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10 things you can be doing right now to be ready when cruises restart

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16Sep2020

While you may not know if your upcoming Royal Caribbean will sail or not, there are some things everyone can be doing right now to prepare for their cruise, just in case it does happen.

Just the other week, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said, "We are closer to the other side of this crisis every day," and that kind of optimism may mean we might see Royal Caribbean ships sailing again sooner than later.

It is always a good idea to be prepared, and while we have some extra time now, here are some important things you can take care of to ensure you are ready to cruise, whenever that happens.

Download the Royal Caribbean app

If you have not downloaded Royal Caribbean's app, now is a great time to get it downloaded and installed on your mobile device, because the app is going to be more important than ever.

Royal Caribbean recently highlighted the importance of the app, which is transitioning from convenient trip planning tool to important tool for everyday use.

Royal Caribbean intends to leverage its mobile app for paving a way for a safe return to cruising.

Download the Royal Caribbean app from either the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

Check your passport expiration dates

Since no one has cruised since at least March, now is a good time to double-check your passport expiration dates.

If your passport expiration date is coming up, you should get it sent out as soon as possible for renewal.  The U.S. State Department is renewing passports, but it does take some time to process, so getting it in the queue now will get it processed sooner than later.

If you do not have a passport, now might be the right time to get one. Regardless of if you need a passport or not, I recommend everyone (including U.S. residents on cruises from the United States) get a passport.  It is simpler and safer, and a fantastic investment for any traveler.

Check for price drops on pre-cruise purchases

One of my favorite money saving tips is to pre-purchase popular add-ons, such as drink packages, Wifi, or specialty dining.

Not only should you consider pre-purchasing these items now, but also double check the prices on these items, as many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have reported price drops and significant price changes for these items.

Complete online check-in

Once you get to within 90 days of your cruise, you can complete the online check-in to expedite things when you arrive to the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

It looks like check-in times will be later than before the shutdown, so it is super important to complete online check-in as soon as you can in order to get an early check-in time.

You will need a copy of everyone's documentation (passport or birth certificate), travel plans and a credit card to store for incidental charges.

Review what you are not allowed to bring

If you are new to cruising, you should be aware of which items you are not allowed to pack or bring aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Some are pretty obvious (no baseball bats), while others are surprising (no surge protectors or clothing irons).

Refer to Royal Caribbean's list of prohibited item list, as their list changes from time to time.

Fill out the special needs form

Royal Caribbean is very accommodating to guests who may have special needs, such as mobility assistance, dialysis, oxygen supply, medical dietary requests and more.

Anyone that has a special need should fill out the Guest Special Needs form on Royal Caribbean's website. 

Royal Caribbean recommends you do this no later than 30 days prior to your sailing, except for sign language interpreting requests which must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing.

Get pricing for travel insurance

Travel insurance is always a good idea to consider, and now might be a good time to review different policies and get a quote.

Royal Caribbean offers travel insurance, as well as many third party companies.  Read exactly what the insurance covers and does not cover, especially related to the current health crisis.

Be sure to also review the refund policy if your cruise is cancelled to ensure you are not left paying for a policy you do not need.

Don't book shore excursions yet

I usually advocate researching and buying shore excursions before your cruise to save money and time later, but I think right now you should hold off on booking shore excursions.

Royal Caribbean has not announced its new set of health policies and protocols, but some other cruise lines that have restarted sailings in Europe have restricted guests to tours purchased through the cruise line.

While we do not know if Royal Caribbean will do the same yet, I would not book anything until we know what the policy is, and which tours will actually be approved.

Book a kennel stay for your pets

Something I always forget to do is to make a reservation for your pets at a kennel.

If your cruise is scheduled for a popular time of year (such as school holiday), kennels fill up fast with other families looking to getaway, so be sure get a spot now.

Stock up on sanitizing products

I used to think bringing sanitizing wipes and other hygenic products was unnecessary, but it is likely to be an important thing for everyone to bring along.

While Royal Caribbean will do their part to implement enhanced sanitization across their ships, it is a good idea to grab travel size sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and other products that will keep you healthy now.

The supply of disinfectant products seems to vary wildly where we live, so now is a great time to start buying them when you see it, so you are not scrambling to find some before the cruise starts.

Consider buying disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, and liquid hand soap to have in your stateroom. (Note, these links contain affiliate links which cost you nothing extra to use, but I get a commission).

Even if your cruise is cancelled, these products are likely to be useful in our everyday lives for the foreseeable future.

Why you can't trust online reviews of cruise ships

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15Sep2020

When you are ready to book a cruise, basing your decision of which ship you should pick based on others reviews is actually a bad idea.

While online reviews are a popular way to share experiences, relying on online reviews to pick the right ship for you often paints the wrong picture and confuses first time cruisers.

