Convince me to take the leap and try RCCI ( and share your advice on ships:)

mrsgthatsme

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 21, 2011
Our family loves DCL and has taken several cruises with them. For price reasons, we have been considering trying a short cruise with Royal Caribbean to see if it might be something we enjoy as well. However, I am not a risk taker when it comes to travel and like to stick with the tried and true, so I am struggling with making the leap. :) We have two kids, ages 12 and 9 and they love kids activities on DCL such as the potato car building, animation classes, swimming/waterslides, etc.. They do not use the kids clubs. Even though they like to have choices of activities onboard, we are not huge fans of a chaotic, party type ship and like time to relax and unwind. My son wants to be a cruise ship designer, so he likes a ship where he can really see and enjoy the ocean with a nice balcony view.

Since this is a DIS board, I am guessing many of you have been in our situation in terms of loving DCL but looking to branch out. Do you think we will be disappointed with RCCI or do you feel it is a great company as well? Which ships would you suggest for our type of family? Which itineraries do you enjoy? In the time frame we are looking, there are several options we have looked at .

1) 4 day Mariner sailing in early April that stops in CoCo Cay and Nassau. My concern is that I am hearing from posters that the CoCo Cay stop is often cancelled due to weather conditions. If this happened, it would be a huge bummer to end up with only Nassau, since this is our least favorite port. :( Also wondered if it would be worth holding out for May when the waterpark is finished at CoCo Cay... would just rather go when the weather is cooler here at home and not at the very end of the school year for the kids. Also wondering if there is a good chance the waterpark opening will be delayed and we wouldn't be able to use it anyway.

2) 5 day Independence sailing in early April that stops in Falmouth and Labadee

3)5 Day on Anthem to Bermuda (this is in May, which is a little less desirable of time for me, since our weather at home is finally getting nice! :) I know nothing about Bermuda, but have always thought it would be a fun place to visit.

4) 6 day on Adventure in April stopping at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Puerto Costa Maya

Also open to any suggestions of itinerary from the DIS board experts! :) Thanks so much!
 
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hdrolfe

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 16, 2014
I haven't cruised on DCL but will make a couple comments (my son is 9 and we've cruised on RCL & Carnival). From the choices you listed, Mariner looks like a great ship but the updates to Coco Cay won't be complete until at least May (new water park, water slides, dock, etc) so you may want to skip that until it's completed. Maybe save that for another time?

We have been to Labadee and it was great, my son wants to go back. We did the roller coaster twice, spent an hour on the water inflatables, and then time swimming and snorkeling. If you aren't scared of heights like me there are a couple zip lines (one you fly like superman!). Have not been to Falmouth. Jamaica has mixed reviews, some people like it and some people hate it. We have been on sister ship Freedom of the Seas, Indy has even more to do so I would go on that ship for sure! Water slides, rock climbing, skating. And a good size. Not huge like the Oasis class, but still big enough to have good amenities.

Haven't been to Bermuda, it does look nice (but perhaps a week long trip there would be better than a 5-night?). Anthem is a nice looking ship, bigger than your other choices.

I haven't been on Adventure but it looks like a great ship. We did that itinerary on Freedom of the Seas and it was great, Grand Cayman was amazing, do swim with the sting rays. Cozumel, well there's lots of choices, and Costa Maya is a lovely little place, with some great beaches. We had a fun trip on that one. Grand Cayman is a tender port.
 

Frozen2014

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 12, 2014
We've been on Mariner with our kids similar ages to yours, and on Independence (with DH only). These ships are more similar than different and loved them both! (I did a short review on here of Mariner if you scroll down a bit on the threads called "Mariner is great". )

Our kids don't go to the kids club either and had a blast on Mariner. It has waterslides, Sky Pad, Laser Tag, rock wall, mini golf, pool and they also have activities going on (e.g. Harry Potter trivia). Independence is slightly bigger but very similar layout. It has Grease which was amazing and also a production show called Once Upon a Time, which was really great. Then there are headliners on both, and both have an ice show. Mariner has its own production show (I forget the name offhand).

Independence also has waterslides, Sky Pad, Laser Tag, rock wall, mini golf, pool, and it also has a kids splash area and waterlsides that your younger one may enjoy too. The extra pool is nice as well as it spreads out the crowds from the main pool. (And both have adults solarium).

The ships also have fun things going on at night at the Promenade, nighttime movies, and other fun games and activities.

Can't go wrong with either one but I'd pick Independence over Mariner just for the extra day and extra pool. Having said that, we have Mariner booked for a second time next summer. :-)

Anthem looks amazing too . Haven't been on it yet (we have it booked next March), but seems very high tech, and it's an indoor ship which is good if you have bad or colder weather (which I guess isn't a problem in May).

