How I had the busiest 2 days ever on Royal Caribbean’s new Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

Mar 11, 2022

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My very first sailing on an Oasis-class cruise ship was in 2009, when the class’ namesake (Oasis of the Seas, then the largest ship in the world) debuted. I was in my early 20s, so my boss assigned me as the guinea pig to tackle as many of the ship’s offerings as possible in the short two-day window we had on board.

Now, 13 years later, I’m on Royal Caribbean‘s Wonder of the Seas. It’s the line’s newest ship and the world’s largest, so this feels a bit like deja vu. At nearly 40, I decided to try to recreate the experience by packing in as much as I could into two days and evaluating whether or not I’d run out of steam by the end.

Here’s a rundown of two of my most active days ever on a cruise ship, which things I checked off my list and how I managed to survive.

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In This Post

Getting started

Royal Caribbean's daily Cruise Compass lists activities
Royal Caribbean’s daily Cruise Compass lists activities and hours of operation. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

To begin, I made a list of activities I wanted to try. Initially, I hoped to accomplish all of them in a single day for this piece. However, I quickly discovered that not all activities are operational on all days.

My plan was to knock off as many as I could on a port day, hoping that the onboard crowds would be thinner. They were, of course, but the fact that so many people were ashore meant that operating hours for certain attractions were limited. This meant I needed to make a few exceptions and spread my ambitions over two days instead.

It required some creative planning and heavy use of the Royal Caribbean app and daily Cruise Compass schedule, but ultimately, it worked.

Note: Although I did experience them, I have not included dining, production shows or activities like trivia in this article. For the purposes of this challenge, I have focused on active pursuits or things cruisers can only find on Royal Caribbean ships.

@thepointsguy Have you ever been on a cruise before? @Royal Caribbean #cruise ♬ original sound – The Points Guy

Day 1

Embarkation day was a flurry of activity, and I spent the second day on board acclimating to the vessel. So, for the first day of this challenge, I chose the third day of the sailing, when Wonder of the Seas called on Labadee, Haiti. I had never been there, so I knew I wanted to book an excursion. That meant I had to split the rest of my day into two parts: pre-excursion and post-excursion.

Below are the activities I tried, in the order I tried them.

Mini-golf

Mini-golf course on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
Mini-golf course on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

After snagging some Starbucks from Cafe Promenade, I made my way up to Deck 16 to try my hand at mini-golf. There was nobody else up there, and the nine-hole course was a great way to spend half an hour.

Balls and clubs for both kids and adults are kept in a small kiosk on the course. Since we were docked, the wind wasn’t much of a factor, which greatly helped my game.

The setup is fun, and it features sea animals. The colorful “greens” and location right next to the ship’s new Wonder PlayScape children’s play area, however, mean it’s difficult to determine that it’s a golf course and not part of the giant play structure.

Ping-Pong

My next stop was one of the Ping-Pong tables, near the mini-golf course on Deck 16, where I shared a few volleys with one of my coworkers.

There are several tables with paddles and balls in a shaded open-top area that’s enclosed to prevent balls from escaping.

Pickleball

Adjacent to the Ping-Pong table area is the ship’s athletic court. At different times throughout each day, you’ll find it set up for a variety of sports, including basketball, soccer and pickleball.

I’m much more partial to basketball, and I hadn’t played pickleball since high school gym class. However, that’s what was happening when we were there, so it’s what we played. My coworker is basically a tennis pro, so I was at a severe disadvantage. It was still fun to hit some whiffle balls around, though.

Tip: The court is open to the sun, so be sure to put on sunscreen or wear protective clothing.

Arcade

Rubber ducks, won at the arcade on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
Rubber ducks won at the arcade on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Concluding the morning session of fun was the Wonder of the Seas arcade — the last place I stopped before disembarking for my shore excursion.

I have a serious problem when it comes to claw machines. The last thing I need is a stuffed animal, but there’s something about the thrill that gets me every time. After spending more money than any adult should on such things, I discovered a smaller machine in the corner that offers rubber ducks as prizes.

If you’re an avid cruiser, you might be familiar with the concept of hiding rubber ducks for others to find. I decided to win a bunch, attach my business card and enlist the help of my other coworker’s 8-year-old daughter to hide them in some of the ship’s common areas.

