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P&O Cruises vs Royal Caribbean

Compare ships, pricing, destinations, onboard facilities and shore excursions between P&O and Royal Caribbean.
P&O Cruises Royal Caribbean
Where do they cruise?
What type of ships do they have? Large Cruise Ships Large & Mega Cruise Ships
How many passengers are on board? 1,998 – 2,636 1,602 – 5,606
What type of cruise line are they? Contemporary Contemporary
What are they known for?
  • South Pacific cruising
  • Families and couples
  • Themed cruises and short breaks
  • Australian style of cruising
  • Something for everyone
  • Entertainment packed ships
  • State of the art onboard experiences and thrills
What is the average cost per day?
  • Interior: $129
  • Oceanview: $155
  • Balcony: $161
  • Suite: $335
  • Interior: $200
  • Oceanview: $237
  • Balcony : $297
  • Suite: $696
Are fares all inclusive? No No
Are gratuities included? No. Tipping is not required on any P&O Australia ships, nor are gratuities charged to your onboard account. Tipping is completely up to guest discretion. Yes
Are there any additional gratuities payable on board? No Yes. An 18% gratuity is added to spa services and bar bills
Can I get any reciprocal loyalty club benefits? P&O Australia does not have a formal loyalty club program. P&O Australia sailings are however recognised by Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle loyalty scheme. Yes. Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Azamara offer reciprocal benefits to members enrolled in their loyalty programs
What is the onboard currency? AUD USD
What language is spoken on board? English English
Who cruises with them?
  • Everyday Australians and New Zealanders
  • Families (31%), couples (47%), groups of couples and friends (22%)
  • Families & couples
  • Semi-retired or retired
What is the average passenger age? Varied facilities appeal to a broad demographic and ages, from young groups of friends to couples of all ages and families. Expect more children on school holiday sailings, however, P&O does cap child numbers. Average age 45 years. There is something for all ages on board, so demographic is broad from families, to couples, and those over 60 years.
Are they good for families? Yes. Children are accepted from 6+ months on Australia and New Zealand domestic cruises and from 12+ months on all other itineraries. There are dedicated spaces and programs for children. Children are accepted from 6+ months (12+ months on select cruises) and there are dedicated programs and facilities available for children
Are there children’s programs? Yes. Complimentary. There is a range of age appropriate activities hosted by P&O Youth Staff in four dedicated activity centres; Turtle Cove (2-5 years), Shark Shack (6-9 years), HQ (10-13 years) and HQ+ (14-17 years). Children under 2 years must be accompanied by a parent/guardian in the Turtle Cove Kids Club. Yes. Complimentary. The Adventure Ocean Youth Program offers activities for age groups between ages 3-17 years, and the Babies and Tots Program accommodates children from 6 months – 3 years
Is there childcare and/or babysitting? Yes. Group child-minding is available in Turtle Cove and Shark Shack from 10:30pm to 1:00am only, at a charge. Private in-room babysitting or one-on-one supervision is not available on any P&O Cruises ship. Yes. A fully staffed nursery is available on select ships (for 6 months – 3 years). Late night group babysitting with the Youth Staff in the Adventure Ocean Facilities is also offered (subject to availability) for toilet trained children aged 3 – 11 years. Charges apply
What are the accommodation options? Interior, Oceanview, Balcony & Suites Interior, Oceanview, Balcony & Suites. Studios available for solo travellers.
Are there accessible staterooms? Yes Yes
Are shore excursions included? No No
What types of onboard activities are available for free? Guests can enjoy use of the swimming pools, waterparks, waterslides and deck games including table tennis and barefoot bowls free of charge. Activities such as game shows and trivia, arts and craft classes, dance classes, and wellness seminars are also included in the cruise fare So many! Most RCI ships offer a plethora of thrilling onboard activities that may include sports courts, a rock climbing wall, waterslides, a surf rider, sky diving simulator and observation capsule on deck and a range of classes from language, to dancing and crafts. Some ships have an internal deck dedicated to a games space or an ice skating rink. Onboard activities will differ by ship
Are there any onboard activities that I need to pay for? Paid activities on board include video arcade games, some craft activities, mixology and coffee-making classes, bingo, and cooking demonstrations. Use of the P&O Edge Adventure Park equipped with rock climbing and ziplining (and more) also incurs charges. Passes to Edge can be pre-purchased Specialty onboard seminars may attract a charge. Activities such as games in the video arcade incur a fee, and some onboard thrills may offer one-time complimentary use only (subsequent use may incur a charge)
Is there free evening entertainment? Yes Yes
Is there any paid evening entertainment? Yes. Dinner and lunch theatre entertainment incur additional charges. Paid experiences include Cirque Dreams and Dinner shows as well as Wine Lovers the Musical which includes wine tasting Some themed dinners may have a surcharge. In suite on demand movies are available for purchase
Are there complimentary dining options? Yes Yes
Are there specialty restaurants? Yes. Charges apply. Yes. Charges apply. The range of specialty restaurants may differ between ships
Are there dining packages for purchase? No Yes
Are non-alcoholic beverages included?

