Carnival vs Royal Caribbean Bahamas Cruise - Which is better, the Carnival Liberty or Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas?
This is a 100% honest, 100% authentic review comparison of the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas vs the Carnival Liberty Bahamas cruise. Dadtography was not compensated in any way for this post.
All images are Dadtography originals. Please don't use our photos without permission.
I absolutely love to cruise - it's my new favorite way to travel. It's a great way to spend time as a family, have some alone time, see lots of different places and not bust your budget.
But which cruise line is better - Carnival or Royal Caribbean? This is an age-old question that doesn't have a simple answer, but it's one we're trying to figure out. In 2017, we sailed on nearly identical Bahamas cruises with both cruise lines. Here's our review comparison of the Carnival Liberty vs. the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas.
Carnival or Royal Caribbean - Who has the best 3 & 4 night Bahamas cruise?
We are a family that loves to cruise. My wife and I went on our first cruise together in 2015 - a 7-night western Caribbean and it made us realize it was the best family travel option for us.
I love it because, as a work-a-holic, I'm able to disconnect without regret. We all love cruising because it's convenient, a great value, there is a lot to do and there are so many options.
Over the last year, we've gone on both Carnival and Royal Caribbean 3-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. I'm writing this post to do a direct comparison of the same cruise on both cruise lines. How do Carnival and Royal Caribbean? That's exactly our goal of this post!
[bctt tweet="No, @RoyalCaribbean food isn't always better than @CarnivalCruise. #FamilyTravel" username="dadtography"]
Overall, how do Royal Caribbean (RCI) and Carnival compare?
It's a simplistic question but the answer isn't quite as simple. I feel like there's a high product quality perception here with Royal Caribbean. Even though Carnival dominates the market, from a volume perspective, Royal is considered the gold standard in mainstream cruising. It’s not considered "luxury" cruising, but they have a perception of having the best ships, the best food, the best people / staff, and I think many of those perceptions are correct.
However, because my family has cruised so much, we’ve begun to see nuanced differences, even on the same cruise line between the ships, service, food and itineraries. That's why I wanted to compare a similar ship and itinerary in this blog post - the Carnival Liberty Bahamas cruise vs the equivalent Royal Caribbean cruise aboard the Majesty of the Seas.
In my experience, smaller ships and shorter itineraries often have a different experience than the longer cruises with the newer / larger ships. The food and dining experience on either Royal or Carnival isn’t as standardized as some would have you believe. We’ve had great food on Royal and we’ve had food that made us ill on Royal.
Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a wide variety of products (different ships, different ports, varying lengths, etc). Where Royal tends to fall a bit short for us is when it comes to kids. Their kids club has somewhat limited hours and it’s not as fun, according to my 8-year-old, as Camp Carnival.
The great debate? I discuss Carnival vs Royal Caribbean with 8 year old Ethan.
Traveling as a family is important to me and that's just one of the reasons why I really like to go on cruises. We've been on four family cruises together now, so I figured it was time I asked by 8 year old son, Ethan, which cruise was his favorite.
Kids are into cruising for different reasons, but if you're going to go together as a family, it's important to understand what aspects of the cruise they like compared to adults.
One Big Difference - Camp Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean
One huge difference between Carnival and Royal Caribbean that we've noticed after a few cruises on each are the kids' clubs. The single biggest difference are the hours the clubs operate on each cruise line.
Camp Carnival has very flexible hours of operation. You can drop off and pick up almost all day. During the day, Camp Carnival is free, but at night there's usually a nominal charge. We really liked the flexibility of Carnival's kids club over Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean, on the other hand, has somewhat strange hours and they are not nearly as flexible. Hours vary by day - depending upon if you're in port or at sea. On days at sea, Adventure Ocean is typically closed between the hours of 12pm and 2pm ship time. Here's the full list of hours Adventure Ocean was open from our previous sailing aboard the Independence of the Seas:
- 9am - noon
- 2pm - 5pm
- 7pm - 10pm
As you can see, Adventure Ocean was twice, each for 2-hour periods. This can really become inconvenient as a parent if you have to go back and forth, dropping off and picking up throughout the day. We much prefer Carnival's hours and experience.
How do the prices compare between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Bahamas cruises?
Cruises to the Bahamas are popular, especially for residents of Florida. They easy and relatively inexpensive, and with ports so close by, we can make a quick weekend trip out of a cruise.
We've been shopping for cruises for a few months and we rarely see a significant difference in price between the Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises to the Bahamas. Our "home port" is Port Canaveral, just east of Orlando, and the prices on both cruise lines are typically between $185 and $350 for 3 or 4 night cruises in an interior cabin.
Of course, you're going to pay more during peak times, like spring break, as well as for larger and better rooms on both ships.
