Royal Caribbean vs Celebrity Cruises: Which sister cruise line should you choose? – The Points Guy

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Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, which are sister cruise lines operated by Royal Caribbean Group, are known for offering abundant dining options and engaging nightlife but have different onboard vibes and target different types of cruise travelers.
Royal Caribbean’s fleet of more than two dozen ships includes some of the largest at sea and features groundbreaking innovations and family-friendly attractions. Celebrity’s 13 not-quite-as-large vessels are more upscale, adult-focused and design-centric.
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Which cruise line should you choose? Read on for a head-to-head comparison of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, covering each brand’s onboard experience, itineraries and passenger profile to help you decide.
Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity operate multiple classes of ships, most categorized as large. The older ships in both fleets are smaller than the newest vessels but are not intimate by any means.
Royal Caribbean’s older ships carry 2,000 to 3,900 guests, and its newest more than 5,000, putting it at the forefront of the megaship trend.
Its fleet boasts five of the world’s largest ships, led by Wonder of the Seas. This Oasis-class ship and its four siblings are so massive they carry up to 5,700 guests at double occupancy and are divided into themed neighborhoods to help guests find their way around.
Royal Caribbean’s modern Quantum-class ships accommodate 4,180 guests and stand out due to each ship’s North Star sightseeing capsule, which rises 300 feet above the sea.
Icon of the Seas, an entirely new class for Royal Caribbean, will be the line’s largest ship when it debuts in early 2024. It will only hold 5,600 passengers at double occupancy because the ship will feature more cabins and suites that accommodate four or more passengers than found on any other Royal Caribbean ship.
Related: The 6 classes of Royal Caribbean cruise ships, explained
Celebrity Cruises’ newest and largest ships are its 3,260-guest Edge series: Celebrity Edge, Apex and Beyond, with Ascent launching in December 2023. Its six Solstice-class ships carry 2,800 passengers, and its four Millennium-class vessels accommodate almost 2,200.
Celebrity also offers expedition-style cruising on three 16- to 100-passenger ships in the Galapagos Islands (but we won’t address them in this article).
Both cruise lines offer all the amenities of a floating resort at sea: pools, spas, bars and multiple dining venues. In terms of sheer wow factor, though, Royal Caribbean’s activity-packed Oasis- and Quantum-class ships are hard to beat, especially for family cruising.
On the other hand, Celebrity's vessels are spacious and designed to dazzle with contemporary decor and premium amenities.
On both lines, the smallest, oldest ships can have a different vibe from the newest, largest vessels, so keep that in mind as you’re researching trips.
Related: The 4 types of Celebrity Cruises ships, explained
With Royal Caribbean, a better question might be, “Who isn’t on board?” As a mainstream cruise line, it appeals to a wide range of passengers, mostly Americans and many of them families. It's also popular with friends celebrating birthdays or bachelor/bachelorette getaways and couples of all ages seeking a lively shipboard ambience at an affordable price.
That said, Royal Suite Class passengers definitely have money, so there’s a more upscale demographic, often multi-generational. Passengers also differ by itinerary, with 3- to 5-night Bahamas and 7-night Caribbean sailings attracting families and groups of friends. The line's 8- to 12-night Mediterranean itineraries draw more couples and retirees and fewer families. Alaska sailings lure multigenerational families and older cruisers.
Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean cruise ships and itineraries
Celebrity’s ships attract a narrower, more upscale demographic, mostly Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s and retirement-age Baby Boomers, with some childless Millennials, too.
There will be kids on board, but not in the numbers that Royal Caribbean attracts. As a premium cruise brand, Celebrity typically has higher fares, especially on its Edge-series ships, but sailings are not as expensive as on luxury cruise ships.
Related: The ultimate guide to Celebrity Cruises ships and itineraries
Royal Caribbean offers a dizzying array of cabin and suite options, especially on its newest and largest ships. Celebrity features fewer overall cabin categories but offers non-suite rooms that come with extra perks.
Both cruise lines offer a variety of cabin styles and price points. You’ll find windowless inside cabins, ocean-view rooms with picture windows or portholes, accommodations with private balconies and a range of suites. There are also connecting rooms for families and groups, as well as accessible cabins for passengers using wheelchairs or other assistive devices.
It’s not surprising that Royal Caribbean’s large Oasis- and Quantum-class ships feature the most accommodation types within the fleet — up to three dozen cabin and suite categories designed for both families and couples with a wide range of budgets.
