New Drink Package Rules on RCI

I like to plan things WAY in advance, so it is no surprise that I have been planning for my next cruise in March 2018 since July 2017. In the cruise world, this isn’t even considered early (the best time to start planning a cruise is 1-2 years in advance)! Now that I’m 134 days away from my vacation, I’ve kicked up my planning a bit more. The final balance for the trip is due in early December and by the end of December I aim to have plane tickets, specialty dinning, shore excursions, drink packages, and show reservations all complete. I can definitely cross drink packages off my list as I purchased it a few days ago and so did everyone else in my group. RCI recently made some big changes to their drink package rules that effect all sailings after December 2017 (yippee).

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(A twisted shirley temple aka a shirley temple with vanilla vodka. My favorite drink to have while playing trivia in Schooner bar)

Prior to the change in rules, purchasing a drink package was not mandatory. So if I was traveling with a friend and we were sharing a cabin, if I purchased the all inclusive alcohol drink package it didn’t mean that she automatically had to purchase it as well. Now with the new rules, if one person in the stateroom purchases the all inclusive alcohol drink package, anyone over 21 in the same stateroom MUST purchase it as well. The only exceptions to the rule are if you are pregnant, a recovering alcohol, don’t drink for personal/religious reasons, or have a medical reason (must provide documentation from doctor). With these exceptions, you are no longer required to purchase the all inclusive alcohol drink package, BUT you are required to purchase the refreshment package which basically includes all drinks on board that don’t have alcohol. There is about a $20 price difference between the two (that can vary depending on when you purchase it if you happen to catch a sale).

Does the new rule really make a difference to me? Not really. I love a good drink and the all inclusive beverage package is always the way to go for me. It gives me a chance to try new drinks without having to worry about paying for another one if I don’t like it and it allows me to literally drink as much as my heart desires. It also includes gratuities so I don’t have to worry about tipping the bartenders (although sometimes I do tip extra when they provide exceptional service). Even before the new rule was implemented, everyone in my party was going to purchase the all inclusive alcohol package (With the exception of my brother who is 18 and will only be getting the soda package).

This new rule isn’t really all that “new” if you think about it. Many other cruise lines have made it mandatory for all passengers over 21 in a stateroom to purchase the drink package if one person purchased it (i.e. Carnival). RCI made the decision to implement the program because passengers were getting sneaky and sharing 1 drink package with everyone in their party. So because a few people couldn’t follow the rules, we are all being ‘punished’ in a sense.

Of course you could make the decision to have no one in your party purchase the alcoholic package and pay per drink, but one alcoholic mixed drink runs upwards of $8-$16. Nonalcoholic mixed drinks are between $6-$10. Bottles of water are about $4. Soda by the glass is about $3-$4. Specialty coffee/tea and wine by the glass/bottle prices vary. If you do the math and calculate about how many drinks you’ll have per day, you can figure out if a drink package is right for you. Look at me for example: I’ll have a couple of mimosas in the morning with breakfast ($5 each), mixed drinks and beer throughout the whole day($8-$16 each), soda with lunch ($3-$4 each), a glass or two of wine with dinner(price varies depending on what type), and another few drinks after dinner when we go to the shows or the nightclubs. The all inclusive alcoholic package is $55 a day at regular price (I was able to get it for $41 a day because I check daily for sales on RCI website). You need to drink an average of 6 drinks a day to break even. If you’re anything like me you go way beyond breaking even and really get your money’s worth and like I said before – TIPS ARE INCLUDED!

At the end of the day, figuring out whether the drink package is for you/your party is a personal decision. All that matters is that you enjoy your vacation to the fullest!

Happy Sailing!
Samantha

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Necessities For Hardcore Cruisers

 

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1. Luggage Tag Holders

When you cruise, about 90 days before sailing  you will be able to print out important cruise documents (like your set sail pass) and your luggage tags. It is important to print these out and have them ready to go before you arrive at the pier. It makes the check in process so much easier for you and the 3,000+ passengers trying to check in at the same time. The quicker you check in the quicker you can start your vacation. The set sail pass should be kept with you along with other important documents like your passport. The luggage tag is folded and stapled or taped together to be attached to your luggage so the cruise line knows where to deliver your luggage. Since it’s just paper, it has a tendency to rip into shreds – sometimes before it even makes it to your room. To avoid a mishap, buy these luggage tag holders (I ordered a pack of 8 off amazon for $10) and slip the printed luggage tag into the holder. It protects your luggage tag so that is one less thing that you have to worry about!

