Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Cruise lines overbook sailings sometimes. Here's what happens when your trip is oversold

In:
10 Jun 2024

An oversold cruise ship isn't unheard of in the cruise industry.

Oversold cruise

Travelers may be used to hearing about oversold flights or hotels, but cruise lines do sometimes overbook their ships anticipating last-minute cancellations. It's much less likely for an oversold cruise ship to result in someone being booted off the ship, but it does rarely occur.

Unlike a flight, being out of a cruise vacation means a multi-day plan change and it's not like there are as many cruise ships as airplanes in service to pick up the slack.

In case you're wondering, here's how Royal Caribbean handles overbooked cruises so you know what to expect.

Looking for volunteers

Symphony of the Seas docked

In the weeks leading up to the cruise, Royal Caribbean monitors its bookings as part of its inventory management process.  If it sees a potential issue, the cruise line reaches out proactively to remedy the situation.

Guests sailing on Symphony of the Seas June 14, 2024 cruise received an email last week to ask select cruisers if they would consider rebooking.

Royal Caribbean did not come out and use words like "oversold" or "overbooked", but the email appears to be a way to free up cabins so the ship will not be oversold.

Email with oversold options

"Ahead of your Symphony of the Seas June 14, 2024, sailing, we are looking to see if you and your travel party have flexible travel plans," the email to booked passengers said.

The cruise line was quick to add that if you are committed to sail, to disregard the email.  The idea is to ideally find people booked on the cruise that might cruise a lot and can change their plans because this isn't their one and only major cruise they have booked.  Or, they are looking to find an opportunistic deal hunter that wouldn't mind deferring their trip in exchange for a good reason.

The exact compensation offered will depend on the situation, so don't take this example to be the most likely scenario you could expect.

Symphony of the Seas

In the case of Symphony of the Seas, guests had two choices:

1. Change to another Symphony of the Seas cruise departing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey in the same room category originally booked, plus get a full refund.

2. Cancel and get a 100% refund, plus 100% value of the cruise fare in the form a Future Cruise Credit.

With both scenarios, you'll get all your money back and a free cruise (or at least the value of a free cruise).

Usually forecasts work out

Royal Promenade on Oasis of the Seas

Why do cruise lines oversell cruises to begin with? It's because it's a practical approach to their business, Billy Hirsch, author of CruiseHabit, told Royal Caribbean Blog.

The reality is based on historical data there are usually people that either cancel at the last-minute or don't show up to the cruise.

"Even if a sailing is totally booked weeks out, there will almost always be some number of guests who cancel at the last minute or fail to show up. Trying to fill cabins at the last minute is risky and can harm price integrity," Hirsch said.

What cruise lines do is make a prediction, based on history, of how many empty staterooms they'll likely have ahead of sailing and sell that many extra rooms ahead of time.

"To cruise lines, cabins on a cruise are perishable commodities - if they aren't sold by sailing, they're worthless."

Read more: Royal Caribbean cabin and suites

Overhead view of Oasis Class ship

As was the case with Symphony of the Seas, if those predictions are off, a lucrative offer can balance things back out, "If just before sailing it appears some guests will be turned away, lines tend to make, 'too good to refuse' offers, like a full refund, a 100% future cruise credit, and sometimes even additional credits or cash. 

"Usually forecasts work out, but when they don't, if those offers are so good that people are happy to accept them, then everyone leaves the port feeling good - whether on the ship or in a cab."

Can you be booted off a cruise?

It's extremely rare for a cruise to be oversold and not enough volunteers to make enough room, but it has happened.

In December 2023, guests on Quantum of the Seas sailing from Australia ran into a situation where a few passengers were left behind when the ship ran out of cabins.

Avoid guarantee cabins if you're worried about oversold cruises

Guarantee cabin choice

In all my years of covering Royal Caribbean, the amount of oversold cruises occurring resulting in someone being kicked off a cruise can likely be counted on my hand. Nonetheless, there's one simple step to take to avoid the situation.

Guaranteed cabins (known as "GTY") are rooms sold without a specific assignment at a lower rate.  The idea is Royal Caribbean will assign you a room later from one of the unsold cabins.

Read more: What are the different types of cabins on a cruise ship?

While not an official policy that has been announced by Royal Caribbean, it stands to reason those with an unassigned room would be at a higher risk in this hypothetical situation.

Hump balcony room

If you're concerned about booking a guarantee cabin in the future, I would personally recommend you not worry about it. 

I've booked plenty of guaranteed cabins over the years, and will continue to do so. I believe the risk of an oversold cruise is so remote that it's not worth worrying about. Plus, the additional savings of a guarantee cabin are hard to overlook.

Guide to Royal Caribbean's cancellation policy

In:
04 Jun 2024

How can you cancel a cruise if a problem surfaces or you change your mind?

It's never ideal to cancel a vacation you were looking forward to, but there are all sorts of reasons to want to cancel.

Whether a family emergency comes up, you need to spend money elsewhere, or traveling isn't feasible anymore, life can unfortunately get in the way.

In case you need to cancel or modify a cruise booking, you should know the options Royal Caribbean offers.

Every cruise line has important policies when it comes to modifying a cruise booking and not all bookings are equal in terms of refunds.

Utopia-Saint-Nazaire-Shipyard

No matter how excited you are for an upcoming cruise, it's crucial that you know the terms of the booking and cancellation policies.

Preparing yourself with this knowledge will prevent any expensive surprises later on.

This informational guide will provide an overview of Royal Caribbean's cancellation policy, ensuring that you know exactly what you're agreeing to when you book.

What if I have a nonrefundable deposit?

Cancelled flights

Refunds and penalties for cancellation depend on the type of fare purchased, the length of the cruise, and how long before the cruise you attempt to cancel.

Two different deposit types can affect your cancellation fee, and you agree to the terms of cancellation when you choose a particular deposit type.

When you book a cruise, you first make a deposit, without being required to pay the full amount right away. 

Royal Caribbean has both refundable and nonrefundable cruise fare deposits.

Some promotional and exclusive fares require a nonrefundable deposit.

This means that a booking made under this fare requires guests' full names and a paid deposit at the time of booking. 

This deposit cannot be refunded at any time but often comes at a lower price overall.

If you cancel a cruise booked with a non-refundable deposit, you'll lose the deposit amount.

Moreover, to change the sail date and/or ship, you'll incur a $100 per person fee for any change in the that aspect of the reservation.

What if I have a refundable deposit?

Mariner of the Seas

Refundable cruise fares are more flexible, promising almost a full refund when you cancel.

if you book your cruise under a refundable cruise fare, you can still receive a full refund of your deposit and any other payments made, as long as you haven't yet made the final payment.

Guests currently have up to 90 days before the sailing to make their final payment.

Ships docked at CocoCay

Once the final payment is made for a cruise, guests can be subject to cancellation fees that vary depending on how close it is to the sail date.

Typically, you will still receive a refund but with a penalty fee.

What is Royal Caribbean's cancellation fee?

Gangway to cruise ship

You will get a full refund if you notify Royal Caribbean at least 75 days before the first day of the cruise (60 days for 3 and 4-night cruises or 90 days for holiday sailings). 

For cruises lasting 1 to 4 nights (including holiday sailings), the cancellation fee is as follows:

  • 75 days or more before the first day of the cruise: No charge (except for Nonrefundable Deposit amounts)
  • 74 to 61 days: 50% of the total price
  • 60 to 31 days: 75% of the total price
  • 30 days or less: 100% of the total price (No refund)
Miami terminals

For cruises 5 nights or over (including holiday sailings and CruiseTours), the cancellation fee by days prior is:

  • 90 days or more before the first day of the cruise: No charge (except for Nonrefundable Deposit amounts)
  • 89 to 75 days: 25% of the total price
  • 74 to 61 days: 50% of the total price
  • 60 to 31 days: 75% of the total price
  • 30 days or less: 100% of the total price (No refund)
Antarctica

For cruises and CruiseTours, the taxes and fees will be completely refunded.