Well, and Adventure is 6 nights which is bonus too, and the ship has waterslides too which is great for kids. Grand Cayman has beautiful beaches!

For CoCo Cay, they are building a pier to eliminate the issue of cancelling the stop due to high winds (i.e. since tendering is no longer required). I just read it should be ready March, but it's been delayed already a few times so you'll have to see. They are also adding waterslides and revamping the whole island but that's for May. Looks really neat though for future!
 
  • starvenger

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 8, 2015
    Out of curiousity, which of the non-private protest of call haven’t you been to? DCL of course hits many of the same ports, don’t want to tell you anything you don’t already know :)

    Anthem is much bigger than the DCL ships. Indy might be as well. Unsure about Mariner and Adventure, but if you’re more into a “classic” style ship, the latter two would probably be better choices.

    Indy just did a refurbishment that includes a couple of water slides and a virtual trampoline... thing. I’m currently booked on Indy for Cozumel/Grand Cayman next Jan so I don’t have any firsthand info there yet.

    Food is a subjective thing. I found the food I ate on Royal to be a bit better than DCL. Princess was better than both,fwiw. There are many more specialty dining options vs DCL. You of course don’t have to frequent any of them and I don’t believe that any of them are adults only.

    There is more of what people call “nickel and dimeing” on Royal. A bit misleading, since you don’t have to pay for anything you don’t want to. Shilling is probably a more accurate term, as drink packages do get pushed and deals will be offered at specialty restaurants if they’re not getting enough people in there.
     

    mickeymedic

    <font color=red>Loves Off Kilter<br><font color=te
    Joined
    Feb 26, 2005
    We tried RCCL for the first time last March. We are die-hard DCL fans. My husband was convinced that we would be disappointed because "it's not Disney." Well, let's just say we booked our 2nd RCCL cruise before we got off the first one. And we have our 3rd scheduled for later this year with plans to book our 4th while onboard our 3rd. So far we have only sailed Oasis class ships. We LOVE them. Our 4th cruise will likely be on the Freedom, though, out of San Juan. We love the Southern Caribbean itinerary out of that port.
     

    mrsgthatsme

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 21, 2011
    Out of curiousity, which of the non-private protest of call haven’t you been to? DCL of course hits many of the same ports, don’t want to tell you anything you don’t already know :)

    Anthem is much bigger than the DCL ships. Indy might be as well. Unsure about Mariner and Adventure, but if you’re more into a “classic” style ship, the latter two would probably be better choices.

    Indy just did a refurbishment that includes a couple of water slides and a virtual trampoline... thing. I’m currently booked on Indy for Cozumel/Grand Cayman next Jan so I don’t have any firsthand info there yet.

    Food is a subjective thing. I found the food I ate on Royal to be a bit better than DCL. Princess was better than both,fwiw. There are many more specialty dining options vs DCL. You of course don’t have to frequent any of them and I don’t believe that any of them are adults only.

    There is more of what people call “nickel and dimeing” on Royal. A bit misleading, since you don’t have to pay for anything you don’t want to. Shilling is probably a more accurate term, as drink packages do get pushed and deals will be offered at specialty restaurants if they’re not getting enough people in there.
    Thank you so much for the great information! It's great to hear from another DCL fan that RCCI wasn't a let down. :) We have been to Nassau and CC on DCL and years ago I went to St. Thomas and Turks and Caicos on other lines. I would love to hear thoughts on other ports especially with kids... Labadee vs Coco Cay, St. Maarten, San Juan, Cozumel, Costa Maya..

    Just curious since you mentioned liking Princess... would you recommend RCCI over Princess with kids?

    What things other than drinks and speciality dining are the upcharges you mentioned for? Are the onboard activities like trampoline, skating, waterslides, escape room, rock wall additional fees?
     

    mrsgthatsme

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 21, 2011
    We tried RCCL for the first time last March. We are die-hard DCL fans. My husband was convinced that we would be disappointed because "it's not Disney." Well, let's just say we booked our 2nd RCCL cruise before we got off the first one. And we have our 3rd scheduled for later this year with plans to book our 4th while onboard our 3rd. So far we have only sailed Oasis class ships. We LOVE them. Our 4th cruise will likely be on the Freedom, though, out of San Juan. We love the Southern Caribbean itinerary out of that port.
    That's wonderful to hear! It makes me feel less nervous about branching out from DCL! :)
     
  • DisMommyTX

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 7, 2015
    We have sailed many times on different lines and our favorite so far was Oasis of the Seas. DCL was better than most of our other cruises, but not all. Rccl has a lot of great features which make it different than Disney but not necessarily better or worse. Try to avoid constantly comparing it to DCL, and instead look to explore what it has to offer. Do you prefer the Drem/Fantasy or Magic/Wonder? We like the mega ships because there are always so many things going on. My kids also dislike the kids clubs but loved all the different things to do together on Oasis, like the family movie theater outside Adventure Ocean.

