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7 ways to do things differently on your next cruise

16 May 2023

There are a few things you can do differently on a Royal Caribbean cruise to make your vacation as smooth and stress-free as possible, and we’re sharing seven of our best tips.

From making dining reservations to planning port days and attending shows, there’s a lot to remember on a cruise vacation. Even though there’s no “incorrect” way to cruise, there are several mistakes or decisions passengers make that we think could be done differently.

Instead of eating at the buffet, why not choose a specialty restaurant? Or, instead of arriving at the theater ten minutes before a show begins, why not arrive earlier to find the best seats?

Doing things slightly differently on a cruise can save you time and stress and make your overall vacation more pleasant. Here are seven ways to do things differently on your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

Apply sunscreen while onboard instead of when you get to the beach

Before you pack away sunscreen in your port day daypack, lather yourself with a generous amount… or face the consequences.

Once you disembark your cruise ship in a port of call, there may be a few minutes’ walk from the ship to the port entrance. Walking under the scorching sun is an expressway to a painful sunburn, and no one wants to spend their vacation burnt to a crisp.

You should apply sunscreen onboard before you disembark the ship to help prevent sunburn before getting to the beach.

Related: 10 worst cruise fails by our readers

Depending on the port, you may spend more time in the sun en route to the beach than others. Some ports, like Perfect Day at CocoCay, have beaches easily accessible from the port entrance. In other ports such as Roatan, you’ll need to take a shore excursion or taxi to the beach from the cruise port.

Although you might assume you’ll remember to apply sunscreen when you get to the beach, some cruisers may forget altogether. Port days are exciting, but it’s easy to be distracted with the new culture, beautiful destinations, and when navigating an unfamiliar place.

Applying sunscreen before you leave the ship helps prevent regret (and pain) later on.

Get beach towels at the gangway instead of the pool deck

If you’re planning a beach day in port, you’ll want to bring Royal Caribbean towels with you ashore. Checking out towels is free for all guests, but you must scan your SeaPass card at the towel station so Royal Caribbean can keep track of how many towels have been checked out.

Before leaving to go ashore, most passengers head to the pool deck to check out towels for the day. This can, unfortunately, lead to lines at the towel station. Even if there are no lines, the pool deck is in the opposite direction of where you disembark the ship.

Instead of heading to the upper decks to grab a beach towel, visit the towel station on your way out of the ship! When visiting beach destinations, Royal Caribbean crew members will set up a towel station near the gangway. Here, just like on the pool deck, is where you can check out beach towels for the day.

Related: Our best 75 travel tips to make you the world’s most savvy cruiser

Grabbing a beach towel on the gangway is far more convenient than making a special trip to the pool deck. In addition, you can grab water bottles and other beverages here as well to ensure you stay hydrated during your time in port.

Of course, don’t forget to return the towel after a port day! All misplaced towels will incur a $25 USD fee at the end of the cruise.

Try onboard activities on port days to avoid the lines

Hoping to try activities like the FlowRider, waterslides, zip lining, and rock climbing on your cruise? As fun as these activities are for passengers, they often come with long lines. On your next cruise, try onboard activities on port days instead of sea days to avoid waiting in line.

Most passengers go ashore on a port day, leaving the ship far emptier compared to sea days. While most passengers are in port, you’ll encounter less crowded pools, dining venues, and activities.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

It’s possible to ride waterslides with no wait on port days, climb the rock climbing wall several times in a row, and slide down the Ultimate Abyss without waiting in a long line. Because lines are one of the most common “pet peeves” on a cruise, ticking off your ship’s activities on a port day makes the experience more enjoyable.

Trying activities on a port day doesn’t mean you have to skip going ashore, either. Even if you spend the majority of your day in port, you can do an activity immediately after getting back onboard.

After a busy day in port, the majority of passengers head to their cabins to rest and get ready for dinner. There’s simply less demand for onboard activities immediately after returning to the ship, leading to short lines (if any) at these activities.

The only downside of waiting to try activities on a port day is that there may be fewer options available. Because so many guests go ashore, there’s less impetus for Royal Caribbean to offer an extensive list of activities while the ship is docked. Be sure to look at the list of activities in the Royal Caribbean app so you know which activities will be available on a port day.

Go to an event you would otherwise overlook

Whether it’s your first cruise or twentieth, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of programming offered each day on a Royal Caribbean cruise. From pool deck parties to production shows, scavenger hunts, escape rooms, and live music, there’s truly an abundance of activities to choose from on any cruise ship.

Due to how many activities are available, it’s easy to overlook exciting programming that may not jump out at you on first glance. Activities like craft workshops, ice skating, stretch classes, and comedy shows are just some of what could be available on any given day.

Related: 50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once

Many cruisers find themselves falling into the trap of participating in the same activities over and over, whether they start each day with a pickleball game or participate in a daily afternoon trivia session. Doing the same thing over and over can become monotonous over time, so why not jazz things up with a new activity?

On your next cruise, try something new. Scroll through the Royal Caribbean app, find an activity you would otherwise overlook, and participate in the activity!

Maybe you finally decide to watch (or participate in) the World’s Sexiest Man Competition on the pool deck. Or, if you’re feeling something more refined, why not reserve a wine tasting seminar or learn to play table games in the casino?

If you try something you’ve always avoided or overlooked, you might be surprised with how much you enjoy it. Cruising can be a whole lot of fun when you try something new, and you may end up finding a new favorite activity.

Eat lunch at a specialty restaurant on embarkation day instead of at the buffet

As thousands of passengers embark a cruise ship at the same time, the vast majority head to the Windjammer Cafe, making the venue crowded and chaotic. There’s nothing glamorous about a crowded buffet, so why not eat somewhere else?

On your next cruise, book a specialty restaurant for lunch on embarkation day instead of eating at the buffet. Depending on your sailing, one or two specialty dining venues should be open for lunch on embarkation day—usually Chops Grille or one of the cruise line’s Italian restaurants.

Related: 30 Do’s and Don’ts for the first day of your cruise

Even though lunch at a specialty restaurant costs extra—around $25 USD—the peaceful environment amongst the chaos of embarkation day makes the cost well worth it for plenty of passengers. And, as a plus, you’ll enjoy some seriously delicious food as well.

The best way to reserve a specialty restaurant lunch on embarkation day is to book it ahead of time on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. You can use a credit card or, if you prefer, onboard credit to make the reservation.

Those with dining packages must wait until they get onboard to make all dining reservations, including lunch on embarkation day. Waiting until you are onboard may result in little to no availability for lunch, but in most cases, there should be a table available at one of the restaurants on your ship.

If you’d rather eat at a complimentary venue on embarkation day, you could opt for a quieter venue instead of the buffet. Dining somewhere like Park Cafe or El Loco Fresh may offer a more relaxed lunch compared to the Windjammer, although it won’t compare with the tranquility of a specialty restaurant on the first day of your cruise.

Arrive early for entertainment shows to get the best seats

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

Let’s face it: not everyone can afford to book front row seats at a production show on land. The best-located seats at a Broadway show, for example, can easily cost several hundred dollars.

One of the major perks of cruising is that all production shows are included in your cruise fare, from Royal Caribbean’s original productions to their Broadway performances. From high diving shows in the AquaTheater to ice skating productions in Studio B, there’s always an impressive performance to watch onboard, so why not watch it from the best seat?

Not only are shows complimentary, but, aside from a small portion of seats reserved for suite guests and Pinnacle members, you can sit anywhere in the theater at no extra cost.

Yes, this means seats in the front rows are available to all guests, but you’ll have to get to the theater early to snag one.

Related: Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean: Everything you need to know

Evenings are a busy time on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and many passengers find themselves scrambling to get to a show on time after dinner or another activity. Rushing to the theater means many guests pick whichever open seats they can find, even if it means the location is not ideal.

On your next cruise, get to the theater as soon as doors open to snag the best seats. In most cases, doors open 30-45 minutes before the show begins. While arriving early means you’ll have to wait in the theater until the show starts, you can always use this time to enjoy a pre-show drink and take a breather on an otherwise busy day.

Use an anti-theft backpack while in port instead of putting belongings in your pocket

One of the most effective ways to keep your belongings safe while in port is to wear an anti-theft daypack.

Anti-theft backpacks are designed to deter pickpockets from your bag. Most commonly, these bags are made with tough, anti-slash material that makes it difficult for potential thieves to cut open the bag.

Related: Where to keep SeaPass card, phone, and cash when on a shore excursion

Additionally, anti-theft backpacks feature hidden or well concealed openings and zippers. Some pockets only open against your back, making it difficult for anyone to get your bag open without you noticing. Others have a zipper hidden by flaps, which makes the bag appear as if there’s no opening into the backpack.

Fortunately, theft and pickpocketing is not as common as you might think, but it can still happen, especially if you’re traveling through busy areas. Instead of placing your phone and wallet into a pocket or easy-to-open bag, wear an anti-theft bag for added security.

10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day

08 May 2023

Most passengers enjoy spending a sea day relaxing by the pool, participating in onboard activities, and exploring their ship, but there are a few mistakes you should avoid while your ship sails from port to port.

Compared to port days, sea days on a cruise are typically slower paced. Instead of rushing to disembark the ship and spend time on shore, passengers can take their time and enjoy the day onboard however they wish.

Even though sea days come with no requirements on how you should spend your time, there are a few things you should avoid doing on a sea day.

From avoiding the buffet to waking up early, here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid making on a cruise ship sea day.

