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7 things I liked better about Royal Caribbean cruises than Carnival

15 Dec 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Having been a devout Royal Caribbean fan for the majority of my cruising career, I always steered clear of Carnival— until recently. 


Carnival has a reputation for being the party cruise line. From activity-seeking couples to families and even solo cruisers, they aim to offer something for everyone onboard their "Fun Ships." 

Despite being in my mid-20s, the vibrant atmosphere often found onboard Carnival ships never appealed to me. Additionally, I find Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor loyalty program to be more rewarding than Carnival's VIFP program. 


While I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed my cruises onboard Carnival Celebration and Carnival Vista, there are some aspects of the cruising experience that Royal Caribbean does better.

Royal Caribbean's embarkation process


Neither Royal Caribbean nor Carnival gives guests their cruise cards during the physical check-in process. To board the ship, both lines require that you have a boarding pass ready to be scanned.

Personalized cruise cards, called SeaPass cards on Royal Caribbean and Sail & Sign cards on Carnival, can be found outside of your stateroom.  

While Royal Caribbean allows you to save a copy of your boarding pass to your mobile device, Carnival requires you to print it ahead of time. During the embarkation process, the port agent who verifies all of your documentation stamps the pass. 


Even though this is minor, I prefer the convenience of not having to worry about keeping up with a physical pass. 

Overall, though, the boarding process was just as quick as Royal Caribbean's. I was through security and on the ship within twenty minutes of stepping foot in the terminal when boarding Carnival Celebration in Miami and Carnival Vista in Port Canaveral. 

This also included the time it took for the K9 narcotics dog to sniff everyone's carry-on bags. 

E-muster drill

When cruising with Royal Caribbean, I appreciate that I'm able to complete the majority of my muster drill prior to getting on the ship. Usually, I'll watch the required videos at breakfast or while en route to the terminal, so the only thing I have to do on the ship is visit my physical muster station. 

Carnival, however, doesn't let guests complete any of the safety drill ahead of time. In addition to visiting your muster station, you have to listen to a brief presentation about how to properly use life jackets. 

After the emergency signal is broadcasted prior to sail away, the rest of the safety information is broadcasted over the PA system. 

Again, while minor, there are opportunities for Carnival to simplify their muster drill by utilizing the HUB app. 

Speaking of the HUB app, Royal Caribbean's mobile app is more useful in the days and months leading up to the cruise


My next Royal Caribbean cruise isn't until May 2024 onboard Quantum of the Seas; however, despite the cruise being over five months away, the app is already a useful tool. 

Through Royal Caribbean's app, I'm able to browse all the dining options, get an idea of what onboard activities will be offered, and even check out the ship's deck plans all before stepping foot on the ship.

Carnival's HUB app is useless until connected to the ship's Wi-Fi. When you open the app on your phone, you'll see a countdown to your sailing, but if you try and click on one of the links to book a package, you are redirected to your web browser. 

Thoughtfully designed staterooms


My 158-square-foot interior room on Carnival Celebration was clean and modern. I loved the blue accents and light wood, as the brighter colors made the small cabin feel more spacious.

However, compared to my inside stateroom on Symphony of the Seas, I was disappointed with the layout.While my cabin on Carnival Celebration was larger than my room on Symphony of the Seas, I felt like the space in my room on Symphony was better utilized.

First, there was a nicely sized sofa. I appreciated having a separate sitting area in case I didn't want to sit on my bed or at the vanity after returning from an excursion. 


Additionally, I had two closets and a small dresser with drawers, which helped me keep all of my belongings more organized, and the placement of the closets on both sides of the sofa maximized the amount of available floor space.

When I sailed on Carnival Vista, I splurged on a Junior Suite. While I appreciated the large stateroom and ensuite bathroom, it was located next to a public observation deck on Deck 9. There was a window that overlooked the public deck, and my cousin and I were startled whenever we saw someone walk by!

Plus, since the stateroom was situated above the Bridge, the view from the balcony was slightly obstructed. 


For $1,800 per person, I disliked the lack of privacy and was disappointed by the few perks that accompanied booking a suite. These included complimentary bottled water, priority embarkation and disembarkation, and upgraded bathroom amenities.

While I haven't stayed in a Royal Caribbean suite, I know they have a much more expansive suite program. 

Related: Comparing the cheapest cabin on Carnival Celebration vs Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

Windjammer Marketplace


When my cousin and I headed to the Lido Marketplace for what we assumed would be a quick breakfast before heading off for our excursion in Amber Cove, we were shocked by how long the lines were. 

While lines are to be expected on cruise ships, I've never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes at the Windjammer Marketplace on Royal Caribbean ships. 

The root of the issue is that there were only two grab-and-go stations open, and both had the same offerings.


The first morning I visited the Lido Marketplace, they had hashbrowns, pancakes, and eggs benedict with salmon, with the options being swapped for breakfast potatoes, French toast, and eggs benedict with ham the following day. The same standard offerings of yogurt, pastries, fruit, cereal, and eggs were always available. Plus, you were able to order an omelet. 

I found myself missing the Windjammer Marketplace, where I could get anything from avocado toast to freshly carved meats, grits, and more. 

Royal Caribbean's Main Dining Room service is much quicker than Carnival's


Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the food served in the Main Dining Room on Carnival Celebration and Carnival Vista. While there were some dishes that did not quite hit the mark, this is to be expected on any cruise ship. 

After taking so many Royal Caribbean cruises, I actually appreciated having different dishes to choose from. There were some interesting options, too, such as frog legs, duck rolls, and Hawaiian shrimp poke. 

Royal Caribbean launched their new menus almost a year ago to increase the speed of their dinner service, and I've come to appreciate the quicker dinners. 


The longer meal times onboard Carnival Celebration and Carnival Vista were a bit of a drag. Even the wait times for sea day brunch were a little outrageous.

After placing our orders, my cousin and I waited about thirty minutes for our breakfast, and our wait staff didn't stop by to take our drink orders for the first fifteen minutes we were seated. While it was nice to have the opportunity to chat with other passengers around us, I would have rather had prompt service. 



As someone who grew up going to Broadway shows, I have always loved sailing on Royal Caribbean ships with Broadway-style musicals. While Carnival's entertainment wasn't bad, Royal Caribbean's theater productions are unmatched.

The entertainment onboard Carnival Celebration was much better than Carnival Vista, which is a theme that's common for Royal Caribbean, too. Cruise lines tend to reserve the best entertainment for their newer ships.

However, even the shows on ships like Navigator of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas were of higher quality than those produced in Carnival Vista's Limelight Lounge. 


While there's no denying that the Playlist Productions cast was talented, there was always something missing. "America Rocks!", for instance, could have used more choreographed dancing. 

I found myself missing the ice skating and AquaTheater shows found on Royal Caribbean's newest ships. Nothing compares to the entertainment offered on Oasis (and soon Icon) Class ships!

The one aspect of entertainment I think Carnival excels at is their comedy shows. I loved how there were multiple comedians on both my 5- and 7-night cruises who did 18+ shows. 

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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