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7 things I wish more cruisers knew about going on a cruise

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04Dec2020

Cruisers come in all manners, from first timers, to once a year cruisers, to top tier "once a month is not enough" cruisers. There is nothing wrong if you cannot tell your port from starboard, or do not recall the name of every single Royal Caribbean ship that ever existed.

Regardless of your experience, going on a cruise should be a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable vacation that delivers the "wow" that Royal Caribbean is so fond of marketing.

Here are 7 suggestions I have for anyone going on a cruise that wants to enjoy their cruise to its fullest.

New doesn't always means better

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships are amazing pieces of engineering and entertainment.  New ships captivate our attention with all of the "I can't believe they put it on a cruise ship" features, along with beautiful designs.

While new ships look amazing, they are not the end-all be-all of what makes for a good cruise ship, and you should not force yourself to book only new ships.

Existing ships offer a ton of great things to do onboard (after all, they used to be the new ship too).  More importantly, they offer a great cruise at a much lower cost than a brand new ship. 

Even a ship that is a few years old is going likely cost less than the newest ship.

In addition, the existing Freedom, Voyager or Radiance Class ships offer a different kind of cruise experience than the newest ships on the block. Cruising is more than just how many thrill attractions you can squeeze into one sailing. Royal Caribbean has always done a good job of mixing innovation with classics, and you will not be bored on older ships.

The key is to figure out what you are looking for in a cruise, and what features you must have onboard and then choose the right vessel for your vacation. Looking only for the newest ship will not necessarily guarantee anything but a higher price tag.

Read moreWhy you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships

How much time a good travel agent can save

Outside of cruises, the role of travel agents has diminished, but they are still so useful when booking a cruise.

First and foremost, not all travel agents are the same and there is a clear distinction between a travel agent and a good travel agent. Rely on others to provide recommendations, but embrace the good agents for all the time and money they will save you.

After someone realizes travel agents still exist, the next thing they will likely want to know is why they cannot just book a cruise directly with the cruise line.

Using a good travel agent is more than just putting your credit card down for a booking.  It is about being your advocate all along the way, from figuring out the best sailing and stateroom option, to finding the lowest price, to being available when changes or a problem occur.

Anyone that is new to cruising will find travel agents very helpful in answering questions and figuring out the best choices. Established cruisers will save so much time with a travel agent that helps them out when issues occur.

The bottom line is finding and using a good travel agent will free you up to do other things and cost you nothing extra. 

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

You should get a passport

Americans can cruise from the United States on a closed-loop cruise without a passport, but you absolutely should get one.

Yes, a passport will cost you money and require some time to fill out the application, get a photo, and get it processed, but it makes cruising easier and more reliable.

Having a passport means the cruise check-in and disembarkation process significantly easier and will speed up both.

Moreover, if you were ever stuck outside the country, having a passport makes getting home as simple as buying a plane ticket. Being stranded outside the country without a passport is a trying process, at best.

Do yourself a favor and get a passport before your cruise to ensure as smooth a process as possible.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Say something if there's a problem

A really common mistake I see is someone on a cruise runs into some sort of a problem that impacts their enjoyment of the cruise and does not say something to a crew member about it.

Whether it is a malfunction in the cabin, accident onboard, disagreement with a crew member, or anything else that stops you in your tracks, problems should be addressed onboard and not after the cruise.

I know that feeling of not wanting be a bother, but Royal Caribbean wants you to have a great experience, and problems should be identified so they can be fixed.

A classic example is slow service in a dining room, where a waiter may be handling too many tables or a kitchen delay slows everything down. Asking to speak to the head waiter to alert them that there is a problem is a helpful way to get the situation resolved quicker.

If you have a billing discrepancy on your bill, speak to Guest Relations on the ship. If something is not working properly in your cabin, alert your stateroom attendant.

Read moreThe top crew members to find if you have a problem onboard your cruise

Be as flexible as possible during a cruise

Sometimes things do not go your way, and bad luck can be experienced even on a cruise ship.

Getting frustrated, or even having a meltdown in front of family and strangers, happens to the best of us.  We are all humans, and we all have our tipping point, so occasionally something occurs that triggers someone and that leads to a few minutes we regret later.

One of the best pieces of cruise advice is to try to be as flexible as possible. You cannot control everything that occurs, and sometimes you just run into bad luck.

