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5 things that Royal Caribbean does better than Carnival Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean vs Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are two of the biggest names in the industry for mainstream cruise lines; however, the cruise lines are also major competitors for affordable, family-friendly vacations. Even still, there are many differences between the two cruise lines.

While Carnival Cruise Line prides itself on a fleet full of “fun” ships, Royal Caribbean places a heavy emphasis on innovation and building the world’s biggest cruise ships. In fact, it took many years for Carnival Cruise Line to build a competing mega-ship.

For decades, Carnival built new ships similar in design and size to prior vessels in their fleet. Each ship class was barely larger than the previous, creating a sense of stagnation in terms of innovation. While Carnival’s newest ships had plenty to offer, the cruise line lacked any “wow” factor.

Mardi Gras

This all changed with the inception of Carnival’s Excel Class, the cruise line’s first attempt at building a mega cruise ship. With three ships (and two more on the way) in the Excel Class, Carnival considers its newest ship class a smashing success.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean is known for its massive and technologically advanced cruise ships. For example, the cruise line just debuted one of the most hyped cruise ships in recent years, Icon of the Seas, which is now the biggest ship in the world.

I’ve been cruising with Royal Caribbean since I was a little girl, logging more than two decades' worth of cruises. Now, I’ve sailed with Carnival six times in the last two years, with two more cruises booked for the year.

While the Carnival cruise experience has certainly impressed me - as I had a negative perception of the infamous “party” cruise line - I still prefer Royal Caribbean. Although I enjoy the overall cruise experience more with Royal Caribbean, here are five things that Royal Caribbean does better than Carnival.

1. Entertainment

Mariner Ice Skating

One of the biggest things Royal Caribbean does better than Carnival is entertainment. The cruise line is known for having show-stopping performances on its ships. Moreover, the entertainment is unlike anything you’ve seen at sea, including high-diving shows and ice skating spectacles.

In particular, you will find arguably the best entertainment at sea on Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships, including the Icon, Oasis, and Freedom Class ships. Icon of the Seas has the cruise line’s first AquaDome, which is home to its new diving performances with a cascading waterfall, synchronized swimming, and dazzling high dives.

AquaDome on Icon of the Seas
(AquaDome on Icon of the Seas)

In addition, Absolute Zero has new ice skating performances with daring stunts you won’t even find on land. Royal Caribbean’s ice skating performances have been a staple for the cruise line since the early 2000s, and it's a unique form of entertainment you can’t find elsewhere. Not to mention, most of Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships have full-length Broadway musicals, including Mamma Mia and Grease.

On the other hand, Carnival’s entertainment is simpler and less impressive. The cruise line hosts Playlist Productions onboard its fleet of cruise ships, which include fun, original shows with singing and dancing. Carnival’s newest ships in the Excel Class have the best entertainment in the fleet, including aerialists and immersive technology in the three-story atrium.

Punchliner Comedy Carnival Ecstasy

Even Carnival’s best entertainment options fall short of Royal Caribbean’s, in my opinion. However, one area where the cruise line outranks Royal Caribbean’s entertainment is its Punchliner Comedy Club. You’ll find daily comedy shows on Carnival’s cruise ships while Royal Caribbean lacks a dedicated comedy club on most vessels. 

2. Specialty Dining

Giovanni's Kitchen

Carnival Cruise Line has a solid selection of inclusive dining onboard its cruise ships. Particularly, the cruise line’s casual dining options are some of the best cruise grub at sea, including their older and smaller ships. However, Royal Caribbean’s specialty dining is better than Carnival.

To start, Carnival has a few specialty dining options, even on their biggest Excel Class ships. Specialty dining typically includes Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Rudi’s Seagrill, Bonsai Sushi and Teppanyaki, and Chef’s Table. Smaller ships might only have one or two specialty options. In fact, when I sailed on Carnival Ecstasy, a 31-year-old cruise ship, there were no specialty dining options available.