Eating only at the buffet

Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer buffet is extremely popular, and for good reason: this complimentary venue offers a wide variety of cuisines and cooking styles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Related: Guide to Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe buffet

Due to the restaurant’s popularity, it’s almost always crowded on sea days, especially for breakfast and lunch. One of the mistakes you should avoid making on a cruise ship sea day is to eat only at the buffet.

Instead of dining at the busy Windjammer, why not grab a salad from Park Cafe, burrito from El Loco Fresh, or slice of pizza from Sorrento’s? Or, if you’re hoping for a sit-down meal, start your day with a quiet brunch at the Main Dining Room or at a specialty restaurant.

Mason Jar

We recommend checking the Royal Caribbean app for alternative options to the Windjammer on a sea day. While the Windjammer is a fantastic place to dine, a sea day is a great time to try other restaurants onboard.

Not checking the activities

Royal Caribbean offers an extensive list of activities on all days of your cruise, but especially on sea days. In fact, there are almost too many activities to choose between!

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to check the Cruise Compass on a sea day. Scrolling through the list of daily activities on the Royal Caribbean app helps you plan your day and ensure you don’t miss out on any exciting programming.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

Whether watching a Broadway show, attending a trivia session, or trying your luck at bingo, there’s no shortage of fun and interesting ways to spend a sea day on Royal Caribbean. 

Planning too many activities

Bumper cars

Even though we recommend checking the Royal Caribbean app for activities offered on your sea day, don’t plan too many activities.

Sea days are meant to be relaxing, and packing your day with back-to-back programming can be tiring. Instead of rushing from bumper cars to basketball to karaoke and a game show, plan your day loosely. Maybe attend one or two activities instead of five, or none at all!

If you would rather spend a sea day napping on the pool deck, you shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in other activities onboard. After all, you are in total control of how you spend time on a cruise vacation!

Forgetting to apply sunscreen

Pool deck on Oasis of the Seas

Without fail, you’ll see a few passengers sporting bright red, painful sunburns after every sea day, and you should try to avoid becoming one yourself.

It’s common to spend time in the sun on a sea day, whether lounging at the pool, sliding down waterslides, or playing pickleball on the sports court. Regardless of how you enjoy time in the sun, remember to generously apply (and reapply) sunscreen throughout the day.

Related: 22 unpleasant cruise ship problems you aren't prepared for

A sunburn can turn any cruise vacation into a miserable experience, especially if you end up with sun poisoning. Instead of burning to a crisp, wear sunscreen to avoid any painful, unfortunate problems later on.

Forgetting to take seasickness medication

Although feeling seasick on a cruise is not as common as you might think, it can still happen. If you’re prone to motion sickness and your ship is traveling through high seas, don’t forget to take seasickness medication before it’s too late.

The last thing you want to occur on a sea day is feeling seasick. Feeling ill can ruin any chance at an enjoyable sea day, so remember to take precautions in advance. Taking Dramamine, Bonine, or natural remedies like ginger tablets can prevent or lessen your chance of feeling seasick while onboard.

Waking up early

A cruise vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but you might find yourself feeling downright exhausted while on a cruise, especially if your itinerary is port-intensive.

Most port days start early, with the ship docking at 7 or 8AM. To make the most of your time in port, you’ll likely wake up early on port days in order to disembark the ship as soon as possible. After a few days, however, many passengers find themselves tired from the early morning wake-up calls.

On a cruise ship sea day, we recommend sleeping in instead of setting a 6AM alarm. There’s nowhere to be while your ship sails from port to port, so take this time to catch up on sleep to ensure you’re well rested for the remainder of the ports on your itinerary.

Getting to the pool deck too late

The pool deck is far busier on sea days compared to port days. If you want to snag the best spot by the pool, remember to head there earlier rather than later.

If you want a pool chair in a prime location on the pool deck, we recommend heading to the pool deck around 8:30-9AM. Although this may seem early, the truth is that pool chairs can rapidly fill up by mid-morning, leaving you with a less-than-ideal chair location.

Just remember: don’t be a chair hog! Some passengers visit the pool deck early to “reserve” a chair by placing an item on the chair before heading to breakfast, grabbing a coffee, or going back to their cabin. This is not permitted but still occurs, so don’t add to the problem by becoming a chair hog yourself!

Forgetting to make specialty dining reservations

Hoping to eat at a specialty restaurant on a sea day? Be sure to make dining reservations in advance.

It’s popular for cruisers to dine at specialty restaurants on sea days, which means restaurants can book up quickly on these days. If you’re planning to dine at Izumi Hibachi, Chops Grille, Wonderland, or any other specialty dining restaurant, it's best to make reservations before the cruise.

The best way to secure a specialty dining reservation is to reserve a table in advance on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. If you have a dining package, though, you’ll have to wait until you get onboard to book reservations.

Those with dining packages should head to a specialty restaurant immediately upon boarding the ship on embarkation day to reserve all dining times for the week.

Booking a spa appointment

Unsurprisingly, it’s common for passengers to book spa appointments on sea days. On a cruise ship sea day, passengers’ schedules are completely open. There’s no need to worry about getting ready for port or making it back to the ship on time for a massage.

While booking a massage on a sea day isn’t necessarily a mistake, you can almost always find better prices on port days. If your schedule is flexible, consider booking a spa appointment on a port day to save money.

Booking a spa treatment on a port day does not mean you have to forgo spending time in port. Instead of booking the appointment at noon, for example, book it at 8AM or 4PM. This ensures you can enjoy your treatment before or after a port day, all while saving money at the same time.

Related: 45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Going to bed early the night before a sea day

Because port days can start early in the morning, many passengers go to bed early the night before waking up in port. After all, staying awake until 1AM when you have a shore excursion early the next morning can leave you feeling worn out.

Therefore, the night before a sea day is the perfect time to stay up late. As there is no reason to wake up early on a sea day, many passengers enjoy spending the prior evening at bars, entertainment shows, or the nightclub.

From dancing at a midnight disco to doing shots in the pub, it’s fun to get (a little) wilder than normal before a sea day. While you might feel hungover the following morning, it’s better to rest in bed rather than feel nauseous while exploring port!

Cruise tips that make sense until you're on the ship

29 Apr 2023

I love reading and sharing Royal Caribbean tips that help to have a better cruise experience, but some of them sound better than they perform when you try them out.

Cruise tips to think twice about

I've learned a lot of tricks for improving how I cruise, and there's no doubt many have saved me time, money, and sanity along the way.

However, some tricks sound great when I'm sitting at home on the couch and dreaming of my cruise, but when I apply them onboard, I instantly regret the decision.

The reality is no matter how sensible or logical a cruise tip might be, if it doesn't jive with your personality or travel style, it may end up being a hindrance rather than beneficial.

Allure of the Seas docked

In thinking of my own experience, I wanted to share 8 cruise tips I've heard over the years that seemed like a great idea until I actually tried them.

Skipping buying WiFi on the ship

I'll often see skipping out on an internet package as a way to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Cruise ship internet access isn't cheap, plus some people like to disconnect from the world while on a cruise vacation.  So this leads to the advice to avoid purchasing an internet package completely.

While there's no doubt not buying an internet package will save money, I just don't find it practical at all.

Starlink on Royal Caribbean

Admittedly, I'm a geek and being on the internet is more important to me than perhaps other people.

I think it's only when you don't have internet access at all that you realize how many little things you rely on the internet for, besides email and web browsing.

Texting with family, checking weather forecasts before you leave the ship, and paying bills on time are all little things that are great to have the internet for on a cruise.

Solarium on Harmony of the Seas

Plus, I don't equate internet access with being any more or less relaxed. There are plenty of distractions on a cruise ship beyond the internet, so besides not checking your work email, I think having WiFi provides another form of entertainment in addition to books, magazines, or movies.

I'm all for saving money, but I can't skimp on WiFi.

Staying on the ship instead of doing a shore excursion

Ovation of the Seas docked

Whether you've been to a port of call many times or haven't found any interesting shore excursions, I've often considered staying on the ship during a port visit.

There's a few different compelling reasons to stay on your ship during a port day: save money on shore excursions, have more time to enjoy onboard amenities, or avoid disappointment when excursions aren't interesting.

All of those rationales are perfectly good reasons to stay onboard, but I find after an hour or two I start getting "FOMO" (fear of missing out).

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

Maybe it's the sun shining, clear blue waters, or a bit of cabin fever, but I really enjoy walking off the ship and doing something in port. Even if I just walk around the port area for a little bit, I find enjoying what the port has to offer as a nice change of pace.

Read more7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

Hot shore excursions in the summer

Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya

So many ideas seem great when you're resting comfortably in your climate controlled home, especially certain outdoor shore excursions.

I'm far from the most active person in the world, but I'll occasionally see an interesting tour that involves walking, hiking, kayaking, or just an active outdoor experience and think this might be perfect.

St KItts volcano

These tours are indeed great, but I really detest physically active excursions in uncomfortably hot and humid conditions, which primarily subsist in the Caribbean.

In short, getting really hot and sweaty isn't my thing and I end up being more uncomfortable from how hot it is rather than the tour itself.

Instead, I'll save those tours for taking a winter Caribbean cruise and double down on beach or pool-based excursions.

"I don't need a drink package because I won't drink that much"

Couple at Mason Jar

File this under the "realities of cruising", but it's common to think you won't drink a lot on a cruise because of how much you drink at home.

A Royal Caribbean drink package has a big up front cost, but it provides unlimited beverages during your cruise. It's difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars up front to buy a drink package.

I think there's a few reasons why I end up regretting not buying a drink package during the cruise.