The key is not letting this incident ruin the rest of your day or cruise. We all experience frustration, but try to remember the classic mantra of don't worry, be happy.

Read moreHow to plan a cruise vacation with maximum flexibility

Always book refundable cruise fare

No matter which cruise you book, be sure to choose a refundable deposit instead of a non-refundable deposit.

While you may save some money with a non-refundable deposit, the inflexibility and change fees that come with those fares make it undesirable.

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.

Read moreFive lessons I've learned from all these cancelled cruises

Change is not a bad thing

In general, humans do not love change because it disrupts what we are accustomed to, however, change in the cruise industry is inevitable and we should embrace it.

Royal Caribbean cruises have been evolving since the company began operations more than 50 years ago. Whether it was introducing the first mega ship, adding a rock wall to a cruise ship, building the largest ships in the world, or changing the size of the ship name on the side of a vessel, change always irks some in the beginning, but we get used to it.

As cruise fans, we began cruising because of how cruises were, and the changes that have come since are attempts to build upon and improve the experience. One person's "wow" is another person's "why did they change it". 

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain talked earlier this year about how change is always happening, and it served as a good reminder that nothing in cruises ever stays the same forever, "The only constant is change. We don't know how the future is going to unfold."

"When we design our ships, we talk about a design formula of one third tradition, one third evolution and one third revolution. That formula's worked pretty well for us...It doesn't stick us in the past, but it isn't a new normal."

While there is the occasional change that ends up being a mistake, most of the time Royal Caribbean gets it right and embracing the change makes for a smoother and more enjoyable journey.

Read moreThe most important changes you should know about Royal Caribbean's new health protocols

Six big questions Royal Caribbean has not answered yet

In:
Category: 
19Nov2020

There is plenty of uncertainty about Royal Caribbean cruises and their restart plans, but besides when cruises might resume, there are some questions cruise fans have been asking for a while without any clear answers.

Of course everyone wants to know when cruises will be able to restart, but an explanation of some other major concerns is among the most frequently asked questions.

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

What are all the new rules for cruises in North America and Europe?

Before Royal Caribbean can restart cruises, they have to announce all the new rules and protocols we can expect for cruises sailing from North America or Europe.

There are new rules announced for Quantum of the Seas cruises from Singapore, but the cruise line has not yet announced changes for other markets.

Just yesterday, Royal Caribbean's Public Health & Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Calvin Johnson said the cruise line is still working on converting the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations into rules.

"The way that we at a Royal Caribbean group have moved to operationalize those has been through creating very, very specific and detailed operational protocols, how we will do things as a cruise line in order to make sure that we're focusing on those safe aspects and those elements that will help make cruising safer."

Dr. Johnson said Royal Caribbean came up with 122 specific protocols and almost 300 specific policies, but the public is curious what all of these changes will be exactly.

How will Royal Caribbean select volunteers for test cruises?

Ever since Royal Caribbean began taking sign ups for volunteers for its test cruises, the most frequently asked question is how volunteers will be picked.

In just over a week, Royal Caribbean has gotten over 100,000 people sign up to help test out the cruise line's new rules, but there has been absolutely no indication how volunteers will be chosen.

The only requirement listed when signing up was you had to be 18 years old.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, said that test sailings will be conducted with a combination of Royal Caribbean employees and volunteers, although they are not sure how volunteers will be picked yet.

What  is the status of delayed ship upgrades and new Perfect Day islands?

The combination of the voluntary cruise shutdown and billion dollar loses each of the last few quarters meant Royal Caribbean had to cut out capital spending, which has left many questions surrounding the status of these projects.

Scheduled upgrades to four Royal Caribbean ships remaining in the Royal Amplified program, as well as the future of Perfect Day at Lelepa and upgrades to Labadee remain ambiguous at best.

Royal Caribbean has not said much about these projects since announcing it could cut capital spending projects.

Prior to the shutdown, Royal Caribbean had announced a new Perfect Day island in the South Pacific, confirmed upgrades to Labadee, and announced new port projects in Antigua, Freeport and Nassau.

Which ships will sail first?

No one knows when cruises will restart, and Royal Caribbean has not even divulged which cruise ships will start first.

The cruise line has confirmed whenever cruises do start up again, the entire fleet will not begin at once.  Rather, a few ships will begin sailing and other ships will come back into service at a later time when it is practical.

