Royal Caribbean International
Fodor’s Expert Review
Big, bigger, biggest! Royal Caribbean has the largest modern mega cruise liners in the world, as well as some of the most innovative technology on its newest ships, from robot bartenders to the fastest Wi-Fi at sea. Its fleet of 25 and counting are all-around favorites of passengers—arguably the most multigenerational (and Millennial) crowd at sea—who enjoy traditional cruising ambience with a touch of daring and whimsy. Each ship in the fleet has action-packed activities such as surfing pools, rock-climbing walls, and on the newest ships, skydiving simulators, and 10-story slides.Read More
Expansive multideck atriums and promenades, as well as the generous use of brass and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, give each vessel a sense of spaciousness and style. The action is nonstop in casinos and dance clubs after dark, while daytime hours are filled with poolside games and traditional cruise activities. Port talks tend to lean heavily on shopping recommendations and the sale of shore excursions.
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What to Expect on Board
Dining is an international experience, with nightly changing themes and cuisines from around the world.
Passenger preference for casual attire and a resortlike atmosphere has prompted the cruise line to add laid-back alternatives to the formal dining rooms: the Windjammer Café and, on certain ships, Johnny Rockets Diner. Royal Caribbean offers you the choice of early or late dinner seating and has introduced an open seating program fleet-wide.
Room service is available 24 hours, but for orders between midnight and 5 am there’s a $3.95 service charge, not to mention a limited menu.
Royal Caribbean has introduced a more upscale and intimate dinner experience in the form of an Italian specialty restaurant and/or a steak house on all ships and more specialty dining options on the newest ships, such as the Asian-inspired Izumi and imaginative cuisine of Wonderland.
A variety of lounges and high-energy stage shows draws passengers of all ages out to mingle and dance the night away.
Production extravaganzas showcase singers and dancers in lavish costumes. Comedians, acrobats, magicians, jugglers, and solo entertainers fill show lounges on nights when the ships’ companies aren’t performing. Broadway shows are featured on the newest ships. Professional ice shows are a highlight of cruises on Voyager-, Freedom-, and Oasis-class ships—the only ships at sea with ice-skating rinks.
Royal Caribbean has pioneered such new and previously unheard-of features as rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, and even the first self-leveling pool tables on a cruise ship.
Interactive water parks, boxing rings, surfing simulators, and cantilevered whirlpools suspended 112 feet above the ocean made their debuts on the Freedom-class ships.
Facilities vary by ship class, but all Royal Caribbean ships have state-of-the-art exercise equipment, jogging tracks, and rock-climbing walls; passengers can work out independently or in classes guaranteed to sweat off extra calories. Some exercise classes are included in the fare, but there’s a fee for specialized spin, yoga, and Pilates classes, as well as the services of a personal trainer. Spas and salons are top-notch, with full menus of day spa–style treatments and services for pampering and relaxation for adults and teens.
Key cruising tips
Royal Caribbean cruises have a broad appeal for active couples and singles, mostly in their thirties to fifties. Families are partial to the newer vessels that have larger staterooms, huge facilities for children and teens, and seemingly endless choices of activities and dining options.
Two formal nights are standard on seven-night cruises; one formal night is the norm on shorter sailings. Men may wear tuxedos, but dark suits or sport coats and ties are more prevalent. All other evenings are casual, although jeans are discouraged in restaurants. It’s requested that no shorts be worn in public areas after 6 pm, although there are passengers who can’t wait to change into them after dinner.
Supervised age-appropriate activities are designed for children ages 3 through 17; babysitting services are available as well. Children are assigned to the Adventure Ocean youth program by age. They must be at least three years old and toilet-trained to participate (children who are in diapers and pull-ups or who are not toilet-trained are not allowed in swimming pools or whirlpools; however, they may use the Baby Splash Zone designated for them on the Freedom, Liberty,Independence, Oasis, and Allure of the Seas). Youngsters who wish to join a different age group must participate in one daytime and one night activity session with their proper age group first; the manager will then make the decision based on their maturity level.
Interactive 45-minute Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots play sessions for children ages 6 months to 36 months are hosted by youth staff members; these programs were designed by early childhood development experts for parents and their babies and toddlers, and teach life skills through playtime activities. Nurseries have been added for babies 6 to 36 months old on select ships, with drop-off options during the day and evening—and if parents supply diapers, attendants will change them. There is an hourly fee, and a limited number of babies and toddlers can be accommodated at a time.
A teen center with a disco is an adult-free gathering spot that will satisfy even the pickiest teenagers.
Service on Royal Caribbean ships is friendly but inconsistent. Assigned meal seatings assure that most passengers get to know the waiters and their assistants, who in turn get to know the passengers’ likes and dislikes; however, that can lead to a level of familiarity that is uncomfortable for some people. Most ships have a concierge lounge for the use of suite occupants and top-level past passengers.
Tips that are not prepaid when the cruise is booked are automatically added to shipboard accounts in the amount of $14.50 per person, per day ($17.50 for suites), to be shared by dining and housekeeping staff. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to all bar tabs and spa and salon services.
After one cruise, you can enroll in the Crown & Anchor Society. Tiered membership levels are achieved according to a point system. One Cruise Point is earned for every night you sail and double the points are earned when you book a suite. All members receive the Crown & Anchor magazine and have access to the member section on the Royal Caribbean website. All members receive an Ultimate Value Booklet and an invitation to a welcome-back party. Platinum members also have the use of a private departure lounge and receive priority check-in (where available), the onboard use of robes during the cruise, an invitation to an exclusive onboard event, and complimentary custom air arrangements. As points are added to your status, the benefits increase to Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle Club. For instance, Diamond and above receive such perks as access to a private lounge, select behind-the-scenes tours, and priority seating for certain events.