Secrets, Tips and Tricks

10 ways to save money on your Royal Caribbean cruise


Many of you are probably planning your next Royal Caribbean cruise and we want to help you save money so your trip costs less. To help you get the most of out of your vacation dollars, here are 10 money-saving tips for your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

Regardless of your budget, it is never a bad idea to consider ways to save more money.  For some of you, cutting spending may be the only way you can afford a Royal Caribbean cruise. For others, saving money might not be strictly necessary, but rather a way to fund that second (or seventh!) Royal Caribbean cruise of the year.

Here are some of our recommendations for saving money on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Not all of these tips may be relevant to everyone.  We each value different aspects of our cruises differently, and what is unnecessary for some might be make or break for someone else. These are just possible ideas, not across the board recommendations for everyone. Cost-cutting is not a good idea when it’s at the expense of the fundamental experience–if you cut things that are important to you, don’t be surprised if the amount of fun you have is negatively impacted.

10. Credit cards

Personal fiscal responsibility aside, proper use of a credit card can definitely save you some money on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean has its own branded Visa credit card, which allows guests to earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit on future cruises (as well as other rewards too).

For each purchase made with the credit card, you can earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit or even free cruises.

Of course, there are lots of other credit cards out there with various reward programs that can help offset the cost of your cruise.  Credit card reward programs with cash back bonus are popular options.

9. Skip the drink package

Whether a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth the money is an age old debate (well, at least as old as the drink packages are). Yes, the drink packages can save you money if you can drink enough, but it assumes you can drink enough every day of your cruise to make money on it.  Many guests who buy the drink package often report back with a phenomenon known as, "drink fatigue", where after a few days of drinking 5-6 drinks per day (or more), they start to feel they are drinking just for the sake of drinking to utilize their drink packages.

Even in today's age of drink package popularity, the truth is there are still plenty of drink specials around your ship that are worth considering.

Guests who skip the drink package can still save money on their drinks by taking advantage of drink specials found around the ship. This includes the drink of the day, bar specials, Crown and Anchor Society coupons, Diamond drinks and more.

If you are looking to save money, the question to ask here is, "how little could we spend on drinks and still have a food trip?" compared to the cost of the drink packages, not, "how much would the same amount of drinks we would get with a drink package cost if we paid for it out of pocket?".

8. Bring your own wine

Hot on the heels of the last tip, there is no question one of the best ways to save money on your cruise if you enjoy wine is to bring your own.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring their own bottles of wine onboard, up to two per stateroom.

7. Take advantage of Crown and Anchor discounts

Once you are at least a Gold member in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor society, you will receive automatic discounts that are pre-loaded onto your SeaPass card to be used on your cruise.

These discounts allow guests to save money off the regular cost of the services and products.  Buy one, get one drinks, discounts on the spa, photo discounts are just a few of the usual discounts.

As you move up the Crown and Anchor Society ladder of levels, you will get better benefits that can really help bring down that bill at the end of your cruise.

6. Consider low-cost excursions

The ports of call your Royal Caribbean cruise ship visits is usually the highlight of any vacation, but excursions are notoriously expensive.  There are, however, good alternatives to research that can offer a taste of the place you are visiting without breaking the bank.

Many Caribbean islands have inexpensive (if not free) beaches that may not be as impressive as some other beaches, but still offer a great beach day.  This includes Junkanoo Beach in Nassau or Emerald Beach in St. Thomas. Both are much closer to where Royal Caribbean docks than the more famous beaches, but both offer a fun beach day for far less cost.

While not as culturally enriching as other excursions, there are usually places to go right in the port area where your ship docks.  The Margaritaville in Falmouth offers a complimentary pool, the El Cid resort in Cozumel is next door to the port area and both offer inexpensive ways to spend your day.

5. Onboard discounts for specialty restaurants

There is no question that one easy way to bring down the cost of your Royal Caribbean cruise is to spend less, but that does not mean skipping all the fun.

Specialty restaurants have become a deeply ingrained part of the Royal Caribbean cruise vacation and there are ways to enjoy them without paying full price.

If a restaurant is open for lunch, often the cover charge is less to dine then, compared to dinner.

In addition, look for specials offered throughout your cruise that will knock down the cover charge or offer a discount on your bill. Attending complimentary events, like guacamole making demonstrations, will often come with offers to dine at the featured restaurant for less than the normal cost.

4. Take advantage of available discounts

In addition to the national sales promotions Royal Caribbean offers, there are also regularly available discounts for guests who may qualify because of their profession, affiliation or connection.

These sorts of discounts include

  • Active and retired members of the military
  • Crown and Anchor Society members
  • Royal Caribbean shareholders
  • Senior Citizens
  • Airline employees
  • Firefighters and police officers
  • Residents of certain states

Not all of these promotions are combinable with the highly advertised promotions, but it is important to be aware of them and to always consider them if they do apply. 

3. Spend your money on shore

If you want to enjoy plenty of drinks, eat at fabulous restaurants and buy some souvenirs for the family without breaking your budget, consider spending your money on shore, rather than onboard.

Generally speaking, the cost of drinks, food and souvenirs will cost less on shore.  Competition and even the cost of living can save a bundle compared to paying the prices for the same or similar products and services onboard.

