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Jacque

Disney (DCL) - Royal Caribbean (RCI) Comparison/Review

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I thought I would provide a post-cruise recap for those who are curious about experiences with both Disney (DCL) and Royal Caribbean (RCI).

We sailed on DCL three times (Fantasy 2013, Wonder 2015, Dream 2016) and our Oasis of the Seas Christmas 2017 cruise was our first on RCI. Here is a quick, high-level comparison between DCL and RCI based upon on our experiences. Of course, this is only our experience and others may vary 1f642.png🙂

Websites -
Overall: DCL is much better

RCI's site is notorious for being glitchy; they need some work in their IT department 1f642.png:). That being said, I always had excellent service when I called to follow up on anything that I did online (because I didn't trust that my changes online had been captured correctly)

Embarkation process -
Overall: RCI slightly better

Both were comparable with regards to luggage drop off, parking and security. Both have online check in options which save a ton of time and effort at the port.

{Sidebar for my fellow US Citizens: Please take the advice that so many have shared here before: bite the bullet and get a passport for you and your kids. It will make your life so much easier and safer in the event you need it in a foreign location situation. It makes check in simpler as well, as you don't have to carry multiple pieces of information. Times have changed, doesn't matter what the cruise line websites say, everyone should have a passport. End sidebar}

On each trip with DCL we had some long lines and waits before we boarded. On RCI (Terminal 1, Port Canaveral) once through the quick security stop around 10:30AM, we went up the escalator, turned left and a quick right, and walked up to an empty queue with about 30 agents waiting to assist us! Because we had passports and all online check in completed, printed and signed, we had our Sea Pass cards in about 7 minutes and headed to the chairs to wait. They began calling for all the specialty boarding around 11AM (all Crown and Anchor levels, special assistance, etc.) and our boarding group (3) was called to board by 11:30. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Dining food variety and quality -
Overall: Slightly better with DCL

We found the food (main buffet and formal dining rooms) to be comparable for both cruise lines. On RCI we did My Time Dining and liked being able to pick different dining times depending upon our daily plans.

We had breakfast at Johnny Rockets and in the Park Cafe (both included in price of the cruise) a couple of times because it was closer to our room and quicker to get off the ship and both were ok.

Kid Feedback:
On DCL, the "free" soft serve ice cream was open from around 10am-midnight and there was always plenty. On RCI, it was only open from 11:00am - 7:00pm and many times the machines were not really frozen and/or out of order completely. They ran out of chocolate a lot! This was a BIG downer for our kids who LOVED getting a couple (ok, really more like 4+) ice creams a day, especially that last one right before midnight. Also, the kids really missed the variety of theme-ing and activities/interactions offered on DCL.

Dining food allergy concerns -
Overall: Both were exceptional

Our son has a severe tree nut allergy. Disney was great with this and a chef came out to talk to us almost every day to reassure us that his meals would be without contamination.

On Oasis OTS, our Head Waiter (Mariel) and server (Darcey) were WONDERFUL. They were extremely attentive to his allergy concerns. Each night after dinner they brought him the next day's menu where he could pick out what he would have the next evening. This way they could be sure to prepare his meal in the nut free area to ensure no cross contamination. If you are a food allergy parent, you know how wonderful it is to have food service take this issue seriously and alleviate some major worries. Plus, our son thought he was quite special with all the extra attention 1f642.png

Staterooms -
Overall: About the same experience

On Disney, we had a single, ocean view cabin for the 4 of us. On Oasis we had 2 adjoining inside cabins...and it was STILL cheaper than DCL (we'll get to cost later). Cabin layout, cleanliness, etc. are comparable between the two cruise lines.
Stateroom attendants on both were exceptional and they really do make you feel so pampered and relaxed on a cruise vacation. Janice on Oasis was a doll and made sure we had everything we needed, any time of day. Our son spent the last full sea day of our cruise in his bed with a fever (poor thing!) and she continually asked if he needed anything.

The only thing we really missed from DCL stateroom-wise was hearing Disney songs playing in all the corridors!

