Planning

What is the best time to cruise to the Caribbean?

In:
03Jun2020

There are ample cruises to choose from throughout the year that visit the Caribbean, so what is the best time to cruise there?

While the Caribbean is a year-round destination for cruises, there is a high season and low season, just like any other locale. They key is finding a time that combines the best weather with the lowest prices.

Best months to go on a Caribbean cruise

In terms of the best weather for a Caribbean cruise, the months of December through April will see the most comfortable weather.

During these winter and early spring months, there is the least amount of precipitation, as well as humidity. Moreover, this is the time of year that is not part of hurricane season.

In addition, cruising between December and April means an escape for many guests who are coming from colder locations further north.  It is a popular time for many to escape to warmer temperatures.

Cheapest months to go on a Caribbean cruise

If you are looking to get the lowest cost for a Caribbean cruise, late August through early November see some of the lowest prices of the year.

Cruises in this time period have two things in common: it is the peak of hurricane season and it is also when most families are unable to vacation due to the school calendar. The combined effect is lower demand for cruises, and thus, lower prices.

You can also find bargains during other times of the year when school is typically in session, such as mid-January to mid-February, mid-April through the end of May, and the first two weeks of December.

There are always exceptions, but the key to finding the best price on a Caribbean cruise is to try to go when most others cannot cruise. Avoiding religious holidays and the school vacation calendar is a good start.

Should I cruise in the Caribbean during hurricane season?

Cruising during hurricane season may sound scary, but it is not as crazy as it may seem.

Hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30, and it is the time of year when we typically see tropical storms form in the Caribbean. Of course, that does not mean there is a hurricane every day, nor does it mean when there is one, the entire Caribbean is affected.

First and foremost, Royal Caribbean employs a Chief Meteorologist to track every disturbance and storm out there, and provide guidance to each cruise ship on how to best avoid the storm. 

Royal Caribbean will absolutely, positively, avoid the path of any hurricane. Itineraries will be flipped, swapped or completely changed to avoid going anywhere near the storm. The cruise line has said time and time again that the safety of its guests, crew and ships are vital, and they will not send their vessels near any hurricane.

In rare situations, entire sailings have been cancelled if the path of the storm rules out any possibility of a ship making it in or out of its homeport.

The top reason to cruise during hurricane season is it will cost you a lot less to cruise during this time of year, and the likelihood of a storm directly impacting your cruise is low.  Moreover, your ship will not go in or near any storm.

Repositioning cruises 2020, 2021 & 2022

In:
Category: 
29May2020

From time to time, Royal Caribbean will offer repositioning cruises, where a ship will change homeports and offer a special sailing during the transit between ports.

Most repositioning cruises are done when a ship moves from one region of the world to another, such as North America to Australia, or Europe to North America.  They tend to happen seasonally, and occur with regular frequency.

In addition, there can be a repositioning sailing that is not a regular occurrence, and simply a way to get a ship to a new market.

In either case, Royal Caribbean offers these sailings to guests as an opportunity to experience a cruise ship with a very unique itinerary.

Why go on a repositioning cruise?

The best reason to book a repositioning cruise is to not only be on a certain ship, but enjoy extra sea days and even unique ports of call.

Many repositioning cruises involve an ocean crossing, where the ship moves from one region to another. This means many days at sea, and ample opportunity to see and experience everything onboard.  Moreover, it is a great way to get to know the crew members since your sailing is more than just a few days.

In order to drum up demand for repositioning sailings, Royal Caribbean often includes special port visits that are not regularly offered. This may mean a visit to a port not usually visited by Royal Caribbean, or a combination of ports on either end of the crossing.

On top of all of these reasons, repositioning cruises tend to be priced pretty favorably, with per-night costs substantially below other sailings.

Why you might not want to do a repositioning cruise

In order to get from one region to another, repositioning cruises tend to be significantly longer sailings, with lots of sea days inbetween. While all these extra days means more time to experience what is available onboard, many cruisers are concerned about the cruise getting dull or even boring.

In addition, it almost always requires you to fly to one port, and then fly home from another. The logistics and price of not doing a roundtrip flight can sometimes ruin any deal offered by the sailing.

Repositioning sailings that cross an ocean, especially the Atlantic Ocean, can sometimes be susceptible to rough weather, as they tend to sail at the very beginning and very end of the cruise season for a region. Certainly the cruise line makes every effort to find a path that involves the best weather, but sometimes grey skies and bigger waves are unavoidable.

It should also be noted that there are usually far less families onboard the ocean crossing sailings, due to a combination of the cruise length and the fact they almost always occur while school is in session. If you have kids, you may find significantly less other children for them to play with in Adventure Ocean or elsewhere.

