I have gone on both and like both equally. To me it depends on what you are looking for. I think the cruise directors and entertainment staff are much more upbeat and engaging on Carnival. For fun and more activities or events Carnival it is. If you are looking for a more laid back and relaxing cruise, Royal is the way to go. Food depends on each person and what they like. I think every ship cooks differently. You will have a great time if you choose Royal. It never hurts to give something different a try to see if that brand is a match for you and your vacation needs. I know others are talking about perks. However since this would be your first, this would not matter. Overall both brands are fantastic and provide my family with a great vacation. Royal won this upcoming cruise. We will be sailing on Adventure out of NY this May. Last 2 cruises were on Carnival.