Neither Royal Caribbean nor Carnival has a distinct advantage on price, so be sure to keep an eye our for specials and last-minute cancelations to get a great deal.
How do the ships compare?
Majesty vs. Liberty - how does the quality of the two ships compare?
How do the pools compare?
The pools and sundecks are important aspects of a cruise. How do they compare?
How do the cabins compare?
Majesty vs. Liberty - how do the cabins compare?
How does the entertainment compare?
There's a lot to do at sea - but which ship has better entertainment options?
How does the dining compare?
The age old question of food quality - which is better, Royal Caribbean or Carnival?
Are all itineraries equal?
Itineraries matter - learn how the Majesty vs. Liberty Bahamas itineraries compare.
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean - Final Thoughts
Check out a few of our final thoughts when comparing Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean.
Majesty vs. Liberty - A Photo Gallery
Check out our extensive photo collection of both the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas and the Carnival Liberty.
Majesty vs Liberty - How do the ships themselves compare?
The fact of the matter is that you don't go on a 3- or 4-night cruise for the ship. They're not the newest ships or best ships in either fleet. When you go on a short Bahamas cruise like this, you're going to get away for a few days.
But the ship you're on still matters, right? Well, which ship is better - Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas or the Carnival Liberty?
We personally found the Majesty of the Seas to be the better ship, this despite the older age of the boat compared to the Carnival Liberty. Here's why:
- The Majesty is well-maintained and cared for
- The Majesty has a better muster station deck (trust me, this matters)
- The Majesty has higher-quality appointments (carpeting, fixtures)
- The overall craftsmanship of the Majesty still shows today
While neither ship is perfect, we found the RCI Majesty to be a better ship overall than the Liberty, but don't expect to be wowed by either, especially if you've been on newer ships like the Carnival Vista or Royal Caribbean Oasis class ships.
Ship Advantage: Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
Majesty vs Liberty - How do the cabins compare?
We've been on two sailings with the Carnival Liberty and one on the Majesty of the Seas. On our Liberty cruises, we stayed in both an interior room and a balcony stateroom. Our comparison of experiences compares interior staterooms on the Liberty compared to interior rooms on the Majesty, despite the photos below showing a balcony room for the Liberty.
The Carnival Liberty's interior stateroom was larger and also felt larger than that of the Majesty of the Seas. The closet in the Liberty was much larger than that aboard the Royal Caribbean ship.
The interior stateroom on the Majesty felt very cramped to us and the closet in that stateroom was so small, we couldn't fit any of our carry-on sized luggage inside.
Many say you don't go on a cruise for the size of the room, but when the room is so small and cramped, it's hard to spend time in it, that's a signal to me it's just too small.
Note: This post compares interior staterooms on the Liberty to interior rooms on the Majesty, despite the photos showing a balcony room for the Liberty.
(Interior) Cabin Advantage: Carnival Liberty
Majesty vs. Liberty - Which cruise has better dining?
It's almost cliché at this point to compare the food on a Carnival cruise to that of a Royal Caribbean. That's one of the first things I hear from almost everyone that's sailed both and it's usually one of the first questions I get:
Is it true that the food is better on Royal Caribbean than on Carnival?
Let's settle this once and for all (not really, but here goes). We've sailed both equivalent cruises to the Bahamas and we can say the food was definitely superior on the Royal Caribbean cruise than on Carnival.
That said, there were aspects of each that we liked. For example, we found the buffet (the Windjammer) on the Majesty of the Seas better than the Lido buffet aboard the Carnival Liberty.
However, the main dining room service and food was very close to equal on these two ships. There were dishes on the Royal Caribbean sailing that we were not impressed with and some we really enjoyed and the same goes for our experience on the Liberty as well.
Dining & Food Advantage: Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
Majesty vs. Liberty - Which has better pools, sundecks and activities?
The pools and sundecks are a huge deal on a cruise, especially when you have those "days at sea". There aren't many days at sea during the short Bahamas cruises, but pools, water slides and sundecks are still very popular on these sailings.
What makes an experience better can be subjective, so I'll explain what is important to my family and I and why we gave the Carnival Liberty and Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas the same score.
As a family, we have quite a range of priorities when it comes to these features on a cruise ship. My boys spend the majority of their waking hours at the pool or going down a water slide. The pools and slides aren't as important to my wife and I. The pools are fairly equal between the Liberty and the Majesty of the Seas, but the Carnival Liberty has a much better water slide. The advantage goes to Carnival for this category for kids.
