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Royal Caribbean cruise line review
Endless entertainment for good family times.
With over-the-top fun like a nine-story zip line, rock walls, surf simulators and a water slide that drops nearly 100 feet, Royal Caribbean offers endless options for entertainment on your cruise. But some complain of paying à la carte for Wi-Fi and drinks and food that’s just average.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
Where do Royal Caribbean ships depart from?
With a based in Miami, Royal Caribbean sets sail from multiple Florida locations. But it also departs from East and West Coast cities and Canada, as well as select cities in Europe, Asia and Australia.
Amsterdam, Anchorage, Baltimore, Baoshan, Barcelona, Bayonne, Beijing, Boston, Copenhagen, Dubai, Fairbanks, Fort-de-France, Galveston, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, Montreal Dorval, New Orleans, New York City, Newark, Port Canaveral, Quebec, Rome, San Diego, San Juan, Seward, Shanghai, Singapore, Southampton, Stockholm, Sydney, Tampa/St.Petersburg, Tarragona, Tokyo, Vancouver, Venice
Royal Caribbean destinations
While it does specialize in trips to the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean offers adventures to more than 300 destinations on nearly every continent — Antarctic explorers should look elsewhere.
Alaska, Asia, Australia, Australia and New Zealand, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and New England, Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, Hawaii, Mediterranean, Middle East, Northern Europe, Pacific, Pacific Coastal, Panama Canal, South Pacific, Southern Caribbean, Southern Europe, Transatlantic, Western Mediterranean
What is included in a Royal Caribbean cruise?
When weighing the value of Royal Caribbean’s fare, it can be helpful to see what is included next to what isn’t. Here’s the breakdown:
Dining in basic restaurants
Water and nonspecialty coffee/tea
Kid and teen clubs
24/7 room service
Casino and nightclub entry
Dining in specialty restaurants
How much are gratuities on Royal Caribbean cruises?
Royal Caribbean automatically charges gratuity to your SeaPass account daily per person. You’ll pay the balance after disembarking, though you can also request to prepay up front through your account or by calling 866-562-7625.
Here’s what you can expect to pay in gratuity:
Junior suites and below
Grand suites and above
What is Cococay?
Cococay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, north of Nassau. It’s essentially a theme park, with activities for the whole family including a roller coaster, beaches, pools, restaurants, zip line, water park and a helium balloon that’ll take you 450 feet into the air.
However, most experiences in Cococay cost extra money. You can book and pay for each activity in advance through Royal Caribbean’s cruise planner.
Not all of Royal Caribbean’s cruises dock at Cococay, but many of its Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries do. Browse cruises that start in Miami, Galveston or Tampa if you’re hoping to set foot in Cococay.
Why you should — or shouldn’t — cruise with Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is a giant in the cruise industry for its boundless energy and entertainment. But gratuities, specialty restaurants, shore excursions, Wi-Fi and most drinks aren’t included in the fare, at the end of the day you may end up paying far more than the sticker price.
Weigh the benefits and drawbacks before booking a trip.
Food is available 24/7.
It frequently runs deals and discounts.
High-energy activities and entertainment.
A wide variety of itineraries dock at major ports.
Dozens of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Gratuities aren’t included in the fare.
Reviewers have complained of Mega ships feeling crowded and overwhelming.
Singles and older folks without kids may feel outnumbered by families.
Large ships prohibit off-the-beaten-path port stops.
How to get free drinks on Royal Caribbean cruises
Looking for a liquid-life hack? Here’s how to score drinks for free aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise:
Look for a free drink package deal. Sites like CruiseDirect, Expedia and even Royal Caribbean’s website sometimes offer special cruise deals that throw in a drink package.
Become a Crown and Anchor member. Diamond level and above get three complimentary drinks per night, plus more special deals for discounted booze.
Open a Royal Caribbean credit card. You’ll get free onboard credit as a signing bonus, which you can spend on drinks at the bar if you please.
Stay in a suite. Passengers staying in a suite get free alcoholic beverages in the lounge at a designated time each night.
Royal Caribbean offers loads of fun at decent prices, without the bells-and-whistles that more expensive cruise lines include. But folks looking for a more low-key cruise experience with fewer flashy rides and more lectures and cultural enrichment may want to consider Viking Cruise Line or Crystal Cruises.
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