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chenj78

Carnival vs RCI and NCL

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Hi all,

 

Considering a Carnival cruise after cruising mostly with RCI and a couple times with NCL over the years.  We have been very happy with both RCI and NCL.  Can anyone provide any feedback as to how Carnival compares to them as far as condition of ship, overall cleanliness, overall service, food quality, kids activities, onboard prices, onboard activities, etc.?  My initial research seems to point in the direction of them being comparable, but I am interested in hearing from those who are more familiar with Carnival.

 

Thanks in advance!

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Can't speak of NCL... But my personal opinion is RCL and Carnival are more similar than different. We enjoy both.

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I enjoy both CCL & RCI. I cannot say that I like NCL, but then again I have not sailed on their newer ships.

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RC, CCL and NCL are pretty close-RC better entertainment, CCL better at other stuff-cruised all three one year and noticed all had declined pretty bad in the food department-taste and temperature. 

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I haven't cruised on NCL and probably can't answer much in terms of comparison since I really only have 5 cruises so far. However, my son and I both prefer Carnival to RCL. He refuses to go to the kids club on RCL but loves it on Carnival. I'm not exactly sure why and he has a hard time explaining it to me. I think Carnival is more structured in some ways, they say this activity is for this time and that's it. RCL gives a time frame with a block of things they may or may not do. He likes knowing exactly what he'll be doing when. Probably doesn't matter to most kids 🙂 We find Carnival more fun. However both are quite similar to me! I think more differences that we have seen are which ship and itinerary we choose. He likes the rock climbing on RCL and the water slides and ropes course on Carnival. 

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What ships have you sailed on with Royal and which ship are you considering on Carnival? Just like on Royal the experience can vary greatly from Symphony and Empress of the Seas, the same can be said for the various ships in the Carnival fleet. 

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I haven't been on RCL or NCL yet (Want to shortly). The general consensus seems to be that they are more alike than you would think. Royal has some of the best ships, best entertainment, and most to do at sea. NCL has some great freebies, their new large ships are gorgeous, and O'Sheehans is nice for 24/7 food. Carnival has the most fun atmosphere, general lowest prices, and some solid lunch/breakfast options.

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2 hours ago, Joebucks said:

I haven't been on RCL or NCL yet (Want to shortly). The general consensus seems to be that they are more alike than you would think. Royal has some of the best ships, best entertainment, and most to do at sea. NCL has some great freebies, their new large ships are gorgeous, and O'Sheehans is nice for 24/7 food. Carnival has the most fun atmosphere, general lowest prices, and some solid lunch/breakfast options.

 

does O Sheehans still have prime rib available for dinner?

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I stopped sailing NCL when they went to ALL "Your Time Dining", but I realize that many folks prefer that.  I won't book RCL, unless there is a GREAT deal on the price, as I feel like I'm paying for all the frills, (ie: Flo Rider, Sky thingy, etc.) that I'll NEVER use.  I too, think that overall, the three lines are pretty much the same, and it's just a matter of what you're looking for in a cruise that makes the difference.  I personally, prefer Carnival.

 

"SKY"

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10 hours ago, MamatoJack said:

I haven't cruised on NCL and probably can't answer much in terms of comparison since I really only have 5 cruises so far. However, my son and I both prefer Carnival to RCL. He refuses to go to the kids club on RCL but loves it on Carnival. I'm not exactly sure why and he has a hard time explaining it to me. I think Carnival is more structured in some ways, they say this activity is for this time and that's it. RCL gives a time frame with a block of things they may or may not do. He likes knowing exactly what he'll be doing when. Probably doesn't matter to most kids 🙂 We find Carnival more fun. However both are quite similar to me! I think more differences that we have seen are which ship and itinerary we choose. He likes the rock climbing on RCL and the water slides and ropes course on Carnival. 

.

Kids like and appreciate structure more than they know

and more than we appreciate!

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We've been on RCL and Carnival and my kids prefer Carnival because the soft serve ice cream machine is on 24/7 whereas on RCL the machines were only on at certain times so, especially on the pool deck, there was a long line. RCL also would not let them enter the Windjammer with swimming suits on to get their ice cream. We just brought cotton dresses to throw on top of swimsuits to bypass that issue but they're still sore about it. LOL

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24 minutes ago, Stacie. said:

We've been on RCL and Carnival and my kids prefer Carnival because the soft serve ice cream machine is on 24/7 whereas on RCL the machines were only on at certain times so, especially on the pool deck, there was a long line. RCL also would not let them enter the Windjammer with swimming suits on to get their ice cream. We just brought cotton dresses to throw on top of swimsuits to bypass that issue but they're still sore about it. LOL

A whole cruise vacation choice decided by ........ soft serve ice cream machines?  Um ........ OK. 

