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Royal Caribbean - Wonder of the Seas (Western Caribbean Cruise)

April 18, 2022

After recently getting off Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the Wonder of the Seas, I am happy to declare - Cruising is back and I’m here for it.

When the opportunity came up to join Royal Caribbean’s RepCon at the end of March, I was thrilled. RepCon is an annual meeting put together by the Casino Marketing team at Royal Caribbean. As we’re always considering new opportunities to keep our program fresh and exciting, Julia and I quickly signed up and started planning for what would be an unforgettable week onboard the newest and biggest ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas.

Cruises are packed full of different options and activities - so much so, that it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what to do and when to do it. Below I’ve outlined how we approached this cruise, from what to book beforehand to how to spend a perfect day onboard the ship and much more.

BEFORE DEPARTURE

Our last cruise was in 2020, so we were a little rusty on what we needed to complete beforehand. First we downloaded Royal Caribbean’s app, which is very user friendly, easy to use, and really comes in handy while you’re on the ship. Next, we logged into our Cruise Planner account on Royal Caribbean’s website (this is separate from the app, and where you go to book dining, shore excursions, and more before your trip departs). 

Cruise Planner offers discounts on just about everything leading up to your cruise (dining, excursions, beverage and wifi packages), so you’ll definitely want to get things booked before your departure to take advantage of the pricing. This is the best time to book:

Dining packages
  • Discounted package prices, as well as better speciality dining reservation time options are offered. Once you board the ship, prime time slots can be hard to come by. We set our meals up two weeks in advance and had no issue getting reservations at our preferred times. (Insider tip - the Solarium Bistro is already included in the price of your cruise on Royal Caribbean, but requires reservations. If you want to mix it up without spending extra money, book a dinner reservation here!)
Beverage Packages
  • Drink packages will also be offered at a discount before departure. This is a good time to take stock of how much you anticipate drinking, with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options available.
Shore Excursions
  • Similar to the dining packages, shore excursions will be offered at a discounted rate. Book as early as possible before the popular ones sell out. I’d recommend setting up shore excursions shortly after booking. We set ours up approximately 2 weeks prior to sailing and had a wide variety, but there were a few that had already sold out.  
Wifi
  • Discounts on wifi packages are also available before departure. Royal Caribbean offers some of the best wifi quality and prices at sea, so this is a great time to figure out what your needs will be and book ahead.

Before you leave for your cruise, it’s also important to check the health requirements for boarding - which can be viewed in Royal Caribbean’s app or on their website. For our cruise, we needed to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test taken within two days of sailing. Requirements are always subject to change, so make sure you’re checking Royal’s website and staying on top of what is required for your specific cruise. Taking and submitting the test was a breeze! 

CHECK IN & BOARDING

We completed our check in a couple of days ahead of time, both to lower our day of travel stress and speed up our check in process at the terminal in Fort Lauderdale. Check in can be completed through the Royal Caribbean app, and can be completed in about five to ten minutes.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise departure to ensure we had no issues getting to the ship on time. This was partly due to our ship departing the week of Spring Break, and I frankly couldn’t get out of Indiana in early spring quickly enough. On the day of our cruise, a quick Uber ride from our hotel by the airport got us to Port Everglades in about ten minutes. Once there, you have the option to check your bags at the curb (meaning they will be delivered to your room later), or carry your bags on yourself. We opted to carry our bags ourselves - as we’re fairly light travelers, I’d pick this option again even with a larger bag.

Our check in time was a little later in the day, so we arrived at the cruise terminal around 2:30pm and the lines were easy to get through. I timed it myself, and we made it from Uber drop-off to in our stateroom in 50 minutes - that being said, we did hear the wait times did get a bit longer earlier in the day. We went through security, then were checked in by a Royal Caribbean staff member who looked over our passports, vaccination cards, and negative Covid-19 tests. Since we had already checked in online, this process only took a few minutes (though we were told that earlier in the day the lines were much longer. Bring your patience - it’s all worth it once you’re onboard!). Easy check-in can be managed with a little preparation, and having your travel documents handy and available. 

ON THE SHIP

We made it onboard! For our cruise, we could take our masks off once we left the terminal and boarded the ship, and we weren’t required to wear them the rest of the time until we got back to the terminal in Fort Lauderdale. 

If you need to get to the casino ASAP, there's two slides that operate faster than an elevator

My first impression was that the Wonder felt more like a resort than a ship, and I mean that in the best way possible. 

The first stop was our room, a standard ocean facing balcony that felt very spacious. The layout made great use of the square footage, with nice sized closets on each side of the bed, a sitting area with a couch and desk, and bathroom well fit for us. We were more than happy with our accommodations for the week. From my experience, Royal Caribbean’s stateroom felt much closer to a hotel room, than a stateroom on a ship. We had an excellent attendant who turned our room down twice a day - James was a rockstar! I was really impressed with their level of service. 

There’s so much to discover onboard any Royal Caribbean ship, so we dropped our bags and started exploring right away.

Our balcony stateroom!

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS 

The Wonder of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship in the world, and it’s full of onboard activities to keep thousands of people entertained. The ship has ample deck space, several different open air hang out areas and much more, giving people plenty of room to spread out and keep things from feeling crowded. 

