Princess v RCL

To help cruisers decide which cruise line is right for them, Cruise Critic compares Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International on a number of criteria including fleets, destinations, pricing, dining, cabins, entertainment and more.

Princess Cruises

Easygoing and traditional cruise line without a lot of bells and whistles that aims to help cruisers relax and come back home feeling rejuvenated


Royal Caribbean International

Family-friendly cruise line that aims to wow passengers with high-tech entertainment and activities and a vast array of free and for-fee dining choices


Compare by: Fleet | Pricing | Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Pool Deck Fun | Sports Deck Fun | Indoor Fun | Nightlife | Family Focus | Tradition vs Innovation


Freedom of the Seas

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

Princess Cruises

  • 17 ships, four built before 2000
  • Oldest ships: Sun Princess (1995)
  • Smallest ships: Pacific Princess (672 double capacity)
  • Largest ships: Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess (all 3,560 double capacity)

Royal Caribbean International

  • 25 ships, seven built before 2000
  • Oldest ships: Empress of the Seas (1990), Majesty of the Seas (1992)
  • Smallest ships: Empress of the Seas (1,602 passengers double capacity), Grandeur of the Seas (1,992), Rhapsody of the Seas (1,998)
  • Largest ships: Oasis Class -- Symphony of the Seas (5,518), Harmony of the Seas (5,488 passengers), Oasis of the Seas (5,400 passengers) and Allure of the Seas (5,492 passengers)
Pricing

Pricing

Princess CruisesView Princess Cruise Deals>>

  • Pricing follows industry standards but sales are offered frequently
  • Pricing includes about one-half of the alternative eateries on most of the ships
  • All theater entertainment is included in the cruise fare

Royal Caribbean InternationalView Royal Caribbean Cruise Deals>>

  • Prices on newest ships are significantly higher than prices for other ships in the fleet
  • Cruise fares include only about half of the line's restaurants
  • All entertainment is included, except lunch and dinner theater shows
  • Last minute discounts only available on short (four nights or less) cruises
  • One ship (Empress of the Seas) features a free Bloody Mary or Mimosa at the sea day brunch
Demographics

Demographics

Princess CruisesView Princess Cruises Roll Calls >>

  • Passenger mix varies greatly by ship and itinerary
  • Larger ships in the Caribbean and Alaska attract families, couples and groups of friends in most age brackets
  • Smaller ships, especially those doing more exotic itineraries (Diamond Princess, Sun Princess, Pacific Princess) pull in an older, 55-plus crowd

Royal Caribbean InternationalView Royal Caribbean Roll Calls >>

  • Families, plus couples and singles in their 30s to 50s
  • Median age is low 40s, but is slightly lower on shorter cruises and higher on cruises of 10 nights or more
Alaska cruise

Itineraries/Destinations/Homeports

Princess CruisesView Princess Cruises Itineraries >>

  • Sails out of seven ports on the North American mainland, varying by season with no ships stationed at a single port year-round
  • Sails Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii itineraries
  • Has the strongest Alaska offerings in the cruise industry
  • Cruises Europe three-quarters of the year, offering Baltic, Northern Europe and Mediterranean cruises out of several European ports
  • Operates world cruises
  • Has ships stationed year-round in Australia and Asia
  • Exotic itineraries include South America, South Pacific, Africa and India

Royal Caribbean InternationalView Royal Caribbean Itineraries >>

  • Sails out of 14 homeports on the North American mainland regularly, if not year-round
  • Sails Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii itineraries
  • Cruises Europe year-round, offering Baltic, Northern Europe and Mediterranean cruises out of several European ports
  • Has ships stationed year-round in Australia and Asia
  • Exotic itineraries include South America, Middle East and South Pacific journeys
Cabins

