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Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival


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23 hours ago, Temeculaguy said:

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.

You can bring 2 bottles of wine onto the ship on Royal. 

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4 hours ago, emmef said:

You can bring 2 bottles of wine onto the ship on Royal. 

Is it 2 bottles per person or per couple? On vacation, 2 bottles per couple is about one day for us on vacation. Hopefully RCL has sommeliers on staff, we appreciate their craft and enjoy supporting them, cruise ships seem to often employ soms and we enjoy learning from them, it's one of the things we love about cruises. Land based vacations it's hit and miss.

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10 hours ago, RCVoyager said:

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 personally think Turks & Caicos Islands are one of those places that just needs a land-based vacation. I've been a few times to a few different islands, and the place is just...outstanding. Out of this world. I couldn't imagine rolling in on a cruise ship and only spending a few hours. Just my opinion (and I have not been to Grand Turk, just Providenciales and a couple of the Caicos islands). 

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1 hour ago, Zacharius said:

I personally think Turks & Caicos Islands are one of those places that just needs a land-based vacation. I've been a few times to a few different islands, and the place is just...outstanding. Out of this world. I couldn't imagine rolling in on a cruise ship and only spending a few hours. Just my opinion (and I have not been to Grand Turk, just Providenciales and a couple of the Caicos islands). 

Agree Zacharius.  Providenciales is our favorite of all the islands, and it is not close.  I'm not talking about staying at one of the mega resorts.  You can get that a lot of places.  Grace Bay is 15 miles long.  Find a small place away from the resorts.  It is amazing.  Gorgeous EMPTY beaches.

 

As far as Grand Turk, I haven't looked lately.  There is little lodging there, and little to no international flight service.  Best way to get there is to use Carnival's Dock.  Which of course means, in most cases, on a Carnival ship.

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5 hours ago, Zacharius said:

I personally think Turks & Caicos Islands are one of those places that just needs a land-based vacation. I've been a few times to a few different islands, and the place is just...outstanding. Out of this world. I couldn't imagine rolling in on a cruise ship and only spending a few hours. Just my opinion (and I have not been to Grand Turk, just Providenciales and a couple of the Caicos islands). 

Funny thing about the Turks and Cacios Islands, is that people don't know about them.  I work with several people who have been on a few cruises to the islands and think they know everything there is to know about that part of the world who have never even heard of those islands.  Their loss.

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The Grand Turk port is nice for a cruise stop and seems to be more and more where things are going with private/semi private ports.  In 10 years or so I think this will be the norm for many cruise ports, where you start to lose some of the uniqueness and charm of seeing the actual country destination and getting a controlled beach/pool/bar/shopping experience.  Good in some ways, disappointing in others.  

I've sailed a couple of times on newer Carnival ships (Breeze, Horizon) and had a great time - these ships don't compare favorably with Oasis/Quantum class, but match up decently with amped Voyager class ships IMO.  Carnival really beats Royal on complimentary food options- we were able to have lunch at the Asian, Italian, BBQ, Mexican, and Guy's Burger for no charge which were all excellent and better than the equivalent Royal offerings.  Royal specialty dining has a significant leg up on Carnival.  Main dining rooms seem to be a wash for us.  Overall I think  Carnival provides the better food value and caters more to American tastes where Royal has a more international approach.  

We also really liked the party vibe on Carnival - it seems like on Royal (non-Oasis class) things are shutting down after 9:30/10 (most food venues close, pool deck empty, etc) whereas Carnival will have more late night deck parties/comedy club and late night buffets (24-hour ice cream!).  I'm not talking about drunk/smashed out of your mind type partying (you can see that on different cruises), but just good fun with lots of people active and engaged by the cruise staff.  The Alchemy Bar on Carnival ships is also a great experience.  Overall, Royal will try to entertain you with the ship features, while Carnival relies more on staff and activities to generate this.  Both can result in great cruises.

Some people have said in this thread that it's a Walmart (Carnival), vs. Target (Royal) experience.  I can see where that's coming from, but I think they are starting to become more similar than not, especially with the new Mardi Gras class ships.  Same goes for Norwegian with their Breakaway+ class and the new MSC ships - the quality of ships has really changed significantly in the past 10 years for all mass market lines.  

