Guest Blog Reviews
Carnival - Royal Caribbean - Norwegian
A Private Island Only Royal Caribbean Offers
Today we docked in RCI’s private “island,” Labadee, which is on the north coast of Haiti
To start our day off right, Mike and I had breakfast in the MDR. He asked for grits and bacon, “extra crisp.” I asked for oatmeal, and bacon, “extra crisp.” After a few minutes, our waiter, Michael from India, delivers our food. There was a bowl of grits, a bowl of oatmeal and TWO DINNER SIZED PLATES piled three inches high with REALLY crispy bacon!!! Mike and I both immediately burst out laughing because there was enough bacon on those two plates to feed a family of eight! And it was just the two of us! Poor Michael the waiter. He immediately thought something was wrong and started apologizing! We explained there was no problem, it was just funny that they served us that MUCH bacon! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me- would have loved a pic of that!
We soon got all the kids together and disembarked the ship. Brittany, Mallory and Michael were all signed up to do the “Dragon’s Breath Flight Line” at 9 a.m. The flight line is the world’s longest zip line over open ocean- over a half mile long! They drive the riders up a small mountain in a specially designed jeep and they ride down from there. Michael’s not too keen on heights, but he wanted to do it. Kim had no interest whatsoever! Mike and I would have probably done it, but it was very pricey, so we decided just to let the kids do it, while we stood on the beach and took pictures of them as they rode down! They all agreed it was a great ride and the scenery was fantastic. I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but there were actually five separate zip lines! Each line had a different level of tension, and the riders were assigned lines based on their weight! Yes, they actually WEIGHED each rider before they went up the mountain, then assigned them to a specific line!
After the ride, we walked to “Nellie’s Beach,” which is on the Caribbean Sea side of the Labadee peninsula. The water there is much calmer and more suited to swimming, snorkeling, etc.
Labadee zip line
Spent a few hours there, swimming and drinking the drink of the island, “Labadoozies.” Some sort of rum/mango/pineapple concoction. Very, very good!
Dinner was in the Adagio dining room, our very first dinner there! We met our server, Tyare, from Jamaica, and her assistant, Priscilla, from the Philippines.
Following dinner, we had reservations for Oceanaria!, a water-themed show which took place outdoors in the Aqua Theater. The show featured divers who were diving into a VERY SMALL pool of water! Very scary! If any of you have ever seen the Cirque du Soleil "O" show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, this was a very similar program, just on a smaller scale. We sat in the splash zone, but we didn't get wet. This show is one that sometimes gets delayed and/or cancelled, depending on the weather and the size of the waves. I'm glad we got to see the show in it's entirety...
Today was the first of our two "at sea" days before we get back to Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday for turnaround day.
It was a pretty quiet day, really. We started it off with a buffet breakfast in the dining room. Following that, we had an appointment with the RCI Loyalty Ambassador. We booked another cruise for May of '12! We'll be taking a six night cruise to Bermuda out of Baltimore, MD. We've never been to Bermuda before, so we're really looking forward to it! It takes about a day and a half to sail to Bermuda from Baltimore, then you spend about 3 days docked in Kings Wharf.
Mid morning, Mike went to the gym to put some time in on the elliptical, while I updated my blog. Mike told me that there were several Asian women who were dressed "to the nines" in formal attire, high heels, jewelry, fancy handbags, etc Allure's "infinity" whirlpool in the Solarium . Apparently, they were walking ON THE TREADMILLS! They had their camera straps and handbags straps wrapped around the bars of the treadmills. I guess one of the gym attendants told them they needed to get off the equipment because they weren't wearing proper exercise footwear! Hilarious...
After that, we went to the ship's ice skating rink, Studio B, try to catch an ice skating show based on the movie "How to Train Your Dragon." It had a very clever name- "How to Train Your Dragon On Ice"!! Duh. Anyway, I'm not usually all that fond of kid's movies, but that was one that I really did enjoy. So, even though it was a "kids" show, we LOVED it!! The costumes were just amazing.
After the ice show, it was off the the pool deck to rest/swim/hot tub for a few hours. Dinner was at the Park Cafe. We LOVE their custom salads and roast beef sandwiches!
For the evening, we walked around the Royal Promenade for a couple of hours, had a couple of drinks, and I had my first frozen Mojito!. I love Mojitos, but never had a frozen one before. We checked out our photos in the photo shop, picked up a watch that Mike bought yesterday (they were removing a link from the band), spent time people watching, etc.
We were back in our stateroom by 10 p.m. We opened the sliding glass doors to our balcony, and we could hear the beautiful music from the live quartet that was playing in Central Park, two decks below. Very relaxing... One thing is for sure, I've never had problems sleeping on a ship...
If I didn’t stir the pot enough with my what to wear on formal night post, I am sure to ruffle a few feathers over which cruise line is better… Carnival or Royal Caribbean. This debate can get down right nasty and it seems the two sides don’t really like each other much (even though they are both excellent cruise lines). Carnival fans think Royal Caribbean food is terrible and their cabins too small and Royal Caribbean fans think Carnival cruisers are just a bunch of drunks that like to cruise on inferior ships. Is Royal Caribbean better than Carnival? Let’s find out in a head to head duel to the death. Okay… maybe not to the death… but at least until we crown the first unofficial heavy weight Cruise Legs champion. For this contest we will compare Royal Caribbean to Carnival in ships, food, price, onboard activities and cabins… may the best cruise line win.
