Royal Caribbean occupies an interesting niche in the cruise industry. Their closest competitor is probably Carnival, and each line offers a distinct sub-niche: Carnival offers an excellent budget value, and Royal Caribbean tends to offer newer ships with slightly more space. Royal Caribbean also does something else which Carnival is only starting to do– for guests in a Grand Suite or above, they offer a wide range of perks which make the cruise a very different experience. I have seen a lot of folks ask the question about whether those perks are worth it, and I attempt to answer that question here.
To be clear, Royal Caribbean has two categories of suite perks. For guests on the Oasis and Quantum classes of ships, they offer Royal Suite Class. This is an extensive array of perks which varies depending on the exact type of suite booked. I am not reviewing those perks today. Instead, I am discussing the enhanced program for suite guests which applies to their other classes of ships– the Freedom, Vision, Voyager, Radiance, and Sovereign class ships. Please note that most of these perks do not apply to guests in a junior suite. You must book a Grand Suite or higher. My perspective comes from sailing in a Grand Suite on the Navigator of the Seas in August 2015 and a Grand Suite on the Liberty of the Seas on 25 June 2017. The Navigator is a Voyager class ship where the Liberty is a freedom class ship. The cabins were virtually identical, and the suite perks experience was very similar. I will primarily focus on my more recent cruise on the Liberty.
The perks start at embarkation. While there is a shorter security line (in Galveston, anyway), that wasn’t that big of a perk- the same line can be used by anyone who has sailed Royal Caribbean before. That line moved quickly, however, and we walked directly up to a very efficient check in desk. Royal Caribbean advertises a special waiting area, and that was true- we had a roped off area which said it was for suite guests. As you can see below, however, that wasn’t materially different from the space where everyone else waited to board the ship:
What did matter was that gold card holders– those in a suite or the highest level of the Royal Caribbean loyalty program, Crown and Anchor, got to board the ship before everyone else. That meant we spent more time on the ship and less time waiting. I also wanted to book treatments in the spa, and this meant I got there before anybody else. The spa itself was a disappointment, but that is a different question from suite perks– I was able to get on quickly and thus secure what I wanted.
The next perk which mattered to me was access to the suite lounge. In reality, this was several perks in one. It meant that I had both a quiet indoor space and a quiet outdoor space, and that was glorious. The concierge was able to help with pretty much anything that guest services could do, and that meant that I never had to stand in line at the main desk on Deck 5. I hate lines, particularly on vacation, and this meant I never had to stand in one. The suite lounge also provided free snacks and drinks in the afternoon, and that was a nice treat when my kids got hungry before dinner time.
The other significant perk we used on this cruise was private seating in the buffet. This seating had been in Chops Grille on the Navigator in 2015, and it was in Giovanni’s on this cruise. That meant that we could always find a table together in a quiet space. There was also an extensive (free) breakfast menu and a limited (free) lunch menu. This and the Suite Lounge meant I got to mix the best of the big ship experience with having several more private areas. Your mileage might vary, but that was very much the vacation I was looking for.
There were two other perks we used. There were bathrobes in the room for use on board, and our concierge met us to escort us off the ship on debarkation day. We went after the folks who carried off their own luggage, but before everyone else. On the first cruise, it was also convenient to have reserved seating at the pool and at the ice show. Those were both available on this cruise, but they were not anything we took advantage of.
So, is it worth it to pay extra for the perks? That very much depends on your budget and the vacation you are looking to have. The extra space in our cabin was fantastic, although you could achieve something similar by booking two regular cabins. What we paid extra for left us with something like a private cruise experience, and that is very much what I intend to book for my next cruise with this line. Post a comment below if you have any questions, and happy sailing!