If you are in the market for a massage, getting a massage on land can save a lot compared to the Vitality Spa.  Drinks at local bars almost always come out cheaper (and in greater quantity) at port.

If you followed the earlier tip to skip the drink package, drinking at the ports of call you visit can be a great strategy to enjoy a few drinks for far less.

2. Cruise off-season

If you really want to bring down the cost of your cruise fare and save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, then you need to cruise when others do not want to.

Cruising at times of the year when school is in session and most folks are not looking to vacation is a great strategy for saving tons on your cruise.  For cruises out of North America, these times include

  • January (except New Years eve week)
  • First two weeks of February
  • Late August
  • September
  • October
  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December

Many of the other tips we shared in this post are centered around saving a money here and there, but this strategy is the one suggestion that will really rack up the savings.

1. Use a travel agent

When it comes to saving money and ensuring you are getting the best possible deal, we are big fans of travel agents.

Travel agents provide great service to folks looking to take a Royal Caribbean cruise, whether it is your first cruise or your 100th, travel agents exist to make your life simpler.  They are keyed in on the latest promotions and they can be your best advocate for finding promotions that help you, not just the day you book but every day until final payment.

A good travel agent will be able to assist with the booking process, and give you every single permutation of pricing to figure out which itinerary, stateroom or promotion makes the most sense for you.  I cannot count the time I have saved by having the travel agent jump through the proverbial hoops for me to figure out what is the best deal for my family.

The reality is you only stand to benefit from using a good travel agent, both in convenience and time saved.

Your thoughts

Do you have any of your own “quick tips” for saving money on a Royal Caribbean vacation…or saving for a Royal Caribbean vacation? Disagree with any of our tips? Hearing from you is half the fun, so share your thoughts in the comments!

Five random facts about Royal Caribbean


Our writer Michael Poole has some fun facts to share today!

With all the excitement around all the new ships being built, ships changing homeports, and some even getting a full makeover in dry dock, I thought it would be fun to share some random facts about Royal Caribbean that you may not have known. 

5.  Johnny Rockets at Sea

In 1999, Royal Caribbean introduced the very first Johnny Rockets at Sea on Voyager of the Seas. 

Back when it was launched, the American-style burger restaurant was completely complimentary with the cruise fare.  This quickly created problems with wait times pushing over two hours, as everyone wanted to dine here for lunch on sea days. 

After a few years, Royal Caribbean added a cover charge to this venue to help with the crowd control for a nominal fee. 

At the time of this post, you can dine there for $6.95 per person, which includes gratuity. 

4. Nine Ships in six years

In 1999 the very first Voyager Class ship launched, changing the way we know cruising today.  Voyager of the Seas was the largest cruise ship in the world at 137,308 gross tons. 

But it didn’t stop there; between 1999-2004 Royal Caribbean launched nine new ships, marking the largest growth in the company’s history. 

But did you know Jewel of the Seas is newer than all the Voyager class ships? 

Jewel of the Seas launched in 2004, and the Voyager class was complete in 2003.  All of the ships are still in the fleet today, and we have all grown to love each of them over the years. 

3. Enchantment of the Seas stretch

In 2005, Enchantment of the Seas underwent the largest dry dock project in the company's history. 

In fact, they cut the ship in half to insert a new 73-foot section, to make her the longest ship in her Vision Class. 

This stretch is very noticeable by the suspension bridges on the top deck.  Her sister ship, Grandeur of the Seas was scheduled to receive the stretch, but the project was canceled due to the high cost of the project. 

So now we have one-of-a-kind in the Vision class, the really long Enchantment of the Seas. 

2.  Eight Retired ships

Royal Caribbean began as a company in 1968 and since then, we have said goodbye to eight cruise ships.  But the good news is one of these retired ladies is coming back to the fleet next year after a major dry dock, Empress of the Seas

Current Retired ships:

  • Song of Norway
  • Nordic Prince
  • Sun Viking
  • Song of America
  • Viking Serenade
  • Nordic Empress / Empress of the Seas (coming back in 2016)
  • Sovereign of the Seas
  • Monarch of the Seas

Have you ever sailed on any of these retired ships?

1. Project Genesis

In 2006, Royal Caribbean launched a new project called "Project Genesis" and at the time, we knew very little about this project. 

Royal Caribbean started leaking some information to tease us about their new class of ships. The excitement for this project was unlike anything I’ve ever experience with the launch of a ship. 

In 2008, they announced Project Genesis would be its next cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas. 

If you happen to sail on Oasis of the Seas today, you will see a man in the Royal Promenade washing away graffiti of Genesis. 

Tips for taking a 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise


Royal Caribbean offers a lot of amazing cruise experiences, including 3-night getaway cruises that are the perfect escape for a weekend or just a few days away from it all.

Three night cruises are among the shortest sailings Royal Caribbean regularly offers and today we have a look at some tips to consider if you are going to try a quick Royal Caribbean cruise.

6. There is a formal night

Just because it's only three nights does not mean there is not a formal night.

Usually the formal night is on the second night of the cruise, and it is just like any other formal night on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

5. Consider Buying the Drink Package

I know there are so many mixed reviews about Royal Caribbean's drink packages and whether or not it’s a value to you.  However, you might find it to be a great value to you for just three days. 

