or sail from Australia, pre-cruise testing is no longer required to sail.

Royal Caribbean changes Covid-19 vaccine requirements for cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

At this time, only the following sailings have pre-cruise testing requirements:

Cruises from the U.S. and Caribbean with stops in Colombia

Guests age 18 and up who are not fully vaccinated will need to present a negative result for a PCR test taken within 3 days or an antigen test taken within 2 days prior to sailing.

Guests under the age of 17 and fully vaccinated guests do not have have any testing requirements.

Tests must be arranged on your own and are at your own expense.

Cruises from Australia

All guests aged 2 and above, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative test result for a COVID-19  PCR test taken within 2 days before boarding day, or a self-administered Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) within 1 day before boarding, for sailings of any length.

February weather on a cruise

Do's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay | Royal Caribbean Blog

February should be a little bit warmer than January, but it's still typically more comfortable outdoors than other months of the year,

High temperatures in the Caribbean in February are in the 70s, although it can drop as low as the 60s in The Bahamas. The Southern Caribbean is going to be the warmest, with high temperatures in the low 80s.

There is a good argument for February having some of the best weather of the year in the Caribbean because of the lower humidity levels, low rainfall, and generally comfortable weather outdoors. It's great for doing outdoor shore excursions without feeling excessively sweaty after.

Royal Caribbean celebrates one year anniversary of Perfect Day at CocoCay opening | Royal Caribbean Blog

While the weather may be lovely in the tropics, winter storms are still very prevalent back at home, which is why you want to be sure to arrive at least one day before your cruise so that if your travel plans are interrupted, you don't miss your cruise.

Read morePacking for a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Winter

Is it warm enough to swim? Yes, albeit it won't be the most ideal pool or beach swimming conditions.

Average water temperatures throughout the Caribbean hover around 80 degrees (27 C), which is on the cooler side for the year, but not drastically cooler than the summer months.

Is February a good month to go on a cruise?


The best thing about taking a cruise in February is you get to escape the winter cold that by now has become a tired trend.

Similar to January, you'll find low prices on cruises in February (if you can avoid the holiday in the month). This is especially true of 4- and 5-night cruises that leave on weekdays.

If there's a negative to taking a February cruise, it's getting to your cruise could be a challenge. With winter in full swing, snow and ice storms around the country can impact your ability to fly to your cruise on time.  

It's extra important to fly into your cruise departure city at least one day early to protect against travel delays.

Super Bowl on a cruise

Yes, you can watch the Super Bowl on a cruise ship. In fact, it becomes a kind of big party around the ship to watch the big game.

Since a lot of passengers will want to watch the game, Royal Caribbean typically shows the game all around the ship at many venues. Depending on your ship, the game can be shown in bars, the pool deck movie screen and even in the Royal Theater. Exact locations will be posted in the Cruise Compass for that day.

In addition to showing the game in various spots, there will be typical football watching snacks as part of a "tailgate party" offering.  These have included hot dogs, nachos, chips and more. 

Read moreGuide to watching the Super Bowl on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Best cruises in February 2023

Liberty of the Seas

Ready to pick a great sailing in February? It's the perfect month to getaway from the winter cold and enjoy a warm Caribbean beach instead!

Ideally, you'll book a cruise many months in advance to get the lowest possible rate, but a last-minute cruise deal for February still exists.

Here are a few picks for a great February sailing:

  • 3-night Ensenada cruise on Navigator of the Seas cruise from Los Angeles February 21, 2023
  • 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Grandeur of the Seas February 5, 2023
  • 11-night Southern Caribbean cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas February 5, 2023
  • 4-night Bahamas & Perfect Day at CocoCay cruise on Freedom of the Seas February 21, 2023

The ultimate cruise itinerary for first timers: from 3 nights to 3 weeks

30 Jan 2023

What is the perfect cruise for a first-timer?

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

Choosing a cruise ship, length, and itinerary are the first decisions you’ll make when planning a Royal Caribbean cruise. Everything from 3-night cruises to 18-night itineraries are available on Royal Caribbean, and as a first-time cruiser, it can be confusing to know which itinerary to book.

