Dayna T, a friend of the Disney Mama’s, shared her thoughts on how these 2 great cruise lines compare from a mom/family perspective and kindly allowed us to share it with our followers. Thanks Dayna!!!
“There has been much discussion over what the differences in Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCL) and Disney Cruise Line (DCL) and I wanted to share my account from this past weekend on RCL compared to DCL two weeks ago. These are my opinions although I did run most of this by my 3 sisters who all agreed. I have been on 3 DCL cruises and 9 RCL cruises. You may ask why I cruise RCL. I have two older sisters who cruise this line exclusively because of the price point. Both have gone on over 17 cruises and get many perks including free drinks each night. They often stay in inside staterooms and would rather go on many trips and have less service than go on fewer with better service. Plus they do not have younger kids, enjoy drinking and gambling and feel this is a major part of their entertainment.
RCL was a sister’s (all adult) trip where two of us were in each of two veranda rooms- very few connecting rooms available so we were just next to each other. DCL was a family trip and we had two connecting veranda rooms for 5 of us. RCL was a 3 night trip and DCL was 7 nights. Total costs after factoring in OBC was $419 on RCL per person and DCL was $940 per person.
Common spaces on RCL
Public areas on RCL were well maintained and nice. Really enjoyed the quality in these spaces. Their island, Coco Cay, was nice and had plenty to do. I would not say it was as nice as Castaway Cay but still nice with lots of chairs available. I am not aware if there was an adult only beach but there few kids around. My sister insisted on a cabana on their island and for $200 you got a bottle of Champagne, fruit platter and 4 bottles of water. No personal service as the bar was quite a walk and if you wanted something else you had to go there. The cabanas are not beach front and face a section with rocks. The beach is a 5 min walk.
Staterooms on RCL
Not much storage and only 8 hangers in the closet. I hated that the hangers did not come off the rod. Two outlets available but not near the bed. No clocks anywhere. Main entry only 2 feet wide and many areas have less than a foot to move around. There is a small chair with back at the desk. Rooms have mini fridge stocked with food and beverages but we were able to put additional items on the top shelf sideways. The items in the fridge were very high priced. The room was not well maintained and both our rooms were in bad repair with stained carpet and things such as vents missing or damages to the furniture. We felt cramped in the smaller room with 2 of us with not enough storage etc. that we did not feel on DCL with 3-5 of us in one room at a time for a longer period of time.
Bathrooms in RCL Staterooms
Shampoo is available from a dispenser but is poor quality and there is no conditioner. Shower is in a corner where you only have two small walls and a curtain that touched you the entire time. I often had to hold on to the bar while showering because you would fall out with the motion of the ship. Bathrooms seemed to have been upgraded with nice tile work by the sink and very clean.
Service on RCL
Stateroom attendant would do basic service to our room in the morning before 11am and turn down 5-7pm but they have other duties on board so you will not have their service during the day. You notice a huge difference here. I had a few minor requests and was told no so many times which was very disappointing. Don’t expect towel animals, chocolates or any kind of personal service. Ours had 10 staterooms where I think DCL had 4-6 but not sure on DCL. Just as an FYI I gave our stateroom attendant $20 at the start of the cruise and asked him to help us make our vacation as special as he could which he did not. He had too many responsibilities in the time he was allowed and was required to work somewhere else during 11am-5pm.
Our dining room servers tried very hard to make us happy and succeeded. They are busier than DCL as they had 5 tables to the 3 DCL does. Same dining room, table and server each day for dinner. Food was average and some dishes good. You will pay $30+ for lobster or filet mignon and other specialty dishes in the main dining room. You could upgrade to a specialty steakhouse dining room for $30 a person.
Overall service was lacking. Crew was not happy and outgoing as a rule. We did find a few wonderful people on the ship staff but you would walk by dozens with no one acknowledging you. Also it surprised me how many crew would walk by trash, people who could use an extra hand, etc. and just keep on going.
Dining and drinks on RCL
Gambling, food and drinking were a major focus of the cruise. I ate much more on this cruise than DCL. We often found ourselves eating because there was a lack of other things to do. Not a huge selection of healthy options. I don’t drink and because I didn’t have a drink in my hand felt hounded by the drink people everywhere. I finally opted to grab a wine glass from the bar and fill it with water. It helped stop the asking. If you didn’t have a drink in your hand you would get asked every couple minutes no matter where you were on the ship. The casino was fun but smoky and at a certain point would get to be full of drunks making it uncomfortable for anyone else.
Soft drink packages are $7.50 a day and you can get soft drinks anywhere by showing your pass with the Coke symbol on it.
The buffet was open all the time but always packed. Not a large or nice salad bar available and few comfort food choices. My kids would have gone nuts without the options of pizza, chicken fingers etc. for lunch and such.
You will pay extra for Ice Cream and at places like Johnny Rockets etc. Starbucks is also onboard some ships but the cost was quite expensive compared to normal Starbucks pricing.
RCL Family Friendly?
The only thing I could find on board that I would take my kids to were the pool, ping pong tables and rock climbing. They do have limited kids programing and adult activities but not “family” friendly things to do. I looked into the kids clubs and programing and it nothing like Disney. After 8pm there is an extra cost of $7 per child per hour. My sister has traveled RCL with her kids and often takes a college age niece to help out as it is cheaper to pay her fare than to pay for child care for 3 kids.
Please keep in mind these are my opinions. I do understand each of us has our own experiences and what is important to me is not important to everyone. One thing I came away this weekend was a greater appreciation for how hard the crew works on the DCL to ensure I have a magical vacation. I have often tipped slightly more than recommended for the stateroom and dining but can tell you that I now feel like I have shortchanged those people. Next time I will likely double their tip as they make a huge difference in how wonderful my vacation is.
Would I cruise RCL again? Sure if it was with adults and with preparing that I will not have the service. I would not take my kids on RCL no matter how cheap the cruise is; you get what you pay for. I’d rather take fewer trips with the service than more where I cannot enjoy it quite as much.”