The type of package you might want is going to deepened on what you like drink, but remember you are only paying for three days vs the standard seven cruise. One more deciding factor that might swing your decision is the drink package works in Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. 

On both, Majesty and Enchantment weekend sailings, they visit Coco Cay so the package works all day in the island.  Even with all the Diamond perks I get, I still find the drink package to be a great value on the short three-day sailings. 

Ask yourself; can you drink 12-15 drinks in three days? 

4. Inside Cabins 

Since you are just going to be on the ship for a short 72-hours, consider an inside cabin. 

I don’t even look at the other cabin types when I’m going on the weekend sailings, because there is so much to do and so little time.  If the cruise is a special occasion I understand wanting to splurge a little and get a nice cabin. 

However, outside of showering and resting a few hours in the evenings, you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the cabin.  More often than not Royal Caribbean is offering some type of sale on the inside cabin’s. 

3. Planning shore excursions in advance.

Honestly, for any cruise I’d recommend planning port day activates in advance.  And this holds true when you have such a limited time on board, the last thing you want to do is stand in another line.  

Often the shore excursions desk can get a lengthy line, especially on the shorter sailings. 

Prior to the cruise you can make any shore excursion purchases online to avoid working with the desk on board.  I also find the planning part at home to be just as fun, as the cruise itself, okay almost as fun. 

2. Activities on board

On every Royal Caribbean cruise you get a daily Cruise Compass filled with all the activities throughout the day.  This Cruise Compass is going to have activities around the clock, so the problem you run into is, you just can’t do them all. 

Years ago, when I first started doing the shorter sailings, I tried doing as much as possible.  However, I’d find myself extremely exhausted by the evening.  So my recommendation is find a few activities you really want to do and left a few go for the next time. 

1. Board the ship early

Royal Caribbean often sends out text messages or emails advising guest with their boarding time.  Fact is, you can board the ship anytime you want, regardless of the message states.  It usually has times listed to board by which deck you are on, but just ignore this message. 

Again, you only have 72 hours on board and you paid for these hours, so do not waste them. 

I would recommend arriving to the pier at 10:30am and you should be on board no later than 11:30am, if not sooner.  

Five money saving tips for getting the best Royal Caribbean cruise deal


Perhaps the most common question we get on Royal Caribbean Blog is how someone can save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise or just get a good deal on their sailing.

It certainly makes sense to get questions like this, because no one wants to overpay for their cruise and we would all prefer to spend the least possible for our cruise so we have more money to spend on things like shore excursions, souvenirs, drink packages and more.

While there is no silver bullet solution that will work for everyone, there are some good guidelines we can share to getting you the best possible pricing.

Book as early as you can

We will start things off with our best tip, and that is to book your Royal Caribbean cruise is far in advance as you can to get the lowest possible fares.

In general, Royal Caribbean rewards those that book their cruises early with the lowest fares.  As more people book a given sailing, prices tend to rise because there is less inventory available.

Royal Caribbean typically publishes its cruise schedules up to two years in advance, which sounds like a lot of time to wait for a cruise, but it is among the best ways to lock in the best prices.

Your best bet is to book early and place a deposit on a sailing that can lock in that price until your final payment date.  This not only gives you the lowest possible price, it also gives you the most time to make payments on the cruise.  Plus, that deposit is fully refundable if you happen to change your mind later.

If you cannot book two years in advance, that is okay too.  They key is not to wait, but instead book a cruise as early as you can.

Use a travel agent

Whether you are brand new to Royal Caribbean or a veteran, you really ought to book your cruise with a good travel agent.

Travel agents are paid by Royal Caribbean and cost you nothing to use.  What they offer to the customer is quality service and expert advice on Royal Caribbean bookings.

It is their job to stay on top of the various deals and promotions Royal Caribbean rolls out there and because they are constantly pricing a variety of sailings across Royal Caribbean's fleet, they may be aware of deals and savings out there that you might not have considered.

In addition, even after you book a cruise, Royal Caribbean is constantly rolling out new promotions that could save you even more money, and a good travel agent will be there to re-price things for you without your intervention.  

On a personal note, I book all of my Royal Caribbean cruises through a travel agent for the service they provide.  I figure, let them sit on hold with Royal Caribbean while I do something much more fun!

Book a cruise during less-busy months

The first two tips I shared will get you some great prices, but if you want to find those super low cruise fares, then you ought to consider taking a Royal Caribbean cruise when many others are not willing to.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises throughout the year, but there are certainly times of the year when cruising is more in-demand than other times. 

Since Royal Caribbean is a family cruise line, what you want to do is avoid taking cruises when kids are off from school for holidays.  Summer, Christmas, Spring Break and Easter are all times when families have built in vacation time and many look to cruise.

If you can, consider taking a Royal Caribbean cruise when most schools are in session because these are the times of year when you will be able to net some super savings.

The best months for the lowest fares include

  • January (except New Years)
  • February (except Presidents Week)
  • First two weeks of March
  • October
  • November (except Thanksgiving)
  • First two weeks of December

To illustrate this point, here are two Freedom of the Seas sailings to consider. Both cruises are six nights, leaving from Fort Lauderdale and priced for two passengers in an inside stateroom

  • December 4, 2016 sailing: $1472.18
  • December 24, 2016 sailing: $2321.86

That is a $849 difference in price between two identical sailings separated by a few weeks!

