When it comes to the two most well known brands in cruising, then it is undoubtedly Royal Caribbean International, and Carnival Cruise Line. These are 2 of the biggest cruise lines which are active as well as two of the most traveled lines around the world.
You will find that both of these lines aim to offer something which will entertain everyone, and this is why they are often recommended as some of the best cruise lines for families.
Because of how well matched these 2 cruise lines are, a lot of people wonder which one will be best for them. This also leads to people wondering if there is a clear superior, or if one should be avoided.
There is no simple answer to this because when it comes to gauging the quality of a cruise line, there are plenty of different factors to consider, and both of these lines outclass the other in certain categories.
For example, with Royal Caribbean they are known for giving their cruise ship the wow factor. This is why their cruises are some of the largest ships in the world.
They try to fill their ships with innovative activities and a wide selection of entertainment options which are not available on other ships.
Depending on the ship your Royal Caribbean vessel could have a zip line, ice skating, surfing simulators, or even bumper cars.
Compared to this the Carnival Cruise Line tends to have a much more straight forward approach to their cruises. This makes them usually better when it comes to casual dining, and being party friendly as well.
This makes Carnival a good choice if you are looking for a more fun and relaxing vacation. They also tend to have lower prices which makes them a great family friendly option.
Because these both have so many different strengths and weaknesses, we have broken it down into categories, and we will compare how these 2 cruise companies do in each.
This means that we should be able to provide you with insight into which of these 2 cruise providers will be the best choice for you!
Royal Caribbean Highlights
As we mentioned in the introduction, the main focus of a Royal Caribbean cruise is the boundaries that are being pushed with the high thrill activities which are available.
You will find that with Royal Caribbean a few of their older ships are comparatively a bit smaller, however, for newer ships, these can hold 5000 passengers and even more.
So, most of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships are some of the biggest available around the world. They also feature plenty of high tech entertainment with some favorites being the FlowRider surf simulator, as well as the Bionic Bar.
One of our favorite ships is the Wonder of the Seas which is currently the biggest cruise ship in the world.
With Royal Caribbean there are new ships being added to their roster regularly and these all offer activities as well as restaurants and entertainment which will leave you feeling like you do not have enough time to do everything on board.
Royal Caribbean have a reputation they have built up over 30 years and this has been maintained through their dedication to innovating the onboard experience you have on their cruises.
Most of the vessels that are part of Royal Caribbean’s fleet include a rock climbing wall and one of their surf simulators.
There are also plenty of other activities like observation pods, sky diving simulators, and massive water slides as well.
This means that you will never feel bored when you are on one of their ships. We also love their Oasis class ships and the Quantum class ships are some of the most innovative cruises available.
They are a perfect option for outgoing couples and singles as well as adventurous families. While there are some more quiet Royal Caribbean cruises, they are generally the choice for those who want entertainment.
There is a good reason why Carnivals ships are called fun ships. This is because of the casual vibe you get from staying on these ships, as well as an enjoyable low cost experience.
This makes these cruises the perfect choice for families who want to relax, but also might want to party.
This is why these cruises are perfect for those traveling for the first time, those with children, and younger adults who are on a tighter budget.
One assumption you should not make is that their low prices mean that you will be getting bad service since the service on Carnival cruises is amazing.
They also have some amazing on board dining options like the Tandoori Grill, Guy’s Burger Joint, and the Blue Iguana Cantina. There is a great atmosphere on these cruises, and it is the perfect cruise to relax and enjoy the pool party atmosphere.
These are not the best cruises for those who want something more elegant and sophisticated, however. They also have a partnership with Dr Suess, as well as the Sportsquare which is full of family friendly activities.
This makes Carnival cruises a great choice for families.
Royal Caribbean Fleet
One of the main reputation boosts for Royal Caribbean is how they have the largest active cruise ship in the world. This is a record which they have broken plenty of times.
They have their Oasis class vessels at the top of the list for the biggest ships in operation. Because they have these larger ships they are able to pack in more people, as well as more activities, and even more amenities.
This is why their cruises are seen as so innovative since there is so much to do on a ship which can cater to so many people.
As you can imagine, Carnival cruises are not as big as those offered by the record breaking Royal Caribbean. In spite of this, with the launch of their Mardi Gras, they did narrow the gap a little.
Carnival have shown that they are committed to innovating and have done this by pioneering their LNG propulsion as well as BOLT which was the first roller coaster at sea. Overall with the fleet, we have to crown Royal Caribbean.
Even though they both have a similar number of ships to their name, Royal Caribbean just have bigger ships with more innovation to their name.
However, Mardi Gras showed that Carnival will not just give up. But still, if you want the biggest ships, then Royal Caribbean is going to be the best choice.
Royal Caribbean Activities
When it comes to having the best innovation at sea, Royal Caribbean proves this with the activities they have on offer. One of the first signs of this was the rock climbing walls which they pioneered.
