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Hello - two big topics for you as we're 45 days away! 1) Check in Check in is OPEN. You can check in on their website (just log in at or with the app. I've done both, and it's actually easier to use the app. Also, if you check in on the website they will tell you that YOU ARE REQUIRED TO DOWNLOAD THE APP. Rawr! But actually, you're not. I've called them and verified this. The app does make a lot of things easier, but it is not required. My recommendation is to embrace it, but you should travel the way you're comfortable. You do not need an Internet connection to use the app on board (but you do at home.) For Check in, you'll need your passport handy, your face (the app takes a picture, the website lets you upload one), a credit card (for onboard charges) and a contact who is NOT going on the cruise. ARRIVAL TIMES - Currently, they're not available. They should be in the next few days. They ask you to pick an arrival time. Do NOT think you need to get on the ship as soon as possible. I will be, as I have stuff to do, but you can pick any time you'd like and it's fine. In fact, folks who get on the ship early may have to wait a couple of hours before they can access their stateroom, so it makes some sense to wait sometimes. Health questions can only be done right before the cruise. We'll talk about boarding and luggage later, but it's been very easy lately. 2) Tips, Gratuities, service charges, etc. This has become a big and confusing topic, and I'm going to try to spell it out as best I can. On this cruise, "Gratuities" are not included. You will be charged $16 per person, per day, as the cruise progresses. This charge is applied to your card on file, and you don't need to do anything at all. These gratuities are to cover your Stateroom Attendant and Dining Staff. This is a standard part of cruising that's been the custom for years now, though some lines do include them in the (higher) fare. You'll also be charged an 18% gratuity for drinks and paid dining on board, and that includes drink packages. If you already bought a drink package, you were charged 18% on top of the price. EXTRA TIPS: And here's where things get tricky. The "custom" of tipping has been thrown out of whack of late. Some people just pay the required gratuity and that's it. And that's FINE. Others tip their stateroom attendant a bit extra, and some tip bar staff and waiters a bit extra as well. Spa services often receive tips, and it's customary to tip room service people a couple of dollars cash each time they deliver. Some folks actually pay twice—they pay the required gratuities and ALSO pay the staff an additional $16 a day cash. As bullet points, here are optional tips you MAY wish to consider:

• Luggage Handlers: $5 cash per bag (this varies greatly by port). • *Bar Staff: $1 per drink (there's a place to add this on the slip, no need for cash). • *Waiters: $10-20 cash at end of cruise. • *Maitre D': $10-20 cash if they provide a special service of some sort. • Room Service: $2 cash or so is customary. • Spa staff: Whatever you'd tip at home. Check to see if a gratuity is added to bill. • Casino tables: tip as you would at any casino • Other staff: if other staff goes out of their way for you, a tip is appreciated, but not expected.
*These staff members are receive tips already from your included gratuities

It adds up quick! And yes, there is a US dollar ATM onboard and Guest Services can make change. So what should you do? The answer is: whatever you're comfortable with. The crew works hard for relatively low wages. The bulk of their pay comes from tips. This video shows one approach to tipping, and there are many others: Also, instead of or in addition to a tip, the crew really appreciate you mentioning their names on the survey you'll receive at the end of the voyage. It's a pretty big deal for them. What I do: I always tip the stateroom attendant a bit extra. On this cruise, the attendant only comes once a day, so keep that in mind. I will sometimes tip bar staff a bit if I frequent the same bar regularly, and if the dining room staff is excellent, I'll give them a little too. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Jeff +1 802-734-0662

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  1. Canal Woes Royal canceled some Panama Canal cruises, BUT NOT OURS. We are safe. Do not worry. There's a lot going on in the canal right now, but our trip isn't in danger. The lines, drought, etc. don't affect our sailing.

  2. VORTEX! Our meeting area on the ship has been moved from the conference room to Vortex, which is on Deck 13, appropriately. This means we'll have LOTS of windows for our meetings.

  3. SCUBA SCUBA DO! A couple of our fellow travelers are organizing certified SCUBA dives in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. If you're a certified diver and would like to see some of the best dives in this part of the world, let me know and I'll put you in touch. These are very affordable!

  4. CHEF'S TABLE On the night of November 16th, our group has reserved the entire Chef's Table, the most luxurious and formal dining experience on board. There is space for a total of 16 diners, and the cost looks like it will be $100 per person, total. If you've never dined like this before, it's a tasting menu where you don't order, but instead the head chef makes a dish and it's served to you with a wine pairing. I'm pretty sure this will sell out, so signing up DOES NOT guarantee a space. I'll choose 16 people the fairest way I can. Also, if you were ever going to dress up on board, this would be the night. Sign up below.

  5. MYSTERY ESCAPE ROOM I will be bringing a self-contained "escape room" with a murder mystery theme on board. It's a slightly-modified commercial product that should take five people 90 minutes to solve. Your group will take the game to a bar or card room, and I'll tag along to provide support. I'll have a sign up on board for this one. I've played it and it's a good test of your attention to detail and critical thinking abilities!

  6. HUATULCO TOUR I'm going to organize an optional tour with a 3rd party vendor. This will be just our group, and we'll walk with a local guide around the old town, enjoy some local food and visit the shops. Our tour guide will tell us the history and explain Oaxaca is different from the Mexico Americans imagine. Easy walking, takes about 4 hours total, and leaves right from the pier. Cost will be $70 per person, payable in cash to Jeff on board. Signing up is a commitment! Includes "beverages" but not lunch. Sign up below.

  7. AGE RESTRICTIONS Some tours have started enforcing age restrictions, especially for Tulum. If you're affected (Royal will let you know), get in touch with me and I'll offer some suggestions.

  8. CURIOSITY CREW COUNT There will be 59 of us, from 2 continents, 3 countries, 3 Canadian Provinces, 16 states and ranging in age from 23 to 80. Average age is about 57.

——ALL The Things You Can (and Should) Sign Up For——

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FINAL PAYMENT IS DUE AUGUST 5! I'll be sending another email about payments for those of you who have a balance due.


By now, you should have your passport (or applied for it) and your flights. If not, get on that immediately. US Passports are taking 13 weeks to process. If you haven't started your passport process, please expedite and pay for fast shipping. Contact me if you need any assistance.


  • We still have spaces available for our group lunch in Cozumel. If you're not going to Tulum, this might be a fun thing to do. Sign up here.

  • What would you like to do on the cruise? We'll have space and time and a group of very interesting people. Please take some time to fill this form out, and you'll get more of what you like! And yes, I'll be asking for speakers later on.

  • Our ship has new mattresses, apparently. It seems like they're upgrading things as they go along. She's still an old ship, but she should be well-maintained.

  • We have a schedule! Well, a stab at one anyway. It will be changed often. You can have a look here.

  • Jessica was kind enough to compile a list of where people are going on their excursions. Feel free to peek or add your own here.


  • We're out of cabins! If anyone joins us at this point, it will be at prevailing rates.

  • We're almost ready to announce our Visiting Creator. Stay tuned.

  • We MAY offer some custom tours in some ports. I'll get those options out to you as soon as possible. Everything you booked with the cruise line is 100% refundable.

We'll have six more hours on our cruise than the folks doing the opposite trip, despite leaving and arriving at the same time. :)

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