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Travel experts: Expect higher airfare prices in 2021


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.

Why you should be looking at booking a cruise for 2023 now


Over the last few weeks, Royal Caribbean has been releasing new sailings in 2022-2023, and this is actually the best time to book new cruises.

It's difficult to plan any trip more than a year and half away, especially when we are still dealing with a cruise industry that is shutdown due to the global health crisis, but if you are looking for the best prices on a cruise vacation, planning early is the best strategy.

There is a lot of renewed optimism about the trajectory of where things are headed in terms of a cruise industry and societal recovery, and with that in mind, getting a jump start on your cruise planning now may save you money later.

The rule still applies

One of the best tried and true strategies for getting the lowest price on a cruise is booking as early as you can.

For years, expert cruisers knew to jump at the opportunity when new sailings are released to get the best prices, especially on high demand staterooms.

Prices for cruise fares tend to go up over time, so booking early ensures you get a good price now, and can reprice the cruise later if there is a sale or price drop.

With the cruise industry shut down and no window of time when they might restart, it seems as though perhaps this rule would not apply any more.

However, booking trends have not changed, and surprisingly, prices are still going up for cruises in the future.

Royal Caribbean Group executives have talked about the fact that prices for cruises in 2022 and beyond are rising compared to what they were in 2019.

So why are prices still going up year over year, despite a horrific year for cruises?

First, pricing has always tended to go up each year to match demand.

Second, demand is still very present despite the cruise industry's recent struggles, largely because of a lot of people are eager to move past the global health crisis and begin planning their lives going forward.

Royal Caribbean has referred to this as "pent-up demand", which comes from everyone essentially wanting to make up for the lost time of little to no vacation in 2020.

During Royal Caribbean Group's fourth quarter 2020 earnings call, bookings for 2022 were once again brought up as being very much in demand.

The increase in bookings point to a "pent-up demand for vacations," noted Chairman and CEO Richard Fain. "People are clamoring for opportunities to have experiences outside their home."

Bookings for future cruises increased 30% since the beginning of 2021 compared to November and December, when the global health crisis was getting worse.

The trends "are building confidence that we’re getting closer to the other side of this and people are beginning to realize that travel should be here sooner rather than later," said Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer.

The smart way to book cruises early

When Royal Caribbean releases new sailings, you want to take advantage of good prices, but not paint yourself into a corner either.

First and foremost, book refundable cruise fare whenever possible.  While suites require non-refundable fares, if you are booking anything else, the flexibility of refundable fares are a must-do.

Plans change all the time, and when trying to pick a sailing for 18-24 months from now, it is more likely that you will change your mind than not.  

While the potential savings of going with non-refundable cruise fare are attractive, your best bet is to book refundable just in case.

In addition, I always recommend anyone booking a cruise work with a good travel agent to ensure the booking process is smooth.

Moreover, there is a good chance you might have a future cruise credit laying around from all of these cancelled cruises, so a travel agent makes redeeming them very easy.

What to do if the price is lower later

Booking now is a solid strategy for locking in a good rate, but inevitably prices do fluctuate and sometimes do go down.

The good news is you can always reprice your cruise if there is a lower price later without penalty.

Traditionally, this option was limited to residents of North America and a few other countries.  However, one of the new policies added during the global health crisis has been an expanded and improved Best Price Guarantee program.

It allows everyone to take advantage of a better price up to 48 hours before your sail date, even residents of countries where this did not apply before, such as the U.K.

If there is a better price, you can contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean and have the new price applied.

If there is a price drop and you re-price the cruise, you will receive the difference as a non-refundable onboard credit inside final payment or rate adjustment outside final payment.

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean will let you take advantage of a price drop up until 48 hours before your cruise

Mailbag: What's worth paying extra for on a cruise?


The four most important words for any consumer are "is it worth it", and that applies to cruise ships too.

Each week I answer questions our readers have sent to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog mailbag to answer for the benefit of everyone.

I just booked my first Royal Caribbean cruise, and there are so many tours, packages, and activities I can buy before my cruise begins. Which of these are absolutely worth paying extra for? - Laura S.

