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First look around Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas

In:
23Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released new photos from around the finished spaces on its newest cruise ship.

Odyssey of the Seas arrived in Haifa, Israel this week to prepare for her upcoming inaugural sailings, and Royal Caribbean has peeled back the curtains a bit to showoff some of the areas onboard.

The 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship is one of the largest ships in the world, and can accommodate 4,180 passengers.

Odyssey of the Seas is the second Quantum Ultra Class ship, which is essentially a stretched and enhanced version of the original Quantum Class ships.

The first Quantum Ultra Class ship, Spectrum of the Seas, debuted in 2019, and sails from China. Odyssey of the Seas will be the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to sail from Europe and North America, marking a significant arrival to these markets.

Let's take a look around the brand new Odyssey of the Seas!

SeaPlex

The SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea.

The SeaPlex itself has been reworked compared to other Quantum Class ships to offer more to do, with the removal of pods and the addition of a large screen and new venues.

Located inside the SeaPlex, Playmakers has a new prime location that features lots of TVs around the bar to keep up with games back home.  But it also offers views of the games on the court below.

Sky Pad

On the back of the ship, you will find a number of activities, including the Sky Pad.

The Sky Pad is a complimentary activity and it is a virtual reality, bungee trampoline adventure.

Guests put on a VR headset, and then get strapped into a bungee harness that allow them to easily jump on trampolines while traversing a virtual world only they can see.

In addition to the Sky Pad, Odyssey of the Seas offers a skydiving simulator with Ripcord by iFly, Flowrider surf simulator, and more.

Caribbean-inspired Pool Deck

Another first for any Quantum Class ship is the enhanced pool deck, first seen on the Royal Amplified cruise ships over the last few years.

The ship's pool deck has been reimagined to match Navigator and Oasis of the Seas pool deck designs, which feature a bright Caribbean vibe.

Most notably, the indoor pool feature for all guests is now open air.

Also located on the pool deck is The Lime & Coconut bar, and El Loco Fresh eatery.

Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar

At the revamped Giovanni's, you can "enjoy rustic Italian dishes with a contemporary flair."

 Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar is an update to Royal Caribbean's well-known specialty restaurant.  The menu has been completely overhauled, and now features hand-tossed pizzas, homemade pasta and a complete charcuterie station.

Social180

Space for kids and teens is always a top priority for Royal Caribbean, and teens can enjoy Social180 just for them.

This exclusive hangout is where young adults can kick back with friends over the latest in music, games and movies, and enjoy The Patio, a private outdoor deck with sweeping ocean views, outside games and seating.

Teppanyaki

One of the most popular specialty restaurants on any Royal Caribbean ship is the hibachi restaurant, and Odyssey of the Seas will feature a dedicated Teppanyaki restaurant.

Izumi hibachi is a teppanyaki-style restaurant, which is sometimes referred to as a “Japanese steakhouse."  Made famous by Benihana restaurants, the experience combines cooking and service into one fun performance.

Chefs cook in front of you as you enjoy a show with your meal being prepared. 

Senate blocks passage of new bill to allow cruise ships to restart sailing

In:
22Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

A new bill was introduced last week that aimed to get cruise ships sailing again, but the Senate has blocked the bill from passing.

The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act was introduced by by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Senator Sullivan released a statement to the press noting that Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected, preventing the bill from passing.

The purpose of the CRUISE Act is to bypass the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ban of cruise ships and allow ships to sail again as early as July.

Read moreSenators introduce new bill for cruise ships to sail without CDC approval

Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Scott implored action for the fair treatment of cruises, "My colleagues and I are simply asking the CDC to provide a timeline when the cruise industry can begin to reopen like so many other sectors and the cruise that ensures they can do that in a safe manner."

"The CDC is treating the cruise sector unfairly while other industries are open for business. There is no reason why America's cruise industry and the thousands of jobs that rely on US success should continue to suffer. Cruises can and should resume. And we're going to do everything we can to bring about cruising safely."

Sen. Murray objected to the legislation, claiming cruise ships need new rules, "Cruise ships require specific focus and protocols in place to prevent future outbreaks."

The entire cruise industry has committed to sweeping new health and safety protocols derived by an independent group public health experts, led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

These protocols include testing of every person onboard, social distancing, face masks and much more.