Where should you visit? How many nights should you book? Should you spend time in your embarkation port before the cruise? These are all questions you’ll ask yourself before booking a cruise, and luckily, it’s hard to go wrong with any cruise vacation.

Nonetheless, there are a few itineraries that work perfectly for first-time cruisers. To help you plan your first cruise, here are a few suggestions of cruises to book, from 3-nights to 3 weeks.

Best 3-night cruise: Weekend cruise to the Bahamas

Although we’d usually recommend a weeklong cruise for first-timers, a 3-night cruise can also be a great option. 3-night weekend cruises start on Friday afternoon and end on Monday morning, and they offer a sampling of what a Royal Caribbean cruise has to offer.

The majority of 3-night cruises leave from Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. The itineraries visit two ports in the Bahamas: Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, is the highlight of a 3-night cruise. This Bahamian paradise offers white sand beaches, a large pool, a waterpark, exclusive beach club, kids pool areas, and private cabanas.

Related: 40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks, and secrets

Most importantly, almost all activities and areas of the island are included in your cruise fare (including food) and your Royal Caribbean drink packages work on shore.

Perfect Day at CocoCay beach

What makes this island so great for first-time cruisers is that very little planning is needed beforehand. While you can book a day pass to Thrill Waterpark or the Coco Beach Club, you can just as easily get off the ship with no plan, head to the beach, and have a perfect day.


Nassau, located on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, is one of the world’s most popular cruise ports. The island features world-class, picturesque beaches along its perimeter, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach.

Related: Best things to do in Nassau on a cruise

Nassau has excellent snorkeling opportunities as well. Popular excursions include visits to Blue Lagoon Island and Pearl Island, which include roundtrip transportation from your cruise ship to the islands’ crystal clear waters.

Many visitors to Nassau spend the day at an all-inclusive resort. offers day passes to popular resorts near the port, including RIU Palace, Margaritaville, and Baha Bay Waterpark.

We recommend planning your day in Nassau before your 3-night cruise begins to ensure you select the excursion or activity that best suits your travel preferences.

More Nassau tips & tricks:

Which ships sail 3-night cruises from Florida?

3-night Bahamas cruises are regularly scheduled every weekend on these three ships:

All three ships belong to Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class and hold around 4,000 passengers. These ships may not be as big as Royal Caribbean’s largest Oasis and Quantum Class ships, but they offer a perfect mix of fun and relaxation onboard.

Waterslides, ice-skating rinks, bungee trampolines, FlowRider surf simulators, an escape room, and mini golf are just some of the activities available on Freedom Class ships. Outside of these thrill-seeking activities, you’ll find pools, an adults-only Solarium, and a selection of diverse restaurants and bars.

Related: Guide to weekend cruises: Tips for taking a 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise

As another plus, both Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas recently received significant refurbishments, adding Royal Caribbean’s most modern venues and activities onboard.

Why 3-night cruises are a nice option for first-time cruisers

3-night cruises can make a nice “sampling” of a cruise vacation. They are perfect for those apprehensive about cruising, as they don’t require booking a long trip, yet still offer the best Royal Caribbean has to offer, including thrilling activities, high-quality entertainment, and diverse dining options.

As another plus, 3-night cruises don’t require taking much time off work or school, especially for those who live near a cruise port. It truly makes the perfect “weekend escape” away from the daily grind back home.

Related: Is it worth it to book a short 3-night cruise?

The downsides of 3-night cruises, however, are that the price per night is typically higher than longer sailings, and that it may not be “worth it” to travel far distances to the cruise port for such a short cruise. If you’re flying from Montana to Florida for a cruise, for example, you’re better off booking a longer sailing.

Best 1-week cruise: 6, 7, or 8-night Caribbean cruise

Boardwalk on Wonder of the Seas

More often than not, a weeklong cruise is the perfect option for first-timers. Booking an itinerary with 6, 7, or 8 nights onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise allows you to both see a variety of destinations and enjoy ample time on the ship.