Consider ships sailing from alternate ports

In addition to considering time of year, also consider the ports Royal Caribbean sails from and which ones can get you a better deal.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises from a variety of ports around the world, but some sailings always seem to be priced lower than other sailings mainly due to where the cruise departs from.  

The reason prices are lower from certain ports is because they are more difficult for out of state guests to travel to, and thus, there is less demand for these sailings.

In North America, you can often find great rates from these cruise ports.

  • Galveston, Texas
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Tampa, Florida

If you are willing to fly a little further and/or drive a bit more, Royal Caribbean cruises from these ports tend to offer some fantastic deals consistently throughout the year.

Skip the brand new ships

When you watch any of Royal Caribbean's television commercials, you will see scenes from their Quantum and Oasis class ships and they are absolutely amazing experiences, but they also come with premium pricing.

Royal Caribbean has a fleet of 23 cruise ships and they all offer really fun experiences.  The thing is, Royal Caribbean charges a premium for its newest ships, so some of the best deals can be found with the (relatively speaking) older classes of ships.

I know it sounds like with an older ship they will not have all the whizz-bang features of the new ships, but Royal Caribbean has spent millions of dollars in upgrading these ships and I would not hesitate to cruise on them.

Here are my favorite five ships that offer a tremendous value for the money

  • Independence of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas

There are plenty of others as well, but the bottom line is if you can look past the latest and greatest, you can find great deals on some truly amazing ships.

What are your best tips for Royal Caribbean cruise deals? Tell us in the comments!

13 useful Royal Caribbean cruise tips from that I learned from Periscope


Have you heard about the brand new video streaming app called Periscope?

It is essentially an app that allows people to stream live video from anywhere they have a signal and we, at Royal Caribbean Blog, are on Periscope too! (Follow us at @theRCLblog)

Last night we were chatting together about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise and I posed a question to my friends that joined me, "Share with everyone your best Royal Caribbean cruise tip."

Wow, there were some some really great ideas and I wanted to share the best of them right here on the blog.

Lisabeme2: Book onboard for the NextCruise booking bonus.

AVFD102: Get to the port early and use a porter.

RKSister: Don't overpack.  Wear clothing more than once, such as pants or shorts.

Bill1125: Book a suite to get Concierge access because at disembarkation, you get to use secret elevators and encounter no lines leaving the ship.

Jamesw32: Don't wait to go home to give feedback.  Get any concerns resolved onboard.

Daboyz1223: Wear a swimsuit onto the ship in embarkation day because your luggage may not get to your stateroom for a while.

Lisabeme2: Do the VIP All Access Tour at least once.

CraigOchs: Pack a highlighter to use for the Cruise Compass.

Kevinkline5: Walk as part of the "Walk for Wishes" charity event onboard.

Bill1125: Bring ice cream to the pool bar and amazing drinks can happen.

RKSister: Book My Time Dining a few days in advance before your cruise.

Jamesw32: Progressive trivia is a great way to meet new friends, especially if you are cruising solo.

Kris1208: Just enjoy and relax.

What are your best Royal Caribbean tips? Share them in the comments!

Three ways to save money on Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants


Royal Caribbean offers a variety of impressive specialty restaurants that serve up some of the best food available at sea and there are some ways to save money on the total cost to eat at these hot spots.

Whether you want to indulge in steak, sushi or Mexican, Royal Caribbean has added a number of specialty restaurants to its ships with cover charges per person that start at $25 and go up from there.

With these tips, you can cut down that cost and have more money to spend elsewhere on your cruise vacation!

First day discount

On most Royal Caribbean ships, the day you board you will find specials if you eat at many of the specialty restaurants that evening.

Most guests do not consider a specialty restaurant for the first night.  It is not clear why exactly, but specialty restaurants seem to enter guests' radar as the cruise progresses.

Look at your Cruise Compass or go to any of these restaurants and look for discounts available if you dine that day. Usually, there is a 20% discount if you dine at one of the restaurants that evening.


Pre-pay online

Royal Caribbean wants to encourage its guests to eat at more than just one specialty restaurant so they will reward you if you happen to go to at least three.

Using Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's website, you can save up to 30% onboard credit when you make three or more reservations at any specialty restaurants.

You will get the onboard credit on day one of your cruise and that's more money to spend onboard!

If you know you will dine at three (or more) specialty restaurants, pre-book them online to take advantage of the savings.

Dining Package

If you really love eating at the specialty restaurants and you just cannot get enough, consider the dining package.

We have seen the dining package offered on a few Royal Caribbean ships (Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas to name a few) where for $20 per day, guests can dine at any of the specialty restaurants every day of the cruise.

The dining package is not available on every Royal Caribbean ship, but if it is available on your sailing, it can be a great way to save money provided you want to dine at a specialty restaurant each night.

Which specialty restaurant discount have you used before? Tell us in the comments!

Why is there a rainbow bridge on Freedom of the Seas?


If you have been on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, you have probably seen the impressive and colorful bridge on the Royal Promenade that is near Guest Relations.