    I would avoid the shorter cruises, especially on the older ships.
    Those tend to have the least experienced staff and weakest entertainment. The newer, bigger ships sailing 7 day itineraries usually have the best crew, food, shows, etc. In our experience, this is true for NCL, RCCL, and Carnival as well. For a real taste of what Royal Caribbean has to offer, sail one of Oasis class. I suspect you son will be in awe of the Boardwalk and Aqua theater, not to mention Central Park!

    If you still want to start with a shorter sailing, from your choices I would go with Independence or Anthem. These are generally regarded as better ships, though Anthem could probably use a refurb about now.
     

    starvenger

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 8, 2015
    Thank you so much for the great information! It's great to hear from another DCL fan that RCCI wasn't a let down. :) We have been to Nassau and CC on DCL and years ago I went to St. Thomas and Turks and Caicos on other lines. I would love to hear thoughts on other ports especially with kids... Labadee vs Coco Cay, St. Maarten, San Juan, Cozumel, Costa Maya..
    Full disclosure. As a kid I cruised once on a random charter line. As an adult I started on Princess, moved to Royal, did a DCL cruise and back to Royal.

    DCL I found to be pretty cool but it wasn’t the right cruise line “for us”. Couple that with cost and we ended up going back to other lines.

    Labadee isn’t as good as Castaway Cay. It’s fun and it’s great because it’s a private beach, but no free water slides for kids. Haven’t done Coco Cay yet, so can’t comment.

    Cozumel is a pretty common and popular port. If you want to see ruins I recommend booking Tulum through the cruise line since it’s a long tour. Don’t do Chitzen Itza as it’s too far and you don’t get a lot of time there. The island itself has a lot of day resorts (for a few) and the city is relatively safe. Good place to have a beach break with some adult beverages if you’re so inclined.

    Saint Maarten has quite a few adventure activities and it’s a good place to do it from. If not, there’s a few public beaches and there’s nothing wrong with the main one, where you can lounge around with the cruise ship nearby.

    San Juan has a lot of history. Old San Juan is great to explore and just a quick walk from the cruise ports.

    Costa Maya is basically a cruise port town. There’s a water park nearby and the beach strip has a few restaurants with beach access that you can reserve loungers at. Not a bad place for a beach day.

    Just curious since you mentioned liking Princess... would you recommend RCCI over Princess with kids?
    I haven’t done Princess with kids yet. Reason being is that at the time my nephew was under 2 and the things available to him were not as extensive as my brother wanted. So we booked Royal instead. But, their program has a STEM base which sounds pretty good to me.


    What things other than drinks and speciality dining are the upcharges you mentioned for? Are the onboard activities like trampoline, skating, waterslides, escape room, rock wall additional fees?
    Some escape rooms have an up charge. Not sure about the trampoline. Some activities (like a sushi rolling lesson where you make and test some sushi) require an additional fee. Not that different from DCL in that regard. But activities such as slides, rock wall and flow rider are free of charge.

    For beverages, the policy isn’t as generous as DCL’s but you can bring in 2 750mL bottles of wine and 12 bottles of non-alcoholic drinks per stateroom on embarkation.
     

    czmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 26, 2011
    My kids are 12 and 10, and we just returned from our first RC cruise on the Symphony. Previously we’ve only done DCL. Let’s just say we had SO much fun that I won’t get my kids back on DCL! There is just so much more to do on RC. I cannot speak for any of the ships you are asking about, but we loved the symphony.
     
  • Frozen2014

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2014
    ...

    Some escape rooms have an up charge. Not sure about the trampoline. Some activities (like a sushi rolling lesson where you make and test some sushi) require an additional fee. Not that different from DCL in that regard. But activities such as slides, rock wall and flow rider are free of charge.
    No charge for Sky Pad (trampoline). They've recently started letting you pre-book a time to try and help with crowds...and then they have other times for 'open jumps' with no reservations....but still free.

    Also no charge for Laser Tag.
     

