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klfhngr

My X to Princess to NCL Review/Comparison

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This is my review of our Sept. 16 – 23 cruise on the NCL Escape to Maine and Canada out of NY
My wife and I cruised with another couple, this is our 20th or so cruise and their 5th.
In the past 2 or so years, we’ve cruise on the Celebrity Equinox, Princess Ruby and now the NCL Escape. I wanted to do a comparison of these 3 cruise lines, but I’ll start with my review of the Escape.

From the very get go, we heard many negative things about NCL, i.e., the food, the crowd, service, etc. Yes, we were slightly concerned, but if we’ve never sailed on NCL, how would we find out for ourselves? So I started researching NCL, the ships, itineraries, etc. While researching, I discovered that this is what we might be looking for! No more dressing up, flexibility in dining, great shows, etc.! So we booked.

So here’s my review: 

Embarkation was a breeze, sailed out of NY. We got there at about 10 or so and were on the ship by 1130 or so. Staff was there to greet us and they were ALL cheerful and nice! Us boys headed to the brew house so that we can join the beer challenge (I came in second place, even though I was unofficially in first place) and the wives headed to the show reservations. One nice touch: While we were waiting to board the ship, they have restaurant staff there so that you can modify/make restaurant reservations! The girls were originally going to go the restaurant rsvp’s once they boarded, but because of this nice feature, were able to get our friends assigned to our tables (they didn’t rsvp online, we did). We had lunch at O’Shea’s, it would become one of our most visited places during the week. The ship looks beautiful and well maintained. Also, the staff we met were continuously hospitable and kind, no matter which part of the ship we were on! This continued during the ENTIRE cruise!

Cabins: They are nice, about average for a cruise ship. Two USB ports, one worked the other died after a few days. TV quality terrible, have they not heard of HD?! Bathrooms are spacious. BTW, we had an angled balcony cabin. The balcony was nice, but we hardly used it. On most cruises, I spend a considerable amount of time on the balcony, but not on this one (colder weather cruise as opposed to our many tropical cruises).

Food: The food was GREAT! After hearing all of the negativity before the cruise, we really had no high hopes of the food being great. How wrong we were! We ate at the Teppanyaki House, Manhattan Dining Room, Brazilian and the Steakhouse. We also visited the buffet for breakfast and some lunches, O’Shea’s, room service amongst others. I can honestly say that we enjoyed ALL of our meals! Ranessa in the Manhattan is the BOMB! Ask for her if you eat there! Service in the Brazilian restaurant was mediocre to slow. I had to finally bring it to the attention of the Maître D. What was happening was that the other people closer to the kitchen were being served first, so by the time they got to us, they would run out of meat! They acknowledged this and starting serving our section of the dining room first. From that point on, service was great! The only employee that we found to be ‘rude’ was Vanessa in the Manhattan Dining Room. Please do NOT confuse here with RANESSA! Room Service food was, well, Room Service food. O’Shea’s wings were really good!

Entertainment: We saw the Rat Pack show and loved it! We saw a few dueling piano shows and the one piano player at the district brew house. They were all great! We had a BLAST dancing out back of the ship one night, but because of the weather being cold, the rest of the parties were held indoors. They were still fun! The bands were good, we all had a great time dancing!

Ports: We sailed to Portland Maine, Bar Harbor Maine, Saint John Canada and Halifax Canada. We loved Bar Harbor and Saint John, the other two ports seemed like a ‘normal’ city to us.

Msc: The quality of the drinks were good, all staff were great and we had no issues with our UBP! The District Brewhouse became our favorite place to chill! Great beers for a cruise ship, I wish all cruise companies would do this! As mentioned, my friend and I entered the beer drinking contest, we came in second and third (unofficially first and second). The staff there was AMAZING! They made us feel like close friends and like we knew each other for years! Maricial, Curly, Brent and Selsa, we miss you guys!!! You guys made our cruise!!! If any of you reviewing this go there, tell them that James and Adolfo said hi!! We were never bored, there’s always something to do. And again, the staff was amazing! When we boarded the ship from our different stops, they were always there to greet us with music, DANCING and drinks, and some great smiles!

Overall: We LOVED NCL! We’ve never considered cruising on her, but I am so glad we did! Our friends loved it too! This was an amazing cruise that we will never forget. We can’t wait to get back on her and do a more tropical cruise!