Essentially, if a guest cancels their cruise 90 or more days before the first day of the sailing, they'll receive a complete refund (excluding any nonrefundable deposits).

But if a guest cancels 30 days or less before the cruise, there is no refund.

How can I cancel a cruise?

Oceanview cabin

If you've decided you need to cancel your cruise, that can be accomplished using the same method that you booked the cruise.

If you booked the cruise directly with Royal Caribbean or on the website, you can call the cruise line to cancel your reservation.

If you used a travel agent or another type of website, you should inform and consult with your travel provider to cancel the booking. Travel agents can handle any changes, delays, or cancellations for you.

Read more: How to cancel a Royal Caribbean cruise

Does my travel insurance cover a cancellation?

travel insurance

In general, travel insurance does not usually cover a canceled cruise.

Unless it is because of an illness or another covered scenario, most travel insurance will not kick in.

However, Royal Caribbean offers a Travel Protection Program for its cruisers.

If plans change and you need to cancel your cruise vacation, this cancellation penalty waiver will allow you to waive the non-refundable cancellation portion and receive the unused value of your cruise vacation.

Casino

You also can be eligible for credit toward a future cruise, ranging up to 90% of the non-refundable, prepaid cruise fare.

A "cancel for any reason" credit can be added at an extra cost.

To be eligible for this credit, you must purchase the travel protection plan prior to making your final payment for the cruise. Also, you must notify Royal Caribbean of this cancellation before the ship departs for the cruise.

Read more: Royal Caribbean will increase price of travel insurance policy

What you need to know about Royal Caribbean's cancellation policy

Can I cruise without a passport? I would think twice before trying

In:
01 Jun 2024

Do you need a passport to go on a cruise? The answer depends, and could be yes and no.

Cruise without a passport?

Before you book that cruise you're eyeing and leave for your trip, it's important to make sure all of your documents are cleared for travel.

Can you cruise without a passport? What kind of birth certificate is required? Will an enhanced driver's license do?

You might be able to go on the cruise without needing a passport, but there are certain requirements to be able to do so. 

Driving to Galveston terminal

U.S. citizens can cruise without a passport and with just a birth certificate and photo ID, but only on certain cruises. It gets confusing for someone new to cruising.

Just because you can cruise without a passport doesn't mean you should, and there's plenty of misinformation out there about the identification needed to cruise.

Take this post as your informative guide to cruising without a passport—and if it's a recommended method.

Can I cruise without a passport?

Miami terminals

United States citizens can cruise without a passport on certain sailings.

As proof of citizenship, they need to bring a state-certified, United States birth certificate, issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where they were born.

Additionally, cruisers aged 16 and older need a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or state ID that denotes the correct photo, name, and date of birth.

Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) are also taken as proof of citizenship and accepted in place of a birth certificate.

Utopia-Shipyard-3

However, very few states currently offer enhanced driver's licenses, so don't assume that yours qualifies as proof of citizenship.

The only states that currently issue enhanced driver's licenses are Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

All documentation must have the same name, match the identification on the reservation, and be valid for the dates of the cruise. 

Guests who do not bring the required documentation will be denied boarding.

Read more: Guide to cruising with a birth certificate

Where can I cruise without a passport?

United States citizens can cruise without a passport, but only on specific sailings.

The only itineraries where U.S. citizens can cruise without a passport are closed-loop sailings departing from United States home ports.

Closed-loop sailings are round-trip cruises that embark and disembark from the same U.S. port. 

A one-way cruise that embarks from a U.S. port but disembarks in a different U.S. port does not qualify.

These ports must be in the U.S., and include the following:

  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Cape Liberty
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Galveston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New Orleans
  • Port Canaveral
  • San Diego
  • San Juan
  • Seattle
  • Seward
  • Tampa

United States citizens on these closed-loop cruises are required to travel with proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID.

Should I cruise without a passport?

Passport

Even though US citizens can cruise without a passport, we don't recommend it.

If you have a cruise coming up, I would think twice before trying to board with just a birth certificate and identification.

A passport is the very best option for any method of travel, including cruises.

Royal Caribbean's website also recommends that cruisers try to bring along a passport, writing: "A passport is the hassle-free, gold standard for traveling between countries."

A passport must be valid for at least six months after the last day of the cruise (it shouldn't expire anytime close to the date of travel).

The name on the passport must also match the name on the cruise reservation.

If you're planning a cruise, it's not too late to go ahead and renew or apply for a passport.

Passport on the bed

Even for guests who aren't required to, Royal Caribbean and veteran cruisers alike recommend that you travel with a passport.

Read more: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

The U.S. Department of State also recommends that everyone taking a cruise out of the United States have a passport in case of emergency, such as a medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port.

Why is it better to cruise with a passport?

Port-Of-Nassau-New

Using a passport opens up the number of itineraries you can cruise on, and makes the process of boarding and disembarking through customs and immigration much faster.

Not only that, but a passport protects you in case of any travel issues or emergencies while exploring a foreign port.

Traveling to any foreign country (even on a closed-loop cruise) places you in the position of possibly needing a passport.

If you miss the cruise ship and are left at port or require emergency transportation back to the U.S., you'll be left in a stressful situation without a passport.

Read more: Will a cruise ship wait for me if I'm running late at a port stop? Here's what a captain has to say.

Both immigration at foreign ports and air travel back to the U.S. will require a passport. 

In the case of an emergency, you'll first have to travel to a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain a passport, further delaying your trip and increasing travel expenses.

Radiance of the Seas

A vacation could quickly turn into a nightmare if you become stranded in a foreign country without a passport.

Not only that but disembarking the ship once the cruise is over becomes much less of a hassle with a passport.

When cruisers exit the ship into the cruise terminal, there are separate lines for passengers with U.S. passports and passengers with birth certificates.

Boston terminal

Cruisers traveling with a U.S. passport merely have to take a photo for security and facial recognition. The process takes less than two minutes, and there are usually multiple lines to choose from.

In contrast, cruisers with a birth certificate are delegated to just one or two lines, where they must wait for a security officer to thoroughly look over their documentation. This process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

In case of emergency, it's much better to travel with a passport to speed up the travel process and open up a wider selection of cruise itineraries and international ports.

Can I cruise without a passport?

Does check-in open at midnight? And 5 other Royal Caribbean check-in questions

In:
29 May 2024

How do you check in for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean Check-in questions

While the process is easy, there aren't tutorials immediately available.

Plus, you may not know the hacks to get the earliest boarding times and step on that gangway faster.

To begin your cruise vacation as soon as possible, you'll want to have an efficient check-in process.

Here are all your pressing questions answered in one handy guide.

How do I get the earliest boarding time?

Gangway to cruise ship

Boarding early means that you get onto your cruise ship earlier and can begin your vacation right away.

You can get the earliest boarding time by checking in early.

Check-in opens online 45 days before your cruise and closes the day before.

Cruisers can check in online, either through Royal Caribbean’s app or website. 

Check-in will involve entering identifying information, scanning your passport or ID, and taking a security photo. 

Cruiser should also add an emergency contact and a payment method for any onboard expenses.

Once check-in is completed, you will be able to choose an arrival time to enter the terminal.

The arrival times will be listed in half-hour slots, usually ranging from 10:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.

These arrival times are first-come, first-served, so the earlier you check-in, the more time slots will be available.

Does check-in open at midnight? 

Boston terminal

If arrival time depends on when you check in for your cruise, how early can you check in? 

Online check-in opens 45 days before your cruise and is available on both the app and the website.

If your cruise leaves from the United States, online check-in will open at midnight in the time zone of the departure port.

While you can use both the app and the website to check in, the app provides a few more benefits.

In the Royal Caribbean app check-in, you can scan your passport, upload a security photo, and answer required health questions to receive a mobile boarding pass.

port-tampa-security

This saves you time at the cruise terminal since the terminal agent just has to verify your travel documents and scan your mobile boarding pass.