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20 minutes ago, tallnthensome said:

A whole cruise vacation choice decided by ........ soft serve ice cream machines?  Um ........ OK. 

Well, they aren't the ones that decide the cruise vacation, this is just the (silly, in my mind as I don't eat soft serve ice cream) main thing they bring up when we've asked them which cruise line they liked better. Kids are fickle. 😉  Personally, I like different aspects of each line for different reasons. Now obviously this is just my very limited experience as I've only cruised once on each line. 😉 We cruised the same time (November) a year apart. I think Carnival's food is better and enjoyed the Hasbro Game Show entertainment (I'm probably biased because I made it on stage and won something) but I thought RCL's musical entertainment was better and thought the ice show was fun. I thought my kids would love the Flow Rider but the lines were always so long that they each just rode it once or twice. The basketball courts on RCL were always occupied by the same adult males who never gave anyone else a chance to use them, my kids were actually able to shoot hoops on the Carnival courts. They loved the kids clubs on Carnival but didn't care for the RCL kids club, however on RCL we were traveling with my extended family so they had 15 cousins to play with so really probably didn't spend enough time in the kids club to give it a chance. We had interior cabins on both cruises and liked the bathroom setup on our Carnival cruise a little bit better. We're splurging and doing balcony rooms this time so I'm interested in seeing how the Carnival balcony room feels compared to my parents' RCL balcony room. I do like that Carnival lets you bring 12 packs of soda and bottles of wine on the ship. I don't remember if RCL allows wine or not, but I know they didn't allow soda. 

 

I would totally sail either line again (we're doing Carnival in a few weeks) because CRUISING! 😉 (but my kids are pretty happy about the ice cream 😉 ).  When we launch them into the world and DH and I travel on our own we'd like to try a Viking River Cruise. I'm sure my kids would find it interesting but I cannot afford to bring five kids with on that. Plus I don't know their soft serve setup. 😉 

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I’ve sailed all three lines and agree with Tapi that the differences are in the ships themselves. The overall business models are extremely alike as are the demographics. With that I’d say I personally like RC drink package offerings best and I’d say their extra fee food offerings are best while Carnivals free food is best.  I also like RC buffet layout best. It’s more like islands of food as apposed to cafeteria style on NCL and Carnival. The islands seem to eliminate lines and waits in the buffet area. I would sail any of them again it’s just a matter of a particular ship and pricing to me.

Edited by Jerseygirl1416

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I've cruised all three lines, but can't give any input about the programs for the kids.  Of all of the ships I have been on, I liked RCL Liberty of the Seas the best.  I really liked the way the ship is set up and how they operated their shows.  NCL likes to have some shows in the middle of the ship and it gets VERY crowded.  It's no fun to have to stand while watching a show.

My husband and I mostly cruise on Carnival because we really enjoy the comedy shows.  They have more comedians, who often have several different shows.  The other cruise lines may have one good show, but that doesn't compare to many different shows throughout the duration of a cruise.

The MDR food is about the same.  Buffet is the same for breakfast and lunch, but RCL nails it for dinner as far as quality and options.  Carnival's Guy's Burgers and Mexican food poolside is a great option for lunch that neither NCL nor RCL provides.

For teens, I would choose RCL or one of Carnival's largest ships.  For younger kids, I have no idea.  For adults, it really depends on your preferences.  I am cruising on the Carnival Dream today and am very excited.

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So a lot has been said about all 3 being more similar than different with Carnival being the lowest cost.

 

Question is whether that is true or not.  Does anyone have experiences where RCL was less expensive than Carnival ?

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While I haven't done NCL, we did do a RCI in 2017 after doing almost all Carnival. The one thing I can say is that there are some things I can't compare because our RCI cruise was in Europe and Carnival was all Caribbean and 1 Alaska. So there are some things that are slightly different due to where we were sailing. But I did write up this comparison about the 2 lines,  just some of the Pros & Cons that we noticed...

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2436060-carnival-cruisers-go-on-rci-our-pros-amp-cons/

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13 hours ago, Joebucks said:

I haven't been on RCL or NCL yet (Want to shortly). The general consensus seems to be that they are more alike than you would think. Royal has some of the best ships, best entertainment, and most to do at sea. NCL has some great freebies, their new large ships are gorgeous, and O'Sheehans is nice for 24/7 food. Carnival has the most fun atmosphere, general lowest prices, and some solid lunch/breakfast options.

 

nevermind Joebucks. I just reread your post and it "clearly" says you haven't been on NCL yet.

 

My apologies.

 

Those freebies on NCL aren't so free when you get to the bottom line with each category of cabin "usually a couple hundred dollars more than CCL and when you add on the gratuities they add to the freebies you are not getting a lot free. Of course there are exceptions when you can actually get a good deal but not often, at least in my research.

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5 minutes ago, Illbcruzn4life said:

 

nevermind Joebucks. I just reread your post and it "clearly" says you haven't been on NCL yet.

