Royal Caribbean vs MSC Cruises and their newest ships at sea

Are you looking for a cruise vacation but don’t know which cruise line or which cruise ship to choose? Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises are two of the most popular cruise lines around but they offer very different experiences.

So which one is right for you?

Let’s look at two of their newest cruise ships and break it all down so you can see the differences and what to expect onboard between Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas (currently the largest cruise ship in the world) and MSC Grandiosa, to help you decide.

Royal Caribbean International – an iconic cruise line

Royal Caribbean is the world’s leading cruise line, carrying over 6 million passengers every year. They are known for their iconic Royal Promenade, a throughfare which is the main atrium of the ship, their high quality of service and some of the largest cruise ships at sea with outstanding activites and facilities.

Royal Caribbean International was founded in Norway but is based in Miami. The cruise line has two private islands in the Caribbean for cruise guests – Labadee and Coco Cay. It owns 25 cruise ships, has more in production and it also owns sister company Celebrity cruises.

Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International
Sister ship Allure of the Seas, one of 5 Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ships 

MSC Cruises – masters of the Mediterranean

MSC Cruises is an international cruise company with headquarters in Geneva Switzerland. Founded in Italy, MSC Cruises is one of the fastest growing cruise brands in the world. Their ships are at the forefront of cruise technology and design. The company’s mission is to provide exceptional cruise experiences at affordable prices with a focus on service and attention to detail. Their motto is ‘dedicated to exceeding guest expectation’.

MSC Cruises is known mainly for its Mediterranean cruises. Whilst it also has some of its newest ships operating out of Port of Miami, it is still relatively new to the American market. However it has its own private island in the Caribbean, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, and plans to build a new terminal at Port of Miami for its ships purposely built for sailing in the Caribbean, MSC Seasview, MSC Seaside and MSC Seashore. And more big ships are planned.

MSC Cruises cruising the Norwegian fjords
MSC Cruises, popular with international travelers

Comparing two of the biggest cruise lines at sea

So when comparing Royal Caribbean vs MSC Cruises, what is the feedback we usually hear? There are 6 key areas that come up time and again.

Dining onboard your cruise ship

It seems to be that the majority of cruise guests prefer the cuisine offered onboard Royal Caribbean ships compared to MSC Cruises. And we must say that we agree. It’s not that you cannot have a fabulous meal onboard MSC Cruises, it’s more that the variety, attention to details and choice is better and wider with Royal Caribbean. And that the specialty restaurants are a better quality and more imaginative. You could say that whilst MSC is great, Royal Caribbean is fantastic. That all said, you will be spoilt for choice on both cruise lines.

Entertainment at sea

There are often more entertainment venues onboard a Royal Caribbean ship compared to an MSC Ships. That means more variety. Plus, the main theatre onboard Royal Caribbean ships are offering Broadway style shows (Think Grease, Cats, Mamma Mia to name just a few. As well as ice-skating shows on the only ice-rinks at sea.

MSC Cruises offer more song and dance shows. Simply put, there is more ‘wow’ factor onboard Royal Caribbean who look like they plow more money into first class entertainment productions compared to MSC Cruises.

All Inclusive Options

When it somes to have the true All Inclusive experience on board, you need to compare MSC Yacht Club prices with the Royal Suite Class prices onboard Royal Caribbean ships. Both price classes will put you in the higher priced cabin brackets. It isn’t always easy to do an exact comparison of price and Royal Caribbean has so many price categories to choose from, determined by not only the type of cabin you book but the location of the cabin onboard. Many say you get more value for money in MSC Yacht Club suite.

Price and value for money

Whilst Royal Caribbean has more price categories to choose between, MSC Cruises often offer cruises at lower prices, especially on the more common routes visited on a Mediterranean cruise and on a Caribbean cruise. Their child price is often very child-friendly compared to Royal Caribbean.

Experience onboard

The mix of cruise guests onboard MSC Cruises is more international compared to Royal Caribbean. Announcements and menus onboard are in 4 or 5 different languages, compared to just English on board Royal Caribbean. Service onboard from staff doesn’t get the same high marks from MSC guests as Royal Caribbean guests who like the attention to detail that Royal give onboard.

Layout and design is without a doubt spectacular onboard both cruises ships when you look at the deck plan. Royals immense ships in the Oasis class are divided up into themed “neighborhoods” such as “Central Park”, Boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade. This means that despite thousands of guests onboard at the same time, it is rare the ship feels overcrowded. The busiest times of day is undoubtedly the evening dining.

MSC Cruises do not have such neighborhoods, rather than divide up their ships they have opted to create wrap-around promenades and are known for digital technologies and innovation. They are the forerunner in using clean energy to power their ships in the future – ships fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Activites you may never do elsewhere

We all know that when we book a cruise these days that you are booking a whole cruise vacation experience. It’s not just the destnations you will visit, the style in which you travel and the entertainment and service you get on the way. It’s also about thrilling activities, shifting you out of your comfort zone and letting you try something new, and even daring.

Onboard Royal Caribbean biggest ship at sea, the brand new Wonder of the Seas, you can zipline, jump into a 10-storey mega slide, ice-skate, rock climb, learn to surf of the flow rider, join in basketball, volleyball or football, or get fitness classes from pros. Or sing karaoke,

Onboard Grandiosa of the Seas, there is plenty to do if not as much to do as Wonder of the Seas offers. Race in a car racing simulator, play bowling on a full size bowling ally or ride the aqua park slides.