On a typical day at sea, we would wake up and hit the running and walking track or gym to get our bodies moving before the inevitable calorie fest that would ensue. The gym is great - no shortage of machines, different classes like spin and yoga, and my personal favorite, treadmills that face windows overlooking the ocean. After that, we’d grab coffee and a bite to eat at the Windjammer Cafe (hello, lox bar and endless fresh fruit). 

Fresh fruit is available... but so are tons of donuts!
A standard Julia and Joe breakfast at the Windjammer.

The Windjammer Cafe changed the way I think about buffet-style dining for the better. Handwashing stations were available upon entering, and all food and dishes were served by attendants on board. We ate breakfast there each day, and popped down once or twice for lunch as well. For those looking for a more traditional breakfast, the main dining room had a daily breakfast as well.

We loved the handwashing station!

Next we’d make our way to the pool deck, where you have four different areas to choose from. Two pools with a more upbeat vibe (definitely not too wild, but great for people watching) toward the back of the ship, one pool with a more chill vibe toward the front of the ship, and a kids water park across from that. We never had an issue getting chairs, even during prime time. 

A view from the pooldeck

Seats for the whole crew!

There’s also an adults only indoor-solarium with another pool, hot tubs, and more lounge chairs and hangout areas at the very front of the ship. It was nice to have an adults only area as an option, and this area was a great option when it started raining, or for those getting a little too much sun. This area is a great space for those looking to get a break from the sun, but don’t quite want to make it back to their stateroom.

After our first pool session of the day, we’d typically take a break from the sun to grab lunch. Again, the Windjammer made for an easy lunch, and we also enjoyed 150 Central Park (Palate-pleasing apps and elevated classic entrees) and Giovanni’s (Old-World Italian) for something a little more upscale. After lunch was usually a great time for an activity like mini golf in the aft of the ship overlooking the ocean (how often do you get to do that?!) or back to the pool for more relaxing and people watching.

I took this more seriously than I'd care to admit

In the early evening, we particularly enjoyed hanging out at Central Park before dinner, an open air gathering space in the middle of the ship. Some days we’d go with a glass of wine, other days we’d bring a deck of cards for an intense game of rummy. I am not too proud to admit I didn’t beat Julia ONCE in rummy over the course of the week - the professional circuit just isn’t in the cards for me.

A view from inside Central Park

Either way, Central Park is such a great part of the Wonder of the Seas, and unique to the Oasis class of ships. It was our favorite hang across the ship, and felt like our own little hideaway, even in the center of it all. Central Park includes access to a few different restaurants, had live jazz music playing most nights, and a delightful wine bar in the middle of it all. For me personally, Central Park was what elevated the experience beyond just another cruise.

Another view from Central Park

Dinner was something to look forward to every evening, with varied menus (and always dessert!) waiting for us each night. The Main Dining Room, which is included with the cruise, was a dependable dining option that offered something for everyone and great service. Giovanni’s, a specialty restaurant, had perhaps the best dish of the week in the Truffle Caprese Salad. The Mason Jar, a Southern food specialty restaurant and new dining concept for Royal Caribbean, was a delicious way to end the trip, and live music in the bar area made for an elevated and lively experience.

Night owls will find no shortage of activities on a Royal Caribbean cruise. For something lively, we had a good time testing our luck at the expansive and upbeat casino floor or the Golden Room. On evenings that we wanted to relax, Central Park always had a jazz group or acoustic guitarist playing. Each night there was a range of shows to choose from, whether it was the impressive aquatheater show off the Boardwalk, an ice skating show in Studio B, or a comedy show in the Royal Theater. The Royal Promenade was another area full of activity at night - think karaoke, several bars, live music, shopping, and more. 

Casinos and Loyalty Program

Casino Royale is the casino on Royal Caribbean, and also the name of their loyalty program. Casino Royale is an expansive gaming area, and offers all of your favorite games in plenty of denominations. There’s a video poker bar in the center of the casino, and tons of slot machines and a variety of table games. For guests new to Club Royale, tier status may be available for matching and can be reviewed at the time of booking. 

Casino Royale offers daily free play giveaways, prize offerings, and more. Guests are available to smoke in the casino as well, and I will say, the vents do a good job of pulling the smoke out of the air for those who don’t partake. 

A small but great detail I loved is that 11PM, Club Royale and the Golden Room both offer a small buffet for those looking for a late-night snack! If you miss a certain pre-Covid Lounge named after the world’s most sought after gemstone, I think you’re going to enjoy the finer touches from the casino. 

For those interested in the finer details - tier and reward credits at comparable rates to your favorite land-based loyalty programs. The team at Casino Royale are taking innovative steps forward with a few exciting options for guests on the Wonder of the Seas

  • The chips are “chipped” - All chips on the Wonder of the Seas have a small piece of technology in them that allow for Blackjack dealers to calculate your average bet, time played, win/loss, and more. This is an awesome innovation and should help with proper ratings for Blackjack players
  • Voucher In, Voucher Out (VIVO) - Guests may exchange chips for vouchers, and vice versa
  • W2 Jackpot limit at $5,000 - Guests have the option to have W2s automatically sent to them for jackpots between $1,200 and $5,000 - this means if you hit a jackpot between $1,200 and $5,000, you can keep on playing and don’t have to wait for an attendant! 