Sen. Murray continued, "We must trust the science and we must allow the CDC to continue its work to help us return to what we love as safely as possible."

"So I will continue to work with CDC and the administration as they develop the next phase of their cruising guidance, but for now, I object."

If passed, the CRUISE Act would revoke the CDC's current Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) on cruises and require the CDC to provide Covid-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines to safely resume operations. 

Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska) and María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

If the Cruise Act were passed, it would override the CSO.

"Not later than July 4, 2021, the Secretary shall revoke the order entitled ‘‘Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID–19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew’’, issued by the Director on November 4, 2020 (85 Fed. Reg. 70153), under the authority of sections 361 and 365 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264; 268), and any other order or regulation that prohibits the operation of all cruise ships in United States waters, requires such ships to obtain approval from the Director prior to operating, or otherwise acts as a de facto prohibition for cruise ship operations in the United States."

The bill also proposed the creation of an interagency working group, which would issue recommendations for how to mitigate the risks of COVID–19 introduction, transmission, and spread among passengers and crew on board cruise ships and ashore to communities.

Sen. Scott pointed out the glaring double standard cruise ships are held to compared to every other sector of travel, "Today, hotels are open, airlines are flying, beaches are open, restaurants are open, tourism sites are open, amusement parks are open. They're all open."

"But for whatever reason, the cruise industry has made a decision to not allow cruising to happen. So they singled out this industry and cannot tell any of us why they've singled this out. "

"All we are asking is for the CDC to provide a timeline of when the cruise industry can begin to reopen. The cruise industry wants to do it safely."

What is the difference between The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises?

In:
22Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Whether you live the suite life on every cruise, or are considering trying out an elevated cruise experience on your next sailing, Celebrity Cruises offers a few ways to plus your onboard experience.

One way Celebrity stands apart from sister cruise line Royal Caribbean is by placing a larger emphasis on its suite offerings, with broad suite privileges on almost all of its ships.

If you are trying to figure out what each of the suite programs offers, here is a look at the differences between  The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class.

The Retreat suite program

If you happen to book a stateroom in The Retreat, you get more included with the what you pay.

The Retreat is the name of Celebrity's version of "ship within a ship" concept, where suite guests pay extra to get a number of exclusives available only to them.

The Retreat experience includes:

  • Priority check-in, departure, and port tendering/boarding
  • Luminae at The Retreat private restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Exclusive lounge access: The Retreat Lounge (or Michael’s Club, on non-revolutionized ships)
  • Exclusive sundeck access: The Retreat Sundeck (on Edge Series and revolutionized ships)
  • Dedicated butler service
  • Dedicated pre-cruise Retreat Concierge
  • Always Included benefits
    •  Indulge Package at no additional charge.
  • Shore excursion credit
  • Complimentary 24-hour in-suite dining, including full breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Premium bedding and bath amenities
  • Complimentary welcome bottle of champagne or sparkling wine

The Indulge Package provides a Premium Beverage Package, prepaid tips, and an onboard credit for all guests in the stateroom, plus an Unlimited Stream Internet Package for the first and second guest. Onboard credit amount varies by length of sailing: $200 per person for sailings 1 – 5 nights, $300 per person for sailings 6 – 9 nights, and $400 per person for sailings 10 nights or longer.

Read moreWhat's Included on a Celebrity Cruise?

Aqua Class & Concierge Class

In addition to the suites, Celebrity also has special amenities for some balcony rooms that offer suite-like amenities without the suite price tag.

Both Concierge Class and Aqua Class are balcony cabins that offer a bit more space than a regular balcony room and include extra benefits.

Here is what Aqua Class includes:

  • Priority boarding and early debarkation
  • Shoeshine service
  • Complimentary beach towel service
  • A Personal Spa Concierge to arrange Canyon Ranch SpaClub treatments
  • Binoculars included (for use onboard only)
  • 24-hour room service (extra cost between 11pm and 6am)
  • Pillow menu
  • Blu Restaurant for breakfast and dinner
  • Welcome cans of water (2)
  • Daily flavored ice tea in carafe
  • Location near the spa
  • Unlimited access to Persian Gardens (Solstice and Millennium class) and SEA Thermal (Edge)
  • Spa concierge
  • VIP tour of SPA on embarkation day
  • 10% off spa treatments
  • Two yoga mats on Edge-class ships and "revolutionized" ships
  • Daily Canapes

Read moreHow is Celebrity Cruises different from Royal Caribbean?

