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Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)
Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: A Cruise Line Comparison

Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)
Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)
Contributor
Jason Leppert

Last updated
Feb 5, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: the similarities and differences between these two popular cruise lines abound and can be difficult to differentiate. While both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are owned by Royal Caribbean Group, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean offer overall very different cruise experiences.

Royal Caribbean, a standard mainstream line, has lower-priced entry-level cabins, larger ships, more emphasis on family travel and less emphasis on service. Meanwhile, as a premium line, Celebrity has slightly higher priced entry-level rooms and greater emphasis on a refined experience, especially elevated service and dining.

But bottom-line pricing and service levels aren't the only differentiators. To help you decide which cruise line is the right fit for you, Cruise Critic pits Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean, comparing everything from fleet size to cabins.

Celebrity Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: In a Nutshell

Celebrity Cruises: A Premium and Trendy Cruise Line

Celebrity Edge is the first of Celebrity Cruises' wave of Edge-class ships (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)
Celebrity Edge is the first of Celebrity Cruises' wave of Edge-class ships (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity is a fashionable cruise line with an emphasis on trendy culinary, entertainment and spa experiences, premium cabins and suites and a modern onboard vibe. It's also becoming more contemporary with each new ship.

Royal Caribbean International: A Family-Oriented, High-Tech Mainstream Cruise Line

Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas side by side in CocoCay (Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)
Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas, the world's two largest cruise ships(Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)

Royal Caribbean International is a family-oriented cruise line that focuses on the "wow" factor through high-tech entertainment and activities, plus a large selection of free and for-fee dining choices. On top of all that, Royal's fleet includes the biggest cruise ships in the world to date.

Celebrity Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: Fleet Size and Age

Celebrity Cruises: Three Classes and 16 Ships

Celebrity Millennium (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)
Celebrity Millennium (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)

Royal Caribbean International: Seven Classes, 27 Ships -- Some Being the Largest Cruise Ships in the World

  • 27 ships, five built before 2000, with another two Oasis-class and two Icon-class ships on the way

  • Smallest: Grandeur of the Seas (1,992 passengers)

  • Largest: Icon of the Seas (248,663 gross tons)

  • Oldest: Grandeur of the Seas (1996)

  • For some time, each new ship that has joined the fleet has exceeded its successor as the largest cruise ship in the world

Celebrity Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: Pricing (Value Proposition and Category)

Adventure of the Seas Cruise Ship in Nassau, The Bahamas
Adventure of the Seas COVID test

Celebrity Cruises: A Pricier Upscale Line with Elevated Dining and Services

  • As an upscale line, Celebrity will cost more that standard Royal Caribbean but also offer elevated dining and service for an inviting value proposition that does not vary greatly across the fleet

  • Package pricing model extending to all-inclusive options; AquaClass staterooms and The Retreat suites offer additional exclusive perks

  • All entertainment and most activities included

  • Most alternative restaurants incur an extra fee

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Royal Caribbean: Lower Fares on Older Ships, Higher Prices on Newer Ships; Last-Minute Discounts

  • Prices on newest ships are significantly higher than prices for rest of the fleet

  • Last-minute discounts available only on short (four nights or less) sailings

  • Cruise fares inclusive of nearly half of the line's alternative restaurants

  • All entertainment included, except lunch- and dinner-theater shows

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Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Onboard Demographics

Saxsen Norton, an actress and model, Hero Otway, a model and actress, and Geo Vanna Gonzalez, a Miami-based artist, enjoy drinks at Sunset Bar on Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)
Saxsen Norton, an actress and model, Hero Otway, a model and actress, and Geo Vanna Gonzalez, a Miami-based artist, enjoy drinks at Sunset Bar on Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)

Celebrity Cruises: Median Age of 40s and 50s, Emphasis on Couples and Groups

  • Younger couples and groups of friends in their 30s, and on up to 70s

  • Some families during holidays and peak travel times

  • Median age is mid 40s to mid 50s

Royal Caribbean: Families, Couples and Solo Travelers from 30s to 60s

  • Families, plus couples and solo travelers in their 30s to 60s

  • Most common age is low 40s, but is slightly lower on shorter cruises and somewhat higher on cruises of 10 nights or more

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Itineraries and Homeports

Enchantment of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
Enchantment of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Celebrity Cruises: Convenient U.S. Homeports, Variety of Regular and Seasonal Sailings Along with Soft Adventure Cruises