Royal Caribbean structures its cruise fare and overall experience to be very modular, and that leaves guests with plenty of addons to consider buying. 

Laura is right that there are lot of choices to consider paying extra for before and during your cruise.

Before your cruise, you can access the Cruise Planner site for the opportunity to purchase many cruise add-ons, which are broken down into a few key categories:

The question of which are "absolutely worth paying extra for" boils down to personal preferences in many cases. After all, an unlimited drink package, photo package, or wifi access will all save you money compared to paying for these items individually, but do you want/need all of it?

Generally speaking, purchasing any of these items before your cruise will save you money compared to waiting to buy it onboard.

In fact, the drink package, wifi and even some shore excursions will cost you more if you wait to book onboard the ship.  Some options, like The Key or select photo packages are not available to book on the ship.

Read moreIs it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?

Moreover, waiting to book onboard may run the risk of these options selling out.

At worst, nothing you pre-pay will cost you more compared to onboard. The spa treatments are mostly a wash in terms of saving money compared to booking onboard, but it does allow you to reserve a specific time.

What is definitely worth it to pay extra for?

Assuming you are interested in reaping the benefits, I wanted to share the Royal Caribbean add-ons that I believe will absolutely save you time or money by pre-purchasing, and are indeed worth it. 

Some of these items may not make sense for everyone, like an unlimited drink package if you do not like to drink that much liquor.

Here is a list of my go-to cruise add-ons that I will almost always pre-purchase myself because I think they are worthwhile.

Here is a list of things I think are worth buying once, but not every cruise

And here are two add-ons that I do not recommend purchasing

  • The Key - I don't think it as lucrative as it sounds, and there are ways to get a lot of similar benefits
  • Arcade credits - You will always end up with leftover credits, and thus, wasted money.

My list is not the end-all, be-all of what everyone should or should not purchase.  You have to decide for yourself which add-ons make sense based on the type of cruise you are on, who you are sailing with, and your preferences.

If you are cruising with a group of friends, a drink package may make more sense than if you are doing a getaway cruise over the weekend. Pre-purchasing shore excursions makes more sense in Alaska or Europe than it does in Nassau, Bahamas. A spa appointment is much more important to newlyweds or someone on their anniversary.

Aside from The Key and arcade credits, I think pretty much anything else you could purchase has the potential to save you money compared to buying it onboard the ship.  To me, that is the definition of being "worth it."  They better question is if you will take advantage of the purchase to get the value out of it.

More mailbag questions:

Mailbag: Should I make final payment for my cruise?


Welcome to the inaugural edition of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog mailbag, in which I answer a question our readers ask about a Royal Caribbean cruise.

The final payment date is coming up for my cruise this spring, and I really don't think it will sail. Should I make final payment? - Maureen White

While Royal Caribbean has made a lot of changes to its policies to add a great deal of flexibility, one area that has not changed is the cruise line's final payment deadline.

The final payment date is the day a few months before your cruise (typically 90 days) where you must pay off the entire balance of your cruise or lose your reservation (and perhaps incur a penalty).

In a world where we still do not know when if any cruise (outside of Singapore) will actually sail, it can be a real gut check for some if they should make final payment for a cruise they are not certain will actually occur.

Certainly Royal Caribbean has issued refunds and future cruise credits once cruises are cancelled, and the turnaround time has been generally quick (although there are some outliers that wait months for a return).  Royal Caribbean's official stance is to expect a refund within 45 business days.

With spring break cruises coming up for final payment, a lot of cruisers (including myself) are faced with this dilemma.

Do you want to go on the cruise?

The best way to answer this question is to ask yourself if the cruise were to actually sail, would you want to go on it?

For me, I am still making final payments for my upcoming cruises because if they do actually sail, I want to go on them.

While the short term future of cruises being able to restart is murky at best, eventually one of these sailings is actually going to happen.

On the chance the cruise ship does sail, making final payment is what you will need to do in order to be onboard.

However, if the ambiguity of the whole situation right now, or even perhaps some of the potential changes onboard do not sit well with you, canceling before final payment would be the right course of action for you.

