DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

Earlier this month, my family sailed on our first Royal Caribbean cruise after having sailed on Disney Cruise Line seven times. I’ve received numerous requests to compare the two lines across categories. Obviously, my opinions are subjective. For this comparison of DCL vs. RCCL I’m specifically comparing Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to the Disney Fantasy.DCL vs. RCCL

Main Dining Rooms: Winner = DCL

Disney has three main dining rooms that guests rotate through while keeping the same serving staff throughout the cruise. Animator’s Palate has two different shows during dinner, and the servers’ outfits match each dining room’s theme. On longer cruises, there are special themed dinners for Pirate Night and even Star Wars night (if you’re on a Star Wars cruise). Service is usually impeccable.

Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy

On Anthem of the Seas, my family ate at the main dining rooms several times. I was pleasantly surprised by the food and service. However, we felt less of a connection to the servers since they were different each night (we had My Time Dining but reserved the same time every night). And, the dining rooms had no special themes. DCL definitely has the edge.

Buffet Restaurant: Winner = RCCL

The Windjammer buffet on Anthem of the Seas blew my whole family away. It was expansive, with many stations. I loved how we could get sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs at a section of the buffet (unlike on DCL, where we have to get those items separately by the pool).

Windjammer buffet on Anthem of the Seas

Windjammer’s hours are a lot longer than Cabanas buffet on DCL. Windjammer is open for dinner, while DCL has no buffet available for dinner. We ate dinner twice at Windjammer, and I was impressed with made-to-order grilled meats and the dessert crepe cooking station.

Specialty Dining: Winner = RCCL

On the Disney Fantasy, Palo and Remy are the only two specialty restaurants. We’ve dined at Palo on every cruise (sometimes twice), but the menu doesn’t change often. We tried Remy on our last cruise, and while it was different, we wouldn’t eat there again due to price and menu.

Anthem of the Seas has seven specialty restaurants to choose from. And they’re not outrageously priced, either. My son and I ate at Wonderland restaurant, and it was phenomenal! (Full review of Wonderland to come next week).

DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

Entrance to Wonderland on Anthem of the Seas

Kids’ Clubs: Winner = DCL

This is no surprise—DCL excels in this category. The activities inside Adventure Ocean on Anthem of the Seas were not varied or interesting to my daughter. I wrote a more in-depth post about this last week.

Oceaneer Club on the Disney Wonder

Teen Clubs: Tie

While the Vibe on the Disney Fantasy has more features (like a smoothie bar, private outdoor pool) than the teen club on Anthem of the Seas, the teen club on RCCL had more options for group activities outside of the club.

Recreation: Winner = RCCL

Royal Caribbean shines in this category. Anthem of the Seas offers circus trapeze lessons, bumper cars, roller skating, FlowRider, RipCord by iFLY indoor sky diving, rock climbing wall…lots of options. The Disney Fantasy has a sports court and mini-golf.

DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

RipCord by iFLY on Anthem of the Seas

Pools: Winner = RCCL

This was a tough winner to pick, but overall Anthem of the Seas has more space dedicated to pools and has more hot tubs. Anthem of the Seas has an indoor covered pool with two hot tubs, which is great for rainy/windy weather. The outdoor kids pool section has a “lazy donut”, which is like half of a lazy river. The Disney Fantasy no longer has any hot tubs in the family pool area, which is a real bummer for my kids.

Huge hot tubs on Anthem of the Seas

Adult-only Pool Area: Winner = RCCL

The adults-only solarium on Anthem of the Seas is huge and relaxing. It has four cascading pools in addition to a few large hot tubs. It also has an outdoor viewing area. The adults-only pool area on Disney is much smaller.

DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

Adults-only pools on Anthem of the Seas

Ice Cream: Winner = DCL

My son made me add this category since he consumes 5+ ice cream cones a day on cruises. Both Anthem of the Seas and the Disney Fantasy have free self-serve ice cream stations. However, the one on DCL is open later at night, and the ice cream tastes better. The one on Anthem of the Seas was drippy and closed at 9:00 p.m.