Lime & Coconut on Odyssey of the Seas

First, you're on vacation and you drink differently on vacation compared to at home. Not only is going on a cruise more care-free, but there's far more opportunity to indulge.

In addition, Royal Caribbean drink prices aren't cheap, and after a three or so drinks each day, your bar bill is going to add up quickly.

Oasis Lagoon pool

Between the drink costs and enjoyment of being able to have a drink on the pool deck, dinner, and at Perfect Day at CocoCay, a drink package investment pays off in the long run more often than it may seem like initially.

Waiting to book your next cruise until you get onboard

NextCruise office

Royal Caribbean rewards anyone that books a new cruise while still onboard their ship with extra benefits, but it's actually a mistake to wait to book your cruise until you get onboard.

The NextCruise office is where you can go to book a new Royal Caribbean cruise while onboard, and it offers extra onboard credit and reduced deposit as incentives to do so.

NextCruise office

The problem with booking a cruise at NextCruise is if you know in the weeks or months leading up to your cruise which cruise to book.  By waiting until you get onboard the ship to book it, the price may increase to the point it offsets the benefit of getting extra onboard credit.

Royal Caribbean cruise prices are fluid and can change at anytime.  Over the course of days, weeks, or months, the price could definitely go up.

My advice is if you know there's a cruise you want to book now, go ahead and contact your travel agent to book it now. 

Read moreShould you book your next cruise while onboard?

NextCruise is great for when you're on the ship and are struck with the motivation to suddenly book another cruise. In that case, you should definitely go and book the cruise at NextCruise.

Packing and wearing a poofy dress

Dress frill

This next tip comes from RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Evie, who shared a humorous story of why packing an over-the-top outfit may seem like a better idea until you actually do it.

Evie wanted to get some photos of herself dressed up in a dress that she picked out at home to bring on her cruise. Not only did she like the dress, but she thought it would look great to wear on the ship because she could take advantage of the backdrops and photo opportunities onboard.

When it came time to cruise, she then realized her large, poofy dress was more trouble than she thought.

Packing a dress that large in conventional luggage is no easy task, and then when she got it onboard, she had to contend with the strong breezes that can flare up onboard form doors opening around the ship.

Evie dress

She eventually got the photos she wanted, but it was a lesson for Evie in what not to pack for a cruise in the future.

"I'm going to the gym every day"

Fitness Center

Royal Caribbean's fitness centers have lots of great equipment for a workout on your cruise, and so many cruisers plan on taking advantage of the gym during their cruise.

While many plan on hitting the gym every day, in reality, those plans fall to the wayside pretty quickly.

Fitness center on Quantum of the Seas

The second day of the cruise is usually busy in the fitness center, but as the cruise fun goes on, the motivation (and energy) to wake up early to hit the gym seems to falter quite quickly.

While there are some truly dedicated cruisers that make it to the gym again and again, a lot of others seem to give up and plan to resume their fitness routine after they get home.

Booking the cheapest cabin

Cutting corners and saving money where you can is definitely a sound financial strategy, but you also have to weigh the pros and cons of going cheap versus enjoying your well-deserved vacation.

It can be difficult to know if you should book the cheapest room on a cruise or spend extra for a nicer cabin.

Read moreWhy you shouldn't book the cheapest cruise you can find

Split bed configuration inside cabin

If you shop by price alone, you may end up with a cruise cabin that you're stuck with for the duration of the cruise. There's nothing inherently wrong with an small inside cruise ship cabin, but it may clash with what you're used to on land.

Cruise ship cabins are typically much smaller than hotel rooms on land, and the smallest rooms on a ship are really small, coming in at less than 300 square feet.  If you're sharing this space with someone else, then the lack of space can really become problematic.

Read moreI tried the cheapest Royal Caribbean cabin I could find and here's how it went

Inside cabin on Liberty of the Seas

Everyone has a vacation budget, but be realistic about your cabin choice so you don't end up walking into your room and then realize you've made a mistake.

Read moreWe tried different cruise ship cabins to see how they compared

Royal Caribbean asked its customers for their best cruise tips. Here are the best ones they shared

23 Feb 2023

Everyone likes easy ways to improve their cruise ship vacation, and Royal Caribbean just asked its fans for their best suggestions.

Royal Caribbean asked on its Facebook page for the best Royal Caribbean cruise tips, and it generated a lot of suggestions.

Whether it's your first cruise or you're a seasoned pro, tips and hacks that can help make the most of someone's cruise is always welcome. You never want to walk off of a ship and realize that you missed out on something. 

To kick off the discussion, Royal Caribbean shared one of our favorite tips: Johnny Rockets is open for breakfast on Oasis Class ships only and it's free! 

The post generated over 250 comments, and here's the best of the suggestions made by cruise fans.

1. Planning Ahead

Cruise planner results

The great thing about cruising is that you can get most, if not all, of your planning out of the way before ever stepping onboard. 

Robert Hildebrandt knows how to maximize time on your cruise vacation: planning ahead. By pre-booking as much as you can, including dining, excursions, drink packages, activities and more, you can board your cruise ready to enjoy the ship and just relax. 

2. To-Go Orders


Have you ever tried to book a specialty dining restaurant, but there weren’t any seatings available that fit your agenda?

Rebecca JoAnne has found a great hack to still be able to enjoy your favorite dishes, by ordering your food to go.

Utilizing this hack, she has enjoyed eating Izumi on her balcony several times. 

3. Avoid the crowds

Solarium Bistro

There is nothing worse than having your plate full of food and searching for an empty table in the Windjammer during breakfast. So what do you do when you want to enjoy a buffet breakfast but without the crowds?

Brian Carty recommends heading to the Solarium Bistro if you’re sailing on Oasis and Quantum class ships.

Here they serve a smaller version of the Windjammer breakfast buffet, with a laid-back vibe.

4. Don’t fly the same day as your cruise departs

Airplane landing

Now this may not be a secret, but not flying the same day of your cruise is one of the most important things you can do for any cruise.

Cassie Stapleton put it best, if you’re flying to your cruise, always plan to arrive the day before. You never know when a delay may happen, and you don’t want to miss your cruise because of one. 

5. Hold onto your belongings

When sailing through the ocean, you can expect to experience some wind. What many people don’t realize is how strong that wind can be, taking their towels and belonging off of their chairs.

Chelsea Rushton Fitchett advises future cruisers to bring towel clips or bands for those windy sea days so your towel stays put on your chair. 

6. Finding a quiet place

Promenade Deck

There is nothing better than experiencing the fresh air while sailing. However, it can be hard to find a peaceful place onboard to do so, with all of the different activities going on.

Johnna Stanton knows the perfect spot to go when onboard Freedom and Voyager class ships is the outside promenade deck to not only enjoy the view, but also get away from the noise on the other decks. 

7. First day lunch 

The Windjammer is known for being a hotspot on the first day for lunch. Majority of the cruisers will head straight there after boarding to get their first fix of food.

However Eric Lynn knows that when they bob, you weave - and suggests heading over to Park Cafe instead if sailing on an Oasis Class ship. Not only do they serve great lunch options in Central Park, it is also much less crowded than the Windjammer. 

8. Check-in


When it’s time to get on your cruise, you don’t want to have to wait any longer than you have to. With Royal Caribbean’s check-in process, you have to choose a check-in window for boarding.

Shelley Clifford suggests checking in as soon as it opens to ensure that you can get the earliest boarding time and start enjoying your vacation sooner. 

9. Keeping track of your SeaPass

When you’re onboard, your SeaPass card is your lifeline. You use it to get beverages, open your cabin, embark and disembark the ship, and more. This is one thing you do not want to lose.

Kassandra W. advises that cruisers get a lanyard and pouch prior to their cruise to hold their SeaPass card. She says not only will it help keep you from misplacing it, but it will handy when you need to use it.

10. Utilize all of your cabin space


We all know that cabin space is limited, and you don’t want to give up precious closet space to hold your suitcases.

Diana Baker let’s newer cruisers in on a hack: store your suitcase under your bed.

Not only does this keep it out of the way and free up cabin space, but you can also pull it out to use as a hamper for dirty clothes.

11. Keep the air conditioning running in your cabin

Junior Suite on Symphony of the Seas

Some ships have a card slot to activate your ship cabin's air conditioning, but it doesn't need to use just your SeaPass card.

Tom Hinrichs suggested using any kind of gift card works in the slot to keep your room cooled while you're away.

12. Treat the crew members

Crew member smiling at the bar

Crew members are so helpful and important on a cruise, especially your cabin attendant.

Cathy Pye Barrett brings small gift bags on the ship and each day of her cruise, she drops a few goodies in one for her room attendant.

On the last day, she puts cash in one.

Michelle Taylor echoed Cathy's suggestion, "Tipping the hard working staff is important to us. A little bit goes a long way. It makes me appreciate others so much more."

13. Laundry bag

Dirty clothes pile up quickly on a cruise.

Sandy Volandt brings a laundry bag to place our dirty clothes in. This is similar to our cruise cabin hack of bringing a laundry hamper.

14. Pack a highlighter

Cruise Compass on bed

A tried-and-true cruise tip is to bring a highlighter with you on your cruise.

Teresa Moretti suggested to bring a highlighter to mark all the things you can do in the Cruise Compass.

15. Take photos of crew member name tags

Crew member nametag

The post-cruise survey is so important for Royal Caribbean and the crew members. 

Among other things, the survey helps recognize crew members that stand out, but it's up to the guest to remember and note the guest's name.

Angie Coard takes a photo of name tags of the crew that she wants to acknowledge in the post-cruise survey, "It helps them out a lot when they are praised by the guests and they all work so hard!"

