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Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival


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Ok I will be a first time cruiser on Royal Caribbean at the end of November. I have sailed Carnival 4 times and thought I would change it up this time. Those of you that have cruised both where does Royal Caribbean bet Carnival and in what are are they maybe not as good as Carnival?  I am excited to have this mini vacation and try a new cruise line out

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I would say my biggest issue with Carnival is the garish design, so RCG has better decor imho. ?

I think the entertainment value on RCG is better because they have original productions, some off Broadway shows and better musicians. I find the comedy shoes on  Carnival to be a bit better though. Food is a very subjective topic but I found RCG to  be better in terms of temp quality. Also RCG is much cleaner, well it seems that way because on my first RCG Jan 2019 on Mariner...all I saw were crew members wiping things down and being friendly.

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Carnival vs Royal vs NCL for me is much more about ship vs ship than it is line vs line.

Compare Carnival Paradise to Oasis of the Seas and there is a clear winner in every category except fitting under the Sunshine Skyway ...

Compare Carnival Vista to Majesty of the Seas and the story is about the same but largely flipped the other way ...

 

Generally for me, Royal has a newer/better maintained fleet with more of a focus on family and shows vs adults and comedy, depends on what your looking for.

 

Carnival's older/smaller boats were pretty much crappy drunkfests, the newer boats compare very closely to the newer Royal/NCL ships for me.

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10 minutes ago, jticarruthers said:

Carnival vs Royal vs NCL for me is much more about ship vs ship than it is line vs line.

Compare Carnival Paradise to Oasis of the Seas and there is a clear winner in every category except fitting under the Sunshine Skyway ...

Compare Carnival Vista to Majesty of the Seas and the story is about the same but largely flipped the other way ...

 

Generally for me, Royal has a newer/better maintained fleet with more of a focus on family and shows vs adults and comedy, depends on what your looking for.

 

Carnival's older/smaller boats were pretty much crappy drunkfests, the newer boats compare very closely to the newer Royal/NCL ships for me.

We had one of those crappy, drunk fest ships that sailed out of Jacksonville. A few friends have done that one and it was pretty gross. 

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55 minutes ago, jticarruthers said:

Carnival vs Royal vs NCL for me is much more about ship vs ship than it is line vs line.

Agree on this statement. New ship vs old ship can make or break.

Carnival's old fleet was always wild in decor and clearly obvious the exact ship you're on. Royal on the flip side has very subtle differences between ships of the same category (except for Royal Amplified features). Pre Amplified someone could barely tell the difference between Oasis and Allure. Jump to the Carnival side and it could be clearly obvious between Carnival Liberty and Carnival Freedom based on decor.

Thinking starting with the Carnival Splendor or Dream the decor started being toned down greatly. Will also add Dream's inaugural season was the last time I sailed Carnival. Keep eyeing Mardi Gras however.

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I'm two or three cruises short of platinum on Carnival which is comparable to RCI Diamond in terms of points level and level of effort to achieve.  

Royal's loyalty program is significantly better at the Diamond level and above.  Below this level both loyalty programs don't do a whole lot.

I stopped cruising Carnival a few years ago not because I ever had a bad cruise with them but because I was left wanting something a little more.  

Before Carnival Breeze all ships had that hideous coral color cabin.  If you could be transported between ships you would have no idea you were on a different ship because the cabins all have that coral color and all cabins are nearly identical across the older fleet.  The spa cabins on the Breeze finally started introducing some better cabin decor.

Since the Breeze I feel like Carnival is cramming more and more people on their ships without making the ships equally larger.  Mardi Gras looks very interesting but the passenger count concerns me and when I researched it they have reduced cabin width for most cabins to get more people on the ship.  Crowding has been an increased concern on Carnival's more recent ships and I'll be watching closely when Mardi Gras first sails with guests to see just how bad it's become.  

As far as dining that is very personal so it's hard to declare a winner.  Each of us has our own tastes.  Mass market cruise food isn't going to win prizes on any cruise line.

On Royal's newer ships I find the entertainment is better than Carnival.  On older Royal ships entertainment is not a whole lot different compared to Carnival.  

Beer choices are better on Carnival. 

Guy's hamburgers are much better than the included hamburger options on Royal but I do feel like I am knocking on death's door with each bite of a Guy's burger. 

Internet is far superior on Royal over Carnival but Princess has Royal beat in the internet department.  Royal claims the fastest internet at sea but that claim comes from the era before Princess upgraded their fleet.  Royal doesn't upgrade ship internet, only the newer ships get better internet.  As Princess has upgraded their fleet over the past few years they crept past Royal for the fastest internet at sea despite Royal still using the "fastest" marketing claim from 5 years ago.  Carnival tries to blur the marketing by using the Princess fleet internet and applying it as "Carnival" internet being the best when in reality the Whale Tail fleet has poor internet period.  So both lines have some shady internet marketing in play but focusing on the Whale Tail Carnival brand versus Royal, Royal wins the internet performance battle while CCL's social media internet option is cheaper. 

