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Secrets, Tips and Tricks

10 Vision of the Seas tips, tricks and secrets

In:
27Apr2021

Have a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas? There is plenty onboard to enjoy for guests of all ages.

Like all cruise ships, there are a few good tips and tricks to maximize your time and money onboard.

Here are my best tips for someone sailing on Vision of the Seas.

Park Cafe is a must eat spot

There is plenty of good food onboard Vision of the Seas, but a great spot for complimentary food throughout the day is Park Cafe.

Located in the Solarium, you can find some of the best quick grab-and-go food choices here. Soup, sandwiches, dessert and more are available.

Be sure to try the famous roast beef sandwich here at least once!

Park Cafe is also a great alternative to the Windjammer on embarkation day because it will be far less crowded.

And yes, kids are allowed to go to Park Cafe, even though it is located in the adults-only Solarium area.

Don't miss the events in the Centrum

Throughout the day and night, Royal Caribbean hosts events at the base of the Centrum.

The large open space is where you will find live music, demonstrations, game shows and more.

The great thing about seeing shows in the Centrum is you can quickly see what is happening from one of the overlooking decks.  If it interests you, pull up a chair and enjoy. If not, you can move on to somewhere else onboard.

Read more: Cruise Compass archive

Free sauna and steam room

The fitness center locker rooms have a free sauna, steam room, and very large showers for anyone to use free of charge. 

The showers are great for families, and the sauna and steam rooms are lesser-known amenities open to guests on Vision of the Seas.

Restaurants included with your cruise on Vision of the Seas

Wondering where you can eat with no additional cost on Vision of the Seas?

Here is a list of options:

  • Windjammer (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Main Dining Room (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Cafe Latte-tude (Early morning until late night)
  • Park Cafe (afternoon and late night snacks)

Read moreFood on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Save money with a specialty dining package

If you plan on eating at more than 1 or 2 specialty restaurants while on Vision of the Seas, you probably should invest in a dining package.

Specialty dining packages offer a fixed cost for some, or even unlimited, specialty restaurants during your cruise.

There are three specialty restaurants on Vision of the Seas that are included with the packages:

  • Giovanni's Table
  • Chop's Grille
  • Izumi

Be sure to buy dining packages before your cruise to save even more money.

Keep in mind there may be some extra cost items at these locations, and Chef's Table is not included with the specialty dining package.

Overnight in Bermuda

Just for summer 2021 cruises, Vision of the Seas will not only sail from Bermuda, but also offer guests an overnight to explore Bermuda’s culture, history and cuisine.

The ship will offer an overnight stay in Bermuda, which means the ship acts like a floating hotel, where you can come and go as you please to provide plenty of time to enjoy everything Bermuda has to offer.

An overnight stay in any port is a special experience, and allows much more flexibility in making plans, as well as being able to enjoy the nightlife of the island.

Read Cruise Compass to see entertainment each night

There will be nightly entertainment around the ship, so be sure to read about what is offered in your Cruise Compass.

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver a new copy of the next day's schedule.  You can also find the schedule in Royal Caribbean's app.

It is a good idea to read about what is coming up, so you can plan ahead for the must-see shows.

Download Royal Caribbean's app

Royal Caribbean's app has gone from "nice to have" to "must have" quite quickly, and it is your key for a smoother experience overall.

Not only does Royal Caribbean's app allow for a smoother and faster embarkation process, it makes managing your schedule super easy.

Royal Caribbean has even said that its app is required, so download the app before you leave home and ensure it is set up prior to arriving.

Read moreThe Royal Caribbean App: Everything you should know

Register kids for Adventure Ocean on the first day

If you have kids, there is complimentary kids programming that is supervised and a lot of fun.

Children are separated into different age groups to ensure programming is appropriate:

  • Aquanauts: 3-5 years old
  • Explorers: 6-8 years old
  • Voyagers: 9-11 years old
  • Teens: 12-14, 15-17 years old.

Adventure Ocean is run every day, but you want to register them on the first day of your cruise.

There will be an open house held (usually in the early afternoon) of the first day of the cruise, so be sure to go up to meet the staff and meet the staff. Plus, it will save you time later.

Read moreCruising with kids on Royal Caribbean

Make plans for your visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay

Summer sailings on Vision of the Seas will stop at Royal Caribbean's private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay, and it is a must-see destination.

The key to having an amazing day here is to pre-purchase any add-ons you want to try.

CocoCay has so many great things to do, including a water park, zip lines, cabanas to rent, beaches, and even a giant pool.

