This post was written in 2016.
For the second time in my life, I went onboard a cruise ship and this time it was a family getaway onboard Royal Caribbean Mariner of The Sea. With my last cruising experience some 20+ years ago, I was excited and nervous as we counted down to our cruise holiday. To truly enjoy and experience cruising with Royal Caribbean, and a reminder to myself, here are 10 things you got to do before and during the cruise!
10 Things You Got To Do When Cruising with Royal Caribbean
#1 – Book Your Cruise at Roadshows
Having compared prices throughout the year, we finally booked the cruise when we saw a very good deal at the roadshow at Vivo City in November (or was it October, I can’t remember). There was the kids cruise free deal, 50% off for senior citizen (for my dad) and free stateroom upgrade promotion. With deals like that we just couldn’t resist. Total damaged was around $3,000-$3,500 for my parents and our family of four. We stayed in a family suite with balcony and a stateroom with balcony for my parents.
#2 – Online Check-in At Least 3 Days Before Cruising
When you check-in online, it saves time on the day of your embarkation. You won’t have to fill out any forms at the pier. When you arrive, you will just need your signed SetSail pass (PDF file issued upon completing online check-in), identification documents, and credit card that you register online for your onboard expenses.
#3 – Plan Your Cruise with Cruise Planner
To free up your time and avoid queues when onboard the cruise, plan your days onboard with Cruise Planner 48 hours before cruise date. At Cruise Planner, you can select your dining time if you want to dine in the main dining hall for dinner. Or if you want better quality food I’ll recommend to pay additional for Specialty Dining. Before you cruise, there’s option to buy the package that includes dinner for all your cruise days, and its really value for money after I tried it on the last night of our cruise.
#4 – Get Specialty Dining Package or Try it on the Last Day
At USD90+ per pax, it felt a little exorbitant to pay for the package for 4 adults. But after we tried the complimentary dining I immediately regretted. The crowd at the Windjammer buffet dining was crazily packed and hard to get a table. And the quality of food is sad to say not up to expectation. Most were either too salty or tasteless. It just didn’t make dining enjoyable at all. The main dining halls for serviced ala carte order serve slightly better food but the quality is just so-so too.
On the last day of our cruise, we had wanted to dine at the buffet place but it was just too crowded. So when we saw that Chopes Grill set dinner is going at 50% off we all headed in, it was if I remember correctly less than USD20 per adult and kids got to dine for free. Food was way better, the best we had during our cruise experience, and there were plenty of seats.
#5 – Consider the Drink Package and Get Drank
I was tempted to click the “Buy” button when planning our cruise before the trip but paying for drink packages for everyone onboard is going to add a lot of cost to our trip, so I resisted. But I immediately regretted after our first meal onboard before we even set sail out of our local port. Drinks served for free to everyone at Windjammer is tasteless. I couldn’t make myself swallow it after the first sip. And that’s when I stepped outside to purchase drink packages for us. I bought the Premium package for my dad and he totally enjoyed the free-flow of beverages and beer during the trip.
Drink packages are not transferrable and only the package owner can order for the drinks. My tip is, as long as you don’t get caught sharing, then one package can be shared among a few people. Of cos you don’t go overboard and order drink after drink within too short a period. Every order is entitled to just one drink and is recorded. So pace yourself.
#6 – Get the Photo Package if You’re a Memory Keeper
This is the one thing I regretted not buying on the very first night. There was a $50 off voucher which we can use on the first night if we were to purchase the full photo package which will give us all photos taken by any of the photographers onboard throughout our cruise. A friend shared AFTER my trip that he will always buy the package and make all the photographers around the ship his “personal photographer”. He’ll make sure he gets as many shots taken as possible and he’ll end up with lot of memories captured in frame by end of the trip.
Do note that each package only allows photo from one cabin. So do plan to have your family stay together in a suite vs in separate rooms where possible.
#7 – Turn off Auto Roam and Data Plan
Roaming on your mobile data plan is strongly NOT ADVISABLE when cruising. Once you’re on international waters, your telco will be laughing at the amount of roaming charges they’ll be billing you. And even if you don’t mind paying for it, you’ll probably not have stable connection throughout the ship nor location. There is connection package onboard for you to purchase and use. However from my experience, connection is very slow and interim too when you go around the ship.
#8 – Have Breakfast in Your Stateroom
After the second day, you are most likely tired of the food and crazy amount of people at Windjammer in the morning breakfast hours. Go ahead and place your breakfast order with the ordering chic in your stateroom, place it the night before and have your breakfast delivered at your preferred time the next morning. You can choose as many items as you want from the menu, but please order what you can finish and not waste food.
The girls surely enjoyed their breakfast by our balcony. A first experience for all of us.
#9 – Drop Your Kids and Have Some Alone Time
There’s kids club onboard that conduct activities and fun play time for kids. When you need some couple time alone, you can send your little ones to the club. Just remember to fetch time at end of their session.
#10 – Catch ALL the shows and entertainment
Ice-skating, dance performances, magic shows and the movie nights! These shows usually run twice a day and