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Carnival customer now sailing NCL

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For those of you have sailed both Carnival and NCL, what are the differences.  I have sailed multiple Carnival sailings and will be sailing NCL this spring.

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i was gonna say the soda but cant anymore. 🙂 

 

sorry couldnt resist. 

 

you should list the ship you will be on as they do vary, especially if you are looking for haven info.  but generally NCL gives the free booze pack away with most of their cabins except the sailaways. thing about NCl that stinks is you cannot bring water nor soda on board and water is 35 for a case of liters. gold encrusted diamond wrapper not included. 

 

you pay gratuities for the 'free' drink pack and the specialty dinners. i believe about 20 a day for the drinks and under 20 bucks for the 3 specialty dinner plan. 

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I think NCL's evening entertainment is better than most other lines, including Carnival.  There is literally something for everyone...erh, I guess I should say, depending on the class of ship.  The bigger ships have lots of bars and music venues, comedy, shows, atrium games and movies, dancing and night club vibe, etc. 

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I think the theater entertainment is better with NCL.  However, don't expect singing waiters, flaming Baked Alaska, or lobster tails in the MDR on NCL.

Edited by Oakman58

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I’m Platinum on Carnival and did the Escape in September as my first NCL cruise. We loved it so much, hubby says no more Carnival. Entertainment was better, loved having specialty restaurants (so many!), drink package included, etc. Hubby loved that they had a live dealer at the poker table instead of an electronic table.  ANd the buffet isn’t awesome. 

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They are more the same than different.  Things I like are the "free" perks.  I know you pay for them in some way, but still cheaper than the drink package for me.  They have wonderful fresh made to order crepes in the buffet in the evenings.  We love O'Sheehans to eat at.  We are not big on main dining room meals (or speciality places either) and O'Sheehans fills the niche of sometimes wanting more than what the buffet has to offer.  Great fajitas, fish and chips, open face hot sandwiches, and the wings are yummy, just not the "buffalo" ones.  

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I found NCL to be a slight step up in almost every way over Carnival.  Ships are a bit nicer, entertainment and food a bit better, etc.  The real difference is "value" - I certainly wouldn't pay a lot more for NCL over Carnival, however.  The major difference is the freestyle dining I'd say.

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45 minutes ago, Freckle53 said:

 We love O'Sheehans to eat at.  We are not big on main dining room meals (or speciality places either) and O'Sheehans fills the niche of sometimes wanting more than what the buffet has to offer. 

 

Just to show how tastes differ; I find exactly the reverse.

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Ncl has better entertainment and food, in my opinion by a wide margin (especially the buffet/specialty. MDRs pretty close) 

 

Rooms are very comparable. Carnival might eek out a win in Daily Activities. 

 

Tie for staff, I've been impressed by both lines. 

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We have sailed both many times and would continue to sail on both, I like them each for different reasons. The one thing we really like about NCL is the layout of the buffet. It is not one continuous counter with a long line to wait in, it is broken up into many sections allowing people to step in and out. And the selection is repeated in several areas. Just makes for a better experience.

I also liked that there is food available after the dining room is closed. 

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I just returned from a NCL cruise. Not that it was a bad cruise but I would not book again with them. Hands down I like Carnival much better. NCL does not offer as many activities durning the day. They completely changed our stops went from no sea day to 3! Very disappointed! They took away major stops. Santorini and Mykonos being 2 of them. They send many emails to book extras but no email updates of changes until boarding. Poor customer service.  The staff was rude. Bar staff and room steward was great. The specialty dinning was just ok. Food overall on Carnival is better. I choose the Fun Ship. With that said I enjoy cruising so any time I'm out at sea is a good day no matter who you sail with. 

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15 hours ago, kjunea said:

I’m Platinum on Carnival and did the Escape in September as my first NCL cruise. We loved it so much, hubby says no more Carnival. Entertainment was better, loved having specialty restaurants (so many!), drink package included, etc. Hubby loved that they had a live dealer at the poker table instead of an electronic table.  ANd the buffet isn’t awesome. 