Experience is a good teacher, but here is why you should not trust online reviews for picking your cruise.

The cruise experience is extremely varied

Online reviews are a very popular way to rate everything from movies, to restaurants, to teachers, to hotels, but going on a cruise is not nearly as linear an experience.

Anyone that has been on a cruise will tell you that what you choose to do onboard can vary greatly. There is a ton of choices every day of what you can do, and with so many possibilities, that means it is extremely unlikely your cruise would mirror someone else's experience.

Cruise lines design their cruises to offer a lot, and let you decide what you want to do. So unlike a movie or hotel review, where most reviewers likely encountered the same scenarios, cruise ship guests often do completely different things from each other.

You could sit in your room all day, camp out in the casino every evening, or bar hop. You could get off at each port, or none at all. You could sleep until 2pm every day and then play cards in the library. 

The bottom line is one person's experience is not indicative of what you will do onboard. Every issue they run into may not be a scenario you will ever encounter.

People that write reviews are not objective

It is critically important to remember the people writing these reviews are not professional reviewers, and often let minor issues dominate the scope of their review.

Any rating system is based on cumulative reviews, which sounds like it is a good way to gauge overall how people feel about something, but these are heavily skewed by extreme reviews.

If you want the perfect example of why a lot of people that write reviews are not reliable is to look up the Google reviews of the Great Wall of China. Currently, it has an average of 4.2 stars based on over 14,000 reviews. 

Othello, the great work by William Shakespeare, has 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 1,700 reviews. 

One of the greatest man-made architectural and engineering feats and a classic written work have not earned a five star ratings. In fact, they both have an overwhelming amount of one star reviews. So how can a review of Explorer of the Seas possibly be accurate?

Be sharper about reviews you read

Many people that write online reviews tend to do so because of an extreme (i.e. they absolutely loved or hated their cruise), and a very small percentage of people that actually go on a cruise take the time to write a review.

According to Dr. Simester’s 2014 study of online reviews, about 1.5 percent of people out of a 1,000 will write a review.  

All of this means reviews are more likely to be circumstantial, and not indicative of what most will encounter. In general, experiences change depending on our expectations, travel expertise and who we are with on a cruise.

Some RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers also shared how leery they are of online reviews, "Don't listen to bad reviews. People like to complain about everything," Lynne White commented. "Go with an open mind. And just enjoy it."

Bonnie Robertson also felt what someone else thought is not a guarantee of what you will have, "Make your own decisions on food, excursions, etc. Just because some folks rave about something, or say something is bad, doesn't mean you will think the same! Do what you want."

Do your own research

Online reviews are a tempting method for learning about a particular ship, but they should not be a major factor in your decision.

You should absolutely ignore extreme reviews to remove the most polarizing experiences. No cruise is worthy of 1 star, and a 5 star rating for anything is pretty darn impossible. 

When you read reviews, consider the issues raised and think if the person sounds like you, and if the scenarios they encounter are ones you are likely to follow.  If the person complained the hot tubs were crowded, do you go to the hot tubs at all? 

Rather than read reviews, look up what a particular ship offers onboard and determine which sort of activities and things to do appeal to you.  Which of these do you absolutely want on your cruise, and which can you live without.

Some Royal Caribbean ships have water slides, and some do not.  Some have Broadway shows and some do not.  Some have FlowRider surf simulators and some do not.  Some have a multitude of specialty restaurants and some have just a couple. Which of these matters to you? 

If you do read reviews, use them more as a form of entertainment than the gospel truth about any ship.  If you find a bunch of very negative reviews, remember that you can probably find a similar amount of positive reviews of the same ship.  All this means is no ship is inherently bad or a mistake to book. 

If you want to learn about Royal Caribbean ships, here are some helpful resources:

5 things to look for before you book a cruise

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14Sep2020

Before you book a cruise, there are some important considerations that can ensure you have a great cruise that skips over common pitfalls.

One of the best things about a cruise is how customizable a vacation it can be, but all that flexibility means there is also potential for making a poor choice that leads to problems later.

Picking the right cruise does not require an advanced degree, or years of research, but a few key decisions early in the planning process can save you time, money, and headaches down the road.

Here are the five important things to look for and think about before you book any cruise.

The refund policy

Thanks to 2020, the cruise line's refund policy went from a minor consideration to a big part of the decision, and something anyone booking a cruise anytime soon should thoroughly investigate.

Royal Caribbean, and all cruise lines, have added a great deal of flexibility for someone wanting to change their mind and cancel or defer their cruise reservation. 

What you want to do is be very clear on how and when you could qualify for a cash refund versus a future cruise credit. Meaning, how do you get your money back in your bank account compared to how you will get a voucher for a different sailing.

