Looking for cruise tips on sailing Royal Caribbean? You’ve come to the right place. The cruise line is among the largest — and most loved — in the world.
That popularity is for good reason. While any cruise line can give you a great vacation, Royal Caribbean is at the cutting edge of what’s possible on a cruise ship. Ice-skating? Bumper cars? Robotic bartenders? It’s all on Royal Caribbean.
Not only does the cruise line push the envelope of amenities, but it also does the same with the size of their ships. For example, its Oasis-class vessels are the largest cruise ships on the planet. Huge ships may not be everyone’s liking, but they do offer the size and space to give something to do for everyone.
Whether you have a small kid that wants to play in a splash pad, or a teen that wants to zipline across the ship or ride the Flowrider standing wave, or you’re an adult that wants special adults-only spots to relax, Royal Caribbean can cater to anyone’s tastes.
In other words, no matter who you are, you’re able to have a great time.
Still, if you’ve never sailed the cruise line before (or even if you have!), there’s plenty to know that can make your vacation better and even save you money. Below, we have our top tips for sailing Royal Caribbean and making sure you have a great vacation.
Note: Want more tips for cruising in general? See our 107 Best Cruise Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Freebies.
Lost in the Hall? Look at the Room Markers for Forward and Aft
When you’re in the windowless cabin hallways, there aren’t any landmarks to tell you which way you’re headed. Walking toward the back of the ship looks the exact same as walking to the front. To help you out, Royal Caribbean gives a clue with the room markers.
It may be a small arrow pointing forward or an image of the ship, which points to the front of the vessel. Also common is a “wave” room marker. If you have one of these on your ship, the higher part of the wave points the way forward.
These small clues can help you from wasting time and energy walking in the wrong direction to where you want to go.
A “Free” Cabana at Coco Beach Club? Technically…
CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s extremely popular private island. While the island is free to enjoy, within CocoCay is a more exclusive area called Coco Beach Club. This spot has limited entry, a private beach, infinity pool, restaurant, and more. Admission to the club during a recent cruise was about $200 per adult, although it can vary widely.
Within the club, there are also cabanas to rent. The over-the-water cabanas run $1,899, but the beach cabanas are a little cheaper at $1,499. (Prices may vary based on when you sail.)
In the fine print, it says admission to Coco Beach Club for up to eight people is included with the cabana rental. Do the math, and you can see that eight people paying $200 each would mean paying $1,600 for admission alone. But rent a beach cabana instead and, assuming you have a group of eight, you’d get $100 off the entry cost for the entire group, and essentially get the cabana for free.
If you have fewer people, or admission is less during your cruise, then the math may not work out. Still, it’s worth looking into.
Buy Packages Beforehand to Save Money
Of course the best way to save the most money is to not buy anything at all. But where’s the fun in that? Once on the ship, the average cruise passenger spends hundreds of dollars on everything from specialty restaurants to drinks to excursions and gambling. The costs can add up.
That’s why if you know you’re going to spend money — such as buying a drink package or Internet access — then you should look to buy packages online ahead of time. Royal Caribbean offers big discounts on many things if you simply buy them before you get on the ship. For example, we’ve seen drink packages being sold for buy one, get one 50% off.
To be sure, you can sometimes find these deals on the ship as well, but they are widely available online. Plus, if you buy them before you board, then you can start to enjoy them the moment you get on the ship instead of having to purchase when you are ready to start your vacation.
Read more tips about Royal Caribbean’s drink package here.
Older Ships Can Save Lots of Money
Cruising can be a tremendous value for what you get, but that doesn’t mean it is cheap. Cruises easily run into the thousands of dollars. If you want to save money sailing on Royal Caribbean, then look to some of the older ships in the fleet.
The cruise line is known for having the biggest and most ground-breaking ships, but these newest ships are also the most expensive. After all, when a new ship is making headlines, there is plenty of demand, pushing up prices.
Older ships are still well-maintained and have tons of features found on the newest ships. Even so, these older vessels can cost dramatically less money to sail. It’s not unusual to find similar trips on older ships costing hundreds less than those on the newest ships in the fleet.
Newer, Larger Ships Are Something Else Entirely
We’ve personally sailed a number of ships aboard Royal Caribbean, ranging from older, smaller vessels all the way to the cruise line’s newest ship. To us, there is a big difference with larger and newer ships that we think is worth consideration.
