If you’re searching for Royal Caribbean cruise hacks and tips, you’re in the right spot! Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned pro, our Royal Caribbean tricks and secrets below are for you.
After booking a vacation on one of the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, you can easily feel overwhelmed with all the information and planning tools available. Because of this, we created an extensive list of our favorite cruise tips when sailing with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Whether you’re looking for Royal Caribbean tips for saving money, packing, cruising with toddlers, or more, the list below is full of insightful tricks and hacks you won’t want to miss. So, continue reading our Royal Caribbean tips for first time cruisers (and experienced travelers) below!
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Choose the right ship.
Make sure you research the Royal Caribbean ship you want to book before making a reservation. I have seen so many families choose their cruises based on the best deals they can find.
This sometimes results in them realizing (too late) that their ship doesn’t offer baby splash zones or other kid-friendly activities. While most of the Royal Caribbean ships include all kinds of entertainment options and activities for the whole family to enjoy, some of the smaller, older ships may not offer as many exciting features.
So, make sure you research the items important to you before booking a ship.
Bid on RoyalUp.
Royal Caribbean offers a great opportunity for guests to bid on an upgraded room category through their Royal Up program. Guests often receive an email from RoyalUP that includes a list of higher level staterooms.
You can bid on an upgraded cabin, and, if your bid is accepted, you’ll be moved to the more desirable stateroom. This is a great option for those cruisers who would love to experience a suite or balcony room for a discounted price.
You can read all about how to upgrade your cabin in our post on the Royal Caribbean Royal Up Program.
Book a room you like.
Since the RoyalUp program is not a guaranteed upgrade, we highly recommend booking a cruise cabin that you like from the start. If sailing in a room with a balcony is a must for your family, make sure you book one of these rooms.
Upgrading your room through RoyalUp or at the port is not a sure thing. In fact, many would argue that RoyalUp bids are rarely accepted. So, we recommend always booking a room you are completely happy with.
Include suite perks in calculations.
The Royal Caribbean suites come with higher prices; however, they also include benefits. Depending on which suite level you are considering, make sure you factor in the price of the suite’s perks.
The Star Class suites include extra suite benefits like the Deluxe Beverage Package, Ultimate Dining Package, Internet Package, and more. Those items can really add up.
So, if you plan to purchase extra packages anyway, the suites may not cost as much as you think.
Choose an itinerary that includes CocoCay.
My family and I are suckers for a private island, and Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay is no exception. This beautiful island in the Bahamas features fun activities, gorgeous beaches, and delicious dining options.
Plus, most of the restaurants on Royal Caribbean’s private island are included in your initial cruise fare. If you purchased the Deluxe Drink Package, this is also included on CocoCay.
Therefore, choosing a cruise itinerary that visits CocoCay can actually save you money since you won’t need to purchase excursions, food, or beverages on the island unless you really want to.
Check cruise port schedules.
We like to check the cruise port schedules before our trips to determine how many ships are scheduled to be in port. This is something I also do prior to booking the cruise, especially if I’m torn between a few different itineraries.
You can use different websites like Cruisemapper to search for the date and port your ship is scheduled for. You will also find a list of any other ships that are booked at that port on that day.
This is especially useful for ports like CocoCay because it can help you determine how busy the island may be on your visit. If you can’t decide between two different itineraries, check out the port schedules to see which sailing offers the least busy ports.
Make a packing list.
We suggest starting a cruise packing list immediately after booking your trip. This allows you to keep random items that come to mind in a collective spot once it’s time to actually do the packing.
I also like to come up with a daily itinerary for the trip that includes any activity we may want to experience. Then, I go through and add items needed for each activity. For example, if I jot down “ice skating” on Day 2, I would add long pants and socks to my packing list since these are required.
I recently created a printable version of my cruise planner and packing list that you can find on Etsy. This planner includes pages for comparing parts of your trip, creating daily itineraries, organizing budgets, and more!
Since Royal Caribbean ships do not offer self service laundry facilities, it’s even more important to make sure you pack accordingly.
Book Deck 8 on Oasis-class ships.
If you aren’t sure which deck to book and you’re cruising on an Oasis class ship, we highly recommend choosing Deck 8. This deck is located in the middle of the ship and offers easy access to the decks below and above.
