Cruising is one of my new favorite ways to vacation! It’s generally more affordable than most other types of travel and there always seems to be something for everyone on a cruise ship. We went on our first cruise last year through Carnival and just recently went on a second cruise through Royal Caribbean. For both cruises we went to the Bahamas, hitting Nassau and each cruise lines private island for a beach day. There were things that I loved about both ships and some things that weren’t exactly my favorite. So let’s talk about some of the differences we experienced between the two cruise lines. Royal Caribbean vs Carnival
Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas
We stayed in a balcony room, however on Carnival we had an interior room. While the balcony was amazing, I have a feeling it would be the same on either ship. As far as the cabins go, Carnival gets the win far and wide! The beds on Royal Caribbean were hard as rocks and not comfortable at all. You could hear all of the noises from your neighbors and the hallway, making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. There were no USB ports anywhere in the room and outlets were extremely limited. There were lots of hangers in the closet though, which was a bonus!
Carnival had the most comfortable beds! It took us by surprise just how comfy they were. It was easily comparable to a 5 star hotel. I’m pretty sure I slept better on the Carnival ship than I do in my own bed. Once you closed the bedroom door, you could barely hear anything happening outside of the room. It was wonderful! While cruise ships don’t tend to have a generous amount of outlets, the Carnival cabin had more than the Royal Caribbean, with them being more accessible. There were also direct USB ports making charging our phones much more convenient with the limited number of outlets.
When cruising, there is a dedicated staff member for pretty much everything. Room attendants, dining attendants, excursion experts, customer service, spa, acupuncture specialists, almost anything you can think of. If you eat during the scheduled dining time, you will have the same server each night. You also have a dedicated room attendant for the length of your cruise.
our room attendant was out of this world! We were blown away. No matter how many times we took a nap in the middle of the day or messed up the beds, they were always fixed the next time we stepped foot into the rooms. She knew each of our names and would check on us. She noticed we liked having ice in the room and she kept us stocked, multiple times a day with fresh ice. If we had wet clothes, she hung them up to dry. She was extraordinary.
We didn’t have a scheduled dinner time, so our servers for dinner were different at each meal. We were never disappointed with our service though. Every single staff member we came into contact with on our carnival cruise made us feel so at home and took care of all of our needs. The cruise director (shout out Kevin!) managed to be at every single event we participated in (we aren’t entirely convinced he doesn’t have clones!). As far as customer service goes, there was not one moment in which we were disappointed from start to finish.
We were flying in and out for this cruise and the flight we wanted was early in the morning. We called customer service to make sure we would be able to disembark the ship early to catch our flight. They told us, absolutely, to simply stop by guest services once on board and show proof of our flight and they would allow us priority disembarkation. When we arrived at guest services, we were told we could not have priority and would have to be in line during the time frame scheduled for those unloading their own luggage. We ended up getting in line early to ensure we made our flight in time (which we did), but Royal Caribbean should never have told us priority disembarkation wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t a possibility.
We were very excited to meet our room attendant. Especially after such a pleasant experience on Carnival. However, our attendant was very inappropriate. He asked my companions to leave the room on more than one occasion so he could clean. One evening, we went back to our room so we could get changed for dinner. Our attendant was in the room and asked us to come back. We told him we couldn’t because our scheduled dining was about to begin and we needed to change. HE DIDN’T LEAVE THE ROOM! Two females walked into their room and he decided to stay and finish up instead of excusing himself. It was highly inappropriate. Several of the staff we encountered on Royal Caribbean seemed to hate their lives and were so unfriendly. Time and time again we had unpleasant interactions with staff.
Our dining attendants were the exception! They were wonderful night after night and made our dinners extra special. The entertainment staff was also wonderful!
There seems to be an endless supply of food on cruise ships. Neither ship was an exception on this front. Both ships had things we would have changed, but I honestly can’t say one was better than the other.