Weeklong cruise itineraries are offered around the world, but some of the best itineraries for first-time cruisers leave from Florida ports and visit the Caribbean. While west coast cruisers may prefer a cruise from Seattle or Los Angeles, our top recommendation for others is to sail out of Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami.

There are two main weeklong cruise itineraries from Florida:

  • 7-night Western Caribbean cruise
  • 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise

7-night Western Caribbean itineraries visit 4 ports: Roatan, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Perfect Day at CocoCay. Ports may also include Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Belize.

Related: How to choose the right Caribbean cruise sailing

7-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries typically visit 3 ports, which vary between St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Nassau, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Labadee, San Juan, Puerto Plata, Tortola, and Antigua.

6 and 8-night cruises are also great options for first-time cruisers booking a weeklong sailing. 6-night cruises, while shorter, can still offer a mix of exciting ports with relaxing sea days, and are offered to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Related: Ultimate Mexico Cruise Guide

8-night cruises, on the other hand, often visit Southern Caribbean ports such as Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire. The extra day on 8-night itineraries provides more travel time to reach these islands.

Which ships sail weeklong cruises from Florida?

The majority of Royal Caribbean’s fleet offers weeklong cruises from Florida at one point or another during the year. For first-time cruisers, though, we suggest a cruise on a Quantum or Oasis Class ship.

These two classes of ships are Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest, and offer the features showcased on all Royal Caribbean television commercials. Zip lines, surfing simulators, indoor skydiving, open-air parks, and an AquaTheater are just a few of the mind-blowing amenities found on these ships.

Related: All about Oasis Class cruise ships

Sailing on a Quantum or Oasis Class ship is the best choice for first-time cruisers worried about feeling “bored” on a cruise. There’s very little chance (if any) you’ll ever feel bored on one of these ships, and they offer the widest range of entertainment, dining venues, and cabin options in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Why weeklong cruises are a nice option for first-time cruisers

The longer itinerary of weeklong sailings provides extra time to travel to ports further from the United States, meaning you can experience a wider range of cultures and scenery than on a shorter sailing. Visiting ports like Cozumel, St. Thomas, and Labadee are not possible on short weekend cruises.

You’ll also have more time to immerse yourself in Royal Caribbean’s onboard experience, from attending nightly entertainment shows to spending sea days at the pool.

3, 4, and 5-night cruises can often feel too short, and many first-time cruisers find that by the time they become familiar with the cruise experience, it’s already time to return home. On a weeklong cruise, you won’t feel pressured to rush from activity to activity, allowing you to fully relax onboard while not “missing out” on anything throughout the week.

Best 3-week trip: Combining a cruise with a land vacation

Most Royal Caribbean cruises are under 10 nights, but if you’re planning a longer vacation, there are ways to extend a cruise with a land-based trip.

If you have two or three weeks to spare, consider booking a longer cruise and combining it with a land vacation. Many of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ports are in some of the world’s most famous cities, so we recommend spending time in your embarkation port (or surrounding areas) before your cruise begins.

You can book a cruise to 12-night Greece, for example, and spend several days in Rome or Athens before the cruise. Likewise, you could sightsee around Hollywood before embarking on a 7-night cruise from Los Angeles.

Here are our top recommendations for turning a Royal Caribbean cruise into a longer 2-3 week vacation.

Caribbean cruises

Magic Kingdom in Disney World

Conflicted on whether to visit Disney World or book a Royal Caribbean cruise? Why not both?

If you’re cruising from Port Canaveral, spend time in Disney World or Universal Studios before your cruise. Visiting Orlando means popular parks like Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Islands of Adventure are at your fingertips.

Related: How to get to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise

We recommend booking the cruise after your trip to Disney World or Universal Studios. It’s likely you’ll feel exhausted after several days of theme parks, and a cruise vacation will be much appreciated.


