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Did Costa, then Carnival, now RCI... Differences? Similarities?

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Have not been on Costa but have many times on Carnival. You will find all kinds of opinons. I believe it all comes down to what one is looking for in an overall cruise vacation. Again please keep in mind that the below is based on my experiences with both lines and my opinion.


Carnival = 16 times including everything from four day to eight day cruises.

Royal Caribbean = 7 times with everything from four day to seven day cruises.

Ships – The Voyager and Freedom class ships are in a class by themselves. No cruise line has a ship that can touch the options that these ships offer. Even if you are not into rock climbing, ice skating or using the flow rider, the ships themselves are a destination like no other. The Royal Promenade is a one of a kind. RCI has ships that IMHO are decorated like ships with lots of brass and glass. Carnival is very over the top in décor and basically Vegas at sea. Nothing wrong with that but I grew tired of it. I like the space ratio of the newer RCI ships. The worst designed ship that I have cruised IMHO is the Destiny/Conquest class. Poor passenger flow with crowded areas on the promenade deck and around the pools. Very poor passenger to space ratio as well. Ships always felt crowded and they were. Like the Spirit class though. Nice design. Also RCI does a much, much better job of keeping their ships clean and in good working order.

Cabins – On the older class ships Carnival easily takes the award for the larger cabins but on the newer ships RCI is about even with Carnival having a few more feet in the cabin and RCI with a little larger balcony but are just about equal in total square footage. RCI has much nicer suites. RCI also will be complete in the spring of 07with the new upgraded bedding.

Entertainment – Both are pretty close to be equal. Carnival has more comedy acts throughout the week where RCI does a better job with their major productions shows. Main show lounge on the Voyager class ships are much nicer than those of the Conquest or Spirit class ships. Better sight lines. RCI does not have those annoying games of bingo and selling of lottery tickets before the shows.

Food – Both are again very close but keep in mind that food is very subjective and we all have different taste buds. I feel that they both are equal in the main dining rooms. Royal Caribbean has a much better room service menu where you can order hot items such as pizza, hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Also one can order hot breakfast items such as omelets, bacon and eggs. You can also order from the dining room lunch and dinner menus. None of this is available on Carnival. Royal Caribbean also does a much better job with their evening casual dining options. Many items to choose from including items that are being served in the main dining room. Carnival fails here miserably. Carnival has much better pizza and deli but I don’t choose a cruise line by their pizza.

Service and crew - IMHO this is where I noticed the biggest difference. The crew on RCI is much more professional and much more friendly and outgoing. Most of the crew on Carnival is somber and act like they are going through the motions of a day to day routine.

Past Guest Program – Both cruise lines offer them but it took Carnival over 30 years to put one into place and it does not match that of RCI.

Some folks will say that there is not much difference in the two lines but for me there is a huge difference. So much that I will not sail with Carnival again. To me their product is cheaper and not in price but in the overall product that they deliver. It all comes down to what one expects in an overall cruise experience and for me RCI delivers that and Carnival falls short in many areas.

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wow.. cruisingator2 nailed it. He said pretty much exactly what i would have said. The first cruises I went on were CArnival and I was hooked. I was also single and in my late 20s :-) A couple years ago my husband and I went on Navigator... since then Valor, Majesty and Westerdam and none has compared. WE are on in Enchantment in a few weeks... and while I don't expect it to equal Navigator, we're excited.


I would sail on Carnival again MAYBE for an exceptional itinerary and it would have to be pretty dran cheap and a new ship, but other than that... my preferance has absolutely shifted to RCI.


I'm curious to hear the OPs perceptions of Costa, because they have some intriguing itineraries.

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Haven't done either Costa or Carnival, but don't be concerned that the Grandeur isn't a a Radiance or Voyager class ship - it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the newer ships, but its one of my favorites. Also doing another on the Grandeur this winter, it will be my 3rd.

We've been on both the Mariner (the Mall at Sea) and The Caribbean Princess in the last few months, and both are nice, but I'll take the Grandeur over either. My one word sum up - elegant!

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Im in agreement with Cruisingator as well. Just off my first cruise with RCI. Have been on 4 Carnivals and I have to say I wasnt thinking there would be much of a difference but there really was especially in the service. Its almost like RCI treats their employees better or they are on (commission or something !) haaaa...LOL, cause they really seemed nicer and friendlier and more efficient. There didnt seem to be any attitude whatsoever. And their midnight buffet and deck party was awesome !!.roast pig for gods sake, how cool is that ? And all we did was go on one of their oldest ships, The Majesty, so I can imagine what its like on the Explorer Im going on in Jan 07.

You will have a blast !!!!

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I agree with much that has already been said about the differences between Carnival and RCI. I love both lines equally and will sail both of them again. I would say that RCI is a bit more classy and Carnival is a bit more fun. I have not found the staff on Carnival to be any less friendly, indeed the best waiters we have had have been on Carnival.


Don't be worried about a Vision class ship, we were on Splendour recently and enjoyed it just as much as Voyager. Its true that RCI really look after their ships, it seemed almost new. We were on Carnivals Paradise last year(about the same age) and it was definitely more worn.


Having just booked our first cruise on Costa for next year I would be interested to hear your opinion on them too.



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Our first cruise was Costa, and I understand that in itself could cloud my objectivity. We did a Western Caribbean (Ocho Rios, Cozumel, Georgetown). It was a fantastic experience. I see a lot of mixed reviews for Costa, but I could find nothing to complain about (ok, the matress was a bit thin... and there was no orchestra/band for the production shows...there you have it). The food was great/creative, with a pasta course served at dinner. The staff and crew were very attentive and always upbeat. The ship (Mediterreana) was gorgeous.


Our subsequent tour on Carnival (Sensation) had a tough act to follow, we had a great time (hey, I'm on vacation where it is warm, I refuse to have anything but!), but the the ship showed lots of wear (it is a much older ship than the Mediterraena), the crew/staff mostly just seemed to be doing their duty, rather than being there to serve. The food was not as good/creative. They did have a band for the production shows that was excellent and the beds were fantastic.


The clientele was quite different between the 2 cruises. On Costa there was a predominence of European travelers.. that combined with the European themed ship made for an across the big pond sort of vibe throughout the tour, a very relaxed atmosphere. On Carnival it was springbreak in the SE US, so lots of GA & AL folks... It was more of a rowdy, Nascar atmosphere. Average adult age on Costa was probably 50 whereas Carnival was probably 40.

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