How It Works

Booking a cruise vacation is not at all like booking a hotel room. Below I will reveal to you “How it Works” so you will understand the difference.

Hotel Bookings

With glowing sunset as backdrop, downtown Orlando, Florida is reflected in mirror smooth Lake Eola.

Hotels have a minimum or “net fare” that is made available to all those different web sites that you see on the internet. Each of those web sites then adds their own mark up (commission) to that net fare, resulting in the price that they are willing to sell the hotel room to you for.

For instance; The Red Star Hotel has a “net fare” of $100 per night.  Web Site A adds a $25 mark up, making their price $125 per night. Web Site B adds a $30 mark up, making their price $130 per night, while Web Site C decides to add a $35 mark up, making their price $135 per night.  That is the simple explanation of why you get all sorts of prices when searching Hotel prices.

Booking A Cruise

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Booking a cruise works completely different from a Hotel room.  The Cruise Lines publish “gross fares” meaning that the price they make public is the price the cruise cabin will be sold for, no matter which agency you work with.

To make things more complicated, however, most cruise lines have several various promotions going at the same time, meaning various prices are available.  These might include special rates for past passengers, Early Savers, “guarantee” rates where you get a discounted price but the cruise line gets to pick your cabin, military rates, senior citizens rates, and more.

The point is this; No matter what promotion price you qualify for that price is available to every travel agency in the country, and no agency is allowed to change the price. Cruise lines work from a “level playing field” so that every agency has the same prices. So, no matter what you may have read on the internet, the correct price will be the same no matter which agency you call. (We hope you call The Cruiseman, of course).  Look Out! Some online agencies add a “booking fee” or “service charge” to the booking, so you actually end up paying more than the published fare.  We’ll never do that to you.

WARNING:  Because of the “level playing field” policy of every major cruise line, many online agencies will try to fool you with deceptive advertising and come-on’s to make it appear that they have some kind of a special deal that other agencies do not have.  This is, of course, unethical & nonsense. Please don’t be fooled by the “70% off” ads, etc. And be aware of the word “from”, such as “7 night Caribbean Cruises from $399pp”.  That means that the $399 price is available at least once in the next two years, and most certainly not when you want to cruise.

The one exception to all of this is Group Rates. If you form a group, or join an already formed group you will received a discounted rate, or a special amenity, or both.

I hope this will clear up some of the confusion and help you understand “How it Works”. At The Cruiseman we never try to fool you, and we give you the honest facts with no tricks of any kind. That’s been our policy for 23 years …. And counting.

Aboard the Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean makes good use of the new ship’s extra length, wider beam.

On a two-night preview sailing of Royal Caribbean International’s 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the line’s third Oasis-class ship, Travel Agent was impressed with how it combined Quantum- and Oasis-class features on a grand scale. The 226,963-grt ship spans 16 guest decks with seven neighborhoods, including the popular Central Park and Boardwalk areas.

Our favorite jaw-dropping feature was the “Ultimate Abyss,” a 100-foot-long slide cascading down 10 decks in the aft section of the ship. Riders climb stairs leading to the slide platform, walk over the clear platform suspended above a 90-foot-plus drop, and then enjoy a thrilling multi-sensory experience during the slide itself.

Thrills? Data from a Royal Caribbean test of the slide, as supervised by Professor Brendan Walker, director, Thrill Laboratory, UK, revealed that the experience caused heartbeats to rise by an average of 44 beats per minute compared to the resting rate for a 30-year-old adult of average fitness. When the ship is totally full on a regular sailing, there likely could be longer lines, but we liked that the Harmony of the Seas has other adrenaline inducing options nearby on deck 16, including a zip-line and two FlowRider surfing pools.

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More Snazzy Features

Longer than Allure of the Seas at 1,188 feet and a bit wider, with a beam of nearly 216 feet — as well as 20 percent more energy efficient — the new ship is the fastest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet and a city unto itself.

Guests will discover 42 restaurants and bars; four swimming pools, including an adults-only pool in the Solarium; multiple whirlpools and FlowRider surfing pools; a large ice rink; multiple theaters; a casino; a full-service spa; shops; rock climbing walls; and more.

Entertainment-wise, much is new. The 600-seat Aqua Theatre has two new water shows. “Fine Line” features extreme stunts and acrobatics, while “Hideaway Heist” is a comedy dive show. The ship also offers the line’s first dedicated Puzzle Break escape game, and the Attic is a new comedy club.

New productions include the musical “Grease” — for the first time at sea — and “1887: a Journey in Time”, a fun new French-themed ice show.  We were most impressed by the latter with its costumed ice performers in historic French garb; the production unfolded against a backdrop of ultra high-definition video designed to resembled the Seine. It’s great for kids of all ages.

What else is new? Sure to appeal to younger passengers is a dedicated satellite that enables the high-speed VOOM Internet service and a Royal IQ app for quick check-in and the booking of dining and activities. In addition, the ship uses a razzle-dazzle new RFID (radio frequency identification) system to track bags, stateroom entry and onboard charges.

Specialty Dining

Harmony of the Seas has eight specialty restaurants, including the first two-story, 122-seat Wonderland. The concept was initially launched on theQuantum-class vessels, but this is the largest of those offerings. Jamie’s is the first such eatery on an Oasis-class vessel, and also has more space than the ones on the Quantum-class ships.

Of the eight specialty restaurants onboard, we best loved Wonderland, loosely based on the Lewis Carroll novel and Johnny Depp movie. It’s a fantastical experience with a tunnel like-entry, whimsical art and waiters in purple velvet jackets.