Entertainment -
Overall: About the same experience

We thought the quality of the shows (headliners, stage productions, comedians) were better on Disney.

But then again, Disney did not have the Oasis of Dreams water/diving show or the Frozen in Time ice skating, both of which were spectacular!

Come Fly With Me in the Opal Theater was a neat production as well, but we missed a lot of it because of where we were seated and due to the big fight – I mean screaming fight - that broke out among several guests seated behind us. After about 10 minutes, my husband got up and asked someone to call security. That was not something we experienced on a Disney ship. Not saying is doesn’t happen but we had not seen that before.

Also, we don’t gamble or smoke, so the one short-cut trip we made through the Casino was a mistake – the smell was pretty awful.

We missed the movie theater on DCL ships as well – it was fun to watch first run Disney movies while at sea.

Pools/Hot Tubs
Overall: RCI was better

DCLs adult only lounging area was much smaller, even on their “mega ships” like Fantasy and Dream. On RCI we LOVED the Solarium area. I never had trouble finding a chair or lounger somewhere, despite being one of over 6,000 passengers. There was always room in a pool or hot tub, somewhere on deck 15. Lots of lifeguards around.

“Nightlife”
Overall – RCI was slightly better

The sheer variety of venues, from the Champaign bar, to the jazz club, to Vintages wine bar – so much to choose from and all had their own vibe. We had fun dancing on the Royal Promenade during the 70s and 80s dance parties. They venues were more spread out on RCI than what you have on DCL, but it helped you get your steps in for the day!

Cruise Line App-
Overall: DCL’s is better, but the new RCI one is getting closer

The newest RCI App is getting better with every revision. However, we found it was not kept up to date so the kids were disappointed when they missed something because they looked it up on the app and the information was wrong. The details on the Cruise Compasses were correct, but they didn’t carry that in their pockets like they did their phones.

The biggest issue was that we didn’t pay for wireless for the kids so it was hard to keep with them and/or our friends who were also on the ship.

On DCL, anyone can text anyone on the ship if they have the app on their phones – at no charge. So on DCL we could catch up easily, plan to meet, etc. On RCI, we constantly wondered where the kids and our friends were and missed out on doing things together because we didn’t know where everyone was. I do not like the idea of walkies, so next time, if they have not added the free texting feature in the RCI app, we will budget Voom for everyone so we can communicate better.  DCL also has wave phones to communicate and RCI did not have that as an option.

Disembarkation –
Overall: Both equally awesome
Walked off the ship, luggage found and loaded with porter and through customs - total time = 10 minutes at the most, no exaggeration. It’s a well-oiled machine on both cruise lines, mostly because it has to be.

Price/Value
Overall: RCI is the clear winner

A DCL cruise for the same type of cabin, the same number of days and the same ports is more than DOUBLE the cost of RCI.

Whew. That was a lot. Happy to answer any questions or provide feedback on areas I have not already.

We are very much looking forward to our next cruise on RCI (no kids this time!) in Sept 2018 - Anthem of the Seas New England/Nova Scotia to celebrate our 25th anniversary!

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Hi @Jacque. Thanks for sharing! We've taken our fair share (more than I want to) of Disney cruises too the last few years. Great summary of the differences and similarities between the two lines! I would just have to disagree with two things:

1. I absolutely hated Disney's website! It was way glitchier than RCI (and theirs is already bad). It cannot handle those 120/90/75 day windows when people jump online to reserve things. Which brings me to my next gripe. RCI reservations for shows, activities etc. is so painless. Unless you wait until the very final minute it is never an issue. DCL is annoying and that is putting it mildly. Things are booked within minutes of it being released. So absolutely frustrating!

2. I would have to say that other than the ice cream, I find the food slightly better on RCI. There is slightly more variety with RCI especially on Oasis class. However, Disney does have crab legs and the late night buffet so they get the up on that lol. 