Of course, you still have to bring travel documents such as your passport and Set Sail Pass.

But, ultimately, checking in on the app as early as possible means you'll spend less time boarding, and more onboard the ship, beginning your vacation!

When are Royal Caribbean luggage tags available? 

Both luggage tags on the suitcase

Luggage tags are available before your cruise, usually at the 30-day point when your vacation documents are available.

To access them, go to the Royal Caribbean website, log into your account, view your cruise, and select "view more details."

Cruise documents and luggage tags will appear under this toggle, and you can download and print the luggage tags from there.

Luggage tag holders

These tags ensure that porters and cruise ship staff know where to leave the luggage on embarkation day, and that no bags get lost.

To save time at the cruise terminal, guests can print out their luggage tags beforehand and affix them to their larger bags.

When you get to the port, it will be a quick hand-off of the bags to terminal porters.

Do I need my travel documents to complete check-in?

Ready to check in

In order to complete check-in online, you will need your passport, birth certificate, or other ID.

Passengers will also be adding their Crown and Anchor number and a payment method.

Additionally, snapping a security photo will make the boarding process go smoother at the port.

Because of these requirements, it's best to check in while at home where you have access to all your essential documents and a plain white background.

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips for a fast embarkation

Can I check someone else in?

Matt checking in

Guests can check-in for any other passengers on reservations linked to their account.

The check-in page will list the reservation with all added guests sailing on the same cruise.

You can click on their name to begin the check-in process.

However, keep in mind that you'll need their travel documents on hand, and it's best if the passenger is available to take their security photo.

If these are unavailable, you can enter in some of the information and have your fellow guest complete the rest later.

Do I need a check-in time if I bought The Key?

The Key is an optional, extra-cost add-on that Royal Caribbean offers for embarkation and debarkation day.

Cruisers can purchase The Key before their cruise on the Cruise Planner website and receive special access and VIP perks while boarding.

Here is a list of the benefits you get with The Key:

  • Early access at the terminal (between 11:00-11:30 A.M.)
  • Drop off your carry-on luggage in the Main Dining Room
  • Carry-on luggage is hand-delivered to your stateroom
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille menu
  • Complimentary room service for your entire cruise, along with 25% off all onboard dining purchases
  • Private time at some of our onboard activities such as rock climbing, FlowRider, etc.
  • Priority departure from ship-to-shore at tender ports
  • Early access to shows in the Main Theater
  • VOOM Surf & Stream package, now including high-speed internet, for one device (1 package per guest)
  • On debarkation day, enjoy a private á la carte breakfast and choice departure

If you have The Key, you aren't required to select a check-in time at all. Before the cruise, guests with The Key will receive an email with instructions for boarding day.

The add-on includes a VIP early check-in time that usually runs between 11:00-11:30 A.M., the same as the earliest time available to other passengers.

To take advantage of the free Chops Grille lunch and less crowded amenities, Royal Caribbean does recommend arriving at the terminal before 12:00 P.M.

However, if a guest can't make the early access window, they can arrive during a selected appointment time and still receive priority access to the terminal.

Read more: I tried The Key on an Oasis Class ship to see if it's worth it

5 common Royal Caribbean check-in questions answered

What is the wellness check?

In:
04 May 2024

What is Royal Caribbean's wellness check, and why is it required before your cruise?

Wellness check

The check-in process encompasses a few steps, with the wellness check being the final step.

Royal Caribbean’s app provides an efficient guide to checking in online. Similar to how airlines provide online check-in, you can prepare for your cruise all on the app.

Before your cruise, you can create an account on the app or website, and use your information to prepare for the cruise.

The cruise line heavily emphasizes the importance of completing all the steps of the check-in process before your cruise to make embarkation day as smooth as possible.  No one likes waiting in line, especially if they could get that time back being on the cruise ship.

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips for a fast embarkation

For guests’ health and safety, the wellness check is one of those steps.

The wellness check involves a series of health questions

Essentially, the wellness check is to ensure you're not getting on the cruise ship in poor health. 

Unlike the rest of the check-in process, you can only do the wellness check the day before your cruise.

At noon on the day before embarkation day, you will receive a notification from the app to complete the wellness check and answer some required health questions.

Until you complete this questionnaire, a message in the app will read “not yet cleared to board.” All guests must complete these health questions to be allowed to board.

Again, adults can fill in the information for any passenger under 21 years old.

Royal Caribbean’s website states that “It is required that each guest answers the set of questions within 24 hours of arrival at the port for their sailing in order to qualify to board.”

Once you are prompted, open up the app by touching the notification.

The health questions will vary depending on the requirements of the port you’re sailing from. All the COVID-19 specific questions have been removed from the wellness check.

Be sure that you answer these questions accurately—you should be honest and keep in mind that you can’t change your answers after submitting.

Over the years, the exact questions have changed.  When Royal Caribbean restarted sailings in 2021, there were many more questions. Most guests currently report they are being asked the following: 

  1. Will you be 23 or more weeks pregnant at any point in your cruise?
  2. Have you experiences any of these symptoms within the past 24 hours: Fever Chills, Muscle Aches, Fatigue, Sore Throat, Nasal Congestion, Runny Nose, Cough, Difficulty Breathing, New Loss of, Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhea?
Health questions

You should answer the questions truthfully, as lying about it sets yourself up for disappointment onboard the ship should your condition worsen. Plus, you're putting others at risk by knowingly being sick and spreading germs.

Once you complete these questions, your wellness check is done!

B2B setsail passes

Simply press submit and you will have access to your SetSail Pass.

From here, you can add it to your Apple Wallet, Google Wallet, or Samsung Pay for quick access on embarkation day.

If you are completing check-in on the Royal Caribbean website, you can print out your Set Sail Pass.

Expedited Arrival pass

Your SetSail pass is your temporary card until you get your SeaPass on embarkation day

Even if you’re not able to add the SetSail Pass to your phone—or the battery dies—the check-in agents will still be able to look up your reservation.

At the cruise terminal, all you need to do is show up and proceed through security.

At the terminal, the gate agent may ask if your answers on the questionnaire are still accurate, or if you’re currently experiencing any cough, fever, or chills.

Either way, you’ve already completed your wellness check by answering the questionnaire on the app.

Will I be denied boarding if I answer "yes" to any of the questions?

Oops!

If you answer yes to any question, the app will deny your ability to board, but that's not necessarily the end of the story.

If you accidently selected "yes" and instead of "no", you can call Royal Caribbean's Resolutions Department at 1-800-205-9812. Alternatively, you can simply explain your situation when you arrive at the cruise terminal.

If you're more than 23 weeks pregnant, it's not safe for you to go on a cruise. Cruise ships don't have the proper facility to care for a pregnant woman and/or her baby for someone that far along in their pregnancy.

Why you should book a 2025 cruise after last week's Royal Caribbean meeting

In:
03 May 2024

When getting the best price for your cruise, getting the timing right is critical.

High demand for cruises

Vacationers are used to seeking last-minute deals on cruises when planning their cruise, but bookings for cruises has been so red-hot for the past few months that new booking records are being set and then eclipsed regularly.

In a call with Wall Street analysts, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty shared how 88% of cabins for all of 2024 are booked up, leaving spares choices for a 2024 cruise.

"We only have about 12% load factors left to build for the year," Mr. Liberty said during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

Icon of the Seas aft

That leaves very few rooms left for this year's cruises, but the incredible demand this year is opening the door for Royal Caribbean to take advantage of this by raising prices even more next year.

"That will provide opportunity for us to a degree this year. But what that I think means in terms of the opportunity into 2025 and beyond is very appealing," he went on to say right after sharing the fact about load factors.

Later in the meeting, Mr. Liberty pointed out that new cruise bookings for 2025 would soon eclipse bookings for this year, "we're getting close to the point where we'll soon be taking more bookings for '25 than we are for 2024."