In addition, decide between refundable and non-refundable cruise fare, and the advantages of both. Non-refundable deposits will save you money in the short term, but refundable deposits make it significantly easier to change your mind later.

Essentially, you want to have a good idea of if you change your mind later about the cruise, how important is it to get a refund as cash back or keep it as a credit for a different sailing.

What does the ship offer and not offer

If there is one big mistake so many first-time cruisers make, it is not doing a little bit of research into what the ship they are booking offers (and doesn't offer) onboard.

Royal Caribbean has over two dozen ships in its fleet and they are not all the same. If you are booking a cruise based on price or where it sails from, you may be overlooking something else that you will regret later.

It is important to look into which activities, restaurants, amenities, and fun things to do are offered on the ship before you book that cruise.

Are there water slides on your ship? Which public spaces does it have? Are there Broadway shows onboard? 

One of the most common regrets cruisers share is they they knew their ship had (or did not have) a certain feature or thing to do. 

Spend a few minutes learning about a cruise ship to ensure you are comfortable with its offerings.

Where it will sail

Just like the ships, the ports of call you visit are not all the same. Even in the Caribbean, there is enough variety between the islands to know which is the best choice for you.

It is not uncommon to have to weigh the ship you are sailing on versus the itinerary you want to explore. You may find yourself trying to determine whether you want to compromise on the ship or places you will visit, as there are quite a few variations in sailings.

Knowing what each port offers in terms of shore excursions and popular activities is a smart way to avoid disappointment during the cruise.

The season

There is more to picking a cruise than just which part of the world you want to visit. Every region that cruise ships visit have seasons to them, and with that different prices, weather, and crowds.

You will want to know what the time of year you are picking is known for, and if you could save money or have a better overall experience by sailing a different week.

Don't worry that you picked the "wrong time" to go on a cruise, because every season has an advantage to it over other times of the year.  Rather, consider if you might benefit financially or logistically by changing the week.

If you are limited by your work or school schedule as to when you can sail, be aware of the issues you may face.  If prices are higher your week because it is popular, plan to save more to pay for it.  If crowds are going to be higher in the ports you visit, pre-plan your shore excursions earlier before they sell out.

Transportation costs

Your vacation budget likely will involve more than just the money you spend on your cruise, so be sure to look into transportation costs as well.

Before you book a cruise, do a quick check of airfare prices to ensure you are not going to pay through the nose for flights.

Do you need to replace your luggage? How much are hotels going for those days before the sailing? Is a rental car going to be cheap?

A quick "back of the napkin" check of these costs is an easy way to ensure you have not stepped into unforeseen extra costs.

What food or drinks you're allowed to bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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04Sep2020

A lot of people want to know what you are allowed to bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise, especially food or drinks.

Royal Caribbean includes a wide variety of complimentary dining options on your cruise, which means there is plenty to eat and drink.  Yet, some guests want to bring their own food for a variety of reasons.

Food

The good news is Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring non-perishable prepackaged food in limited quantities on their ships. So bringing your kids favorite snacks and treats are allowed.

This includes foods such as cookies, crackers, chips, energy bars, etc. Pre-packed baby food is also allowed.

You do not need to declare that you have food, and it is generally fine to pack your prepackaged food in either your carry-on or your checked luggage.

Be sure not to bring any perishable food or meat products, as those are prohibited items.

Beverages

Royal Caribbean also allows a limited amount of non-alcoholic beverages with them on embarkation day. Specifically, you can bring up to 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage (soda, bottled water, etc).

In addition, baby food and formula is allowed to be brought onboard.

If you are bringing milk and distilled water brought on for infant, medical, or dietary use, there are no restrictions or limitations related to these items. If you need to bring special beverages, please complete a Special Needs form. Royal Caribbean requests you send this form at least 30 days before your sail date and they will inform you via e-mail of their decision.

While alcoholic beverages are not allowed to be brought on a Royal Caribbean cruise, there is an exception for up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom. There is no cost to enjoy wine in your room, but a corkage feel will be charged if you bring the bottle to a restaurant or bar.

You should pack any beverages you bring onboard in your carry-on luggage. Do not put it in your checked luggage for two reasons:

  • It may break as your luggage is tossed around in transit.
  • Royal Caribbean's X-Ray machine will see a bottle/can and not be able to tell if it is alcohol or not. They will then hold the bag and delay its arrival to your stateroom later.

If you buy alcohol in a port your ship visits, you can bring it onboard, although Royal Caribbean will confiscate it until the last night of the cruise, when it will be returned to you.

Why you shouldn't book the cheapest cruise you can find

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31Aug2020

So you want to book a cruise and start off by sorting prices by lowest first?

Big mistake.

It may seem like a logical starting place for a first time cruiser to try to find the absolute lowest price for a cruise, but looking only at price to determine which cruise to take is likely to set you up for disappointment later.

