You want to go on a cruise, but with so many options, how do you know which one is best for you? Today we compare two of the best on the ocean: Carnival Vista vs. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.
First a couple of quick facts. In 2015, 23 million people from around the world sailed on a cruise ship. More than 11 million of those were from the US. The top cruise destination was the Caribbean. According to industry experts, that number is expected to by 4% next year.
Both “floating hotels” were launched into service in 2016. Both ships are considered mass market cruise ships, and both are owned and operated by two of the largest cruise companies in the world, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Size may matter to you so here are the stats.
For more videos and information on these two companies you can check the Travel Company Video Index on my site.
Carnival Vista was introduced into the Carnival fleet in May of 2016. After a series of repositioning cruises, this ship arrived at its home port of Miami, Florida. It currently sails on six and eight-day Caribbean itineraries out of Miami. This ship is the first ship in the Vista Class ship with others already on order.
On board Vista, some of the most notable additions include the “Skyride”, which is essentially a self-propelled pod that you can peddle around an 800-foot track, suspended 150 feet about the deck. Seafood Shack is a new dining option and is only available on this ship. Look for lobster rolls, crab legs and other treasures from the ocean all available for an additional charge. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then you can relax and take in a movie at the only IMAX theatre at sea. Deck 2 is officially the family deck, with family-themed and sized staterooms, family common space and even a family concierge to completely satisfy the ever-changing needs of the modern-day sea-faring family.
MS Ovation of the Seas
April 14, 2016 was the maiden voyage for MS Ovation of the Seas. This ship is the first ship built for Royal Caribbean specifically for the Chinese market. It embarked on mini-itineraries for invited guests and members of the press and then began a 52-night odyssey cruise before making its way to its home port of Tianjin, China. This is the third vessel in the Quantum class...and if you know all about classes of ships on these lines, then you really are a cruise nerd...and I love that about you!
If you are a die-hard Royal Caribbean fan, then being on board Ovation of the Seas isn’t necessarily a must because it is virtually identical to the two other sister ships in the Quantum Class: Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. All three are some of the most technologically stunning vessels at sea. Transformative spaces use using lighting, staging and special effects to dazzle guests. The cruise offers sky diving with iFly, a trapeze school, the North Star, and bumper cars among many other attractions.
Similarities between Carnival Vista vs. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas
Both ships share some common ground in just about every area of interest. Both ships
Carnival and Royal Caribbean are two companies who understand their passenger’s needs. They have been getting better at it every year since cruising for the masses began being a “thing” back in the 1980’s. These ships are fine examples of cruise innovation and state of the art sailing.
You can book itineraries on both ships directly with the cruise line or with the help of a travel agent. Whichever you choose, I suggest you become a member of their loyalty program. The more you cruise the more perks you get and over time loyalty does have its privileges and rewards.
Will I get Sick on a Cruise?
Before we wrap up, let’s talk illness. Am I going to get sick on a cruise ship? First, I might ask, what type of sick are you asking about? Are you going to get motion sickness? That’s a tough one. That depends on your own tolerance for slight variations in your equilibrium. The rocking motion of ships is caused by the fluctuations on the water in which these ships are sailing. Cruise ships sail in calm waters for the most part. The have state of the art weather forecasting to avoid rough seas. They also are equipped with powerful stabilizers so even in rougher waters, the ship stays level and comfortable.
The other illness you may be asking about is some sort of GI outbreak or Norovirus. The media loves this one. But the short answer is...statistically speaking...no. Health officials including the CDC track these outbreaks, cruise lines are required to report outbreaks and the numbers speak from themselves. 23 million people sailed in 2015 and in 2015 there were 12 outbreaks affecting roughly 2500 people. Total. Drawing your own conclusion is simple.
Why I Love Cruising
I love it to explore new ports of call. I like the notion of letting someone else handle the logistics of travel, and I like knowing where I am going to sleep at the end of each day while I am on vacation. I’ve sailed with both lines numerous times and I have yet to be disappointed. For work, I have stayed in several different cabin types, but for pleasure I always book a suite or at the very least a balcony stateroom. In addition, I always arrive in the embarkation city the night before my sailing (just to be on the safe side) and I usually book a lot of my dining reservations and some shore excursions in advance.
This blog post is designed to help equip you with knowledge...because knowledge is power. This blog post also contains some editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research perhaps consult with a real live travel agent before making travel purchases.
If you are debating cruises vs. all-inclusive resorts with your travel companions, then congratulations! You are one step closer to experiencing a potentially life-changing vacation!
The good news about both travel options is both are great options. The cruise industry and the all-inclusive properties worldwide have all evolved based on guest preferences, technology, and industry-wide improvements and oversight.
Which vacation option is better?
Cruisers love to cruise, and they might shrug at other vacation options, even an all-inclusive resort. Others tend to hate cruising but love the one-stop shopping of an all-inclusive. The reality is that both vacation options have pros and cons, many which are similar. If you don’t know which category best suits you...let’s dig into the details.
An all-inclusive resort is generally as it sounds. You pay one price in advance for your room, all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and non-motorized watersports. Extras may include golf, spa treatments, excursions or day trips, WIFI and premium or upcharge restaurants. When evaluating which all-inclusive is perfect for you, a little self-reflection is in order before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars.
