Hi: totally new to the concept of going on a cruise, but just saw the low prices, and the ship and it looks like a great value and a lot of fun. Would be for me and my wife and 10 soon to be 11 year old daughter.
I have been looking at the royal caribbean web site but can't seem to find easy answers that would help me prepare a budget.
OK, there is a lot of kids activities, etc. such as Adventure Ocean Youth Program. Are all of the kids activities free included in the price? How about things such as ice skating? How about other kinds of entertainment, shows etc?
There are various venues to dine, are most of them included in the price?
I believe the Adventure Ocean program is included in the price of the cruise. Your cruise price includes meals in either the main dining room or the Windjammer, stateroom accommodations, and nightly entertainment.
Most activities onboard the ship, such as ice skating, rock climbing, and the pools are also included in the price of the cruise. Bingo you would have to pay for, if that's something that you like to do.
As far as dining, the dining venues that are included in the price of your cruise would be the main dining room and the Windjammer cafe. Other restaurants onboard the ship would be extra. You don't mention the name of the ship, but if it has a Cafe Promenade, there are some items there that are free, and some you have to pay for. I believe specialty coffee there you have to pay for, but if it's just regular coffee, that's free.
The only beverages included in your price would be water, iced tea, and I think coffee. Alcohol and soda you have to pay for. If your son drinks a lot of soda, then you might consider a soda package. That is unlimited fountain soda for $6.00 per day. However, you would have to drink at least 3 cans of soda per day (what they would usually give you without the package), in order for that to pay off.
2007 - Majesty of the Seas
2009 - Enchantment of the Seas
2010 - Freedom of the Seas
The youth programs and shows are included in your cruise fare. Food in the Windjammer buffet and main dining room is also included, plus room service food and, depending on the ship, you also have other 'free' food choices such as Sorrento's pizza and Cafe Promenade. If the ship has a Hot Dog Haus (they are adding them to older ships after it was a hit on the Allure Of The Seas), then it is included as well. Note that room service orders between midnight and 5am do have a $3.95 delivery fee. Also, at any time of the day or evening, if you order room service it is proper to give the deliverer a couple bucks tip.
Extra-fee dining includes Johnny Rockets, Chops, Portofino, Giovanni's Table, and other venues that depend on the ship. Some ships have more than the others.
Gratuities for your dining and cabin staff are extra, as are all bar purchases which includes soda too.
It is a very good idea to use a cruise-specialist travel agent to book a first cruise. They can explain everything to you before you book. Too many people decide to do it themselves on-line, and then they get surprised by some things when they board the ship, and they then let those surprises ruin their cruise.
My advice would be to pre-pay for as much as you can afford or want to do,i.e. Pre-Paid Gratuities (Waiter, Room Attendant, Head waiter, etc.), cruise insurance (just in case you have to cancell too far along before the cruise) and any and all shore excursions. Should any speciality restaurants be available (Chops, Portifinos, etc) can usually also be pre-paid on RCCL's web site using your reservation number. EVERYTHING extra that you purchase ONBOARD the ship, which includes everything I mentioned above, will be charged to your Sea Pass card, which is, in effect your credit card for the ship. That Sea Pass card is linked to the method that you have chosen when you board the ship at the port, to which the cruise line charges to pay for everything you did ON the ship. Like most first time cruisers, you will most likely buy photos and mementos from the ship's store. Shop CAREFULLY. IF you are going to a port where you plan on going to some beach, I'd buy (at Walmart or such) "Water Shoes". Many beaches in the Caribbean are NOT like local beaches in the States, with lots of sand! Many beaches are very rocky once in the water (Labadee, Cozumel, etc). I'd safely say that almost every show, child's adventure group, ice skating, swimming, rock-climbing are free. Spa treatments, etc., are NOT! Once on the ship, check the daily cruise sheet that will be put into your cabin. Everything that is happening on the ship, almost minute to minute, will be listed there. Just in case, I always bring a couple hundred dollars cash to use when you are off the ship shopping, and in case you want to tip one of your servers or room attendant a little more for extra good service.
As a first timer, you WILL make mistakes. ASK questions of anyone here, or on the ship if you don't understand something. THERE ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS, here or on board. Here, you will get many different opinions; none are any better or worse than another. Read them all, and then choose the ones that fit YOUR needs. And, as we always say, do one crusie, and you WILL be hooked. Have a great time, and keep the questions coming.
Just to add what has already been posted, my wife and I usually figure about $100 per night on the cruise to cover tips and drinks and a few onboard purchases. The costs have risen a bit so that price is probably a bit higher than that. However we rarely do shore tours. We do buy a wine package for dinners. We are average drinkers. My wife gets a soda card. I think we come close to break even on that, but the convenience is worth the few extra dollars we may spend. Of course this average bill ($700 for a 7 night cruise) is somewhat dependent on number of days at sea. We tend to spend more at sea on the ship than in port for the obvious reasons. Also if your ship goes to Labadee or Coco Cay, all costs of drinks are charged to the ship account so that is like another "at sea" day.
If you look at RCL website you can sort of discuss any shore tours you are interested in and get a feel for the cost. Tips are about $10 per day per person, higher in a suite. Also we always add extra tips for our waiters and room steward for a job well done. Watch for sales on the ship. If you buy alcohol to bring home the ship will generally guarantee they will meet any price on shore if you show them proof. We took a photo of a price in St. Thomas and the ship refunded our purchase to match the price from shore. RCL is very good in my experience for price guarantees. They also hold sales of various items throughout the sailing, so watch for those.
Hope this helps. If your kids are like mine were on our first cruise, they will love you forever for this. Its wonderfully addicting.
One last comment. If you compare the price of cruising with the price of resorts, you will see what a great deal it is. Don't be afraid to spend on this vacation. You deserve to have a great time. It does seem like they "nickel and dime" us but when you look at the costs to cruise versus the cost to run the ship, versus the cost of a resort, it is a very economical vacation. Have a great time.