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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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That was really useful, thank you! I have cruised on RCCL, Disney CL, and HAL and am heading out on Princess this Friday. I am def considering NCL with their prices and extras! 

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Cool! Just sharing our experiences with people that care... :) Like I said, we loved NCL and never considered even going on it. We did because of the perks for our sailing and the new ports for us.

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We'll be taking our second NCL cruise next month.  It's been 18 years since our last one, and we're going in to it with open minds.  Thanks for upping our anticipation!

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Fish, I'm glad this helped! We did the same, open minds... and were quite surprised and happy! Have a great cruise!

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