Alaska cruises are extremely popular; they provide a comfortable way to travel through the state’s scenic Inside Passage. While most itineraries are round trip sailings, some are one-way cruises starting in Vancouver and ending in Seward, Alaska (and vice versa).

Starting a 7-night Alaska cruise in Vancouver means you’ll have a weeklong cruise to 4-5 diverse Alaska ports, such as Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, and Sitka.

Related: Alaska cruise guide

On the last day of the cruise, itineraries cross the Gulf of Alaska to Seward, Alaska. While you could return home once the cruise ends, many passengers spend time in Alaska’s interior after the sailing.

One way to extend your time in Alaska is to rent an RV and road trip to Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. Other options include booking a guided Cruise Tour directly through Royal Caribbean or renting a cabin in a coastal Alaska town.

It’s easy to spend 1-2 weeks in Alaska’s interior, which offers a vastly different experience compared to the Inside Passage.


A wonderful way to visit Europe is on a cruise. How else is it possible to spend Monday in Spain, Tuesday in France, and Wednesday in Italy? Traveling so quickly from place to place is difficult to achieve on a land-based vacation.

Plus, you won’t have to worry about transportation logistics while cruising, making your time in Europe that much more enjoyable.

That being said, there are a few downsides to cruising Europe, the biggest of which is having limited time in ports. It’s difficult to properly visit cities like Rome, Paris, and Barcelona in just 10 hours on a European cruise. Visiting the historic landmarks of these cities can easily require several days.

Related: 30 best European cruise tips


Because of this, many cruisers prefer combining a European cruise with a land-based vacation. You can book a 12-night Holy Land cruise from Rome, for example, and spend a week in Italy before your cruise begins.

Alternatively, you could fly to London a week before a cruise from Southampton, giving you plenty of time to visit sites like Stonehenge, Windsor, and the Roman Baths.

It’s easy to plan several days or weeks of land-based travel before a European cruise to see more of the continent on your vacation.

Why hybrid land and cruise vacations are great for first-time cruisers

Many first-time cruisers are concerned about having limited time in each cruise port. If they have only experienced land-based vacations in the past, only having 8-10 hours in port may feel extremely limited.

And while most first-time cruisers are surprised with just how much they can experience on a single port day, planning a land-based portion of the trip in combination with a cruise offers the perfect blend of travel styles.

The land portion of a trip can be done at a slower pace than a cruise ship port day, and you’ll gain a better understanding of a region’s culture, cuisine, and history. There’s no set schedule to adhere to when traveling on your own, meaning you can spend extra time at a museum, restaurant, or attraction without worrying about missing the ship.

These hybrid vacations work nicely when traveling far distances to reach a cruise port. If you’re flying across the world for a cruise, it makes sense to add a few days to your vacation in order to make the most of the long flight.

15 things I look forward to every time I go on a cruise ship

24 Jan 2023

The anticipation of a cruise vacation is almost as fun as the trip itself. With endless food, diverse destinations, impeccable service, and impressive entertainment options, boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise is nothing short of exciting.

Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or planning your very first cruise, you’ll find certain aspects of the vacation stand out more than the rest. Some cruisers can’t wait to watch shows each evening whereas others look forward to elegant dinners and tranquil evenings on their balcony more than anything else.

Regardless of your cruising style and preferences, there’s plenty to be excited for on any Royal Caribbean cruise. These are the top 15 things I look forward to every time I go on a cruise ship.

An escape from the ordinary

Seniors and parents

Boarding a Royal Caribbean cruise transports you far away from day to day life back at home. There’s no need to worry about sitting in traffic, going grocery shopping, or answering work emails. Instead, your biggest worries of the day will be whether to order spaghetti bolognese or steak for dinner (why not both?).

Escaping the normalcy of life at home is always one of the things I look forward to every time I go on a cruise ship. I love waking up in a new place each day, meeting new people, and enjoying three-course meals every evening.

The post-cruise depression really sets in when I settle back into the routine of cooking, cleaning, and working upon returning home, but it’s always worth it.