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2. ID Lanyard

Once you check in, you will either be given your sea pass card at the pier or it will be available for you in your room (depends on which cruise line and which port you sail from). Your sea pass is your most prized possession on the cruise. It serves as your room key, your credit card, your ID card, and so much more. Losing your sea pass card literally creates the biggest hassle ever as it is not easily replaceable. To avoid a headache and long waits at guest services, buy yourself an ID Lanyard. You can have your card hole punched at guest services and easily clip the lanyard to it and wear it around your neck. If you get ones that have ID holders, no need for the hole punch. I ordered 4 off amazon for $10 total (2 disney ones, 2 rhinestoned ones) – yes I am truly a kid at hear). If you don’t have a chance to buy one before you get to the pier, they do have them for sale at the pier and on the ship. Beware the cheapest one can run upwards of $15… Do you really need 4 different lanyards? Not at all, but I couldn’t decide on just one and they were so cheap I couldn’t help but get all of them. I usually bring 2-3 with me and switch throughout the duration of the cruise.

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3. Waterproof phone pouch

This waterproof phone pouch is the best thing I have ever invested in for a cruise. It’s especially perfect for days at the beach in port. It is 100% waterproof. You can take pictures underwater, text without taking it out of the pouch, and not worry about getting sand in the nooks and crannies of the phone. I ordered one off amazon for $9. A friend of mine loved it so much, I ended up getting one for her. Then my mother (of course) was all over it demanding that I get her one as well. They work great and the best part is not having to worry about accidentally dropping my $600 iPhone in the water at the beach and destroying it.

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4. Tote Bag

Tote bags are perfect for embarkment days and days in port. On embarkment day, you hand over all of your heavy luggage to the porters and it’s bye bye luggage for at least a couple of hours. You don’t see them again until they are delivered to your stateroom. If you’re anything like me, the first thing you want to of is hop into the pool or the hot tub with a nice cold drink in your hand. But if you packed your bathing suit into your luggage, you really can’t enjoy the pool right away. Use your tote bag to pack bathing suits, flip flops, sunglasses, and also important things you need on your person at all times such as photo ID/passports and medications. When going into port, you can use it to carry all the things you need for whatever excursions you may have booked for the day. It may seem like one extra piece of luggage to drag along, but trust me you’ll thank me later.

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These accessories are hidden gems. No one ever thinks about this until you go to sit by the pool or on the beach. These towel clips help you clip your towel to just about any lounge chair to help keep it in place. No more having to worry about your towel constantly slipping down when you lay it out on the chair!

Happy sailing!

Samantha

Review: RCI Anthem of the Seas

I don’t even know where to begin. Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas is the fourth cruise I’ve sailed on and it is hands down my absolute favorite ship by RCI (sorry Oasis and Allure).

When I sailed, Anthem left out of Cape Liberty, New Jersey. In my opinion, this is the best port you can leave out of if you live in New York. The drive out to the pier was about an hour and a half and the parking cost was $20 a day. Our cruise was 7 nights long so I paid a total of $140 for transportation. This is a big difference compared to the couple hundred dollars I normally spend on a plane ticket to Florida and the bus transfer fees from the Florida airport to the pier!

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(Anthem is so large she only had a clearance of a couple feet to pass under the bridge)

The porters were friendly and took care of our luggage right away. The trip through security and the check in process went smoothly. I felt extra special going through the check in process because I was able to go through the expedited line using my Gold Member Status in the Crown and Anchor Society. I wonder how much more amazing I’ll feel after my next cruise in March 2018 when I finally reach Platinum status!

The inside of the ship was absolutely breathtaking. The decor was simply magnificent and some of the decor was quite interactive. When you first get on the ship, there is a humongous chandelier hanging from the ceiling. If you place your hands on a tablet in front of the chandelier, it determines your heart rate and then the lights begin to flicker to the same beat as your heart!

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(All the elevators had different pictures of animals dressed up – this dude was my favorite! I could just hear his goat voice saying “surfs up dude”)

We grabbed lunch at the Windjammer, the all you can eat free buffet on RCI cruises. I know everyone says never head straight to the buffet when you first board a cruise because it will be sooooo crowded, but I love food way too much to not hop at any opportunity to eat it. Besides, I haven’t ran into this issue yet with RCI. There were plenty of seats and plenty of food. The staff was outstanding and the food gave us the boost of energy we needed to roam around the ship before our rooms were ready at 1:30.

