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We asked our readers what one easy thing they do to make their cruise better

In:
06 Jun 2024

How can you make your cruise just a little bit better without much fuss?

How to make your cruise better easily

We wanted to find some more simple, low-effort ways to make your cruise a more enjoyable vacation, so we took to the Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook group to ask our readers what they do.

Hundreds of comments later, here are 12 easy things our readers do to make their cruise better.

Read more: 13 things I wish I'd done differently on my first cruise, from avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues

1. Go with the flow

Odyssey deck

Karen Taylow Henelde commented: "Go with the flow and participate!"

One easy way to improve your cruise is by deciding to go with the flow of activities during your cruise.

Plans can change, and delays happen, so it's best to forgo any attachment to a specific outcome.

Leslie Lasage Babineaux expanded on this advice, saying to "take every moment as it comes, especially during embarkation and debarkation."

iSkate-Navigator-of-the-Sea

"I go with the same attitude with every day on the ship. Wake up and just go with the flow of the day. You never know what activities will be on the schedule that you will love. If not, grab a cocktail and sit by the pool or walk around the ship."

It's hard to predict what will be the most enjoyable activity until you get onboard, so going with the flow ensures you'll have a fun cruise!

2. Get to know the crew members

Crew members

Making connections with crew members onboard just takes some kindness and conversation, and it can make your cruise so much better.

"Get to know some of the staff," Patty Vognild commented.

"Once you ask them some questions about their home/country and family they usually light up."

Asking others about themselves is an easy way to show care, and humanize crew members instead of ignoring them.

Celebrity spa cafe

Royal Caribbean crew members work hard on all aspects of the cruise, from covering entertainment to serving guests in the Main Dining Room, to the stateroom attendants cleaning your cabin every day.

"Making some of those connections makes the cruise more enjoyable!" Vognild added.

On cruises where I've befriended crew members (whether a bartender or a waiter), I've always learned more about the ship and felt like I had a friend to come back and see.

3. Order room service breakfast

Room service

Many readers commented that ordering room service breakfast is an easy thing that improves their cruise.

"[We] order room service for breakfast so we don't have to worry about crowds, clothes, or showers first thing in the morning," Melissa Renee said.

Continental room service breakfast is free and can be ordered as late as the night before.

Your food will be delivered right to your door at the time you select, and you can enjoy it from the comfort of your cabin.

Ordering room service breakfast, especially on excursion days, gives you extra time to get ready and help circumvent crowds at other complimentary venues.

4. Pre-pay gratuities

guest-services

Pamela Martin commented: "Pay anything at all before I set foot on the ship. No bills leaving."

Royal Caribbean allows you to pre-pay the obligatory gratuities before your cruise.

You can easily do this by contacting your travel agent, or logging onto the website and paying online.

Gratuity increase email

Experienced cruisers like to pre-pay their gratuities because it allows them to pay off the balance early and lock in the current gratuity rate.

If you prefer to budget and spread out your expenses, pre-paying is a smart idea.

Read more: We asked our readers what one thing they regretted packing for their cruise

5. Bring more money and fewer clothes

Mark Olwick gave some sound advice in his comment: "Take twice as much money and half as many clothes as you think you’ll need."

Bringing plenty of money, especially cash, ensures that you have enough to spend on souvenirs, food, and tips. 

 

While there is an ATM machine on your ship, it will come with a lot of fees, so grab your cash ahead of time.

Things to pack for a cruise

And when it comes to packing, you won't need as many clothes as you expect.

Read more: 40 essential things to bring on a cruise

If you know how to pack efficiently and bring adaptable clothing, you'll save yourself space in your luggage.

6. Go to the Main Dining Room

Dinner in the Main Dining Room

Dining at the Main Dining Room is free and easy to manage on board a cruise ship.

Tammy Baumann said she "very much [enjoys] the Main Dining Room."

Baumann recommends cruisers go "so [the staff] can spoil you, bring you your favorite beverage without you even asking, scrape away your crumbs, and honor you."

Quantum-MDR-French-3

The Main Dining Room is a cruise institution, an elegant, complimentary venue where cruisers are served multiple-course meals.

Given its formality, the venue is a great place to relax and enjoy trying new dishes.

If you dine there every night, the waitstaff will get to know you and your preferences.

7. Unpack and organize your clothing

Freedom-Interior-Stateroom-3

One of the first things I do when I get onboard and inside my cruise cabin is unpack all my clothing and the majority of my items.

Tammy Albert does the same. "It's very hard living out of luggage!" She commented.

Unpacking completely allows you to make the cruise cabin your home, take stock of the things you packed, and organize the stateroom.

Elizabeth-luggage-symphony-clothes

Your clothes and items will be within reach, making it easier to get ready during the day.

Unpacking ultimately saves you time and space.

Read more: We asked our readers what one thing they wish they packed for their cruise

8. Enjoy the moment

Alaska paddleboarding excursion

"Take a moment to just enjoy the view with your own eyes," Tom Johnson advised.

"Yes, it is great to get a photo of something, but give yourself a chance to look at what you are seeing."

This is a great tip, not just for cruises, but for all types of travel.

Taking time to soak in the scenery and reflect on the wonder of your experience reminds you why you've traveled all this way.

Pause on the photos and entertainment, and just appreciate everything around you.

Read more: Best things to bring on a cruise under $10 I always regret forgetting to bring

9. Use a travel agent

travel agent

Booking with a travel agent was Jan Lefave's top tip.

Most agents charge no fees for their services, and it can save you a lot of time.

Since travel agents have access to better rates and often offer onboard credit, they'll also save you money on the cruise.

Antarctica

Travel agents can help with any of your booking and question questions, even when you're onboard the ship.

They'll offer peace of mind in emergencies, and allow you to use headspace for the more fun parts of planning.

"Life is too short to get hung up on silly things," Lefave commented.

10. Allow yourself to spend time indoors

Family surfside suite

"It’s ok to just chill in your room," Ian Hunter said.

"Sometimes I feel like I’m 'missing out' but if you just want to sit in your room or balcony and relax then that’s just fine!"

Cruise ships have endless activities available on board, not to mention the exciting ports of all that many cruises will stop at.

Staying inside your cruise cabin can feel like a waste of time when there are so many things to do. But it's your vacation and you're allowed to relax inside the cabin, or even take a nap.

"It’s your vacation and if you want some alone time to just relax and recoup then do it," Hunter added.

11. Arrive early for embarkation day

We always recommend arriving at the cruise port at least a day before embarkation day.

Ted Reighard mentioned this tip on the Facebook post, advising other cruisers to arrive ahead of time for embarkation day. 

If you're flying in, this might mean staying near the port the night before.

United plane at Fort Lauderdale airport

This just means moving up your travel plans by one day and is definitely worth it.

You'd never want to lose a cruise that cost thousands of dollars just because your flight got delayed!

The cruise ship won't wait for you, so plan to make sure you get on board.

12. Try new things

Learning to surf on Flowrider

Part of the beauty of cruising is getting the opportunity to try so many new things, from visiting new parts of the world to activities like surfing to tasting new cuisine.

Rowan Humphries's advice was: "Don’t be afraid to try new things."

"In the Main Dining Room, my aim was to try food that I wouldn’t normally eat at home."

Avocado salad

Challenge yourself to try new things, and enjoy aspects that you won't get to try at home.

Read more: I went on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas. Here are the 7 best things I ate on the ship.

For Humphries, this meant eating things like steak and seafood, but it can look different for everyone.

