Royal Caribbean fleet
Review of Royal Caribbean
The Royal Caribbean International company is a subsidiary line and a feature brand name of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) – a Norwegian-American company, and the world’s second largest cruise shipping operator - after Carnival Corporation. As of 2009, RCCL controls 25% of the world's ship cruising market.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is based in Miami, Florida and incorporated in Liberia. The company was formed in 1997 when RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line), established in 1968, and Celebrity Cruises, established in 1988, was then purchased. A decision was made to keep the two brands separate. As a result, RCCL was re-branded Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. was founded as the new parent company of RCI and Celebrity.
Today, the Royal Caribbean (RCCL parrent company) operates 42 of the world’s biggest passenger ships, under 5 different fully owned brands. The list with Royal Caribbean International’s sister lines includes Celebrity, Pullmantur, Azamara, and CDF (Croisieres de France), plus a 50% stake in TUI Cruises. RCCL headquarters adress is in Miami: Royal Caribbean International, 1050 Royal Caribbean Way, Miami, FL, 33132-2096 USA.
Royal Caribbean is in top 3 best family cruises lines in the world, and owns some of the most popular ships for young adults, kids, and teens. The best of the mass-market lines is recommended mostly for young and middle-age, active and sports-oriented travelers. The high class new cruise ships (called “floating towns” for a reason) have larger staterooms, and endless choices of activities, with the best ideas for family fun cruises.
A signature feature of RCI ships is the "Viking Crown Lounge", introduced in 1970 with RCI's first ship MS Song of Norway (scrapped in 2013 as "Formosa Queen"). As RCI ships grew in size, the lounge also grew. On the Vision-Class (ships 1995) its location was changed - from forward to midship-aft (near the smokestacks) alowing more space to be alocated for the new amenities and entertainment.
In 2014 and 2015, Royal Caribbean International introduced their brand new Dynamic Dining concept that replaced the Main Dining Room concept on Quantum-class ships.
- RCI vessels with Dynamic Dining don't have a main dining room. Instead, they feature complimentary table service restaurants, each with its own theme and menu: "The Grande", "American Icon Grill", "Chic" and "Silk".
- Guests staying in suites have access to the "Coastal Kitchen" complimentary restaurant. Similar to the Freestyle concept on NCL Norwegian, passengers make reservations for their restaurant choice for each night in advance.
- Each venue maintains the same staff and menu throughout the cruise. Anthem of the Seas has a "Dynamic Dining Classic" option, allowing guests rotate between dining venues but keep the same waiter, assistant waiter and tablemates, from night to night.
The line had planned to extend its dynamic dining concept to Oasis-class ships. During 2014-2015 drydock refurbishments, decor and signage was installed on the 3 levels of the Main Dining Rooms of Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas to prepare them to function as separate "The Grande", "Silk" and "American Icon Grill" restaurants, although the 3 levels continued operating as a single dining room. "Coastal Kitchen" was also installed for suite guests only. However, on 15 July 2015, RCI announced that the dynamic dining concept would not be rolled out on Oasis-class ships or any other vessel classes not specifically designed for it. The line also clarified that upcoming Harmony of the Seas would debut with traditional and "My Time Dining" options.
Besides the Main Dining Rooms, RCI also features the "Chops Grille" steakhouse, "Windjammer Cafe" buffet restaurant, “Johnny Rockets”, Asian "Izumi", Poolside Bars and 24-hour Room Service. The “Cupcake Cupboard” is an onboard bakery available on the newest and refurbished ships. It offers 30 delicious cupcakes. Select Royal Caribbean ships offer the Starbucks coffee at sea.
The new alcohol policy of the line allows passengers to bring their own wine on board and consume it in the cabin for free, or for a corkage fee (an additional charge) in public areas.
The Voyager-, Freedom-, and Oasis-class ships laa feature the Royal Promenade. It is a centerline promenade in a multi-deck atrium with pedestrian mall featuring restaurants and shops. At night, the promenades are turned into entertainment venues, hosting parades and dance parties. Royal Promenade's upper levels are home to "Promenade Staterooms" with a window overlooking the promenade. The Quantum class doesn't feature a Royal Promenade. Instead, it features a 2-deck "Royal Esplanade" shopping area which doesn't provide any overlooking cabins.
Royal Caribbean ships offer a wide list of onboard facilities, the main of which include Grand-style productions Theatre, Live Comedy Club, Disco/Nightclub, Casino Royale, Library. Feature sports facilities include Studio B Ice-Skating Rink, Rock Climbing Wall, Flow Rider surfing simulator, Multiple Sports Court, Walking/Jogging track, Golf Simulator, ZIP-line, H2O Zone Waterpark with Waterslide, Adventure Beach, and on Quantum ships only Bumper Cars, Skydiving Simulator, North Star rotational capsule. In 2016, RCI entered the "Guinness Book of World Records" in the category "Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship". The record was because of the "North Star" glass-walled observation capsule rising over 300 ft (91 m) above sea level and rotating upwards and over the ship's sides providing 360-degree views.
