There are a handful of cruise tips that are so important, I feel everyone should follow them, and anyone who went on a cruise this weekend was likely reminded of how critical they are.
Thanks to severe weather, technical issues, and air traffic control problems, it was a messy weekend for flying to Florida.
Over 3,500 flights were cancelled this past weekend, including a lot on Sunday on JetBlue and Southwest. JetBlue cancelled 25% of its schedule on Sunday, and 15% cancelled on Saturday. Southwest cancelled more than 500 flights on Saturday and almost 400 on Sunday due to the bad weather. Flights on American Airlines, Spirit, and Allegiant Airlines all saw their fair share of cancellations as well.
Regardless of your airline, Orlando and Miami International airports were the top two airports in the world by origin and destination to see flights cancelled and delayed on Sunday.
In light of all the recent delays and cancellations, this is a good opportunity to remind everyone of three core planning tips for your cruise that everyone should consider.
Don't fly to your cruise the same day it departs
In short, flying to your cruise ship the same day the ship embarks passengers is playing with fire.
You've spent a lot of time and money planning your perfect cruise vacation, so why let a cancelled flight or delay possibly jeopardize your plans?
Flying in the same day of your cruise leaves very few options if something like what happened this past weekend were to occur. Remember, this happened in early April, which is not even hurricane season.
Coming in at least one day early gives you a buffer against any flight delays or cancellations impacting your ability to get onboard the ship.
Yes, this means paying for a hotel, but peace of mind is worth something, and losing money on your vacation because you didn't want to spend a little extra for a night at the Holiday Inn Express seems like a worthwhile expense.
As a nice side effect, coming into your city early also starts your vacation a little sooner!
Buy travel insurance
The truth about any type of insurance is it's likely money spent for something you won't need, but if you do need it, it feels great having it.
Travel insurance covers a lot of costs if you were to find yourself in a scenario where your travel plans prohibited you from making the cruise.
As we move away from the Cruise with Confidence program and the ability to cancel at the very last minute, having a good travel insurance policy makes a lot of sense once again.
If your flight gets delayed or cancelled and you are unable to make the cruise, travel insurance pays you back for the cruise you missed, along with incidental costs along the way.
Depending on your age, residency, and exact plan you pick, the costs will vary, but figure on spending around $100-170 per person for travel insurance.
Ask your travel agent for suggestions, but here are a few popular travel insurance providers:
Allianz Global Assistance
AIG Travel Guard
Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
There are also a few travel insurance comparison websites out there, such as Insure My Trip or SquareMouth.
Use a good travel agent
There is no more frustrating endeavor right now than trying to call Royal Caribbean due to their extremely long hold times.
If a delay means your cruise plans are in trouble, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or more on hold waiting for someone at Royal Caribbean to answer. While I love cruising with Royal Caribbean, their phone centers have been inundated with calls recently, and that's lead to very long hold times.
The way around this problem is to book your cruise with a good travel agent.
Here at RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com, we love to cruise, just like you. We book as many sailings as our work and spouses will tolerate, and are always on the hunt for the next tip that makes our sailing easier.
Getting back on a ship this past year has come with its own challenges, but thanks to a lot of trial and error, we find something that just works.
I asked our writers and moderators for which cruise tips they used in 2021 that really helped them out. I wanted to know which cruise tips they found really helpful in their own experience.
1. Book shows as soon as you board
One unexpected change since cruises returned is Royal Caribbean has not brought back the ability to pre-book entertainment via the Cruise Planner site.
As a result, writer Marcy Miyar was adamant it's important to book all of your shows as soon as you board, "The vaccinated ice shows seem to fill up especially quick so I like to get that done right away."
You can easily do this by connecting to Royal Caribbean's wifi network once onboard the ship and pulling up the Royal Caribbean app.
Don't worry, you don't need an internet plan to use the app. Once you connect, you can click the option to just use the app, and it will allow you to book the shows.
Staying on top of all the policy changes, cancellations, and new options is no easy task. Working with a good travel agent is an easy way to make it all simpler.
Chantal McPhee is one of our writers from Canada. While she was not able to sail yet, she found a travel agent invaluable, "I did not get to cruise in 2021 as I switched my Christmas cruise to May 2022."
"Having a good travel agent really pays off as she handled cancelling flights and hotels as well as dealing with Royal Caribbean. Saved me tons of time."
Writer Allie Hubers also found tremendous value in using a good travel agent, "The last year, I have really grown to appreciate having a travel agent. It's a great resource that doesn't cost you (as a cruiser) anything additional."
There are great deals on cruises out there, and one of the best ways to ensure you have the best price is to re-price.
