Having traveled on Carnival for seven cruises we decided to give the competition a try. We booked a four day trip on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel. Now that I have something to make a comparison to it was a very interesting cruise. I apologize if this seems a little long and in depth but I will say I was very disappointed with Royal Caribbean and apologize to Carnival for not remaining a loyal customer. Keep in mind that Carnival lost my sons luggage in July 2003 and it still has not surfaced. Even with that issue stuck in my mind I remain a loyal Carnival cruiser.
Upon arrival to the RC terminal I was yelled at several times by someone directing traffic to the point where he almost caused me to be in an accident. Like I don't know how to drive up to unload my luggage. He knew he was in error and apologized and we laughed about it. Why start off on the wrong foot. I always say that the cruise is what you make of it and once something goes wrong the cruise goes down hill from there. After letting my fellow travelers out at the terminal I drove out to the first parking lot just 100 feet from the drop off. The parking lot was 75% vacant and on a dead end road. Yes, closed! Everyone going down the road and trying to make a u-turn and head out to look for a new place to park. Finding a spot on the forth level of the garage that was far enough to have to be shuttled back to the ship on the second wait for a bus I was on my way. Strangely, they use these short shuttle buses when trying to move 3 to 4 THOUSAND travelers with their luggage. I arrived back at the terminal to check in.
RC beats Carnival hands down with the check in process. Straight in and to the counter and literally waited five seconds in line and checked in and moved away from the window in less than three minutes. Never having to show ID again. Carnival makes you show it every time you turn a corner. The check in with your card to have your photo taken was done off the ship with numerous machines. Carnival has two on the ship. Personal photos were taken on the ship deck and you were sent in two directions to keep the congestion down. We showed up at noon and were on the ship and had our luggage by 1:00 pm.
The room was very much like a Carnival ship. We had a balcony room on the seventh deck. The shower was very small and had two glass doors that closed around you like a phone booth. Forget picking up the soap if you drop it...no room at all. The counter space was smaller and the shelf space was 50% less. Carnival has items for you in case you forget a razor, toothbrush, etc. RC...NOTHING. Our toilet broke during the cruise and was fixed rather quickly. There was a curtain that I thought would separate the bed area from the TV/couch area. However, the curtain was three feet wide...really no use at all. Carnival has three closets, RC has one big closet with shelves inside. The safe on RC used a four digit pin and no need for a card.
Out into the ship was amazing. This ship was incredible. The detail around the adult pool and spa area was outstanding and the fitness center and hot tub was very well laid out. The Promenade deck with the shops and bars was also very nice.
The muster drill started at 4:15 and ended 45 long minutes later. We stood there for about 20 minutes doing nothing. I thought it odd that we could not stand with our spouses while in line at the drill. I guess RC takes the women and children first thing literally. The alarm sounded for ten plus minutes to the point that people had their fingers in their ears, followed by an apology and then more waiting. Finally three minuets of instruction and the end of the 45 minuet ordeal.
Carnival has better shows hands down. Better sets and better costumes. The dancing and singing is better as well as the orchestra. Carnival has tables in the theater, RC has nothing but seating. The ice skating show was okay and a nice surprise.
Carnival has better food and more selections. The cafeteria area on Carnival allows you to get your own drinks and ice. RC acts like your a two year old and has it all lined up on trays and you get drinks that are sitting there getting airborne contaminates and are watered down from the ice melting. It gives you a chance to see how lemonade actually separates in the glass. I really did come on the cruise to do my science project. Don't think about walking back there to get your own...red alert melt down and the staff will be on you faster than a $20 tip laying on the floor. RC has no food by the pools and no drinks. You want a drink get dressed and walk all the way to the back of the ship. Carnival has food and drinks pool side. By drinks I mean lemonade, punch, tea, coffee, juice, water and ice. Carnival leads the way with the bar drinks. We gave up on RC and went for a walk. RC was very slow and under staffed. The formal dining room has 1/3 the menu of Carnival and it was just okay. Dinner at night was 2 ½ hours to the point that staff was looking at us. However, it was not us it was their waiters. Our three or four tables were always the last ones finished at night. This was the first time we scratched the formal dining and went to the cafeteria for dinner one night. I know this sounds spoiled but no lobster on RC four day cruises. Carnival four, seven and eight day cruises have lobster. The captains party on RC was held during the first seating dinner only and was champagne. Carnival accommodates both dinner seatings, has many different drinks and finger foods. Room service at night was subject to a mandatory $3.95 (I think) charge on RC.
The promenade was set up to turn a buck. If you wanted to eat late night it was cookies and small sandwiches with one slice of meat. Forget about drinks, water and no ice, tea and coffee. All this in a very spacious area the size of my garage. Ice cream from Ben & Jerry's...$4, one scoop that was slowly turning to liquid in the case.
This was our forth trip to Cozumel. We have always disembarked at the downtown area. I love the guys on the bikes to take you to and from the ship. This trip we went up to the next pier and the shopping was very convenient since we had no ambition to go anywhere on the island during this cruise. We stopped in to Senior Frogs and had a great time watching the younger people and having a few yards of beer. Made some nice purchases that I would not have normally made.
Sure the RC ship was incredible but there is more to cruising than looks. It's also about service and amenities.
The bill at the end of the cruise looked like my kid made it. No letterhead, just three lines of purchases and a total. Not a big thing just strange.
Disembarkation was better on RC. Well organized and quick. We took our own bags and we went down to the fourth floor and walked to the third and off. Everyone was very nice. From the time we left our room to outside the terminal was twenty minuets. Then the wait and shuttle ride back to the parking garage.
RC has it right getting on and off the ship but misses the mark on almost everything in between.
For the price of the RC four day I could have had a six day Carnival Cruise.
If you want my pick, eight day Carnival Miracle to St Maarten, St Lucia and St Kitts. Great ship, great itinerary and the most fun for the buck!
Next cruise for us is the six day Carnival Freedom.