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Mom's comparison of RCCL,NCL, and Disney


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Let me start by telling a little about myself. I am a mother to 3 boys(11,9,7) and I have gone on 9 cruises total. I have had the privilege of beingon the Disney Dream, Norweigan Getaway, and RCCL Independence of the Seas in the last 15 months. I feel like I have a unique opportunity to compare the 3 from a mothers perspective. This is just my opinion and observations, to help other parents.

 

 

My first comparison will come directly from my boys and it involves the kids clubs. My boys enjoyed all 3 kids clubs but the Disney's kids club blows the rest out of the park. The amount of activities and the type of activities were better. The fact that Disney lets my kids play together is an additional bonus. The actual kids club is much bigger on Disney. From a parents perspective Disney's kids club has a lot of advantages. The first, and biggest, is that it doesn't close down during the day. Both NCL and RCCL only keep their kids club open for 3-4 hours at a time. It seemed like everytime my husband and I finally got relaxed, one of us would have to leave to go get the kids. We don't stick the kids in the club and then forget about them for the rest of the day, but we do enjoy the freedom that comes with deciding when to take the kids out. In addition both RCCL and NCL charge a fee after 10pm per kid and Disney does not. I also like the GPS's they put on the kids, to make it easier to find them. Don't get me wrong my kids enjoyed all the kids club but Disney was better.

 

 

The next comparison is the food. We have enjoyed the specialty restaurants on all 3 ships and we believe that it is most definitely worth every dollar we spent. Let me also tell you that my husband and I enjoy food. We feel like good food is essential in vacation. We have also stayed at multiple different all inclusive resorts, so I feel like we have a pretty good idea on the limitations that cruise ships face in feeding the masses. I just recently got off IOS so my opinion of the food is very fresh in my mind. Let me state that I seem to remember feeling like the main dining room food was average on both Disney and NCL. I don't remember being overly impressed but I wasn't disappointed either. However I was disappointed in IOS food. I definitely felt like they didn't deliver average to good cruise food. My Mom was also on IOS and she has more than 35 days with RCCL and has gone on numerous other cruise lines and she felt the same way I did. I do feel like food is very individual to the ship, so I wouldn't base my dislike of the IOS food on all RCCL ships. My personal opinion, as we continue to go on other cruises, is to do more specialty restaurants.

 

 

Along the line of the food, is how you dine. On Disney you rotate restaurants with your severs. This is great for the younger kids as each dining room is unique. On NCL you have freestyle. You decide where and when you want to eat. On the Getaway they had 5 free main dining rooms, all a little different. I loved, loved the fact that you could not make reservations at the main dining room. You show up when you want. I recall only ever having a wait at 1 restaurant and we left and went to another dining room that had no wait. On IOS they have my time dining. I felt like there was a pressure, with a family of 5, to make a reservation time 2 months before we left. I felt like if you didn't have a reservation and wanted to eat during “busy” times you would be waiting. I have to say I strongly disliked this. I loved being free to eat when and where I wanted to dine. NCL wins this hands down for me. We also felt like the lunch options were very limited on IOS compared to NCL and Disney. In general I preferred the food on NCL over the other two. The Getaway had 20+ restaurants on board and we really enjoyed the variety.

 

 

The entertainment is my next comparison. The general nightly shows are significantly better on Disney. There really is no comparison. The talent, show, production,etc... just makes Disney shine. I will say that I felt like RCCL had better small acts. I really enjoyed the live band that we found on IOS. Don't remember finding that on NCL or Disney. Disney has less adult shows than the other two lines. I really feel like this area is a wash between the 3 lines. I feel like what you find and do is subjective to each ship and to each person. However if you want a big nightly production that can be enjoyed by all, Disney will not disappoint.

 

 

My last comparison is the actual ship. So in this case I am comparing the Dream, Getaway, and IOS. I also recognize that the Getaway was a brand new ship when we went on it. The Dream and IOS are a little older, but by no means old, so I feel like comparing these 3 is fair. Each ship had its pluses and minuses. The IOS had really great kids pools. My kids loved being able to swim in a pool. The NCL and Disney don't have the best pools. The NCL had 5 water slides. The water slides were amazing and enjoyed by my older two, husband, and my self. Everyone also enjoyed the Aquaduct but after that there wasn't much in the way of pool area for Disney. This is a toss up between IOS and Getaway. It all depends on weather you prefer slides or pools. The adult only areas on the Dream are amazing. They are secluded and virtually empty, so it is a really great area on the ship. The Getaway has an area called the Vibe, which is amazing. Yes it costs and there are limited tickets sold, but if you are lucky enough to get them, it is like you are on your own ship. There is a private area of comfortable chairs with umbrellas, bar, and hot tub all with an amazing view. The IOS adults only area was not secluded and people could walk through it. It was really crowded. It was a disappointment for my husband and myself. Disney doesn't have a rock climbing wall or any other things to do on the ship. There big draw is all the characters. So if you have kids that are of the age where the characters are important, than this is huge draw. The Getaway had so many amazing things to do. We were huge fans of the ropes course, rock climbing wall, trampoline bungy jumping. My older two kids were never board while on board the Getaway. My youngest was 6 at the time and I think he would have enjoyed the characters a little more. The IOS had some fun things, but it seems like all there things had long lines and were not meant for my kids ages. The rock climbing wall was better on IOS, taller. IOS has the flowrider, which didn't do a lot for my kids. In fact my youngest couldn't do it at all. There was an ice skating ring, but we never made it there other than the ice show. In general we as a family preferred the Getaway when comparing ships.