On the affordable end, some of the windowless inside cabins come with a “virtual balcony,” a window-mimicking screen that displays real-time video of the view outside. These are available on all five Quantum-class ships, plus Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
Oasis-class ships also feature inside and balcony cabins that overlook the Promenade, Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods.
Six vessels (Brilliance of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas) offer a limited number of studio cabins designed for solo travelers.
The cruise line’s top accommodations are suites, varying in size and some with loft configurations. Its most lavish digs are the two-story Ultimate Family Suites (found on Wonder, Symphony and Spectrum of the Seas). They sleep up to eight guests and boast kid-friendly amenities, including a slide, air hockey table and other games.
All suites offer exclusive amenities. However, Royal Caribbean’s largest, most expensive suites come with exclusive perks, such as Royal Genie butler service and complimentary specialty dining and beverage packages.
Related: Royal Caribbean cruise ship cabin and suite guide: Everything you want to know
Celebrity’s newest Edge-class ships replace the standard balcony cabin with Infinite Veranda Staterooms, in which a floor-to-ceiling window lowers halfway to create an open-air veranda within the room. This design allows for more usable space within the cabin, regardless of whether the window is open or shut.
AquaClass spa cabins include in-cabin wellness amenities and access to an exclusive restaurant and the spa’s thermal suite (with saunas and heated loungers). Concierge-class rooms come with a dedicated concierge, a pillow menu and an exclusive welcome aboard lunch in the dining room with complimentary wine.
Solstice-class ships offer single inside cabins, while Edge-series ships include some Infinite Veranda staterooms designed for solo travelers.
Suite configurations and decor vary by ship class. On Edge-series ships, seven suite categories include the two-story Edge Villas and the Iconic Suite, the largest in the fleet at 1,892 square feet (plus a 689-square-foot terrace). Solstice-class ships feature six suite categories, and Millennium-class ships have five.
All suites come with dedicated attendants and a concierge, as well as included perks: a premium drinks package, premium Wi-Fi, prepaid tips and an onboard credit. Celebrity’s suite guests can also access exclusive amenities as part of The Retreat, including a private sundeck, lounge and restaurant.
Related: Everything you need to know about Celebrity Cruises cabins and suites
The upside: Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships offer a dozen or more onboard dining venues, so there are culinary options to suit every palate.
The downside: Both cruise lines offer just a handful of complimentary restaurants — a buffet, banquet-style dining rooms, a poolside grill and a few casual eateries — meaning passengers must pay extra for steakhouses, Italian or French restaurants, and sushi bars.
Royal Caribbean’s complimentary offerings include casual options such as the Dog House for a global hot dog menu, El Loco Fresh for burritos and quesadillas, Sorrento’s Pizza for grab-and-go slices, and Park Cafe for deli-style sandwiches — although options do vary slightly by ship.
Extra-fee dining on Royal Caribbean covers most of the bases — Chops Grille and Samba Grill for steak, Izumi for sushi, Teppanyaki and Sichuan Red for Asian, Giovanni’s Table and Jamie’s Italian for Mediterranean classics, and Hooked Seafood for fish and shellfish.
Wonderland mixes creative flavors and unique presentations, and 150 Central Park is ideal for a special celebration; the latter two are available solely on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships. Themed 1950s diner Johnny Rockets (on more than a dozen ships) is an affordable, kid-friendly favorite.
Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining
Like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity offers a formal main dining room on Solstice- and Millennium-class ships. However, on Edge-series ships, four smaller themed restaurants replace the one banquet-style dining hall.
Each features a selection of exclusive menu items — new American in Cosmopolitan, Mediterranean in Cyprus, French in Normandie and Italian in Tuscany — along with selections from the Celebrity Signature menu.
Each venue’s distinctive ambiance and unique menus serve up a variety on a complimentary basis — but solely for dinner. In addition, guests who book suites in The Retreat can dine at Luminae, while those in AquaClass have access to health-focused Blu, free of charge.
Additional fleetwide complimentary dining includes the buffet-style Oceanview Cafe, the Mast Grille, a casual poolside eatery serving burgers and wraps, and Spa Cafe, offering healthier, lighter options for breakfast and lunch.
Celebrity’s extra-fee dining also varies by ship class. On Edge-series ships, guests can enjoy Fine Cut Steakhouse for prime cuts and seafood, Eden Restaurant for modern global cuisine, Le Grand Bistro for classic French, Rooftop Garden Grill for backyard favorites, Raw on 5 for sushi and Japanese specialties, and Magic Carpet for small bites and cocktails.