And then this got even more impressive with the FlowRider surf simulators.
Things get more and more extreme as the years go on with Royal Caribbean cruises with bumper cars, ice skating, zip lining, massive observation pods, and the skydiving chambers.
You will also find that there are plenty of more standard activities available as well as sports centers which are equipped with basketball courts, running tracks, fitness centers, and the aforementioned rock climbing walls.
If you are an adult who wants a getaway, then we have to recommend activities like the vitality spas or the solarium which is a massive pool deck featuring hot tubs and a glass canopy.
You will find that Carnival cruises are more focused on providing basic fun.
This is providing an atmosphere where guests can drink, swim, sunbathe, and participate in fun competitions to entertain themselves.
However, this does not mean that activities are not provided, and the biggest example of this is BOLT which was the first roller coaster at sea.
There are also the waterworks on most of their cruises now which is a water park. These have a variety of waterslides, as well as mini golf courses, and game shows.
There is also the sports deck which stands out for the amazing ropes course it features. There are also some activities which are restricted to adults like the spa and adult retreat. There is also a lounge area for adults only with a full bar too.
We do have to give the activities category to Royal Caribbean again since they can not be beat when it comes to the activities which are available on board. They aim to be bigger and better, and they aim to bring more thrills onto the sea.
They also focus on updating older ships to ensure that they do not feel outdated over time.
Royal Caribbean Entertainment
When it comes to the entertainment options on Royal Caribbean, their offerings stand out for just how high tech and spectacular they can be. One of our favorite options on a Royal Caribbean cruise is the Two70 entertainment venue.
This has a multimedia concert experience.
This uses video projection and there are screens being moved around using robotic arms. The stage shows on these cruises are often amazing and can rival the offerings of a Broadway production.
There is also the outdoor Aquatheater which is offered on some of their ships which has high diving and aquatic dancing displays.
You will find that even older Royal Caribbean ships will feature movies, ice shows, and parades. There is also more casual entertainment featured as well like Karaoke or piano sing alongs.
As we have referenced a couple of times, Carnival is known to throw some great parties. This is because they have a dedication to high energy entertainment hoping to keep their passengers singing and dancing every night.
They tend to have less of a focus on things being tech focused or flashy, their more down to earth approach is why a lot of people keep returning to their cruises year after year.
We love the Punchliner Comedy Club which has a variety of R rated to family friendly shows being held, often with some incredibly talented and popular performers.
There are also disco parties, as well as piano bars too. They used to have a reputation for their stage shows being a little lackluster, but this has recently switched.
For example their Playlist Productions uses LED screens as well as special effects to help bring their shows to life.
We think when comparing the entertainment of these two cruise lines that they tend to equal out and draw. Both offer their own unique type of entertainment meaning some will prefer one while others might like another style more.
There is Royal Caribbean’s high tech approach to entertainment, while Carnival knows what it is doing when it comes to more traditional cruise entertainment.
Each of these cruise lines is well known for giving their passengers an experience worth remembering.
Dining, Bars & Lounges
Royal Caribbean Dining, Bars & Lounges
On a Royal Caribbean cruise you will get some basic options included under the cost of the cruise.
This will include the basic dining room, the Windjammer cafe, and some other options around the ship too. But then there are the added fee restaurants which have specialty restaurants as well.
This can include a classic steak house, or Japanese sushi restaurants. Even though these restaurants are all amazing, if you are a cruiser who prefers taking a more all inclusive approach, then this can be a little disappointing.
It is also worth noting that Royal Caribbean have partnered up with famous chefs in the past to help aid in providing a uniquely amazing dining experience for passengers.
Carnival Dining, Bars & Lounges
For Carnival cruise guests, there are both fixed and flexible options for dining available. However, this also means that there tends to be fewer specialized choices as well.
However, even though they have a little less choice, the basic dining options are well liked. This includes restaurants like Guy’s Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Cantina, as well as Guy’s Pig and Anchor BBQ.
It is also worth noting that carnival is also not a stranger to celebrity restaurant collaborations with notable examples being Shaquille O’Neil, Emeril Lagasse, and Guy Fieri.
When it comes to which of these two offerings has the best food, we tend to prefer Carnival.
This is because while the food tends to be of a similar quality, we prefer how Carnival has a more straightforward approach which makes it so the specialty options are more accessible.
However, if you are willing to pay extra you might prefer what Royal has to offer.
Royal Caribbean Nightlife
Most of the nightlife on a Royal Caribbean will consist of the shows which are held in the main theater, the AquaTheater which can be found on the Oasis class ships, and the more high tech shows which can be found in Quantum class ships like Two70.
There is also the music and dancing you can find in locations like the Schooner bar. The options on a Royal Caribbean cruise tend to have more high thrill shows, as well as things like salsa dancing and more laid back options.