Adults on RCCL cruises can enjoy adults-only relaxation areas and spas. Teens can do rock climbing or try the 12 m (40-ft) surfing “simulation” and zip-lining across ship's top deck on the world’s largest cruise ships ever. Families cruising with infants and toddlers will benefit from the “Royal Babies” and “Royal Tots” programs. Kids club activities are also available by the Adventure Ocean kids programme. The DreamWorks programming is another exclusiveness with the 3D DreamWorks Theater and all the characters meets and greets.
RCI "VOOM" Internet
VOOM is the name of the RCI's new high-speed internet service provides passengers with the pleasure to enjoy at sea faster connectivity, with almost the same high-speed Internet connections they are used to while on land. The new satellite technology utilizes each RCI cruise ship specifically.
Voom Internet has latency 120 ms, ping ~300 ms, download speed ~4,6 Mbps, upload speed ~5,2 Mbps. Voom allows fast streaming of music and movies (incl YouTube, Netflix), uploading multiple (incl big-sized) pictures, also video chatting (FaceTime, Skype, conference calls), checking email, web surfing, stable and fast VPN connections. The onboard system is based on the 802.11b wireless connection (theoretical bandwidth peak 11 Mbps).
- Onboard Internet access is intergrated to the stateroom number and the personal onboard account. Following the log-on to the ship's wireless network "Royal WiFi", there is an option for creating an Internet account where the passenger can sign up for a particular Internet plan or to pay by the minute. The charge is always applied to the cabin (onboard) account.
- While using the Voom Internet package, passengers can switch between various mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops). However, the number of devices connected at the same time is limited by the Internet plan.
- The cruise ship also has several Internet workstations available for all passengers on FCFS basis (first-come, first-served).
- Among the cheaper alternatives to the Voom internet are connecting onboard (while the ship is in ports of call) or ashore (in restaurants, bars, etc).
New Internet packages cost (2017 prices)
RCI's ship internet offering was revamped from only one plan into different per day packages with pricing based on the number of included devices. Two new packages are currently available for booking:
- Note: All below listed unlimited Internet package prices are "Cruise Planner" booking rates and include the 30% pre-cruise booking discount. Packages can be purchased on board and also pre-purchased (before the cruise) via RCI's "Cruise Planner" booking system.
- "Voom Surf Voyage" is the "light package" providing high-speed Internet for general web browsing, e-mails and social media platforms (excepting video streaming). The "Voom Surf Voyage" Internet package cost (per day) depends on the number of mobile devices using it. Voom Surf pricing is as follows: $13 (1 device), $12 (2 devices), $10 (4 devices) and $20 (Single Day Pass per device / per day).
- "Voom Surf + Stream" is the "real deal", offering unlimited Internet activities, including the high-speed video streaming (music, movies, video chatting, texting, VoIP apps /Internet phone calls). The "Voom Surf + Stream" Internet package cost (per day) also depends on the number of mobile devices included. Voom Surf + Stream pricing is as follows: $18 (1 device), $16 (2 devices), $14 (4 devices) and $28 (Single Day Pass per device / per day).
- Occasionally, Royal Caribbean offers Voom package discounts for passengers with pre-purchased online (via Cruise Planner) internet packages. Discounts are also offered for Royal Caribbean loyalty program members (Crown and Anchor Society) when the Voom package is purchased onboard.
RCI cruise gratuities (2017-2018 cruises)
Daily gratuities are per person (pp):
- USD 13,50 pp (interior, oceanview, balcony staterooms, both adults and kids)
- USD 16,50 (suites)
- Daily gratuity is an automatic service charge added to the passenger's onboard account each day.
- Passengers can prepay gratuities.
- The amount of gratuities is split between the ship's staff (dining, housekeeping, cabin stewards).
- According to RCI, of the USD 13,50 pp daily tips, nearly USD 8,30 goes to dining (wait and cooking) staff, USD 6,85 for suite attendants, USD 3,85 for cabin attendants, and USD 1,35 for housekeeping staff.
Lifeguards on Royal Caribbean ships
Since 2017, all RCI ships have onboard licensed lifeguards by the line's "water safety program", implemented fleetwide. By the new program, water safety signs are placed throughout the ship.
The onboard lifeguards, are dressed in special uniforms (in bright red and white) and stationed at every swimming pool, including the Solarium (adults-only retreat) during the complex' opening hours. All Royal Caribbean lifeguards are trained through the company's partnership with StarGuard Elite (Florida-based lifeguard training center.