Just encouraging yourself to step out of your comfort zone is one easy way to make your cruise exciting and enjoyable.

Why savvy travelers prefer staying on the cruise ship during port days

In:
28 May 2024

You could disembark your cruise ship while in port for a tour, or stay on board and enjoy a relatively empty ship.

Ship docked in port

The destinations a cruise ship visits is a major reason why people book a cruise. Destinations are one of the top two reasons people book a cruise (along with food).

Because of this, it might not make much sense when you see cruisers choose to stay on board and not visit the port of call for the day.

However, there are great benefits to staying on board during a port day.

Not only is cruising one of the most affordable forms of travel, but the cruise ship can also become a destination in itself.

Casino bar

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are built with countless amenities, activities, and forms of entertainment: from pools to shows to casinos and food venues.

Because there's so much to see and do on board, some cruisers choose to skip certain ports and stay on the ship for the whole day.

If you're wondering why this is a smart decision, here are seven reasons to stay on board when your cruise ship stops at a port.

Take time to slow down and relax

Especially on port-intensive cruises, it becomes easy to cram your schedule full of activities. 

From morning stretches to afternoon short excursions to evening shows, there will always be something to do on board the ship or offshore at the port.

If you don't intentionally plan a time to rest, you could become burned out. Overbooking yourself could lead to a less-than-pleasant experience if you or your fellow travelers become tired and cranky.

Skipping one of the port days on your itinerary is a great way to schedule some relaxation.

ncl

You could read a book, rest by the pool, take a nap in your stateroom (or any other quiet place!), and sit at a bar and have a drink in peace. 

As long as you are intentional about making yourself relax, staying on board is a great way to take advantage of a quiet day.

Read more: How to de-stress on a Royal Caribbean cruise (without alcohol)

Skip the lines

Zipline on Harmony of the Seas

When other cruisers visit a popular cruise ship port and you remain onboard, you'll find fewer people remaining.

This is a great opportunity to avoid lines at more crowded locations, such as the Windjammer, where it can be hard to grab a seat and find a quiet place to eat.

You'll also find shorter lines if you need assistance at Guest Services, or want to try an onboard attraction.

guest-services

With access to adventures like zip lines, sports centers, ice skating, laser tag, the FlowRider surf simulator, water slides, and dry slides, there are endless activities to try.

By waiting until a port day, you'll give yourself extra time and also avoid a long wait in line.

Get discounts on spa treatments

Spa on Voyager of the Seas

Getting a deep tissue massage or facial on a cruise ship sounds like an amazingly luxurious experience.

Royal Caribbean's Vitality spa offers amazing treatments like collagen facials and seaweed massages, as well as couple's services.

However, these treatments are an extra-cost add-on, and these spa package prices run quite high. 

One of the best ways to get a discount is to wait until a port day. 

Thermal spa

The Vitality spa often offers discounts on port days, as well as the first and last day of the cruise.

If crew members at the spa see that the ship is not booking enough appointments they may offer more discounts on board. 

Since port days are less busy at the spa, they're likely to offer good discounts for treatments and salon services.

You won't get bored of popular ports

Bahamas water as seem from Royal Caribbean cruise ship

If you're a frequent cruiser to a certain region (like Alaska, the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean), you've probably visited some common ports more than once.

As someone who has taken a lot of Caribbean cruises, I've frequently stopped at Nassau, Bahamas, or Perfect Day at Cococay. It's easy to get tired of visiting these ports. 

Although many of the areas have rich cultures and histories to explore, a port is only one small location.

There's only so far you can explore and travel within the eight hours a cruise ship stops there. 

If there are ports that you frequently visit, you might be better off staying on board the ship rather than repeating a tourist excursion.

Take full advantage of your drink and WiFi packages

Castaway Spritz

Royal Caribbean's drink package is a popular add-on for a cruise. By purchasing the package, you receive unlimited drinks per day for one set price. 

The deluxe drink package, which includes unlimited alcoholic and specialty drinks, costs $56 to $105 per day, per person.

If you visit the port, however, you'll pay extra for alcoholic drinks no matter where you go.

Similarly, WiFi is a common add-on that people pay extra for.

Wifi internet

Royal Caribbean's Voom Wi-Fi costs about $20 to $30 a day per device.

The only port where you can still use these packages onshore is Perfect Day at CocoCay, where you'll still have a valid drink package and access to WiFi.

At such a high cost per day, it makes sense that you'd want to stay onboard the ship to take full advantage of these packages.

Since you're already paying per day of the cruise, but can't use them onshore, staying onboard for at least one port day gives you extra time to take advantage of your packages at no extra cost.

Grab a space at the pool deck

Icon of the Seas Royal Bay Pool

A huge benefit to staying onboard while other cruisers disembark to explore is avoiding the typical cruise ship crowds.

On sea days, you'll commonly fight to find a chair at the popular pool decks. Large groups and chair hogs tend to take over and reserve the majority of the pool chairs.

If you enjoy soaking in the hot tubs, you'll also notice how quickly they can fill to capacity. It's hard to find areas with any free space!

hot-tub-freedom-solarium

On port days, however, you'll find a quieter atmosphere to relax in.

This is especially advantageous if you're traveling with children. They'll be able to splash and play in the water while you watch from a chair close by.

Save money by enjoying what's on the cruise ship

Aquadome Market

While port adventures can include enriching experiences, the cost tends to add up.

Once you exit the ship, you could end up paying for shore excursions, beach access and chairs, museum tickets, souvenirs, and food and drinks.

Especially in tourist-heavy areas like cruise ports, there are constant sales and marketing attempts.

If your goal is a budget-friendly cruise, staying onboard the ship can make that happen.

Aquatheater show on Icon

Your cruise fare, once paid, includes access to your stateroom, free meals, amenities, pool chairs, beach towels, entertainment, and complimentary games and activities.

Why explore somewhere else, when there's lots to do onboard for free?

Read more: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

Why savvy travelers prefer staying on the cruise ship during port days

7 bathroom hacks to use in your cruise ship cabin

In:
21 May 2024

Just like the cabin, your cruise ship bathroom is going to be small. But there are ways to make it better.

I've heard comedians joke that showering on a cruise ship is the most intimate experience they've had—with a shower curtain!

Cruise ship bathrooms usually lack storage space and have limited air circulation.

But before you start stressing about having a miserable time whenever you have to use the bathroom on your cruise, we have some hacks that will help.

Voyager of the Seas cabin bathroom

To make the most of your experience, you'll have to get creative and be prepared with some extra supplies.

Don't skip these tips for how to improve your cruise ship cabin's bathroom.

Here are seven bathroom hacks that will help you stay fresh and clean for the length of your cruise.

1. Use an air freshener

Cruise ship bathrooms can be tiny, and you’ll end up sharing them with your travel group for the length of the cruise.

With every person doing their business at least once a day, it’s easy for smells to build up in the air.

It’s easy to start dreading opening the bathroom door and being hit with a nasty scent. You might even begin delaying your showers to avoid smelling the bathroom for too long.

To avoid these smells lingering in the air, pack an air freshener or poo-pourri spray (This link contains an affiliate link, which costs you nothing extra to use).

By keeping this close by, you’ll improve the scent in the bathroom and ensure everyone has a pleasant cruise.

Read more: 40 essential things to bring on a cruise

2. Night light

motion-sensor-light

You'll want to bring a night light to keep in your bathroom to avoid feeling like a deer in headlights.

On many Royal Caribbean ships, it's pitch black in the cabin once you turn off the lights at night, including the bathroom.  The bathroom light only has two modes: on and off, and the on mode is extremely bright.