Keep in mind that if you cancel before Royal Caribbean cancels the cruise, you are not eligible for any compensation options offered to guests at that point, including 125% future cruise credit or a full cash refund.

Simply put, the decision to make final payment or not is based on your feelings about going on the cruise if it were to sail.

Your deposit type might force your hand

Something else to think about is what type of cruise fare you initially booked.

If you had booked non-refundable cruise fare and you want a full cash refund for money paid, making final payment and then waiting for Royal Caribbean to cancel the cruise is the only way to get all your money back.

Of course, you could get a 100% future cruise credit or Lift and Shift the reservation to another cruise next year.

By making the final payment, you are assured that when the cruise is officially cancelled by Royal Caribbean, you have the choice to get a full cash refund.

The danger with this strategy of calling the cruise line's bluff is that if the cruise actually sailed, you would then be committed to it (although the Cruise with Confidence program allows you to cancel and get a 100% future cruise credit up to 48 hours before your cruise sails).

My choice

I was facing this exact scenario a few weeks ago  that Maureen is facing today, as final payment for my family's spring break cruise in March on Harmony of the Seas arrived.

Ultimately, I chose to make final payment for the exact reason in this post: if the cruise were to sail, I would want to go on it.

There is lots of uncertainty in all of our lives right now, but I feel you have to make plans to live your life and adjust them when it becomes clear those plans are no longer practical.

It certainly helps I have other cruises that I can roll any future cruise credits forward to, but at the end of the day, I want to get back onboard and am willing to roll the dice on the possibility it may sail.

What would you do?

Share your advice for Maureen in the comments below!

How to avoid the 8 things everyone hates doing on a cruise ship


Nothing is perfect, including going on a cruise. There are going to be pain points you encounter because you are not the only person on the ship and sometimes things happen that we have no control over.

The good news is with a little bit of knowledge and planning, you can reduce these potential problems into minute blips on the radar of fun, instead of a "my vacation is ruined" kind of occurrence.

Before you get on a cruise ship, here are 8 things we all deal with on a cruise and how to get around all of them.

Getting seasick

It is unlikely you will get seasick on your cruise, but it can happen to just about anyone.  

Royal Caribbean ships are massive vessels, equipped with precise GPS and stabilizing technology. Moreover, the Captain will regularly plot courses that take optimal routes for guest comfort.

The good news is that even if you do get seasick, feeling better quickly is very easy if you know what to do.  You can take over the counter medications or homeopathic treatments to combat the effects quickly.  Eating a green apple or something with ginger has also proven to be effective.

If you are truly concerned about getting seasick, talk to your physician about a prescription for a scopolamine patch that you wear behind your ear during the duration of the cruise.

Read moreHow To Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise

Pushy spa selling

Upsells are something no one enjoys, but sales people wouldn't do them if they didn't work.

When you schedule a spa treatment onboard, it is typical to be at least told about certain products you can buy to bring home to help combat whatever ailment or life-improving scenario that you are facing.

If you prefer to avoid the upsell all together, politely inform the crew member giving you the spa treatment at the very beginning you are not interested in purchasing any products today.  

Read moreFirst time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa

Sitting with strangers

There are some occasions on a cruise where you might have to sit with other cruisers that you do not know.

Sometimes, being seated with someone you do not know is not desirable, so if you want to avoid being seated with other guests, here are a few tricks to try.

The most common scenario for being seated with strangers is in the main dining room. Speak to the head waiter about arranging for a private table.  This is usually not a problem, but you may have to wait a bit longer to be seated.

You will not have to worry about being seated with other guests at any of the specialty restaurants, except for Izumi hibachi or Chef's Table.  The teppanyaki dining is at communal tables, so the only way around this problem would be to buy up the entire table.

Nearly all shore excursions are group tours, so the only way around the problem is a private tour.  If you prefer to arrange your tours through Royal Caribbean, check out the Private Journeys option.

Private Journeys is the cruise line's personalized shore excursion service where you can create a tour just for your group that does exactly what you want.