- The water safety program includes a 15-min presentation (on embarkation day). The instruction is for by both kids and parents, and held during Adventure Ocean's open house session.
- Swim vests for all kids (aged 4-12) are readily available. Additional signage is added around swimming pool areas and in all cabins to encourage parents to use them.
- Kids under 12 require a parent or guardian to be present when swimming in any of the cruise ship's pools.
RCI's water safety program was rolled out fleetwide in the period February-June 2017. Follows the list of all RCI ships and the cruise itinerary dates when each ship will implement the new lifeguard service:
- Oasis (February 26-March 5)
- Harmony (March 7-11)
- Independence (March 11-16)
- Anthem (March 11-14)
- Liberty (March 12-19)
- Freedom (March 22-29)
- Allure (March 23-26)
- Brilliance (March 24-30)
- Quantum (March 26-31)
- Ovation (March 29-April 3)
- Navigator (March 31-April 5)
- Serenade (March 31-April 7)
- Jewel (March 31-April 4)
- Rhapsody (April 5-8)
- Majesty (April 21-24)
- Empress (April 24-29)
- Adventure (April 26-29)
- Enchantment (May 8-12)
- Grandeur (May 13-18)
- Explorer (May 15-26)
- Mariner (May 26-June 4)
- Radiance (May 28-June 6)
- Voyager (June 5-12)
- Vision (June 15-27)
The news made RCI the 2nd major cruise company with lifeguards onboard its ships - following Disney (employing certified lifeguards since 2013) and followed by NCL (in 2017 summer) starting with the line's 4 largest vessels and employing onboard lifeguards fleetwide by 2018.
(new) RCI "Next Cruise" (onboard booking)
In August 2017, Royal Caribbean changed "Next Cruise" (onboard cruise booking program). NextCruise allows passengers to book a future RCI itinerary while on the ship. The old program included booking with reduced deposits. Since August 2017, the deposit required for onboard booking is the same as the deposit required with shore bookings (ranging between USD 100-450 per stateroom, depending on itinerary length).
The only benefit for onboard cruise booking now is the future onboard credit (abbrev OBC), which is based on cabin type:
- 4-5 night itineraries - Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 25 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 50), Grand Suite and higher (USD 150)
- 6-9 night itineraries - Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 50 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 100), Grand Suite and higher (USD 300)
- 10-night and longer itineraries - Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 100 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 200), Grand Suite and higher (USD 500).
(new) RCI Cruise Cancellation Policy
Starting March 7, 2016 Royal Caribbean passengers who want to cancel an upcoming cruise without penalty have to do so farther out from the departure date than before. The new RCI cruise cancellation policy simplifies the penalty fee schedule by reducing the number of itinerary categories from 5 to 2: those of 1 to 4 nights and those 5 nights or longer.
- Under the old policy, travelers booked on 1 to 5 night long itineraries could cancel up to 60 days prior to deparrture without cancellation fee.
- The new RCI cancellation policy changes the cruise length / itinerary duration to 1 to 4 nights (including short holiday and mini-cruise deals) and requires cancellation at least 75 days before departure.
- Cruises 1 to 4 nights long canceled between 74 and 57 days out incur a fee equal to the deposit paid. Cruises canceled 56 to 29 days out incur a fee of 50% of the total fare. Cruises canceled 28 to 15 days out incur a fee of 75% of the total fare and any cruise canceled within 2 weeks of departure is not refunded at all.
- The second tier of cancellations includes any itineraries 5-night or longer, including cruise tours and holiday sailings. Under the old policy, cruises 6-nights or longer, holiday sailings 1 to 5 days, holiday sailings 6-night or longer, and cruise tours, had separate cancellation penalty schedules. Itineraries 5-night or longer must be canceled 90 days prior to the departure date in order to avoid cancellation fee. Previously, RCI customers could cancel 75 to 90 days before departure, depending on the itinerary category.
- Cruises 5-night or longer canceled 89 to 57 days prior to departure incur a penalty equal to the deposit paid. Cruises canceled 56 to 29 days or 28 to 15 days out incur penalties of 50% and 75% of the total fare, respectively. As with the short cruises, any deals canceled within 2 weeks out are not eligible for refund.
(new) RCI Shore Excusrions Cancellation Policy
On June 15, 2017, Royal Caribbean International implemented a new "Shore Excursions Cancellation Policy" fleetwide. The new policy transitions from 1 day / 24-hour prior to land tour departure date to a 48-hours prior to cruise port arrival date.
- Shore Excursions can be modified / changed or cancelled up to 2 days / 48 hours prior to cruise port arrival date without any penalty.
