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Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Which is Right for You?

When researching cruise lines for your next family cruise, you are likely to encounter both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in your research. Not only are among the most popular cruise lines in the United States, they are actually owned by the same parent company. So, if you are trying to decide between Celebrity vs Royal Caribbean cruises, you’ll want to know how they compare.

We’ve sailed on both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruise ships and have enjoyed both brands of cruise ships. But, there are minor and major differences that you’ll need to understand.

Disclosure: We’ve sailed at no cost on Royal Caribbean but have also paid our own on both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links and a click-through/purchase may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.

Check Prices on both Celebrity ships and Royal Caribbean cruises at this link.

Royal Caribbean ship and Celebrity BEYOND ship located side by side in port

Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: Which is Right for You?

Celebrity Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Royal Caribbean Group. This company also owns the Silversea cruise line and has a stake in two additional cruise lines. While you will see some similarities in the companies, especially related to their websites and apps, the ships are quite different.

Royal Caribbean International offers more cruise ships than Celebrity, and also larger ships. The Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships (including the Allure of the Seas and the Wonder of the Seas) are the largest in the world. While Celebrity does have large cruise ships, none of them are near this size.

Pool deck with Miami in the background.

Overview of Celebrity Cruise Line

It’s important to note that Celebrity Cruise Line is not an adult-only cruise line. Kids are allowed on the ships, and they do offer a number of activities specific to children – including kids’ clubs.

However, Celebrity does have more of an “adult” feel. The ships feel very sophisticated and modern. The prices are reasonable, but there are also lots of upgrades that you can purchase. These include Celebrity concierge level, AquaClass, and the Retreat.

Of these, the Retreat is the most exclusive. As a Retreat guest, you have access to separate restaurants, as well as exclusive sundecks and other areas of the ship. These are higher priced rooms but do come with lots of benefits.

During our recent Celebrity Cruise Line sailing, we saw mostly couples and groups of friends celebrating specific events. While there were children on board, there weren’t as many of them.

Like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity has been steadily introducing new ships, as well as refurbishments. New ships include some innovative features, like the Magic Carpet moveable deck. Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, and Celebrity Beyond are among the new Celebrity cruise ships.

Celebrity offers a main dining room for guests, as well as a buffet that is included in the standard cruise fare. In addition, guests can choose to purchase specialty dining upgrades, for restaurants including Qsine (Le Petit Chef and the Tuscan Grille). Food is a little more adult-focused, although there are things like burgers and pizza that will appeal to kids.

During your evenings and days at sea (as well as port days, if you decide to stay on the ship), there are plenty of things to do. Activities like salsa dance classes and wine tastings are offered. There are also other activities, including game shows and trivia.

In the evenings as you walk through the ship, you’ll find various entertainment and live music throughout the lounges and bars. The ships also offer entertainment in the main theater, including large-scale shows, comedians, and musicians.

Amenities on the ship include the pool deck, hot tubs, an adult-only area, a spa (with a full collection of spa treatments) a fitness center, a casino, and a coffee shop. There are also kids’ clubs, separated by age.

Shops on Celebrity are upscale, focused primarily on luxury goods. You’ll find duty-free items, perfume, jewelry, handbags, and watches.

Celebrity Cruise Line offers itineraries to many destinations, including the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe (and the Mediterranean), Australia and the South Pacific, the Galapagos, Asia, and Mexico. While Celebrity does not have their own Bahamian private island destination, select ships do go to Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private destination.

Pool deck on the Wonder of the Seas with pool loungers and orange water slide

Overview of Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International is known for its large, thrilling ships, packed with family-friendly fun. These ships are bright and bold, but still offer fantastic service with lots of activities that appeal to adults as well as kids.

While there are separate adult-only areas, much of the ship is very family-friendly with so much fun packed into each deck. It’s nearly impossible to be bored on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Royal Caribbean offers the largest cruise ships at sea, with a new one, the Icon of the Seas, coming soon. The Icon of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the world, replacing the Wonder of the Seas. These ships keep outdoing themselves with more and more activities and awe-inspiring amenities.

