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5 things I liked better about Princess Cruises than Royal Caribbean

Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean side by side

After 19 cruises with Royal Caribbean, I booked a 7-night Alaska cruise with Princess Cruises, and here’s what I liked better.

Ever since I started cruising, I’ve almost exclusively sailed with Royal Caribbean. Like most cruisers, I tend to stick to the same cruise line in order to rack up loyalty points, which can lead to exclusive benefits like complimentary drinks and private lounge access.

Plus, I’ve never had any major complaints about cruising with Royal Caribbean. Not only do they build remarkable cruise ships, but they cruise to the majority of destinations I’m interested in, anyway.

Nonetheless, this summer I decided to book an Alaska cruise on Princess Cruises, the cruise line that is generally considered to be the market leader in Alaska. I was eager to see how Princess Cruises compared to Royal Caribbean in all aspects of the cruise experience, from food to ship design and entertainment.

Although there were things I loved and hated about my time on the Royal Princess overall, there were definitely a few things I liked better than what I've experienced other cruise lines.

Whether my cruise cabin or the itinerary, here are 5 things I liked better about Princess Cruises than Royal Caribbean.

I preferred the layout of my inside cabin on the Royal Princess, but I did miss certain aspects of Royal Caribbean’s cabins.

Royal Princess cruise cabin

For the most part, I liked my inside cabin on the Royal Princess more than inside cabins I’ve had on Royal Caribbean ships.

My inside cabin on the Royal Princess was small, yet I found the layout to be better designed compared to Royal Caribbean’s inside cabins. The room felt spacious, with ample walking space, and the cabin had a separated closet and bathroom area behind a wall.

I shared my Princess cabin with my sister, so having this separate space was convenient. One of us could be getting ready in the bathroom and walk-in closet while the other could relax in bed or get ready at the vanity.

Royal Caribbean’s inside rooms do not offer this type of privacy, as most do not have any type of wall or curtain to separate the room.

Related: Why an inside cabin is the best choice for a cruise

Another thing I loved in my inside cabin were the motion-activated lights. Both the nightstands and walk-in closet had motion-activated lights that would turn on if they sensed you walking in the cabin.

closet Royal Princess

Because inside rooms do not have any natural light, getting up at night to go to the bathroom can be treacherous, as you might bump into the bed, desk, or other obstructions. The motion-activated lights were helpful when getting out of bed, and they luckily weren't bright enough wake up other people in the cabin.

There are, however, a few things I prefer about Royal Caribbean’s cabins compared to Princess.

First was the shower. My cabin on the Royal Princess had a cloth shower curtain as opposed to the glass shower door you’ll find on newer Royal Caribbean ships. Having a curtain feels less hygienic compared to a glass door, and there’s less chance of water falling onto the bathroom floor as well.

bathroom Royal Princess cruise cabin

Another thing I prefer about Royal Caribbean’s cabins is having a chair or couch in the room, as this offers another space to relax outside of the bed. Although we had a desk chair in our Royal Princess cabin, it wasn’t as comfortable as a plush couch or lounge chair.

Finally, I appreciate having more outlets on new Royal Caribbean ships, as it makes it easier to charge my electronics, especially when sharing a cabin. My room on the Royal Princess only had two outlets on the desk, which was not the most convenient.

Visiting Glacier Bay was the highlight of my vacation, and it’s not possible to visit the park with Royal Caribbean.

Glacier Bay National Park

Princess Cruises offers cruises to Glacier Bay whereas Royal Caribbean does not, and visiting this magnificent national park was my favorite part of my cruise vacation.

Not all cruise lines receive a permit to visit Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve. The only mass market cruise lines with regularly scheduled visits to Glacier Bay are Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

While not all Princess cruises to Alaska visit Glacier Bay, I made sure to pick an itinerary that visited the park, and it was well worth it.

On the morning of our visit, park rangers boarded the ship as we arrived and they provided insightful information about Glacier Bay. From distributing brochures about wildlife to answering questions about the glacial formations we would see later in the morning, it was fascinating to learn more about the destination from this resource.

Related: Comparison of glaciers you can visit on an Alaska cruise

Glacier Bay National Park

Upon arrival to the first glacier of the day, Marjorie Glacier, I was truly in awe. Although I’ve seen other glaciers in Alaska before, none have compared to the scale and grandeur of Marjorie Glacier. Standing 250 feet above the waterline and with a width of nearly a mile, it was, by far, the most magnificent glacier I’ve seen in Alaska yet.

We visited several other glaciers during our visit, and upon departure witnessed hundreds of sea otters swimming alongside the ship. The untouched beauty of Glacier Bay is spectacular and something I wish guests could experience on Royal Caribbean.

I found the casual, complimentary venues to be of better quality on Princess compared to Royal Caribbean.

Trident Grill on Royal Princess cruise ship

While I wasn’t entirely impressed with the main dining rooms and buffet on the Royal Princess, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the ship’s other complimentary dining venues.

If there’s one complaint you’ll hear about dining on Royal Caribbean, it’s that there are limited options for high quality grab-and-go food around the cruise line’s ships. Sure, you’ll find venues like the Dog House for hot dogs and Sorrento’s Pizza for a quick slice of pie, but the quality and variety of cuisines is not as impressive compared to some other cruise lines.

When I boarded the Royal Princess, I was impressed by the different complimentary dining venues available, and the quality of these casual venues was higher than what I have experienced on Royal Caribbean ships.

