Cruise NewsRoyal CaribbeanFirst Impressions of Royal Caribbean's First Cruise to the Caribbean in 15...

First Impressions of Royal Caribbean’s First Cruise to the Caribbean in 15 Months

The day has finally arrived, Royal Caribbean’s first cruise to the Caribbean and Bahamas in 15 months.  The last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to depart from North America on a cruise was back on March 13, 2020.  I remember that day because I was on the last ship to leave Miami before the cruise shutdown.

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After being on the last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to set sail and visit their private island CocoCay, I knew I just had to be on the first sailing back.  I booked this cruise on Adventure of the Seas out of Nassau within the first hour that cabins opened for bookings.

What’s it like on board? Here are my first impressions of Royal Caribbean’s return to the Bahamas/Caribbean.

Embarkation was unlike any other cruise I have taken.  Since this cruise was out of Nassau, the port is not designed for a standard cruise ship embarkation.  Check-in was done at the British Colonial Hilton just down the street where everyone was tested for COVID-19 before being cleared to board.

Royal Caribbean assigned check-in times for everyone to spread out the flow of passengers entering the hotel.  I was assigned a 1 pm check-in time. When I arrived at the hotel, they took my temperature, gave me hand sanitizer, and told me to head to the testing area.

The check-in and test took just a couple minutes, was a really smooth process.  After we were tested, we headed to a large conference room to check-in for our cruise and to wait for our test results.

It was around 40 minutes before I received the email saying that my test came back negative. I was cleared to board the ship and hopped on a shuttle bus for the short ride to the pier.

Even though crew members haven’t worked a sailing in over a year, it was like they haven’t missed a beat.  Everywhere on the ship I’m met with a friendly hello and service has far exceeded my expectations.

Several crew members already say “Hello Ben” every time when I walk by them, have never had so many remember my name on the first day.  You can tell they are happy to once again be working on a ship.

The ship is sailing at around 30% capacity so the ship obviously never feels crowded. I’m loving every minute of it, there are plenty of chairs anywhere you want to sit, including the pool deck and solarium.

Royal Caribbean has implemented several social distancing measure to help keep guests safe.  Lounge chairs on the pool deck are separated into sections of two and many tables in Windjammer and other restaurants are closed to allow for spacing between guests.

Speaking of the Windjammer, it is open and as good as ever. The only real change is that the crew now puts the food on the plate for you, no more self serve.  This helps keep guests safe and will definitely help cut down on food waste.

Menus at bars and at restaurants is now done with QR codes and your cell phone, it comes in really handy. Also, the Cruise Compass is no longer dropped off in your cabin. Everything is done on the Royal Caribbean App. However, I did see some a handful of Cruise Compasses available near the customer service desk for those who still want a paper copy. It’s only day one, so we’ll see if things change throughout the cruise.

All adults on this cruise have been full vaccinated, and also the crew.  Masks are optional and I’ve only seen one or two passengers wearing one.  Crew members however wear a mask at all times.

I was afraid when cruises started back up that with all of the new health protocols, it would greatly affect the cruise experience and wouldn’t be as enjoyable.  Royal Caribbean has managed to keep the cruise experience virtually the same yet add in the extra protections needed to keep guests safe. I’ve been on over 40 cruises and the experience on this one is pretty much like the others.

It really feels good to be back on a cruise ship and hopefully many of our readers will be able to experience that embarkation feeling again soon.

I will write more as the cruise goes on.  So far, the first 10 hours on board have been nothing short of superb.

Our cruise will spend two days at CocoCay, a sea day, Cozumel, sea day, and then a visit to Grand Bahama Island to finish the cruise.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise NewsRoyal CaribbeanFirst Impressions of Royal Caribbean's First Cruise to the Caribbean in 15...

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