Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Smackdown!
These big-ship lines offer similar price tags, but the experiences couldn’t be more different: Celebrity Cruises is refined (think painting classes and croquet on grass lawns), while Royal Caribbean is down to earth, with sporty activities like ice skating and simulated skydiving. Read on for our comparison:
Celebrity Cruises Highlights:
Celebrity draws couples, families and groups looking for style and comfort, without the price tag of a luxury cruise line. Considered among one of the most innovative lines, Celebrity was the first to grow real grass on a ship and build a serious onboard art collection.
- Celebrity features a wide scope of activities ranging from the educational (think technology classes) to the playful, like water volleyball matches with ship officers.
- Impressive, innovative specialty restaurants are found across the board on Celebrity ships. Some options include small-plate-style Qsine, which serves sushi "lollipops,” and the Lawn Club Grill where you can sear your own meat with a chef.
- Celebrity's Concierge class cabins fill the gap between standards and suites, with perks like pillow menus, priority restaurant bookings and exclusive events.
- The ships are known for the variety of intimate bar and lounges, many featuring live music ranging from interactive piano to string ensembles or just a quiet guitar in the background.
Royal Caribbean Highlights:
Royal Caribbean’s cruising motto is basically “go big or go home.” The line is a top pick for adventure and adrenaline seekers. While some of the older ships in their fleet are “smaller” (capacity of 3,000 passengers), new vessels can easily hold upwards of 6,000 passengers on every sailing. Four of the top five largest ships in the world fly the Royal Caribbean flag.
- Newer Royal ships offer so many onboard activities, entertainment, and dining choices that you may not be able to experience everything during a 7+ night sailing.
- Royal Caribbean continues to uphold its reputation as the leader of onboard entertainment, with nearly all of its ships boasting a rock climbing wall and surf simulators. Newer ships include even more over the top activities like zip lines, skydiving simulators, and enormous slides. One thing is for certain - you can’t get bored on a Royal Caribbean sailing.
- Royal’s Oasis-class ships are consistently among our top-rated vessels on Cruiseline.com. The newest, Symphony of the Seas, dominated our Members’ Choice Awards in 2019 and 2020.
- While Royal is a great option for outgoing and adventurous families, couples, and singles, it may not be considered the best option for those looking for a quiet getaway.
Celebrity Cruises Prices:
Considered a premium line, Celebrity cruise prices can be more expensive than other mainstream lines, but carry less of a price tag than luxury lines. Overall you can expect the starting prices for a 7 night Caribbean to start around $100 to $125 per night and go up from there based on the category and level of amenities.
- Celebrity generally has great deals available on short 2-4 night cruises to the Bahamas. These trips are generally on older ships, but you can still expect the same innovative, over-the-top entertainment features that Celebrity is known for.
- Newer ships such as Celebrity Edge and the latest introduction to the fleet, Celebrity Apex, typically come with a higher price tag. It is possible to find deals on these ships, depending on the route and time of year.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Prices:
While it’s possible to find good deals on Royal Caribbean sailings, it can be less common for newer ships. Like with most cruise lines, the best prices on Royal Caribbean will be on the smaller, older ships. For newer ships, their price point is slightly less than Celebrity’s new ships.
- Royal’s older ships sail short Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries, but these ships don’t have the new, cutting-edge amenities Royal has become known for over the past decade.
- It’s possible to find good deals for their top ships like Oasis and Allure of the Seas, (think inside cabins from about $70/night per person and balcony cabins from $100/night), but sailing during high-demand times of year will generally cost more.
Our Pick: Draw - Celebrity sailings generally are a bit higher in price point, but you are paying for the premium experience. Expect to find the best deals during off seasons or watch for promotional offers they run periodically throughout the year featuring discounts and value added amenities.
The two lines offer a wide variety of Caribbean, European and Alaskan routes, as well as exotic locations like South America, Asia, Australia, Hawaii and more. Royal Caribbean sails to over 300 destinations and offers specialty cruises including the Panama Canal, Arabian Gulf & North Africa, as well as Transatlantic and Transpacific sailings. Celebrity sails to over 300 destinations in 79 countries, and the Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xploration and Celebrity Xpedition explore the Galapagos Islands year-round.
Our Pick: Celebrity — The Galapagos Islands sailings push Celebrity over the edge along with their extensive list of exotic destinations around the world.
Celebrity Cruises Cabins:
The Celebrity Revolution program was a massive initiative that started in 2019 to overhaul every single stateroom across the line’s fleet to include larger living areas and bathrooms, as well as a king-sized bed. The renovations seem to be working - Celebrity received the top ranking for Overall Cabins in our 2020 Members’ Choice Awards.
- Celebrity’s Edge class inside staterooms (starting at 181 sq. ft) were designed with the modern traveler in mind and include amenities like Smart TVs and signature eXhale™ bedding. Single inside staterooms cater to solo travelers, offering all the amenities of a double stateroom but for the space of one.
- The Infinite Veranda rooms on Celebrity Edge class ships feature a function where the push of a button opens an impressive floor-to-ceiling window to a balcony. These large windows make the cabin feel more spacious, and are larger than a typical balcony cabin.