However, as adults, our priorities are different than our kids. We also like to spend time at the pool, and more specifically on the sun deck. But we don't like to spend time out in the hot sun, and shade is really difficult to find on the Carnival Liberty sun deck. That's not the case on the Majesty of the Seas. The sun desk has ample shaded chairs because the 12th deck covers much of the sides of the sun deck. The advantage goes to Royal Caribbean for this category for adults.
On Carnival, kids win and on Royal Caribbean, adults win, so they tie overall in the category of pools, water slides and sun decks.
Pools, Water Slides & Sundeck Advantage: Tie
Which ship is better - Majesty vs. Liberty - when it comes to entertainment?
Part of the challenge of the category of entertainment really comes from the size of the ships that sail to the Bahamas for both Royal Caribbean and Carnival and the short duration of the sailings.
Neither ship has a tremendous amount of entertainment options - at least not compared to their larger ships on both cruise lines that have longer sailings.
That said, we really enjoyed the "Broadway" style show on our last sailing aboard the Majesty of the Seas. It was a very entertaining 45-minute show and we'd definitely recommend it. The comedian we saw was also very good. The venue aboard the Majesty isn't very impressive (A Chorus Line Lounge), but the entertainment was decent. The Majesty has a rock climbing wall, where the Liberty did not. But I never once saw someone climbing the wall on the Majesty.
Aboard our Carnival Liberty sailing, our favorite entertainment show was the magician. The shows were decent as well, and the venue where the shows are held on the Liberty (the Venetian Palace Main Lounge).
Ship Entertainment Options Advantage: Carnival Liberty
Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival - Which has a better Bahamas itinerary?
Not all Bahamas cruises are made equally. The Carnival Liberty sails to both Freeport, Bahamas as well as Nassau in the Bahamas.
Freeport isn't impressive at all, and I'd personally prefer they just skip that port. If I sail through Freeport, I'll likely just stay aboard the ship.
Nassau is a nice port and both the Liberty and Majesty of the Seas sail to Nassau on their 3 and 4 night Bahamas cruises.
The main difference between the itineraries of the Royal Caribbean Bahamas cruise and the Carnival cruise to the Bahamas is that Royal Caribbean also makes a stop at its private island - CocoCay.
CocoCay isn't new to the cruise line. They've had it for well over a decade. But don't let that fool you. Newness doesn't matter as much in a port as it does with a ship. CocoCay was absolutely awesome in our last sailing with the Majesty. It has something for everyone - from relaxation options to exciting options and everything between. We really see CocoCay as a major differentiator for Royal Caribbean over Carnival in the Bahamas cruise itineraries.
Bahamas Cruise Itineraries Advantage: Royal Caribbean
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean - Which cruise line is our favorite and why?
When it comes down to it, there's no one-size-fits-all match for which cruise line is better. Therefore, my perspective comes from one of a family travel with two kids point of view.
Carnival’s “theme” is Fun and they call their ships “FunShips”, while Royal Caribbean's is “Sail the Royal Caribbean”. Royal spins their brand as a bit more “deep” in the experience you’ll have – a “royal” experience.
I’ve generally found this to be true, but also can depend upon season, ship, sailing etc. Spring break on Carnival will have more “partiers” than Royal, while Carnival has had more families because they also have ships and activities geared more toward children (under teen aged).
Carnival vs Royal on Social Media
Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are very active on social media channels, especially Facebook and Instagram. Royal seems more responsive to customers on social (Twitter, FB, Instagram) than Carnival to me. They “like” and comment on almost every post I’ve made that I tagged them in so far.
The Royal Caribbean company feels more personable and approachable to me on social media than does Carnival.
Carnival recently enlisted Shaquille O'Neil as their "CFO", or Chief Fun Officer. They've been pushing these messages heavily on social media. In general, Carnival seems to use celebrities to market their cruises more than Royal Caribbean. I just haven't been able to connect with the celebrity marketing vs the "people like me" approach. Seeing photos from regular travelers is more appealing to me than a big marketing blitz with a celebrity, personally.
What's the final verdict - who is better, Carnival or Royal Caribbean?
For my wife and I personally, we prefer the longer sailings with larger ships on both Royal and Carnival, with an edge to Royal.
I prefer to relax, I like the larger “mega” ships (Carnival doesn’t have these), I love the Royal Caribbean private island (CocoCay) and private beach at Labadee, Haiti.
The “fun” theme of Carnival just doesn’t resonate as much with me. However, because many of our trips include our boys (8 and 15), it’s important they have enough to do so they can leave us alone while we’re on the ship.
My boys have had a slightly more “fun” experience on Carnival. When we get to a port, we all explore the ports together. While we’re on the ship, they do their thing and we (my wife and I) do ours. It works out well for all. For us it comes down to who is traveling (adults, kids), what options are available (ships, ports, schedule, etc) and we’ll often pick the best option available at the time.
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