To avoid being blinded when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a night light is a great idea.

It can be disorientating to wake up to a completely dark room, and then turn the light on to use the bathroom. And trying to use the bathroom with the lights off? Always seems like a better idea than it is.

Pack a night light and you can use it over and over again on every cruise (This link contains an affiliate link, which costs you nothing extra to use).

3. Upgrade your experience by bringing your products

Royal Caribbean provides soap, shampoo, and conditioner in its cabins, but, unless you’re in a suite, this will come in the form of a drying, 3-in-1 product.

While you can always opt to use the provided soaps, I highly recommend bringing your own stuff.

Especially if you have dry skin, textured hair, or a sensitive face, you’ll want to bring along your own bathroom products.

These will help to enhance your experience, keeping you clean, moisturized, and healthy for the length of your cruise.

Plus, if you do end up needing more products while onboard, the items sold on the ship will come at a high price.

Before you leave for your cruise, try to pack all the products you usually use in the bathroom.

Here’s a list of toiletries you should consider packing: 

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Loofah
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste 
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash 
  • Contact lens and solution
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume or cologne 
  • Shaving cream and razors 
  • Feminine hygiene products 
  • Lotion
  • Detangling spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Tweezers 
  • Nail file and clippers 
  • Lip balm or chapstick 
  • Hairbrush and comb 
  • Hair products such as mousse and gel 
  • Hair ties and scrunchies

4. Hang and organize your toiletries

Shoe Organizer

Cruise ship bathrooms can be short on space, but (as mentioned before) you might have a ton of products you’ve packed along.

Most cruisers like to unpack everything for the length of their cruise (especially if it’s longer than 5 nights) but can become limited on counter space.

To keep everything within reach, and ensure that no one fights over cabinet space, bring along a shoe organizer or toiletry hanger (This is an affiliate link that costs you nothing extra to use, but makes us a small commission).

Other than a way to fit shoes in the cabin, bottles of shampoo, lotion, and conditioner can also fit well into a shoe organizer.

Special toiletries bags also have useful compartments for all the items you might pack, like toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Bringing an organizer that can hang up is a great alternative to save space; instead of taking up room on the counter, you can fill up a blank wall.

No hooks where you want to hang them? No problem. Bring some magnetic hooks, and they’ll stick to the steel walls anywhere in the cabin.

5. Use wrinkle-release spray for messy clothes 

Wrinkle release

Royal Caribbean prohibits you from packing irons or steamers onto its cruise ships. These items present a fire hazard, so they will be confiscated if you attempt to bring them onboard.

Laundry services onboard also come at an extra cost.

So, how do you get rid of any pesky wrinkles, especially after you’ve folded up clothes in your suitcase?

wrinkle-release-spray

We recommend bringing a wrinkle release spray, such as this Downy Wrinkle Release (contains an affiliate link, which costs you nothing extra to use but supports this site).

Simply spray your clothes, hang them up, and wear them when ready!

Hanging your clothes up in the bathroom in some post-shower steam also helps smooth out those wrinkles.

6. Bring along a Tide pen to prevent stains

Harmony of the Seas vanity chair

Whether I’m going on a 7-day cruise or a day trip out of my house, I always try to bring a Tide To Go Pen.

This small, portable pen can be quickly rubbed on any stain to prevent it from setting.

On a longer cruise where you may not be able to do laundry, these pens are a lifesaver for preventing lasting stains on your favorite clothes.

They work best on food and drink stains, even for deep colors like red wine or pasta sauce. All you have to do is remove the cap, rub the pen on the stain, wait for the fabric to dry, and then blot off any extra solution with a napkin or paper towel.

Tide pens can truly rescue your clothes on a cruise.

Read more: I tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

7. Dry clothes on the provided clothesline

Another great laundry hack—especially for those wet bathroom suits that will quickly stack up—is to look for the clothesline inside your cabin bathroom.

All Royal Caribbean ships have a small clothesline that pulls out of the wall and attaches to the opposite wall, usually somewhere over the shower.

It might be hard to find the small knob but keep an eye out for this useful tool.

As a bonus hack, hang your clothes on hangers, and then place the hangers on the clothesline to save more space. 

7 bathroom hacks to use in your cruise ship cabin

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Mistakes I saw on my spring break cruise

In:
04 Apr 2024

Listen to the Show

A list of 6 mistakes I saw other cruisers making during my recent cruise on Wonder of the Seas

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

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How to de-stress on a Royal Caribbean cruise (without alcohol)

In:
22 Mar 2024

So, you’ve finally managed to set up your cruise.

You finalized the logistics, wrangled your travel buddies, and made it all the way to your ship’s port.

And you get on board, ready to enjoy your vacation—but you can’t seem to settle down.

You still feel the stress of preparing, packing, and traveling, to the point where you can’t seem to enjoy your vacation.

No matter what you do, you can’t seem to unwind. 

Whether it’s from anxiety, guilt, troubles at home, or stress caused by travel, sometimes we struggle to truly relax on our vacations.

I used to experience this struggle.

Especially as a new cruiser, I felt like my head was on a swivel, trying to take in all the information and sights around me. 

It was hard to sit down and rest when everything was so new to me.

After six cruises, I’ve finally developed a routine to de-stress on my cruises.

Whether it’s your first time and you’re trying to keep the nerves at bay, or you’re a seasoned cruiser just trying to enjoy an overdue vacation, here are my tips for relaxing on your cruise.

Read more: Extra tips to prepare for a cruise if you have anxiety

1. Stay away from alcohol 

Grabbing an alcoholic drink is an easy and tempting way to de-stress.

As soon as you start sipping on your wine or classic marg, you feel the anxiety leaving your body and being replaced with a warm, happy feeling.

But this can be a mistake in the long run.

Heavy drinking puts the body in a state of stress. 

Your body is trying to balance itself, and as the alcohol wears off, you’ll feel even more anxious than before you started drinking.

Whether or not you drink enough to actually feel hungover, alcohol can increase your feelings of stress in the long run.

Not only that, but drinks can get expensive on a cruise ship! Royal Caribbean’s cocktails range from $14 to $17 each.

Cocktails

If you’re not splurging on a drink package, ordering a drink could increase your stress as soon as you see that price tag.

Especially if you’re on a longer cruise, spare yourself the "hanganxiety" and go easy on the alcohol. 

There are plenty of other (cheaper) ways to relax!

2. Start by unpacking

overpack-suitcase-stock-luggage

Clutter in your physical space can cause clutter in your mental space.

Because it’s a new environment where you have limited space and not all of your items from home, being in a cruise ship stateroom can feel stressful.

I like to calm myself down by unpacking my luggage as soon as I get to my stateroom.

Whether the cruise lasts 3 nights or 7 nights, it’s worth it for me. 

Navigator-of-the-Seas-Interior-Stateroom-2

I start by dividing my clothes into drawers and hanging up long items in the closet. Then, I unpack my toiletries and lay them out on the bathroom shelves. 

Any other items I’ve brought along—such as books, electronics, or makeup—I leave inside cabin drawers.

This is a great way to organize all your items, make sure you have everything you need, and reduce clutter.

It always helps you start to clear your mind and feel more comfortable in this new environment.

3. Go offline

Sitting in Central Park with laptop

Yes, WiFi may be available on your cruise ship.

But I recommend giving your mind a break by staying offline, or even opting out of the Internet package entirely.