Additionally, Deck 8 is home to the Central Park neighborhood, which allows for a scenic stroll as you leave and return to your room. We also like the easy access Deck 8 provides to Park Cafe, Trellis Bar, and Vintages Wine Bar.
Purchase travel insurance.
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your trip since cruise vacations consist of so many different elements. Buying travel insurance allows cruisers to have peace of mind that they won’t be responsible for the full cost of flights, hotels, cruise fare, excursions, etc. in the event that you have to cancel your trip.
Purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package for one.
This is a little known secret, but many cruisers aren’t aware that you can purchase the Deluxe Drink Package for only one person in your travel party. In the Online Cruise Planner, you’ll notice that if one person purchases the Deluxe Package, you must buy it for every cruiser in your room who is of legal drinking age.
However, you can call Royal Caribbean, and they will allow you to purchase the Deluxe Drink Package for just one person in your stateroom. This means that if a family member is pregnant or doesn’t drink alcohol, you do not have to buy the Deluxe Package for them.
(Note that you will be required to purchase the Refreshment Package for that individual though.)
Check the cruise planner regularly.
If you choose to purchase the Internet Package or one of the beverage packages, make sure you check the Online Cruise Planner regularly for changes in price. Royal Caribbean sometimes runs sales offering deep discounts on these extras.
You can cancel your package and rebook at the lower price if needed. This is also true of activities and excursions listed in the Online Cruise Planner. If you book a shore excursion or CocoCay cabana, check the Cruise Planner often to take advantage of any decrease in price you may find.
Print luggage tags.
Before your cruise, you’ll receive luggage tags that are available to print and attach to your bags. If you forget to do this, the porters will have luggage tags available at the port on embarkation day.
However, printing the luggage tags before your trip allows you to save time on boarding day. My family and I place the luggage tags into these clear holders that easily attach to your bag. This way they don’t get wet or tear. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Reserve specialty dining ahead of time.
If you would like to enjoy certain specialty restaurants and do not want to purchase the Unlimited Dining Package, we recommend making dining reservations as soon as possible in the Online Cruise Planner.
Many of the popular signature restaurants, like Izumi Hibachi, fill up fast months before the cruise. Because of this, we recommend making reservations for any restaurants you can prior to getting onboard.
Reserve shows ahead of time.
Royal Caribbean permits guests to make reservations for some shows before your cruise. On our most recent Oasis of the Seas cruise, we were able to book the Aqua Show, Ice Skating Show, Comedy Show and Cats before our trip. You can learn more about making reservations in our post on Booking Entertainment on Royal Caribbean.
Score an early boarding time.
When you complete online check-in prior to your cruise, you’ll be prompted to select a port arrival time. My family and I like to complete the online check in process as soon as it’s available since the highly coveted early times get taken fast.
If you are able to secure an early port arrival time, you can arrive at the cruise terminal during your time slot. After going through security and check in, you’ll be one of the first passengers allowed to board the ship.
This means that you will get to experience fewer crowds at dining venues, guest services, pools, and more.
Use packing cubes.
We love packing cubes for any vacation, but they especially come in handy on a cruise. These cubes come in different colors, so you can assign a shade to each family member.
When unpacking your suitcase, just slide the cube into the drawers or shelves in your stateroom. Once it’s time to pack up at the end of your trip, simply place the cubes back in your bags.
These packing cubes take away the headache of sifting through clothes on a shelf. They also make it easy to reorganize items at the airport if one of your bags is overweight. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Join the Facebook group for your sailing.
After booking your cruise, it’s a great idea to join the Facebook group for your sail date. Other cruisers in your group will offer all sorts of recommendations for hotels, excursions, restaurants, activities, etc.
Additionally, you’ll find a lot of the members of the Facebook group are super helpful by alerting others when reservations open up among other useful things.
Fly in a day early.
If you aren’t able to drive to the cruise port for boarding day, we highly recommend flying in at least a day in advance. Flights are canceled and delayed so often these days, and you don’t want to take the chance of missing the cruise because of a flight.
Even if you aren’t flying to/from an area where winter weather is an issue, Florida thunderstorms are no joke. Plus, even if you and your family are able to arrive at the port last minute, you’ll want to know that your luggage had plenty of time to make it too.
Board with an embarkation day bag.
