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Self-disembarkation on Royal Caribbean cruises


On the last morning of your Royal Caribbean cruise, Royal Caribbean provides an option for guests who wish to carry their own luggage off the ship that is referred to as self assist, express departure, or self disembarkation.  Regardless of what it is called, this option provides guests with a way to depart the cruise ship at their leisure.

Here is an overview of how to carry your own luggage off a Royal Caribbean ship, if you so choose.

How self disembarkation works

Guests who elect to carry their own luggage off the ship will be required to take their luggage from their stateroom, and take it all the way off the ship and through customs.

Unlike guests who have luggage transported for them from their stateroom, guests who carry off their own luggage can leave as soon as the ship is cleared by local customs.  

Guests may indicate they wish to use Express Departure by registering with Guest Relations.  In our experience, registering with Guest Relations is a suggestion, rather than a requirement.

Once you commit to carrying your own luggage off the ship, and the time window to leave your luggage outside your stateroom door for it to be delivered for you, you must stick with taking your own luggage off the ship.

Most often, the Express Departure option is preferred by guests who want to depart as early as possible due to travel plans, work requirements, or other needs.  However, if you opt to carry your own luggage off the ship, you may depart at any time.  On disembarkation day, an announcement will be made once the gangway is opened and cleared by local authorities, and at that time, guests carrying their own luggage may depart the ship.

Why carry off your own luggage

The primary reason most guests opt to carry off their own luggage is to allow them to stay on their own schedule and be among the first to depart the ship.

Some guests want to leave the ship early, and the first bags cleared by officials for pick up may not be available for an hour or more following the gangway being opened. Express Departure allows for the speediest exit from the trip and for those that want or need to get going early, this is the best solution.

Other guests simply prefer to be among the first off the ship to avoid any delays in customs, or onboard the ship.  Some ports have a reputation for having longer disembarkation lines, so being among the first means a seamless exit.

What to know before carrying your own luggage off the ship

  • You need to be comfortable with taking all of your luggage off the ship without any assistance. You must be physically fit as there will be no assistance or porters.
  • The exact time you can exit the ship will depend on when the ship is cleared by local authorities. There can be unpredictable delays in that process, so there are never any guarantees when guests may exit the ship.
  • Often guests who want to take part in Express Departure will be directed to a specific location on the ship.  A list of locations and times will be delivered to each stateroom the night before disembarkation.
  • Guests opting for self-disembarkation do not have to leave the ship immediately.  They may remain onboard for as long as they wish, up until the required time for all guests to leave the ship.
  • There are usually notices in the Cruise Compass a few days into the cruise for guests who want to carry their own luggage off the ship.  The notice informs guests of the option, and to register with Guest Services.

Have you carried your own luggage off a Royal Caribbean cruise before? Do you have questions about using this in the future? Share your experiences and concerns in the comments!

How to convince someone to take a Royal Caribbean cruise


Convincing someone to try a Royal Caribbean cruise is no easy task.  Many people have negative preconceptions about cruising, had a bad experience in the past on another cruise line, or have some other reason for disliking the notion of a cruise vacation.

These negatives run the gamut from expensive to being bored and more.  There is no shortage of opinions from many different sources that purport the shortfalls of cruising.  Negative Royal Caribbean specific arguments tend to be a little less common, but given the broad range of opinions on the internet, they certainly exist too.

Regardless of the background of the person you are trying to convince, it is possible to convince them to take a Royal Caribbean cruise and (more importantly) for them to have a good time.  You have to know how to approach the trip and convince them to go in with an open mind. 

Here are some of our tips for convincing your spouse, or anyone else, to take a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.

Plan around their hesitations

If you encounter someone who dislikes the idea of taking a Royal Caribbean cruise, often it is based around certain fears or opinions of what a cruise vacation is all about.  The key is to assuage them of these concerns.

"I'll be bored" or "There won't be enough to do"

Many first time cruisers imagine a glorified fishing boat, where all you do is sit around between meals.  A Royal Caribbean cruise is anything but that, as their ships are packed with incredible experiences that run throughout the day and night.

Consider looking at a Quantum or Oasis Class cruise ship, which have the latest and greatest experiences onboard.  These ships were built with activities and things to do onboard.

Show them some past Cruise Compasses, which are the daily newspaper of events for the ship.  The Cruise Compass lists every onboard activity, and is a great example of how much there is to see and do on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

You might also consider an itinerary that has more port stops than sea days.  Visiting these beautiful islands and cities means an opportunity to explore off the ship.  Having a port-intensive itinerary minimizes the amount of time on the ship, and can be a good "stepping stone" to a fuller cruise experience.

"I will get sea sick"

A very common misconception about a cruise vacation is they will get sea sick.  It can be based on nothing at all, or a past boating experience, or an extension of motion sickness suffered elsewhere (like on cars or trains).

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are massive.  Significantly larger than any fishing boat or ferry they may have taken in the past.  The ships employ advanced stabilizers that keep the sensation of movement on a ship at a minimum.

