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I could use some help deciding on which cruise to go on.  I've narrowed it down to two.  I am looking at either doing the NCL Gem, 11 day out of NYC in February or Crown Princess 10 day in February out of Florida.  I've done NCL three times, Jewel, Breakaway and Epic.  I did HAL once and that was a bit more upscale from what I remember.  I'm in the Northeast so am either driving to NYC or flying to FLL, over all the cost is about the same with Crown Princess being just a little more once you factor the flights and hotel.  They are close enough in total cost that I'm now trying to decide which has the best service, dining, amenities, etc.  Having never been on Princess I have no idea what to expect.  For example how do drink, excursions, and specialty dining costs and service compare? what about accommodations? room size, amenities, etc.  What sets Princess apart from NCL? any advice is helpful.  Thanks!

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Hello map03020.  In my opinion the main difference between the two lines is Princess is more relaxed.  There are no water sports, ziplines, rock climbing, nor any water parks like on Epic or Breakaway. Gem and Crown Princess would be almost same size and less bells and whistles than the two larger ships.  They both have about the same amount of specialty dining spots. A steakhouse, italian, pizza, etc.  I have sailed with both lines and Prefer Princess for the attention to guests and service.  NCL was nice; but I just prefer Princess for their style; which is quiet and comfortable.  

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Leaving from NYC in February means you have 2 days (at least) of cold and potentially unpleasant weather at the start and end of your cruise.  Leaving from FLL the weather will be warm (if not hot) the entire cruise.  That alone would be enough to convince me to take the one day shorter but much better weather cruise!

 

I can't compare the ships, having never been on the Gem (or NCL for that matter) but we were on the 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise last Christmas and loved it - both the ship and the itinerary.  In 2016/2017 we were on her for a 31 day Los Angeles to Rio de Janiero cruise.  On both cruises we experienced some of the friendliest, most helpful crew we've ever had. 

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2 hours ago, map03020 said:

They are close enough in total cost that I'm now trying to decide which has the best service, dining, amenities, etc.  Having never been on Princess I have no idea what to expect.  For example how do drink, excursions, and specialty dining costs and service compare? what about accommodations? room size, amenities, etc.  What sets Princess apart from NCL? any advice is helpful.  Thanks!

Here are some thoughts and answers.

Fly to FLL early spend a few days in the warmth, then a warm Caribbean cruise from day one. Look into Princess EZ Air pricing.

Some info on Princess:

Cocktails on Princess run around $11.50, straight whiskeys around $9.00, beers around $7 to $9. These estimates include the 18% automatic gratuity that is added to the menu price of every beverage. Very few drinks are menu priced over $12. Most are in the range I mentioned.

Excursions are all pretty much how they are described on the Princess web site. In the Caribbean many do private tours or just head to the beach.

Specialty dining. The Crown Princess has the Crown Grill, (steak, chops, seafood) and Sabatini's Italian. Both are $29/pp. There is also the Crab Shack, @29/pp, run some evenings, and the Salty Dog Gastro Pub, $12/pp. Dining experiences include the Chef's Table, $95/pp, and balcony dining $45 for breakfast, $100 for dinner, price is for two people. No need to dine in any specialty restaurant. DR food and selections are pretty good.

You can see all the dining options here

https://www.princess.com/downloads/pdf/food-and-dining/dining-options.pdf

Rooms. Depends on what category you select. Balcony cat. cabins are around 195 sq. feet interiors. Interior cabins are a little smaller. Mini suites larger. Minis have a tub/shower. Full suites even larger. There is lots of storage with open closets wardrobe, plus six drawers.

Princess allows you to carry on 1 x 750ml bottle of wine per adult at no charge for use in your cabin. Additional bottles can be carried on and are subject to a $15/bot corkage fee. These bottles are marked and can be used any place on the ship.

You can bring on as much non-alcoholic beverage as you like, no limits, no restrictions.

We enjoy all the live musical entertainment and activities in all the lounges.

Princess theater shows are all walk in. Arrive at least 30 minutes early for seating.

 

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We've cruised on the NCL Getaway for 7 days two winters ago and this past summer we did a 12 day cruise on the Crown. Hands down, the food was much better on Princess. NCL food was just too salty and the meat had a little too much fat for our taste. 

 

As far as promotions go, check out the Princess Best.Sale.Ever promotion that starts on Dec 11. It's going to be a pretty good one. I have heard on NCL you will have to pay the drink gratuities if you get a beverage package as a perk. Not the case on Princess if you get the drink package in one of their promotions. As far as entertainment goes, you'll have loads of fun on either cruise. 

 

However, if you are going to book a balcony cabin on Princess, make sure you book at least a premium balcony as they have removed the barrel chair in the regular balcony leaving just the desk chair along with the bed to sit on when you are in the cabin, unless you want to drag one of the balcony chairs inside.

 

BUT as you can see from my signature, we kind of like cruising with Princess right now as we always seem to have a great time on one of their ships.

Edited by Ken the cruiser
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18 hours ago, Ken the cruiser said:

We've cruised on the NCL Getaway for 7 days two winters ago and this past summer we did a 12 day cruise on the Crown. Hands down, the food was much better on Princess. NCL food was just too salty and the meat had a little too much fat for our taste. 