Chilled water is available at dispensers around the ship and a selection of teas, regular coffees and juices is also available with breakfast at The Waterfront.

For guests who have booked a Value Plus fare, soft drink packages are included on cruises 6 nights and less. This may also be included in Value fares, depending on the retail campaign running at time of booking.

Iced water, tea, coffee and lemonade included. Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages must be purchased.
Are alcoholic beverages included? No, not in entry level fares. A premium beverage package is included in Value Plus fares on cruises of 7 nights or longer. This may also be included in Value fares, depending on the retail campaign running at time of booking No. All alcohol beverages must be purchased.
Can I purchase a beverage package? Yes. A range of beverage packages are offered for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages Yes. A range of beverage packages are offered for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages
Is there room service? Yes. Charges apply. Yes. A convenience charge applies to each order, except continental breakfast items. Grand Suites and higher category staterooms do not pay a convenience fee
Is there Wi-Fi on board? Yes. Charges Apply for guests booked on entry level fares. A Wi-Fi package is included in Value Plus fares. This may also be included in Value fares, depending on the retail campaign running at time of booking Yes. Charges apply
Can I purchase Wi-Fi packages? Yes Yes
Is there a Spa? Yes Yes
Are spa and salon services available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes. Charges Apply
Is there a gym? Yes Yes
Are there group fitness classes? Yes. Charges apply Yes. Included complimentary. Select special training classes may incur additional charges
Is there personal training available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes. Charges Apply
Is there a self-service laundry? Yes. Charges apply No
Is a laundry service available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes. Charges Apply
Is there a casino on board? Yes Yes

Please Note: There may be additional inclusions and privileges for select stateroom and suite guests or select loyalty member tiers. Activities and entertainment vary by ship, itinerary and departure and are a guide only.

Who has the best itineraries?

P&O Australia cruises local waters, with itineraries visiting Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. There are also a handful of itineraries that cruise from Australia up into Asia, however, they are best known for their South Pacific cruises, Themed Cruises and their Australian short breaks. Royal Caribbean services the globe, and while they are a popular choice for Caribbean and Mediterranean sailings, they also have a strong local offering alongside P&O for guests who are looking to cruise the Australian coastlines, or visit New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Given P&O Australia only cruise in the Oceania region, they have more options when it comes to sailing dates. They operate year round and boast 365 days of cruising from Australia. Comparatively, Royal Caribbean only cruises this region seasonally with itineraries running from October through to April.

In Australia, both cruise lines offer itineraries along the East Coast including Tasmania and short sampler cruises that don’t make port. Sailing from either Brisbane or Sydney, these sampler cruises allow guests to enjoy the onboard facilities and activities on offer, so the ship you choose may be more important on these trips than on longer itineraries where shore days are frequent and there is more focus on destinations.

On short break itineraries, P&O are well known for their themed cruises. These offer experiences such as comedy cruises, musical tributes, country and 80s themed trips. They also have event-specific journeys, such as those that celebrate Australia Day at sea or take guests to the Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open.

If New Zealand is on your agenda, Royal Caribbean itineraries operate as round trips from Sydney. P&O offers cruises between Australia and New Zealand as well as round trips of New Zealand from Auckland – which Royal Caribbean does not offer. Similarly, Royal Caribbean South Pacific itineraries embark in Sydney or Brisbane, while P&O offers embarkation from these Australian ports as well as Auckland. P&O also offers itineraries to Papua New Guinea, a destination not visited by Royal Caribbean.

On shore, both lines have a wide range of excursions to choose from, curated to suit the destination. These come at an additional cost, and can include experiences such as reef snorkelling, village visits, culturally immersive excursions, winery tastings, and much more.

Which ships will suit me best?