- Land Tours that involve travel by air / flights (international and domestic), trains, also special / themed events, overnight hotel stays and Private Journeys (customized tours) must be cancelled 30 days prior to cruise departure date to avoid cancellation fees / penalties.
- In the event a land tour is cancelled 48-hours prior to cruise port arrival date, a full refund is provided to the passenger’s onboard account.
(new) RCI Non-Refundable Cruise Deposit Policy
Om July 1, 2017, RCI implemented fleetwide a new, nonrefundable cruise deposit program.
- An USD 100 "cruise change" fee per person (pp) is imposed to each booked reservation (under "non-refundable deposit fare") opting to change the originally selected vessel and/or departure date.
- Multiple adjustments to the vessel / departure date result in the assessment of USD 100 pp change fee for each qualifying change made to the booked reservation. RCI doesn't limit the number of changes.
- Outside of final payment, when a non-refundable cruise deposit cancellation occurs, booked passengers receive "Future Cruise Certificate" in the amount of the cruise deposit, minus the USD 100 pp change fee.
- Nonrefundable deposits are the only option for booking higher-grade cruise ship Suite, and also for all guaranteed cabin categories.
In late February 2017, the RCCL corporation imposed a fee of USD 65 pp in case of leaving the cruise early (whatever the reason might be). Passengers who refuse to pay face the prospect of being banned from RCCL cruise ships FOREVER.
(new) RCI photo packages prices
In late June 2017, Royal Caribbean added two photo packages available for online purchasing at "Cruise Planner".
- The photo packages include 2 options - all digital (unlimited photos are uploaded on an USB stick) and printed.
- The unlimited digital photo package costs USD 250.
- The 20-prints photo package costs USD 200.
- Before 2017, Royal Caribbean offered photo packages available for online purchasing on a separate website.
RCI "Cruise Compass" (onboard newsletter)
"Cruise Compass" is named the RCI's onboard newsletter delivered by cabin attendats each evening. This is a daily guide for news, onboard events and activities on the cruise ship scheduled for the the next day.
- The newsletter also provides valuable information regarding forecasted weather, bars with drink specials, itinerary ports of call and shore excursions info, themed events (parties, lectures, seminars, etc), sporting events.
- Some of the events are not repeated, other activities change daily.
- RCI doesn't publish "Cruise Compass" guides for upcoming cruises in advance.
- age 1 is an overview of what to expect the next day, including port, weather report, specials, highlighted events, dedicated "Important things to know today" section.
- Page 2 lists more onboard events, sales and special offers. The "Activity and Entertainment Highlights" section lists headlines of all evening show performances onboard,
- Page 3 lists all the ship's venues (bars, restaurants, food bars, lounges, Spa, Gym, etc) and their opening hours. Here is also the RCI's main dining room dress code. At the page's bottom is the "drink of the day" special - a discount-priced cocktail.
- Page 4 lists all the next day's activities broken down by time (morning, afternoon, evening) - all shipboard events, each has time, title and deck location. Each of the listed activities can be teared off.
- "Adventure Ocean" is another newsletter providing information of kids programming (small children and teens) scheduled on the cruise ship. Some of these events are also listed in the "Cruise Compass". "Adventure Ocean" newsletter has "Daily Planner" with kids and teen activities (broken up by ages).
- The "Royal iQ" app is available on some RCI ships and features a "Cruise Compass" digital copy. This mobile app allows adding specific events directly to your own digital calendar. Via the app, you can make reservations (spa, dining, etc) or add activities directly from the "Cruise Compass" to your own calendar. Your own daily schedule will be automatically updated. Unfortunately, the app works only on Quantum- and Oasis-class ships.
Itinerary of Royal Caribbean
RCI cruises 2018-2019 Caribbean itineraries will be operated with 15 ships departing from 9 USA cruise ports (home-ports) to visit all 39 Caribbean Sea ports of call.
CURIOUS NEWS: On January 21, 2017, RCCL filed for trademark ownership 3 cruise ship names - "Sympony of the Seas", "Sunrise of the Seas", and "Valhalla of the Seas". Another (trademarked in 2016 and still unused) name is "Icon of the Seas".
Royal Caribbean cruise itinerary changes
For season summer 2018-2019, RCI has the largest ships and capacity in comparison to any other cruise line for Australia and New Zealand destinations. The company deploys there the ships Explorer, Ovation, Radiance and Voyager, for a total of 66 itineraries ranging in length from 2- to 23 days. Between September 2017 and April 2018, these ships visit 46 different ports of call in the South Pacific (incl Australia, New Zealand), also in Asia and North America. Scheduled departures are out of Auckland NZ, Fremantle-Perth AU, Sydney AU, Singapore and USA (Honolulu Hawaii and Seattle WA).
