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Secrets, Tips and Tricks

6 things that happen on a cruise that nobody talks about

In:
17Sep2020

The appeal of going on a cruise is so much of the experience really is unlike anything else, and with that, comes a few nuances that tend to "fly under radar".

Millions go on a cruise every year (although maybe not this year), and it is a fantastic vacation, but there are a few things that could happen that usually do not make top ten lists or cruise tips videos, so I wanted to highlight them here.

Here are six things that happen on a cruise that no one seems to talk about, but it could happen to you.

Get frustrated at some point

Not unique to cruising, but sometimes a series of unfortunate events occur that leave you less than happy.

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.

If an incident occurs that sets you off, try to remain calm and think is there someone else that can fix the problem, such as another crew member or your travel agent at home. 

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.

Travel stomach

Another thing that is not unique to cruising, but has happened to the best of us is an upset stomach.

I am not talking about a bacteria or something that infects you, just your run of the mill grumpy gut.

While bacterial infection can occur, many times the transition to a new diet, dehydration from flying, a change in climate, stress and even lack of sleep can cause simple traveler's stomach. 

The good news is most of the time it is easily treated and a minor and short-lived inconvenience. You should travel with medicine like Pepto Bismol or Imodium to quickly take care of the symptoms. (These are affiliate links that cost you nothing extra, but I get a referal fee if you buy something).

Sleep through activities we wanted to do

You will see commercials for all the amazing activities onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, and even circle them in your Cruise Compass the night before to ensure you do not forget to try it out and then... you sleep in.

While these activities are really fun and Royal Caribbean bills itself as a cruise line packing in amazing things to do, more often the appeal of sleeping in wins over.

A cruise is a vacation, and sleep is important.  Moreover, being able to sleep in is usually a rare opportunity at home, so a few more hours of sleep is very appealing.

If you ever manage to get up early on a ship (before 9am or so) and walk around the ship, it looks almost deserted.

So don't worry that you slept your cruise away, because we all do it too.

Have one too many drinks on a sea day

Despite your best of intentions, sometimes you will overdo it and have a few more drinks than you had planned.

Between the fantastic drink package values, creative cocktails served onboard and party atmosphere, overindulging does happen.

The lesson learned is to pace yourself and not try to keep up with anyone that has the nickname "Cruise Life ____" or "Big Dawg ____" in  front of their name.

Breaking up those drinks with a snack is helpful as well (might I suggest Sorrento's Pizza).

The best DIY shore excursion: go to a supermarket

I learned this tip from my friend Billy at CruiseHabit, and it really is such a great, inexpensive and fun excursion: go to a local supermarket.

The ports you will visit usually are known for amazing history, beautiful scenery, incredible things to do, and fun days in the sun.  But if your budget is low, or you cannot find something appealing, hop in a cab and visit a supermarket.

This is a really fun shore excursion to do in a different country because it provides a lot of insight into the destination.

You can browse the aisles and see what is for sale, who is shopping, how much things cost and how to buy things. What is the popular snack food? How are things packaged? You will learn so much by lurking in the supermarket.

Readjusting to your routines after the cruise is no fun

This is the biggest shock every cruiser encounters: the inevitable return to home after a cruise and culture shock of having to readjust to civilian life.

You will have to make your own beds every day, with no one leaving towel animals behind for you.

There is no place to drop off your kids while you relax with other adults. 

You will not wake up to an ocean view from your balcony, or be able to order room service coffee to go with the view.

Worst of all, you will have to start cooking again, and cleaning up after yourself.

It is not pretty, so be sure to have another cruise booked to have something to start day dreaming about while you wait for your hot dogs to cook.

Your thoughts

Is there some aspect of going on a cruise that never really gets talked about, but definitely happens to you? Which of these have you regularly experienced? Share your thoughts in our comments!

Why you shouldn't fly to your cruise the same day it begins

In:
11Sep2020

One of the most common mistakes a first time cruiser will make is to fly on the day of your cruise.

Booking a flight for the same day your cruise begins seems like it would not be a problem, but it could result in missing your cruise vacation completely.

Tempting fate

While most flights are going to be on time and without incident, travel delays do occur with some frequency and if you end up on the wrong side of a delay, it could create a giant fiasco.

Even though you are able to board your Royal Caribbean cruise in the early afternoon (and later arrival times could be coming soon), planning to fly in the same day your cruise departs is just too risky.

Having a tight schedule of landing, collecting your luggage, and then getting to the port leaves little wiggle room for any kind of delay.

Flight delays or cancellations, bad weather near your house, car breakdowns and a variety of other unforeseen possibilities can wreak havoc on your schedule.

Also consider how airlines have severely cut back on the number of flights they offer due to weaker demand for air travel, and you leave yourself few choices if your flight is delayed.

If your delayed travel plans cause you to miss embarkation of the cruise ship, you either have to pay to meet the ship at its next port of call, or simply give up on the trip completely with no refund for missing it.

Royal Caribbean (nor any cruise line) will not refund your money if you miss the cruise due to a travel delay.  Trip insurance might pick up some of the tab, but it will not allow you to actually go on the cruise vacation you planned and dreamed about.

Fly in a day early

The way around this potential travel nightmare is to fly into the city your cruise departs from at least one day ahead of time.

Flying in on the day of your cruise is just too risky. Even if you manage to arrive with no travel delays, you are just plain lucky because airline delays are too common an occurence.

What you should do instead is plan to fly in at least one day early.  Not only will arriving a day or two before your cruise departs provide more than enough buffer for travel delays not to impact your cruise vacation, it will also start your vacation a little earlier.

In addition, flying in early means significantly less stress for everyone. The last thing you want to do is start your vacation worrying every minute until you arrive in your embarkation port that a travel delay could appear. Just the lingering thought of a delay is enough to make your vacation anything but relaxing.

What to do if you have to fly the same day

Some people may not be able to do fly in early, due to work schedules or crippling high airfare prices. If you have no choice but to fly in the same day, make sure you take a few critical steps (including packing plenty of patience).

Try to book the first flight of the day.  Ideally, you want a flight where the plane is already at the airport from the night before, so there are no potential delays related to your aircraft coming from somewhere else. This may mean a super early flight, but early morning flights have less delays since storms tend to occur later in the day and your plane is ready for passengers.

You should also consider buying your airfare through Royal Caribbean.  The Air2Sea program offers guests assistance related to travel disruptuons.  The Air2Sea team can provide air re-accommodation, or hotel and ground transportation if needed. The Emergency Travel team will work with you to find accommodations on the next available flight. In some instances, same day viable flight options may not be available, and in those instances Air2Sea will accommodate you to the next available port where you may legally join the ship.

