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

In:
Category: 
07May2020

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

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

Make the most of your cruise with these top tips.

Learn everything about your ship from a past Cruise Compass

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

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

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

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

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

Make sure you have proper documents

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

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

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

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

Plan how you will get to the cruise ship

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

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

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

Find that perfect shore excursion

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

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

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

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

Pre-purchase add-ons to save money

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

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

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

Buy travel insurance

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

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

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

Start your vacation budget

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

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

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

Meet people online on your sailing

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

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

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

Watch YouTube videos

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

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

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

Try to learn the lingo

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

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

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

In:
Category: 
01May2020

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

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

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

Cheap prices for fall and winter 2020

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

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

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

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

Very flexible cancellation terms

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

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

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

Some airlines are even providing free cancellation on new bookings.

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

New cleaning and passenger safety policies added

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

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

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

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

Prices are expected to go up soon

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

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

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

In:
Category: 
27Apr2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: How expensive is a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
Category: 
10Mar2020

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

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

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

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

So check out the video and then let us know: How do you save money on a cruise vacation?

How much should I budget for a cruise?

In:
Category: 
29Feb2020

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

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

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

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

Base cruise fare

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

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

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

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

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

Shore Excursions

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

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

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

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

WiFi

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

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

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

Drinks

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

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

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

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

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

Specialty dining

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

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

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

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

Gratuity

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation to the cruise

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

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

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

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

Costs onboard

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

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

Common extra costs onboard include:

• Photos

• Casino

• Bingo

• Fitness Classes

• Souvenirs

How to save money on your next cruise

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

Book early

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

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

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

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

Use credit card points

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

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

Use a travel agent

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

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

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

Plan shore excursions on your own

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

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

Bring your own soda, water, juice or wine

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

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

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

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

In:
Category: 
18Feb2020

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

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

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

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

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

Are last minute cruises really cheaper?

In:
17Feb2020

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

What is considered a last minute cruise?

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

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

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

Do cruises get cheaper closer to departure?

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

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

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

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

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

How can I get a cheap last minute cruise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In:
Category: 
11Feb2020

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

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

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

Cabanas

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

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

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

Popular shore excursions

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

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

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

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

Izumi hibachi

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

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

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

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

Entertainment on Oasis or Quantum Class ships

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

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

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

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

North Star

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

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

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

iFly

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

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

My Time Dining (for popular times or large groups)

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

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

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

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

Escape Room

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

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

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

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

In:
Category: 
11Jan2020

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

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

How early can you book a cruise?

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

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

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

A word on last minute deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: What's coming to Royal Caribbean in 2020

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07Jan2020

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

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

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

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

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