Moreover, the Captain will constantly seek out the smoothest waters.  Smooth waters means happy guests, and happy guests translate to more money being spent onboard.  

In the unlikely event of getting sea sick, there are also plenty of medication available that can easily mitigate the effects of getting sea sickness.  There are great over the counter medications, natural remedies, and even prescription medicine that can help.  Spending a few dollars to buy these items as a backup can be the kind of reassurance needed to get someone to try a cruise.

"A cruise is expensive"

The price of a cruise vacation is as varied as the cost of a car.  Just like there are car prices that are $16k, $30k, $100k and more, cruise prices can vary significantly.  When it comes to a Royal Caribbean cruise, it does not have to be expensive.  In fact, it is an excellent value.

It is important to talk about everything that is included with the cruise fare, such as complimentary meals and beverages, entertainment each day and night, activities onboard, and more.  Remind them that if you were to take a land vacation, they would have to pay for food in addition to their lodging and transportation.  

Royal Caribbean has so many ships in their fleet that visit destinations around the world, that there is bound to be a sailing that fits in their price range.  Between the itinerary, sail date, and stateroom type, there is a lot of choices.  

This just covers a couple of common complaints about the cruise vactions, but you get the idea. Find out what they do not like about a cruise, and thenexplain why those fears are misplaced.  Talk to them about what really goes on during a cruise, and determine how you will avoid their fears.  Then, think of things that disprove these stereotypes, and add them to your plan.

Focus on things they enjoy

A key to success for convincing someone to take a Royal Caribbean cruise is to make it personal.  Find something they enjoy and illustrate how a Royal Caribbean cruise incorporates that passion.

If they are a fitness nut, talk about the impressive fitness center and classes available on Royal Caribbean ships.  Show them there is a running track onboard, and even shore excursions that demand physical endurance.

If they are a foodie, pick a Royal Caribbean ship that has a lot of great restaurants and talk about the variety of foods available onboard.  Consider even investing in a specialty dining package to help bring the cost down to enjoy those experiences.

If they have kids, be sure to talk about the award-winning Adventure Ocean program, which means there is programming for children every day and night of the cruise.  The kids get to have fun playing with other kids, while you get time to yourself.  Any parent should jump at that opportunity.

If they like history and culture, talk about the ports your cruise ship will visit. Show them the kind of experiences they can have in a single cruise, such as visiting Mayan Ruins in Mexico, touring a plantation house in Jamaica, and going where Spanish Conquistadors first stepped foot in Puerto Rico.

Talk about the experiences they might not know are on a cruise ship

I imagine many people who have never taken a cruise before, think of a cruise ship as a giant floating pool with a cafeteria somewhere and a bunch of newly weds and retirees strewn about.  Tell that to someone who has taken a Royal Caribbean cruise before, and they are likely to laugh at hearing that description.  The key is to talk about everything a Royal Caribbean ship offers.

When you are trying to convince someone to try a cruise, focus on the type of activities and offerings found on Royal Caribbean.  Your list will vary depending on which ship you are considering, but here are some good points not to miss.

  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Broadway shows
  • Adults-only Solarium
  • Specialty restaurants
  • Spacious suites
  • Mini-golf
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Casino
  • DreamWorks characters and events
  • Fitness classes
  • Skydiving simulator
  • NorthStar observation pod
  • Water slides
  • Aqua parks
  • Ice skating

You get the idea with just the items we picked on this list.  The great thing about a Royal Caribbean cruise is that it offers so much to do that will appeal to virtually anyone.  Whatever your friend/spouse/colleague/sibling's interests are, chances are there is some way to cater those interests on Royal Caribbean.

Use video

You can talk about how great something is for days, but videos work wonders because they can see what you are talking about.  Incorporating video in your strategy works wonders.

YouTube is likely the best source of videos that show off how much fun a Royal Caribbean vacation can be.  Find videos that back up the points and ideas discussed earlier and use that to show them what you mean.

There are videos that incorporate ship tours, recordings of shows, vlogs, and a lot more.  Inevitably, you should have no trouble finding videos that provide a glimpse of the kind of fun waiting for them onboard.

Share these videos on their Facebook page, or text them a link to the videos so that they can quickly see your point.  If the video is already on Facebook, tag them in the video so they get notified.  Odds are they will click and watch.

Your thoughts

We have listed a lot of suggestions for those trying to convince someone else to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but do you know of an idea that we missed? If you have run into this scenario before, we would love to hear suggestions you might have to offer, or even stories about a reluctant spouse or friend that you can share.  Please leave your stories, experiences and suggestions in the comments!

7 ways to learn everything you can about your Royal Caribbean cruise


The internet is a wealth of information and one of the best means to research pretty much anything, including your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise.  Knowledge is power, and the more you know about what to expect on your Royal Caribbean cruise, the better prepared you will be and we think that leads to a better vacation experience.

