I just came back from a 3 nights cruise with Royal Caribbean Voyagers of the Seas! Our cruise sailed from Singapore (Marina Bay Cruise Centre) to Penang. We had such a wonderful experience on the ship though I think it may not be suitable for everyone (more on that later).
When I was researching for our cruise trip, I couldn’t find a good blog post that talks about some of the handy tips onboard. So I thought that I should write all these down while my memories are still fresh in my mind.
Hopefully this can help anyone who’s booking his/her first cruise trip!
Booking Your Trip
I think it’s a misconception that you need to book your cruise through a travel agency. That’s not true! We booked ours directly on royalcaribbean.com with a very attractive price.
If you are a family of four, you might want to visit the roadshow for a better family package. Sometimes, they offer the 2nd kid free!
Choosing Your Room
There are 4 main room categories on the ship – Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. In each room category, there are different room types. All rooms come with a private bathroom. But not all rooms come with bathroom amenities! All the price comparisons below are compared against the Interior rooms.
The Interior staterooms are 15sqm large with no windows. Surprisingly, the room can occupy up to 4 guests (with 2 pullman beds). You can purchase the Interior with Virtual Balcony roomfor approximately 20 bucks more. This room can only occupy up to 2 guests.
For approximately USD 70 bucks more than the Interior staterooms, you will get windows with the Ocean View staterooms. The Spacious Ocean View staterooms (USD 90 more than the Interior room) are about 3sqm larger than the Ocean View staterooms. And if you are interested in getting a floor-to-ceiling panoramic window, you can choose to book the Spacious Panoramic Ocean View that costs around USD 130 more than Interior room.
The Ocean View Balcony stateroom offers 15sqm for the bedroom and approximately 4sqm in size for the balcony. This costs about USD 160 more than the Interior room.
If you want a bigger bedroom (~17sqm), you can choose to book the Spacious Ocean View Balcony for about USD 210 more than the Interior stateroom.
The Junior Suite is an entry-level suite, which offers approximately 25sqm for the bedroom and 4.5sqm for the balcony in size. It’s said that some staterooms have an obstructed view. We reckoned that it might be due to the emergency boats. Hence you might want to choose a higher deck if you are booking the Junior Suite.
The Junior Suite does not offer any exclusive suites priority. If you are looking for exclusive stays, you will need to book Grand Suite and above. This room costs about USD 350 more than the Interior room. All suite rooms have a bathtub.
For about USD 480 more than the Interior room, you can get yourself a Grand Suite – 1 bedroom. The room is significantly larger (35sqm) with around a balcony of size 9sqm.
The Grand Suite – 2 bedroom, which is almost doubled the Junior Suite, has a living area with sofa bed. This room can occupy up to 8 guests with additional two pullman beds. I really don’t see a point of squeezing 8 guests in a single room since you will be paying the fee by per pax. The cost of the room is a significant jump of USD 955 from the Interior room.
For about USD 970 more than the Interior room, you can book the Owner’s Suite – 1 bedroom. This room is as big as the Grand Suite – 2 bedroom. I guess such rooms will be most suitable for couples that are on honeymoon?
The Royal Suite – 1 bedroom is the highest tier room type on the ship. This suite is sized at 99 sqm and the balcony (18 sqm) is larger than the Interior room. Apparently, the balcony can be used for private dining and you will get jacuzzi tub right in your suite. The price is quite pretty too – almost USD 1600 more than the Interior room.
All the suites (from Grand Suite onwards) have identical exclusive perks. It doesn’t seem like you will be able to check in earlier than the guests staying in Grand Suite if you book the Royal Suite.
Choosing Your Deck and Location
The ship is divided into three locations – AFT, MID, FWD. Your choice of room type might not be available at all three locations. The rooms in MID are between the two lift locations. The lifts in FWD goes to Deck 13 and above but I think that this isn’t a problem that you should consider. If you have elderly, you should always choose a room nearer to the lifts and avoid Deck 3.
There are some Interior rooms with windows on Deck 6 that face the Royal Promenade. If you want to try your luck to get those Promenade View Interior rooms, you can opt for those rooms. Bear in mind that it might get a bit noisy and you probably won’t be drawing up your curtain at all since the guests at the area can see your room from Deck 5.
It’s hard to show the entire deck plan here. Do have a look at the deck plan on their website to visualize what I have mentioned above.
You can access the theatre on Deck 3 and 4. If you like to gamble, casino is on Deck 4. The duty free shops and 24h cafe are on Deck 5. The dining rooms are located on Deck 3, 4 and 5 but you will be assigned a deck to enter the room. You can find the buffet area on Deck 11. Most outdoor activities are on 11, 12, 13, 14. You can find an expensive restaurant and a lounge on 14 and chapel on 15.
Preparation of Your Trip
A few weeks before your trip, Royal Caribbean will send you a Guest Booklet. If you book through a travel agency, they will probably give you more than the Guest Booklet. This booklet is your boarding pass. Print a hardcopy because it doesn’t seem like they take electronic copies.
Bring Your Own Bathroom Amenities
As mentioned previously, not all rooms have bathroom amenities. The Junior Suite has a set of bath amenities but there are no toothpaste and toothbrush. Our friends from the Balcony room told us that they did not even have any shower gel or shampoo in their bathroom. If you are concerned of the floor’s hygiene, bring your own bedroom slippers because not all rooms are given the slippers!