Celebrity’s most elevated dining experience is Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud, the acclaimed French chef’s first restaurant at sea, available aboard Celebrity Beyond and Ascent.
Solstice- and Millennium-class ships feature Tuscan Grille for steak and Italian specialties, Le Petit Chef for classic French with enchanting tabletop entertainment and Sushi on Five for Japanese. Solstice-class ships have an additional restaurant, Murano, for elevated French tasting menus.
Two ships, Reflection and Silhouette, also offer two alfresco eateries: Lawn Club Grill and The Porch Seafood Restaurant.
Related: Dining mistakes you must fix on your next cruise
If you’re looking for culinary variety without paying extra, Royal Caribbean’s multiple complimentary casual dining venues, namely on its newest and biggest ships, give it an edge for families.
Celebrity’s Edge-series ships’ quartet of complimentary restaurants offers a nightly change of scenery and menus, ideal for couples and groups of adult friends.
If you don’t mind paying extra for a few dinners, Celebrity’s roster of specialty restaurants is also a notch above Royal Caribbean’s in terms of quality and ambiance.
Royal Caribbean’s focus on adrenaline-rush activities make it the clear choice for family fun, while Celebrity’s chicer vibe is a draw for couples seeking to relax.
Royal Caribbean is a leader in offering amusement park-style attractions such as waterslides, zip lines, surfing and sky-diving simulators, and escape rooms. Celebrity doesn’t go there at all. Rather, its onboard attractions are designed for grown-ups, with pools, hot tubs and stylish top-deck relaxation areas, such as The Lawn Club on Solstice-class ships and The Rooftop Garden on Edge-series ships.
All Royal Caribbean ships feature rock climbing walls, outdoor movie screens and arcades. All but Radiance- and Vision-class ships have FlowRider surf simulators, and all but Radiance-, Vision- and Quantum-class ships have mini-golf courses.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis- and Quantum-class ships feature the most thrills in the fleet — perhaps even at sea. Oasis-class vessels are known for their collection of waterslides and the Ultimate Abyss dry slide that drops riders 10 decks through a spiral tube pulsing with light. These ships also have an ice-skating rink, zip line, escape room, pop-up laser tag and a carousel.
Related: The best cruise ship waterslides and watery fun zones
Quantum-class ships don’t feature waterslides but are distinguished by their North Star sightseeing capsule, which lifts guests high above the ship for 360-degree views. Other thrills include RipCord by iFly (a sky-diving simulator), Sky Pad (a bungee trampoline) and the multi-purpose indoor SeaPlex offering bumper cars, basketball and Xbox gaming consoles.
Freedom- and Voyager-class ships offer some thrill activities, but not as many as the newer ships. These can include various waterslides, laser tag, escape rooms and SkyPad bungee, so check each ship’s offerings. Older and smaller Radiance- and Vision-class ships feature pools but no waterslides or other kid-friendly attractions.
What Celebrity’s ships lack in thrills, they make up for with eye-catching contemporary design and cool places to hang out. Solstice-class ships feature a half-acre Lawn Club with real grass; it’s the setting for jazz concerts and outdoor games. Edge-series vessels have a Rooftop Garden with live plants, modern sculptures, cozy seating nooks and a grill restaurant. Cabana-lined pool decks feature elevated hot tubs shaped like martini glasses.
Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity feature adults-only, glass-enclosed Solarium pools. They also offer relaxing spas with salons, thermal suites and fitness centers for all your self-care and wellness needs.
Related: The craziest attractions you'll find on a cruise ship
Both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity welcome families and have complimentary kids clubs, but only Royal Caribbean has the onboard attractions and thrills (see below) that appeal to active younger children and teens.
The cruise line’s Adventure Ocean youth program has spaces and activities (science and art projects, games and parties) designed for kids aged 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The program is free during the day and early evening; an hourly rate applies after 10 p.m.
The Royal Babies & Tots nursery accommodates children ages 6 to 36 months for drop-off babysitting (for an hourly fee). Teens can hang out in The Living Room, dance or chill with new friends at the Fuel teen club or try to get a high score at the arcade.
Related: Best cruise lines for families
Celebrity’s Camp at Sea kids program also caters to children in three age groups (3-5, 6-9 and 10-12). Programming focuses on recreation, hobbies and learning-based activities in arts and science. Its Teen Club keeps 13- to 17-year-olds entertained with sports competitions, silent discos and video game parties.