Odds are if you are reading this blog post, which happens to be on a website dedicated to all things Royal Caribbean cruise, you probably interested in learning more about your cruise.  With that in mind, we listed our top resources for learning everything you can about a Royal Caribbean sailing. Learning about Royal Caribbean cruises has never been easier, and there is so much great information at your fingertips.  

It is also worth mentioning that, yes, we will shamelessly plug our own content here and there.  We are proud of the content we create on Royal Caribbean Blog, but also recognize there are some outstanding other means to learn about your cruise.  It isn't competition, because we all do things in our own style and at the end of the day, there is great and helpful information for everyone to enjoy. 

Travel agents

Travel agents are more than just a means of booking a cruise for you.  In fact, they are wonderful resources that provide the most personal and customizable information out there.  While you will read, hear and listen to a lot of great Royal Caribbean information on the internet, only travel agents can provide information that is catered exactly to your needs.

Travel agents are well-versed in what is happening with Royal Caribbean these days, and have their own cruising experience to draw upon to share too.  This means when you ask a question, they can answer it in with your family in mind.  We can write a million blog posts here about Royal Caribbean cruises, but it may never address your particular situation.  A good travel agent is that perfect resource.

Beyond just the logistical stuff, talk to your travel agent and ask them about opinions on shore excursions, stateroom types and what constitutes a good deal.  Finding a great travel agent means you have a partner and friend in the process to support you all along the way.

Facebook groups

Arguably the fastest growing and openly available resource on cruising over the last few years are Facebook groups.  Not too long ago, Facebook started allowing folks to create groups on pretty much any topic, and Royal Caribbean groups sprung up quickly.

Facebook groups are kind of like a simpler version of message boards, and they have proven to be a wonderful resource for sharing information.  

These days, there are a lot of Facebook groups dedicated to all aspects of a Royal Caribbean cruise.  They vary in size, scope, and subject matter, but they offer a good way to ask questions and hear other people's experiences.  You can search Facebook to one or more that you like, but here are a list of notable ones we think provide good information.


If you prefer to learn about your cruise by sound, rather than by sight, then podcasts are just for you.  Podcasts are downloadable internet-based radio shows, where periodically new episodes are released that talk about some aspect of a cruise.

The great thing about podcasts are they are perfect for listening to at the gym, in the car, or on a plane flight.  The cruising-related podcasts we listen to are all free to enjoy and most smartphones these days support them.

There are not many podcasts that focus purely on cruising (or Royal Caribbean), but these are worth your time

Websites & Blogs

The heart of the internet are websites that share information about cruising (we might be slightly biased in that statement), and there are many great sites dedicated to cruising.

Like this site, most cruising sites deal with a blend of cruise news and cruise information. While you may be focused on learning about your particular sailing, knowing what's happening in the world of cruising is not a bad idea.  Many trends in cruising travel from one cruise line to another, so reading news can be a good barometer of what to expect.

Unlike this site, cruising websites are dedicated to the whole cruise industry, instead of just Royal Caribbean.  The good news is a lot of the information you find on them pertains to Royal Caribbean just as much as other lines.  

Here is our list of our top picks for websites to check out.  Keep in mind there are many more, which is why Google was invented.


In addition to finding a great recipe for dinner, or a way to decorate your kids' bedroom, Pinterest has a lot of great information on taking a cruise. It particularly excels at showing you related content that you might not have considered searching for, but find interesting nonetheless.

Searching Pinterest for packing tips, cruise reviews, shore excursion ideas and even stateroom decorating tips are all great ideas to search for in preparation for your cruise.

The beauty of Pinterest is once you find something interesting, it is easy to find other relevant content and we quickly find ourselves with a ton of browser tabs open with great things to read.


Television documentaries may not be as prevalent today as they once were, but they provide an entertaining look at many Royal Caribbean cruise ships that if nothing else, will get you excited for your cruise.

The best cruise ship documentary series we know about is called Dream Cruises on AWE TV.  A number of Royal Caribbean ships have been featured on them over the years, and it focuses on what it is like to cruise on these ships, rather than the construction or engineering of them.

Periodically you can search your local listings on your DVR for re-run episodes.  National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the Science Channel have all had documentaries on Royal Caribbean ships over the years.  Keep in mind that most, if not all, of the documentaries you find on television are outdated, and itineraries, onboard amenities and entertainment have likely changed.  Still, it is fun to gather the family and watch these shows for their entertainment value.  


Between the millions of cute cat videos and Diet Coke/Mentos experiments, are a lot of great cruise videos on YouTube.  You will find vacation videos, walk-throughs, Royal Caribbean produced episodes and a whole lot more.

YouTube blends entertainment, information, and day dreaming together seamlessly and it is so easy to browse and learn about Royal Caribbean ships, port stops, and nearly everything onboard.

One of the first things we do after booking a cruise, is search YouTube for video tours of the category of stateroom we booked.  Walk-through videos of Royal Caribbean ships provide the perfect means of visualizing what to expect once onboard. 