If you go for a Concierge Class room, the benefits are slight different.

  • Personalized Concierge services
  • Embarkation day lounge
  • Priority boarding and early debarkation
  • Shoeshine service
  • Complimentary beach towel service
  • Binoculars included (for use onboard only)
  • 24-hour room service (extra cost between 11pm and 6am)
  • Exclusive embarkation day lunch
  • Pillow menu
  • Daily Canapes

The other factor in deciding between Concierge Class and Aqua Class is many repeat cruisers say Concierge rooms get a more desirable location for their cabin on the ship compared to Aqua Class.

Ultimately the decision may boil down to if you want extra spa benefits and want to dine at a private restaurant instead of the main dining room (Aqua Class), or if you prefer to get a better cabin location and other added benefits (Concierge Class).

Other important information

  • Retreat, Aqua, and Concierge guests may, depending on itineraries, schedules, etc can be invited to special sail-away events.
  • Retreat, Aqua, and Concierge staterooms have a dedicated team of stateroom attendants who look over a smaller number of rooms to provide enhanced services.

5 things people that cruise a lot would tell first time cruisers if they could

In:
22Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Have you ever thought you wish you knew then what you know now? This applies to going on a cruise as well, and experience teaches many lessons.

After you take a few cruises, you will start picking up on trends and nuances that as a first time cruiser you simply were not aware of.

Many of these lessons are generalizations, but they tend to be the opposite of what many who are new to cruises think about when they plan a vacation.

In the spirit of helping everyone have a better cruise, I wanted to share some of the major things I have noticed repeat cruisers do only after they cruise a lot.

Here are the top five things a veteran cruiser would tell someone new to cruising about the reality of going on a cruise.

You will be less picky in choosing a cruise to book

When you first start cruising, picking which ship and itinerary to sail on resembles the NFL draft in the complexity of weighing choices, but that process simplifies after you start sailing a lot.

People that cruise a lot look for pretty much any excuse to go back out to sea, so the decision on which ship or itinerary becomes less critical than it seemed early on.

Quite often, repeat cruisers need very little impetus to book something because their love of cruising compels them to book whatever is reasonable.  After all, a day on a cruise ship is better than any day on land.

Crew members are super important

When you first start cruising, it is easy to notice how helpful crew members are, but the more you cruise, the easier it is to notice the superstar crew members.

Because people that cruise a lot meet many different crew members, when they meet a waiter, concierge, hotel director or entertainer that truly stands out from the rest, they will recognize the crew's talents and often seek out that crew member.

Ask a veteran cruiser who their favorite crew members are, and many can rattle off a list of memorable cruise line employees they have had the pleasure of cruising with over the years. 

Some cruisers even go as far as to book a specific ship based on which concierge, host, or staff are working on a particular vessel.

Read moreThe top crew members to find if you have a problem onboard your cruise

You won't worry about getting seasick

First time cruisers are usually very concerned about if they will get sea sick on a cruise, because they are not sure what to expect on a cruise ship.  But the more you cruise, the less of a concern getting sea sick becomes.

It is kind of like when you go ice skating for the first time.  Your first time on the ice, your primary fear is if you will fall, and it dominates your thoughts.  But as you practice and get better, you know you might fall, but it is not really a major concern anymore.

The same is true about getting sea sick.  Sure, you might get sea sick on a cruise, but repeat cruisers know the symptoms are easily treatable, and as a result, does not matter as much.

Read moreHow To Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise

Cruise prices are a game

How do you get the best price for a cruise? First time cruisers probably approach booking a cruise like other forms of travel, but repeat cruisers know there is an ebb and flow to prices, and have all sorts of strategies for locking in the lowest price.

The key is to book early, vigilantly check prices up until final payment date, and rebook if there is a lower price.

In addition, you shouldn't be afraid to walk away from a sailing if the pricing simply does not make sense.  Sometimes an itinerary or sailing looks really good, but the price just does not match what is practical, and repeat cruisers will know it is best to wait it out.  Perhaps the price will drop later, or it may not.  But there are plenty of other fun sailings to consider.

