PRE-BOARDING Check-in was SIMPLE. You will enter a large building, follow the Homeland Security staff, and wait in line according to your floor number on the ship. Have your credit card ready to be scanned on your Sea Pass card (which you will carry at all times on the ship). They will take your picture so that every time your card is scanned, your face will show up on their computer.
Remember to bring some type of lanyard to wear around your neck. They will punch a hole in your Sea Pass card so that it can be with you at all times.
DO NOT TAKE PICTURES while you are in the Homeland Security building. Cameras are NOT allowed.
ONCE YOU ARE ON THE SHIP Once you are on the ship, you are encouraged to look around the ship and/or to eat in the Windjammer (every kind of food you could possibly imagine), Sorrento's (pizza), or the Promenade Cafe (sandwiches and desserts). You will need to wait until 1pm to get into your room. You could also bring your swimsuit and go swimming, as well.
STATEROOMS The staterooms are extremely small. We had 3 adults and 1 child and fit our clothes in the large closet with hangers and small cubicles. The desk area/drawers can also be used for clothing. In a stateroom, there are twin beds and a couch that pulls out into a double bed. There is more room if the beds are put together (if you are also going to use the couch at night as a bed). The sheets and comforters are beautiful and beds are very comfortable. There IS a hair dryer but NO iron. We had a stateroom with a balcony, which was nice, but was not used much because it was so incredibly hot outside.
Each stateroom has a large TV with an interactive keyboard. You can check out what is going on throughout the ship, your bill, dining options, and room service. The TV stations are limited and are pre-recorded. There is one channel for children.
LAUNDRY There are NO laundry facilities on the ship. They do have laundry service BUT it is VERY expensive. On Thursday, they will offer to do one large bag of laundry (they provide it to you) for 25 dollars. It really wasn't worth it as it is just as easy to wash your clothes out in the VERY small sink and hang them on the deck. Bring a small container of laundry detergent if you do this.
CLOTHING The most important item of clothing are bathing suits, cover-ups, and undergarments. Clothing can be worn over and over. Bring 2 'fancy' outfits....people wore dress pants/skirts/dresses to the formal dinners (Sunday and Thursday). A few people did wear VERY fancy clothes but this wasn't the norm. Nice capris /pants are adequate for the other nights. NO short shorts or tank tops are allowed in the dining room. In the summer months, it is VERY hot so dress accordingly. When you are on the ship, there are a few places that are outdoors and it will be very warm. Although we brought sweatshirts, we did NOT need them.
DINING The dining room is the place to go for all meals? There are 3 floors....the 3rd and 4th are used for those that want set dining times (6 pm and 8 pm) and the 5th is used for the My Time Dining. The MTD is VERY nice because you can go to dinner anywhere between 5:30 (ideal time to eat) and 10:30, with or without a reservation. Breakfast can either be a ordered off of a menu or a buffet style (cut up fruit, yogurt, toppings of all kinds, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.). Lunch can also be ordered from a menu or you can get a salad from the buffet (VERY good...). Breakfast and Lunch take place on the 4th floor. The Windjammer (located on the 16th floor and overlooks the pools) is open for all meals and has a variety of foods....more than you can imagine....buffet style.
Sorrento's, Mondo's, and the Promenade Cafe are located on the Royal Promenade are open all the time. The Park Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and is located in Central Park. This restaurant is VERY cool and has some different foods that the other places don't offer. All of the other restaurants have a cover charge.....ranging from 4.95 to 75.00. If you are interested in dining there, you need to make reservations. In my opinion, Johnny Rockets is not worth it. Milkshakes are EXTRA and it cost the 4 of us 30 dollars to eat when we could have had a meal for nothing.
BEVERAGES Order your soda pass card before you board. You will have your 'free' glass waiting for you in your room and you will be ready to go without the hassle of waiting in line. You can get milk/chocolate milk/lemonade/flavored water/water/coffee and tea at most dining places FOR FREE. You will pay for all other non-alcoholic, alcoholic, and specialty coffee drinks.