More cruise advice

Top 10 Symphony of the Seas hidden secrets

21 Feb 2023

Like all Oasis Class ships, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas offers passengers seemingly endless activities to choose from.

Symphony of the Seas docked

As the second largest cruise ship in the world (only behind Wonder of the Seas), it is hard not to love everything Symphony of the Seas has to offer. 

You can spend your day relaxing by one of four pools, ice skating, eating at one of 20 dining venues, zip lining across the Boardwalk, or taking advantage of Royal Caribbean's top-tier entertainment options. 

Night aerial photo Symphony of the Seas

With only so much time onboard, knowing the "hidden" features and amenities of a ship as large as Symphony of the Seas ahead of time will help you make the most of your vacation. Be sure to make a note of them all before you set sail!

The Big Wonder


Unique to Symphony of the Seas' Solarium is Big Wonder, a one-of-a-kind architecturally integrated installation that is comprised of thousands of dichroic acrylic elements. It spans an impressive 2,594 feet and arches over the Solarium Bar, making it a fun place to grab a drink. 

Big Wonder is the most beautiful at night when it is lit up with a combination of pink, blue, and green hues. 

There is plenty of comfortable seating located directly under the installation, making it a great place to grab a pre-dinner drink or meet up with friends throughout the day!

Piano staircase


If you are heading up to the Windjammer to grab a bite to eat, make sure that you get off on deck 15! You do not want to miss the piano staircase.

The piano staircase is located near the deck 15 aft elevator bank leading up to the Windjammer Marketplace on deck 16. 

The stairs plays musical tunes when stepped on, and guests will recognize popular classical melodies, like Beethoven's Bagatelle No. 25 ("Für Elise"), that are played by walking up and down them. It is entertaining for all ages! 

Deck 7 AquaTheatre viewing area 


If you were not able to score reservations for HiRO or would just like a more exclusive viewing area, walk back towards the AquaTheatre and head up the stairs to the rock climbing wall on deck 7. You can access these terraces via the interior hallways, too. 

While the above decks (8-14) are the coveted AquaTheatre suites, the outdoor area on deck 7 is open to everyone. The elevated perspective provides a unique view of the show! 

Even when there is not a show, it is a great place to soak in some ocean views that is less crowded than the pool deck or adults-only Solarium! 



The artwork onboard Symphony of the Seas is some of the most impressive onboard any Royal Caribbean ship; throughout the ship you can find over 13,300 contemporary works!

From Big Wonder in the Solarium to Paradox Void in the Royal Promenade, unique stairwell art, and the Main Dining Room's "painting" on deck 5, there is so much to see and appreciate onboard.

Plus, many of the pieces are interactive and more than just a painting or sculpture. On deck 6 near the Schooner Bar, for instance, there is the Sound Shell, an LED piece created by Daniel Canogar that activates unique soundscapes and soothing light therapy when someone steps in front of the shell.

When navigating the ship, pay extra attention to the art in each stairwell landing. You will find photography collections, paintings, collages, drawings, and more. 

Deep Divers


While you are moving about Symphony of the Seas, keep a lookout for the four whimsical diver sculptures, which make for a great photo opportunity! 

There is one driver located in Central Park who is peering through a glass arch down into the Royal Promenade below. The other three are scattered throughout the pool deck at the forward, midship, and aft of the vessel.

Hunting for the sculptures is a great way to explore two popular neighborhoods onboard the ship.

Running track alcoves


Even if you are not planning on walking or running on the jogging track on deck 5, you should still make your way out there at least once! 

There are two enclosed alcoves located off the running track towards the front of the ship. They are a great escape from the crowded pool deck and offer activities like shuffleboard and ping pong.

The ship may even schedule activities out there. The Hyperlink Program, for instance, has hosted a "Frat Table Games Tournament" at the ping pong tables. 

There is also comfortable seating available for those who want a quiet place to read a book, take a nap, or just enjoy the ocean views on a sea day!

Aft chairs on the running track

aft chairs

The impressive wake views are one of the best parts about sailing on an Oasis Class ship (or any ship for that matter). During the day, the top deck can be noisy with all the activities going on; it is not the ideal place to relax! Rather than trying to soak up wake views near the Ultimate Abyss and FlowRiders, you can do so from the rear of the running track on deck 5. 

There are a number of chairs and plush couches for those who either want to take a break from exercising or who purposely sought out this relatively quiet area. 

Hooked Seafood


Symphony of the Seas was the first ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet to receive Hooked Seafood. Today, it is only one of three ships to have the specialty restaurant onboard; the restaurant can also be found on Wonder of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

If you are a fan of fresh New England-style seafood, you will want to make sure that you get a reservation to dine at this specialty restaurant! They even serve oysters three different ways: Rockefeller style, with leeks and white wine, or with brie and champagne. ch.

Onboard pricing is $24.99 per adult for lunch and $54.99 per adult for dinner. Children cost $12.99 each. It is also included with any of the specialty dining packages.

Solarium bridge wings 


Like other Oasis Class ships, there are two bridge wings that extend over the edge of the ship located in the Symphony of the Seas' Solarium. The wings offer guests a more tranquil spot to watch sailaway or a jaw-dropping sunset at sea. 

To access the bridge wings, head to the very front of the Solarium. There will be one bridge wing on the port side of the ship, while the other is located on the starboard side. If you are wearing a dress or loose blouse, be prepared to hold it down; it can get pretty windy out there, especially during sea days!

Best spot to view "Flight: Dare to Dream"


Flight: Dare to Dream is a Royal Caribbean Productions original that focuses on chronicling humanity's fascination with flying. It is one of the most ambitious stage productions to date, as Clayton C. Anderson, an Astronaut who lived in space for 167 days and completed 38 hours and 28 minutes over six spacewalks in two missions, helped curate the musical's set design. 

Based on recommendations from the show's tech team, as well as personal experience, the best place to sit is in the sixth and seventh rows in the center of the theater. These rows provide the perfect vantage point for the show's impressive finale. 

Like all onboard shows, reservations tend to go fast. Be sure you snag one as soon as you are able to! 

Are you planning a cruise on Symphony of the Seas? Check out more of our best tips & tricks:

I sail on cruise ships for a month at a time. Here are the surprising things and big mistakes I see passengers make

16 Feb 2023

Most people take a cruise once a year at the most, but there are some people that cruise all the time, and they get to experience and see so much more of what cruising is all about.

Greg Brockman

Greg Brockman lives in Iowa, but manages to work in multiple cruises in a row to the point he will stay aboard a cruise ship for months at a time.

"Living in Iowa, it rarely makes sense to sail for just a week," he stated matter-of-factly as to why he will be on a ship for up to a month or longer.

How long does Greg actually cruise for?  He combines multiple cruises in a row, which is referred to by cruise fans as a "back-to-back" cruise because the voyages are consecutive.

B2B setsail passes

He's done six back-to-back cruises on 3- and 4-night sailings of Freedom of the Seas, as well as four back-to-back sailings on 6- and 8-night voyages on Explorer of the Seas in 2022.  That represents 4 weeks of cruising at a time.

In fact, Greg racked up 192 nights on a cruise ship in 2022.

Symphony of the Seas in Miami

With that many cruises at once, Greg has a lot experience with not only what Royal Caribbean has to offer, but sees what his fellow passengers do. It gives him an unique perspective on do's and don'ts of cruises.

I wanted to know more about what it's like to sail that much at a time, and what tips and advice he has for someone going on any cruise, regardless of length.

How do you pack for living on a cruise ship for a month?

SeaPass card

The logistics of living on a cruise ship for many weeks may seem daunting, but Greg has a few tricks.

"With my Crown and Anchor benefits of laundry, staying on for several weeks really doesn’t add much to the total luggage needed."

Read moreThe Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise

Greg in Cozumel

His cruise ship packing strategy is centered on having a  core of clothes he can rely on, and then embrace Royal Caribbean's laundry services.

"Typically, I pack for 10-nights. Most of my cruise shirts are lightweight. I replace a shirt or shorts if one is damaged or wears out."

"I use Royal’s wash and fold service for everything except dress shirts, dress pants and blazers."

Packing for a cruise can be a struggle, even for the most seasoned cruiser.

Some people can actually manage to pack for a week-long cruise in just a carry-on, but it's easier said than done for most.

Odyssey of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea

Inevitably, the question boils down to what is essential to pack for a cruise and it's easy to overpack. In a way, it is difficult to blame anyone for over packing because the longer the cruise, the harder it is to figure out just what clothing you will need.

Your luggage will have vastly different clothing in it if you cruise heads to the Mediterranean versus Caribbean or Australia.

Why cruise so much at once?

Greg on Odyssey of the Seas

Rather than cruise for many weeks at a time, Greg could spread out those cruises.  So what are the advantages of going on consecutive cruises?

"For me, one air flight and hotel on the front end saves over multiple trips," Greg pointed out.

"Also, my house sitter offers a discount for trips over 14 and 25 nights. So, that offers a savings."


I was curious if having the same restaurants and food choices was a problem, but Greg finds enough variety.

"Surprisingly, Royal does an amazing job in the main dining room to offer alternatives and “off-menu” meals to keep variety."

"Plus, each port offers alternatives for lunch."

Sun setting

Of course, there are negatives to all that cruising.

Greg admits being away from home for long periods isn't cheap, "The biggest downside for me is the credit card holds Royal places for onboard charges."

"I’m a casino player and sometimes have $2-3,000 charged to my SeaPass but pay down the balance with cash during the cruise."

