I posted the same question as you and have the same concerns. First of all understand we are on a CCL message board - hence- PRO Carnival. Yes its true you get what you pay for and Carnival gets many repeat visitors because I would say, from my research, you get more for your money. Thats the reason I am chosing CCL for my first cruise. Honestly, RCCL has better reviews but indeed is much more expensive. So for the budget at hand CCL would be the better choice. I am going with a great attitude and hope for the best.