Royal Caribbean: Ultimate World Cruises Alongside Regular, Seasonal and Far-Off Sailings

  • Regularly navigates the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda; U.S. homeports are conveniently available

  • Seasonally offers Alaska, Europe, Mexico, Panama Canal and Canada & New England itineraries

  • Far-off cruises visit Asia, Australia & New Zealand, South America, the South Pacific, Arabian Gulf and North Africa

  • Royal Caribbean now even offers an ultimate world cruise option

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Cabins and Cabin Categories

(Photo: Cruise Critic)
Celebrity Solstice cabin

Celebrity Cruises: Variety of Cabin Categories, The Retreat, AquaClass Cabins and Suite Perks

  • Large variety of cabin categories, from inside staterooms without windows to palatial suites with exclusive access to private venues; specific to the Edge class of ships are unique Infinite Verandas that extend the inside of the room all the way to a switch-operated, mechanically-convertible balcony

  • While not on every ship, The Retreat is the top tier of Celebrity accommodations with a ship-within-a-ship complex: an exclusive lounge, restaurant and sun deck reserved only for guests therein

  • Other shared suite perks extend to the likes of priority embarkation and disembarkation, a free welcome bottle of champagne, reserved theater seating, included Wi-Fi access and complimentary premium beverages

  • Spa-inspired AquaClass cabins (on most Celebrity ships) provide private access to the health-centric Blu restaurant, spa thermal suite, complimentary fitness classes, discounted treatments, spa concierge, pillow menu and more

  • Concierge Class accommodations also tack on special services and amenities

  • Limited family choices include connecting rooms and oversized ocean-view or balcony rooms with space for up to five

Royal Caribbean: Plenty of Cabin Categories, Virtual Balconies on Some Inside Cabins, Suite Privileges and Family Cabin Options

  • Has large variety of cabin categories, which, depending on ship, can include inside cabins with picture windows overlooking the Royal Promenade, balconies with front row views of the AquaTheater, rooms sized for just one person and massive duplex suites

  • About a dozen ships offer Virtual Balcony inside cabins (not all insides will have the virtual balconies), with giant TV screens that give the impression of floor-to-ceiling windows

  • Half a dozen ships offer studio cabins sized for one person; depending on ship, balcony, oceanview and inside studios are available

  • Comprehensive, tiered suite privileges include combinations of free high-speed internet, priority boarding and disembarking, reserved theater seating, suite lounge and sun deck access and more, such as specialty dining and the service of a dedicated Royal Genie (in Star Class accommodations)

  • Offers some of the largest suites in the mainstream cruise category, including duplex options

  • Family cabin options are plentiful, including those with connecting doors, as well as oversized cabins with full baths, not to mention the Ultimate Family Suite, or even Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon class

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Dining Options Onboard

The Mason Jar aboard Wonder of the Seas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
The Mason Jar aboard Wonder of the Seas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Celebrity Cruises: Fine Dining Reputation with Fixed and Flexible Dining Options

Ever since the Chandris family founded Celebrity in 1988, the line has been synonymous with fine dining at sea. That reputation has remained consistent through the line’s latest partnership with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and a plethora of other delectable options.

  • Offers fixed (same time, same table mates) and flexible dining options

  • Provides three to eight specialty restaurants per ship (depending on vessel), with only a handful included in the cruise fare (think Blu for spa guests and Luminae for suite passengers)

  • Edge-class ships provide four main dining restaurants through which you can cycle to try a variety of ambiances (many inspired by Celebrity’s culinary heritage) and cuisines for no additional charge, in addition to complimentary buffet and pool grill fare

  • Up to two formal nights per sailing requiring cruisers to dress up for dinner (or dine in the buffet and alternative restaurants where casual dress is acceptable)

Royal Caribbean: Fixed and Flexible Dining Along with Ample Restaurant Venues

Traditional fixed seating times or flexible dining options are available onboard Royal Caribbean for main dining rooms as are reservations for specialty dining. The larger the ship, the more restaurants and overall dining options will be at your disposal.