The itinerary was composed of stops at Port Canaveral, Florida, Cococay (cruiseline’s private island), and Nassau, Bahamas. I vacation in Florida often so I did not get off the ship at this port. It was amazing to have the ship basically to ourselves for the day. Cococay was a beautiful island. We got off the ship to do some shopping and go to the beach. I rented snorkeling equipment for $20 and went snorkeling for the first time. It was awesome!  We did some more shopping and sight seeing in Nassau along with a glass bottom boat tour. We booked the glass bottom boat tour through RCI (not through a third party)  for $35 per person. The price included the tour and two cocktails (you could also opt for 2 non-alcoholic beverages as well). It was a great deal and the tour was amazing!

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(Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas)

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(Tender Boats took us from the ship to port Coco Cay – Anthem is so big that the water near the island is too shallow for her)

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(Views from the Boat Tour)

Sea days were filled with just as much adventure as the days in port. The entertainment on board was very enjoyable. I went to all the trivia, soduko, and crossword puzzle games that the cruise staff hosted and surprisingly won a few rounds! Winners got prizes such as RCI pens, highlighters, hats, backpacks, and cups. I even went to one of the dance classes (I went to a salsa class with a complete stranger – sadly he didn’t turn out to be my future husband). The Quest Game Show, Name That Tune, World’s Sexiest Man Competition, Belly Flop Competition, Karaoke (yes I sang AND won a RCI hi lighter – I know you’re jealous), and the Love and Marriage Game Show are just a handful of the other shows that I went to that made me laugh until my sides hurt.

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(Bionic Bar – where actual robots mix your drinks for you)

The 2 shows I had reservations for were Spectra’s Cabaret and We Will Rock You. Spectra’s Cabaret was my FAVORITE show on the ship. I actually think it’s the best show I’ve seen performed at sea. Terry LaVel plays the lead role of Spectra and he keeps the audience engaged throughout the whole show. If you don’t know who he is, go on my Facebook and add him from my friends list. He’s the best! We Will Rock You was also a great show. I loved all the songs and the storyline was great.

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The last show we went to (no reservations required, but get there early for seats!) were the virtual fireworks. It was a 10 minute firework show and here’s a fun fact: if they were to actually produce the show with real fireworks it would cost $2 million! Hence the reason why it’s virtual. Nonetheless, still was very cool. Fireworks went off along with music and it was so cool.

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The food (yes I’m talking about food again) was delicious as usual. RCI never disappoints in that department! The Windjammer is my favorite place (obviously since it is the all you can eat buffet). They always had the usual food options, but every day for lunch there was always a section with new food options and it was great to be able to try new foods, but have comfort foods to fall back on just in case I didn’t like it. The Hot Dog Shop (complimentary) near the bumper cars and the arcade was a hidden gem. I never knew there were so many different types of hot dogs until this sailing.

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Anthem, I can’t wait to sail on you again!

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Calm Seas,

Samantha

Review: RCI Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas was the third cruise ship I ventured on. I took this trip a year after sailing on the Oasis and I can absolutely, positively assure you that the Oasis and the Allure are basically identical. I guess they don’t call them sister ships for nothing! I guess you could say there is one major difference… the Allure of the Seas is an entire 2 inches larger than the Oasis of the seas. That’s right people – TWO WHOLE INCHES!

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There are a few other differences between the two ships. One difference is the itinerary. When I sailed on the Oasis the ports of call were Nassau, Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The ports of call for the Allure were Labadee, Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico. So basically the Oasis has ports of call in the Eastern Caribbean and the Allure has ports of call in the Western Caribbean. They both sailed out of Fort Lauderdale (the only pier in Florida large enough to accommodate their docking). Another thing to note is that Oasis sails on Saturday and Allure sails on Sunday. These differences can be important when it comes to planning out a vacation. For 7 night cruises, I like to sail Saturday-Saturday because then at least I have Sunday to attempt getting myself out of a state of cruise withdrawal in time to start a new school/work week (and maybe unpack, do laundry, restock the house with groceries, and all the other things I didn’t have to worry about on the ship).

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Everything I loved about the Oasis was exactly everything I loved about the Allure. The aqua theater, the boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade were exactly the same – right down to the flooring. Although I did notice that the car in the Royal Promenade is a different one on each ship.

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The food venues differed a tiny bit on each ship as well. They share many of the same restaurants, but Allure has Rita’s Cantina and Samba Grill while Oasis has the seafood shack and Solarium Bistro.

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The last difference (at least that I can remember) is the show offerings in the aqua theater, the main theater, and the ice skating rink. All fabulous shows on both ships.

