Woman loses $15,000 cruise after posting reservation number on social media

In:
30 May 2024

Consider this a warning to any cruiser not to share your cruise documents online.

A Carnival cruise line passenger shared on social media that her $15,000 cruise was unexpectedly canceled just two days before the sail date. While this happened to a Carnival cruiser, it could have just as easily happened to someone going on Royal Caribbean.

While emergencies happen, hearing that the online system canceled the reservation is a much rarer way to lose your vacation.

Tiffany Banks, a naturopathic doctor and mother of four from Lexington, Kentucky, posts to TikTok under the username @thathippiedoc.

On May 12th, she took to the social media site to share her story and call out Carnival Cruises.

Carnival Celebration

While this didn't happen to a Royal Caribbean cruiser, it turns out that Banks made a crucial mistake that anyone could have made.

This one slip-up led to the cancellation of a cruise the family had been looking forward to for over a year.

As first reported by Cruise Radio, Banks shared online that she had booked the largest stateroom, the Presidential Excel Suite, on Carnival Celebration. 

The cabin cost a total of $12,000, and the family invested over $15,000 into their cruise vacation, including excursions and WiFi.

carnival-celebration-vanity

Although they'd had the cabin booked for over a year, she discovered that the reservation was gone when she received an email that her shore excursions had been canceled.

Since she had just booked their Internet package that morning—and was planning to fly to Miami the next day—Banks had no intention of canceling the cruise.

She immediately called Carnival to resolve the issue.

After spending two and a half hours on the phone, she learned that the online reservation had been canceled.

A lead at Carnival offered her compensation in the form of two interior rooms on the same cruise.

Banks was livid that she would not be receiving any refund: "I just can't even fathom how they think that's right."

She declined to accept the two interior rooms, as they are the cheapest onboard. 

This is in stark contrast to the original suite the family booked, which is the most expensive stateroom on the Carnival Celebration.

Banks' original TikTok, posted on May 12th, has over 160,000 views and hundreds of comments.

Most of the commenters support Banks in criticizing the cruise line and their lack of a refund.

User TC commented: "If the room was just canceled, it should still be available. Are they double-booking those rooms?"

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User Jerica also believes there's something corrupt about the booking.

"It was canceled and immediately booked by someone else? Definitely fishy!!!"

Carnival told Banks that the room was booked within 3 hours after the initial cancellation.

"I find it interesting that they would send you a notification about the excursion cancellation but nothing about the trip cancellation. They know they are in the wrong," commented SimplyAmber. 

Banks also replied to comments suggesting she hire a lawyer to sue the cruise line.

"We are looking for an attorney," she wrote.

Cruise fares are usually not refunded as late as two days before the cruise.

After a guest makes their final payment, cancellation penalties apply.

carnival-embarkation-1

Per Carnival's cancellation policy, cruises canceled 15 days or less before the sailing have a 100% cancellation penalty.

No refund applies 15 days before the cruise.

Passengers agree to the cancellation policy when they book the cruise, so be sure that you know what your cruise line's rules are before making that final payment.

At first, Banks assumed the cruise was canceled due to a glitch in Carnival's computer system. 

However, she shared in a TikTok posted on May 14th that the cruise line informed her she'd been a victim of a form of identity theft.

Banks's husband had shared the booking number on Facebook, and someone created a profile on the Carnival website.

After adding the booking number and name, this anonymous user was able to cancel the cruise.

Despite Carnival telling Banks that she had been a victim of identity theft, they still did not offer a refund for the cruise.

Instead, she stated that Carnival offered her $10,404 in future cruise credit, as long as she posted on social media that the company positively resolved the situation.

She declined, saying that she has no interest in booking another sailing with Carnival.

Banks continues to fault Carnival for this cancellation, saying that not sharing the booking number "is not something that every single traveler knows."

She even stated that Carnival encourages guests to post a cruise countdown tracker.

Commenters surmised that, instead of posting the sharable cruise countdown, Banks screenshotted the email itself and shared it to Facebook without removing the confirmation number.

The comments on the rest of Banks' TikToks became more critical after she revealed that her husband had posted the booking number. 

"I don't think Carnival owes anything," annamarie4568 wrote.

"You can't post your booking info. This could happen on any cruise line, that is how you add your cruise."

"It's unfortunate, but you have to accept some of the blame here," commented Ruthie, "It would be like posting your credit card number and someone using it. I'd definitely pursue this legally though to at least force Carnival to update their processes to protect their customers."

"This is like posting your Credit card number or SSN," Southern_Lady_Talk added. "I would feel more empathy for her if she took more responsibility for how this happened."

However, some commenters continued to side with Banks, saying that Carnival should still refund the amount of the cruise.

"It doesn’t matter if the booking number was posted. She called as soon as she got the cancellation email and said it wasn’t her and they refused to do anything for her," user Paige wrote.

Heather added her perspective as a frequent cruiser: "The fact that it is that easy to cancel someone’s booking makes me very hesitant to book another cruise."

Miami terminals

Since the flights were already booked, Banks and her family still flew down to Miami.

They went to the port to see if they could find a resolution in person but discovered that they weren't on the ship manifest.

Despite having the initial booking confirmation, boarding passes, and payment summary, the cruise was canceled for good.

"We had to leave," Banks said in a follow-up video that she captioned with the hashtags '#carnivalsucks' and '#dreamcrushers.'

To try and salvage their remaining vacation time, the family reserved an Airbnb and spent a few days in Florida. 

They visited Discovery Cove to swim with dolphins and rented a cabana.

Banks said the experience was fantastic and "better than Carnival."

As for the experience with Carnival, Banks said that "this has been [an] emotional roller coaster. At this point, there is no resolution."

While some commenters suggested she try a different cruise line, Banks replied that the experience had been so disappointing, the family would not be going on another cruise.

7 things I liked better about Royal Caribbean cruises than Carnival

In:
15 Dec 2023

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

carnival-royal-hero

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. 

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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

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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. 

sail-and-sign-card-carnival

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

carnival-hub-vs-royal

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

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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. 

Symphony-Interior-Couch-View

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. 

lounge-chair-carnival-vista-suite

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

lido-marketplace-carnival

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.

lido-breakfast-vista

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

brisket-carnival-vista-mdr

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. 

sea-day-brunch-carnival

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. 

Entertainment

Carnival-vista-show

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. 

carnival-vista-show-2

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. 

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

In:
15 Nov 2023

I recently stayed in windowless interior cabins onboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Celebration. 

sots-vs-celebration-interior

While Carnival Celebration is the newer ship of the two, Symphony of the Seas is the larger one, measuring over 44,000 gross registered tons more. As of November 2023, she is the second-largest cruise ship at sea. 

celebration-vs-sots

I traveled alone on both cruises, meaning that I had to pay the dreaded single supplement fee. My cruise fare included gratuities on Symphony of the Seas in January totaled $1,400. I paid $500 more, or $1,900, for my 7-night sailing onboard Carnival Celebration in mid-October.

celebration-interior-1

In terms of square footage, my cabin onboard Carnival Celebration was nine square feet larger than my room on Symphony of the Seas, with the latter measuring 149 square feet. However, despite the additional square footage, I felt like the space in my room on Symphony was better utilized. 

Symphony-Interior-Couch-View

Not only did I have a small dresser with drawers to store my clothing in addition to two closets, but there also was a nicely sized sofa. There was no other seating option in my stateroom on Celebration other than a small stool that could be tucked underneath the vanity. 

closet-carnival-vs-royal

Regardless, I was impressed by the amount of storage space in both staterooms. Due to the drawers, however, I felt I was able to keep my belongings more organized in my inside cabin on Symphony. 

celebration-interior-entry

Additionally, the placement of the closets maximized the amount of available floor space. Despite this cabin being smaller, it felt larger than my room on Carnival Celebration! 

charging-comaparison-carnival-and-royal

The vanities were equipped with more than enough outlets and USB ports to charge my devices. Celebration's stateroom had three American outlets and four USB ports, while Symphony's vanity area had three American outlets, two USB ports, and a single European outlet. 

carnival-celebration-vanity

Since there was a small dresser, the vanity space in my stateroom on Carnival Celebration was larger. I also liked the wide shelves attached to the side of the closet, as the single shelf above the desk on Symphony of the Seas was rather narrow.

Symphony-Aerial-Desk-View-Interior-Stateroom

I was only able to store sunglasses and other small miscellaneous items there. 

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The nightstands beside the bed on my Carnival cruise were small, metal tray-like pieces of furniture, each with a single USB port above them. My cabin on Symphony also had two nightstands; however, they were wooden, with only one of them having a USB port close by. 

