Saturday, 18 April 2015

Royal Caribbean vs Star Cruises

These are the 2 major cruise lines with operations in Singapore. Star Cruises brands itself as Asia’s leading cruise line and offers world class casinos and a wide variety of dining options. Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, is famous for having the largest cruise ships in the world. Before I begin, let me stress that the comparison will focus on Mariner of the Seas and Superstar Virgo because these 2 ships visit Singapore most often.

Star Cruises vs Royal Caribbean Best Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean in Singapore

For almost half of each year, Royal Caribbean deploys Mariner of the Seas to Singapore. This 130,000 ton ship was the largest cruise ship in the world when launched in 2004, and boasts an ice skating rink, rock climbing wall and a 3 storey main dining hall. It comes to Singapore between October and March every year.

Other Royal Caribbean’s ships that come to Singapore are Voyager of the Seas (repositioning cruise), Legend of the Seas (more exotic itineraries) and, for once only in June of 2015, the new Quantum of the Seas. Royal Caribbean Asia Pacific HQ Office is located at Springleaf Tower, near Tanjong Pagar MRT station, though most bookings are done through tour agencies.

Star Cruises in Singapore

Star Cruises deploys its flagship, the 70,000 ton Superstar Virgo in Singapore from October to March. This ship, built in 2001, has one of the best casinos on a cruise ship, together with a giant slide and a 2 storey performance theater.

For the rest of the year, Star Cruises sends Superstar Gemini to Singapore, but most friends I know agree that this ship is pathetic. Star Cruises relies on local agents like WTS Travel, MISA Travel and Worldwide Cruise Center for cruise reservations.

The Cruise Terminals

Singapore Cruise Terminals: Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Harbourfront Centre

I know you expect me to start comparing the ships, but the cruise terminals are also really, really important. It’s your gateway to the ship, literally. Star Cruises have a real advantage here. Located at Harbourfront Centre, it is conveniently located just above Harbourfront MRT Station and you can reach the check in gates in less than 5 minutes. If you arrive early, you can also shop at Harbourfront Centre, which boasts dozens of shops and restaurants.

Although the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where Royal Caribbean docks, is also near an MRT station, you actually have to walk nearly 500m on an open footpath before reaching the terminal. Also, there is nothing nearby and the terminal only has a couple of cafes. In both terminals, expect to board the ship in about 30 minutes.

Both cruise centres are located near MRT stations, but the one at Harbourfront Centre is much more convenient

Winner: Star Cruise


Royal Caribbean vs Star Cruises Room

Most of your cruise fare is for your stateroom. Well, both Superstar Virgo and Mariner of the Seas offers 4 person and 2 person staterooms. The rooms of Mariner of the Seas are slightly larger and the bed is king sized (compared to Queen for Star Cruises). Toilets are very similar but my friends commented that Royal Caribbean’s rooms have slightly more storage space.

Also, Mariner of the Seas and other Royal Caribbean ships has a larger proportion of balcony staterooms compared to Star Cruises. On Superstar Gemini, you need to stay in a suite for a balcony.

Winner: Royal Caribbean


Mariner of the Seas and Superstar Virgo offers vastly different dining experiences. The Royal Caribbean ships feature traditional dining with a 3 storey main dining hall, as well as the Café Promenade featuring pizzas and desserts and a buffet restaurant called Windjammer. Dinner time is fixed and stated on your Seapass Card. While options are limited, the food quality is excellent and the Café Promenade is open 24 hours daily so you will never go hungry.

You need to pay USD30.00 for the lobster on Royal Caribbean but its all worth it!

In contrast, Superstar Virgo is one of the first ships to feature dynamic dining. Each person is assigned meal coupons and can eat at one of 9 (yes, I repeat, 9) restaurants on the ship. The food ranges from Western to Chinese, Table Service to Buffet. Superstar Virgo is also the only cruise ship from Singapore that offers Indian Food. In fact, Royal Caribbean eventually implemented a similar dynamic dining system in its new ship Quantum of the Seas.

Seafood has become a new staple of Asian Cuisine, and Star Cruises offers a good variety.

Winner: Draw


This is a no contest win for Royal Caribbean. Even Star Cruises best ship, Superstar Virgo only has a couple of basic singing shows and mediocre live bands. In contrast, the Royal Promenade on Mariner/Voyager of the Seas comes to life with dance parties, parades and impromptu shows. In addition, the theatre also features excellent musical style shows and 3D movies, and there are deck parties on several days of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean Dreamworks Experience
Don't forget, Royal Caribbean stills has the Dreamworks Experience

However, Star Cruises redeems itself by inviting many local celebrities and DJs to perform on board. If you book through local tour agencies, they can help you match a cruise to your favourite celebrity. Both cruise lines offer standard games like Bingo, Couples Contests and Reality Shows.

