Posted April 26th, 2012, 08:24 AM
Here is a post I had on a Disney board. Being a general Disney fan myself I find that it is hard for Disney fans to not want to consider other options because Disney generally does things so well.
Having said that, comments that say that RCCL is Vegas style compared to Disney is totally off. Here were my comparisons - like the situation the OP is in now I had last sailed on Allure before trying disney.
Long story short, I would cruise on either without any hesitation. Both have their perks and drawbacks which I will describe below.
First, some background. We are a family of 5 (kids are all under 10). We are DVC members and travel to Disney on average of once per year. While we love vacationing in Disney, I don't have Disney-rose-colored glases. i.e. I certainly don't think everything Disney does is flawless. My kids like Disney as well but are at the point that if they see a character, they'll want a picture with them if there is no line but certainly don't to wait in line for one.
We have done 3 cruises in the past, all on RCCL: Voyageur (pre-kids), Freedom (with kids) and most recently Allure one-year ago. We loved all of those, and when doing this most recent Disney Dream cruise last week, I used those RCCL experiences as a bench mark. I realize all those RCCL ships are different, but they are the three most recent vessels on that line. While the Dream is not a large as Allure (it's more similar to Freedom), when I do draw comparisons I use Allure as a comparator as the pricing is similar to that of the Dream/Fantasy.
Here are my comments about experiences on DCL vs RCCL:
Both lines are nice. The steamship look of DCL is a nice touch, but honestly once on board I'm not sure if I continued to notice it. I don't envision myself being on another line in the future and wish that it looked like the DCL ships.
We had a family oceanview room on the Dream which we loved. We've only had a standard interior room on RCCL so hard to make direct comparisons. The one thing that stands out though is on DCL, the ergonomics of the desk and storage were excellent. Despite our family of 5, we actually had drawers we didn't have to use, and didn't have to trip over suitcases. The space under the bed and in the trunk were well used. Liked having the split bathroom and thought the shower was great.
The looks cabin interior is something for which I liked DCL more than RCCL. Not that RCCL is bad, but DCL seemed a bit more warm. But if you're not in your room much it won't be a big difference maker.
I've read people having differing views on this one. For RCCL you get on whenever you arrive at the port, but you are given an assigned time or order to get off. On DCL it's the opposite - you have an assigned time to get on, but can get off whenever you like. So it's whatever is more important for you. I personally liked how easy it was to get off the DCL ship - you were guaranteed to have breakfast with your regular servers which was nice but stil able to get off early. We chose this early disembark time and it was smooth. Can't say if it would have been more hectic if we chose to get off a bit later. I really appreciated how easy it was to navigate in the terminal. Everything was clearly marked, and there were marked lanes to lineup for rental car shuttles. On RCCL it seemed that once you left the building you were on your own.
on RCCL it's like a center hall entryway of a house. You have the Promenade, lined with shops, where tons of people can walk back and forth without huge traffic flow issues, and the rooms line either side. When I first got on the Dream, I found myself missing this main path, and found it odd to have to walk by rooms to get from one end of the ship to the other. Also it felt awkward to have to go through bars to get from the aft elevators on the 4th deck to the front of the ship. So overall the RCCL layout makes more sense, but honestly once I got used to the different DCL it wasn't a big deal. Although I continued to find the elevators opening in the middle of Cabana's a bit odd. Also the sun deck space on the 13th deck forward was pretty much empty the entire cruise. I know it's nice to have quiet space for people to relax, but when you have a pool deck on sea days that is packed you wonder if better use could have been made of that space.
Food & drink:
Overall very similar. The rotational dining on DCL was neat, but wasn't a make it or break it thing for me. I liked Royal Palace the most, which is most like the main dining room in RCCL. I found both Enchanted Gardens and Animator's Palate a bit crammed, but not enough to really bother me.
The food in the regular dining rooms were similar between cruise lines.
Specialty dining: Palo was awesome, as was 150 Central park on RCCL so both excellent options.
Buffet dining; similar between the two in my opinion although I valued how on RCCL you could access it in the evening before bed. This was not possible on DCL.
What i mean by this are opportunities and locations to just get away from the action or chaos and spend quiet time with the family. Both lines have adult-only areas, but I like being able to spend relaxation time with my kids outside of the stateroom. This is one thing that bothered me a bit on DCL. On RCCL you could escape the madness of the pool deck and go to the Promenade and have pastries, slice of pizza, sandwiches, free coffee, or get a sausage or donut on the Boardwalk, or hang out in Central park with a snack from the Park Cafe. On DCL you could go to Flo's to get pizza/burgers/chicken strips/sandwiches etc. - but it's up on the pool deck and frankly on days at sea by the afternoon I just wanted to avoid that craziness. I did try the Cove Cafe (which I loved) but you have to purchase a drink in order to get the snacks and kids are technically not allowed. It was similar at the Vista Cafe.
I had a hard time getting my kids to leave Adventure Ocean on RCCL, and also on the Dream. They mentioned they liked Disney's more, but related it to having more video-game style activities. But one thing I trust Disney more than other company is occupying kids, so have to give it top marks for sure. Not that RCCL's is bad, and I think it's probably right after Disney's. One thing RCCL did seem to do was take the kids outside (for example, on the sports court). On Disney they seemed to be restricted to the Oceaneer area. I give the Disney kids-club staff credit - how they manage all those kids in there is beyond me.
Sports & activities
For thrills RCCL has rock-climbing walls, zipline (Allure/Oasis), Flow-riders. The Dream/Fantasy has the aquaduck. I found a bit more 'staying power' with the RCCL offerings. I suspect teens would feel the same way. The Aquaduck is fun, but with the lineups for it especially while at sea, I didn't find I wanted to keep doing it.
Pools: definitely better on RCCL.
Sports deck: both have ping pong and mini golf. Liked how it was set up on RCCL where it was sheltered a bit more. Couldn't even play ping pong on the Dream as it was so windy up the there. But again, not a make it or break it thing.
Disney seems to be renowned for its service. Honestly I didn't find too much difference from the service we got at RCCL. It may be different on the smaller Disney boats in which fewer passengers allows for a more personal experience but I found service on the Dream similar to RCCL's Freedom or Allure.
We did most of the shows on both. We're not big on any of them, and attending them is generally low priority on our list of things to do on the ships. Having said that, the entertainment on both were very good. On the Dream you don't have to worry about shows being kid friendly whereas on RCCL you have to make sure to check first.
I definitely found DCL's passengers to be more friendly, which is not surprising. on RCCL, especially on Allure, the passengers are mostly families as well, but I found there were more older teens on board and you noticed them. On the Dream, I recall looking out onto the Vibe area and no one was there. I'm sure there were teens on board but generally less noticeable.
So putting everything together, I loved both experiences. Our next cruise is on the Oasis, and after that the Fantasy. Once our kids are all over 10 I think we'll probably book more on RCCL as there are more activities for older kids to do.
Standouts on each:
Dream - Palo, staterooms, Kids Clubs
RCCL (Allure/Freedom) - activities for adults and teens(Flow rider!), zones to have quiet family time (e.g. Central park), 150 Central Park, Park Cafe
Hope this helps. Feel free to ask questions.