How long is a repositioning cruise?

Most repositioning cruises tend to be longer sailings, often in the ballpark of 10-14 nights, or longer. The time it takes to not only cross the Atlantic or Pacific ocean is no quick journey, and there are usually port stops included on both sides of the ocean to add some variety.

Repositioning sailings that do not involve an ocean crossing are usually shorter, but they are less frequently offered.

How to find a repositioning cruise

Royal Caribbean offers a search filter on its website to specify just the repositioning cruises. In addition, a good travel agent can assist in locating the right cruise for you.

Each year when new cruises are announced, there is usually a smattering of repositioning cruises announced as well, as new deployments create opportunities for a repositioning.

It should be noted that not all ship movements necessarily include a repositioning cruise, but it is commonly offered as a way to generate revenue for a necessary operation.

The most common types of repositioning cruises offered by Royal Caribbean are:

  • Between North America and Europe
  • Between North America and Australia
  • Between Australia and Hawaii
  • Between Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest

Repositioning cruise tips

Take advantage of extra time on the ship

One of the best things about a repositioning cruise is all the extra sea days you have, so be certain to enjoy all the onboard activities and entertainment.

With traditional cruises, it is difficult to "see it all", but longer repo cruises allow for time to see all the shows, try the various restaurants, and otherwise work in everything on your must-do list.

Going on an ocean crossing on a new ship is an especially popular trick for veteran cruisers who want to enjoy everything a new ship can offer in one sailing.

Prepare to keep yourself busy

While Royal Caribbean will offer lots of activities each day of your cruise, inevitably you will find down time to "do your own thing" during the sailing.

Be sure to pack board games, books, cards, downloaded movies and more to keep yourself entertained during the long duration between port stops. This is especially important if the weather does not cooperate and being outdoors is not practical.

Pack for all weather

When packing for a transatlantic cruise, you should be prepared for all types of temperatures and sky conditions. Transatlantic crossings are especially notorious for a mix of sun, clouds, wind and rain. 

Be sure to bring clothing to keep you comfortable if the temperatures drop, the rain is extended, or the sun is heating everything up.  Similar to packing for an Alaska cruise, having layers to change in and out of might not be a bad idea. 

Research airfare before you commit

While repositioning cruise fare is often a pretty good deal, the flights may not be such a bargain.

Your best bet is to double-check airfare prices before you reach final payment date to ensure you are not going to lock yourself into a crazy high flight price.

Choosing between the passport card vs book

In:
Category: 
27May2020

One of the best things any American can do when cruising, is to have a passport, but should you get a passport card or book?

The decision of which passport option to choose will depend on how and where you intend to travel.

Having a passport for U.S. citizens is optional for cruises that leave and return to the United States, and mandatory for cruises outside the country.  Both a passport card or a passport book is a valid form of identification for domestic cruises.

What is a passport card useful for?

The U.S. passport card is a less expensive passport option that looks similar to a drivers license, making them cheaper and more convenient. A passport card is valid for 10 years.

Passport cards are only for land or sea travel, which means you cannot use them for air travel.  In addition, you cannot use a passport card for cruises that depart from homeports outside the United States.

The inability to fly with a passport card makes certain scenarios a problem for the traveler.  If you were ever stuck in a country outside the United States, either due to being left behind on an excursion or an unexpected end to the cruise, it would be impossible to fly home with the passport card.

What is a passport book useful for?

A passport book allows international travel across air, sea and land. A passport book is valid for 10 years.

The best thing about a passport book is there are no restrictions with where you can travel to or from.

What is the difference between the passport card vs. book?

The appeal of the passport card is it is cheaper than the book, while providing a better option than relying on a birth certificate and state issued identification.

The reason why a passport book is a better idea is because it better protects you if you were ever stranded somewhere. Having a passport to protect against being stranded is a big reason why I recommend everyone get one.

Moreover, having a passport book means you can travel internationally via an airplane. Keeping in mind a passport is good for ten years for adults, you will have ample opportunity to recoup the investment of a passport book.

If you are looking to same money and do not want to carry the bulkier passport book, a passport card might be worth considering.  For most people, getting a passport book is a smarter choice.

Top 9 bad mistakes to make on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
26May2020

Going on a cruise vacation is a great choice, but you definitely want to avoid certain pitfalls and bad advice to ensure you do not have a terrible experience.

All too often, I hear from first time cruisers who make one of these rookie mistakes that costs them time, money or both. So prevent yourself from becoming "that guy" and heed this advice!

