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7 Things to Know about Anthem of the Seas

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I just stepped off Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Anthem of the Seas, and while two days wasn’t nearly enough time on the ship, it gave me a taste of what I needed to know.

Here are seven things you need to know before you sail Anthem of the Seas.

1. Heavily Research the Ship

This ship is huge and can be very intimidating when you first board. Make sure you have everything you need and be armed with at least the layout of your favorite places. Spend some time checking over the deck maps, watching some videos on YouTube and reviewing the features of the ship on Royal Caribbean’s website. I made a list of what I wanted to see on the ship and checked it off when I did it.

2. Embarkation is Easy

If you’re prepared when you get to the ship then embarkation will be a breeze. They scan your sea pass, your passport, and credit card and you’re on your way. From curb to ship was under 10 minutes for me. One of my colleagues thought he was above printing his sea pass and didn’t have it at the pier, even then it was only a few extra minutes tacked on to boarding. He was on the ship in 15 minutes.

3. What Kind of Food?

There are a lot of food options, like 18 places to eat. So you will never go hungry. Some of the notable free venues are the Asian-themed Silk restaurant, iconic road trip food being served up at American Icon Grill, the Windjammer Marketplace with tons of meats, vegetables, a pasta station and amazing desserts, and Cafe Two70 that has a Panera-type feel. There are also a handful of specialty venues that cost extra. Wonderland, which has a $49 per person up charge, stuck out the most because it’s a whimsical dining experience, starting with bringing the menus to life with a paintbrush.

4. Are Reservations Suggested?

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Anthem of the Seas doesn’t have the regular main dining rooms that you may be used to, so there is no more traditional early and late night seatings. With Dynamic and Classic Dining, you need to book ahead. Anthem holds over 4,000 guests and dining reservations will fill up fast. So spend some extra time finding out when and where you want to eat. Reservations aren’t just for dining. If you want to see the Queen show ‘We Will Rock You’ (highly suggested) or take part in the indoor skydiving experience, it’s suggested that you pre-book to guarantee your spot. You can start reserving on your Cruise Planner at 180 to 4 days before your sail date.

5. Is it worth downloading the app?

Yes! The Royal IQ app is really cool. You can make/change dining reservations, see what’s going on around the ships, view menus and the coolest thing; track your luggage from sidewalk to stateroom (it goes through multiple phases before it reaches you).

6. How much are the gratuities?

Expect to pay $12.95 per guest, per day aboard all Royal Caribbean ships. You can easily pre-pay this during the booking process to make the onboard expenses cheaper. On a 10-night sailing, gratuities for two people would run you $129.50 per guest.

7. What are RFID Bands?

If you ever been to Disney World you’re familiar with their Magic Bands. Royal has the same RFID (radio frequency identification) technology aboard Anthem of the Seas that opens your stateroom door, charges to your account, and allows you to order drinks from the Bionic Bar – and a ton more. There is a catch, unless you’re in a suite, you will have to pay $4.99 per WOW band at the gift shop onboard.

We have just scratched the surface on what there is to do on Anthem of the Seas. Be on the lookout for more posts with in-depth coverage and thoughts of this smart ship.

7 things to know about #RoyalCaribbean 's newest ship, #AnthemoftheSeas! #cruising #smartship #tech #cruise #travel #vacation #anthem #cruiseship

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17 Extra Costs of Cruising

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While your cruise fare includes your accommodations, food, entertainment, and travel to the ports of call, there are many extra costs of cruising that can surprise you (and your wallet) without proper planning.

1. Specialty Dining

Today’s cruise ships offer unparalleled quality and variety in dining that sometimes comes with an added charge. Be prepared to charge to your onboard account if your ship has some specialty restaurants that entice your taste buds.

2. Bar Bill

At the Carnival Freedom’s cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, mixologist Daniel Zanoaga prepares custom-designed cocktails using herbs, spices and other interesting ingredients. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Unfortunately for many of us, alcohol is not included in the cruise fare. And while cruise lines all offer their own versions of an “all-inclusive” beverage package to ease the blow, it’s still an extra expense in addition to your cruise fare to budget for.

3. Other Drinks

Along with alcohol, other drinks like sodas, sports drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, energy drinks, smoothies, and milkshakes are not included in your fare – only tap water, regular coffee and tea, and lemonade, apple juice, and orange juice typically found on the lido deck. You can either purchase these à la carte or look for the non-alcoholic beverage package offered by your cruise line.

4. Shore Excursions

What you do in the ports of call is on your tab. Luckily, there are plenty of third-party companies like CruisingExcursions.com that offer exciting activities for competitive prices.