"Royal can sometimes pre-authorize several times during the cruise and tie up much of a credit cards available balance. It can take 5 days for them to drop off. Sometimes requiring me to bring several credit cards to alternate between sailings."

Mariner of the Seas sailing away

As Greg has found, going on back-to-back cruises allows someone to maximize their airfare cost and get more out of a single vacation. This type of cruise allows you to get more bang for your buck by getting more time and experiences on the ship. Plus, you can often explore different ports and bring down the cost of travel by avoiding having to fly between cities.

Back-to-back cruises can be especially beneficial if you are looking to visit multiple ports or take an open-jaw sailing. With a back-to-back, you don’t have to worry about flying from one port to another - instead, you stay on board your cruise ship and enjoy all the amenities it has to offer while visiting several ports in succession.

Two ships docked in Cozumel

For example, if you are cruising in the Caribbean, many ships alternate between Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, meaning that with a back-to-back cruise you can experience both sides of the region without having to deal with costly flights or extended stays in one city.

In addition, back-to-back cruises allow for great savings when it comes to airfare costs since they require fewer flight tickets than traditional cruises do. Since back-to-backs last longer than regular cruises, they offer more time onboard which helps justify the airline price tag. Not only that but they also provide travelers with ample opportunity to explore all the ports and attractions available at their destination - allowing them to make their trip as memorable as possible. 

Planning many cruises

Two cruise ships at CocoCay

Picking out the perfect week-long cruise is its own challenge for many, but trying to coordinate multiple cruises in a row has its own set of challenges.

Anyone planning a cruise must consider the ship, itinerary, cabin and so many other factors.  New cruisers can struggle with navigating the myriad of choices. 

Read more8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

Quantum of the Seas cabin drawers

When cruising as long as Greg does, he relies on the cabin selection as being a primary consideration, "I usually pick the cruises by where I can keep the same cabin back-to-back."

"I also try to follow crew I know that will be onboard. I have a few Cruise Directors, Hotel Directors and others I keep in touch with throughout the year."


Choosing a ship and itinerary is always a subjective choice, so it's important to prioritize the aspects of the voyage that are important to you.

You'll start off with the price, destination and length, but quickly you may find yourself choosing a cruise similar to Greg: considering which restaurants, shows, or activities are available on one ship over another.

Read more: Picking a Cruise Line and Ship

With so many places around the globe to choose from, it can be difficult to know which itinerary is best for you. 

For first-time cruisers, it’s important to pick a sailing that offers a good balance of sea days and port days. Too many days at sea or too many days in port can make for an exhausting vacation, so look for an itinerary that provides plenty of variety and chances to experience both the open sea and exciting ports of call.

A typical cruise will include several days at sea, during which you’ll enjoy amenities like swimming pools, spas, fitness classes and themed activities onboard the ship. You’ll also have your pick of delicious restaurants, bars and lounges where you can kick back and relax after each day of exploration. At night, take in the dazzling entertainment shows or dance the night away in the ship’s disco. Days at sea are just as fun as any other part of a cruise – so don’t skimp on them! 

But port days are equally important when planning your itinerary. After all, these destinations are what makes cruising so special! From historic European cities to exotic Caribbean islands, there are countless amazing places to explore while sailing around the world. 

Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter if you choose a short weekend getaway cruise or a month-long journey around the globe – as long as you make sure there is a healthy mix of both sea days and port stops included in your itinerary!

What do you wish other passengers did differently?

Drink vendor

When you sail for weeks at a time, it's easy to pick up on trends among other passengers. 

I asked Greg what stands out to him in observing other guests across his sailings.

"When you spend a lot of time onboard a ship you start to see the ship as the crew’s home. They live there and will be onboard long after passengers who sail once are long gone."

"It’s sad how disrespectful passengers are when they are actually guests in someone else’s home. Passenger frequently act entitled: 'it’s my vacation, I’ll do what I want.'"

Read more8 things some cruisers do that annoy everyone else

There's no excuse for being rude to any crew member, and it's an absolute faux-pas for anyone. 

40 BEST Royal Caribbean tips, tricks & hidden secrets

14 Feb 2023

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!

Since these are Royal Caribbean cruise tips that apply primarily to just this cruise line, it's meant to provide advice that almost anyone sailing with Royal Caribbean can use right away.

After combing through my notes, here's the best tips and tricks for taking a Royal Caribbean cruise.

#1 Bring a bathing suit on embarkation day

Which Royal Caribbean ships have water slides? | Royal Caribbean Blog

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 Download Royal Caribbean's app before the cruise

Royal Caribbean's app is a must-have for your cruise, so make sure to download it before your cruise.

Downloading the app before you get on your ship means you'll be able to easily and quickly download it and set it up before you step aboard.

Why is it important to have the app?

In short, the app is tied to so much of the cruise experience now.  You can use it to check-into your cruise (more on that in the next tip), book entertainment, shore excursions and packages.

Plus, the Royal Caribbean app will have all of the activities for the day listed so that you can easily reference it during your sailing.

Don't worry, you don't need to buy an internet package to use the Royal Caribbean app.  Once you get onboard and connect to the ship's wifi, it will ask you if you want to just use the app.

#4 Check into your cruise as soon as you can 

Spotted: Royal Caribbean cruise expected check-in date added to app | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean now enforces its check-in times, so be sure to check-in for your cruise as soon as check-in opens.

By completing online check-in early, you will have the best choice of check-in times. And the earlier check-in time you have, the sooner you get to get onboard the ship and start vacation.

The price you pay for the cruise is the same whether you board at noon or 2pm, so you may as well get the extra two hours of fun!

#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 cruise ship cabin 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

Royal Caribbean offering up to 35% off Cruise Planner purchases with Sun's Out Sale's On | Royal Caribbean Blog

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.

Royal Caribbean begins to roll out My Royal Cruise cruise planner upgrade | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

8 Secret spots on Royal Caribbean cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

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 Don't buy kids a dining package

Kids get special pricing at a specialty restaurant, so buy dining packages only for the adults.

Children between the ages of 0-5 are complimentary and ages 6-12 are $10 per child at any specialty restaurant.

When you make a reservation for a restaurant onboard, let your server know the adults have dining packages, but kids don't and you will get a better price than if you bought the dining package for everyone.

#11 Best times for deals at the spa

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Johnny Rockets | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Michael's Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau | Royal Caribbean Blog

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...

The best packing for a cruise list | Royal Caribbean Blog

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!

Bringing wine on your Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

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

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

Majesty of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

99 days of Harmony: AquaTheater shows | Royal Caribbean Blog

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.

On all ships, check for entertainment reservations once onboard the ship via the Royal Caribbean app.

#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.

How to book a Royal Caribbean shore excursion | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Royal Caribbean working on new main dining room menu | Royal Caribbean Blog

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 Dining 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!

Ovation of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

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!

#26 Stock shareholder benefit

Did you know Royal Caribbean offers extra onboard credit if you own at least a certain amount of Royal Caribbean Group stock?

While buying stock in any company should be based on solid financial planning, if you happen to own at least 100 shares of Royal Caribbean Group stock, you can qualify for bonus credit to spend on your cruise.

Depending on the length of your sailing, you can get up to $250 onboard credit.

  • $250 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 14 or more nights
  • $100 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 6 to 13 nights
  • $50 Onboard Credit per Stateroom on Sailings of 5 nights or less

To redeem this benefit, you just need to email [email protected] with your name, address, confirmation number, ship and sailing date along with a copy of your shareholder proxy card or a current brokerage statement showing proof of share ownership.

#27 Buy travel insurance

No one wants to think worst case scenario, but you're probably better off buying a travel insurance plan for your cruise than risking not having it.

While you may want to save the added expense, regular medical insurance will not usually cover medical services onboard or in port. It’s recommended to have travel insurance.

Additionally, a cruise vacation, like any other type of travel, poses a risk for trip interruption, delays, and other unexpected issues. From a bag getting lost in transit to flight cancellations, it’s always better to be protected than to not have insurance when you need it most.

#28 Find a roll call for your sailing and meet other cruisers

Friends in a pub

One of the best ways to stay informed with what's happening on your sailing is to join a roll call for your sailing.

This is basically a forum for discussing your exact sailing with other people booked on it too. 

The benefit of doing this is you get to "meet" other people on your sailing, which may result in new friendships, or saving money on a shore excursion or other activity that has a group discount.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

In addition, these roll calls are helpful because someone might spot a change or announcement before you, which can greatly benefit you by getting ahead of the pack.

We have an entire forum dedicated to Royal Caribbean roll calls on our message boards that is totally free to use!

#29 Avoid overpacking


Easier said than done, but you probably won't need all the clothes, shoes, and outfits you think you might need on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Dress codes look imposing, and you might feel like you need to have more outfit changes in a single day than most celebrities at an awards ceremony, but the reality is it's not nearly that stringent.

Not only are the dress codes quite liberal, you can also re-use the same clothes on the same sailing. Your fellow guests won't notice you wore that pair of jeans or dress from night two.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has onboard laundry services you can use to make wearing the same clothes later in the cruise more practical. Laundry costs extra, but it may save you money compared to paying to check an extra bag at the airport.

#30 Don't assume all Royal Caribbean ships are the same

One mistake a lot of new cruisers make is to book the cheapest cruise they can find because they assume the ships are more less all the same.

While Royal Caribbean maintains a core experience across all ships, each vessel has its own list of amenities and activities, and even ships within the same Royal Caribbean ship class can vary.

What you want to do is look at what the ship you're considering has to do onboard, and ensure it has the most important options that you want to experience.