Booking a flight the same day your cruise leaves

Perhaps the most common mistake made by anyone is booking a flight that arrives to the city their cruise departs from on the same day the cruise is set to begin.

It may seem like the logical thing to do, especially if you are trying to balance your work commitments or save money on a hotel room. But flying in the same day means a flight delay/cancellation or lost luggage could ruin your entire vacation before it starts.

Instead, book a flight that gets you in at least a day before the cruise is scheduled to depart. You can book a hotel near the port or airport, and take advantage of not only an earlier start to your vacation, but an opportunity to explore the surrounding area.

Waiting to book shore excursions until on your cruise

The ports of call your cruise ship will visit offers plenty to see and do, but if you try to "wing it" and book something in the port or onboard your ship, you are denying yourself the opportunity to learn as much as possible about what is available to you.

Trying to figure out what to do on the ship or in port means less time to see all options, as well as price shop. You also risk the activity you really wanted to do selling out.

Take advantage of the weeks and months leading up to your cruise by learning about everything you can do online, and have it planned before you get on your cruise.

Intentionally break the rules

Perhaps the dumbest mistake to make is thinking the cruise ship rules do not apply to you and purposefully circumventing them.

Whether smoking on your balcony, skipping muster drill, sneaking in alcohol, or any other clearly stated rule that you choose to ignore out of spite or "for fun" is just plain wrong and puts others at risk, as well as has the potential to get you in trouble.

The rules are in place for a reason, and more importantly, you must abide by them while on Royal Caribbean's vessels. It is their way, or the highway (back home).

Not keeping track of your time while in port

While it may seem easy to think you have plenty of time to get back to your ship, you definitely do not want to forget the all-aboard time.

Royal Caribbean provides set hours for each port stop it makes, and you absolutely need to be keeping track of the local time, as well as how long it may take to get back to ensure you are back onboard before they pull up the gangway.

Keep in mind that the ship may be scheduled to leave at a certain time, but the all-aboard time is usually 30 minutes or more earlier. So if you are scheduled to be in port until 8pm, that means guests may have to be back by 7:30pm.

Not putting your phone into airplane mode

Want to avoid coming home to a cell phone bill in the thousands of dollars? Make sure once you get on your ship on embarkation day, you put your phone into airplane mode.

Your phone connecting to the ship or island cell tower can mean huge roaming charges, since the local carriers will charge your carrier exorbitant prices for the privilege of using their network.

After getting onboard the ship on day one, be sure to switch your phone over to airplane mode to avoid it connecting to any cellular network. You can still use the ship's wifi while in airplane mode.

Looking at only price when picking a sailing

The cost of a cruise is a major factor to consider when picking the right vacation, but it should not be the only consideration. Looking purely at the price may mean you pick a cruise during a time of year that compromises on the weather.

Prices are typically low during the fall months because of hurricane season, as well as prices for Alaska cruises in May and September will be cheaper, but you may find significantly colder and/or wetter weather waiting for you.

While there is never a sailing that is guaranteed to have great/perfect weather, be sure to weigh the cheapest month to go on a cruise versus what you are giving up by going during those times.

Not considering travel insurance

Travel insurance is an optional add-on to consider, but completely ignoring it is a big mistake.

While not for everyone, travel insurance is something that if you ever need it, will feel like the best money you ever spent. People who have higher risk factors, such as chronic health issues or sensitivities, would be well suited to consider travel insurance.

While most have health insurance, that coverage may not extend to situations outside your home country, especially on cruise ships.

In addition to the health issues, travel insurance can protect you in case of any other type of catastrophe, including cancellation, a missed connection, lost or delayed baggage, or a dental or legal problem.

Not leaving clothes out for the last morning

When your cruise is nearly over, you will need to pack everything up and place your luggage outside your door the night before the cruise ends so that it can be delivered to the cruise terminal to pick up later. Be very certain to leave one last outfit out to wear off the ship!

Inevitably, there is always someone who just packs everything up and then realizes the next morning that they have nothing to wear.  

Avoid the walking off the ship in your PJs by ensuring you leave something else out to wear on that last morning.

Wait until your kids are older to cruise

One bit of advice that I always disagree with is that your kids should be a certain age before taking them on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean allows children as young as six months old to go on a cruise, and I do not believe there is any age too young to start taking them onboard with you.

The cruise line offers tremendous child care programs and activities for families to enjoy on a cruise. It is far from an adults-only experience, and many ship offerings were designed with kids in mind.

In addition, traveling together with children and enjoying a vacation together as a family is time well-spent, and positive experiences, even if the kids do not remember them precisely as adults later on, are worth having together.

