You’re not just paying for a trip, you’re paying for an experience and a lifetime of memories.
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean
I’ve kind of been on the fence when it comes to which I like better, Carnival Cruise Lines, or Royal Caribbean. We’ve sailed on Carnival a total of six times, versus three times on Royal Caribbean.
Starter Cruise Line
Carnival is a great starter cruise line. I hear it’s the Walmart of Cruise lines. The price is good, the food is good, it goes to the same ports, and it’s the FUN ship, so you’re going to have more deck parties, and Cruise Director interaction.
The shows are good for the first time that you see them, but get old after you’ve seen them on a number of different cruises. For our first cruise we sailed on the Carnival Fantasy for around $200 a person. It was only a five day cruise to the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport, but that was perfect to see if we enjoyed cruising. (We did!)
I have to admit that I was extremely nervous that first time, but after a Pina Colada to calm the nerves, I was fine. The Fantasy was a small ship, but big enough to have plenty of activities.
A bit disappointing
I must admit though that the Fantasy was not really what I expected a cruise ship to look like, and I was a little disappointed in it. It seemed so small. And only a couple of shops, none of them interesting. After that cruise we sailed on the Carnival Liberty, and then onto the Carnival Dream for two consecutive cruises. Both are nice ships.
The Carnival Dream is a very large ship with plenty of room. The first time we sailed Carnival Dream we had a wonderful time, the second time we sailed her, we were rather bored. Seems like they don’t change shows very often, so everything seemed the same and rather monotonous. It was then that we decided to try to never sail the same ship twice.
But we always loved how the ship staff knew you by name, and how we were always seated at dinner with wonderful people, some of who eventually became friends. Our room was always clean and ready for us, we always had a towel animal every night, and our room Steward always had a friendly hello for Miss Kathy.
There was a basket of samples in our bathroom, ice in the room, and a robe in the closet. Our waiters would know our names and our preferences by the second night, and begin to anticipate our needs. They’d joke along right with us and we’d get to know them a little. We’d run into them in the Lido Buffet and talk some more. And a couple of times on the cruise we’d get to join in on the fun and wave our napkins as our waiters danced “Gangnam Style”. Everyone was so friendly.
We even saw the same Maitre d’ that we’d met on the Fantasy when we cruised the Dream the first time, and he sent us a bottle of wine with the next evening’s dinner. So, we were pretty happy with Carnival, except for the fact that they tended to use a lot of the same shows on every ship, such as the Welcome Aboard Show.
They did have variety shows on each ship also, the comedians were always different, and each cruise director had his own specialty. And we got to go to the Captains’ party for Gold Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) members, and get free hors d’oeuvres and drinks, along with our other perks.
Checking out Royal Caribbean
Then we decided to try Royal Caribbean for a change just to see what it was like. We’d seen the same Carnival shows too many times, and wanted a change of pace. My reaction the first time we walked down the Royal Promenade on Freedom of the Seas was “Wow, this is what a cruise ship is supposed to look like!”
We had thought that Carnival Dream was big, but Freedom of the Seas was so much bigger and grander. The Promenade was amazing, with so many shops and restaurants, and so much color. There were even cows on the Ben & Jerry’s roof. It was such a nice open space, and spectacular to see.
The ship was so big that it took us quite a while to get the lay of the ship. The ship maps were interactive, and even included that night’s menu in the main dining room. The elevator carpets told you the day of the week just in case you forgot. We even met the Captain.
The pool areas were beautiful, and you could even climb the rock wall or ride the flowrider. There was a Johnny Rockets with breakfast included in your fare. I was awestruck. The rooms were very nice, plenty of room, and there was actually a sliding door on the shower instead of a shower curtain. The balcony was even bigger than a Carnival balcony.
The shows were spectacular, so much better than Carnival shows. They have an ice skating show, along with many first rate shows, including singers, comedians and a magician. They also had a 3D theater, and would show newer 3D movies throughout the cruise.
We weren’t excited about everything though. When we went to dinner that first night we were told that they could not seat us with other couples. We love to meet new people cruising, so we were disappointed. We ended up finding our own seatmates, because we didn’t want to miss out on the camaraderie of other couples.
Also, we were disappointed that the waiters really didn’t seem to want to get to know us, although the food was excellent and plentiful. And they didn’t really do the dancing that we’d loved on Carnival. But Carnival considers their ships to be a step up from Carnival, which they are. And Carnival, after all, is the “FUN Ship”. Royal Caribbean can’t copy that. The room stewards weren’t as friendly as we’d grown to expect, and we only got a couple of towel animals. So, we left Freedom of the Seas thinking that maybe we were better suited for Carnival ships.
Carnival again… with less perks than before
Then we cruised on the Carnival Magic and then on the Victory. And then we realized that there WAS a big difference between Carnival and Royal Caribbean. In the couple of years since we’d cruised Carnival, they had taken away the best VIFP perks, no more Captain’s Party, but a bottle of water, a pin, and one drink after 5 pm the last day of the trip on a 7 day or longer cruise. So much for worrying about brand loyalty to get more perks. It made it much easier to change allegiances.
Gone were even the robes in the closets, and twice a day room cleaning. We had to choose between morning or evening for our room to be cleaned. They would not seat us with others in the dining room. We felt that the crew just didn’t seem as happy anymore, and didn’t make the same effort to get to know us.
I didn’t even realize till the end of the cruise the last time that our steward even knew our name. He just seemed so unhappy. I don’t think that our waiters ever knew our name. I’m not sure what happened, what the difference was in those couple of years with Carnival, but it wasn’t the same fun ship. It was very disappointing. It makes you wonder how Carnival is treating its employees.
And back to Royal Caribbean
Since then we’ve sailed twice more on Royal Caribbean. On Oasis of the Seas and again on Freedom of the Seas. I wanted to be awestruck again. I wanted to think “Wow! This is what a cruise ship is supposed to be like.” We will sail Carnival again because sometimes they sometimes have better itineraries for the time period that we want. But at least I won’t be expecting as much from their ships in the future, so I won’t be as disappointed.