The battle is on for the best cruise line for families – and it’s a tight race between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. Both are declaring war when it comes to levels of fun, adventure, and something for everyone in the family.
So which one should you pick?
The arrival of the new Carnival Splendor has rejuvenated life back into the line which previously only had two favourites sailing Down Under – the Carnival Legend and the Carnival Spirit.
The fleet has captivated the hearts of cruisers with its fun atmosphere and kids’ facilities.
With more capacity than any of the line’s other ships, the Carnival Splendor has more dining options, special spa suites and a new thrilling waterslide.
Royal Caribbean’s entrance into the market in 2008 with Voyager of the Seas saw a new type of cruising available to Australians. Onboard were more dining options and other activities aside from waterslides for the kids.
Now, Royal have one of the most technologically advanced fleet in the world with new wave games and rides onboard ships like Ovation of the Seas.
So it turns out they have a considerable number of differences. And it’s not just about the cost. A cruise with either one of these lines can be extremely different when you compare the accommodation, shore excursions, kids facilities and dining options.
Here’s how the two big family lines compare:
Royal Caribbean boasts to be the cruise line for ultimate adventure… which spells success for most families. The Odyssey, Voyager and Ovation of the Seas all feature unique facilities aimed at amping up the excitement factor. Perhaps their best-selling feature however, is in their family accommodation.
It’s hard to imagine cruise ship accommodation that could be more family friendly when you take a look at the Ultimate Family Suite — a two-story cabin exploding with wild features.
Imagine a slippery dip, air hockey table, and personal table tennis table on your balcony – alongside your jacuzzi. The kids will love the games, speedy internet, giant connect four and bold colours and access-all areas vibe.
The parents also, will love their separate master suite, perfect for an escape from the kids.
And… the Ultimate Family Suite even comes complete with your own ‘Royal Genie’ – a personal butler who specialises in fun and excitement for every family member.
If you’re after a more simple cabin experience, then selected staterooms can also provide connected doors so you can open (or close) for extended family access at any time.
Some of Royal Caribbean’s most popular on board facilities range from one of the tallest slides at sea, the Ultimate Abyss, and glow-in-the-dark laser tag. There’s the FlowRider surf simulator and the Mini Golf is a hit for families along with the zip line that rides ten stories up.
The North Star is the World’s tallest viewing deck on a cruise ship. Like a giant glass bubble, it elevates you high above the ship for unrivalled 360-degree views of the ocean from over 100 metres above sea level. Passengers must be at least 107 cm tall or 122 cm to ride alone and weigh less than 136 kg.
Then there’s the Rip Cord. It’s a sky-diving simulator that allows you to feel the freedom of free-fall diving without even leaving the ship. Passengers must be at least 3 years old, weigh less than 103 kg if shorter than 6’ or less than 93 kg if 6’ and taller.
The Ultimate Abyss is the tallest slide (no water involved) at sea – and takes roughly 13 seconds to plummet 10 storeys from top to bottom.
There are bumper cars, a trapeze school, rock climbing wall and fencing and archery classes. You can even choose to do your scuba diving certificate during a cruise.
Onboard entertainment is impressive for all ages – with original productions from Broadway. There’s an impressive production every night on every cruise – with shows like Cats, Grease, Mama Mia, We Will Rock you and more.
There are also major productions on stage, in water and even on ice. The AquaTheater features aerial stunts and there’s even an ice skating rink integrated into a performance.
Complimentary dining is offered across 14 onboard dining venues including the Windjammer Café and family-friendly dining in the Main Dining Room.
More than 28 specialty dining options are offered include menus inspired from the Far East to Italy and beyond. Jamie’s Italian, By Jamie Oliver is a big hit, as well as the chef’s table for a special experience.
Kids’ favourite dining venues include the Portside BBQ, Johnny Rockets, Playmakers Bar & Arcade, Fish & Chips, Sorrento’s Pizza.
Mums and Dads will enjoy their date nights at the Champagne Bar, Dazzles, Trellis Bar, Bamboo Room, Bolero’s Diamond Club or Izumi for some fresh Japanese cuisine.
There’s also a bonus Family Dining option that helps keep every family member happy. “My Family Time Dining” is available for the first seating time in the main dining room, for kids aged 3 to 11. Kids enjoy their meal within 40 minutes of sitting, before heading being able to head to the Adventure Ocean activities, leaving Mum and Dad to enjoy some time in peace. The program starts the second evening you’re onboard.
Spa & Wellness
The Vitality Spa and Wellness facilities on board Royal Caribbean won’t disappoint.
Spa products range from Elemis, bliss, La Thérapie and Ionithermie, while every treatment under the sun is on offer for those in need of a little indulgence. Bespoke treatments range from tooth whitening to injectables – while hair and nail services are available in the salon.
Royal Caribbean cruises to more than 300 destinations across the world. Australia, New Zealand, and the South pacific are popular for families. Asia, the Caribbean and the Bahamas, Europe, Alaska and North America – as well as a handful of specialty destinations are also huge draw cards.
Everything from jet boating and zip-lining to feeding wildlife, swimming with dolphins, cooking classes, market tours, waterfall swims, the list is endless – and accessible for all ages and levels of energy.
The world class ‘Adventure Ocean’ and the ‘Royal Babies & Tots’ programs both offer educational activities for kids of all ages.
