10 tips for making the most of your Royal Caribbean cruise
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
If it’s your first time on a Royal Caribbean voyage, you’ll probably be wondering what’s next after pressing the book button on your computer screen.
Do you just sit and wait around until the day of your cruise? Or is there some planning that needs to be done beforehand?
Even if you’re the kind of traveller that’s super spontaneous and doesn’t like to follow a schedule, I do recommend doing some research before your sailing. A little forward-planning will save you some money and time, enabling you to enjoy your vacay even more.
Here are ten practical tips for making the most out of your trip.
Tip #1: Look out for deals for alcohol, dining and Wi-Fi packages
Buying these before your cruise can save you a lot of money. If you book your trip around 2 to 3 months before your sail date, Royal Caribbean sends you marketing emails every couple of weeks with massive discounts on Wi-Fi, alcohol and dining (up to 55% off).
Obviously, most of us want to stay connected during our trip, so I highly recommend getting the Wi-Fi package at least. When I booked their Voom Internet Package two months before my sailing, it cost around SGD 28.82 per day for four devices. That’s around $7 per person per day.
On board my December sailing itself, the Wi-Fi package price more than doubled to SGD 60.89 per day for four devices. You get the point.
If you’re keen on trying out Royal Caribbean’s specialty dining, you can save up to 55% with their unlimited dining package. However, if you’re only keen to try one or two specialty restaurants, just book those separately.
The same goes for alcohol. If you’re in the mood for a booze cruise, consider a beverage package for more savings. You can also look out for unofficial ‘happy hours’ on board. We managed to snag discounted drinks when chilling at the adults-only Solarium in the late-afternoon (around 4pm).
Tip #2:Register for a Crown & Anchor Society Membership as soon as you book your first cruise
If you plan on becoming a repeat-cruiser, do enrol online for Royal Caribbean’s loyalty programme - the Crown and Anchor Society (CAS). You’ll gain points with each sailing and start to enjoy member benefits after your first voyage.
These include priority check-in, onboard offers and even onboard credit for spending during your cruise. Benefits increase with each member tier as well. For example, becoming a Diamond Member gives you a priority wait list for shore excursions and exclusive access to the Diamond Lounge on select ships.
Even though I had been on a RC cruise before booking my second voyage, I made the mistake of not signing up for the loyalty programme beforehand. My friends who did got to enjoy SGD 50 off their sailing, as well as SGD 50 onboard credit.
Tip #3: Try to book as many shows and activities beforehand or right after your board
Similar to beverage and Wi-Fi packages, certain chargeable activities are much more economical if you book them beforehand.
RC usually opens up bookings for iFly and their NorthStar viewing capsule a couple of weeks before their sailing. All you need to do is log in to your cruise planner on the RC app or your web browser to view timings.
As iFly is a really popular activity, do book a timeslot beforehand. Not only will you save a lot ( it was SGD 39.44 when I book beforehand, but around $50 or $60 on board), but it will guarantee you get to do the activity on board.
When I travelled on Spectrum of the Seas, all the iFly and NorthStar slots were fully booked after the first day as well. Fastest finger first!
And when you do get onboard, call the box office from your stateroom to book the evening shows at the Royal Theatre. We saw people being turned away from shows because of capacity limits.
Tip #4: Use the first day to do some popular activities
If you’re fortunate enough to be designated an earlier time slot for check-in (mine was around 2pm for my balcony ), make a bee-line for some of the more popular activities on board. Crowds are usually less on the first day as most cruisers would still be embarking and getting settled in their rooms.
On my sailing, there were still a few iFly slots left on the first day, but subsequent days were pretty packed.
The adults-only Solarium was practically empty as well, so you’d have all the space in the world to enjoy the pools and hot tubs!
We were glad we decided to head to the Seaplex and ride the bumper cars on our first day as well. When it opened around 5pm, the short queue moved extremely fast and we got to go twice. But on the second and third cruising days, we heard that you needed to make reservations, with much longer waiting times.
Tip #5: Opt for breakfast in the main dining rooms
With specialty restaurants closed during breakfast, the Windjammer Marketplace buffet, main dining rooms and Two70 Café are your only options.