- The Retreat suite experience offered by Celebrity features a dedicated butler, a private restaurant, and an exclusive lounge. Celebrity is the only premium cruise line to offer such an experience, making it especially enticing for those looking for high-end luxury touches.
- Celebrity offers a variety of suites and specialty cabins, including the two-bedroom Reflection Suite with its glass shower stall cantilevered over the side of the ship, and AquaClass cabins, which provide complimentary access to the spa’s steam room and their own specialty restaurant.
Royal Caribbean Cabins:
Royal’s cabins are considered fairly standard, but you’ll find that newer ships may offer some additional space.
- A unique feature that Royal Caribbean offers for some interior rooms is a ‘virtual balcony’ — a balcony-sized tv screen that displays the actual view off that side of the ship in real-time.
- Another element that sets Royal apart is the sheer variety of suites that are offered on their newer vessels. For example, Oasis and Quantum class ships offer suites with two-story, glass-walled lofts complete with a separate living room.
- Spa staterooms are now available on all Radiance, Voyager, Freedom, Oasis, and Quantum-class ships. These rooms come with the traditional spa amenities like fluffy robes and slippers, luxury bedding, upgraded bathrooms and toiletries, plus jetted shower heads and Bluetooth speakers in each room. Spa staterooms also include discounts on spa treatments and priority spa reservations.
Our Pick: Celebrity - The line’s cabins are larger and offer more amenities both standard and in higher category staterooms. Celebrity also edges out Royal with its speciality suites and The Retreat experience.
Celebrity Cruises Dining:
Celebrity offers a myriad of dining options ranging from casual to upscale, sushi or Italian, inside or al fresco. The dining experience includes a dozen specialty restaurants, the main dining rooms, buffet, and an array of bars and lounges with light bites . The mix of inventive restaurants and cuisines, combined with a top-notch experience of traditional cruise fare, earned Celebrity as our #1 pick for Best Cruise Lines and Ships for Dining and Service in the 2020 Members' Choice Awards.
- Specialty restaurants on Celebrity are among some of the best. At Qsine, diners enjoy small plate-style dishes including sushi “lollipops” and hot crab served on steaming lava rocks. At the Lawn Club Grill, diners can act as the table's ‘grill master’ and enjoy a one-on-one interaction and grilling instruction from chefs. Expect to pay extra to dine at specialty venues with Celebrity.
- Celebrities’ bar offerings include Martini Bar & Crush, on Solstice class ships, which features martinis and cocktails served on an ice-top bar. The Sky Observation Lounge is the perfect spot to gaze over the sea with a cocktail in hand.
- Guests staying in The Retreat can dine at Luminae, a private dining experience featuring curated dishes by renowned chef and Celebrity Cruises Global Culinary Ambassador, Daniel Boulud.
- Celebrity offers two options for dining. Celebrity Select Dining is ideal for travelers who want flexibility in their evening schedules, and requires no set dining times. Traditional Dining is for a designated time each evening for dinner, starting as early as 6pm or as late at 8:30pm. With traditional dining, you’ll be seated with the same people and have the same waitstaff each night.
Royal Caribbean Dining:
Newer Royal Caribbean ships offer so many specialty restaurants, you may not be able to eat at all of them — even on a 7-night sailing. This might be disappointing for cruisers who like to experience everything a ship has to offer, but the upside is that there’s a wide selection of cuisines and dining experiences to choose from across Royal’s fleet
- Royal Caribbean offers ‘My Time Dining’ where passengers are not constrained by set dinner times and can eat when they want. For those that like a traditional seated dining time with the same servers each night, Royal offers this experience as well.
- Top specialty choices include rustic Italian fare from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver at Jamie’s Italian, traditional American steakhouse favorites at Chops Grille, Japanese cuisine at Izumi, whimsical fare at the Alice-inspired ‘Wonderland’ restaurant, modern Mexican dishes at Sabor (with guacamole prepared tableside!), and ice cream and candy at Sugar Beach. These all showcase Royal’s culinary boldness and desire to take onboard dining to the next level and come with an extra charge.
- For diners looking for bites on the go, several Royal Caribbean ships have pizzerias, doughnut shops, and hot dog stands; and most also include Johnny Rockets diners, complete with milkshakes and a ketchup smiley face.
- There is generally one formal night per cruise where passengers are asked to dress up for dinner. As always, those who want to stay casual can enjoy an evening meal in the buffet.
Our Pick: Tie — Celebrity offers a wide range of dining experiences spanning from the highly unique to traditional cruise ship restaurants. Royal Caribbean is at the same level of offerings, especially on newer ships which offer more speciality dining experiences.
Celebrity Cruises Activities:
If you are looking for cruise activities that are unique, educational, and relaxing all in one, Celebrity may be the choice for you. Celebrity’s onboard activities and venues definitely bring the ‘wow’ factor in terms of innovativeness.
- Celebrity Cruises can claim several ship firsts: glassblowing demos and real-grass lawns for bocce, croquet, and golf putting. Classes range from jewelry-making to wine pairing.
- Through a partnership with Park West Gallery, one of the largest art dealers in the world, each Celebrity ship offers a collection of incredible art on board. High-energy live art auctions take place during each sailing.