Royal Caribbean has not announced which ships might start up first, only hinting "Deployment of spring is expected to be highly focused on short sailings from key drive markets in both the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions."

Will future cruise credits be extended?

As the cruise shutdown drags on, the window of opportunity to redeem a future cruise credit becomes smaller and smaller.

Every future cruise credit has an expiration date, and as of this week, all Future Cruise Credits will expire no sooner than December 31, 2021

What happens if this shutdown goes continues on? What about newly announced 2022 cruises? Will Royal Caribbean extend FCCs to provide more time to use them?

Will cruises still be fun after all of these changes?

This may seem like a silly question, but there is merit in wondering how all of the changes will impact the onboard experience.

Objectively speaking, new protocols and rules will change aspects of the cruise.  That does not mean every change is a bad change, but cruising will not be the same when it restarts as it was before cruises shutdown.

The answer to this question will vary from person to person, and it is not specifically a concern Royal Caribbean can answer to everyone's satisfaction. 

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said during a conference call with investors in August. "We will not rush to return to service until we are confident that we have figured out the changes that we must make to offer our guests and crew strong health and safety protocols with the enjoyable experience that they rightly expect."

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!

Top 10 things you should never do on a cruise

In:
Category: 
07Nov2020

Going on a cruise vacation offers plenty of fun things to do, but there are a lot of common mistakes to avoid as well.

Cruise lines make the experience as easy as possible, but rookie mistakes are still possible, so here are some easy pitfalls to avoid.

Whether you are going on your first cruise or have cruised plenty of times, be aware of these common missteps I see happen all too often.

Throw anything overboard

In the same way you should not throw garbage out of your car window, throwing anything into the ocean is not cool either.

Not only is littering in the ocean strictly prohibited by Royal Caribbean as a rule, it is also a violation of maritime law to do so.

More importantly, throwing trash in the ocean hurts the environment and sea life that call the ocean home. There are plenty of trash recepticles on your ship, including ash trays.

Read moreTop 9 bad mistakes to make on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Book your cruise based on price

We all have vacation budgets, but picking which cruise to go on purely based on price is a big mistake.

Just like how hotels can vary dramatically, cruise ships each offer their own amenties and signature features that make them stand out.

A common mistake is to assume all Royal Caribbean ships are the same, especially if certain features are important to you.

Before you book, be sure to look at what the ship offers to do onboard (as well as what it does not offer), and then decide if it is a good choice for you.

Read moreWhat is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

Fly to your cruise the day of departure

You are playing with fire if you try to fly the same day your cruise is scheduled to depart.

Travel delays are an all-too-common occurence and the last thing you want to do is put your entire cruise vacation in jeopardy because your airline is waiting on another flight attendant, or bad weather cancelled your flight.

While paying for a hotel the night before your cruise does add to your vacation cost, the flexibility and peace of mind it provides is well worth it.

Book a flight that gets you to your departure port at least one day ahead of time. As an added bonus, you get to start your vacation earlier!

Read moreThe most important advice I give my family after they book a cruise

Be a chair hog

Just because everyone else is doing it does not mean you should reserve chairs for your family when you are not actually using them.

One of the most common annoyances among guests are the people that go up to the pool deck early in the morning, throw towels on a bunch of chairs, and then do not return to use the chairs for a few hours.

Pool deck chairs are limited, and on sea days a lot of people want to enjoy time at the pool.

The courteous thing to do is not reserve pool chairs, unless your family is actually at the pool to use them.

Read more8 things some cruisers do that annoy everyone else

Ignore your SeaPass account

Just like your credit card bills at home, it is a good idea to periodically check your onboard spending.

Keeping tabs on how much you have spent has two benefits: you can verify there are no erroneous charges, as well as ensuring you are not blowing through your vacation budget.

Royal Caribbean provides a lot of opportunities to spend extra on your cruise, from alcoholic beverages, to shore excursions, to specialty dining and more.

You can always request a copy of your bill from Guest Services, or check it anytime from the Royal Caribbean app.

Checking the SeaPass account early ensures you are not standing in line on the last day of your cruise like everyone else to fix billing issues.

Read more: All about Royal Caribbean's SeaPass account

Limit yourself to free food

There is nothing wrong with the terrific complimentary food available on a Royal Caribbean ship, but it is worth spending a little bit extra on the specialty dining.

Whether you like sushi, steak, Italian or any other indulgence, Royal Caribbean's extra-cost dining choices are really good.