Grease Broadway musical on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

An an example, if you have kids and water slides are a must-do, then skip the Vision Class ships and Explorer of the Seas. If you want a ship with a Broadway show, book Oasis or Harmony of the Seas, but skip Wonder of the Seas.

The key is to understand what the ship you're booking has and doesn't have so there's no disappointment later.

#31 Bring magnets for your cabin

One of the best cruise ship cabin hacks is to bring magnets with you on your cruise.

Your stateroom walls are made of metal, and that means you can stick a magnet on any of them (even the ceiling). If you buy heavy duty magnets with hooks, you can use these magnets to store certain items.

Things like hats, coverups, important paperwork and more would be ideal. This frees up storage space in your closets and drawers for other things.

#32 Your drink package works at CocoCay and Labadee

If you're on the fence about buying a Royal Caribbean drink package, keep in mind you can use them at Royal Caribbean's private islands.

In addition to being able to use your drink package benefits nearly anywhere onboard your ship, Royal Caribbean also extends the benefit to Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas and Labadee in Haiti.

This means you can get extra value from your drink package purchase while anywhere in these private destinations.

In addition to the drink package, a wifi package also works while at CocoCay.  Unfortunately, there's no wifi coverage in Labadee.

#33 Take advantage of all your loyalty benefits

There's an impressive amount of discounts and benefits included in Royal Caribbean's loyalty program that you should absolutely know about in advance.

The exact benefits you get depend on which tier of Crown and Anchor Society you belong to.  You start getting benefits after just one cruise, and you never lose your status.

There are discounts, vouchers, and even freebies anyone can take advantage of once onboard.

Be sure to look up all your benefits, and ensure you use the most lucrative Crown and Anchor Society perks during your sailing so you can reap the best rewards!

#34 Eat at specialty restaurants for lunch to save money

Couple dining at Giovannis

Some specialty restaurants will cost less if you eat there for lunch.

Regardless of which day you choose, some specialty restaurants offer a lunch discount compared to dinner.

The menu can vary from lunch to dinner, but the experience is still the same. Any money saved is always welcome!

Two restaurants that always offer a cheaper lunch price than dinner are Chops Grille and Giovanni's Italian Kitchen. In most cases, you should be able to save at least $10 per person compared to dinner (if not more).

#35 Sign up your kids for Adventure Ocean on the first day

Adventure Ocean with kids

Save time on your cruise by getting your kids signed up for Royal Caribbean's complimentary kids programming on the first day of the cruise.

Adventure Ocean will be open on the first evening of your cruise, but they have an open house on embarkation day in the afternoon too.

The open house is when you can go to meet the staff, register your kids, and ask any questions.

This is not only a great opportunity for your kids to become familiar with the kids club, but also save time later so all you have to do when the club opens up is drop them off and be done. Too many parents are unaware of the open house and waste time signing their kids up as the evening session is set to begin.

#36 You can shower in the gym

Fitness Center

If your stateroom shower is occupied by a family member, you could go to the gym and shower there instead.

Royal Caribbean's fitness center has separate showers for men and women that is complimentary to use. In fact, most people don't use these showers, so there's a good chance they are unoccupied when you would need it, especially in the evening.

#37 Put your phone into airplane mode

Avoid a huge cell phone bill by putting your phone into airplane mode while on your cruise.

A really common mistake is for passengers to leave their phone on like normal, and come home to a monster bill because of hefty roaming charges. Even if you have an international cell phone plan, cruise ship cellular coverage is rarely included.

In order to avoid having your phone try to use its cellular connection, all modern phones have an ability to turn off its cellular signal by enabling something called, "airplane mode."

By enabling airplane mode, your phone is incapable of using its cellular antenna.  It can, however, still use its WiFi and Bluetooth connections to stay connected, if you so choose.

Just turn airplane mode once you get onboard the ship.

This means you can still be on Royal Caribbean's wifi and use the app, but avoid a huge bill.

#38 Don't book a cabin under or above public areas

Grand Suite on Liberty of the Seas

Want to know one of the best tips for avoiding the worst cruise ship cabins? Don't book a cabin one deck above or below a public space, such as a pool, dining room, or bar.

Before you book a room, look at the ship's deck plans and look what is above and below your stateroom.  Ideally, you want other staterooms on either deck and not public venues like pools, restaurants or other public venues.

#39 Don't double tip


Tipping hard working crew members is a must-do, but double check the bill that it's not already included.

When you purchase a drink at a bar, a service at the spa, or almost anything else onboard, there's likely an automatic gratuity included with your bill.

When you get the receipt to sign, look for the line item that indicates if an automatic 18% gratuity is already included.  If it is, you should feel confident that the proper gratuity is being given to that crew member.

#40 You can re-book on your cruise for extra onboard credit

NextCruise sign

The NextCruise office offers incentives to book another cruise while you're still onboard.

The price of the cruise is the same whether you book at home or onboard.  The difference is booking onboard will get you extra onboard credit and reduced deposit.  

You can actually get hundreds of dollars of onboard credit by simply booking onboard, but the exact amount depends on how long a sailing you book and in which stateroom category.

Inside cabin on Icon of the Seas

Moreover, the onboard credit is stackable with other discounts Royal Caribbean is offering at the time!

If you're reading this at home, you're still better off booking a cruise now, rather than waiting to book onboard your ship.  The reason is Royal Caribbean cruise fares are very erratic, and can change at a moment's notice.

If you wait weeks or months to book a cruise onboard, the price of the cruise may increase and negate any savings you'd receive from the extra onboard credit.

Ideally, you'll book a cruise at NextCruise while on a sailing when struck with the inspiration to book another cruise.  But if you're at home, it's still a good idea to book as early as you can to lock in the lowest price.

Your Tips!

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

Cruising over 60? Here are the top 10 reasons you should give it a try

10 Feb 2023

Royal Caribbean cruises are designed for all ages, but they can be especially well-suited for cruisers over 60. Cruising is flexible, easy-to-plan, and offers an incredible value, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular vacation choice for passengers aged 60 and older.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Brad Whitaker recently shared with us his experience cruising over the age of 60 and why he recommends it to other travelers his age.

After countless years planning elaborate family vacations on land, he quickly fell in love with the relaxing, exotic vacation experience a Royal Caribbean cruise provides, and feels that many cruisers over 60 will feel the same way.

Let’s take a look at Brad’s top 10 reasons to book a cruise if you’re over the age of 60.

Great value

Women eating in main dining room

Cruising offers one of the best values in a vacation due to the sheer amount of inclusions in the cruise fare, and Brad lists this as one of his top reasons for booking cruise vacations.

“I recently booked an 8-day cruise on Symphony of the Seas to Aruba and Curacao,” Brad explained. “For an ocean view balcony, I only paid $125 per person, per night. If you consider all you get for that, it was a steal. Plus, Royal Caribbean gave me $100 onboard credit for being a shareholder.”

Compared to land-based vacations, cruises offer a tremendous value. Accommodation, food, entertainment, activities, and visits to diverse destinations are included in one set price.


Related: What's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

While you can always purchase extras like drink packages, dining packages, and shore excursions, the impressive base value of a cruise vacation cannot be understated, especially for those searching for a vacation with few added fees.

Doing something different

As you get older and retire, you may find yourself following the same routine with little change from day to day. Brad explained how a huge benefit of taking a cruise vacation when over 60 is the ability to do something different.

“Even if you never leave the ship (which is crazy to think you wouldn’t), there are tons of things to do and none of them the same. Cruising helps you break your mold and enlarge your variety of life.”

Just how many interesting things can you do on a cruise? Royal Caribbean offers an abundance of activities to guests of all ages, from toddlers to those in their 90s!

If you’re looking for something more relaxed, attend a trivia session, see a Broadway show, watch live music at the pub, or sign up for a wine tasting seminar.

If you’re a thrill seeker though, remember that being over 60 doesn’t exclude you from the adrenaline-filled activities onboard! Try the rock-climbing wall, waterslides, zip line, or skydiving simulator!

The amount of new things to try on a cruise is nearly endless, and that doesn’t even account for the variety of experiences you can have in port, either, such as snorkeling in the Caribbean and visiting glaciers in Alaska.

“The new, bigger ships have so much to do that it’s unlikely you can do it all!” Brad exclaimed. “Pace yourself and enjoy. You can do nothing or everything; it really depends on you.”

Only unpacking once

One of the biggest struggles with a land-based vacation—particularly those visiting several destinations—is packing and unpacking your suitcase several times.

Brad mentioned only unpacking once as one of the top reasons to book a cruise.

“I hate packing and unpacking. Of course, at some point your cruise will end and you’ll have to pack up all your dirty clothes and stuff them back into your suitcase, but it’s worth it.”

While visiting 10 countries in one week with a backpack may have been appealing in your 20s, most cruisers over 60 are in the market for a more relaxing vacation experience. Only having to unpack your suitcase one time while visiting several unique destinations is a major plus of cruising.

No cooking required

Family in dining room

Food is an important part of any Royal Caribbean cruise. Whether elegant dinners in the Main Dining Room or quick stops to the buffet for lunch, dining onboard is a highlight of the experience.

When it comes to food, Brad explained how not having to cook on vacation is a huge benefit for cruisers over 60.

“For many years during the summer, our family of seven would pack up the old family van and head to our houseboat on Lake Powell. It took weeks to plan, prepare for, and make happen. Just the food planning alone was a herculean effort!”

On a cruise, however, Brad does not need to worry about planning meals for his travel party, and that the variety of options works well when traveling with a group.