We’re all familiar with the negative effects social media has on the brain, from jealous comparisons to addictive scrolling.

Usually, the problem is getting yourself to reduce your time online.

But a cruise is the perfect time to start that social media break you’ve been putting off!

It’s a vacation, so this is your time to rest from work. Stop checking your email! 

Getting news when you’re on a cruise ship, unable to take action, will only increase your stress.

Leave your phone in the room, and go out and explore the ship.

Icon-Show-Guest-Post

A cruise ship has many activities that you can enjoy without thinking of the Internet. 

In addition to live music and shows, movies usually play at night, so you can enjoy the ship’s amenities without ever using your own media.

And, you’ll be more secure and private by sharing photos after the trip is over.

4. Take advantage of the ship’s spa

Royal Caribbean ships are home to Vitality Spa and Salon, an elegant venue dedicated to health and beauty services.

There, you can find luxurious treatments such as seaweed massages, salt scrubs, and aroma stone therapy.

The salon also has beauty services for every part of the body, from hair to nails to teeth.

It’s the perfect spot to start to truly unwind, putting your self-care first.

Relaxation starts with calming down your body, after all.

If you find yourself hesitant to spend on the spa’s massage or salon packages, there are still options for discounts.

Members of the Crown and Anchor Society receive a discount on spa services, starting at 10% off for Gold status, and extending to 20% plus a complimentary add-on for Pinnacle members.

Another savvy way to get a lower price is by waiting until the last day of the cruise or slower port days.

If spa staff see that the ship is not booking enough spa appointments, they may offer more discounts onboard.

Spa facial

And if you want something completely free, keep an eye out on your Cruise compass.

Complimentary tasters, consultations, and lessons are offered daily.

For example, I attended a free facial sampler on my last cruise. The staff let us each try their facial products and gave us tips on how to treat our faces and prevent aging.

5. Prioritize rest

Inside cabin bed

One thing I love about cruising is the freedom to nap whenever and wherever you like.

It’s a vacation! The only rule is that it’s time to relax.

I usually like to take a nap between lunch and dinner, so I wake up refreshed for an evening of activities.

solarium on odyssey of the seas

But there are no limitations to when you can rest. On the pool deck, in your stateroom, in the hot tub—they’re all on the table.

I’m a true advocate of allowing yourself to catch up on sleep and just lie down when you feel like it.

Read more: Chill spots to get away from the crowd on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

6. View nature on the open deck

Time in nature is another proven way to relax the body and mind.

On a cruise ship, you’ll have an endless amount of opportunities to see gorgeous landscapes and seascapes.

During the day, you can watch the open sea surrounding you and watch the movement of the waves.

When it’s sunny, sit down and relax, letting your body soak up some vitamin D. 

Read more: Why Cruises are Great for People with Anxiety

Ocean waves from balcony

Relaxing in the sun is an amazing way to boost your mood.

And at night, be sure to look up at the sky. The clearest view of the stars is often available when you’re out on a ship, away from the lights of land.

Star-gazing on a cruise ship is an incredible experience that reminds us just how small we are. 

7. Savor your meals

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to relax on a cruise is by enjoying each meal I try.

Once I get onboard and taste that first bite of Windjammer chicken, it’s an immediate sign to my body that I can relax—I’ve made it onto the cruise!

Dining is one of the most enjoyable experiences on a Royal Caribbean cruise. So many venues come free of charge, included in your cruise fare.

You can eat knowing that you don’t have to cook or clean it up yourself. 

There’s no rush to eat quickly, no limited lunch break or restricted schedule.

Enjoy each bite slowly, and savor all the different flavors.

This is also the perfect time to try a new kind of food, whether you want to taste specialty dining or explore everything the buffet has to offer.

Eat a lot. You’ve earned it!

8. Exercise for the fun of it

We all know that exercise is better for us. Working out strengthens your body and improves your mood. Exercise is also a great way to increase your confidence in your willpower and body!

It’s easy to put off when you’re busy at home, but your cruise is a great time to stop convincing yourself you have more important things to do.

If you’ve been procrastinating on exercise because you don’t have a gym membership or you can’t find the time, your cruise eliminates both of those excuses.

Royal Caribbean ships have a spectacular gym area, with upgraded machines and often a beautiful view of the ocean. They are free to access, and a true joy to use.

Also, a cruise gym will probably be one of the most judgment-free gyms you’ve ever visited. People of all ages go there for a simple workout on their cruise vacation. 

No one is expecting you to be a skilled bodybuilder.

If you’re really having trouble getting started, there are even exercise classes and Personal Trainers onboard to assist you.

9. Make new friends

Friends in a pub

Cruisers are some of the most welcoming travelers I’ve met.

Whether you’re in elevators, chilling in the hot tub, or enjoying a Main Dining Room dinner, you’ll likely find someone willing to strike up a conversation.

I love how open and fun-loving cruisers are. And during your time onboard, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make friends and see them again!

New friends can help ease your anxiety and make your cruise an even more exciting experience.

Crew members are also extremely welcoming and friendly, always able to help.

If all else fails, and you’re still feeling panicked and stressed, I recommend sitting down at a quiet bar. Order a mocktail or a juice, and start chatting with the bartender. 

How to de-stress on a Royal Caribbean cruise without alcohol

9 things Royal Caribbean veterans always do (and you should too)

In:
12 Mar 2024

Cruising can have quite the learning curve, so why not learn from those that already mastered it all?

If you’re new to Royal Caribbean, it’s natural to feel intimidated by the things you need to learn and prepare for.

One reason you’re probably reading this post right now is so you can find out all the tips and tricks Royal Caribbean veterans know.

Cruise fans have developed tried-and-true strategies to enjoy their cruises to the fullest. Thankfully, the Internet allows us to share all these tips—and for you to learn from them!

Inside cabin

By researching and putting into practice these insider hacks, you can make sure you have the best cruise possible. 

If you are new to Royal Caribbean, here are nine things people who cruise Royal Caribbean all the time know about taking a cruise that you might want to consider doing too.

1. Check-in as soon as possible

Terminal A check in

Getting the earliest check-in time gets you onboard the ship faster.

The Royal Caribbean app and website will open online check-in 45 days before the cruise begins.

Cruise veterans check-in as soon as this opportunity opens, and some even stay up late to be the first!

If you stay up late, checking in at midnight based on the time zone of your sailing, you can get the earliest possible check-in time slot.

After you complete check-in, you’ll receive an option of time slots, usually ranging between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M.

When each time slot fills up with guests, it will close. So it makes sense that you’d need to check-in early to get the earlier times.

The sooner you check-in, the sooner you get onboard the ship!

Since the price you paid for the cruise won’t change, check-in early to get those extra couple of hours onboard.

2. Book specialty dining in advance

icon-chops-2

Royal Caribbean offers some amazing—and popular—extra-cost dining venues. 

From Chops Grille to Izumi Hibachi, there are formal and delicious meal options for all tastes.

If you want to ensure a table will be open for you, try booking the restaurant before you get onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean veterans know that restaurants can fill up fast, and you’ll need to act quickly if you want to reserve a table.

You can make reservations online via Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website.

log-in-royal-caribbean-website

This way, you’ll guarantee a spot and choose the date and time that works best for your schedule.

If you want to celebrate a special occasion or holiday, it’s especially important to plan ahead and reserve as soon as possible.

If you choose to purchase a specialty dining package instead of individual restaurant reservations, have a plan of where and when you want to eat.

Then, make your reservations as soon as you get onboard the ship.

