Capitol Reef FAQ

Caribbean Cruise FAQ

General Information

Please check back in as we will be continually updating these frequently asked questions with new information as we have it.

Health Considerations: All attendees and family are required to be fully vaccinated with appropriate boosters. Any potential waivers due to medical reasons would be considered on a case-by-case basis and are subject to approval by the event venue (such as Capitol Reef Field Station or Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines).

Q: Can I pay a deposit and pay the balance at a later date?

A: Both of this year’s WXR retreats require payment in full at the time of registration.

Scholarships

WXR offers scholarships every year to the writing workshops and retreats. Each scholarship offers full tuition, $500 of travel expenses, a bed in a shared room, and hotel expenses in the destination city for one night before the event. Because the food on each retreat is free, this covers essentially all your expenses for the week, though depending on the flights you arrange, you might need to cover some of the travel yourself. Details and information are posted each year on what and where to submit.

UPDATE: The application deadline was April 17, 2022. Applications for scholarships for the 2022 Writing Excuses Workshops and Retreats are now closed.


Capitol Reef FAQ

WEATHER & HEAT ADVISORY

Please be aware that daytime temperatures at Capitol Reef average 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. (29-32 Celsius). Nighttime temperatures average 55-65 F (12-18C). The air will be very dry and rain is unlikely (but possible). The altitude at the field station is 6000 feet (1830m), which is right on the edge of where some people begin to experience altitude sickness. Please pack warm weather clothing with layers and bring a water bottle. Pack good walking shoes or hiking boots. If you have further questions about the Capitol Reef Field Station, they have a convenient FAQ.

Q: How do I get from the airport to the site? Will there be any sort of coordinated transportation or is the expectation that you fly into a nearby airport, rent a car, and get to the site independently?

A: We will designate a hotel in Salt Lake City as a meeting point. If you can get to Capitol Reef on your own you are welcome to do so, but everyone else will meet at that SLC hotel and caravan down, either in your own vehicle or in one of our buses. Specific arrangements for this transportation will be made during and after registration. In other words: if you can get yourself to SLC, we’ve got you covered the rest of the way.

UPDATE: The closest airport to Capitol Reef is Salt Lake City airport, approximately 3.5 hours away from Capitol Reef by car. We will be forming a caravan to make the trip from Salt Lake City, meeting at a designated hotel in SLC on June 27th and departing at 2 PM sharp. The caravan will return to the Salt Lake City airport on July 2nd with a planned arrival time of 2 PM. If you plan to travel with the group, we recommend arriving in Salt Lake no later than 12 PM on June 27th and departing no earlier than 4 PM on July 2nd. Our meeting place on the 27th will be announced as soon as we have confirmed it, but the times will remain the same.

If you want to meet us at Capitol Reef, feel free! We ask that you be at Capitol Reef Resort (2600 E Highway 24) in Torrey, UT by 5 PM on June 27th. Hotel check-in details will be shared when we’re closer to the date.

Q: How will people who are offsite be transported on site each day?

A: We have rented vans and will be transporting all offsite students to the site in the morning and returning you to your hotel space in the evening. The travel time is approximately 40 minutes along canyon roadways. One instructor and several staff members will also be staying at the offsite location.

Q: Can I bring my family/friend with me?

A: Attendance is strictly limited (by the National Park itself), so we are keeping as many slots open for students as possible. Non-writing companions may attend but everyone who attends will have to purchase a ticket. There is no family discount.

Q: What are the accommodations?

A: The Field Station has group rooms of five or six people each.

The offsite location is in the nearby town of Torrey at a small hotel. The hotel rooms are double occupancy, so you’ll have a roommate. It is extremely unlikely that anyone, including instructors, will have a fully private room. Students at the offsite location will be bussed to the site each day. The travel time is approximately 40 minutes along canyon roadways.