Now a quick comparison between our last three cruises:

Embarkation: I can say that all 3 lines (NCL, X, Princess) were pretty much even. But because of the restaurant staff being available before boarding, I have to give this to NCL!

Cabins: Our Ruby cabin was ok, but quite cluttered. So it’s between NCL and X. Both are quite similar, both are nice. A few more extras on NCL, but some of these extras didn’t work. Also, the NCL room seemed a little more worn. I have to give this one to X. The rooms seemed clean and updated, and everything seemed to work as designed!

Food: Food is subjective, as we all know. Princess is out of this one, it was ok. I have to say that going into the X cruise, our expectations were high for the food. The food was good, but not great. We enjoyed most of our meals, but the variety was so-so. On NCL, we went in with low expectations, however we were blown away! We enjoyed all of our meals, along with the service. This is a tough one. Based on expectation, NCL takes it. But based on just the quality of the food, this is a tie with X!

Entertainment: The Princess Ruby cruise was the most boring cruise we’ve ever been on! If our group of 20 or so didn’t cruise together, I would have probably jumped ship! And this was the opinion from everyone! Again, Princess is out of this one. X had some good shows, but things seemed to die down at about 10 or so. The crowd was more laid back than on NCL. And no, NCL was not rowdier or full of drunks. It just seemed like those on NCL wanted to do ‘stuff’ vs those on X who seemed to appear that they wanted some slight entertainment but wanted to be left alone. Based on our liking, NCL takes it! From the shows, to the dancing, to the amount of things to do, we were never bored!

Ports: N/A

Overall: The Ruby was our second Princess cruise. We were expecting more from it after our first Princess cruise, but boy were we wrong, the first one was better! The staff was MISERABLE! Out of all the staff that we met, only ONE seemed to be enjoying her time! Our first and only X cruise was fun, we enjoyed it. We had a group of about 15 or so, so we made it fun and enjoyed each other’s company. Before the NCL cruise, I have to say that X was in our top 4 cruises. It’s classy, sort of quiet and a great staff, but not as nice as NCL’s. And the ports were awesome (ABC’s). NCL, well, I have to say she blew us away! As noted above, we really did not have many/any complaints! We came back, talked about it and all came to the conclusion that we LOVED NCL and would definitely cruise on her again! What is stopping us? Price! We are looking at her on her West Coast visit, and boy is it expensive! For 1000k less, we can cruise on the Carnival Panorama. Our next cruise will be in May on RCL’s Symphony of the Seas. After that cruise, I’ll do another comparison. Based on all of the above, I have to say that this NCL cruise has become my second favorite of all time! The first is when my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) went on my second cruise. I really hope to sail on NCL and X again soon so that I can do another comparison (my excuse to cruise again)! I hope you enjoy this, and please don’t flame me, this is MY opinion and MY review!
 

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Really great review.   Thanks for taking the time to post.   My second hand opinion of NCL probably same as yours before cruising, but have seen some great solo fares on NCL so might have to give it a try in the future.

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Awesome review!  Can't wait to see what you think of RCL, too. I have only sailed Carnival, Princess and Disney. I keep eyeing NCL as I hear great things but then I also hear terrible things--mostly about the food. I am sailing on the Ruby next month--too bad it didn't rate very high. I will enjoy my vacation anyway. :)

Thanks, again!

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An interesting read.  Thank you.

This quote from you made me smile:

‘. It just seemed like those on NCL wanted to do ‘stuff’ vs those on X who seemed to appear that they wanted some slight entertainment but wanted to be left alone.’

That describes us perfectly, so we’ll stay with X 😀.

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6 hours ago, mrsgoggins said:

An interesting read.  Thank you.

This quote from you made me smile:

‘. It just seemed like those on NCL wanted to do ‘stuff’ vs those on X who seemed to appear that they wanted some slight entertainment but wanted to be left alone.’

That describes us perfectly, so we’ll stay with X 😀.

We're the same way. We don't dance or party into the wee hours. A nice show after late dining and we are done for the night. It's what we've always done on RCL and we are looking forward to our next 14 day cruise on Reflection (2nd time on X). We are open for other cruise lines however and may try NCL if the price/itinerary is right. Thanks for the review..

Edited by 2chiefs

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You're all welcome!