Read morePerfect Day at CocoCay prices and costs

Be sure to check out what is available to book before your cruise.  If something is of interest, you should absolutely pre-book it to secure a spot. Many amenities can easily sell out, or cost more if you wait to book onboard the ship.

You should also know that there is plenty of great things to do at CocoCay without spending a dime extra. The island's beaches and pool are included with your cruise fare, along with most of the dining establishments.

Read moreTop 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay secrets and tricks

Mailbag: What is the earliest flight I should book after the cruise?

In:
10Mar2021

How do you know if you are cutting it too close when booking your flights home after your cruise is over?

Each week I answer questions our readers have sent to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog mailbag to answer for the benefit of everyone.

I'm looking at flights for my cruise, but I'm not sure what time to pick for a flight home.  What is the earliest flight I should pick after my cruise is over? - Ray V.

The issue with picking a flight after your cruise is you want to find a flight that gives you enough time to disembark the ship and get to the airport to make the flight on time, but at the same time, not booking a flight later in the day so you essentially spend all day in the airport waiting around.

Finding the right time for a flight home also has a lot to do with the port your cruise ends at, as some ports are significantly closer to an airport than others. Fort Lauderdale International Airport is literally next door to Port Everglades, while Orlando International Airport is about a 45 minute drive from Port Canaveral.

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

The first part of the decision is figuring out roughly what is the earliest time you could get to the airport.

Your itinerary will list a time your cruise ends, but that time is not an indication of what time you can get off the ship. Just because it says your ship will return at 6am, does not mean everyone can start leaving the ship at 6am. Moving thousands of people off a ship, moving thousands of pieces of luggage, sending thousands of people through customs and immigration takes time.

The disembarkation process is always a bit ambiguous because there are a few factors that are always unpredictable:

  • What time exactly the ship will dock
  • How long it will take local authorities to clear the vessel to disembark
  • What time the ship will begin allowing guests off the ship
  • How many other people will be ahead of you
  • Delays in the cruise terminal

If you get up early, take advantage of the self-assist disembarkation process (where you take your own luggage off the ship), and things go as planned, many cruisers have been able to disembark early enough to make flights as early as 9am.

Read moreSelf-disembarkation on Royal Caribbean cruises

You should also consider your group and realistically estimate how quickly you can move.  An adult couple can get up and in line a lot faster than families with kids, or large groups traveling together.

However, delays due to bad weather, customs taking longer than expected, medical emergencies, and a variety of other unexpected problems can easily back up the entire process.

Ultimately, you have to weigh the level of risk you deem acceptable in making a flight. No one wants to sit around an airport all day, but missing a flight because you are late is an even worse fate.

You should also consider the airport's proximity to the port, time of year (busy holiday seasons means longer lines at the airport), whether you have TSA PreCheck (or other program) to get through security, and other factors.

If you take a later flight, you can sleep a little bit later, enjoy a stress-free breakfast, and otherwise not drive yourself crazy with concern you might be late.

For cruises in the United States, the general rule of thumb has always been you are likely safe to book a flight after 11am, and noon or later is absolutely achievable.

Some cruisers will opt to stay an extra night in the city their cruise ends at just to avoid any hassle with getting to the airport (and get an extra day of vacation).

The unknown: post-Covid planning

The advice about picking flights home spelled out in this post is all based on how we traditionally planned cruises before the entire cruise industry shutdown due to Covid-19.  So what will change going forward after cruises restart again?

Right now, we still do not know the extent of changes guests can expect onboard and if there will be longer lines and/or delays in getting off a ship once it concludes.

While Royal Caribbean has not confirmed anything yet, many guests have noticed later than usual check-in times for their upcoming cruises, which may point to the disembarkation process taking longer. Or it may mean the ship will take longer to clean between sailings. Or it may mean the app is acting up and there is no change at all.

No one knows yet what to expect, but my advice is if you need to book a flight before cruises restart, picking a later time in the afternoon is your safest bet.

More mailbag questions:

10 ways to overcome common cruise ship mistakes

In:
03Feb2021

Anyone who has gone on a cruise has likely encountered a problem that in hindsight probably could have been avoided.

Not all mistakes you can make on a cruise are epic disasters, but running into an issue can put a damper on your day and leave you a bit frustrated.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen.  The challenge is knowing what to do when you encounter these problems and adjust to overcome them easily. Here are 10 common mistakes cruisers encounter and how to make it all better.

No plans for what to do in a port

Ideally you would have done a little bit of research into the port of call you are visiting on your cruise to learn about what the popular things are to do there, and which excursion might give you the best value.

If you skipped that step and are on a cruise ship without a clue what to do in the port you are going to visit, all hope is not lost.