Read moreHow to not eat with strangers on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Stopping to do the safety drill

We all understand the importance of safety, but nothing puts a dent in your cruise fun faster than the safety drill.

Known as the muster drill, this is an obligatory drill required by maritime law where you learn about what to do in the event of an emergency onboard.

The good news is Royal Caribbean has completely changed the safety drill, so the days of going to an outer deck and lining up to hear about how to wear a life jacket are over.

The new eMuster option will be conducted via your smart device or stateroom television, and allow you to conduct the drill at your leisure on the first day of the sailing and then simply report to your muster station to complete the process.

This new approach to the safety drill is not only faster, but does not require the entire ship to stop in its tracks.

Read more6 really interesting facts about Royal Caribbean's new cruise safety drill

Chair hogs

If you are dreaming of grabbing a seat by the pool and enjoying a lovely day at sea, you may find the first step of that dream harder than you thought.

Commonly guests will wake up early to reserve chairs at the pool, only to return hours later to actually occupy them.

There are two ways around this problem: wake up earlier than them and get there first, or go elsewhere for a chair.

There are lots of deck chairs on your ship, and if you get up to the pool deck by mid-morning, you should have no issue getting a chair.

Another alternative is to look for chairs on other areas of the deck. You will find deck chairs away from the pool, but still offering plenty of sun and the ocean air at the forward and aft ends of the pool deck. Some ships even have hammocks and other comfortable seating in these areas.

Lines for activities

Water slides, stage shows, and even the main dining room all have one thing in common: a lot of people want to get in at the same time. The result are lines can develop.

The best advice for avoiding lines on your cruise is to either arrive earlier or later.

In the case of a line for the dining room, simply wait it out. Eventually the line will dissipate, and you could easily wait it out at a nearby bar until the line goes away.

Lines for a show at the theater can be avoided on Oasis or Quantum Class ships by reserving entertainment ahead of time.  If you are on a different ship, try to get to the theater 15-20 minutes before show time before the line develops.

Likewise, lines for signature activities are best avoided by getting there right when they open for the day, or in the late afternoon when a lot of people start getting ready for dinner.,

You can also find short lines for water slides, the Flowrider and more by trying them on the first day of your cruise or when your ship is in port and most other guests are on shore.

Read moreHow to avoid the most irritating lines on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Packing on the last day

The only thing worse than the realization your cruise is coming to an end is remembering you have to pack everything up too.

While packing for a cruise vacation can be fun, packing to go home stinks.

The best advice I received is to leave a piece of luggage open in your closet and fold dirty laundry in there as you discard it.  If you do this everyday, you can reduce the amount you have to pack on the final day.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Gaining weight

We all may think we can avoid temptation of overindulging on a cruise, but more than likely it will happen anyway.

Whether you have a sweet tooth, or simply find a lot more food than usual to try, gaining weight on a cruise vacation is not unheard of at all.

Besides skipping some of these foods, there are a few good strategies to allow you to have your cake and eat it too.

Skipping the elevator and using the stairs will burn off a few extra calories, especially over the course of your cruise.

All Royal Caribbean ships have a fitness center that offer free weights, machines, and even fitness classes. Most of the gym is complimentary (the fitness classes usually cost extra), but you don't have to abandon your gym routine while on a cruise.  

There is also a jogging track on every ship, if you prefer some outdoor activity.

The main dining room menu will also notate certain options that are a healthier choice, to make choosing the right entree easier for you.

Read moreGuide to Royal Caribbean's gym and exercise programs

Is Royal Caribbean all inclusive?


Royal Caribbean cruises include entertainment, dining, and will take you to different ports, but are they truly all-inclusive?

The idea of paying one price and then having your entire vacation taken care of is certainly appealing to a lot of people.

Alas, Royal Caribbean cruises are not all inclusive and have never been truly all-inclusive, but it does include a tremendous amount of value for what you pay. Royal Caribbean's pricing model has traditionally been to include a base experience, and allow guests to pay for add-ons they they want.

There are some luxury lines that are much closer to all-inclusive, but generally speaking, mass market cruise lines are rarely inclusive of everything.

