NDR - Royal Caribbean Ship Comparisons

Hi - my next trip is on DCL I promise!!

But I’m also looking at an RCL trip in 2024. Does anyone have any experience on the following ships? This would be a group of 6 adults two of whom are turning 40 in 2023/2024. I’m so torn between all of these. Our one requirement is a private island but otherwise I think these would all be great! Has anyone been on two of these to compare at all? (I have only been on Oasis and I’m worried I will be downgrading on any of these ships but I think the adults-only aspect will make up for it!)

Explorer, Mariner, Independence, Allure or Freedom.

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I’m sorry I don’t have RCL experience but I am just :star_struck: :star_struck: :star_struck: :star_struck: that someone else besides me has cruise spreadsheets. Because I’ve got 'em.


I haven been on a cruise, yet. We have Freedom booked for end of June. One day on private island. I can let you know thoughts when we get back.

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We were at Coco Cay with the Freedom in February. She looked like a beautiful ship and I think that she’s probably my top choice. I just wish she had a 5 night.

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Yes, we’re doing the 4 night. This is our first ever cruise so wanted more than 3 but less than 7, 5 would have been better.

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Of the ships you list, DH and I have sailed on the Explorer, Liberty, and Freedom. We have also sailed numerous times on other ships of the same three classes. We really liked the Freedom, but it’s been more than 10 years since we were last on it, so no experience with its amped version.

TL:DR You have a hard choice! So many variables. So much depends on your group and what their priorities are.

Over the years, once we sailed on a Freedom class ship, we stayed with that size for Caribbean trips, until Oasis came out - and then we stayed with that class. After doing Oasis class several times, we decided we’d like to step back down to Freedom class for the next one. But then Covid, plus we now winter in AZ. Last fall we resumed cruising, and we did two sets of back-to-backs on Voyager class ships, (Explorer for the Southern Caribbean itinerary, and Navigator because it was based out of Los Angeles and we could easily drive to it).

We’ll now stick to ships bigger than Voyager class, when we can. We really noticed the lack of free dining options on that class, compared to the bigger ones - in terms of breakfast/lunch/snack/late-night snack. The Mexican grab’n’go El Loco Fresh was a nice addition (on the pool deck) on Navigator… Really compare the food offerings on each ship.

Your cruises are only 4-5 nights, so you might not feel that food pinch as much. If you choose to spend on specialty dining, you’ll have more options - even for lunch.

The bigger the ship, the more dining, drinking, activity, and entertainment choices - but you know your group and how much that matters.

For private islands, Coco Cay is better than Labadee, but you can still have a nice time at Labadee.

Jamaica vs Nassau vs Cozumel vs Puerto Plata - that should also be a big factor in choosing a cruise. So much “port enjoyment” depends on what your group likes to do, not just what the port has to offer.

And 4 vs 5 nights - we always like the longer cruises!

Sorry, no simple answers!

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Thank you! I actually appreciate the validation that this is a tough choice. The other 4 are all first time cruisers and definitely are willing to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. I know it’s hard to know what you want to do on a cruise if you’ve never been on one. I will say that I think all 6 of us would take this trip in a cardboard box if it still meant we would be fed and watered and have no parenting responsibilities for 4-5 days!

I think that this is a great nugget of wisdom. We did more 3 traditional meals with the kids but I think as just adults we might want to do snack more or have small meals. I never got to El Loco Fresh on the Oasis if you can believe it! Might need to rectify that.

Can you compare Solariums at all? I was obsessed with the one on the Oasis and being right at the front. I felt like there were dozens of different types of seating and it was never very busy. I would love to recreate that. The 5 nighters are all on Voyager classes and those solariums seem a little cramped.


You’re making me eager to cruise on an Oasis class ship sometime soon!!

Only the Oasis class ships have a bistro in the Solarium, plus the Solarium is at the front and huge (2 decks, so many nooks and crannies) . Voyager and Freedom class ships put the spa at the front, with the Solarium sandwiched between the spa and the pool deck. The Solarium hot tubs on Freedom class are against the outside walls, and extend over the edge of the ship. They’re nicer than the ones on Voyager-class Solariums, which are further inboard. You’re right that the Voyager class Solariums seem a little cramped and very basic, with only views to the sides. Freedom class Solariums seem a little bit better because of their hot tub size and placement, but are very similar in size to the Voyager class ones. You can find videos of the different Solariums to compare.

