Planning

Video: What's new on Royal Caribbean if you haven't cruised in a few years

In:
Category: 
18Feb2020

Has it been a few years since your last Royal Caribbean cruise?

If so, welcome back! This video is all about sharing some of the big changes Royal Caribbean has made in the last couple years that ought to get you up to speed on where things stand today.

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: What's the most exciting change to happen on Royal Caribbean in the last few years?

Are last minute cruises really cheaper?

In:
17Feb2020

When it comes to travel, booking at the last minute can sometimes offer a terrific value or a sky-high price.  In terms of cruising, people wonder are last minute cruises really cheaper?

What is considered a last minute cruise?

When we talk about last minute cruises, we are talking about any sailing that is past Royal Caribbean's final payment date. 

In most cases, the final payment date is 90 days prior to when the ship is scheduled to depart.

The closer you get to the sail date, the more difficult find a deal may be, but the rewards may be higher given the cruise line's desire to fill the room.

Do cruises get cheaper closer to departure?

In practical terms, last minute cruises are few and far between. 

Royal Caribbean cruises are as popular as ever, so last minute deals are not nearly as prevalent as they once were. More often than not, sailings sell out in the weeks and months before a cruise is set to begin, leaving little to no opportunity to book a cruise closer into the sail date.

Of course, there are still occasionally last minute cruise deals to be had, but you have to dig for them.  

Since last minute cruise pricing is so rare, I do not recommend it as a means of planning your family vacation.  There are too many risks involved with not getting a cruise at all, or perhaps at a bad price, to put everything in one basket like that.

Instead, last minute cruises are a good way to supplement your vacation plans, rather than a primary strategy.

How can I get a cheap last minute cruise?

They key to snagging a great deal close to sail date is being flexible.

Stateroom choices will be limited in the weeks leading up to a cruise, and you may need to look for sail dates that are during odd times (such as a departure on a Monday).

Around 60 days before the cruise departs, you can look to see what availability and pricing is present.  Around this time, cruisers whose plans have changed have already canceled, cruise lines have a good read on passenger load, and last-minute deals begin to emerge. The reductions may or may not continue as the sailing date draws closer.

You can also find deals during off-season and lower-demand times of the year.  Last minute deals and good pricing can be found during the cheapest months of the year.

Another strategy is to leverage social media. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to a particular ship or cruise line, and often deals are shared among the members.

Regardless of how you find a deal, you will want to act quickly if you discover a good rate. Accommodations are limited and deals are often short-lived.

Everything you should book before the cruise to avoid it being sold out

In:
Category: 
11Feb2020

Thanks to the power of the internet, the word is out among cruisers about the awesome and cool things to do see, do and eat on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and this means you have to act faster than ever before to ensure your family gets to try them all.

Go ahead and blame this site, because it seems the truly desirable activities and offerings tend to sell out way faster than ever before.  Luckily, you can still experience these must-do options if you pre-plan accordingly.

Here are the top things that tend to sell out, so you can book it before someone else does.

Cabanas

A private cabana at Labadee or Perfect Day at CocoCay is one of the most desirable things to reserve on Royal Caribbean's private destinations.

These individual enclaves offer privacy, shade, comfortable seating and top notch service for a price.  Despite anecdotal evidence of prices going up for cabanas, they remain a highly contested amenity.

The days of booking one onboard your ship is nearly extinct, so you will want to pre-book via the Cruise Planner as soon as they become available.

Popular shore excursions

It seems each island your cruise visits may be well-known for one particular activity, and many guests are booking it up faster and faster.

Excursions such as the Kennedy Space Center tours, golf cart rentals in Bonaire, day passes to Nachi Cocom or Maya Chan, and more are selling out regularly.

Since many cruisers are researching their ports before they cruise, the tours and admissions that clearly stand out because of their rave reviews lead to the words, "sold out" coming up more frequently.

As always, research the ports you will visit in the months leading up to your cruise, and pull the trigger on a shore excursion if it sounds remotely interesting.  Nearly all excursions offer a full refund if you cancel in advance, so there is little risk.

Izumi hibachi

Perhaps no other specialty restaurant on Royal Caribbean has become as difficult to reserve as the teppanyaki dining on Royal Caribbean ships.

Hibachi has a limited capacity, with set dining times and only a few hibachi tables per ship. This means spots go quickly, and it is quite common to discover all the hibachi seats are sold out by the first day of the cruise.

With Royal Caribbean extending dining package benefits to include hibachi, this is one hot ticket for dinner.

