This was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and it was a spur of the moment booking due to a GREAT Deal! I don't want to compare the rooms since I stayed on the 2nd floor on this ship and my rooms with Carnival have been balcony rooms. I'm glad I did have a lower floor since I heard of a few 8th floor balcony travelers experiencing problems such as leaks, not being able to flush toilets and lights flickering. I experienced the flickering lights when visiting the travel desk located on the 8th floor.
When first getting on to the ship I was a bit nervous that the majority of passengers were going to be Seniors but the split was pretty even. Since we were traveling to San Juan there were many Spanish speaking passengers but everyone seemed to communicate just fine and everyone I met on board was friendly and well behaved (to a point of course... we were on vacation - lol). The clientele travelling seemed to be experienced travellers and a very nice class of people to spend a week with.
We sailed out of Tampa, Florida and the view was horrible. Oil Refineries and Trash Dumps were seen for miles. Not the way I would have preferred to start the trip. Of course, being on the ship the drinks were flowing, the band was playing and you could ignore the area you're leaving! The port made check in very easy and pleasant.
I felt that the late seating dinner was a bit late at 8:30 pm. I believe my dining time on Carnival was at 8:00 pm and that 1/2 hour made a big difference. We switched to the earlier seating but that is sometimes difficult when going on excursions. We did book the "My Time Dining" which is nice if traveling with a couple but I was traveling with a friend and that did not allow us to meet new people. I also felt as if I was steered to the "My Time Dining" when trying to switch when a couple we met, also switching, was changed just moments after we were told the early seating was not available. The purser's desk finally did switch us after I went to complain the next day. It appears they may try to match people at the tables since the couple switched was placed with 2 other couples of similar age. We were seated with 2 very nice couples (one young couple & their parents) who spoke Spanish and very little English. We got a long great but the conversations were difficult.
I was disappointed with the food and food selection on Royal Caribbean. Carnival is definitely superior when it comes to food. Our chef was from Ireland and every meal included mashed potatoes - lol. There was a generic brown sauce used for most of the dishes... some nights it was for beef, some nights it was for chicken and one night is was called Marsala Sauce. Don't get me wrong... the food was good but Carnival made dining unforgettable. Royal Caribbean made dining more elegant than Carnival with live music being performed either on the piano or by a fabulous string duet. The service was wonderful and the Head Waiter was always visible at each table each night to make sure of it. I did miss the fun nights of dining with Carnival when the travellers were encourage to join in a show with the wait staff.
The entertainment on this ship was definitely superior. The shows and headliner acts were fabulous and the variety was perfect. This is the first time I travelled that I made sure to get to the majority of the shows. I really enjoyed the Motown Group they had on the 2nd night called Horizon and the Singer / Impressionist / Comedian they had on the 6th night. The options around the ship were equally enjoyable and included a band called "Take Four" from the Philippines. There were a few times when nothing was going and it would have been nice to have those gaps filled in.
The cruise staff was good with a few duds. The girl who was performing trivia put a few of us to sleep and this was at one of the times when not much else was going on. This same person co-hosted one of the karaoke nights and did not do much better there.