The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Royal Caribbean cruise
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Is a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship on your bucket list? You’ll find no shortage of options when it comes time to pick an itinerary.
The world’s biggest cruise line by passenger capacity offers voyages in almost every corner of the world, from the Caribbean to the waters around Australia and New Zealand.
Royal Caribbean operates 25 cruise ships, more than any other major cruise line. That allows it to deploy vessels on all the classic cruise itineraries in places like the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska while still having ships left over for more exotic routes.
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That said, Royal Caribbean has a distinct focus on the Caribbean and Europe — the most popular destinations for its regular customers. In a typical summer, the line will deploy about half its ships on sailings to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda while sending another six or seven vessels to Europe. The line typically sends three to four ships to Alaska every summer.
During the winter, the line will move even more of its ships to the Caribbean and also send a few to Asia and Australia.
In all, Royal Caribbean’s ships visit more than 300 different ports around the world. Here are five of the top destinations you can reach on a Royal Caribbean ship:
The Caribbean and the Bahamas
There’s a reason the word “Caribbean” is in Royal Caribbean’s name. The line got its start operating cruises to the Caribbean (way back in 1968), and the region still accounts for a big part of its business.
In fact, the line typically deploys well over half its fleet to the Caribbean and Bahamas for at least part of the year. During the winter, the line will have most of its ships in the region. Before COVID-19 caused Royal Caribbean to adjust schedules for this winter, for instance, the line was planning to have 20 of its 25 vessels sailing in the Caribbean and Bahamas.
Royal Caribbean offers a broad range of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries from more than half a dozen home ports. If you’re looking for something short, the line has you covered in the form of lots of quick, three- and four-night trips from Florida ports to the Bahamas. But it also offers an abundance of seven-night sailings to Caribbean and Bahamas ports as well as a handful of longer trips in the region that range from nine to 14 nights.
At the core of the line’s Caribbean and Bahamas program are its seven-night sailings, which break down into three broad categories:
- Eastern Caribbean voyages.
- Western Caribbean voyages.
- Southern Caribbean voyages.
A typical seven-night Royal Caribbean sailing in the Eastern Caribbean will include stops at St. Martin, St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, the line’s private island in the Bahamas. But the line sometimes swaps in stops at other islands such as Puerto Rico or St. Kitts. There typically are three and sometimes four calls on an Eastern Caribbean cruise.
Royal Caribbean’s seven-night Western Caribbean voyages typically will include three or four stops at some mix of the following destinations: Mexico (Cozumel or Costa Maya), Honduras, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Belize. Some also include a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay and also Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach destination in Haiti.
The line’s seven-night Southern Caribbean itineraries are more destination-heavy with five or even six separate calls. They sometimes include a couple of stops at relatively northward islands such as St. Thomas and St. Martin but focus heavily on southerly islands such as Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao.
When sailing to the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean ships generally sail out of PortMiami, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and Tampa in Florida; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Galveston, Texas; Bayonne, New Jersey (one of the ports for New York City); and Baltimore.
The line also just launched its first-ever Caribbean sailings out of Barbados. The voyages out of Barbados all will be Southern Caribbean trips. Using Barbados as a hub will allow Royal Caribbean to offer Southern Caribbean trips that are heavy in southerly islands.
Australia and New Zealand
Royal Caribbean has been sending at least one and often several ships to Australia every winter for many years, offering a wide range of itineraries out of Sydney and Brisbane that make calls not just around Australia but also in New Zealand.
While the itineraries in the region that the line offers vary in length from just two nights to 15 nights, the shorter voyages are primarily aimed at a local Australian crowd looking for a quick getaway. Among North Americans, the most popular itineraries are the longer ones, which often are heavily skewed to stops in New Zealand.
Among several New Zealand itineraries are 12-night voyages from Sydney that feature an all-New Zealand lineup of calls: Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Picton.
A 15-night New Zealand itinerary out of Sydney features cruising in New Zealand’s famed Milford Sound as well as Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound as well as stops in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga, Auckland and Bay of Islands.
Note that Royal Caribbean’s Australia and New Zealand sailings have been on hold since 2020 due to Australia’s COVID-19-related travel restrictions. They are expected to resume in the fall of 2022.
