Royal Caribbean is one of the world’s largest cruise brands, with a fleet of modern, massive and technologically innovative ships – and Cruise Critic’s experienced editorial staff has sailed them all, from the older but beloved Grandeur of the Seas to the imposingly innovative Wonder of the Seas.
Here’s our top tips for cruising with Royal Caribbean that are applicable for first-time and experienced cruisers alike.
Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief: “Johnny Rockets is one of Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants, and as such, it carries a surcharge – except for breakfast. If you want to skip the crowds in the main buffet and grab a fun, diner-style breakfast, head to Johnny Rockets.
“I like to go early so I can skip the waitlist, which happens after a day or two, when people discover it’s an option. I’m also an early riser, which helps ensure I get a table. My favorite Johnny Rockets are on the cruise line’s Oasis Class (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas), because the restaurant is located on the Boardwalk, which is ideal for people watching.
Additionally, The Schooner Bar is one of the few venues you can find on every Royal Caribbean ship in the fleet. No matter the ship, it’s a nautical-themed bar that is found in the heart of the action.
My favorite is on Jewel of the Seas (and sister-ships Brilliance of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas), as it is massive and takes up most of the starboard side on Deck 6. During the day, the Schooner Bar often hosts trivia and other games. At night, it becomes a lively piano bar, where singing along is a must.”
Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor: “A Royal Caribbean megaship – or really, any large cruise ship – can feel intimidating. How do you meet like-minded people among the thousands of other passengers onboard? That’s why I like to go to the daily trivia sessions. Usually the same people show up, day after day, which make the masses on the ship seem smaller.
“If you’re traveling with another person, it’s easy to join another couple or group to pool your knowledge. And since trivia is usually held in the same room every day – often the Schooner Bar -- you also get to know servers and bartenders. It makes a megaship seem much smaller.”
Adam Coulter, Executive Editor, Cruise Critic UK & Australia: "Oasis-class ships can be a little overwhelming, and it’s very hard to find a place of peace and quiet in between the parades, the top-deck craziness and all the bars and outlets along the Royal Promenade.
"However, there is one space that is always quiet (although on Wonder of the Seas the jazz band may spill out into the park) and that is Central Park. Open to the skies above and with 12,175 real plants and 56 trees, Central Park is the calmest space on the ship day or night. Is that bird song I hear you say? Why yes it is – though not real birds, hidden speakers play bird song through the day and evening, which makes the place even calmer.
"The restaurants are quieter and more upscale, as are the bars (The Trellis Bar is our favorite for a pre-dinner cocktail); and our top tip to avoid the madness of the Windjammer Café at breakfast is the Park Café, half-way along Central Park and serving a lighter version of breakfast than upstairs (it also does a good selection of paninis at lunch). You can sit outside, collect your thoughts and prepare for the day."
Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor: “As a foodie, I like to experience as many restaurants onboard as I can. That’s why a dining package is almost always a good idea for me, and the people I’m traveling with.
“Dining packages allow me to keep specialty restaurant costs at a manageable level, and also give some structure to my cruise. Specialty dining also keeps me out of the often chaotic and crowded Windjammer buffet. (Of course, I go to the ship’s main dining room at least once for the escargot appetizer, usually on the always available appetizer menu).”
Aaron Saunders, Senior News and Features Editor: “Travelling with a family isn’t easy, but Royal Caribbean makes the booking process painless. Rather than booking a suite, I prefer to book two connecting cabins for my wife and daughter to give us more room to spread out. It sounds easy, and it is – but it can be a surprisingly complex process on other cruise lines.
“Whether you book on Royal Caribbean’s website or through another avenue like Cruise Critic’s Find a Cruise tool, the system automatically selects connecting cabins that are next to each other if you so desire. What’s more, Royal Caribbean has connecting rooms in plenty of categories, from economical inside staterooms to luxe suites.”
Jorge Oliver, Editor: "Whether you’re embarking on a colossal Oasis-class ship or one of the cruise line’s smaller vessels -- or maybe the new Icon of the Seas -- Royal Caribbean sailings are famous for their breadth and variety of onboard activities.
"From concerts, comedy shows and musicals to various specialty restaurants, daytime pool deck competitions and nightlife venues, there’s always something happening onboard -- often multiple things are happening simultaneously, forcing you to pick one or the other.
"It's understandably tempting to want to do as many things as possible – you don’t want to miss out during your vacation! But being on vacation also means relaxing and slowing down your pace. When mapping out your schedule, be discerning about the entertainment options that best suit your interests."
Adam Coulter, Executive Editor, Cruise Critic UK & Australia: "Top Inside Tip: If you want some of the best views of the AquaTheater show and cannot afford an aft-facing cabin, head to Deck 14, walk all the way to the aft of the ship, past the last cabin and you will find an unmarked door – go through it and you will reach these balconies (one on either side). They are at about the height of the board from which “aquabats” jump and give awesome uninterrupted views of the action.
"Why are they there and why does Royal not publicize them? We were told it’s because as the ship narrows toward the upper decks, the balconies are just too narrow to be used as part of a cabin. And as they are small, the line does not want too many people using them. We love them for their great views, exclusivity and for being in the know (thanks to Cruise Critic members, of course)."