The Royal Babies program (ages 6-18 months) offers babies and their parents interactive classes filled with enriching activities developed by early childhood experts. The Royal Tots program (ages 18-36 months) offers 45-minute interactive playground sessions filled with age-appropriate activities and toys. Both programs are hosted by trained youth staff. A parent or caregiver must accompany child during all activity sessions.
‘Adventure Ocean’ also offers a Late Night Party Zone for kids ages 3-11 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m, for parents seeking a little grown up time. An hourly rate applies after 10:00 p.m. Costs are roughly $11.30 per child per hour, including the 15% gratuity.
Aquanauts (ages 3-5 years) can have fun playing with the world of science and becoming Certified Jr. Adventure Scientists. The Explorers program (ages 6-8 years) has loads of activities for kids, including themed parties. Voyagers (ages 9-11 years) can learn in a fun environment packed with games also.
If you’re worried about over filling your suitcases with nappies and baby food – then this service may appeal to you. The convenient “Babies 2 Go” service lets you pre-order Huggies nappies, wipes and cream, and Gerber organic baby food to be delivered right to your stateroom, when you arrive and throughout your cruise. This is available at an extra cost.
A 7 night South Pacific cruise from Sydney starts at $1,098 pp for an interior room, departing February 22nd 2020.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival aims to be “fun for everyone”. When it comes to facilities and onboard entertainment, they are hard to beat. In fact, for many, Carnival provides over the top fun. The downside can be the cabin options, although some might say they’re not on board to stay in their rooms.
Carnival offers families the option of classic style suites with connecting rooms. Or, for those wishing to stay in closer comfort, then fold out beds are an option. There’s a mini fridge, a deluxe bathroom with whirlpool tub, 24 hour room service, and television for chilling in the room with a movie night with the kids.
Carnival aims to provide something for everyone with their facilities on their ships. They currently claim to have the largest waterpark at sea in Australia with giant new waterslide the Green Lightning, and promote their mini-golf, jogging / walking track and sports area along with a giant fitness centre for the active types.
For the adults, there’s a child-free Serenity area where you can book private massages and have drinks made to order while relaxing poolside.
And of course, there are the main pools and spas as well as over 16 lounges and bars.
Aerial performances and live music are some of the most popular entertainment options on Carnival as well as comedy nights, and the latest Lip Sync Battle.
Carnival ships have more than six bars and lounges to choose from featuring all kinds of games, shows and entertainment. The Dive-In Movies are also a hit in the evenings where you can watch a big-name movie under the stars, while taking a dip. There are Game Shows, Comedy Clubs, Live Shows, Stage Shows, Karaoke, Live Music, Nightclubs, Sports Bars and Casinos.
Carnival has a huge variety of 19 complimentary dining options including Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, Freshie’s Corner and 24 hour pizza! Celebrity chef Guy Fieri has created the complimentary Guy’s Burger Joint, which is never empty, or grab a taco at BlueIguana Cantina.
There are twelve additional specialty dining options. The Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse is hard to resist, as is the Nouveau French fine dining option.
Carnival meals have all the traditional faves – they can enjoy pizza, grilled cheese toasties, fresh fruit, hot chips, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and more. All kids meals (age 2-11) are included.
Spa & Wellness
Carnival hosts the Cloud 9 Spa facilities – with a brand new Thalassotherapy pool available on the Carnival Splendor. The Thermal Suite is a state of the art area to relax and unwind. And the salon area caters to both men and women with the full range of services and treatments you could imagine including acupuncture.
Various fitness classes are also available at an additional charge.
Carnival offers a whopping total of 384 shore excursions within the Australia / NZ and the South Pacific destinations, catering to every level of energy and ability.
Popular family activities include horse riding, bike riding, eco tours, snorkelling, rafting and tubing and wildlife discovery tours.
Turtle Sanctuary visits and the waterfall discovery tours are popular with kids and teens in the south pacific. Quad Bike Adventures and Marine Reserve tours are also a hit. Smaller kids enjoy the experience of meeting locals in traditional dress who operate cultural tours and market visits, provide a small authentic lunch and entertain with stories, song and dance.
Kids age 3-12 years are charged a discounted rate.
Carnival offers three different age-appropriate youth programs, giving them plenty of choice on activities. Camp Ocean is for kids aged 2-11. For 12-14 year olds are offered Circle C. And Club O2 caters for older teens. Night Owls is a service available for parents needing a night out.
In addition to the Clubs, Carnival’s youth experience provides activities and entertainment for all children Ages 17 and younger. Youth Programs are year-round, fleet wide programs that provide daily fun filled and age appropriate activities for children and teenagers. It is broken down into specific age groups as follows:
Penguins: Ages 2-5
Stingrays: Ages 6-8
Sharks: Ages 9-11
Circle “C”: Ages 12-14
Club O2: Ages 15-17
Plenty of sports, story times, arts and crafts, workshops, lolly-shops, gameshows and even character hosted meal times are also all available.
This is the service Carnival offers for parents wishing to have a night to themselves.
Its is offered each evening from 9:00pm-12:00am in Camp Ocean for a fee of A$8 per hour per child and includes movies, games, toys and snacks.
7 nights South Pacific Cruise from Sydney starts at $929 pp for an interior room, departing February 23rd 2020.