I had so very much fun on the cruise to Cozumel last week! I'm so blessed to have girlfriends with whom I can be completely myself and am still loved for it. We were a wild bunch...I think several times we might have been mistaken for absolute lushes (even though none of us drink alcohol). So many memories made! With that said, I mentioned yesterday that our Royal Caribbean cruise paled next to a Disney cruise (which I'd like to note had an infinitesimal effect on the amount of fun had last week), but today I'm going to go ahead and compare some of the more detailed aspects in case anyone is really mulling over the two possibilities...costs, ports, activities, etc.
Having only been on two cruises, please keep in mind these are solely my own opinions and is strictly a comparison between the Disney cruise line and Royal Caribbean....although, between you and me, I have a feeling it could apply to most other popular cruise lines.
Okay, here we go...
Service: Disney is known for its fabulous and attentive service. They basically fall over themselves helping you and your children in every aspect. The staff and crew seemed to really be happy to be working (even though I've heard they're paid not so great). Our service on Royal Caribbean was dismal. Not only were we talked down to and treated like idiots by our first dinner waiter, but each time we asked a crew member a question, 99% of the time their answer was a smiling, "I don't know." This even applied to us asking where the bathroom was...they didn't know!!!???!!!! Inexcusable.
Ports: Our favorite part of the Disney cruise was spending a day on the Disney-owned Bahama island of Castaway Cay. It was amazing!!!! I know that you can pretty much pick and chose your ports depending on when you cruise, but for this comparison, I'm sticking with my own experience. On RC, we went to Cozumel, Mexico...which in itself isn't too impressive...however, we paid $100 for a dolphin experience and it was the best money I've spent in a looooong time. Not only was the service great and the dolphin encounter was an experience of a lifetime, the state park of Chankanaab was the perfect place to spend the rest of the day lounging on the beach, snorkeling, etc. I highly recommend this port/excursion...I'd love to take my kids back to swim with the dolphins. Even though in my heart I know there's not much that can beat Castaway Cay, this one is gonna be a tie. Blame it on my affinity for our dolphin, Frida.
Food: No comparison.
Rooms: The RC ship we cruised had supposedly just been renovated, however, there was some basic functionality that severely lacked. One being our showers. They flooded into the entire bathroom and overflowed into the rooms. The toilets flushed only occasionally. Think about those two things for a sec...most people would throw a hissy fit at these basic accommodations performing so poorly. The rooms were fine, albeit smaller than our Disney rooms of the same level. Comparing this "newly renovated" RC ship with the older Disney ship we cruised, the quality of rooms and accommodations was still superior with Disney.
Onboard Entertainment: This is where a stark contrast can be made. Obviously, Disney goes out of their way to ensure the highest quality shows and entertainment...I mean, like a slight step below Broadway people...pretty awesome. Whereas the RC shows of Ice Dancing, comedy, and imitation show tunes were a step above a high school production. I know that's harsh...because it's clear they really do try...but it's the hard, unfortunate truth of parents' thousands of dollars wasted spent on ice skating lessons, manifested in cruise ship entertainment headliners. I kinda felt bad for them. We did enjoy seeing the winners of "The Sing Off" perform a cappella...that was the best entertainment on the RC ship, although I don't think they're permanent.
I also want to make something clear...Disney cruises are by no means only for families with young children. In fact, older kids and even adults tend to have more fun simply because of the vast array of options for them. So in case you're reading this thinking it's an unfair assessment of kid-friendly versus adult cruises...I assure you, it's certainly not.
Costs and packages: This one is a bit tough to compare because I cruised RC alone and Disney with my family of 6. But I will say that I paid $480 for my single Royal Caribbean for a 4 day cruise and we paid under $2500 for the same length on Disney for 6 of us. I'll let you do the math. Disney also includes more in their price, such as drinks, treats, etc....I bought a $30 drink package for just sodas on RC and there were only 2 places on the entire ship at which I could fill up my cup.
So I think I'll stop there. No need to embarrass other cruise lines by highlighting Disney's superiority. I think it's clear to lower your expectations if and when choosing to cruise with another line after cruising with Disney. In our case, the company kept made the trip. It didn't matter if our rooms were flooded or if none of the crew had working knowledge of the cruise or if the food left us wanting (figuratively, not quantitatively) or if we never got the promised cupcake bar we were so much looking forward to...we still had a wonderful time together and I believe that's really what matters. Yes, we can't wait until our next Disney cruise, but sometimes you have to look at the experience as a whole.
When deciding on a cruise line (if I haven't convinced you Disney is the best option yet), go with people with whom you'll enjoy no matter what "set backs" come your way. What I'm trying to say is, if you get a smokin' deal on Royal Caribbean or Carnival or Princess...go for it and make the best of it.