Video editor and writer Jenna DeLaurentis loves the enhanced Best Price Guarantee, which allows re-pricing of cruises up to 48 hours before the cruise departs, "My travel agent repriced my cruise on Mariner of the Seas several times before I set sail."
"By the time I boarded the ship, I had over $400 of onboard credit that I used to purchase specialty dining, drinks, and souvenirs throughout the cruise."
Message board moderator Lovetocruise2002 added it's a good idea to not only track prices, but look for upgrade opportunities, "Keep checking the site if you are looking to upgrade especially with all the cancellations lately."
7. Get travel insurance
With the unknowns and last-minute changes, Allie thinks getting travel insurance is a must-do.
"Travel insurance is very important during the pandemic, although Royal really seems to have great policies in place that other cruise lines don't have."
8. Be generous to the crew members
If you've been on a cruise in 2021 or 2022, then you know how much harder the crew members have been working to make your vacation fun.
Between the added demand of filling in for fellow crew that have contracted Covid-19, and trying to make up for lost wages during the shutdown, it's clear the crew are doing everything they can to deliver on the promise of a great experience for guests while balancing their own sanity.
Jenna advocates taking care of the crew too, "Being generous about tipping the crew is a good one too maybe since there is limited capacity so they have less guests tipping onboard."
A mantra of travel during the pandemic has been to go with a certain amount of flexibility and understanding given the realities of travel right now.
Allie said to go into a cruise vacation with the right mindset, "Be prepared for flexibility. I never dreamed of traveling to Alaska but the opportunity presented itself and we just wanted to cruise. Policies and itineraries change - you can't expect to board a cruise and it will be the same experience that you had pre-pandemic."
To that point, having contingency plans is not a bad idea either, according to Allie, "I think it's important to know your rights and have a plan in place when there's a change in travel plans, such as cancellations, testing positive onboard or beforehand, changing itineraries, refund vs FCC, etc."
Going on a cruise in 2022 is not like going on a cruise before the global health crisis, so planning for one needs to be different as well.
The good news is that cruise ships are sailing, and there are a few important things you can do during this time to prepare for a 2022 cruise in spring, summer, winter or fall.
I wanted to share with you tips for being prepared, rather than tips for onboard the ship. Check out our awesome cruise tips & tricks if you want to know a few ways to enhance your cruise experience onboard.
Here are 22 tips you will need for planning any cruise vacation this year.
1. Never assume your plans are written in stone
If there's been one constant with cruises since they restarted, it is that no plans are ever a sure bet.
More than likely, a cruise you have booked in 2022 will probably happen, but itinerary changes are quite possible, and even a cancellation cannot be ruled out.
Where your cruise to is important, and I think most people focus on the ports of call, but when considering which ship to sail on, you might place a greater value on a ship that has the features, staterooms, and dining options that appeal to you most.
Statistically, there's a good chance your cruise will happen and the ports you have scheduled will occur. Remember, the media isn't reporting on all the ships that successfully stopped at each port, so it's easy to lose sight of the fact most ships and visits are occurring as scheduled.
2. Keep an eye on your final payment date
Royal Caribbean has been pushing back final payment dates for upcoming sailings, so don't assume your final payment date is a lock.
It has never been so important to have flexible cancellation terms, so skip non-refundable cruise fare and go for refundable.
5. Get travel insurance
If it does look like your cruise might happen, now might be the best time to invest in a travel insurance plan.
Travel insurance is a smart investment for many people because it covers you when you go on your vacation and some calamity were to happen, but travel insurance is not a catch-all for vacation plan changes prior to the start of vacation.
Travel insurance is not all the same, so read the policy to be clear on what it covers. Make sure it covers cruise ships.
6. Download the Royal Caribbean App
Royal Caribbean's app went from "nice to have" in 2019 to "must-have" in 2022.
Even if you don't plan to use the app much while onboard, the app is incredibly easy and helpful for the check-in procedure.
If it's too early to check-in for your cruise, Royal Caribbean's app will let you know on which date it will become available.
In the app, it will list a date that check-in will open. Make a reminder or calendar appointment so you can be among the first to get a check-in time.
And yes, you can still check in if you haven't paid in full yet.
8. Watch the Cruise with Confidence program
Royal Caribbean offers generous cancellation terms with its Cruise with Confidence program, but keep an eye on if/when it is set to expire or gets extended.
Cruise with Confidence is the option that allows you to cancel your cruise up to 48 hours before the sailing with no penalty.
Royal Caribbean has demonstrated thus far that as long as Covid remains a worldwide threat, they will keep Cruise with Confidence running.
Moreover, you should be well aware of Royal Caribbean's refund and cancellation policy. If you change your mind, do you want cash back? Or is a credit okay with you.