The lowest price ignores other important choices

Royal Caribbean has 26 ships in its fleet and they are anything but identical. If you find the lowest price and book based on that, you are overlooking a lot of important factors that can make or break a great vacation.

Royal Caribbean prices its cruises based on the time of year, how new or updated a ship is and the itinerary it sails. Newer ships command higher prices, while older ships tend to offer lower prices. The great variety of activities, things to do, stateroom choices, and itineraries means there is so much that you may want on your ship that price alone cannot control.

It seems a lot of first time cruisers will see a television commercial or a video online that shows off the amazing things you can do on Royal Caribbean, but will not realize not every ship has water slides, a Central Park neighborhood, certain specialty restaurants, or Broadway shows.

The biggest regret I hear from someone going on their first cruise is they wish they knew their ship had (or did not have) a certain feature or thing to do. 

While how much a cruise costs is going to be important to a lot of people, it should not be the primary consideration.

Lower prices and the weather

You might have done your homework and researched to find the best Royal Caribbean ship for you, and now feel confident to find the cheapest possible price for that cruise. That still could be a mistake.

After Royal Caribbean determines its cruise pricing between each ship in the fleet, the next major consideration is time of year, and that has more to do than just when kids are in school or not.

While the school calendar does impact cruise ship pricing (cruises tend to cost more when school on vacation since more families drive up demand), the weather plays an important role too.

Specifically, when the weather is less-than-ideal, prices will dip lower to make up for the weaker demand.

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.

There is never a guarantee that you be able to book any cruise and get perfect weather, certain times of the year will be cheaper because it is rains more, is colder, or even susceptible to hurricanes.

It is very important you recognize why a cruise one particular week or month is cheaper than another, and be okay with the trade offs.

More:

Bottom line

When it comes to picking a cruise, look for a ship that offers the fun things to do you absolutely want to have on a ship, sails to the places you want to go, and is not compromising too badly on the weather.

Everyone has a budget, and we all want to get the best value possible from our vacation, but paying a little bit more for the kind of awesome cruise vacation you expect based on reviews, commercials, and experiences from friends is worth it to avoid the wrong sailing.

Royal Caribbean's variety of ships and sailings is both a tremendous benefit (lots to choose from), but also a potential pitfall if not properly considered.

If you are worried that you might be setting yourself up for a mistake, be sure to consult with a good travel agent.  Travel agents should cost you nothing extra to use (the cruise line pays them), and they can be a wonderful resource in recommending the perfect ship for your family.

Save money where you can, but look beyond the price to find a great Royal Caribbean cruise.

Should I take a short or a long cruise?

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28Aug2020

Does it make more sense to go on a short cruise or is your money better spent on a longer sailing?

Royal Caribbean offers cruises of various lengths, with short 3 or 4 night sailings all the way up to cruises that exceed 14 days.  Which is the right choice for you and what are the differences between these cruises?

Here is a breakdown of why you might want to take a short or a long cruise.

Price

How much your cruise costs is a major factor in picking any vacation, so not surprising it should be the first consideration when debating a short cruise or a longer cruise.

In general, short cruises tend to have a lower overall cruise fare cost compared to longer cruises. A cruise that only goes a couple of days is going to be fairly affordable for most, and provides an inexpensive entry into the world of cruising.

Longer cruises may cost more overall, but their price per-night may actually be cheaper than some short cruises. Of course, multiplied out over sailings that can double or triple the length of a short sailing, and you will still pay more overall.

In general, I believe it is a mistake to book cruises purely based on price, but it is important to not only consider the bottom line price. Look at how much you would be paying for each night of the cruise to see which is a better value.

Places you will visit

Going on a cruise means visiting various ports of call around the world, and you will absolutely see more of them on a longer sailing.

Short sailings might have one or two ports to visit, while longer sailings can visit significantly more ports during their voyage.

Moreover, longer sailings means your ship has the ability to visit more exotic destinations. The more nights of a sailing, the further out your ship can potentially sail. 

If you are interested in visiting places out of the ordinary, a longer sailing will get you there.  

Shorter sailings do have an advantage of being generally close enough to very popular ports of call, including a cruise line's private destination. Nearly all of Royal Caribbean's short sailings visit Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas.

How much importance you place on the ports your cruise will visit may play a significant role in picking a short or long cruise.

Relaxing or party cruise?

Another generalization between short vs. long cruises is the atmosphere onboard.

Longer sailings are going to provide more time onboard the ship, which means more time to relax while onboard. Longer cruises tend to have more sea days, and that can mean more relaxing.  

Of course, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are known for packing plenty to do onboard, so a cruise over 7 nights does not mean there is not always something going on or parties each night.

