Just Impressive! This was one of my most rewarding travel experiences even though I am not a cruise person by any means and never had a real cruise experience in my life except the overnight ferry from Norway to Denmark.
I generally disliked the cruising idea due to the lack of “real” experiences. I am going to talk about my recent Royal Caribbean adventure including a detailed Royal Caribbean cruise review to make future cruisers feel more comfortable as a first time cruisers.
Initially, I had no plans to book a cruise but as a world traveler, this was the most efficient and economic method to see these small Caribbean islands.
Therefore, I couldn’t resist the South Caribbean Royal Caribbean cruise covering 7 Caribbean islands which means 7 independent countries to visit.
Due to Covid regulations, ports of call keeps changing. This cruise was supposed to cover Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, and Dominica. However, the itinerary was later updated to replace Trinidad, Guadeloupe, and Martinique with Antigua and St. Kitts.
This meant, I will be in 5 new countries for $488 including taxes and fees. I was sold and booked the cruise which ended up being a fantastic deal.
Pro Tip: Royal Caribbean Promo. Enter the promo “WELCOME” to deduct another $50 USD.
What Is Included In Royal Caribbean Cruise Ticket
In addition to the accommodation, sea or ocean transportation, most meals and non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainments are included within the Royal Caribbean cruise package.
As this was during Covid, two complementary Covid tests were included as well. One Antigen test prior to embarking the cruise and another Covid (Antigen or PCR) test upon disembarking the cruise.
Needless to mention, shampoo, soap, and towels for both inside the staterooms and pools or to take out were included. There was a $25 security deposit for the pool towels.
What Is Not Included in Royal Caribbean Cruise Ticket
There are many items excluded from the Royal Caribbean’s cruise ticket. However, there is only one mandatory item, $14.5 daily gratitude, which is billed daily on your cruise account.
Pro Tip: You can go to the service desk and request the removal of automatic gratitude charges if you prefer to pay tips directly. But, please, do pay the workers of the cruise a generous tip. They are amazing and make you feel home. They work so hard for months away from their families.
Other items which you can pay for separately include internet, dining in specialty restaurants, photos, spa and salon services, gambling, art auction, purchases in the onboard shops, shore excursions, video arcade, laundry, alcohol beverages, phone calls, and medical services.
My package included a worry-free cruise with confidence option which is a very comprehensive Covid insurance. All these extras except gratitude aren’t mandatory and I spent absolutely zero dollar onboard.
Pro Tip: The included food is very good, tasty, fresh, with many choices. You also have access to coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, ice, and water 24/7.
How to Save on Internet (WiFi) While Cruising
There is only one way to get internet while cruising through open seas and that is by connecting to the Royal Caribbean WiFi and pay the data package fees.
However, there is a cheaper option which is basically a work-around to give you free internet onboard. Feel free to message me on Twitter or send me an email for more info.
It is worth noting that I didn’t need internet onboard as I was busy during day visiting the islands and hanging out with friends while onboard.
How to Save on Internet While Caribbean Island Hopping
Some other options to get internet while doing your Caribbean island hopping are using a service by Airalo.
Airalo is an eSIM card company which works based on roaming and connecting to local providers. This is a great alternative to be online when docking or island hopping.
Note: Airalo doesn’t work when cruising through the sea or ocean.
I personally used Airalo’s Caribbean package which worked fine on all islands even though it was a bit slow at times.
I’d say Airalo is the best option for Caribbean island hoppers to save money on roaming charges. The best part is that there is no shipping or waiting times. Create an Airalo account, download the app (Confirm your device supports eSIM), purchase your package, and done.
Another alternative is trying to connect to the WiFi at the ports or some other places like cafes or tourist attractions while roaming around the islands.
And the final option is to use your home SIM card. For US residents, T-Mobile and AT&T are the best choices for roaming in the Caribbean.
Cruise Embarkation Process During Covid Era
As you might have read in my Barbados in 2 Days Before A Fantastic Royal Caribbean Cruise post, I started this cruise journey in Barbados.
Before flying out from Canada to Barbados, I downloaded the Royal Caribbean mobile app to have access to the updates. I also needed the app to upload my Covid vaccine certificate, photo, passport, and do the check-in.
