RCI and cruising in a nutshell.

Much like my airlines I’ve flown, I’m doing a cruise lines I’ve sailed on! Till today I’ve only sailed on Royal Caribbean, the only reason being their ships, RCI ships feature the best onboard activities, including the signature rock climbing on all ships, great old school dinning options and activity filled days on board. I sailed on RCI back in 2007 on the Enchantment of the Seas for a western Caribbean cruise, covering the Florida Keys, Mexico, and the Bahamas. She was a lovely ship from the 90’s, at that time she had just come out of dry dock where a multi million dollar renovation and expansion was done, that’s right expansion, she was cut in half and had a section inserted in her that added rooms, expanded the pool deck, added food options, and two awesome suspension bridges over the pool deck. Rooms were clean and we always had a towel animal on the bed at night, over all it honestly was a great cruise on a little bit of an older ship that can give modern ships a run for its money, and that’s what I love about RCI, even their older ships are still great! RCI is currently renovating all their ships under their ‘prepared to be wow’ed’ campaign. Renovations include; new interactive atriums featuring acrobatics and light shows during the day, new dinning options across the board including cupcake shops in larger ships like the Freedom or Liberty, and their new signature item the giant pool side LED screen to show movies that’s being added to every ship. The renovation will very well take place into the next year or maybe two, but all of that comes with the piece de resistance, the new Quantum class of ships that have just begun construction, no words on what their interiors will be like or feature, nor if they will surpass the floating metropolises that are Oasis and Allure they will not be passing the Oasis class, but will surpass the freedom class to be the second largest ships, never the less they say prepared to be wow’ed and they always deliver that, so quantum must be amazing!

When booking cruises it is important to know your nearest port of course, because whether it’s far or near determines the airfare to reach it. Also DON’T BE AFRAID to look at really long cruises, while most people think that the longer you’re out the more expensive it gets, but you are wrong… sort of… while the length of the cruise has some power in its pricing, it is the amount of ports of call and their location that drives the price. While generally yes longer sailings cover more ports so hence are more expensive, some exotic cruises might be a bargain for a long sailing! Example A when I was looking into a vacation this year I found an RCI western Mediterranean (7 night) cruise for 600+USD while a 15 night exotic middle east cruise with stops in Israel, Egypt and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) was only 540USD per person! What a bargain! Yet one must consider that of those 15, only 5 are spent on land and 10 at sea, but when compared to how much you would spend visiting those places this is a steal! When hunting for prices, be aware that those ‘brochure’ prices websites post to show you how much you are ‘saving’ isn’t true, most websites only aid you in finding mass result from all cruise lines in the time you want and the destination you prefer, but cruise line’s themselves don’t sell their itineraries at this ‘brochure’ price, in fact most of them match whats on the websites. If you know me, you know my #1 rule of booking, TRY TO BOOK WITH THE COMPANY DIRECTLY. Always check to see if prices match, and unless the difference is substantial or the website is highly trusted, book with the line itself, it’ll save you the hassle if something was to arise with your travels since life is unpredictable. When booking on separate travel sites, one can run into the whole, call the cruise line for issues thing that’ll be met with I’m sorry you didn’t book with us and we can’t help, so play it safe especially of you’re a first timer. Try not to book with any site that charges fee’s for agents or usage, and make sure when viewing prices that all government and port taxes are applied, they can add a hefty amount onto the bill if not already listed, so read the small print on that so called deal! Single travelers, be aware all prices shown online are based on DOUBLE OCCUPANCY unless stated other wise, so make sure you’re looking at the right price. If you are boating solo, try NCL (Norwegian) as your line, they were rated #1 in singles cruise, and now offer studio like cabins on their newer ships like the Epic and soon to come Breakaway and Getaway, which offer you a cozy, Japanese hotel inspired accommodations, and a private lounge for all studio passengers. My favorite site to look at and compare cruises on is Cruise411.com give them a try and they offer great deals. Be aware that when booking a cruise early timing is key, the earlier = the cheaper, and since cruises only require a deposit of anywhere from 100-400 per person depending on the sailing, it’s cheap to book early! Final payments on most lines are due 80-90 days prior to the sail date, so if you book within there, be prepared to dish out the full amount at the time of booking. Many lines offer great deals on half priced deposits as well as some sites do too, check out deals all over the place. Just like flying, spontaneity might score you a bargain! But who can just drop everything and sail away on an over hundred thousand ton vessel into the sunset? Tipping onboard is a whole ‘nother story, but be ready to shovel out some good money on gratuity on board, and be aware some lines will automatically charge their standard amount to your card at the end of the trip without asking, so get that squared away before you sail, you can add it on before you sail as well. Ill go more into drinks and such things onboard in a later post, pretty tired now, so I’ll give you that review of RCI you’ve all been waiting for;

Royal-Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International (code: RCI)

Parent company: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Affiliates:  Celebrity CruisesAzamara CruisesPullmantur Cruises and CDF Croisières de France.

Ship type(s): Mega ships (73,937GT the smallest)

Destinations offered: The America’s, Caribbean, Europe, Northern Africa, Far East, Middle East (select dates), and the South Pacific.

Ratings (1-10) :

Ships: 7.5 on the luxury scale

10 on the activity and onboard product scale

Cleanliness: 8.5

Food: 9

Staterooms: 8

Variety of ports: 7.5

Itineraries offered: 7

Staff: 8

Entertainment: 5

Over all satisfaction: 8

My over all satisfaction is really nothing more than the average of the cruise line’s hard product. Rates on RCI are reasonable factoring in the ships, food, rooms, etc. Perhaps my largest let down of RCI was the variety of ports and itineraries offered abroad (meaning not in the US or Caribbean which are well covered). When searching for a European cruise I was disappointed at how short their options were, not even reaching 9 nights I believe, and the port combinations offered nothing exciting. The same issue came when I was looking through the ‘exotic’ asian cruises, reason I say ‘exotic’ is because how exotic can a 3 night cruise be? Besides that, they offer some great common routes (Caribbean) on amazing ships that will wow you (the best in the industry). While RCI isn’t a luxury cruise in my opinion, it is for the younger crowd (16+) and the ships cater a lot to those with adventure at heart, being packed with activities unlike their rival lines. A vacation on RCI is nothing short of fun, the rooms are all up to date, although TV programing could be a lot better. Ships are clean and well maintained, some common deteriorations bring the score to a 8.5 (you’ll probably never see a 10 there). Food was great, a lot of variety and alway flavor full, also know that there are a la carte restaurants onboard which charge a separate fee, from sit down, to buffet, to room service is offered, and the pool side ice cream is delectable on hot afternoons. The staff were nice, on land and onboard, always willing to help, and our cruise director was magnificent, she always had a joke to crack. As for entertainment they left a lot to be desired, the comedian was the only really enjoyable show. But I do hear with this wow renovation that entertainment onboard will be upgraded to match those of their bigger ships which include full Broadway productions, and the new standard giant LED screen poolside will provide great entertainment once installed. Over all a vacation on RCI is definitely worth it no matter the ship, they all have something to wow (as cheesy as it sounds by now). Jump onboard on the nation of why not? Visit royalcaribbean.com for more.

cheers!

-Ian

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