Symphony-Telephone-Interior-Room

One of the largest drawbacks was that the stateroom's telephone was placed on one nightstand, rendering it pretty useless. I appreciated how the telephone in my cabin on Celebration was attached to the wall. Of course, this meant that if someone wanted to call me, I would not be able to answer it from bed. 

celebration-interior-3

This might be controversial, but I preferred the bathroom in my Carnival cabin. While there was less floor space than the ensuite onboard Symphony of the Seas, I found the shower to be larger and appreciated how it was not rounded. Plus, the counter was wider, albeit not as long. 

symphony-bathroom-interior-cabin

Both, however, were modern and updated. Neither had a curtain, which can be found on all classes of Carnival ships except the Excel Class, and there was enough space for all of my toiletries and cosmetics. 

Symphony-Shower-Stateroom-Soap-Dispenser

Royal Caribbean's showers come equipped with a shampoo/body wash combo, while Carnival provides two different products.

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Personally, I'm not a fan of any cruise line-provided products and would recommend bringing your own shampoo and body wash on any cruise that you go on. 

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During my time on both ships, I found the water pressure and temperature in the shower to be more consistent onboard Carnival Celebration.

Symphony-Interior-Cabin-Shower-Head

While on Symphony of the Seas, the water pressure was neither great nor awful, and I had issues with the temperature. In the mornings, I was unable to get hot water, sometimes having to wait twenty-five minutes for it to heat up. In the evenings, the water was always scalding hot. 

tv-comparison-carnival-vs-royal

The television in my stateroom on Carnival Celebration was hung on a small wall directly opposite of my bed near the adjoining door, whereas the one in my cabin on Symphony of the Seas was hung on the wall above the dresser. I was also able to rotate it to see it from either the bed or sofa. 

celebration-pullman-bed

The door connecting my stateroom to the one beside me was just one complaint I had with my room. Another large one was the exposed pullman bed that constantly jetted out from the wall, making the space feel more cramped. While there was enough space for myself in this interior stateroom, I cannot imagine trying to cram three people in it! 

Mini-Fridge-Symphony-Interior-Stateroom

As standard in the cruise industry, both rooms were outfitted with mini-fridges and safes. The mini-fridge in my cabin on Symphony of the Seas had three adjustable shelves and a single bin shelf on the mini-fridge's door. There was a single adjustable shelf in the mini-fridge on Carnival Celebration, as well as two bin shelves on the door.

celebration-mini-fridge

They were both located near the vanity; however, it was hidden behind a door in the dresser on Symphony, whereas it was exposed on Carnival Celebration due to the lack of a dresser. I never had an issue with the functionality of either. 

symphony-interior

Overall, I found both interior staterooms to be well-appointed and comfortable for a weeklong cruise. If, however, I was presented with a choice, I think I would choose Symphony of the Seas' cabin over Carnival's, simply because the smaller room felt larger due to the way the stateroom was designed. 

Which cruise line is best? Fans say why they prefer Royal Caribbean over Carnival

In:
21 Sep 2023

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are two of the biggest and most popular cruise lines in the world. Each cruise line has a lot to offer when it comes to dining, entertainment, amenities, attractions and the overall onboard experience. 

Carnival is known for having the 'most fun ships at sea', while Royal Caribbean aims to provide unparalleled entertainment and onboard thrills for the whole family.

Comparatively, Royal Caribbean is also known for being more innovative with its ship design and infrastructure, with Carnival only now just building more advanced cruise ships with its Excel-class. 

Both cruise lines, however, aim to be an affordable vacation option for the whole family. Itineraries are offered around the world, although Royal Caribbean has a more international presence. On the other hand, Carnival focuses on attracting domestic cruisers within driving distance to its U.S. ports across the country.

But which cruise line is the best

Of course, this is a subjective question, as everyone has their own preferred cruise line that best fits their budget and travel style. And let’s be honest - there are things to love and hate about every cruise line. 

A recent post on Reddit asked users the following question: Why do you prefer Royal Caribbean over Carnival? 

Many provided insight into why they prefer cruising with Royal Caribbean instead of Carnival Cruise Line - and the responses were quite interesting. As someone who has cruised with Carnival a few times in the last year, I found these responses to mostly align with my own perspective of comparing the two cruise lines. But, I continue to be loyal to Royal Caribbean, as I have been sailing with the cruise line since I was 10 years old.

Here’s why fans say they prefer Royal Caribbean over Carnival Cruise Line.

First, many seem to prefer the more relaxing environment on Royal Caribbean compared to Carnival’s non-stop party atmosphere. 

When Carnival says it has the most fun ships at sea, they are not joking; Carnival takes fun very seriously. The parties really do not stop from the minute you step onboard a Carnival ship! Until last year, I hadn’t sailed with Carnival since my college spring break days. After a few days onboard, we concluded that Carnival has crazier parties, louder music and more drinks flowing more than Royal Caribbean. 

When asked why cruisers prefer Royal Caribbean, one user responded, “We went on one Carnival cruise, and never again, it's the party boat."

“In my humble opinion, Carnival is the cruise line for people who like to party. And I don't like to party, at all," shared one cruiser.

“Carnival’s reputation is a 'party cruise' and tends to have rowdier crowds," another person agreed.

Many people echoed this sentiment, agreeing the party-like atmosphere onboard Carnival simply does not align with their cruising style. In fact, this was one of the biggest things that surprised me about my recent Carnival cruises - the parties are truly on another level.

Because Carnival’s branding centers heavily around fun, it’s also integrated into every aspect of the cruising experience. This was another difference that really stood out on my recent Carnival cruise. The word ‘fun’ is literally plastered everywhere: the entertainment team is called the ‘Fun Squad’, the shops are called the Fun Shops, and every announcement seemed to have the word 'fun' it as well.

One user responded, “Also the never ending announcements on Carnival that tries to send subliminal messages that you’re having fun are really annoying. ‘Don’t forget the sale in the fun shop’, ‘hope you have an amazing day on this fun ship’, ‘check out the fun times’, fun fun fun….”

 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - if you’re someone who loves to let loose for your vacation, Carnival is a great fit for having fun. Those who prefer a bit slower pace on vacation will probably enjoy Royal Caribbean’s experience more.

Another common response included Carnival’s ship design compared to Royal Caribbean’s innovative, well-designed cruise ships. 

As mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean is known for its innovative, forward-thinking ship designs. Especially in the last two decades, Royal Caribbean has been building cruise ships that have revolutionized the cruise industry. The cruise line has held the title for biggest cruise ship in the world for nearly twenty years since the construction of Freedom of the Seas. 

Until recently, it was apparent that Carnival was not focused on advancing its ship design or innovation. Each ship class that Carnival debuted had very similar deck plans and infrastructure, rarely showcasing something new or revolutionary. The new Excel-class ship has upped Carnival’s game with new technology and ship design, which was long overdue for Carnival to stay competitive in an industry thriving on mega cruise ships. 

The top response on the Reddit forum came from one user sharing that they prefer Royal Caribbean’s ship design over Carnival. The user shared, “The ship layouts and finishes. Anywhere on Royal ships feel like you're on vacation. On Carnival ships, many public areas and hallways feel unfinished and very mechanical.”

One user responded and agreed with this take on Carnival’s ship design, writing, “Hard agree on #1. Went on a carnival cruise in June 2019 and it’s odd how they don’t really have a central promenade, and how most of the walkways are on the sides of the boat. Makes everything feel secluded."

“While I was on an older ship (the Carnival Sunshine) I feel that Royal's ship designers are just a step above. The layout of the Sunshine was not the most intuitive, and some areas turned into a serious traffic jam," shared another user. 

In the forum, one Reddit expanded on their preference of Royal Caribbean’s ship design, saying, “Royal's ship design, in my honest opinion, was a lot better for a long time (flow of people around the ship, etc.), although I think Carnival's newest ships have caught up a fair bit.”

Based on my own Carnival experiences, I agree strongly with this comparison. Royal Caribbean’s ships have always felt thoughtfully designed - and it’s only improved over time. When I sailed on Carnival Ecstasy last summer (the oldest ship in Carnival’s fleet at the time), my sister and I were shocked at how difficult it was to navigate.

This relatively small cruise ship seemed to have too many bottlenecks and dead-ends. We continually found ourselves lost in crowded spaces. But, Carnival’s newest ships in the Excel-class feature modern design with better passenger flow. 

The dining experience between Royal Caribbean and Carnival appeared to be more of a hot topic, with some preferring Carnival’s quick service options. 

When it comes to comparing Royal Caribbean and Carnival, dining was a very common response. While many shared that they prefer Royal Caribbean’s food quality and service, quite a few shared they actually enjoy Carnival’s quick service venues more than Royal Caribbean’s options. 

