Just to compare Carnival to RC, here is a record of our recent 2 cruises, 1 cruise done with each company.
We've recently finished the 5 night Western Mediterranean cruise, departing Barcelona on RC's Adventure of the Seas. As we had also done a Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival, a few weeks earlier, we had a great chance to compare the 2 cruiselines side-by-side.
Both cruises were done on our honeymoon.
We can confidently say that Carnival won in practically every category. This rather surprised us, as we had read in forums online that Royal Caribbean was supposed to be the 'classier' cruiseline.
Here were the major differences:
Food: Carnival's food was simply amazing. I am a real foodlover, and we really could not find any fault at all with the food on the Carnival cruise. The Deli section on Carnival (where you can order things like pastrami on rye) was sadly missing on the Adventure of the Seas, and the quality of the salad bar, hot meals, and desserts on the Adventure ship was poor. The *best* dessert we had on RC was worse than the *worst* dessert we had on the Carnival cruise. It was as if the recipes used on RC were just not tested enough (the staff on RC are not allowed to actually alter any of the recipes themselves, and must follow them blindly, so they can hardly be blamed for the bland food).
The night-time dining experience was a disappointment on RC. We had specifically requested a table for two, and given that it was our honeymoon, thought that surely we could be accommodated (there were very few other honeymooners on board). As it turned out, we were dumped at a table with 6 other people, all from the same family. On Carnival, we could choose whether we wanted to sit at a table for 2 each night (which we did), and we were always able to, given that Carnival has a *lot* more of them. Also, late dining on RC is just *too* late, starting at 9:15pm. Meals often didn't finish until well after 11pm. Service was also markedly slower on RC than on Carnival. Many other things (such as RC having pre-packaged butter packets, rather than Carnival's special whipped butter, made dining less enjoyable on RC).
Staff: RC's staff pretty much all had a chip on their shoulders. Genuine smiles were nowhere to be seen. I actually would've settled for 'indifference' but the staff were often plain rude. Carnival's staff were *always* cheerful, and really great fun. The difference was extraordinary. The cruise director was 100 times better on Carnival.
Look of the Ships: Carnival ship design was far more interesting and exciting, with each area of the ship being based around a different 'legend'. The Adventure of the Seas' design was far from inspiring, featuring bland modern art.
RC also failed to do anything for our honeymoon, even though our booking agency informed them about it. I asked them at the end why we hadn't received any special treatment at all, and they said they had no record that it was our honeymoon. Once finding out it was our honeymoon, there was no 'sorry' or any attempt at all to make up for the failing. Carnival, on the other hand, brought us a special cake during dinner service, and even had numerous staff sing us a special honeymoon song, which was fantastic.
We also met another couple of the RC cruise, and funnily enough, they had the exact same opinion about the difference between Carnival and Royal Caribbean. They also thought that Carnival was far superior.
It is very unlikely that we will use RC again for a cruise.