Royal Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise lines in the world. Each year millions of passengers take a trip on the cruise line, with more than two dozen ships sailing all corners of the planet.
And whether you’ve sailed the line before, or you’ve never stepped foot on one of their ships, there’s plenty that you need to know about sailing the cruise line to make sure you have the best trip possible…
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The Newest & Biggest Ships Are Definitely Different
Let’s start with what we think is one of the most important things to know about sailing Royal Caribbean, and that is that the newest and biggest ships are much different than the older ships.
Royal Caribbean is known for having the largest cruise ships in the world. The Oasis-class ships are literally the biggest on the planet. And other newer ships like the Quantum-class are also huge, though not quite the same size as Oasis.
Still, both of these classes are very different from others in the fleet. The newest and largest ships have the ability to put all the latest and greatest onboard. This includes the Aqua Theater on Oasis-class ships, which features a one-of-a-kind water show, or Central Park. And the North Star on Quantum-class ships, and even bumper cars.
The end result is that even if you’ve sailed Royal Caribbean before, the experience is much different on the newest and largest ships. They can simply offer more variety of things to do on the ship compared to the older ships.
Get Ready for Some Extra Charges on Food
There’s plenty to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise that’s included with your cruise fare. On the biggest ships you can do everything from ziplining to wave-riding to catching some shows that match — or beat — anything on Broadway or Las Vegas at no extra charge.
But don’t expect that everything on the ship is free. Specifically, Royal Caribbean has lots to eat, but extra charges. For example, there is the main dining room, Windjammer buffet, and then some spots here and there to eat for free, serving mostly snacks. But the majority of restaurants — especially those with sit-down service — are an extra charge.
Want to eat Italian, a burger, or seafood? It’s going to be an extra charge unless grabbing it from the buffet or dining room.
Outside of the buffet there are some spots serving hot dogs, pizza, and Mexican food, but except for El Loco Fresh, it’s hard to call these offerings actual meals.
If you’re wanting to get the full dining experience, then be prepared to pony up for some specialty restaurants.
Dynamic Pricing Can Cause Headaches
Trying to budget for your cruise? Then two words might be the most annoying to you — dynamic pricing.
Dynamic pricing is something that Royal Caribbean uses for many things during the cruise. It’s a fancy way of saying there’s no set price, but the price of items onboard can change.
So how much is a drink package on Royal Caribbean? No one knows until you book your cruise. The price varies depending on the trip. Same thing with items like admission to the Thrill Waterpark on CocoCay.
There are price ranges that you will see, but dynamic pricing can make it hard to know exactly what things will cost until you’ve booked.
Entertainment Is Can’t Miss
If you’ve never cruised before or it’s been a while, then you might have the wrong impression about onboard entertainment. Maybe you’re picturing something hokey or tacky with performers that couldn’t cut it somewhere else.
Nothing could be further from the truth, especially on Royal Caribbean. The cruise line puts a serious focus on entertainment, with shows that you won’t see anywhere else — on land or at sea.
Take the Aqua Theater on Oasis-class ships. Here you have a high-energy performance with a pool that raises and lowers up to 18 feet. Divers jump into the water from dizzying heights, performers fly over the crowd, and dancers do unique stunts both in and out of the water.
Theater shows will blow you away, including one superhero show — The Effectors (performed on Odyssey of the Seas) — with a villain that commands an army of drones that fly out over the audience.
If you think that the shows on your ship aren’t going to be worth your time, then you need to reconsider.
Those Sales Don’t Mean Much
Head to Royal Caribbean’s website, and you’ll most likely see a big advertisement for the latest sale.
Not to burst your bubble, but these sales don’t really mean that much from what we’ve seen. Cruise lines — including Royal Caribbean — offer sales constantly. And while the offer may be tweaked here and there, they largely come out to the same price.
For example, cruises are charged at double occupancy, meaning two people for a room. So one sale might have 30% off all guests. The next one might have 60% off a second guest. It all comes out to the same price.
If a cruise line needs to fill a ship, then they can cut prices for that specific trip instead of having a huge fleetwide sale. Don’t expect that waiting around for a special sale will save you tons of money.
Direction Markers Tell You Where You’re Headed
A little tip that we’ve shared before, but it’s great to know is that the room numbers also serve as direction markers on Royal Caribbean. When you’re walking down the cabin hallway, it’s very easy to get turned around. With no windows, you don’t know if you’re headed forward or aft.
Different ships use different room numbers. But each one points the way to the front of the ship. In some cases it’s a small arrow that points forward on the sign, similar to what you find on the fuel gauge of a car to tell you which side your gas cap is on.
Older ships often have a “wave” above the room number. If you have one of these waves, then the higher end of the wave shows the way forward.
This little tip can help you from walking the length of the ship, only to realize you were walking the wrong way the entire time.
CocoCay Is a Step Above Other Islands
You can’t talk about Royal Caribbean without mentioning its private island destination CocoCay. The official name is Perfect Day at CocoCay, and the cruise line spent hundreds of millions to transform it into a full-blown destination.
On the island you’ll find perfect beaches, one of the largest swimming pools you’ve ever seen, an exclusive beach club, and a full waterpark with the tallest waterslide in North America. (See a full list of things to do here.)
Culturally it may not be the most interesting place to visit. But if you’re simply wanting a place to relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful water on earth — all in a spot that’s custom-made to cater to cruise passengers, then it can’t be beat.
Oh and one other reason to love it? Your drink and Internet packages on the ship also work on the island.
You Can Spend As Much or As Little as You Want on CocoCay
Keeping with CocoCay, since it’s sailed to from seemingly every itinerary leaving the East Coast, Royal Caribbean passengers should know that the island can either be the best value you’ll see or one of the most expensive places you visit.
On CocoCay there is tons to do. And you can spend the entire day hanging out on the beach, swimming in the pool, playing beach games, or working on your tan. That’s all free and many people opt for these things.
But if you want more to do or a more comfortable experience, then be ready to open up that wallet. The waterpark on the island costs money, often upwards of $80 per person. There’s the Coco Beach Club, which is a private area of the island with its own pool and restaurant with an admission fee.
Ziplining? The balloon that soars over the island? Jet-skis? Cabanas? Daybeds? They are all an extra charge. In fact, the price for some cabanas runs into the thousands of dollars.
So if you want to enjoy the day and not spend a dime, it’s possible, but the full experience can cost more.
We Think It’s the Best Line for Kids (Especially Teens)
When it comes to the best cruise lines for kids, Royal Caribbean takes the gold medal in our opinion — especially if your kids are a little older.
Any major cruise line will offer up things for kids to do. But we don’t think you’ll find one that has as much as Royal Caribbean. They offer splash pads and waterslides, the Flowrider standing wave, climbing walls, arcades, escape rooms, bumper cars, sport courts, and even dedicated teen hangouts that are so cool they would make mom and dad jealous.
Any parent knows that kids need seemingly constant stimulus to keep them entertained. Royal Caribbean offers that in heaps — and more so than we’ve seen from other cruise lines.
If you have an upcoming cruise on Royal Caribbean, then you’ve got a lot to look forward to. For more on preparing for your cruise, check out the links below:
More on Sailing Royal Caribbean:
- Complete Guide to Sailing Royal Caribbean (What It’s Like)
- Worth It? Complete Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Drink Package
- 21+ Tips & Things to Know for Perfect Day at CocoCay (Prices, What to Do, And More)