Staff at any one of the specialty venues can help you book your meals for all of the venues.

3. Purchase your cruise years ahead

Star of the Seas coming 2025

Royal Caribbean veterans work to get the best possible prices on cruise fares.

The more you save, the more you can spend on activities, excursions, or even another cruise!

To get the best possible price when booking a cruise, you’ll want to book as early in advance as possible.

Ideally, you’d want to book a year or years in advance.

The earlier you book, the more staterooms will be available. Since cruises operate on supply and demand, prices will be cheaper when more supply is available.

Utopia of the Seas night render

By booking one or two years early, you’ll get ahead of the demand and increased prices.

Try asking a Royal Caribbean vet when they book their cruises, and they’ll likely give you an answer measured in years.

If you’re on a cruise and find yourself thinking about the next vacation, you can also book your next cruise directly onboard. You can save hundreds of dollars per person by booking at the Next Cruise area.

NextCruise sign

For the more impulsive types, last-minute deals are also worth keeping an eye on. While they’re less assured than ones planned years in advance, occasionally those last-minute deals will have a discount worth snatching up.

Read more: How to plan a cruise for the first time

4. Cruise during the off-season

If you’re still looking for fare deals, keep in mind that it matters more when you cruise, not so much when you book the cruise.

Finding lower fares is easier if you’re willing to cruise when school is in session (August to May) and during the cruise shoulder season.

Shoulder season, which offers lower fares, fewer crowds, and comfortable temperatures, varies depending on your destination.

Pool on a cruise ship

Usually, these times include the months of January (excluding New Year’s Day), February, May, and September, the first two weeks of November, and the first two weeks of December.

Cruising during these times will give you a lower fare, because it’s when other people are less likely to try cruising. 

Buy a cruise for those times when others are at work or in school, and you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and lower prices.

5. Try a smaller ship

Radiance of the Seas

Yes, Royal Caribbean heavily promotes its newest and biggest ships.

You’ve probably heard about everything there is to try on huge ships like Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.

But despite the public attention the mega-ships command, veterans know that every ship in the fleet has something to offer—even the smaller ones.

Radiance, Vision, and Voyager Class ships all have their own charm. 

Vision of the Seas solarium

From a quieter experience to a more tight-knit crew to opportunities at unique ports, some amazing experiences can’t be replicated by a larger ship.

Not only that, but they’re also likely to come with a lower price tag.

There’s nothing wrong with those big, exciting ships like in the Icon, Oasis, and Quantum Class, but be sure that you’re not writing off those smaller ships.

The demand for smaller ships isn’t going away anytime soon, and Royal Caribbean has even discussed plans for a new class of smaller ships.

6. Stay onboard in port

oasis-docked-labadee-pool

If you ever talk to someone who cruises a lot, there's a good chance if you ask them what their plans are while in port, they'll tell you they are staying on the ship.

There are a few good reasons why you might want to strategically embrace this strategy.

If it's a ship new to you and you want to explore and enjoy what the ship has to offer, staying onboard during a port visit gives you more time onboard and less lines to contend with.

Ship docked in St. Thomas

Taking a cruise on Icon of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, or Odyssey of the Seas, there's a good chance you picked these new ships because of all the cool things it offers. While the ship is in port, signature activities tend to be far less crowded, especially the pool and water slides.

Sometimes they stay onboard because there just isn't an excursion or activity that speaks to them. There's nothing wrong with staying on the ship if you don't find a tour that fits your needs.

In addition, cruise pros stay onboard if it's a port of call they've been to in the past. Some ports have a lot of repeatability, while others, not so much.

7. Join the loyalty program

Crown-and-anchor-crystal-block-new-design

While the Crown and Anchor Society isn’t exactly a secret, veteran cruisers know how to take full advantage of this loyalty program.

You can even sign up before your first cruise, and you’ll earn points for each night you spend on a Royal Caribbean ship.

crown-lounge-icon-of-the-seas

It’s free to sign up, and you will receive more and more discounts as you earn points.

The Crown and Anchor Society rewards frequent cruisers with onboard discounts, priority embarkation and check-in, and promotional offers.

8. Read Cruise Compasses to prepare

Reading a Cruise Compass

Wondering what exactly you can expect on your next cruise?

It’s hard to accurately predict exactly what events, activities, and specials might be offered on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean pros know that they can consult an old Cruise Compass to see what was previously offered on similar sailings.

Bumper cars on Odyssey

Looking at an old cruise itinerary can give you a good idea of what to expect going forward.

From entertainment to activities, Royal Caribbean ships won’t change their schedule too much from week to week.

And we have an archive of old Cruise Compasses you to peruse. 

9. Use a good travel agent

travel agent

Yes, we always recommend using a good travel agent for your cruise.

They’re able to make life easier for you through planning, preparation, and saving you money overall.

A good travel agent comes at no extra cost to you, as they are paid by the cruise line. They provide expertise and knowledge to help you get the best cruise vacation possible.

Sun rising in Alaska

A good travel agent will have a wealth of knowledge about Royal Caribbean, and be able to answer a variety of questions for you.

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s top travel agents prove why you need one more than ever

Pros know that no one has all the answers, so having a guide in the form of a travel agent gets you your own personal advocate. 

From booking the cruise to any problems you run into onboard, they will be there to assist you.

9 things Royal Caribbean veterans always do (and you should too)

Spring break is one of the most lively times to take a cruise. Here are 5 tips my family swears by to make crowded sea days better.

In:
05 Mar 2024

We take our kids on a spring break cruise every year because it's not easy to find times of the year when the school calendar and mild Caribbean weather meet.

Pool on a cruise ship

One of the top reasons we cruise on Royal Caribbean is the fact it's a family cruise line, and the experience is welcoming to kids as much as adults.  Plus, there's opportunities to enjoy time together, as well as time for just the adults.

When you hear the term, "spring break", you might think of a wild party, but Royal Caribbean's ships tend not to get that raucous.  Most of the college spring break groups end up on 4-night cruises because they are cheaper, and having experienced those cruises, it's a far cry from a week at Panama City beach.

Read more: Spring break cruise on Royal Caribbean

Cannon ball

Nonetheless, don't expect your cruise ship to be empty, as plenty of families take advantage of the built-in time off from school to take their family on vacation. To be fair, all cruise ships sail full these days. The difference is how many other families will be onboard, along with spring breakers.

If you're taking a spring break cruise, here are a few strategies for navigating the crowds.

Take a longer cruise

In general, you can expect to find less families on longer sailings, including the spring break college kids. 

Most of the college spring break passengers will flock to 4-night cruises because they're short and cheaper than the 3-night cruises.

We've generally found the 7-night cruises to have less college kids than the short 3- and 4-night cruises.  You'll find more families on longer cruises, and that tends to have less of a party atmosphere.

Harmony aerial

If you really want to avoid the party scene, opt for pretty much any cruise longer than 7-nights during this time of year. Once you get to past a week, the average age tends to shift older because of the time off required is more than many families can afford to take.

Since the European cruise season hasn't started yet, you can find some Royal Caribbean ships offering longer cruises. There are 9, 10, and 11-night cruises available in some markets that have less families onboard, as well as spring breakers.

Look for deck chairs in quiet places

Promenade Deck

Sea days on any cruise are going to busy, but the pool party vibe is going to be present here the most.

If you want to enjoy time outdoors without the party, there are a few good alternative locations to seek.

For those that want to enjoy the sun, look for a deck chair on the pool deck towards the front of the ship. While most of the chairs are around the pool, if you walk forward on the upper pool deck, you can usually find plenty of empty chairs the more forward you walk.