It's a beautiful expanse that changes colors with four golden spires at each corner.  Besides being nice to look at, there is meaning behind it and here is why the bridge is there.

Royal Caribbean has always made an effort to include a great assortment of art onboard its cruise ships and Freedom of the Seas has quite a lot of art on display, including this bridge.

The bridge was designed by American artist Larry Kirkland and the four light columns are topped with a gilded angel.

The angels are exact replicas of a bronze sculpture, "Vittoria Alata" (Winged Victory) that is found in Positano, Italy. 

Each angel is holding an astrolabe that represents one of the four essential elements of our world: air, water, earth and fire.

The bridge itself has ever-changing lights that suggests the evolution of the cosmos and the mystery of the origin of the universe.

Now you have something to think about as you are walking on the bridge on your way to somewhere else on the ship!

Top 10 Freedom of the Seas hidden secrets


One of Royal Caribbean's most popular cruise ships is Freedom of the Seas and we have searched all over this ship for the best hidden secrets that you might miss on this impressive ship.

10. Best spot for sailaway

If you want the best spot on Freedom of the Seas to watch as she pulls out of port, then it has to be the helicopter pad at the front of the ship.

Located on the bow, guests can walk to the helicopter pad and enjoy the unobstructed views that you can only get from the helicopter pad.  The perspective from this spot is hard to beat and many guests do not know it is possible to go here.

To access the helicopter pad, go outside on deck 4 and then walk forward, climb up a set of stairs and continue walking forward until you reach the helicopter pad.

9. Hidden door to the helipad

Speaking of the helipad, if you want to avoid the stairs that lead up to the front of the ship, there is a secret door that will get you right there.

Walk all the way forward on Deck 5 and enter the Star Lounge.  In the daytime, it is usually empty.  Enter the lounge and take an immediate right, just past the DJ booth.

There's a set of unmarkes doors that you can simply open up an you will be let out right next to the helipad.  

This is especially helpful if you have a stroller or are in a wheelchair and stairs are a problem.

8. Second best spot for sailaway

A good alternative spot for sailaway that is less windy than the helipad (and has no stairs) are the little observation areas on deck 11 near the Solarium.

Go up to deck 11 and walk all the way forward.  Once in the Solarium, adjacent to the doors that lead to the elevator lobby are glass doors you must open manually.  

Inside is a small "room", with windows that look outwards and even some chairs to sit in.  This can be a great, uncrowded spot to enjoy sailaway.

7. Enjoy the view from Olive or Twist

It is really hard to beat the views of Freedom of the Seas' upper decks from the Olive or Twist Lounge.

Located on deck 14 at the aft of the ship the Olive or Twist lounge offers guests sweeping views of the upper decks and the ocean.  

To get to Olive or Twist, you must use the aft elevators and go up to deck 14.

6. Get a taste of it all at FreedomFest

An event unique to Freedom of the Seas is something called FreedomFest, where the Royal Promenade offers guests a little of everything unique on Freedom of the Seas.

There will be food and drink stations available, as well as towel and napkin folding demonstrations, watermelon carving, photos with the ship's officers, and more.

It is basically like a "best of" from the week's events held in one spot. 

FreedomFest is held on the Royal Promenade and is usually done on one of the last sea days of your cruise.  Check the Cruise Compass for more information.

5. Sun yourself on the St. Tropez deck

If you want to get that perfect tan or just enjoy being outside without all the noise of the pool deck (or the crowds), head up the St. Tropez deck.

Walk up to deck 12 and then walk all the way forward.  You will see a large open area with some deck chairs that you can use to enjoy a mostly uncrowded sun bathing spot.

What is special about the St. Tropez deck is there tends to be not many guests here at all, leaving it rather tranquil.  

4. Best parade spot

The DreamWorks parade on Freedom of the Seas is a terrific opportunity to see and meet the popular stars from hit DreamWorks films.

If you want a good spot to enjoy the parade and ensure your kids have a good chance to be close to the characters, try in front of the Bull and Bear pub.

The pub has tables outside the pub that you can sit at in the time leading up to the parade and since other families do not consider a pub the first spot to bring kids to for a parade, it can remain overlooked.

Once the parade is about to begin, stand up from your seats and you will be up front for all the action.  In addition, the pub is located right in the middle of the parade route.

3. Find the coolest mixed drinks here

These days, Royal Caribbean offers its guests a lot of opportunities to buy alcoholic beverages but the best place to find the most interesting mixed drinks has to be up on the pool deck on the port side.

This one spot near the main pool consistently serves up more than just mixed drinks.  You will find the neatest souvenir mugs as well as interesting choices for drinks that we could never find anywhere else onboard.

On one day, they were making mixed drinks that you could drink out of a hollowed out pineapple, and other days had different light up or color changing mugs.

Look for a stand on deck 11 at the main pool, close to the Solarium.  The choices available change daily, so be sure to ask about what is coming up and when.

2. Ride the FlowRider on embarkation day

Guests cannot seem to get enough of the FlowRider surf simulator on Freedom of the Seas.  It is really fun to try and learn to surf without having to wait for that perfect wave but there always seems to be a line.

To beat the lines, go to the FlowRider on embarkation day.  Bring your swimsuit in your carryon luggage (or wear it to the ship) and then head to the FlowRider in the afternoon.  