8 cruise ship tips from a former employee

In:
03Sep2020

The crew on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship see a lot of things in their time onboard, including guests making mistakes along the way.

Former Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises employee Pippa Madden worked on a few different cruise ships for 8 years, and shared what she saw as important tips for guests when they go on a cruise.

Here are eight things to do, avoid, or simply be aware of, for your cruise vacation.

Be kind to the crew

This may seem obvious, but do not be rude to crew members.

The crew works incredibly hard and if there is a policy or rule you do not agree with, remember that crew member is not the person who created it.

As Pippa noted, "It's pretty straightforward, but it will get you way further than if you are rude or get angry. Be nice to them."

Tipping is important

There is a saying that "money makes the world go round", and it applies to life on a cruise ship too.

The crew onboard are there to work hard and service the guests who come aboard, and tipping when appropriate is not only a way to reward good service, it also goes a long way to making the crew happier.

"That's why the majority of people out there is for the money, so make sure you tip."

Pippa added that if you wish you can personalize your reward with a gift of some kind, if you wanted just the recipient to enjoy it individually. That is a well-appreciated option to give back to a crew member that went above and beyond for you. 

Avoid getting sunburned

If there is something that all crew members cringe, it is the cruise ship guest that sees someone dressed very nice on formal night along with a major sun burn.

Nothing ruins your beautiful cruise photos like a giant red sun burn, not to mention how painful it can be to the person who has it.

"I can't really recommend it enough, especially that first formal night, make sure we ladies have sun cream and do not get burnt."

Fill out the post-cruise survey

As soon as your cruise is over, Royal Caribbean sends guests a survey to get their thoughts on the sailing, and this is an incredibly critical tool for any crew member.

Pippa recommends taking a photo of your favorite crew member's name badges so it will be easier to remember their names (and how to spell it) for that survey.

The results of the survey go directly back to the manager of any crew member named in the survey, and this goes a long way towards promotions.

Guest etiquette

In terms of etiquette, Pippa noted a few questionable choices guests make on cruise ships that they probably would not do if at a land resort.

She started off by saying it is not a good look to wear your swimwear around the ship in public spaces, such as restaurants or the casino.

In addition, if you are a bar or lounge, do not put your feet up on the furniture.

"It's like, you wouldn't do that in normaly on land, like in a restaurant or casino."

Avoid Guest Services on the first or last day of the cruise

The two times you will find the longest lines at Guest Services are on the first and last day of the cruise, so avoid Guest Services on those days if you can.

Pippa recommends if it all possible, take care of any issues you have on other days of the cruise to minimize your waiting.

Don't lie to Adventure Ocean staff

Some guests will try to tell the Adventure Ocean staff that their child is about to turn a certain age in order to move them up to the next group, but these lies are silly considering the staff has every child's age in front of them.

"Do not tell white lies or fibs to Adventure Ocean staff, because they know the birth dates of the kids."

You can tip the casino dealer

Pippa worked a lot in the casinos on cruise ships, and tipping the dealer when you are winning is something you can and should do.

"So if you win, the dealer wins. And of course, the dealer wants you to win because then they will win."

Readers share: What’s the best piece of cruise advice you have ever received?

In:
01Sep2020

The proverb, "experience is the best teacher" is a famous proverb of Julius Caesar, and it applies to so many aspects of life, including going on a cruise.

I reached out to other Royal Caribbean cruisers to get their single best piece of cruise advice they ever received to share with you here.

There is tremendous value in hearing a tip or bit of advice that positively impacted your vacation.  I know that hearing tips or tricks from other cruisers has made my cruise experience significantly better.

In just 24 hours, I received over 450 responses from cruise fans that run the gamut of guidance, from pre-cruise planning to onboard activities to saving money.

And so, dear cruisers, I share now some of what was posted, conveniently organized.

Pre-cruise

Before the cruise begins (or is even booked), here are some sage words of wisdom from our readers to start off on the right foot.

  • "Use a travel agent" This is a mantra Jonathon Pelissero shared that I have always felt strongly about, because it provides so much helpful advice and resources at no additional cost to you.
  • "If you don't live close enough to the port, book a hotel room for the night before your cruise." Jorge X. Arnoldson is absolutely right about the importance of not letting a travel delay impact your ability to get to the cruise.
  • "Don't listen to bad reviews. People like to complain about everything.  Go with an open mind. And just enjoy it." I completely agree with Lynne White's approach to cruising the right way.
  • "I learned the hard way, pack only about 1/2 of what you think you will need." I still struggle with this solid advice from Tim Bennett, but it makes sense.
  • "Book super early. You get more time to pay for it, Royal Caribbean takes partial payments!" I think Iuliana Scott's shared a very helpful way to budget your cruise vacation with this tip.
  • "Pack a first aid kit and extra meds of all sorts never know what you will need." My wife has always done this, and it has saved us a lot of money and time later.
  • "You can find videos of your ship, itinerary and room on YouTube." This is a very good way to learn about your ship, excursions or even your stateroom. Thanks Melissa Bachman.
  • "Prepay as much as you can, so you aren't constantly thinking about the cost of the cruise while on the cruise." This is such a helpful way by Debbie Stubbs Harris to keep your cruise budget spread out and make the entire vacation affordable.

Embarkation

The first day of your cruise is super exciting, so make sure it goes exactly as planned.

  • "Get to the cruise port and board earlier than they say." I always follow John Degaris' advice that the check-in times are suggestions, and not enforced. Better to arrive early and start your vacation sooner.
  • "Take two bottles of wine in your luggage." Graham Tilley noted you are allowed to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on the first day of your cruise, which can save you a lot of money.  
  • "Pack swimsuit and sunscreen in your carry on."   This is such a good suggestion by Kayleigh Meagher  to beat the crowd to popular pool deck activities (Flowrider, water slides, etc) on the first day.

Staterooms

Your room is where you will stay for the duration of the cruise, and there are lots of ways to maximize your space here.

  • "Put the little table from your room in the wardrobe to make more room and another shelf in the wardrobe." Great advice by Donna Gracen on how to free up space in your room.
  • "When traveling with kids, don't book a suite book an adjoining room." I think Renee Anne's advice is spot on for families. You get an extra bathroom, more space, and more privacy.
  • "Magnet hooks are great for extra hanging areas (think hats, swimsuits, sweater)." Another good tip for getting things out of the way by Francine Brown.
  • "Put a white board on your door so other friends or family members can leave a note of where they are going." So many families follow this tip by Jane Hontz to keep connected in a low-tech manner.
  • "Suitcases fit under the bed." Not only will this suggestion by Shari Arsenault 'LaForme' save you space, it will get your luggage out of view for the cruise.

Things to do onboard

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are packed with activities, events and things to do.  Here is some advice our readers gave on keeping it fun and manageable.