Movies: Winner = DCL

There is always a movie playing on the Disney Fantasy. Throughout the day, movies are playing by the pool and in the Buena Vista movie theatre. Royal Caribbean only played movies at the pool at night, and there is no dedicated movie theater on board.

Live Music: Winner = RCCL

Anthem of the Seas has a Caribbean band playing at the pool and several venues that feature live music at night. Live music on DCL is much more limited.

Shows: Winner = DCL

This was a tough category to pick a winner. Overall, I feel the shows on DCL are higher-quality and more family-friendly. Plus, DCL has a fireworks show.

On Anthem of the Seas, my daughter and I enjoyed The Gift. It had great songs and special effects. I also enjoyed a fabulous cover band show. However, Spectra’s Cabaret show was awful with some skimpy outfits, and my kids didn’t go to We Will Rock You because it had a parental advisory warning. I did like how we could reserve shows online before our RCCL cruise.

Ship Décor: Winner = DCL

This obviously varies based on personal preferences. I prefer DCL’s classic and nautical décor compared to the modern Las Vegas/shopping mall look on Anthem of the Seas.

Classic atrium on the Disney Fantasy

Although, we did like seeing all the different art and sculptures on Anthem of the Seas.

DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

Tube sculpture on Anthem of the Seas

On-board Communication: Winner = DCL

DCL’s app has a free texting feature that you can use to communicate with your family on-board. It also has wave phones in each stateroom to use in case you can’t download the app.

On Royal’s app, the texting feature costs $7.95 per person. I also prefer the paper Personal Navigator on DCL vs. Cruise Compass on RCCL because it divides activities into categories, like kids, family, adult, etc. The Cruise Compass on Anthem of the Seas is harder to read.

Staterooms: Winner = DCL

Comparable oceanview staterooms are slightly larger on DCL (204 square feet vs. 182 square feet). DCL staterooms have split bathrooms with bath tubs (great for smaller kids) and a curtain divider between the main bed and the bunk beds.

Oceanview stateroom on Disney Dream

That said, we had no issues with our staterooms on Anthem of the Seas. I actually like the single bathroom because it has more space. I also like how the beds can be split into two twin beds.

DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

Deck 3 Oceanview stateroom on Anthem of the Seas

Service: Winner = DCL

This is the most important category for some, and DCL really can’t be beat with service. We didn’t have bad service on Anthem of the Seas per se, but DCL has special touches that we didn’t feel on RCCL.

For example, when walking down the hallway on DCL, every stateroom attendant says good morning and calls my daughter a princess. When walking down the hall on Anthem of the Seas, we heard stateroom attendants complaining about their jobs. Even when I went to guest services for something, the crew members were commiserating with each other that they had been on the ship too long.

We had good service in the dining rooms on RCCL and our stateroom attendant was great. However, on DCL the culture appears to be more positive, and the crew members seem happier.

Sentimental Journey/Identity: Winner = DCL

It’s hard to describe what I’m talking about. But, if you’ve been on DCL, you know what I’m saying. Getting your photo taken with Captain Mickey, seeing your daughter over-the-moon with the princesses, tearing up in the evening show….that all happens on DCL. Disney has a clear identity that revolves around characters and story-telling. RCCL does not have that.

Itineraries: Winner = RCCL

With 26 ships in the fleet, Royal Caribbean sails to places that DCL does not. DCL does not offer Bermuda sailings over the summer months.

Cost: Winner = RCCL

The cost of DCL vs. RCCL is often double. It depends on the ship, time of year, and stateroom. See my cost comparison here.

Is My Family Dumping DCL for RCCL for Future Cruises?

No, not entirely. Despite the differences in some categories, overall my family had a wonderful time on our first Royal Caribbean cruise. Nothing we experienced on board was a “deal breaker”. Anthem of the Seas was a great fit for my boys, but not a great fit for my daughter. She missed the kids’ club, characters and movies on DCL.