Part of the rationale for keeping the experience not inclusive of everything is it helps keep the entry price lower, as well as not include things people don't want and is part of the price.

Despite the fact they are not all-inclusive, a Royal Caribbean cruise still packs a lot to enjoy, including:

  • Your stateroom
  • Complimentary meal service throughout the cruise for all meals and snacks
  • Activities and things to do onboard the ship
  • Supervised programming for children and teens
  • Fitness center
  • Sports activities
  • Pools and outdoor amenities
  • Royal Caribbean's app

The exact list of what is included depends on your ship and stateroom you choose, but you can absolutely go on a cruise and never spend another penny on extras.  

The reality is most people will opt to purchase some add-ons and extras that are not included with the cruise fare.  Here is what you can expect to find that will cost extra:

  • Gratuities
  • Gambling in the casino
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Specialty coffees and teas
  • Soft drinks
  • Shore excursions
  • WiFi access
  • Arcade games
  • Spa services
  • Specialty restaurants
  • Souvenirs
  • Phone calls onboard
  • Medical attention

Star Class

The closest thing Royal Caribbean has to all inclusive is for guests who stay in the most expensive suites on the newest ships.

Star Class suites on Oasis and Quantum Class ships include a lot of extras that would ordinarily cost extra, including beverages, specialty restaurants, wifi access and more.

Just like a traditional all inclusive resort, being in one of these suites does not include everything, as your gratuities, shore excursions, souvenirs and spa appoints still cost extra.

Of course, Star Class suites are not going to be an inexpensive option.

If your goal is to truly pay one price and have the most possible included with your cruise fare without buying extra add-ons, booking a Star Class suite is probably the closest you can get on Royal Caribbean.

Read more: What is Star Class?

How to make it all inclusive

While there is no option to turn your cruise into an all-inclusive option, you can purchase certain packages to get a lot closer to it.

Royal Caribbean offers a variety of add-ons that you can pre-purchase before your cruise begins in order to leave less costs for once you are onboard the ship.

Some can be purchased on the ship as well, but the cruise line generally discounts these packages if you buy them before the sailing begins.


Gratuities cover the services provided by your stateroom attendant and dining room staff, and it is an obligatory charge that is normally accrued every day of the cruise and charged per person in your group.

You have the choice of pre-paying gratuities before the cruise, or paying it on the ship.

By having your travel agent pre-pay gratuities, you can take care of that cost before you set sail.

Read moreShould you prepay gratuities?

Drink Packages

Your Royal Caribbean cruise includes some beverages, but if you want to enjoy beer, cocktails, sodas or lattes, you will have to pay for them as you go onboard.

Pay as you go is fine for an occasional drink here or there, but if you think you might consume more than one or two, or you simply want to enjoy unlimited beverages for a fixed price, then a Royal Caribbean drink package is for you.

Drink packages can be purchased before the cruise or once onboard, and include unlimited drinks for whichever package you buy.

  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Includes, beer, wine by the glass, cocktails, juices, soda, coffees, tea, bottled water.
  • Refreshment Package: Includes non-alcoholic beverages, juices, soda, coffees, tea, bottled water.
  • Classic Soda Package: Soft drinks only

Beverage packages are extremely popular because they work as advertised: pay a flat cost and enjoy unlimited drinks (although there are a few exceptions to what the drink packages include).

If you do want to buy a drink package, be sure to buy it before the cruise to get a discount.

Read moreIs the drink package worth it on Royal Caribbean?


If you want internet access, you will have to pay for it while on your cruise ship.

Just like the drink package, there are unlimited wifi packages you can purchase for the duration of your sailing.

Internet packages are based on how many devices you want to use at one time. You can sign out and sign in with unlimited devices, but the package allows between 1 and 5 devices to be connected at the same time.

Read moreIs Royal Caribbean WiFi worth it?

Specialty dining

Specialty restaurants are very popular on Royal Caribbean, and you can either pre-book certain restaurants before your cruise or purchase a dining package.

The unlimited dining package would be the closest thing to get to all-inclusive, as it includes dinner every night and lunch on sea days in specialty restaurants.