One user responded, “Food was of lower quality on Carnival - and I’m not a picky foodie so if I noticed, then that doesn’t bode well” while another shared, “I prefer RC for a more relaxing atmosphere, and I honestly prefer their food as well”.

“Dining experience in MDR is worlds better on Royal. Customer service is also better on Royal," shared another person.

However, many of the responses heavily favored Carnival’s casual dining options onboard, such as Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and Shaq’s Big Chicken. “I do like the carnival food (guys burger joint is crazy good), but Carnival seems a lot cornier and appeals to quick laughs” said one respondent. This prompted multiple responses from others in agreement.

Another user agreed, saying, “True. Guy’s is great and I’ve heard good things about Shaq’s chicken place. So carnival has some bright spots casual food-wise that Royal doesn’t really match with the hotdog place and Johnny Rockets. I’m hopeful Royal will adopt some of that kind of feel with what they’re doing with the food court section on Icon.”

“I really enjoy the Carnival ships, shows, and food…the food is better in every category except the buffet. That being said, my whole family prefers RCL over Carnival (and even Disney) because of the better activities on the ship and entertainment" said another cruiser. 

On my Carnival cruises last year, this was the biggest takeaway from my experience as well. Even on Carnival’s oldest ship, we had multiple places to grab a quick bite, such as Guy’s Burger Joint. We appreciated having so many options for dining other than the traditional buffet. 

Solarium

I do wish Royal Caribbean would incorporate more casual eatery options, especially during refurbishment of older ships, to expand complimentary dining options. I also agree that Royal Caribbean could improve the quality of their casual dining to compete with Carnival’s quick service options. 

Many cruisers found Royal Caribbean’s renowned entertainment to be better in comparison to Carnival. 

Entertainment is another crucial pillar to the overall cruising experience. Royal Caribbean has some of the most unique entertainment options in the industry, with ice skating performances, diving and swimming productions and even Broadway musicals.

In comparison, Carnival’s entertainment centers around nightly comedy shows, interactive game shows and easy-to-watch productions with singers and dancers. The cruise line’s newest ships do feature more advanced entertainment with impressive acrobatics and aerialists. 

“I definitely prefer the entertainment and common areas” while another agreed, “The shows are way better on Royal Caribbean," said one cruiser who responded on Reddit. 

One user expanded, “I was recently on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, and the refinement and amenities remain undefeated - the promenade, entertainment, and bars are so much more well done, even on the Voyager/Freedom class ships. Carnival’s ships (aside from Vista/Destiny/Excel class) don’t hold a candle to Royal.”

AquaTheater show on Wonder of the Seas

While sailing on Carnival Ecstasy, my sister and I attended the nightly production shows. While we enjoyed the Punchliner Comedy club, we were less than impressed with Carnival’s other shows in the theatre. It did feel almost like a high school production, which was likely due to the theatre's small size. 

“Royal Caribbean definitely has an advantage when it comes to onboard activities and entertainment. For one, Royal Caribbean has a real theater while Carnival’s felt like a glorified high school cafeteria, with the seats that you typically find at a banquet hall, like a step up from a folding chair," said one respondent. 

Finally, multiple fans mentioned preferring Royal Caribbean’s itineraries in comparison to Carnival’s destinations. 

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line have a global presence, although both cruise lines have different approaches to their itineraries offered. When it comes to international itineraries, Royal Caribbean offers way more destinations in Europe, Asia and Australia compared to Carnival. 

Because Carnival is focused on offering the most affordable cruise fares, the cruise line aims to be within driving distance for most Americans. This helps keep vacation costs down without needing to fly to your cruise port. With this approach, Carnival does not have many international sailings; instead, you will find many Caribbean and Mexico sailings. Occasionally, you can find a European sailing if one of Carnival’s ships needs to dry dock across the pond, but not much else. 

Amber Cove

“I’m very itinerary/departure port driven. I picked Royal for my first cruise because of the itinerary - I was looking for a Baltic cruise on specific dates and needed an accessible cabin for my mother. Royal met those criteria. I was happy with the product and took several more," said one Royal Caribbean fan. 

“When we were first researching cruises, we found that both RC and Carnival operated out of Baltimore, less than an hour from where we live. At the time Royal offered 4 different itineraries out of Baltimore and Carnival offered 2. And since then we’ve stuck with Royal even though we have cruising out of other ports (in Florida and Europe) due to the loyalty program," said another fan. 

This is one of the reasons that I’ve remained loyal to Royal Caribbean over many years as well. I started sailing with the cruise line at a young age, but continued to cruise with Royal Caribbean because I love their unique itineraries. I’m also a destination-focused cruiser and I’ve loved my sailing across Europe and Asia with Royal Caribbean. 

On the other hand, Carnival has limited itineraries outside of North America. Unless you sail on a limited series of exotic sailings called Carnival Journeys, you’ll mostly find Caribbean itineraries and plenty of weekend getaway itineraries. These are the exact sailings that are perfect for bachelorette parties and spring breakers, adding to the party atmosphere.

At the end of the day, everyone has a preference for the cruise line that best fits their budget, travel style and cruising vibe. Some might enjoy the upbeat, party-style of Carnival while others appreciate a more upscale vibe on Royal Caribbean. 

After 6 Royal Caribbean cruises this year, my wife and I tried Carnival for the first time and here’s what we liked and didn’t like.

In:
06 Sep 2023

Welcome our guest writer, Mike Scudiero.  Mike is a Royal Caribbean Blog reader who wanted to share his experience trying a Carnival Cruise after years of sailing with Royal Caribbean.

2023 has been the "Year of the Cruise Ship" in my household. Living in Central Florida certainly makes it easier and more affordable to cruise frequently, and we got the “bug” after a post-covid cruise with our kids in 2022.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival in Nassau

Since then, we have taken six different Royal Caribbean cruises and have several more planned between now and early 2025. But tempted by attractive pricing and a rare visit to Bimini, we recently took a 3-day cruise on the Carnival Liberty.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean vs Carnival: Which is a better choice?

While there were several things we both felt Carnival got right and perhaps stood out in a positive way compared to Royal Caribbean, the overall experience reminded us why we prefer Royal Caribbean and will continue to sail with them almost exclusively. 

Things Carnival got right

Carnival Liberty in Nassau

Before I point out the reasons Carnival left us frustrated and less likely to cruise with them anytime soon, let me first offer some positive reasons one might choose Carnival over a similar-sized and similar-length cruise with Royal Caribbean. 

Room numbering

carnival-liberty-1

While perhaps trivial, we liked that each side of the ship was divided for room number purposes by “odd” and “even.”

No matter which direction you came off the stairs or elevator when heading back to your stateroom, it was easy to look at the signs indicating which way to odd-numbered rooms versus even-numbered ones. 

Room comforts

Carnival cabin

On this cruise, we opted for the best-priced interior option Carnival had on this sailing. For the age and class of the ship and stateroom, we both felt the beds were more comfortable than a Royal Caribbean bed typically has been on an equivalent sailing.

Also, the mini refrigerator provided was very cold and seemed to be a better option than the coolers provided in Royal Caribbean staterooms, most of which never seem to keep bottled waters cold. 

Towels in room

carnival-liberty-2

We appreciated the Carnival method of placing two pool towels in our room up front.

Sure, they will hit you for $25 apiece if you keep them. Still, the idea of having them right there and easily swapped out by the room attendant made this process appear more seamless than on Royal Caribbean ships. 

Stateroom attendant

Carnival Liberty cabin

Even though it was quick, 3-day weekend cruise, our stateroom attendant was highly professional and attentive. He introduced himself on the first night with a firm handshake and asked what, if anything, we needed from him.

I haven’t always found this to be the case with Royal Caribbean, though it certainly seems this is a mileage-may-vary situation from ship to ship, and maybe even cruise line to cruise line.

Some dining options were better

CarnVistaBlueIguana

While clearly not an across-the-board situation (more on this below), there were some food offerings that we found much more enjoyable than Royal options.

For example, the Blue Iguana taco bar we felt was tastier than El Loco Fresh. Guy’s Burgers, apparently a staple on all Carnival ships, was one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve had anywhere, let alone at sea. And Pirate Pizza we both agreed was superior to Sorrento’s. All of these options were free and highly enjoyable.

Adults-only pool area

Adults pool on Carnival Liberty

While not necessarily better than the Solarium on Royal Caribbean, we did find the Carnival adults-only pool to be a great option for lounging, and both the pool and hot tubs themselves to be a tick better than the options found on the comparable Royal ships. 

Casino

There were pros and cons with the Carnival casino. On the positive side, the position in the ship – with windows overlooking the water on both sides – was a nice change and even included plenty of casual seating along each side.

A small stage was setup and typically had a guitar player performing each night to keep the vibe up. I liked that the craps table was open early each day and that tier points were visible in the Carnival Hub app minutes after you finished playing, whether at a slot machine or table game. 

