Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival: Which big-ship cruise line do you have to select?

For those who’re contemplating a cruise with Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line, you are an reasonably priced big-ship expertise with a number of actions.

These two firms are the most important within the cruise trade, every with two dozen ships carrying tens of millions of passengers a 12 months. They’re well-liked for a purpose: Their ships provide one thing for everybody, from children to seniors.

Let’s go head-to-head, Carnival versus Royal Caribbean, to focus on their similarities and variations and allow you to select the road that is best for you.

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Measurement of ships

Each Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have two sizes of megaships. Their smaller ships carry 3,000 to 4,000 passengers; their bigger ones are big and carry greater than 5,000 visitors. Royal Caribbean wins the battle of measurement, with 5 of the world’s largest ships — together with Marvel of the Seas and new Icon of the Seas, the 2 largest cruise ships afloat.

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Royal Caribbean’s largest lessons — Oasis Class and Icon Class — are so huge they’re divided into neighborhoods. Oasis Class ships function a Central Park with actual bushes and a Boardwalk space with a carousel, slides that drop a number of decks and a particular theater for high-diving reveals.

To not be outdone, Carnival’s largest ships — Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee — are divided into zones, comparable to Mardi Gras’ French Quarter with a reside jazz membership.

Regardless of the scale, all of the ships of each traces qualify as floating resorts, with onboard casinos, swimming pools, reside leisure, elaborate spas, energetic dance golf equipment, a number of bars — and crowds.

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Associated: The 6 lessons of Royal Caribbean ships, defined

Cabins and suites


Each traces cite with satisfaction their worth vary for all vacationers, however you may discover every excels in a distinct lodging space.

Royal Caribbean is a greater possibility in order for you an enormous choice of cabin classes. The cruise line presents all the pieces from tight inside cabins with digital balconies (an LED display screen that appears just like the ocean) to fancy two-story loft suites. Its largest ships have essentially the most room selection, and you may guide suites with views of the high-diving present or the ships’ Royal Promenade, Central Park or Boardwalk areas. The soothing decor is sort of a Marriott or Hilton resort, good and barely upscale.

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Carnival wins for the scale of its normal cabins, that are the most important within the trade. The decor is usually brilliant and informal. Specialty cabins on choose ships embrace Household Harbor cabins, with entry to a shared household lounge, and Havana suites, with daytime entry to a personal pool space. The most recent ships have extra suites than earlier vessels.

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Food and drinks

When eating choices on Royal Caribbean versus Carnival, Carnival has the sting for considerable included choices, and Royal Caribbean leads with its variety of extra-fee specialty eating places.

Carnival followers will inform you the meals on board is nice, and most journey writers will agree the road shines on this space — together with extra-fee choices, comparable to spectacular steakhouses and JiJi for Asian delicacies. Carnival’s lineup of free eats is spectacular — headlined by poolside burgers by Meals Community star Man Fieri, but in addition together with Mexican, barbecue, wonderful Italian-style pizza and Shaq’s fried rooster.

For those who like Indian delicacies, you might be in for a deal with with scrumptious vegetarian dishes on the primary eating room menu every evening. On choose ships, Carnival has its personal New Orleans bistros by Emeril Lagasse and breweries the place the drink is accompanied by Fieri’s barbecue (for a price).

Most of Royal Caribbean’s free meals is present in its Windjammer Market (the buffet) and predominant eating rooms, the main focus once more on regular delicacies you’d anticipate finding at a resort. Ships provide a wide range of extra-fee eating places, with specialties starting from sushi to steak. A shining level in these various venues is Jamie’s Italian, in partnership with British movie star chef Jamie Oliver. You can also pay for a burger and milkshake at Johnny Rockets on Royal Caribbean’s bigger ships.

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Youngsters actions


Each cruise traces have well-established applications to maintain your children glad, so you will get some downtime to calm down and do grown-up issues. Each traces host greater than one million kids a 12 months. The camp-like applications embrace age-appropriate actions like arts and crafts, motion pictures and sports activities and funky golf equipment for tweens and teenagers.

Royal Caribbean’s Journey Ocean program (for ages 3-12) contains a possibility for youths to turn into Licensed Jr. Journey Scientists. There are additionally Royal Infants and Royal Tots choices for these vacationers with infants and toddlers, and funky hangouts for tweens and teenagers.

Carnival’s Camp Ocean program (for ages 2-11) has some actions designed to coach children in regards to the ocean. Carnival additionally has a partnership with Dr. Seuss that features encouraging kids to learn the traditional books and get to know the characters in a participatory parade, throughout story instances and at an extra-fee Inexperienced Eggs and Ham Breakfast hosted by the Cat within the Hat. Tweens and teenagers have separate lounges with video video games, comfortable seating and versatile areas for video games or dancing.

