Cruising from Fort Lauderdale on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas

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Cruising from Fort Lauderdale on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas
Curator’s statement

Launched in late 2020 and quickly overtaken by Wonder of the Seas as Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas is a fantastic offering that often flies under the radar. Not as large as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis or Icon-class vessels (but still plenty big), Odyssey is able to port at smaller locals and spends much of its summer traveling to the best of the Mediterranean cruise ports.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises

Known for its innovative take on cruising, Royal Caribbean Cruises offers top-notch entertainment and wide array of onboard activities.

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Ship Overview

Odyssey of the Seas, the newest of the Quantum-class ship line, has some of the best elements Royal Caribbean has to offer on any of its vessels (yes, it is technically Quantum Ultra-class, but that is semantics). Odyssey provides many of the same new features as Wonder of the Seas, such as the Lime and Coconut bars, Giovianni’s Italian Kitchen and Bar, etc. As with Quantum-class ships in general, Odyssey skews slightly more towards an adult crowd by not having waterslides or an ice rink (though there are still plenty of offerings for those traveling with children, as this is Royal Caribbean, after all). For those who have sailed on other Quantum-class ships, the primary difference is that the second pool on the main deck is not enclosed, so the only weather-protected pool area is in the adults-only Solarium.

Looking for tips and tricks regarding planning and Royal Caribbean cruising expectations in general? Find my full guide to Royal Caribbean tips and tricks here.

What to know when cruising the Eastern Caribbean

As the “yachting capital of the world,” Fort Lauderdale is a very easy cruising port with more low-key vibes than its trendy neighbor, Miami. The airport is even a quick 10-minute drive to/from the port. This 6-night itinerary included Perfect Day at CocoCay, Labadee, Haiti, and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

Itinerary Overview:
Day 1: Embark in Fort Lauderdale
Day 2: Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas
Day 3: Sea Day
Day 4: Labadee, Haiti
Day 5: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Disembark in Fort Lauderdale

Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas

The holy grail of private islands, Perfect Day at CocoCay has something for everyone, including those with no set plans. Remember to check out a towel before leaving the ship, as you will need to bring your own (though they do have a kiosk on the beach if you forget). Bring your equipment along instead of renting from Royal Caribbean for those interested in snorkeling.

Hideaway Beach is the newest addition to Perfect Day at CocoCay and is a fantastic option for adults only (though it comes at an additional cost). However, that additional cost gains entrance into arguably one of the island's best areas, where Royal Caribbean has replicated all of Perfect Day at CocoCay’s best features in one location. The area has more bars available to guests, a large swim-up bar area with a (very loud) DJ, a heated pool, a pizza/empanada food stall, a Snack Shack, and a sports bar called On the Rocks. Best of all, the beach was designed as a well-secluded cove that limits waves (and jellyfish, which commonly plague other areas such as South Beach).

Groups looking for an elevated food and beach experience should book the Coco Beach Club or one of the swanky cabanas within (again, booking a cabana here might be cheaper than individual tickets, depending on the number in your group). The lunch at Coco Beach Club is top-notch, with filet mignon, lobster, and a fantastic tapas spread (amongst other options). Beach loungers in this area come with towels, so there is no need to check out towels from the ship. Compared to Hideaway Beach, which is 18+ only, Coco Beach Club allows children.

Thrill Waterpark boasts the tallest waterslide in North America, which is called Daredevil’s Peak (but also has six other great slide options). A word of caution - beware of the Screeching Serpent slide! For large families, it is worth noting that booking a cabana in Thrill Waterpark might save money versus booking individual tickets.

Those looking to go on Up Up and Away, the helium balloon on Perfect Day at CocoCay, make sure you book through the Cruise Planner as soon as your cruise is confirmed. This books up quickly (but is often canceled/refunded due to inclement weather).