Royal Caribbean is the hands-down winner here, a cruise line designed with family fun in mind. Some older teens may enjoy a transition from Royal Caribbean to Celebrity. However, families with active tweens and younger kids seeking onboard thrills are better off with Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean pulls out all the stops, entertainment-wise, so if lively, in-your-face nightlife is key to your vacation bliss, opt for one of its newer, larger ships.
Celebrity’s entertainment lineup pushes boundaries in more unexpected ways but mainly on its newer Edge-series ships; its Solstice- and Millennium-class ships offer more traditional entertainment.
Both cruise lines feature inviting bars and lounges. Celebrity’s nightlife scene is decidedly more upscale and chic, while Royal Caribbean’s is livelier and more casual.
Love a Broadway show? Royal Caribbean delivers, staging versions of award-winning musicals such as “Grease,” “Cats,” “Hairspray” and “Mama Mia!” on select ships, as well as original productions on all vessels. The line’s biggest and newest ships also offer dazzling ice-skating shows, daring high-dive AquaTheater performances and/or fantastic high-tech multimedia dance shows.
The two dozen bars and lounges on Royal Caribbean’s ships range from the panoramic Viking Crown Lounge to the gimmicky Bionic Bar featuring robot bartenders. A sports bar (Playmakers Bar & Arcade), piano bar (Schooner Bar) and Latin-style lounge (Boleros) are other popular options.
Related: Cruise ship drink packages: A line-by-line guide
Passengers can also sing karaoke, watch a poolside movie under the stars and hit the dance floor to the tunes of a live band or DJ. The bigger the ship, the greater the entertainment options.
Celebrity’s entertainment philosophy overall is more traditional, with nightlife centered around drinking, hanging out in lounges and enjoying original production shows in the ship’s theater. Bars and lounges also feature live music, and there’s a Silent Disco party at least once per cruise.
If you’re looking for something a little different, the Edge-series ships offer creative and interactive performances in Eden and The Club, a multipurpose space featuring DJs and themed late-night performances.
All Celebrity ships are known for the Martini Bar, where flamboyant bartenders create a spectacle with shaker tosses and colorful cocktail towers, and the Sunset Bar, located aft and offering terrific sailaway views. Only Celebrity Beyond and Ascent feature a chicly reimagined, two-level Sunset Bar by designer Nate Berkus. Craft Social is the place to grab a craft beer and bar bites, while World Class Bar is the go-to for curated cocktails.
Both cruise lines’ ships feature large casinos and offer participatory game shows (“Love & Marriage” and “Battle of the Sexes” on Royal Caribbean and “Deal or No Deal” on Celebrity).
Royal Caribbean’s ships cruise to more than 300 destinations worldwide, but the heart of its business is the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Most of its vessels spend the months from November to March in the islands, sailing 3- to 12-night cruises from ports in Florida and Galveston, Texas.
However, you can find several ships cruising the Caribbean year-round. Many itineraries call on Royal Caribbean’s activity-packed private Bahamian island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Seasonal itineraries in Europe, including the Mediterranean, Greek Isles and the British Isles, are also popular, as are cruises to Alaska. Royal Caribbean also offers sailings to Bermuda, Hawaii, Canada and New England, Mexico, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the Panama Canal and the South Pacific. Transatlantic and transpacific cruises are available seasonally as well.
Celebrity ships call on more than 300 global cruise ports. Most ships spend November to March cruising the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale and Miami on 4-to-11-night sailings and April to October in Europe on 6- to 14-night itineraries in the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Adriatic, British Isles, Iceland and Northern Europe.
Seasonal cruises are also available to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Bermuda, New England and Canada, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, South America and Asia. Celebrity also offers itineraries to Antarctica (scenic cruising only) from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Both cruise lines offer many global options, but neither has itineraries longer than 18 nights. For a summer cruise in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean has far more options, while Celebrity is the better choice for a summer sailing in Europe. Either line is a good choice for Alaska in summer or the Caribbean in winter, depending on whether you’re traveling as a couple or a family and the ship class you book.
Royal Caribbean is the obvious choice if you crave a lively and stimulating cruise experience with 24/7 entertainment and activities that wow both adults and kids. It’s also generally the more affordable option.
Celebrity is the cruise line for you if you want a more upscale large-ship experience with a grown-up vibe (but still suitable for kids and teens). What Celebrity's ships lack in adrenaline-rush thrills, they make up in terrific dining and drinking venues.
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