 

My apologies.

 

Those freebies on NCL aren't so free when you get to the bottom line with each category of cabin "usually a couple hundred dollars more than CCL and when you add on the gratuities they add to the freebies you are not getting a lot free. Of course there are exceptions when you can actually get a good deal but not often, at least in my research.

 

I agree with you and should have stated it more carefully. There is nothing free in life. In some scenarios, you may come ahead with NCL, but it depends on a few factors.

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1 hour ago, Luckiestmanonearth said:

So a lot has been said about all 3 being more similar than different with Carnival being the lowest cost.

 

Question is whether that is true or not.  Does anyone have experiences where RCL was less expensive than Carnival ?

I find that Royal is more expensive than NCL and Carnival most of the time. We enjoy Royal but their $1000 to $1800 deposits on many cruises is absurd.

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We've sailed all three and like others have said, we've found more similarities than differences. Ship is the biggest difference. We loved the NCL Getaway, weren't so fond of the Dawn and it's layout. Carnival Legend wasn't my favourite ship, and I really wasn't a fan of the food, but we're going on Magic this summer so there was more good than bad. My kids favourite was RCI, but they've loved the other ones. The only kids club either would go to was on Disney, so I can't comment on those. We try to balance cost vs ship vs itinerary. I have no desire to go on an older, smaller carnival ship but have no problem considering the newer bigger ones. Decide what's the most important features to you, and look for that rather than focusing on which line is my advice.  

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I've been on all 3 lines. My opinion can best be summed up by our current bookings, one on NCL, one on Carnival and two on Royal (one of which was chosen by the people we're going with, they are loyal to Royal). 

 

We like all 3 for different reasons and won't hesitate to book any based on itinerary (our NCL for Bermuda overnights), ship (Harmony and NCL Encore) and value (Carnival). If we had to rank, it'd be Carnival, Royal then NCL. Our kids (5 and 3) loved the kids program on Carnival and liked NCL. Their first RC is in May. We've been on multiples from each line and been on older smaller boats and larger newer boats on each line. 

 

Quick pros and cons

Pros

Carnival: comedy, quick service food, our favorite organized daytime activities, kids club, kids loved waterworks (other lines have great areas, but the had taller minimum height, so kids couldn't go), value

Royal: stage shows (+ice and water shows depending on boat), amazing boats with tons of stuff to do

NCL: boats nicer than Carnival but short of Royal, best stage shows we've seen on a boat, O'sheehans, beverage package promo, speciality restaurant variety and dining promo

 

Cons

Carnival: shorter weekend cruises have a rowdy crowd,  stage shows are lacking compared to other lines, boats lacking amenities

Royal: price (especially on Oasis class), itineraries lacking on bigger boats, less organized activities we liked compared to Carnival

NCL: price is in the middle, while shows are awesome, not enough of them, least to do during day for us

 

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27 minutes ago, MechE31 said:

I've been on all 3 lines. My opinion can best be summed up by our current bookings, one on NCL, one on Carnival and two on Royal (one of which was chosen by the people we're going with, they are loyal to Royal). 

 

We like all 3 for different reasons and won't hesitate to book any based on itinerary (our NCL for Bermuda overnights), ship (Harmony and NCL Encore) and value (Carnival). If we had to rank, it'd be Carnival, Royal then NCL. Our kids (5 and 3) loved the kids program on Carnival and liked NCL. Their first RC is in May. We've been on multiples from each line and been on older smaller boats and larger newer boats on each line. 

 

Quick pros and cons

Pros

Carnival: comedy, quick service food, our favorite organized daytime activities, kids club, kids loved waterworks (other lines have great areas, but the had taller minimum height, so kids couldn't go), value

Royal: stage shows (+ice and water shows depending on boat), amazing boats with tons of stuff to do

NCL: boats nicer than Carnival but short of Royal, best stage shows we've seen on a boat, O'sheehans, beverage package promo, speciality restaurant variety and dining promo

 

Cons

Carnival: shorter weekend cruises have a rowdy crowd,  stage shows are lacking compared to other lines, boats lacking amenities

Royal: price (especially on Oasis class), itineraries lacking on bigger boats, less organized activities we liked compared to Carnival

NCL: price is in the middle, while shows are awesome, not enough of them, least to do during day for us

 

I have to agree with this rowdy crowd comment.   But I'm not a fan of Carnivals food options on the buffet or the MDR where the food arrives slightly warm to cold.  But I cant judge NCL or Royal as it has been a while since I have cruised with either.

 

My main curiosity is why the other lines wont compete for the east coast debarkation ports . Of course I know a few use these debarkation ports but no cruise line has stepped up to challenge Carnival on their opposition .If they were to have access to these ports I'm sure more people would cruise with other lines instead of Carnival.

 

 

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