And you are dead on when you say there's no comparing the price. We always get the deluxe family ocean view stateroom on Disney and the prices we have paid could have paid for 2 on royal each time!  My kids have never sailed anything but Disney. Taking them on their first RCI cruise in 59 days (on Anthem). It will be interesting to see their comparison of the two. Thanks again 😊

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I have a question for kids activities (We don't have kids yet but plan to soon, just getting some travelling out first lol) did your kids do any kids activities? If so how did they compare?

On 1/9/2018 at 5:07 PM, Jacque said:

Our son has a severe tree nut allergy.

I too have severe nut allergies and that has always been the best part. Even with the buffet, if they weren't sure they would bring out the chief and confirm or in the case of desert (more common to have nuts) would make a whole new batch. 

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@LetsTryThisTech Disney has one of the best Kid's program at sea.  However, my kids did not care for it lol.  Go figure.  There is never a time on a Disney cruise where there is not an activity for a kid.  It's all Disney focused though.  So all their crafts, computer programs, games, etc. all revolve around the brand.  As my brother in law put it, the whole ship is an advertisement for Disney.  Don't get me wrong, I still believe that Disney does it best for the little ones.  They think of everything, right down to little toilets and sinks in each washroom so that kids can reach.  Their shows are full out Broadway productions, totally elaborate, just like you would see on a Magic Kingdom stage or anywhere else in Disney World.  But you are paying a huge premium for it.  Is it worth it?  Only you can decide that.

I can't comment on Adventure Ocean yet because this March will be the first RC cruise we will take the kids on.  But my kids are going (it's mandatory for them lol) and I'll let you know when I get back.

As far as the allergies go, I cannot comment first hand on RC because, thankfully, we do not have any food allergies to deal with.  But everything I have heard up to this point is that they are wonderful in dealing with it.  Perhaps someone else can give their first hand experience.

As far as Disney goes, our last cruise in December we traveled with my sister and my nephew.  They both have life threatening allergies.  My sister to peanuts and my nephew to wheat, diary, and peanuts.  Needless to say, the handling of food allergies was a major concern for all of us.  Disney was wonderful in handling it.  My sister filled out paperwork prior to sailing and on the day of embarkation she headed straight to the MDR.  There she met with the head waiter and they assured her that they have a separate kitchen for cooking everything.  They asked that she stick to the MDR for meals.  After that, for every meal, she pre-ordered the food ahead of time the day before.  Bread and non-diary types of milk were always brought out for her to look at prior to serving.  Everything was made fresh for him.  Before each meal was served, the head waiter came to check in.  A few days into the cruise, my nephew accidentally received a dessert that had cream on it.  We set it aside before he ate it.  After we informed the head waiter of the mistake, he personally brought out each meal from that point on. 

About halfway through the cruise, my sister was informed by the head waiter that they could actually accommodate my nephew upstairs in the buffet as well.  Same thing as MDR, she would place the order for breakfast/lunch the day before and it was cooked separately for him in the buffet.  On days where the head waiter was working the buffet rotation, he would personally check up on them as well.  My sister was quite nervous prior to going, but if you ask her now, she would tell you that she feels quite comfortable bringing her son on a Disney ship.  She felt they handled it wonderfully and professionally.  I have been trying to send her info on RC and what I've read about their handling of food allergies so we can cruise together again, but not on Disney 😉

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32 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Oh my goodness !  How does one cook without wheat and dairy !  That would be awful.  I'm so happy to hear that they were so careful.  It says a lot

It is much easier then I would say a couple years ago. I'm gluten intolerant and on many of the gluten-free brands, they are also dairy and nut free. I am guessing if you are already doing one it works out better to do them all and to be honest they taste just as good for the most part. But yea it would be difficult. (hopefully not affected by smell that would be really hard now too, look at planes)

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42 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Oh my goodness !  How does one cook without wheat and dairy !  That would be awful.  I'm so happy to hear that they were so careful.  It says a lot

It was a challenge for them at first but my sister has just incorporated it into their daily lives.  

And yes, as much as I think Disney is overpriced, they were top notch in the way they handled it.