Your thoughts

What is your preferred way to learn about Royal Caribbean cruises online? Did we miss a resource you know about, or is there one in our list that deserves special attention? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Things not to worry about on a Royal Caribbean cruise


Many first time cruisers have concerns about what a Royal Caribbean cruise is all about, and what it entails.  There is certainly a fair amount of pre-trip planning that can be beneficial to improving a trip, but there are also a few aspects of cruise planning that one should not concern themselves with prior to sailing.

Here are five parts of any Royal Caribbean cruise that you should not worry about before getting onboard.

Getting sea sick

If there is one thing many first time cruisers ask a lot of questions about it, it is about getting sea sick.

Let us be clear, going on a Royal Caribbean cruise is nothing like going out on your buddy's fishing boat.  Royal Caribbean ships are massive vessels, equipped with precise GPS and stablizing technology. Moreover, the Captain will regularly plot courses that take optimal routes for guest comfort.

There are certain steps you can take to mitigate the risk of getting sea sick, such as over the counter medications and homeopathic treatments

The bottom line is while one could get sea sick on a cruise, it is a very low risk.  In fact, if you ask veteran cruisers, they will likely tell you their concern over getting sea sick is ranked somewhere around the feature film selection shown onboard.


Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs between June 1 - November 30, and poses a significant threat each year to people all around North America. Despite the ferocity of hurricanes, a Royal Caribbean cruise is a very safe vacation choice, even if there is a possible hurricane.

First and foremost, Royal Caribbean sends its ships well out of the path of known storms. While hurricane forecasting is not always precise, once a storm forms, it will affect a certain region of the Caribbean or Atlantic, and Royal Caribbean makes proper plans to alternate itineraries when necessary to steer clear of these storms. The cruise line wants its guests and crew to remain safe, its equipment out of harms way, and maintain a high level of guest satisfaction.  So changing from an Eastern to a Western itinerary or dropping a scheduled port stop is an easy to achieve that.

First time cruisers should also be aware that bad weather can happen throughout the year, and storms occur outside of hurricane season too. In addition, no one can control the weather or with any definitive knowledge tell you any sailing will be free of weather concerns.  Your best bet is to book a sailing that works for you, and have trust in the cruise line and the ship's crew to provide an excellent vacation experience, rain or shine.

Handing out gratuities

In years past, one responsibility of guests were to hand out gratuities to crew members onboard.  Not only was this time consuming, it was awkward.  These days, Royal Caribbean has simplified the whole process with automatic gratuities.

Each day of your cruise, guests are charged an automatic gratuity that goes towards their dining room staff and stateroom attendant.  Onboard purchases at bars, restaurants and lounges also include an automatic gratuity to simplify things as well.

Guests have the option of pre-paying their gratuities before the cruise to help break up the cost of the cruise.

All of this means guests can focus on enjoying their vacation, rather than having to be concerned with who gets what tip and for how much.

Having enough to do onboard

When someone who loves going on a cruise tries to encourage a friend or colleague to try a cruise, all too often they will hear a response of, "I'm worried there won't be enough to do," or even worse, "I think I would be bored."

These sort of statements will likely give a cruise fan a good chuckle, because they know a Royal Caribbean cruise is anything but mundane or boring.  In short, there is so much happening onboard that the most likely result will there being too much to do, rather than not enough.

Royal Caribbean designs its cruise ships to be a destination, with lots of activities, dining, shows and more.  Between the ports your ship will visit and the seemingly non-stop options listed in the ship's Cruise Compass, there is plenty to choose from.

Of course, all the activities and events onboard are optional, which means you can do as much or as little as you like.  Most guests prefer to sprinkle in activities alongside old fashioned relaxing.

Being hungry

There is so much food available throughout the day and night on a Royal Caribbean cruise that being concerned with there not being enough to eat is one less thing to worry about.

On a Royal Caribbean ship, guests will find a lot of food included in their cruise fare, along with specialty dining options that augment the standard fare.

Complimentary food is available for all meals, and time inbetween. Simply put, there is plenty of great food included in the cost of your Royal Caribbean cruise. One can easily go an entire food and enjoy nothing but food that has no additional cost from morning to night. After all, that is what the concept of a cruise has been for a long time.

In addition to all the food that is included in your cruise fare are specialty dining options, that carry with it an extra cost to enjoy the food there. The exact amount extra will vary from restaurant to restaurant, and ship to ship.

In most cases, the specialty dining options offer a greater variety of food choices than what is available at complimentary dining locations. Royal Caribbean has designed its specialty restaurants around themes or cuisines (Italian, steakhouse, sushi, etc).

6 things you may not have tried on a Royal Caribbean cruise


A Royal Caribbean cruise is the kind of vacation experience where fond memories are made. We all have our favorite restaurants, spots onboard, and entertainment to experience, but why not try something new the next time you go? Here are a few out-of-the-box experiences you may not have tried yet.