Your best bet is to pre-book it via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site as early as you can. If you have more than 4 guests, larger groups will want to book almost immediately to get a spot.

Entertainment on Oasis or Quantum Class ships

For years, Royal Caribbean has offered guests the option to pre-book shows on its Oasis and Quantum Class ships.  While this may have started out as an optional exercise, these days it is a must-do.

From Broadway shows, to original productions, seating for shows on Oasis or Quantum Class ships goes quickly (primarily since it is complimentary to reserve).  This is especially true of the AquaTheater shows, since the theater is particularly small.

Even comedy shows are often sold out online before the cruise.

While standby lines are always an option once onboard (and they usually work), your best bet is to book up shows as soon as you can when they become available.

North Star

Ever since Royal Caribbean put the first North Star observational capsule on Quantum of the Seas, guests have been captivated by the idea of going up and checking out the view.

Like the shows you can pre-book, complimentary reservations for North Star go quickly as well. 

Pre-book a time online to avoid waiting in the standby line once onboard.

iFly

It should come as no surprise that a sky diving simulator that removes the "jumping out of an airplane" part of sky diving is a fun and popular choice.  Like North Star, it sells out quickly.

You will want to book a time for the iFly via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site well before your cruise begins

My Time Dining (for popular times or large groups)

If you plan on having dinner between around 6pm, and/or are dining with a group of six or more people, make reservations for My Time Dining as quickly as possible.

My Time Dining allows guests to choose a dinner time in the Main Dining Room between around 5pm and 9pm, but as you might imagine, a lot of people like to eat between 6pm and 7:30pm.  If you are one of those people, you can reserve a time for My Time Dining before your cruise on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. 

Likewise, if you have a large group and want to dine together for dinner, regardless of which time you want to dine, making reservations in advance is a must as well.

Reserving a time costs nothing, and means a shorter wait for a table for dinner.

Escape Room

The escape room games used to be complimentary on Royal Caribbean, but their wild popularity forced Royal Caribbean to start charging for it in order to control demand, and it is still an activity that fills up quickly.

Escape rooms are available on more and more Royal Caribbean ships these days, and their intricate design, well-themed rooms and complex puzzles make them a fun challenge for guests.

You can reserve times before your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site, and should definitely pre-book to secure a time to see if you can figure out all of the puzzles.

How far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best price?

In:
Category: 
11Jan2020

If you want the best price for a cruise, is it best to book a cruise many months in advance, or wait for a last minute deal?

Booking too early and you might be paying too much, while waiting for the last minute may leave you without the ship or cabin you want. Here is the lowdown on what you need to know about when to book a cruise.

How early can you book a cruise?

Royal Caribbean will open up its bookings as early as two years or more prior to the sail date.

Typically, they release new sailings for guests to book at regular periods during the year. There are new sailings released in November/December, and others in the Spring around March or April.

Once a sailing is open for booking, you may reserve a cabin at any point all the way until the week of the sailing.  Of course, capacity is limited and options will dwindle while prices rise over time.

A word on last minute deals

Waiting until the final weeks before a sailing to book a cruise has its benefits and drawbacks that you should be aware of before booking anything.

Booking a cruise at the last minute is like rolling the dice, with the hope a ship, itinerary and stateroom will be available at a cost you are comfortable with.  Moreover, because Royal Caribbean cruises have become more and more popular, last minute deals are fewer and fewer between.

Yes, there can be some decent prices for a cruise in the final six to eight weeks before a cruise sails, but they tend to be during slower times of the year, such as when school is in session or it is hurricane season.

If you are flying to a cruise, quite often any last minute cruise savings may be negated by high airfare prices.

I would be remiss if I did not mention there can, on occasion, be some great last minute prices.  Cruise prices can be volatile at times, and snagging a last minute deal is possible.  However, the risks associated with waiting to book at the last minute outweigh the chances of a great last minute deal for most families.

How far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best deal?

The key to getting the best price is to book your cruise as soon as you know you want to go on the sailing and lock in the cabin you prefer.

The ideal strategy for booking a Royal Caribbean cruise is if you live in a country where you can reprice your cruise up until final payment date. Residents of the United States, Canada and select other countries are able to contact Royal Caribbean if there is a price drop and take advantage of the lower price.

By booking 12, 18 or even 24 months in advance, you have the luxury of watching the price and making a price adjustment if there is a lower price offered. You can do this unlimited amount of times until the final payment date at 90 days prior to sailing. 

