Monday 20 January 2014

Cruise Comparison

I was extremely fortunate to have the unique opportunity to sail on three cruises in the span of a year. These cruises were all Caribbean-based and took place on three separate cruise lines - Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. There are clear perks when you stick with one cruise line and keep sailing with that company - and due to that I wanted to do a personal comparison with my thoughts and opinions. Looking at a number of categories, I have listed my personal favourite out of the three ships. 

Staterooms: Princess 

Princess by far had the nicest staterooms - but that was likely due to our sailing on the mini-suite category. The sofa provided some extra space, and the overall room never felt cramped. As the bathroom had a tub, it provided additional space and I never felt claustrophobic as I have in other bathrooms. The balconies were a bit of a disappointment though, as people could lean down and over and see in. Celebrity is a close second as their balcony staterooms were great. The balconies were covered and private, and the inside of the staterooms also had a sofa making them roomier. The bathrooms were nicely decorated, and while on the small side, still not horrible. 
Royal Caribbean's stateroom bathrooms were awful. Very cramped, and plain. They seemed more like a bathroom from a medical or army ship - very sterile looking and not comfortable. The actual staterooms were also cramped and the walls thin enough you could hear the rooms beside you. The balconies were semi-private as people could look in if they leaned a bit. 

Staff/Service: Princess 

Everyone was incredibly friendly on Princess - no matter what area I was in, the staff and service was welcoming, upbeat and friendly. Celebrity's staff tended to be rude, often ignoring any requests or questions. The main waiter at dinner was awful to my mother and I, only giving attention to my father and husband. The overall atmosphere was the vibe that money talks and unless you were flashing tips around, you weren't worthy or service. Royal Caribbean had some great staff, but on the whole many seemed overworked. When we talked to our waiter and steward they mentioned staffing cuts which had left them with a lot of additional work and it was apparent. 

Pool area: Royal Caribbean & Princess 

Royal Caribbean had an amazing adult pool area, one that mom and I used daily. They also enforced the age minimum which was appreciated. The other pool areas also seemed great - there were special kids pools as well as a family one. Princess had two great main pools (the adult on was pretty small) but I found since the cruise line is aimed to older adults it didn't matter. Princess also had food service at the pool area in addition to the usual bars, that was helpful if you didn't want to go to the buffet but instead remain at the pool during lunch. Celebrity had a horrible pool area. There were just two of them, both very small, side-by-side, one adults and one all ages. Both filled up quickly, especially the all ages one, and many arguments broke out between staff and guests with children who wanted access to both. 

Bars: Celebrity 

Celebrity had excellent choices and variety. There was an entire bar devoted to beer, one to martinis, an ice bar (specializing in vodka) and a fancy wine tasting room. The other bars all offered an array of cocktail options and were decorated in various themes. The coolest bar was the Molecular Bar which had a ton of crazy cocktails - including one that had liquid nitrogen on top!  There was something for everyone - and the choices were endless. Plus the all-inclusive bar package applied to all of these areas. Royal Caribbean had some good options with different themes and decor, and they had Coke machines scattered around the ships. People with beverage packages could use a re-fillable cup and go around and get soda whenever they felt like it. The bars had a number of options and the varying bars had different options. The downfall was the beverage package which could only be purchased if everyone in the stateroom got it. This doesn't make sense as not everyone drinks liquor or soda.  
Princess was the most limited - the bars were pretty straightforward and boring and all of them included the same cocktail list and menu. There was a wine area, but that selection was also limited. They also didn't have any beverage package - besides a basic soda one. 

Ship Features: Celebrity & Royal Caribbean 

Celebrity had a large array of options - pools, casino, shops, multiple bars/clubs, art classes, and a lawn area that had a slew of activities. There were also a bunch of speciality restaurants and other classes/activities in a wide variety of subjects. However the costs attached to this was incredibly high - so many of these I didn't bother utilizing. Based on that Royal Caribbean would be my ultimate choice. They had a similar amount if these actives and features - and the costs were either low or non-existent. 

Casino: Royal Caribbean

I really liked the casino layout and variety on Royal Caribbean. They had some great choices for slot machines - and in differing denominations which is always a benefit. I don't tend to use the casinos too much - but I disliked the automated dealing of Princess and found the Celebrity casino had a ton of the multiple line penny machines - you think it's reasonable but when you play max bet (which you need to for any bonus features) it can be upwards of $4.00 a spin! 

Food: Princess 

Overall Princess had the best food - there was great variety and choice. Everything was delicious - and the main dining room, buffets, pizza area, cafe and burger place were wonderful. We didn't use any of the specialty restaurants but there were only two and it didn't seem to impact the main dining options. Celebrity however puts all the focus on the speciality restaurants which are additional costs. Many of the special dishes like lamb, lobster etc are not served in the main dining room - being reserved for the speciality dining. Royal Caribbean was  in the middle - the main dining room had good food at dinner, but the breakfast and lunch buffets weren't the greatest. We did use the speciality Italian restaurant twice which was an extra $20.00 each and it was incredible. But when looking at the food included in the overall cruise cost my pick would be Princess which was great overall. 

Activities and Entertainment- Princess or Royal Caribbean 

Both Princess and Royal Caribbean had a great mix of actives for all ages. Many of these were free or low-cost. Celebrity seemed to have more higher end actives - often which huge price tags. Bingo for example cost $45.00 for a round. In terms of Entertainment - Royal Caribbean's was amazing. Every show or act was enjoyable. There was also a variety of comedy, skating, music and dance. Princess had a good mix, and was mostly good. Celebrity however was a disappointment - I've never walked out a show on any other cruise. 

Overall: Princess or Royal Caribbean 

Going forward my first choice would be Princess as I was very impressed by them in many areas. While they do tend to geared toward an older crowd, the quieter pace is relaxing which is the main point of a cruise! I would also look into Royal Caribbean as they are a really great line as well and have fantastic entertainment in addition to newer ship designs. If it were up to only me, I wouldn't bother with Celebrity again. 

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