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raynvic

A Carnival Diamond does NCL

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This review is my personal opinion.  My husband and I have cruised more than 35 times and although most of them were Carnival, we have cruised with Sitmar, RCCL, Princess and Celebrity.  This was our first NCL cruise since the 80’s.  I usually tell people who ask that the best cruise line is the one that you are most comfortable with.  My favorite is Celebrity, but I love my Carnival perks.  I would say that NCL and Carnival are more alike than different.

 

Food:  this is very subjective, but I found the buffet on NCL to be better than Carnival.  First of all I like the layout of the area better with multiple stations instead of 4 long lines.  The choices were more appetizing and I thought the taste was better.  NCL has more dining options and most are casual.  Only two of the venues did not allow shorts for men or women.  The specialty restaurants were good, but no more so than the regular dining room.  All of the food was tasty and the service was good as well.  (I did miss my chocolate melting cake with peanut butter.)

 

Cabin:  this is where Carnival has the edge when comparing balconies.  The NCL cabin felt smaller and the storage was quite a bit less.  The desk area where I usually apply makeup and do my hair was just a small corner niche.  The bathroom had a nice shower but the sink area felt very cramped with the towel storage on the wall next to the sink.  There was only one closet versus two with Carnival and only one nightstand with no drawers.  There was a lack of surface area to store “stuff”.

 

Common areas:  There seemed to be plenty of common areas and the Martini Bar was very similar both in their offerings and lay out.  One thing I did like on NCL was the lounge at the top of the ship where they played live music and some DJ for dancing at night.  Celebrity does this as well.  The thing I dislike most about Carnival is the “Disco”.  The rap and hip hop music that is usually played does not appeal to me.

 

Pool areas:  They did have a lifeguard on duty and just like any cruise ship the chogs were in full force.  Not much difference here.

 

Casino:  There did not seem to be many people in the Casino most of the time.  The table games were $10 minimums as well as the Crap Table.  The Casino bar surface had slot machines.  I think this is to discourage those who use the casino bar as their main smoking lounge.

 

Many people look down on Carnival and call it the Walmart of cruising.  I will tell you I saw much the same on NCL, whether it was dress, behavior, or unsupervised kids.  I saw all of that.

 

In closing, I would say if the price was right and they go where I want to go, I would go with NCL again.  I did miss my free laundry though!

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1 hour ago, raynvic said:

 

This review is my personal opinion.  My husband and I have cruised more than 35 times and although most of them were Carnival, we have cruised with Sitmar, RCCL, Princess and Celebrity.  This was our first NCL cruise since the 80’s.  I usually tell people who ask that the best cruise line is the one that you are most comfortable with.  My favorite is Celebrity, but I love my Carnival perks.  I would say that NCL and Carnival are more alike than different.

 

Food:  this is very subjective, but I found the buffet on NCL to be better than Carnival.  First of all I like the layout of the area better with multiple stations instead of 4 long lines.  The choices were more appetizing and I thought the taste was better.  NCL has more dining options and most are casual.  Only two of the venues did not allow shorts for men or women.  The specialty restaurants were good, but no more so than the regular dining room.  All of the food was tasty and the service was good as well.  (I did miss my chocolate melting cake with peanut butter.)

 

Cabin:  this is where Carnival has the edge when comparing balconies.  The NCL cabin felt smaller and the storage was quite a bit less.  The desk area where I usually apply makeup and do my hair was just a small corner niche.  The bathroom had a nice shower but the sink area felt very cramped with the towel storage on the wall next to the sink.  There was only one closet versus two with Carnival and only one nightstand with no drawers.  There was a lack of surface area to store “stuff”.

 

Common areas:  There seemed to be plenty of common areas and the Martini Bar was very similar both in their offerings and lay out.  One thing I did like on NCL was the lounge at the top of the ship where they played live music and some DJ for dancing at night.  Celebrity does this as well.  The thing I dislike most about Carnival is the “Disco”.  The rap and hip hop music that is usually played does not appeal to me.

 

Pool areas:  They did have a lifeguard on duty and just like any cruise ship the chogs were in full force.  Not much difference here.

 

Casino:  There did not seem to be many people in the Casino most of the time.  The table games were $10 minimums as well as the Crap Table.  The Casino bar surface had slot machines.  I think this is to discourage those who use the casino bar as their main smoking lounge.

 

Many people look down on Carnival and call it the Walmart of cruising.  I will tell you I saw much the same on NCL, whether it was dress, behavior, or unsupervised kids.  I saw all of that.

 

In closing, I would say if the price was right and they go where I want to go, I would go with NCL again.  I did miss my free laundry though!

Interesting comparison, thanks for doing it for us.