Whether you are outside by the pool, walking through any of the public areas, or in a show, there are waiters always around asking if you want to try the drink of the day. These are NOT free and you will have to give them your Sea Pass card (which is linked to your credit card) in order to pay for them. If you have a soda pass, Coke products can be ordered for no extra charge.
The bottled juice and water packages that are offered for a standard price (and are placed in your room) are NOT worth it as juice is available at all meals and water is free of charge at meals and at the bars.
ENTERTAINMENT Make reservations for ALL shows before boarding. Very often, they will be full and you will need to wait in a line for a spot. Important ones: aqua show, ice-skating show, Hairspray, comic shows, and headliner shows. They are ALL worth seeing. If you are interested in ice-skating during open rink time, don't forget to bring long pants. They will provide the skates and the helmet. Children under the age of 6 will need to have a parent skate with them. INTERNET SERVICE There is an internet cafe on the 9th floor at the front of the ship. You can pay per minute or buy a block of minutes. The more you buy, the cheaper it is. I purchased 35.00 dollars worth and got .59 cents per minutes of usage. It was very easy to get on the internet....just swipe your sea pass card and you have access. You could instant message or even Skype. I had no problems at all.
CELL PHONES/BEEPERS Our cell phones would probably have worked on board but we were too afraid of what the charges would be. You could rent iPhones/walkie-talkies that work only on the ship. If your child is part of the childcare program, they will give you a cell phone that can be used to call anywhere on the ship. There are phones located throughout and in your rooms to use with these on-ship only devices.
IF someone needs to reach you in an emergency, they may be able to get through to your phone or they can email you or they can use this method:
To speak with a passenger onboard, the caller dials 1-888-RC4-SHIP (724-7447) (United States only) or 1-732-335-3285 at a rate of $7.95 per minute. From outside the United States, an additional long distance charge will apply to the (732) number.
The caller will next be prompted to enter his or her major credit card number (Visa®, MasterCard®, Discover®, American Express®, Carte Blanche®, JCB® or Diners Club®) and expiration date. The system obtains real-time validation for the charge and then initiates the call to the ship. A voice prompt will direct the caller to a specific ship. For example, "To call the Grandeur of the Seas, press 1#; to call the Rhapsody of the Seas, press 2#."
Please note, billing begins when the call is first answered onboard the ship, not when the caller begins speaking with the guest.
CHILDCARE If you have a child, from baby to teen, take advantage of the kids program. You can leave your child from 9-12, 2-5, and 7-10. You can leave them through lunch for a fee, through dinner if you sign up ahead of time (no fee), and after 10 for a fee. It does not start until Sunday but will continue daily until Friday evening. You are given a phone so that they can contact you while you are on the ship. You need to go to Adventure Ocean when you board and fill out the paperwork prior to leaving your child.
EMERGENCY DRILL At 4:00 on Saturday, there will be an emergency drill that EVERYONE is required to attend. Make sure you look on the back of your stateroom door to see where your specific location will be and then make sure you check in at that spot. They will scan your Sea Pass card and will know if you aren't present. They will play a short emergency video.
PICTURES There will be photographers taking pictures all the time but especially around dinnertime. Some take them as you are walking around the ship and others have a place where they have set up. Take advantage of this! You can visit the photo gallery located above the Royal Promenade and choose which ones you like best. Each person will have their own folders where pictures are placed. You can also access them on the many kiosks around the gallery. Pictures tend to be a bit expensive but are usually high quality.
PORTS If you are having trouble deciding if you want to get off the ship at any of the ports, ask the staff members on board. They will be able to tell you if it is worth the time and effort. Most ports have piers so that you can just walk off the ship and onto the land. You will need to carry your Sea Pass card as well as passport/photo ID. It is a very easy process. If you do decide to stay on the ship, it is a great time to be at the pool as they are virtually empty. 99% of the people do get off at the different ports.
This was the BEST vacation I have ever taken. The ship is magical, the staff is wonderful, and the entertainment is spectacular. Take advantage of everything it has to offer?