A regular cruise ship cabin on a Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report cruise ship packs everything you need into around 180 square feet. You get two twin beds that can be combined into what the cruise line calls "a Royal King." There's two small nightstands, a well-designed wardrobe/closet, a small desk with a chair and either a couch or comfortable chair. You also get a small bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower that looks like a launch tube for a water slide.
Over dozens of cruises, a regular cabin, or a balcony cabin (the same interior with a small external balcony, usually with two chairs and a table) has been more than enough for me. As a solo traveler, or even when my teenage son tags along, the small cabin meets our needs because it's really just a place to sleep and change clothes.
On my May 13-16 Freedom of the Seas sailing, however, I had booked on a casino promotion that came with a Junior Suite. That was increased to a "Grand Suite" before my sailing (through a modest bid via the RoyalUp program which allows passengers to sometimes bid on upgrading their room).
It was my first trip in a suite and despite the short three-day sailing time, I planned to take full advantage of it.
What It's Like in A Royal Caribbean Suite
Freedom of the Seas does not have some of the suite-related perks you get on larger ships. It does not, for example, have a Coastal Kitchen -- the specialty restaurant devoted solely to suite passengers -- nor does it have a suite-specific pool like the new Wonder of the Seas offers.
As a suite passenger, however, I was able to check in one hour earlier than my planned time using a special line devoted solely to suite passengers and Pinnacle-level (the highest level) loyalty program members.
Essentially, there was nobody in line in front of me and even having to show my passport, SeaPass (ticket), and negative covid test, I was walking onboard in just a few minutes. That put me on the ship at about 11:30 -- too early to visit my room, but plenty of time for a bite to eat in the Windjammer buffet and a first drink (vodka cranberry) at the Solarium (adults-only) pool.
At 1 p.m. I made my way to my suite and my SeaPass (a credit-card like key) was waiting in my door. Once I walked in, I was both impressed and underwhelmed. The "Grand Suite" was much larger than a regular cabin, and it had a bar (where water, cookies, and a bowl of fruit were waiting for me), but the bedroom area wasn't a separate room. Instead, it was a bed with a privacy curtain.
That wasn't an issue since I was traveling alone, but I'm not sure a curtain would provide much privacy had I been traveling with a friend or my son. The bathroom, however, put a regular cruise cabin bathroom to shame. It had a full tub with a shower rather than the normal shower stall (although the wall of the tub was very high, making getting in and out a challenge). The bathroom also had shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, which is a major improvement over the shampoo/body wash you get in a normal cabin.
My suite, which was on the tenth deck, also had a double balcony with two recliners on one side and two chairs and a small table on the other.
What is the Suite Life Like on a Royal Caribbean Ship?
Suite passengers get a few perks above those offered to regular passengers. You get access to a dedicated lounge where free happy hour drinks and a small buffet of hot and cold appetizers are served. There's also a continental breakfast in the morning and a fancy coffee machine that makes espresso, cappuccino, and other specialty coffees.
The lounge also has a concierge who can handle things like show or dinner reservations. That was a valuable perk as Ava, the Freedom's suite concierge, helped me make a reservation for seven at Giovanni's, the Italian specialty restaurant, and got the same group a table together in the main dining room each of the next two nights (we had not grouped our reservations before the trip).
Aside from the concierge service and the fact that happy hour drinks are free, the lounge wasn't very different from the Diamond Lounge (which I can access on any sailing as a Diamond-level loyalty member). It had slightly nicer chairs, but sits opposite the Diamond Lounge on the 14th floor (a lovely area with excellent views).
The food appeared to be the same as the loyalty lounge offered. As a suite guest, however, I also had access to breakfast at Chops, the Royal Caribbean steakhouse. That was a nice perk as the menu was similar to what gets offered in the main dining room with higher-quality items (much better bacon) than you get on the buffet.
Is a Royal Caribbean Grand Suite Worth It?
As a solo traveler who already has access to the Diamond Lounge, staying in a suite seemed sort of indulgent for no reason. The quick boarding process was very appreciated as was the concierge, but I'm pretty sure the Diamond Lounge concierge could do many of the same things (albeit suite passengers likely get a little bit of priority).
I could also see some people really enjoying the larger room -- especially if they were traveling with a partner and a child. For me, however, the extra space was wasted and, while I appreciated the larger bathroom with better amenities, I usually remember to bring shampoo and conditioner from home (since I drive to the port and don't have to deal with airline restrictions on liquids).
Similarly, some people love a balcony and would consider the double-sized balcony an added bonus. For me, it's a wasted amenity as I'd be happy to not have a balcony as the only time I used it was to take pictures.
Having a suite certainly felt special, but it's not something I'd pay significant money for, unless I had more than just me staying in the room. It was definitely an elevated experience (and on a ship that has Coastal Kitchen, that might make the added expense worth it).
I'll gladly take a suite through a casino promotion or a RoyalUp offer, but I'm unlikely to pay extra for one (although I can see why having one would be a big bonus to cruisers who lack loyalty status and aren't traveling solo).