9. Use a travel agent
It's still surprising to me how many people are hesitant to use a travel agent after all the cancellations and changes over the last two years, but I think not using a travel agent is doing yourself a great disservice.
Travel agents have been so incredibly helpful and with the changing policies and cruise cancellations, they are absolutely essential now. Get over the fact you cannot change the reservation yourself and use a good travel agent to save time and perhaps even money.
10. Don't be afraid to ask your travel agent for help
In addition to using a travel agent to book a cruise, they are there to assist with other questions too.
No one has all the answers, but travel agents get looped in by Royal Caribbean with what is happening right now, and have a good view of the changing landscape of cruises.
If you end up punting on the cruise, travel agents can also book you at resorts around the world.
If there's one good thing to come out of the last two years, it's the simplified safety drill.
Royal Caribbean's new emuster allows travelers to review the information at their own time prior to setting sail, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies.
After reviewing safety information individually, guests complete the drill by visiting their assigned assembly station, where a crew member will verify that all steps have been completed and answer questions. Each of the steps will need to be completed prior to the ship’s departure, as required by international maritime law.
12. Don't rule out more cancelled cruises
I thought we were past cruise cancellations, but Royal Caribbean had to cancel several cruises in 2022, so we're not quite out of the woods when it comes to that possibility.
Unlike in 2020, it looks like there will not be an industry shutdown. Instead, strategic cancellations that coincide with health concerns on certain ships.
13. Look for good deals
Another silver lining to the current situation with higher case counts is that softer demand for cruises may mean an opportunity to get a better price for later this year, or even in 2023.
When there have been surges or waves in the past, prices for cruises tend to drop due to cancellations.
If you want to roll the dice on booking something for later this year when theoretically the current wave is over, it might not be a bad way to snag a really good price.
Between booking a refundable fare and Royal Caribbean's flexible cancellation terms, you can always change your mind later if that new booking ends up not being a good idea.
14. Don't wait to renew your passport
Passport renewals have been an up and down game of crazy long processing times, followed by improvement, and then back again.
If your passport is coming up for renewal anytime soon, you should get a head start on getting it renewed in anticipation of delays due to the current health crisis.
15. Expect (last minute) policy changes
Another constant since Royal Caribbean restarted cruises in 2021 has been changes to its onboard protocols, and they can change at any point.
Something that has caught a lot of cruisers off-guard has been changes at the last minute to protocols.
Don't look at policy changes as inherently bad. Rather, if you are ready for them, it makes the impact far less stressful.
16. Stay aware of travel restrictions
Stay on top of your state/province/country travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, especially for returning home after a trip.
Keep in mind when you see news about new testing requirements for a country your ship will visit, than often times those policies apply to tourists arriving via airplanes. Cruise ship travel is usually handled under different requirements.
17. Plan on spending more time relaxing than before
Just like all sectors of industry right now, Omicron is causing short-staffing situations on ships.
With less crew members available, there's the real possibility there will be less organized activities to do, especially the performance entertainment.
It's a good idea to plan on spending more time at the pool, or on your balcony enjoying being on the water, rather than jumping from activity to activity.
18. Don't count on your kids going to Adventure Ocean every night
Pre-2020, I would drop my kids off at Adventure Ocean every evening, but the limited capacity there means it's not always possible.
Depending on how many passengers are on your ship, getting your kids in every evening may not be possible.
When you sign up the kids on the first day, ask about how many reservations you can make in advance. Then, ask when you pick up your kids if there's a way to make reservations for another night.
Packing some things for your kids to do while in the cabin is also a good idea. Coloring books, toys, mad libs, tablets, video games and more might be a way to save both of your sanities later.
19. Buy the at-home tests
Assuming you don't have any unvaccinated kids, the at-home Covid-19 tests are the way to go for your pre-cruise test.
Another effect of the Omicron surge has been getting a test appointment at a pharmacy or other venue has become nearly impossible. Buying the at-home tests is not only easier than getting an appointment elsewhere, it's also faster and simpler.
If you need to get your kids tested (unvaccinated cannot use the at-home tests), I would try to book an appointment as soon as possible.
For international travelers, there are testing facilities at the airport (book an appointment online).
Urgent care locations are also a good backup option, since they don't take advanced reservations and are walk-up. In Florida, lines for these have been extremely long, but you may get lucky.
20. Don't take cruise rumors on social media as gospel
Social media is a great way to share information, but it can also be a source of bad information.
If you read a post on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit that tells of a change or experience that is a surprise to you, don't always assume they're correct.
I've seen plenty of misinformed posts, even if they heard it from a crew member. Rumors spread faster than facts, so it may be a good idea to cross-check what you read with others on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards.