Exactly how we feel even down to the poker lol 

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8 hours ago, #Bluesea said:

I just returned from a NCL cruise. Not that it was a bad cruise but I would not book again with them. Hands down I like Carnival much better. NCL does not offer as many activities durning the day. They completely changed our stops went from no sea day to 3! Very disappointed! They took away major stops. Santorini and Mykonos being 2 of them. They send many emails to book extras but no email updates of changes until boarding. Poor customer service.  The staff was rude. Bar staff and room steward was great. The specialty dinning was just ok. Food overall on Carnival is better. I choose the Fun Ship. With that said I enjoy cruising so any time I'm out at sea is a good day no matter who you sail with. 

No reason for the change of ports ?

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They tend to me more similar than different.  I love the freestyle option of NCL for dining.  I find the MDR's are similar as far as quality.  I found service to be on par for both lines.  I like NCL because I can get a better total price with the drink package as a perk vs Carnival with and buying the cheers package.  I find Carnival to be a little more entertaining and upbeat, but have never been bored on an NCL cruise. 

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Was on the Carnival Horizon for initial TA, burgers and tacos were great, NCL better at most everything else.  The theatre was the worst on any ship, many obstruction poles, seats on a non-elevated floor, singer and a recorded backup was cheap and not entertaining.  That was a brand new ship, will never try an older one.

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15 hours ago, crazyboutdisney said:

We have sailed both many times and would continue to sail on both, I like them each for different reasons. The one thing we really like about NCL is the layout of the buffet. It is not one continuous counter with a long line to wait in, it is broken up into many sections allowing people to step in and out. And the selection is repeated in several areas. Just makes for a better experience.

I also liked that there is food available after the dining room is closed. 

 

this was not my experience on the BA. it was horrible. people with plates digging in your back right up on you. just poor layout.  and just try and step in and out if you want one thing on the buffet.

 

regal princess was a dream compared to that. everything very spread out and wide aisles. 

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While one can find edible food in the buffet on Carnival, NCL takes it down several notches. Think of a Golden Corral on a very, very bad night when one suspects that all the food is left over  from the previous day.

 

The MDR on Carnival can have good food. The MDR on NCL is Denny's on a very bad night.

 

I suspect it is a way to encourage the paying of additional fees to obtain better food in the extra cost venues.

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My observations in no particular order:

 

Entertainment on NCL is much better.

 

Food is very subjective, but I find the MDRs to be more similar than some are saying.  I've had a couple of clinkers, but it's mostly pretty good.  And if they see you're not enjoying your food, they will gladly take it away & bring you something else in an effort to make you happier.  This is true of both lines.

 

I like the O'Sheehan's 24-hour concept a whole lot better than the late-night pizza-only thing on Carnival. 

 

The gratuities on the NCL Free at Sea beverage package come out to about a third of the price of the Cheers package on Carnival.  Not everyone imbibes, so, factor that in as warranted.  

 

Carnival seems to have a lot more of the poolside-contest type of activities.  NCL has a lot more of the piano-singer-in-a-lounge type of stuff.  

 

Alchemy is the best bar concept, but NCL has the friendlier bartenders.

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On 11/18/2019 at 8:57 AM, Oakman58 said:

 However, don't expect singing waiters...

Oh darn. 😂

 

I despise the singing waiters on Carnival. Every time the lights start flashing and the music starts, I choke on whatever I’m eating at the time. 

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NCL - better food (generally), more choices for bars, food, entertainment, etc. less rules and hassle. Older crowd, less party atmosphere and less nightlife. Better late night food. Ship doesn’t have a funnel. 
 

Carnival - better cruise directors, friendlier vibe, better dining service, younger crowd with more kids. More organized with something always going on. 
 

we’ve been on both lines (plus RCI and celebrity) and have had the time of our life everytime were on board a cruise ship. 

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On 11/18/2019 at 7:57 AM, Oakman58 said:

I think the theater entertainment is better with NCL.  However, don't expect singing waiters, flaming Baked Alaska, or lobster tails in the MDR on NCL.

There was a time when the baked Alaska and singing wait staff was fun. For many, those days are gone as many like to dine in a slightly more subdued atmosphere. The MDRs can be hectic enough without singing waiters, but you are right that is one of the differences. 