UPDATE:  if you are staying at the Capitol Reef Field Station during the retreat, you must bring your own twin-size bedding (sheets, blanket, and pillow).

Q: Will there be designated writing classes held by Mary Robinette and/or Dan?

A: Yes, there will be designated writing classes and critique sessions.

UPDATE: Check out the post WXR 2022 Capitol Reef Programming Preview! for updates.


Caribbean Cruise FAQ

Q: Where can I find information about Royal Caribbean’s Covid / vaccination policies?

A: Read through information provided in Royal Caribbean Cruises Healthy Sail Center: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/the-healthy-sail-center

Q: What can I expect?

A: It’s a cruise ship. On the ocean. With great food, fun ship board activities, adventurous excursions – and writerly minds to keep you company.

The base price covers seven days filled with intensive seminars, writing exercises, small group breakout sessions, and writing time, plus double-occupancy lodging on the ship, meals aboard ship, and a cruise to four different Caribbean destinations. Attendees will also be invited to attend a live recording of the Hugo award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, and Dan Wells.

Each seminar is designed for working writers who are interested in leveling up their skill set. They often include writing exercises and always offer Q&A time with the instructor.

Participants will also be able to sign up for a limited number of breakout sessions or one-on-one sessions with individual instructors. There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event we may not be able to accommodate everyone with their first choice.

These breakout sessions include:

Critique groups: Members will submit novel or short story excerpts up to 3000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the instructors. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)

Unlocking Sessions: These small group sessions are places to brainstorm with a group about your writing project or process. Unlocking sessions in the past have included discussion on everything from how to make time to write to the intricacies of a specific magic system.

3-minute Readings: Writers will gain experience doing public readings by sharing 3 minutes of their work with the WXR group.

“Office Hours”: Each morning, select instructors are available for individual drop-in sessions to cover those questions that come up mid-cruise.

Q: That’s a lot of people-ing. I don’t do well in groups. Will I survive this?

It may come as a surprise, but on a cruise of writers, most of our group are also introverts. Some of us are better at presenting as extroverts than others, but we know where you’re coming from and we feel your pain. We’ve structured the cruise to create downtime and make it easy to meet people in smaller, more manageable groups. There are lots of quiet areas all over the ship for those in need of some time and space when it all gets too much. This is why it’s called the Writing Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat. We also have a Discord where we can get to know each other before the cruise – it really helps to have some familiar faces when we all show up.

Q: Will I really have time to write with all this going on?

A: We provide time, absolutely, but it’s up to you how you use it. In years past, we’ve had some attendees write more than 40,000 words while with us. We celebrate together for words written, and provide optional prompts each day to encourage and inspire. There are also board game nights, dancing, karaoke, and impromptu combat demos to tempt us all. Some of our writers gather in places on the ship or seek out an out-of-the-way nook to write by themselves. Whatever you choose to do with your free time, your time is yours.

Q: What level of writing expertise should I have prior to attending?

A: “Level of expertise” is far less important than your desire to learn and improve. The schedule and classes are structured to be accessible and useful for writers with a passion for learning. We’ve found that presenting focused content that’s challenging and rewarding is more useful for writers than 101 material, regardless of where they are on their career track. But we also have “office hours,” which are drop-in one-on-one sessions available almost every morning of the cruise for those questions that pop up during the course of the week.

Q: What do I do if I’m traveling from a non-US country and travel restrictions are put into place that will affect my ability to attend?

A: This is unfortunately outside our control and changes regularly. It will be up to you to monitor travel restrictions that may apply to you. Travel insurance might help you mitigate risk. Royal Caribbean has a Frequently Asked Questions page https://www.royalcaribbean.com/faq and a toll free number you can call 800-256-6649 so you can figure out what works best for you. This page may also have information that will help you: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/faq/questions/when-to-take-a-test-if-traveling-to-us-from-another-country

Q: What protocols are in place for a safe dining experience onboard?