This might be a good time to purchase the internet package onboard because 10 minutes of googling could at least point you in the right direction. If the weather looks nice, maybe search for the best beach to visit.  If your crew wants to explore the city, look up the best bars, museums and spot for lunch.

You could also talk to crew members onboard.  Most crew have been to the ports you are visiting many times and can make good recommendations.

If all else fails, you could head down to the Shore Excursion desk to see what tours are available. There may be a line, so be sure to look for a pamphlet with all of the tours available on the desk so you can look at that while you wait to speak to someone.

Read moreA complete guide to picking the perfect shore excursions

Burnout

Believe it or not, but there are some people who think you will be bored on a cruise because there is not enough to do.

The reality is there is a ton, and it is very easy to start ovedoing it.  "Burning the candle on both ends" is the euphemism for waking up early to get the party started, and staying up late so you don't miss a thing.

Trying to do it all can lead to frustration instead of fun, especially if not everyone in your group is on the same wave length as you.

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

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

Read moreTop 9 bad mistakes to make on a Royal Caribbean cruise

No cash

While Royal Caribbean is cashless onboard, you will need cash in the ports you visit.

As someone who relies heavily on credit cards at home, it is easy to forget you need cash until it is too late.

Royal Caribbean provides two easy ways to get cash onboard:

  • ATM Machine
  • Casino teller

Depending on how much you are taking out, one of these options can be cheaper than the other.  The ATM will hit you with a fee (and likely your bank too), whereas the casino will hit you with a 5% convenience fee.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Billing discrepancies

Whether your gratuities are being charged after you prepaid them, your stateroom is missing something you ordered, or something else is not what you expected, don't lose your cool trying to sort it out.

While many times these issues can be easily resolved with a trip to Guest Services, don't forget your travel agent is still available to assist.

One of the many reasons I love using a good travel agent is because they provide services before and during the cruise.  If there is a billing issue, a quick email (or call if you have WiFi calling) to your travel agent can sort out a lot of issues.

Read more10 mistakes travel agents see people make going on a cruise ship

Food service is slow

If you are in the main dining room or a specialty restaurant and it just seems to be taking much too long, you do not need to just "deal with it."

There are plenty of reasons why service can slow down, and sometimes it is a logistical issue, sometimes a technical issue, and sometimes a result of bad luck.

Either way, give your waiter a chance to either address the issue or at least acknowledge things are not going as planned.  But if you are not satisfied, feel free to speak to the head waiter.

You can either ask your waiter to speak to the head waiter, or you could look for them around the restaurant and waive them over.

Calmly explain the issue you are encountering and inquire what they can do to assist.

The staff want your dining experience to go smoothly, and if things go from "a little bit slow" to "what happened to our waiter/food", then you might want to say something.

Read moreThe top crew members to find if you have a problem onboard your cruise

Reservations are booked up

If you are trying to get into a comedy show, stage performance or any other ticketed event and it is sold out, do not give up all hope.

Seating capacity is limited in many venues onboard, so shows running out of tickets are not uncommon.

If you are staying in a suite, the first person to speak to is the suite concierge.  The concierge is a great resource in seeing if there are additional show times or even a waitlist to be put on if something opens up.

You can also wait in the standby line for pretty much any show.  Go to the theater entrance 15 minutes before show time and let the crew member admitting guests in you would like to wait to see if there are any no-shows.

Since tickets are free, it is not uncommon for someone who made reservations not to show up because they are having too much fun at the pool or something else onboard.

Read moreWhen can I prebook entertainment, dining and more for my Royal Caribbean cruise?

You need internet access

Obviously you can purchase internet access on your cruise, but what if you need wifi for one or two quick tasks?

You can purchase a 24 hour pass on the ship for wifi access, but the cost is pretty high.

If you are unwilling to eat the cost of a wifi package on the ship, consider waiting until you get to a port you are visiting.

Many restaurants, bars and cafes offer complimentary internet access if you buy anything.  Some shops even offer completely free wifi, although their performance tends to be mediocre at best.

Ask a crew member onboard for recommendations in ports where you can get free (or nearly free) wifi.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean WiFi: Guide to Internet at sea

You get seasick

It is rare, but getting seasick can happen to anyone.

The good news is it is very easily treated and you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars for a visit to the onboard medical staff.

The simplest way is to go to Guest Services and ask for seasick medicine.  They will give you for no cost a packet of meclizine that will quickly treat the symptoms of being seasick.

If you want to avoid medicine, try going to the Windjammer to get a green apple or a food with ginger.

Be sure to also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Taking a nap can also help make you feel better while whichever therapy you chose takes effect.