Why you should book a 2025 cruise now after Royal Caribbean's comments in their meeting

wonder of the seas

If there's one takeaway for cruisers from Royal Caribbean Group's earnings call, it's that new cruise bookings aren't slowing down, and you're going to be competing with more people than ever for a cruise.

Here are the big reasons why you should book a 2025 (or 2026) cruise following last week's meeting:

More people than ever are cruising

Utopia of the Seas pool deck

The cruise market is attracting new cruisers more so than ever before. 

The amount of people who have never taken a cruise and booked one grew by 16% year over year. On top of that, the rate of repeat customers returning is over 30% higher compared to 2019. 

When you have loyal customers coming back over and over again and add onto it a healthy serving of new customers, it leads to very full cruise ships.

Read more: Millennials are taking over cruise ships

High demand means higher prices

Balcony room on Wonder of the Seas

Cruise ship inventory is fixed, so as inventory drops, prices tend to go up.

Cruise fares can change at a moment's notice based on demand, which means as more cabins are booked up for a given sailing, the price of remaining cabins can go up.

Icon of the Seas Central Park Infinite Cabin

In May 2023, Mr. Liberty divulged the company withholds cabins to manage prices and ultimately drive up revenue.

"We used to kind of put everything out there and all the suites would be sold basically right off the bat. And then you would kind of work your way down to the inside cabins," he explained.

Read more: What are the different types of cabins on a cruise ship?

"Now we hold back inventory and we release it, based off of the much more sophisticated revenue management models that we have today."

Overlooking Surfside

With this approach to pricing, you can expect higher prices the closer to the sail date you get.

Generally speaking, the best prices for a cruise are when a new sailing is put on sale and all the cabins are open to book. Inventory is at its highest, and prices only go up as rooms get booked.

Ovation of the Seas docked

Cruise itineraries are usually released around two years in advance. The first batch of new cruises go on sale around November and December, and the rest come out in February, March or April.

In short, booking a 2025 cruise now is probably going to get you a lower price than if you wait.

Read more: 15 ways to get a deal on a cruise

Less cabin choices later

grand-suite-quantum

Prices aside, the other reason to book a 2025 cruise now is to get the stateroom type you want.

One major disadvantage to waiting for the last-minute to book a cruise is you're at the mercy of the leftover cabins that haven't sold yet.

Suites are usually the first cabin category to sell out, because there are relatively far fewer than any other cabin category.  Those that would be in the market for a suite would want to book earlier than ever to be able to get one.

Icon of the Seas in Miami

Moreover, other desirable cabins that are not in a bad location or simply offer enough space for everyone also sell out quickly.

Read more: The rare cruise ship cabins that everyone wants to book immediately

Being able to get the right stateroom choice that you prefer is a compelling reason to lock in a booking now.

Bottom line

Star of the Seas concept art

In just the last two quarters, Royal Caribbean Group has reported gangbuster demand for cruises, and that trend doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Higher demand means it's less likely there will be a last-minute deal and more likely sailings will sell out far earlier than usual. 

Consumers looking to secure a cruise vacation in 2025 will want to act quickly in order to head off higher prices down the road while getting the stateroom category they prefer.

And if you're really smart, you'll book that early 2026 cruise now too.

6 mistakes to avoid while planning a cruise and sharing a cabin with a friend

In:
15 Apr 2024

So you want to cruise with a friend, but can’t stop imagining everything that could go wrong.

Traveling with someone else can be awkward, or even disagreeable, without the right preparation.

You might be used to your own habits, but they can be jarring to someone who’s never shared a home or cabin with you before.

Maybe you prefer to sleep in a dark cabin late into the morning, while your friend jumps out of bed as soon as the sun rises.

When two people have different preferences or budgets for a vacation they’re both looking forward to, they’re likely to clash.

Reading a Cruise Compass

Whether you’re planning a trip with a friend, relative, or romantic partner, there are a host of things that could go wrong and create conflict.

Personal etiquette and communication are key to ensuring smooth sailing. 

After many cruises with friends and family, I’ve learned a few etiquette tips that help create harmony within a cruise cabin.

Here are the top mistakes you should avoid to prevent any awkward moments with the people you love.

1. Not splitting the beds

Did you know that you don’t have to share a bed?

Royal Caribbean staterooms have at least one bed that can be adjusted. You can either bring the beds together to create a Royal King or split them into two twin beds.

For friends who are sharing a cabin, but need some personal space, splitting the beds apart is a great hack.

You may have to request it beforehand or ask your stateroom attendant to help you move the beds apart, but it is worth it.

Split bed configuration inside cabin

This ensures that you don’t have to argue over the pillows, blankets, or mattress space.

Anyone who loves their personal space will find that separate beds will go a long way toward improving the energy of their vacation.

For added privacy, be sure to use the provided curtains between spaces. 

If there are none, you can always create your own.

Read moreI tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

2. Forcing them to buy a drink package

Castaway Spritz

The Royal Caribbean drink packages aren’t for everyone, so be sure that you discuss them beforehand with your cabin mate.

If you go ahead and purchase a deluxe drink package, every other adult in your stateroom is also required to buy one.

Royal Caribbean does not allow guests to share a drink package between multiple adults. 

Each adult of drinking age will be required to purchase one if one adult in their party does so.

Drink package

This means that you shouldn’t just go ahead and purchase one without their agreement!

Not only is it expensive, but the drink package also works best for guests who are going to have 5-6 drinks a day on their cruise.

It doesn't work for every lifestyle, so be sure that you communicate beforehand about what you’d prefer.

Don’t leave one person stuck, required to purchase an expensive beverage package.

3. Keeping your budget a secret

Budget

One of the biggest blows to a trip with friends is the clash between personal budgets.

Some people might have been saving for years, ready to blow it all, while others are hoping they’ll only spend $100-200 on their trip.

When two different budgets collide, the fallout can be intense. 

I’ve heard horror stories: one friend complaining that the other is too worried about money to have any fun, while the other feels that they’re being inconsiderate and selfish.

To avoid a friendship breakup, discuss your budgets beforehand.

While you don’t need to have the exact same budget as your friend, having a similar level of planning and communication ensures that you can stay on the same page.

Having an open, honest conversation before even booking the cruise is the best way to meet in the middle on money.

I like to call my friends even before we start planning, and honestly let them know how much I’m hoping to spend on the cruise. 

Once they reciprocate, you both can come to a compromise and discuss your various priorities.

Honesty is really the best policy when it comes to spending on a cruise. Otherwise, resentment can quickly build up and destroy a relationship, not to mention a cruise vacation. 

4. Hogging the charging ports

Cruise ship staterooms, even on Royal Caribbean, are notorious for never having enough charging ports available.

Most cabins only have a couple sockets, located by the desk, and none by the beds at all.

And we live in a time where most people have multiple electronic devices to charge, from phones to laptops to cameras. 

If you’re not careful, one guest could start to hog all the charging space. 

charging-comaparison-carnival-and-royal

To avoid fighting over the phone charger, plan ahead by bringing a cruise-safe power strip or a power bank.

Personally, I like to bring along a portable charge that I can charge every couple of days, and then use to power my devices in between.

Don’t be greedy! Make sure that everyone gets a chance to charge their devices.

Read more: What to bring on a Caribbean cruise? 23 essentials to pack

5. Denying yourself alone time

Not setting aside any time alone can be the most exhausting part of a cruise, especially for those of us who are introverts.

On a cruise, you’ll often travel with at least one other person, and come into contact with many other guests, bartenders, waiters, and tour guides.

If you’re not careful, you could go the whole length of the cruise without a single quiet moment alone.

Pool on a cruise ship

And that social exhaustion can sneak up on you quickly, making a fun vacation feel more like a chore. 

To avoid turning into a cranky, antisocial mess, make sure you prioritize your alone time from the beginning.