21. Book refundable airfare, hotels and excursions
Just like it's important to book refundable cruise fare so you can change your mind, it's equally important to have other aspects of your trip easily refundable.
Hotels are the easiest, since most rates are refundable up to a day or two before you arrive. Avoid the temptation to book non-refundable hotel fare in order to save a few dollars.
When it comes to airfare, look at the refund policies. Paying more for a refundable fare so you can change your mind later might be worth the higher cost. Likewise, you might consider booking airfare through Royal Caribbean's Air2 Sea program to provide more flexible terms.
Most shore excursions, whether booked through Royal Caribbean or not, provide a refund if your ship is unable to visit. Be sure to double check that policy before you book.
That perfect cruise itinerary has been booked for months, you've got everything ready to go, and the notion of cancelling your cruise seems unfathomable at this point.
However, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant is giving just about everyone second thoughts about their travel plans.
Between Royal Caribbean's incredibly high level of health protocols and certain steps you can take as a traveler, there are some ways to travel and stay relatively safe.
If you decide to go ahead with your cruise, here are some things I would recommend doing so that your cruise is enjoyable.
Be okay with changes, especially at the last minute
If nothing else, you need to be totally fine with an email or letter in your stateroom informing you that your plans need to change.
Whether it is a new health protocol or your ship changing itinerary, travel right now is full of changes on an almost daily basis.
While most people generally don't like change, I think there's a lot of folks are fine with these updates as long as they still get to go on vacation.
I certainly recall during the cruise industry shutdown of 2020-21 where I would have absolutely paid money to sit on my balcony and do nothing else. Luckily, a cruise today still offers a much better experience than that.
Be aware that changes could be announced at anytime, and there is no point where the cruise line cannot announce something. If that sounds okay to you, go ahead with the cruise. Otherwise, defer your vacation until later.
Cruise ships are packed with so many activities and events onboard, but with Covid affecting crew members just as much as passengers, the ships can sometimes be short staffed.
The result of less crew is there may be less activities offered onboard.
My advice is plan on a cruise that resembles a classic cruise experience, rather than one where you could count on every single event and signature activity being open.
Admittedly, this is a "glass is half full" approach to planning the cruise. But I think it keeps expectations in line so you can only be pleasantly surprised when there's more to do onboard.
If I'm going on a ship tomorrow, I would pack more books or card games so I could enjoy that almost anywhere. I'd pack my kids' Nintendo Switch or iPads so they have something to do in the room when Adventure Ocean is full.
I might also plan to spend more time (and money) in the casino.
A time-honored cruise tradition is time spent at the pool, and I would figure to spend more time up there. Maybe even an afternoon nap, which is the best indulgence of vacation, if you ask me.
Bring N95 masks
I'm not a health expert, but it seems a lot of health experts are advocating upgrading your mask to a N95 or KN95 mask.
It's not always possible, but an easy strategy of avoiding higher-risk situations is to book outdoor shore excursions.
Catamarans, beach days, or hikes are all great examples of tours you can book on your own or through Royal Caribbean to be able to do something fun in the ports you visit while avoiding being indoors.
Not to mention if you plan an outdoor tour, you may be able to ditch the mask (subject to local laws).
On our last cruise, we took three tours that were all almost exclusively outdoors: catamaran, ATV, and beach day excursions.
Obviously if you did something indoors that is not to say you are putting yourself in harm's way. Rather, if the Covid cases are worrying you, there are lots of good tours outdoors you can book.
Air travel tips
In addition to not being a public health expert, I'm also not an air travel expert. But, I've read lots of tips to help prepare for when we flew cross-country for our cruise.
Here are some pieces of airplane advice that I think makes sense.
Book a window seat to avoid exposure to people walking by in the aisle. If you can afford it, this is a great time to upgrade to a business or first class seat because they are less crowded.
Once you are seated on the plane, turn the air blower on to its highest setting to keep as much air moving as possible.
In the airport, try to find the most social distanced place you can find. That is usually not easy, but instead of cramming into a chair near the gate, find a spot to stand away from everyone else where you can see the gate agent so you know when boarding begins.
Now is the time to try upgrade your cabin
I've never been a major fan of Royal Caribbean's bid for a cabin upgrade program, RoyalUp, but if there's a silver lining to Omicron, it is that it has never been easier to get an upgrade.
Last, but not least, if you decide this isn't the time to cruise, you can still change your mind.
Royal Caribbean's Cruise with Confidence program allows anyone to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before the sail date without any penalty, and get a 100% future cruise credit.
You could take that credit and rebook another sailing later in the spring or summer.