 

 

I hope this helps out others who are trying to make a decision. In general my advice is that if you have younger children and price isn't a huge sticking point, then Disney all the way. You and your kids will enjoy your time more. Disney just does a better job of taking care of the young ones, which in turn makes your vacation better. If your kids are getting older 8 and up then consider the Getaway. The ship itself has so much to offer, and the freestyle dining makes vacation more enjoyable. I can not recommend the IOS. While we had a good time, there were too many things we didn't enjoy. Maybe going on one of RCCL newest ships would be a very different experience than IOS? Remember this is just my opinion. Feel free to ask questions and I will do my best answer them.

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On Ncl is the kids club closed during the day on sea days? We are booked on RCCL and I was told the club was closed 12-3. That's when parents are finally ready to relax before picking up the kids for a nap or to get dressed for dinner. We can't afford DCL every time especially for a last minute decision due to self employed.

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On Ncl is the kids club closed during the day on sea days? We are booked on RCCL and I was told the club was closed 12-3. That's when parents are finally ready to relax before picking up the kids for a nap or to get dressed for dinner. We can't afford DCL every time especially for a last minute decision due to self employed.

 

Yes the kids club closes 12-3 everyday on rccl and ncl.

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That is good information to know about the kids club. We have never put our child in kids clubs because for us we want to enjoy every minute as a family but I understand we are in the minority. Also the thought of being away from my child if there was an emergency scares me. Maybe I was on the Titanic in another life.

As far as the food on IOS we went last year and I thought the food was normal mass production cruise ship food. Not bad and on level with any other cruise line. On the Getaway we ate the specialty places every night and all were amazing! This is one reason I enjoy NCL very much. On Disney, dinner is a problem for us. I find the food in the rotational dining to be below average mass production cruise ship food. We despise it and end up getting burgers, pizza, chicken fingers or room service every night. But thats ok because the rest of the Disney experience is outstanding.

Edited by e2011
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Do you have any thoughts on the cabins on the different ships? I know Disney has a great cabin layout with sleeping areas for the kids with a curtain and the split bathrooms. How do the other two compare?

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Do you have any thoughts on the cabins on the different ships? I know Disney has a great cabin layout with sleeping areas for the kids with a curtain and the split bathrooms. How do the other two compare?

 

Disney definitely has a leg up on RCCL and NCL when comparing one cabin to another. However, sometimes for just a little more I can get 2 connecting cabins on the other cruise lines. I would much rather have 2 slightly smaller cabins then 1 bigger, better designed, cabin on Disney. I do recall NCL and RCCL both have a curtain like Disney. The other big draw back is 1 bathroom vs Disney having 2 separate bath areas. So if you are comparing 1 room to 1 room Disney wins with 2 bath areas and bigger more efficient rooms.

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Yes the kids club closes 12-3 everyday on rccl and ncl.

 

 

I believe Adventure Ocean is closed from 12-2, not 12-3. Also closed 5-7, but I think you can pay an hourly rate for your kid during this time. After 10PM there is also a fee.

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That is good information to know about the kids club. We have never put our child in kids clubs because for us we want to enjoy every minute as a family but I understand we are in the minority. Also the thought of being away from my child if there was an emergency scares me. Maybe I was on the Titanic in another life.

As far as the food on IOS we went last year and I thought the food was normal mass production cruise ship food. Not bad and on level with any other cruise line. On the Getaway we ate the specialty places every night and all were amazing! This is one reason I enjoy NCL very much. On Disney, dinner is a problem for us. I find the food in the rotational dining to be below average mass production cruise ship food. We despise it and end up getting burgers, pizza, chicken fingers or room service every night. But thats ok because the rest of the Disney experience is outstanding.

 

 

I am so glad to hear I am not the only one who feels this way about their kids and the possibility of an emergency. I figured I was the only paranoid one. Maybe we were on the Titanic together. LOL I love cruising and don't fear something happening but those people on the Concordia probably didn't fear it either. You just never know plus we like to hang out as a family :D

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Thank you for the review. We have also sailed all three cruise lines, although our children are grown. They enjoyed all three, but as adults they still prefer Disney. I love all three for different reasons but to me overall Disney is my fav.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Thanks for this review! I keep 'pondering' on this topic... The last two cruises we sailed were Disney... Incredible. But we decided to try a 'less expensive' option.. we are sailing on the Liberty of the Seas in May. Hoping the adding of all the water slide fun will make it just as good as our Disney experience (the kids will also love the rock climbing, mini-golf, flow rider, an ice skating that RCCL offers). My kids are 6 and 8 and will be in the same kids club together so that will be nice.

