Royal Caribbean: The Complete Guide

Rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks and a loyalty program make Royal Caribbean a great pick for your cruise.
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein 
Published

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Mega cruise line company Royal Caribbean has some of the largest cruise ships in the industry — in fact, the new Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas is the largest in the world. Royal Caribbean offers a wealth of onboard amenities, and its most popular ships have a loyal following of customers who sail the line to all seven continents.

The company dates back to 1968 when it belonged to Norwegian shipowners who wanted to be a part of the growing cruise market. It is now part of the Royal Caribbean Group, which has several cruise lines under its banner. These include Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises.

Whether you’re after Royal Caribbean’s newest ship or some of the company’s popular Caribbean or Mediterranean itineraries, here is a guide to its ships, destinations, offerings and loyalty program.

About Royal Caribbean sailings

Royal Caribbean has an itinerary for every interest. You’ll find the company’s ships most often sailing around the Caribbean and to Mexico. It also operates ships that sail through the majestic scenery of Alaska, along the Mediterranean coastline, in the Baltic and in the South Pacific. Here’s what you can expect on its ships:

  • Cabin types: The interior cabins are the most affordable, and some of them have an extra-special feature: a virtual window. These screens show scenery from outside of the ship simulating what you might see from a sea-facing cabin. On certain ships, there are cabins that look toward the interior promenade or to the back of the ship facing the AquaTheater. Also available are sea-facing cabins, balcony cabins and large suites. Some of the most expansive have in-suite slides, cinemas and wraparound balconies.

  • Main U.S. routes: From the U.S., you can easily sail on its Alaska, Bermuda, Canada, New England, Caribbean, Mexico and Panama Canal itineraries, among others. 

  • Loyalty program: The Crown & Anchor Society is the line’s loyalty program, which provides accumulating benefits the more you sail with Royal Caribbean. Its elite status tiers are based on points, which you earn based on the number of nights you spend on board. Suite reservations earn double points.

Royal Caribbean destinations

The Royal Caribbean route map covers every continent, departing from both the West and East U.S. coasts as well as nearly 300 global ports.

  • Africa.

  • Alaska.

  • Antarctica.

  • Asia.

  • Australia.

  • Bahamas.

  • Bermuda.

  • Canada.

  • Caribbean.

  • Europe.

  • Hawaii.

  • Mexico.

  • Middle East.

  • New Zealand.

  • Pacific Islands.

  • Panama Canal.

  • South America.

Some cruises are as short as two nights for a quick weekend getaway while others can last several weeks. There’s even a world cruise that takes 274 days.

Royal Caribbean cruise prices

The cost of a cruise depends on when and where you travel. Things that can affect the overall price include:

  • Cruise cabin type.

  • NCL ship class.

  • Destination.

  • Length of trip. 

There are plenty of great deals out there, including three-night cruises to the Bahamas for as low as $252 per person. Or you can splurge and circumnavigate South America and visit Antarctica for $3,118 per person. If you go during one of Royal Caribbean's Kids Sail Free promotions, children staying in a room with at least two adults get to cruise for free (restrictions apply). This special promotion takes place several times a year.

What is the best Royal Caribbean ship?

It's impossible to say definitively which Royal Caribbean ship is the best, since opinions vary from one person to another. But there are some ships you might enjoy more than others based on the type of experience you're looking for. If you're traveling with kids, you may like its newest ships like Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas for their numerous swimming pools and water parks. Couples may prefer the adults-only areas on certain ships. Icon of the Seas, for example, has an area called Cloud 17, which has its own pool and bar.

The cruise line has more than two dozen ships in its fleet, which includes the largest passenger ship in the world: Icon of the Seas, carrying 7,600 passengers at full capacity.

What is the newest Royal Caribbean ship?

The newest Royal Caribbean ship — Icon of the Seas — will set sail in 2024 with more than 20 restaurants and bars plus a water park, numerous pools, and family-friendly attractions designed in different "neighborhoods." This will be the largest passenger ship in the world, which is not a novelty for the cruise line. In fact, Royal Caribbean is responsible for introducing many of the world’s largest ships to the market. It keeps topping itself with each new ship.

What’s included on Royal Caribbean cruises?

Royal Caribbean cruises are not all-inclusive, and cruise companies (including Royal Caribbean) make money by selling ancillary services on board. These add-ons include things like beverage packages, specialty restaurant reservations and shore excursions. But there are plenty of perks that come with the cruise fare, and passengers can have lots of fun without spending any additional money. This is what's included in the overall cruise price:

  • Accommodations in your selected category.

  • Meals and snacks in the buffet restaurants, main dining rooms and by the pool. 

  • Non-bottled water, juice, iced tea, hot chocolate, and some coffees and teas.

  • Fitness center access.

  • Shows and entertainment.

  • Pools and some water park activities like the popular FlowRider surf simulator.