P&O Australia and Royal Caribbean both sail a fleet of contemporary ships that appeal to a broad market, particularly families. They are large scale floating resorts with plenty of amenities for all ages. As with resorts on land, cruise lines can be considered in terms of star ratings. When looking at P&O and Royal Caribbean, they are generally considered to fall into the three star and four star brackets respectively.

P&O’s large ships accommodate roughly 2,000 – 2,600 passengers at dual occupancy while Royal Caribbean has both large and mega ships that operate cruises in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. While their largest Oasis Class vessels (which have a capacity of up to 5,500) are deployed in other regions, such as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, guests will find Royal Caribbean ships with a capacity of roughly 2,100 – 4,200 cruising alongside P&O ships in Oceania. Ships deployed in the region include Ovation of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, and Serenade of the Seas.

Both P&O and Royal Caribbean fleets have plenty of facilities for lively fun, from daytime activities to evening entertainment. So, what can you expect on each?

Facilities for Recreation and Relaxation

On P&O’s Pacific Encounter, Pacific Adventure and Pacific Explorer, travellers can enjoy an array of facilities to invigorate or rejuvenate – or both. Thrill seekers can whizz down waterslides and get their adrenaline pumping at the P&O Edge Adventure Park with activities such as ziplining over the top deck, rock climbing, laser tag, and even walking the plank 15 decks up above the water.

There are also hosted deck games, a fitness centre, swimming pools and hot tubs on every ship. The Pacific Explorer also has lawn bowls and a waterpark, while Pacific Encounter and Adventure have a sports court for some extra action. To unwind, guests can treat themselves to a massage in the spa, or enjoy the tranquillity of the adults only space, The Oasis.

On the Royal Caribbean ships, guests looking for thrills and spills can scale the rock wall, those looking to get active can hit the sports court or fitness centre, and those seeking relaxation can soak in the swimming pools and spas, enjoy a pampering spa treatment, or unwind in adults only The Solarium.

Of the four Royal Caribbean ships, you’ll find more bells and whistles on the two larger vessels – Ovation of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. This includes the Flowrider surf simulator on both along with an ice skating rink, laser tag, and The Perfect Storm multi-storey waterslide on Voyager of the Seas. On Ovation of the Seas, guests can enjoy a skydiving simulator, the Splashaway Bay Kids Waterpark, the Seaplex complete with a full sized basketball court and bumper cars, and the North Star observation capsule overlooking the horizon from the top of the ship.

Family Cruising

Along with an array of facilities for the whole family, there are also dedicated children’s programs offered by both P&O and Royal Caribbean. These two lines lead the way in terms of kid’s clubs and each has a comprehensive offering for families, as well as varied accommodation configurations from interconnecting staterooms to suites.

P&O Youth Staff host a range of age appropriate activities in the youth centres on board each ship. Families can take advantage of Turtle Cove for little ones of 2 – 5 years, Shark Shack for those 6 – 9 years, HQ for 10 – 13 year olds, and HQ+ for the ‘almost adults’ of 14 – 17 years. Activities range from arts and crafts to music and sports, and curated by early childhood experts, there is a good balance of learning and fun. Unlike most lines, P&O limits the number of children on board (capped for each designated age bracket) so each child receives a high level of care and attention.

Similarly, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth Program has activities for age groups between 3 – 17 years. Aquanauts sees 3 – 5 year old cruisers enjoying creative crafts and an array of fun-filled activities, the Explorers program accommodates children of 6 – 8 years with themed parties and hands on pursuits to engage their young minds, and Voyagers is designed to put the ‘cool’ back into learning for those 9 – 11 years. For the tweens and teens there are dedicated spaces to hang out, and pre-planned events to join throughout the day. Both lines offer evening group child minding for a fee.

For the younger ones, P&O permits children under two years to attend the Turtle Cove Kids Club, accompanied by their parent/guardian. Royal Caribbean’s Babies and Tots program hosts playgroup fun for parents and children from 6 months – 3 years, and also offers a fully staffed nursery for parents to drop off their little ones (available for 6 months – 3 years).

While the kids club programs and family friendly facilities are comprehensive with both lines, family cruising with Royal Caribbean has a few extra perks. There is My Family Time Dining offered on board which means children are served promptly before joining the Adventure Ocean evening activities, and parents can pre-order supplies such as nappies, wipes and baby food through the Babies2Go program so that they don’t have to pack these for the cruise, a service not offered by P&O Cruises.

