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Celebrity vs. Royal Caribbean: How do they compare?

by Fran Golden | September 29, 2016

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International share a parent company, but that’s all they have in common. The Celebrity ships are some of the most beautiful at sea, with modern designs and impressive contemporary art collections. True, these ships' best models date back to 2008, but they still feel well-thought-out and sophisticated — and the line continues to excel at an elegant take on big ship cruising for the 40 and older demographic, most of whom travel in pairs.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, serves families and multigenerational groups, among others, with a focus on sporty and adrenaline-pumping activities such as skydiving and surfing simulators, as well as amusement park-style entertainment and cutting-edge technology. (No other line has internet access that is as fast and as reasonably priced, for example.) Royal Caribbean's big, loud, activity-filled ships include the largest vessels in the industry, carrying more than 6,000 passengers.

How do the two lines stack up against each other? Here's our take.

Pricing

Generally speaking, Celebrity tends to be more expensive than Royal Caribbean. Similar to Royal Caribbean, the lowest rates on Celebrity are typically found on the older ships, especially Celebrity Summit. But, even with Celebrity Summit, it's rare for the line to drop prices for seven-night sailings to less than $500 per person. Discounts on Celebrity’s “top-shelf” Solstice-class ships — especially for outside cabins — are much less common, although you can occasionally find them in the low season. (Any time the price of a balcony cabin falls below $1,000 for a seven-night itinerary, book it!) A few shorter itineraries also tend to have low pricing, such as a four-night Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Silhouette for $399. In terms of "extra perks" (such as beverage packages and onboard credit), you usually have to book an Ocean View cabin or higher to receive any of these.

Vs.

Royal Caribbean’s rates start lower across the board, though you will find that the line discounts its newer ships less frequently than the older vessels. When you do see a deal for these ships, it’s usually for an inside balcony, a cabin category unique to Royal Caribbean. (These rooms have verandas but look out over the middle of the ship rather than the sea.) The other place you’ll find value? Older ships on short, one-off itineraries.

Destinations

Most of Celebrity's ships winter in the Caribbean, with some in South America and Australia/New Zealand too. In summer, you'll find itineraries in places such as Europe, Alaska, New England/Canada, and Bermuda. The 98-passenger Celebrity Xpedition cruises in the Galapagos, offering a nice soft-adventure experience, and — beginning in 2017— Celebrity Equinox will be in the Caribbean year-round. In terms of pricing, Caribbean and Bahamas sailings are the least expensive options; Alaska, Europe, and even Bermuda tend to cost more.

Vs.

Royal Caribbean has a cluster of ships that cruise in the Caribbean and the Bahamas year-round, as well as seasonally in Alaska and other close-to-home destinations. The line also has ships in China and Southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, and the Middle East.

Want to see how the cabins, food, and activities compare? Click to read on.

Fran Golden

Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.

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