It is a good idea to sprinkle in some specialty dining costs as a way of supplementing the great food in the main dining room.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean dining questions I get asked all the time!

Ignore the possibility of getting seasick

The chance of getting seasick on a cruise is minimal, but you should be prepared in case it does happen.

First-time cruisers may not know exactly how their body will react to be on a cruise, and everyone handles the slight motion of a cruise ship differently.

Royal Caribbean ships are specially designed to offer as smooth a sailing as possible, but some motion in the ocean is not uncommon.

Just to be safe, pack over the counter medications or homeopathic treatments to mitigate the effects quickly.

Read moreHow To Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise

Wait until the last minute to book a shore excursion

Shore excurions are a very popular activity in the ports of call your cruise ship will visit, so do not wait to book them.

Quite often, certain tours will sell out and that can leave you compromising on which activity you want to do.

Moreover, you can usually get a better price if you pre-purchase it before your cruise on Royal Caribbean's website.

In addition, it is expected for an indeterminite amount of time that you will be limited to booking shore excursions through the cruise line while the global health crisis requires new health protocols to be implemented.

Read moreHow to save money on cruise excursions

Wait until you get home to resolve problems

If there is a problem on your cruise, be sure to get any concerns resolved onboard.

Whether there is a billing issue, mechanical problem in your stateroom, disagreement with a crew member or anything else, your best bet is to get it handled while you are onboard the ship.

Your best chance at a equitable resolution is to let the ship staff assist in resolving it.  The shoreside team is helpful, but there is so much back and forth once you get home that it makes things much more difficult.

If you encounter any issue, speak with Guest Services onboard to get it taken care of, especially if it is something that once you leave the ship, it would be difficult for Royal Caribbean to verify.

Read moreThe top crew members to find if you have a problem onboard your cruise

Pack essential items you will need on the first day

The first hours you board your cruise are a great time to begin enjoying your cruise, but make sure you have what you need with you prior to your luggage being delivered.

The luggage you give the porters at the cruise terminal to be delivered to your room will take hours to get to your room. 

You will want to keep with you in a carry-on bag your travel documentation (passports or birth cerificate), money, important prescription medicine, sunglasses, stuff for the kids, or toiletries.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Why you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships

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Category: 
24Oct2020

The newest cruise ships will offer the latest and greatest developments that a cruise line has, but older and smaller ships in the fleet should not be overlooked as a great choice.

If you see a Royal Caribbean  television commercial, it probably shows off the newest amazing things you can do on one of its newest ships. While they do look amazing, other ships in the fleet that are a bit older are still a great choice for a cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean sails 26 ships, and while new cruise ships will always get the most attention, here are some important reasons to not skip out on older and smaller cruise ships.

Upgrades

Just because you do not book the newest cruise ship does not mean you have to compromise on what there is to do onboard.

Royal Caribbean recognizes that a lot of cruisers look for the fun new activities and things to do on a cruise ship.  And if a certain feature or activity does really well on a new ship, it makes a lot of sense to add that to other ships.

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has systematically upgraded and enhanced their older ships with new features, including water slides, new restaurants, escape rooms and more.

Even ships that are 15-20 years old offer many more things to do than when those vessels first entered service.

A smaller ship does not mean there is nothing to do or it will feel dated.  Royal Caribbean does a fantastic job at maintaining their cruise ships and keeping them relevant.

Read moreWhat was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment

Exotic itineraries

If you want to cruise to some of the more distant ports of call, you will probably be doing so on a smaller cruise ship.

Certain itineraries are always going to be relegated to smaller cruise ships, and being able to visit far-off ports of call that are not just another cruise port is something you cannot do on the big ships.

Cruises to places like Venice, Key West, Iceland, Bora Bora and others are usually only serviced by smaller cruise ships.

Read moreBest Royal Caribbean ships and cruise guide

More relaxing pace

While new ships are packed with so many things to do, it can often lead to "FOMO" (fear of missing out) and that can lead to a faster pace of cruising in order to work it all in.

Older ships still have plenty of luster to them, but you will not feel like you are missing out on as many signature activities if you decide to sleep in, spend the day at the pool, or read a good book.

Smaller cruise ships offer a more "classic cruise experience", which means it is less about going from one whizz-bang feature to another. Rather, you feel more at liberty to do more relaxing and enjoying time at the pool deck and enjoying the cruise ship atmosphere.