 

As far as promotions go, check out the Princess Best.Sale.Ever promotion that starts on Dec 11. It's going to be a pretty good one. I have heard on NCL you will have to pay the drink gratuities if you get a beverage package as a perk. Not the case on Princess if you get the drink package in one of their promotions. As far as entertainment goes, you'll have loads of fun on either cruise. 

 

However, if you are going to book a balcony cabin on Princess, make sure you book at least a premium balcony as they have removed the barrel chair in the regular balcony leaving just the desk chair along with the bed to sit on when you are in the cabin, unless you want to drag one of the balcony chairs inside.

 

BUT as you can see from my signature, we kind of like cruising with Princess right now as we always seem to have a great time on one of their ships.

Thanks for the info on the promotion starting tomorrow.  I'll wait and see what that looks like.  I'm leaning almost fully to Princess.  I like the suggestion of flying down a few days earlier.  We're going with an ocean view, unless the balcony price drops.  This is very helpful! Thank you!

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Just did a little googling on the best. sale. ever. Looks like it will only apply to sailings that embark March 26th 2020 or later.  They had a huge sale during black Friday that I should have jumped on.  I'll let you know what I learn tomorrow though!

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4 hours ago, map03020 said:

Thanks for the info on the promotion starting tomorrow.  I'll wait and see what that looks like.  I'm leaning almost fully to Princess.  I like the suggestion of flying down a few days earlier.  We're going with an ocean view, unless the balcony price drops.  This is very helpful! Thank you!

 

If you are going on the Crown in an OV check HERE for pictures of the view from the Obstructed Ocean View cabins. If you aren't getting an Obstructed View it won't matter. However, I did a cruise in an OV on deck 5 on Emerald and it was a cramped room and NOISY AS HECK as the stabilizers were right outside under my cabin. I will never sail in that location again. Other OV cabins we have tried were fine. We've only sailed Princess and keep going back. We've sailed Balcony, Ocean View, Obstructed Ocean View, Sideways Inside, and Regular Inside cabins on Princess ships. We've had good experiences. (Never sailed a Royal class ship but you aren't looking at that class anyway.) Don't forget to check out the International Cafe in the main Atrium area. It's included in your booking price. (Well, not the coffee in that location but the food...)

Edited by Thrak
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I would sail out of Florida out of NYC unless it was a fall foliage cruise.  As for  for food people will have totally different  opinions on the same cruise.    If I did not like the cruise line out of Florida I would just pick another virtually every line has a cruise to somewhere  that will meet your schedule.

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Thanks everyone for the advice.  I'm going with princess.  Especially since NCL raised their prices by over $300/pp since I first looked, and princess has gone down a tiny amount.  the Best.Sale.Ever does not affect this booking, so it is only applying to sailings after March 26th.  The price did come down a little, but they also took away the wi-fi package, so it was a wash.

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I am bit late, but we have been on both Gem and Crown. Aside from my obvious affinity for Princess (better food, more to my taste entertainment and no nickel and diming), I would hands down choose departure out of FL in winter. We have done several cruises out of NYC in winter and it is miserable for first 2 days down south and last day back up north. 

Enjoy your cruise on the Crown!

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Just wanted to thank everyone for the advice, I really appreciated it!  I ended up finding a Holland America Line cruise that worked a little better with my schedule and each port was one I hadn't been to.  It is also out of Florida, so no cold sea days! That was a piece of advice I definitely went with!

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Good decision to sail out of Florida.  We recently cruised out of New York City, and if the weather and traffic had not been enough to discourage us, the airports certainly would have!  We were flying in, so maybe that would not apply to those who drive, but JFK, LGA, and EWR all give us major headaches.

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Been on both. Like both ships. Like both lines.

 

Home port: Advantage NCL. Fort Lauderdale is convenient enough, but Manhattan cooler, imo.

 

Main Dining: A toss up. I prefer traditional, which would require Princess, but have been impressed on NCL by how quickly I get seated and find the service by the random waiters to be as pleasant as having my own dedicated staff on Princess.

 

Specialty Dining: Advantage NCL, but get a package deal. I prefer Sterling's to Crown and love the Bistro. I also like that one of the NCL perks for their version of elite is a couple of freebies. I wish Princess would follow suit.

 

Excursions: Advantage Princess, mostly because I find NCL excursion prices absurd. In the Caribbean, however, I'd prearrange non-ship tours or just negotiate it pierside.

 

Drinks: Another toss up. I like the Princess coffee cards (and the International Cafe). But OV on NCL should get you a teapot in your room - something else I wish Princess would copy. 

 

On board credit: Advantage Princess, for having refundable military and combinable stock ownership OBC programs.

 

11 day cruise vs. 10 day cruise: Advantage NCL, no additional comment needed, right?

 

Itinerary: Strong advantage Princess. I was going to go ahead and tell you to do the Gem, but then I looked at the itineraries. I personally love Curacao and Bonaire. St. Kitts, St Lucia and Barbados, not so much. As someone else noted, you might run into weather coming down from NYC.

 

So that's it. I'd be happy with either cruise, but would lean towards the Crown. You might get different answers, btw, over on the NCL page.

 

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