“There is so much variety onboard the ships that you can literally eat different ethnic food each morning, afternoon, and night. If you want, one person can grab a hot dog and the other something more exotic.”

Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Of course, a Royal Caribbean cruise provides the opportunity to try cooking styles and dishes you may not otherwise try at home. Because you can ask for unlimited appetizers, entrees, and desserts, you may end up finding a new favorite meal.

“The main dining halls are incredible and they are all part of the cost of the cruise,” Brad continued. “All of the food is amazing and there is a LOT of it. Be sure to ask for additional entrees if you want to try new things!”

If you’re the family chef back at home, you’ll certainly appreciate the break from meal prepping, cooking, and cleaning once onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Cruising is a social environment

Trivia event

Something cruisers over 60 often appreciate is the social atmosphere fostered on a Royal Caribbean cruise. It’s easy to meet new people onboard, whether at dinner, on a shore excursion, or during an activity.

“My wife and I have always met and made new friends on cruises,” Brad said. “I love asking people if I can take their picture with their camera so I can strike up a conversation! I know it’s an over-60 thing, but I do love doing it! Where else can I meet so many people?”

Compared to a land-based vacation, the social atmosphere on a cruise is much more prevalent. Those over 60 who enjoy meeting new people from around the world will love making connections with other passengers and crew onboard.

Choose between adventure or relaxation

Another benefit of cruising over 60 is having the choice between adventure and relaxation. Your travel style at 60 is likely a bit more relaxed than in your younger years, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of exciting experiences!

“At my age, you may have the energy to be adventurous in the morning, but all you want to do in the evening is relax,” Brad explained. “On cruises you can do both, and in no particular order!”

Many older cruisers find themselves enjoying a mix of thrill-seeking and chill experiences on a cruise. You may choose to play pickleball with friends in the morning, try the escape room in the afternoon, and spend a peaceful evening on your balcony.

Or perhaps you sleep in, spend all afternoon on the pool deck, and save your energy for a late night of dancing! There’s no wrong way to cruise, whether you’re 25 or 75, and having options is what makes a cruise such a wonderful way to vacation.

No cleaning required

Cabin desk

Cleaning on vacation? No thanks.

A major benefit of a cruise vacation is avoiding any house chores during your vacation. On a cruise, there’s no need to empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, run the vacuum, or mop the floors.

Royal Caribbean’s crew members work diligently to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for guests onboard. A stateroom attendant picks up your room twice per day, attentive waiters quickly deliver food, and maintenance crew can handle any potential issues that arise.

Brad enjoys the escape from housekeeping whenever he is on a cruise and joked, “Between no cooking and no housekeeping, these are my wife’s favorite things!”

Easy to plan

Brad’s aforementioned summer trips to Lake Powell involved a lot of planning.

“I never relaxed the entire trip. I was constantly working on equipment, worrying about various issues with the houseboat, the ski boat, and the jet skis. While I loved being there with my family, I rarely relaxed, and when I got home, I had to take a ‘vacation from vacation’ to unwind!”

A cruise, on the other hand, involves little planning, which is something Brad loves most about the cruise vacation experience. Royal Caribbean handles the transportation logistics, dining, and entertainment onboard, leaving you with nothing but time to rest and relax.

Junior Suite balcony on Anthem of the Seas

Brad explained how booking a cruise is easy, too.

“Most cruise lines have really easy to understand websites. They are simple to navigate through. However, if you are not so tech savvy, just call a travel agent and they will do it for you. All you really have to do is pick a date, and maybe a few potential destinations, and they will do the rest!”

Related: Top 5 things to look for in a good travel agent for your cruise vacation

We agree with Brad in that having a good travel agent can make your cruise planning process even simpler. Travel agents can help with the entire booking process; they’re available to answer any questions you have, plan travel to and from the port, and handle any discrepancies in the cruise planning process.

Exotic and romantic

Cruise vacations can offer an exotic and romantic cruising experience for those over 60, whether you sail to the Bahamas, Mexico, or Europe!

“I recently planned a cruise where we are going to celebrate our 49th anniversary, a birthday, and recovery from a liver transplant,” Brad explained. “Now that is a lot to pack into one celebration cake, but where better to celebrate than on the open ocean. I can’t wait!”

There are plenty of ways to celebrate a special occasion onboard, including:

  • Booking an intimate dinner at a specialty restaurant
  • Surprising your significant other with a spa treatment
  • Upgrading your cabin to a balcony or suite
  • Planning a private shore excursion
  • Arranging for decorations or desserts to be delivered to your cabin on embarkation day

Just being onboard is a romantic experience for many cruisers, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular for celebrations like honeymoons and anniversaries. Cruising over 60 is a perfect way to make new memories with a loved one in a beautiful and stress-free way.

No responsibilities

Whether you’re 30 or 60, life is full of responsibilities. From taking care of grandkids to yard work, a cruise offers an amazing escape from mundane responsibilities back home, and this is the top reason Brad loves cruising with Royal Caribbean.

“I can relax from minute one on the cruise,” he stated. “I am totally unplugged for a week or so and don’t need to call or follow up on anything! We can come and go as we like, doing as much or as little as we want.

“We can go to bed early or stay up late, it just really doesn’t matter. Just about the only responsibility we have is to make sure we have fun, enjoy each other’s company, and do it all again the next day.”

Are you a cruiser over 60? What are your top recommendations and advice for other passengers over 60 planning a cruise? Let us know in the comments below!

The 10 commandments of a great cruise ship vacation

01 Feb 2023

There's a lot of cruise ship tips and tricks, but what are the most repeated bits of cruise advice I give to readers every week?

Wonder of the Seas in Port Canaveral

I host question and answer sessions on our YouTube and Facebook channels every week, and there's all sorts of questions about going on a cruise that are asked.  Over the years, I've definitely developed a few tenants of cruising that I think are critical.

To be fair, a lot of the advice I give out are opinions based on my own experience that I think will benefit others.  But there are also some pieces of advice that I think are hard and fast rules everyone should follow because the consequences of skipping them could result in a dramatically worse experience.

While cruises are designed to be very easy going and require very little pre-planning, anyone that's cruised a lot will tell you the more effort you put in in advance, the higher dividends you see later in overall experience and avoiding problems.

Promenade Deck

In reflecting on the cruise tips and advice I dole out each week, I wanted to come up with the 10 most important pieces of cruise advice I would give to just about anyone.  These are universal truths that I think are imperative to having a great cruise and skipping them could lead to problems later on.

You might be able to skip all of them and still have a fun time, but you only stand to benefit and protect yourself against pitfalls by following these "commandments". My hope is they'll save you time, money, or both.

1. Never fly the same day your cruise departs

Houston Hobby airport

There are places in you vacation cut corners, but your flight to your cruise ship isn't one of them.

Flying in the same day your cruise ship departs is playing with fire when it comes to being able to make the cruise.  Flights get delayed and cancelled all the time, no matter which time of year it is.

What you want to do is fly in at least one day before your cruise begins.

Miami downtown night

Sure, an extra night before the cruise sails means the added cost of a hotel room, vacation day from work, dog sitter, and a variety of other expenses.  But it will cost you much more if you miss your cruise because your flight prevents you from getting to the ship before it departs.

It doesn't take a nationwide airline problem to be the reason your flight gets cancelled. Everyday flights get delayed and cancelled, and there's no reason to chance your entire vacation on the connecting flight being on time or a snow storm in Milwaukee shutting things down.

I've seen too many people miss their cruise because they flew the same day of the cruise, so add an extra day before and start your vacation sooner.

2. Pre-purchase add-ons and re-price later. Don't wait to book

Soda cup

A lot of people will try to time Royal Caribbean's sale in the same way they would time a sale on jeans at the mall.  Unlike retail stores, you can reprice purchases much easier before the cruise.

First and foremost, the price for that Royal Caribbean drink package, wifi, or shore excursion will cost less if you buy it before the cruise.

What you want to do is buy it in the Cruise Planner as soon as you think you know you want to get it. Lock in the price and then you're good.

However, if the price goes down at any point before your cruise, you can cancel and rebook it quite easily in the Cruise Planner website.

This may lead some to wonder why not just wait to see if there's a price drop, and if there isn't, book it in those last few days. The reason why that's a bad idea is because prices can go up.

Booking these things before the cruise locks in the price and protects you against a price increase, while still allowing you to re-price if the price goes down.

3. Book your cruise as early as you can for the lowest price

Deck view of Symphony of the Seas

If your cruise vacation is that big trip you're going to take, be sure to book the cruise as soon as you can for the lowest price.

Generally speaking, the best prices for cruises are when they first go on sale. In the months leading up to your cruise, more people book up cabins on a given sailing and that drives up prices.

The best strategy for locking in the cruise ship cabin you want at the price you can afford is to book it as early as you can. Booking six, twelve, or even 18 months in advance will likely get you a better price than if you wait longer.

Mariner of the Seas sailing away

Moreover, booking early gets you the cabin category and location you really want.

While last-minute cruise deals do exist, they're few and far between and it may not line up with the time of year you want to sail.  Or the cabin selections could be extremely limited.

Book early and if you're in certain countries, re-price up to final payment date if there is a lower price.

4. Always buy travel insurance

Symphony back view

I used to consider travel insurance as a discretionary purchase that some people could skip, but it seems like the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.

Like all insurance, it's a waste of money until you need it.

Most people think of travel insurance in terms of health benefits if you were to get sick or hurt in a foreign country, but I think it's far more likely to come in handy in the course of regular travel.

Airplane cabin

Did you know travel insurance covers trip interruption and cancellations? It protects you when unforeseen events occur that would otherwise leave you high and dry financially.