As stated earlier, do not confuse a relaxing pace with nothing to do. Those upgrades over the years that were mentioned earlier still offer plenty to do after you finish napping.

Read moreEverything you wanted to know about Royal Caribbean's pools

Easier to get a last-minute cruise

New cruise ships attract so much attention that their sailings tend to sell out much faster than older ships.

If you are looking to book a cruise at the last minute (less than 120-90 days before sailing), you will find better prices and options with older cruise ships.

Essentially, anyone in the market for a last-minute cruise is likely to find a great stateroom on older ships simply because they do not sell out as quickly as new ones.

Read moreLast minute Royal Caribbean cruise trip planning

Lower price

The best reason to cruise on a smaller and older ship is the lower price.

Newer ships come with a premium price tag, but you can find fantastic values in the older ships.

Sometimes, the rates are between 30 and 40 percent cheaper than for new-builds, depending on the itinerary and season. 

Similar to how a used car is sold at a significant savings compared to a new car, new cruise ships command the higher prices and every new ship that joins the fleet tends to drive down the price of existing ships.

If you compare the price per-night on a new ship versus an older ship, it is usually significant. Moreover, these savings can mean moving up to a higher stateroom category.  Instead of a balcony on an Oasis Class ship, maybe you can afford a suite on a Voyager Class ship.

Read moreHow to cruise on the cheap

Old ships or new ships?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sailing on an Oasis or Quantum class ship, but consider every class in the fleet for your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

You should not disregard a certain cruise ship simply because of its size or age. New ships are often larger and offer so many things to do, but they can also be expensive and not nearly as intimate an experience.

Older ships are not forgotten by the cruise line, and outfitted with modern amenities and popular attractions that keep them relevant.

If you have only cruised on the newest and biggest ships, trying a Radiance or Voyager Class ship means you can experience something new.

The value these older ships provide make them a compelling choice for just about anyone.

Read moreWhich is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

Why you should skip the elevator on your cruise

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19Oct2020

Every cruise ship has a couple sets of elevators, but if you are able-bodied, there are some good reasons to skip the elevator.

Elevators are a convenient means of traversing many decks of your ship, but between the realities of cruising and new health protocols, skipping that elevator ride may make more sense.

As an alternative, you will find stairs near any elevator bank, usually in the middle of the ship and towards the back.

Here are a few good reasons to bypass the elevators on your next cruise and take the stairs instead.

Wasting time waiting for them

Elevators seem like a great idea, until you stand around waiting for one to not only arrive on your deck, but have room for you.

Unfortunately, elevators tend to take a while to get to your deck (especially during meals or on port days) and the time you stand around waiting for an elevator exceeds the time it would have taken you to just take the stairs.

Even when the elevator does arrive, they are often crowded and all too often it stops at every floor, taking forever.

Makes room for those that really need it

As I previously stated, if you are able-bodied and can take the stairs, it has an added benefit of freeing up the elevators for other guests who must rely on the elevator.

Shipmates with strollers or wheelchairs have no choice but to use the elevator, and your decision to bypass the elevators means more opportunity for them.

Healthier to take stairs

One of the best reasons to bypass the elevator and take the stairs is the opportunity to burn off a few extra calories.

By taking the stairs, you will not only get to your destination just as quickly as waiting for the elevator, but it you will help burn off all those extra calories you had earlier in the cruise.

Walking up and down the stairs is great for your body and you can burn off that cake from dessert without having to hit the ship's gym.

New health protocols will make elevators more difficult to get one

Another reason to use the stairs may be going on a cruise means the elevator will be very limited once cruises restart.

Royal Caribbean's new set of protocols that encourage social distancing stipulates that elevators are limited to four people at a time or your travel group only. 

Stairs are available as usual and railings are cleaned frequently.

Tip: Pick a room near a popular area

In order to reduce your dependency on an elevator, you might consider picking a stateroom near a popular area of the ship.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on the pool deck, perhaps book a cabin towards the top of the ship so you only have to go up a deck or two to reach the pool.  Plus, the Windjammer buffet and Adventure Ocean kids club tends to also be on the same deck as the pool.

Or you, might consider booking a cabin as close to the Royal Promenade to not only be accessible to the many events there, but only a few decks down to the dining rooms or gangway on port days.

