If you want to get the most out of your upcoming cruise, there’s just no substitute for doing some homework. Here’s where it can count:
To go to the show
Booking a show on Royal Caribbean online before your cruise can make the difference between seeing it or missing it. If you don’t reserve in advance, your only hope is going to the theater before it starts, standing on line and crossing your fingers that there are some no-shows.
For your dinner dining
When you book your trip, on many ships, you have to commit to same-place/same-time dining or “my time” dining. Noting how late the ship is in each port and when the shows run will help you decide what’s best for you.
On Royal Caribbean, if you’re doing specialty dining, you’ll need to plan carefully—the restaurants won’t give you a reservation less than two hours from one of your shows.
The ports you’ll visit
So you don’t have any surprises, you may want to do two levels of planning—study the itinerary and research the islands. Particularly:
Is it an island holiday? One trip, we found ourselves on an island during its national holiday and half the stores were closed. Another time, another island, it was Sunday and everything was closed but the supermarket. Here’s one site that can help your research on island holidays.
Short or long stay? The hours of arrival and departure vary quite a bit from one port to the other. We’re late risers and port stays of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. mean we have enough time to get off the ship and back on—and that’s about it.
Dock or tender? Tendering means you spend more time traveling back and forth, and less on the island. It also means you’ll need to do some careful planning if you’re taking a non-sponsored excursion.
The way you’ll spend your sea day
Note that there are some restrictions on what can be worn for some of the activities. For example, closed-toed shoes are required for the sports court, Rip Cord and Laser Tag. Two-piece bathing suits are a no-no for FlowRider. And you’ll also need to sign a waiver to do some of the ship’s activities.
The bottom line
Of course, there are many other things you may want to know before you go, and I’ve only covered a few. The best sources for info on your ship are the cruise line’s websites in the section for booked guests and cruisecritic.com (particularly the Boards, where you can ask questions). The more you read, the more you learn, the more likely you’ll get the great vacation you paid for.