At the end of the day what my opinions are don't matter.  Each of us has preferences and likes vs. dislikes.  All you can do it try it and see for yourself.  However as others have noted research the ships so you are comparing apples to apples or as close as you can to that analogy.   A new CCL ship is going to yield a better experience over the oldest RCI ship and vice versa.  

When I tried Royal I found it satisfied more of what I was seeking but at a slightly higher cost.  I feel like that cost gap has narrowed over time with CCL charging more for their newer ships now.  Mardi Gras pricing isn't very different than Odyssey pricing (both new ships) but you can always find one week on one or the other that's cheaper on either depending on cabin type and how many are in your party.  

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22 minutes ago, DuaneG said:

I am sailing on Freedom of the sees. From the videos I have watched it is almost night and day vs the Carnival ships I have been on. 

Freedom OTS was recently "amplified" (refreshed).  That happened just before the big CDC industry shutdown.  She looks to be in great shape.

When I first cruised Royal after sailing a bunch of Carnival I kept comparing small things like the buffet.  "That's not how Carnival does it" kept on entering my thoughts.  Then I let go and acted like I had never been on a cruise.  With an open mind I started to prefer some things the way they are done on Royal.  

When ever trying something new or different that's probably the best advice.  Pretend you've never cruised before and go with the flow.  Remember the magic of walking on a cruise ship for the very first time?  Enjoy your Freedom cruise like that.  Once the cruise is over and you are stuck back on land only then sit back and compare the two to see which checks more of the boxes on your preferences checklist.  

 

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14 minutes ago, ConstantCruiser said:

Freedom OTS was recently "amplified" (refreshed).  That happened just before the big CDC industry shutdown.  She looks to be in great shape.

When I first cruised Royal after sailing a bunch of Carnival I kept comparing small things like the buffet.  "That's not how Carnival does it" kept on entering my thoughts.  Then I let go and acted like I had never been on a cruise.  With an open mind I started to prefer some things the way they are done on Royal.  

When ever trying something new or different that's probably the best advice.  Pretend you've never cruised before and go with the flow.  Remember the magic of walking on a cruise ship for the very first time?  Enjoy your Freedom cruise like that.  Once the cruise is over and you are stuck back on land only then sit back and compare the two to see which checks more of the boxes on your preferences checklist.  

 

Great recommendations. Thank you

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1 hour ago, DuaneG said:

I am sailing on Freedom of the sees. From the videos I have watched it is almost night and day vs the Carnival ships I have been on. 

My 1st cruise ever which was 11 yrs ago now was on Freedom of the Seas. We loved it soooo much. It’s been revamped since then but it got us hooked on only sailing with RC. 

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3 hours ago, ConstantCruiser said:

I'm two or three cruises short of platinum on Carnival which is comparable to RCI Diamond in terms of points level and level of effort to achieve.  

Royal's loyalty program is significantly better at the Diamond level and above.  Below this level both loyalty programs don't do a whole lot.

I stopped cruising Carnival a few years ago not because I ever had a bad cruise with them but because I was left wanting something a little more...  

 

@ConstantCruiser I feel about the same.

There is a YouTube on this comparison. Royal mostly won. Just search for Royal Caribbean vs Carnival or vice-versa and plenty will show up.

My only Royal was Empress. My last of 4 or 5 Carnival was Inspiration. Neither is part of the fleets.
My Carnival Inspiration was last March 2020, the last cruise before the No Sail Order. 
Even without Covid-19, my outside cabin showed signs of being ready for the Turkey scrapyard, where is now sits in pieces.

The pizza tasted like cardboard with tomato sauce, if you could find someone to man the counter.
I was forced to live off Guy Burgers. It was a pretty good excuse and after tasting the pizza, the wife bought it.

I used to walk down the pier looking at the newer, larger Royal ship next to me, thinking, "Some day."
Even though Empress was the smallest and oldest ship in the Royal Fleet, it impressed me enough to swing to Royal.
When I got off Empress, my only reason to go back to Carnival was the cruise port.

Carnival cruised out of Long Beach in March 2020, and Royal did not.
That changes in November 2021, when Navigator returns to the Port of Los Angeles for the first time in a decade.
I am booked on it March 2022.

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I have been primarily a Carnival cruiser with 1 Royal cruise.  My next 2 booked are Royal though I may sneak a Carnival in there somewhere. 

As several people have said it is very subjective. But I think my experiences on my last 2 family cruises is a perfect example. 

We did a family cruise on Carnival with my son-in-laws family and had an amazing time.  My wife and I both agreed it was a great vacation.  We then did a friends cruise on Royal and it was a horrible vacation.  But when I went back and wrote reviews for the trips I realized that on the Carnival cruise pretty much everything that was great was the family and shore excursions and the cruise itself kinda sucked.  On the Royal cruise while the vacation was bad because of circumstances that had nothing to do with Royal, the cruise part itself beat Carnival on everything but the food.  Which is why when I booked my next trip it was a Royal cruise.