Considering basic travel insurance is likely going to cost you much less than a drink package, it's an investment worth taking every time, just in case.

5. Complete the entire online check-in before the cruise

I hate wasting time on my vacation, and the biggest waste of time on a cruise is standing around in the cruise terminal doing things you could have done at home.

Royal Caribbean's check-in process is super simple and it behooves you to complete all the steps before the cruise so that you can breeze through the cruise terminal.

The goal of the online check-in is to get passengers from curb to ship as quickly as possible. 

If you upload all your documentation, take a photo, and enter your billing information, you'll find it takes you longer to walk through the terminal than actually checking-in. It's time saved so you can do more onboard.

6. All ships are great, but look at what it has and doesn't have

Liberty of the Seas

I get asked all the time if a certain Royal Caribbean cruise ship is good, or what is the worst ship in the fleet.

There isn't any ship I don't recommend and no ship is so bad everyone should avoid it. But there are ships that might not be a good fit for you and your family.

Not all Royal Caribbean cruise ships are the same, and that means they all don't have the same restaurants, activities, amenities, or features you might want in a ship.

The primary reason someone may not like a ship is because it lacks something they personally value as important. Water slides, specialty dining, public venues, or even types of cabins could be reasons why a particular ship isn't great for you.

What you want to do is compare the ship you are considering to other ships to figure out what it has and what it doesn't have, and then decide which you would prefer.

Managing expectations is key to having a great cruise, so don't get onboard and be surprised when something you assumed was going to be there isn't there.

7. Use a travel agent

Aft balcony

I'm still shocked how many people don't use a travel agent when booking their cruise, but you only stand to benefit by using a good one.

Many are unaware travel agents still exist, or that they can be beneficial when it comes to cruises.

A travel agent's value is more than just booking a cruise. Anyone can book a cruise. 

Hump room

Travel agents' value is saving you time and money, as well as being your answer hotline along the way.

They may have special group rates or discounts you hadn't considered, but they're also the ones that sit on hold with Royal Caribbean instead of you when there's a problem or discrepancy.

If you used a travel agent and didn't like them, that's fine, find one that is awesome. They exist, you just haven't found them yet. 

Promenade deck

Just like how you can't rely on one restaurant, lawyer, or park as the basis for judging all other restaurants, lawyers, or parks, there are all sorts of travel agents out there. Get a personal recommendation from someone you know and trust and you'll be surprised how helpful a travel agent can be.

Oh, and a travel agent should never cost you anything extra. The cruise line pays them a commission and the price is the same whether you book directly with them or with the agent.

8. Book dining reservations as soon as you get onboard

Izumi hibachi on Mariner of the Seas

Specialty dining packages have never been as popular as they are today, so if you buy one, be sure to make reservations as soon as you get onboard.

Dining packages can save you a lot of money compared to going to the same number of restaurants and paying the normal cover charge.  The "trade off" is you have to wait to book a reservation for a specific restaurant at a specific time until you get on the ship.

As soon as you board the ship, go to any specialty restaurant and ask them to make reservations for you.  They can book any other specialty restaurant.

By making reservations on the first day as soon as you board, you'll likely get a time and location you really want.

9. Research ports in advance

Puerto Plata

Shore excursions can often be very "hit or miss" due to how many options there are and the variety of vendors.

The ports of call you visit are a major component to any cruise vacation, and you have just a few hours to make the most of your time there. It greatly benefits you to have a plan in place before you arrive to save you time, money, or sanity.

Once you book the cruise, look into which tours and things to do there are in each port you are visiting.  Book tours through reputable providers and have a plan.

Odyssey of the Seas in Curacao

All too often people report back they had a disappointing time in port because the tour wasn't what they expected, they were unaware of what there was to do, or they simply chose poorly.

Read as much as you can about the places you'll visit and pick the right activity for you.

10. Sign up for activities before the cruise or once onboard

There's limited capacity for shows and signature activities, so make a reservation whenever you can, as soon as you can.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to book activities and shows up to a month before the cruise on Oasis and Quantum Class ships.  Other ships may have reservations available once you get onboard and connect to the wifi to book it via the Royal Caribbean app.

Regardless of which way is available, book things up to assure yourself of a spot.

 It’s not uncommon with some ships to find that some shows, tours and activities book up in advance.

The FAA system outage reminded us why you shouldn't violate 1 of the biggest unwritten rules about cruise planning

11 Jan 2023

If you're flying to your cruise, take heed of what happened today as an important reminder of what not to do.

Mariner of the Seas anchored

Today’s air travel fiasco following a Federal Aviation Administration computer outage affected over 8,000 flights today (and counting), and it reminded us why it’s important to fly to your cruise port the day before your cruise begins.

One of the absolute worst mistakes you can make when planning a cruise vacation is to fly to your embarkation port the same day your cruise begins.

Airline delays, cancellations, and other unexpected problems are common, so it’s crucial to plan enough buffer time with your flights to ensure you can make it to the ship on time.

What happened this morning at the Federal Aviation Administration?

Flights in the United States were grounded Wednesday morning following an overnight computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA’s pilot alerting system crashed, leading the agency to perform a hard reset of their system around 2 a.m.

The cause of the problem is still unknown, but there has not been any evidence of a cyber attack.

Around 7,100 flights in the United States were delayed Wednesday and over 1,100 canceled due to the outage, according to Flight Aware.

According to the FAA’s 7:15 a.m. EST statement, the agency “ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”

Just an hour later, at 8:15 a.m. EST, departures were already resuming at Newark Liberty (EWR) and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) airports. By 8:50 a.m. EST, normal air traffic operations were resuming across the country.

Despite departures resuming, it’s possible the outage will affect flights through Friday. The ripple effect caused by today’s grounding of flights may affect millions of passengers this week, many of whom will be forced to cancel or rebook trips.

After so many flight delays today, this is a great opportunity to remind those planning a cruise that booking air travel correctly can make the difference between making and missing your cruise vacation.

Don’t fly to your cruise port on embarkation day

Galveston terminal entry

There are too many unpredictable scenarios with air travel. Weather delays, missed connections, and yes, even a computer outage by the FAA, can potentially occur on any travel day.

Flying to your cruise port on embarkation day is risky, and you’re risking missing your cruise by doing so. A cruise ship will not wait for one passenger with a delayed flight when 5,000 other passengers are onboard and ready to set sail.

Related: The 20 worst cruise mistakes that will ruin your cruise vacation

Because of this, we always urge passengers to fly in at least one day before the cruise begins. By flying to your embarkation port the day or evening before, you have much more wiggle room in your flight schedule. If your first flight is delayed and you miss a connecting flight, you can always be placed on a flight later in the day. 

Likewise, if your flight is unexpectedly canceled, having 24 hours before your cruise departs gives you time to figure out an alternative way to the cruise terminal.

Here are a few additional ways to minimize the chance of travel delays when booking airfare before your cruise:

  • Book a direct flight whenever possible
  • Don’t book a layover shorter than 1 hour. If your first flight is delayed even 30 minutes, you may not catch the second flight on time.
  • Book flights earlier in the day. There’s often a ripple effect of delays throughout the day as incoming flights arrive late. Booking the earliest flights of the day can help negate this issue.

Although you’ll have to pay for a hotel by arriving ahead of time, spending $200 on a place to stay for the night is much preferred to spending $2000 on a cruise only to miss the ship because of a travel delay.

As a plus, flying in early means you have extra time to explore your embarkation ports. Many of Royal Caribbean’s embarkation ports are located in the country’s most intriguing cities, from Miami to Los Angeles and New York. These cities make the perfect place to kick off your vacation one day early.

Other considerations to make when planning travel to your cruise

Promenade deck

Outside of booking a flight the day before your cruise departs, there are a few other ways you can make your cruise vacation go much more smoothly.

First is to book your cruise with a travel agent. Following a major delay like the FAA encountered today, chaos can ensue with thousands of people calling airlines and cruise lines.

If you book your cruise with a travel agent, they can be the ones calling Royal Caribbean and figuring out an alternative scenario for your vacation plans. A travel agent should not cost you anything extra, meaning you have access to their helpful resources at no additional cost.

Related: Top 5 things to look for in a good travel agent for your cruise vacation

Galveston cruise terminal with Allure of the Seas behind it

Travel agents can be a lifesaver in stressful situations such as what happened today at airports across the country.

Another thing to consider is purchasing travel insurance before your cruise. While you may not end up using the insurance on your vacation, it’s always better to be prepared rather than need travel insurance when you don’t have it.

Travel insurance covers you from the moment you leave for your cruise vacation until when you return home. Depending on the plan, you should expect travel insurance to cover airline delays, cancellations, lost luggage, injury or sickness, and medical treatment onboard your cruise ship.

If you cruise frequently, you may even want to consider an annual travel insurance plan, which can cost as little as $125-300 per person.

Related: Should you buy annual travel insurance plans?

We recommend the following travel insurance companies for your cruise:

  • Allianz Travel Insurance (great for annual plans)
  • AIG Travel Guard
  • Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
  • Travelsafe Insurance

The Bottom Line

With so many flight delays and cancellations today, the Federal Aviation Administration outage served as a reminder to never book flights the same day your cruise begins. Far too many people risk their entire cruise vacation by booking a same-day flight, and in our opinion, it's never worth it.

As you plan your next cruise vacation, be sure to book flights that leave plenty of time for you to make it to your ship in time. After all, it's much better to spend an extra night by the beach in Miami than to start your vacation stressed about missing the ship!

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