I love to cruise, but I would be the first to say if you don't feel comfortable right now, it's okay to push things off. Going back to my first tip, you need to be okay with a certain amount of fluctuating plans. Not everyone will feel that way, so there's nothing wrong with taking some more time before you sail again.
They say all good things must come to an end, and that includes cruise vacations.
As your time left onboard begins to wane, there are a few important things to do before it's time to head off the ship and end your vacation.
Doing so will not only expedite your final morning onboard before you disembark, but avoid regrets or billing problems later.
Here are ten things every cruiser should do on the last day of their sailing before their cruise comes to an end.
Check the bill
Setting your bill is a good idea on the last day of the cruise so you can review everything on there looks to be correct, as well as render payment.
If you have a cash account, you will want to get that squared away before heading to bed. Likewise, if you are sharing a cabin with someone and need to split the bill, or otherwise change how you pay it out, this is the time do so.
If you want to deposit any cash to offset your charges, you can also do this now.
If by chance you still have extra onboard credit that is refundable, you can go to Guest Services to refund it as cash. If your onboard credit is non-refundable onboard credit, go down to the casino and cash it out at one of the slot machines as a cash advance against your account.
This can all be done at Guest Services, although keep in mind that lines for Guest Services on the last day can sometimes get long. The best time to visit Guest Services on the final day is during the day. Everyone seems to go there in the evening.
Remember, get any accounting issues settled while onboard the ship. Calling after the cruise is much more time consuming and difficult.
Royal Caribbean will charge you $25 per pool towel you take that is not returned, so now is the time to bring it back.
The cruise line added this charge after years of guests taking towels and leaving them on shore excursions rather than bringing them back onboard.
Go through your stateroom and ensure any towels you tossed in the corner are brought back to the towel station and double check with the crew member there that your account is all set.
Give out extra tips
If you wanted to reward a specific crew member or two with extra gratuities, the last day is a good time to do it.
Whether your stateroom attendant, favorite bartender, or waiter, the last day is the perfect opportunity to say thank you one more time.
I've often thought I would just see them on the final morning, but you would be surprised how difficult it can be to track down a crew member.
If you prefer to give out cash tips to your stateroom attendant and dining room staff, you can opt to do that by going to Guest Services and asking to pay cash tips and remove the automatic gratuity from your account.
If you want assistance with getting your luggage off the ship, Royal Caribbean will deliver your bags from your stateroom to the cruise terminal.
The key is to leave your bags out by a certain time on the final night of the cruise, usually 10pm. Check the paperwork left in your stateroom on the last day to confirm what time bags need to be out in the hallway by.
Also be sure to affix the luggage tags provided to you in your stateroom on the last day so that your luggage gets delivered. It is also a good idea to take a photo of the luggage tag so you don't forget which number is yours.
Even though I mentioned it in the previous tip, I will mention it again: make sure you leave clothes to wear for the next morning, as well as any medication and toiletries.
If you had a great time onboard, maybe a stop at NextCruise to book another vacation makes sense.
NextCruise is where you can go to book a new Royal Caribbean cruise, and they will give you the added benefit of reduced deposit and extra onboard credit.
Just like Guest Services and the photo area, the last day tends to be quite busy at NextCruise. You can book a reservation via the sign up sheet out front, or hope for an open slot as you walk by. The earlier in the day, the more likely there will be times available to chat.
If all else fails, NextCruise is usually open the final morning of the cruise. Be sure to check with the staff for exact times.
Assuming you don't go back one last time to double down, be sure to cash out your casino chips.
Royal Caribbean is quite specific that if you fail to cash in your casino chips or vouchers, they are not eligible for cash after the cruise ends. It is quite common for guests to leave these items in their pocket and forget to cash them out later.
Whether you won big or this is all you have left, be sure to get the cash for them.
Take a Covid test
If you need a negative Covid test result to get back into your country of origin, make sure you have a test done onboard the last day of the cruise.
Royal Caribbean will provide a complimentary Covid test to any passenger that requests one, but you need to schedule it earlier than the last day. My advice is ask to book one on the first day or two of the cruise so you can be in the schedule.
Just be sure to show up for the Covid test on time, as testing is limited.
Check-in for your flight
If you are flying home after your cruise, it may make sense to complete the online check-in for your flight (especially if you are flying Southwest Airlines).
You can purchase a 24 hour pass for Royal Caribbean's internet onboard to do this (assuming you didn't buy a Voom package before). Suite guests can usually get the assistance of the Suite Concierge to help complete it.
If you need to print out a boarding pass or other paperwork, speak to Guest Service or the Suite Concierge.
Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with friends is a great way to travel with your besties without feeling you have to be attached at the hip the entire time. Because there is so much to do on a ship, it allows different personalities to do what they enjoy, while still being together.