Bar service while enjoying the beach loungers across the island is hit or miss, so if you would rather not have to get up and make your way to a nearby bar, consider booking a cabana or day bed at one of the many “neighborhoods” across the island (which come with a dedicated server). South Beach is a bit more geared towards adults (and is the farthest away from the ship), while Breezy Bay and Chill Island are quite close and family-friendly.

Prices fluctuate greatly for Perfect Day at CocoCay, depending on ship and sail date, so consider booking your reservations in the Cruise Planner as soon as your booking is confirmed so you can be sure to snag the lowest prices possible (and then check back periodically in case the price drops).

Labadee, Haiti

Royal Caribbean’s original private destination, Labadee is a peninsula privately owned by Royal Caribbean on the northwestern coast of Haiti. Excursions are booked far in advance at this port, so be sure to look at the Cruise Planner as soon as you book your cruise.

The Dragons Tail Coaster is a fun alpine slide for adults and children alike and provides a great view of the area once at the top of the hill. Reservations can be booked by a specifically timed session or a full-day pass in advance through the cruise planner.

The Dragon’s Breath (seated) or Dragon’s Fire (laydown on stomach) zip lines are the longest over water globally at 2,630 feet and start around 500 feet above sea level. This excursion takes around an hour from start to finish and is a great break from enjoying the beach. Remember to bring closed-toe shoes, shorts, and a shirt when you depart the ship in order to participate.

Cabanas are available in multiple areas of the destination, the best of which is Barefoot Beach, the section reserved for suite guests (though non-suite guests can still book the cabanas within). These are great options depending on price, as many provide gorgeous views out over the water, some with direct water access. Barefoot Beach also has its own (slightly elevated) lunch buffet, which is another perk of booking a cabana in this section or being a suite guest.

Those looking for roaring waves to watch from the beach should find loungers along Adrenaline Beach (though know that the waters are often too rough to enter on this side). Adrenaline Beach also has zip lines going overhead, so keep that in mind if you do not want to listen to cheers and caterwauling all day.

Columbus Cove is the farthest beach away from the ship, accessible by walking, tram, or free water taxi. It has calm waters and a laidback vibe with easy access to many of Labadee's other paid activities.

Guests on ships docking at Labadee are not allowed excursions outside those booked directly through Royal Caribbean, as the area has restricted access. Security is very tight, and the private destination area is very safe for guests going ashore. Those looking for a passport stamp can bring their passport to a kiosk in Dragon’s Plaza for an added cost.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

In terms of excursions, Puerto Plata is best known for its Damajagua waterfalls excursions (with other add-ons such as ATV excursions and ziplines). For first-timers to this port stop, official excursions are recommended (and/or the port itself has many fun pool, restaurant, and bar options).

For those looking to go farther afield, the taxi pickup area is all the way through to the very end of the port, which is about a 20-minute winding walk from the ship itself. Be aware that drivers looking to book passengers are very persistent at the taxi pickup area, so finding your assigned driver is a bit hectic and stressful. Keep an eye out for excursions or day bookings at The Ocean Club (a swanky suites only hotel about 45 minutes from the port), which has beautiful pools, beach access, and terrific food options.

Need to Know

Packing considerations

Eastern Caribbean cruises have myriad routes and stops, with everything you would expect from a warm, sunny Caribbean cruise. Plan to bring plenty of bathing suits, cover-ups, flip-flops, and sunscreen (be sure to check local regulations on sunscreen). Depending on your excursions, water shoes might be a good idea if rocky beach entrances are involved.

Six-day cruises on Odyssey of the Seas will include one formal night (usually night three), so bring some dressier attire if you feel comfortable. You will see everything from sundresses to ball gowns and tuxedos. Other theme nights include the '70s, '90s, Caribbean, and white nights, so bring along whatever you are able to fit!

Ship-based Activities

iFly Skydiving Simulator - Skydiving on a cruise ship, who would have thought that would be possible? Recommended to book ahead on the cruise planner prior to departure, as the reservations tend to sell out weeks in advance.