Empty Pool chairs

The reason there are empty chairs at the front of the ship is because it's further away from the bars and pools. 

If you just want to be outdoors without any semblance of a party, grab a chair on the Promenade deck on deck 4 or 5 (depending on the ship you're on).  Keep in mind one side is reserved for smoking, so you can always go to the other side.

These are great spots to read, take a nap, or enjoy the ocean air.

Stay on the ship in port

top deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Since I just recommended avoiding the pool deck, what if you want to be able to swim, splash and enjoy the water slides? Stay on the ship while you're in port.

Many passengers disembark their cruise ship on a port day, and that leaves the pool deck far emptier than on any sea day.

You'll usually have no shortage of deck chairs, space in the pools and hot tubs, and less noise overall.  In fact, the pool band tends not to play until later in the day.

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

Not only does staying on the ship while you're in port open up the pool deck, it also means avoiding the crowds in port.

It's not unusual for ports to have a lot of ships docked, especially Nassau, Cozumel, and St. Thomas. By staying on the ship, you can avoid the crowded ports, beaches, and shops.

Visiting ports of call is a major part of the cruise experience, but you could opt to pick one port to stay onboard for, and then get some pool deck time while still doing shore excursions elsewhere.

Traditional dining for simplicity

freedom-main-dining-room

There's nothing wrong with eating at the Main Dining Room for dinner, especially if it makes planning meals easier.

Specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean are a hot ticket. It seems like more people than ever are buying dining packages, and it's not uncommon for the best times to get booked up quickly.

I always advocate going to make restaurant reservations as soon as you get onboard the ship for those with a dining package, but you could simply forgo the dining package and stick to the Main Dining Room for a great dinner experience.

odyssey of the seas main dining room

If you opt for this, pick traditional seating instead of My Time Dining to make everything easier on you. With traditional seating, you have the same table and dining time every night, so there's no extra footwork to do to get a reservation, and there's no waiting for a table when it's time to eat.

Alternatively, you could go to the Windjammer for dinner instead and keep it far more casual. Those sailing on Icon of the Seas for spring break will also have access to the Aquadome Market, which is a wonderful complimentary alternative to the Main Dining Room.

Good candidate for upgrading to a suite

Grand Suite

If you'd rather throw money at the problem, then booking a cruise ship suite might make sense for a spring break cruise.

Besides having larger and more opulent cabins, suites come with nice perks that can side-step some of the issues raised earlier in this article. It's kind of like an expensive easy button for crowds.

Suite Sun Deck on Wonder of the Seas

Staying in a suite means you'll have reserved seating somewhere on the pool deck exclusively for suite guests. 

You'll also get complimentary drinks each evening in the Suite Lounge. On larger ships, there's even a restaurant exclusively for suite guests at Coastal Kitchen.

Read more: 8 advantages of booking a suite on your next cruise

Coastal Kitchen on Harmony of the Seas

Obviously booking a suite won't be cheap, so you're potentially trading crowds for a larger bill. But if you can afford it, staying in a suite provides access to areas of the ship other guests cannot get to, and spring breakers tend not to be found staying in suites.

I tried the most common seasickness hacks on my cruise. Here’s what works best 

In:
16 Feb 2024

I’ve taken enough cruises to discover that my body is susceptible to seasickness.

Calista tried the best seasickness remedies

When motion sickness takes over, I start struggling with nausea, dizziness, and sometimes a headache.

I’ll never forget the moment I discovered I struggled from seasickness on a cruise ship.

It was night one of my first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, and I was introducing myself to other cruisers at a Hyperlink event.

Suddenly, I started stumbling and feeling dizzy and nauseous. All my excitement about the event turned into a sickening feeling. 

Thankfully, I brought Dramamine on that cruise and felt better when I was able to head to my cabin and take a pill.

But since that moment, I’ve always had to plan ahead to make sure I won’t feel seasick.

Main Dining

It’s always embarrassing to have to excuse myself from a nice Main Dining Room dinner, or miss out on activities because I’m feeling too sick to get up.

Cruising is such a fun, affordable, and worthwhile form of travel that I would hate to miss out on it just because of motion sickness. 

If seasickness has you hesitating to get on a cruise ship, look no further! I went ahead and tried out the most commonly recommended seasickness hacks to find the best one.

Read more: 13 things I wish I'd done differently on my first cruise, from avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues

What is seasickness?

The Hideaway

Those who experience motion sickness in cars, planes, or roller coasters are already familiar with the feeling of being seasick.

Seasickness is a form of motion sickness that occurs when there is a discrepancy between the motion of the ship, visual input, and the vestibular system in your inner ear. Essentially, the body’s balance mechanism becomes disoriented.

The rocking motion of the ship confuses your body’s senses into becoming imbalanced. 

This imbalance leads to a range of symptoms, from dizziness to fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, nausea, cold sweats, and even vomiting.

Ocean waves from balcony

Not everyone is subject to motion sickness: women and children are more susceptible, and genetic markers can indicate those more likely to experience it. People who get migraines are also more likely to suffer from motion sickness.

If you’re more susceptible, you know the misery of it all too well: seasickness can turn an exciting cruise adventure into an uncomfortable ordeal.

Thankfully, cruise lines do their best to develop solutions for motion sickness.

Royal Caribbean

Modern ships are designed with stabilizers on the side of the ship to help counteract the sea’s motion. This results in less turbulence felt onboard.

The newer the cruise ship, the more advanced and effective the technology tends to be.

Skilled captains also make every effort to avoid rough seas and minimize any uncomfortable sailing conditions.

These reductions, however, don’t eliminate the misery of seasickness entirely. 

Choosing the right stateroom

For my 3-Night Allure of the Seas cruise, I decided to try all the recommended hacks for seasickness.

I started out by booking a better stateroom. For this cruise, I booked a Grand Suite stateroom located towards the middle of the ship.

Grand Suites come with a large balcony space, which I knew I could use to get fresh air and watch the horizon. These hacks help reorient your body and improve nausea.

Windowless inside cabins, which I usually stay in, are cheaper but end up being confined spaces that exacerbate nausea. 

Staterooms located in the middle of the ship are also better locations if you’re prone to seasickness. Areas in the forward or back of the cruise ship are likely to feel more motion.

Experts also recommend that you stay on lower decks to avoid feeling the movement of the ship. 

My room was located on the 10th floor, just between the middle and the back of the ship. It was close enough to the middle that I didn’t feel seasick while inside the room.

Being on a larger ship also helps; the size of a big ship like Allure minimizes the feeling of motion.

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Acupuncture pressure band

For Day 1 of the cruise, I decided to try acupuncture pressure bands.

I purchased a set of SeaBand bracelets and put them on once we got onboard.

These bands are designed to target pressure points on the wrist: two plastic pieces apply direct pressure to the P6 or Nei-Kuan point on either wrist. 

Supposedly, this band stimulates your median nerve and interrupts the “I’m sick” messages your brain is sending your stomach. 

Scientific evidence on whether these bands actually work is inconclusive.

Some studies imply it works through a placebo effect, while others suggest there may be a real benefit.

Either way, many cruise fans report good results when they wear their bands for the length of the cruise.

This was my first time trying these bands, and I felt that it was hard to make them stay in exactly the right spot. 

Since they work through pressure points, it seems important that they stay on the right pressure point. But I’m not an expert at finding them, and the bands are liable to slip off the right spot.

