If you’re planning a cruise honeymoon or want to take a romantic couples’ escape on a cruise ship, your first step is likely to choose with cruise brand is best for your trip. Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean are two of the most popular cruise lines today, so they’re probably on your list.
In this article we’ll compare Carnival Cruise Line vs. Royal Caribbean International so you can decide for yourself whether Carnival or Royal Caribbean is better for you.
Carnival Cruise vs. Royal Caribbean Overview
There are both similarities and differences between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. Both have tons of activity and entertainment options, from contests to casinos to evening shows of all types.
On a Royal Caribbean cruise, however, you will tend to find some more unique activities and amazing offerings (like the world’s tallest waterslide and ice skating). Carnival ships generally have more standard amenities, but that is changing somewhat with the newer Carnival ships.
In the U.S., both cruise lines depart from major ports like Miami, Port Canaveral, and Galveston, while Carnival also sails from smaller ports like Mobile, Tampa, Orlando, Charleston, and Jacksonville. Royal Caribbean also sails from ports like Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Baltimore.
Royal Caribbean offers more cruises in other parts of the world, such as Asia, Europe, South America, North Africa/Arabian Gulf, and the South Pacific, while Carnival focuses more on the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico (although they do have some cruises in Europe and Australia, and some sailings go through the Panama Canal).
Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer private islands, but currently Royal Caribbean’s is a much more amazing offering (CocoCay has a huge pool, restaurants, and a giant waterslide). However, Carnival will be opening a new private island in the Bahamas in 2024 that should give Royal Caribbean a run for their money.
Is Carnival or Royal Caribbean bigger?
Is Carnival Cruise Line bigger than Royal Caribbean? Royal Caribbean has a few more ships than Carnival, so it is actually bigger in terms of number of ships. How many cruise ships does Carnival Cruise Line have? Carnival has 23 ships currently, and they are planning to launch several more.
In terms of ship size as well, Royal Caribbean’s ships are definitely bigger than Carnival’s. In fact, Royal Caribbean has 5 of the world’s biggest cruise ships; the Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world at almost 1200 feet in length (and a capacity of 5700 people).
Is Carnival or Royal Caribbean more expensive?
While both cruise lines offer affordable options, Royal Caribbean tends to be a little more expensive than Carnival Cruise Lines. Is Carnival the cheapest cruise line? In many cases, yes, cruises on Carnival are more affordable than on other cruise ships. However, this depends on the itinerary; other cruise lines can be cheaper on certain routes.
On-board expenses like drink prices and internet fees on Carnival are also a bit cheaper than those on Royal Caribbean. Carnival’s drink packages are also less expensive than those you’ll find on Royal Caribbean. (Drink packages are a prepaid amount that buys you a certain number of alcoholic beverages per day, so you’re not paying a premium price each time you indulge.)
Also, pricing for things on Royal Caribbean ships is “dynamic,” meaning that it can change from cruise to cruise. This makes it hard to budget for your trip. Carnival pricing doesn’t vary in this way.
Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Food
The food on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises is said to be excellent. You can get a variety of cuisines, from Asian to Mexican to Italian to Indian to steak and seafood.
Both ships offer a mix of places to eat that are included in your price, as well as a la carte restaurants that you have to pay extra for. Royal Caribbean tends to have more of these specialty restaurants, and they are usually upscale and a bit expensive. On Carnival ships, there are more “free” than paid restaurant choices.
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean Cabins
While both cruise lines offer a wide variety of accommodations, Royal Caribbean offers a bigger selection than Carnival does. However, the standard cabins on Carnival ships are the biggest of any cruise line.
Both cruise lines offer sizeable suites and rooms with private balconies, as well as rooms that come with extra perks.
Luxurious suites on Royal Caribbean ships include 2-story loft suites, 2-story Ultimate Family Suites with slides and game rooms, and suites that come with private concierges. Décor in Royal Caribbean cabins is more upscale, luxurious, and over-the-top than in Carnival cabins.
On Carnival, you can get large Family Harbor suites as well as suites that come with access to Loft 19 private retreat spaces with lounge chairs and whirlpools. Staterooms on the newest Carnival ship, the Mardi Gras, are thoughtfully designed and feature all sorts of new amenities. The Excel Presidential Suite on the Mardi Gras has a separate living room, dining area, and wet bar, plus a huge balcony with seating and an outdoor hot tub.
Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Activities
There are both similarities and differences in Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival activities on board the ship. As with any cruise line, the types of activities and facilities available vary depending on the specific ship you choose. But in general, both have tons of activity and entertainment options, from movies to live game shows to contests to casinos to evening shows of all types, including comics, theater productions, live music, and more.
On a Royal Caribbean cruise, however, you will find some unique activities like rock climbing walls, zip lines, ice skating, Flowrider surf simulators, and bumper cars. They also have amazing offerings like the world’s tallest waterslide. You will also find shortened versions of Broadway shows, outdoor Aqua Theaters with high-divers and acrobats, salsa dance clubs, and multimedia shows.
Carnival ships generally have more standard amenities like swimming pools, waterslides, video arcades, mini-golf courses, and movie theaters. However, some of the Carnival ships feature unique amenities as well. These include Skybikes (suspended “pedal-powered go-mobiles” that you bike around a course, high in the air), IMAX theaters, outdoor ropes courses, the first rollercoaster at sea, and the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea.
Carnival also offers Serenity Adult-Only Retreat areas and Cloud 9 Spas, as well as libraries, art exhibits and seminars, and sports like volleyball and basketball. Entertainment includes audience participation shows, trivia contests, comedy clubs, live shows with dancing and singing, and tons of live music.
Both cruise lines offer a wide variety of shore excursions to choose from, and both have good kids’ programs with plenty of activities for all ages.
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean Atmosphere
Again, atmosphere is something that can vary by ship and route and depends a lot on the passengers, but in general the atmosphere on Carnival cruise ships is said to be more of a party vibe, while a Royal Caribbean cruise has a more upscale, restrained feel. After all, Carnival’s tag line is “Choose Fun,” and they’re known as the “Fun Ships.”
Now that you’ve read our comparison of Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Cruise Line, what do you think? Of these two, which cruise brand is best for you?
Monday 8th of May 2023
I've cruised Carnival 3 times and always had a good time. I'll be on RC for the first time next year I'll let you know how it is but I'm sure Carnival is more fun.
Sunday 5th of February 2023
I have cruised with Carnival on several occasions and I love it. Royal Caribbean sounds a little stuffy and conservative. I think if you are looking for a good time sail with Carnival I always enjoy myself.