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Onboard points of interest

Lively cruisers take observe: Royal Caribbean is an progressive firm and pushes the envelope on actions. All of the cruise line’s ships have mountaineering partitions, and plenty of have FlowRider browsing simulators.

Among the many exercise decisions on varied ships are ice skating rinks, carousels, zip traces, miniature golf, laser tag, escape rooms, waterslides, simulated skydiving setups, a 10-story thrill slide referred to as Final Abyss, a mechanical arm that lifts a London Eye-style pod excessive above the ship for views and different mind-blowing options. The bigger the ship, the extra onboard actions you may discover.

Carnival cannot fairly compete on this division, however its ships do not lack issues to do. It is identified for its WaterWorks water parks with a number of waterslides and splash areas for little children, in addition to for Bolt, the primary curler coaster at sea (discovered solely on Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee).

On choose ships, you can see out of doors ropes programs the place you may stroll a plank off the ship (whereas in a harness), a top-deck trip involving pedaling a dangling recumbent bike, miniature golf, Imax theaters and indoor trampoline parks.

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Royal Caribbean and Carnival take completely different approaches to onboard leisure as properly, although you may by no means be bored on both line.

Royal Caribbean produces actual Broadway reveals (albeit shortened variations), comparable to “Grease,” “Hairspray” and “Cats” on its largest ships. Choose ships function progressive efficiency areas; you may discover out of doors reveals starring acrobats and high-divers on the line’s AquaTheaters and ice skating reveals at its ice skating rinks.

Multimedia reveals in high-tech Two70 theaters on the Quantum Class ships function performers and robotics. A well-liked late-night hangout spot is the Boleros salsa dance membership.

Carnival additionally excels at reside leisure, however its model is completely different from Royal Caribbean’s. As an alternative of Broadway musicals, it presents 35- to 45-minute high-tech Playlist Productions, that includes singers and dancers performing to unique compilations of acquainted tunes. Carnival places an enormous emphasis on comedy; the road’s Punchliner Comedy Golf equipment host greater than 27,000 reside performances a 12 months, which makes Carnival the most important employer of comics on the earth.

Carnival additionally places collectively its personal reside bands and musical acts — whether or not jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, present band or classical — that entertain at varied bars and public areas all through its ships.

Whereas each traces provide a roster of video games and contests — suppose Battle of the Sexes, the Newly (and Not So Newly)wed Recreation and a few model of an grownup scavenger hunt — Carnival has shipboard variations of the favored present “Household Feud.” It is also identified for viewers participation video games across the pool and rollicking music trivia.

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Who’s on board?

Carnival’s focus is reasonably priced up to date cruising for everybody, with an emphasis on enjoyable. Its “Enjoyable Ships” present an informal and carefree expertise; the gang consists largely of American, younger and young-at-heart adults and their households. Lots of people come aboard on the lookout for enjoyable instances — however do not suppose it is a haven for debauchery. It is nonetheless a household cruise line.

Since Carnival sails from many U.S. ports, you may discover {that a} excessive proportion of cruisers on board hail from close by states and have pushed to the ship — which means completely different ships can have completely different vibes and passenger bases.

Royal Caribbean’s crowd is a mixture of worldwide vacationers and people from North America, together with {couples}, households and singles from all walks of life. You will discover evening owls on Royal Caribbean, too, although the gang is a tad extra upscale and fewer rowdy than on Carnival. That is partly as a result of Royal Caribbean ships have a better proportion of high-priced suites on board and appeal to vacationers who can afford to pay for that kind of luxurious.


Carnival ships largely cruise in North America, with voyages within the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Alaska, Canada/New England and the Mexican Riviera (from California). The road presents restricted sailings in Europe.

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Royal Caribbean places a lot emphasis on North America — the Caribbean, Bahamas (together with the road’s personal extravagant non-public island, Good Day at CocoCay), Alaska, Canada/New England and the Mexican Riviera — but in addition sails a number of areas in Europe. Its ships might be present in different worldwide locations, comparable to Australia, New Zealand, China and Singapore.

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Backside line

As a first-time cruiser, you may’t go fallacious with both Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line. Choose Royal Caribbean in case you are on the lookout for progressive points of interest and a barely extra upscale environment. Select Carnival in order for you nice meals and to have a blast in an informal atmosphere at a extra reasonably priced worth.

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