The Modern Trio Project (ship violinists)

carnival-liberty-3

Lastly, the trio of professional violinists that perform in the main lobby each night should not to be missed on Carnival Liberty.

These talented musicians were amazing to listen to, and we hadn’t seen a performance of that caliber on a Royal Caribbean ship that wasn’t an actual theatre/production show. Hats off to those three folks for keeping everyone entertained for a few hours each night.

Things Carnival for wrong

Carnival Liberty in Nassau

Suffice to say, there were plenty of nice features and options available on the Carnival Liberty that might be difference makers for those looking for something different.

That said, we found the shortcomings problematic enough that we missed the Independence of the Seas before even sailing away from Port Canaveral and watching it pass us in the open Atlantic a few hours later. Here are some of the reasons.

Beverage and table bussing service was slower or non-existent

RedFrog_RumBar_021

Not only were the bar servers constantly in the weeds, seemingly unable to keep pace with demand, not once the entire cruise, in any bar or pool area, did we have a waiter or waitress come by to take a drink order. And along with that came the piling up of plates and cups on tables.

With Royal Caribbean, we find that we barely finish a drink before there’s a waiter coming to ask if we want another and taking our empty glass away. Not the case at all on Carnival Liberty, at least not this past weekend.

Limit of 15 alcohol drinks per day and signing for every purchase…and Pepsi

cocktail-bar

At my age and weight, it’s quite possible for me to drink 15 drinks over the course of a day and not be too drunk to safely make it back to my room. The Carnival drink package that caps you at 15 drinks per day is not a good fit for everyone, and it made me appreciate that while Royal may charge more for their Deluxe Beverage Package, there is no such predetermined limit.

Add to it that Carnival requires you sign a receipt for every drink, even sodas and bottled waters, and it was another check in the box for Royal. If nothing else, the receipt issue slows down the overall service at crowded bars, leaving less time to enjoy your vacation.

Lastly on this section, I am the grandson of a Coca-Cola warehouse supervisor and have grown up with zero use for Pepsi products. Royal wins that battle for me all day, every day over Carnival. If you’re like me and dread the, “Is Pepsi OK?” response from servers when you ask for a Coke some place, Carnival isn’t for you.

Casino downsides

Celebrity casino

As I noted above, there were several aspects of the Carnival casino that I enjoyed, but there were some definite downsides.

For starters, if you’re an experienced Blackjack player, be aware that the tables on this ship were all using continuous shuffle machines, which adds to the house advantage. They were also paying out 6-5 on natural Blackjacks, another decided blow to the players.

The slot machines do not print out tickets when you cash out. Instead, they add the funds you left in the machine to your ship card, and you have to go to the cashier to cash out. Considering my wife ran down to the casino late on the last night when remembering that she had $100 on her card, it’s easy to see where many might forget, adding to the Carnival casino profit margin.

Stateroom problems

carnival-liberty-4

For a ship renovated in 2016, our interior stateroom on Carnival Liberty fell woefully short of our expectations. There was only one outlet in the room, with another tucked up in the ceiling corner above the sink in the bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, the décor itself was a stale green theme straight out of a horror movie and had a shower curtain instead of a door.

The deadbolt didn’t work in our room door, leading to some cause for concern safety-wise. And for an 8th floor room, it was rather noisy. Whenever the ship was sailing, we could hear the engine noise in our ears from the bed, as though we were in the bowels of the ship. Add to that the walls and doors seemed to allow for much more hallway noise in your room, and it’s easy to see where Royal just does better by us.

Buffet was subpar, even by mass market cruise ship standards

buffet

Look, I get it. The food at any cruise ship buffet is not going to rival a 5-star dining spot. Nonetheless, we found ourselves once again appreciating the comforts of the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean when we went to the Carnival buffet the first night.

The options were extremely limited and the quality regrettable. The next day for breakfast proved no better. It reached a point where we planned our remaining meals around the peculiar hours of Blue Iguana and Guy’s Burgers. 

Why we'll remain Loyal to Royal

Oasis sea day

For my wife and I and what we desire when cruising, the choice was clear, and we knew it the first night.

Royal Caribbean simply seems a cut above Carnival in most areas and worth whatever reasonable extra cost comes with this choice. From the specialty dining options to the staff service and the comforts of home we feel when on a Royal ship, the positive attributes Royal has make them a clear leader in mass market cruising.

While I try not to deal in absolutes and would not want to say “never again," with several other Royal cruises in my app on the horizon, the things we appreciate about our favorite cruise line are the reasons we will book almost exclusively with them in the years ahead.

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival: Which is a better choice?

In:
20 Jul 2023

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are two of the biggest names in the cruising industry and both vie for the general public to try their ships.

CCL vs RCL

In comparison, both mainstream cruise lines take a family-friendly approach to cruising, with a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy onboard from dining to entertainment, accommodations and amenities. 

It’s no surprise that millions of passengers choose to set sail with both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line each year. Both offer affordable cruise fares and various itineraries around the world - all with a big emphasis on fun. 

Carnival Cruise Line's current fleet of cruise ships includes 27 vessels, which is similar in size to Royal Caribbean’s fleet of 28 ships. The newest ships from both cruise lines feature dazzling entertainment, one-of-a-kind onboard thrills, unique amenities and endless dining options. 

However, there is an obvious competition between these two cruise lines. It’s a tale as old as time: which cruise line is better between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line? 

As with anything, the best cruise line for you and your family mostly depends on travel style, cruise preferences and vacation budget. 

Wonder of the Seas in St Thomas

In my experience, people either love to cruise with Carnival or they love to hate on Carnival. In all honesty, I used to be someone who scoffed at the idea of setting sail on a Carnival ship now that I am far removed from my college spring break days. These days, I much prefer to cruise with Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises. 

But, I’ve sailed on three Carnival cruises in the last year, two of which were on the cruise line’s newest Excel-class, Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration. Prior to this, I had previously only cruised with Carnival on short spring break itineraries during college and high school. My recent, positive experiences onboard Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration really gave me a new perspective about the cruise line.

As a loyal Royal Caribbean cruiser, I can now see why Carnival cruisers choose to return to the cruise line over and over again. In fact, it’s obvious that Carnival’s newest ships in the Excel class represent a new era for the cruise line. These two modern cruise ships have transformed the cruise line with up-to-date ship design, technology and amenities. 

If you’re considering a cruise with Carnival, here’s everything you need to know about how the cruise line’s “fun ships” compare to Royal Caribbean’s fleet of innovative ships. 

Overview of Fleet

While Royal Caribbean’s fleet is slightly larger than Carnival’s with two more vessels, the two cruise lines are very similar in size. Today, both cruise lines are focusing on building modern and massive cruise ships that can hold more than 5,000 passengers.

Both lines have relatively smaller ships as well, with passenger counts ranging between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers. And the ships ages range between brand new and going as far back as approaching 30 years old.

For many years, Carnival’s approach to ship design was implementing “tried-and-true” deck plans that had already proven successful for the cruise line. Each ship class was built similarly (some nearly identical) to the last with only minor changes to accommodate larger vessels. 

Wonder of the Seas docked in St. Thomas

This approach was used until 2021 when Carnival Mardi Gras set sail. The building of this ship started a new era for the cruise line with the Excel-class of ships. Mardi Gras paved the way for the equally modern and advanced Carnival Celebration to set sail in late 2022, in which my sister and I were onboard one of the inaugural sailings.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean has always been pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation across its fleet. The cruise line is constantly creating ship classes that are bigger and better than ever before. 

The Oasis Class ships hold the title as the largest in the world, and Royal Caribbean has held the title of the world's biggest ship for many years now.

With the release of Icon of the Seas, the first of a new astonishing class of ships, this approach still stands. Royal Caribbean continues to be a pioneer in the cruising industry and sets the bar for other cruise lines, like Carnival, to follow.

Regardless of which line you pick, you'll find big ships that have plenty to do. Neither line truly offers a small ship experience, but they have sister brands that fill that gap.

Dining Options 

Food is arguably one of the most important aspects of a cruise, right after the places in the world the ship visit.

Comparatively speaking, I think Royal Caribbean comes out on top with its traditional and specialty dining, while Carnival’s plethora of complimentary, quick dining options onboard are second to none.  

Where Carnival truly shines is its approach to casual dining onboard its ships - and the food is pretty darn good too. Carnival crushes the competition when it comes to its complimentary dining. Cruisers have a wide range of eateries to choose from on their ships.

To start, Carnival has partnered with Food Network celebrity chef, Guy Fieri, to create the popular Guy’s Burger Joint and new Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and Brewery.

In addition, the cruise line debuted a new partnership with Shaq’s Big Chicken, which is nearly as good as Chick-fil-A in my opinion.