How to plan your cruise vacation for when Royal Caribbean resumes sailing

In:
Category: 
07May2020

While there are no Royal Caribbean cruises to go on currently, the day when they will sail again is coming, and now is a great opportunity to prepare for that vacation.

One of the best ways to ensure you have a fantastic vacation is to plan ahead, as I see too many cruisers that do little to no research into their vacation.

Make the most of your cruise with these top tips.

Learn everything about your ship from a past Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance.  Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. With that in mind, many veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers reference past Cruise Compasses to get an idea of what to expect on an upcoming sailing. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.

You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

Make sure you have proper documents

One of the most important things you need to get on any cruise ship is the proper travel documents.

Just like going on an airplane flight, you need to have the right paperwork, and depending on your nationality and where you are sailing from, this may vary.

The simplest answer is to have a passport. While Americans sailing from the United States do not need a passport, I advocate everyone sail with a passport.

If you have a passport, it is a good idea to check expiration dates and ensure your passport will be valid before and after your cruise sails.

Plan how you will get to the cruise ship

You will need to arrange transportation to get you and your family from your home to the cruise ship terminal, and that can involve taxis, buses, airplanes or more. 

Some options will be more economical than others, but here are a couple of tips you should be aware of to help get you there:

  • If you need to get from the airport to the cruise terminal, a Lyft or Uber ride is usually the simplest, and most economical option.
  • If you are flying to your cruise embarkation port, be sure to fly in at least one day early to avoid travel delays impacting your ability to make the cruise.
  • Royal Caribbean does offer transfers between the airport and the cruise terminal, but they come with an additional cost.

Find that perfect shore excursion

Shore excursions are a major part of any Royal Caribbean cruise because a large part of your overall vacation is exploring the ports of call you will visit.  You have just a few hours at each stop, but it should be enough to get a taste of the city you are visiting.

Before you even look at one shore excursion, you should research the most popular activities in each port. 

When looking at shore excursion options, you can book tours through Royal Caribbean or on your own. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so I advise to consult both.

The key is to determine which tours you want to book, and reserve it in advance. In some cases booking in advance will save you money, and everyone can benefit from having the luxury of time to consider all options.

Pre-purchase add-ons to save money

Everyone wants to save money, and one of my best tips is to pre-purchase as much as you can.

There are plenty of cruise costs out there, but you can save money by acting early. Royal Caribbean regularly discounts drink packages, shore excursions, wifi access and more if purchased before the cruise.

You can book these via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site to take advantage of some big discounts.

Buy travel insurance

Now, more than ever, travel insurance is a good investment to consider.

Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive, and provides peace of mind that protects against trip interruption, cancellation, and even medical costs.

More than likely buying a travel insurance plan will be money spent that you end up not needing, however, the protection it includes feels a heck of a lot more important these days than ever before.

Start your vacation budget

The silver lining to a global pause in cruises is we have more time to save money for that upcoming vacation.

Saving for a vacation is often easier said than done, but with less money to spend on going to the movies or weekend trips, you might consider stashing away some of that cash for your vacation budget.

Whether you prefer a piggy bank, swear jar, or moving money around between checking accounts, putting away a few dollars now can help pay off cruise fun later.

Meet people online on your sailing

A fun way to make friends on the ship before you step foot onboard is to join a Facebook group for your sailing.

If you go on Facebook and search for your ship name and sail date, there is very likely a group set up for it.  It is free to join these groups, and often groups will set up special events, or simply provide a means of sharing in the pre-cruise planning excitement.

Every group is different, and depending on how many people have joined the Facebook Group, as well as everyone's level of participation in the group, you can get to know folks before the cruise. Plus it's just fun to find others who are as excited as you about your cruise (instead of annoying your friends).

Watch YouTube videos

To get a good visual of what you can expect for your Royal Caribbean, there are no shortage of videos on YouTube to check out.

Search for your ship name and odds are you will find hundreds of videos to watch.  Some are tours, some are family vacation videos and others explain aspects of the cruise.  Regardless, it's a fun way to see what you can expect on your cruise and add ideas to your little list.

While you are on YouTube, be sure to check out our channel of helpful trip planning videos.

Try to learn the lingo

If you have not been on a cruise before, you may quickly run across terms, options, and phrases that are unfamiliar to you.  Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, we have taken precautions to help you adjust to a Royal Caribbean cruise in advance.  Our Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary will break down everything from Adventure Ocean to WOWband so that you understand everything in the cruise planning process.

Top 5 reasons you should be booking airfare now for cruises later

In:
Category: 
01May2020

There is a saying in the stock market of, "buy low" and airfare prices right now are one silver lining to the current global situation.  While there are no cruises sailing right now, it might not be a bad idea to buy flights for when sailings return in order to take advantage of some great pricing.

