Our cruising history includes an old Carnival cruise 30 years ago, and, since getting back into cruising about ten years ago, 12 Royal Caribbean cruises, one Celebrity, one Princess cruise. This Carnival cruise was chosen for the following reasons: 1). We had a vacation planned for Myrtle Beach, leaving only a fairly short drive to Charleston; 2). Our adult daughter lives in Wilmington, NC, so it was easy for her to join us; 3). Pricing was pretty good.

When comparing cruise lines, it’s only fair to compare comparable ships. I would consider Ecstasy to be basically equivalent of Royal’s Enchantment or Grandeur OTS. Comparing these ships, Carnival wins for its water park areas with slides; Royal wins for overall ship layout.

Embarkation: Parking in Charleston was a hassle. Signage was confusing, lines to park were extremely long, the worst we’ve encountered in all our cruises out of several different ports. Once we were in the terminal things moved fast, helped out by my having purchased “Faster to the Fun” for both of our cabins (by the way, we were four adults, one 7 yr old). It cost me $120 extra to get services I normally get on Royal with our Diamond status. Another advantage of having FTTF was having our cabins ready as soon as we boarded; otherwise, with the exception of departing at our chosen time, FTTF didn’t come into play very much.

Food: There are so many comments on CC regarding food; most opinions favor Royal over Carnival. We actually found the Dining Room food (and service for the most part) to be equal with Royal. No complaints here. Royal, however, comes out ahead in other areas. I always thought Royal’s Windjammer Buffet area was odd with its multiple food stations. I hereby apologize to Royal. On Royal it never took more than 5 minutes to visit all the food counters you wanted for lunch. Ecstasy had separate (and long!) lines for each main area (Mongolian Wok, Grill, Pizza, etc.). It took at least 15 minutes at peak lunch times to get through even one of Ecstasy’s food stations. If you wanted a meal that included a hamburger, some Mongolian Wok, pizza, and items from the main buffet, it would probably take an hour, by which time your food would be cold. Breakfast items included the saddest looking scrambled eggs I’ve ever seen. If you wanted an omelet you had to go to the Mongolian Wok and wait in line, then go to the main buffet line for most other items. In the morning they didn’t have Orange Juice, they had “Orange Cocktail”? Lunch and dinner offered lemonade or iced tea; apple juice was available at breakfast. What else? I thought Carnival had better burgers, but it wasn’t worth standing in line for 20 minutes or so.

Entertainment: Royal wins here. Ecstasy had 2 nights featuring their singers/dancers; extremely talented, felt the choreography was a step below Royal. Other nights were game-show type entertainment. I have to admit to laughing and enjoying the game shows, but it’s definitely a cost-cutting matter for Carnival. Various trivia similar to Royal, although I never saw a trivia game take 2 days before (Trivial Pursuit, 3 hrs over 2 days, at least we won!). Carnival has a bigger emphasis on comedy; mostly raunchy stuff, one family show. Karaoke seemed more popular on Ecstasy; lots of involvement and a good variety of music.

Cabins: similar to Royal (we had 2 OV cabins). Less bathroom storage space, slightly larger shower. Room Steward (Geraldine) was great, but she only did up the room once per day (Royal still does AM & PM). Everything was clean and in working order. I like Royal’s bedding; I like a firm mattress and Carnival was okay, but Royal feels better to me personally.
Kid’s Club: Our 7 year old granddaughter enjoyed the water slides, pool, and kid’s area. I asked her opinion and she said she equally liked Royal and Carnival for their kid’s activities. One place Carnival shines: the Dr Suess breakfast. This was unique and well worth a $5 surcharge. Menu included (of course) Green Eggs and Ham, but also several other choices all Dr Suess related. The Cat in the Hat and Things 1 &2 were available for photos.

Ports: Having been to Nassau several times, and being one of 6 ships in port that day, we just did some walking around and had lunch at Senor Frogs. In Freeport we booked an All-Inclusive day at Memories, Grand Bahamas (good food, nice place). We booked ourselves rather than going through Carnival as most of their excursions were very limited time-wise. Booking on our own gave us as much time as we wanted. Cab ride to Memories was $10pp round trip.

Miscellaneous: Back to food – their fruit salad was melon and pineapple; Royal adds much more watermelon, strawberries. Elevators: Who the heck decided to put letters instead of numbers on the elevators? Inside were numbers, but outside they were listed per deck (Lido, Upper, Main, Etc.). I made a game out of it; tried to see how many words I could make out of the letters. No elevator went from the lowest deck to the top deck. Most trips around the ship involved two elevators, or elevator/stair combos (tough, I’m sure, for a handicapped person).

Disembarking: Smooth, some lines. FTTF made it easier. Customs moved fairly quickly and we made it out of the parking area much quicker than we entered it.

Conclusion: Fun ship? Yeah, I’d have to say I had fun. No real complaints about anything. Again, some of the game shows were sophomoric. If you’re the type who enjoys dressing in a tux for dinner, Carnival might not be for you (on formal night I saw 2 or 3 sports coats, no tuxes). If you’re used to Holland America or the Queen Mary, Carnival might not be for you. On the other hand, if you want a relaxing, fun time, you would probably find Carnival enjoyable. Our next cruise (already booked) will be on Royal. I will probably stick with Royal for most future cruises, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Carnival to anyone. Carnival cuts some corners, but not enough to keep me from possibly cruising with them in the future.
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Explorer OTS 2/04; Serenade OTS 2/05; Voyager OTS 2/06; Sovereign OTS 7/07; Liberty OTS 5/08; Grandeur OTS 2/09; Enchantment OTS 6/2010; Celebrity Eclipse 1/2011; Crown Princess 1/2012 Disney Dream 12/2012;
Explorer OTS 5/13;
Disney wonder October 2013;Liberty of the Seas 1/2014
Enchantment OTS May, 2014... Where's Barb?
October 2014 Majesty OTS;
Adventure of the Seas - October 2015
Brilliance of the Seas - January 2016
Carnival Ecstaasy - August 2016
Oasis of the Seas - September 2016
Anthem of the Seas - October 2017