Fun touches abound. We loved the menu that revealed itself only after you painted it with a special brush. An appetizer of deviled eggs appeared from beneath a dome of smoke. A “wow” moment was when a dessert was set ablaze to melt an outer chocolate shell — revealing a moist, delicious cake. All entrees are served to be shared so guests dining together can try everything.

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Izumi, a Japanese dining venue, is the first of those restaurants in the fleet to offer teppanyaki. So 24 diners can now enjoy the chef’s sizzling show on the grill. With just 70 seats for sushi, it’s best to book clients for a meal here as soon as they confirm a sailing.

We also sampled the Italian cuisine at Jamie’s ($20 per person at lunch, $30 per person at dinner), Latin dishes at Sabor, and high-end continental fare with multi-course tasting menus and wine pairings at 150 Central Park.

All of the above are more intimate than the main dining rooms. The ship’s specialty dining venues carry surcharges and online pre-booking is essential.

For a casual, yummy treat, definitely check out the Dog House on the Boardwalk, where cruisers can choose from seven different kinds of succulent hot dogs with toppings of grilled onions, peppers and sauerkraut.

Drinking spots worth a mention? Certainly, you shouldn’t miss the mesmerizing Bionic Bar, where two robotic arms create cocktails from 160 suspended bottles and 16 mixers. We also liked the concept of the Rising Tide Bar, essentially a pod of cocktail tables on a platform that rises and drops — seemingly floating between three decks. Vintages, with its an impressive selection, is the place for wine lovers.

Larger Accommodations

The new ship’s increased width means slightly larger accommodations than on other Oasis-class vessels. That’s particularly true for the staterooms on decks six and up. Virtual balconies, a signature of Quantum-class ships, are also offered in 76 of Harmony of the Seas’ inside cabins, a first for an Oasis-class ship.

We stayed in stateroom #9264, a 272-square-foot Ocean View Stateroom with an 80-square-foot balcony. The stateroom felt spacious with a king bed, sofa, desk and two wardrobes with shelves, drawers and a safe.

We toured many other accommodations and particularly liked #8660, a 371-square-foot Grand Suite with Balcony; the king bed area is separated from the living space with a half-wall / half-curtain divider and there’s a large marble bathroom with two sinks.

Most luxurious and spacious for families? It’s #12640, the 1,142-square-foot Presidential Family Suite, which can accommodate up to 14 guests. It has four bedrooms — two with king beds, two with bunk beds — and sofa beds. There is also an additional sofa bed in the main living room. Most spectacular is the 476-square-foot balcony with whirlpool, dining area and bar.

The Royal Family Suite, #10244, is 580 square feet with two king bedrooms with vanities, a nook with bunk beds, a spacious living room with convertible sofa, plus a 238-square-foot balcony. Modest family rooms designed to sleep six are also available.

Royal Suite Class Program

Royal Caribbean has just rolled out a three-tiered Royal Suite Class program for guests staying in suites (excluding junior suites). The three tiers are Sea, Skyand Star class.

Benefits range from access to dinner in the 100-seat Coastal Kitchen on Deck 17 for Sea Class to Suite Lounge access, concierge services, priority bookings and free VOOM for Sky Class.

The most robust perks come with Star Class. Ten suites on Harmony of the Seasqualify for this level of amenities. Included are all the features in Sea and Sky class, plus access to a Suite Sun Deck, a beverage package, free movies, spa classes and exclusive activities such as bridge, galley and back stage tours.

An added level of pampering for Star Class is the Royal Genie butler who greets guests and tends to your every need, creating bespoke experiences and excursions. Guests in these top suites will be whisked to the front of any line, generally ensuring they never wait or want for anything on Harmony of the Seas. Star Class Suite guests fill out a questionnaire before the cruise so the butler will begin preparations for their arrival.

Pampering and Fitness

Top features of the Vitality at Sea Spa include a thermal suite with heated ceramic loungers, saunas and steam rooms. Twenty-nine spa treatment rooms include three couples’ massage suites and seven individual treatment rooms — the largest collection at sea.

Kids and teens have a dedicated spa of their own, YSPA. Certainly, the Fitness Center impresses with its large selection of cardio and weights machines; yoga,Pilates, TRX, spin studio and kick boxing classes; and personal trainers available to assist.

Family Entertainment

Beyond the Ultimate Abyss and water slides, guests can head one deck below — to Deck 15 — for mini-golf, a sport court and ping-pong. That area nicely flows into the family areas, including the Teen Zone, an arcade, Fuel (the teen night club) and Puzzle Break. As you continue on to the bow, you’ll see the aptly named Splashaway Zone with its trio of waterslides.

On Deck 14, the central Kids Avenue boulevard links such spaces as the Royal Babies & Tots nursery and Adventure Ocean, the line’s supervised kids’ club. Around the ship, you’ll also see Dreamworks characters floating around the restaurants at times. The Boardwalk neighborhood is home to a large colorful carousel and carnival games. The ship also has rock-climbing walls.

A Gallery Afloat

Art aficionados amongst your clientele will especially appreciate the ship’s spectacular $6.5 million art collection, brimming with paintings, sculptures and other pieces displayed in public spaces and accommodations. International Corporate Art curated the more than 3,000 unique pieces from 60 countries.

The Ship’s Itineraries

Launched in May, Harmony of the Seas is operating seven-night western Mediterranean sailings through early fall. In November, it will reposition and homeport at Port Everglades, FL, where will sail alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean sailings.

— Source;  Travel Agent Central