Take a carry-on bag with you to board the ship. In addition to all the important travel documents you’ll want on hand, you may want to pack other necessities.
Some of the items we pack in our embarkation day bag include chargers, seasickness remedies, sunscreen, prescription medicine, sunglasses, and cash for tips.
Wear swimsuits to board.
If you or your kids are looking forward to swimming onboard the cruise ship, there’s no better time than right after boarding. The pools are virtually empty, and the water slide lines aren’t long at all.
My kids typically wear a bathing suit underneath their clothes so that they can enjoy the pools after lunch. Just make sure to pack undergarments in your carry-on bag in case your luggage isn’t yet in your room when you finish swimming.
Pack seasickness remedies.
As mentioned above, we make sure to pack seasickness remedies in our boarding day bag just in case we need them before our luggage arrives in our cabin. We like to use Bonine or Dramamine if we’re feeling really queasy. However, seasickness bands usually do the trick that first day.
Visit the shore excursions desk.
If you have a shore excursion booked through Royal Caribbean, make sure you visit the desk on Day 1 to make any special requests. On our most recent cruise, I visited the Shore Excursions area on Day 2 to request specific cabanas at Perfect Day at CocoCay.
However, many of them had already been booked by others on our ship and by passengers on a different Royal ship that was going to be at CocoCay the same time as us. So, if you want to make requests for excursions, visit the desk as early in your trip as possible.
Don’t stress about Formal Night.
If you enjoy dressing up in formal wear, you’ll love the Dress Your Best night on the ships. Many of the cruisers get dolled up in gowns and tuxes for formal night photos.
However, if dressing up isn’t your thing, don’t stress. Lots of passengers don’t go all-out on formal nights. Instead, they wear nice clothes that you would see at church or at a restaurant.
So, if you’re worried about packing and wearing tuxedos and ball gowns, don’t feel like it’s a must. We find that most of the men wear polo style or button down shirts and slacks. And a lot of the women wear sundresses.
Ask for a paper cruise compass.
When you meet your stateroom host on the first day, ask him/her to place a paper cruise compass in your room each day. Although the Royal Caribbean app provides lots of information on activity and entertainment schedules, we find the paper versions are much easier to read. The stateroom attendants used to put these in your room every night, but now you can request one if you prefer.
Order more than one item from room service.
If you choose to order a meal (other than continental breakfast items) from room service, note that you will be charged an estimated $8 service fee. This means you will pay $8 whether you order one meal or four meals from room service.
Therefore, if you want to place a room service order, don’t feel like it’s cheaper to get fewer items. Also, don’t forget to factor in a tip for your order.
Pack a cruise power strip.
Even the newer Royal Caribbean ships may not offer enough charging stations for your devices. We recommend packing a cruise approved power strip to increase the number of available outlet spaces in the room.
It’s important to purchase a cruise friendly power strip as Royal Caribbean will confiscate surge protectors and other devices. We like this one and have personally used it on Royal Caribbean cruises. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Bring cash for tips.
Before your cruise, you will attach a credit card to your online account. Most of the extra items you purchase onboard the ship will be charged to this card.
However, it’s important to bring cash to tip certain positions as well. Some of the people you may want to tip on your cruise include your driver to/from the port, porters who handle your luggage, and bartenders.
Additionally, there are times (bartenders and room service) that you can add the tip to your receipt. However, the crew members prefer to be tipped in cash whenever possible.
Make dining requests early.
If you have a special request for the main dining room, we suggest calling Royal Caribbean prior to your cruise to make a note of it. My sister and I linked our reservations on our most recent cruise with Royal.
We assumed that our dining tables would be together since our reservations were linked. However, after boarding, we realized that my sister’s family was assigned a table by themselves while my family was assigned to a table with two people we didn’t know.
We attempted to correct this issue on boarding day, but the crew member in charge of dining seemed really overwhelmed. He allowed us to share a standby table on the first night, but he made it clear that this wasn’t a permanent fix.
Therefore, we highly recommend making a note on your reservation if you want a private table for only your family or if you have friends or family members you want to dine with.
Know your dining options.
The Royal Caribbean ships offer so many different dining options that deciding where to eat can feel overwhelming. Prior to your trip, become familiar with the Royal Caribbean restaurants on your particular ship. This way you know which restaurants are complimentary and which are available for an additional fee.