Izumi Hibachi

On Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, Izumi has expanded to also offer a Hibachi experience where guests can enjoy Teppan-style dining. Izumi's Hibachi option is as much about the experience as it is about the food.

Izumi's chefs cook the food in front of guests surrounding a cooking table. If you have never done hibachi, it is a must-do and if you have, then you need to check out the great food (and show) Izumi offers.

Labadee cabana

Sometimes you just have to pamper yourself, and staying in a cabana at Labadee is the perfect way to do just that.

Labadee is Royal Caribbean's private destination, and while just sitting at the beach is a perfectly good way to spend your day there, renting a cabana makes the visit extra special. A cabana is your own private space that can accommodate up to six guests. Each cabana is equipped with two lounge chairs and a large seating area inside the cabana. A cabana attendant is also assigned to you, who can assist you with any requests you may have. Cabana guest also get to enjoy complimentary bottles of water (in a cooler), two floating beach mats, snorkeling gear and towels.

Cabanas are available for rent at Barefoot Beach and Nellie's Beach, and can be reserved before the cruise and during the sailing.

See the Quest

Have you heard about a game on Royal Caribbean ships called The Quest?

The Quest is an adults-only scavenger hunt that is big on laughs, friendly joking and competition.  When someone asks what the Quest is exactly, it is never easy to answer except to say, "you have to see it for yourself."

The Quest is an unique Royal Caribbean show that involves guests either actively participating in teams or watching the action.  You do not have to participate, but it is worth seeing for yourself at least once for the spectacle that is this show.

The Quest is an adult-oriented show, so the kids will have to grow up before checking this one off their list.

Get your hair styled at the salon

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa is best known for the wonderful massages and treatments, but it also features a high-end spa, that is the perfect place to have someone make you look a little extra special.

Whether for formal night, or just a fun evening out, you can make an appointment to have your hair cut, treated or just styled.  Men can get a shave or hair cut as well.

Be sure to make a reservation early, because spots tend to go quite quickly (especially for formal night).

Take a repositioning cruise

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise that embarks at one port, but disembarks at another port at the conclusion of the cruise is a very different, and rewarding experience.

Each season, Royal Caribbean offers repositioning cruises that take ships between continents.  Not only is a repositioning cruise longer than most other sailings, but they offer the opportunity to visit ports of call not normally included in a Royal Caribbean itinerary.  Plus, there is lots of time to enjoy what the cruise ship has to offer with the bonus sea days.

Take a behind the scenes tour

Royal Caribbean now offers fairly regularly a behind the scenes tour for guests to reserve, which will bring guests to many areas not normally accessible.

These tours include visits to the ship's bridge, galley, engine room and more.  It is the only means of seeing these off-limits areas, as well as extremely interesting to see how a Royal Caribbean ship operates.

Check your Cruise Planner for something called the "All Access Tour".

Your thoughts

Which of these activities have you tried before?  Any you think should be included in this list?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Last minute Royal Caribbean cruise trip planning


Imagine this: You are sitting at home or work, looking around you and realizing that you have reached a point of needing a break from this. Surely you have earned a little break, and a Royal Caribbean cruise seems like the perfect way to escape the day to day doldrums that you are actively lamenting. Some sun, beach and a few trips to the Windjammer sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  The only problem is, you do not want to wait 6 months or more for a cruise.  You want one now!

Taking a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise may sound a little crazy, but it is doable. Sometimes folks encounter a scenario like we just described, or sometimes they just take advantage of cruises sailing soon as an excuse to get away.  While we advocate planning your Royal Caribbean cruise as far in advance as possible, taking a last minute cruise is doable, but you need to plan accordingly in a short(er) span of time.

Here is what you will need to get in order, what to expect, and how you can make the most of a last minute cruise.

Cruise Fare

Any last minute cruise is going to require purchasing cruise fare, and that means finding a ship, itinerary, stateroom and price that works for you.

When we say "last minute", in cruising that generally refers to a cruise booked no further out than 6-8 weeks in advance.  Some cruising veterans might argue a last minute cruise applies to cruises booked 2-3 months before you sail, but that is a debate for another time.  The bottom line is, you are past the final payment date for the sailing you are considering and looking to see what is available.

We should be clear, the phrase, "last minute" does not necessarily infer there is a "deal". The cruise industry is red hot these days, and Royal Caribbean ships are sailing full much more often than in years past.  Moreover, Royal Caribbean instituted a price integrity policy a couple years ago to combat super-last minute cruise fare reductions.  What this means is finding a bargain-basement price on an unsold stateroom just weeks before sailing may not be as simple as it sounds. Yes, there are deals to be found in those last few weeks, but they are significantly rarer than they used to be.

Searching for a last minute cruise fare starts out the same as looking for a cruise months and years in advance.  You should contact a travel agent to assist in the search, and you can augment the search by looking through Royal Caribbean's web site for offers.