Royal Caribbean isn’t the biggest player in Alaska cruises. The giants of cruising to Alaska are Princess Cruises and Holland America, which are sister lines that control a large percentage of the market. Still, Royal Caribbean has a significant presence in Alaska, and its big, activity-filled ships are a popular pick with families looking to visit the destination.
The Alaska cruise season is a short one, lasting roughly from May to September. Last year, Royal Caribbean operated an abbreviated Alaska season due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. But for the 2022 season, the line is expecting a normal season starting in May. It plans to have four ships in the region — all operating seven-night sailings.
- Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas: These 4,180-passenger sister vessels are Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest ships scheduled to visit Alaska. They’ll sail to Alaska round-trip from Seattle with calls at such Alaskan ports as Sitka, Juneau and Skagway; and Victoria, British Columbia. They’ll also visit Endicott Arm for glacier viewing.
- Serenade of the Seas: The 2,146-passenger ship will sail to Alaska round-trip from Vancouver with a visit to Tracy Arm Fjord and calls at three or four of the following Alaska towns: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Haines and Sitka.
- Radiance of the Seas: The 2,143-passenger Radiance of the Seas will sail one-way Alaska voyages between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska. Calls will include Hubbard Glacier and four or five of the following Alaska destinations: Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and Haines.
The appeal of the one-way sailings on Radiance of the Seas is that they can be combined with Royal Caribbean-organized land tours of Alaska lasting from two to five days to create nine- to 12-night “cruisetours.” The land tour portion of such trips brings visits to such well-known interior Alaska locations as Denali National Park and the town of Fairbanks.
Royal Caribbean is a major player in Europe, with a wide range of itineraries in the Mediterranean and across Northern Europe.
Some of the line’s signature Mediterranean routings offer the chance to see such iconic destinations as Barcelona, Spain, and Florence, Rome and Naples in Italy in a single cruise. Or, you can sign up for a Mediterranean cruise that focuses on the Greek Islands.
In Northern Europe, Royal Caribbean will take you to such famed Baltic cities as Stockholm; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki; and St. Petersburg, Russia, in a single sailing. Itineraries that zero in on the Norwegian fjords also are available.
In all, the line traditionally deploys around 10 vessels to the region each year on a seasonal basis, with the ships staying from spring until fall. Voyages range from three to 14 nights in length.
Among the longest sailings that Royal Caribbean offers in Europe are 12-night trips out of Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome), that include an overnight stay in Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens), and day stops in Rhodes, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey (for a visit to the ruins of Ephesus); Ashdod and Haifa, Israel; and Naples.
In Northern Europe, Royal Caribbean ships mostly sail out of Southampton, England; Amsterdam; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Stockholm.
In the Mediterranean, the line’s hubs are Barcelona, Civitavecchia and — starting soon — Ravenna, Italy (which is taking the place of Venice as a home port).
In recent years, Royal Caribbean has built up a big business selling cruises out of Chinese ports such as Shanghai and Tianjin (the port for Beijing) that are aimed squarely at the Chinese market. They offer Chinese-language programming and Chinese-centric food and activities. But Royal Caribbean also markets some Asia voyages to North Americans.
Among itineraries that are meant for a Western crowd are nine-night Thailand and Vietnam cruises out of Singapore that include stops at Bintan Island, Indonesia; Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Bangkok.
There also are 10-night “Japan Explorer” sailings that take in Aomori, Hakodate, Akita, Kanazawa, Sakaiminato and Kagoshima, Japan; and Busan, South Korea.
As with Royal Caribbean’s sailings around Australia and New Zealand, some of the line’s Asia sailings have been on hold over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the voyages are expected to resume over the coming year.
Royal Caribbean has one of the biggest fleets of oceangoing cruise ships in the world, and that allows it to offer a wide range of itineraries. If you’re thinking of a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The line is perhaps best known for its Caribbean sailings — at certain times of the year, it deploys almost all its ships to the region. But you’ll also find wonderful Royal Caribbean itineraries everywhere from Alaska to Europe and Asia.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured photo of courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
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