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I really have no desire to cruise on NCL. I read reviews, look at photos, and it seems like it would be just another Carnival experience, only more costly and without the perks we get. I actually had a suite booked years ago on NCL and canceled the cruise. I just couldn't see paying that much for a Carnival experience.

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That's a nice review.  I have also cruised on Norwegian, but prefer Carnival.  
For me,
Food: Carnival's is much better, even the buffet.  Carnival also has poolside food with Guy's and Blue Iguana
Cabin:  Carnival's are better except the mini suite on Norwegian had a great bathroom with a full sized shower and double vanity.  That was so nice.  As far as the rest of the cabin, Carnival's was better.
Theater Shows:  I thought Norwegian's shows were so much better in talent and quality.  I did not like the required reservations for shows, but the shows were very good.  Carnival's shows are average and I can take or leave them.
Comedy:  Nobody does comedy as well as Carnival.  They have more comedians and more shows.
Pools/Water area:  I liked Norwegian's grotto area, but there was no shade by the loungers.  Pools on both lines are nice
Game Shows:  Although the games shows provide the same entertainment, Norwegian has them in the middle of the ship in their atrium area and it's much too small of a space.  Many people have to stand. 
Deck Parties:  Both have very fun deck parties.  
Casino:  Similar 
Other:  Howl at the Moon is a lot of fun on Norwegian. Carnival has FTTF and self service laundry.
Summary:  While our cruises on Norwegian were a lot of fun, my husband and I prefer Carnival.

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Thanks for the review. Since Del Rio took over NCL has always been out of our price range but we'd sail with them again if their price was comparable to CCL or Royal.

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Good balanced review.  We bounce between CCL and NCL, now using NCL for travel to more "exotic" places - Hawaii, Europe, etc.  I think a lot depends on what kind of ship you sail on.  I like the buffet better on NCL - dh prefers CCL.  We think the entertainment on NCL (especially their Broadway type shows) are better.  We love Howl at the Moon dueling piano bars on NCL.  We were just on the NCL Star - literally got off Sunday from Venice - and definitely liked the Serenity areas better on CCL - the Star's Spice H2O was "enclosed" and we like sun.  We enjoy the specialty dining on NCL.  Our balcony cabins on NCL seem smaller than CCL.  Casino on NCL was definitely less smoky than CCL.  Drinking on both ships has "evened out" with NCL's drink package- same amount of rowdy people imho.  All in all, we will continue to cruise on both lines.

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What ship?  That makes a difference, no?  Agree that the two lines are much more alike than they are dissimilar.

 

I had absolutely no desire to sail NCL (not sure why) but did the EB TA on Star in May 2018 combined with 3 nights in Barcelona, then the WB TA on Horizon.

 

I liked NCL much more than I expected I would.  I was surprised at how good the food was in the MDR as I'd read plenty of comments saying it wasn't very good.  Food is so subjective and the time you choose to dine, and your selections can make a big difference.  It even varies from week to week.  Specialty restaurants were quite good.  Really liked having the drink package although I'm typically just a beer or wine drinker.  I don't consume enough booze to purchase Cheers on Carnival. I usually get a wine package.

 

I had an interior cabin (I'm usually solo and when I have to pay double, that's what I have to do to be able to cruise as often as I do).  It was just fine.

 

Entertainment was good.  I'm not big on the shows, but I did attend several.  Enjoyed the bands at night.

 

Casino was a little dull, but I did OK on a few nights.  Not as smoke-filled as Carnival's casinos seem to be.

 

I enjoyed Star enough that I bought a Cruise Next certificate and will definitely use it before it expires.

 

I'll be Diamond on my October Sunshine sailing (>30 sailings on Carnival).  Honestly, a couple of years ago, I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it to diamond as I'm just so burned out on Carnival.  Really, it's exactly the same things on every sailing, just more of the same on the bigger ships (and I'm not one who likes the bigger ships - much preferred the size and layout of Star to Horizon).

 

Past two cruises have been on MSC, which was an interesting change.  I quite liked them.  I also like HAL (their Caribbean sailings are not the "old folks homes" that people will lead you to believe).  Their live entertainment is very good and since I don't pay 200% on HAL, I can afford to sail them occasionally.  Have my first X sailing booked but it's not until March 2021.  In the meantime, I'm booked B2B on Legend in October 2020 for the last Med + TA.  Guess I'll finally use that free laundry a couple of times!

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Thanks for the review!  I have only cruise Carnival so far (10 cruises), but will be trying out NCL next year for the first time.  I'm looking forward to experiencing something new.

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Thanks for the review.  I have never sailed on NCL.  Most of my cruises have been on Carnival, one on Holland and will be trying MSC this year.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for writing.