NCL definitely surprised us! I'm so glad we gave them a chance!

Regarding X, I highly recommend if your someone that likes some entertainment and doesn't need 24/7 fun. Like I said, we like X a lot also, it was both relaxing and fun but in a subdued atmosphere.

Once we sail on Symphony, I'll post my new comparison. I sailed on Allure, but missed the ship, so I can't do an honest review/comparison.

Edited by klfhngr

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Nice to hear the newer NCL ships are decent.  We did a Mexico cruise on the NCL Star a few years ago and it was HORRIBLE!  Our worst cruise by far.  Other than the entertainment it was awful and the food was especially bad.  We are booked on the Bliss sailing next Saturday (Mexico again) and really hoping it's a good one. We are really looking forward to the halloween party:classic_biggrin:

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We are long Celebrity snobs and didn't even consider NCL.  Well...we just got off the Bliss and going forward will consider NCL's newer ships our first choice.  The Bliss is a gorgeous, sophisticated looking, Art Deco style ship.  They have the full production of Jersey Boys, which we have seen on Broadway, and was equal to that production.  They have a dedicated comedy club with well known comedians and a reproduced Cavern Club with Beatles shows.  A beautiful Observation lounge with a piano player.  Much better house bands, playing more often and longer.   The speciality restaurants are superior to Celebrity's , and cost less. I could go on, but I'm just writing to encourage others to have a more open mind about trying other cruise lines.

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Thank you for your input!  This is exciting to read. I think it is time for me to branch out and experience more cruise lines!

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I wish everyone would venture out and try different lines.  We love NCL and Celebrity!  More a like then different.  

We even ventured to Carnival last February on the Vista in a Havana cabin.  Amazing!

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My last cruise was on Escape. We really loved it as well. My only negatives from that ship are the number of people and the elevator situation. You have 4000 people and not near enough elevators for all of them. The positive is that the stairs help work off all of the great food on that ship. I had some really incredible sushi in Food Republic and ate at the Brazilian steakhouse one night which was AMAZING. 

We are doing our first X cruise next May in Alaska on Eclipse for our 25th. As you mentioned X seems to be a little more laid back cruising experience and that is exactly what we are looking for on this trip. Thanks for the great review!

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Thanks for the review.  The newer cruise ships are much more alike than they are different now a days.  We prefer Celebrity but even have fun on Carnival.

All those restaurants that you ate at, are they all included or do they have an additional cost? 

Oh and not sure if I want to sail with a ship that has a beer drinking contest - lol

 

Thanks again

Edited by Duanerice1

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Hi everyone. While we are talking about trying various cruise lines—does anyone know how the kids clubs are on NCL or RCL for the under five year olds?  I have taken my granddaughter on Disney CruiseLine but it is so expensive and her mother thinks she will be bored with other CruiseLine’s kids clubs. Any input is appreciated. Thanks!

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We've sailed these three lines--multiple times--as well as several others and can honestly say we've enjoyed every cruise.  Our least favorite was Holland--but it was still nice.

The newer ships on NCL are fantastic, especially the entertainment.  'Million Dollar Quartet' is the best show I've ever seen on any cruise, by far.  We enjoyed the food too, but some of the restaurants you are talking about are extra pay--although not as expensive as other lines.

We have sailed Princess the most and they are a good fit for us; we are not into partying or late night entertainment, but do like MUTS.  Also, they seem to have really good prices at times.  X is usually more expensive, although our upcoming cruise was a good deal, and NCL has some great prices too.

I have not been on Disney and I know their kid's program is fantastic, but I can't imagine a 5-year-old being bored with any kid's program; they all look fantastic.

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16 hours ago, opa&oma said:

 

We are long Celebrity snobs and didn't even consider NCL.  Well...we just got off the Bliss and going forward will consider NCL's newer ships our first choice.  The Bliss is a gorgeous, sophisticated looking, Art Deco style ship.  They have the full production of Jersey Boys, which we have seen on Broadway, and was equal to that production.  They have a dedicated comedy club with well known comedians and a reproduced Cavern Club with Beatles shows.  A beautiful Observation lounge with a piano player.  Much better house bands, playing more often and longer.   The speciality restaurants are superior to Celebrity's , and cost less. I could go on, but I'm just writing to encourage others to have a more open mind about trying other cruise lines.