I initially chose a 6 PM check-in as I planned to tour Bridgetown extensively. However, after spending a couple hours in Barbados during the morning, I didn’t feel there is much to do or see on a Sunday when almost all shops are closed so I headed to the cruise port around 1 PM.
Upon arrival at the cruise port, the cruise authorities checked my passport and confirmed my name on the guests’ list. Second step was the Royal Caribbean’s Covid Antigen test.
I then waited around 25 minutes to get the negative Covid test result before proceeding to the immigration which was a breeze. This whole process took about an hour.
After the immigration, there were shuttles taking the passengers to the cruise. And finally, I embarked the Grandeur of the Seas which is one of oldest Royal Caribbean ships.
What Food is Included in the Royal Caribbean’s Ticket Price
The cruise includes foods and non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee, iced tea, tea, lemonade, and water which are all available 24 hours in different decks.
Breakfast and lunch are open buffet with hundreds of choice and available for many hours during the day. Dinner is a sit-in restaurant on decks 4 and 5 with the option to dine at your own time or have a reservation.
The dining method or time needs to be chosen during the check-in and will be printed on your sea pass card.
In addition to the main meals, there is a snack bar which is open whenever restaurants aren’t. This is a perfect choice for those who tour the islands and don’t return before the closing time of the lunch buffet which was 3 PM.
What Entertainments Are Available on Royal Caribbean Ships
There are different amenities and entertainments in each Royal Caribbean Cruise. My ship, Grandeur of the Seas, came with more than enough entertainments.
There are multiple outdoor and indoor pools, whirlpools, poolside movies, ping pong (Table Tennis) tables, running court, Basketball court, rock climbing wall, gym, Arcade games, and indoor children play areas.
In addition, you can also find spa, jacuzzi, theatre, nightly magic or comedy shows, shops, art gallery and art auction, casino, dance, different classes such as painting and cooking, karaoke night and more onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise, Grandeur of the Seas.
Disembarkation Process in the Ports of Call
This process was much smoother than what I imagined. There is no immigration or customs when getting off the cruise in any of the Caribbean ports.
I only had to get my sea pass scanned when leaving the cruise. However, there are different Covid related rules nowadays which change all the time. Some islands only allow passengers with a booked tour to roam around while others allow passengers to walk freely without any restrictions.
For the final disembarkation, have your bills paid off (Royal Caribbean sends notices to the room), get your Covid test done, and you’ll only need to scan your sea pass to leave the ship.
Ports of Call Requirements (Grandeur of the Seas) & My Adventures
This changes constantly so please check this page for the most up-to-date information. Here is what I could do when I did my cruise in March 2022.
Grenada can be visited freely independently. I had rental cars booked for Grenada but none worked out unfortunately. We, 3 friends, ended up hiring a driver with a car to tour the island for the day which cost us $35 USD each.
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Antigua can be visited freely independently. Another rental car failure. We were supposed to get a rental car but ended up hiring a driver who charged $180 for 4 people. We visited several beaches, Pillars of Hercules, Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard.
There is a $15 entrance fee for Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard.
ST. KITTIS AND NEVIS
St. Kitts can be visited freely independently. I rented a car with other friends and we hiked Mount Liamuiga. The hike was stunning but ended up in a cloudy no-view weather. We payed $25 USD each for the whole day rental, permit, and gas.
We checked Brimstone Hill National Park but didn’t enter due to the $15 USD. Instead, I drove to Timothy Hill Overlook and enjoyed its stunning view for free.
ST. VINCENT AND GRENADINES
St. Vincent was the only island which required a booked tour from Royal Caribbean! I joined a tour from the cruise which was a disappointment and cost $45 USD for four hours.
Dominica requires a booked tour or taxi to visit. We got a taxi outside the port and paid $40 USD each. We visited Spanny Falls which includes 2 magnificent falls for a $5 USD entrance fees.
We then headed to Wotten Waven which is a micro boiling lake and Titou Gorge where we swam to get to a waterfall. Finally, we went to Scotts Head with its stunning views!
St. Lucia requires a booked tour or taxi to visit. However, as I have been here, I just roamed around with my friend. We went fishing and then lunch, walked, shopped, and drove around before heading back to the cruise.