Shore excursion

Because I had never been to Labadee before, I booked a 1 p.m. walking tour of the immediate area, led by a local guide. He took us on a 2-mile stroll to see beaches, including Columbus Cove, and a rock shaped like a dragon as he thanked us for returning after the industry’s pandemic shutdown.

I found the stories a bit hard to follow at times, but it was a nice way to get outside and learn about some of Haiti’s history.

Rock climbing

One of two rock walls on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
One of two rock walls on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Back on board, I made my way to the Deck 7 rock climbing wall, which is a scaled-down version of what you might find at a rock climbing gym.

I exchanged my sneakers for climbing shoes, stepped into a harness and was advised to try the middle section, which is for beginners. I made it about halfway up before panic set in, and I bailed.

Oddly, I didn’t have to fill out a waiver for this, despite signage to the contrary. Remember to wear socks, or you won’t be allowed to give it a go.

Zip line

Next, I paid another visit to Deck 16, where the zip line is located. Two attendants handed me a helmet and helped me step into a harness that they tightened and adjusted.

Several times, I had to run back and forth to my colleague, who was waiting at the other end, to give him various items. It makes sense that you can’t have any loose articles in your pockets, but I was also told to remove my Fitbit, which was fastened securely with a watch band.

They also asked me to remove a somewhat elaborate ear piercing. When I said I wasn’t sure if I could, they had me wait while they cleared it with their boss. (It ended up being fine, but leave any crazy jewelry in your cabin, and make sure to wear closed-toed shoes and pants, not shorts.)

I didn’t have to fill out a waiver for this, either, which I’ve had to do in the past on other Royal Caribbean ships.

Ultimate Abyss

From the zip line, I went straight to the Ultimate Abyss dry slide. The entrance is on Deck 16, but the experience twists and turns down 10 stories before ending on Deck 6 in the Boardwalk.

If you want to try it, you’ll have to sit on top of a carpet-like mat with a closed end for your feet. There are hand loops you grab with your hands crossed, so as not to skin your elbows on the way down.

I watched a brief tutorial from a crew member, and I was on my way. It’s not exactly a thrilling ride, but it’s fun to try once. It’s also great for kids.

Carousel

The carousel on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
The carousel and dual Ultimate Abyss slides at The Boardwalk on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Although the carousel isn’t exactly the best diversion for adrenaline junkies, I opted to try it since it’s near the Ultimate Abyss exit.

I hopped on, chose a horse and was off with the “ding” of the operator’s bell. I was the only rider, and I have to admit that the longer the ride went on — it seemed to last forever — the more embarrassed I felt. I was pleased to see more adults riding it as the cruise went on, however.

It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s ideal for kids, and it does make for great photos.

Day 2

Two of the major activities I wanted to include — ice skating and laser tag — weren’t offered until later in the sailing, so the second day of this challenge wasn’t until the sixth day of the cruise, when we were in Nassau. Because I’ve been to the Bahamian capital many times, I decided to stay on the ship to finish off the list. I’m not a fan of pool water, so I put the FlowRider and water slides off until the last minute also.

Note: The ship also has an escape room that I wanted to try, but it wasn’t open on this sailing. Due to supply chain issues, it isn’t yet operational.

Ice skating

Studio B ice skating rink on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
Studio B ice skating rink on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Wonder of the Seas’ Studio B is a multipurpose venue on Deck 4. It’s usually an ice rink, where a group of talented skaters performs shows throughout each sailing. At other times, it serves as a nightclub for parties, and it’s also where the ship’s laser tag arena is set up. On select days, it’s open to passengers who want to try ice skating.

After signing an electronic waiver, I wandered down onto the stage area, where the professional skaters — who oversee open skating when they aren’t performing — gave me a helmet and a pair of skates in my size. I laced up and headed inside the rink.

The ship does have its own miniature Zamboni, but the ice was still a bit pitted, so be careful, especially if you’re planning to try it with young children.

Laser tag

I only saw laser tag offered on one day of the cruise, so I showed up right on time, thinking it would be crowded, and I was right. The line stretched halfway down the hall near Studio B.