Just like the cruise lines, airlines have been scrambling to deal with a precipitous drop in demand and the result has been some pretty good airfare prices for later this year.

If you have a cruise planned in the second half of this year, or even next year, I have five reasons this might be a good time to snatch up an airline ticket.

Cheap prices for fall and winter 2020

Anecdotally, prices for cruises in the fall and winter are very low, even for usually high-demand holiday times.

With the airlines struggling to deal with very low demand to travel, there are some pretty good prices out there for flights, especially flights this year.

It seems many experts believe demand for flights will be low in the short-term, and that means airlines slashing prices in order to make up for the drop in demand.

Booking now is a good opportunity to take advantage of any flight deals for the months ahead, especially for the holidays. The general rule of thumb when booking flights to get the best deal has always been booking three weeks ahead of your departure—and six weeks ahead for most major holidays—booking now may put you ahead of the pack of people still cautious about travel.

Very flexible cancellation terms

If putting money down for a non-refundable flight sounds crazy right now, you should know most airlines have altered their change and cancellation policies to be incredibly flexible.

In order to convince the public to not wait to buy flights, many airlines are waving change fees for new bookings. The Points Guy has an ongoing list of airline policies for you to keep track of as you consider booking travel.

  • JetBlue: Fees are waived through June 30 if you cancel or change your flight before Jan. 4, 2021. If you cancel, you'll get a travel waiver to use within 24 months of when it was issued. If you rebook, you may have to pay the difference in fare costs.
  • Southwest: You can cancel or change your flight for no fee. If you have a nonrefundable ticket you'd like to cancel, you'll receive a travel credit. Unused travel funds are available until Sept. 7, 2022, but when you book, the standard expiration date -- 12 months -- will go into effect (even if it's before Sept. 7).
  • Delta: Change fees are waived on all flights through Sept. 30, 2020, and any tickets purchased from March 1 and May 31. If you book a new flight, you might have to pay the difference in fare costs. If your new flight is cheaper, you'll receive a credit for the difference.

Some airlines are even providing free cancellation on new bookings.

This provides a great deal comfort in knowing if more cruises are cancelled, or local travel restrictions are in place, you can get a refund or credit for the flight.

New cleaning and passenger safety policies added

Airplanes have never exactly been known as the least sanitized places to be, so the airlines are taking extra steps to keep their passengers healthy.

New cleaning procedures on planes that use electrically charged disinfectants sprayed throughout the cabin are an example of one new method.  JetBlue announced the airline will be the first in the U.S. to require all customers to wear face coverings while onboard a flight. 

On some airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta and Spirit, you’ll see empty middle seats in an effort to keep passengers apart.

Airports are also doing their part, with new social distancing procedures. At Orlando International Airport, enhanced cleaning procedures and social distancing measures were put in place last month.

Prices are expected to go up soon

There is no hard evidence, but many travel experts think as the public becomes more comfortable with flying (and traveling) again, prices will go up to match demand.

Airfare prices can change at any point, so with the lower prices now, it makes more sense to lock in the price. As mentioned earlier, the more flexible flight cancellation terms provide added comfort in booking now.

We asked our readers when they think Royal Caribbean cruises will resume

In:
Category: 
27Apr2020

While Royal Caribbean's official stance is the cruise line plans to resume operations on June 12, but that seems to be a moving date and we are all wondering when exactly cruises will start up again.

While no one knows for certain when Royal Caribbean will be able to resume sailings, I was curious what cruise fans thought about the prospect of sailings beginning again.

There are plenty of obstacles and challenges to cruise ships sailing again, and it seems everyone has their opinions.

In a Facebook poll that ran over the weekend, 944 people responded to the question "When do you think Royal Caribbean cruises will resume?" and here are the results!

  • By June: 35
  • By July: 221
  • By August: 114
  • By September: 50
  • By October or later: 524

Comments in the poll varied from wishful thinking, to pesimistic predictions and everything in between.

By far, the majority of people thought cruises would resume October or later, and it seems like alot were emphasising the "later" part of that option.

"For the US, sadly I say late June, Early July. July 4th might be symbolic. It all depends on the CDC do not sail order. That's really the watermark."

"I’m guessing modified itineraries (that have not even been announced yet) may start this summer, as early as July. Simple FL to Caribbean itineraries will dominate to start. And, initial cruises may be the 3, 4, and 5 night itineraries to make sure people are on and off board quickly; in essence preventing incubation on board."

"I hoped for May, but July seems logical for the East coast US. Other locations may differ based on destinations and origins."