Winner: Royal Caribbean, nonetheless

Sports and Wellness

Both Royal Caribbean and Star Cruises boast good swimming pools and several whirlpools. Mariner of the Seas and Superstar Virgo both also have a Basketball Court. The main plus for Royal Caribbean is the world class gym and large exercise rooms. Also, there is an adults-only area called the Solarium which is great for parents to relax in peace.

Nonetheless, Star Cruises replies with a much more competitively priced SPA treatment menu and a giant slide at the family swimming pool. Both Cruise Lines offer both complimentary and paid lessons and physical examinations, and it is hard to compare the individual lessons or treatments.

Winner: Draw

Kids and Families

You know, I don’t think I need to explain more. Superstar Virgo, the best Star Cruise Ship only has a single kids club and activities are limited. By contrast, every Royal Caribbean ship has an extensive Adventure Ocean kids program and Teens program that features tailor made activities for all age groups. Signature activities include round the ship scavenger hunts and even family hour in which the video arcade is free.

Winner: Royal Caribbean, by a wide margin


This is quite interesting. On one hand, Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas have some interesting activities like ice skating, rock climbing and mini-golf. By contrast, the main activity on Star Cruises is, as my friend described, “queuing for one buffet after another”. Both cruise lines offer the traditional art auctions (if you even care), casinos and some shopping.

However, the newer Genting World by Star Cruises (2016) and Quantum of the Seas (2014) by Royal Caribbean will feature a much larger variety of activities.

Winner: Royal Caribbean


Personally, I think that Star Cruises Itineraries are far better for 2 reasons. Firstly, with smaller ships, Star Cruises can go to places where the 130,000 ton Royal Caribbean counterparts cannot. Places like Malacca, Bintan and Kinabalu are out of the question for the larger ships. Star Cruise ships also offer better dock times at the ports of call, giving you adequate time to complete your desired activities on shore.

Secondly, Star Cruises actually offers one or two night very short holidays, which means it is possible to complete a Star Cruise vacation in a weekend. You cannot accomplish that on Royal Caribbean which offers minimum 3 Night sailings. Remember that Singapore don’t exactly have a lot of public holidays.

Winner: Star Cruises


Erm, this one. Well, let me say first that you get what you paid for. Royal Caribbean’s packages are more expensive simply because they offer far longer itineraries, up to 14 nights. On a per night basis, Star Cruises is only about 10% cheaper. Prepare to spend SGD140 per person per night on Royal Caribbean and SGD 125 per person per night on Star Cruises for twin sharing non-balcony stateroom.

Both Royal Caribbean and Star Cruises offers discount packages but the Star Cruises ones are usually more prominent and more attractive

However, I must admit that local travel agencies offer huge discounts for many Star Cruises itineraries, while discounts for Royal Caribbean are lukewarm at best.

Winner: Star Cruises


Good service is the cornerstone to a good cruise experience. Here, Royal Caribbean has the edge. For example, the Room Service attendants will take time to interact with you and even fold the towels into interesting animals. Because of the fixed dining hall meal time, the waiters get to know you personally and your food preferences. Finally, Royal Caribbean is one of few companies where the lost and found service actually works!

The Star Cruise staff has a similar demographic to Royal Caribbean and are just as friendly, but I guess the dynamic dining concept prevents them from offering a personalized service. Both cruise lines offer a horrendous 1800 hotline service so you will be better off heading to their respective offices or your travel agent. The website for Royal Caribbean is more user-friendly and less prone to lag.

Winner: Royal Caribbean


When comparing the 2 cruise lines, I think it’s better to ask yourself: what exactly do you want in a cruise vacation? The service on Royal Caribbean is superb and it offers some of the best activities and entertainment the cruise industry has to offer. However, the smaller ships of Star Cruises gives you the opportunity to explore exotic ports of call and some people appreciate flexible dining more.
Allegedly, the casinos of Star Cruises has a higher payout rate compared to Royal Caribbean, but the house still always wins.

If you want me to give a verdict, I will still say: Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean vs Star Cruises Best Cruise Line

This comparison has been requested several times by my friends and readers and I hope this is helpful for you. For more exciting updates and guides, don’t forget to follow Second Drop: The Attractions Blog by liking our Facebook Page or explore my Royal Caribbean experience. Of course, if you like this kind of versus posts, don't forget to check out the battle of the Night Market: Taiwan vs Malaysia!