Cabins

Princess Cruises

  • Extensive selection of room categories no matter the size of the ship
  • Unique cabin options include oceanview suites and minisuites without a balcony (on select ships only)
  • Provides comprehensive suite privileges; perks include a free meal at a specialty restaurant on embarkation night; priority embarkation/debarkation; fresh flowers; free laundry; access to the Club Class dining room or a Club Class section in the main dining room (depending on ship) for dinner each night, plus breakfast and lunch on sea days; nightly canapes and more
  • Limited family cabin options, including standard rooms with connecting doors, as well as family suites with full baths on select ships

Royal Caribbean International

  • Offers large selection of room categories, from eight on the smallest ship to more than 20 categories on the largest ships
  • Innovative cabin option, on select ships, includes Virtual Balcony inside cabins in which giant TV screens give the impression of floor-to-ceiling windows
  • Comprehensive suite privileges include priority boarding and disembarking, reserved theater seating and VIP pool seating where available; Royal Suite Class on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships is a tiered suite perks program that goes beyond the line's regular suite privileges
  • Offers largest suites in the mainstream cruise industry, including duplex options
  • Several family cabin options, including those with connecting doors, as well as larger rooms with full baths on all ships
Dining

Dining

Princess Cruises

  • One main dining room on every ship is for traditional cruise dining only (early and late seatings); one or more main dining rooms offer the more flexible Anytime Dining (except on Pacific Princess, which only offers Traditional)
  • Growing selection of alternative restaurants on most ships with about half included in the cruise fare such as Alfredo's Pizzeria and the International Cafe
  • Partnership with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone brings "Crafted by Curtis" menu items to the main dining room, as well as a Share by Curtis Stone restaurant on four ships
  • Partnered with chocolatier Norman Love for a multi-pronged chocolate-centric experience on all ships
  • Ultimate Balcony Dining, an in-room fine-dining experience for breakfast and dinner, available for a fee to all passengers in rooms with balconies
  •  At least one formal night per cruise requiring passengers to dress up for dinner (or eat in the buffet where casual dress is acceptable)

Royal Caribbean International

  • Offers fixed and flexible My Time Dining options
  • Extensive selection of specialty restaurants with a handful included in the cruise fare including Sorrento's Pizzeria and the Cafe Promenade
  • Has a partnership with two celebrity chefs: Michael Schwartz, who created the menu for 150 Central Park (on three of the four Oasis-class ships), and Jamie Oliver, whose Jamie's Italian is on three Quantum-class ships, as well as Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas
  • At least one formal night per cruise requiring cruisers to dress up for dinner or eat in the buffet where casual attire is acceptable
pool fun

Pool Deck Fun

Princess Cruises

  • Most ships have at least three pools including a less-trafficked aft pool and several have one with a retractable roof; almost all ships have a minimum of five hot tubs
  • All ships (except Pacific Princess) have at least one splash pool for kids
  • Silly poolside games offered on sea days on ships sailing the Caribbean
  • Adults-only Sanctuary (many with a pool) offers a quiet pool/sun deck alternative for a half-day or full-day fee
  • Evening movies shown daily on the top sun deck as part of Movies Under the Stars

Royal Caribbean International

  • At least two pools on every ship; some have three or even four
  • 13 ships have the FlowRider surf simulator; 12 ships have the kids' H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay
  • Five ships have the multi-waterslide Perfect Storm (though which slides that includes varies by ship), with more ships scheduled to receive them over the next several years
  • Bigger ships in warm-weather destinations have lots of poolside activities including "sexiest man" and belly flop competitions
  • Adults-only Solarium offers a quiet sun deck alternative
jogging track

Sports Deck Fun

Princess Cruises

  • All ships have jogging tracks and shuffleboard
  • Most ships have a Center Court with basketball and volleyball
  • Most ships have some golf offering from a practice cage to a nine-hole putting course

Royal Caribbean International

  • All ships have a basketball court and rock-climbing wall; most also have mini-golf
  • The three Quantum-class ships have indoor skydiving; the four Oasis-class ships have zip lines
  • Two ships (Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas) have the top-deck Sky Pad, a virtual reality trampoline experience
Ice rink on Freedom of the Seas