Booking a cruise one to two years in advance is not practical for many families, so a great time to book a cruise is between six and 12 months before sailing.

In addition to the lower prices, booking well in-advance of a cruise assures you of the ship and stateroom you want to reserve. Suites and some of the higher in-demand cabins are the first to be reserved, and waiting to book usually results in far fewer choices. Moreover, my observation is the price for a suite on Royal Caribbean tends to only go up over time at a greater rate than standard cabins.

Since booking many months in advance comes at the risk of guessing your own personal schedule and hoping for no surprises, I always recommend booking refundable cruise fare to avoid penalties if an unexpected reason to cancel a cruise occurs.

Is it cheaper to book a cruise through a travel agent?

The short answer is, not always, but you should always book with a travel agent.

In the 21st century, it is not difficult to reserve a cruise for your family, but travel agents provide a great deal of service and expertise that goes beyond simply placing a reservation.

A good travel agent has knowledge of all the ways they can save you money on a cruise. There are a variety of discounts offered by the cruise line that are not often apparent to someone browsing Royal Caribbean's homepage. Moreover, travel agents can have access to group pricing and special promotions only available to their agency and partners.

Beyond saving money, a good travel agent is your advocate during the entire vacation, from booking to cruise and beyond.  If an issue arises, or a billing discrepancy occurs, having a travel agent is worth it every time because they are the ones dealing with the cruise line instead of you. 

Most importantly, a good travel agent should cost you absolutely nothing extra to use their services. The cruise line pays the travel agent a commission for their services, and the price is the same for you whether you use an agent or not. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using a good travel agent.

There are many wonderful travel agents that specialize in Royal Caribbean.  If you have read other posts on the blog, you might be aware that I use MEI-Travel for booking all of my Royal Caribbean cruises, and I can personally attest that they are fantastic!

Video: What's coming to Royal Caribbean in 2020

In:
Category: 
07Jan2020

Happy 2020! We are celebrating the new year with a new Royal Caribbean Blog video, previewing what will be new in 2020 on Royal Caribbean.

There are a lot of big changes coming to Royal Caribbean this year and there is bound to be a lot of excitement about a new ship, big upgrades to the fleet, Coco Beach Club's opening and more.  Take a look ahead with us in our latest YouTube video!

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

What is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

In:
Category: 
21Dec2019

Finding the cheapest time for an Alaska cruise will depend on your vacation budget, how much time you can dedicate to the cruise and weather considerations. To help pick the best time of year to cruise, we have a comprehensive look at what you need to know about taking a cruise to Alaska.

The Alaska cruise season spans the months of May through September. Nearly all of Royal Caribbean's cruises are seven nights sailings, although there are land tours you can tack onto the cruise to expand the adventure.

May

 

May is the early part of the Alaska cruise season, and it is the time of year when things begin to truly thaw in Alaska after winter. The average high temperature in Juneau in May is 56°F. May is also one of the driest months of the Alaska cruise season, which means less of a chance of being rained on during your shore excursion.

May is also one the best values for cruising to Alaska, with the lowest fares of the season. In fact, May is part of the "shoulder season" because of the lower temperatures and the fact school is still in session, so bargain hunters will want to target this month. To that point, you will generally find lower crowds in Alaska during this month.

June & July

  

The summer cruise season is during the months of June and July, and is one of the most popular times of the year to go on a cruise to Alaska. You will find the most daylight hours (14 to 18) during this time of year. The average temperatures range between 62°F - 65°F in June and July. The weather can still be a little drier in early June, but that will change by July.

July is the warmest month of the Alaska cruise season, with average highs around 65°F. Predicting the weather in July is difficult, as you can experience rain, hot temperatures and everything inbetween. 

In terms of crowds, you will find peak cruising season begin in mid-June, and extend through much of August. In short, this is peak cruising season, so deals and low fares are few and far between.  Bargains can still be found in early June, but the closer you get to July, the higher those prices.

If wildlife is of interest, then early June is a great time for whale watching because this is around the time of year where whales reach Alaska waters and active near or at the surface.

It is also worth noting that peak Mosquito season is from mid June though about the end of July. The good news for cruisers is that mosquitoes are not seagoing and they do not like wind at all. Moreover, mosquitoes tend to be worst in Northern Alaska, so it is less of a concern for cruise ship guests.

August

August is another busy time of year for cruises to Alaska, but it also represents the tail end of the peak cruise season. The closer to the end of the month, the better prices you will find on cruises. In general, prices in August tend to be lower than June or July, making it a more affordable time of year to cruise.