Read moreHow to not get seasick on a cruise

Paying full price for a specialty restaurant

You thought you did not need to eat at the steakhouse or sushi restaurant, but then you got onboard and it smells amazing.

There is not a full proof plan for avoiding paying full price for a specialty restaurant, but there are a couple of strategies that might work.

First and foremost, see if you can buy a specialty dining package.  These packages allow you to pay a flat fee to dine at a set amount of restaurants and these will absolutely save you money compared to trying to eat at the same amount and paying the cover charge.

Another strategy is to keep an eye out for waiters that are walking around the ship to get new reservations.  These crew members are easy to spot because they are dressed in their restaurant outfit and holding a menu.

If you spot them, kindly ask if there is any discount if you sign up to eat at their restaurant.  Often they can sweeten the deal if you commit to a reservation on the spot.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

Drink package mistakes

If you buy an unlimited drink package, be sure to maximize the value by doing a few easy things.

Always ask for a bottle of water with a drink order: Even if you aren't thirsty enough for water, you can always get a bottle of water with a drink order.  Bring that bottle back to your stateroom and start stacking them up so when you go on shore excursions, you do not have to pay for water off the ship.

Specify the brand of liquor: When you order a cocktail or mixed drink, ask for which brand of liquor to use. This avoids them putting the cheaper option in your drink.

Use your drink packages at specialty restaurants: Your drink package not only works at bars and lounges, but also in specialty restaurants and the main dining room. 

Read moreHow to avoid the most common cruise drink package mistakes

21 Royal Caribbean cruise tips you'll need in 2021

In:
14Jan2021

There is no doubt that going on a cruise (whenever that may occur) in 2021 is going to be very different than in the past.

No one knows when cruises might actually restart, but there are a few important things you can do during this time to prepare for a summer, fall, or winter 2021 cruise.

These tips are mostly based on being prepared, rather than tips for onboard the ship.  Until it becomes clearer that actual sailings will occur outside of Singapore on Quantum of the Seas, this list is about the important things we should all know, be aware of, and look for in the coming months.

Here are 21 tips you will need for planning any cruise vacation this year.

1. Assume no sailing is safe to go: No one has a crystal ball, and there is no indication that any particular sailing is a definitely lock to go. 

Certainly cruises scheduled for later in the year seem to have a higher likelihood of happening simply because that gives more time for the cruise line to get approval of new protocols, as well as the vaccine to permeate among the populous.

But never assume your sailing is a lock to happen.

2. Your final payment date is unchanged: While there are lots of new flexible policies to change your mind about your cruise, you still have to make final payment 90 days before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean has not budged on this, so plan to make final payment just like in past years.

Read moreShould I make final payment for my cruise?

3. See what other cruise lines are doing: One of the best indicators of what Royal Caribbean might do thus far has been to keep an eye on its competitors.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line have consistently cancelled cruises and changed some policies that have eventually been matched by Royal Caribbean.  

Other cruise lines are less important to pay attention to, either because they are owned by one of these lines, or their market share is too small to really factor into what Royal Caribbean might do.

Given Royal Caribbean's partnership with NCL on the Healthy Sail Panel, keeping an eye on the other cruise lines is a good way to potentially get a heads up on what is next for Royal Caribbean.

4. Always book refundable cruise fare: There is nothing wrong with booking a cruise for 2021 or 2022, but be sure to book refundable cruise fare.

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. Read the policy to be clear on what it covers.

6. Consider waiting longer before booking: Since the short term future is unclear, there is less risk than in previous years for waiting a little bit longer to book a cruise.

While waiting to book your cruise might mean not getting the most rock bottom prices, demand is still soft enough that you can afford to wait a little bit closer to your cruise to pull the trigger on putting down a deposit.

7. Book refundable airfare: Just like your cruise fare, any flights you book should be able to be cancelled.

While the airlines have generally adopted far more flexible change policies, such as no fees on changed bookings these days, getting your money back is an entirely different issue.

Before you book a flight, consider if you ought to wait a little bit longer to ensure your cruise plans are firmed up, as well as what will happen if you book a flight and then want to change your mind.

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, as well as Lift and Shift it to next year.

Royal Caribbean has demonstrated thus far that the longer the shutdown continues, they will keep Cruise with Confidence running.

9. Use a travel agent: If you still are not using a travel agent, you are 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.

Read more10 mistakes travel agents see people make going on a cruise ship

11. Download the Royal Caribbean App: If your cruise does sail, you will absolutely need the Royal Caribbean app.

Royal Caribbean has indicated that its app is required when cruises restart, because of all the new features aimed at keeping you healthy and saving you time.