On our first day, the Windjammer Marketplace was really crowded during breakfast, and had difficulty securing a table for 5. Due to a certain mix-up, my travel party had to wait around 15 to 20 minutes for a table.
They opted to have breakfast at the main dining rooms the next couple of days. With less crowds as compared to Windjammer, you don’t have to stand around and wait for a seat. Service is pretty quick as well.
Tip #6: Bring your own water bottle, shampoo and conditioner
I can’t stress this enough, mainly because RC only provides two bottles of water on your first sailing day.
After that, you’ll either have to pay for bottled water, boil your own water in your stateroom or obtain refills when dining at the Windjammer or the main dining room.
And unless you’re staying in a suite, the only shampoo you’ll be getting is the 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash dispensers in stateroom bathrooms. As you might have guessed, these don’t do a very good job of giving you smooth, silky hair. So do bring small bottles of your own shampoo and conditioner if you don’t want your tresses feeling like hay.
Remember to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste too, as these aren't provided for non-suite guests.
Tip #7: Check out your cruise compass for daily activities
Your cruise compass is basically a daily activity calendar detailing the timings of the various activities on board. These include the trivia games, dance classes, movie screenings, festive events, and performances both at the theatre and the bars and lounges.
There are also specific timings for sales on designer items, like a Michael Kors leather clearance sale or deals on designer watches.
You can also find the activities schedule when you download the Royal Caribbean app. I’ve found the cruise compass to be more comprehensive though. It even includes the weather forecast for the day and the opening timings of all dining and activity venues. To get a copy, head to guest services on Deck 4 and you’ll find it displayed near the counters.
Do come at least 10 - 15 minutes early for activities too. Some people were turned away from the game shows and dance classes because the venues were at full capacity.
Tip #8: Head to the pool areas during non-peak hours
Being on vacation, you’ll definitely want to head to one of the ship’s pools to laze around or go for a splash.
It can be really annoying to find tons of people there on sailing days, and have to queue up to enter the pool due to capacity limits. I found this to be the case during the mornings and late afternoons, where both the indoor and outdoor pool had lines.
The adults-only Solarium was a little less packed. However, due to capacity limits on the pools and Jacuzzis (max 5 at one time), we still had to wait around until we spotted people getting out.
If you want to swim in peace, consider going during non-peak hours. For example, lunch times from 12-3pm where most passengers depart for the restaurants. Or evenings after 9pm. We headed to the Solarium then, and were pleased to find relatively empty hot tubs where we could soak as long as we liked.
Tip #9: Opt for traditional dining on cruises-to-nowhere
Like most other cruise ships, RC offers two types of dining styles: traditional dining or my-time-dining.
With traditional dining, you get a fixed time-slot for dinner at the main dining room at either 5:30 - 6pm or 8pm. Your dining room, table and waitstaff remains the same for all your nights onboard.
This is great for a cruise-to-nowhere. As you’ll be having all your meals onboard, a fixed dining time saves you the hassle of waiting in line for your table. It's also nice to see the same waitstaff every day.
Dinner timings are also scheduled so you can catch the evening shows afterward, which are usually at 8 and 10 pm.
Of course, on a cruise with multiple port stops, you may want to opt for my-time dining, especially if you’re spending most of the day out and are unsure what time you’ll return for dinner.
Tip #10: Book a 3 nights cruise at the minimum
Most of my cruises have been 3 nights, and I feel it’s just the right amount of time to spend on board. I’d be happy to go for 4 nights as well, so I can fully experience everything the ship has to offer and stretch out my sailing days a little more.
With two nights, you technically only have one full day onboard, with the ship usually back at port at around 7am. That doesn't give you much time to watch all the great theatre performances, try out the rotating menus at the buffet and dining room or do the various activities like rock-climbing and the FloRider.
When cruising to different countries does resume, I recommend opting to stay onboard at certain port stops as well. I skipped Port Klang in Malaysia, simply because of the long travelling time to get to Kuala Lumpur and back. The ship is much emptier on port days as well, so you don’t have to jostle with the crowds to enjoy the facilities.