I took two cruises recently. Both were out of Galveston, Royal Caribbean, 4-day Vision of the Seas and Carnival 5-day Valor. Both were very enjoyable and both were needed breaks from the routine and the stress of day to day work. We had very different experiences on both and hopefully our experiences will enhance or help you decide on your next cruise or 1st cruise.
Royal Caribbean had the best boarding process and “drink” package. We received our Sea Card as at checkin. Go to the dock when your scheduled time is, we did and walked right up to the counter, checked in and when we finished checkin, they called our boarding group to board. We weren’t in the terminal for more than 5 minutes. Since we had our Sea Card our “drink” package began immediately. We used a parking service that carries you in a van, right up to the terminal.
Carnival’s boarding process was even faster, but they did not take our pictures and did not give us our Sea Card. We boarded with our boarding passes and had to pay for every drink we ordered, even though we had purchased a drink package. We used a parking service for this cruise as well, which also took us right up to the terminal.
Royal Caribbean had high quality food in the dining room and average food at their other locations. They charged for room service, which is the only source of 24 hour food. They also had tremendous service, never letting you sit long before some asked you if you needed anything. Our rooms were kept clean with fresh towels daily. The entertainment was OK. The outdoor movies were dated and not appealing. The main show was great, one out of 4 times. The comedian was terrible. The music around the ship was average. The activities stopped around 10:30 or 11:00 and the ship closed up, nothing opened. For many that is great, for me, I am a nite owl and love late night snacks…Pizza, Sandwiches, Ice Cream, but they were not available 24 hours on Royal. There were not a lot of activities either, that were free and alluring. My wife loved the cruise, I thought it was boring.
Carnival had average food in the dining room. Great hamburgers at Guy’s Hamburgers. Fresh sandwiches at the deli. An assortment of great food filled the buffet and good stir fry was available at the Mongolian Grill. Great street tacos and burritos were put together as ordered daily. They were good too. Carnival also had BBQ at another location, which I did not get around to. Pizza, Ice Cream and cookies are available 24 hours. The deli is open late as well. The food was better than average at all the locations, the dining room was the only average food. I didn’t use room service, but it looked like it was free and 24 hours.
Carnival’s activities continued past midnight and were fun and entertaining. The main shows were average, except the last one, it was great. The music around the ship was exceptional. The whole atmosphere was much more upbeat. Of course there are louder cruisers on Carnival and some that were a little over “baring” and they didn’t enforce the dress code in the dining room. The outdoor movies were good. All in all the entertainment was much better on Carnival, for me anyway. And since they went into the night, I was not bored. And fun activities on Carnival were free.
When we got home at departed the ship, Royal Caribbean was much faster and organized than Carnival. But we got off both ships fairly quickly and with no problems at all.
You will enjoy both Royal Caribbean and Carnival. If you are looking for a peaceful retreat with less activity, Royal might be your best choice. If you are looking for entertainment, excitement and fun while getting away, then Carnival might be your best choice.
We have one more this year. I’ll let you know about it when we take it.