Royal Caribbean Amenities You Should Pre-Book

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If you’ve already booked a Royal Caribbean cruise and are looking forward to your upcoming vacation, you may think that, between now and embarkation, all you have to do is pack your bags and be careful not to forget your sunscreen. However, you may want to take a few moments to book a few additional things for your cruise.

Booking certain Royal Caribbean amenities and packages ahead of embarkation can save you big money — up to 40% in some cases. Plus, you can even cancel and rebook those amenities and packages if you see they’re available at a lower cost at a later date!

Pre-booking can also save you time once you’re aboard the ship. After all, who really wants to spend their vacation time planning shore excursions or purchasing drink packages, when you could just show up and enjoy those things?

If you’re not sure where to start, here are the top Royal Caribbean amenities you should consider pre-booking before your cruise.

Shore Excursions

There are many different things you can choose to do when visiting the various ports along your cruise itinerary.

You can, of course, opt to go it on your own and explore the destination solo, including booking activities and tours that align with the time you’ll be in port.

However, the good thing about booking shore excursions directly with Royal Caribbean is that you’re always guaranteed to actually make it back to the cruise ship on time. The last thing you want is to end up in a destination, watching the cruise ship leave you behind. It’s a logistical nightmare and a sure way to ruin your vacation.

Booking shore excursions ahead of your cruise will, again, save you money and then time once you’re actually on your cruise. Additionally, it will ensure that you actually get a spot on the tours or excursions you most want to experience, before all the spots sell out.

Specialty Dining

Traveling foodies will absolutely want to make plans to dine at some of Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants. Particularly on the cruise line’s newer ships, you’ll find that you get a plethora of cool restaurants to choose from, and you won’t want to miss these experiences.

When booking specialty dining ahead of your cruise, you get a few options. You can book exclusive dining experiences, such as the Chef’s Table experience, and save 10% if you book ahead of time. You can also make one-off dinner reservations and likewise save 10%.

Chef's Table on Quantum of the Seas
Chef’s Table on Quantum of the Seas

Booking a specialty dining package is an option as well, with either a three-restaurant dining package that gives you three meals at three different specialty venues, or an unlimited dining package that allows you to eat dinner at the specialty restaurants throughout your entire cruise, for free; you also get discounts on wine.

Do note, though, that even if you book a specialty dining package before your sail date, you do have to actually wait to make your dinner reservations for the particular restaurants you want, and the days you want, until you’re on the ship.

Once you’re on the ship, on embarkation day, you can go to any specialty restaurant and the maître d’ can help you book all your reservations, except for dining at Izumi Hibachi, for which reservations must be booked at Izumi Hibachi.

Just like with shore excursions, restaurant reservations on some cruises can go very quickly, so if you really want to dine at certain restaurants, consider booking in advance.

My Time Dining

If you’ve booked My Time Dining for your cruise, which allows you to eat in the ship’s main dining room at any time you like, while dinner is being served, you may want to reserve your preferred dining times ahead of your cruise.

Sure, some cruisers like My Time Dining because of the flexibility and you can kind of go with the flow and visit the main dining room whenever you feel like it (and try to get a seat— you’re not guaranteed one).

Dining on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship
Dining on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Solarisys)

However, other cruisers purchase My Time Dining because they don’t want to be assigned a time for the main dining room. They want to pick their own time.

It’s for these latter cruisers that reserving your table in advance is a smart idea, so you’re guaranteed to have access to the main dining room at the exact time you want, every evening.

Internet

If you purchase a Royal Caribbean internet package ahead of your cruise, you could save up to 25% off the cost per user. Royal Caribbean’s most basic internet packages start at under $20 per device, per day, and come with a basic level of connection that will allow you to access websites, send emails, etc.

Worth Reading: Do Cruise Ships Have Wi-Fi?

Royal Caribbean Starlink
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises

For a more robust package, like the VOOM Surf + Stream package, you will pay a little more — just a few dollars more per device per day — but you’ll be able to basically use high-speed WiFi like you’d use at home, allowing you to stream video.

If you wait to purchase your WiFi connection for your cruise, and only do so once you’re on the ship, you may find that your options are a little more limited and also more expensive. And don’t forget that Royal Caribbean now uses the much faster Starlink Internet.

The Key

The Key is like a VIP program that comes with special perks and benefits, and it’s only available to book prior to sailing.

The Key’s benefits include priority access during a designated arrival time for all Key guests, luggage delivery to your stateroom, an exclusive welcome lunch in the main dining room, faster and exclusive access to onboard activities (like the Flowrider surfing simulator), priority departure at tender ports of call, dedicated seating in various entertainment venues, limited WiFi and breakfast on debarkation day.

Cruise Ship Baggage Drop off
Cruise Ship Baggage Drop off

In short, purchasing The Key is almost like buying some of the VIP amenities you might get if you were to stay in one of Royal Caribbean’s suites, but without the need to actually book a suite.

Entertainment

While attending the theatrical shows on Royal Caribbean cruise ships are free, tickets can go quickly, so it’s a smart idea to pre-book your tickets.