  • "Don’t try to do and see everything!" Jerry Blanton is right that you have to prioritize what you really want to do first, and then come back for another cruise later to do the rest.
  • "Wear your tightest clothes first, and have loose ones for the second week." If your cruise is long, or you are doing a back-to-back sailing, this advice from Tina Cowdery is probably very practical.
  • "Towel Clips for the pool chairs." This suggestion by Shannon Caldwell was echoed by a number of others who like having them when they are lounging on the pool deck.
  • "If traveling with kids, get them involved night one in Adventure Ocean." I can tell you from personal experience that Philip Dickson's point is very accurate. Getting kids there on the first day allows for everyone to meet each other and get acclimated.
  • "If you are physically able, take the stairs instead of elevator, helps keep off the extra food weight." I think Jasmine Angel's advice is a good rule of thumb when for easy ways to burn a few extra calories.

Dining

When it comes to eating on a Royal Caribbean cruise, there is lots of good ways to maximize your experience, or simply save you time or money.

  • "Find a table in the buffet first, and take turns getting food" This is such good advice by Daniel Smith Jr. when dining at the Windjammer, especially during breakfast when tables go quickly.
  • "Buy the drink package" So many cruisers said they recommend buying the unlimited drink package to save money in the long run.
  • "If you want 2-3 items on the menu because you can’t decide, order them all and share with others at the table!" I love this advice by Anni Reynolds, because it is not only a good suggestion, but also something many cruisers are unaware you can do without extra cost.
  • "Try any food that looks interesting to you. Try things you don’t think you’ll like. Chefs are top notch & you might be surprised!  Food is unlimited & if you don’t like something they’ll bring you something else." Never be afraid to try food, because on a cruise ship you are not paying per item. Well said, Kristen MamaBadger.

Shore Excursions

Exploring the places your cruise ship visits is a major component to the cruise, and there are some ways to ensure you get to experience it all without problems.

  • "Be back on board an hour before we set sail from ports." Whenever I go on shore, I make sure to be back at least 2 hours early, but Nick Spears' advice is very good.
  • "Don't book excursions thru the ship, too expensive. Book local." I think it is worth considering excursions through the cruise line and from third-party companies, but I agree with Nicole Harris you can save money by booking with a third-party.
  • "Going to ports that offer things you enjoy. Do a little research before you pick the itinerary." Where your ship visits is an important consideration, and Denise Mackerell Tuckett's tip is a very good piece of advice on ensuring you are matching your interests with where your ship sails.
  • "Bring zip lock bags" This is a really helpful way if you have wet swim suits, for making ice packs and other things by Merri Brown-Smith.
  • "You don’t have to take an excursion when in port. Just getting off at port and looking around is great also." A very astute observation by Diana Foley-Paiement that you can just walk around in the port area if no excursion jumps out at you.

The Lighting Round

And finally, a grab bag of wise words that do not need further explication. If the advice fits, wear it.

  • "Be kind to the crew. A smile and a hello goes a long way, even it's a maintenance crew member." - Beth Ballard Bean
  • "You can listen to others' opinions or recommendations of ports or ships; but, don't judge till you've tried it yourself!" - Cindy JM Li
  • "Book another one" - Michael Gucker
  • "Get out of the Caribbean and cruise the world." - Ken R. Miller
  • "To go & not be in the mindset that cruising isn't for me!"  - Kimberly Coker 

The worst cruise mistakes our readers have made on a ship

In:
27Jun2020

We all make mistakes, including when on a cruise ship.  While making a mistake is bound to happen, we can learn from each other by hearing the one big mistake our readers have had on a cruise.

A cruise vacation is filled with fun activities, great dining and exotic ports of call to explore.  With so many possibilities, a misstep along the way is not uncommon.  The key is to avoid the pitfalls.

I reached out to our blog readers to hear some of the worst mistakes they have ever made on a cruise. These pitfalls are the perfect lessons for the rest of us to know about and avoid on our own sailings.

Taking online reviews too seriously

This next cruise fail is a giant pet peeve of mine, which is to take one person's opinion of something as gospel.

WanderPam almost cancelled her cruise plans based on a negative review online!

"The worst thing I did was consider canceling our Explorer cruise because I took negative reviews too seriously. So glad I didn't because we had the most amazing 2 week cruise ever!"

There is nothing wrong with consulting others' opinions (this entire blog post is made up of opinions), but do not treat cruise ship reviews like you would a Yelp review.

Cruise ships offer such a varied and experiential vacation that it cannot be properly reviewed in its entirety based on a single experience. Cruises are by their very design a "create your own adventure" experience.  You could sit at the pool every day of the cruise and never do one activity, whereas the guy next to you could be zip lining, crocheting, belly flopping and dancing the night away.  In short, we all cruise differently.

My favorite way to explain why online reviews of cruise ships should not be used as a basis for anything other than entertainment is The Great Wall of China.

If you do an internet search for "The Great Wall of China", which is one of the greatest achievements of mankind, it only has a 4.2 star rating on Google!

 

No ship in the fleet is inherently flawed, and no ship is a mistake to sail on. Figure out what the ship offers (and doesn't offer), and make the right decision based on what you are looking for in a cruise vacation.

Not considering the holiday schedule

There are cruises offered throughout the year, including over major holidays.

Coneyraven booked a cruise on Brilliance of the Seas not realizing it was over the Easter holiday, which meant there were many more kids onboard than he was anticipating.

"Our biggest mistake was not looking at the holiday calendar before we booked a cruise. Had we known it was going to be Easter, we would not have booked that date.  We tend to gravitate more towards holiday's that are more "adult oriented", as opposed to "Family Oriented", like Halloween and New Years Eve."

You might be wondering why he did not cancel and rebook to a non-holiday cruise? He committed a double faux-pas by booking a non-refundable cruise fare, which is one of my pitfalls to avoid.

Beyond the issue of kids, not looking at the calendar means you could also end up paying more for hotels or aifare because holidays will drive up the cost of those incidentals as well.

Not researching anything

Our next cruise fail is one that I hear about all the time from first time cruisers and that is not learning about their ship, or where the places they are visiting.

Geoff P shared how on his first cruise, they did not research anything to maximize their vacation.

"We had a good time of course, but learned my lesson to do more research to really get the most out of our experience.  For our second cruise and now our third on upcoming have done much more research and planning ahead of time and its been so much better."

Learning about your cruise ship, as well as the ports you visit only benefits you in the long run. Not only can a little exploration into what your cruise ship offers save you time, it can reveal activities and opportunities you might not have otherwise know about.

All too often, I hear from cruisers who wish they knew about a certain activity, excursion or deal, and the key to not missing out on any of it is pre-cruise research.

Knowledge is power, so take advantage of your time before a cruise begins to learn as much as you can!