Royal Caribbean Online Check-in
You will be asked to check-in online three days prior your trip. Basically, you can fill up emergency contacts and link your credit card to a SeaPass account. It is perfectly fine if you forget to check in online. They will be able to do it for you over the counter.
Cashless System – SeaPass
SeaPass acts as your room card, identity, and cash onboard. It’s almost like your passport so you have to keep the card with you everywhere you go. You will be issued with a card during check-in.
Note that you will be given a choice to pay by cash or credit card when you are checking into the cruise. If you pay by cash, you will still use SeaPass and you will need to settle the bill on the last day of your cruise. This means that you will need to bring enough cash to pay the bills. If you opt for credit card, you can check your bill before departure.
Prepare USD For Casino
If you are going to Casino, do remember to exchange for USD in Singapore before going onboard. Yes, you can use SeaPass to withdraw money from their “ATM” but I’m quite sure that you have to bear additional interests and transaction fee for using the service. The machines in Casino DO NOT accept SeaPass. You will also need USD to exchange for chips at the tables.
Prebook Your Package
If you plan to drink or purchase WiFi onboard, prebook them around 1 week before your trip! It’s much cheaper than getting them onboard. The pre-booking service will shut down 3 days prior to your trip so remember to do it before that!
Do I have to follow the given check-in timing?
You don’t have to follow the time slot given on your booklet. This means that you can check-in as soon as the counter is ready. But for the benefit of everyone, I will recommend everyone to check-in based on the given time slot.
Is it worth to purchase the Deluxe Package?
This is the question that we have been asking around. No one can tell us the answer so here we go: If you are very sure that you can drink at least four glass of wine and a couple of beer daily, yes it is definitely worth to get the Deluxe Package.
Personally, I think if you come with your family (with kids especially), you might want to purchase a bottle of wine from the restaurant. This might be more economical than purchasing the Deluxe Package if you cannot drink every day everywhere.
Is it worth to purchase WiFi package?
If you are coming as a family and stay in different rooms, I would suggest to get it as it is very difficult to contact one another onboard. On the other hand, if you can tolerate for not using any Internet for a few hours onboard, you can consider purchasing a Malaysia SIM card.
We board the ship at around 12pm and embarked only at 4pm. Even after the ship leaves the dock, we were able to get 4G signal from Singapore for another 30min-1h. The next day we were able to get 4G signal from Malaysia shortly after we ate our breakfast (~10am). The signal stayed until the ship left the port at night (10pm). If you compute the effective hours, we paid the WiFi package for less than 2 days usage.
Worth it? It’s your call.
Is it worth to book the off-shore activities?
No. It is not. You can prebook online with other private drivers. Otherwise, you can purchase a Malaysia SIM card and book a grab. If you are lazy, there are many drivers outside of Penang Port waiting for your business.
We walked from Penang Port to Penang Street Arts area to take photos and eat some of the local delights. Honestly, Penang is really small so you can walk to a nearby attraction if you want.
During Your Trip
Almost all the activities onboard are free – rock-climbing, swimming, FlowRider, basketball court, jogging track and gym.
You can also visit the theatre for ice skating and magic show. Most of the time you will need to queue for these activities. Do plan well and make sure you don’t miss them!
All your three meals + supper will be covered on the ship. When you book your trip, you will be asked to choose a time slot to reserve the table for your dinner. We realized most people went to the buffet dinner instead. Well, I guessed there is more variety as compared to the dining room, which serves mostly western food.
In case you missed all the dining time, you can go to the cafe on Deck 5 that operates until the late night. You can get your late night snack such as pizza and hotdog bug from the cafe.
If you want to go for something special, you can prebook or wait for the employees to approach you with discounted prices when you first board the ship. I’m quite sure you can’t get discount for WiFi or drinks package but you might be able to get some good deals for dining packages.
What can I do off-shore?
We alighted from the ship at around 4pm. There is no charge to alight from the ship so do make use of the opportunity to explore Penang! The ship docked at Penang Port, which is really near to the Penang Street Art. You can take a 10-minutes walk to the streets.
Otherwise, you can also opt to take the free CAT bus near the port to travel to some of the iconic places (e.g. Prangin Mall) in Penang.
Best Time for Jacuzzi?
We realised that the best time to get into Jacuzzi is… during lunch time or dinner time. That’s when most people will be hungry and goes to the dining place for their meals.
The main swimming area tends to be very crowded because that’s where the kids are allowed to go. If you go further down into indoor deck, you will realise that there’s another pool and jacuzzi that are meant for adult only. The lifeguard will make sure that the kids are not in these area so you can rest assure that you won’t be disturbed so badly by the shoutings and cryings.
Best Time for Meals?
If you can afford to go earlier for lunch, you should go to the buffet place before 12pm. The crowd comes after 12.30pm and it will be difficult to get a place to sit. This is the same for dinner if you are going to the buffet place again.
There is no formal night for 4D3N cruise to Penang. Yep… so you don’t have to bring your formal wear. It’s only available for cruise that are longer than 4 nights. It’s funny because everyone started to wear formal wear on the last night and got really confused!
I had a wonderful time on the ship because I was lazy in nature. Well, I can lie on the beach chairs for hours with my beer bottles. If you are expecting to do different activities everyday, I would think that a cruise ship might not be the cup of tea for you.
We spoke to a couple of people on the ship and it seemed like they were expecting more from the cruise. If you are a first-time cruiser, perhaps you can opt for a shorter trip to test it out first!