MSC vs Royal Caribbean: What’s the BEST Cruise for Families?
In this guide comparing MSC vs Royal Caribbean, I’ll be sharing specific comparisons between the MSC Seashore and Royal Caribbean’s Allure/Oasis of the Seas.
Booking your first family cruise can feel daunting, especially with younger kids. But cruising with kids can be stress-free and fun! Living in Florida and so close to Port Canaveral, cruising just makes sense when it comes to planning family vacations.
We’ve recently taken our 5 year old daughter on two short cruises on two separate cruise lines. I think 2-3 night cruises are a great way to introduce kids to cruising. It also gives families the opportunity to determine if cruising is right for their family. Keep reading to learn more about MSC and Royal Caribbean!
MSC vs Royal Caribbean: Cabin Sizes
The cabins on most ships are going to be very comparable. We had a balcony on both cruise lines, however, our balcony room on Royal Caribbean was interior and overlooked Central Park. The bathrooms and layout of each room were almost identical, though.
There were only slight differences, which may or may not affect everyone. For instance, on MSC our bed was further from the door and our daughter’s bed was pre-made and the length of a couch.
On Royal Caribbean, our bed was closer to the door and our daughter’s bed was a pull-out couch. Since it was a pull out couch, it did take up any extra space we had. So, we constantly had to put it away and remake it whenever needed.
Unless you’re booking a suite, you’ll want to make the most of your space in your cabin. There are several hacks and things you can pack to ensure you’re not wasting space–no matter what cruise line you book.
MSC vs Royal Caribbean: Private Islands
There are some really big differences between these two private islands in the Bahamas. Depending on what you prefer will determine who you think has the superior island when it comes to MSC vs Royal Caribbean.
Perfect Day at Coco Cay
Royal Caribbean’s “Perfect Day at Coco Cay” is sure to leave families with an endless amount of fun and things to do. The island has become commercialized and basically turned into a water park.
On the island, you’ll find numerous beach spots, pools, kiddie area, and even an actual water park. While you can enjoy the pools, beach, and kiddie park and no additional cost, there is a fee to enter the water park which features numerous water rides.
Families can also book other activities like zip lining, snorkeling, wave runners, etc. We’ve found that it’s not worth it to book the snorkeling excursion. It’s more beneficial to do a snorkel at a separate port like Nassau or Grand Turk. You can also pack your own goggles or rent some on the island.
MSC’s Ocean Cay is very much different. You won’t find a single pool or kid’s area on this island. Instead you can simply enjoy the beach and ocean.
At Ocean Cay, families can still book snorkeling or wave runners. You’ll need to walk or take a shuttle to other parts of the island, though. The beach located near the dock quickly fills up and beach chairs are hard to find.
On both islands you’ll be able to enjoy complimentary food, much like what’s offered at the buffet on each ship. On Ocean Cay, there are additional food trucks that may require an additional fee. Both islands also feature many local shops that will also require cash or a separate card.
MSC vs Royal Caribbean: On Board Activities
When it comes to on board activities, you’ll find that most ships have an arcade, pool, mini golf, basketball and kid’s club. However, there are some stark differences when it comes to the MSC Seashore vs the Royal Caribbean Allure/Oasis of the Seas.
On Royal Caribbean, the Allure/Oasis of the Seas both have a carousel, zip line, rock wall and even an ice skating ring for guests to enjoy at select times. Both ships also have a flow rider, which is great for older kids. The Allure has a small kids water area, much like a splash pad, while the Oasis does have multiple water slides to enjoy.
While the MSC Seashore doesn’t have many non-water activities to enjoy, I do think it has one of the best water areas for kids. The area is pirate themed and complete with a ropes obstacle course, mini pool, and several water slides. One of the slides does require children to be at least 7 years old. On MSC, everyone is required to sign a waiver and receive a wrist band prior to riding any waterslides.
Each cruise line is also going to have their own activities planned throughout the cruise like bingo, a belly flop contest, face painting and more. In addition, cruisers have started their own activity by hiding ducks on board for anyone to find. I did think that it was easier and more common to find ducks on our Royal Caribbean cruise than our MSC cruise.
MSC vs Royal Caribbean: The Food
I have to admit, when it comes to food Royal Caribbean blows MSC out of the water. Though, you shouldn’t ever book any cruise because of food. Typically cruise food is all comparable.
Every cruise will have additional dining options that you can pay extra for–they typically serve better food. Most of the time, you’ll need to make reservations ahead of your cruise date as they fill quickly.
Both have relatively similar buffets, though Royal Caribbean seems to have a better layout and labeled stations, whereas MSC is just one line.
For the main dining, you’ll find that most cruise lines allow you to order multiple entrees. This is true for Royal Caribbean. However, on MSC you’ll have to pay an additional fee if you want more than one entree. They will let you order multiple appetizers or desserts though.
Both cruise lines will allow you to bring your own snacks on board. Royal Caribbean will even allow you to bring some bottled water or soda, too. I would recommend bringing a tumbler though, so you can easily fill up at water stations.
MSC vs Royal Caribbean: Other Key Differences
There are a few other things to consider when comparing MSC vs Royal Caribbean. There are certainly major differences regarding boarding, service, app usage, and more.
Upon checking in for your cruise (typically within 30 days of your departure), you’ll receive a specific time frame in which you can arrive to your port and board the ship.
On Royal Caribbean, we’ve always breezed right through security and boarded the ship with no problems or waiting time.
However, on MSC, we experienced long lines and wait times. From other research, this is a frequent occurrence and not just a one time thing we experienced. People were still getting off the ship, which caused major delays for everyone boarding. In total, I think it took about 80 minutes for us to board the MSC Seashore.
You’ll want to download your cruise line’s app to your phone. This is where you can keep track of purchases, see your itinerary, and more. It’s also a way for you to message others on the ship without using data or purchasing additional wifi.
The Royal Caribbean app seemed much more advanced in my opinion. Guests are able to book shows, see a full list of activities, and more. Guests are also able to see most of the on board itinerary ahead of time unlike MSC where you’re unable to see shows until you’re on board the ship. On MSC, most of your daily activities will be printed on paper and delivered to your cabin daily for you to view.
A great thing about MSC Cruises is that they offer a best value rate which includes wifi and the easy plus drinks package (soda, beer, select cocktails, etc). It’s also still very affordable.
While Royal Caribbean is going to cost a few hundred more, they do offer a wide array of onboard activities and entertainment. Generally, you’ll also experience better food and service, too.
Overall, if we solely based our cruise decision on the kid’s waterpark we would book the MSC Seashore 1000%. MSC also offers 2 night cruises, which I think are perfect for testing the waters with cruising with kids.
If you want to ensure you have the best first-time overall cruise experience, then I would go with Royal Caribbean.
No matter what cruise line you decide to book, I think it’s important to have realistic expectations. It’s always a great idea to join Facebook cruise groups, watch YouTube reviews, and more.
We enjoyed both Royal Caribbean and MSC for various reasons. So, I think it’s important to determine why you’re cruising–do you like the all-inclusivity of it all, the experience, the drink packages, etc?
Let me know if you have any questions regarding either of these ships and I’d be happy to help!
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