This is Royal Caribbean’s first cruise to the Caribbean and Bahamas in 15 months. The cruise line has made a number of changes to keep guests safe on board. As we look at some of the changes they have made, it’s probably safe to assume that they will tweak some of these policies as more ships enter service.
With that being said, here are the changes that I have noticed so far that relate to the cruise experience onboard the cruise ship.
Reduced Capacity – One of the biggest changes onboard is the number of passengers on the ship. This cruise is sailing at around 28% capacity, so it often feels “empty” at times. This leads to just about no lines anywhere on the ship and you never feel crowded, I love it.
Windjammer – Windjammer is the buffet on board and there are some major changes. First, you no longer serve yourself. You tell the crew what you want and they put it on your plate. Drinks are also no longer self service.
You can also make reservations for breakfast and lunch in Windjammer but it is not necessarily required. Maybe when the ship starts sailing at a higher capacity it will be more important to make reservations, but on this sailing I’ve been able to enter every time so far without a reservation.
Windjammer is closed for dinner. Royal Caribbean said that they will reopen it when ships start sailing with a 65% capacity (ballpark figure). This is due to having a reduced staff on board since there are a smaller number of passengers.
Masks – Guests who are vaccinated do not have to wear a mask on the ship. (all adults are required to be vaccinated on this sailing). Children who are not vaccinated have to wear a mask when inside and they represent 6% of the total number of passengers on this sailing.
I’ve seen maybe two or three adults wear a mask on the ship so far in the first three days.
All crew members wear a mask at all times.
Pool Deck – Loungers are spaced out on the pool deck to allow for social distancing. The pools are also limited to the number of people allowed in each one. The solarium pool has a max occupancy of nine and the hot tubs six. The main pool area has slightly different occupancy maximum based on each pool size.
I walked by the pool deck at 8 am this morning and there was not one lounger saved. When you are sailing on a ship at only 28% capacity, there are some major benefits.
Menus – Menus are read by scanning QR codes on your phone, this includes every bar and restaurant that I have visited so far. Royal Caribbean has tried to limit the number of things that get touched by multiple passengers. This includes trivia where you grade your own answers instead of swapping papers with your neighbor.
Reservations for Shows – Since social distancing has been added to the theater and the ice skating rink (Studio B), you have to make reservations for shows. I showed up the first night to see a show without a reservation. Although they did let me in, they told me I would have to make one for the rest of the cruise. Reservations take less than a minute using the Royal Caribbean app.
Every other row is blocked off and the rows that are open, two seats are open and then two seats are free to sit in.
Cruise Compass – Cruise Compass, the daily flyer that has everything that is going on around the ship, is no longer delivered to your stateroom. You can use the Royal Caribbean app to see what’s going on around the ship.
However, you can pick up a paper copy down at guest services. I do this every day since I find the paper copy much easier to use than the app.
Speaking of the Royal Caribbean app, it is required on this sailing. You have to fill out a health survey on it the day before you board.
Room Service – Last night I needed to get a few things done for work so I ordered room service. They no longer come into your room and set it up, they hand it to you at the door.
Fitness Center – You have to make reservations to use the fitness center. They give you a a one hour block of time where you can use it.
Basketball Court – The basketball court no longer has basketballs. They had pickleball set up on the court one day so they are using it for sports where you can social distance.
I will update this article as I come across more changes onboard the cruise ships. None of the changes so far really impact the cruise experience. Royal Caribbean has done a great done in keep the cruise experience at a high level while keeping guest safe.
You can probably expect some of these changes to be modified or even withdrawn as more cruise ships enter service and capacity starts to rise. This is Royal Caribbean’s first sailing to the region in 15 months so I’m sure they will change things as needed.