Read moreHow far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best price?

Special sailings are big events for cruise fans

There are certain types of cruises where you fill find lots of repeat cruisers love to go on.

Transatlantics, inaugural sailings and repositioning cruises are just some of these sailings. In short, veteran cruisers look at these sort of cruises as badges of honor.  These are cruises that different from the rest, and have a certain je ne sais quoi about them that make them desirable to book.

In addition, these cruises tend to be reunions of sorts, where a lot of repeat cruisers that know each other will book it so they can see friends from past sailings.

Royal Caribbean subsidizing flights from New York to Bermuda for summer 2021 cruises as low as $99

In:
21Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean really wants people to book a cruise on Vision of the Seas this summer.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, hosted a webinar for travel agents on Wednesday where new discounts on flights for Vision of the Seas from Bermuda this summer were announced.

Royal Caribbean Senior Manager Renee Didier said that Royal Caribbean has renegotiated new airfare rates for these Vision of the Seas cruises, while also subsidizing fares if booked through the cruise line's airline booking service, Air2Sea.

Rates are now as low as $99 per person roundtrip from Newark or LaGuardia airports in New York City.

"Your clients can now fly out of LaGuardia or Newark and pay $99 roundtrip."

There were no example fares provided for other cities during the webinar, but it was inferred that lower rates could be found from other markets as well.

Comparing flights in June and July from New York to Bermuda on Flights.com, the lowest price per person shows up as $335 per person.

Rates for the Vision of the Seas cruises from Bermuda with airfare included could be as low as $649 per person, and less than $600 per person for third and fourth in the same room.

Ms. Freed added that Royal Caribbean has "taken risk" with these subsidized fares to get bookings going. 

Beginning in June, Vision of the Seas will be sailing from Bermuda through August. 

Vision's sailings will include lots of time in Bermuda, as well as a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean has also been working with Bahamasair to offer better prices and more opportunities for its Bahamas cruises on Adventure of the Seas.

How to look up airfare through Royal Caribbean

Guests can book their airfare through the Air2Sea website directly, or through their travel agent.

There is nominal service fee to use Air2Sea. Royal Caribbean International charges a service fee of $15 USD per person for travel within North America, and Canada, and $25 USD per person for International destinations. 

Besides the subsidized rates Royal Caribbean is advertising, the other compelling reason to book airfare through Royal Caribbean is the cruise line will assist in getting you onboard the ship should a travel delay impact your ability to get onto the cruise.

Bookings can be made via the Air2Sea website, as well as calling 844-278-9745, or speak to your travel agent.

Bahamas Prime Minister says Bahamas will drop Covid testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers

In:
21Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Going to the Bahamas is about to get easier if you are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced his country is easing restrictions for international travelers flying into the Bahamas.

Beginning May 1, EW reports the Prime Minister announced international travelers will be exempted from RT-PCR testing once they have been fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period — in line with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Anyone that has not been fully vaccinated will will still be required to obtained a negative RT-PCR test to enter The Bahamas.

The goal, according to the Prime Minister, is to expand its vaccination program across the country.

Prior to this change, all international guests had to provide a negative test result at least 5 days before arrival.

The change comes a month before Royal Caribbean is scheduled to begin sailings from Nassau, Bahamas on Adventure of the Seas.

Adventure of the Seas will sail 7-night cruises from her new homeport Nassau, The Bahamas

There has been no update by Royal Caribbean or The Bahamas about the Prime Minister's announcement yet.

Details on additional health and safety measures to be implemented by Royal Caribbean will be announced at a later date.

On April 2, the CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.

The CDC also suggests waiting to travel outside the United States until you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine.

The CDC added you do not need to get tested before leaving the United States if you are fully vaccinated unless your international destination requires it. 

More information:

Photos: Odyssey of the Seas arrives in Israel

In:
21Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas has arrived in Israel for the first time.

Photo by Port of Haifa

The newest cruise ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet sailed into Haifa, Israel at 7 am on Wednesday.

Odyssey will be in Haifa until Friday to be supplied, as well as for new crew members to join the ship.  

This is the first time Odyssey has been to Israel, and the Port of Haifa says Odyssey will return again to Haifa on May 12 for another two days to practice and restock.

