Skip to main content

I only cruised with Royal Caribbean for 20 years. This is why I’m branching out to other cruise lines now.


When booking a cruise vacation, there are so many different mainstream and luxury cruise lines to choose from. The possibilities seem endless when trying to narrow down your itinerary search to find the perfect cruise.

It's easy to see how each cruise line has their own unique flair on the cruising experience, which can appeal to certain demographics more than others. Therefore, choosing the cruise line that best aligns with your travel style, preferences, and budget is the one of the most important decision you’ll make while vacation planning.

Some travelers choose to exclusively cruise with the same company time and time again. Having consistent, positive experiences makes it easy to continue spending your money with the same company.

As such, being loyal to one cruise line is not only very common, but it can also be very lucrative. Many cruise lines will reward guests for continuing to book cruises with them. The more you cruise, the more points and loyalty rewards you will earn.

But, they say variety is the spice of life, right?

Well, for 20 years, I almost exclusively cruised with Royal Caribbean. It was not until this last year that I finally decided to try other cruise lines. While I thought distance would make the heart grow fonder, these experiences actually opened my eyes to a world of cruising beyond Royal Caribbean.

I’ve sailed on Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line within the last year. After sailing with three different cruise lines, I am no longer hesitant to book cruises with another cruise line, even after being loyal to Royal Caribbean for two decades. 

Here’s why I decided to branch out to these other cruise lines and why I will continue to do so.

Loyal to Royal Caribbean

Boarding Suitcase

I started cruising at just three years old with my family. Throughout my childhood, I almost exclusively cruised with Royal Caribbean. The innovative ships and affordable cruise fares made this family-friendly cruise line the best option for my parents. The experience onboard was exactly what we were looking for.

Once we reached the second highest loyalty status of their Crown & Anchor program -- Diamond Plus -- with the cruise line, it made the most sense to continue cruising with Royal Caribbean because of these benefits. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Loyalty Program Levels and Perks

Only twice did we venture to competitors: once with Norwegian Cruise Line for a 7-night inner-island Hawaii sailing and once with Carnival Cruise Line during spring break.

Pride of America

All in all, I cruised about 20 times with Royal Caribbean over the course of two decades.

Even as I went off to college, started my own career, and got married, I continued to only cruise with Royal Caribbean. The cruises were comfortable, familiar and affordable, but during the cruise industry’s restart after the pandemic, I reevaluated the destinations that I most wanted to visit. Last summer, I started to look at the itineraries, ships, and prices of competing cruise lines.

I realized that I would not be reaching the highest level of loyalty with Royal Caribbean for the foreseeable future, so why not start branching out?

Discovering unique itineraries

NCL Jade

One of the biggest draws for booking other cruise lines was discovering the unique itineraries offered by competitors, particularly Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. I was impressed by these cruise lines’ port-intensive itineraries, including some to very unique and exotic destinations.

If you are someone who is destination-focused when cruising, it does not make sense to limit yourself to one cruise line. Cruise line loyalty should not be a barrier to seeing bucket-list places. There are many areas of the world that Royal Caribbean does not routinely cruise to, including Africa, the Middle East, India, South America and Antarctica.

This is not to say Royal Caribbean has bland itineraries by any means, but after 20 cruises with the cruise line, I had already done most of the itineraries that interested me, including sailings to the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Alaska. 

Other cruise lines seem to be more destination-focused than Royal Caribbean, which is evident in the company’s newest ships being the biggest in the world. These massive vessels -- Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas -- are only slotted to sail around the Caribbean. The ship itself it meant to be the destination. 

If I truly wanted to plan cruises to off-the-beaten-path destinations, I had to step outside my cruising comfort zone. Although it felt like cheating on Royal Caribbean at first, it was eye-opening and exciting to see the itineraries offered by these other cruise lines.


When spending your time and money to take a cruise vacation, it’s important for the itinerary to align with your travel preferences. For example, I booked an incredible 12-night sailing in January 2024 on Norwegian Dawn to Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, and Mozambique. This is an itinerary that I’ve never seen Royal Caribbean offer, but it’s a bucket-list sailing for me.

Change in budget

Apex and Jewel

Your travel budget will likely be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a cruise.

Generally speaking, the most affordable mainstream cruise lines include Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. The more upscale cruise lines will cost you more, such as Virgin Voyages, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Viking Cruises.

For many years, Royal Caribbean’s affordable cruise fares were the perfect fit for my budget. This was especially true when I receive loyalty perks like free drink vouchers, discounted internet, specialty dining offers and more. Being able to expand my budget as far as possible was the top priority.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

As my husband and I have grown in our respective careers and become more established, our travel budget has subsequently changed. Now, we can look at booking cruises with other companies that we couldn’t afford before. With more wiggle room to book the cruises that interest us the most, we are not limited to just Royal Caribbean’s budget-friendly cruise fares.

Adult-focused experiences

Celebrity Silhouette

Whether you are traveling with kids or not will have a huge impact on choosing the best cruise line for your vacation. All of the mainstream cruise lines have childcare and youth programming onboard while Virgin Voyages and Viking Cruises are both adult-only cruise lines.

If you are looking for a cruise that’s perfect for your entire family, including children, grandparents and extended family, then Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line are probably the best options. Onboard, you will find tons of activities for kids, including waterslides, zip-lines, obstacle courses, miniature golf, go karts, surf simulators and even rollercoasters.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a more adult-focused experience, you should consider other cruise lines that do not cater towards children and families. For examples, while kids are still welcome onboard Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises, these ships are geared towards offering a more upscale, refined experience.