 

We have found the service better on NCL. To us NCL is more like RCI than it is Carnival but all 3 lines have a lot of similarities. 

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My NCL cruises were 10-20 years ago, and my most recent cruises have mostly been on Carnival, so I am hesitant to make comparisons as my NCL experiences were so long ago.   I do recall more varied and enjoyable entertainment on NCL than on Carnival.  Personal preference, of course, but I hope that's still true, as I am looking forward to my first NCL cruise in a long time next May.   On the other hand, Carnival cruise directors tend to be very good at organizing passenger events that are fun to watch even if we don't personally take part.   They take their "Fun Ship" image very seriously!

 

As I prepare for my upcoming NCL cruise,  I can say that Carnival has a very reasonably priced unlimited internet package and an inexpensive option for bottled water in the cabin, either ordered in advance or purchased on board.   NCL's options are much more expensive, though not deal breakers for booking with them.

 

Carnival has so many ships and so many itineraries of varied length, that we can usually find a good deal with them.   On the other hand, I wanted to cruise in Europe next year, and Carnival hasn't had much a presence in Europe lately.  NCL had a dream itinerary that I booked without hesitation.

 

To the OP,   have a great cruise.  I agree with those who say the lines are more alike than different.

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Preferences on a certain cruise line is really subjective and simply comes down to the individual. I tried cruising on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and NCL before deciding which one I honestly liked the most. 

 

Between Carnival and NCL, here are notable "differences" between the two:

 

-Carnival has much more diverse itineraries and ports of call than NCL for 7 Day cruises out of the Northeast. While the majority of weeklong NCL cruises out of New York travel to Bahamas/Florida, Carnival often adds in Turks & Caicos and seems to alternate between their private island of Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays.

 

-I personally enjoyed the beach more at Carnivals private island at Half Moon Cay more so than NCLs (Great Stirrup Cay), however the Bacardi Rum Bar - which is free if you have a Drink Package - is a huge plus.

 

-NCL will not have singing waiters and wait staff in the main dining room like Carnival and RCCL have.

 

-Carnival seems to have more activities during the day on the Pool decks.

 

-NCL has better daily activities and nightly entertainment is far better than Carnival.

 

-While it is the most subjective of them all, the food on NCL is much better than on Carnival. While the food in the main dining room was good when I cruised with them, their daily buffet was horrendous and I found myself settling for Guy's Burger Joint on the Pool Deck almost every single day. 

 

-There are much more food options on NCL than on Carnival. In addition to their amazing Specialty Dining choices, NCL ships typically have 3 main dining rooms (Manhattan Room, Taste, and Savor), a complimentary Asian restaurant, Garden Café, and a 24 hour Pub (O'Sheehans or The Local) with a wide variety of pub food.

 

-NCL wins with late night cravings hands down. I was never a fan of Carnival only having a late night pizza option, and NCL really blows them away in this category. As stated above, all NCL ships have a 24 hour Pub-style restaurant serving wings, nachos, fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, etc. 

 

-Unless traditional cruising is something you prefer, NCL prides itself with "Freestyle cruising" where you go at your own pace and essentially go by your own schedule. It really is catered to dining reservations. Whereas Carnival and RCCL have set Dining times and in many cases seat you with other travelers, NCL has a much more laxed dress code with optional formal nights, and you can always show up to dinner whenever you desire.

 

-While Carnival is much more economical and tries to cater to families, the majority of people I have met and cruised with say that children's programs and entertainment for the youngsters is far better on NCL than Carnival.

 

-In terms of nightlife I have found both NCL and Carnival to be about the same. While I admit that my friends and I are drinkers and really love the nightlife, one thing I really am bummed about is the fact that newer NCL ships seem to be getting rid of their Clubs altogether. Not saying there isn't evening nightlife, but on the newer ships they are getting rid of Club Bliss and having the late night club parties in other venues such as the comedy clubs.

 

Overall while Carnival has its perks, I always preferred NCL and it is by far my favorite cruise line. If you are a drinker, I would recommend taking advantage of the Beverage Package under their Free at Sea promotion they always run. While you are still paying for gratuities, the overall cost of the package is much lower than ones on other ships. Have a great cruise!

 

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