Indoor Fun

Princess Cruises

  • A typical daily schedule might include multiple trivia sessions, arts and crafts, dance classes, bingo and Voice of the Ocean rehearsals (a singing competition created via a partnership with TV's "The Voice")
  • Destination-specific lectures and enrichment programs such as North to Alaska and Local Connections on most itineraries
  • Some ships feature a multi-deck piazza-style atrium, which is a hub for dining and entertainment

Royal Caribbean International

  • An average daily schedule might include trivia, bingo, dance classes, scrapbooking sessions, napkin- or towel-folding demonstrations and jewelry-making classes
  • 12 ships have indoor ice skating rinks
  • On Oasis-, Quantum-, Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, the Promenade is the place to grab a bite to eat or beer to drink, people-watch or hit the shops
  • Quantum-class ships feature the SeaPlex, an indoor activity center with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze classes and an arcade
Club 6

Nightlife

Princess Cruises

  • Select ships feature an only-on-Princess theater show, created by Oscar winner and composer of "Wicked," "Pippin" and "Godspell" Stephen Schwartz
  • All ships offer musical revue-style shows, plus the occasional comedy or magic act
  • Piano or small act music shows are available in virtually every bar and lounge each night
  • Vines is the spot for a late night glass of wine and good conversation
  • All ships have a nighttime dance club

Royal Caribbean International

  • Broadway or London West End productions on seven ships: Anthem of the Seas ("We Will Rock You"), Oasis of the Seas ("Cats"), Liberty of the Seas ("Saturday Night Fever"), Allure of the Seas ("Mamma Mia"), Independence of the Seas ("Grease"), Harmony of the Seas ("Grease") and Symphony of the Seas ("Hairspray")
  • All ships offer musical revue-style song-and-dance shows, plus the occasional comedy or magic act
  • Seven ships (all in the line's Vision or Radiance Class) have evening aerial shows
  • Oasis-class ships feature gravity-defying diving and acrobatic performances in the outdoor AquaTheater
  • Quantum-class ships feature Two70, a three-deck-high lounge and performance space featuring stunning acts that combine digital visuals with music, dancing and acrobatics
  • Schooner Bar is the spot for post-dinner piano sing-alongs, while Bolero's, with its Latin beats, is a spot for salsa dancing and sipping mojitos
  • All ships have a nighttime dance club
Characters on Freedom of the Seas

Family Focus

Princess CruisesPrincess Family Cruise Reviews>>

  • Three kids clubs for smaller kids, tweens and teens
  • Partnership with the Discovery Channel provides onboard and shoreside educational experiences for kids and families themed around TV shows on Discovery, Animal Planet, the Learning Channel and the Science Channel
  • Every ship (except Pacific Princess) has a splash pool for kids; select ships have teen-only hot tubs
  • DIY launderettes for easy cleaning of kids' clothing are available on each passenger deck
  • Select ships offer two-room family suites

Royal Caribbean InternationalRoyal Caribbean Family Cruise Reviews>>

  • Genuinely family-friendly
  • Select ships feature the DreamWorks Experience, which includes character parades and meals, plus screenings of DreamWorks films
  • With My Family Time Dining, kids ages 3 to 11 are served their meals first and then picked up by kids club crew so parents can have the rest of dinner to themselves
  • The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery (only available on select ships) is for babies ages 6 to 36 months; daytime and nighttime sessions are available for a fee
  • Pre-order baby food, diapers, wipes and cream through the Babies 2 Go program
  • Large selection of family-friendly cabin configurations
The SeaWalk

Tradition vs Innovation

Princess Cruises

  • Offers a more traditional cruise experience that includes main dining rooms, limited specialty restaurants and song-and-dance revue-style evening shows
  • Newest ships have a few innovations including the SeaWalk (on Royal Princess and Regal Princess), a see-through glass walkway that hangs off one side of the ship 16 decks above the water

Royal Caribbean International

  • Known for cruise industry innovations including the first-at-sea rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and the FlowRider surf simulator; newest innovations include vertical tube skydiving and indoor bumper cars