Going to a port without anything planned

Each port of call your ship will visit offers something a little bit different, and in many cases there are opportunities to explore the history, culture or natural beauty of these destinations.  

In the case of SteveinSC, not knowing about what the ports offered lead to a lackluster experience.

"My first couple of cruises, at our stops, I just got off the boat and walked around the port area. Big mistake. I wasn't taking advantage of all the stop had to offer!!! In my other cruises, I started booking excursions and taking taxis and really venturing out. Completely changed how I viewed, not only the itinerary, but the whole cruise."

One of the best things about the internet is the ability to learn about what nearly anywhere in the world has to offer, so look up the popular attractions and offerings to have a good idea of what the best choices are out there.

Next, look at booking a Royal Caribbean shore excursion to see what the cruise line is offering.

You have everything to gain by looking into what there is to do in any of the ports you will be visiting, and coming up with a plan for each port day.

Trying to do it all

I mentioned that cruise ships have so much to do onboard, and that leads us to our next cruise mistake, which is trying to do everything.

Melmar02 shared how she wanted to work everything in and that lead to more frustration than fun.

"I'm all for seeing and experiencing everything, but husband wants a laid back relaxing vacation...big fights may have broken out on our second cruise. I'm much more "go with the flow" now."

Achieving a balance of activities and relaxation is a great idea, and overdoing it in order to see it all often leads to burnout.

It is nearly impossible to do every single activity on a single sailing, so your best bet is to prioritize the must-do activities onboard and then come back for another sailing later to do more. 

Lots of people have had amazing cruise experiences by sleeping in, relaxing by the pool, and otherwise taking it easy. No one said a fabulous vacation can only be one where you are hiking, ATV-ing, and running around for 7 days.

Not pre-booking

If there is one mistake I always bring up it is not taking advantage of prebooking activities and add-ons to save you time and money later on.

JasonL shared how not pre-booking things cost him while on the cruise.

"Didn't use to pre-purchase as much as possible before the cruise. Also didn't pre-book activities. Of course I didn't have any money for extras back then, but  still it's a very common rookie mistake."

If you wait to purchase drink packages, shore excursions, restaurant reservations or spa appointments onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, you are wasting money.

Royal Caribbean offers pre-cruise discounts in the months leading up to its cruises and these discounts are significant enough to make it well worth your time to pre-book instead of waiting to buy it on the ship.

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

Not having a packing list

I still struggle with packing as efficiently as possible, but the fear of getting onboard a cruise ship only to realize you forgot something really important is an all too real concern.

ptod wrote about how her husband refused to use a packing list, and ended up getting onboard without something pretty darn important.

"My husband was a little irked that I wanted to review the basic clothes that we had packed for one cruise....so I just let it go.  Come to find out that he completely forgot to pack any underwear - none, nada, zilch.  All he had was what he wore to travel."

While I admit that I do not always use a packing list, it is generally a good idea to refer to one to ensure you bring the most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise.

Not putting phone into airplane mode

A very costly mistake is not protecting your phone against roaming charges that can run up a giant bill later.

Rose City Cruiser committed this mistake, and it was not pretty after the cruise was over.

"Forgetting to put my cell phone in airplane mode.  Was able to negotiate down the outstanding balance.  It was a huge lesson."

It is really easy to put your phone into airplane mode to protect against a costly bill later. 

Make sure once you get on the cruise ship, disable your phone's ability to connect to other networks, and then have the peace of mind that you will not have an expensive surprise waiting for you next month.

Missing the cruise because of a flight delay

Perhaps the most common mistake I see made is by people that fly in the same day their cruise departs. In my opinion, you are playing with fire by doing this instead of flying in at least a day ahead of time.

twangster wrote how it cost him once by doing that.

"I don’t make cruise mistakes. Okay, there was that one time I flew to the cruise on the morning of the cruise... and missed my cruise."

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.

Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

Having cash with you

While Royal Caribbean's ships are cashless, other people outside the ship definitely still use green backs.

Brobbins246 confessed to a time she forgot to grab some cash.

"My confession is completely forgetting to have some cash available for tipping the porters on embarkation day.  We had a rental car to return that morning, so my husband dropped me, our kids and our luggage at the cruise port, then drove off to return the car.  After a porter took care of our luggage, I realized all our cash was still with my husband and I had nothing to give him except a profuse apology, thank you, and a hand shake.  Awkward....."

It is a good idea to bring some cash with you for before and after the cruise, as well as in any of the ports you visit. Be sure to also have smaller bills for tipping.

What's your worst cruise mistake?

Time to fess up to the worst rookie mistake you made on a cruise, even if you aren't a first time cruiser. Is there one here that you also committed, or do you have your own story to share? Please share the single mistake/slip up/fail you made on a cruise, so that we can all learn from these mistakes!

Expert-level cruise tips that all the cruise pros use

In:
25Jun2020

If you have done even a tiny bit of research, you are well aware of common cruise tips, such as not overpacking or to pre-purchase add-ons to save money, but here are the secrets and tricks people that cruise all the time do, so you can do it too!

There is plenty of good cruise advice to go around, and this blog was started as a means of learning from each other.

In that spirit, I wanted to highlight five tips that I, and so many other people that cruise all the time, do on pretty much every cruise we book.  These tips may save you time and money, and not something the average cruiser may know about.

Changing their booking to non-refundable at the last minute

Many of you know I am a big proponent of booking refundable cruise fare because it adds a great deal of flexibility in case your plans change.  But you can change to non-refundable cruise fare down the line, especially if it is in your financial best interest to do so.

While not something that always occurs, there are plenty of situations where a booking is made a year or two in advance with a refundable cruise fare.  As the sail date approaches, it becomes clearer that you will almost certainly want and be able to sail on that cruise.

A good tip is to monitor the non-refundable cruise rates prior to final payment, because there are scenarios where the non-refundable rate drops to a point where it makes sense to rebook under that deposit program and take advantage of the savings.

I will employ this strategy once I am certain I will go on the sailing, and the savings bu changing are worth the jump.

Booking solo stateroom with a fake second person

This is one of my favorite tips for saving money when cruising by yourself.

Going on a cruise solo is a really fun experience, but it can also be an expensive sailing. Royal Caribbean charges something known as the "single supplement fee" to offset the loss for not achieving double occupancy in a stateroom.

When someone seeks to book a solo cruise, they usually enter just one person in the room reservation, and Royal Caribbean sticks you with that single supplement fee.

Instead, try looking for a reservation that has two people on it: you and a fake person.

When you add a second person, it is not uncommon that the total price is cheaper than if you price the same room out solo. 