A: Contact-less room service is available. Restaurants and bars will feature QR codes to view menus on your phone. Buffets will now be served by crew rather than self-service, and more covered or wrapped grab-and-go items will be made available. Reservations are recommended for the Windjammer buffet due to capacity control. More detail here: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/sgp/en/faq/questions/what-protocols-are-in-place-for-a-safe-dining-experience?country=SGP

Q: What does the daily schedule look like? / How much time will I have free vs being in class?

A: Each day will begin with optional Office Hours for Q&A with participating instructors and attending pros. Lectures, workshops, and break out sessions will be scheduled in coordination with the ship’s daily itinerary. Optional evening activities like pre-dinner cocktail hour or after-dinner karaoke will be scheduled here and there, as well as nightly tabletop gaming. Between the WXR activities and all of the fun the ship offers, it’s a lot and can be overwhelming. We recommend attendees prioritize and set aside time for themselves based on personal needs for rest and quiet time.

Q: Can I bring my family/friend with me?

A: We offer reduced rates for family/friends who you want to bring on the trip with you, but who aren’t interested in attending classes. If you are registering for yourself and a non-writer family member, that is two separate tickets. Your ticket should be the normal cost, and your family member should get the matching “Family” berth. For example, Jo is bringing their spouse, so they register for one “Balcony Writer (double occupancy, price/person)” and one “Balcony Cabin, Family”.

If you want to bring more than three family members, please contact us before booking your tickets. We’ll put you in touch with Lisa Harding, our cruise manager, who can help you with pricing and any other arrangements.

Update: Writer tickets can share a cabin with family tickets so long as you purchase the same type of cabin. (IE both balcony or both inside). You will be able to indicate by name who you want to share your cabin with.

Update: Family members will be seated with their writers for the group dinners in the evenings. In fact we love having family members be part of the dinner time conversations.

Q: Can young children attend?

A: Children aged 11 and younger are welcome aboard the ship, but cannot attend the Writing Excuses seminars. Royal Caribbean has an excellent youth program which includes childcare. Follow this link for more details about Adventure Ocean®, Babies and Tots Programs, and more.

Q: What does “double-occupancy” mean?

A: It means that the price is for half of a room. You’ll have a roommate. This can be a friend that you arrange to room with ahead of time, it can be a family member, or it can be another Writing Excuses attendee. If you don’t have a roommate, we will assist you in matching up with a fellow attendee before the cruise. You will have the opportunity to state preferences for what will work for you as a roommate.

Q: Can I get a private room?

A: Yes, but it will cost more. When you register, select one of the following tickets:

  • Interior Cabin, Single: $2,250.00+$138.60 Fee / +$197.06 Tax
  • Oceanview Cabin, Single: $2,500.00+$153.82 Fee / +$218.94 Tax
  • Balcony Cabin, Single: $3,000.00+$184.25 Fee / +$262.70 Tax

Q: What if I don’t have a passport yet?

A: All guests must have a valid passport to cruise. If you do not have one yet but are ordering one, you may put “Passport on order” in the passport field. By doing so, you acknowledge that it is your responsibility to acquire a passport before cruising and that you cannot board the ship without one. Writing Excuses is in no way responsible if your passport does not arrive before cruise time.

Q: Are there excursions and off ship activities available?

A: We plan a limited number of group excursions for each of the ports. These excursions are completely optional and are purchased separately from your conference ticket. You can also plan your own excursions by working directly with the cruise line’s catalog of excursions. Some Covid restrictions may apply at some ports of call, but we won’t know specific details until closer to the event. At the time of this writing (March 2022) there were no restrictions at any of our ports. 

Q: Which airport should I fly into?

A: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is closest to our Hotel if you are staying the night with us before boarding the ship. If you are going directly to the port in Galveston Texas, you can fly into either George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) or Houston Hobby International Airport (HOU).