Each week, Royal Caribbean publishes something called its Going, Going, Gone rates.  These are select sailings that have some sort of a discount associated with them because they are generally sailing soon.  They go on sale to Crown and Anchor Society members on Mondays, and then the general public Tuesday and Wednesday.  How lucrative these offers are, and the variety of choices, will greatly vary.

Of course, some people simply want to get away and finding a deal is secondary to finding a cruise that is reasonably priced. There are some good strategies for finding these sort of sailings that can apply to a variety of scenarios.

Look for a cruise sailing from fly to ports

Cruises that depart from ports like Galveston or San Juan, Puerto Rico, often start out priced lower than other sailings because people have to travel a great distance to reach them.  

Considering a cruise from one of these ports might be a good starting point for finding that price.

Guarantee rooms

To help fill in empty staterooms, Royal Caribbean will offer a guarantee room rate.  This means you pick a category of stateroom that you are promised you will receive nothing less than that.  In fact, you might even be upgraded to something higher.  On top of it, you will pay less than someone who picks their stateroom.

The "catch" to a guarantee room is that Royal Caribbean will assign your room number at some point between when you book the stateroom and your sail date.  You are essentially trading the ability to pick your stateroom location for a lower cruise fare.

Consider the calendar

The cruise industry is very much based around the concept of demand, with certain times of the year seeing higher or lower demand for a cruise.  Someone looking to take a last minute cruise in the middle of January will find a much easier time than someone in the middle of summer.

If you can, try to find a last minute cruise in a time of year when kids are in school and/or there are no major holidays occurring. Employing this strategy may find many more options to consider.


Airfare fluctuates based upon market conditions. Since a seat on a flight is a perishable commodity, sometimes last minute airfare will be cheaper than airfare booked months in advance. However, this is not normally the case. Airlines are pretty good at anticipating demand, and price fares and schedule routes accordingly.  It makes sense to hold off on booking any last minute cruise until you can confirm a last minute flight makes financial sense.

To avoid getting burned on last minute airfare price, we recommend checking out ITA Software, which searches every airline (except Southwest) based on parameters you input. If the prices you get at first are not appealing, consider expanding your search to include airports nearby your home or where you're flying to.  As an example, if your cruise is going to depart from Port Everglades, it is easy to fly to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or even Orlando.

If prices are still too insane, consider driving if that is feasible.

Shore Excursions

If you have gotten this far into your last minute cruise planning, you have gotten over the most difficult hurdles.  Where your cruise will go is always an important consideration, but the good news is booking a shore excursion is relatively simple if you are booking close to your sail date.

Arguably the most difficult aspect to booking a shore excursion on a last minute cruise is you have less time to figure it all out.  For Caribbean cruises that go to ports that mainly involve some sort of beach activity, the decision can be much simpler than someone taking a last minute European cruise, where there is a wealth of choices.

If you have your heart set on a certain excursion, book it as soon as you can.  If you are flexible, or do not see anything right away that jumps out as appealing, you can certainly wait to book something later.  Heck, you can even wait to get off the ship in the port and hop into a taxi.  


In terms of the onboard experience, the problem most people who book last minute cruises run into problems is dining.  Specifically, getting the dinner rotation they prefer.  

Royal Caribbean offers My Time Dining and Traditional Dining for dinner. Depending on the sailing, your first choice may not be available.  If the dining choice you prefer is not available, the good news is there is a good strategy to still get what you want.  Have your travel agent put you on a waitlist for the dining option you want.  This puts your name on a list, and once a space opens up, you will be added.  In all my time of cruising, this has worked all but once.

If the waitlist fails to come through, then make plans to visit the dining room on embarkation day.  There will be a set time in the afternoon where the head waiter will be on duty to take dining requests and changes.  Ask to have your dining option changed to the one you prefer, and in our experience, that always comes through.

An alternative to a dining option that may not be available is to forgo the main dining room completely. There are plenty of great complimentary dining choices for dinner, including the fabulous Windjammer buffet. Many guests dine in the Windjammer each evening for dinner and never regret it.  Plus, there is far less formality to dining at the Windjammer.

Another option is to eat at specialty restaurants.  This comes with an additional cost, but the advent of specialty dining packages has made this strategy far more affordable than ever before.

Basically, doing a last minute trip from the perspective of dining just requires altering your expectations. There is a good chance you won’t get into all of your favorite options, but there likely will be great alternatives. Give those a try instead!

Your thoughts

Do you agree or disagree with our advice for planning a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise? Any hacks you use to save money on trips with little planning or advance notice? Any other recommendations? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

Royal Caribbean allowing guests to use onboard credit for pre-cruise purchases on select sailings


We have spotted a new feature in Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner that allows guests to use their onboard credit prior to their sailing for various packages, upgrades and services.

