Are you planning your first Royal Caribbean cruise? We’ve been there before. Having sailed with Royal Caribbean many times, we have learned a thing or two about planning a cruise with this cruise line.
We have picked up several valuable tips to make booking and sailing with Royal Caribbean a breeze.
So, here are 12 things you need to know before you venture off on your maiden Royal Caribbean voyage:
1. They have seven classes of ships
From the world’s largest class of cruise ships, the Icon-class, to the fleet’s smaller Vision-class, Royal Caribbean has vessels in all shapes and sizes.
The variety of ships on Royal Caribbean sail to various destinations all over the world.
That doesn’t mean, however, that every ship has the line’s signature restaurants, onboard entertainment, and amenities like rock climbing walls or the FlowRider surfing simulator.
So, it’s essential to review the different ship classes to find the right one for your next trip.
2. The cruise line caters to families
Most cruisers on Royal Caribbean ships will be families.
Families will have plenty of amenities to enjoy aboard a ship, including water parks like bumper cars (on Quantum-class ships) and a dedicated kids’ program known as Adventure Ocean.
If you plan on taking the little ones, register them for the program as soon as you board.
Additionally, most ships in the cruise line offer a Solarium, an adults-only retreat to let you escape from the rest of the families onboard.
3. You can get the best rate by booking in advance
Royal Caribbean is constantly running promotions, but a good rule of thumb is to book your trip at least eight months in advance; that’s your best shot at getting the lowest fare, especially on the line’s largest and newest ships.
If the price drops within 48 hours of booking, you can call to get the lower rate.
We sometimes book a year or two in advance to take advantage of these lower prices.
Of course, if something comes up and you need to cancel, you can do so up until 75 days before sailing with no cancellation penalty.
4. Cruise costs depend on cabin type and location
From interior rooms to multi-story suites, the cabin options available on many Royal Caribbean ships are as varied as the ships themselves.
The advertised low prices are most likely for inside cabins on the lower decks of a ship.
If you want to secure a cabin on a higher deck, perhaps one with an outside view or balcony, the per-person cruise fare will rise accordingly.
Don’t be surprised if the total cruise costs are more than double or triple by selecting a different cabin category, especially if you opt for one of the suites onboard.
5. You have a few main dining options
Royal Caribbean maintains two options for dining in the main dining room on most of their ships. With Traditional Dining, cruisers are assigned a specific table and eat simultaneously each night.
The same wait staff and table-mates are there to greet you during either early seating (usually around 6 pm) or late seating (around 8:30 pm).
With My Time Dining, you can make reservations to dine at a different time each night.
6. Not all dining options are covered in the cruise fare
Like many cruise lines, Royal Caribbean ships offer a variety of complimentary dining, including casual spots, a buffet, and the main dining room.
Many of the line’s larger and newer ships also include several specialty restaurants.
These restaurants are not covered in your cruise fare. Most Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants charge a per-person, flat fee (generally between $25 to $55 a person), which includes a three-course meal with multiple starters and desserts.
7. There is a digital cruise planner
Before you board the ship, you will want to use the Cruise Planner.
Whether you book directly with the cruise line or use a travel agent, you should set up an online account once you have a reservation number.
This online portal allows you to book shore excursions, dining, spa treatments, and other additional packages for most cruises.
You will also need to complete your pre-cruise check-in online, which will help save you time on embarkation day.
8. Some entertainment venues require reservations
On Royal’s larger ships, some entertainment venues require reservations. You can wait to reserve your spot onboard or reserve your pre-cruise selections.
We always book our entertainment online before cruising to ensure we never miss a show we want to see.
If your cruise ship includes shows requiring reservations, we highly recommend booking before you set sail, as preferred show times fill quickly.
For shows that do not require reservations, we advise getting to the venue about 30 minutes before the show starts.
9. Purchasing pre-cruise packages can save you money
Who doesn’t like to save money? With a Royal Caribbean cruise, you can save the most money by pre-paying for specific packages.
The cruise line regularly discounts items like beverage packages, internet packages, and even shore excursions if you book them beforehand.
By checking your online account routinely, you can score the greatest deal. If you purchase something and the price drops, call Royal Caribbean, and they may refund you the difference.
10. The Deluxe Beverage Package covers almost all drinks
Royal Caribbean has one alcohol package called the Deluxe Beverage Package. Onboard prices start at $63 a day, and the package covers most beers, cocktails, and wines by the glass up to $14.
The package also covers bottled water, soda, and specialty coffees and teas (but it does not cover drinks at Starbucks).
We usually buy this package and find it to be a good value. You will only pay the price difference if a drink costs more than the allotment.
A nonalcoholic package is also available, covering beverages like soda, specialty coffees, fresh-squeezed juices, and mocktails starting at $29 per day.
A soda package is available for $13 per day.
11. You should use the Royal IQ App and the internet
Royal Caribbean has some of the fastest internet at sea, especially now that the cruise line has implemented SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet on board.
If you want to stay connected to your social media and email and be able to browse the internet, we suggest purchasing one of the internet packages.
The plans are charged per day, and costs vary based on your surfing needs.
Even if you decide not to purchase an internet plan, you may download the Royal Caribbean app.
This app is free to use and lets you stay informed of what is happening throughout the cruise. In this app, you can see your scheduled reservations, make or change reservations, and view what occurs onboard each day.
12. The cruise compass is your onboard Guide
If you are not tech-savvy or prefer the printed page, you must get your hands on each day’s Cruise Compass.
The Compass includes a complete rundown of all onboard activities, entertainment, shopping, shows, and dining events that day. The digital version of the Compass is part of the Royal Caribbean app.
If you want a paper version, you’ll have to ask Guest Services or your cabin steward for one, as Royal Caribbean doesn’t automatically leave them in the stateroom each night anymore.
If you need a copy in another language, you can also ask for that at Guest Services. We constantly review the cruise compass before retiring for the evening to see what awaits us on our next vacation day.
With these handy tips, you can make the most of your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.
So, start planning now. Who knows? We might even see you onboard!
By Don Bucolo
Don Bucolo is the editor of Eat, Sleep, Cruise, which can be found at EatSleepCruise.com.
This article was initially published in March 2017. It was most recently updated and republished in February 2023.