This is just the start of the complimentary dining options and doesn’t even include the pizza shoppe for Napoli-style pizza, fresh made sandwiches from the panini grill and authentic tacos from BlueIguana cantina. 

Another favorite onboard Carnival is the SeaDay Brunch, hosted into the early afternoon for those who stayed up past their bedtime. Some signature dishes include (possibly the best) 12-hour French toast topped with roasted peaches and skillet pancakes with freshly whipped ricotta. 

Finally, Carnival’s newest ships have debuted complimentary, speciality-style restaurants called ChiBang and Cucina del Capitano. While ChiBang serves up Mexican and Asian dishes on two separate menus, Cucina del Capitano is the Italian speciality restaurant onboard. While other cruise lines would certainly charge for this experience, it’s free for guests on Excel-class ships.

This isn’t to say that Carnival’s main dining experience is lackluster (that award goes to the cruise line’s buffet, which has always left me disappointed); rather, the cruise line truly shines with its quick service options. 

And don’t even get me started about Carnival’s Chocolate Melting Cake. It’s the best dessert at sea for chocolate lovers and the cruise line has perfected this molten, warm decadence. Best of all? It’s on the menu every day. 

Where Carnival falls short is where Royal Caribbean sparkles. Specialty dining on Royal Caribbean is top-notch food and service, from Chop’s Grille steakhouse, Izumi Sushi and Teppanyaki and Jamie’s Italian - to name a few. 

Royal Caribbean’s main dining room service is also more sophisticated with a diverse menu compared to Carnival. You won’t find the servers dancing each night on tables like you will in Carnival’s dining room where you get a small ‘show’ each evening you dine. Royal Caribbean focuses on offering a varied menu with quality food for cruisers. 

The onboard buffet is the main spot for meals on the majority of the cruise line’s fleet. The food is similar quality to what you’d find at a hotel; while it might not be the most impressive thing you eat onboard, it will hit the spot. 

Entertainment

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer an excellent range of daily entertainment for cruisers. You might even run out of time to see everything during your cruise; however, the cruise line take a different approach to entertainment. 

Royal Caribbean offers large-scale production shows on most of its Oasis and Quantum-class ships. You can find 90-minute, Broadway-style shows like “Hairspray” and “Mamma Mia”. The cruise line also offers one-of-a-kind aquatics shows on Oasis-class ships, along with jaw-dropping, ice skating spectacles on some of the larger vessels.

Ice Skating Show

Older Royal Caribbean ships will still offer a variety of entertainment, but on a smaller scale. You can still find production shows, comedians, magicians, acrobatics and more on a Royal Caribbean cruise. 

On the other hand, Carnival’s entertainment leans into a variety of comedy shows with singing and dancing productions. Something unique to Carnival is the cruise line’s Punchliner Comedy Club with daily comedy shows and rotating comedians. Each show lasts just 30 minutes, so you have plenty of time to try the other entertainment available. 

Carnival also features Playlist Production shows where the singers and dancers showcase familiar tunes with dazzling choreography. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might enjoy live gameshows of Deal or No Deal or Family Feud, which can only be found on Carnival’s cruise ships. 

With Carnival’s newest Excel-class of cruise ships, the entertainment has been kicked up a notch. The cruise line has developed some really incredible shows for its transformative Center Stage, like the Most Magnificent Circus on Carnival Celebration. This acrobatic-style headliner show was quite possibly one of the best shows I’ve seen at sea. 

Kids and Families

Playscape on Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean program offers programmed activities for kids and teens to mingle with peers their own age. It's supervised, which means parents can drop their kids off and then enjoy time with their children.

Adventure Ocean caters to kids and teens between the ages of 3 and 17, dividing them into five different groups:

  1. Aquanauts (3-5)
  2. Explorers (6-8)
  3. Voyagers (9-11)
  4. Pre-teens (12-14)
  5. Teens (15-17)

Now, depending on which category your child falls into, they'll likely be able to take part in karaoke showdowns, pajama parties, carnival games, epic games of crazy tag, sports tournaments, and dance parties that will have them busting moves all night long.

RelatedBest Royal Caribbean cruise ships for Kids

If you have younger kids, there is also Royal Babies and Royal Tots, which costs extra and is for toddlers between the ages of 6 and 36 months years old.

Camp Ocean is Carnival's complimentary youth club and is also split by ages:

  1. Penguins (2 - 5)
  2. Stingrays (6 - 8)
  3. Sharks (9 - 11)

Tweens and teens have their own spaces, too, in the form of Circle C and Club O2. They can keep themselves busy with stuff like video and board games, sports and karaoke.

Attractions and Thrills

FlowRider

When it comes to onboard thrills, no one in the cruise industry does this better than Royal Caribbean. This has been Royal Caribbean’s bread and butter for decades. 

In fact, the cruise line pioneered many firsts for the cruise industry, like the first zip line at sea, the first FlowRider surf simulator, and the first ice skating on a cruise ship. This doesn’t even encompass all of it, like the waterslides, rock climbing walls, bumper cars, bungee jumping and skydiving you can try!

For the most part, these onboard thrills are all complimentary for Royal Caribbean cruisers (other than the iFly sky diving simulator). 

Read more15 free things to try on your next cruise

Comparatively, Carnival showcases plenty of pools, hot tubs and waterslides. The biggest ships, Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee, feature The Ultimate Playground where guests can find the cruise line’s onboard thrills. Here, you can take your turn on the ropes course or dare to try the thrilling waterslides for free. 

This is also where you’ll find the first rollercoaster at sea, called Bolt. Costing $15 each for two laps, cruisers can twist and turn around the aft of Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee!

Although pricey, my sister and I would recommend this unique experience at least once for all Carnival guests.

Experience Onboard

Undoubtedly, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line offer incredible cruise experiences. Both cruise lines aim to provide affordable, family-friendly cruises with something onboard for everyone. 

Carnival’s entire brand revolves around having “the most fun ships at sea.” You can’t get off a Carnival cruise without seeing the word “fun” multiple times each day.

As such, the environment onboard is very casual with a major focus on fun. No one takes themselves too seriously and this creates a very carefree style of cruising. 

Entertainment Carnival Mardi Gras

Carnival attracts a younger crowd, including young adults and families. It’s a popular cruise line for spring breakers because of its notoriously cheap cruise fares. Carnival cruises have a lively nightlife scene with plenty of parties, although this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily out of control. Imagine everyone - even your mom and grandma - simply letting loose together on a cruise!

I will say, nobody does a sailaway party like Carnival Cruise Line. Everyone onboard shows up with their drinks in hand, ready to celebrate the start of vacation. In fact, I would verge to say it’s a right of passage to attend a Carnival sailaway party if you consider yourself a seasoned cruiser! 

With Royal Caribbean’s cruises, you’ll find a more varied crowd thanks to the cruise line’s international presence. Comparatively, Royal Caribbean offers more international cruises to places like Europe, Asia and Australia.

Along with young adults and families, you’ll also find solo travelers, couples and grandparents onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. Because of Royal Caribbean’s slightly higher cruise fares thanks to high-end suites, the parties onboard tend to be more subdued and upscale. 

symphony-of-the-seas-solarium

For those traveling without kids, Royal Caribbean’s adult-only areas are superior for relaxing during your cruise. Each ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet offers a serene space for adults called The Solarium - it’s my favorite place to relax.

Comparatively, Carnival also offers an adults-only area called Serenity, although it’s not as large or secluded. I also prefer the motif of the Solarium over Serenity. 

If you’re sailing around spring break or on a short getaway itinerary, your Royal Caribbean cruise will likely entice a more energetic crowd.

Read moreEverything you should book before the cruise to avoid it being sold out

Itineraries and where they sail

Aerial view of CocoCay from balloon

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival focus primarily on North American cruises, with lots of cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico.  Both have seasonal sailings to Alaska, Bermuda and Canada.

Royal Caribbean has a larger presence in Europe and Australia compared to Carnival.

Both have private destinations in the Caribbean, although Carnival has one more than Royal Caribbean: Amber Cove, Half Moon Cay, and Princess Cays vs Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

Read moreThe best cruise itineraries for every type of traveler

Final Thoughts

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

When it comes to comparing Royal Caribbean and Carnival, the two cruise lines are more similar than they are different. Each aims to provide an amazing and affordable cruise vacation for families. You can’t really go wrong between the two, as long as you have the right expectations. 

If you’re a major foodie or someone who loves to really let loose and party the night away on a cruise, you might find that Carnival is the best cruise line for you. The upbeat and carefree atmosphere is perfect for cruisers who want a casual getaway without any of the fuss. 