  • Vast array of specialty restaurants with just a handful included in the cruise fare, including El Loco Fresh, Sorrento's pizzeria and Cafe Promenade, besides the usual complimentary buffet and main dining room offerings

  • Royal Caribbean is highlighting celebrity chef partnerships less often now despite Michael Swartz having helped create the menu for 150 Central Park (Oasis-class ships only) and Jamie Oliver creating a dining venue (Jamie's Italian) on select Quantum-class, Oasis-class and other refurbished ships

  • Newer ships have further pushed the boundaries of dining, ranging from the traditional comfort food of The Mason Jar to the avant-garde cuisine of Wonderland, and next even a virtual representation of train travel while feasting via Royal Railway Utopia Station

  • At least one formal night per sailing suggesting passengers dress up more for dinner (or eat in the buffet where casual attire is always acceptable)

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Pool Deck Fun

The Pool on Celebrity Reflection
The Pool on Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Cruises: Two to Three Pools on Every Celebrity Ship; Pool Deck Is for Relaxing

Celebrity’s pool decks have always been contemporary settings, but it wasn’t until the Edge class that they maximized their chic potential with oversized main pools and champagne glass-shaped whirlpools befitting and often surpassing a modern Las Vegas resort. Now guests can expect the feature below onboard the line’s ships.

  • All ships have two to three pools (except the Galapagos-based ships), with one always on the main pool deck (most ships have two pools here) and one in the adults-only Solarium; all ships have multiple whirlpools with some in the Solarium

  • Select Solstice-class ships have a Wet Zone vertical fountain splash area for kids (or kids at heart)

  • The pool deck is primarily for lounging and not poolside fun

Royal Caribbean: At Least Two Pools, FlowRider Surf Simulators, Water Slides and Poolside Fun

  • All ships feature at least two pools, with several having three or more

  • FlowRider surf simulators frequent most of the fleet and almost as many ships have the kids' H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay showcased on deck

  • Royal Caribbean has committed to installing water slides (and parks) on several of its ships, including The Perfect Storm series and most ever on Icon of the Seas with its expansive Category 6 aqua park

  • Poolside fun might include pool volleyball or sexiest man and belly flop competitions

  • Adults-only Solarium offers a quiet sun deck alternative, often with additional shade

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Sports Deck Fun

FlowRider on Independence of the Seas
FlowRider on Independence of the Seas

Celebrity Cruises: Jogging Track, The Lawn Club, The Rooftop Garden and Beyond

Sports decks on Celebrity are usually extensions of the ships’ lounging pool decks emphasizing leisurely outdoor activities, but the Edge class took things further with an impressive Möbius loop-like jogging track meandering multiple slopes and decks among the following:

  • Most ships have basketball courts and at least a half-ship jogging track

  • All Solstice-class ships feature The Lawn Club, a massive Central Park-style real grass space, with lawn bowling and bocce

  • Three Solstice-class ships feature hot glass demonstrations and classes in a covered area of The Lawn Club

  • Edge-class ships include The Rooftop Garden, which includes live music in the evenings

Royal Caribbean: RipCord by iFLY, Rock-Climbing Walls, Basketball Courts, Mini-Golf and More Fun

Royal Caribbean is well known for its FlowRider surf simulators, but the line has gone on to further showcase RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulators as well as North Star crane pods, many of which are complementary to participate in, to up its long list of activities.

  • All ships in the fleet have basketball courts and rock-climbing walls; most also have mini-golf courses

  • Quantum-class ships have indoor skydiving; Oasis-class ships have zip lines; and most Oasis-class vessels also have a pair of 10-deck dry slides known as the Ultimate Abyss

  • Oasis- and Icon-class ships also have their very own full-fledged Central Parks with live plants lining the vessels’ al fresco courtyards

  • The Icon-class introduced Royal Caribbean to its Crown’s Edge ropes course cantilevered over the side of the ship

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Indoor Fun

Atrium on Celebrity Solstice
Atrium on Celebrity Solstice

Celebrity Cruises: Trivia, Dance Classes, Bingo, Computer Classes, The Studio and Eden

As on most cruise ships, Celebrity activities might include trivia, dance classes, bingo, wine tastings and themed lectures, as well as the following:

  • Most ships feature the iLounge, where cruisers can take courses on website creation, blogging, photoshop and other Mac-based computer skills

  • Some Solstice-class ships feature The Studio where passengers can take art classes like jewelry making, sketching and painting, while others offer a photo studio in the space

  • Most ships in the fleet offer a true observation lounge for scenic lounging overlooking the bow and destination beyond at the forward top of the ship