Photo by Port of Haifa

Israeli news site Ynet reports today's visit, along with the subsequent visit a few weeks later is for the purposes of getting the crew onboard fully vaccinated.

A translated post states, "since the ship's crew has not yet been vaccinated, one of the goals to get to Israel right now is to vaccinate the entire crew on the odyssey here, before receiving the passengers."

Beginning this summer, Odyssey will offer cruises from Israel to destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Photo by Port of Haifa

Photo by Port of Haifa

Odyssey of the Seas originally was scheduled to sail out out of Civitavecchia, Italy in May 2021, but was redeployed to Israel due to the global health crisis.

Sailings this summer will visit ports in Greece and Cyprus, including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus.  

The cruises will be the first ever out of Israel by a major cruise line.

Photo by Port of Haifa

All photos by the Port of Haifa

Her summer 2021 cruise season will be available exclusively to Israeli residents who are fully vaccinated.

Odyssey will then cross the Atlantic to begin its inaugural North American season in November, offering 6- to 8-night itineraries from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean.

Odyssey of the Seas can accommodate 4,180 passengers and is a 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship. 

What makes Odyssey of the Seas different?

Guests sailing onboard Odyssey of the Seas will find plenty to enjoy onboard.

While not the largest cruise ship in the world (that distinction is held by Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas), Odyssey packs a lot to do onboard, including multiple pools, aqua park for kids, surfing simulator, observation pod, and sky diving simulator.

There are even bumper cars you can ride, along with an array of complimentary and specialty restaurant options.

Photo by Port of Haifa

  • Caribbean-inspired pool deck– Sporting a whole new look across two decks, Odyssey’s two open-air pools, four whirlpools and Splashaway Bay, anchored by a Quantum Ultra Class first – The Lime & Coconut bar – are designed for all travelers to enjoy the sun and stars in style.  
  • SeaPlex – The next-generation of a longtime Quantum Class favorite, this SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea, and debuts this venue’s first Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Teppanyaki – Two Royal Caribbean restaurants new to North America join the varied lineup of dining options on board. The fresh take on the cruise line’s signature trattoria is the first to introduce its new wine bar concept while the other serves up East Asian flavors in the traditional Japanese style for which its named.
  • Action-packed top deck – Returning guest-favorites include the gravity-defying SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline adventure, FlowRider surf simulator, skydiving with RipCord by iFly, and the iconic North Star all-glass observation capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.
  • One-of-a-kind entertainment – In typical Royal Caribbean fashion, Odyssey’s full-scale productions take top billing in teched-out venues such as the Royal Theater and Two70, where immersive technology, unparalleled special effects and world-leading performers and aerialists take the stage alongside six agile Roboscreensfor a multidimensional live show.

Alaska sues CDC so that cruise ships can sail again

In:
21Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Another state is joining Florida in suing the CDC so that cruise ships can begin cruising again.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) announced his state has joined in a lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over its shutdown of the cruise industry for well over a year.

The decision to sue the CDC is about protecting Alaska's businesses, according to the Governor.

"Alaska's cruise ship tourism season is facing a second canceled season due to the federal government actions, which is why I'm fighting to ensure our tourism business and communities have a chance."

"Alaska is joining Florida's lawsuit against the CDC and urging them to revoke the conditional No Sail Order so we can get Alaskans, families and small businesses back up and running, which is why I'm fighting to ensure our businesses and communities have a fighting chance."

Governor Dunleavy is following up on his threat from a couple weeks ago that he would sue the CDC if things did not progress between the federal government and the cruise lines.

Both states want the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is not allowing cruise ships to sail in U.S. waters.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R-FL) announced last week his state has filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

The impact of no cruise ships in 2020 and 2021 to Alaska has cost the state a lot of tourist dollars. Gov. Dunleavy says over the course of the two lost cruise seasons, Alaska will have a $3.3 billion loss in Alaska, "that's in a state with about a fifty six billion dollar GDP, so it's going to be significant."

In addition to the CSO, Alaska has an additional hurdle to jump over for cruise ships to return to the state. 

Canada announced it banned cruise ships for a year, which makes operating cruises from the United States to New England or Alaska nearly impossible.