Those who might want a slightly more upscale experience with better specialty dining options and innovative onboard thrills would probably prefer Royal Caribbean. This is also the best cruise line for an adults-only cruise vacation or those looking to truly relax. 

Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to book another cruise on Carnival’s Excel-class ship, as it truly changed my opinion of the cruise line and amplified the fleet. I’m excited about the future of the cruise line as it starts to put innovation and technological advancement at the forefront.

However, I still prefer Royal Caribbean overall as a cruise line as it fits my budget and travel style; of course, the lucrative loyalty benefits don’t hurt either! 

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival Cruise Line: Which is a better cruise vacation?

Comparing Carnival Mardi Gras vs Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas

In:
25 May 2023

Ask almost any loyal cruiser, and most will agree that there’s something extra special about sailing on a newer cruise ship. Not only is everything onboard spick-and-span, but you’re also experiencing the most advanced innovation and technology from the cruise line. 

This isn’t to say that I don’t like sailing on older cruise ships by any means; I’ve actually sailed on some of the oldest cruise ships in the industry. I also find that older ships can sail more unique itineraries since size isn’t a concern for docking in less popular ports. But, I have to admit that I do love setting sail on a newer cruise ship, especially the most modern cruise ships that a cruise line has to offer. 

Carnival Mardi Gras

Last month, I set sail on Carnival Mardi Gras, which is one of Carnival Cruise Line's newest cruise ships. Launched in 2021, this cruise ship was the flagship vessel for Carnival’s new Excel-class of cruise ships. In my opinion, this shift towards modernizing their fleet was revolutionary for Carnival Cruise Line. 

In fact, some might argue that the new Excel-class of ships is giving Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships a run for their money. With fantastic entertainment and more eateries than most, Carnival has certainly upped its game.

As someone who has sailed on every Royal Caribbean ship class, I was eager to see how Mardi Gras compared to an Oasis-class ship. Last year, I sailed on Harmony of the Seas with my family for a 7-night Caribbean sailing. The two ships are similar in size, holding around 6,000 passengers, and offer a similar type of cruise experience centered around family fun for all. 

Harmony of the Seas

Here’s how Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas compared to Carnival’s Mardi Gras, along with some of my honest thoughts about each cruise experience. 

Ship Class Overview

Overall, Carnival’s Excel-class and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships represent important new eras of ship design and technology for each respective cruise line. 

Royal Caribbean has always been known to push the envelope on innovation and advancement in the cruise industry. As such, the debut of its Oasis-class ship in 2009 was met with much excitement from the cruise industry. At the time, there was no other cruise ship like it due to the ship’s sheer size and its unique entertainment. 

Harmony of the Seas

These ships are best known for creating an unparalleled design with multiple neighborhoods, including an open-aired space in the middle of the ship. This space is home to Central Park - a serene space with real greenery and open air - along with the aft-facing Boardwalk, which includes a carousel, Johnny Rocket’s diner and AquaTheatre with diving shows. 

Aquatheater on Harmony of the Seas

With Oasis of the Seas being a smash-hit for Royal Caribbean, the cruise line continued to build similar vessels in the same class. Harmony of the Seas was launched in 2016; at the time, it was the biggest cruise ship in the world. The cruise ship has endless amounts of options for dining, onboard thrills, entertainment and accommodations onboard. 

Personally, I love Oasis-class ships and find they are easy to navigate with their distinct neighborhood designs. Harmony of the Seas was no exception and the open-air spaces were some of the highlights for me. At maximum capacity, Harmony of the Seas can hold 6,700 passengers and weighs 226,000 gross tons. 

Harmony of the Seas

On the flip side, Carnival Mardi Gras is the second largest vessel in Carnival’s fleet, only coming in second to sister-ship Carnival Celebration. In comparison, Mardi Gras is smaller than Harmony of the Seas, weighing 180,000 gross tons and holding 5,500 passengers at full capacity. 

Carnival Mardi Gras

Although smaller than Harmony of the Seas, Mardi Gras was revolutionary for Carnival because it was 40% bigger than anything the cruise line had built before. Carnival had resisted the industry’s shift towards building massive mega ships for many years. Instead, Carnival built new vessels that were designed with the same look and feel as previous ship classes. This led to a stagnant innovation from the cruise line - that is, until the debut of the Excel-class ship.  

Carnival Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras was the first introduction of Carnival’s take at having different designated zones onboard. Similar to Harmony of the Seas’ neighborhoods, you can find similarly themed bars, lounges and eateries in Mardi Gras’ six different zones. 

Mardi Gras Bar

Similar to Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Mardi Gras has an extensive list of dining options, onboard thrills and entertainment choices. The newest vessel debuted a brand-new entertainment venue called Center Stage, which is an outward-facing atrium in the center of the ship that transforms into a nightly space for headliner productions. 

Carnival Mardi Gras

As someone who had cruised previously on older Carnival ships, I was blown away by Carnival Mardi Gras. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what to expect since my prior experiences were on ships that felt dark, cramped and outdated. However, Carnival’s new ship was not only modern, but it was surprisingly stylish and very well designed. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean vs Carnival: Which is a better choice?

Dining and Restaurants

If you’re like me, then trying out all of the restaurants onboard is one of your favorite cruise ship activities! Lucky for me, Mardi Gras and Harmony of the Seas both had a seemingly endless amount of places to eat onboard. I ran out of time to try everything onboard, only to the praise of my jeans back home in my closet. 

Harmony of the Seas had 9 different dining options onboard that were complimentary. The main dining room serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner during the cruise, offering world-class cuisine in an upscale restaurant. The Windjammer Buffet - which we all know and love as a Royal Caribbean staple - was also great for grabbing breakfast or lunch. 

Windjammer Buffet

Harmony of the Seas also features a variety of spots to grab a quick bite to eat, such as Sorrento’s Pizza, Dog House, Mini Bites, Cafe Promenade and Park Cafe. However, it’s really tough to beat Mardi Gras’ dining options for casual spots to eat. Ask anyone who has sailed on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and I would bet they agree with this statement. 

Guy's Burger Joint

Comparatively, Mardi Gras has 20+ complimentary eateries onboard - and they’re all pretty dang delicious. We ran out of time to try every option onboard, although we did try our best. Mardi Gras has Carnival’s signature dining options, such as Guy Fieri’s restaurants Guy’s Burger Joint and Pig & Anchor BBQ Smokehouse. Our personal favorite was Big Chicken, which is a Chick-Fil-A dupe serving crispy chicken tenders and sandwiches thanks to another celebrity partnership with Shaq O’Neal. 

Big Chicken

Celeb-chef, Emeril Lagassi, has also partnered with Carnival to debut Emeril’s Bistro, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a creole flair. We loved coming here for breakfast during our cruise, even with the extra $5 surcharge per menu item. 

This doesn’t even scratch the surface for the eateries, as Mardi Gras also has BlueIguana Cantina, the pizzeria onboard, a panini shop and JavaBlue coffeeshop. Sit-down restaurants include the Italian Cucina del Capitano and Asian/Mexican fusion ChiBang. Both of these have the look and feel of specialty dining, but these dining options are complimentary. 

ChiBang!

Of course, Carnival has a main dining room, which is home to the cruise line’s famous SeaDay brunch. I appreciate having a brunch option that goes until early in the afternoon, as we had some late nights on Mardi Gras and needed to sleep in. You can also find the Lido Marketplace buffet and specialty dining restaurants, although I’d argue this is where Harmony of the Seas shines in comparison. 

Mardi Gras Buffet

Harmony of the Seas features upwards of 10 different specialty dining venues, including specialty options for steak at Chops Grille, Italian at Jamie’s Italian, Izumi sushi and even 150 Central Park for fine dining. Although I’ve tried the steakhouse and sushi-equivalent on Mardi Gras, I much prefer the specialty dining on Harmony of the Seas. The food was higher quality, portions were more generous and service was more attentive. Overall, the ambiance was more elegant and upscale too.  

Chops Grille

I also found that Harmony of the Seas had better service and food at the main dining room in comparison to Mardi Gras. The appetizers, entrees and desserts were higher quality and provided more variety, in my opinion. However, no one can beat Carnival’s melting chocolate cake, which is served each night in the dining room! As a chocolate lover, this one is heavenly each night.

Carnival Melting Cake

From my experiences, Carnival’s buffets have always left me feeling disappointed - and the Mardi Gras buffet was no exception. The cramped Lido Marketplace space lacked variety and quality in comparison to the Windjammer, which has never let me down.

Overall, Mardi Gras has unbeatable food when it comes to quick, casual options onboard, such as Guy’s Burger Joint and Big Chicken, while Royal Caribbean’s dining room, specialty dining and buffet options are superior. 