I doubt we will stop sailing DCL altogether. I do have a short 3-night MerryTime cruise reserved. However, the current cost of DCL and the limited itineraries make other cruise lines more attractive right now. College is just around the corner for my oldest, and we need to make responsible choices.

My family plans to sail on Oasis of the Seas in early 2021. This ship is being “amplified” later this year. I think that ship will be a better fit for my daughter because of the mini-golf, ice show and Aqua Theater show. Also, the kids’ club is getting a makeover, so hopefully it will have better activities than the club on Anthem of the Seas.

DCL has a new ship arriving in 2021, and I’m very interested to see if DCL will incorporate more RCCL-style recreation into its design. We better start saving now!

Have you sailed on both DCL and RCCL? How do the lines compare for you?

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DCL vs. RCCL

Author: Nancy

Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.

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10 thoughts on “DCL vs. RCCL: Comparison by Category

  1. Two comments that surprised me:
    “However, we felt less of a connection to the servers since they were different each night.”

    Did you have “any time” dining or the traditional dining? I’ve been on several cruises with Princess and RCCL over the years. The wait staff at dinner was always the same every night.

    “When walking down the hall on Anthem of the Seas, we heard stateroom attendants complaining about their jobs. Even when I went to guest services for something, the crew members were commiserating with each other that they had been on the ship too long.”

    I’ve never experienced anything close to this. Staff was always friendly throughout the different ships. The only instance I could think of was on our last RCCL cruise; thy guy at the towel desk looked like he’d rather be someplace else.

    • @projectx We had any time dining, but made a reservation for the same time every night.

      I’m sure crew member happiness varies from ship to ship, but overall on Anthem of the Seas it seemed lower than on DCL.

      Speaking of pool towels…I see a lot of folks complaining about having to check out and return towels on RCCL. I thought it would be a big pain, but it really wan’t a big deal. The ship had a few towel stations, so we never had to look far.

      • That might be why you had a different wait staff… I think that’s the deal with any time dining regardless if you eat at the same time every night or not.

        Not surprised the Disney staff was more jovial overall. That’s just how Disney rolls.

        I also found the pool towel situation to be better than expected. Thing is, you don’t have to return your towel at the end of the day. As long as it is returned by the end of the cruise, you’re good. Or, swap them out 3 times a day if you like. I don’t know what anyone would complain about. I found it to be a convenient system.

  2. Seems fairly . split- although Cost is a big factor and might trump other things… but I think its okay to love more than one cruise line! I do love reading this comparison though! I have RCCL on my radar for another trip, I want to get to Perfect Day!

    • @Momma To Go Yes, I want to go to Perfect Day at CocoCay too! We originally had a 4-night cruise on Mariner of the Seas planned for next year’s spring break, but we canceled it to go to Costa Rica. If we stick with our 2021 reservation on Oasis of the Seas, it stops there.

  3. What’s your approach to using miles/points to defray the costs of cruises? Also, what sites do you recommend for comparing cruises and cruiselines?

    • @Narb My strategy has been to use miles and points for flights to the cruise ports and for the hotel the night before the cruise. I’ve never paid for an entire cruise on points, but I’ve defrayed the cost by using flexible travel reward points from my Capital One Venture Rewards card and even my Disney Visa. To research cruises, I’ve relied on cruisecritic.com. You can see a lot of trip reports and read people’s complaints and preferences for different cruise lines. I hope that helps!

  4. Hi Nancy! Thank you for the comparison review.
    Oasis came in a very close second to our Fantasy Cruise for me.
    My husband and son each agreed they were equal in the overall satisfaction factor.
    We were able to retain our waitstaff in the MDR throughout our Oasis cruise; which we love about all of our cruises. ????. (We had My Time dining but were able to reserve the same table and time )
    Cost and itineraries are the biggest factors in our planning.
    We are hoping to book one of the newer DCL ships but most of our future cruises will be non Disney.
    Our next cruise will be our first time on NCL .
    I’m looking forward to seeing your Oasis review . ????

  5. Pingback: My Summer Travel Post-Mortem Analysis - Miles For Family

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