I found it interesting to see what people thought, given the worldwide impact of the current situation. It seems at the very least, the further out you go, the more optimisim there is for cruises to resume.

When do you expect Royal Caribbean cruises to resume? Share your predictions in the comments!

Six big questions Royal Caribbean still has not answered

In:
Category: 
24Apr2020

The uncertainty surrounding when Royal Caribbean will resume sailings dominates the conversation among many cruisers, but beyond when cruises start up again, a number of other questions remain unanswered.

While these questions may not be as singularly important as when cruises will start again, plenty of cruisers are looking for clarification what to expect in the near future, and only the cruise line can provide answers.

Here are the top six questions we are all waiting on Royal Caribbean to answer.

What screening rules can guests expect when arriving to the cruise terminal?

Just before Royal Caribbean voluntarily suspended all of its sailings around the world, new health screening procedures were added to the cruise check-in process, including mandatory temperature screenings and prohibiting guests 70 years or older

Many expect more preemptive steps to prevent someone sick from boarding a Royal Caribbean ship, so what will the cruise check-in process look like once sailings resume?

Will boarding times be enforced? Will lines in terminals be handled differently? What other prohibitions or checks can we expect when arriving to the cruise port?

Will changes be made to buffet dining on Royal Caribbean?

One area of the onboard experience that seems likely to change is dining on Royal Caribbean. So what changes can we expect for the Windjammer buffet?

In cases where Norovirus outbreaks occurred, the Windjammer would temporarily switch over to crew members serving guests, instead of guests doing it themselves. Would such a policy become standard?

During peak times, the Windjammer can get especially crowded (i.e. breakfast and embarkation day lunch), so will be there less guests admitted into the Windjammer to dine than in the past in order to allow for more spacing between people?

When will Allure and Explorer of the Seas get their Royal Amplifications?

One of the early casualties of the current crisis was the scheduled upgrade work on Allure of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas was temporarily put on hold.

This was not a decision Royal Caribbean made unilateral, as Spain has shut down entry for cruise ships to its ports, where the upgrade work was to take place.

This question is more than just "when will the water slides be added?" There are new staterooms that were to be added that are not there, and that could lead to guests with reservations for non-existent rooms.

Of course, some people booked these ships based on the understanding of which onboard amenities were to be offered.

Royal Caribbean has said they are, "reviewing all options to bring Explorer and Allure into dry dock this year," but there has been no timeline shared yet.

Will there be any social distancing rules implemented onboard the ships?

Almost everyone expects a "new normal" when it comes to going on a cruise in the future, and that leads to the question of what sort of policies, procedures and plans can guests expect once cruising resumes?

There have been plenty of ideas speculated on, but Royal Caribbean has not provided any sort of indication what we can expect.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Chairman and CEO Richard Fain indicated the cruise line is working on how to best keep guests safe:

"At Royal Caribbean, we're using this time of the suspension to learn as much as we can about this disease, and how to contain it. We're using this time to consult with experts in the field. We're trying to understand the science. We're using this develop new ways of doing things to protect the health of our guests, and our crew. Our objective is to make our ships not just good enough, but the best they can be."

Is Odyssey of the Seas still on schedule?

Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is scheduled to debut in November 2020, but with all the changes and turmoil, is that still the plan?

There has been very little said about Odyssey, or any new ship scheduled for construction, since this all began.

While the Meyer Werft shipyard webcam continues to show progress being made, there has been no mention of the brand new ship from Royal Caribbean.

Certainly Royal Caribbean has had plenty on its plate recently that promoting a new ship may not seem like a top priority, but new ships usually dominate the cruise line's conversation leading up to its debut.

To be clear, there is no indication from Royal Caribbean we should expect any change in Odyssey's schedule, but the current situation leads many to believe everything is now subject to change.

Will any ships be moved somewhere else if ports remain closed?

Looking a little further down the timeline, cruises will likely resume with select ships and itineraries beginning before others. Certain other areas of the world seem less and less likely to offer cruises this year, so will Royal Caribbean move ships around if they know there is no chance of a cruise season in 2020?

Whether talking about cruises to Alaska, Europe or even out of Bayonne, some guests are wondering if cruises resume from Florida first, will Royal Caribbean move ships around in order to get them sailing again elsewhere?

While I believe the logistics in moving ships (and their embarkation ports) around with little lead time is not practical, enough readers have voiced this concern that it is a valid concern to be addressed.

What are you still wondering?

There are plenty of unanswered questions, and I will certainly do my best to share answers here as soon as I get them.  