Short sailings tend to attract younger guests who are looking to get away for a long weekend, especially during times of the year when school is out of session.  

Royal Caribbean is a family cruise line that has a good mix of guests of all ages, regardless of the cruise length, so 3 or 4-night cruises are not exclusively kids, while 7-night or longer cruises are not filled with just baby boomers. You may just find different attitudes toward why they booked the cruise.

Objectively, a shorter sailing means you have less time onboard to experience everything your ship has to offer. Royal Caribbean's ships are designed to be destinations in and of themselves, and that means there is a lot of fun things to do onboard. On a short cruise, you will be hard pressed to find time to work it all in, which may simply be a good reason to book another short cruise later.

Ship age

If you want to cruise on Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships, you will almost certainly have to book a longer sailing.

In order to maximize the earnings potential of a new cruise ship, Royal Caribbean will schedule its newest ships to offer sailings of 7-nights or longer. 

The age of a ship is not the be-all and end-all of what makes a "good ship" or a "bad ship",  but if you want to check out the latest and greatest Royal Caribbean has to offer, a longer sailing is likely what you will have to book.

That is not to say a short sailing has to be on a floating relic. Royal Caribbean spends millions of dollars investing in their fleet, and ensuring their ships have more in common than different.

In fact, some ships offering short cruises to The Bahamas have some of the most impressive recent refurbishments. This means while they may be older, they still offer a lot of fun (and at a lower price).

Is a short or longer cruise better?

Ultimately, the decision to do a short or longer cruise depends on what you want from the vacation.

Short cruises are budget friendly, offer a fun atmosphere, and will fit nicely into a long weekend.  

Longer sailings will mean more time to explore the ship, more exotic destinations and potentially cheaper per-night costs.

Depending on what factors are important to you, there can be clear decisions for either type of cruise.

In general, I advocate longer cruises simply as a means to enjoy a longer vacation. Short cruises seem to go by in a flash, and while they are better than no cruise at all, all things being equal, a longer sailing feels more fulfilling.

How to plan a cruise vacation with maximum flexibility

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25Aug2020

If you are like a lot of other cruise fans, you are trying to balance your desire to book a new cruise to make up for 2020, while being as financially responsible as possible.

One major lesson from all of these cancelled Royal Caribbean cruises this year has been predicting exactly what to expect and how it will impact our cruise plans is impossible.

So while there are a lot of challenges facing the cruise lines to restart operations, you can still plan a cruise vacation for 2021 without blindly committing yourself to costly penalties. With a few extra safeguards, you can book a cruise that if or when plans change, you will not lose money.

Book refundable cruise fare

No matter which cruise you book, be sure to put a refundable deposit down, and not a non-refundable deposit.

While a non-refundable deposit will save you some money, those savings are offset by the inflexibility and change fees it comes with.

If you want the easiest way to cancel and get your money back (not just a future cruise credit), then a refundable cruise deposit is the way to go. While some categories of rooms do not offer refundable deposits (i.e. suites), the vast majority of rooms available to book will have the choice of refundable or non-refundable cruise fare.

I always thought refundable cruise fare was the right choice in the past, but with so much uncertainty, refundable cruise fares are now a must-do.

Do not count on travel insurance for everything

Travel insurance is a smart investment for many people because it covers you when you go on your vacation and some calamity were to happen, but travel insurance is not a catch-all for vacation plan changes prior to the start of vacation.

The insurance companies almost always have clauses that exempt coverage for things like pandemics or "unforeseeable events". So while a broken bone is covered, a lot of the issues that can pop up due to the global health crisis are not.

The key is to be crystal clear on what your travel insurance plan covers and does not cover.  It can still be a good idea to get a travel insurance plan in case something happens, but do not assume that plan will be your fallback if you want to change plans later.

Consider waiting longer to book a cruise

If you want to have the most latitude in changing your mind later, waiting to a little bit longer to book your cruise might not be a bad idea.

In the past, booking a cruise as early as you can has always been the best strategy to get the lower prices, but that was before everything changed in 2020.

While waiting to book your cruise might mean not getting the most rock bottom prices, demand is still soft enough that you can afford to wait a little bit closer to your cruise to pull the trigger on putting down a deposit.

Talk with a good travel agent about prices, and if you see prices starting to creep up, consider putting down a deposit or see if prices drop again.

Book airfare with refundable options

The same logic about booking cruises applies to airfare. Normal demand for these forms of travel is not nearly what it used to be, so keep an eye on prices, and keep in mind there is no rush to plop down a deposit.

In addition, pay very close attention to what the airline is offering in terms of change or cancellation terms.

While the airlines have generally adopted far more flexible change policies, such as no fees on changed bookings during the pandemic, getting your money back is an entirely different issue.