In comparison, Royal Caribbean has more variety with specialty dining across its fleet. Personally, I find the specialty dining on Royal Caribbean to be of higher quality compared to Carnival. Royal Caribbean’s specialty options include Chops Grille Steakhouse, Giovanni’s Italian, Jamie’s Italian, Chef’s Table, Izumi Sushi, and 150 Central Park. You’ll find at least two specialty dining options even on Royal Caribbean’s smallest and oldest Vision Class ships.

Jamies Italian on Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean also features dining experiences you won’t find on Carnival Cruise Line, such as Wonderland, a whimsical dining experience with eclectic entrees, and the Empire Supper Club, a glitz and glamor dining experience that transports you back to the 1930s. While Carnival’s specialty dining is perfectly sufficient, Royal Caribbean’s specialty dining is better.

Read more: Top 5 things I like better about Carnival Cruise Line than Royal Caribbean

3. Itinerary Variety 


When it comes to itineraries, Royal Caribbean blows Carnival Cruise Line out of the water. Carnival’s bread and butter comes from its weekend getaway cruises, which conveniently sail from ports around North America.

Most of Carnival’s guests live within driving distance of a port, attracting a different clientele than Royal Caribbean. Carnival Cruise Line has a few sailings outside of North America to Australia and Europe, but you won’t find much else. Instead, most of Carnival’s fleet sails to the Bahamas, Caribbean, or Alaska.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean has a much richer variety of itineraries to destinations around the world, including Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Arabian Gulf, Hawaii, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and more.


You can often find multiple ships deployed to these regions, giving cruisers more options for budget, itinerary, and onboard amenities. If you’re looking to sail beyond North America, Royal Caribbean is a better option for diverse itineraries.

4. Private Island

Oasis Lagoon

Nearly all cruise lines have a private destination or island located in the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay, located in the Bahamas, is arguably the best private island any cruise line has, especially compared to Carnival’s Amber Cove and Half Moon Cay.

Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay was a multi-million dollar investment for the cruise line, and it shows! The cruise line built an oasis for cruisers on its own island with multiple pools, a full-scale waterpark, a private beach club, an adults-only retreat, a swim-up bar, and a splash pad. There are plenty of water activities and excursions available as well, including jet skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, and more.

On the other hand, Carnival's Amber Cove is quite minimal compared to Perfect Day at CocoCay, although most of the amenities are either free or fairly affordable.

Amber Cove

At Carnival’s private destination, you can find a waterslide, swim-up bar, splash pad, zip line, and private cabanas to rent. The destination is meant to feel like a resort, but it falls short of Royal Caribbean’s private island. Finally, you won’t find any beaches at Amber Cove due to its location, while CocoCay has multiple beaches for guests to use. If you’re wanting to have that quintessential beach day, Perfect Day at CocoCay is the place to be!

Carnival's Half Moon Cay falls short compared to CocoCay, too. They lack the major thrills that have come to define the Perfect Day experience. While you can enjoy lounging on the beautiful white sand beach, you won't find any waterslides, zip lines, adult-only beaches, upscale clubs, etc. 

Read more: Carnival Cruise Line's Amber Cove vs. Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay: Which is better?

5. Drink Package 


Speaking of drink packages, what’s a cruise without a few cocktails? When it comes to drink packages, Royal Caribbean comes on top again.

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line offer drink packages for guests to purchase for their cruise vacations. For those who plan to drink consistently throughout their cruise, or simply don’t want to worry about racking up a huge bill at the end of their cruise, purchasing a drink package can make sense. By pre-purchasing your alcohol, you can indulge without concern.

Carnival Cruise Line has its CHEERS! drink package available, but you're actually limited to 15 alcoholic drinks within 24 hours for each cruise day. On the other hand, Royal Caribbean’s drink package is truly unlimited. You are not restricted to the number of alcoholic drinks you have each day.


Also, Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their drink packages on their private island. Guests can continue enjoying their purchased drink package ashore when docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay. On the other hand, Carnival’s drink and internet packages do not work ashore, so you’ll have to pay individually for drinks during your day ashore.

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