Are you considering a cruise vacation but find yourself torn between two popular cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Carnival? While both offer incredible experiences, they have distinct differences that cater to different preferences and budgets. In this comprehensive guide, we will dive deep into the key factors that can help you make an informed decision. From fleet size and deployment to cabins, entertainment, dining, and more, we’ll explore the unique offerings of each cruise line. So, let’s embark on this journey of discovery and find the perfect cruise line for your next vacation!

Fleet Size and Variety

When it comes to fleet size, both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have significant offerings. Carnival Cruise Line operates 25 ships, ranging from the Carnival Elation, built in 1998, to the newest additions like the Excel class of Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Jubilee. On the other hand, Royal Caribbean International boasts 26 ships, with the oldest being Grandeur of the Seas, built in 1996, and the newest being Wonder of the Seas, with Icon of the Seas set to become the world’s largest cruise ship by January 2024.

Both cruise lines offer a variety of ship sizes to cater to different preferences. Carnival’s fleet includes the Fantasy-class vessels, accommodating just over 2,000 passengers, while the Mardi Gras can hold over 5,000 passengers. Similarly, Royal Caribbean’s Vision class offers smaller ships with capacities around 2,000 people, while Wonder of the Seas can accommodate up to 5,734 passengers at double occupancy. With their expansive fleet and diverse ship sizes, both cruise lines ensure there’s something for everyone.Which Cruise Line is Better Carnival or Royal Caribbean?

Deployment and Itineraries

The deployment of cruise ships plays a crucial role in determining the destinations and itineraries available to passengers. Carnival Cruise Line offers a wide range of sailings from more than a dozen home ports in North America, with a focus on U.S.-based sailings. Florida and New England serve as major embarkation points, offering numerous Caribbean and Mexican Riviera cruises. While Carnival occasionally offers sailings to Europe and other destinations, it primarily focuses on Caribbean voyages.

In contrast, Royal Caribbean has fewer North American home ports, but it compensates with a diverse range of itineraries. Alongside Caribbean and Mexican Riviera cruises, Royal Caribbean offers sailings to Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, Asia, and even Australia. If you’re looking to explore destinations beyond the Caribbean or have specific regions in mind, Royal Caribbean might be the ideal choice.

Cabins and Accommodations

Accommodations are a crucial aspect of any cruise experience, and both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a range of cabin options to suit different needs. Carnival boasts large cabins, especially on newer ships, providing modern and comfortable spaces for passengers. Specialty cabins, such as Cloud 9 Spa rooms and Havana cabins on newer ships, offer additional amenities and exclusive access to private areas. While Carnival does offer family cabins, their availability might be limited compared to expectations.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean offers an array of cabin styles, including unique features not commonly found on other cruise lines. The cruise line’s virtual balcony interior cabins, for example, project real-time exterior views onto interior walls, creating the illusion of a floor-to-ceiling window. Large suites and family cabins are also available, ensuring a luxurious and spacious experience for passengers. Royal Caribbean’s elegant and upscale decor style further enhances the overall ambiance of the cabins.

Entertainment and Activities

When it comes to entertainment and activities, both cruise lines excel in providing an abundance of options to keep passengers engaged throughout their voyage. Carnival Cruise Line is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere, offering a wide array of activities for all ages. From pools and waterparks to outdoor sports centers, mini-golf, and even a roller coaster on the new Mardi Gras ship, Carnival ensures endless fun in the sun. Indoor entertainment includes comedy shows, Broadway-style performances, live music, and vibrant nightlife options.Which Cruise Line is Better Carnival or Royal Caribbean?

While Royal Caribbean is not as explicitly focused on family-oriented activities, it offers a “wow” factor with its entertainment offerings. Multiple pools, water parks, FlowRider surfing simulators, rock climbing walls, and ziplines are just a few examples of the exhilarating experiences available. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships even feature the SeaPlex, an indoor entertainment center offering roller skating and trapeze classes. Broadway-style shows, aerial performances, and DJ sets add to the excitement, ensuring a truly unforgettable experience.