SeaPlex - The SeaPlex is a great multi-use space on Quantum-class ships that includes an indoor sports court, bumper cards, video games area, and sometimes even roller skating! Activities can be reserved onboard the ship via the Royal Caribbean app.

North Star - Free reservations open via the app at 8:00 pm the evening before each port day. For the paid, fully extended experience, pre-booking North Star reservations via the Cruise Planner is necessary weeks before the cruise, as they always sell out before embarking.

Music Hall - A great venue for music, live band karaoke, trivia, and more.

Casino Royale - Definitely a busy spot on Odyssey, with some evenings even being difficult to find open machines or seats. The machines are updated, and another non-smoking section can be found along the back hallway when walking past the Music Hall.

Two70 - This large venue at the aft of the ship has 270° of floor-to-ceiling windows and is the venue that hosts the show called The Book (which is fantastic, a must-see). Note that The Book is the only entertainment that can be (and should be) booked in advance of the cruise via the Cruise Planner website.

Royal Theatre - Odyssey of the Seas hosts a show made for Royal Caribbean called The Effectors, which uses lots of light displays and drones. The Effectors II is featured on Wonder of the Seas for those looking to continue the storyline.

Royal Caribbean standbys also on Odyssey of the Seas - Vitality Spa, FlowRider, Rock Climbing Wall

Dining on the Ship

Cafe 270° - Similar to Park Cafe on Oasis-class ships, Cafe 270° is a convenient option for a quick breakfast or lunch, including sandwiches, salads, drinks, etc.

SeaPlex Doghouse - Included in the cruise fare and has various choices of hot dogs and sausages for grab-and-go dining.

Playmakers Sports Bar - Playmakers is a great addition to any Royal Caribbean ship, as it provides the first sports bar venue with plenty of television screens and great bar food for an additional cost (unless using the Unlimited Dining Plan). Make sure to save room for the campfire cookie at dessert.

El Loco Fresh - This is a great pool deck lunch option at no additional cost, and it includes items like tacos, quesadillas, nachos, etc.

Specialty Dining - Consider paying extra on an evening or two for a lovely dinner at one of the fabulous specialty dining locations onboard: Chops Grille, Chef’s Table, Izumi Sushi, Tappenyaki, Wonderland, and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen.

Coastal Kitchen* - A lovely, upscale dining for those booked in Junior Suites and above.

Windjammer - Included in your cruise fare and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Note that it also has nightly themes at dinner.

Main Dining Room - All decks have the same menu and are included in your cruise fare.

Solarium Bistro - Included in the cruise fare, an easy alternate option to the Windjammer for those who already find themselves forward on the upper ship decks near the Solarium.

Bars on Odyssey of the Seas

Boleros - This location is perfect for festive music, specialty cocktails trending toward rum-based, and a great vibe.

Crown & Compass - The staple English pub on all Royal Caribbean ships. However, on Odyssey, food is served at certain times of the day, and pub trivia is hosted nightly.

Schooner Bar - Another staple of Royal Caribbean ships, with the largest bar selection. Nightly piano bar performances, daily trivia, and many other activities will be held at this happening location.

Giovanni’s Wine Bar - A rustic Italian vibe makes the wine bar next to Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen a great place to have a pre-dinner drink, catch up on the day with friends and family, or grab a bite to eat from the restaurant next door (at an extra cost).

Starbucks - Technically not serving alcohol, but just as important, this full Starbucks location on the Boardwalk is not included in the unlimited drinks package (but guests are able to use their normal Starbucks app for purchase, if desired).

Other mainstay Royal Caribbean bars on Odyssey of the Seas - Music Hall, Casino Royale, Bionic Bar, Suite Lounge* (for Grand Suite and above guests only), Crown Lounge* (for Crown and Anchor Diamond status guests and above only), Solarium, and the Lime and Coconut pool bars.

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on cruise travel. In need of further inspiration? Check out my trip report, Cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

Advisor - Kelsey Parry

Travel Advisor

Kelsey Parry

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