Taking friends on a cruise comes with its own challenges to ensure you all have a great time onboard. The good news with a little bit of planning, you can ensure your friends enjoy the cruise without any hiccups.
Before you book a sailing or get onboard with your matching shirts, be sure to heed this advice for a great start.
Book with the same travel agent
Whether you have two or ten cabins, book everyone under the same travel agent for simplicity.
Not only could you potentially get group benefits from Royal Caribbean if you book enough cabins, but being booked under the same travel agent really makes coordinating onboard plans a lot simpler.
Travel agents make it so much easier to remind your pals it's time to make final payment, or answer any sort of billing questions with the cruise line. You love your friends, but dealing with friends and their financial situation is no fun.
In addition, a travel agent can easily link everyone's reservations together so that dining together is simple.
If there was a need to cancel or change sail dates, having the same agent makes the process much easier.
Talk about priorities
Unlike family, sometimes expressing what you really want to do with friends can be tough since you don't want to offend anyone or come off as appearing to be needy. However, you should have a good idea of what everyone wants from the sailing before you book.
There is a fine line between planning ahead and becoming burdensome with a schedule. Everyone comes in with different ideas about how much they want to to do together, or not.
Before the cruise, have a conversation about what they are looking forward to doing, especially together. It is a good idea to figure out is this a trip where you will all hang out all day, or just meet up for drinks.
Have a communication plan
Onboard a cruise ship, there is no cellular phone service, so you should have a plan on how everyone will chat.
Group chats in apps like Facebook or WhatsApp are very common, but you will all need to get an internet package.
You could use walkie talkies or rely on voicemails in your cabins, but these tend to be more cumbersome.
The key is to ensure you all agree on something before you get onboard so no one is left in the dark.
One of the best pieces of advice for friends on a cruise is at the very least have dinner together every night.
Everyone finds their own activities to do onboard, but it is a good idea to plan to meet up for dinner each night to have a common time to meet.
Whether the main dining room, Windjammer, or specialty restaurants, have a plan for everyone to enjoy dinner together each evening for a time to reconnect and make plans for the following day.
Matching t-shirts are popular
A recent trend among groups is to get matching shirts for everyone in the group.
This not only makes for great group photos, but you can easily identify everyone. This is helpful with large groups.
There are many places online you can customized shirts, or just pick a design and buy one for everyone.
It can be tempting to try to plan every minute of the cruise, but too much of a good thing applies to a cruise too.
If you try to plan too much, things can get quickly overwhelming for some friends in your group, as well as create rifts among friends.
Leave time for everyone to do their own thing, keeping in mind you could still do things together on the fly.
Get separate billing
Sharing a cabin with a friend? Set up different billing methods for each person.
You can assign credit cards to specific people in the room at Guest Services, which makes settling the bill later significantly easier.
In addition, it is a good idea to make clear lines of who is picking up what tab. Shore excursions, dinners, and drink orders are all common ways you could pay for someone else, but be certain before the end of the cruise the bills all look good.
If you need to re-arrange any extra costs, a trip to Guest Services could fix that. Alternatively, you could simply send money electronically to friends after the sailing.
Plan a time to meet on embarkation day
The bigger the group, the more likely everyone will arrive at different times to the cruise terminal on embarkation day, so pick a time to meet.
It is a good idea to pick a time in late afternoon for the meet. Sailaway is a good time that everyone will be onboard and ready for some fun.
Fun things to pack
Here are some good ideas of things to pack to bring on a cruise with friends:
Door decorations (with magnets, not tape to put it up)
The saying "time is money" applies to business, as well as your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation. Every minute you save now, is an extra minute of vacation time you get to enjoy unencumbered.
One of my top pet peeves is wasting time that could have been saved with a little work upfront, especially if it's time spent at home so that things move smoothly onboard.
Whether it saves you two minutes or ten minutes, it all adds up and time saved also reduces stress. I love the feeling of knowing I bypassed what would have otherwise caused me to wait longer. It's like driving in the expressway on the highway when traffic is backed up, but without the extra cost!
Here are 10 easy ways you can save time on your Royal Caribbean cruise with some quick tips.
Download the Royal Caribbean app now
The Royal Caribbean app is super important these days, and if you wait to download it on the ship, you will waste much more time.
Royal Caribbean allows you to download the app for free while using their wifi, but the speeds are super slow. Download it now while you are at home and have a fast internet connection.
Moreover, having the app installed and signed in will make nearly every aspect of the vacation (especially embarkation) much smoother and faster.