August averages about 16 hours of daylight, so this means daylight hours are at their peak. Most of the month is still quite busy from a crowds standpoint. Rainfall is at its highest in August, with around half the days in August experiencing rain.

The Alaska berry picking season is anywhere from late August to late September. In addition, bears are quite active in August due to the great salmon spawn. Whales are also active in August, as they start their migration south.

September

September culminates with the end of the Alaska cruise season, and it is a shoulder season for sailings. As a result, you can find some of the best deals of the year for Alaska.

Autumn arrives early in Alaska, and that means leaves changing colors and cooler weather. Temperatures are usually closer to the beginning of the cruise season. The average rainfall is still rather high.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says moose, caribou and muskoxen all mate during this time, so they are active in open areas while they search for a mate or spar for dominance within the herd. Bears, however, tend to begin their hibernation during this month.

Which month to choose

To pick the right time of year to cruise for you, you will have to weigh cruise costs, weather, and what you are most interested in seeing. Alaska cruise prices are lowest in May or September. The least amount of rain is typically in May or early June. June, July and August offer the warmest temperatures and some of the most active wildlife spotting opportunities.

  • Best value: May or September
  • Best time for whale watching: June or July
  • Best time for bears, moose and other animals: August

The bottom line is a cruise to Alaska is rarely disappointing. Regardless of which month you choose, Alaska is a fantastic place to explore and each month provides some intriguing benefits.

Six big changes coming to Royal Caribbean in 2020

In:
Category: 
16Dec2019

With the new year just days away, that means a brand new year of Royal Caribbean cruises to enjoy and with it, some changes.  I have picked out six of the most significant changes that guests going on a cruise in 2020 are likely to notice.

Coco Beach Club opening 

Royal Caribbean estimated the Coco Beach Club and the floating cabanas are slated to open on January 31, 2020.

The Coco Beach Club is a exclusive area of Perfect Day at CocoCay that offers an oceanfront infinity pool, upgraded cuisine and the only floating cabanas in the Bahamas. Plus, there is a complimentary restaurant at Coco Beach Club featuring lobster, snapper, and steak— plus a buffet of soups, salads, and starters. 

The Coco Beach Club will offer the first and only floating cabanas in The Bahamas that seeks to offer guests with an additional level of luxury.

Allure of the Seas amplification & summer in Europe

In summer 2020, Allure of the Seas will get her turn for a massive $165 million amplification that  will add new features, including the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, completely redesigned Adventure Ocean kids and teens spaces, the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, and Quantum Class original Music Hall.

After the work is completed, Allure will offer 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises sailing roundtrip from Barcelona during the summer 2020 season.

In November 2020, Allure will make its way coast to coast to Miami for the winter season.

Odyssey of the Seas launch

Anytime a new cruise ship launches, that is a big deal, and the second Quantum Ultra Class ship will make her debut in November 2020.

Odyssey of the Seas will be the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to arrive in North America, and will feature a two-level pool deck, as well as a collection of restaurant choices to enjoy.

Odyssey's inaugural year will kick off with 8- and 6-night itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, FL. She will then sail to her homeport of Rome in May 2021 and become the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to cruise Europe for the summer. 

End of neighborhood balcony perks

When the calendar changes from 2019 to 2020, the neighborhood balcony perks on Oasis Class ships will cease to be offered.  Royal Caribbean announced in September 2019 that it would end the program on all sailings departing on or after January 1, 2020.

The Dine, Drink & Discover program offered extra benefits to guests who booked Boardwalk Balcony and Central Park Balcony staterooms on Oasis Class ships. 

If you had a neighborhood balcony room booked before September 18, 2019, then you will be grandfathered in for any sailing departing on-or-after January 1st, 2020. 

Royal Caribbean returns to New Orleans

Royal Caribbean will mark its return to offering cruises from the Big Easy, with Majesty of the Seas being homeported from New Orleans.

Majesty of the Seas will sail 7 night sailings primarily to the Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, with some Western Caribbean itineraries too.

Explorer of the Seas & Freedom of the Seas amplifications

In addition to the upgrades for Allure of the Seas, the Royal Amplified program will also enhance Explorer of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas.

Freedom of the Seas will be first up for changes in March 2020, with a $116 million amplification that will add the Perfect Storm duo of waterslides, a redesigned Adventure Ocean, a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and a reimagined pool deck that will feature Splashaway Bay, El Loco Fresh and The Lime & Coconut.