The point I'm making is there are so many variables to a vacation that I believe you should try all the lines and don't limit yourself based on what other people say about the lines themselves.

That being said I believe the entertainment on Royal is far superior to Carnival and I believe the included food on Carnival is far superior to Royal.

 

 

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My first royal cruise was 2019 on symphony , I am now ruined. I am am Oasis class homer now. Going on odyssey in December and then symphony again March 2022. 
my original intro to cruising was in mid aughts and was carnival Glory which was great. It was fine as a younger man, but now I like the extravagant laid back nature of royal if that makes any sense. Man I miss cruising !!!

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I started cruising in the 80's.  I did my first few cruises on Carnival because it was the cheapest.  It was great at first but I had nothing to compare it to.  So started doing lots of cruise lines including Holland, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean.  I decided I liked RC more than the other cruise lines and have only cruised RC and Celebrity for about last 25 years.  I really like Celebrity also. But as mentioned in other posts, cruises are more about each ship and the staff.  I am not very  fond of older ships anymore.  I am probably spoiled with the clean, newer, larger ships.  I absolutely love cruising and at this point I just want the cruises to be able to cruise!

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Part of what I used was ship tonnage divided by max number of guests. That will give an idea of how many passengers per square foot-ish of space (not a specific metric, but a general guide). Any time I compared RCL to Carnival, RCL always had a higher (by a good amount sometimes) tonnage to max guests ratio (inferring more space per passenger).

This kind of topic has been around for a long time. The best overall value, RCL seems to always come out on top.

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I have never cruised on RCL but have three RCL cruises booked in the next 13 months and am curious to see the differences. It was never brand loyalty, just that we live near the Los Angeles and San Diego ports and RCL hasn't had much of a presence in Southern California for a while. As my wife and I have moved into new age and tax brackets we get a little pickier, we have more vacation time so we can afford the time and the money of flying to a port but that wasn't always the case. We are native Californians, tattoos and surgically enhanced body parts on display seem normal to us, so the carnival crowd didn't bother us in fact we probably are them. What bothered us was the lack of specialty dining, limited suites, wine offerings and a few other things the older or smaller ships can lack. I was reluctant to switch because it means forfeiting loyalty and casino perks (sometimes free rooms) since I spend way too much time and money playing cards. I do like the suite offerings on Royal, were trying all three, JS, GS and OS on three different ships. Royal seems to have more rabid fans so I'm optimistic. One little thing I really like, probably not important to most, is the wine list and the beverage package rules as it pertains to wines above the price limit. On some lines, if they have a price limit of $13 and you order a $15 glass, you pay the whole $15. From what I've read with Royal's DBX, you just pay the difference. Plus the 40% off on bottles with the DBX serves as a backstop in case we don't like the offerings by the glass and from the wine lists posted, the prices are reasonable and selection suits us. Were not wine snobs, I prefer hobbyists but I've had land based tropical vacations at high end resorts impacted when I see the cabernet on ice when I approach the bar for the first time. I can improvise on land, I can always find a store nearby, on a cruise I am stuck. Maybe we are wine snobs.

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After 4 Disney Cruises, we switched to Royal due to price.  We had some family members that had been on Royal and Carnival and the ones that used Carnival tended to be “boozers” giving us the impression, right or wrong, that Carnival wax the “booze cruise line” so we picked Royal. Coming from Disney, we could have gotten an Junior Suite on Allure for the same price as the interior cabin on the Disney Fantasy.  We did get a Central Park Balcony on that first one, but now do interior to save money and do more cruises.

We’ve been very happy with Royal and for what we do on the cruise, it’s been a very similar experience.  We do miss our Disney stuff, but being annual pass holders at Disney World we get our mouse “fix”.

I’ll never say never, but I expect we’ll be “Loyal to Royal” until the end. At some point we will probably do some Celebrity ones, for some different itineraries, but it will be a while.

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On 6/16/2021 at 10:43 PM, AlmondFarmer said:

Carnival is often better on pricing.

I'd say that depends on what your definition of "better" is. A lot of people use "better" to mean "cheaper", but I don't think that's quite fair. To me, "better" means "better value". If you're paying 15% more for a product that's 30% superior, you're getting a better price, even if it's not a lower price.

Being a frequent flier, I look at everything from a flying standpoint, so here's another example - I can fly an old United Airlines 777-200 to Hong Kong for $100 less than a new Cathay Pacific A350. It's a lower price, but I'm going to pay that $100 to have a vastly superior soft and hard product experience. 

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As long as the comparison is not with one of Carnival's old ships, many of which are now gone anyway, the two are very similar.  I like Carnival's food better.  I want to go the Grand Turk.   Carnival owns the dock.

I love so may things about RCCL.  The Lido lunch gets old by about the 4th day.

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