Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, its fifth Oasis-class ship, is currently the largest cruise ship in the world. Despite its surprisingly intuitive flow, the ship is still a lot of ground to cover, even if you have a full week onboard.
Sixteen passenger decks contain a combined 32 bars and restaurants (not including the exclusive Suite Neighborhood) with twisting slides, a giant octopus, and hidden-in-plain-sight astronauts. I just disembarked its maiden voyage and did my best to poke through every venue, nook, and stairwell to uncover some of this impressive ship’s secrets. The following is a dozen insider tips and how-tos to help you get the most out of your time on Wonder of the Seas.
How to Score Comped Starbucks and Cold-Pressed Juice
Ok, maybe “comped” isn’t the right word, but the Royal Caribbean deluxe beverage package offers a significant value if you like to imbibe, and that extends to coffee and juice as well as alcohol. The package is a significant additional expense, and while rates vary, it can total more than $400 per person for a weeklong sailing. However, it allows the freedom to try something new; drink freely on any of Royal Caribbean’s private destinations, including Labadee and Perfect Day at CocoCay; and as mentioned, start your day with a fresh juice or an iced chai latte. For the juice, head to the Vitality Café inside the spa and choose from options like a carrot lemonade with ginger or create your own concoction. A full-service Starbucks is onboard along the Royal Promenade, but not included in any drink package. Instead, head to the Café Promenade and order from the pared down menu there, which includes cold brew coffee, chai, and espresso drinks. Beverages up to $13 are covered by the package, which extends to nearly every specialty bar menu. If you decide to splurge on a premium glass of wine, for example, you only pay the difference.
How to Get a Free Meal at Johnny Rocket’s
At lunch or dinner, the signature patties and fries of this retro-style burger joint will incur a $9.95 cover charge (plus tax and tip). But if you swing by the Boardwalk from about 7:30 to 10 a.m., you’ll find a little-known complimentary breakfast menu. Enjoy coffee and a scramble, sandwich, or even French toast and pancakes, free of charge. Upcharge specials are available if you wish to indulge further: a loaded breakfast potato, breakfast burger with beef and a fried egg, and a maple bacon milkshake. If you opt for the full monty, you’ll save $2 with a bundled price of $7.99. Families might appreciate a casual atmosphere where littles can unleash any early-morning energy on the colorful Sky Climber play area just to the right of the restaurant.
How to Find a Fancy Cheese Pairing on the Terrace
Giovanni’s Kitchen is a popular specialty restaurant luring cruisers with housemade pasta and out-of-this-world mini strombolis. But attached to this Central Park venue is a separate wine bar that serves a la carte snacks, small plates, and wine pairings. Romantic terrace seating overlooking the park is ideal for a wine menu that features select vintages by the glass that aren’t found anywhere else onboard. I was particularly impressed by a menu of four wine and cheese pairings that offer three varieties of wine and the fromage to complement for just $15 to $20. There’s even a port and truffle pairing. The wine bar is typically open until 1 a.m. but the kitchen closes around 10 p.m., so be sure to schedule your fancy cheese fete accordingly.
How to Keep the Kids Busy Looking for a Duck
Cruising has its own almanac of insider tips and tricks, and if you can believe it, hiding small rubber ducks is among its traditions. Of course the largest cruise ship in the world is a great place to hide things, and families worked fast on this maiden voyage. I was among one of the lucky duck finders, but we saw a number of children and their parents on an all-out hunt for these plastic treasures; the plants in Central Park were a hot zone for duck seekers. Small cards are attached to the ducks telling you where they’re from and how to share photos of their adventures (you can choose to keep or re-hide the duck). “Cruising Ducks — Original” is the invite-only Facebook group. If you want to join the tradition, bring your own cards to attach; on our voyage, rubber ducks were conveniently sold in a vending machine onboard.
How to Enjoy the Specialty Restaurants Without a Dining Reservation
So you really want to check out the new specialty restaurant onboard but you waited too long to make a reservation or you don’t feel like shelling out even more money to dine there? I highly recommend just going to the bar. Every specialty restaurant has its own bar, which features its own specialty cocktail menu. It’s a way to enjoy the ambiance of the venue without having to reserve a table or have a full meal. For the experience, my pick has to be Wonderland; it's one of the priciest dining experiences onboard, but you can go down the rabbit hole and indulge in a bit of fantasy by ordering one of its four custom libations (things might disappear or go up in a puff of smoke). If you don’t imbibe, it’s still a great place to people-watch — or Mad Hatter-watch, depending on the night. For the cocktails and the overall atmosphere, our favorite bar onboard was Mason Jar. Inside, to the left of the restaurant, is a great lounge with a small space for a country trio to perform. Plus, late-night snacks like fried green tomatoes or crab beignets can be ordered a la carte for just a few dollars. A friend of ours was able to order off of the full menu and eat dinner at the bar without a reservation; but he paid the full cover charge.