Start your cruise by finding a few quiet spots onboard. I like to sit in Central Park, find a quiet hot tub, or chill at a dark bar alone.

If you need an excuse, bring along a book to read, or plan a quick phone call.

But it’s best if you can be honest with your travel buddy, and let them know whenever you need a quiet moment alone.

Chances are they’d be grateful for one, too.

6. Setting unrealistic expectations

Everyone dreams big for their first cruise. 

You may have hopes of huge parties, delicious food, incredible tours, and warm beaches.

But it’s important to set realistic expectations, both for yourself and with the people you’re traveling with.

For example, if you’ve selected to sail on a bigger ship, don’t expect to be delivered right to unique, smaller ports.

Wonder of the Seas docked

Or if you’re traveling with a homebody who prefers quiet evenings, don’t expect them to suddenly join you at every late-night event.

You can’t have everything, so set priorities of what’s most important to you, and release control of the rest.

Otherwise, you may accidentally build up a sense of disappointment and resentment, and end up ruining the cruise for yourself. 

What to know before booking your first cruise

In:
03 Apr 2024

How can first-timers book a cruise without making a vital mistake?

The answer is to arm yourself with information.

Royal Caribbean offers fun, elegant family cruises. The cruise line promises a great vacation for guests of all ages.

But before you book, you’ll want to prepare yourself with all the necessary knowledge on Royal Caribbean cruises.

There are endless things that can go wrong if you jump into cruising without the proper education, such as wasting money or picking a ship you don’t end up enjoying.

Royal Caribbean

Booking your first cruise comes with a daunting amount of options: itineraries, cruise lines, destinations, ships, and cabins.

To help you face your first cruise with confidence, we’ve put together a guide with the most important things first-time cruisers should know before booking.

Read more: 7 surprising things I learned when booking a cruise for the first time

Use a travel agent

Travel agent

When it comes to gathering knowledge before booking, a good travel agent will be one of your best resources.

We always recommend using a good travel agent, whether this is your first cruise or you’ve already been on many.

Travel agents are paid by the cruise line to help you make your vacation planning easier. This means that their services don’t cost you anything.

They have a wealth of information on Royal Caribbean and can get to know you and answer all your personal questions. Travel agents can even use their own experience and network to get the answers you need.

They can also help you save money by finding all the discounts and offers available, and even snagging you onboard credit. 

Onboard credit (or OBC) is like a gift card for use onboard the ship. When you book through a travel agent, they can get anywhere from $50-100 in credit.

If you have pricing questions, changes to your reservation, or any further questions, your agent will be the one to call Royal Caribbean directly and sort out the details.

They become your advocate for everything surrounding your cruise, even when you’re onboard the ship.

Not only will they become your library of information, but their assistance will also free you up to focus on the more fun and interesting parts of preparation.

Read more: 12 things I'd tell anyone new to cruise ship travel

Book as early as possible

Icon of the Seas at CocoCay

When to book your Royal Caribbean cruise? As early as possible.

You’ll find the best prices for your cruise when the cruise line first opens bookings.

Because of supply and demand, the closer you get to the sail date, the more prices will rise. As soon as people begin to book the cruise, the price will increase. 

Also, Royal Caribbean wants to fill up their ships, so they encourage guests to book early and even offer early bird incentives.

Serenade of the Seas

Read more: The best time to book cruises by day, month, and last-minute

Waiting to book can be a costly choice.

Don’t just wait for a deal or a sale to come along, because it may never show up.

Royal Caribbean cruises are top-rated, and ships frequently fill up. You’re better off booking as early as you can.

However, because bookings usually open 1-2 years before a sailing, this requires a lot of forethought.

If you can’t plan that far ahead because of work or school, you can book your sailing with just a deposit. This gives you the flexibility to grab that low price, but also change the booking later if you need to.

Those living in the US, Canada, or Australia can usually rebook without any penalty if the price drops after booking.

Know the lingo

Who gets a SeaPass card? What does ‘Alpha Alpha Alpha’ mean? What is the lido deck?

The cruising world has many specific terms and phrases that can be strange and confusing for newcomers.

It’s important to learn the meaning of each of these phrases so that you can understand what’s going on during your cruise.

Alaska sunny skies

We have a Royal Caribbean cruise ship glossary to help you understand these unfamiliar phrases.

This will help you have clarity during your planning process and onboard the ship.

Check airfare prices

Before booking your cruise, you’ll also want to check how you’ll travel to the cruise port. 

If you don’t live close enough to drive, make sure to consider the cost of a flight.

Airfare can be extremely unpredictable, with prices quickly climbing into the hundreds.

Before you book your cruise, check which airports you’d be flying into, and how much flights cost for the dates you’re considering. 

Read more: How to prepare for a cruise: Last minute things you should do

You’ll want to ensure you are not picking a sailing that requires expensive or impractical flights.

When you do book your flight, remember that, like cruise lines, airlines seem to reward earlier bookings rather than later.

Also, keep in mind that you should fly into the cruise port the day before your cruise leaves. If you experience any delays, the ship will not wait for you!

In short, you should be looking to book a flight as early as possible, to arrive the day before the cruise begins. 

Make sure you look at all nearby airports to find the cheapest option.

Compare classes and ships

Not all Royal Caribbean ships are made equal.

When booking your cruise, you’ll choose from a fleet of 28 ships. 

While there are similarities and a core experience across all of them, features vary between classes and ships.

Just like cars are separated into types like trucks, sedans, and minivans, Royal Caribbean has designed different types of ships. 

Quantum of the Seas

These groupings of ships are called classes, and each class shares a common structure, layout, and design. 

Royal Caribbean’s fleet is broken up into 8 classes: Icon, Quantum Ultra, Quantum, Oasis, Freedom, Voyager, Radiance, and Vision.

Each class has its own distinct size, entertainment, activities, and amenities. Individual ships also have their own distinctions.

To book the best cruise for you, you’ll want to consider what features are a priority for you, and then explore which Class might have your favorite features.

oasis-docked-labadee-pool

For example, if you want to cruise on a ship with water slides, then the Icon, Oasis or Freedom Class might be the best fit.

But if you value visiting more unique ports of call, you might want to look into a smaller ship, like the Radiance or Vision Class.

This is another area in which your travel agent can help you out. They can choose the best ship for you based on your desires and budget.

Adventure vs Voyager

Just keep in mind that even within a certain class, ships can be different. 

Read more: First time cruise tips for Royal Caribbean

Consult a Cruise Compass

odyssey of the seas the book

Once you decide what your vacation priorities are, how do you find what’s available on each ship?

Onboard activities can play a major role in which ship you end up booking

If you’re looking for specific activities before you book, or just wondering what there is to do onboard, we have a hack to help you find that information.

Royal Caribbean does not usually publicly share its activities or entertainment for specific cruises before the cruise.

Instead, you can consult previous Cruise Compasses to see what was available on similar sailings on the same ship.

A Cruise Compass is a daily planner or itinerary distributed for each day of the cruise. It lists exactly what activities are available, and when and where they’ll be happening. This can give you a strong idea of what will be offered on a particular sailing.

Understand cabin categories

Icon of the Seas interior cabin

Depending on which ship you’ve picked, there are many different cabin categories to choose from.

Especially on bigger ships, there’s a variety of options and prices for staterooms.

Make sure that you research before booking a cabin. The best fit for you depends on your goals for the cruise.

Looking for a place to crash at night? Try a cheap interior cabin.

Have a large family with kids who want privacy? You can look into the suite categories.

Read more: What are the Royal Caribbean suite perks?

If you’re concerned about noise or seasickness, you’ll always want to look into the best cabin locations.

For the cheapest option, you can book a guarantee stateroom, in which you allow Royal Caribbean to assign you a less desirable cabin for a lower price.

Confirm what’s included in the fare

odyssey of the seas main dining room

When I first started cruising, one of the most surprising things was how much ended up being included in the base fare.