12. Muster drill will be very different: Royal Caribbean has radically changed its muster drill, so expect a completely new safety drill.

Travelers will be able 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 will 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.

One on the cruise ship, guests have a set time (indicated by a timer in the app) during which muster drill must be completed by all of the passengers and, in response, a message is transmitted to each mobile device that the muster drill has commenced.

13. Expect more cancelled cruises: Even if everything goes perfectly, Royal Caribbean will not restart its cruises with every ship returning to service at once.

More cancellations are likely, so keep track of the latest cancellations.

14. You don't have to make a decision immediately after cruises are cancelled: If your cruise is cancelled, you do not need to choose what to do with the reservation right away.

Royal Caribbean gives everyone a few weeks, so take at least a few hours or days to decide if you want a refund, future cruise credit or lift and shift it.

15. Lift and Shift is a great deal: If you want to put off your cruise until next year, Lift and Shift has proven to be the most economic option out there.

Lift and Shift protects the price you paid, and with rising cruise prices on 2022 sailings, being able to lock in your price from your old cruise is a major advantage.  Consider Lift and Shift as your first option when deciding how to cancel a cruise.

16. Don't wait to renew your passport: For a while passport service was closed, but it is back, albeit slow.

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.

17. Check-in times might actually matter: Online check-in for your cruise used to be a formality, but now it could be very important.

Expect boarding times to become much more rigid going forward. Passengers will be given an embarkation time and will likely not be let into the terminal until that given time.

This is about managing crowds in the cruise terminal, and onboard the ship to allow for social distancing.

18. Expect to wear a mask (and other changes): Yes, you are going to have to wear a mask on your cruise in 2021, along with a slew of other changes.

Royal Caribbean has not announced all the new health policies and protocols for cruises from the United States or Europe, but you should absolutely expect a variety of new rules, including social distancing, mask wearing, daily testing and more.

19. 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.

20. Full service buffet: Expect the Windjammer Buffet to exist, albeit you will not be serving yourself.

The days of some passengers picking up a piece of food, inspecting it, and returning it to the tray are not coming back anytime soon.

When you go through the buffet, a crew member will serve you the food instead of you doing it yourself.

21. Be flexible: There are bound to be more changes coming in 2021 so remember to stay flexible during your sailing.

5 Royal Caribbean things you had no idea existed

In:
02Nov2020

Royal Caribbean offers a wide variety of things to do, services, and benefits to all guests that it can be easy to overlook some of their lesser known options.

Even I forget about certain options that anyone can take advantage of as part of their cruise, so I wanted to share five things that commonly overlooked among most cruise guests.

Whether you simply forgot about these, or did not know about them at all, here are five Royal Caribbean things you had no idea existed.

Royal Caribbean offers a private shore excursion service

Did you know you can book your own private shore excursion through Royal Caribbean and take advantage of all the benefits of being on a cruise line tour without spending the day with other people on your ship?

Royal Caribbean introduced Private Journeys in 2016, and it is an easy and fully customizable way to come up with your own private tour.

While Royal Caribbean offers many different kind of shore excursions, some people prefer private tours, or want to customize the excursion to meet their preferences. 

Royal Caribbean decided to offer an option that would include the best benefits of booking through Royal Caribbean directly, and the diversity of choices that can be found when booking on your own. Private Journeys is a relatively new option by Royal Caribbean for guests to completely customize every aspect of what they want to do during a port stop, and make it the kind of experience that curtails to their family or group's needs.

You can earn onboard credit or a free cruise by playing games on your phone

There is a free game you can play on your computer or mobile device called MyVegas, which from time to time offers free cruises and onboard credit.

Playing MyVegas means choosing between different games, such as blackjack or slots, and winning points that go towards your profile.The games reward you for getting to the next level.

If you play the game regularly and earn enough points, you can actually cash out the points for special offers, including free cruises or onboard credits. MyVegas offers these kind of offers for other cruise lines as well, including MSC or Norwegian Cruise Line.

MLife benefits

Speaking of the casino, if you cruise with Royal Caribbean, you can achieve matched status on land when visiting a MGM casino.

Through the relationship between Royal Caribbean International based on your current tier status, Crown & Anchor Society members may receive a complimentary tier match into M life Rewards and associated Tier Benefits at all M life Rewards destinations Nationwide.

Crown & Anchor Society members must visit the M life Rewards desk to receive their tier match. 

You can ask for food not on the menu

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

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

In general, I have found a 24 hour notice will ensure the dining room chefs can take care of the request for you.  

In addition, if tonight's menu features an ingredient you do not enjoy, feel free to ask your waiter if they can make the dish without it.  The dining staff are looking to make your main dining room experience as good as possible.