Golden Room

The Golden Room is the first of its kind in the US market - and is a smaller, smoke-free gaming area around the corner from the main gaming room (Casino Royale). I’d estimate there’s between 30 and 40 slot machines, as well as a roulette table, and two blackjack tables. The Golden Room offers free-play drawings separate from the main casino, and also hosts a morning Mimosa Hour, and afternoon Champagne Hour. 

This is an awesome gaming area I’m excited to share with all of you for those who have begun to appreciate a smoke-free gaming area, or just looking for a quieter, more toned-back option from the main gaming room. And yes, they do an 11 PM buffet as well!

OFF SHIP HIGHLIGHTS 

First Stop - Roatan, Honduras

Our first port was Roatan, Honduras, where we booked a shore excursion through the cruise line to go snorkeling. This ended up being a good decision, and Roatan is a port that I’d definitely recommend for setting up an excursion. 3 Sites Snorkel & Beach Club was a great choice, even with a downpour on our boat ride back to shore! After snorkeling we had time at a private beach club. With the rain it wasn’t ideal for laying out, but we made the most of the day at the beach side restaurant, enjoying a few drinks and meeting new friends. 

Second Stop - Cozumel, Mexico

The next day we were in Cozumel, where we decided to explore on our own. First we took a ~5 minute taxi into San Miguel de Cozumel, where we walked around and got a feel for the town. We also stopped at a roadside taqueria for a ceviche torta, which was delicious! Be careful with the hot sauce though, when they say hot they mean it.

Then we took another ~5 minute taxi to a beach club where we could lay out, swim, and enjoy more ceviche (are you noticing a trend?). Cozumel was packed with things to do - either shore excursions or on your own - and I felt that we could return there many times before getting tired of it.

A beautiful sunrise from the ship in Cozumel!

THIRD STOP - Costa Maya, Mexico

Our third stop was Costa Maya, where many people like to see the Mayan ruins. People had great things to say about that, but we opted to take a short 5 minute taxi into the nearby town of Mahahual. Our taxi driver dropped us right on the beach where a stretch of pedestrian-only road featured shops on one side and the ocean on the other. There were all kinds of spots to grab a lounge chair or table right on the water, and usually there was no rental fee so long as you ordered some food. We enjoyed perfect weather and loved the laid back feel of this little town - making it an all around really nice port stop.

Julia scouting out the perfect spot for a margarita

FOURTH STOP - CocoCay, Bahamas

Our last stop on the cruise was CocoCay, and we didn’t know what to expect here. Cococay is Royal Caribbean’s private island, and ended up being the perfect way to end the cruise. The island is packed with things to do in several different areas, from a theme park to a lagoon and a pool with a swim up bar, multiple beaches, and plenty of spots to hang.

There were two ships there on our day, and even so, we had no issue getting beach chairs. Casino Royale also treated the rep group to a few cabana rentals on Chill Island, which was awesome, and appropriately named. We had our own area of the beach to swim, sunbathe, or snorkel and it was nice to experience this option. However, you definitely don’t need the cabana rental to have a great time at Cococay. 

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

I’m going to drop in a few random final thoughts here

  • We received an offer to have our laundry done for $35 ~half way through the week (I believe it was on night 3 or 4). Knowing this was the cost, I’d pay to do this next time and pack a little lighter
  • It’s no secret I’m the tech guy at work, but I really appreciated having a mechanical watch all week (as opposed to a Fitbit or Apple Watch). It was much easier to match to the ship time, and not worry if my iPhone was reading from Florida, or somewhere else. It made it a no-brainer to know when we needed to be somewhere, or how much time left we had at a port
  • Something I really liked was that our “SeaPass Card” acted as our ship ID, room key, AND Players Card. I like being organized, and tossing up to three more cards into my wallet for the week always kinda bugs me.
  • Next time, I’m bringing a travel wallet for when we’re at port or just going to the pool. I like traveling light, and always felt like I was forgetting something when taking out only what I needed from my wallet (when I didn’t want to have everything on me).
  • I really, really liked the handwashing stations outside of the buffet. I’m not crazy about hand sanitizer, and would always prefer to actually wash my hands. I think the handwashing stations at the buffet are an awesome improvement from hand sanitizers , and I wish I saw them more often besides just at the buffet on a cruise. 

WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME

I’ll blame it on being out of practice, but we were a little late to the game on booking our shows, dining, and excursions. Because of this, we missed a couple of shows and shore excursions that sold out. We also ate a bit late for some of the specialty dining, which is not a deal breaker, but next time I would try for more prime time spots. I’d highly recommend setting up your can’t-miss dining and events just after you finish booking.

WHAT WE WOULD DO AGAIN

All of it! I’d go back on the Wonder, or any Oasis class ship in a heartbeat. This was a best in class ship with so much to discover and experience. We traveled to new places, ate delicious food, and made new friends. When is the next one?! 

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