Oasis of the Seas Aqua Theater from Waaay Up © by Paul Dickerson
Best Cruise Ships – Royal Caribbean
If you ever get into an argument with a Carnival fan that refuses to say the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas is better than any ship Carnival has to offer then you need to just walk away and let them live in their fantasy world. The best Carnival cruise ship, the Dream, doesn’t even come close to the Royal Caribbean Freedom class much less the Oasis class. It’s not even a close second.
While Royal Caribbean keeps coming up with new things that make you say “Wow!” like the wave rider, ice rinks at sea, aqua theaters, inside balcony cabins, zip lines and bars that move between levels, Carnival’s main improvements have been the addition of water slides and even more neon.
Best Cruise Ship Activities – Royal Caribbean
Since we just mentioned some of the awesome activities onboard the Royal Caribbean ships lets go ahead and declare the obvious winner for the best activities on a cruise ship. With Royal Caribbean you can go surfing, rock wall climbing, rollerblading, ice skating or you can ride a Ferris Wheel, hop a ride on a floating bar or even take a ride a zipline. You can even catch daily parades on the promenade deck featuring some of Dreamworks best animation characters such as Kung Fu Panda or the Penguins of Madagascar. Still not enough… then head to the back of the Oasis class ships to catch a dive show at the Aqua Theater.
The main Carnival cruise activities center around the pool decks and their party like atmosphere. Carnival recently did a great job of upgrading some of their older Fantasy class ships with water parks and they have expanded on these water parks in their newest ships providing some of the best slides at sea. Carnival also borrowed a page from their Sister line Princess Cruises and has began installing large TV screens by the pool where you can watch movies or even watch live sports. I will also give Carnival the nod for best comedians. Some of the funniest comedians I have seen anywhere have been on a Carnival cruise ship.
Best Cruise Line Food – Royal Caribbean
It’s funny to hear fans of these two lines argue over the quality of food in the main dining room as neither in my opinion is even close to being the best cruise food at sea. In my opinion that award goes to Celebrity and it seems that the readers of Porthole Magazine would agree with me as they have awarded Celebrity with that award as well. As for our contenders, there isn’t much difference in the main dining room although the chocolate melting cake certainly helps give Carnival Cruise Line food a slight edge. But what Carnival gains in points for the melting cake, they give back with the horrible nightly skits. Please just let me eat in peace.
Both cruise lines are also the same when it comes to specialty restaurants and usually only have one or two on each ship such as a steakhouse or Italian restaurant. Having eaten at these on both lines I can say this is basically a draw as they seem to be on the ship because every other line is doing it and they want to put it in the brochure.
Where Royal Caribbean food starts to pull away is in small alternative eateries such as Johnny Rockets (small additional fee) and places like the Seaview Cafe (no additional fee) on the Serenade of the Seas which is a great non crowded hideaway to grab a bite to eat as the ship sails away. The Oasis of the Seas and the Allure expand the options even more with several eateries located among the “neighborhoods” such as an ice cream parlor, Rita’s Cantina and the Park Cafe. Even though some of these places have small additional fees, it’s still nice to have options from the normally so-so lunch buffets offered on the ship.
To be fair Carnival does offer buffet alternatives such as a sushi bar, a deli and a fish and chips location on some ships but they are typically all on the main Lido deck around the buffet dining area and it feels more like a Vegas buffet food station than a different place to eat.
Navigator of the Seas Balcony Cabin
Cruise Ship Cabins
Carnival cruise fans second biggest complaint against Royal Caribbean is for the size of the cabins. After a closer look however this may not be so true. The stigma comes from the two oldest Sovereign class Royal Caribbean ships which offer some of the smallest rooms at sea and are quite frankly two bad cruise ships. Because they cruise the small 3 and 4 night sailings many first time cruisers start with one of these ships and then they are left with a bad taste for RCL.
When comparing two middle of the road ships for each line it is a different story all together. To keep this a fair fight lets just compare balcony cabins and keep the suites out of the contest. After all this competition is turning ugly enough for Carnival. There is no need to mention how great the spa suites and loft suites are on the Oasis (oops! maybe we just did). The Carnival cruise ship cabins on the Glory weigh in at 185 sq ft plus a 35 sq ft balcony while the Royal Caribbean cabins on the Navigator of the Seas weighs in at 188 sq ft for the main cabin and 50 sq ft for the balcony….huh? But I thought Carnival cabins were so much bigger than RCL. Seems the actual numbers don’t agree.
I’d also like to throw out another cabin difference that I mentioned in my Navigator of the Seas review. Carnival balcony cabins come with an out swinging door to the balcony as opposed to a sliding door on the RCL ships. This may not sound like much but the sliding doors give you a much better view, allow you to leave the door open at night and don’t require anyone sitting on the balcony to move every time you open the door.
Cheapest Cruise Line – Carnival
Carnival finally keeps this contest from being a Royal Caribbean clean sweep and proves they may even be the smartest cruise line in the process. While cruise passengers are paying a premium for all of the amenities onboard the Royal Caribbean ships, Carnival has kept their improvements smaller and their prices lower. In the process they have strengthened their spot as the world’s largest cruise line by appealing to the masses where it counts… the pocket book.
More times than not I have even chosen to cruise with Carnival over Royal Caribbean based on price alone. Considering the cheapest 7 night Carnival cruises in September start around $500 compared to $850 for the cheapest 7 night Royal Caribbean cruises for the same period it becomes tough to justify the difference. Although to fair I always find myself wishing I was on Royal Caribbean after I board the Carnival ship.
Overall Winner (in a land slide) – Royal Caribbean