One thing I noticed while comparing deck plans for all these ship: the ones that have been “amped” have taken space from their spa/fitness centers and made some cabins instead.

If you want to wow your friends, you would definitely do that with an Oasis class ship. The Solarium it top notch. Plus the ship has so many neighborhoods (Central Park is my favorite). You get great shows, including Mama Mia! plus AquaTheater and a comedy club that the Freedom and Voyager classes don’t.

Of course, that could spoil them or overwhelm them.

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We cruised on Freedom twice last year. It was my husband’s first non-DCL cruise & I had gone on 1 Holland America & 1 NCL in addition to 15 DCL cruises.

We absolutely loved Freedom. I thought the Solarium was better than Quite Cove on DCL. The ship was the perfect size for us. Plenty to do, but not HUGE! The first cruise we were in a regular balcony room which was fine & the 2nd we booked a jr. suite & then bid & won a Grand Suite which was amazing.

We loved Coco Cay, so I would pick an itinerary that has that as a stop. The first time we paid for the Beach Club. We had the best time there. So peaceful!! The 2nd time we wanted to explore the island a little more so we booked a Breezy Bay daybed. Good location & it was fun exploring. I think Coco Cay is slightly better than Castaway.


No experience yet. But after much research we decided to go with Allure (we rebooked for the March 4 cruise date). While it has not been amped, the main things that amping would have done is provide more activities for kids (water slides, etc). But we are most interested in the Broadway Shows. The other ships we looked at had a show, but it wasn’t a full Broadway show. Allure has Mamma Mia. And of course there are other activities.

It will be our first cruse, so we have nothing to compare it to.

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I am sure I’m in the minority here but I think I would rather go back to Labadee than Coco Cay. Nothing at all against Coco Cay, it was awesome but Labadee felt more relaxing. I am confident that we would have fun at Coco Cay and that it would be very different without kids. But I think the 5 night Labadee ones are just not going to work in terms of schedules anymore so it’s nice to at least be able to cross a couple things off the list.

The funny (or odd or cool I can’t tell) thing is that the Freedom and the Allure are basically taking the exact same cruise. Same dates out of Orlando and both go to the same places. I’m curious if we’ll just sail side by side. The Allure is $240 per person, per night and the Freedom is $175 per person, per night. I am guessing that my friends will probably be swayed by the price difference although I am just obsessed with the Oasis-class solarium. We never did see Cats on the Oasis but I think I would be interested in Mamma Mia so I think I would for sure choose the Allure sailing if it was just me.

I will report back! Thank you all for the helpful commentary!

I am a bit nervous about this…Coco Cay that is. I saw that they are going to open a new Hideaway Beach, which is adults only. On the surface, that seems like it has the potential of being more relaxing…but then they said that by opening this, they will now be able to accommodate up to 13000 guests on the island, an increase of 3000 people! That’s a LOT of people on a private island. I’m not anticipating actually enjoying Coco Cay. But, I’m planning to do a Kayaking tour. So, at least I can look forward to that.

I’m pretty sure that while one may be better than the other, BOTH are pretty awesome.

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This is how I compare cruises as well.
Until this last one I was always able to get us under $100 pp pn with gratuities.

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I think that’s slightly theoretical to account for adding the Icon to the fleet. Like there is only room for 2 ships so they aren’t adding people beyond whatever two ships are there. We were on the Oasis with the Freedom and it certainly didn’t feel over crowded at all. Hideaway Beach is actually what’s making me excited about Coco Cay!

You can look and see what other ship will be there with you if you know what date you’ll be there. It would be Freedom/Oasis again for us or Allure/Adventure.

There’s a funny bug here in which it is showing Allure/Adventure/Icon all at Coco Cay on March 1! (Your worst nightmare @ryan1 !) But it’s because Allure/Adventure will be there on February 29. I guess Icon will be by herself on March 1.

Ya these do not include tips. The cheapest of what I’m looking at is $170 on Explorer but that’s not really in contention anymore. I think you only really get lower per night on the 7+ night cruises.

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Looks like March 6 will be Liberty and Allure. That is our day at Coco Cay.

I think that’s only 400 more people than were there when we were there plus if Hideaway is open then it will actually feel less crowded! I would not worry.

I will have to try and hide a duck for you if you are only a week after we’ll be there!

That’s reassuring. Thanks!

And I will have to be on the lookout for the duck! :grin:

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