RCI extended its round-trip departures from Baltimore MD (South Locust Point terminal) through June 2020. Here is homeported the Grandeur ship offering year-round cruises to Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada New England. The ship operates out of Baltimore since 2013, replacing there the Enchantment ship.
Royal Caribbean Australia-Asia itineraries 2017-2018-2019
On January 24, 2017 was officially announced RCI's opening cruise itinerary schedule by destination (ship deployments around the world).
- March 6 - Europe (Mediterranean), Caribbean and Bahamas (year-round itineraries)
- March 13 - Alaska
- March 20 - Europe (UK and Baltic)
- March 27- Caribbean (seasonal itineraries)
- April 3 - Australia and Asia (Singapore)
- April 24 - Asia (China)
These ship deployment schedules give an idea of when particular (regional) itineraries will become available. Follows the CruiseMapper's review of the Royal Caribbean itinerary program highlights for season 2017-2018 by ship.
Ovation of the Seas (November 2017 - February 2018):
- 14-day repositioning (Singapore to Sydney, November 23 2017)
- 10-day New Zealand (with Milford Sounds)
- 12-day New Zealand (December 17, 2017 Christmas) and 12-day New Zealand (December 29, 2017 New Year)
- 9-day New Zealand (January 10 and 19, 2018)
- 8-day Tasmania (January 27, 2018, with Hobart and Adelaide overnight )
- 14-day New Zealand (February 4, 2018, with Milford Sounds)
- NEWS: In June 2016, during the ship's maiden call in Singapore, RCI representatives announced the ship will be homeported for its 2017 season in Singapore. Adding the large-sized Ovation to Voyager (May 2017) and Mariner (October 2017) increases the line's passenger capacity in Southeast Asia by 30% over 2016.
Explorer of the Seas (South Pacific Islands, 3- to 23 days). With the Explorer (replacing Radiance in 2018), Royal Caribbean continues operations along the South Coast of New South Wales (NSW). RCI ship will visit for the first time Port Kembla (Wollongong) as port of call on a 7-day Tasmania cruise (March 12, 2018).
- Three 11-day cruises to Fiji (including for Christmas and New Year 2017)
- 7-8-9-10-12-day South Pacific (January 2018)
- 3-day Cruise to Nowhere from Sydney (February 9, 2018)
- 7-day Tasmania (March 12, 2018, Wollongong maiden call, Hobart, Melbourne)
- 23-day repositioning from Sydney to Seattle (April 22, 2018) with Suva Fiji (overnight) and Hawaii (Lahaina, Honolulu).
Radiance of the Seas (2017-2018 departures from Sydney, Fremantle-Perth and Auckland) - 8- to 18-days to Queensland, Tasmania, around Australia, New Zealand.
- 16-day Around Australia cruise from Sydney to Fremantle (top end), 17-day South Australia and New Zealand or combined (back-to-back) 33-day full circumnavigation cruise
- 9-day Tasmania from Sydney (December 13, 2017, with Hobart, Melbourne and Adelaide (overnight )
- 8-day Sydney to Queensland cruise (March 29, 2018, with Newcastle, Whitsundays, Brisbane)
- 14-day Sydney to Auckland (January 3, 2017) with New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga)
- 14-day New Zealand from Auckland to Sydney
- 12-day New Zealand (Christmas and New Year , departure December 22, 2017) 11-13-14-day New Zealand cruises also visiting Milford Sounds
- 17-day repositioning from Sydney to Honolulu Hawaii (April 17, 2018) with French Polynesia
Voyager of the Seas (South Pacific Islands, October 2017 - April 2018):
- Two 14-day South Pacific Islands (with Fiji, including New Year’s Eve 2017 - departure December 30)
- Six 10-day South Pacific Islands (including Christmas 2017 departure December 20)
- Three 9-day itineraries to New Caledonia and Vanuatu
- 7-8-9-day South Pacific Islands, plus one 11-day to Fiji (April 11)
- Sampler (Cruises to Nowhere from Sydney) - 2-day (December 1, 2017) and 3-day (February 2, 2018)
- 14-day repositioning from Sydney to Singapore (April 16, 2018)
With Legend of the Seas deployment in Europe (2017), Royal Caribbean will not offer Brisbane departures as the bigger RCI ships can't dock at the Portside terminal. The company will not offer cruises out of Brisbane until the new terminal (east of Gateway Bridges) is constructed.
Royal Caribbean Europe itineraries 2017-2018-2019
On June 2, 2016, RCI announced changing the home-port Cape Liberty (Bayonne New Jersey / New York) ship deployment by replacing Rhapsody with Vision.
- On June 2, 2016, RCI announced that in April 2017 the Legend ship will be sold to Thomson Cruises. Its last RCI cruise was on March 13, 2017 (13-night Suez Canal from Dubai to Barcelona).