5. Spa

Spa treatments, packages, and some fitness classes are not included in your cruise fare. If you plan on taking advantage of these, anticipate some onboard expenses.

6. Room Service

photo NCL

Whether or not there’s a fee for room service depends on which cruise line you’re sailing on, and sometimes on what time you order food, too.

7. Gratuities

photo credit: flickr/Pictures of Money

Gratuities can either be prepaid or added to your onboard expense account at the end of your cruise. Costs vary depending on cruise line, length of cruise, and type of stateroom. These go to your steward, dinner waiters, maître d, and other hardworking behind-the-scenes staff.

8. Casino

What fun would blackjack be if you weren’t playing for money?

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9. Internet

Want to stay connected at sea? Plan to pay for a wifi connection, whether the rate is per minute or per day.

10. Pictures

Photographers will be taking your photo during the cruise to sell these professional shots to you before you leave the ship. And who can resist a family portrait in front of a starry background or the classic sailaway photo?

11. Shopping

Whether you shop on the ship or ashore, don’t forget to factor souvenirs and travel knick-knacks into your travel budget.

12. Laundry

Cruise ships almost always have a self-service laundry room for guests, but you’ll need to bring some change to be safe, as only select newer ships support using your sailing card to pay. You can also pay more for valet laundry.

13. Travel Insurance

It may be an extra expense, but this one should not be skipped. A trip to the ship’s medical bay or an emergency trip cancellation can end up costing you thousands, so purchasing insurance could actually end up saving you big time.  

READ MORE: Why You Should Buy Cruise Travel Insurance

14. Transportation

Depending on how you’re getting to the port, your extra costs may include airfare, a taxi or Uber, parking expenses, shuttle transfers, buses, etc. Plan ahead and factor these costs into your budget.

15. Tipping

In addition to the gratuities for your room steward and dinner waiters, don’t forget to bring some cash to tip miscellaneous people throughout your cruise like your porter, shore excursion tour guide, taxi driver, etc.

16. Before/After Hotels

photo: Hilton

Of course, if you’re staying near the port for the night before or after your cruise, this will be yet another expense to add to your travel.

17. Texas Taxes

If you’re cruising out of Texas, you’ll be subject to a state tariff enacted against the Port of Galveston by the (rather unpopular) Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision. If you bought any alcohol or cigarettes on the ship or at any duty-free store, expect to pay about $3.75 per liter of alcohol and $1.50 per pack of cigarettes thanks to this special state import tax.

Despite these extra expenses, cruising continues to be one of the most budget-friendly ways to travel!

What are some extras costs of cruising that you’ve experienced? 

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7 Tricks For Booking Cheap Flights

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Finding cheap flights can be intimidating, especially since airlines don’t offer price protection like cruise lines so that you can get your money back if the fare drops between when you book and when you fly. And with what it costs to fly, sometimes it feels like you could buy a car and drive to your destination for less money. That’s why we’ve come up with 7 tricks to booking cheap airfare.

Tricks for Booking Cheap Flights

cheap flights

1. Use a fare aggregator.

The fastest and easiest way to compare costs across multiple airlines at once is by using a airfare aggregator such as Skyscanner, KAYAK, or Google.com/flights. Just input your travel dates and from/to destinations to view flight prices, flight info, travel time, nonstop versus layovers, etc. – essentially all the travel information you need to know. (Note: Southwest Airlines is an exception; their flight info cannot be found on aggregator sites.) However, I personally only use airfare aggregator sites to get information on the best prices. To book my flights I always book directly through the airline’s website or through my travel agent; that way if there’s an issue I can work directly with the airline without having to go through a third party.

2. Book on a Tuesday.

Studies have shown that it’s best to book a flight early in the week. Typically, airlines hike their prices toward the end of the week in anticipation of a spike in weekend bookings. But by Monday the airlines are preparing for promotional sales, and waiting until Tuesday to book your flight gives competing airlines a day to match those sales or advertise their own.

3. Go incognito.

Airline websites use cookies to track your browsing history and keep tabs on what flights you’re searching on their site. This way, they can increase the price of the flight after each time you search it. To combat this, use the “private” or “incognito” mode in your browser so that the websites can’t track your history. Chances are by doing this you’ll have access to the cheap flights. 

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4. Scope out nearby airports.

Sometimes major airports carry a premium with their big business. Instead, look for nearby airports to use instead that may cost less: for example, Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami or Sanford instead of Orlando. This is especially important for cruisers who are fans of the budget airline Southwest, since the company currently only services Fort Lauderdale but not Miami. Since it’s roughly a $30 Uber ride from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, the money you’d spend on the Uber ride would still beat any premium you may pay on a higher-cost flight directly to Miami.

