Clearly, we love Disney. And we LOVE the Disney Cruise Line. But the time had finally come for us to venture out of our comfort zone and try something different. At the end of June, we sailed to Alaska aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. How did Royal Caribbean stack up? You’re about to find out with the Ultimate Throwdown: Disney Cruise Line Versus Royal Caribbean!
I was totally expecting Royal Caribbean’s service to pale in comparison to Disney Cruise Line’s. But I was WRONG. In fact, I sometimes felt that the Royal Caribbean staff worked even harder than Disney’s staff to make our cruise memorable. But (and this is significant) Royal Caribbean’s staff-to-guest ratio is much lower than Disney’s. With more people to take care of, everything simply took longer. This was true across the board, from restaurant servers to stateroom hosts to Guest Services staff. Consequently, Disney and Royal Caribbean are neck-and-neck in this category.
Royal Caribbean has more stateroom options than Disney, including several suite categories. If
you can swing one of these Royal Caribbean suites (especially a Grand Suite or higher), you’ll have tons of space and lots of amazing perks at a much more affordable price than Disney’s suites. But when it comes to regular staterooms, Disney takes the clear win. Nobody makes better use of space than Disney. And NOBODY keeps families in mind more than Disney: separate sleeping areas for kids and grownups, TONS of storage, and two super-important words: split bathroom. Enough said.
Dining: DISNEY (by a nose)
Quality: Honestly, I saw no significant difference in the quality of the food between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. It's a dead heat here.
Specialty Restaurants: While I LOVE me some Palo on Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean has WAY more variety when it comes to specialty restaurants. There really is something for everybody on these ships. Royal Caribbean gets this one.
Main Dining: Disney has mastered this with its rotational dining concept. Each night, guests rotate to one of three different restaurants…and their servers follow. On Royal Caribbean, guests spend each night in the same restaurant at the same table. Even though there’s some variety in menu offerings every evening, the ambiance gets boring. Disney wins this one by such a large margin that it nudges itself ahead of Royal Caribbean in the entire dining category.
Activities: ROYAL CARIBBEAN (unless you’ve got younger kids ~ then it’s Disney by a mile)
Kids and Young Families: Disney easily takes the win for kids and their families. The kids’ clubs are expansive, taking up almost an entire deck of ship space. Plus, they offer some of the longest complimentary operating hours at sea. Not to mention the splash pads and kiddie slides, countless character encounters, princess and pirate makeovers, and nightly family-friendly musical productions performed by uber-talented Cast Members. No contest here.
Tweens and Teens: This one goes to Royal Caribbean. While both Disney and Royal Caribbean offer fun clubs for older kids, Disney’s tween/teen appeal ends at the club doors. Not so with Royal Caribbean. With activities like Flow Riders, ziplines, rock-climbing walls, and multiple pools/hot tubs, Royal Caribbean takes the win here.
Adults: If you enjoy rolling the dice, you’re out of luck on Disney Cruise Line: none of the Disney vessels have casinos. And if your idea of a relaxing vacation involves the occasional adult beverage, it’s important to note that Disney does not offer beverage packages. Royal Caribbean fills in these gaps nicely, and they offer a wider variety of adult entertainment than Disney does. Royal Caribbean for the win here.
Value: VARIES BY INDIVIDUAL
When it comes to cost, Royal Caribbean is an incredible value. On our recent Alaskan Cruise, we booked a spacious Grand Suite (complete with complimentary concierge services) for nearly $4000 LESS than a regular verandah stateroom on a similar itinerary aboard the Disney Cruise Line. Admittedly, more amenities come standard on the Disney Cruise Line (including soda). But even when these inclusions are factored in, Royal Caribbean still comes out ahead in cost.
That being said, there is undeniably something intangibly special about the Disney Cruise Line. Magical, in fact. And it’s difficult to put a value on that.
Personally, I would still pick Disney Cruise Line every time. But now that we have older kids, the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is truly a better fit for our family. And I was pleasantly surprised at the service and quality that Royal Caribbean offered. I’ll still sail Disney Cruise Line whenever I get the chance, but we will definitely be sailing Royal Caribbean as a family again as well.
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