The Pros of an All-Inclusive Resort
Known costs – The pros begin with you know what you are paying for upfront with little room for surprises. My suggestion is to check with a qualified travel specialist on which all-inclusive is right for you based on your preferences. Be honest and don’t be afraid to say exactly what you are looking for, chances are that property exists and good travel professional knows which ones to recommend and which ones to avoid.
Central Location - One of the other pros of an all-inclusive is you can make it the hub for all your exploration. By booking an all-inclusive (just like an ala carte resort), you always return to the same room each night. But remember, you get what you pay for.
Upgrades - If the resort has a club level or private check in or concierge, I suggest you splurge and pay for added service, amenities or a larger room. You don’t want to get there and realize for just a few extra dollars a day you can avoid some of the crowds by “upgrading”. Making real-time changes to your accommodations can sometimes be problematic.
Immersion Experience – One of the biggest benefits of an all-inclusive you are in the space place for your entire vacation, which means you can immerse yourself in the local culture. You can get out and explore every nook and cranny of the region.
Cons of All-Inclusive Resorts
Limited programming – One of the biggest drawbacks that some consumers complain about at an all-inclusive is boredom. The programming options are at your own pace which means, if you don’t participate, you may find yourself a little bored. Also, selecting the correct resort for YOU is essential. Otherwise, you could end up at a property that doesn’t meet your needs. Simple questions like kids or no kids, romance and reflection or party hardy, what’s your budget, what time of year do you wish to travel...will all affect price and property selection.
Destination Costs – Keep in mind, the all-inclusive may be in a destination that you have to fly to. If budget is a concern of yours, then remember that airline ticket pricing will vary based on the season and supply and demand.
I would suggest if you are traveling outside the US for an all-inclusive, that you also secure a vacation insurance policy in case of a medical emergency or the unlikely evacuation.
Cruising is ideal if you like the idea of exploring different ports of call for a short period of time. Think of it as a chance to get a quick glimpse of these destinations to decide whether you wish to return on future visits.
The very first rule I live by when selecting a cruise is... who else will be on that ship? That’s a big one for me. I take lots of vacations for two basic reasons, work and pleasure. Work is one thing but for my own personal vacations...it matters to me who I am sailing with. But more on that in a moment.
The cruise industry is a big industry and cruise companies have lots of ships and itineraries to choose from. On the plus side, you’ve got options. The Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe. Ocean cruising vs. river cruising. Much like an all-inclusive, you pay upfront for certain things such as port charges, taxes, your stateroom, gratuities, amenities, entertainment, food and nonalcoholic beverages. Of course, there are lots of ways to part with your money as well after your initial purchase. Premium restaurants, WIFI, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and shore excursions are a few that come to mind. It’s safe to say some cruise companies/itineraries include all the extras so no additional cash is needed on board.
Factors affecting price include:
Pros of Cruises
Ease of travel - You only need to get to your embarkation city and then get on the ship. Which may mean, the airlines will play perhaps a smaller role in your trip planning.
Multiple activities - Yu can be as active as you choose. The cruise director and his or her staff have activities, lectures and entertainment going on around the clock both on your at sea days and some of the port days.
The Food – The larger the ship the more options you have every day. Gone are the days of a just a steam table buffet and a cattle call. Also, cruise lines understand the needs of passengers when it comes to dining. Most lines have flexible dining times and like the rest of the travel industry the dress codes have been relaxed...for the most part depending on the cruise line.
Cons of Cruises
The ship could leave you – The ship will not wait for you should you be delayed and miss embarkation. Getting to the next port of call is at your expense.
Appears crowded – Another potential con to cruising is you will be near potentially thousands of people while you are on board and presumably when you are in port. However, it is important to note just how big these ships are. They can easily accommodate this large number of passengers and crew, so you are comfortable and happy.
The cruise industry builds itineraries with two basic types of days...at sea days and port days.
Static itineraries – You pretty much must stick with the itinerary the ship is. If weather affects your trip, you may miss a port or change a port of call due to extenuating circumstances.
Cabin space – It is not the largest place to call home for a week, but it does serve its purpose. An upside here is getting adjoining staterooms or a multi bedroom suite so you can feel free to spread out just a little more.
In addition, unless you are an experienced cruiser, I would always book at least a balcony cabin. Cabins are divided into inside cabins with either 1) no windows or a virtual balcony (a giant television that acts as a window with real time view), 2) an ocean view cabin which is a cabin with a window, 3) a balcony cabin or 4) a suite. I suggest you seriously consider booking a suite. It will cost more but the extra amenities in my opinion are worth it. Concierge service, private areas of the ship reserved for suite guests, priority dining and shore excursion bookings, and expedited embarkation and disembarkation are just a few of the perks that ease the annoyances of travel. Plus, in most cases you’ll earn more loyalty points towards achieving “frequent cruiser” status which provide even more amenities and services.
Cruise lines like some all-inclusive resorts have loyalty programs; I suggest you sign up immediately once you book.
How to book a Cruise
Planning and booking a cruise can be done online directly with the cruise line. However, I strongly suggest you use the advice and booking services of a trusted travel professional. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to selecting the perfect cruise for YOU. They also have access to deals and specials that are either not available or hard to find online.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process.
You can vote at erikthetravelguy.com/vote or leave a comment on this video in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this video is for educational purposes only. This video also contains some editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
As I said last week, leave a comment, ask a question and suggest future episodes in the comments section.
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I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!