Don't worry, you will not get in trouble for booking a fake second person.  You simply show up to the cruise terminal alone, let the agent know the other person will not be coming and you will get the fake second person's port fees and taxes refunded later.  And you still get double Crown and Anchor Society points for sailing solo!

Pre-book gratuities

When you book a cruise, there is the option to pre-book gratuities or pay them onboard.  Cruise pros always pre-book gratuities because it simplifies things, and locks in the gratuity rate in case of a rate change later.

Every so often, Royal Caribbean will revise the gratuity rates for its crew to keep pay in line with the industry.  When this occurs, anyone who pre-booked gratuities will be grandfathered in under the old rates.  

By pre-booking gratuities, you not only spread out the total cost of the cruise, but you assure yourself of the lowest price you can pay.

Book cruises years in advance

People that cruise a lot will book their cruises many months in advance to take advantage of the lowest prices. 

This is the best strategy for locking in the lowest price, as well as getting the most sought-after cabins that get booked up quickly (such as suites).

When Royal Caribbean releases new sailings, cruise pros will comb over the new options and usually place deposits as soon as they can to lock in low prices.

By booking early, you will often find the best rates available because cruise fares operate on a supply and demand basis.  The less supply there is (i.e. staterooms available to book), the higher prices.  So by booking one to two years early, you will find the best rates.

Book with a travel agent

I will never tire of sharing one of my favorite tips that will save you time and money in the long run - work with a good travel agent.

A good travel agent is more than somebody to take your credit card details and reserve a cabin.  Travel agents are your advocate throughout the cruise process, and are invaluable if an issue should arise at any point. 

In these days of delayed refunds, cancelled cruises, and future cruise credit tracking, having a good travel agent working on your behalf is incredibly important.

Since a good travel agent should cost you nothing extra to use (the cruise line pays them a commission), you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using one.

Your best tips

Did I miss a cruise tip employed by the most cruise-ninjas out there? How many of these tips have you heard about? Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments!

Royal Caribbean vacation hacks pros swear by

In:
28Apr2020

Regardless of if you are going on your first or fiftieth Royal Caribbean cruise, maximizing the experience is something everyone wants to do.

I love to share cruise tips, tricks, and advice, so that everyone can benefit from saving time or money (or both). With that in mind, I have some of my favorite expert-level Royal Caribbean cruise hacks that repeat cruisers swear by.

More storage with magnetic hooks

While storage space on Royal Caribbean's newer ships has gotten better, you will find somewhere to stuff all of your things still at a premium.

One great trick is to invest in magnetic hooks that hold up things like jackets, dresses, hats, swimsuits and pretty much anything you may have.

Since the cabin walls are all made of metal, you can stick magnetic hooks pretty much anywhere and greatly expand your storage options.

Here are some magnetic hooks you can order. (This link contains an affiliate link, which means I get a commission for purchases made. There is no additional cost to you)

Plan for signature activities on embarkation day

One easy way to tell who has cruised before is to spot which guests are already hitting up the FlowRider, pools and water slides on embarkation day.

It may not occur to new cruisers that these activities are open on embarkation day, or that lines for them are nearly non-existent.

In order to take advantage of the rock climbing, ziplining,or mini golf, be sure to pack (or wear) sneakers and athleisure wear.

If you are interested in aquatic activities, pack a bathing suit flip-flops and sunscreen in your backpack. You can typically find a bathroom near the pool areas to change in if your room is not ready yet.

Skip a port day

Visiting the ports of call your ship will take you to can be a real highlight, but if you have been to these before, or perhaps do not see anything tremendously appealing, you could always stay onboard.

Royal Caribbean's ships offer a ton to do onboard, and long lines can make it difficult to "do it all" during sea days.

Long time cruisers will often stay onboard during a port day in order to take advantage of discounts at the spa, wide-open pool decks and short lines for signature activities.

Book early and reprice often

The tried and true strategy for cruisers who live in a country that allows price adjustments (United States, Canada and others) is to book a cruise as soon as they know they want to go on that sailing, and then re-price if the fare drops.

Royal Caribbean allows cruisers to reprice their cruise at the lower cruise fare if the price for that cruise goes down at any time before final payment date. As long as the price drops for the same ship and sail date that has been booked previously, and it is before final payment date, guests can reprice their cruise as many times as they want.

Unfortunately, residents of the United Kingdom cannot use this strategy since local laws prevent price adjustments.

The final payment date for Royal Caribbean cruises is 75 days prior to the sailing date for 1 - 4 night cruise vacations and 90 days prior to the sailing date for 5-night or longer cruise vacations. The payment schedule for groups is different from that of individuals. 

The strategy of booking early and then taking advantage of price drops ensure you always have the lowest price, as opposed to trying to time a price drop later (which may or may not happen).

Arrive to the cruise terminal early

Royal Caribbean provides everyone with a boarding time in the afternoon, but many veteran cruisers will say in practice, boarding times are much earlier than what is stated. Royal Caribbean does this to help break up crowds.

When boarding does commence, Royal Caribbean will board their ships with Suite guests firsts, followed by guests based on their Crown and Anchor Society status, and finally, all other guests.  Regardless of your status, the earlier you check-in, the sooner you will board the ship.

The advantage of arriving to the cruise port early is you will likely find shorter lines, and board the ship sooner.  That means your vacation begins sooner, and you will have more time on embarkation day to explore and have fun. 

Use breakfast room service as a wakeup call

While room service has a fee, there is still a complimentary continental breakfast option.

Not only does it mean you get coffee, Danishes and some fruit to start your morning delivered to your room for nothing extra, a lot of cruisers will order breakfast room service as a sort of wake up call.

Prior to the breakfast being delivered, room service will call ahead to ensure someone is awake and that provides a good impetus to get up and ready and start the day.

Special requests at the main dining room

One of my favorite tips for the main dining room is not to assume that what you see on the menu is what you are limited to ordering.

The menu is a starting point, but the wait staff is willing and able to accommodate many different special requests.

Whether customizing menu items, coming up with allergy or dietary preference friendly options, you should feel free to inquire about other options.

Most dietary requests can be handled onboard the ship, and with 24 hours notice, the waiters can usually accommodate most needs.

If you have a dietary restriction, then you may want to let Royal Caribbean know about them up front. 

Royal Caribbean can accommodate dietary needs such as food allergies, gluten-free, Kosher, low-fat, and low-sodium.

In additional, vegetarian meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the main dining room.  Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals.

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and Kosher meals are available no extra charge. All you have to do is notify Royal Caribbean at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

You may also send an e-mail request to [email protected]; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date.  It's best to make requests like this at least 90 days in advance of your sailing.

What are some of your favorite Royal Caribbean vacation hacks? Let us know in the comments!

