My husband and 8 year old daughter and I sailed on Royal Caribbean for the first time (5 Cruises with Carnival and 1 with Disney). This was by far the best cruise experience. I had always asked myself "Is Royal worth the extra money they charge"? My answer is YES!
The ship is beautiful in design, easy to navigate and exceptionally maintained by the staff.
In our opinion the food quality, and selection was superior to Carnival or Disney. The design of the Windjammer Cafe was well laid out, I never waited in line to get my food or to get a table, even on sea days!
Staff appeared happy and were genuine in all areas of the ship.
My daughter loved Adventure Ocean. This particular week had only 100 children on board. The staff combined the 6-8 year olds with the 9-11's which made my 8 year old daughter very happy. She was able to play with the older kids and be able to do different kinds of activities. In her words she preferred Adventure Ocean over Camp Carnival because "the councillors played with us and didn't just sit and watch us".
My greatest surprise was how many of the bars were smoke free. This has always been my biggest complaint about Carnival, lots of smokers and no where for non-smokers to enjoy a drink in the evening. I am not a gambler, but Royal even had one night designated smoke free in the casino. I really felt that Royal tried to accommodate both preferences. (I did notice that the number of smokers on this particular cruise was extremely low compared to what I am use to).
For the first time ever on a cruise, we booked an excursion not offered by the ship. If you travel to Costa Maya you must book a tour with Native Choice Tours. They are professional, safe and have great prices. My family did the Mayan Experience tour. Our guide "Joel" was very knowledgeable and passionate about his culture, I learned so much. After touring the ruins we visited a Mayan Community, were we made tortillas and enjoyed a locally prepared buffet lunch, it was awesome! My daughter loved the experience.
In my opinion you can't have a bad cruise, they are all what you make them. However, Royal Caribbean wowed me and my family, the price difference is definitely worth it.
The only thing that I missed from Carnival, were the robes!!