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MEI Travel

Royal Caribbean Tips & Tricks 

Mariner of the Seas top deck at sea

If you’re sailing soon on a Royal Caribbean ship, there are plenty of tips and tricks from avid cruisers that you’ll want to know. Each cruise line will have their own unique tidbits of information that will be helpful to know before boarding your ship.

Royal Caribbean has multiple classes of ships, from smaller Radiance ships to the biggest ships in the world in their Oasis class. Depending on your sailing, ship and destination, some of these tips will be more helpful than others.

In addition, the current pandemic has undoubtedly shaped the cruise industry. Now that all the cruise lines are back sailing cruise ships again, each company has taken a different approach to Covid protocols, vaccination requirements, cancellation policies and onboard expectations. We’ve included a few of these in our tips, since navigating the policies will be essential for cruising in the foreseeable future.

Here’s our current list of tips and tricks for Royal Caribbean for 2022! We’ve broken down the information into categories: Planning, Onboard, Dining and Covid-Related.

Planning Tips & Tricks

1. Download the app

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Royal Caribbean has started to rely heavily on its app for planning both pre-cruise and onboard experiences. You can check-in using the app to make sure your embarkation day is a total breeze. The app also allows you to make reservations onboard for shore excursions, shows, and specialty dining. 

Once onboard, you will find the daily schedule and cruise compass. The app will also have menus and plenty of resources that you will find useful each day.

2. Book dining and beverage packages early

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Chops Grille

Avid Royal Caribbean cruisers will tell you to book your dining and beverage packages early. Typically throughout the year, the cruise line will run sales that drop the price of the packages. You can always cancel your package and repurchase for the current price to ensure you’ve snagged the lowest price. 

If you are able, try to book your dining and beverage packages before boarding. This ensures you lock in the lowest price, as you’ll find the price to be higher once you step onboard. 

However, if you have Crown and Anchor status for Royal Caribbean, it’s best to know your benefits that you’ll receive onboard and weigh your options. You receive dining and beverage benefits. This brings us to the next tip!

3. Know your loyalty benefits

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If you have cruised more than once with Royal Caribbean, you start earning points in their loyalty program. The more you cruise, the more points you’ll accrue and the higher loyalty status you’ll earn. 

Reaching the mid to top-tier of the loyalty program will unlock exclusive onboard benefits. These complimentary daily beverages, free Internet days, onboard discounts, complimentary photos, and even buy one, get one (BOGO) specialty dining. 

As a Diamond Plus member, my husband and I are very satisfied with these favorite perks (which we each receive): 5 daily beverages (up to $13), Diamond Lounge access, 2 days of free Internet, BOGO specialty dining and 1 free photo. With these perks, we’ve never felt the need to purchase dining or beverage packages.

4. Make reservations early

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The sooner you can make reservations for your cruise, the better you’ll be. On some of the bigger ships, and especially during the pandemic, booking reservations early will be advantageous. Even before the pandemic, booking the nightly shows and your nightly dining will ensure your reservations align with your vacation schedule. 

This goes for shore excursions as well. You can cancel 24-hours before the excursion penalty free, so it’s best to be safe and reserve your spot if you’re eying a certain tour. The most popular excursions are often sold-out for cruisers looking to book tours last minute onboard.

Onboard Tips & Tricks

1. Stock shareholders get onboard credit

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If you’re into financial investing, consider adding RCL to your portfolio. Royal Caribbean shareholders are eligible to receive onboard credit when they hold at least 100 shares of the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean’s website defines that a shareholder is eligible if the cruiser holds at least 100 shares of RCL (NYSE: RCL) at the time of sailing. Cruises that are 5 nights or less will receive $50 per stateroom. Sailings that are 6 to 13 nights will receive $100 onboard credit. Shareholders who are sailing on 14 or more nights will receive $250 onboard credit. To receive your credit, cruisers need to complete the Shareholder Onboard Credit Offer Request and submit 2-3 weeks before sailing. 

2. Utilize the concierge

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Concierge Lounge on Quantum of the Seas

If you have access to the Diamond Lounge, Concierge Lounge or Suite Lounge, feel free to utilize the lounge concierge. We’ve had many instances where the concierge has helped us make reservations, change an excursion, or even help snag us early tender tickets.

These employees are great resources if you need assistance while onboard. The concierge will usually go above and beyond to make sure you’re happy!

3. Destination make a difference

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You can cruise on an identical class ship within Royal Caribbean but find that the onboard experience is vastly different. For example, I cruised on the Spectrum of the Seas in July 2019 from Shanghai to Japan. This was unlike any Royal Caribbean experience we’d ever had!

Loyalty Benefits worked slightly differently, as the Spectrum of the Seas was built to cater directly to the Chinese market. Because of cultural differences, some of the onboard amenities were not free. For example, the North Star onboard Quantum-class ships is usually free for North American sailings. In the China market, this was an additional cost of $40 per person. Bumper Cars and iFly were also an extra expense on the Spectrum of the Seas. 