10 Fun Royal Caribbean upgrades under $50!

In:
22Apr2020

You can have a great time on a Royal Caribbean cruise on pretty much any budget, and if you are looking to plus your cruise experience without breaking the bank, here are ten fun ideas.

Vacation costs can add up quickly, so if you want to balance having a good time, making memories and not costing a ton, I came up with ten fun upgrades that are all under $50 each.

Wowband

At $4.95 per Wowband, I think these wrist-based digital keys are worth every penny because they make so many things around the ship so much easier.

Wowbands are available on select Oasis and Quantum Class ships, and can be purchased once onboard the ship from Guest Services.

They can open your stateroom door, pay for a drink, check into a show, and do pretty much everything else a SeaPass card can do while onboard the ship. They are especially helpful when at the pool or gym and not having to worry about a card falling out of your pocket.

Photo souvenir

Creating memories on a cruise vacation is something I think we can all agree is a must-do, and taking home a photo from formal night, or a family photo on the Royal Promenade is a great idea.

While you can buy photo packages for the duration of your cruise, a single 8x10 photo will cost just $19.95, and perhaps one photo is all you need for that great family portrait together.

Sushi making class

I love sushi, and one of my all-time favorite onboard activities is the On A Roll Sushi Making Class offered by the Izumi chefs.

At $34.99, it is a combination instructional learning opportunity and meal rolled into one.

You will learn to make a few different sushi rolls, and then enjoy eating your creations at the end of the class.

Not only is this a satisfying experience, it was incredibly fun and something I would recommend everyone try out.

Men's express shave

I think I can speak for every guy out there when I say waking up in the morning and remembering you need to shave is not a fun thought. So let someone else deal with it!

Rather than grow a vacation beard, you can go to the Vitality Spa and enjoy the Elemis Express Shave. If you pre-purchase it before the cruise, I have seen it as low as $29 ($45 onboard).

The deep cleansing exfoliation and double close shave will leave you refreshed.

Manicure

 

I am equal opportunity, so while the man in your life is getting rid of his five o'clock shadow, book a salon appointment to get your nails done.

The Fire & Ice Manicure will cost $39 or the Fire & Ice Pedicure runs $49, with either service offering a combination of mini-massage and great looking nails.

Snorkeling at CocoCay

There is plenty to do at Perfect Day at CocoCay, including diving under the ocean waves to check out the marine life with an all-day snorkel gear rental.

At $37 per set, you can can explore the underwater world that surrounds CocoCay and check out the tropical fish and marine life.

Taste of Royal meal 

The Taste of Royal meal is a relatively new offering by Royal Caribbean, where guests can enjoy one meal that combines the very best food from different specialty restaurants.

Available for lunch at $34.99, you will enjoy food from Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park.

It is a gastronomical tour that includes filet mignon, shrimp, tuna tartare and fried cheesecake.

Arcade games

I picked the arcade games with kids in mind, but I would be remiss if I did not say these games are just as fun for the adults too. After all, schooling your children is a great lesson in humility, right?

Most arcade games cost around $1-3 per game, and Royal Caribbean keeps its arcades up to date with a blend of classic games and brand new offerings.

If you have younger kids, try the "Plucky Ducky" game as there is a good chance your child will walk away with a rubber duck souvenir.

Learn to play casino table games

When talk of the casino comes up, it can very quickly cost you more than $50, but a brand new offer allows you to learn popular table games with a fixed cost.  In fact, you might walk away with more money in your pocket!

The "Learn To Play: Casino Table Games" costs $25 per adult, and it includes $25 in FreePlay, plus two complimentary drinks.

Guests that sign up will get step-by-step instructions for either Blackjack, Roulette, Three Card Poker or Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

The cost of the activity is credited back in casino FreePlay, and the two free drinks are a bonus.

Escape room

One of my favorite activities to do on any Royal Caribbean ship is the escape room.

Available on more and more Royal Caribbean ships, these deeply themed timed challenges pit you and a hand full of other guests in a race against the clock to solve a variety of puzzles and clues.

I was leery of going into a room with random other people to figure out riddles, but this has quickly become a top activity.

The escape room costs $19 per guest, and considering the level of sophistication these experiences entail, I think it is well worth the extra cost.

After hours at adventure ocean

I saved the best upgrade for last, which is letting your kids have extra fun at Adventure Ocean while you get to dance, sing, or laugh the night away on your own.

I love my kids, but some alone time with (adult) family and friends is one of the highlights of any cruise vacation. Plus, the kids love extra time with the Adventure Ocean counselors playing their favorite games and activities.

After 10pm, Adventure Ocean charges $7 per hour per child. It is the best money I ever spend onboard.

Will you be upgrading your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your plans in the comments!

10 Ways to save money on your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
27Feb2020

A Royal Caribbean cruise does not need to be an expensive vacation, especially if you take advantage of a few money-saving tips I have to share today.

Many first-time cruisers find a multitude of options to consider, so here are some ways to get the most value out of your cruise.

Buy a dining package

I have read money-saving tips that advocate skipping specialty dining all together to save money, but if you want to enjoy some specialty restaurants without paying full price, invest in a dining package.

Royal Caribbean's dining packages provide a set amount of specialty restaurants at a fraction of the list price to dine there.  Quite often, a dining package can knock as much as half off the regular per person price.

Purchase this before your cruise and make reservations on embarkation day.

Buy a drink package

You will save much more money by not buying any alcoholic drinks on your cruise, but since so many do enjoy cocktails, beers and other beverages during the cruise, the best way to savor these within a budget is to buy a drink package.

If you buy a drink package in the months leading up to your cruise, you can lock in a lower price compared to what it costs onboard, and you will spread out the total cost of the cruise.  A drink package purchase requires full payment up front, so that means it could be on a different credit card billing cycle from your cruise fare.

There is no question a drink package has the potential to save money, it just relies on you to take full advantage of what the drink package offers.

Watch for price drops

If you live in a country where you can re-price cruises before final payment date (United States, Canada, etc), then this is one of my favorite ways to help bring the price down.

One mantra I advocate time and time again to save money is to book your cruise as early as you can.  In the months leading up to your cruise, if there is a price drop, you can take advantage of it up until final payment date.

The easiest way to reprice a cruise is to work with a good travel agent, who can take care of the process on your behalf.

Keep in mind that whichever booking promotions you had with your initial booking may be lost when repricing, so be sure to compare the total cruise cost before and after a reprice.

Head back to the ship for lunch

It is hard to overlook the fact your cruise ship offers complimentary food all day long, including when docked in a port.

When touring one of the ports of call your ship will visit, you might consider having lunch back on the ship instead of somewhere on land.

Some guests opt to go back to the ship to eat and then head back out afterwards, or they may eat a late lunch once they get back on the ship after the conclusion of a shore excursion.