- The Spa offers an indulgent escape across all of Celebrities’ ships. Choose from over 120 spa treatments including Skin Lab facial mapping and hair services in partnership with Kérastase. Edge Series ships include the SEA Thermal Suite, which includes eight distinctive therapeutic experiences inspired by nature that are the perfect place for an afternoon of onboard bliss.
Royal Caribbean Activities:
Royal Caribbean is known as the pioneer of over-the-top entertainment venues and first-at-sea activities. How do cruisers stay on top of everything going on? A daily Cruise Compass bulletin outlines a plethora of activities for all age groups and adventure seekers,
Our Pick: Royal. Both lines go - dare we say it? Overboard with activities, but Royal Caribbean offers a wide variety of activities for passengers young, old and in between.
Celebrity Cruises Entertainment:
Much like activity choices, entertainment options on Celebrity can be very nontraditional (in a good way) from what you think you will find on a cruise ship. Ranging from classical concerts to ballet, rock shows, and games, Celebrity offers among some of the most diverse entertainment choices across all the lines.
- Stage and other performance events with Celebrity are very innovative. Expect to see unique shows, not plays that you could catch on Broadway. A sample of current performances include “ Crystallize” a multi-sensory performance combining pop violin music and acrobatics, the musical “Colors of Life,” a stadium style concert “Rock City,” “Elyria,” an adults-only musical performance, and pop art concert performance “Kaleidoscope”.
- Celebrity partners with the American Ballet Theatre repertoire for onboard performances as well as ballet barre classes taught by professional ballerinas.
- The popular ‘Deal or No Deal’ TV show becomes a fun, family-friendly entertainment option onboard Celebrity ships. Contestants compete in a high-energy contest for cash. Everyone in the audience gets to play along with the game, and could win up to $5,000 or a free cruise vacation. =
Royal Caribbean Entertainment:
Just like with their onboard activities, Royal Caribbean specializes in adding flashy, high-tech flares to its entertainment.
- Royal’s stage shows deliver Broadway-quality performances for musical-loving passengers. Shows vary by ship, with some including staples like “Mamma Mia,” “Hairspray” and “Grease.”
- The Two70 entertainment venue is a multimedia concert experience made awe-inspiring with video projection and moving screens controlled by robotic arms.
- Many ships offer parades and movies, along with their unique ice-skating and water/diving shows.
- The outdoor AquaTheater on the Oasis class ships is a truly unique venue in cruising, offering high diving and aquatic dancing shows. Some cabins even have a direct view of this theater so you can watch from your balcony.
Our Pick: It’s a toss up — Royal Caribbean does family entertainment very well, and Celebrity entertainment options are better for adults and more discerning travelers, so it really depends on which holds the most appeal for a cruise vacation
Kids & Families
Celebrity Cruises Kids & Families:
Like other mainstream cruise lines, Celebrity has a youth program across the fleet called the Camp at Sea program.
- Camp at Sea includes over 500 activities for junior cruisers. By partnering with world-renowned companies, including Lonely PlanetTM, Xbox, Fat Brain Toys® and Budsies®, Celebrity created four fun-filled (and sometimes educational) categories of interest for kids to take part in during a cruise - art, recreation, culinary, and S.T.E.M.
- Movie night under the stars, silent disco parties, glass blowing classes, archery tournaments, and cupcake decorating are some of the dedicated activities that parents and children can participate in together.
- Celebrity’s X-Club is a space for teens to hang out, play sports, participate in activities like trivia or karaoke, and attend teens-only late night dances. A dedicated specialty spa menu even offers select services to those ages 13-17.
Royal Caribbean Kids & Families:
Alongside their popular youth clubs, Royal Caribbean’s selection of thrilling onboard activities ranks them among the top cruise lines in the world for older kids and teens.
- The Adventure Ocean kids clubs on Oasis class ships have designated areas for toddlers, kids, tweens, and teens, which includes their own theater, video arcade, a DJ academy, and arts and crafts workshops.
- Adventure Ocean offers Late Night Party Zone hours, which start at 10 p.m. Parents can enjoy a special family dinner with their kids before leaving them in the care of the youth counselors. An hourly rate does apply.
- The Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs are a lifesaver to parents of babies and toddlers — drop off your little ones during the day or evening for an hourly fee.
- Many of Royal’s signature amenities are perfect for families with children, such as FlowRider surfing simulators, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and water parks.
Our Pick: Royal Caribbean — Both lines have highly-rated youth programs and an array of amenities around the ship that appeal to kids and their families, but Royal Caribbean edges Celebrity out with more activities for kids and teens. The nursery makes choosing Royal a no-brainer for those with children under 3 years of age. When you factor in that more of Royal’s family-friendly amenities are included in the cruise fare, that makes them an even better value.
Our Overall Pick
Draw - This one is too close to call, pending on personal preferences and what kind of experience you are looking to have on your cruise. Royal Caribbean has distinguished themselves as the line for adrenaline junkies, families and active cruisers, while those who prefer refined activities and relaxation will be drawn to Celebrity's casual elegance.
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