Royal Caribbean has its own airfare booking service

I sometimes forget this is a service, but you can book your flights to get you to and from your cruise through Royal Caribbean.

The Air2Sea program offers guests the option of not only reserving airfare, but also coverage in case there is an issue getting to your cruise.

You can purchase air accommodations in conjunction with your cruise reservation, and it comes with 24 hour support if there is an issue with your cruise or flight. Assured Arrival is the cruise line guarantee to assist when a guest encounters any flight disruptions that occur through no fault of their own.

Royal Caribbean has a team of Emergency Travel Specialists standing by that proactively monitor flights and act as a liaison between cruise ships and guests.

There is nominal service fee to use Air2Sea. Royal Caribbean International charges a service fee of $15 per person for travel within North America, and Canada, and $25 per person for International destinations.

Have you used any of these?

How many of these options were you aware of? Did I miss something really cool that should be on this list too? Share your thoughts in the comments.

8 things some cruisers do that annoy everyone else

In:
22Oct2020

Being respectful to other people on your cruise ship is something that should be automatic, and yet, there are plenty of times where cruise ship guests do things that make you shake your head.

Most of the time, people do the right thing, but occasionally you might witness someone breaking an unwritten rule of cruising. Whether it is poor etiquette, manners or selfish, these kinds of missteps are things no one wants to see.

In an effort to avoid any of these gaffes, here are the top commonly made annoyances you should avoid on your cruise

Grabbing food from the buffet with your hands

This might be a thing of the past when cruises actually resume (since buffets will change to full service for health reasons), but never grab food with your hands instead of using a tong.

While it may seem innocent enough to grab a roll, apple or strawberry as you pass by with your hands, doing this spreads germs more than you might think. Not to mention the fact if you touch something and then change your mind, no one wants to eat that.

The provided tongs are simple, so use them.

Chair hogs

People reserving chairs at the pool deck for the entire day is a major pain point for so many cruisers.

There is no issue with a family spending the day at the pool, but the people that get up at dawn to reserve chairs, then disappear for a few hours to arrive later on is something that has gotten out of control on many ships.

Of course everyone wants to have a chair near the pool, and obviously there are not enough chairs for everyone on the ship at once, so the considerate thing to do is only reserve the chair while you are there. If Aunt Beth is busy at the gym, getting her nails done, or sleeping in, reserving a chair for her for a few hours is also not cool.

Lead by example and regardless of what others do, only take chairs while you are actually there.

Not washing your hands

If the current global health crisis does nothing more than to force everyone to finally wash their hands after using the restrooms, then at least a little good came out of all of this.

If you go to the restroom, wash your hands upon leaving. 

You would be amazed how many people skip washing their hands after departing the restroom, or prior to entering a restaurant or buffet when there are crew members actively reminding everyone to wash.

For the benefit of everyone, keeping yourself as germ-free as possible is the right thing to do.

Removing gratuities to save money

Royal Caribbean allows guests to remove the automatic gratuity as a way to give crew members cash directly. It is not a mechanism for bypassing gratuities all together.

Like it or not, gratuity on a cruise is part of the overall cost.  Yes, technically they are listed as optional, but in practice, they are there to reward the hard working crew members that look after your every need. 

If you are removing the gratuity in order to make your vacation cheaper, you should reconsider a cruise vacation.

Bad elevator etiquette

This tip applies to not only cruise ships but elevators everywhere: when the elevator opens, let the people in the elevator out first.

Whether you are in a rush or just on your way, there is no reason not to let the people in the elevator out first. Letting them out speeds up the process for everyone, and it makes it clearer how much room there is for others to board the elevator.

Ignoring crew member instructions

When a crew member gives a guest an instruction, it is not a suggestion.

Crew members are not only present to serve, but also to maintain order and ensure safety protocols are being followed. So when a crew member tells you to do something, ignoring them or circumventing their instruction is a bad idea.

Not only is it disrespectful, but you may be putting yourself or others at risk by continuing to do whatever you were just told not to do. 

Flaunting your Crown and Anchor status

If you have cruised enough to get to the top tiers of Crown and Anchor Society, you should be proud of the fact you made it that far, but everyone else does not really care.

Royal Caribbean provides pins, lapels and even special events for its top cruisers as recognition for their loyalty. But being a top tier member does not mean everyone else on the ship needs to be constantly reminded of that fact.

Essentially, take the benefits Royal Caribbean provides for being a loyal cruiser, but conversations involving your Crown and Anchor tier are not necessary.