The "catch" with any dining package is you must wait to make reservations until you are onboard.  As long as you make reservations on the first day, there is rarely an issue with getting a spot on any day of your cruise.

You could purchase individual restaurant reservations as well before the cruise in order to pre-pay that, but if you are going to eat at more than 2 specialty restaurants, a dining package makes more financial sense.

Read moreHow to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package


You will find many photo opportunties every day of your cruise, where ship photographers set up spots you and your family can pose for photos in front of backdrops or outdoors.

These photos will cost you extra, with each photo you want available for purchase in different sizes.

Royal Caribbean offers photo packages, including an unlimited photo package.

Things I've done that I'll never do again on a Royal Caribbean cruise


Royal Caribbean has no shortage of fun things to do on a cruise, and a few them I have no intention of ever doing again.

Don't get me wrong, more often than not, I find some really enjoyable things to try on a cruise. But just like anything in life, some things do not jive with me.

Some are not to my liking, and other plans backfired after giving it a try.  The good news, is I have since learned from these experiences and wanted to share what I came up against to help you decide what to do on your sailing.

Here are the top things I will never do again on a Royal Caribbean cruise in hopes it may save you the trouble as well.

Skip buying travel insurance

When I first started to cruise, I never bought travel insurance because I thought it was a waste of money.  Why should I spend money to prepare for a scenario that will very likely never happen?

I was in good health, relatively young, and had my own health insurance and coverages provided by credit cards. 

It was not until years later when we were on a cruise and my wife did not feel well, that the decision not to buy travel insurance came back to haunt me.  As my wife lay in bed feeling awful, we wrestled with should we seek onboard medical care that will cost us a lot of out pocket, or save money and risk my wife's health.

That choice did not sit well with me, and so I decided to invest in travel insurance from that point forward.

The peace of mind travel insurance offers is worth it to know that if something unforeseen minor or major occurs, your first thought will not be, "can I afford this?".

Travel insurance does not cover everything (be sure to read the policy carefully), but it is something I will never cruise without again.

Read moreWhy you should get travel insurance for your cruise

Cruise without the drink package

When Royal Caribbean introduced the drink package a number of years ago, I never thought it would make financial sense to me.

Ultimately what changed my mind is a drink package makes it so easy to budget for a cruise.

Somewhat similar to the travel insurance example, when I do not have a drink package I torment myself mentally with the question of do I need a drink, or can I go longer and save money without it?

I found getting a drink package reduced that sort of mental anguish, and allows me to do what I love to do on a cruise: relax and enjoy my time onboard.

Moreover, the convenience of the drink package and value it provides by including not just alcoholic drinks makes it a slam dunk decision going forward.

By pre-purchasing and taking advantage of drink package sales, I have found a drink package to be a worthwhile investment every time.

Read moreIs the drink package worth it on Royal Caribbean?

Skip pre-paying gratuities

The bill at the end of the cruise that has all of our onboard charges is never something I look forward to seeing, and the option to pre-pay gratuities really helps keep these costs down.

Royal Caribbean gives guests the choice of pre-paying gratuities before the cruise, or having them accrue each evening while onboard.

I never used to mind the daily charges, but they add up and I greatly value the opportunity to make spread out the overall cost of my cruise.  

By pre-paying, there are two benefits: I get to avoid a larger onboard spending bill and I also lock in my gratuity rate.  Royal Caribbean promises to lock in the gratuity rate at the time you pre-pay, which means if the cruise line raises the rate later, you still pay the lower amount.

Read moreShould you prepay gratuities for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Ripcord by iFly

File this under "things Matt personally does not have the talent to do".

When Royal Caribbean announced there would be a sky diving simulator on Quantum of the Seas, I was excited to finally try sky diving without having to jump out of an airplane.  Real sky diving is something I will absolutely, positively never do because it seems entirely too frightening.

When I sailed on Quantum of the Seas, I had my opportunity to see what it was like in a safe environment.  I was so excited that I even volunteered to go first in my group.

Unfortunately, I failed miserably at it and somehow ended up inverted and on the bottom, and I was as disappointed in myself as I was embarrassed.