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Would I sail on the Allure again? YES! I did much more on this cruise than I did on the Oasis as this was my third cruise and I was basically a pro at making sure that I took advantage of every opportunity and enjoyed it to the fullest. I’ve crossed the Allure of my list of RCI cruises to go on and I would jump at the opportunity to do it again.

Happy Sailing!
Samantha

 

 

Review: RCI Oasis of the Seas

When I first went aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, it was my first time sailing with Royal Caribbean and boy did it leave a lasting impression on me!

Oasis of the Seas is one of the largest cruises in the world. When I first got to the port, I knew immediately which boat was the Oasis without even seeing the name because it was simply massive compared to the other ships docked at the Fort Lauderdale Pier.

With a whopping 18 decks, this ship has something to satisfy everyone who comes aboard. Some of my personal favorites included decks 5, 6, and 15.

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Deck 5 features the Royal Promenade which is basically a mall on the ship. And let me tell you, because it has no windows, it truly gives the appearance and feel of your average busy mall back home on land. You don’t even remember that you’re on a ship. Some of the shops included Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Regalia (a great place for watches and jewelry), Port Merchant (the place to get duty free alcohol), and The Shop (for purchasing logo wear and other cute souvenirs).

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Deck 6 features the Boardwalk and the Aqua Theater. The Boardwalk was absolutely amazing. It has a carousel, a hot dog shop (complimentary, not for-fee), cups and scoops (a for-fee ice cream and cupcake shop), Sabor (a for-fee Mexican restaurant), an at sea version of build-a-bear workshop (although I forget exactly what it was called on the ship). Right after the carousel there’s a bar and right after the bar is the beautiful Aqua Theater. The Aqua Theater was a great place for shows and activities such as the belly flop competition and the world’s hottest man competition. It is also a great place just sit back and relax with a fruity drink, to watch other shipmates as they completed the rock climbing wall, read a book, and just soak up the amazing views of the ocean and sunset.

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Deck 15 is home to the Solarium, the main pools, the H2O zone, and the pool bar. This area of the ship tended to be the most crowded, especially on sea days, but have no fear. There is so much to see and do on the ship that you will never find yourself thinking “I’m so bored” or “I have nothing to do”.

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From the fitness center and the vitality spa to the Windjammer Buffet, main dinning room, and specialty restaurants, the ship and the amenities as a whole were truly outstanding!

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Would I sail on Oasis again? The answer to that question is a simple one: hell yes! There were many things that I didn’t get a chance to see or do (specifically because I was still a “newbie” to cruising and just a tad overwhelmed by all that was available). Royal Caribbean has so many ships in their fleet, I’m just dying to try them all. Slowly but surely I am crossing each ship off my bucket list.

Calm clear seas & cooling ocean breeze,

Samantha

My next cruise adventure is 249 days away (not that I’m counting or anything!).

In 250 days, I’ll be setting foot on what will be my 5th cruise. This time I’ll be heading out on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the seas on a 9-Night Southern Caribbean cruise leaving out of Miami, Florida. The itinerary includes stops in Labadee, Haiti, WIlemstad, Curaçao, Kralendijk, Bonaire, and Oranjestad, Aruba.

I have never been as excited for any other cruise as I am for this one. Why, you might ask? My excitement is caused by a multitude of reasons starting with the fact that this is going to be the longest time I’ve spent on a cruise to date. All the other cruises I’ve been on were 7-Night Cruises. I’m a tiny bit nervous about the extra two days, but mostly excited. I mean, more days means more time for adventure and relaxation so how bad could it be?!

I’m also excited because this cruise is going to be a celebration of many different occasions – the most important one being that I’m celebrating my 21st birthday! I know, it is hard to believe that I’m not 21 yet considering I plan every single cruise that my family has went on, but ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you they’re convinced I’m a 30 year old women trapped in an (almost) 21 year old girl’s body.

Aside from celebrating my 21st birthday, we will also be celebrating my cousin Stephanie’s (who is literally like a sister to me that’s how close we our) 26th birthday, and one more big surprise that I won’t be announcing until we get closer to the cruise (stay tuned!). My birthday is in October of this year and Stephanie’s birthday was a few days ago this month, but we are all so busy that March is the earliest we could find some free time to celebrate.

The only port that I have been to from this itinerary is Labadee, Haiti – it was beautiful. The other ports are completely new to me and I’m really looking forward to exploring them. I’m looking forward to booking adventurous excursions at these ports and hopping aboard a new ship. If this ship is like any of the other Royal Caribbean ships I’ve been on thus far, I know it won’t disappoint!

Ta-ta for now!

Sam