Getting in a fight

Not only is getting in a verbal or physical altercation really silly, it is against the cruise line rules and you will likely regret it later.

Think about any shouting match or fracas you may have been involved in, and then think about if you wish now that you avoided the whole thing.

If there is a problem with another guest, speak to a crew member so they can get involved. Even if it is one of the annoyances listed in this post, it is not your place to enforce the cruise line rules or even common courtesies. 

There is no winning when it comes to these sort of altercations, so move on or alert a crew member to take care of it.

8 Secret spots on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

In:
13Oct2020

Royal Caribbean ships are packed with so many fun venues, including a few areas you might not know about unless you really looked around.

One of my favorite things to do on any cruise ship is try to find an area of the ship most other guests overlook or never consider checking out.  After all, sometimes it is nice to get away from the crowds and enjoy some quiet time (especially if you do not have to compete with the chair hogs).

In looking over the fleet of Royal Caribbean ships, I have compiled a list of my favorite hidden spots so you can enjoy them on your next cruise.  It is up to you if you want to tell anyone else about these secrets.

Aft chairs on Oasis class ships

One of the best spots to relax without crowds and have a great view is the chairs on the aft (rear) of the Oasis Class cruise ships.

Each of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony) have a jogging track on deck 5 and if you take the track to the back of the ship, you will find a set of chairs that provide a great view of the ocean as you pass by.

This spot is rarely busy, and perfect for reading or just enjoying the scenery.

You can also access this area by going behind the AquaTheater and going down the stairs.

Symphony's piano stairs

The stairs leading up to Windjammer Marketplace on Symphony of the Seas plays musical notes and briefly light up when you step on them.

There is no sign or anything, so people are always taken by surprise

Play your own tune by walking up or down these stairs located toward the aft of the ship between decks 15 and 16, leading up to Windjammer. 

Helipad

On Radiance, Freedom, and Voyager class cruise ships, you can visit the helipad on the bow (front) of the ship anytime you want for amazing views.

Royal Caribbean permits guests access to the helipad, and it is a great spot to see the port as you leave, especially for those that do not have a balcony stateroom or simply want something a little different.

To access the helipad, just go to the promenade deck (usually deck 4 or 5) and walk all the way forward.

Once there, you will find benches to sit on but the best spots are as far forward as you can get.

In addition to sailaway, the helipad is usually open most of the day, but it can close at any time for safety reasons (usually high winds).

Bridge wings

Whether you want the best vantage point for a photo, or just want to get one of the most unubstructed views aboard, the bridge wings are a great choice.

Bridge wings are available on Quantum and Oasis class cruise ships.

 Located on deck 14, these viewing platforms extend out from the ship to provide the absolute best view of what is around.

To get to the wing viewing areas, go to the Solarium and proceed all the way forward

Peek-a-boo bridge

One of the best features of Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ships has to be is the Peek-A-Boo bridge feature, where guests can peer into the bridge at almost any time.

The observation window allows guests to look down onto the bridge and observe what the officers are up to in their daily navigational duties.  

To reach the Peek-A-Boo bridge, head up to deck 11 and walk past the sliding doors that go forward of the Solarium and do not seem to lead anywhere.

Some Voyager Class ships have had this area removed with recent refurbishments, but not all ships.

Tucked away spots on jogging track

On Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, you will find two usually deserted spots for gaming or relaxing.

Harmony of the Seas has a small seating area on both sides of the forward section on deck 5 of the ship to relax in with plenty of lounge chairs.

These areas do not have a name mentioned to reference them, but they are just off the running track on both sides.  Some runners choose to use these areas as a break point, while others simply bring their coffee or book to enjoy the view.

On Symphony of the Seas, you will find on each side of the forward jogging track two alcoves where you can enjoy the view of the ocean and even some lounge chairs.

One side of the deck has a shuffleboard court, and the other had ping pong tables. These alcoves are not only great spots to find seclusion, but they offer something to do with very likely no wait.

Playmaker's Owners Box

If your crew are looking for a great spot to chat and call your own, be sure to grab the Owner's Box.

On different ships that have a Playmaker's Sports Bar, there is usually a carved out space that is perfect for a group to chat, drink and eat in that provides a bit more privacy than anywhere in the bar.

You can still get drink and food service here, and there is no cost to sit in the Owner's Box. It is simply first come, first served.

Outdoor Windjammer tables

If you happen to be on a Radiance or Quantum Class ship, there is outdoor seating towards the rear of the Windjammer.  

Most guests simply grab their food and sit at one of the tables surrounding the buffet stations, but there is additional seating at the aft of the ship where you can enjoy the passing breeze, as well as the views around you.