However, some other friends got a taxi for $50 USD each! They did the Tet Paul hike ($5) for the stunning views of Pitons, Sulphur springs ($15 USD) with a mud bath along stopping in several view points and diamond falls ($7 USD).
Barbados allows free wandering with the PCR test upon arrival prior to the cruise or a negative Antigen test before disembarking the cruise. I rented a car and drove all over the island in Barbados. You can find my Barbados trip report here.
The Most Rewarding Part of the Cruise, Friendship
People meet other people when traveling solo! I was a solo traveler but I met 15 other travelers who I now call friends. Every night 12 of us (biggest dining table accommodate 10 people but we could fit in 2 more chairs only) sat on the biggest dining table for dinner.
The friends I met are all world travelers. Two of them celebrated their 100th country and another Italian friend celebrated his 150th country. There was an Italian friend who only had 7 countries left to finish the 193 UN countries and headed directly to Syria!
The cruise became a special and one of my most memorable trips because of this fascinating friends who I can’t wait to meet again.
Grandeur of the Seas, Royal Caribbean South Caribbean Cruise Highlights
- This is the most efficient and economic way to see as many small islands as possible.
- Currently, there is no mask requirements on the cruise which is awesome.
- You can roam freely in Antigua, St. Kitts, Grenada, and Barbados.
- You need to book a tour from Royal Caribbean Cruise for St. Vincent.
- You need to have an authorized taxi or tour for St. Lucia and Dominica. However, I could go out and be picked up by my friend in St. Lucia easily. No questions asked.
- The cruise includes foods and non-alcoholic beverages. Coffee, iced tea, tea, lemonade, water are all available 24 hours.
- Breakfast and lunch are open buffet with hundreds of options. Both are very delicious.
- Dinner is a restaurant. You can dine at your own time or have a reservation.
- There is internet but expensive so skip it unless you really need to.
- There are many activities including pools, rock climbing, ping pong tables, basketball, running court, and gym.
- There are shows and movies and other programs like karaoke nights.
- There is a casino, arcade games, and an indoor kids playground.
- Gratitude is an extra $14.5 USD per day per person charged daily.
How to Have a Cruise on a Budget Experience
The most challenging part to have a cruise on a budget experience is to find an affordable cruise to justify the cost. In addition, almost all cruise lines charge for double occupancy so having a second or more person sharing the same stateroom cuts the costs significantly.
Other tactics are to avoid paying for cruise internet or food. There are more than enough free food onboard that nobody really needs to pay for eating. In addition, I took food like waffles, muffins, and other pastries from the breakfast in a plastic container I brought with me every day when visiting the islands (more savings).
Renting cars and sharing with others saves a great amount and adds to the experience. Tours are on the expensive side and I recommend avoiding them if possible. Royal Caribbean tours cost $50 in average. Taking a local taxi offshore is the 2nd best option for those uncomfortable with having a rental car.
Another important factor is the cost of transportation to the cruise’s departure port. In my case, I got lucky and there were affordable flights to Barbados. Although, I paid the flight mostly with my freely earned Aeroplan points.
Is Cruise During Covid Safe
I can’t really say it is safe or unsafe but I can certainly say that I trust the cruise passengers more than the shoppers in my local grocery store. Everyone had to do a Covid test before entering Barbados then another test before getting on the ship.
The chance of being positive but still showing negative Covid tests twice is really rare. In addition, Caribbean islands are mostly the safest places during Covid with much lower infection rates than other parts of the world.
On top, Royal Caribbean Covid insurance package was assuring and I had another travel insurance which includes Covid. I also took my work laptop with me just in case I get stuck.
Final Thoughts of My Royal Caribbean Review
It’s better to travel independently. But, I didn’t expect to have such a wonderful cruise adventure. I truly had lots of fun and laughed a lot. Meeting so many amazing people was so unique and fantastic. I met some true legendary travelers.
Will I be cruising again? I am not sure to be honest. Maybe I will but not anytime soon. The point of this trip was to cover more countries while paying less and going through less passport and Covid requirements. It was just the perfect choice.
Regardless, I’d encourage you to try cruising once at least. You’ll not regret the experience. However, please don’t stay all day in the cruise. Get out and explore. There is always something new to discover even within these tiny Caribbean islands.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post and happy safe traveling. See you in Grenada!