As part of your cruise experience, you’ll receive free room cleanings, access to high-quality food venues, child care, pool and hot tub access, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and many exhilarating activities.

Before my cruise, I like to go online and read Royal Caribbean’s Fact Sheet for the ship. That usually lists which venues are complementary and which cost extra.

cocktail-bar-alcohol

However, it’s also important that you’re aware of the extra fees that come with a cruise.

Items like WiFi, specialty drinks, room service, gratuities, and shore excursions all cost extra.

As a general rule, it feels like a lot is included in the cruise fare, but items that cost extra come at a high price.

You can expect specialty items (like alcoholic drinks or spa packages) to cost more than they might on land.

What to know before booking your first cruise

How to plan a cruise for the first time

In:
07 Mar 2024

A cruise is a great vacation, but how do you plan a cruise for the first time? This isn't a simple task because of how confusing it can be navigating the myriad of options you have along the way.

Woman laying in a chair

Shore excursions, drink packages, stateroom types, and dinner choices are just a few of the possibilities, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the entire process.

The good news is that planning a great cruise isn't difficult, but it does take a little bit of extra time to get it right.

I've taken over 70 cruises and reached the top tier of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program, so I have plenty of insight into what goes into planning a cruise.

From how to budget to booking, here's how to plan a cruise.

Planning a cruise for the first time

Ship leaving St Thomas

Before you pick a ship or destination, it makes sense to figure out your budget and time off.

Cruises come with all sorts of prices and lengths. You could do a quick weekend cruise or a lengthy transatlantic. And you'll have to pick the right cabin for your family.  

It makes the most sense to come up with a vacation budget for cost and time off from your daily obligations.

Odyssey of the Seas at sea

Your cruise budget needs to account for these costs:

  • Cruise fare
  • Taxes, port fees
  • Gratuities
  • Shore excursions
  • Onboard spending (drinks, wifi, spa, etc)
  • Transportation to/from the cruise ship (hotel, airfare, rental car)

There's more, but those are the big costs you can expect. The cruise fare, airfare, shore excursions and onboard spending are likely the highest costs, in that order.

Budget

I think most families have a budget in mind when they plan any vacation, so having that number in your head will help ensure you are tallying up costs before committing to something.

A recurring theme of this post is the importance of using a good travel agent to help plan this with you.  If you're thinking, "how could I realistically estimate costs if I've never cruised before," then this is when a travel agent comes in handy. 

Read more: The best ways to book a cruise

My advice is jot down prices along the way to ensure you're in the ballpark of your vacation budget.

The other component is going to be your time. If you only have 3 days off of work, that will greatly limit which sailings you can choose. Likewise, a week of vacation time versus two weeks will alter your choices.

If you're flexible with your time, then you should consider the itinerary and what stands out to you the most.

Serenade of the Seas in Tampa

Be sure to factor in how long it will take you to get to your cruise port.  If you can drive to your embarkation city, that means less time in transit. But if you need to fly to reach your cruise ship, that will take up at least an extra day of your time. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Decide how long of a cruise to take

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear night

Now that you know how much money you have to spend, you will want to figure out how long of a cruise to take.

If this is your first cruise, I recommend going on a five to seven night sailing on an Icon, Oasis or Quantum Class ship. 

Plus, Icon Class & Oasis Class ships have the latest and greatest features across the fleet. This includes Central Park, rock-climbing wall, surf simulator, and water slides. It has the most for families to do, and you're not compromising on what's available to do.

odyssey of the seas bumper cars

Quantum Class ships have their own assortment of signature areas and activities, such as North Star, SeaPlex, sky diving simulator, rock walls, and excellent youth programs.

The problem with a short cruise is they go by so quickly and for someone new to cruising, it may not provide enough time on ship or on shore to really get a sense of it all. Moreover, on a per-night basis, the cost of a cruise tends to be cheaper the longer the sailing. 

Choose a cruise ship

Icon of the Seas in Miami

Royal Caribbean has cruise ships that vary in size, things to do onboard, and where you can go in the world.

These ships are not just built to be big, rather, they are built to be large enough to house all the really cool adventures that await you.  Royal Caribbean has built its ships bigger and bigger to offer more and more to its guests.

But before you pick a ship at random, you'll need to think about where you want to go. Cruise ships are deployed to a region of the world for at least a few months at a time. 

Ovation of the Seas docked in Alaska

European and Alaska cruises run in the summer months, while the Caribbean is a year-round destination. Depending on which region you want to visit along with which month of the year you want to cruise, there will be a subset of Royal Caribbean's fleet you can pick from.

The new Icon Class cruise ships sail to the Caribbean exclusively and are the newest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet. These ships are aimed primarily at young families, and have a water park, many restaurant choices, and more cabins designed for five or more passengers than ever before. Icon of the Seas started cruising in January 2024 from Miami to the eastern and western Caribbean. Star of the Seas will enter service from Port Canaveral in 2025.

Oasis Class ships are giant ships that have long been the standard for what a family vacation is all about. Each of the Oasis class ships has 7 distinct neighborhoods that have their own look and feel. The neighborhood concept makes getting around easier because areas of the ship do not blend into each other.

Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona

In fact, first timer cruisers might find the largest and newest Royal Caribbean ships to be an ideal pick because they offer the latest innovations, entertainment, technology and choices.

The Quantum class ships are also quite new, but not quite as large as the Oasis class ships. It can be argued that Quantum class ships were designed with first time cruisers in mind.  Just like the Oasis class ships, the Quantum class ships offer a number of Royal Caribbean advancements and some of the finest dining and entertainment at sea.

Mariner of the Seas

The Voyager and Freedom class ships are slightly smaller, but offer an amazing value for large ships. They are also dispersed more widely than their larger cousins, and still offer a lot to see and do onboard. Many Royal Caribbean veterans love the Voyager and Freedom class ships for their well-proportioned size, dining choices and activities onboard. The "sweet spot" of Royal Caribbean pricing tends to fall right in with the Voyager and Freedom class ships because the newer ships have drawn much of the attention, and the other ship's premium pricing means there are some really good deals to be found.

Radiance and Vision class ships make up the smallest ships in the fleet, but what they lack in size, they make up for in port variety, great value and beauty onboard.

While the small ships lack surf simulators and bumper cars, they make up for it in a classic cruise experience and lower price. These smaller ships can get to ports of call that larger ships cannot, as well as offer a more intimate experience in relationship with your fellow guests. 

Many people ask me what is the worst Royal Caribbean cruise ship, but the reality is every ship has its merits, so it is really a question of what do you want the ship to have onboard, and does the ship you are considering have that.

Choose a cabin

Inside cabin on Allure of the Seas

Selecting a stateroom is important, because it's where you'll spend a lot of time there and don't want to regret the choice every day.

There are five primary types of cruise cabins.

  • Interior cabins
  • Oceanview cabins
  • Balcony cabins
  • Junior Suites
  • Suites

Balcony rooms are the most popular category, most ships offering more balcony cabins than any other type of room.

Ocean view balcony

Royal Caribbean prices its cabins based on double occupancy, which means even if you want to sail alone, you're going to end up paying double.

When choosing your cabin, you'll have two cruise rates to pick between: refundable cruise fare and non-refundable cruise fare.

Refundable cruise fare will cost more, but allow you to get a full cash refund if you decide to cancel or change plans before the final payment date.

Non-refundable cruise fare will save money on the total cost, but there is a change fee if you cancel or swap to a different sailing.

More than likely which cabin you want to book will depend on your budget, how many people are traveling with you, and personal preferences.

Book your cruise

There are three ways to book a cruise: directly with the cruise line, using a travel agent, or going to an online travel site.

There are advantages to each choice, but I think everyone should book with a good travel agent. There are so many factors to consider, and an agent that has years of experience booking cruises can make this so much easier.