You can pre-reserve show tickets for your cruise starting the first day of the month before sailing, and up to four days before your sail date. You’ll be able to choose the shows you want to see, as well as the days and times you want to see them.

AquaTheater at the Aft of the Ship
AquaTheater at the Aft of the Ship

If you really enjoy the on-board entertainment, such as the theatrical performances and music reviews, pre-booking ensures you get to see the shows you want, without trying your luck at the on-board box office.

For your best chances at getting the tickets you want, be sure that you’re pre-reserving those tickets as soon as they’re available, on that first day of the month before sailing!

Gifts and Gear

Are you celebrating something special during your cruise? If so, you may want to pre-purchase some of Royal Caribbean’s celebratory packages. Doing so ahead of your cruise will save you up to 20% off in some instances.

Royal Promenade
Royal Promenade

For example, if you’re celebrating an anniversary, you might book a package that gives you Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in your stateroom. If you’re celebrating a birthday, you might book a package that comes with a chocolate cake and birthday décor for your cabin.

You can even pre-purchase Royal Caribbean-branded gear and souvenirs and save a little with items like Royal Caribbean towels or coolers stocked with your favorite beach beverages.

Drink Packages

If you plan on purchasing a drink package for your cruise, doing so ahead of time will, again, save you a substantial amount, as you can find drink package deals like buy one package, get one package 50% off.

However, before purchasing a drink package — particularly the deluxe beverage package that comes with unlimited cocktails, spirits, liqueurs, beer and wines — think about the cost.

Sports Bar on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock)
Sports Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas

Even with discounts, the drink packages can be pricey, and may not be worth it unless you’re the type of traveler to spend the large majority of your vacation with a drink in hand.

Read Also: When Is the Best Time to Buy a Royal Caribbean Drink Package?

In addition to pre-booking the deluxe beverage package, you can also pre-book a coffee card that comes with 15 specialty coffees during your cruise, or an Evian water package, for a case of bottled water at a 40%, pre-booking discount.

Gratuities

Yes, you can actually pre-pay for your gratuities before your cruise! There are few reasons why you might want to do so. For one, it just gets the expense paid for and done with, rather than allowing the gratuities to be charged to your credit card, after your cruise.

Additionally, it ensures you can lock in a gratuity rate, in case the rate randomly increases before your sail date (which isn’t unheard of in the cruising industry).

Boardwalk View Stateroom With Balcony
Boardwalk View Stateroom With Balcony

As of late 2023, Royal Caribbean charges an $18 daily gratuity fee per person for guests in staterooms and junior suites, and a $20.50 daily gratuity fee per person for guests in all other suites.

If you’re dissatisfied with this amount during your cruise, though, and can point to dissatisfactory service, you may be able to lower this fee by speaking with guest services.

Additionally, beverages and mini bar purchases come with an 18% gratuity and spa and salon purchases come with a 20% gratuity.

Amenities on Royal Caribbean’s Private Islands

If your cruise includes a stop at one of Royal Caribbean’s private islands (Labadee or Perfect Day at CocoCay), you can book amenities to enjoy on the islands, ahead of time. For example, you can reserve a private cabana, an offering that goes very quickly.

In fact, they go so quickly that, if you wait to book one until you’re on the ship, you may find that they’re all already booked. Cabanas come with privacy and cabana service, among other features.

Celebrity Cruises, perfect Day at CocoCay
Celebrity Cruises, perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo Credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock)

You can also pre-book certain private island activities, like a ride on the Up, Up and Away helium balloon at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Pricing for all of the amenities and activities on these private islands is always cheaper if you pre-book, versus waiting until you actually get on your cruise.

Onboard Activities

Certain Royal Caribbean onboard activities can be pre-booked ahead of your cruise as well.

For example, if you’re sailing on a Quantum-class cruise ship and know you really want to experience the highly acclaimed North Star observation capsule, you might way to pre-book a time to do so.

Spectrum of the Seas Open Deck, Main Pool Area
Spectrum of the Seas Open Deck, Main Pool Area (Photo Credit: EnthusiasticPhotographers)

While taking a ride in the capsule is one of the free things you can do on certain ships, it’s a highly popular activity. Pre-booking will ensure you actually get to do so without waiting in overly lengthy lines.

Similarly, you can book your turn on the iFly sky diving simulator or in one of the ships’ escape rooms, ahead of time as well.

Arcade Credits

If you’re traveling with a kiddo who you know is going to be all about that on-board arcade, you may want to purchase arcade credits ahead of time. Doing so will get you the credits at a discounted rate.

Is There Anything You Definitely Shouldn’t Pre-Book?

One of the only cruise experiences that you should maybe think twice about pre-booking? Spa services. You can actually wait until the cruise is underway and get great deals on spa treatments during port days, when demand is lower.

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas Docked in Miami
Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas Docked in Miami (Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov)

Additionally, you can purchase photo packages ahead of your cruise, for a discount, such as a package that includes up to 100 photos for you and everyone else staying in your stateroom.

However, photo packages on cruise ships are generally a poor purchase, regardless of whether you buy them during or before your cruise. You’ll save a ton of money by simply taking your own photos and then having them printed once you get back home.

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