A schedule of fun activities

Cruise Compass in hand

As a kid, I loved attending summer camp, where I could participate in a schedule of fun activities like arts and crafts, dodgeball, and rock climbing. A Royal Caribbean cruise, with its daily schedule of activities in the Cruise Planner, often feels like a summer camp for adults, and I absolutely love it.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

While no one is obliged to participate in any activities on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I find that having a schedule of things to do at nearly every hour of the day is amazing. From trivia to scrapbooking classes, pickleball tournaments, and cocktail seminars, I’m always impressed by the variety of programming available onboard.

I’m usually more of a go-with-the-flow type of traveler, but whenever I’m on a Royal Caribbean ship I religiously check the Cruise Planner to see which fun activities are coming up next.

Visiting new ports

One of the best aspects of cruising for me is the opportunity to explore new destinations. I always prefer booking an itinerary that visits places I’ve never been to before, allowing me to experience the childlike sense of discovery that comes with exploring somewhere new.

Cruising is unique compared to land-based vacations in that you can experience vastly different destinations each day. Exploring the Basque country of Spain on Monday and quaint French towns on Tuesday is something you can’t experience as easily on a land-based trip, and that's something I love most about cruising.

Indian food

Indian curry on Mariner of the Seas

Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines; the spicy, aromatic, unique blend of flavors paired with rice and naan perfectly aligns with my palette. One thing I always look forward to when I board a Royal Caribbean cruise is the variety of Indian food I can enjoy during my sailing.

Related: Top 10 insider tips for Royal Caribbean’s Main Dining Room

You can find Indian food on Royal Caribbean ships in both the Windjammer buffet and Main Dining Room. The Windjammer always has several options available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including chana masala (my personal favorite), butter chicken, and egg bhurji.

Indian dishes are offered in the Main Dining Room, too, but are not always on the menu, so ask your server which Indian dishes are available for your meal.


Unlimited food is synonymous with cruising, and I’ll put Royal Caribbean’s desserts near the top of my list on what I look forward to every time I go on a cruise ship.

As someone with a huge sweet tooth, I feel like a kid in a candy store anytime I’m onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. Molten chocolate cake? Tiramisu? Unlimited soft serve ice cream? I’ll skip dinner and head straight to dessert!

Related: Top desserts to try on Wonder of the Seas

Don’t even get me started on the fried cheesecake from 150 Central Park, one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure to try. Royal Caribbean simply kills the dessert game, and I’m all here for it.

Live music

Couple at Mason Jar

The convenience of finding live music onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship cannot be understated, and this is one of the things I look forward to most every time I sail. It’s extremely easy to find impressive musicians around the ship, whether acoustic guitar in the pub or piano tunes at Schooner Bar.

On any given day on a cruise ship–even on Royal Caribbean’s smallest ships–you’ll find live music. While most performances are during the evening, it’s common to find music throughout the day as well, such as a reggae band on the pool deck or classical guitar player at Vintages wine bar.

The service

Dining room waiter

I’ve never experienced the level of service you receive on a Royal Caribbean cruise anywhere on land.

Whether it’s the incredible service from my stateroom attendant, attentive waiters in the main dining room, or just conversing with bartenders, the incredible service from Royal Caribbean’s crew members is something I look forward to every time I board a ship.

Adjusting back to "normal" customer service is one of the hardest parts about returning home!

Ice skating shows

The ice skating shows on Royal Caribbean ships are vastly underrated. I always hear passengers discussing their favorite Broadway musicals or AquaTheater performances onboard, but rarely the ice skating shows.

Maybe it’s the former gymnast in me, but I love watching the twists, tricks, and flips put on by the talented ice cast. I’ll never get tired of watching back flips on ice, triple axels, and the nerve-wracking headbanger skill–during which a skater’s head comes dangerously close to the ice.

I’ll admit I don’t always understand the storyline of the ice skating shows, but you’ll still always catch me reserving the first show of the cruise on any Royal Caribbean ship.