Choosing a stateroom in close proximity to an area of the ship you may spend more time at can make the decision to use the stairs much easier.

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

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17Oct2020

Should you book a 3-night cruise, or are you better off spending your money on a longer sailing?

Weighing value versus opportunity is something a lot of cruisers consider when planning their next cruise vacation, and short sailings have certain advantages and disadvantages to them.

If you are debating booking a short cruise versus a longer one, here is what you should know about booking a 3-night cruise vacation.

Why you should book a short cruise

Here are the top reasons a weekend cruise makes a lot of sense.

Cheaper upfront cost

The best reason to book a short cruise it will cost you less than a longer sailing.

In terms of the overall cost of the cruise, a 3-night cruise will almost always cost less than a week-long cruise vacation, which is perfect for anyone on a limited budget.

While the per-night cost of a short cruise will likely be higher than a 7-night cruise, your cruise fare will probably come out less than a longer cruise.

Many people that book short cruises tend to want an inexpensive getaway, rather than an extravagant voyage.

Short cruises are convenient

Cruise lines (including Royal Caribbean) schedule 3-night cruises over weekends, and that means it is easier to get away from work or school for these sort of trips.

A 3-night cruise that departs on a Friday will get back on Monday morning, meaning the amount of vacation time you need is quite minimal.

If you happen to live near the cruise port where the ship sails from, it is almost as easy to hop on a weekend 3-night cruise as it is to go to the beach for the same amount of time and stay in a hotel.

Great introduction to cruising

Three night cruises are a popular choice among first time cruisers because it requires the least commitment to cruises, but still allows them to "dip their toes" into the proverbial cruising waters.

A common concern among first-time cruisers is they are worried they might not like a cruise vacation, so as a result, they book a short cruise to give it a try.

While I recommend first time cruisers book longer cruises for their first sailing, a short cruise remains a less-expensive way for them to "test out" what a cruise is all about.

The drawbacks of a short cruise

Cruise is over before you know it

A short cruise also means that your voyage will conclude just as quickly as it began.

Just like any weekend, a 3-night cruise leaves very little time to do a lot onboard and you will quickly find that a short sailing leaves limited opportunity to "do it all" onboard.

Royal Caribbean packs its ships with a lot of fun things to do, and then there are the ports of call you will visit that also offer exciting tours. All of this means your opportunity to experience everything on the ship in minimal.

One of the primary regrets anyone that books a short cruise usually has is they did not have enough time during the cruise.

Flight costs can be more than the cruise

If you are traveling to the cruise from somewhere that requires you to fly, often the cost of the flight dilutes any value of the cheap cruise fare.

Travel costs associated with getting to the cruise port makes 3-night cruises a better value for anyone that can drive to the port, rather than a family vacation where you fly the day before the cruise begins, stay in a hotel and rack up other related charges.

The newest ships do not offer 3-night cruises

If you watched a Royal Caribbean commercial and saw the amazing things you can do on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, unfortunately those vessels do not offer 3-night cruises.

While Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ships offer a lot of fun activities onboard (and were recently upgraded), they still are not on the same level of offering incredible amenities as the newest and biggest ships.

Many first-time cruisers are attracted by the glimmer of the latest and greatest cruise ships, but keep in mind a 3-night cruise means going on a slightly older ship that does not offer quite the same experience as the bigger ships.

Read moreWhich is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?

Hope you like the Bahamas

One other consideration that may or may not impact you is a 3-night cruise rarely have any itinerary variation.

In the case of North America, 3-night cruises almost always visit the exact same ports in The Bahamas.  While there The Bahamas are lovely, they lack the exotic appeal that other Caribbean ports offer.

Elsewhere, weekend cruises from California go to Baja Mexico and four-nighters from Galveston go to Cozumel.

While the fact 3-night cruises from Florida only visit the Bahamas is listed under a negative, I freely admit only visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay is absolutely worth it!

Should you book a short cruise?

Ultimately, the decision to book a short cruise or not depends on how strongly you feel about the lower cruise cost versus how much time you will have to enjoy the vacation.

A 3-night cruise will be an affordable and fun experience that may mean limited activities onboard and a busy schedule of activities and port adventures.

If you have the time and money, a longer cruise (6-7 nights) can offer a larger cruise ship with more to see and do, as well as a greater variety of places to visit.

Basically, short cruises are a great idea for a weekend getaway, so be sure to savor every minute of it.

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.

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