Ship boat

Pick the right time or book a suite

  • I have been cruising with my family for two decades.
  • Status with Royal Caribbean gives us VIP access, but booking suites also gives us special treatment.
  • If you don’t want to pay more, the right time can help you avoid the cruise crowds.

I’ve lost count of how many cruises I’ve taken in my life, but it’s safe to say I’ve taken at least a dozen over the past 20 years.

My family and I started with a few Disney cruises when I was a kid, moved to Royal Caribbean when I was a teenager, and have stayed with them ever since.

During this time, we have earned Diamond Plus status with Royal Caribbean, which gives us special treatment and access that first-time cruisers won’t get.

It also means I’ve learned tricks over the years to avoid queues, crowds, and the minor inconveniences of traveling on a boat with thousands of other people.

uncrowded cruise ship pool deck

The Sun Deck Suite on Royal Caribbean ships is typically perched above the pools.

Rebecca Harrington/Insider

My top tips for avoiding cruiser crowds are: book a suite, get status, and time it at the right time.

If it’s your first time sailing, you haven’t sailed enough to achieve status – and if you can afford it – booking a suite gives you instant access to the VIP pool decks, premium seating at shows, faster lineups, lounges with complimentary cocktails, and concierge service.

Royal Caribbean ships have a Sun Deck suite by the pools, which only guests of the “Sky” and “Star” suites can access. I’ve never had trouble finding a chair.

Suite guests also have access to their own specialty restaurant called Coastal Kitchen if you want to skip the lines at the buffet.

Having status or reserving a suite also gives you special lines when getting on and off the ship. Once, when I was a teenager, a member of staff gave me a sign to hold that said “VIP”. It made me feel very special, indeed.

Don’t follow the crowd

It can be tempting to get up early so you don’t miss anything or do what everyone else does. But the best way to avoid the crowds without spending extra money is to go at your own pace.

Sleep in! Have breakfast just before closing. Go to the cafe instead of the buffet. Order room service. Do you like getting up early? Do that instead!

When you see everyone running to get off the ship, wait for the queue to die down. Or don’t get off the ship at all – my family and I rode the Anthem of the Seas North Star attraction when we were docked in port and there was no wait.

ocean cruise ships in the background

The view from Anthem of the Seas’ North Star attraction, a giant glass ball that lifts you 300 feet above the water.

Rebecca Harrington/Insider

We also learned to book our own tours online instead of the cruise line shore excursions. You can usually get a better deal, see more, and talk to more locals this way.

Also take advantage of onboard reservations. Most cruise ships now have mobile apps where you can book dinners, shows, and attractions so you don’t have to wait in line. Or, if you have status or have booked a suite, you can ask your concierge to make the reservations for you.

Ifly simulated skydiving over the Royal Anthem of the Caribbean Seas

The author made a reservation to try the RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator aboard the Anthem of the Seas.

Rebecca Harrington/Insider

Finally, cruise ships are big. They are basically floating skyscrapers. If you explore enough, you can find places where people don’t congregate. There is usually a quiet outdoor space on deck four or five under the lifeboats where you can sit quietly on a lounge chair.

And if you book a room with a balcony, you have a slice of space all to yourself.

rainbow over ocean on cruise ship balcony

Sometimes the best view is from your cabin balcony.

Rebecca Harrington/Insider