Before you book a flight, consider if you ought to wait a little bit longer to ensure your cruise plans are firmed up, as well as what will happen if you book a flight and then want to change your mind.

If you are okay with a credit instead of a refund, most airlines seem to be offering this option.  Getting your money back is an entirely different issue, so choose your refundable or non-refundable airfare wisely.  

If you are fine with a voucher for the airfare credit, make sure you book your flight with an airline that offers many routes from your area to ensure you can actually use that credit before it expires.

Bottom line

Planning ahead is always a good idea in general, but these days you need to be extra careful about what and when you book.

The good news is the travel industry has adopted a great deal of new flexible terms, but waiting a little longer or choosing refundable deposits is the best means to avoid costly changes later.

Top 5 things to do on Royal Caribbean for adults

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24Aug2020

A cruise is appealing to guests of all ages, and while Royal Caribbean is a family-friendly cruise line, there are certain things to do that are perfect for just the adults.

Whether you are taking a break from the kids after dropping them off in Adventure Ocean, or cruising without kids, there are a few good spots and activities to look for where children will be far from view.

As a parent, it is nice to have time now and then away from the kids to relax, and here are the top five things you can do on a Royal Caribbean cruise without kids!

Solarium

The top spot for any adult looking to spend time without children around is to head to the Solarium pool area.

The Solarium is an adults only pool on all Royal Caribbean ships where children under 16 years old are prohibited from lounging.

This adult only retreat is a very popular choice for its relaxing lounge chairs and poolscape, along with whirlpools and nearby bar staff.

Adults only excursions

You can find in the myriad of Royal Caribbean shore excursions a few that cater only to adults.

Usually these tours are offered to resorts or beaches that do not allow children in, either due to the inclusion of alcohol or other prohibitions.

If you want to enjoy some time on shore without kids, look for excursions that do not allow kids to be booked.

Spa

The Vitality spa and fitness center is another kids-free enclave on Royal Caribbean, where you can go for relaxation or a great workout.

The spa area offers massages, facials, a salon and many more services to enjoy.  The Vitality Spa presents as relaxing an atmosphere as possible, and the fact it is kid-free is an added bonus.

If you want to get your workout in, the various weights, machines and fitness classes are another spot to not have to contend with children.

Night club

Each evening, there is at least one late-night party happening onboard and Royal Caribbean enforces a strict age policy to prevent kids from getting in.

While there are family-friendly parties and shows put on earlier in the evening, once the night club scene pops up, the cruise line security team will check ages of anyone who tries to get into the club.

Casino

Perhaps no other area is as synonymous with adults only as Casino Royale, where gambling laws prohibit kids from being around.

Keep in mind that the bar area and nearby seating in the casino are open to any adults, even if you are not gambling.  Moreover, the casino bar tends to be the first bar to open in the day and the last to close, so it is a safe bet for when you want to get away.

Of course, the casino offers slots and table games to try your luck at, if you want to combine your kids-free time with (hopefully) winning money.

Top untrue myths about a Royal Caribbean cruise

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29Jul2020

What is like to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Despite Royal Caribbean being rated as one of the top cruise lines in the world, there are still some myths that perpetuate, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary.

This confusion leads to misconceptions about what a Royal Caribbean cruise (and in many cases, all cruises) are really like.  Here is a look at some of the most common cruise myths out there, and why they are plain wrong.

Cabin is small

Even the smallest staterooms are still probably larger than you think.

Royal Caribbean offers staterooms of various sizes that run the gamut of price ranges and amenities.

If your concern is being in too small of a room for your liking, try a balcony room or even a suite.  Balcony rooms tend to be very popular choices and not cost nearly as much more to move up to those than you might think.

Suites offer the most living space, but as the name implies, it comes at a price. If you can afford them, suites offer an incredible amount of living space onboard.

Regardless of which room you choose, the rooms tend to be larger than you think, and you will spend significantly less time in a cruise ship stateroom compared to a hotel room.

I will get sea sick

Perhaps no other concern of a first time cruiser can rival that of fear of getting sea sick on a cruise.

While getting seasick is a possibility (especially for those prone to motion sickness), there are so many easy remedies out there to combat it, that you should not be overly concerned.

There is over-the-counter medication you can purchase (Bonine), acupressure bracelets, and even a prescription patch you put behind your ear.

There are also a variety of homeopathic treatments, such as eating green apples, peppermint or something containing ginger.

If you are truly concerned, your best bet is to take either the over-the-counter pills before the cruise begins and every day thereafter.  Or, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription medication.

You have to get dressed up

While there are some classic films and television shows set on cruise ships, they all tend to show people wearing tuxedos and ball gowns and it gives the sense that a cruise is a 7-night senior prom sailing.

Cruising on Royal Caribbean is very relaxed, and while there are dress codes, they only apply to dinner in the main dining room and they are very basic in nature.