After you get your food, keep walking towards the back through a set of doors to discover this usually not busy spot. There are coffee and water stations outside as well.

Your thoughts

Is there a secret spot on a Royal Caribbean ship that you think is worthy of this list? Have you been to any of these hidden gems? Share your thoughts in our comments!

Top 5 things Royal Caribbean had planned for 2020 that got delayed

In:
02Oct2020

The year 2020 will be known for a lot of things, including everyone's plans getting delayed or canceled, including Royal Caribbean.

At the start of the year, Royal Caribbean had some major plans lined up, and unfortunately most of them did not come to fruition.  Many were delayed, and some may never actually happen. 

While there are a couple of months left in the year. here are the top five things we can safely say are definitely not happening this year anymore.

Ship upgrades

One of the early casualties for Royal Caribbean fans this year were scheduled ship upgrades.

While Freedom of the Seas managed to get her Royal Amplification complete in the early part of the year, every other ship upgrade scheduled for this year (and next) is on hold until further notice.

Allure of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas were scheduled to get upgraded this summer, and those plans have been scrapped indefinitely. 

In addition, scheduled upgrades for Liberty of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas have also been put on hold.

Odyssey of the Seas debut

Few dates are as significant for a cruise line as the debut of a new cruise ship, but Royal Caribbean was forced to delay the debut of its next new cruise ship until next spring.

Odyssey of the Seas was scheduled to begin sailing in November 2020, but will now not sail until April 2021. All scheduled Odyssey of the Seas sailings between November 5, 2020 - April 17, 2021 have been canceled.

In addition to the canceled sailings, Royal Caribbean also announced two other changes to Odyssey of the Seas.

First, the trapeze school will no longer be a feature of the SeaPlex.

Second, the age restrictions for the Sky Pad virtual trampoline experience will change: guests must be at least 7 years old to jump, and at least 13 years old to jump with a virtual reality headset.

Odyssey was set to be the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to arrive in North America, and will feature a two-level pool deck, as well as a collection of restaurant choices to enjoy.

Oasis of the Seas sailing from New York area

So many cruise fans were excited to welcome the first Oasis class cruise ship to call the New York City area home, but those plans were dashed.

Oasis of the Seas was scheduled to offer summer cruises from Bayonne, New Jersey between May and October 2020.

The voluntary cruise shutdown hit before one sailing could be offered, and eventually, the entire season was canceled.

The good news is Oasis is scheduled to return to Cape Liberty for summer 2021.

President's Cruise in Europe

The annual tradition of Royal Caribbean's President and CEO Michael Bayley hosting a cruise for loyal cruisers is among the many disappointments from the year that was 2020.

While there was hope it could be pulled off, Mr. Bayley informed guests in August that it was indeed cancelled.

"This is disappointing news for you and me. The President's Cruise is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate the cruise line we love, our incredible crew and each other — something we have been doing since 2016."

There has not been a President's Cruise announced yet for 2021, but Mr. Bayley did say they were working on other ideas that the cruise line is working on for guests that will be announced at a later date.

New project construction delays

With cashflow coming to a near halt, so many projects had to be postponed.

Royal Caribbean's new Miami headquarters that are still under construction were paused, resumed and paused again.

Plans to begin construction of a new cruise terminal in Galveston have been delayed by a year.

Many other destination projects have had no updates at all, including the Royal Beach Club in Antigua, Freeport Harbour Village, Perfect Day at Lelepa and more.

Like most plans, the sooner Royal Caribbean can begin cruising again, the more likely these projects may get back on track again.

Which of these projects were you most looking forward to enjoying? Share your comments below!

6 things that happen on a cruise that nobody talks about

In:
17Sep2020

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

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

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

Get frustrated at some point

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

Getting frustrated, or even having a meltdown in front of family and strangers, happens to the best of us.  We are all humans, and we all have our tipping point, so occasionally something occurs that triggers someone and that leads to a few minutes we regret later.

One of the best pieces of cruise advice is to try to be as flexible as possible. You cannot control everything that occurs, and sometimes you just run into bad luck.

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

The key is not letting this incident ruin the rest of your day or cruise. We all experience frustration, but try to remember the classic mantra of don't worry, be happy.

Travel stomach

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

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

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

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

Sleep through activities we wanted to do

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

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

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

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

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

Have one too many drinks on a sea day

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

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

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

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

The best DIY shore excursion: go to a supermarket

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

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

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

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

Readjusting to your routines after the cruise is no fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts

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

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

In:
11Sep2020

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

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

Tempting fate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fly in a day early

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

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

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

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

What to do if you have to fly the same day

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

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

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

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