  • Activities like rock climbing and bumper cars on many ships.

You will have to pay extra to enjoy the specialty restaurants, Wi-Fi, shore excursions, upgraded drink selections, spa services and many of the onboard activities.

Royal Caribbean firsts in the industry: What is Royal Caribbean known for?

Royal Caribbean has brought many special features to sea, and its passengers have come to recognize the brand for these attractions, including:

  • The FlowRider surf simulator.

  • The first rock climbing wall at sea.

  • The first ice skating rink at sea.

  • The Royal Promenade, a boulevard of shops, restaurants and bars.

  • The AquaTheater, featuring water shows in the deepest pool at sea.

Royal Caribbean loyalty program: Crown & Anchor Society

The cruise line’s loyalty program is called the Crown & Anchor Society, and it comes with benefits that grow the more you sail. You earn one point for every night you sail on Royal Caribbean and double points when paying for a suite. The more points you accrue, the more benefits you earn.

Crown & Anchor Society elite levels

The loyalty program has six levels:

  • Gold.

  • Platinum.

  • Emerald.

  • Diamond.

  • Diamond Plus.

  • Pinnacle Club.

While most of the perks are discounts and priority access to various parts of the ship, there are several top perks that make the loyalty program worth it.

Diamond

  • Four free drinks per day.

  • One free day of Wi-Fi.

  • Diamond lounge access and evening happy hour.

  • Two bottles of water.

Diamond Plus

  • Five free drinks per day.

  • Two free days of Wi-Fi.

  • Diamond lounge access and evening happy hour.

  • Priority access and seating at theater shows.

  • Three bottles of water.

Pinnacle Club

  • Six free drinks per day.

  • Daily breakfast at a specialty restaurant.

  • Diamond lounge access and evening happy hour. 

  • Priority access and seating at theater shows.

  • Three bottles of water.

How to earn Crown & Anchor Society points

Members earn one point for every night spent on a ship. Nights in a suite earn double points.

How to redeem points

Unlike airline and hotel loyalty programs, you don’t earn points to redeem later with Crown & Anchor Society. Instead, the accrued points determine the elite tier you are in, which comes with a set of benefits to enjoy on the ship.

Royal Caribbean Credit Card

The Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Credit Card accrues MyCruise points, which can be redeemed for onboard discounts, upgrades and companion fares on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity sailings. The card has no annual fee.

With the card, you earn:

  • 2x points on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity sailings.

  • 1x point on everything else.

Earn 25,000 MyCruise points after spending $1,000 on the card within the first 90 days of opening your account.

How to Redeem MyCruise points

You need to have a cruise reservation with Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, and then log in to a dedicated website to redeem points for onboard perks. You need to make those redemptions at least seven days before a sailing.

The perks include:

  • Stateroom upgrades (as few as 5,000 points on 3-4 day sailings; 15,000 points on 4-8 night sailings).

  • Onboard credit (5,000 points for $50; 10,000 points for $100).

  • Onboard gifts (two robes for 5,000 points; two polo shirts and hats for 10,000 points).

  • Cruise discounts ($300 discount on a Celebrity cruise for 30,000 points).

  • Companion fare (on a 7-8 night Celebrity cruise for 120,000 points).

  • Free cruise (for 540,000 points, you can redeem for a 10+ night Celebrity cruise).

» Learn more: The best cruise lines

What is Royal Caribbean known for?

Royal Caribbean cruises have something for everyone.

Romantic types can book a cabin in the adults-only area while families can spend time enjoying the water park. Sporty travelers can try out the rock climbing wall or surf simulator. And with the world’s largest passenger ships, Royal Caribbean takes passengers all around the world with plenty of exciting itineraries.

Featured photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Frequently asked questions

No, but you can buy Wi-Fi packages with prices varying by the number of devices and length of the package. The price is around $20 per day.

No, Royal Caribbean sells several things on board like specialty dining, beverage and Wi-Fi packages, shore excursions and cabin upgrades. While there are many inclusions on the cruise (like most meals, accommodations and entertainment), Royal Caribbean is not all-inclusive.

Depending on the type of drinks you want to enjoy, there are different drink packages available on Royal Caribbean. If you buy an alcoholic drink package, everyone in the cabin over age 21 must also pay for an alcoholic drink package.

Non-alcoholic

  • The Refreshment package includes bottled water, premium coffee and tea, soda fountain drinks, fresh orange juice and mocktails for $29 per person per day.

  • The Classic Soda package includes soda fountain drinks for $12.99 per person per day.

Alcoholic

  • The Deluxe beverage package ranges from $56 to $105 per person per day for beer, wine, cocktails, fresh juice, premium coffee and tea, mocktails and other drinks that cost less than $14 apiece.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Cards for Cruises from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

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NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

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Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

on Bank of America's website

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60,000

Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Points
See more cards for cruises
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