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42 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Oh my goodness !  How does one cook without wheat and dairy !  That would be awful.  I'm so happy to hear that they were so careful.  It says a lot

It's doable. I'm gluten and casein (in dairy) intolerant - and since only intolerant I indulge (not everyday) anyway. I pay the price but it's not like someone who has celiac's where it's not an option.

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12 minutes ago, LetsTryThisTech said:

 (hopefully not affected by smell that would be really hard now too, look at planes)

Actually, Delta was very accommodating as well.  When my sister notified them at the gate of the allergies, they made an announcement prior to boarding that no nuts would be served and also asked for everyone's cooperation to not eat nuts.

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2 minutes ago, Sabrinaklai said:

Actually, Delta was very accommodating as well.  When my sister notified them at the gate of the allergies, they made an announcement prior to boarding that no nuts would be served and also asked for everyone's cooperation to not eat nuts.

Wow, I honestly have never had that happen. They pretty much said well just ask the person next to you not to (thankfully the smell only makes me uncomfortable and itchy so not severe (unless ingested) so it was okay but ya I have never had anyone do that. (although it has been awhile since on Delta).

9 minutes ago, ellcee said:

It's doable. I'm gluten and casein (in dairy) intolerant - and since only intolerant I indulge (not everyday) anyway. I pay the price but it's not like someone who has celiac's where it's not an option.

This is me with gluten. I avoid it 99% of the time but in a situation like a cruise I may not necessarily go out of my way but will try to stick to gluten-free when possible. But my EpiPen and Benadryl are my best friends for nuts. Now my biggest question is the stops.

Sorry @Jacque for going off topic.

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6 hours ago, LetsTryThisTech said:

I have a question for kids activities (We don't have kids yet but plan to soon, just getting some travelling out first lol) did your kids do any kids activities? If so how did they compare?

I too have severe nut allergies and that has always been the best part. Even with the buffet, if they weren't sure they would bring out the chief and confirm or in the case of desert (more common to have nuts) would make a whole new batch. 

@LetsTryThisTech I think my kids might be anomalies because all our friends said their kids would never leave the kids club on DCL ships but our kids never wanted to stay more than an hour.  They would much rather be playing ping pong, watching movies in the theater or on "funnel-vision," wandering the ship, getting ice cream (OFTEN), searching for characters and hidden Mickey's than spending time in the clubs.  My pre-teen/teen liked doing some of the crafts they did in the club but again, never for any real length of time. 

By the time we went on RCI, they had 3 DCL cruises under their belts (and were now 12 & 16 years old) and, although they checked the clubs out, they much preferred wandering the ship, going to shows, eating, swimming, etc. BUT, they didn't do the rock climbing, flow rider, zip line which I thought they would have!  Had I told them to be somewhere at a certain time and walked them through those activities, they probably would have done them but I totally went into vacay mode and left them to do their own thing!   The net is, I think it is completely dependent upon your child's personality, interests and comfort levels when it comes to the kids clubs.

Yes to the allergy thing - both lines are WONDERFUL! 
 

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I have not been on RCI yet, first cruise in April 2019.  However, I have been on Disney 5 times, 3 Magic, 2 Fantasy.  I have also been on Carnival.  I am glad to hear all the things about RCI and the comparisons.  My daughter doesn't seem to like the kids club, but that is just her.  We went when she was 3 and 6 and would rather spend time with us.  She did enjoy certain things about the club.  We are not one to force her to go, unless it was when we wanted to go to Palo(Disney's specialty restaurant).

Some things I can tell already are different between the 2 lines.

1.  Website - Although the booking of excursions maybe harder, finding information about the boat and actual layouts of the staterooms is much easier on Disney.

2.  Disney includes soft drinks in their price

3.  RCI Price is much better, I am getting a Grand Suite for $3000 less than an Inside Stateroom on Disney for same week, plus an extra night.  However, I will have to pay for Soft drinks.  So, to make prices comparable, if I include soft drinks on RCI, it is still $2500 cheaper.