Onboard Dining & Entertainment

There is no shortage of dining options on either line. On each P&O ship guests can choose from up to 12 complimentary dining options, as well as an array of specialty restaurants where a nominal fee applies. As part of their complimentary offering, P&O cruisers can enjoy Angelo’s Italian, a selection of classic and cutting edge cuisine at the Waterfront Restaurant, and Pan-Asian dishes at Dragon Lady. P&O also have a food court style space, The Pantry, where there is a range of different international cuisine and modern Australian dishes and daily changing menus. Options include a curry house, fish and chips, Mexican flavours, and much more.

There are also specialty options available at an additional cost on each P&O ship, including a gourmet pizzeria, burgers at Luke’s, and Shell & Bones serving up the catch of the day and delicious meats. Other choices vary by ship and offer the Salt Grill by Luke Mangan and exclusive dinner parties at Chef’s Table.

Dining choices with Royal Caribbean vary by ship, however, on each you will get a selection of included and for-fee options. You’ll find at least one café for your coffee and pastry cravings, a daily changing menu on offer in the Main Dining Room, and the Windjammer Café which has a series of buffet stations serving up dishes from around the world. Windjammer is designed to feel like a marketplace full of options, and in the evening, a themed menu is added to the usual fare (think Mexican night, Mongolian grill, and more). Both of these venues are included in your cruise fare.

Ovation of the Seas has the most included options, with additional choices including Sorrento’s Pizza, The Dog House serving up gourmet hotdogs inspired by the food truck scene, and Coastal Kitchen where Mediterranean flavours blend with Pacific Coast fare (exclusively for Suite Guests and Pinnacle Club members). For a fee, Royal Caribbean guests can also enjoy an array of additional options. Specialty choices on each ship include the Chops Grille steakhouse, Izumi Japanese restaurant, and the intimate Chef’s Table experience. Once again, Ovation has some extra choices, including the ever-popular Jamie’s Italian.

After dinner, there is plenty of evening entertainment to enjoy. There is never a dull moment on either line, with themed parties, spectacular shows, live music, and venues to dance the night away. There are options for the whole family to enjoy, as well as choices for a romantic evening complete with dinner and a show.

Who provides the best value - P&O Australia or Royal Caribbean?

P&O and Royal Caribbean both offer affordable cruise holidays with the basics included, and the option to pay for items that are important to you. On both lines you’ll have some dining and non-alcoholic beverages included and can enjoy a selection of complimentary daytime activities (including children’s programs) and evening entertainment.

When booking entry level fares, guests will have to budget for specialty dining or alcoholic beverages they may wish to purchase, along with shore excursions they wish to join. It is worth noting that P&O has a Shore Excursion Best Price Guarantee, so if you find the same tour for less elsewhere, they will offer 110% of the price difference back as onboard spending money.

Fare Structure and Value Offers

P&O has three levels of fares for guests to choose from. The ‘Go’ fares are the cheapest with no frills, the ‘Value’ fare is a great option for first timers and includes special offers or value adds in line with the retail campaign on offer at time of booking (perhaps onboard credit, drinks packages etc.), and ‘Value Plus’ fares which have all the Value fare inclusions plus beverage and Wi-Fi packages for the first two stateroom guests.

Royal Caribbean fares tend to be slightly more expensive than P&O cruises, however, they also regularly run sales that see discounted cruise fares or added bonuses on offer. Royal Caribbean also has some stateroom options that may add value to guests, including studio staterooms that are designed and priced for single travellers (no single supplement is payable) and a Virtual Balcony which transforms some interior cabins with screens showcasing real time vision of the ship’s surrounds (available on select ships).

Onboard Activities

When it comes to included activities, it is worth noting that while some activities such as video arcade games on Royal Caribbean incur a fee, most thrills and spills are complimentary from the rock climbing wall to the surf simulator. However, some onboard activities offer one-time complimentary use and subsequent turns may incur an additional charge. Comparatively, most thrills beyond the waterslides on P&O reside within the Edge Adventure Park for which there is a fee (rock climbing and ziplining etc.). Passes to P&O Edge can be pre-purchased at discounted prices or paid for on board.

Currency Considerations

When cruising with P&O Australia, all pricing and charges on board are based on Australian Dollars. Therefore, you won’t have to consider any exchange rates or fees incurred for foreign currency payments. On the other hand, US Dollars is the standard currency used on all Royal Caribbean ships, so you’ll need to be mindful of this when budgeting for purchases on board.