This functionality will go live on five ships beginning March 13, 2017 for all voyages on or after April 1, 2017. The first applicable sailing for each ship is:

  • Harmony of the Seas: 4/1/17
  • Allure of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Anthem of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Liberty of the Seas: 4/2/17
  • Oasis of the Seas: 4/2/17

Guests that have been awarded Promotional onboard credit will be able to log in to Cruise Planner prior to the sail date of their booked cruise and see their available Promotional onboard credit in US$ where the booking was priced in US$. For all other currency bookings, Promotional OBC will be converted from US$ into the same currency as the cruise booking that gave rise to the award of Promotional OBC (“Available Spend”).

Available Spend may be used to purchase shore excursions, dining, beverage packages, internet packages, spa & fitness services, entertainment activities and any future ancillary products / services available for purchase in advance of your cruise via Cruise Planner.

If you choose to cancel any purchase made via Cruise Planner, any relevant amount of Promotional OBC released by such cancelation will be credited back to your Cruise Planner account to be used as Available Spend.  In the event the purchase was in part funded by cash (via a credit card, debit card, or other form of cash equivalent payments then the applicable amount will be credited back to the original form of payment within 30 days.

Any residual Available Spend at the cut-off date for making purchases via Cruise Planner will be automatically converted back to US$ for spend onboard your booked cruise.

How to get closer to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise


A common question first time cruisers ask is if a Royal Caribbean cruise is all-inclusive, and that usually leads to a conversation about the modularity of a cruise vacation and how you can pick and choose which experiences appeal to you, and not pay for others that do not.  Thinking about the question some more, it lead to our own question, "how close could a guest get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise?"

What is all-inclusive?

Depending on your definition of "all-inclusive", the answer to that question can vary.  For our purposes, we referenced the Sandals Resorts definition and looked up what is not included in their vacations. After all, Sandals has made a name for themselves as a leader in all-inclusive land vacations. Here is what is not included

  • Spa treatments
  • Optional tours
  • Golf caddies
  • Medical assistance
  • Gift shop items
  • Transportation
  • Phone calls
  • Scuba certification or refresher courses

Using this list as our frame of reference for what we can leave out of the all-inclusive categories, it stands to reason these Royal Caribbean options could also be omitted.

  • Vitality Spa treatments
  • Medical attention
  • Souvenirs from any onboard shops
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Phone calls onboard

Otherwise, we would need to include everything else in our all-inclusive Royal Caribbean experience.  Moreover, the idea would be a guest could go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and never pay a dime on their SeaPass account, unless they selected to do one of the experiences listed above.

What is included in your Royal Caribbean cruise

All too often, guests get hung up on what is not included, but the reality is your cruise fare includes quite a bit. The value offered by a cruise is unparalleled, and here is a good breakdown of what activities, dining venues, entertainment options and experiences are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise fare.

  • Entertainment & Nightlife
    • Broadway shows
    • Live music and comedy shows
    • Aqua shows and ice-skating shows
    • Parades and parties on the Royal Promenade
    • Comedy and live jazz club
    • Nightclubs, karaoke and sing-along piano bars
    • Lounge games and contests, such as trivia, Puzzle Break, Battle of the Sexes and more
  • Signature Activities
    • FlowRider® surf simulator
    • Rock Climbing Wall
    • Quantum Class
      • RipCord® by iFLY® skydiving simulator
      • North Star observation capsule
      • SeaPlex play space with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze school, video games and more
    • Oasis Class
      • Zip Line
    • Multi-level waterslides and slides on select ships
  • Meals, beverages & room service
    • Main dining room
    • Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in various venues throughout each ship
    • Windjammer casual buffet on every ship, open for every meal
    • Variety of juices, teas, coffees, soft drinks and water throughout the ship and with meals
  • Kids & Teens
    • Adventure Ocean Youth Program
    • DreamWorks Experience
    • Fuel teen club
    • Teen lounge area with movies, games and live DJ
  • Fitness Center & Sports Activities
    • State-of-the-art fitness center
    • Table tennis
    • Full-size basketball and sports court
    • Group fitness classes, such as sunrise stretch, fab abs, dancing, meditation and more
    • Seminars on topics like weight loss, reflexology, stargazing and more
    • Deck Games — Volleyball, pool games, tug of war and other active challenges
    • Running / jogging track
  • Pools & Outdoor amenities
    • Outdoor poolside movies
    • Adults-only Solarium
    • Multiple whirlpools
    • Traditional swimming pools plus beach ambience areas and sports zones
    • H2O Zone and Splashaway Bay for kids

How to get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise

Over the last few years, Royal Caribbean has added more choices for guests to make optional experiences onboard simpler to consume and understand. The advent of pre-purchased packages have largely been a win-win for cruise line and guest a like.  Guests enjoy the convenience of having a variety of package options that offer seemingly limitless choices, while the cruise line has seen a resounding increase in onboard spending.

Here are the various means to have an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise. All of these options can be (and should be) purchased prior to your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner, or via your travel agent.

Pre-pay gratuities

Every guest on a Royal Caribbean cruise will be charged a daily gratuity, which goes towards rewarding the services of the wait staff and stateroom attendants.  Normally, this daily gratuity is charged to a guest's SeaPass account automatically with the final charges being paid at the conclusion of the cruise.