Most other guests onboard will not have their swim suits or even be aware the FlowRider is open.  It is the perfect time to get multiple rides in without little or no wait!

1. Book the Ben & Jerry's Suite

Photo by David Fiske

If you want a stateroom with some real character, try the "Ben & Jerry's Sweet" Promenade stateroom.

Stateroom 6305 may not appear different on the deck plans, but it one of the most unusual staterooms available anywhere.

Located directly above the Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop on the Royal Promenade, the sweet has a view of the Royal Promenade blocked by the two cows that make up the ice cream shop's recognizable facade.

Inside the stateroom, you will find a cow motif, with cow-sheets, pillows, cow, cow's picture on the wall and much more.

Booking this stateroom also gets you coupons for free Ben & Jerry's ice cream as well as access to the Concierge Lounge (for passengers over 18 years), which are otherwise only available to passengers reserved for those who booked a suite.

Did we miss any Freedom of the Seas secrets? Share them in our comments!

20 Royal Caribbean tips for a better cruise


Taking a Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation because of all the great things to see and do onboard.  Swimming, fine dining, kids clubs, Broadway shows, and massages are just a few of the wonderful activities available to do onboard.  With so many choices, you may be wondering what you can do to ensure you not only see it all, but don't miss anything.

Here is our guide to the most helpful tips for planning a successful Royal Caribbean cruise adventure.

20. Arrive to the port early

When the day finally arrives to take your Royal Caribbean cruise, plan on arriving to your cruise port as early as you can to avoid the embarkation day crowds.

When we say arrive early, usually that means arriving at the port in the morning.  On Royal Caribbean cruises that depart from the United States, that is usually before 11am.

There are a few really good reasons to arrive early.  

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

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

19. Bring a bathing suit with you on embarkation day

When you first board your Royal Caribbean ship, everyone is excited to explore the ship and take it all in but the one area that is very empty will be the pools!

Since most guests pack their swimsuits in the luggage that they check in at the pier, no one has their bathing suits to go swimming yet.  This means, you can have a fantastic opportunity to have Royal Caribbean's impressive pools to yourself.

Pack your bathing suit in a carry on bag and then change in one of the public restrooms.  Towels will be provided in the pool area for your use.  

By bringing bathing suits with you to change into on embarkation day, you will be able to enjoy the pools and hot tubs without the crowds that will soon arrive for the rest of the cruise.

18. Try the popular activities on embarkation day

The FlowRider, Ripcord by iFly, bumper cars and rock climbing wall are just a few of the really popular activities that many guests specificially want to try on their Royal Caribbean cruise and the best time to try these out is on embarkation day.

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

Make a point to head to your favorite attraction after boarding to take advantage of low crowds.  

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

17. Book specialty dining in advance

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants offer some really great food in addition to the dining experiences elsewhere on the ship.  Book these in advance to get an advantage over your fellow guests.

Booking a specialty restaurant in advance has a few distinct benefits:

  1. You will lock in the price of the restaurant, so if Royal Caribbean raises its prices, you are set.
  2. You can break up the overall cost of the cruise.  Royal Caribbean will charge you for the specialty restaurant at the time of booking but that will be one less charge on your SeaPass account later.
  3. Booking in advance gets you the time and day you really want.  Many guests will try to eat at the specialty restaurants on holidays, formal nights and during prime dinner hours, so booking advance gets you the perfect time.

You can reserve any specialty restaurant that takes reservations by going to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  Once logged in, navigate to Dining & Beverage and select the restaurant you wish to dine at.

16. Book your shows in advance

If your Royal Caribbean ship offers any entertainment, such as the Broadway musicals or ice shows, in advance, then be sure to get a ticket before your cruise.

Not all Royal Caribbean ships offer advance reservations for Royal Caribbean's shows, but if your sailing has the option, you will be best served by grabbing a spot in advance.

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

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

15. Purchase the unlimited drink packages (after you think about them)

Since Royal Caribbean rolled out its unlimited drink packages a few years ago, they have been widely popular with guests and a great money maker for the company.  They can be a great value but it's important to think about what the package entails before purchasing them.

The unlimited drink packages operate on the basic premise that guests get to lock in the price of their beverages at a fixed cost and enjoy an unlimited amount of drinks for the duration of their cruise.  Sounds good, right?

The area where guests run into trouble is the daily cost of the package may not be a cost savings equation when you factor in the length of your cruise as well as port days, when there is less time to get the value of the package.

The key is to understand how the drink packages work and then consider if your drinking habits will mesh with your plans for the cruise.

If the answer to this question points you to purchasing a drink package, be sure to get it early on to maximize the package's savings.

Keep in mind you can purchase the drink package in advance or at anytime onboard your cruise as long as there are at least 4 days left in your cruise.  That means you can give your cruise a few days before deciding to purchase one of the packages!

14. Use the porters, they are there to help

When you arrive at the port to begin your cruise and then disembark your ship to go home (perhaps with tears in your eyes), do yourself a favor and use the porters at the pier to make your life easier.

The ports have porters that can assist with your luggage and while their services are complimentary, it is customary to tip the porter for their efforts.

Commonly it is expected to tip somewhere around $1-$2 per bag and that small cost makes the process signifigantly easier on yourself.

