7 Ways to Help You Choose the Best Royal Caribbean Cruises

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Royal Caribbean cruises are popular for a reason. Whether you want to sail the Caribbean, marvel at Norwegian fjords, or visit Alaska, Royal Caribbean can take you there. And with so many options in the fleet, you can build the vacation you want the way you want.

If you’re overwhelmed by choices, I have a few ways to ensure you choose the right cruise for your next trip. Here are seven things to consider when planning a cruise.

A luxurious cruise ship deck at twilight with rows of lounge chairs surrounding a lit pool. People can be seen swimming and relaxing. The sky is filled with clouds and hues of blue and pink.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

Decide on Your Budget

I have sailed in balcony rooms, ocean-view rooms, interior staterooms, and suites. While the room styles and amenities varied, I had a great time on every single cruise. It never feels good to go over budget, so I recommend deciding what you can afford and sticking to a plan.

Even though Royal Caribbean includes entertainment and food in the price, it can be remarkably easy to overspend.

A cozy cabin room with two single beds, a green sofa, round mirror, and framed artwork on the wall. The floor is carpeted, and there is a small glass-top table next to the sofa.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

For those on a tighter budget, don’t feel confined to interior staterooms. By opting for off-season travel, you can often secure great deals on typically more expensive room categories. Months like September and January are known for their discounted offers.

My family has often chosen to cruise in September several times, and we’ve never been disappointed. The water is still invitingly warm, and we relish the opportunity to explore when the crowds are thinner.

Determine Your Royal Caribbean Cruises Vacation Style

What kind of traveler are you? Do you like lots of activities, rest, or something in between? When choosing Royal Caribbean cruises, consider the number of sea days and the itinerary. For instance, some cruises have ports of call each day, while others have a mix of sea days. Still others, like transatlantic cruises, have several sea days back to back.

On our Royal Caribbean Baltic Cruise, my husband and I enjoyed being off the ship daily in ports like Stockholm, Helsinki, and Visby. There was so much to do in each port that we could easily have a full day and still be back onboard in time for dinner.

The inside of a ruined building with arches.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

The occasional sea day was nice, too, especially when we wanted to sleep in. Of course, being in port doesn’t mean you must go ashore. You can always stay on the ship and enjoy the lighter crowds.

The last time my family sailed to the Bahamas, we never even got off the ship. We had a suite on that vacation and had the most relaxing time enjoying our space. 

Research the Ships

The choice is yours, with twenty-eight ships currently in the Royal Caribbean fleet. The ships available will depend on where you want to travel and the amenities you wish to experience while onboard.

Royal Caribbean offers different ships in a variety of classes. If you see several ships in the same class, like the Oasis Class, they will be similar in size and offerings. They are typically built within the same timeframe, with the main difference being the ports from which they sail.

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Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

Older ships like Voyager of the Seas are smaller and have fewer venues. But because of their size, they may be able to sail to places the larger vessels can’t. For example, you won’t see a mega-ship in the Norweigan fjords. Depending on your travel partners, older ships such as Voyager and Freedom classes have fewer kid-friendly spaces, which can be a blessing or a curse.

On the other hand, they are easy to traverse and still offer excellent entertainment and gorgeous views. They can also be more affordable than the newer Oasis and Icon class ships. If there is an attraction or restaurant you want to experience, you can see what each ship offers on the Royal Caribbean website and choose your favorites.

Know Your Kid-Friendly Activities

If family fun is what you’re after, the larger ships will have the most to offer. There is no shortage of fun, from waterslides to surfing to escape rooms. Oasis-class ships and above also have the popular Aqua Theater with thrilling high dives and high-energy water shows. No matter how old you are, you will leave with your jaw dropped.

An outdoor stage with colorful lights and screens displays "Aqua 80" in front of an audience seated in rows during a nighttime performance.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

All ships have kids’ clubs, arcades, and special hang-out areas, but the larger vessels have newer technology and more space for each age group. Pools will also differ between ship classes, so research if something is important to you beforehand. Parents of small children may want to ensure they are sailing on a ship with a splash pad and pools, as not every ship has a splash pad.

Choose Your Amenities

Some cruises offer an adults-only solarium, while others do not. Oasis of the Seas offers a boardwalk with a dry slide and a carousel. The Icon of the Seas has been referred to as a theme park at sea because of its amazing options. Odyssey of the Seas is beautiful but lacks the crowd-favorite Viking Crown Lounge. This variety is part of the beauty of Royal Caribbean cruises. You can truly have a different experience each time you sail.

The deck of a cruise ship with a swimming pool.
Image Credit: Just is a Four Letter Word

Entertainment offerings and restaurants also vary somewhat, with certain ships having more than others. If you plan to spend a lot of time on board and want to experience the spa, signature dining, and activities like ice skating or surfing, make sure the cruise offers what you want.

Choose a Departure Port

Whether you choose the departure port based on how easily you can get there or if you have a specific destination in mind, the departure port matters because not all cruise ships go to every port. If you have decided on the ships you want to sail, you can select them when searching for cruises, then you will see the departure ports they sail from on certain dates.

People walking into a building with a sign above that reads "CRUISE TERMINAL." A wheelchair-user is visible on the right side near the entrance.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

Keep in mind that cruise ships can also have seasons. So, while they are in one port for the summer, they could be halfway around the world by Christmas. If you know the port you want to sail from, refine your search to that port to see the available cruises.

Some cruises will depart and return to the same port. Others will start at one port and end at another. These will be marked as round-trip or one-way cruises, respectively. If you can sail in the off-season, find some great deals on so-called “repositioning cruises”, which are one-way sailings when a ship changes to a new home port.

Perfect Day at Coco Cay

Lastly, Coco Cay and the upcoming Royal Beach Club on Paradise Island near Nassau are two jewels in the Bahamian seas, accessible only to Royal Caribbean cruises. These destinations are offered on certain Caribbean and Bahamian cruise itineraries, so if you want to experience one or both, ensure they are included.

A woman in sunglasses and a colorful dress stands on a sunny boardwalk holding a mesh bag. The background features a sign reading "Coco Cay" and an ocean view.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke

Coco Cay offers various free and additional-cost adventures for all ages. From a giant pool with a swim-up bar to beach access to a complete water park and even an adults-only beach, you really can have a perfect day at CocoCay.

Alternatively, the Royal Beach Club is slated to open in 2025 and will offer pools, beach access, bars, and bungalows for rent. This will be a limited-capacity experience with a charge to reserve.

More Travel Tips

The best cruise is the cruise that fits your style, and as you can see, there are many ways to customize your sailing to fit your needs. Whatever Royal Caribbean cruise you choose, whether your first or your fifth, the right one is the next one!

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About Andrea Updyke

Andrea Updyke is a married mom of two boys living in Raleigh, NC. She is a published author and blogger of more than 18 years and loves to celebrate the little things that make life awesome.

Whether she's sharing tasty recipes, traveling or hanging with the family, Andrea's goal is to help make your days a little easier and a lot more fun! Email inquiries to andreaupdyke@gmail.com.

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