The instructions say that the SeaBand takes 2-5 minutes to become effective. I put them on once I got onboard, and the ship set sail in the early evening, around 5 P.M.

ough-weather-2

But around 6 P.M, I started to feel very seasick during dinner. I tried applying extra pressure to the plastic studs myself, and after about an hour the feeling improved.

I’m not sure if I started out putting the bands in the wrong spot, or if I just needed that extra pressure to feel better.

To provide context, when I would get seasick without trying any remedies, I felt like I would rate my sickness feeling at 7 out of 10.

With the bands on (and with me applying some additional pressure), I felt more like a 5 out of 10.

I also made the mistake of keeping the bands on when I got in the water and was annoyed at the damp feeling they left on my wrists.

Personally, I didn’t like that the bands were something I had to keep on at all times, and they only served to lessen my dizziness, rather than eliminate it entirely.

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

Over-the-counter medicine

dramamine-bonine-split

Personally, I’m biased towards using over-the-counter medications.

Medications have been developed over time to prevent feelings of nausea and sickness from the motion on the sea.

They’re easy to get a hold of, and you only have to take one or two pills to start feeling the positive effects.

The two most common brands, Bonine and Dramamine, work by using antihistamines to alleviate symptoms.

I prefer Dramamine, a brand with more options available. It is the older brand of the two, first introduced to the market in 1949. 

dramamine-comparison

It uses dimenhydrinate, an antihistamine which has a side effect of drowsiness. 

Drowsiness could be a benefit or a disadvantage, depending on what time you prefer to take the pills. 

If you take it at night, it could help you sleep through any intense rocking of the boat. But if you have to take it at a different time of day, the pill could put you to sleep and make you miss key events on the cruise.

Personally, I’ve never experienced drowsiness from Dramamine—either due to the excitement of a cruise, or the fact that I’m a heavy coffee drinker.

rough-weather-cruise-ship

They also sell non-drowsy pills, which include more ginger and make for a more natural option. However, these versions can be less effective.

Just to be safe, I took two Dramamine pills before bedtime, ensuring that they would kick in by the time I woke up on Day 2. 

The ship docked at Nassau for most of the day, but I stayed on board and wanted to be sure I wouldn’t feel seasick when we started moving again.

Sure enough, once we started moving, I didn’t feel seasick at all! I would rate my sickness at a 0/10.

My rating: ★★★★★

Natural ginger remedies

On day 3, I decided to turn to natural remedies for seasickness.

Ginger root is one of the oldest and most famous remedies for seasickness.

Whether in the form of candy, tea, or supplements, many have used it to alleviate nausea for centuries.

I decided to buy a packet of ginger gum for my cruise, and try it on Night 3. By the time I started chewing the gum, our ship had left Perfect Day at CocoCay and was sailing, full-steam ahead, back to Port Canaveral.

I honestly didn’t expect the ginger gum to help much, especially when the boat was moving so quickly.

However, it was more effective than I expected! When I was actively chewing my gum, the ginger brought the nausea down to a 2/10.

If I took a break from chewing, I still felt my seasickness stay low, maybe at a 4/10.

peppermint-tea-seasickness

The only thing I didn’t like about this method was the fact that I had to consistently chew the gum to get the best effects. Whenever I wanted to eat or drink, I had to take it out of my mouth and feel just a little more seasick.

In the future, I might try some ginger candies or a tea that I could carry around with me.

My rating: ★★★★☆

The best method overall

Overall, I would rate over-the-counter medication as the best method for seasickness.

On a cruise, my main struggle has been finding a consistent method. When you struggle with seasickness, you want a remedy that you’ll be able to have on you at all times. 

Chewing gum or eating ginger, keeping SeaBands on your wrist, and looking at the horizon are great tools, but you can’t do that for the entire cruise.

Medications are the only thing that you can take once and they remain in your system the entire time. 

If you struggle with the side effects of any one medication, I would recommend trying different brands or speaking with your doctor about another suggestion.

I'm 72 years old and have cruised 41 times in a scooter. Here's what other seniors should know about taking a cruise

In:
15 Feb 2024

Cruising isn’t just for the young and spry.

Cruise ships feature an experience that can be tailored to your preferences and needs.

This applies to everyone, including seniors and people who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs or scooters.

No matter your age and needs, you deserve a vacation filled with relaxation, excitement, and unforgettable memories. 

Women eating in main dining room

Ken Klingenberg has been cruising for the past 23 years and has no intention of stopping.

A 72-year-old retired paramedic, he originally hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Ken won his first cruise in 1987 as part of a sales contest. That planted a seed that finally blossomed in 2001 when he and his wife sailed on their next cruise.

From then on, he has been hooked on cruising.

Grandeur of the Seas logo

Since then, he has been on 41 sailings on Carnival, NCL, MVS, Celebrity, and Princess, with the majority—a total of 33—on Royal Caribbean.

Ken uses a scooter and says cruising is a great form of accessible travel.

“You get to this beautiful hotel on the water, and let the crew take you to different places while they feed and entertain you the entire time.”

He calls cruising a “godsend” for people with mobility or other issues. 

Despite the overall accessibility of cruising, there are still limitations as part of traveling with a scooter

Ken has encountered fellow passengers rudely charging elevators or walking in front of him. 

Ships also have narrow doorways or can lack ramp access to features he’s interested in.

Overly helpful people—cruisers as well as crew members—even reach out and grab the scooter or Ken himself.

With the insight from these stressful experiences, Ken has some valuable tips to make for a smoother journey.

Here’s his advice for fellow seniors who want to go on a cruise, whether or not they bring along a scooter or wheelchair. 

When it comes to choosing the right cruise line, Royal Caribbean is one of the best

Navigator-disembarkation

Selecting the right cruise line makes all the difference in your experience.

Not all lines are created equal, and if you’re looking for a line to cruise on with a scooter or wheelchair, you’ll want to be sure the ship will be accessible. 

“One of the reasons I love cruising with Royal Caribbean is their commitment to those of us with mobility devices,” Ken says. “The other lines I have sailed have let me down to some extent.”

His issues center around the use (or lack) of ramps on ships. In his opinion, Royal Caribbean does the best at designing ships that include a lot of ramps.

Royal Caribbean also provides other great accommodations, like a chair lift in the Aqua Theater on Oasis Class ships, and a private elevator on the decks between the Seaplex and Two70 on Quantum Class ships.

Pools are harder to get to but usually have at least one with a chair lift available. However, “the issue is finding someone to operate them.”

As long as crew members are present to operate the lifts and elevators, Royal Caribbean does a great job ensuring that senior cruisers have full access onboard.

Although some areas have no access for someone in a wheelchair or scooter, Ken is usually able to access 99% of Royal Caribbean’s ships through ramps, elevators, or lifts.

Use a travel agent, especially one familiar with accessible travel

Ken advises that other seniors use travel insurance and a travel advisor for their cruises.

Buying travel insurance can help reimburse you for the cost of expensive equipment damaged while traveling, or help you provide for other necessities in the case of a delay.

Many travel insurance policies also add emergency medical reimbursement, a great reassurance for seniors worried about their health.

travel agent

Using a travel agent can help take some of the stress out of cruising. Good travel agents come at no extra cost to you and can provide their expertise and knowledge to help you get the best experience possible with no extra costs.

Especially important would be finding a travel agent familiar with accessible travel, or who can put the client in touch with someone more familiar.

Ken consults with advisors from eCruisenet.com, longtime friends of his who weren’t well-versed in accessible travel at first but are becoming more in tune with it the longer they work together.