- In April 2017 Royal Caribbean unveiled plans for the first Quantum Ultra-class ship to sail from Asia-Pacific region in 2019. Set to be launched in spring 2019, the yet-to-be-named vessel will be the next evolution of the groundbreaking Quantum class and will join her sister ships, Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas. The announcement was made as Royal Caribbean unveiled its full roster of 2018-2019 China, Singapore and Australia itineraries. With nearly a decade since Royal Caribbean's first cruise in China, the cruise line further bolsters its commitment to the market by dedicating a lineup of its most technologically advanced ships to the rapidly growing market. The new ship will specifically be designed for guests in the region, featuring even more cutting-edge and unprecedented experiences and amenities.
- As part of the deployment plans for 2018-2019, Mariner of the Seas will reposition to a new home in Miami embarking on a "Global Odyssey" from Asia that features 3 long sailings from Singapore to Dubai; Dubai to Barcelona; and Barcelona to Miami. Voyager of the Seas will have her first full season in Singapore in 2018-2019, offering 3- to 7-night adventures throughout Southeast Asia with stops that include ports in Thailand and Malaysia. The new 2018-2019 deployment season presents additional highlights, including an expanded offering of open-jaw itineraries for adventure-seekers traveling down under with new 10-night itineraries between Auckland and Melbourne or Sydney on Radiance of the Seas. During the winter, Ovation of the Seas will reposition to Sydney for her longest season in Australia, reclaiming the title as the largest ship based in the region.
NEWS: All RCI Europe cruises visiting Turkey were altered, as the company officially cancelled its scheduled visits to Turkish ports for season 2017. The changes affected the following ships:
- Brilliance of the Seas - port replaced with Mykonos Greece.
- Jewel of the Seas - port replaced with Rhodes Greece.
- Rhapsody of the Seas - port replaced with Kotor Montenegro; Chania Crete, and Mykonos Greece.
- Passengers with purchased Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion in Kusadasi Turkey received a full refund.
Royal Caribbean cruises to Cuba from Florida (Miami and Tampa)
Royal Caribbean operates Cuba cruises with round-trip departures from Miami and Tampa on the ship Empress of the Seas. Itineraries started in 2017. The first cruise was on April 19 (5-night Miami to Costa Maya and Havana).
Royal Caribbean gave adventure-seekers more chances than ever to explore the exciting island destination of Cuba with brand new cruises to Havana aboard Empress of the Seas. The newly refreshed ship will sail a total of 58 voyages of 4- and 5-night itineraries from January 2018 through March 2019, more than half offering overnights in the city. Empress of the Seas returns to Tampa for summer 2018, with a series of 4- and 5-night sailings, visiting Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Havana on most sailings. For the winter 2018-2019 season the ship will reposition to Port Everglades, continuing with short Caribbean adventures.
In July 2017 Royal Caribbean unveiled a 2nd cruise ship that will visit Cuba, Majesty of the Seas out of Port Canaveral FL. Majesty will depart from Port Canaveral March 25, 2019 sailing on a 4-night voyage that will call at Havana.
The current list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba in 2017-2018-2019 includes:
- Carnival Paradise leaving from Tampa Florida - cheapest prices (from USD 480 pp) since June 2017
- MSC Cruises (ship MSC Opera, leaving from Havana)
- Holland America (ship Veendam) leaving from Fort Lauderdale since December 2017
- Oceania Cruises (ships Marina and Regatta) starting in 2017, Cuba circumnavigation, stops in Cienfuegos and Havana, also part of some Panama Canal transition itineraries.
- NCL (ship Norwegian Sky, 4-day itineraries with Havana overnights - starting May 2017.
- Azamara Cruises (ship on Azamara Quest from Miami)
- Thomson Cruises (ship Thomson Dream) 7-day, leaving roundtrip from Jamaica (Montego Bay) to Havana
- Compagnie du Ponant (yacht Le Ponant, leaving from Miami Florida)
- Pearl Seas Cruises (ship Pearl Mist, leaving from Fort Lauderdale Florida)
- Lindblad Expeditions (chartered sailing ship MS Panorama II, leaving from Havana)
- Celestyal Cruises (ship Celestyal Crystal, leaving from Havana and Montego Bay Jamaica)
- Grand Circle Cruise Line (ship MV Clio / ex Tere Moana) one-way from Miami to Havana, or the reverse from Havana to Miami (embarkation/disembarkation in port Cienfuegos).