Carnival features Guy’s Burgers at no additional cost, and let me tell you, eating here was one of my favorites. They also had a taco bar that was out of this world. The lido deck, which provided a daily lunch and dinner buffet seemed to favor quantity over quality. We were not impressed with the buffet. But the dining room was wonderful. Usually serving many of the same items as the buffet, but always with an extra menu of items to choose from. Plus, the dining room had the famous melting chocolate cake! It was a must for me every night! So good! One plus that Carnival did have over Royal Caribbean was that most of the room service items were at no additional cost and you didn’t have to pay a service fee. (We did tip our servers each time though).
Royal Caribbean features the Dog House at no additional cost. I am not a hot dog person, so I didn’t stop by to eat here. They also have a Johnny Rockets available for a small additional fee. We have Johnny Rockets all over Georgia, so I didn’t feel the need to pay extra on my cruise for this service. I felt the buffet on Royal Caribbean was much better than Carnival. It was set up by type of cuisine, for example, Italian, American, Indian, Mexican, etc. There was something for everyone, and most of what I tried was very good. While we didn’t eat at any specialty restaurants on Carnival, I tried two on Royal Caribbean. Jaime’s Italian and Chops Steakhouse. Both were out of this work good, but Jaime’s takes the cake. We had lunch at Jaime’s, which was a $19 charge per person. The food did not disappoint, everything we tried was beyond delicious.
This was a tough one for me to decide. We stayed much busier on Carnival. The schedule of activities throughout the day kept us running from one thing to the next, and we laughed and had such a great time. We played Speak Out with strangers that became friends, we watched live game shows and entertainment shows, we participated in entire ship sing-a-longs to a different decade each night. It was so much fun! The adults only serenity deck was a dream, but stayed packed out for the majority of the cruise. There was only one pool, it was not very large and was usually too full to bother with. There were two sets of water slides, but both were fairly small and overrun with small children.
On Royal Caribbean, there weren’t as many activities throughout to keep you busy. Don’t get me wrong, they had several trivia sessions, but most of the day time activities seemed to be geared towards the same type of interests instead of trying to reach a wider range of people. We were not nearly as impressed with the shows offered, one of with was a ventriloquist and the other a juggler. They were fun to watch, but not nearly as entertaining as the shows we had experienced on Carnival.
Royal Caribbean however, had an ice skating rink! Yes, you heard that right! We were able to watch the ice skating show, and it was so much fun! We even had some ice skating clowns demand a selfie with us! The ship also had three pools (one of which was in an area reserved for ages 16 and up), and several hot tubs. They water slides were much bigger and so much fun. There was also a rock climbing wall, a surf simulator, and a virtual reality trampoline “ride.”
As you can see there were pros and cons to each ship and I don’t know that I could truly declare a winner. The Royal Caribbean ship had an outdoor movie theater, but I know that some Carnival ships offer this feature as well.
Each cruise line, when visiting the Bahamas, will usually offer one beach day at their own private island. Each island will be filled with additional activities for purchase, including kayaking, paddle boarding, parasailing, etc. For me, Royal Caribbean wins this section hands down. I love to snorkel. It is one of my favorite past times. And for each cruise, I brought my own snorkel gear, so I wouldn’t need to pay for a snorkel excursion.
At the Carnival Island, there was a small area that was great for snorkeling. We saw tons of small colorful fish and had a great time. But once we arrived at the Royal Caribbean Island I was blown away. They had rock barriers, keeping the main beach front calm and mostly wave free for swimming. But if you chose to swim beyond the rocks, they had several free floating dock stations set up (around 6 total), each with a lifeguard nearby. It was an entire area dedicated to snorkeling. They had sunken ships (well pieces of ships) and a sunken plane wreck that you could explore.
We saw sting rays, a sea turtle, and fish (big and small), one of our friends even saw a barracuda and a nurse shark! I recommend wearing a life jacket, unless you are a strong swimmer. The water was extremely rough and took a good deal of strength to swim. But we had such an amazing time, and because we brought our own snorkel gear, it didn’t cost us any extra! Royal Caribbean did offer snorkel gear for a very small fee (less than $20 per person) for those who didn’t bring their own.
Winner: Royal Caribbean
No matter how you look at it, cruising is its own way of life and something you should try! Let me know your favorite cruise line and favorite destinations below! Where should we go next?