 

 

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29 minutes ago, jjbescher said:

I have not been on RCI yet, first cruise in April 2019.  However, I have been on Disney 5 times, 3 Magic, 2 Fantasy.  I have also been on Carnival.  I am glad to hear all the things about RCI and the comparisons.  My daughter doesn't seem to like the kids club, but that is just her.  We went when she was 3 and 6 and would rather spend time with us.  She did enjoy certain things about the club.  We are not one to force her to go, unless it was when we wanted to go to Palo(Disney's specialty restaurant).

Some things I can tell already are different between the 2 lines.

1.  Website - Although the booking of excursions maybe harder, finding information about the boat and actual layouts of the staterooms is much easier on Disney.

2.  Disney includes soft drinks in their price

3.  RCI Price is much better, I am getting a Grand Suite for $3000 less than an Inside Stateroom on Disney for same week, plus an extra night.  However, I will have to pay for Soft drinks.  So, to make prices comparable, if I include soft drinks on RCI, it is still $2500 cheaper.

 

 

Welcome to the boards!  Unless you are a die hard Disney fan, you will find that your money most definitely goes further on RC.

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2 minutes ago, Sabrinaklai said:

Welcome to the boards!  Unless you are a die hard Disney fan, you will find that your money most definitely goes further on RC.

Thanks, we are die hard Disney fans, but we also like to cruise.  We can't pay that much more money just to cruise on Disney.  We will see my daughter says.

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2 minutes ago, jjbescher said:

Thanks, we are die hard Disney fans, but we also like to cruise.  We can't pay that much more money just to cruise on Disney.  We will see my daughter says.

I'll be honest.  We are not die hard Disney fans but we have gone on 3 cruises with them.  Each one got harder and harder to justify spending that amount knowing what it could have gotten me on RC.  Our first two were in the summer so it was very pricey.  Our last (and likely final one) was just this past December, still pricey but not as bad as summer. 

We are pretty loyal to Royal but we chose Disney because our kids were young and we saw Disney as a better fit for them.  Especially in the entertainment areas.  I can still confidently say that no RC show can compare to the magic on the Disney stage for kids under 10.  But our kids are getting older now, and they have completely outgrown their Disney phase, so for us, there is no reason to go back to DCL.  Disney world is another matter...Star Wars land is coming so we will be back.  

What ship are you going on in 2019?  That will make a difference.  We are taking our kids on RC for the first time in about 2 weeks.  On Anthem.  So I will have way better insight after that as to which one is really better for my kids.....

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1 minute ago, Sabrinaklai said:

I'll be honest.  We are not die hard Disney fans but we have gone on 3 cruises with them.  Each one got harder and harder to justify spending that amount knowing what it could have gotten me on RC.  Our first two were in the summer so it was very pricey.  Our last (and likely final one) was just this past December, still pricey but not as bad as summer. 

We are pretty loyal to Royal but we chose Disney because our kids were young and we saw Disney as a better fit for them.  Especially in the entertainment areas.  I can still confidently say that no RC show can compare to the magic on the Disney stage for kids under 10.  But our kids are getting older now, and they have completely outgrown their Disney phase, so for us, there is no reason to go back to DCL.  Disney world is another matter...Star Wars land is coming so we will be back.  

What ship are you going on in 2019?  That will make a difference.  We are taking our kids on RC for the first time in about 2 weeks.  On Anthem.  So I will have way better insight after that as to which one is really better for my kids.....

We will be going on Adventure.  Staying in a Grand Suite, 8-Night out of Ft. Lauderdale.  Labadee, Puerto Rico, St. Marteen, St. Kitts.

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2 minutes ago, jjbescher said:

We will be going on Adventure.  Staying in a Grand Suite, 8-Night out of Ft. Lauderdale.  Labadee, Puerto Rico, St. Marteen, St. Kitts.

That ship is pretty comparable to the Fantasy.  I'm sure you'll have a great time!  And you have found the perfect place to ask away.  There are so many friendly and knowledgeable people here!

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