- International Expeditions (leaving from Havana, charter flights out of Miami)
- Victory Cruise Lines - MS Victory I (former MS Saint Laurent) - fly-cruises from Miami to Havana (home-port Cienfuegos /departures)
- Note: According to the current Cuban law, US citizens of Cuban origin (born in Cuba) are not allowed to visit the island country (including on cruise ships). Regardless of their US citizenship status, Cuban-born Americans were denied booking on cruise itineraries visiting ports in Cuba. However, the situation changed in April 2016, after Carnival Corporation negotiated with the Cuban government for allowing ships with Cuban-born passengers, as such US citizens are allowed to visit the country on USA-Cuba charter flights. The Carnival-fathom line started Miami to Cuba cruises in May 2016.
- Alaska Airlines offers regular nonstop flights to Havana from Los Angeles (California USA). An 80-min ling JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to Havana costs less than USD 100. Previously, air travel from USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.
Royal Caribbean cruise itineraries by ship
Follows a review of Royal Caribbean itinerary program for 2017-2018-2019 scheduled itineraries. For sailing dates (departures, arrivals), ports of call times and RCI cruise prices per person follow the ship pages listed below.
Passion Of The Seas - new ship (scheduled launch 2020)
Pulse Of The Seas - new ship (scheduled launch 2019)
In the end of March 2017, RCCL corporation launched its own land tour travel website - GoBe.com. The website is non-cruise travel related and allows international travelers to book tours and excursions in 97 countries and 896 cities worldwide. As of 2017, tour prices (per person) ranged from UISD 14 (Cape Town bus tour) to USD 3,785 (Rome helicopter tour). The new website is managed by Larry Pimentel (RCCL's Chief Destination Officer, also Azamara Club's President and CEO. The website provides full tour information, including duration, activity level, languages, etc. Optional custom itinerary planning is also offered.
(new) Alaskan cruise tours 2017-2018-2019
In the end of February 2016, Royal Caribbean opened bookings for 2017 Alaska voyages with a free upgrade offer. Radiance of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas will sail 7-night itineraries, with Radiance sailing between Vancouver and Seward, and Explorer offering round-trip cruises from Seattle.
- New in 2017 were a couple of 12-night exclusive Alaskan cruise-tours. Kantishna Select Wilderness & Wildlife cruise-tour reveals Denali’s wilderness with local experts. Guests go on a kayak, bike adventure at Eklutna Lake, travel by rail from Denali National Park and Preserve to Fairbanks, and hike the Exit Glacier. The cruise-tour includes 2 nights of exclusive accommodations at Kantishna backcountry lodge.
- Katmai Bear Trek & Kantishna Fly Over cruise-tour provides the opportunity to see American brown bears hunting in their natural habitat in the Katmai Park and Preserve. Participants have 2 nights in Denali/Anchorage, before/after the cruise.
- Alaska excursions include the opportunity to whale-watch in Stephen's Passage from Juneau or ride a 1,320ft zip line at Icy Strait Point. There is a floatplane adventure in Misty Fjords wildnerness out of Ketchikan and, from Skagway, cruisers can visit Musher's Camp for a lesson in dog sledding or take a 4x4 trek through Tongass National Rainforest. Attractions at Victoria include the 100-year-old Butchart Gardens, which is a National Historic Site.
A total of 10 new Alaskan cruise tours are offered by RCI during season 2018-2019 season.
- The itineraries are on Explorer of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas, operating on 7- and 9-night itineraries.
- Explorer of the Seas continues with 7-night cruises from Seattle, with stops in Victoria BC, Juneau and Inside Passage.
- Radiance of the Seas sails 7-night and 9-night cruises between Alaska and Canada (Seward - Vancouver).
- To these cruise itineraries can be added the new "cruise tour" (land and sea) itineraries designed for couples and families and extending up to 13 nights. These include Fjord and Tundra national Parks Explorer (premium tours in Kenali Fjords and Denali), plus 2 nights in Fairbanks. There is also "Family Tundra Express" cruise tour and an 1-night add-on to Denali.
- Alaska cruise tour prices started at USD 750 PP (double occupancy inside cabin) on Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier cruise (May 2018).
(NEW) Royal Caribbean's UK to Caribbean fly cruise packages 2017-2018
Starting September 2017, RCI offers "flight and cruise" packages which are price-inclusive of Virgin Atlantic flights to Orlando (Florida USA) from England (London Gatwick and Manchester airports). Also included are private transfers and hotel stays near Orlando's International Drive resort area.
- The new Royal Caribbean fly-cruise package deals include a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (on the ship Oasis of the Seas leaving from Port Canaveral) with ports of call Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica and Cozumel Mexico.
- The basic flight-cruise package includes direct return flights, all transfers and an overnight hotel stay (before the cruise). The standard package's cost starts from GBP 1197 per person (based on double occupancy cruise cabin rates).
- Both USA and UK cruise passengers can start their cruising vacation early, as RCI offers an 8-night Orlando hotel stay before boarding the Oasis ship.