While some cruisers might prefer to not have to use a phone on their cruise, there is a difference between using the Royal Caribbean app and checking work email. Put on your out of office message in your email, but keep the Royal Caribbean app primed and ready.
Do everything in the online check-in before the cruise
Speaking of the Royal Caribbean app, there is no excuse for not completing the online check-in before your cruise.
I recommend using the Royal Caribbean app to complete the check-in (in lieu of the Royal Caribbean website) because the app can scan your passport to save time, as well as make the photo upload much easier since your phone has a camera.
If you enter all your information, take the selfie, and add a credit card to your account, you will fly through the cruise terminal during check-in.
Pre-book beverage packages, dining packages, internet packages and more
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.
As an added benefit, there is usually a pre-cruise discount if you book these online. Save time and money by pre-booking.
When you have a problem, Guest Services is almost always the go-to place to get it resolved, but if at all possible, try to go when there are less guests doing the same thing.
Guest Services is open 24 hours, and they can assist with so many issues. The best times to visit Guest Services is early in the morning, during dinner, while the ship is docked in port, and late at night.
If your question or concern can wait a little bit, try to visit when the lines are much shorter or even non-existent.
Travel agents are an amazing resource that costs you absolutely nothing extra to use.
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.
While they are saving you time, they can also net you big savings.
Register your kids for Adventure Ocean on embarkation day
While you can sign your kids up for Adventure Ocean at any time, the best time to do it is on the afternoon of the first day of your cruise.
In the early afternoon (usually around 1pm), Adventure Ocean opens up their open house so families can stop in to meet the staff and register.
The registration process is quick, and doing it now means the crew members have everything you need to sign right then and there, as opposed to later when they have to grab the sheets and of course that means more time spent while also trying to drop your kids off.
Everything is easier if you know where to look, and that includes Royal Caribbean's website.
Being self-sufficient is always a nice way to speed up things, and there are a few very handy links on Royal Caribbean's website that every cruise fan should know about to save time now and onboard the ship.
In looking around Royal Caribbean's website, I found seven pages that I think most people will need one time or another to help them ensure their upcoming cruise has no issues. There certainly are other pages that have helpful information, but these seven jumped out at me as the most commonly useful ones to bookmark.
Whether you have cruised before or this is your first sailing, here are the top web pages on Royal Caribbean's website you should know about.
Perhaps the single most important part of Royal Caribbean's website is the Cruise Planner.
This is the place you go to manage your reservation, and purchase wifi, drink, or dining packages before your cruise. You can also reserve time at the spa, book individual specialty restaurants, shore excursions, and other activities onboard.
Whether you booked your cruise through a travel agent or not, you can access the Cruise Planner for any sailing you have coming up, and there is usually a good assortment of options to look over at any given time.
Moreover, this is how you save money on your cruise. When Royal Caribbean has a sale on pre-cruise purchases, they can all be booked via the Cruise Planner site.
Whether you have a food allergy, need wheelchair assistance, need a sharps container, or have a CPAP machine, there is one form you should fill out before your cruise to have it all taken care of.
Royal Caribbean's Special Needs form covers a variety of special needs guests may have, and many of these are commonly requested. By filling out the form, you can be assured when you get onboard, the crew is prepared and ready to ensure you are properly accommodated.
Be sure to submit the Guest Special Needs Form at time of booking but no later than 30 days prior to sailing. Sign language interpreting requests must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing.
Royal Caribbean cruises are great vacations for families, and there are a few tips and tricks the help maximize your cruise experience.
When you go on a cruise with families, that means a mix of ages and even generations. While lots of parents take their kids on cruises, multi-gen cruising is another popular option so that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can spend time together onboard.
So while there are plenty of secrets I could share that apply to just about everyone, I wanted to focus on the sort of things families should know before they go on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
Her are my top 12 Royal Caribbean tips for any family going on a cruise soon.
Research vaccine rules before you sail
If you have a cruise in 2021 or 2022, more than likely there will be important vaccine protocols you should be aware to avoid any surprises at the cruise terminal.
Depending on the port you depart from, there could be vastly different vaccine requirements mandated by both Royal Caribbean and/or the local authorities for kids and adults.
Depending on when you sail, kids as young as 12 years old may be required to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.
You can check out Royal Caribbean's health protocols on their website to be up to date with what they are requiring.
Buy your kids a passport
Passports cost money and kids passports expire after just 5 years, but they are worth the investment.
Having a passport for everyone in your party (that means you should get one too) makes the check-in, embarkation, and disembarkation process so much easier.
I think one of the biggest sources of frustration for families on a cruise are the lines and steps required to check-in and out of your cruise. Having a passport makes it all faster and simpler.
Consider booking two cabins instead of one
My favorite family cruise tip is to book two cabins instead of putting everyone into one room.
