We have our third cruise in December coming up. We have been booking cruises either the first or second week in December due to low rates you can get for that time frame. The weather has been fine, sometimes you may have a rainy day but no hurricanes.
As for the difference between RCCL and Carnival it is all depends on what you want. Have been on RCCL and ejoyed. Will be traveling in 2004 on our first Carnival ship.
I like the Eastern itinery better than the southern route because of more sea days. It is all in what you would like. More ports or more sea days.
It is difficult to give answers to your questions without more information of your personal preferences. But here goes:
The difference between RCI and Carnival is minute in my opinion. One Carnival ship may be better for service and food than another RCI ship, and vice versa. On sea days would you prefer a water slide or rock climbing wall? How about ice skating? How about miniature golf? How about outdoor barbeque?
What's more important to you, itinerary or ship? Answer this question first then you can move onto the other factor. If port days and Southern itinerary is more important, then you have narrowed your choices down on which cruiseline or ship to book. Would you prefer a smaller ship versus a larger ship? Would you prefer a lot of activity or quiet time with the spouse?
Most southern itineraries originate from San Juan. Some leave from Miami but they will be the longer cruises. The Eastern can leave from a number of ports including Ft. Lauderdale and Cape Canaveral as well as Miami. Air fare can be a significant part of the vacation budget.
Weather in December should be no problem for either itinerary. The Bahamas can gett chilly this time of year if only for a couple of days. Once you're south of the Bahamas the weather will warm considerably. Hurricanes are rare in December.
Port days can be intensive. You get up early and go on an excursion. Maybe walk around town to shop or sightsee. Maybe go on an island tour. Whatever. You return to the ship, shower, get dressed for dinner then go to the show. They can be tiring. If you want to see 7 ports in 7 days then select a suitable itinerary. Most first timers want to see all they can on their vacation.
Sea days are more relaxing. You lay at the pool. Maybe take in some onboard activities or watch a movie. Gamble in the casino. Attend some trivia games. Read a book.
Denrie, December is a great time to cruise. If you are looking for silky, white sandy beaches and great shopping then the Eastern Route would be better. If you are looking for a port-intenstive tour then the Southern Route would be a great choice. Both are good cruise lines,you need to do a side-by-side comparison and pick the one that best suits your needs.
I will be cruising the caribbean for my second time coming up in January. This past march I was on the Carnival Imagination with stops in Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios (have you ever been there?... beautiful place, we had some local friends take us around).
This cruise will be on Norwegian, I am very excited about it. It will be stopping in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West. Though, I wish it were stopping in Jamaica since it is such a pretty place.
A Carnival cruise is fun for all ages, some other cruises can be focused on different ages. On Carnival they plan different activities throughout the day and they have great shows at night. Very entertaining!
Hope you have a great time with whatever you choose! Cruises are a lot of fun, and the caribbean is beautiful, I don't think I have a preference of east or south because of that. I would look at what each cruise line has to offer, and what kind of prices...