With newer ships, you get the latest and greatest across the entire vessel. So from your cabin to the public spaces, you get everything nice and new. This also includes the latest restaurants, venues, and more. With the cruise line constantly improving, it can lead to a marked difference.
As well, the big constraint on a ship is space. So it makes sense that the largest ships in the fleet can offer the most of everything, including more entertainment and dining options. But just as important, there is also just more elbow room to spread out without feeling as cramped.
Get Up to $250 in Credit for Being a Shareholder
Are you an investor? Shares of the major cruise companies — including Royal Caribbean Group — are all publicly traded. You can actually own part of your favorite cruise line.
If you are an investor, you can also get a nice perk: free money. Anyone who owns a minimum of 100 shares of Royal Caribbean stock (Ticker: RCL) is eligible for onboard credit. A few weeks before your cruise, send the company proof of ownership and they will credit your account.
The credit you receive breaks down as the following:
- $50 onboard credit per stateroom for sailings of 5 nights or fewer
- $100 onboard credit per stateroom for sailings of 6-13 nights or fewer
- $250 onboard credit per stateroom for sailings of 14 nights or more
One thing to know is that more shares doesn’t equal more credit. So don’t think you can double the amount of credit by owning 200 shares!
Learn more about the shareholder benefit here.
Bring Drinks With You to Save Money
If you want to save a few bucks, then bring your own drinks with you. Royal Caribbean allows guests to board with a small amount of beverages.
First, no beer or liquor is allowed. But the cruise line does allow two bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom. Considering the cost of a glass of wine on a cruise ship, that can easily save you a decent chunk of change.
In addition, you are also allowed to bring on non-alcoholic drinks of anything you’d like. It just cannot be more than a dozen cans, bottles, or cartons per stateroom. The size limit is 17 ounces. So if you’re a Coke drinker or like having sparkling water, you can bring on a dozen drinks and avoid the charge for these items on the ship.
Passports Can Save Lots of Time on Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is one of the most technologically-savvy cruise lines and is always looking for ways to use the latest tech to make cruising easier and more fun. If you have a passport, that focus on technology can save you from one of the biggest pains in cruising.
Normally when you get off a cruise ship, it means waiting in long lines as the Customs and Border Patrol officer checks your documents before you are allowed to leave. In major ports, Royal Caribbean terminals usually have scanning stations for those with passports.
Here, you just scan your passport, take a photo and then you are on your way. (Sometimes you don’t even have to scan your passport. You just take a photo and walk out.)
Now many passengers can get through the terminal with barely breaking stride. If you sail with a birth certificate, you may still need to wait in line.
Share the Internet Package to Save Cash
Internet on the ship is available, making it easy to stay in touch back home or even work from the ship if you need to do so.
However, the price of getting online can be expensive. Royal Caribbean’s VOOM service has two different levels of service with two different prices. Either way, expect to spend about $15-20 per day.
At the base level, one person can use the service, and the price rises as you add more logins. So a family sailing with access for four devices at a time will pay much more than someone paying for only one or two logins.
One way to save is to just purchase access for one device and then share it among family members. You’ll have a login and anyone can use their own device. So mom can sign-in from the laptop and check email, followed by the kids on their phones. It’s just that only one device at a time can be connected.
Considering you don’t really need to be connected 24/7 while on vacation, sharing a login is an easy way to save money.
Drink and Internet Packages Work on CocoCay
Wondering if a drink package is worth the money? One thing to know is that the package is for every day of the cruise. So you pay for it, even if the ship is in port and you are out enjoying yourself all day. That means it’s much harder to get your money’s worth on a cruise where the ship has a lot of ports of call since you’ll have more time you won’t be able to use the package.
But with the cruise line’s private island — CocoCay — there is a nice perk. Drink packages extend to the island. You can use them just like you would on the ship. There are bars dotted all around the island, just like onboard.
The same goes for Internet packages as well. If you buy access for your cruise, it will work on the island while you visit. So you can stay connected even while you are relaxing on the beach.
Get to the Pool Early on CocoCay
Another tip if you’re sailing to CocoCay is to visit the pool early if you plan to enjoy hanging out beside it.
CocoCay has an enormous pool called Oasis Lagoon. The pool winds around with a number of coves and is one of the most popular spots for passengers to hang out. Surrounding the entire pool are lots of loungers and umbrellas.
If you know that you’ll want to be hang out by the pool, then we suggest going earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. Despite so many chairs, the popularity of the pool means finding a couple of chairs together that aren’t taken can be more difficult during the peak of the day. (There are usually plenty of single chairs available.)