On our sailing, the traditional Diamond Lounge with complimentary drinks was also located in a corner of the Solarium, which was unusual. As Diamond Plus members, we had access to special dining and an exclusive solarium.   

4. Do the onboard thrills day 1 or in-port

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As Royal Caribbean builds bigger ships, there are so many onboard thrills to squeeze into your vacation. Pre-pandemic, the lines for the hottest commodities onboard could get a little long.

If you wait to do everything onboard when you have a sea day, then be prepared to find plenty of other cruisers with the same idea. 

One of the best tips we received long ago was to do the onboard thrills on Day 1. You’ll also find shorter lines if you can fit in your activities on a port-day, sometimes before or after departure. Check the cruise compass to see if you can find an off-time to enjoy the onboard amenities. 

5. Onboard packages Work at CocoCay

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Plenty of sailings in the Caribbean will stop at Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

If you’ve booked a beverage package for your onboard experience, you will find you can use your package while docked at CocoCay!

In addition, Internet packages are also active while you’re docked in CocoCay. This is a great benefit that you won’t find in other ports while sailing. 

Dining Tips & Tricks

1. Eat lunch in specialty dining

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Hibachi on Harmony of the Seas

We’ve always enjoyed the Main Dining Room food, especially considering this is already included in our paid cruise fare. However, speciality dining can be a nice change from the traditional dining and certainly offers an elevated experience.

If you’re on a budget, consider enjoying the specialty dining restaurants for lunch. The menu is very similar to dinner, but the cost is usually half what you’d spend at dinner. 

You can also use your loyalty BOGO dining benefit for specialty lunches. We’ve found this to be a great deal - and often gives a more personalized experience with less cruisers choosing to enjoy specialty lunch dining. 

2. Johnny Rockets has free breakfast on Oasis ships

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Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets can be found on plenty of Royal Caribbean ships, including Voyager, Freedom and Oasis class ships. Typically, this requires a $6.95 cover charge for your dining experience (which does cover your entire meal). 

If you’re sailing on Oasis class ships, Johnny Rockets offers free breakfast! Though it's a specialty restaurant, Johnny Rockets serves a classic American breakfast free of charge on Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas. This can offer a great option for breakfast to switch it up from the Windjammer each morning. 

3. See the dinner menu early

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When Royal Caribbean started to add interactive screens onto each deck, we discovered that you could see the nightly Main Dining Room menu on the screens in the morning! For a while, you only could see the menu when you sat down each night at dinner, so this was a fun discovery.

The Royal Caribbean app also offers cruisers to see the nightly menus for the duration of the sailing, even on the first day. 

Those considering specialty dining, or other dining options, will enjoy this feature because it allows you to better curate your schedule to fit your dining needs.

You would hate to miss lobster night in the Main Dining Room (when it’s free) by paying for lobster at a specialty restaurant!

Pandemic Cruising Tips & Tricks

1. Get vaccinated

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With the current pandemic climate (early 2022), Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be an important component of cruising. Gone are the days when all you needed was your passport.

Currently, everyone over the age of 12 will need to be fully-vaccinated for Covid-19 with at least 2-doses. To be considered fully-vaccinated, you must have 2 weeks that have passed since the date of the last dose. 

It’s best to get vaccinated in a timely manner and make sure everyone in your traveling party meet the criteria for cruising. These rules are constantly changing based on the evolving science, so staying up to date is the best approach.

2. Understand Cruising with Confidence

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Cruise with Confidence

Royal Caribbean has one of the best pandemic policies when it comes to canceling and rescheduling. The Cruising with Confidence policy allows you to cancel your sailing, for any reason, up to 48 hours before departure and receive 100% of your cruise value in future cruise credit. 

This policy has been continuing to be extended as the pandemic drags on. Currently, cruises that sail before September 2022 and are booked before March 31, 2022 are eligible for the policy. 

3. Buy home tests

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Woman taking at home test

In addition to vaccine requirements, Royal Caribbean currently requires all guests to have a negative Covid-19 test within 2 days of sailing. I've had great luck with at-home tests that are video-supervised and qualify for boarding. These are also approved by the CDC for the required negative Covid-19 test currently needed to reenter the US for international air travel.

Be sure to take the test as early as possible to ensure everyone tests negative. No one wants to get denied boarding or travel to the cruise port just to get an unexpected positive result.

4. Know Your options

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If you test positive for Covid within 14 days of sailing, you’re eligible for a full refund to the original form of payment. If you are not willing to comply with the cruise line’s covid policy, you should also be entitled to a refund rather than future cruise credit.

This situation continues to evolve, so be sure you research your options and understand what you might be entitled to.

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