Most travel agents specializing in Royal Caribbean are "no fee" agencies, which means it costs you absolutely nothing extra to book the cruise reservation from them (Royal Caribbean pays the travel agent a commission). Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean. If you are not convinced using a free travel agency that is recommended by Royal Caribbean is right for you, read our post discussing the benefits they offer.

You need to not only pick a ship and date, but also figure out which cabin to book, refundable or non-refundable deposit, which dinner option to book, gratuities, and so much more.

The biggest point of failure for new cruisers is making a mistake in the booking process and regretting it later.

There's nothing wrong with price shopping and seeing what deals you can find. Just make sure you're comparing apples to apples, and consider fees and insurance.

Royal Caribbean cruise checklist

Ovation of the Seas on a sunny day

There's a lot that goes into planning your first cruise, and it's hardly a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on who you are cruising with, where you are going, and the types of ship or cabin you pick, the planning process can differ greatly.

However, there are some basics that are universal to the planning process, so I wanted to provide an easy to follow list of what to verify as you move along in the process.

☐ Establish a budget

☐ Decide on a cruise length

☐ Choose which region you want to cruise to

☐ Choose a ship

☐ Choose a cabin

☐ Book your cruise

☐ Consider travel insurance

☐ Book airfare, hotel, and rental car

☐ Research and book shore excursions

☐ Check-in for the cruise 45 days before sailing

☐ Make a reminder to book entertainment and activities before the cruise (30 days before the cruise on Quantum, Oasis, or Icon Class ships)

Equally important are things you bring with you on a cruise. There are cruise essentials, travel documents, and clothing that you'll want to bring.

Read more: Royal Caribbean packing list

Get the RCB Cruise Academy Pro course

Course teaser

Feeling overwhelmed with how much information there is to plan a cruise? We have you covered with Cruise Academy PRO, which is our brand new online course. It helps you plan your first cruise like you've already been on fifty cruises!

When you buy the course, you'll get unlimited access to our step-by-step guide to planning a cruise vacation with all the important information, tips, and advice provided in easy-to-understand video courses.

There are over 50 lessons that have the BEST tips, tricks, info, and advice for you to help you enjoy every minute of your cruise. We’ve broken down each step, so you don't have to dig for the right article, video, or forum post.

Example of the course

We offer a 100% money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied, and it’s a digital course, which means you’ll get it INSTANTLY and can start planning immediately!

Get the Cruise Academy PRO course HERE!

First time Royal Caribbean cruise tips

If you can avoid common pitfalls of taking your first Royal Caribbean cruise, then you'll likely set yourself up for a great first sailing.

We've shared lots of cruise tips so you can avoid unfortunate rookie mistakes, and I wanted to highlight some important considerations if you're brand new to Royal Caribbean.

Avoid really long or short cruises

Royal Caribbean ship at sea

There are a few types of cruises I would steer clear any first time cruiser from to avoid disappointment.

A transatlantic or repositioning cruise is definitely not a good fit for someone taking their first Royal Caribbean cruise.  These sailings often have great daily rates, but they're very long sailings with lots of sea days, and that could be simply too much for a cruiser.

Not to mention the fact cruises across the ocean tend to encounter rougher seas, and that means a higher chance of getting seasick.

In addition, skip a short cruise that is less than five nights long.

Three and four night cruises may seem attractive as a first sailing, but you don't have enough time to experience everything. It's a rushed experience, and I doubt you'll feel relaxed. Plus, short cruises attract more of a party atmosphere, which is usually not what a lot of people want on their cruise vacation.

Avoid older ships

Rhapsody of the Seas in Greece

Purely as a first time cruiser, I wouldn't recommend booking a cruise on an older ship. 

Simply put, older ships don't offer nearly as much to do onboard as newer ships, and I think there's a higher chance it wont meet a new cruiser's expectations.

Moreover, older ships lack water slides and as many activities, which could make them a poor candidate for a family.

Don't skip travel insurance

travel insurance

It may seem like buying travel insurance for your trip is an unnecessary cost, but it's worth every penny in the scenario you need it.

Travel insurance is more than just "extra health insurance". It's protection in unforeseen situations where it's really no one's fault, but you're stuck with extra costs. Travel delays, accidental injuries in port, car rental damage, or altered itineraries are all scenarios where travel insurance could protect you.

Drink packages are attractive, but expensive

Deluxe Beverage Package

I get so many questions if a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth it, and the answer is it definitely can be under the right situation.

Beverage packages are not cheap, but if you can drink enough every day, then they can save money. Remember, how you drink on vacation is different than at home or at a restaurant.

The decision to buy one is not easy, but definitely pre-purchase one rather than waiting to book it onboard to save a lot of money.

Download the Royal Caribbean app and check-in early

The Royal Caribbean app is super helpful, so install it before your cruise.  

Better yet, do the online check-in in the app up to 45 days before your cruise sails to ensure you have the fastest possible boarding process.

Read more: First time cruise tips for Royal Caribbean

Travel insurance for a cruise: Why you need it for a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
02 Mar 2024

Is getting cruise travel insurance the right decision for your upcoming vacation?

When you're planning a cruise, there are plenty of costs to consider beyond the cruise fare: shore excursions, drink packages, wifi, and more. Protecting yourself against risk is one of those decisions, and the decision to purchase a plan depends on a few factors.

I've covered the cruise industry for many years, and unforeseen circumstances that lead to a last-minute cruise cancellation are probably right at the top of most common stories I've heard from readers. And it's usually the ones without travel insurance that end up writing a long winded post on a forum why they're stuck.

There are many kinds of cruise insurance policies to consider, so it's not a blanket purchase either. You have to look through the coverage choices before selecting the right one.

Mariner of the Seas anchored

To make it simpler to understand, here's what you need to know about cruise insurance so you can pick the right option for you.

Why you need travel insurance for a cruise

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

It's not uncommon at all to hear someone brush off the need to buy travel insurance in the first place because they feel the risks are quite low.

I think many people equate travel insurance with health insurance to some extent. They think about having a heart attack, breaking a leg, or some other incident related to their health.  If they're in good shape and free of pre-existing conditions, why bother?

While cruise insurance does cover health issues on a cruise ship, it is far more likely to be of use beyond a slip and fall.

Travel insurance covers many more scenarios related to you getting on a cruise, especially circumstances beyond your control.  

  • You lose your job
  • Airline cancels your flight so you can't get to the cruise on time
  • Lost baggage along the way
  • Death in the family
  • Last-minute severe illness

In all of those scenarios, they would occur in the final days or hours before your cruise begins, and if you tried to cancel your cruise, Royal Caribbean would offer you no refund.  

Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami

Once you pass the final payment date for your cruise (90 days before your sailing for most cruises), you start incurring penalties if you were to cancel. In the final week before your cruise, there are no refunds for a cancellation. It doesn't matter how good of a story you have, and why it's not fair. 

Travel insurance for a cruise would likely compensate you in those situations.

Then there's the really bad situations that could occur, such as getting severely hurt while on your trip. Car accident, falls, major health incidents, are all the kind of things that could require not only hospitalization, but transport by ambulance or helicopter. While your health insurance covers that at home, when you're out of the country you're likely out of network and the out-of-pocket costs can be outrageous. 

Essentially, travel insurance for a cruise is peace of mind that a calamity will not financial burden you or leave you in a terrible bind.

Types of coverage offered by cruise travel insurance

Anthem of the Seas aerial

Depending on which policy you choose, there are a great deal of coverages available with a plan purchase.

A common misconception is that travel insurance is just for medical issues, as it covers much more than that.

Most plans have coverage for the following categories:

  • Trip cancellation & interruption
  • Medical expenses
  • Medical evacuation
  • Luggage loss
  • Travel delays

There's also some plans that have a "cancel anytime" option, which allows the insured person to have the coverage kick in for a reason not covered by the plan. These are pricier and usually cover up to 75% of the trip cost.

Most people will purchase a single trip insurance plan, where they want coverage for a specific vacation they are taking. There are also annual plans that are ideal for someone that vacations a few times per year.