The nearest airport to Port of Galveston is Houston Hobby International Airport. The distance is a little over 40 miles and the trip takes approximately 30 minutes. George Bush Intercontinental is located to the north of Houston and is approximately 70 miles from the port. The ride can take approximately 1 ½ hours.

Anyone who has booked the hotel the night prior to the cruise will have our private bus transfers included roundtrip. 

For those people not at the hotel, transfers to and from the port can be added on via Eventbrite and will be reserved with Royal Caribbean for you.

Q: When I’m booking my flight, when should I arrive and depart? 

A: If you are staying with us at the hotel the night before, you can arrive at any time on Saturday September 10. If you plan to arrive on Sunday, September 11, and travel straight to the ship we advise that your flight arrive before noon.

On the day of departure, September 18, your flight cannot leave before 12:30 PM. (we actually recommend making your flight 1pm or later.) Once you have your flight information, please send it to Lisa Harding, our cruise director:  lisa@whodunitcruises.com

Q: What is the hotel information for those who want to book the hotel the night before the cruise?

A: Houston Marriott North Hotel (near IAH, George Bush Intercontinental Airport)

255 N Sam Houston Pkwy E 

Houston, TX 77060

https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/hougp-houston-marriott-north/overview/

Q: What level of writing expertise should I have attained prior to attending?

A: “Level of expertise” is far less important than your desire to improve. The workshop is structured to be accessible and useful for new writers with a passion for learning, and to be challenging and rewarding for seasoned professionals looking for refinement, or additional perspectives. Different classes will be designed for different levels of experience.

Q: Will you have a scholarship again this year? 

A: Yes! We are offering four scholarships. For full details on the scholarships, please check back soon.

Q: How big is the ship?

A: The Liberty of the Seas holds 3634 guests, of which we’ll be a small percentage. The Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat has its own dedicated spaces, ours alone 24 hours a day, for classes, writing time, impromptu discussions, or other activities (like, say, games with Dan). We’ll also have our own area of the dining room, and the guests will rotate tables each night to sit with different instructors. While the ship is large, it will be similar to being at a convention in a very nice hotel. You’ll know your tribe, you’ll know where to find them, and you’ll have places to hide from all the scary non-writer people. We’ll also be using Discord to communicate and find each other on the ship.

Q: How are on ship communications handled?

A: Prior to boarding the ship we encourage all attendees to download the Discord app and join the Discord server for this year’s trip. (The link will be provided in your registration materials.) This messaging app lets staff make announcements, attendees arrange their own meet ups, and generally helps with organization and communications. We will also have posted written schedules and updates available in our dedicated conference space.

Q: How big is the event? Is there a cap to attendance?

A: This year, we are capping students at 200. As mentioned above, the instructors will be hosting different attendees at dinner each night and participating in other activities in order to make ourselves accessible to each and every one of the attendees.

Q: Are there any additional fees?

A: The price of your cruise includes:

  • The Writing Excuses workshops and seminars (For workshop attendees. Instructor availability subject to change)
  • WiFi
  • Ship accommodations
  • Transfer from the WX Hotel in Houston to the ship and back to Houston again.
  • Ocean transportation
  • Gratuities
  • Most meals onboard (To be clear, it is possible to have all of your meals in venues that are covered.)
  • Some beverages onboard
  • Most entertainment onboard

The following services are not included in the cruise price:

  • Dining in Specialty Restaurants such as Portofino
  • Dining in Johnny Rockets (Where applicable)
  • Spa and Salon services
  • Golf Simulator
  • Gambling (Including Bingo)
  • Art Auction
  • Any purchases made in the gift shops onboard
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs
  • Video Arcade
  • Medical Services
  • Transfers (Unless guest has purchased an air/sea package)
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Ship to Shore Telephone calls
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages (excluding water, lemonade and iced tea)

Couldn’t find the answer to your question here or have a very specific question? Email the WXR Team at contact@writingexcusesretreat.com or use the contact form in the footer of this site.