Activities onboard Royal Caribbean do vary by ship. Some of these activities include pools, water slides, dry slides, bumper cars, zip lines, FlowRider surf simulators, ice skating rinks, the North Star observation pod, arcades, and carousels. These are the types of activities that are extremely popular with tweens and teens. When we sailed on Royal Caribbean with my teens, they loved all of the exciting activities.

Activities on Royal Caribbean are also offered and vary by sailing. These include trivia, game shows, karaoke, and live music. Whether you are an adult traveling without kids or a family on vacation, there are plenty of things in the schedule that will appeal to you.

Royal Caribbean is known for its world-class entertainment. In addition to large Broadway-style productions, many of the ships also have smaller shows, as well as ice shows and aqua shows. There’s always something exciting going on during your Royal Caribbean sailing.

Dining on Royal Caribbean is similar to Celebrity, in that you will be assigned a time (or can do My Time dining) for the main dining room each evening. At that time, you’ll have the same serving team and the same table.

Specialty dining is also offered on Royal Caribbean. Restaurants vary by ship, but may include Playmakers Pub, Johnny Rockets, 150 Central Park, Giovannis, Chops Grille, Izumi, Wonderland, and Hooked Seafood. There are also plenty of included dining options, like El Loco Fresh, Windjammer Buffet, Dog House, Sorrento’s Pizza, and Promenade Cafe. An exclusive restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, is offered to concierge guests.

Like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean offers upscale shops. However, in addition, there are usually some kid-focused stores, including candy and toy stores.

With more ships, Royal Caribbean offers many different itineraries. Options include the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Dubai, Europe, Latin America, Australia, and Asia. Many of the Bahamian and Caribbean cruises stop at their private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee, Haiti.

Pool deck on the Odyssey of the Seas at night

Differences between Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Line

The differences between the ships are apparent as soon as you board. While Royal Caribbean has a bright, exciting atmosphere, Celebrity tends to be more muted and sophisticated. That style carries over to the public areas of the ship as well as the ship’s staterooms.

Activity Differences

Both cruise brands offer many things to do throughout the days and evenings. While Royal Caribbean’s activities tend to have a very broad appeal, the activities on Celebrity may be a little more focused on teens and adults.

The activity amenities, however, are where Royal Caribbean and Celebrity differ. While Celebrity offers standard cruise ship amenities like pools and hot tubs, Royal Caribbean has some additional exciting and thrilling amenities like zip lines and surf simulators. These types of onboard activities are truly what differentiates Royal Caribbean from other cruise lines when it comes to family fun.

Entertainment Differences

You’ll find lots of entertainment options on both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Both have entertainment that kids can enjoy, and both have performances that are more adult-focused. However, the entertainment on Royal Caribbean has a more universal appeal for younger kids through adults.

Wonderland exterior with clocks and colorful flowers

Food Differences

Celebrity does have plenty of kid-friendly food options, including burgers and steak. However, the specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean do have a little more family appeal. With options like Playmakers Pub and Johnny Rockets, families will find more options for picky eaters.

I also found the Celebrity’s buffet had a few more international options for food, including Indian food. Overall, however, I really enjoy the food on both cruise lines.

Price Differences

Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Line have a variety of different add-ons and service options that can change the price. In general, Celebrity Cruise Line’s prices tend to be a little higher. But the prices differences really aren’t enough that they would change your mind one way or another about which cruise line to book.

Staff Differences

We have had excellent service on both cruise lines, with standout crew members on each. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to the crew on both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines.

The Bottom Line

Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are both excellent cruise lines with delicious food, great crew members, and fun activities. You’ll have a great time on either cruise line. If you are looking for a sophisticated cruise experience, Celebrity is probably the best option, while Royal Caribbean is best for thrills and excitement and for a family travel.

Have you sailed on either Celebrity Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International? Which will you sail on for your next cruise vacation?

Fronts of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships docked side by side

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