A crew member counted off 14 people at a time — enough for two teams of seven. The teams competed against one another inside an inflatable castle that took up the entirety of the ice rink. Everyone else was allowed to come inside to watch while they waited for their turn to play.

We suited up with black vests that had laser blasters attached and, after some instruction, were turned loose into the course. The experience lasts about 15 minutes, and results, including team and individual scores, are posted on screens above the crowd.

FlowRider

A passenger surfs on the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas
A passenger surfs on the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

There’s only one FlowRider on Wonder of the Seas, as opposed to two on other Oasis-class ships. Even with the cutback, I never saw the line more than a handful of people long on my sailing.

Boogie boarding is significantly less dangerous than stand-up surfing, and the process for the latter is cumbersome. Passengers must first sign a waiver and complete several quick stretching and movement exercises in the presence of a crew member to ensure mobility. When that is complete, you get a white wristband.

When it’s your turn, you have two attempts to get it right with minimal wobbling. If you’re successful, you get a blue wristband that allows you to surf during any open surfing sessions for the rest of the cruise. If you’re not, you have to come back the next day to try again.

Note that, following a change in policy, crew members are no longer able to give physical assistance to passengers with regard to getting the board onto the water jets. I had to do it myself, and I couldn’t seem to get the board unstuck from the mat. I kept my balance, but ultimately — despite having done the FlowRider several times before on other vessels — I wasn’t successful and had to move on to my next activity. I suspect a large part of it was mental, as I battled a severe case of the butterflies the whole time.

Water slides

Since I was already wet from the FlowRider, I nursed my shattered pride by making my way over to The Perfect Storm trio of water slides for fun that’s a bit easier to have.

Starting on Deck 15, I climbed to the top, on Deck 18, via a set of stairs that seemed to wind forever. Once there, I waited just a couple of minutes for the two people in front of me to go, was given brief instruction by a crew member and was on my way.

I chose the orange Supercell slide, which sends you down a couple of decks before spitting you out into a funnel-shaped bowl. The heavier you are and faster you’re going, the more times around the bowl you’ll go. Expect to get stuck near the drop down to the finishing area. (Just scoot yourself into the tunnel.)

Wet and still stinging from my less-than-stellar FlowRider performance, I decided to call it a day, but first …

Massage

The writer enjoys a glass of wine at the spa
At the spa with a glass of wine after a long couple of days. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

… I ordered a glass of wine from the nearest bar and went to the spa on Deck 6 to see if they had any openings for a massage. I figured I had earned it.

While I waited, I kicked back on a heated tile lounger that seemed to melt away all of the soreness caused by the rock wall and ice skating.

My 50-minute hot stone massage was absolutely fantastic. My muscles were still aching, but now it was a good ache.

Cost

One of the best parts about this experience is that most of the activities are free. I paid extra to play in the arcade (roughly $2 to $5 per play, depending on the game), to go on the shore excursion in Labadee ($23.75 for one adult for the one-hour walking tour) and to have my celebratory spa treatment ($199.54 for a 50-minute hot stone massage, including tip).

Ultimately, though, it’s easy to have a wonderfully fun and action-packed day without spending an extra dime. That’s great news for families or cruisers on tight budgets. Just note that when the escape room opens, it will also come with a surcharge.

Tips for surviving your own busy day

So, can you do everything on Royal Caribbean‘s Wonder of the Seas in one day?

In terms of how long it takes to complete each activity, absolutely. The issue is more about logistics and the fact that not all activities are likely to be offered on the same day, so you’ll have to pace yourself accordingly.

I’m impressed that I was able to complete just about everything on my list — or at least attempt it. I’m not as adventurous as I once was, but I still held my own. I’m annoyed that I wasn’t able to do the FlowRider, particularly because I think I was more in my own head about it than I should have been. (The older I get, the more aware I become of my own mortality.)

The key to a busy day on any ship, but especially a behemoth like Wonder of the Seas, is to know your limits. Make a schedule based on operating hours for the activities you want to complete, and plan to arrive early if you can. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and — most importantly — be flexible. If something goes wrong, remember: You can always try again later.

On a ship this big, it’s easy to think about what you want to do next instead of focus on what you’re doing right now. Don’t let the desire to do and see everything keep you from being in the moment. Above all else, have fun.

Featured photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.

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