Utilizing porters allow you to not just have less stuff to lug around but in the disembarkation process, porters can make exiting the customs area quicker too.  Often porters have a dedicated line or are well indoctrinated with the process and can speed things up.

For a few dollars, getting to and from your cruise will be simpler.

13. Look for "hump" staterooms

Looking for a balcony stateroom on a Vision or Radiance clas ship? Keep an eye out for the balcony staterooms with lots of extra balcony space without any extra cost.

These ships have balcony staterooms that Royal Caribbean veterans call "hump rooms".  Hump rooms refer to balcony cabins on the ship's "hump" that give more than double the normal balcony size. The "hump" is the section of the ship that if you are looking at the deck plans, appear to pop out and create a hump, relative to the rest of the ship.

On the Vision class, the deck 7 aft staterooms in the D2 category cost the same as other D2 balconies but you get a significantly larger balcony.

On Radiance class, look for category D1 through E2 staterooms. These are among the largest balconies you can get and gives you an incredible amount of space for the money.

12. Open up those dividers

If you are booking two or more adjoining balcony staterooms on select Royal Caribbean ships, you can actually remove the balcony dividers to create one super-large balcony!

The secret to removing the dividers and opening up your balcony is pretty simple: you just need to ask. Talk to your stateroom attendant and ask if you can have the balcony dividers opened up because you are friends with the balcony stateroom(s) next to you.

Getting permission to open up the balcony dividers will depend on the ship class you have as well as the ship's captain.

In general, we've heard on Voyager class ships the practice of opening up balcony dividers is prohibited (many of the ships' balcony dividers are attached to the hull so it's physically impossible) but all other classes of ships seem to allow it. Freedom-class ships seem to be the most consistant in allowing the balcony dividers to be opened. 

It is one of those things you may as well ask because the worst that will happen is you will be told no.  So there is nothing to lose!

11. Take the free spa tour

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa offers a lot of services, perhaps even more than you thought they had.  While you're exploring your Royal Caribbean ship, feel free to stop in at the spa and take a tour of the facility.

The Vitality Spa crew members offer guided tours on embarkation day as a matter of policy but you can get a tour of the facility at any point in your cruise.  

The tour is complimentary and there is no obligation to book anything.  It will give you a good sense of what services they offer as well as what the spa looks like.

What we like about the spa tour is Royal Caribbean designs their spa facilities to be quite lovely in terms of look and sometimes you can overlook a service that you did not know was offered.

10. Port day spa specials

After taking that Vitality Spa tour we just mentioned, you may want to wait for a port day or two before you book anything.  Royal Caribbean offers some interesting specials  every day of your cruise, but on port days, the spa specials are the best.

Like every department onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, the Vitality Spa is looking to get guests in their doors and spending money.  On port days, there are few guests around the ship and so business can get slow.  

The Vitality Spa will offer up port day specials that are available for the time your Royal Caribbean ship is in port.  Each port day special is different, and if you can take advantage of one (or more), you can save a lot of money.

Keep in mind that the port special prices are available for the duration of the time the ship is in port.  If your shore excursion ends early and you are back onboard an hour or two before the ship is set to leave port, you can go to the spa and take advantage of the deal.

Another good tip is to talk to the spa staff about what specials they will be running during the cruise.  There is always a special advertised each day and often the staff will share with you what the upcoming specials are so that you can plan ahead and take advantage of the special that appeals to you.

9. Empty your mini fridge

Every Royal Caribbean stateroom comes with a mini fridge but they will also be full of liquor and snacks that will cost you money to consume.

Assuming you are not interested in taking advantage of the mini bar, you can ask your stateroom attendant to empty the fridge at any time.

With the fridge empty, now you have more space to store drinks, medicine and anything else you need to keep cold.

8. Bring clothes for the gym

We all aspire to eat better and exercise more, and that includes when you are on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean's fitness facilities are quite impressive in terms of the size, machines and weights available, and classes offered.  There is a lot to choose from so be sure to pack appropriate clothing (and shoes) for your cruise.

Be sure to also look at a list of the exercise classes being offered throughout your cruise.  These classes have an additional cost to them but they are a great way to try something new out or continue the kind of regiment you would be used to back at home.

There is usually a table with group class sign up sheets near the entrance of the gym.

7. Check if you qualify for a cruise fare discount

These days, everyone is looking for ways to save a little money on their Royal Caribbean cruise so there is more money to spend onboard.  Royal Caribbean offers a number of discounts to a variety of groups, residents and people in certain vocations.

Guests who are a member of the following occupations or groups can often qualify for discounts

  • Residents of certain states in the United States
  • Firefighters and Police Officers
  • Airline Employees
  • Senior Citizens
  • Royal Caribbean shareholders
  • Crown and Anchor Society members
  • Military (active or retired)

When you are pricing out your Royal Caribbean cruise, as your travel agent or Royal Caribbean representative about these discounts and if they apply to your sailing.

Keep in mind that with certain promotions and sales Royal Caribbean offers, these discounts that we listed may not be combinable, so it is important to see which discount will net you the greatest savings.

6. Use a travel agent to book your Royal Caribbean cruise

In today's day and age, everyone is looking to do things themselves but when it comes to booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, we definitely recommend using a good travel agent to assist.