Read More: 11 Tips for Cheap Air 

5. Be flexible.

cheap flights

You have a much better chance of saving money if your schedule allows you to fly on a weekday, and especially if you’re willing to take those early morning flights that no one likes. However, be careful that you’re looking at trip duration while booking too. Sometimes a flight may be $50 cheaper but have a 5-hour layover versus a more expensive nonstop flight. In other words, look for the best deal without booking the worst travel option.

6. Try a consolidator.

Consolidators are “wholesalers” that buy tickets that likely won’t sell from airlines and then resell them at significantly reduced prices. Keep this tip in mind if you’re planning a cruise abroad, as you’ll be more likely to find these types of tickets for international flights. If you’re working with a travel agent, ask them to check air on their flight consolidator. Some consolidators offer an exclusive discount for flying to your cruise port.

7. Stay loyal to an airline.

Just like in the world of cruising, staying loyal to a line can save you money. Almost every airline offers its own version of “Frequent Flyer Miles” or a point system with which the more you fly, the more points you earn. Points can be redeemed for more flights and in many cases other travel-related expenses like hotels, rental cars, and more. If you open a credit card through the airline, these points add up even faster.

What tips do you have for booking cheap flights?

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Cruise Stateroom Categories Explained

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One of the biggest challenges to booking a cruise is making sure you wind up in the stateroom you want. Whether you’re taking your first cruise or your 100th, it’s easy to get confused… especially when looking at the seemingly random number/letter combinations indicating the various stateroom types. Because there’s no industry-wide standard, the designations are different for each fleet. Sometimes they vary from ship to ship within the same cruise line.

So what do you need to know about categories and what they mean? Let’s break it down.

The Basics

On nearly every cruise line, there are four basic stateroom categories. (This is not including exclusive areas, often referred to as ship-within-a-ship categories, such as Norwegian’s Haven or MSC’s Yacht Club.)

Those four categories are:

  • Inside
  • Oceanview
  • Balcony
  • Suite

Just to make things more confusing, these categories are almost always subdivided. For example, Norwegian offers studios, which are inside cabins designed for single passengers, and several Royal Caribbean ships feature inside staterooms with “virtual” balconies which, via LED screens, give occupants a simulated real-time view of the outside world.

What You Need To Know

Anthem balcony stateroom

Booking a cabin on a cruise ship is a lot like booking a hotel room. In both cases, the better the location, the more you’re going to pay. If a hotel is in the heart of the city and near all of its attractions, you’re going to pay more than one outside of town. Similarly, if a cabin is centrally located on the ship, the more you’ll pay. Midship balconies will usually cost more than those located forward or aft. Of course, as with everything, there are exceptions. Over the past few years, aft-facing balconies — generally larger and with amazing views of the ship’s wake — have become wildly popular and, as a result, among the pricier cabins in the category.

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For example, Carnival Cruise Line uses a number to indicate the type of cabin (inside, oceanview, or balcony) and the letter to indicate how desirable the associated location. Category 7A would be an obstructed balcony while category 7N would be an extended balcony. While the various lines each use their own designations, the basic idea is the same.

How To Find Your Perfect Cabin

Balcony stateroom on deck 6, midship.

You’re spending a pretty penny on the cruise, so you want to make sure you wind up in exactly the right cruise stateroom. For some, that will mean getting a cheaper, interior room — arguing that it’s just a place to sleep — in order to have more money to spend elsewhere. Others can’t imagine setting sail without a balcony on which to sit and enjoy the view. Once you’ve determined exactly what your priority is category wise, go to the section of your cruise line’s website showing deck plans. Keep the deck plans open in a separate window as you’re perusing and pricing the options. While doing so, keep the following in mind:

  • Once you’ve figured out the type of cabin you want, use the deck plans to narrow down your choice of actual room. See what’s above and below to avoid sleeping atop a nightclub or beneath a bowling alley, either of which could mean late-night disturbances.
  • Assume that the room you book is the one you’ll wind up in rather than hoping for an upgrade. They do happen, but if it doesn’t, you’ll be stuck in a room that you didn’t actually want in the first place.
  • Once you’ve put down a deposit, make sure to set an alert so that if the price drops, you can look into the possibility of rebooking the room at the new price or perhaps getting some on-board credit. For details on how to set a price-drop alert, click here.

Do you have tips for finding the perfect cruise stateroom? 

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