I am a little confused about your description of the Carnival buffet? I have always described it as having multiple stations with each having different offerings. I consider all the Lido food options as part of the "buffet".

It is possible that the MDR has improved on NCL since the one cruise we took many years ago where we had no interesting offerings and had to order dessert at the same time as our apps and entrees.

Perhaps the buffet on NCL has also improved since then?

At that time the only decent food was in the specialty restaurants where you need reservations.

We've not gone back to NCL because of that one experience!

Edited by riffatsea

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I have to agree with NCtribeFan, it really depends on which ship you are reviewing. I was with her on the Star and found the experience pleasant enough that we also bought the cruise next certificate. I was also on one of the MSC cruises with her. I will cruise them again as well for the right price but did not like them as well as NCL or Carnival. What it all boils down to for me is when on other lines, I miss that Carnival energy and vibe that other lines don't seem to have.

Pat

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Posted (edited)

Pluses and minuses for both lines.   I am Diamond on Carnival and Platinum on NCL.  I like NCL's older ships that get a real make over in dry dock better than Carnival's add a food outlet dry dock changes like on Conquest class ships.

 

Platinum on NCL gives me 2 free specialty dinners every cruise.  No NCL free laundry like Carnival Plat perk, but they do have $15 bag specials.  I've eaten every meal I've ordered in the specialty restaurants or MDR on both lines, although I'm not a fan of the fish dishes in NCL's MDR.

 

I've bought four $250 gift certificates on NCL that give me an instant $500 OBC for casino use.  For Carnival we always purchased AARP's gift cards to get a 10% fare and spending discount.

 

We just did an EB TA on NCL's Epic and we'll be doing an NCL to Panama that stops in both Cartegena and Santa Marta, not usual ports.  In 2021 we've booked a Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile 2 week cruise around Cape Horn and through the Chilean Fjords, not a route on Carnival's schedule..

 

But we're on Carnival this month for a casino fare on the Conquest, and have a Carnival Legend 9 night Norwegian fjord cruise booked.  It's quite possible to sail and enjoy both lines, even when throwing in a Celebrity in October and an RCCL Symphony in January.  No need to put down one line exclusively - diversity is a wonderful thing.  Maybe we'll even get another MSC cruise booked, the Seaside was a fantastic experience.

Edited by evandbob

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@evandbob.....interesting take.

 

Just one slight correction.  You may not realize this but you do get a “free bag” of laundry done on NCL once you hit Platinum Latitudes.  I love that little perk.  It allows me to pack less and have some of my clothes laundered ½ way through the cruise so I can have freshly laundered clothes throughout the cruise without packing a large suitcase.

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This thread actually prompted me to have a look at NCL sailings for next spring.  There's one on Pearl, 11 nights that calls at Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Roatan, Harvest Caye Belize, and Costa Maya for a reasonable price as a solo in an inside.  Could use my Cruise Next and would select the drink package (only get 1 Free @ Sea for an inside cabin).  April 19th would be a perfect after-tax-season cruise!

 

Our TA on Star was just before she was going into dry dock.  I was expecting her to look really run down, but didn't think so (again, despite what I'd read from some people).  I think I'd like her even more now.  For me, that size ship is just about perfect.  Just slightly larger than Carnival's Spirit class, which are my favorites (nice size and much, much better layout and space ratio).

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We started out with NCL in the 90's with one Carnival cruise in between. Tried RCCL once and would like to try again, not on the mega ships, but they are so much more expensive than Carnival. We are going on our 36th Carnival cruise next week (close to Diamond status) and our 50th cruise overall. We have been on 9 Holland America cruises and have another one booked and those are my favorites - elegant ships, extraordinary Neptune Suites with many perks. The NCL cabins are tiny compared to Carnival. NCL's "free drinks" promos are misleading to me as when you go to check out your booking, there is a several hundred dollar service fee for the "free drinks". Don't like that so we never finish the bookings. We never would buy the Cheers package on Carnival because we don't drink a lot and can't imagine drinking 15 drinks a day to make it worth it. NCL has gotten too expensive, too, so we probably won't try again. Probably more similarities than differences between NCL and Carnival, but Carnival has our loyalty and is a better value.

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11 minutes ago, Djptcp said:

We never would buy the Cheers package on Carnival because we don't drink a lot and can't imagine drinking 15 drinks a day to make it worth it.

 

You don’t have to drink 15 drinks a day for Cheers to be worth it. I just got back from a cruise on Monday where Cheers saved me money. After drinking 4 drinks a day at the Alchemy Bar or wine at different bars at a cost of  $10.95 a drink or higher, along with drinking several bottles of water during the day and a couple of bottles of Pellagrino at dinner, I saved money by purchasing Cheers, even though I wasn’t close to double digit drinks, let alone 15 drinks. I could have also used Cheers for speciality coffees, milkshakes, and unlimited sodas if I wanted to, but didn’t on this cruise. 

