Royal Caribbean is arguably the most well known of the cruise lines and one of the biggest, in both amount and ship size. It has a fleet of 25, and holds places 1 to 6 in the list of largest cruise ships in the world. For reviews of the Royal Caribbean ships we’ve been on, see the ‘Directory’ above and carry on reading for general information on the company.
Why we like Royal Caribbean
This cruise line is renown for its innovation, adding features to its ships never before seen on other lines. These included the FlowRider (a surf simulator), bumper cars, RipCord by iFly (a skydiving simulator) and the hugely impressive North Star, a glass observation pod that transports passenger around the ship, 300ft above the ocean. We love that so many of the physical activities onboard are designed with all ages in mind, making Royal Caribbean an ideal cruise line for young couples. Obviously we don’t go for family orientated trips, so getting aboard outside of the main holidays like we do is brilliant; you can enjoy things like water slides and ice-skating rinks without the queues of children to be expected within the breaks from school. As well as activities, we also liked the formality level of Royal Caribbean: daytime attire is pretty casual but there is still the restriction of no swimwear in restaurants or when walking indoors, which we liked. There is a mix of casual, smart-casual and formal nights on each cruise, with the dress code as follows:
Casual: Polo shirts and trousers for men, sundresses or trousers for women
Smart-Casual: Jackets and ties for men, dresses or trouser suits for women
Formal: Suits and ties or tuxedos for men, cocktail dresses for women
We particularly love the formal nights, as there aren’t many holidays where you can dress up to the nine’s and not feel OTT.
One of the main things that impressed us with Royal Caribbean was the ease of planning the trip. After booking, you can use the online system (called ‘My Cruises’) to complete all necessary documentation and add any extras, such as drinks packages or shore excursions. The system is very straightforward and their websites FAQ page is very detailed. If the departure port of the cruise is not in your native country, you can also purchase flights through Royal Caribbean at the stage of booking; we often do this and find the price is pretty much the same as booking direct with the allocated airline, plus it guarantees Royal Caribbean will get you to the ship if problems arise due to flight delays. Prior to one of our cruises, airstrikes meant we experienced a long flight delay and we were very glad to have peace of mind during the wait that this would not ruin our trip (i.e. independently having to ‘catch up’ with the ship). In the end so many passengers were late arriving at the port, due to the strikes, that departure was set back a couple of hours; this highlights Royal Caribbean’s great handling of the situation but also makes us implore other cruisers to book flights/transfers through the company, as you really can’t predict what can happen on the day! Speaking of transfers, we also tend to pay for a Royal Caribbean coach transfer to and from the airport, as it can often work out much cheaper than a taxi transfer.
In terms of information while onboard, Guest Services was open 24 hours a day, with very helpful and friendly staff and there is a daily Cruise Compass letting you know what’s going on throughout the ship. It’s in the form of a booklet and is delivered to your stateroom nightly, with the following days activities, information on the ports (such as if tender boats to shore or shuttle buses are required) and various helpful bits of information. Throughout the ship there are also interactive screens, which tell you how to get to certain places onboard, what activities are currently taking place or even what’s on tonight’s menu (we like to plan in advance!).
Currency onboard is American Dollars but all ships have a cashless system. On embarkation, you are given a SeaPass card (which acts as your ID and room key), which is used to pay for purchases onboard. You can register a cash account at the pier check-in or register your credit card to the SeaPass account, again at the pier check-in or via the ‘My Cruises’ system prior to the cruise. At the end of the cruise, if you have registered with a credit card you can check your final bill (any queries can be managed at Guest Services) and the money will then be taken from your bank account. However, this amount can take up to 28 days to clear with certain card providers and it will be subject to an exchange rate. For this reason, we prefer the cash account, whereby you may be asked to put down a cash deposit (it can be a low amount of your choosing) and, if applicable, pay off the remainder at the end of your cruise. Make sure you change your currency to dollars before boarding, but there are ATM’s provided onboard should you forget.
- Gratuities: this can be a strange concept for first time cruisers, but is standard across most cruise lines. You can pre-pay gratuities prior to the cruise (and must do if choosing My Time Dining) or it will be added to your SeaPass account and paid off at the end of the cruise.
- My Time Dining: If paying gratuities before the cruise, you can select My Time Dining for evening meals in the main restaurant. This means you can have dinner whenever you wish, and do not have to eat at the same time sitting each night (called ‘Traditional Dining’, which is usually at 6pm or 8pm). It is recommended that you book a time for dinner each day to avoid waiting for a table (you can phone the restaurant for free from your stateroom) but we’ve found the majority of nights you’ll be taken to a table straight away without pre-booking. People like the Traditional Dining as it means you’re sat near the same people and have the same waiters each night, but even with MTD we found ourselves sat in the same area pretty much every night, with the same team of waiters.
- Drinks: Royal Caribbean offers various drinks packages, a ‘Deluxe’ alcoholic one and non-alcoholic options, such as the premium coffee or soda package (with unlimited branded soft drinks e.g. Coke). The alcohol package also incorporates the soda package plus specialty drinks like premium tea & coffee, fresh juice and bottled water. The Deluxe package is around $65 per day and whether it’s worth purchasing really depends on your drinking habits, so try and work out whether it will save you money before you buy.
There are a variety of free drinks on Royal Caribbean ships that you don’t really hear about until you’re onboard. These include fruit juices (our favourite was strawberry-kiwi flavour), tropical punch, ice tea and lemonade, served in the Windjammer and at various stations around the ship. Water and ice is also available from machines, plus tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
With many routes, many ships and many activities, Royal Caribbean is all about choice. This is what we think makes the company so suited to young couples, as both halves are guaranteed to find something to suit their tastes.