It is important to note that Royal Caribbean is not ignoring these concerns. This is uncharted territory, and they are taking things one day at a time in order to best deal with the changing landscape of the cruise business.

Do you have questions about the short-term future that Royal Caribbean has not answered? Ask them in the comments!

Video: How expensive is a Royal Caribbean cruise?

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Category: 
10Mar2020

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise includes a lot, but a giant price tag is not one of those things. There is a tremendous amount of value in a cruise, and I have a breakdown of what all the costs are to help you plan for an affordable vacation.

This video looks at the costs of cruising, so you have a better sense of what you should budget and save for, in order to have a great vacation with no financial surprises.

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: How do you save money on a cruise vacation?

How much should I budget for a cruise?

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Category: 
29Feb2020

Like everything in life, money makes the world go 'round, and making sure you have enough money allocated for a cruise vacation is a responsible concern.

Luckily, cruise vacations are quite affordable and Royal Caribbean offers a variety of options at different prices that I think make it economical for most families.

To help anyone budget for their cruise, I have a breakdown of what to expect in terms of overall costs.  Keep in mind that cruises are global, and I cannot possibly account for every scenario, budget and cost.  After all, the cost of a cruise can vary greatly depending on the destination, ship and duration.

To help give everyone a ballpark idea of what to expect, I have a look at the add-ons and typical costs that come with a cruise, along with tips for keeping those costs low(er).

Base cruise fare

The price you pay for the basic fare is your starting point, and this is the price you would be quoted by a travel agent or the cruise line.  

The fare includes the cost of your stateroom, taxes, fees and port expenses.  If you prefer, it can also include gratuity and even trip insurance.  

Depending on ship, sail date, length of the cruise and the number of guests per stateroom, your cruise fare can vary wildly. On Royal Caribbean, the cheapest fares might come in at around $200-$250 per person, and can go up from there.  Typically, you should expect to spend closer to $50 per person, per night for an inside room and around $200 per person, per night for a balcony room.  

Keep in mind, there is a lot of range in prices, so it will depend on what you end up choosing.

To help get a lower price on the cruise fare, be sure to try one of these strategies for finding the best deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Shore Excursions

The cost of exploring the places you visit can also be a significant source of your budget. You could spend hundreds on a bucket list-worthy excursion, or simply walk around on your own.

The choice of shore excursions is quite varied.  You can choose between beach days, walking tours, zip lines, ATV rides, sightseeing and more.

When choosing an excursion, you have the choice of booking a tour through Royal Caribbean or going on your own and working with a third-party vendor.

In terms of budget, be sure to also carry some cash and a credit card with you when off the ship for incidentals and tips along the way.  Sometimes, tours will require final payment before the tour begins, so plan accordingly.

WiFi

Internet on a Royal Caribbean ship has become more and more important to guests as a means to stay connected with the world, and friends and family onboard.

Royal Caribbean offers unlimited internet packages (referred to as Voom), and onboard the ship, it is the only option if you want to connect. There is no complimentary or free wifi on the ships.

The price of an internet package will depend on how many devices you want connected at once.  Keep in mind that you will save money if you pre-book an internet package before the cruise on Royal Caribbean's website.

Drinks

While Royal Caribbean includes some drinks with your cruise, spending on alcohol, coffee, soda and more are a common expense that is part of most cruise budgets.

You have two choices when it comes to drinks not included with your cruise fare: pay for each drink a la carte, or buy a drink package.

If you will only have a drink or two here and there, paying for drinks as you go is likely the way to do.

Alternatively, a Royal Caribbean drink package can provide unlimited beverages for a fixed cost.  Not only is this a budget-friendly way to lock-in costs, it provides peace of mind and convenience for a lot of cruisers who prefer not to be bothered with trying to balance their costs and risk spending more than they anticipated by the end of the cruise.

The decision to get a drink package will depend on your drinking habits, but like the wifi package, you will save money if you book it before the cruise.

Specialty dining

Yes, there is plenty of food for every meal and snack included with your cruise fare, but some guests opt to spend extra for the specialty restaurants offered onboard.

Specialty restaurants offer cuisines and cooking styles not otherwise available onboard.  Steakhouses, Italian, Hibachi, sushi and more are available on many Royal Caribbean ships. Most specialty restaurants have a cover charge that includes all the food on the menu, although some restaurants are priced a la carte.

Think of specialty dining like you would going out for dinner versus staying home and cooking something.  You would be perfectly content with a home-cooked meal, but going out for dinner is a nice treat that comes with a higher cost. 

If you will dine at one or two specialty restaurants, you can simply pay the cost onboard or pre-book via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  If you know you want to dine at a few different specialty restaurants, you should book a dining package to save money.