 

I realize Cheers is not for everyone, but you don’t have to come close to 15 drinks a day to benefit from Cheers. On a 3 day cruise I only had 12 drinks total and Cheers still saved me money.  

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The following it what NCL usually offers with there cruises.

The are NOT FREE as indicated. You will pay for the gratuity for the FREE offerings.

Still a very good deal.

1. Free Unlimited Open Bar for two
2. Free Specialty Dining for two; includes 2 meal(s) at select specialty restaurants onboard
3. Free Wifi; 100 minutes of free internet
4. $50 per cabin shore excursion credit per port (starting port not included)
5. Friends & Family Sail Free as 3rd or 4th passenger in cabin (port fees & taxes are additional)

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23 minutes ago, twodaywonder said:

The following it what NCL usually offers with there cruises.

The are NOT FREE as indicated. You will pay for the gratuity for the FREE offerings.

Still a very good deal.

1. Free Unlimited Open Bar for two
2. Free Specialty Dining for two; includes 2 meal(s) at select specialty restaurants onboard
3. Free Wifi; 100 minutes of free internet
4. $50 per cabin shore excursion credit per port (starting port not included)
5. Friends & Family Sail Free as 3rd or 4th passenger in cabin (port fees & taxes are additional)

Del Rio does an admirable job of jacking up the price and including options then calling them free......  based on recent earnings, the lemmings are drinking the Kool aid.

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53 minutes ago, PhillyFan33579 said:

 

You don’t have to drink 15 drinks a day for Cheers to be worth it. I just got back from a cruise on Monday where Cheers saved me money. After drinking 4 drinks a day at the Alchemy Bar or wine at different bars at a cost of  $10.95 a drink or higher, along with drinking several bottles of water during the day and a couple of bottles of Pellagrino at dinner, I saved money by purchasing Cheers, even though I wasn’t close to double digit drinks, let alone 15 drinks. I could have also used Cheers for speciality coffees, milkshakes, and unlimited sodas if I wanted to, but didn’t on this cruise. 

 

I realize Cheers is not for everyone, but you don’t have to come close to 15 drinks a day to benefit from Cheers. On a 3 day cruise I only had 12 drinks total and Cheers still saved me money.  

While we never have, a 3 day is one cruise I def would sign up for it, basically for the reasons you mention.  How was the cruise?

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2 hours ago, graphicguy said:

@evandbob.....interesting take.

 

Just one slight correction.  You may not realize this but you do get a “free bag” of laundry done on NCL once you hit Platinum Latitudes.  I love that little perk.  It allows me to pack less and have some of my clothes laundered ½ way through the cruise so I can have freshly laundered clothes throughout the cruise without packing a large suitcase.

 

 

Yes, thanks!  I did use the Platinum freebie laundry early on our TA, then sent another bag out around the 12th or 13th day of the sailing.  Guess I was just remembering the second bag which I paid for.  But whether free or $15, I'll use the laundry service, keeps my packing to a minimum.

 

I did hear that laundry on Celebrity is $50/bag.  If that's true, I'll just pack my 21" Delsey a little tighter for our 11 day Equinox sailing.. 

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1 hour ago, NCTribeFan said:

This thread actually prompted me to have a look at NCL sailings for next spring.  There's one on Pearl, 11 nights that calls at Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Roatan, Harvest Caye Belize, and Costa Maya for a reasonable price as a solo in an inside.  Could use my Cruise Next and would select the drink package (only get 1 Free @ Sea for an inside cabin).  April 19th would be a perfect after-tax-season cruise!

 

Our TA on Star was just before she was going into dry dock.  I was expecting her to look really run down, but didn't think so (again, despite what I'd read from some people).  I think I'd like her even more now.  For me, that size ship is just about perfect.  Just slightly larger than Carnival's Spirit class, which are my favorites (nice size and much, much better layout and space ratio).

 

We have booked the preceding sailing April 8 - 19 for this ship.

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14 minutes ago, jimbo5544 said:

Del Rio does an admirable job of jacking up the price and including options then calling them free......  based on recent earnings, the lemmings are drinking the Kool aid.

 

If you don't want the extras, there is always a base fare without the service fees and packages listed as an alternative.  NCL does advertise and push their packages heavily, so sometimes you actually have to request it.

 

I can't think of any mass cruise line that doesn't promote the cost added extras, whether it's Carnival pushing its excursions, photos, spa, FTTF or Cheers or Celebrity pushing dining or drink packages  On every line, there is a choice for the cruiser to accept additional services and pay for them or decline the package and add on fee.

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