Open the balcony dividers.
If your family is sailing in two staterooms with connecting balconies, you can ask your stateroom attendant to remove the divider. This allows you to enjoy an even larger balcony space.
My family and my sister’s family were able to enjoy this extra outdoor space when we booked junior suites next to each other on Oasis of the Seas. These connecting balconies also allowed our kids to move from one room to the other without having to go out into the hallway.
Complete the Muster Drill ahead of time.
Royal Caribbean has implemented a new procedure for completing the onboard muster drill. Guests can now watch the safety video via the Royal Caribbean app.
This safety video is available well before your cruise begins. However, you cannot confirm that you watched it until the morning of your cruise.
We recommend having everyone in your family watch the short safety video prior to embarkation day. Then, on the morning of your cruise, go into the app and mark it as complete.
You do not have to be at the cruise terminal in order to do this. We did it in our hotel. After boarding the ship, you should be able to find your muster station close by. The crew member at the station will mark off your family as having completed the muster drill.
Enjoy the little things.
Although you may leave the ship feeling that you didn’t get to experience everything you wanted, you will undoubtedly find enjoyable moments you didn’t expect as well. Some of the best experiences on vacation are those that are spur of the moment.
For example, during our second formal night, we rode the elevator with a young man playing the piano. This super talented individual played hit Disney songs as we rode up the elevator to our deck.
To read more about fun activities we found on the ship, check out our post on 89 Fun and Free Things to Do on Oasis of the Seas.
Take the stairs.
Even though you will want to make an exception for an experience like the one mentioned above, we generally recommend taking the stairs on the cruise ship. This is especially true if you are sailing in one of the larger Royal Caribbean ships.
These ships hold so many cruise passengers that the elevators often require long waits. If you’re willing and able to move between decks using the stairs, this will save you a lot of time.
Take activities to dinner.
If you are traveling with young kids, we suggest taking coloring books or small activities to the main dining room at dinner. The Royal Caribbean ships do not provide these during your meal.
This is one of the differences we found when comparing Disney Cruise Line vs Royal Caribbean. In our experiences, the servers on the Royal Caribbean ships only provide coloring pages and crayons in the suites only restaurant, Coastal Kitchen.
Pack a drink caddy.
This is a super easy cruise hack that can save you a lot of stress. Either my husband or I left would leave our stateroom each morning to grab coffees at Park Cafe. These cups were often difficult to carry back to our room as they were hot and really full.
We now cruise with a portable drink caddy that allows us to easily carry hot coffee or any other beverage around the ship.
Learn height restrictions.
If you’re cruising with smaller kids, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the age, weight, and height restrictions for various activities on the ship. This may save a lot of tears once onboard if your little one realizes she can’t ride the water slides or zip line. By learning the rules ahead of time, you can prepare your kids for what activities they can (and cannot) partake in.
Use magnetic hooks.
We like to pack magnetic hooks to use in our cruise cabin during each trip. The walls, doors, and ceilings are magnetic, which allows you to easily attach hooks to these places.
You can then use the hooks to hang wet bathing suits, towels, jackets, etc. This is the best way to clear up some space in the bathroom and allowing swimsuits to dry.
Learn rules for activities.
Some of the onboard activities have specific rules that are important to know while you’re packing. For example, ice skating requires socks and long pants and laser tag requires close-toed shoes. Make a list of the activities you want to experience onboard and then determine if they have rules you need to remember while packing.
Bring a cardigan or jacket.
If you are cold natured, you may prefer to bring a cardigan or jacket with you to dinners. I personally find the restaurants, including the main dining room, to be quite chilly. Because of this, I travel with a light jacket or cardigan.
Don’t pack beach towels.
Royal Caribbean provides towels for guests on the pool deck. You will just need to check these out and return them to avoid any charges. On port days, you can also check out towels to take with you on any shore excursions provided that you bring them back.
Check your onboard account daily.
Speaking of pool towels, make sure you aren’t being wrongfully charged for not returning them. Many cruisers in our Facebook group found charges for pool towels on their onboard account even though they had brought them back.
If you check your onboard account daily, you can find any incorrect charges and discuss them with Guest Services onboard the ship. They will easily remove the charges for you.
Request an early disembarkation time.