Wonder of the Seas vs Grandiosa of the Seas

Royal Caribbean
Wonder of the Seas

Launch date: March 2022
Class: Oasis class
Cruise region: Bahamas & Caribbean and Mediterranean in summer season
Cabins and suites: 2865
Number of decks: 18
Gross tonnes: 236000
Length: 352 meters
Max. number of passengers: 6590
Sister ships: Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas

Shopping: The Royal Promenade

Pools: 4 Main outdoor pools, Aqua Theatre (for performances by diving artists), Movies under the Stars (largest movie screen at sea)
Perfect Storm water slides

Free Kids Club: Adventure Ocean, Social100 and The Patio offer multiple programs for babies (an extra charge is incurred) and up to 12 yrs old. Teens clubs are for ages 12 to 17 yrs.
Wonder Playscape is the new underwater-themed interactive play area for kids.

Exclusive for suite guests:
A separate “neighborhood” only for suite guests called The Suite Neighborhood.
Their own restaurant, Coastal Kitchen.
A super-sized Ultimate Family Suite for up to 10 guests.

Standard Balcony Cabin: Floor space: aprox. 17 sqm; balcony: 6-8 sqm. Decks 6-12

Drinks & Dining: 20 Restaurants, 19 bars onboard including a sports bar

Main Dining Room (included in price)

Buffet Restaurant (included in price):
Solarium Bistro Restaurant

Other restaurants included in price:
Windjammer – casual restaurant for breakfast and lunch
El Loco Fresh – casual Mexican fast food for lunch and dinner
Dog House – fast food – hot dogs
Sorrentos Pizza – casual fast food
Park Cafe – casual fast food

Specialty restaurants (extra charge):
Johnny Rockets – American fast food
Wonderland – creative cuisine
Chops Grille – classic American steakhouse
Hooked Sea Food
Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar
Vitality Café – healthy options (you’ll pay extra for juices and smoothies)
150 Central Park – classic international dishes
Izumi Hibachi & Sushi – Asian inspired cuisine
The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar – a twist on American southern classic cuisine

Notable Bars:
English Pub: The Cask and Clipper including live music
The Vue Bar: with panoramic ocean views on the top deck
Cantina Fresca: For Margaritas and other Mexican beverages
The Lime and Coconut

Theatre (included):
Broadway style musicals
Iceskating shows
Kareoke Bar
Highlight: Aqua Theatre with fantastic high diving and aerial acrobatic shows

Activities: Ice-skating, fitness center, zipline, sports court, arcade, Flowrider surf machine, mini golf, rock climbing, Ultimate Abyss longest slide at sea

Cruise Ship App: Royal Caribbean International app

MSC Cruises
Grandiosa of the Seas

Launch date: 2019
Class: Meraviglia-Plus class
Cruise region: Mediterranean and Northern Europe
Cabins and suites: 2421
Number of decks: 19
Gross tonnes: 181000
Length: 333 meters
Max. number of passengers: 6334
Sister ships: MSC Virtuosa & MSC World Europa

Shopping: Galleria Grandiosa

Pools: 2 Main outdoor pools, 1 indoor pool, 1 Yacht Club guests pool, 1 Wild Forest Aqua Slide Park

Free Kids Club: 5 kids clubs for ages 1 to 17 in partnership with Lego and Chicco including a Nintendo experience.

Exclusive for suite guests: MSC Yacht Club area with own lounge. restaurant and pool area

Standard Balcony Cabin: Floor space: approx. 17 sqm; balcony: 6-8 sqm. Decks 13-14

Drinks & Dining: 11 Restaurants, 20 bars onboard including a sports bar

Main Dining Rooms (included in price):
La Perla Grigia; Purple Crab; La Logia;
Il Campo – reserved for Aurea class guests.

Buffet Restaurant (included in price):
Marketplace Buffet

Specialty restaurants (extra charge):
HOLA! Tapas Bar by Ramón Freixa (Spanish cuisine);
l’Atelier Bistrot (French cuisine);
Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant & Sushi Bar; Butcher’s Cut (American steakhouse);

Yacht Club restaurant: Yacht Club Grill & Bar (included in price in Yacht Club category)

Theatre (included):
Song and dance shows
Magic shows
Highlight: Cirque du Soleil – acrobatic show, can come with an additional charge.

Activities: Interactive Cinema, Virtual Reality Maze, Bowling, F1 Simulator, Sportsplex, Spa, hair salon and barber shop, fitness center

Cruise Ship App: MSC 4 me
Interactive Cruise Assistant: Zoe with 7 different languages in-cabin

Which cruise ship has the best Mediterranean itinerary?

Let’s look at typical itineraries in the Mediterranean for both MSC Grandiosa and Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas. Note these are subject to change at any time so always check with the cruise line for updated information!

Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
Western Mediterranean Cruise
Itinerary: Barcelona, Spain –  Palma de Mallorca, Spain – Provence (Marseilles), France – Florence/Pisa (La Spezia), Italy – Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – Naples (Capri), Italy – Day at Sea- Barcelona, Spain

MSC Grandiosa
Western Mediterranean Cruise
Itinerary: Civitavecchia (Rome), Rome –  Palermo, Italy – Valletta, Malta – Barcelona, Spain – Marseille, France – Genoa, Italy, – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..