Take advantage of Kids Sail Free offer

If there is one promotion that Royal Caribbean offers that seems to save the most money, it is the Kids Sail Free deals.

During select times of the year, Royal Caribbean offers third and fourth passenger fare for kids 12 years old and under staying in the same room as their parents.  

The "catch" is there are lot of blackout dates, primarily around school holidays and breaks.  If you can manage to book a cruise while Kids Sail Free is offered, it can represent tremendous savings.

Tour on your own

While there are plenty of great shore excursions to consider, do not overlook simply walking off the ship and exploring on your own as a great money saving idea.

You could walk or take a taxi to a nearby beach, or explore the downtown area of the nearby city you are visiting.  In many cases, this is a very inexpensive way to enjoy the port you are visiting without breaking the bank.

Bring your own wine and non-alcoholic drinks

Did you know that 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. Do not put the wine in the luggage you hand over to the porters on embarkation day.

In addition, you can now bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages in a carry-on or hand luggage onboard only on boarding day. 

Specifically, non-alcoholic beverages brought onboard may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Distilled water or specialized beverages such as, milk for medical purposes, dietary or infant use, are permitted.

Use your credit card points

If you have racked up credit card points, a cruise is an excellent time to redeem points to help save money on your vacation.

Whether you have a credit card that provides free flights, cash back bonuses to use on shore excursions, or points to redeem towards hotel stays, I have found credit card reward programs an excellent means of "chipping away" at the overall vacation cost.

Cruise on an older ship

Rather than booking Royal Caribbean's latest and greatest ships, try a cruise on a ship that has been in the fleet for a few years.

The Voyager and Freedom Class ships have all been (or are about to be) upgraded and enhanced as part of the Royal Amplified program and represent some of the best values available today. They are still large ships, with lots to offer, minus the new cruise ship price tag.

Going on an older ship does not mean you have to sail on some dilapidated ship. Royal Caribbean maintains its fleet quite well, and with upgrades over the last few years, these ships are as fun to go on as they are good at saving you money.

Book a guarantee stateroom

Royal Caribbean may offer the option of picking the exact room assignment for you, in exchange for money off the cruise fare.

If you are flexible with where on the ship your room is located, guarantee room assignments are a fantastic value because you get the category of room you initially wanted, at a lower cost.  

The 25 BEST Royal Caribbean tips, tricks & hidden secrets!

In:
21Feb2020

A Royal Caribbean cruise is hands down my favorite type of vacation, and with so many years of going cruising, I have come across a lot of tricks and tips that really enhance my cruise.

These nifty little secrets can save money, time or both, and so I wanted to whittle them down to the best Royal Caribbean tips and tricks in hopes of saving you time and money!

#1 Bring a bathing suit on embarkation day

On embarkation day, the pools are open so be sure to pack a bathing suit in your carry-on luggage so that you can enjoy them with less crowds!

Most guests pack their bathing suits in the checked luggage, which means they will not have access to it until later that day.  The result is far fewer guests in the pools, hot tubs and water slides than at any other time on your cruise.

You can change in a public restroom, and towels are available at the pool area to use.

#2 How to avoid the Deluxe Beverage Package rule

Did you know if one adult elects to buy the unlimited alcohol package, all other adults in the same room have to get it too?

If you have an adult in your room that does not drink (much) alcohol, you can get around this rule by calling Royal Caribbean and requesting that person get the Royal Refreshment package.

By having them get the non-alcoholic drink package, you will save a lot of money compared to buying them the Deluxe Beverage package that costs much more.

#3 Asking for special order food in the main dining room

Do not be afraid to ask your waiter for special requests that are not of the dietary need variety, but just something you really love.  Perhaps you like having a plate of vegetables to start your dinner off with or anything else that is not on the menu.  

Speak with your head waiter to make the request.  If the ship has the ingredients onboard to make it, odds are they will be happy to make it for you.

In general, we have found a 24 hour notice will ensure the chef's crew can take care of the request for you.  

#4 Go to the cruise terminal early

To beat the embarkation day crowds, plan to arrive to your cruise terminal somewhere between 10am and 11:30am.

There are a few really good reasons to arrive early.  

  1. Your vacation begins sooner!
  2. You can avoid the crowds that will make the embarkation process take longer, especially checking luggage and checking into the cruise
  3. You can avoid the lunch rush

Royal Caribbean ships usually arrive in port and disembark their passengers early in the morning, so if you can be at the pier around 10am, you will be setting yourself up for a great (and less crowded) start to your cruise!

#5 Book your cruise as early as you can to save money

There is no question that if you want to get the lowest price on a cruise, book it as early as you can.

Generally speaking, the best price for a Royal Caribbean cruise can be found when booked many months in advance.

Royal Caribbean sells its cruises largely based on the concept of supply and demand. When a sailing is first offered, supply is at its highest because no one has purchase a stateroom yet. As time progress, more and more staterooms are reserved and stateroom inventory drops, so the price increases conversely.

The earlier you can book, the best chance you will have at getting a good price on your cruise.

When we say "early", it essentially means as early as you can.  Royal Caribbean puts its itineraries on sale as much as two years in advance of the sailing, and while that may be too far in advance for many to plan vacations, the earlier you can book the cruise, the better for that bottom line price.

#6 Save money by pre-booking packages

To save time and money, you really should pre-book beverage packages, dining packages, internet packages and more.

In many cases, Royal Caribbean promises a discount on select pre-cruise purchases compared to the price onboard.

When you purchase anything before your cruise via the Cruise Planner site, you will be required to pay for it at the time of purchase.  This provides the ability to break up the total cost of the cruise.

When you make purchases onboard your cruise, at the end of the cruise you get a final bill with all of the charges tallied up.  By pre-purchasing certain items, you can pay off parts of the cruise months or years in advance, allowing you to reduce the cruise bill at the conclusion of your cruise.

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

#7 Use a good travel agent

In short, to save time and money, use a good travel agent.

There is a lot that goes into a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation, from your cruise fare (and the slew of discounts available), to dining, shore excursions, air travel and more.  Using a travel agent simplifies this entire process.

The best reason to use an agent is to save you time, because they are the ones sitting on hold when calling Royal Caribbean.  Tasks such as repricing, making special requests, dealing with weather events and more are why I use a travel agent every single I book a cruise.

Keep in mind that travel agents are paid by Royal Caribbean, so there is no additional cost to you to use their services.   Talk to a few agents and feel them out for their knowledge of the product and when you find one that you are comfortable with, leverage their knowledge and expertise and book with them.

#8 Go to the helipad for sailaway

On Voyager, Freedom or Radiance class ships, be sure to visit the helipad for my favorite sailaway spot.