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

For first time Royal Caribbean cruisers, it can be a daunting task to cover it all and a good travel agent with lots of experience with Royal Caribbean can be a tremendous asset in assisting you to get the best possible vacation experience.

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

To find a good travel agent that knows Royal Caribbean well, we recommend asking friends and family who may have used an agent before as well as searching the internet for agents.  

With any agency you run across, send them a quick email with a few questions to see what their response and response time is like.  The idea of sending them emails like this is to see how helpful, quick and knowledgable they are.  

Veteran cruisers will tell you that a good agent is priceless!

5. Book your cruise as early as possible

To get the best possible price on your cruise, it is a best practice to book your cruise as well in advance as you can.  Booking your cruise one to two years in advance will usually get you the best possible deal.

Royal Caribbean prices its cruises, among other factors, on supply and demand. As staterooms get  booked up, there is less supply and thus, prices tend to go up.  It is a lot like the airlines and how plane tickets are priced out.

The further out you can book your cruise, usually the better the price.  Prices fluctuate on a daily basis so there is no guaranteed way to get the lowest price available, but in general, the lowest prices tend to show up early on.

In the past, Royal Caribbean offered last minute discounts but they are in the process of eliminating these discounts because they want guests booking early on. 

Another advantage of booking in advance is you can monitor the cruise fare price and at any point from when you book your cruise to your final payment date, you can re-price your cruise fare and save money if the price drops.

Booking in advance does not mean you have to lay out the full cruise fare in advance either.  A deposit is the only thing required to reserve a stateroom and then you have until the final payment date to pay the full fare.

Final payment dates

  • 90 days for holiday cruises (Christmas and New Years)
  • 75 days for 7-night or longer cruises
  • 60 days for 3, 4 or 5 night cruises

4. Take advantage of onboard booking bonus

Perhaps one of the best deals Royal Caribbean offers is its NextCruise booking bonus, where guests aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise can get extra money back by booking another Royal Caribbean cruise while still onboard.

Each Royal Caribbean ship offers a NextCruise office, where guests can go and meet with a Loyalty Ambassador to discuss booking a future Royal Caribbean cruise. 

To entice guests to book another cruise, Royal Caribbean offers onboard credit on top of any other available promotion the company is running.

The amount of onboard credit you will receive for booking a future cruise onboard is as follows:

  • 5-7 night cruises
    • Interior/Oceanview: $50
    • Balcony/Junior Suite: $100
    • Grand Suite and above: $200
  • 8-10 night cruises
    • Interior/Oceanview: $100
    • Balcony/Junior Suite: $150
    • Grand Suite and above: $300
  • 11-14 night cruises
    • Interior/Oceanview: $150
    • Balcony/Junior Suite: $200
    • Grand Suite and above: $400
  • 15 nights or longer cruises
    • Interior/Oceanview: $200
    • Balcony/Junior Suite: $250
    • Grand Suite and above: $500

Essentially, this is free money and if you know you are going to be taking another Royal Caribbean cruise, taking advantage of this offer is a no brainer. 

If you are not certain when you can or want to sail again, book a cruise well in advance with the knowledge you can always change what you booked to a different sailing while retaining that booking bonus.

3. Research and book your shore excursions before your cruise

A big part of any Royal Caribbean cruise is exploring the ports your ship will bring you to, so be sure research these ports and the activities available from the comfort of your home.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Read the Cruise Compass every day

Simply put, Royal Caribbean offers a lot to do on every day of your cruise.  Your ship's entertainment staff plans an incredible amount of activities from sun rise to well into the night, so the last thing you want to do is not be aware of what is happening onboard.

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver to your stateroom a Cruise Compass, which is like a daily newspaper for your ship.

In the Cruise Compass is a listing of activities, specials, and other events happening the next day.  It is just a few pages, but it is your guide to literally anything and everything happening.

Often we hear from readers who lament missing out on a particular event because they were not aware it was happening, so reading the Cruise Compass is vital to knowing about it all.

One neat feature of the Cruise Compass is the daily activity list at the end is meant to be torn out, so you can fold it up and keep in your pocket.  Bring a highlighter with you to make it easier to label which events you are interested in seeing.

1. Speak to the head waiter about any dietary requests

Whether you are vegetarian, gluten-free, keep Kosher, avoid red meat, like extra olives or have any other special request when it comes to food, you will want to speak with the head waiter to make sure your main dining room experience is perfect.

Royal Caribbean's wait staff strives to give excellent service to everyone and that kind of personalized service means they are available to handle any special request you may have that they are capable of doing.

Royal Caribbean's menus offer a lot but if you have a special request, head to the main dining room and ask to speak to the head waiter.  Tell him or her what you are looking for and what will make you happy.

The head waiter can accommodate nearly any request if they have the ingredients and means to fulfill them but the key is to ask.  Too often we hear back from readers who were disappointed with the food selection but did not bother to make a request.

You can even make requests regardless of if it is for health reasons or not.  I often ask the head waiter for an Indian dish every night at dinner because I really love Indian food.  My father will request a plate of chopped vegetables when he dines in the main dining room for breakfast.  The key is to ask.

What tips do you recommend for a better Royal Caribbean cruise experience? Share them with us in the comments!