Instead, guests can have their travel agent pre-pay the gratuities. This provides two advantages. First, it breaks up the total cost of the cruise, because the gratuities will be paid earlier than the cruise fare. Second, if the recommended gratuity amount changes after pre-paying gratuities, Royal Caribbean has traditionally grandfathered in guests who had already paid their gratuities upfront.

Cost: Junior Suite, Balcony, Ocean View, and Interior staterooms: $14.50 per guest, per day. Suite guests (Grand Suite & Above): $17.50 per guest, per day.

Photo packages

Royal Caribbean photographers will be looking to capture memories throughout your cruise vacation, from the dining rooms to the pool area and even on the dock at each port.  These photo opportunities are complimentary to engage in, and then you can decide later if you want to purchase those photos. A standard 8x10 photo onboard the ship commonly costs about $20 per print.

Guests who want to be able to take as many photos as possible and take them home later, can take advantage of a photo package at

The cost will vary, but it is generally cheaper to pre-purchase the photos on the site before your cruise, instead of buying a package on the ship.  A common choice is to have all photos digitally saved to a USB drive, which can then be printed when you get home or just shared to social media. 

Cost: $249.99 for all photos on a USB Drive.


Royal Caribbean offers high speed internet in the form of its branded service, Voom.  Voom internet offers substantially higher speed connections than other cruise lines, and is available fleet-wide anywhere onboard.

Regardless of if you look to make your cruise all-inclusive or not, it is a good idea to pre-pay for your Voom internet service because Royal Caribbean offers a significant discount compared to purchasing it onboard. There are a variety of plans available that provide unlimited Voom internet throughout the cruise.  There are plans that support one through five devices, with the average cost per device dropping with the more devices that are added to the plan. And yes, you can sign out of one device and log in with another device without requiring a 2-device plan.

Cost: Prices vary depending on ship and sail date. One device plans start between $11.99-$15.99 per day for one device at a time.

Unlimited beverage packages

Perhaps the most popular packages of all are any of the unlimited drink packages. There are a variety of drink packages that offer unlimited alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages that can fit the needs of any guest.  Of course, any unlimited drink package is best served for guests that will drink enough each day of their cruise to make the purchase worthwhile.  If your goal is to have an all-inclusive cruise experience, then these packages are a must.

It should be noted that the drink packages offer a very wide range of drinks, but there are certain beverages exempted from being included in any drink package.

For adults, the Deluxe Beverage Package will include most alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, while the Refreshment Package includes most non-alcoholic beverages for children and adults. Any of the drink packages should be pre-purchased online via the Cruise Planner, especially since Royal Caribbean regularly offers a discount on the Deluxe Beverage Package when purchased prior to the cruise.

Cost: Depends on sailing. Deluxe Beverage Package will range between $41-55 per guest, per day. Refreshment package costs $26 per guest, per day. 

Specialty Dining Package

Perhaps no experience onboard has become as popular and prevalent as specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  More and more specialty restaurants have been added to Royal Caribbean ships, which offer guests cuisines and experiences previously unavailable onboard for an additional cost. To encourage guests to try more specialty dining while offering a discount, Royal Caribbean has begun offering dining packages.

The dining packages are simple: guests experience 2, 3, 4 or 5 specialty restaurants on their Royal Caribbean cruise with up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually. By purchasing a dining package, guests can be assured of enjoying plenty of specialty dining during their cruise.

Like the other packages, dining packages can be purchased via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner prior to a cruise.

Cost: 2 Night Dining Package costs $30 per adult, 3 Night Dining Package costs $75 per adult, 4 Night Dining Package costs $90 per adult, and 5 Night Dining Package costs $105 per adult.

Shore excursions

Royal Caribbean does not usually offer shore excursion packages (although they have experimented in the past), however, guests can pre-purchase all of their shore excursions prior to the cruise on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner. 

Just like the packages listed earlier in this post, pre-purchasing ensures no additional costs once on the cruise. 

Cost: Varies depending on excursion.

Or just stay in a suite

It is worth noting that Royal Caribbean's suite offerings do include quite a bit of these services and packages already, provided you opt for their elite Star Class accommodations.

Royal Caribbean's Royal Suite Class combines amazing service with first-class amenities. The Royal Suite Class is only available on Oasis and Quantum class ships, but offers the very best in what Royal Caribbean can offer.  Moreover, nearly all of the options listed above are included with the Star Class, including some options above and beyond what a guest in a non-suite room could even purchase.

As you might imagine, Star Class suites are not inexpensive.  Then again, suites are not about providing a value proposition to guests, but rather, an indulgent vacation that rewards oneself.

If you want the closest thing to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise experience with the greatest simplicity (and money is no object), then go straight to booking a Star Class stateroom and consider this an easy win.

Your thoughts

Does the idea of having an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise vacation sound appealing? Did we miss anything that should have been included in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!