Toward the end of the cruise, you will receive instructions on how to disembark on the final morning of your trip. You will also be asked to choose a disembarkation time.
We recommend choosing an earlier time so that you will be permitted to disembark when you are ready. Our family finished breakfast early and had to sit and wait a while for our disembarkation group to be called.
This resulted in lots of wasted time, some chaos, and impatient kiddos. So, choose an earlier time so that you’re group able to disembark when they are ready.
Try the Royal Cheesecake.
I had to include this in my list of Royal Caribbean tips because I dream of this dessert at home. The Royal Cheesecake comes with your choice of chocolate, caramel, or strawberry toppings. I ordered it with all three, and it was the most delicious dessert I experienced on the ship!
Don’t sit in the front row.
If you are sailing on one of the Oasis-class ships that includes an aqua show, you may want to reconsider sitting in the front row of the Aqua Theater. The families we saw sitting up front got pretty wet during the performance. The kids seemed to love it though!
Wash your hands often.
You will find hand washing stations at the entrance to the buffet as well as sanitizer placed throughout the ship. We recommend using these every chance you get as well as thoroughly washing your kids’ hands.
Use the Royal Caribbean app.
The Royal Caribbean app is full of all kinds of important information. You can use it before the cruise to familiarize yourself with the deck plans, dining options, menus, activities, and more. Once on the ship, you can use the app to chat, see schedules, find activities, etc.
Don’t pack floaties.
Royal Caribbean provides life vests free to use on the pool decks and on their private islands. These are easy to grab and come in multiple sizes. Therefore, unless you prefer your own puddle jumper, don’t worry about packing floaties for your toddler.
Know the baby swim zones.
Families who are traveling with diapered children will want to learn the specific water play areas available for their kids. If your child is not fully potty trained, he will not be permitted to swim in the pools onboard.
This is a rule that applies to all major cruise lines. If a child has an accident in the pool water, the crew members have to drain the entire pool. This results in an inoperable swimming area for a large portion of the day.
Many of the Royal Caribbean ships offer baby splash zones where diapered kids are permitted to splash and play.
Expect long lines for ice cream.
This may just be an issue on the larger Royal Caribbean ships, but I have never seen pool deck ice cream lines so long. This is especially true on sea days.
Don’t wait until the last minute to pack.
This may only apply to my personal (slow) packing skills, but don’t wait until the last minute to pack up at the end of the trip. I have learned to start packing on Day 5 of a seven-night cruise.
With all the activities and entertainment available onboard, it’s hard to set aside time to pack up. But, if you plan to set your luggage outside your room the night before disembarking, you’ll need to have it packed and ready to go at the specified time.
You don’t want to spend your last evening racing around the room trying to pack when you could be out enjoying the final moments of the trip.
Bring passports for easy debarking.
I’m not sure if this tip applies only to the Port of Miami or all the ports, but using passports to disembark saves a ton of time. When we got off of the ship in Miami, our family was able to speed through Customs by using the face recognition software they had available for passport carriers.
Those families who were traveling with birth certificates had to stand in a separate (REALLY long) line in order to get through Customs. I would estimate that this saved us about half an hour after our trip.
If you like the feeling of an all inclusive vacation, you can prepay your gratuities before your trip. Like other major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean adds automatic gratuities to your onboard account each day of your trip.
These daily gratuities go to your stateroom attendant and dining staff. If you do not like to receive a large bill at the end of the cruise, you can prepay the tips prior to your trip.
Feel free to add additional tips.
The crew members onboard the ships work so hard during each sailing to keep the passengers happy. If you come across a specific worker who is providing outstanding service, you can tip them in addition to the daily gratuity charge. This is a good way to show your appreciation for their hard work.
Overall, we know you will have an amazing time on your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation! We have found that the more we plan and prepare prior to the trip, the more we are able to relax and enjoy ourselves onboard.
Hopefully our list of Royal Caribbean tips and tricks is helpful to you. We tried to cover as many areas as possible from planning and boarding to gratuities and activities.
If you have any questions that weren’t answered above, please feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to share your own advice!
For a detailed account of my family’s latest Royal Caribbean cruise, check out our Review of Oasis of the Seas.
What are your favorite Royal Caribbean tips or hacks?
Comment below to share with us!