    SevenWonkas

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    May 4, 2010
    In regards to the Mariner cruise -- From what I understand, the completion dates for Coco Cay DO keep getting pushed back. I haven't been following it that closely, but the last time I read a blog post about Coco Cay, people were commenting that the completion dates for various attractions kept changing. So just keep that in mind. And while I normally would caution anyone about taking short cruises on non-DCL cruise lines (because the ships are usually older), Mariner was recently updated. we will be cruising Mariner next January, and I am excited to see all the new updates the ship! I'm hoping it's fantastic. Maybe a cruise line will actually be able to give DCL a run for their money on the short cruises!

    Anthem is a fun ship -- we did a four day to Bermuda on the Anthem in 2017. It's definitely modern design-wise. There are bumper cars on Anthem, which could be fun for your kids.

    In general, I think you'll find less organized "activities" around Royal ships than Disney. There are no animation classes or things like that. There is trivia, and sometimes dance classes or things. Depending on the ship, though, you will find rock climbing, Flow Rider, ice skating, roller skating, bumper cars, water slides, etc. since your son wants to be a cruise ship designer, there is usually a Q&A session with the captain that you can attend. Sometimes they will have a backstage tour of the theatre.

    Some websites you may want to check out that will have more info on Royal are Cruise Critic (they have message boards), and RoyalCaribbean Blog.com. The RCL Blog is a fan blog, similar to the disneycruiselineblog. The RCL Blog has Cruise Compasses (like DCL's daily Navigator), and also menus.
     

    Oliviaxxx

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 6, 2018
    I cruise Royal Carribean in mid March. It had the same ports as you mentioned. It was ridiculous windy in the Bahamas. When in port I walked across the pool deck with a plate from the buffet all my food blew off. They, unfortunately, canceled CocoCay because of weather. We were a little annoyed because they didn't let us know it was canceled till 15 minutes before we were about to disembark. My whole family was ready to go with sunscreen and everything. The issue is is that you need to tender to CocoCay. If it is very windy they small tender boats can't run. I must say that the staff was 100% ready to turn it into a sea day. All new activities were planned and it was a fun day at sea. The staff was brilliant, the ship was clean, the food was great. Just like any other vacation, you can't control the weather!
     

    martikus

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    May 13, 2010
    If you like cruising then your family will enjoy RCCL as long as you don’t look to compare to Disney. They have their own things but the pool areas on RCCL alone are so much better than Disney. We prefer RCCL food. You can buy soda packages if you need them. We can do two cruises for the price of Disney.

    We prefer the bigger ships when traveling with our son so Adventure or Independence would by my picks. Bermuda is nice but not great for kids which is why I wouldn’t pick that one.

    Between trivia, water slides, ice shows etc we are never bored. My son doesn’t do the kids areas but we did join the family activities like bingo. We don’t pay for specialty meals and find the dining room and windjammer buffet very tasty. Ice show, comedians, magicians etc mean there is usually a fun evening show even if it isn’t Disney.

    We cruise to try new ship features so where we go doesn’t matter to us. We often stay on ship to enjoy pools etc. But Cozumel - we really liked a few hours playa Mia https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.playamia.com/amp. Haven’t been to st Martin since the hurricanes.

    DCL lost our business with high prices. We lean towards RCCL now mostly and even enjoyed Norwegian a couple summers ago.
     

    starvenger

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 8, 2015
    I slightly disagree here as being a DCL fan, the OP will almost assuredly compare the cruise to Disney. This is natural, and will help you decide if a cruise line (and ship class) is “for you”.

    All I can do really is help a person make “the leap”, and to go in with an open mind. The rest is, really, up to the cruiser.
     

    DetroitAvant

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2015
    We went from Disney Dream to Royal's Allure and we have two similar aged boys and the physical activities (flowrider, rockwall) were far more their style now. They also had the broadway style show that we enjoyed (although not as much as DCL). I would really like to get onto the Harmony or Symphony but they seem to be premium priced right now. Our next is a five day on the Independence since it was half the price and has many of the same amenities after the drydock. This was after we went back and did the Disney Fantasy, I think we're probably done with Disney for a while and will let our placeholder expire.
     

    OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    We don't have young children so we can't comment on that aspect. However, I think one of the biggest difference between DCL and RCL is the price for essentially the same cruise. We can pay ~$5k for two adults for 7-nights on the Fantasy in a veranda, or we can pay that much in a suite on the Oasis-class ships out of Port Canaveral in a Grand Suite. The RCL Grand Suite includes concierge service, a veranda, and free dining at their exclusive suite-only restaurant, Coastal Kitchen for all meals. Its a nicer cruise experience and hits the same ports (except for Castaway Cay, where RCL has their own private island) and winds up to be less expensive overall.
     