First and foremost, you can skip formal night by not dining in the main dining room for dinner.

Even if you do want to dine there, keep in mind the required dress code is nothing close to fancy. Collared shirt and slacks for men (tie or suit optional), and a cocktail dress or pant suit for ladies. There is no one inspecting your clothing as you enter to check the regality of your attire.

On non-formal nights, the required attire is nothing fancy at all. Jeans are acceptable every night, along with polo shirts, blouses or nearly anything else without holes in them.

In addition, there are plenty of alternative dining spots on your Royal Caribbean ship that have casual dress attire requirements.

Royal Caribbean isn't the best cruise line for young children

When people look to vacation with younger children (under 10 years old), Royal Caribbean tends to be in their blind spot out of concern there are better choices out there.

Royal Caribbean offers a well-rounded approach to their children's programming, and there is a lot to do for kids of all ages onboard.

Children 6 - 36 months old are able to spend time in the ship's nursery, which is available in nearly all ships now. The nursery is an extra-cost venue that offers supervised child care during the daytime and night, and is staffed by crew members with backgrounds in child care.

Adventure Ocean is the award-winning children's programming available on all ships that encompasses ages 3 years old up to 17 years old. Adventure Ocean is broken down by ages to ensure programming is appropriate for each group, and kids can enjoy a great variety of supervised activities, including games, drawing, story time, crafts, video games, scavenger hunts and more.

Royal Caribbean recently revamped its Adventure Ocean programming on Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas with an all-new approach that will eventually make it to the rest of the fleet. This update to Adventure Ocean combines new learning methods with technology and more opportunities for the kids to choose the sort of fun they want to engage in.

The ships are crowded

The modern cruise ships Royal Caribbean sails are designed to help spread out crowds to ensure better traffic flow, as well as prevent the log jam of people that some think are always on a cruise.

Just like in any land-based casino, hotel or theme park, there can be occasions where crowds come together, such as when a show ends or returning to the ship from a shore excursion, but you will not go on Royal Caribbean feeling like you are surrounded by people all the time.

Ironically, the largest cruise ships (Oasis and Quantum Class ships) are the best at spreading guests out to prevent crowding.  Royal Caribbean knew when they designed those ships that they needed to ensure there was plenty of space for everyone, and they offer the most deck space, bars, clubs and restaurants to accommodate everyone.

People fall overboard

This myth is rooted in news reports that often involve poorly written headlines.

While there have been relatively speaking very few people that have ended up in the ocean following being on a cruise ship, they are all cases of jumping off the ship , victims of being thrown off by someone else, or being somewhere they should not be in the first place.

The notion you can be minding your own business, slip or bump into something and fall backwards over a railing into the ocean is simply not true.

Royal Caribbean designs its ships with high balcony railings, plenty of warning signs, and partitions to keep guests safe. 

You will be bored

Every so often I will hear from someone that has never cruised that they refuse to go on a cruise because they imagine being "stuck" on the ship and being bored.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are packed with tons of activities, entertainment and things to do, in addition to the fun places around the world your ship will visit.

Depending on the ship, you can enjoy rock climbing, water slides, zip lining, ice skating, laser tag, dance parties, play trivia games and much more.

The best way to convey just how much there is to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise is to read a past Cruise Compass. These are the daily activity sheets distributed to all guests onboard.  You will quickly see there is a plethora of things to do onboard that will leave you anything but bored.

I have to eat with random people

Some people are concerned they will be forced to dine with people they do not know, which is/was a cruise tradition rooted in the past.

While dinner in the main dining room does still offer this option, there are alternatives that offer more flexible options.

First and foremost, it is quite easy to request a main dining room table for just your family.

Royal Caribbean also offers My Time Dining, which is a flexible dining option that does not have assigned dinner times and seating.  Instead, when you arrive, you are seated with just your family.

In addition, you can opt to skip the main dining room and dine at specialty restaurants, where seating is always just for your party.  There are complimentary casual venues that offer plenty of seating that you can pick out.

The older and smaller ships are not as fun

If you watch a Royal Caribbean television commercial, you will spot plenty of b-roll that feature Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships, leading some to question why anyone would sail the older ships.

Royal Caribbean recognized that their newer ships offered a big advantage and engaged in a series of upgrades and enhancements to bring some of the popular features from the big ships to their existing fleet.

Not only has programs like Royal Amplified and Oasis-sizing added new dining locations, entertainment and activities to older ships, these ships are also priced extremely well compared to their newer sister vessels.

Royal Caribbean's fleet of ships are not like when you buy a car and let it languish with the same features as when you bought it. They are always looking for opportunities to bring great choices to these ships, and you will still find plenty to do onboard.

It's a floating Petri dish

This notion is the single most infuriating and downright incorrect summary of a cruise ship. 