The conventional thought process is for a family of four or five to book one room for everyone. This is usually what families do at hotels or resorts, so why would a cruise be different?
Unlike hotels, cabins on a cruise are short on living space, so the experience is not exactly the same in sharing a room on a ship compared to on land.
Booking two cabins not only provides more living space, you get an extra bathroom (a huge benefit if your kids are older) and separation from your kids when it's time to go to sleep.
Moreover, booking two connecting smaller rooms instead of one larger room may actually save you money.
As your travel agent to look for connecting rooms, which have a common interior door to make going between the rooms easier.
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.
Kids can order off adult menu at specialty restaurants
Speaking of specialty restaurants, the waiters do not mind offering your kids the same options as adults.
Specialty restaurants have kids menus, but if the kids want something off the adult menu, there is rarely an issue with doing so (even at their lower price).
Tips for picky eaters
If your kids are anything like mine, they can be very picky about what they will eat.
If your kids are picky eaters, don't make your dining reservations based on the lowest common dining denominator.
One strategy is to bring the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner, then take them to Adventure Ocean for the evening. After that, the adults can go to dinner wherever they like.
If you still want to eat with your kids, you could bring food from another restaurant in (such as pizza or chicken nuggets). Most waiters will even go as far as to grab something simple like pizza from another restaurant for the kids.
Something else you can do is ask your head waiter for additional options for the kids. In the main dining room, they can customize a lot of options, just give them a heads up in advance to ensure the chefs have enough time to prepare something.
The bottom line is don't be shy about asking for alternative foods for your kids.
Sign up for Adventure Ocean as soon as you can
On the first day of the cruise, be sure to head up to Adventure Ocean to sign them up as soon as registration opens.
Not only does this knock out an important must-do, it ensures you can get up there before lines develop later on. Moreover, you don't want to be that parent in line to register your kids while all the other families already did so and just want to drop their kids off.
Unfortunately you cannot pre-register your kids online before the cruise, but head up there on day one in the afternoon during the Adventure Ocean open house to meet the staff, get questions answered, and avoid time wasted later.
You can leave your kids in Adventure Ocean while you go on a shore excursion
It may feel weird to leave your kids on the ship while you go ashore, but you can safely use this option if you prefer.
Some excursions may not be open to kids under a certain age, or perhaps your kids just want to hang out onboard instead of go on a tour. Whatever the reason, Adventure Ocean is open while your ship is in port.
If your tour begins early in the morning before Adventure Ocean is set to open, let the staff know the day before and if it is a Royal Caribbean excursion, they can ensure someone will open up Adventure Ocean for you.
The staff will not only supervise the kids, but they will take them to lunch as well.
Make sure your ship has a nursery
If you are going on a cruise with kids under 36 months old, make sure the ship you booked has a nursery.
Most Royal Caribbean cruise ships have gotten a nursery added over the last few years, but a few still do not, and I would say you should avoid those ships.
The nursery is a godsend for parents with toddlers, because it offers excellent supervised child care for children of that age. Kids can eat, play, and even nap in the nursery, making it an important resource for parents who want a break now and then.
Just like Adventure Ocean, register your child on the first day so that you can sign up for the limited hours they have.
My favorite nursery tip: call ahead
Since my kids are out of nursery age, I can safely share this tip without risk of someone using it against me.
If your baby is ready for a nap, call the nursery and see if you can drop them off. The nursery is open throughout the day and in a lot of cases, they have availability in the morning and afternoon because most parents book up evening hours.
What I would do is call the nursery and ask if I can drop my child off. I'd let them know my kid is ready for a nap, and to provide whatever pre-nap routine they need (i.e. bottle, stroller, etc) and to put them down for a nap and call me when they wake up.
This frees up both me and my wife so we can enjoy some time aboard while my kid takes a nap, instead of one of us being stuck in the cabin with them.
Book a ship with water slides
While pools are fun, water slides are kings among kids, and not every Royal Caribbean ship has a water slide.
When you decide to have a pool day, kids always want something else to do other than relaxing by the pool. Water slides have been a boon for families, since it offers them an activity kids can do over and over again.
Before you book, research to check if the ship you are looking at booking has a water slide.
Set spending limits for your kids
For older kids who carry their own SeaPass card, you may want to enable spending limits to avoid a potential problem later.
First, when checking in online, you can choose the option "No onboard expense account" to prevent your children from using their SeaPass card for onboard purchases.
Once onboard, you can stop by Guest Services onboard and set a pre-established limit.
The arcade has its own $50 per person daily limit, although you can increase/decrease this limit to whichever amount you would like by speaking to the Arcade attendant once onboard.