    Macprincess

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 28, 2011
    Okay, I'll be the one person who admits our family was not happy with our experience trying out Royal. We sailed on Allure in May of 2018. Although, I am glad we decided to give it a try for ourselves as I think the only way to know if another line is a good match for your families vacation wants and needs is to try it for yourselves...We did it and will stick with Disney Cruises from this point forward.

    Yes, it was less expensive but by the time we added the things we wanted it was in the same ball park we pay for Disney Cruises. Admittedly, we did try three specialty dining meal all of which but one were added on the ship. It would have been more cost effective to book a dining package in advance, but we thought we would like the main dining room experiences more then we did. We typically book an adult night out and brunch at Palo on Disney too. Yet, we have always been happy with the main dining options included with Disney. For us this wasn't the case with our Allure cruise and since we had our 3 kids (15, 18, 20) and my Mom with us that was 6 people we were paying for with our specialty meals instead of just two when hubby and I go to Palo on Disney cruises. It added up fast.

    None of us really enjoyed the entertainment and much preferred DCL family friendly shows.

    It's personal thing but we had two of our children over 18 and under 21 on that cruise. Both are in college and living away from home. I'm not naive enough to think that my college students do not drink while at school. Yet, they have been respectful of our no drinking rules in our home. On night two of our cruise my husband and I ended up having to give up a lot of what we had planned for our night life for the rest of our cruise and instead put the parental hammer down on our college age kids. I'm not complaining about this as it's our job to parent our kids. However, we did not enjoy this lines cruise as much because of the more party like environment we felt we encountered. We were also unaware that to gamble in the casino one only had to be 18 and not 21. Admittedly, this is our fault for not doing better job at research on cruise casino rules. Coming from Disney, where there is no casinos on board we didn't consider this. Both of our sons were under 21 at the time and their sea passes had their correct birth dates. Yet, neither had a problem getting access to drinks while in the casino. I don't know if they ordered them, we had no charges on our account, or if they had people gambling with them just buy/give them drinks, but when my husband found them in the casino with drinks in hand both boys party cruise was over real fast. To be clear, I don't blame any of this on Royal Caribbean at all. This was a poor decision on our boys part and ours as parents for not being more on top of the environment and activities on the ship.

    In addition, our daughter who was 15 hated this cruise! Afterward she begged to go back to Disney next cruise. She really did not like the teen club which did surprise me as she practically lives in the teen club on Disney's ships. She was a trouper the whole week, but she didn't appear to have a whole lot to do. All three kids did participate in the flow rider, rock wall and zip line but it was a one and done type deal for them. We did hang out together a lot as a family as after night two we were not letting the older two out of mine or my husbands sight. We spent a great deal of time playing cards and hanging out at the pool but all three kids agreed that they prefer Disney's cruises. We also went on a catamaran snorkeling port adventure which all three kids enjoyed. None of us were impressed with Labadee and really missed Castaway Cay.

    Since then we have cruised Disney again and found it to be a much better fit for our family. Our daughter, now 16, loved the teen club and made lots of friends who she hung out with in the teen club. She even had two new friend join us for dinner in cabanas one night. We did not experience any of the same party vibe issues on this cruise. We were worried our sons would be bored at 19 & 20, but they joined in on the 1820 club, and the fun they had was far more appropriate this time around. We also had lots of family time, meals together in the standard dining room with no one complaining about the quality of the meal and wanting to do specialty dining. I'm glad we ventured out and tried something new but now we know it's worth more money to our family to cruise with Disney.
     

    lovin'fl

    Registered
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2011
    After 1 DCL and 9 Carnival we have now also done 2 Royal. I will say DCL is great but not worth the triple the cost. Carnival is just fine but Royal is a step up. I would do all Royal from now on if they had the itin we wanted (just booked another Carnival, for 2020, because the itin fit as well as departure port and length).

    Was looking at Royal itins for 2020 and these were the ships I was wanting to book based on stuff they have on them and size (not into the giant ships):
    Mariner, Adventure, Anthem and Explorer (also prefer NY, NJ, MD, SC, FL departure ports). Also have Harmony written down but can't remember if that was more itin and PC departure (love port of PC) or ship. I do believe the Mariner may have the panoramic oceanview cabins (Adventure does and I REALLY wanted to book one of those cabins).

    As for Cococay....we just got off the Grandeur (which is a smaller older ship but had GREAT wonderful staff and loved the 3 pay extra dining venues....good ship and easy out of Baltimore) and they had to skip Cococay due to rough seas (couldn't safely get tenders going). I heard from other pax that they skip a lot (one person I talked to has had like 5/8 times skipped). But our other Royal cruise (on the Majesty) we did make it in to Cococay and, man, that's a great island (and will be even better with all they have done to it). I would not hesitate to book another itin with Cococay.
     

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