 

Anyone out there have a Disney vs. the new Liberty of the Seas comparison? It will be interesting to see the difference between the two... my expectations are reduced as I know it is not Disney..

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Thanks for this review! I keep 'pondering' on this topic... The last two cruises we sailed were Disney... Incredible. But we decided to try a 'less expensive' option.. we are sailing on the Liberty of the Seas in May. Hoping the adding of all the water slide fun will make it just as good as our Disney experience (the kids will also love the rock climbing, mini-golf, flow rider, an ice skating that RCCL offers). My kids are 6 and 8 and will be in the same kids club together so that will be nice.

 

Anyone out there have a Disney vs. the new Liberty of the Seas comparison? It will be interesting to see the difference between the two... my expectations are reduced as I know it is not Disney..

 

If I have one suggestion, it is to try to not compare everything to DCL. I expect that you'll find some things that you like better than Disney and some things that DCL does better. At the end of the day/cruise, think about whether the overall experience was good, you had the family time you wanted, everyone had fun, etc. If it is not a good vacation, then any money is not a good value. If it is a good vacation and it cost half of what a DCL cruise would have...it's OK to say that Disney does X better but Liberty does Y better. And that makes it a great value.

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If I have one suggestion' date=' it is to try to not compare everything to DCL. I expect that you'll find some things that you like better than Disney and some things that DCL does better. At the end of the day/cruise, think about whether the overall experience was good, you had the family time you wanted, everyone had fun, etc. If it is not a good vacation, then any money is not a good value. If it is a good vacation and it cost half of what a DCL cruise would have...it's OK to say that Disney does X better but Liberty does Y better. And that makes it a great value.[/quote']

 

I think you make an excellent point. We loved our Disney cruises and have another set for January but at the same time I am really looking forward to trying new cruise lines and seeing what they have to offer. I try to look at all vacations whether land or sea with an open mind and as separate experiences.

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These are my notes from Liberty in 2012 versus Princess:

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1726735

 

Now, I am not sure if the Liberty has been majorly enhanced since then, but here are some of my thoughts:

 

Dining - personally as compared to our last dream cruise, I think RCCL does a better job than Disney. As much as I love the facilities on DCL I much prefer not being tied in to a specific time, but with RCCL you still have the option of classic dining on most ships. Food is subjective but I prefer RCCLs (my standing opinion of DCL food is they try to make kid friendly food upscale and fail at it). Service is hard to compare when you look at anytime versus traditional but one thing I love about RCCL is they make notes and when you are seated, your server already knows preferred drinks, etc, EVEN from cruise to cruise! (our notes from 2012 showed up on our 2016 Anthem cruise). Specific to the liberty, the dining room is a bit bland compared to Disney (unless has changed there is one MDR with multiple floors and they adjust anytime/traditional spaces as needed.

 

Kids Facilities- RCCL is more teen oriented than Disney, in terms of shipboard amenities. The Liberty has an ice skating rink and it seemed more time was available for teens than younger ones (only a few family skates) - it should be noted that this was the Med in October, demographics may vary. The flowrider, rock wall, etc are also more geared to older kids/teens. The kids club itself was not up to what Disney offers but more than adequate. The pool slides are fun, but honestly I miss the AquaDuck more.

 

Entertainment - The shows on RCCL are broadway quality, but NOT necessarily family friendly. If Saturday Night Fever is still on there, its probably ok, but some of their shows do have adult language and themes (and will be marked as such). The ice show was on a par with anything I had seen on land.

 

Staff - In general, I find RCCL staff to be some of the most personable at sea, DCL ranks a little lower on my list as they always seem to be under pressure to meet unreasonable standards (that said, the best cabin attendant we have ever had was on Disney). Overall, I give RCCL the edge because their staff always seems to be having more fun (notable exception was dining staff on Anthem, but those teaser cruises are tough with special menus)

 

Adult Dining - RCCL has more options, but none of them are Palo and Remy. Think of them more as equivalent to a good high end land based chain, where Palo and Remy are top chef level.

 

Your cabin on the Liberty will likely be a bit smaller than the equivalent class on Disney but still pretty decent in size.

 

If you have specific questions, happy to help, although its been a few years. We did love the Liberty - despite her size she never seemed crowded, even at the pool deck (port heavy itinerary tho)

 

 

Thanks for this review! I keep 'pondering' on this topic... The last two cruises we sailed were Disney... Incredible. But we decided to try a 'less expensive' option.. we are sailing on the Liberty of the Seas in May. Hoping the adding of all the water slide fun will make it just as good as our Disney experience (the kids will also love the rock climbing, mini-golf, flow rider, an ice skating that RCCL offers). My kids are 6 and 8 and will be in the same kids club together so that will be nice.

 

Anyone out there have a Disney vs. the new Liberty of the Seas comparison? It will be interesting to see the difference between the two... my expectations are reduced as I know it is not Disney..

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