Carnival and Royal Caribbean are two popular cruise lines that have strong followings. Some cruise aficionados refuse to sail on one or the other. Are there any major differences between them? Explore which cruise may fit your needs the best. For our comparison we sailed on two similar ships – the Carnival Liberty and the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas.
- Itinerary Both ships go to Caribbean Islands like Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, St. Louis. Thomas, the Bahamas and St. Martin / St. Maarten. The Liberty also visited its private island Half Moon Cay, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk. The Mariner of the Seas traveled to its private island Coco Cay and Labadee (the north coast of Haiti). We loved most of the locations that both of the ships visited and do not believe that this should be a distinguishing factor on deciding between the cruise lines.
- Shows Each night there are a variety of shows. Usually you have the main show and some type of entertainment before and after afterwards. We felt that the main shows on the Mariner of the Seas were better. On the Liberty we liked the comedian and juggling act. If you love seeing the shows, Royal Caribbean was better for the main shows and Carnival was slightly better for the comedians.
- Dining Room We enjoyed the atmosphere of both dining rooms on the Liberty and Mariner of the Seas. We felt that the menu had a little more variety on the Mariner of the Seas.
- Friendliness of staff The Liberty and Mariner of the Seas both get high grades. We did have one waiter that complained some on one of our trips on the Mariner. We had a slightly better experience on the Liberty, but feel that both crews did an excellent job and that this should not be a distinguishing factor on choosing a cruise.
- Pools The Mariner of the Seas and Liberty both had salt water pools – which most cruise ships have. They both had pools for kids and adults. We liked the Liberty's pools better because one had a slide. If you have kids, this would be something that they would definitely enjoy.
- Spa We tried the spa on the Liberty and loved it. We did not try the spa on the Mariner of the Seas. Usually you can not go wrong when getting a spa treatment.
- Excursions We enjoyed our excursions on both ships. We're not sure why, but there are very few excursions on Puerto Rico. Both seemed to employ clients who ran the excursion with professional, friendly attitudes. We really have not run into any tour guides with bad attitudes. Both cruise lines get high marks.
- Kids Programs We met travelers on Carnival that would absolutely would not sail on Royal Caribbean because of the kids programs. We did not feel the same way at all. In fact, we thought that Carnival and Royal Caribbean did an excellent job with their kids programs. There were lots of kids on both cruises.
- Age of Clientele There was a wide range of the age of cruisers on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The age seemed to be slightly younger on our Carnival cruise. Many times Caribbean destinations during the summer have a lot of children, so that the age of the clientele is younger. If you travel during the school year, the average age is older with many less children. In general, especially during the school year, Carnival has a youngger crowd. This can help you plan if you prefer a younger or slightly older crowd.
- Game Room Both the Mariner of the Seas and Liberty had a similar size game room. We do not feel that this was a distinguishing factor, even though it can be an important part of the trip for the kids!
- Cafeteria We felt that the food was more varied on the Mariner of the Seas. The quality was generally good to very good on both ships.
- Odds and Ends We liked the outdoor movies that Liberty had each evening. We thought that the putt-putt golf course was a little better on the Mariner of the Seas. We did not prefer the access to the Internet cape on the Liberty. You had to walk through a lounge with cigar smoke for access. We also talked to cruisers on the Royal Caribbean who would not sail Carnival due to too many smokers. We did not find this to be the case on our trips, and thought that there was little difference in the number of people smoking.
The Bottom Line Overall, for our needs we likened the Mariner of the Seas slightly better. We would not hesitate to book on either ship again, as we thought that both trips were very enjoyable.