The helipad on is located on the bow (front) of the ship and during sailaway, Royal Caribbean permits guests access to the helipad.  This is a great spot to see the port as you leave, especially for those that do not have a balcony stateroom or simply want something a little different.

#9  Fly to your cruise port at least one day early

If you are flying to your cruise port, be sure to fly in at least one day before the cruise is scheduled to depart to protect against a travel delay.

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

#10 Check-in via the Royal Caribbean app

Royal Caribbean's new app is such a time saver, especially when it comes to completing online check-in.

Be sure to take a selfie, scan your passport and answer all questions.  If your ship and port support Expedited Arrival, the app becomes an invaluable resource to start your vacation. 

#11 Best times for deals at the spa

If you want to find the best prices for the spa on your cruise, consider booking things on port days, or early in the morning or late at night for the best prices.

The common thread among these times is it is when others are unable or unwilling to go to the spa, so prices tend to be better.

#12 Free breakfast at Johnny Rockets on Oasis Class ships

Did you know that Johnny Rockets is complimentary for breakfast on Oasis Class ships?  

All Oasis-class ships offer this option, but many guests are unaware that breakfast is served here, nor that it is included with your cruise fare (Johnny Rockets has a cover charge for lunch and dinner).

Johnny Rockets tends to be not very crowded for breakfast, because many guests are unaware of this option, and it also has a large seating capacity (indoor and outdoor seating options).

#13 Avoid embarkation day lunch lines in the buffet

The Windjammer is the go-to spot for most when they get onboard their Royal Caribbean ship for lunch, but there are good alternatives that are less crowded.

These locations include:

  • Park Cafe
  • Cafe @ Two70
  • Cafe Promenade
  • Sorrentos
  • Compass Deli (Majesty of the Seas only)

#14 Look for the cooking stations in the Windjammer

Freshly cooked food is always the best, and there are cooking stations available in the Windjammer that serve up some really tasty options.

In the morning, there is an omelet station available.  For lunch and dinner, you can find a rotating set of options that include pasta, stir-fry, crepes and more.

Check with the Windjammer wait staff for a schedule of options. 

#15 You can bring water or soda on embarkation day...

Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to 12 bottles/cans of non-alcoholic beverages per stateroom with them on embarkation day.

You can bring soda, water, energy drinks and any other non-alcoholic beverages.

Be sure to pack these items in your carry-on luggage, and not your checked luggage.

#16 ...and wine too!

In addition to the non-alcoholic beverages, you can also bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom.

Each stateroom may bring up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne, as long as one guest is of legal drinking age. Corkscrews will be provided for guests to enjoy their drinks in their stateroom. If guests wish to enjoy their wine or champagne in our dining or bar venues, there will be a corkage fee applied.

#17 Cruise off-season to really save money

If your schedule allows, the best time to cruise when prices are the lowest are in the off-season and shoulder seasons.

These are the times of year when demand is less for cruises to certain regions. People often wonder what is the cheapest month to go on a cruise, and the key is cruise when others cannot.

Most people go on vacation based around their school or work schedules. If you can cruise during these times, there are some truly low prices to enjoy.

#18 Read a past Cruise Compass

Want to get an idea of what entertainment, activities and things to do (along with times) will be offered on your cruise? Read 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. So the best way to learn about what is offered on your cruise is to check out a past Cruise Compass.

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.

#19 Use the porters

Whether the first day or the last day of your cruise, be sure to grab a porter to make things easier on yourself.

Porters are available to assist with your luggage. Their services are complimentary, although a tip is expected for their trouble.

Commonly it is expected to tip somewhere around $1-$2 per bag. For just a few dollars, you can make the embarkation and disembarkation process significantly easier.

Not only can a porter help take a load off of you, they can greatly assist with disembarkation and getting you through the terminal faster. In many ports, porters have a special line for Customs that allows you to get through it all faster.

#20 Book entertainment before your cruise

If you are sailing on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, you can pre-book shows in advance, such as the Broadway musicals or ice shows.

Royal Caribbean does not charge for its shows, nor does it charge for advanced reservations.  Take advantage of the opportunity to get tickets and not be stuck in a line waiting to enter the theater or worse, miss out on the show completely.

Just like dining, you can reserve shows in advance by going to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  Once logged in, navigate to Onboard Activities and select the show you wish to reserve.

#21 Research shore excursions before the cruise

The tours and excursions available to book in the ports your cruise will visit are many, so take advantage of the resources online to find the perfect tour before your cruise begins.

While you can book shore excursions onboard your ship, the lines at the shore excursion desk can often be quite long and doing your research from home gives you plenty of time to compare different options and learn what each port offers.

You can view all the shore excursions available by logging into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner and browsing the shore excursions by port.  Each excursion will list the price, details of the activity and any physical or age restrictions.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of shore excursions in every port and on top of that, you can also consider shore excursions through third party groups to further expand your options.

Keep in mind the differences between Royal Caribbean's shore excursions and third party shore excursions.  Here are some basic considerations

  • Royal Caribbean shore excursions guarantee your return to the ship, even if the excursion is delayed.
  • Third party shore excursions can offer more personalized tours at a lower price.
  • Royal Caribbean shore excursions are fully refundable if your ship cannot dock at a scheduled port.
  • Guests can use onboard credit towards purchasing Royal Caribbean's shore excursions if they book onboard.

#22 The Main Dining Room is open for lunch on sea days

Naturally everyone thinks of the main dining room for dinner, but did you know it is often open for lunch (and breakfast) too?

On sea days, the main dining room is open for lunch and it serves up a different menu of options than what is offered during dinner.

No reservations needed, just walk on in and be seated.

#23 Make My Time Dining reservations

If you are in My Time Dinning for dinner, your best strategy is to make reservations either before the cruise, or during the cruise.

By having a reservation, you will be seated faster. The larger the group, the more important having a reservation is to limiting the wait times.

Peak dinner time is between 6:30pm and 8:00pm, so if you plan to dine during these times, reservations are so important.

#24 Eat outside!

If you are on a Radiance or Quantum Class ship, be sure to enjoy your meals outside while at the Windjammer.

The Windjammer on Radiance and Quantum class ships offers an area at the rear of the ship to enjoy any meal with a fantastic view of the ship's wake.  

Oasis Class ships offer outside dining is also available on Central Park and Boardwalk neighborhoods.

#25 Try the signature activities on embarkation day

If you want to try Sky Pad, FlowRider, rock climbing wall or zipline, take advantage of lower waits on the first day of the cruise.

Because so many guests are just getting onboard and acclimated to the new ship, many guests are unaware of where the headline attractions are or that they are open on embarkation day.

By going on embarkation day, not only will you likely have a short wait but you may be able to re-ride a number of times!

Your Tips!

I would love to hear your tips and tricks! Share them in our comments on this post.

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