Using a small or folding scooter helps with getting through cabin doorways

What kind of cabin do you need to book if you’re bringing along a scooter or wheelchair?

The answer depends on the size of your mobility aid. 

Smaller scooters may fit through standard cabin doorways, while larger models require the extra space provided in accessible cabins.

Standard stateroom doorways span at least 23 inches wide, while accessible staterooms have wide doors at least 32 inches wide.

interior-accessible-symphony-door-view

Since Ken doesn’t need his scooter when inside the cabin, he purchased a folding scooter so that he can stay in a non-accessible stateroom.

“To make accessible cabins available to those who really need them, I made a conscious decision to find a scooter that would help me to that end,” he says. 

Accessible cabins are few and far between on cruise ships.

For example, the new Icon of the Seas has 2,805 staterooms overall, 50 of which are accessible cabins in 10 separate categories. 

bathroom-accessible-interior-symphony

That means that just over 1.7% of the staterooms on this brand-new cruise ship are designated as accessible.

“I would love to see the cruise lines build more accessible cabins,” Ken shares.

So if you're worried about being able to get assigned to an accessible cabin, bringing a smaller or a folding scooter is a smart choice.

Select a longer cruise to try everything onboard

activities on Mariner of the Seas

Ken believes that “the ship is the destination.”

He recommends that fellow seniors pick and choose what activities they’d like to do and take advantage of the many food venues.

“You do not need to do everything the ship has to offer [but] there is no reason to go hungry.”

NCL star

Cruise ships are loaded with onboard activities that cater to all interests and types. You can join trivia games, watch stunning shows, gamble at the casino, sunbathe by the pool, or join live dance lessons. 

There’s something for everyone, no matter your level of activity. 

Ken says that he tells everyone to try a 5 up to 7-Night cruise for their first cruise: “The 3 and 4-Night cruises tend to be ‘party boats.’”

Since you only unpack once—and cruises often have food, activities, and entertainment included in the cost—it makes sense to try everything possible and choose a longer cruise to take full advantage of the opportunities. 

A cruise sailing has the perfect, relaxing accessible vacation for all ages, you just have to select the right cruise and activities. 

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

Driving to your cruise port is easier than flying

When Ken first started cruising, he lived in Pittsburgh and preferred to drive to Bayonne or Baltimore for cruising.

This allowed him to not have to worry about any weight limits on baggage, ensuring he could bring his scooter and all necessary items in the car. 

Luggage in the terminal waiting to be picked up

When getting onboard a cruise ship, there are very few weight restrictions, contrasting the strict rules for what you can carry onto a plane.

He also doesn’t have to worry about any damage to the scooter when driving. 

Unfortunately, airlines are infamous for poorly treating people’s wheelchairs or scooters, and you’d never want such an expensive item damaged!

Look closely to find enjoyable excursions on port days

Food at a Bahamas resort

Exploring new destinations is a major highlight of cruising, so how can you find accommodating tours? 

It’s not impossible, but you will have to plan ahead carefully.

The ship’s ramps allow for people with scooters or wheelchairs to exit and immediately access a local tourist area, usually full of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.

If you’re looking for actual excursions as well, many cruise lines do offer guided tours for seniors, such as short walking tours. 

For example, Ken enjoyed touring the White Pass Railroad in Alaska.

He also likes to rent cabanas to sit in and relax, such as on Labadee and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Read more: Comparing Royal Caribbean's Private Islands: CocoCay & Labadee

“But,” he adds, “I am most happy to watch others be happy.”

5 mistakes I saw people making on my cruise last week

In:
06 Jan 2024

I spent 5-nights on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and noticed some common cruise mistakes being committed that could have been easily avoided.

Mariner of the Seas docked at CocoCay

There are many mistakes to avoid on any cruise, and you don't have to be a cruise ship expert to know about them all.

Avoiding these mistakes will save you time, money, or sanity. No matter how big or small the savings, it all adds up.

After a day or two, I picked up on the mistakes I saw my fellow cruisers making, and I started to compile a list in my head. There may have been others, but these were the ones I observed.

Take this as a good reminder not to do any of these yourself when you set sail.

Not buying add-ons before the cruise

Freedom-Cruise-Planner

If you want to save a lot of money, be sure to pre-buy all the extras for your cruise in the weeks and months leading up to your sailing. 

There were staggering price differences if you bought it onboard versus before the cruise began.

Drink package price onboard

I saw on embarkation day the advertised rate for Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink package was priced at $100 per person, per day. 

Had it been purchased before the cruise began, it was around $69.99 per person, per day.  I think the higher price had it around $74.99 per day.

Floating cabanas

The floating cabanas at the Coco Beach Club had a big price drop before the cruise began to about $1800 for a rental for up to 8 guests. But onboard the ship, they were charging $4,000.

Royal Caribbean offers pre-cruise discounts on most of its popular cruise add-ons. You can always cancel and rebook it if there's a price drop.

Don't wait to book these onboard the ship, because you'll only pay more for it.

Not applying sunscreen

I'm not sure if it was because January isn't a very hot month in the Caribbean, but I saw so many people walking back onto the ship after a fun day in Cozumel, Mexico completely sunburned.

Forgetting to apply sunscreen or re-apply it is one of the quickest ways to a miserable day or two as your body heals.

cococay slide

During our visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay, we had clouds for some of the day, but the sun came out later. I think the clouds may have given some people the false sense of security that they couldn't get sunburned.

It's true that clouds do block some UV light. But more than 90% of the sun's UV radiation can still pass through clouds on lightly overcast days.

When you're at the beach, pool, or walking around outdoors in the Caribbean, you need to get into the habit of remembering to apply sunscreen every couple of hours. It's annoying to have to stop what you're doing to do it, but the discomfort from a bad sunburn is worth taking a couple of minutes to do it.

Being rude to crew members

Windjammer table

This mistake infuriates me for the sheer lack of respect, but some passengers seem to think the rules don't apply to them.

While in the Windjammer a guest was stopped by a crew member because he had come from the pool deck and was not wearing shoes.

The crew member told him he had to wear shoes in order to go into the restaurant. He responded that no one had told him that the other day when he did the same thing, and then proceeded to walk past the crew member and ignoring their instruction.

There are rules in place for a reason, but more importantly, you don't get to pick and choose when you want to adhere to instructions given to you by crew members.

The crew members work hard to ensure everyone has a great (and safe) cruise. Always be respectful to them.

Forgetting their SeaPass card on disembarkation day

Mariner of the Seas in terminal 5

As I was walking off Mariner of the Seas, I witnessed two different cruise mistakes within about 10 minutes.

The first was the family that held up the entire disembarkation process because they didn't bring their SeaPass cards with them to leave the ship.

Seapass card

When it's your time to disembark the ship, you'll need your SeaPass card to leave. It's how Royal Caribbean knows you've left the ship.

If you don't have it, then the ship's security team needs to look you up manually and that slows down everyone.

Be sure to also have your travel documents for later when you go through customs.

Disembarking before luggage number called

Luggage in the terminal waiting to be picked up

Royal Caribbean assigns each passenger a luggage tag number so that if you left your luggage on the ship to be delivered to the cruise terminal on the final morning, it's there waiting for you.

However, every cruise there's a handful of passengers I see standing around the luggage area waiting for their bags, because they disembarked too early.

For these people, they'll have to wait for all the bags in their number to be delivered and called for them to be able to grab their bags.

You're much better off waiting onboard the ship for your number to called so you can avoid standing around the terminal for no reason later.

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