Due to U.S. laws, cruise ships that are foreign flagged (which is pretty much every cruise ship on major cruise lines) must stop in a foreign port if they sail from the United States. By Canada denying entry into their waters, that leaves no foreign ports for cruise ships to sail to within the vicinity of Alaska or New England.

Travel experts: Expect higher airfare prices in 2021

In:
20Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

With some cruise ships resuming service this summer, and perhaps more later in 2021, booking flights sooner than later may save you money.

With the bulk of the  United States public beginning to achieve access to the Covid-19 vaccine on a wide scale, travel is starting to seriously pick up and that means airfare prices are likely to rise to match demand.

Air travel has not returned to the numbers once seen before the global health crisis yet, but is on its way up. Last week, more than 1 million people were checked by Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, which is 30% less than in 2019.

United Airlines told investors in a regulatory filing that they expect a major rebound this year, "While it will take time for the vaccine to be widely distributed, the Company’s confidence is even stronger in the recovery and the trajectory of the rebound in 2021 and beyond."

Moreover, United reported last month that its bookings for the third quarter of 2021 are only down 40%, compared with the 70% decline in bookings in December and January.

Prices for flights are still low right now

Despite a general sense of recovery in many aspects of life, prices for flights remain lower than typical for this time of year.

Hopper economist Adit Damodaran said "good" prices for roundtrip airfare are 25% lower today than they were in 2019, "In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, roundtrip airfare dropped around $60 with lower travel demand

"Similar to past years, we saw price increase into the summer, fall during the autumn shoulder season, and rise again into the holidays."

Willis Orlando from Scott’s Cheap Flights sees a different scenario playing out for international flights, "Airfares to Europe, Africa, and Asia have generally been higher than pre-pandemic levels."

Mr. Orlando believes widespread deals that occurred relatively frequently prior to 2020 on international rates "have been super rare."

Part of the reason international flight prices remain high is because of various restrictions governments have placed on travel to curb the spread of Covid.

Expect higher prices later in 2021

While prices are still lower now, expect airfare prices to go up throughout 2021 as case numbers begin to fall.

Kayak reports searches for summer travel have been up 27% each week since President Joe Biden earlier this month said all American adults will be eligible for a vaccine by May. In addition, airfares for top 100 most-searched U.S. destinations are up 7% month-over-month.

JP Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker, said discounts for flights are becoming less prevalent, "Domestic airfares are rising. While discounts can still be found, they’re no longer falling into consumers’ laps."

"Discounted fares increasingly require a hunt, and for many consumers that have been locked up for a year, they’re probably not up to the effort."

With lower demand due to the global health crisis, airlines reduced the number of flights offered and grounded aircraft. The reduced supply of available seats helped keep prices from plummeting.

Airlines are expected to add more seats as the peak summer season approaches.

Check the fine print before booking flights

If you are looking to book a flight for a cruise this summer or later, be sure you are clear on the terms if you change your mind and want to cancel later.

Many airlines relaxed their cancellation or change terms during the global health crisis, but some are rolling those changes back.

Depending on the airline (or the website you book your flight through), there could be new conditions and/or less means to get a cash refund.

Price flights through Royal Caribbean

While not new, Royal Caribbean's airfare booking program has become much more useful for cruisers looking to get a good price now for a sailing later in the year.

Royal Caribbean's Air2Sea program allows guests to book flights through the carrier for a small fee. In many cases, Royal Caribbean has either negotiated better rates with select carriers or subsidized the prices to spur bookings through Air2Sea.

One really nice benefit of booking through Air2Sea is you can book flights with no money required until the cruise final payment date. In addition, Royal Caribbean will let you cancel your flight without penalty before your cruise final payment date.

If Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing later, it will refund you the money for the flights.

Plus, Royal Caribbean has always promised guests that book through Air2Sea will be accommodated if their flight is delayed and it impacts their ability to get to the cruise ship on time.

Mailbag: Will a Royal Caribbean sale actually save me any money?

In:
20Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are any of Royal Caribbean's email lists, then you will very likely get plenty of emails advertising new discounts and sales on cruise fares, shore excursions, wifi and more.  But will any of these promotions actually save you money?

I'm back with an answer to another commonly asked Royal Caribbean question that one of our readers have sent in, which I hope helps a lot more people as well.