Related: Princess Cruise Tips & Tricks

Trident Grill on Royal Princess cruise ship

My favorite complimentary spot was Trident Grill on the pool deck, which serves hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, street tacos, and loaded fries. The vegetarian sweet potato-green chili tacos were a vegetarian’s dream, and my sister couldn’t get enough of the grilled chipotle-lime chicken tacos, either.

I’d also argue the grab-and-go pizza on the pool deck was of higher quality than Royal Caribbean’s Sorrento’s Pizza venue. At times I find Sorrento’s Pizza nearly inedible, but I was pleased with the quality of the pool deck pizza on Princess.

Pizza on Royal Princess cruise ship

Another venue I loved was Alfredo’s Pizzeria, a complimentary Italian restaurant on the Royal Princess.

Alfredo’s Pizzeria offers a 3-course Italian meal at no extra charge. No reservations are required for the restaurant, and we only had to wait around ten minutes before a table was available. This was a stark contrast to the Italian specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean—not only do they come with an extra charge, but tables can book up quickly.

Alfredo's Pizzeria on Royal Princess cruise ship

During my meal I enjoyed a bowl of Italian minestrone soup, a classic margherita pizza, and a warm apple tart for dessert. The restaurant far exceeded my expectations, and it was nice to have an additional sit-down restaurant available that didn’t cost extra.

I enjoyed the free room service on Princess, as it was a convenient (albeit lazy) way to dine.

Order food feature on Princess app

Let’s face it, having free room service is a major perk of being on vacation. There’s nothing like ordering food with the touch of a button and having it promptly delivered to your cabin—free room service is something I thoroughly enjoyed on my Princess cruise.

The majority of room service is included in your cruise fare on a Princess cruise, with only select beverages and items incurring an extra charge. You can order everything from chips and guac to Greek salad, chicken fingers, and entire pizzas without paying anything extra.

Unfortunately, the only complimentary room service you’ll find on Royal Caribbean, if you’re not staying in a suite, is the limited continental breakfast menu. Not even pancakes, eggs, or bacon are included in the free room service menu. Instead, you’ll find basic offerings like toast, pastries, yogurt, and cereal.

Related: Do Cruise Ships Have Room Service, and Is It Free?

Ordering anything else from room service on Royal Caribbean will incur a $7.95 per order charge. Although you can order as much as you want for one charge, it’s hard to pay for room service when there is so much free food elsewhere around the ship.

cheese quesadilla

On my Princess sailing I ordered something from room service nearly every day, whether a quesadilla for a snack or a chocolate cookie latte with breakfast. I appreciated that most items were included in the cruise fare, and after so many cruises on Royal Caribbean, it felt like a luxury to have free room service delivered at any time of the day.

My only complaint with the room service on Princess is that the orders did not always arrive. The Princess app has a feature that allows you to order food directly to you regardless of where you are on the ship, but I found that it rarely worked this way, and orders would remain “pending” indefinitely.

Ordering from my stateroom television seemed to offer the highest chance at food actually being delivered.

Princess does not have as many kid-focused activities, and I preferred this style of cruising.

Pool deck Royal Princess

As a 20-something without kids, I sometimes find Royal Caribbean cruises to be too family-focused. That is, of course, the line's branding, but I don’t always find that Royal Caribbean appeals to what I am looking for in a cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean ships are packed with family-friendly fun with everything from surfing simulators to ice skating rinks, zip lines, and aqua parks onboard.

The cruise line’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas, will be even more family-friendly than any other Royal Caribbean ship yet. Icon of the Seas is what Royal Caribbean calls the ultimate family vacation, and it boasts its own waterpark, kid-focused Surfside neighborhood, an open-air park, and cabins designed specifically for families.

Related: Guide to Icon of the Seas cruise ship: pricing, things to do, and more

Don’t get me wrong, I love sailing on Royal Caribbean, but I have to say I prefer the more calm atmosphere of a Princess cruise.

back of pool deck Royal Princess

I don’t need activities like waterslides and escape rooms to keep me happy on a cruise, and while the Royal Princess has activities like mini golf and a sports court, it wasn’t as kid-centered as I find most newer Royal Caribbean ships to be.

I appreciated the quieter vibe around the ship, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to live music at lounges, attending Alaska-themed lectures, and watching production shows in the theater that were geared more toward adults.

When I book cruises on Royal Caribbean, I tend to prefer the cruise line’s smaller, older ships, as these don’t have as many flashy activities as the newest ships. On Princess, it’s nice to know I can expect a calmer, more adult-focused atmosphere on any ship in the fleet.

There’s no perfect cruise line, and both Princess and Royal Caribbean cruises come with advantages and disadvantages.

Royal Princess atrium

When comparing my experiences on Princess versus Royal Caribbean, it’s easy to see where each cruise line shines.

The Royal Princess shined in itinerary options, with many sailings visiting Glacier Bay, along with offering free room service and high-quality complimentary dining options.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, offers more to do onboard for guests of all ages. In addition, I find Royal Caribbean ships more innovatively designed. The cruise line’s ships sailing to Alaska were far better designed for cold weather compared to the Royal Princess, as an example.

Related: Alaska cruise guide: Planning tips and best cruise itineraries

When choosing one cruise line over another, it’s helpful to do research before booking a sailing. Reading articles, watching YouTube videos, and browsing itinerary options can help you decide whether a particular ship is right for your travel style, or if you should find something else.

While I would say that, overall, I enjoy Royal Caribbean cruises more than Princess, I wouldn’t be opposed to sailing on a Princess ship again considering everything I enjoyed during my trip to Alaska.

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