  • Instead of a traditional observation lounge, Edge-class ships have Eden -- a three-deck spiral space at the aft of the ship which acts as a place to relax in the day and enjoy craft cocktails, dining and interactive entertainment at night

Royal Caribbean: The Royal Promenade or Esplanade, SeaPlex, Bingo, Napkin-Folding Demonstrations and More

Example indoor activities on Royal Caribbean start with trivia, bingo, napkin-folding demonstrations, dance classes, scrapbooking sessions and jewelry-making classes that extend to:

  • A dozen plus ships with an indoor ice-skating rink

  • On Icon-, Oasis-, Quantum-, Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, the Royal Promenade or Esplanade is the place to check out the shops or grab a bite to eat or a drink to sip while people-watching

  • Quantum-class ships feature the SeaPlex, an indoor activity hub with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze classes and an arcade

  • Newer and refurbished ships offer genuine escape room experiences as well

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Nightlife Onboard

Boleros on Harmony of the Seas
Boleros on Harmony of the Seas

Celebrity Cruises: Musical Revue-Style Shows and One-Off Entertainment

Celebrity entertainment consists mostly of main theater musical revue-style song-and-dance shows, Cirque du Soleil-inspired acrobatic shows and one-off comedy and magic acts. On the latest Edge class, that has expanded to encompass Eden, a three-level spiral dining venue, bar and performance art space that offers a surreal, dreamlike experience once the sun goes down, in addition to:

  • Nightly live music in multiple venues, as well as DJ'd dance parties

  • Edge-class ships have multipurpose events (circus acts, dancing and more) in The Club and live music in The Rooftop Garden, whereas Solstice-class ones have similar alfresco activities at The Lawn Club

  • All Millennium-class ships offer outdoor movie screens at the Rooftop Terrace

Royal Caribbean: Broadway and London West End Productions; Schooner Bar, AquaTheater and AquaDome

Royal Caribbean upped its entertainment ante by introducing Broadway and London West End productions into the mix on its newest ships. Its entertainment offerings include the following and more:

  • Broadway, West End and other reimagined productions on several ships have included “The Wizard of Oz,” "We Will Rock You,” “Cats," "Saturday Night Fever,” "Mamma Mia!,” “Hairspray," “Grease,” etc.

  • Evening entertainment includes musical revue-style song-and-dance shows and live music throughout, as well as occasional performances by comedians and magicians on all ships

  • Oasis-class ships feature gravity-defying diving and acrobatic performances in the outdoor AquaTheater, and Icon-class ones have a full-sized indoor AquaDome

  • Quantum-class ships feature Two70, a three-deck-high lounge and performance space featuring stunning acts that combine digital visuals (courtesy of distinct robotic screens) with music, dancing and acrobatics

  • Schooner Bar is the spot for post-dinner piano sing-alongs (in a vintage maritime setting no less), while Boleros, with its Latin beats, is the place to be for salsa dancing and sipping mojitos

  • Studio B or Absolute Zero on the Icon-class, Oasis-class, Freedom-class and Voyager-class ships offers breathtaking kaleidoscopic ice skating performances, some of which newly feature drone light shows

  • Every ship has a nightclub or comparable venue for dancing

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Family Focus

Adventure Ocean on Navigator of the Seas
Adventure Ocean on Navigator of the Seas

Celebrity Cruises: Camp at Sea and Kids Menus, but Limited Family-Friendly Cabins

  • The children's club, Camp at Sea (not available on expedition ships), extends to four age-specific subgroups for kids: Shipmates (3 to 5), Cadets (6 to 9) and Captains (10 to 12) and Teens (13 to 17)

  • Infants must be at least six months old (or 12 months old on certain sailings)

  • Celebrity also touts kids menus and family-friendly excursions

  • Limited selection of family-friendly cabin choices

Royal Caribbean: The Adventure Ocean Program and Ample Family-Friendly Cabins Choices

  • The Adventure Ocean program is divided into three categories for Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5), Explorers (6 to 8) and Voyagers (9 to 12), in addition to tweens and teens (13 to 17)

  • Parents can have most of dinner to themselves via My Family Time Dining, wherein kids ages 3 to 11 are served their meals first and then picked up by kids club staff leaving parents on their own to finish their dinner

  • The Royal Babies & Tots program is for babies ages 6 to 36 months (only on select ships); a fee applies for daytime and nighttime sessions

  • Many different family-friendly cabin configurations


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