Dining and Bars & Lounges

Cruise vacations are synonymous with indulging in delicious cuisine, and both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a range of dining options to satisfy every palate. Carnival Cruise Line provides both fixed and flexible dining options, with a focus on fan-favorite restaurants like BlueIguana Cantina, Guy’s Burger Joint, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que. The line also collaborates with celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri, Shaq, and Emeril Lagasse to bring unique culinary experiences to its passengers.Which Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship is the Best for Families?

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, offers a plethora of specialty dining options, allowing passengers to indulge in a variety of cuisines. While the basic restaurants included in the fare are more standard, the cruise line compensates with a greater emphasis on specialty dining. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant concept is a highlight among the various dining experiences offered. Additionally, both cruise lines provide drink packages that cover the cost of beverages, catering to different preferences and budgets.

Onboard Features and Amenities

Beyond the essentials, both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a range of onboard features and amenities to enhance the overall cruise experience. Carnival Cruise Line places a strong emphasis on family-friendly amenities, offering kids clubs with separate programs for different age groups. The Seuss at Sea program, featuring costume parades and breakfasts with characters, is a hit among younger passengers. Babysitting services and teen spa treatments further cater to the needs of families.

Royal Caribbean also ensures a fun-filled experience for families, with dedicated programming for different age groups. Babysitting services and a wide range of entertainment options are available to keep children engaged. One notable aspect of Royal Caribbean’s offerings is its high-tech amenities, including robotic bartenders, fast WiFi, and an innovative app for seamless communication and access to ship features. Additionally, Royal Caribbean’s private island, with its water park and exclusive experiences, adds to the allure of the cruise line.

Private Islands

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival boast private islands that offer unique experiences for passengers. Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, offers stunning beaches and various recreational activities. While it may not match the hype surrounding Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day Island at Cococay, it still provides a serene and enjoyable experience.

Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day Island at Cococay is a redesigned paradise in the Bahamas. With an array of thrilling attractions and pristine beaches, it offers a perfect day in a tropical oasis. The island features a water park, ziplines, beachside cabanas, and much more, ensuring an unforgettable experience for Royal Caribbean passengers.

The Guests

The composition of fellow passengers can greatly influence the overall atmosphere and experience of a cruise. Carnival Cruise Line attracts a diverse crowd, including families, children, singles, and budget-conscious couples. The majority of passengers are middle-aged adults, creating a vibrant and lively environment onboard.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, has a slightly different passenger demographic. While families are still welcomed, the cruise line appeals more to couples and singles. The majority of travelers are middle-aged or older adults, creating a sophisticated and relaxed atmosphere.


One of the most significant factors in choosing a cruise line is the cost. Carnival Cruise Line has built its reputation on affordable cruises for the entire family. The cruise fares include most dining venues and entertainment options, and the line frequently offers sales and promotions, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers.

While Royal Caribbean still offers cruises at various price points, it is generally slightly more expensive than Carnival. The cruise line provides a range of options, including specialty dining and drink packages. However, additional charges may apply for certain dining and entertainment experiences. For those seeking a more luxurious and upscale experience, Royal Caribbean offers a higher-end price range.


Choosing the perfect cruise line for your vacation depends on various factors, including fleet size, itineraries, cabins, entertainment, dining, onboard features, and cost. Carnival Cruise Line caters to families and budget-conscious travelers, offering a vibrant and energetic atmosphere. Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, provides a more luxurious experience with an emphasis on entertainment and activities.

Ultimately, the decision between Royal Caribbean and Carnival comes down to personal preferences, desired destinations, and budget. Whether you’re seeking a family-friendly adventure or a sophisticated escape, both cruise lines offer unique experiences that will create lasting memories. So, weigh your options, consider the factors that matter most to you, and embark on an unforgettable cruise vacation with the perfect cruise line for your needs. Bon voyage!

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