That was my point also, i.e., have an open mind! We too never considered NCL, but so glad we did!

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14 hours ago, Duanerice1 said:

Thanks for the review.  The newer cruise ships are much more alike than they are different now a days.  We prefer Celebrity but even have fun on Carnival.

All those restaurants that you ate at, are they all included or do they have an additional cost? 

Oh and not sure if I want to sail with a ship that has a beer drinking contest - lol

 

Thanks again

You're welcome! We seem to have fun on most lines, with the exception of Princess for some reason. We try!

We had the UBP and 3 specialty restaurants for 'free'.... A few of he dining rooms, like the Manhattan and some restaurants liek O'Shea's are free! Many options for dining!

Well, it's not really a competition where everyone is getting drunk or downing beers. You have to monitor the scoreboard daily to see where you stand. They only accept about 10 people. I'll try to post a picture... 

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Hope this review helps others.. I constantly check in to CC just to get some helpful advice. It's nice to pay back once in a while.

Open minds = More opportunities...

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On 10/17/2018 at 4:13 AM, mrsgoggins said:

An interesting read.  Thank you.

This quote from you made me smile:

‘. It just seemed like those on NCL wanted to do ‘stuff’ vs those on X who seemed to appear that they wanted some slight entertainment but wanted to be left alone.’

That describes us perfectly, so we’ll stay with X 😀.

We appreciate the review....

Confirms  that NCL  is not for us ..seems too casual for our style,   even more so than Royal C ...Not interested in beer challenges, etc.  We like to relax and  chill,   prefer mellow lounges, enjoy the spa and Solarium, thermal suites / Persian Gardens...upscale dining and good live music  and  a few nice shows we can follow

But we think comparative  reviews are very helpful..thanks for taking the time to post .  After our  2 booked on EDGE which will be something  very different and exciting, we are thinking of trying Oceania or Azamara.

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9 hours ago, hcat said:

We appreciate the review....

Confirms  that NCL  is not for us ..seems too casual for our style,   even more so than Royal C ...Not interested in beer challenges, etc.  We like to relax and  chill,   prefer mellow lounges, enjoy the spa and Solarium, thermal suites / Persian Gardens...upscale dining and good live music  and  a few nice shows we can follow

But we think comparative  reviews are very helpful..thanks for taking the time to post .  After our  2 booked on EDGE which will be something  very different and exciting, we are thinking of trying Oceania or Azamara.

Understood, but a few things .. the beer challenge is very low key, hardly anyone knows about it. Yes, it is very casual, I will admit that. If you want to dress up, you can. But, you touched on quite a few things that you enjoy, and NCL matches those to a T... I really think NCL has the best spas at sea (excluding luxary cruises).. and there specialty restaurants are better than Princess and equal to X (we did a few on X). Music and shows that you enjoy..... If you ever decide to 'caj' down a bit, I think you'd like NCL. 

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11 hours ago, jkgourmet said:

Klfhagr, did you have dinner at all in the NCL MDR?  If so, care to comment on the food?

 

We did! We loved the Manhattan, we ate there twice. The food was great, the service was great when we had RANESSA. The second night, we asked for her, but they said that she was in a meeting?! So we ended up with Vanessa. She was not very nice, however the food was great. Later, I saw RANESSA from a distance and summoned for her. She said that we should've asked for her! I think that because she is so kind and sweet, she probably gets many requests for her tables, hence they say that she is not available. But back to the question, yes the food and service and the atmosphere is great in the Manhattan.

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7 minutes ago, klfhngr said:

 

We did! We loved the Manhattan, we ate there twice. The food was great, the service was great when we had RANESSA. The second night, we asked for her, but they said that she was in a meeting?! So we ended up with Vanessa. She was not very nice, however the food was great. Later, I saw RANESSA from a distance and summoned for her. She said that we should've asked for her! I think that because she is so kind and sweet, she probably gets many requests for her tables, hence they say that she is not available. But back to the question, yes the food and service and the atmosphere is great in the Manhattan.

Thanks!  When we sailed on NCL, the MDR food was, at best, bland and boring.   pot roast, meat loaf, very few entree's that I couldn't easily do at home).  We were unhappy enough they we've hesitated to sail with them again without a significant portion of dinners covered by a dining package.  Your comments make me reconsider. 

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