Celebrity Elite Happy Hour

As someone without children in my late 20s, shifting towards a more adult-focused cruise line aligns with my current travel style. It’s clear that Royal Caribbean wants to continue building ships that have more onboard attractions than a local amusement park, which is wonderful for families. 

Read more: The 15 big changes on Icon of the Seas that Royal Caribbean has planned

However, the waterslides and rollercoasters are no longer a selling point for me. Instead, I want to focus on relaxing onboard without having to dodge toddlers by hiding away in an adults-only zone.

Back in November, I sailed on Celebrity Cruises for the first time and fell in love with the onboard experience that catered towards adults. The newest ship for the cruise line, Celebrity Beyond, was stunning with more bars and lounges than I could have imagined.

Celebrity Solarium

Many of the spaces onboard cultivated a relaxing and serene adult experience. One of my favorite spots onboard was the Sunset Bar on the top deck, which was beautifully designed with Moroccan-style decor. Another incredible space was the Magic Carpet, which was a bar that overlooked the side of the ship and featured a delicious vanilla mojito.

Easy-to-book packages

Standby Trip

Booking airfare for your cruise is another added expense and logistical challenge that you’ll need to consider when planning your vacation. Unless you can drive to a nearby cruise port, you are more than likely going to purchase airfare for your vacation.

While Royal Caribbean has an airfare program, called Air2Sea, this is a separate booking process from reserving your cruise fare. There are no bundle deals and rarely does the cruise line offer promotions for Air2Sea. 

Read more: I booked my flight through the cruise line, and here's why you should consider booking airfare through your cruise line too

On the other hand, other cruise lines offer packages with discounted airfare that can not only save you money, but also ease your cruise planning experience. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a Free at Sea program promotion with free airfare for a second guest.

Standby Trip

It is much easier to budget appropriately for a cruise when you can look at an overall estimated cost including airfare. Even better, receiving a discount on well-priced airfare can save you a lot of money.

In October, I will be cruising the British Isles on Norwegian Star for a 10-night itinerary. The entire cost of the cruise, including round-trip airfare to London, was only $1,500 per person. 

Standby Trip

This even includes a shore excursion credit and free internet minutes. Considering the cost of a 10-night European cruise can be $1,500 alone, this price including airfare was a fantastic deal that I could not turn down.

Read more: Why you should plan a cruise within driving distance

Status matching

Celebrity Elite Happy Hour

If you have loyalty status with a cruise line, it can be difficult to give up those perks to try out a new cruise line. For example, my husband and I each receive 5 free drinks per day with Royal Caribbean, which is similar to receiving a free drink package. 

This has saved us thousands of dollars over the years when we cruise together. We also earn discounts on internet, specialty dining, and even balcony staterooms.

When I sailed on Celebrity Cruises for the first time last year, I was excited to see that my Diamond Plus status with Royal Caribbean would be matched, comparatively. The two cruise lines are owned by the same parent company, so there is a reciprocity loyalty program in place.

Crew Only Door

I was able to receive Elite status benefits, which included a nightly happy hour with complimentary drinks, access to the thermal spa, free gelato, and more. While the benefits were not identical, it was appreciated to receive a few bonus perks without ever having set sail before with Celebrity Cruises.

If you have high status with one cruise line, consider looking into status matching programs. For example, Virgin Voyages ran a loyalty status matching promotion for a few months to attract cruisers potential new cruisers.

Similarly, MSC Cruises matches status with most mainstream cruise lines. 


Carnival Ecstasy

Another reason that I started pursuing other cruise lines was the opportunity to cruise from new departure ports. Living in the Florida Panhandle, it takes me at least six hours to drive to Port Canaveral. If I want to get to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, I typically book a flight because the drive is close to ten hours. 

Ultimately, even though Florida is the holy grail for cruising, where I live in the state is not convenient for cruising. I live about as far from a cruise port in Florida as possible! 

But, last summer, I discovered that Mobile, Alabama was a departure port for Carnival Cruise Line. The cruise line only operated one ship, Carnival Ecstasy, from this tiny port. 

Read more: Carnival Ecstasy Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day


While I had never really considered cruising with Carnival in recent years, as my spring break days were behind me, I couldn't resist the short 90 minute drive to the port for a weekend getaway cruise. This meant I did not need to get a hotel or travel the day before my cruise, which saved me time and money. 

Before, if Royal Caribbean did not sail from a departure port, I never even considered looking at my itinerary options. Now, I am open to sailing with other cruise lines if it means added convenience. Even though the ship was 31-years-old and headed for retirement, the ease of travel made this sailing worthwhile. 

Variety is the spice of life


At the end of the day, variety really is the spice of life! There is a special zest added to a vacation when you experience a cruise line for the first time, including the entertainment, onboard amenities, dining options and more.

After sailing with Royal Caribbean about seven times in one year, some of the onboard experiences started to feel monotonous and less special.

More specifically, I found the main dining room served the same menus regardless of which ship or itinerary I was sailing on. Having the same menu on the first and second (and third, etc) nights became repetitive. Some of the entertainment was the same across the fleet too, which made the experience feel slightly watered down.

Mariner of the Seas

When you cruise frequently with the same cruise line, you start to notice this kind of repetition that a once-in-a-blue-moon cruisers would not notice. 

However, setting sail on a new cruise line adds nice variety to the cruising experience. As someone who cruises more for the destinations, I am mostly concerned with having a comfortable place to sleep, rest and eat onboard while exploring new ports of call. It’s always exciting to try something different!

Loading Comments