Beginning in May 2020, Explorer of the Seas will be reimagined with a $110 million amplification that will add the Perfect Storm racer waterslides, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen; a redesigned, resort-style poolscape with signature poolside bar The Lime & Coconut; and transformed kids and teens spaces. 

Which Royal Caribbean change are you most excited about for 2020? Tell us in the comments!

What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

In:
14Dec2019

Finding the best time of the year to go on a cruise and get the cheapest price is all about timing.  Regardless of which ship, itinerary or stateroom type you are interested in, the key is about when you elect to go and when you book the cruise.

Go when others cannot

All cruise cost factors being equal, the cheapest time to go on a cruise is when most others are busy or unwilling to go on that same sailing.

Most cruisers make a decision to go on a particular cruise based on their schedule at home, primarily related to their work or school schedule. Cruises that sail during times of the year when most kids are in school, or employers typically do not provide time off to their employees are the perfect time to snag a great deal on a cruise.

I will share good times of the year to consider cruises for many itineraries, but the common theme you will find among all of them is they are during times of the year when most families are not interested in cruising.

The other key factor to getting a deal is going on a cruise in what is known as the "shoulder season".  These are the weeks or months at the very beginning or very end of a ship's time in a particular region when factors such as weather, fauna or flora are not at their optimal levels. That is not to say cruising in the shoulder season would be a disappointment, but rather, not when conditions will be absolutely perfect.

Alaska 

May or September

The very beginning and very end of the Alaska cruise season typically sees the lowest prices for Alaska cruises. Generally speaking, May and September have the coldest temperatures of the Alaska cruise season, and it is also the time of year when school is still in session.

Beyond time of year, you will likely find lower prices on open jaw sailings (cruises that begin in one port and conclude in a different port) than roundtrip sailings. Of course, airfare prices may negate any savings from choosing an open jaw sailing.

Australia & New Zealand

April or November

If you are cruising down under, the busy months are around December and January because that is Australia's summer and also the most expensive prices.

Royal Caribbean concludes its cruise season in April or May, so if you can snag a cruise then, you will find some great deals. In addition, November is typically a less in-demand month.

Bermuda

May or September - October

The month of May is the beginning of the Bermuda cruise season, and prices will be lower due to it being the shoulder season.

September and October has two reasons why prices can be lower: school is in session and it is hurricane season.  While hurricanes do not typically impact Bermuda as much as the Caribbean islands, storms will usually pass by Bermuda at least once per year. 

Canada & New England

May or October

The weather is all about why you might want to cruise to Canada or Bermuda, and the months of May or October are not typically the most popular type of weather.

In both months, the weather is usually the coldest of the cruise season, with late October being especially cooler. New England can be still moderately warm during these months, but Canadian cities cool down quicker due to their latitude.

Caribbean

January, May, September, October or early December

The Caribbean cruise season is year-round, and there are some peaks and valleys in terms of demand and pricing throughout the year.

In terms of temperatures, it remains warm throughout most of the year, so there is almost always sun and warm enough temperatures to swim and be outdoors. November through February can see an occasional cold front pushing through to make things feel a bit chilly, but they are short lived and the exception.

When it comes to getting the lowest price on a Caribbean sailing, it is about cruising when school is in session or during hurricane season (June 1 through November 30).

The cheapest times of the year to cruise the Caribbean will be....

  • January (minus New Years week) [School in session]
  • First two weeks of February [School in session]
  • May [School in session]
  • September [Hurricane season]
  • October [Hurricane season]
  • First two weeks of December [School in session]

Mediterranean

March, April or November

Cruising to Europe is a very popular choice, and the Mediterranean is among the most popular places to cruise outside the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean begins its cruise season in March or April, and you will find most families still in school and the least crowds in the Mediterranean.

Temperatures can still be warm in the Mediterranean, but not as oppressively warm as the summer months.  Moreover, November usually sees the lowest prices of the year for Mediterranean cruises.

Northern Europe

May or October

Northern Europe cruises that visit the Baltics, Norway or the British Isles have a shorter cruise season than the Mediterranean, but pricing follows the same basic pricing principles of anywhere in Europe. Going during the shoulder season while temperatures and demand are lower will get you the lowest prices of the season.

Your thoughts

Do you agree with my picks for the cheapest months of the year to go on a cruise? Are there any months you think are better or worse than listed? Any specific times of the year that you think are ideal for going on a cruise and saving money? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

Pages