While I have many talents, coordination is not one of them, and I have written off Ripcord by iFly as one of those "been there, done that" experiences. 

I would never tell someone else not to do it. I just know I will not be with them in line for it.

Plan to be the first person off the ship when the cruise is over

It seems easy enough when planning a cruise to squeeze it in by ensuring I will be among the first off the ship to make a flight home, or drive back in time to get to work.

The reality is getting up early enough to be among the first off the ship is anything but enjoyable.

Not only is waking up early unpleasant, a lot of other people have the exact same idea.  You still end up standing in a line to disembark the ship, and it always seems no matter what early time I get out of my room to get in that line, there are always way more people waiting before me than I expect.

On top of all of that, I end up groggy and tired for the rest of the day, with a nap later in the day to recuperate. 

Instead, I strive to make plans that do not require me to be off the ship quite so early (when possible) to avoid making the last morning quite so miserable.

Stay in the same cabin as my kids

I learned this lesson at an early stage with my children: I love them, but I do not love sleeping in the same room as them.

Just like at home, my kids have different sleeping habits than I do, and I prefer them go to bed at a certain time is not necessarily the same time as me.

In addition, having four of us in one room is usually a tight fit.  There are plenty of cabins for 4 people, but there is not usually a lot of space.  Rooms that do have more living space for a family of four tend to be suites, and those prices do not fit in our budget.

Instead, we book two connecting rooms so that we have a common inside door between my wife and I and the kids.  This way, the kids have their own space, their own beds, and their own sleep schedule.  We turn off the lights, wish them a good night and close the common door.  

Moreover, two rooms means two full bathrooms.  As my daughters get older, this investment is worth every penny.

Getting two rooms is not as expensive as it sounds, and even if we have to move down from a balcony for four people to two inside connecting rooms, the added space is worth it every time.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean adds connecting room feature to website search

Try to "wing it" in St. Thomas

I have generally had good luck in ports with walking off the ship and figuring things out as I go, but St. Thomas recently became the exception to that rule.

Due to the location of where your ship docks, a taxi is a must-have and if you want to go somewhere most others do not, getting a taxi became an exercise in futility.

On a cruise in 2019, I wanted to go to a part of St. Thomas no other cruise guests wanted to go. The taxi drivers were unwilling to take me because they could make more money going to higher demand tourist areas.

The result was I abandoned my plans to go there, and in the future, I will make arrangements ahead of time to avoid this issue.

Read moreGuide to visiting St. John on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Sleep in when visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you think Royal Caribbean's private island is another beach day that you can sleep in before going, think again.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is an amazing destination that offers so much now, and the best strategy for getting a great spot and avoid lines is to wake up and get off the ship early.

If you are visiting the water park, being among the first off the ship is an absolute must-do so that you can avoid lines for slides later.

Being off the ship early also allows you to pick the best spots near the pool, beach, or bar.  This is especially important at Oasis Lagoon.

Read moreDo's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay

Not bring cash with me to private islands

Labadee and CocoCay are Royal Caribbean's private islands and the cruise line allows you to use your SeaPass card to pay for drinks, excursions and other incidentals.

However, the people working on the island that are not cruise line employees cannot take payment with a SeaPass card.

A few times I completely forgot to bring any cash, since it was a cruise line destination, and ended up having to go back to the ship to get cash for tips.

You will find locals working certain excursions, cabana attendants, tram drivers and more. Tipping is customary in some situations, so having a little bit of cash is a must-do from now on.

What about you?

As you can tell, this list is very subjective to my experiences and I am willing to bet many others have their own set of "never again" things.

On the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards, our readers shared some of their top picks for things they will never do again on a cruise:

  • Sell expert lecture - Traveler
  • Walk to a beach - melmar02
  • Take the cruise line shuttle to the airport instead of a taxi - dawnelda
  • Snorkeling in Alaska - wstephensi
  • Pay cruise line prices for medication - Psycho and Barb
  • Get off the ship without a porter - coneyraven

Be sure to share your own experiences in the comments below!