How to choose the right cruise travel insurance policy

travel insurance

Cruise insurance policies are not all the same, so don't assume you can buy any plan.

You'll want to determine your risk factors and find a plan that matches up well with them.

If you have a medical condition, then it makes sense to find a plan that would cover that. Some policies will include or exclude certain pre-existing health conditions, so be sure to investigate which one works for you.

It's also a good idea to look at what each plan covers for trip interruption, delay, and cancellation. Specifically, what scenarios have to play out for your insurance to cover it. Never assume coverages, because nearly all cruise insurance requires something to occur out of your hands to be grounds for coverage.

Hurricane as seen from space

It's a good idea to think of situations you're concerned about, and verify your plan would cover it. 

Royal Caribbean sells its own Travel Protection Program, which is actually provided by a third-party company Aon Affinity.  The cruise line doesn't own or operate the insurance, they simply offer it to its passengers as a courtesy. 

There's certainly nothing wrong with Royal Caribbean's insurance plan, but don't assume it's the safest bet for your insurance needs. Moreover, read the policy just like any other policy.

Common exclusions in cruise travel insurance policies

Freedom-Disembarkation-Miami

Not every scenario is covered by travel insurance, so you want to double check what is not part of your plan. This means read your plan documents before you travel so you understand what kinds of things are excluded. 

Typical exclusions are:

  • Epidemics
  • Your decision to cancel a trip before the cruise or flight is cancelled by the carrier
  • Illness and injury caused by the use or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or any related physical symptoms.
  • Mental or nervous health disorder, as recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, dementia, depression, neurosis, psychosis, or any related physical symptoms. (This exclusion applies only to trip cancellation coverage and trip interruption coverage)
Hurricane Lee forecast

The most common issue with travel insurance is wanting to change your plans arbitrarily, especially during hurricane season.

What usually happens is there is a tropical storm somewhere in the Atlantic and someone booked on a cruise wants to cancel their trip.  The cruise sailing and the flights haven't been changed or cancelled yet by the carrier, but they don't want to go anymore.  

In that scenario, cruise insurance does not cover it, because your trip is still happening. The only situation in which an insurance policy would allow you to cancel at the last minute because you do not wish to sail is a "cancel for any reason" plan.

Tips for comparing cruise travel insurance plans

It's a really good idea to compare plans before buying one. There are many coverages and plan features that are anything but a "one size fits all" situation.

The best way to compare insurance plans is to go through a travel insurance aggregator. They make it simple and easy to see how plans differ, and often do a much better job of explaining what the coverages are without legal speak.

My two favorite options are InsureMyTrip.com and TravelInsurance.com. Both charge you nothing extra to use their services, so it's free to browse. Plus, they offer ways to compare specific plans from different travel insurance companies against each other.

Laptop

When comparing insurance plans, look at which coverages you want and how much you want covered.  Most importantly, verify what needs to happen for the coverage to kick in. It's a good idea to download the policy PDF document so you can read the fine print.

You can expect to find what percentage of the trip cost will be covered, as well as trip interruption. Baggage loss ranges from $500 to $1,500 per person, while medical evacuation ranges from $250,000 per person to $1 million per person.

You will also want to decide if you want a "cancel for any reason" policy. Adding it adds piece of mind, but it will drive up the cost of your policy, and it usually does not cover 100% of your trip cost.

The cost of cruise travel insurance

Budget

The cost of any travel insurance plan is dependent on how much your vacation costs, but the industry standard is around 4% to 8% of prepaid non-refundable expenses.

There are basic plans that are the cheapest, but don't cover nearly as much.  Then there are expensive plans that cover a great deal of possible scenarios that will cost you even as much as 10% or more of your trip cost.

A cruise insurance policy is priced per person, and it depends on:

  • Length of the trip
  • Age of each traveler
  • Number of people needing insurance
  • Optional coverages you add (i.e. "cancel for any reason")
  • Overall vacation cost

In 2023, Royal Caribbean listed 32 different price points for its insurance, based on the total vacation cost. Its cheapest plan was $39 for a cruise value up to $250 to a $1,799 policy for a cruise costing more than $14,001.

You can get a quote online from any trip insurance provider or broker with no obligation to purchase it.

How to file a claim with your cruise travel insurance

If you ever need to use your policy, there are important things to do so that you can have your claim covered. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association says about 90 percent of claims are honored. 

The first thing to do is call your insurance company when you think you're about to do something that will be covered by the policy. It never hurts to ask to verify the scenario playing out is indeed covered, and what steps you should take along the way. Having the right documentation is important.

Speaking of documentation, you're going to need proof of a trip delay, cancellation or any event that will incur a claim. Keep any and all receipts, as well as notifications of changes in your plans. Emails and letters concerning a flight or cruise change, letters from a doctor or employer, and medical records are all good to have readily available.

In short, save receipts for everything, and ask for documentation for any medical or travel expenses.

Top travel insurance providers for cruises

Ship docked in St. Thomas

There are lots of places to buy cruise travel insurance and plenty of providers, including your cruise line.  Your travel agent may even offer an insurance policy that they recommend using (and can assist you in the event you make a claim). Then there's credit card protections and third-party aggregators.

Royal Caribbean's insurance

Royal Caribbean offers trip coverage that you can buy when booking your cruise.

Cruise line travel protection is usually not the most comprehensive plan available, but it's the easiest to book since it requires a simple check box to opt into at the time of booking.

Third party insurance

Travel insurance

There are many different travel insurance companies, such as Travelguard, AIG Travel, Allianz Travel Insurance, and Travelex Insurance.

Third party insurance providers have multiple coverages, and do a good job of including pre- and post-cruise coverage as well. They are especially good if you are looking for extremely cheap or comprehensive plans. In general, you will find a great variety of policies and prices.

These are the sort of policies a travel aggregator website will include.

Credit cards

Premium credit cards usually include travel benefits that resemble a travel insurance plan.

Depending on your credit card, it may provide reimbursement in the event of a flight delay or cancellation, your baggage is damaged, or you have a family emergency that requires you to go home.

The two most popular credit cards offering travel protections are the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and the American Express Platinum card.

One "catch" with credit card protections is you must pay for the trip (sometimes completely) with the credit card you want to use for the benefits. You should also compare coverages against a regular travel insurance plan.

FAQs about Cruise Travel Insurance

What specific scenarios are covered under the "cancel for any reason" option in travel insurance policies?

The "cancel for any reason" option in travel insurance policies typically allows you to cancel your trip for reasons not covered by standard cancellation coverage, but there may be limitations, such as a deadline for cancellation and a partial refund.

How do pre-existing medical conditions affect the coverage and cost of cruise travel insurance?

Pre-existing medical conditions can affect coverage and may require a waiver for full coverage. 

Are there any differences in coverage or cost for travel insurance based on the destination of the cruise, such as the Caribbean versus Alaska?

The cost and coverage of travel insurance can vary based on the destination, with some regions potentially having higher risks or costs associated with them.

The importance of being insured on your cruise

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

It's unlikely you'll ever need cruise insurance, but if you do, then you'll be so glad you bought a plan.  Like all insurance, it's a waste of money until you need it.

Travel insurance varies considerably in coverages, and it's not cheap.  But it provides peace of mind and more importantly, financial assistance should the unforeseen happen to you.  It's more than a glorified medical plan, insurance is protection against major financial strife from an emergency.

Cruise ship plans can change, especially due to the weather or geopolitical incidents that occur in the final week or even days prior to a cruise sailing.  Without insurance, you're on the hook for out of pocket expenses not refunded by the cruise line.

Most importantly, compare plans and policies to determine which is the best fit for you. 

While not everyone may need insurance, it's something I believe is a good idea to have just in case. There are far worse things to spend your money on during your vacation, and the benefits cruise insurance provides can make the difference between a manageable problem and a nightmare.

Subscribe to Planning