- One package includes USA-UK return flights, 8-night Orlando hotel stay (city is famous for its numerous theme park attractions) plus 7-night Western Caribbean cruise to Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico. The package starts at GBP 1,599 pp. The same package with Eastern Caribbean ports of call (to St Maarten, Puerto Rico and Haiti) is priced from GBP 1,699 pp.
- These new RCI package holidays are available for the period September 2017 through May 2018.
In August 2017, RCCL launched a new fly-cruise booking platform encompassing roundtrip flights, cruises, transfers and port / hotel stays.
- The new booking technology (branded "AirWaves") serves the corporation's subsidiary companies Azamara, Celebrity and RCI. All "flight and cruise" packages are ATOL-protected, with RCCL acting as the principle.
- The AirWaves booking platform allows travel agents to book fly-cruise packages and displays various airlines with all their flight schedules. Formerly, agents had to use several sites to book such cruise package deals.
- AirWaves allows comparing flights from 30 UK and Ireland airports. It also offers access to over 2500 hotels worldwide (including many located close to the cruise ship departure ports) for pre-/post-cruise stays.
Royal Caribbean's "Private Journeys" excursions
RCI passengers seeking for personalized shore excursion experiences can take advantage of the company's "Private Journeys" program.
- The USD 100 concierge-style service enables guests to book port calls tailored to their interests, travel style and budget. Private Journeys tours allows access to 1 of 9 professional Destination Insiders, who can help plan every detail of the shore excursion before the cruise sets sail. Activities can include private yacht sailing along the Italian or French Riviera, cooking alongside Michelin-starred chefs, or get a taste of Alaska at a crab feast in a remote fjord. The USD 100 fee for Private Journeys is applicable to excursion's final cost.
- Private Journeys are offered as a 3rd shore excursion choice (beside independent and RCI sponsored group tours). This new choice offers direct booking through RCI. It allows passengers to customize every aspect and detail of their port of call stop. Private Journeys can be booked ONLY via Royal Caribbean, Booked passengers have to provide Private Journeys' staff with their idea / basics of what they want (duration, prefered places, activities, meals, etc). Then they work with local (professional) tour guides to design the excursion. The contact with Private Journeys is by email or phone.
- "Private Journeys" RCI tour deals guarantee: priority disembarkation, sure return to the cruise ship (if the tour runs late, the ship waits for you), convenient access to private tour vehicles, quality of service (reputable / insured operators in direct contact with the RCI cruise ship's personnel).
Royal Caribbean Asia cruise itinerary changes
Royal Caribbean plans to introduce one of the biggest passenger ships in the world on a route to and from Japan in 2018. The Oasis-class ship will have a gross tonnage of around 220,000 tons and is capable of carrying 5,400 passengers. Royal Caribbean has yet to decide where the mega ship will call in Japan. Currently, no port in Japan can accept such a big vessel. The line is sounding out various cruise ports, including that of Yatsushiro (Kumamoto Prefecture, western Japan) on willingness to make upgrades.
- Partly due to Japan's easing up on visa regulations, the number of Asians who cruise to Japan is increasing. Royal Caribbean currently owns 2 Oasis-class ships and is taking delivery of two more - one in 2016 (Harmony Of The Seas) and the other in 2018. The company plans to deploy one vessel to a hub in Asia (Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore) and use it on a route that serves Japan. The number of foreign tourists who arrive in Japan on cruise vessels operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises is expected to uprise 160% to 800,000 in 2017 from 2015, according to the company.
In an official statement (March 9, 2017) RCCL announced all scheduled South Korean cruise ports will be removed from the company's China based itineraries "due to recent developments regarding the situation in South Korea".
- The RCCL's notice included as itinerary changes (on all cruises leaving from ports in China) the South Korean ports Busan, Jeju and Seoul will be replaced with ports in Japan.
- The move made Royal Caribbean the first major cruise company to ban cruises to South Korean ports.
- The decision was made following the rising tension between China and Korea over Seoul's deployment in South Korea of the US Army missile defense system THAAD ("Terminal High Altitude Area Defense") on South Korean territory. This is an anti-ballistic missile system designed to intercept and shoot down medium-range and long-range missiles. Beijing's anger was over a joint South Korea-USA plan to set up THAAD missile system in the country. Officially, the missile system is against North Korean nuclear missiles. According to Beijing, this far-reaching radar system targets China.
- Between 2011-2016, over 8 million Chinese touristed South Korea, which is nearly half of the country's foreign visitors.
- On March 11, 2017, Costa Serena docked at Jeju City South Korea in the afternoon. However, all passengers (over 3,400) refused to disembark, while at the cruise terminal, customs officers, tour guides and around 80 buses were waiting for them.
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