I had only sailed Royal (8 voyages) up until 3 years ago and looked down at Carnival and wondered if I would "fit in with THOSE types of people".  Well...after sailing, my thoughts are "I am one of THOSE people"!  I had a great time...if I had been on an older garish ship like the Glory then maybe my thoughts would be different.  I ultimately see more convergence here in the next few years rather than differences as the new shipbuilding wars intensify and the older ships get forced out of the fleets faster (Sovereign class, Vision Class, Carnival Fantasy class).  Carnival introducing a roller coaster and Norwegian a go-kart track on new megaships (plus their exclusive premium cabin areas) are a signal they are not content to sit behind Royal's lead in innovation.

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Carnival has better food. The newer ships with 7+ day sailing durations attract the same crowd as RC. The Carnival casino program is more organized then RCs players club. RC has a far superior suite program and the loft suite option just puts them in a separate league. Personally I wouldn’t hesitate to sail on a newer carnival ship and the experience is as good or in some cases better then any RC option. As others have said, the older ships on shorter sailings are filled with the drunk/party crowd and you cannot use this as a basis for comparison. 

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It's funny that the Carnival Glory was mentioned in a previous comment. The Glory was the last Carnival ship that we sailed on (March 2019) before going on 5 Royal cruises, beginning in June 2019 and ending the day when cruises were stopped (March 14, 2020.)  I don't believe the Glory was garish; she certainly had some friendly and lively entertainment crew members (trivia hosts) anyway.  On our first Royal cruise, I was blown away by seeing things like Flowriders, The Perfect Storm and Ice Skating Shows - we were on the Liberty OTS - but honestly, didn't feel that friendly buzz with the crew except for our wait staff and maybe the room steward. I felt more crew friendliness when we sailed on the Enchantment OTS a few months later, and during our second Liberty OTS cruise.  As far as food goes, we really enjoyed the BBQ place that was up on the second level of the Marketplace Buffet on the Glory, and Johnny Rocket's on the Liberty OTS, even though it had a surcharge. The food in the main dining rooms in both lines each have their shining stars - the chocolate melting cake from Carnival and the steak and turkey entrees with Royal are my favorites. What swung us over to Royal was the fact that on the Liberty OTS, the casino host bothered to take the time to give hubby a brochure explaining the Club Royale program and was there to answer any questions. Never before, during 7 Carnival cruises, had anyone explained how to earn comps in their casinos, even though hubby had actually once earned a comped cruise. To this day, we are not sure what level of player he is with Carnival and how their system works;  with Royal, we knew how to achieve Prime tier status just by reading the brochure. 

Now there's a little twist.  After 5 years of "crickets," Carnival started offering hubby a few comped cruises about 3 months ago, so we have a few lined up for this year and next year. However, the number of those cruises pales in comparison to the number of casino offers that Royal has been sending us. "Us" because I also reached Prime level on that last Royal cruise. I have yet to gamble on a Carnival ship, but who knows, I might just do that on our upcoming Carnival cruise next month. 

 

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So I have been on 4 carnival cruises but all were on the lowest class smallest ships with the last one we were on (Fantasy) being in the scrap yard now. So undoubtedly know the ship will be better. I love all of the input and appreciate it. The food part has me concerned but I possibly may pay for the extra dining

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Once we get more established with Royal maybe we will try Carnival.  My family in Florida/NY loves Carnival but they are the more "party" side of my family we have never joined them. 

After reading you all describe Carnival I think we will look at them when checking for itineraries. 

We have been on Disney (loved it but so pricey), NCL (was fine), Holland (Great ports but ship closed down at 8pm) and RCCI  (Picked this one to stay with). 

I'd like to try Celebrity too.

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23 hours ago, badhacker74 said:

Carnival really beats Royal on complimentary food options- we were able to have lunch at the Asian, Italian, BBQ, Mexican, and Guy's Burger for no charge which were all excellent and better than the equivalent Royal offerings.

I think you are spot on here.  We prefer to do complimentary food as much as possible.  That Lido lunch on RCCL gets tired pretty quick.  There are tons of options, as you mention, on the newer Carnival ships.

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On 6/21/2021 at 4:17 PM, smokeybandit said:

Thanks for that update.  One of the great things about it, is there are not a ton of ships that go there.  I don't want it to become another St. Maarten.

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