Gratuity

It is important to account for tipping while on your ship, because it recognizes the hard work of the crew members onboard.

Royal Caribbean provides two simple ways to lock in gratuity: pre-pay or automatic gratuity onboard. Residents of certain countries (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) have gratuity automatically added as part of the cruise fare.

The automatic service gratuity is $14.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Junior Suites and below, or $17.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Grand Suites and above, applied to each guest’s SeaPass account on a daily basis. The gratuity applies to individual guests of all ages and stateroom categories. 

Guests can pre-pay gratuities by calling 866-562-7625 or logging into www.royalcaribbean.com at least 48 hours prior to sailing. For guests booked through a travel agent, your agent can add pre-paid gratuities to the booking at least 48 hours prior to sailing. If gratuities are not prepaid prior to sailing, they will be automatically added to the folios once onboard.

A 18% gratuity is automatically added to all beverages, mini bar items, and spa & salon purchases.

Transportation to the cruise

Not everyone lives within driving distance of the cruise, so another aspect to your cruise budget may be the cost of getting to and from your ship. 

Airfare, car rentals, taxis and hotels should be checked prior to booking a cruise for a ballpark estimate of what to expect.

Royal Caribbean does offer cruises from a great variety of cities around the world, but it seems most people have to travel to some extent to meetup with the ship.

I am not an expert on finding the lowest airfare prices, but you should try a few airfare tips and tricks to bring down the cost.

Costs onboard

Like any vacation you take, there is almost always going to be other incidental costs that come with vacation.

These are costs that should not be something you will be necessarily hit with, but they are costs that you may incur depending on your vacation style.

Common extra costs onboard include:

• Photos

• Casino

• Bingo

• Fitness Classes

• Souvenirs

How to save money on your next cruise

If you read all of this and are concerned it will cost a fortune, fear not, because there is a tremendous amount of value in a cruise vacation.  In addition, there are a lot of easy ways to save money on your cruise.

Book early

If there is one mantra I advocate the most, it is to book your cruise as soon as you can.

 If you can book your sailing 12, 18 or even 24 months in advance, you will very likely pay much less than someone that waits to book their sailing just a few months before the cruise.

The simple reason why booking early gets you the lowest price is that when a sailing is put on sale, all the staterooms are available to book, and thus, demand is at its lowest.  As guests start to book rooms, supply goes down, which inversely drives prices up.  Over time, we typically see prices for a sailing go up.

Moreover, if you live in a country that allows re-booking prior to final payment date (United States, Canada, Australia, etc), you can always take advantage of price drops, if they were to occur, and get the new lowest price.  If you book early enough, you may find regardless of the deal or promotion Royal Caribbean publicizes, the rate you had booked early on is still a better deal.

Use credit card points

Assuming you use credit cards responsibly, credit card reward programs with cash back bonus are popular options.

Regardless of which card you use, if you can manage to pay off each month's balance on time, you ought to be rake in the credit card rewards quickly, which can go towards paying for the cruise, or the various costs associated with the cruise (new clothes, airfare, hotels, etc).

Use a travel agent

The best way to ensure you are getting the lowest price on your Royal Caribbean vacation is to use a travel agent. Regardless of if this is your first or fiftieth cruise, a travel agent is a worthwhile "investment," and the best part is they are free to use!

Travel agents provide great service to folks looking to take a Royal Caribbean cruise because they are keyed in on the latest promotions and they can be your best advocate for finding promotions that help you, not just the day you book but every day until final payment.

A good travel agent will be able to assist with the booking process, and give you every single permutation of pricing to figure out which itinerary, stateroom or promotion makes the most sense for you.  I cannot count the time I have saved by having the travel agent jump through the proverbial hoops for me to figure out what is the best deal for my family.

Plan shore excursions on your own

While Royal Caribbean's shore excursions offer convenience and reliability, they tend to cost more and (arguably more importantly) involve larger groups that move at a slower pace.  Instead, consider booking shore excursions on your own.  This will likely save you money, or at the very least offer you more variety in options available as well as customization in what you see and do.

In many ports, you can skip booking an excursion all together and simply walk off the ship and start exploring the port.  Taking a taxi into town, walking the streets and discovering things around you are at the core of what makes port days so much fun. 

Bring your own soda, water, juice or wine

Royal Caribbean allows its guests to bring a limited quantity of wine or non-alcoholic beverages on their cruise.

Guests may bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on embarkation day. Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size. 

In addition, you can now bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages in a carry-on or hand luggage onboard only on boarding day.  Non-alcoholic beverages brought onboard may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. 

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