Headliner Productions and Entertainment

In general, cruise ships have their best entertainment and headliner productions on the biggest cruise ships. Mega cruise ships tend to have more resources to perform the big-name headliner shows and Broadway productions. For me, this was definitely the case for us when sailing on Harmony of the Seas and Carnival Mardi Gras. 

Aquatheater on Harmony of the Seas

Generally speaking, the entertainment we experienced on both of these cruise ships were incredible with lights, music, dancing, acrobats, ice skaters, divers, comedians and much more. We were throughly impressed by all of the entertainment provided. Regardless of which cruise line you sail on, I can almost guarantee that you will be awestruck by the entertainment onboard.

As an Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas has some of the best entertainment that Royal Caribbean has to offer. The highlight of the entertainment for me was a 90-minute production of Grease, which felt like I was transported to New York for a Broadway musical.

Grease

Harmony of the Seas also features an onboard ice skating rink and AquaTheatre, which are unique venues that showcase even more spectacular production shows. The AquaTheatre had a production show with high-divers, synchronized swimmers and aerial acrobatics. It’s truly unlike anything you’ve seen before on land and truly took our breath away. 

Similarly, Harmony of the Seas features 1887: A Journey Through Time as its main production  in Studio B Ice Skating Rink. The production has skaters with twirls, turns and flips in gravity-defying stunts.

Ice Show

Of course, Harmony of the Seas also offers evening headliner theatre shows, including comedians, magicians, and other singing and dancing productions. You’ll also found bars and lounges with parties, live musicians and more throughout your cruise. 

While Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas has fantastic production shows, Carnival has definitely taken its entertainment to the next level onboard Mardi Gras. Other production shows from Carnival had always felt low budget to me, although the daily comedians are normally a spotlight on any Carnival ship. 

For starters, Carnival debuted the Center Stage concept on Mardi Gras as a main venue for its production shows. This atrium is located midship and spans across multiple decks with an outward facing design. Here, you can find some of Mardi Gras’ biggest productions. 

Carnival Mardi Gras Entertainment

During our cruise, we enjoyed shows like Celestial Strings (an electrifying strings performance with acrobats), VooDoo Moon (a spooky musical production with aerobatics), Vegas Nights (a flashy production, Vegas-style) and We Are One (a worldly journey with singing and dancing). 

Carnival Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras also features Production Playlist shows in a smaller, more traditional theatre with another group of onboard performers. Special to Carnival is the live gameshows of Family Feud and Deal or No Deal. Finally, you can enjoy Punchliner Comedy Club with multiple shows each day featuring rotating comedians. Fun Fact: Carnival employs more comedians than any other company in the world!

Punchliner Comedy Carnival Mardi Gras

Comparing the two, Harmony of the Seas has more specialty-style entertainment with Broadway musicals, diving shows and ice skating productions. These are entertainment options that are uniquely available on Harmony of the Seas (and other Oasis-class ships).

RCL Diving

On the other hand, Mardi Gras certainly has wonderful entertainment headliner productions too. In addition, those who enjoy late-night deck parties and energetic nightclubs will definitely enjoy the fast-paced environment on Mardi Gras.

At the end of the day, I personally think you can’t go wrong with entertainment from either cruise line.

Read more: 7 things I liked better about Royal Caribbean cruises than Carnival

Activities and Thrills

The bigger the cruise ship, the more onboard thrills, activities and amenities you’ll be able to find. For me, this is one of my favorite parts of sailing on a cruise line’s largest ship, as you’ll have an endless amount of things to do. Both Harmony of the Seas and Carnival Mardi Gras are two of the largest vessels in each cruise line’s fleet. As such, we found these ships features more things to do than we had time for!  

Ultimate Abyss

To start, Royal Caribbean is known for creating jam-packed cruise ships with nonstop fun thanks to a plethora of onboard thrills. Harmony of the Seas is one of the most innovative ships sailing for the cruise line. Even as an adult, many of the onboard thrills were enticing. Best of all, pretty much all of the onboard thrills are complimentary on Harmony of the Seas. From the Ultimate Abyss (the tallest slide at sea), along with an ice skating rink, zip line, miniature golf, FlowRider surf simulator and a rock climbing wall. 

Harmony of the Seas slides

Similarly, Carnival Mardi Gras is designed with family-fun in mind. One of the most innovative parts of Mardi Gras is Bolt - the very first rollercoaster at sea. As a rollercoaster aficionado, this was one of the best thrill rides I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship.

Bolt

However, Bolt is not complimentary. For $15 each, you can take two quick laps around the top deck of Carnival Mardi Gras. I found it worth the cost to ride this coaster, as you’ll whip around the ship in a way you’ve never experienced before.

Ropes Course

For complimentary onboard thrills, Mardi Gras also offers plenty onboard thrills at the Ultimate Playground, where cruisers can enjoy adrenaline-pumping waterslides at WaterWorks, participate in a round of miniature golf or play some basketball at the sports court. One of the craziest onboard thrills includes the complimentary ropes course, which takes you across the top deck of the ship while doing an obstacle course. You can even hang over the side - if you’re brave enough! 

Onboard Vibe and Atmosphere

Harmony of the Seas and Carnival Mardi Gras are designed to offer an incredible vacation for everyone in your family. As such, you’ll definitely find a little something for everyone onboard these two ships. 

During my Caribbean cruises on both of these ships, Carnival Mardi Gras certainly had an edge when it comes to the party and nightlife scene onboard. Mardi Gras cultivated a more casual ambiance as well with carefree cruisers looking to have a blast. This isn’t to say that things were out of control - and I think Carnival gets a bad rep for this, honestly. 

If party isn’t your vibe, you can enjoy the adults-only area called Serenity onboard. This is located at the front of Mardi Gras and features tons of padded loungers, daybeds and pools to be used just for adults. This is where we spent our afternoons at sea, as we appreciated the quiet space in comparison to the always busy pool deck. 

Serenity

In a more subdued manner, Harmony of the Seas was still very lively with cruisers looking to have a fantastic vacation. The nightlife wasn’t quite as prominent. In general, the onboard atmosphere of Harmony of the Seas was slightly more upscale with so many specialty restaurant and quality production shows.  

Adults can especially enjoy the beautiful Solarium on Harmony of the Seas. Similar to Serenity on Mardi Gras, you can enjoy an adults-only pool with loungers and daybeds surrounding the space. It’s quiet and peaceful - the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail, read a book or take a nap.

Solarium on Harmony of the Seas

While Serenity is entirely open-air, most of the Solarium is enclosed though with glass panels surrounding the space, meaning it can be enjoyed during less-than-ideal weather.

Staterooms and Suites

To appeal to a wide range of cruisers, both Harmony of the Seas and Carnival Mardi Gras have a variety of accommodations onboard. These include everything from budget-friendly inside cabins to luxurious suites. 

When sailing on Harmony of the Seas, my sister and I stayed in our typical choice: an inside cabin. We were impressed with the stateroom’s decor, design and functionality - it had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Since Royal Caribbean tends to be slightly more expensive than Carnival, we opted to save money by choosing a cheaper cabin. 

Read more: I sailed in an interior cabin on Carnival and a balcony room on Royal Caribbean. Here's the one I'd pick next time.

Harmony of the Seas interior cabin

For those looking to splurge, Harmony of the Seas has some very unique staterooms available onboard thanks to neighborhood zones like Central Park and the Boardwalk. You can choose to stay in these inward-facing balcony rooms where you’ll have views of each respective neighborhood. 

Harmony of the Seas also features massive suites for those looking to splurge, including the aft-facing AquaTheatre Suite (including unparalleled views of the diving spectacles) and Crown Loft Suites.

On the other hand, Mardi Gras’ stateroom selection and prices allowed us to splurge a bit more. We opted to spend a but more so we could try out an Ocean Suite onboard the snazzy new ship, and it did not leave us disappointed. Our room was very large and featured a separate living room and extended balcony. This entry-level suite was only about 50% more than our inside cabin on Harmony of the Seas. 

In as similar way to Harmony of the Seas, Mardi Gras also features themed staterooms to accommodate different cruisers and families. These include the Havana Club staterooms, which provides convenient access to the Havana Club and an exclusive lounge area. Families can enjoy the Family Harbor deck, which are conveniently located near Mardi Gras’ childcare programs in Camp Ocean and include a special family lounge with snacks like PB&J sandwiches and cookies.

Final Thoughts: Is one better?

It’s no surprise that Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line are two of the most popular cruise lines in the world. This is especially true in comparison of each cruise line’s biggest and most modern cruise ships. After sailing on both, Carnival Mardi Gras and Harmony of the Seas showcase the best-of-the-best from each cruise line.

Harmony of the Seas vs Mardi Gras

Do I think one cruise ship is better than the other? Maybe for me, but that’s not the case for everyone. 