I got an email from Royal Caribbean for a new sale, but I've seen comments on Facebook that the prices don't actually change.  Someone even said they raise the price before the sale and then discount it after. Are these sales "fact or fiction"? - Erin A.

Social media is a terrific resource for learning and sharing, and you will definitely see a wide assortment of opinions when it comes to cruises.

I have seen some people write about saving hundred or thousands of dollars, thanks to a new sale, but I have also seen others complaining their prices only go up.

So will these cruise sales and pre-cruise discounts save you any money?

Like so many things in life, the answer is it depends.

Cruise fare sales

Royal Caribbean has sales quite often on cruise fares, and every few weeks has a new sale on things you can pre-purchase for your booked sailing.

Yes, every sale offered by Royal Caribbean could potentially save money compared to the price the day before, but not every sale means there are lower prices across the board.

In my experience, Royal Caribbean tends to have different targets or goals with its sales. But it is extremely rare that any one promotion has a flat discount across every sailing and date.  

However, that does not mean because one or more people report no discount that there are no savings.

When it comes to sales on cruises, a lot of the time savings depend on the type of booking. Kids Sail Free deals always see the best discounts if you have a third or fourth passenger in the same room.  30% off sales will net a completely different kind of savings.

Moreover, you may have already the lowest price for a sailing because you booked early enough to get that best deal.

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean cruise prices are generally set the lowest when a new sailing becomes available, and then prices increase over time.  Royal Caribbean calls this pricing model "low to high".

The idea behind the low to high model is it provides consumers with the confidence that they are getting the best deal.

Obviously there can be exceptions, because pricing is not linear, but there is no doubt the best prices tend to be early on.

Read moreHow far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best price?

Does Royal Caribbean play games with their prices?

Erin also mentions the often repeated theory that Royal Caribbean raises prices before a sale in order to make the discount seem noteworthy.

In my experience, prices for cruises will fluctuate daily, or even hourly, depending on a variety of factors.

The best parallel I can provide to give an example of how cruise fare prices tend to go are jeans at the mall.  The ticket price is the baseline price for jeans, and cruise fares have similar list fares.  Later, the store puts those jeans on sale and the price goes down for a bit.  But once that promotion ends, the price for the jeans may go back up to its ticket price again.  And then a week or two later, a new sale on jeans brings the price down again.  And so forth.

Cruise fare prices are not exactly like merchandise in a store, but you will see an ebb and flow to their prices in a similar way.

The major difference with cruise fare is the price of a cruise is also dependent on supply and demand.  The more cabins booked, the higher prices tend to go.

So the reason why the price of a cabin may go up before a sale is not a nefarious Royal Caribbean conspiracy to suck up all your money, but the fact cabins on that sailing have recently sold and now there is less supply, and prices adjust accordingly.

Airfare is priced similarly, and ultimately how many seats/cabins are left combined with booking trends dictate discounts (or lack thereof).

So the bottom line is, yes, sales can save you money on your cruise fare, but don't expect a discount on every sailing.

Read more45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Do pre-cruise sales save money?

What about the sales on wifi, shore excursions, or drink packages? Will those sales save you money?

The answer is a bit clearer here, because it is easier to compare and track prices since everyone is getting the same offering (as opposed to cabins).

Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner sales definitely save money on most purchases compared to the price if you wait to book it onboard.

Drink packages, wifi, and even shore excursions will definitely cost more if you wait to book it once you get on the ship.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Drink Package Information and Planning Tips

Spa treatments are a bit of a wash, as the price is basically the same onboard or online.  The spa offers special deals onboard, but they are almost always on combo packages that are not offered online, so you cannot compare the two.

Specialty dining packages are sometimes discounted online compared to waiting to book onboard. Individual restaurant reservations are more or less the same as onboard.

The really nice thing about the pre-cruise sales is you can easily track prices, and cancel and rebook if there is a better price. 

Cruise pros know to book something they want early, and then look for new price drops if they happen. Unlike cruise fares, there is no penalty for cancelling and rebooking, even within just a few weeks of the sailing.

Read moreHow to cancel and rebook pre-cruise purchases on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner

Cruise planner sales can absolutely save you money, and almost certainly will not cost you more than booking onboard.

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