See more CocoCay tips and things to know here.
Don’t Double-Pay Gratuities
Gratuity is a part of life on a cruise ship. You’ll be charged a set daily amount per person, per day on the ship that goes to your room steward, dining staff, and others.
But that’s not the only place where you will see gratuity charged. Anything service related — from getting a drink to a massage to eating at a specialty restaurant — will also have a gratuity added on automatically of 18%.
So a $10 cocktail at the bar is actually charged $11.80 when you see the bill. Be careful as there is a line for additional gratuity on your receipt. If you’re feeling generous then by all means add on a little more, but it’s not required as you’ve already paid once.
Be Aware of Dynamic Pricing
Royal Caribbean likes to use something called “dynamic pricing” on many things, and it can be frustrating for passengers planning ahead. What dynamic pricing means is that some items have prices that fluctuate based on your specific cruise. So a person sailing on a cruise might pay $65 per day for the drink package while someone on the next trip is charged $75.
You’ll see dynamic prices in play on drink packages, but we’ve also seen in on admission into Thrill Waterpark on CocoCay. There, we’ve seen prices ranging from less than $60 per person all the way up to over $100 per person, depending on the cruise.
There’s nothing you can really do about the prices set by the cruise line. However, it is good to know that there is no set price for a number of things onboard so you don’t judge what you pay versus what someone else does.
Want to Get Some Sun in Peace? Head Forward or Aft… or to the Solarium
Where else would you want to be on a beautiful day at sea than on the pool deck, getting some sun?
Well, thousands of others on the ship have a similar idea. The result is that the pool area can be packed on the gorgeous sea days. Between all the people and the music, it can actually be a bit hectic and not relaxing at all. Luckily, Royal Caribbean has massive pool decks that offer lounge space well beyond the pool area. Heading forward or aft can see the crowds thin out considerably, offering a much more relaxing place to get some sun.
As well, ships have solariums that are adults-only, giving you a chance to hang out by a pool without lots of kids running around.
Bring the Entire Medicine Cabinet
On a cruise, you (hopefully) don’t think about getting sick… or having a sunburn… or a stomachache… or a headache. Inevitably, however, there may be times that you don’t feel tip-top.
In that case, you want to be prepared for anything that might come up. We suggest bringing a number of treatments from home.
Royal Caribbean offers a small store on every ship that sells tons of toiletries, medicines, and more. Sometimes there are even automated vending machines that make it easy to find what you want. So the good news is if you need something, you should be able to get it on the ship. The bad news is that all these items can be expensive.
For example, we’ve seen bottles of DayQuil for $18, a pack of dental floss selling for $5.25, and a bottle of sunscreen for $15.
Go ahead and pack anything you might need. And if you do get in a pinch? Ports often have a small pharmacy or shop that can meet your needs for less than the price on the ship.
Check the Elevators for What Day It Is
Cruising completely takes you out of your normal routine. There’s no more weekdays and weekends. All the days can blend together.
If you’re lost on what day it is, then all you need to do is look at your feet when in an elevator on the ship. Royal Caribbean puts in a plate in the floor of each elevator that tells you the day of the week.
It’s a small touch, but it is a nice way to keep up with exactly how long you’ve been on the ship… and how much longer before it’s time to go home.
Buffet Item on a Plate? Grab It Yourself. Otherwise, Staff Will Serve Food
With new protocols put in place following the health crisis, it can be difficult to know at first what’s allowed and what’s not. The good news is that for the most part cruising is the same as it was before the pause, but there are some changes. Case in point: the buffet.
What you’ll find now is that passengers are no longer allowed to serve themselves in buffets. This is to keep touchpoints to a minimum. The staff will serve you anything that needs to be dished up, but there are also lots of individually plated items.
If an item is on its own plate, then that means you can just grab it since you won’t be touching anything other than your dish. Otherwise, let the staff serve it for you.
Want to Ride North Star? It’s Free in Port
North Star is an attraction on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships. It’s an observation pod that can fit about a dozen people at a time. You board, and then the large arm rises up in the air, giving you an unmatched view of the ship and the surrounding area.
If you’re on the ship and it’s underway, then there is a charge to ride the North Star. At last mention, it was $29. However, if you are in port, then on a recent trip we were told it was free to ride. The difference is that at sea, the ride lasts longer and will take you up and then out over the water. In port, it just goes straight up and down.
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