While this means you will be entertained, it is not as much of a party atmosphere. However, for some families this might be preferable.
We have already mentioned it a couple of times already, but we just prefer the atmosphere you get with the nightlife on a Carnival cruise.
They are well known for having a more high energy nightlife environment, and this means that the party keeps going every night. There are dine in movies, as well as night clubs which have live DJs.
There is also a Sports bar and the aforementioned comedy club.
There is also the Piano bar which is a more relaxing option if you want it. So while you can get some amazing innovative entertainment from a Royal Caribbean cruise, when it comes to the nightlife atmosphere, we prefer what Carnival has to offer.
You can get the party like atmosphere whenever you want, but they also have relaxing options if that is what you are looking for.
Kids & Families
Royal Caribbean Kids & Families
The family market has been a massive target for Royal Caribbean for a long time, and this is why they offer their massive ships which have activities which are perfect for kids, teens, and adults as well.
They aim to also have kid’s clubs available which are perfect for keeping your kids entertained for as long as they want to. We especially love the Adventure Ocean clubs for children which you find on the Oasis class ships.
These have activities which are specifically aimed at all age groups whether they are toddlers, youngsters, tweens, or teenagers. There are video games, arts and crafts, theater, and the DJ academy too.
There are also the specific Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs which are perfect if you are a parent of younger children. You can drop off your children at any time for an hourly fee, and you can have your children fully supervised so you can relax.
Carnival Kids & Families
While Royal Caribbean have some great options for kids, the same can be said for Carnival’s family offerings as well.
This is why Carnival tends to have a stronger connection to the family friendly market. They of course have their water parks, as well as the sports decks, and their children’s club as well.
This means that there is entertainment to keep the whole family entertained.
There is Camp Ocean where the kids are split into three groups with the Penguins being between 2 and 5, the Stingrays being between 6 and 8, and the Sharks being between 9 and 11.
These kids get to enjoy plenty of activities which include arts and crafts, as well as dancing, singing, games, video games, and movies.
There is also a specific option for the Night Owls where you can get kids to stay up late and have fun while parents are elsewhere enjoying themselves too.
In spite of how family friendly Carnival is, we do actually prefer the wider range of activities and choices that are now offered by Royal Caribbean.
This is mainly because of the babies and tots service, but also the older range of activities for tweens and teenagers. This ensures that no age group has not been accounted for.
Royal Caribbean Cabins
When it comes to a Royal Caribbean cruise, there are plenty of different options when it comes to the cabin styles which are available, and a lot of these are unique to different ships.
There are some Royal Caribbean rooms which even have a virtual balcony on the interior, as well as floor to ceiling screens which give you a constant projection of an exterior view on the cabin wall.
There are also some larger family cabins which give you two stories which are available on some Royal Caribbean ships. It is also worth noting that they tend to have a more upscale and elegant decor in their cabins when compared to Carnival.
They tend to maintain a sleek color palette which is close to something in a modern hotel.
In a Carnival cruise you will get some of the largest standard cabin sizes on any cruise line. There are specialty cabins available as well.
This could be the Cloud 9 Spa room, as well as the Havana cabins, all of which come with their own perks like spa services or a private pool deck.
The cabins in a Carnival cruise tend to have a more colorful and joyous appearance when compared to Royal Caribbean, so which you prefer depends on your personal taste. This is partially why we see these two drawings in this category.
It used to be that Royal Caribbean dominated in this category with their focus on the more upscale decor, the family cabins, and just a wider variety of choices.
However, Carnival closed the gap with the newer ships, as well as the wider variety in stateroom options, and just bigger cabins overall.
While the style of the Royal Caribbean options are more likely to be palatable to more people, the space you get in a Carnival cruise cabin can not be beat.
Royal Caribbean Itineraries
You likely already know that the fleet of Royal Caribbean will go all around the globe.
They have itineraries which include some of the most popular destinations like the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, Alaska, the Caribbean, and some more exotic locales around South America, Asia, and Australia.
They have some extended sailings from 8 to 14 nights, and they even have a world tour option which is perfect for a more experienced cruiser as well.
For Carnival, most of the destinations are in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Bahamas, however they do have ships which sail to Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Most Carnival ships sail from locations like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Galveston, New York, and Tampa. It is worth noting that Carnival do not tend to offer longer cruise itineraries, and most of the sailing on their cruises is for seven nights or even less.
This is why we tend to prefer Royal Caribbean just for the wider selection of options you have for destinations and length when it comes to their itineraries.
The sailing duration will offer something different for everyone. However, while Carnival now has some more exotic offerings, these are often offered by Royal Caribbean as well.
Hopefully this guide has put into perspective the differences between Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises.
There are significant differences, and it is also worth mentioning that part of why Carnival has such a strong reputation is that their cruises tend to be cheaper, and this can explain a lot of the differences between the two services.
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