Meeting crew members

Crew member smiling at the bar

Royal Caribbean crew members are from all over the world, and one thing I always look forward to when boarding a cruise is conversing with the crew onboard.

I’ve gotten to know several crew members during my time onboard, from bartenders to my stateroom attendant and waiters. I always love hearing about their lives back home, how they ended up working on cruise ships, and what their favorite destinations have been.

Chatting with crew members is one of the most interesting aspects of cruising for me. After all, where else can you have a conversation with people from the United States, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey, India, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia in one place?

My home away from home

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Coming back to your cabin after a long day exploring port is a wonderful feeling, and my cruise cabin always feels like my home away from home by the end of the sailing.

Even in the smallest of interior cabins, I feel much more “at home” in a cruise cabin compared to a standard hotel room. Maybe it’s the cozy size (or perhaps the escape from the busy atmosphere found elsewhere onboard), but I always look forward to spending time in my cabin on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Sunsets at sea

One place you’ll always find me during sunset on a cruise ship is lounging in a pool chair near the jogging track. I love the quiet, peaceful environment of the pool deck once most passengers have gone to dinner, and the upper pool deck is arguably the best spot to catch views of the sunset.

Related: The best spot for sailaway on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship

I make it a point to watch the sunset nearly every evening onboard, whether from the pool deck, the helicopter pad, or the dining room. And with a cocktail in hand? Even better.

Spending time with friends and family

I find cruises to be the perfect vacation to enjoy with friends and family. They offer the ideal mix of structure and freedom, allowing each member of the family to choose how they would like to spend their day.

I live across the country from most of my family, so I always cherish the time we can spend together when cruising, whether in the Caribbean, Europe, or Alaska. I’ve also had the chance to cruise with some of my best friends who live across the country (or across the ocean) from me.

There's something extra special about making memories with your loved ones on a cruise, and I can't wait to explore more of the world with my friends and family in the future.

Trying new cocktails

Frozen cocktail

Before I started cruising, my repertoire of cocktails was minimal at best. I found myself ordering the same basic cocktails anywhere I went without knowing better. While gin and tonics are great, they’re a bit boring compared to the signature drinks you’ll find on a Royal Caribbean ship.

One thing I look forward to on every cruise is trying new cocktails, whether a standard piña colada or something more unique, such as a PB&J old fashioned or cucumber martini.

Related: Top 10 cocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Plus, if you have a Deluxe Beverage Package or Crown & Anchor Society drink vouchers, you can try a variety of cocktails without worrying about whether or not you’ll like the drink.

I’ve “wasted” several drink vouchers on cocktails I haven’t enjoyed, but on the flip side I’ve ordered cocktails I was skeptical about which have since become my favorite drinks!


Funny enough, one of my favorite activities to attend on a cruise ship is karaoke. While I’m too shy to get on the stage myself, the energy and performances at karaoke on a cruise ship are unmatched.

In fact, I find myself spending nearly every evening at karaoke on some sailings. Some of the best cruises for this are short 3 and 4-night itineraries from South Florida. These sailings tend to have a higher party atmosphere than other cruises, leading to some seriously fun performances at karaoke.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay seen from ship

While I don’t visit Perfect Day at CocoCay every time I cruise, it’s something I always look forward to whenever the port is on my itinerary.

Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas lives up to its name: it’s absolutely perfect. White sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and the stunning Oasis Lagoon pool make the island a fantastic place to spend the day.

Two cruise ships at CocoCay

What I appreciate about Perfect Day at CocoCay is that you don’t need to spend anything extra once on the island. Beach chairs, umbrellas, food, and several non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary. In addition, there are plenty of activities for guests of all ages, including Splashaway Bay for kids and a sports area with basketball, volleyball, and other beach games.

And if you do want to spend extra while on the island? There’s a wide selection of add-ons to book, from private cabana rentals to an adrenaline-packed day at Thrill Waterpark.

Read more about Perfect Day at CocoCay:

What do you look forward to most whenever you board a Royal Caribbean cruise? Let us know in the comments below!

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