I’ve been a loyal Royal Caribbean cruiser for most of my life, which inherently sets a bias towards Harmony of the Seas. However, I love to cruise and can truthfully say I’ve enjoyed every single cruise I’ve taken, although some fit my travel style better than others. 

If you prefer your cruises to focus on headliner and unique entertainment, along with more upscale dining choices in specialty restaurants (like Jamie’s Italian, which is one of my favorites), then you’d perhaps lean towards Harmony of the Seas. 

I’m not a huge partier on a cruise; I like to spend my Caribbean cruises taking it slow with a cocktail and good book in hand. I prefer to relax onboard while exploring ports during the day. You won’t find me staying up late at the nightclub most night, which tends to align with onboard vibe on Harmony of the Seas. I also preferred the entertainment onboard Harmony of the Seas with the diving show, Grease musical and ice skating spectacles. 

However, I wouldn’t hesitate to sail on Carnival Mardi Gras again. I loved that the cruise ship's ambiance and the vibe was very carefree and chill. Everyone was having a blast, but it never felt rowdy or out-of-control. Carnival’s quick and casual food options, like Big Chicken and Guy’s Burger Joint, are the best in the business and a huge highlight for me - it’s where the cruise line shines!

Carnival Mardi Gras

You can also expect to find massive sailaway parties and deck parties late into the night while you sail, along with great entertainment each evening. The fast-paced environment is perfect for those looking to let their hair down with the whole family. 

At the end of the day, each cruise ship offers a fantastic cruise vacation.

Comparing Carnival's Mardi Gras vs Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Carnival and NCL raised their daily gratuities

In:
04 Apr 2022

Two major cruise lines have raised their daily gratuities this year, which could be an indicator of what Royal Caribbean may do as well.

Carnival funnel

CruiseRadio reported Carnival Cruise Line will raise its gratuity beginning on sailings that depart May 1, 2022.

The new gratuity rate for Carnival will be as follows:

  • Standard staterooms will pay $14.50 per person, per day
  • Suites will pay $16.50 per person, per day

Carnival will allow anyone with a cruise booked right now to lock in the old gratuity rate if they prepay gratuities before May 1, 2022. Cruises booked after May 1 will be subject to the new rate.

Carnival Vista restaurant

According to Carnival, 100% of gratuities are distributed to the crew members, such as stateroom attendants, dining and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes.

Carnival's change comes just weeks after Norwegian Cruise Line announced they would increase the daily gratuities.

As of April 1st, NCL increased their gratuity amount as follows:

  • Balcony and lower cabins: $16.00 per person, per day
  • Haven and Suite guests: $20.00 per person, per day
  • Club Balcony Suite guests remains at $18.00 per person, per day

NCL says their gratuities compensate crew members in tandem with a salary for crew members such as complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff.

Will Royal Caribbean do the same?

Wonder of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation | Royal Caribbean Blog

With two of Royal Caribbean's biggest competitors changing the daily gratuity amounts, Royal Caribbean cruisers may be wondering if a change is coming soon for them as well.

Royal Caribbean hasn't touched their gratuity rate since the end of 2017, when they announced a change to the gratuity to begin in 2018.

The current gratuity for Royal Caribbean is: $14.50 per guest per day in non-suites. For guests in a Grand Suite or above, the amount is $17.50.

Just like the other cruise lines, the daily gratuity is shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Read moreShould you prepay gratuities for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean has not announced or said anything about changing the gratuity rates, but it's not unusual from a historical perspective for cruise lines to match each other with changes like this.

When Royal Caribbean announced a change in gratuity in 2017, they mentioned keeping up with other cruise lines, "Royal Caribbean is constantly reviewing our competitive environment and this adjustment positions us in-line with our competitors. The additional gratuity collected will be disbursed to our onboard crew".

The good news is Royal Caribbean has in the past done exactly what Carnival is doing now, by offering passengers booked with an existing reservation to lock in the old rate if they pre-pay before the new rate goes into effect.

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test

In:
02 Sep 2021

Following an update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, two cruise lines have changed the amount of time guests have to get a negative Covid test before their cruise.

Carnival announces new health protocols including masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

The CDC revised their screening testing and documentation requirements late last week for fully vaccinated passengers and those who are not fully vaccinated, for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing.

Specifically, the CDC updated their testing guidelines to recommend fully vaccinated passengers get their Covid test no more than 2 days before boarding or get a test on embarkation day.  It also lists unvaccinated passengers get their test no more than 3 days before the cruise.

As an apparent result of this change, both Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have changed their policies on Thursday.

Both lines are still accepting either an antigen or PCR test.

Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line | Royal Caribbean Blog

Beginning with sailings that depart as of September 13, 2021, vaccinated guests must take a covid test within two days prior to the sailing date.

According to Carnival, if the sailing is on Saturday, the test may be taken on Thursday and Friday, and as late as Saturday, if you are guaranteed to receive your results in time for check-in.

Carnival is working to set up mobile pre-cruise rapid testing sites at all of its homeports as a back-up alternative for vaccinated guests who aren’t able to make arrangements. Additional details are forthcoming.

MSC

MSC Cruises releases new policies to keep guests safe from Coronavirus | Royal Caribbean Blog

MSC Cruises also updated their policy for all cruises departing from Miami and Port Canaveral beginning November 1, 2021 and onward.

For these sailings, All guests 2 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must provide documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 2 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation.

What is Royal Caribbean's policy?

As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy has not changed for sailings from U.S. Homeports and Nassau, Bahamas.

All guests age 2 and older — regardless of their vaccination status, departure port or the length of their cruise — will need to take a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab, no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal and show their negative test result upon arriving. 

In addition to the pre-cruise test, kids will take one or two more tests, depending on the length of the cruise. Royal Caribbean’s test provider will administer these, at no cost to children under the age of 12.

  • On boarding day, kids will take a complimentary rapid PCR test during check-in at the terminal. We’ll send registration details via email before departure.
  • For cruises that are 5 nights or longer, kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Vaccinated guests who require a COVID-19 test for re-entry into their country may receive one onboard as well. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under the age of 2 have no testing requirements.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Carnival joins Royal Caribbean in requiring pre-cruise Covid tests and masks for vaccinated passengers

In:
04 Aug 2021

Less than a week after Royal Caribbean said it would require vaccinated passengers to get a Covid test for certain sailings, Carnival Cruise Line announced a similar protocol.

Carnival informed guests of new testing and mask guidelines, where cruise ship passengers will be asked to wear masks in certain indoor areas of their ships and all guests, including those who are vaccinated, to have pre-cruise Covid tests.

Beginning on sailings the depart on August 14, 2021, all fully vaccinated cruise ship passengers will need to get a negative Covid-19 test (PCR or antigen) within 3 days of when their sailing will begin.

This means fully vaccinated guests will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test along with proof of full vaccination upon arrival in the terminal and can then proceed on board.

Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival will not provide testing opportunities at the cruise terminal, so guests must take the test at home before they arrive.

Guests who are not fully vaccinated are still required to show the negative results of a PCR test taken between 72 and 24 hours prior to the sailing date, and will be tested again in the terminal prior to boarding the ship and again within 24 hours of debarkation (for itineraries five days or longer).  Unvaccinated guests approved for an exemption will continue to be charged US$150, per person, for testing, reporting and health safety screenings, and also must provide proof of travel insurance if departing from the states of Florida or Texas. 

Children under two are exempt from testing requirements.

Royal Caribbean's policy is similar, with the requirement for all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to provide a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of vaccine status, prior to boarding on sailings 5-night or longer.

Royal Caribbean's testing policy went into effect beginning July 31, 2021.

Mask policy change

Carnival is also adding a mask rule for passengers on its ships while indoors.

The new mask rule begins on August 7, 2021 and "strongly encourages" all passengers to wear face masks when indoors, particularly guests who are unvaccinated including children under the age of 12 who should wear masks in public areas, except when eating or drinking.

All guests age 2 and older will be required to wear face masks in elevators and in designated indoor entertainment areas, all retail shops, and in the casino, except when eating or drinking.

Guests will be required to wear face masks prior to being seated in the main dining rooms and in the Lido Buffet area and occasionally in other designated areas where larger number of guests may congregate.  

Masks are required during embark and debark in the terminal, and masks should also be worn during the debarkation process on board.

Carnival says the new rule is being added, "to protect our guests and crew while on board."

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy spoke about the change, "These new requirements are being implemented to protect our guests and crew while on board, and to continue to provide confidence to our homeports and destinations that we are doing our part to support their efforts to protect public health and safety."

"We expect these requirements will be temporary and appreciate the cooperation of our guests. Our first month of guest operations has been met with tremendous enthusiasm and very positive guest feedback, and we are committed to continue our restart with both fun and safety in mind."

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