No doubt you have read headlines that make cruise ships seem like they are the single greatest source of spreading disease, especially during the current global health crisis.

While cruise ships do carry a risk of spreading any germ or disease (just like any public venue in the world), they are not the super germ incubators the media has made them out to be.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that only 1% of Norovirus (a gastrointestinal illness) cases come from cruise ships, while nearly all the cases come from restaurants, nursing homes, schools and prisons.

Royal Caribbean takes the health of its passengers seriously, and continuously works on new policies and procedures to keep everyone safe. Hand sanitizer stations and enhanced onboard sanitization are just some of the tools often employed by the cruise line to greatly reduce the risk.

In light of the current pandemic, Royal Caribbean is working on crafting a solution to allow its ships to sail while minimizing the risk to guest and crew.

The cruise line just hired its first Public Health and Chief Medical Officer, and has put together a blue ribbon panel of scientists and health experts to create a strategy of new policies and procedures for once cruises resume.

The bottom line is the vast majority of people who go on a cruise do not get sick.

Top things that are totally worth spending extra for on a Royal Caribbean cruise

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20Jul2020

There are plenty of choices to make in a cruise vacation that will cost you extra, but there are a few that stand out as being worth the extra cost because of the benefits they provide.

Any upgrade or splurge will mean more money you will have to shell out, so it is always important to determine which ones are nice to have versus which ones are smart choices.

Here is a list of my favorite extras that I do not mind (as much) paying out of pocket because I think it is worth it.

Renting a cabana

Whether your cruise will visit Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, if you want to spend money on an upgrade, I always book a cabana for my family when we visit either of these private destinations.

Renting a cabana gets you extra privacy and comfort for your day at the beach, and I love the flexibility they provide.

Personalized service from the cabana attendants, shade and a fan to keep everyone cool, comfortable accommodations and floating mats are just a few of the many perks they provide.

For families, it is so nice to have a "home base" where the kids can easily go to and from, take a break, and hang out during the day.

Cabana rental prices will vary, and they are not the cheapest excursion you can buy, but I find it offers some intangible benefits that make for a more enjoyable day at the beach.

Upgrading to a balcony cabin

When you decide which stateroom to get, certainly an inside cabin will be fine and save you some money along the way, but I think it is worth it to look to spend a bit more for a balcony.

The private balcony space you get and on-demand views of the ocean make the cruise experience so much better, because it is always available when you want it.

It is so rewarding to be able to go out on your balcony any time of day or night to enjoy the view, have a sip of your coffee, or simply enjoy the passing sea breeze.

In addition, moving up to a balcony room means more living space. The cabin itself will be larger, and of course the balcony provides additional room to move around compared to less expensive stateroom options.

Stay an extra day before/after your cruise

One of my top tips for anyone who is flying to their cruise is to ensure they come in at least a day before the cruise departs in order to prevent a travel delay impacting their ability to get to the cruise ship.

Travel delays occur with great frequency, and the last thing you want to do is put your cruise vacation in jeopardy because of a flight delay or traffic.

Coming in a day early, as well as staying an extra day or two after your cruise, is not only a smart travel decision, but it also extends your vacation.

Dine at a specialty restaurant

While I think the complimentary food in Royal Caribbean's complimentary restaurants are fantastic, I think mixing it up and having a dinner at one specialty restaurant on a cruise is well-worth it.

Specialty restaurants have gone from something else to try, to a major focus of the cruise line. It is more than just somewhere to get different food, the cruise line has placed a great deal of effort into delivering some very impressive meals.

Everyone has different tastes, but my favorite specialty restaurants to dine at each and every time are as follows:

  • Izumi Hibachi: Always a satisfying meal, my family loves to dine here for the combination of great food and great entertainment.
  • Portside BBQ: Only available on Oasis of the Seas currently, the quality of food is simply impressive. I am not even a "bbq guy", but it is really good.
  • Wonderland: For something truly different, I recommend a meal at Wonderland. It is departure from the usual specialty dining, and still delivers great food and experience.

Whether you are looking to celebrate a special occasion or just a special night out, these three choices are perfect and will leave you satisfied with the experience (and the cost).

Escape Rooms

In just a few short years, Royal Caribbean has added a number of escape rooms to its cruise ships and they are really a lot of fun.

Escape rooms are timed challenges, where you and a group of other guests try to solve a series of puzzles and clues that "unlocks" a sequence before time runs out.

Each escape room added to a Royal Caribbean ship is a brand new challenge, so even if you did an escape room on one ship, it does not mean you cannot find an all new puzzle to tackle on another.

These are great sea day activities, and win or lose, it is a fun brain teaser.

What are your favorite extras?

What do you think is worth the extra cost on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your list with us in the comments!

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