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JamieLogical

Regular NCL Cruiser Considering Princess

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Okay, so I have now been on seven NCL cruises with one more booked for March. My SO and I are considering an Alaskan cruise on the Emerald Princess for August and are hoping to get some info from people who have sailed both lines recently. How different is it?

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I haven’t been on Norwegian, but Princess really is the best for Alaska. There are quite a few more younger people on the Alaska sailings. The Emerald has great entertainment; Skywalkers Nightclub plays current dance music as well as the classics. Alaska sailings are much more casual, making them similar to Norwegian. Anytime dining allows you to eat whenever you want, similar to Norwegian. I say go for it! If you hate it, it’s only one cruise, and you can go right back to NCL, but you might just love it! 

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I love Princess and NCL equally.  The only reason I pick NCL more often is because the price is much cheaper and their balcony cabins (Princess) doesn't have a couch and coffee pot.

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2 minutes ago, EllieinNJ said:

I love Princess and NCL equally.  The only reason I pick NCL more often is because the price is much cheaper and their balcony cabins (Princess) doesn't have a couch and coffee pot.

 

Ooh! No coffee pot will be challenging! Do they at least do free room service coffee in the mornings like NCL?

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31 minutes ago, JamieLogical said:

 

Ooh! No coffee pot will be challenging! Do they at least do free room service coffee in the mornings like NCL?

 

Order a room service breakfast the first morning and keep the coffee pot. Then one of you can refill it at the buffet coffee station in the morning.

 

Be advised, tho, Princess coffee is made with coffee syrup and is swill.  We switch to tea for the duration of the cruise.

 

Also, if you book a standard balcony, you will only have a desk chair to sit on, so you may want to bring an inexpensive folding camp chair if you don't want to bother with bringing a balcony chair in and out.

 

 

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38 minutes ago, JamieLogical said:

 

1 hour ago, JamieLogical said:

Okay, so I have now been on seven NCL cruises with one more booked for March. My SO and I are considering an Alaskan cruise on the Emerald Princess for August and are hoping to get some info from people who have sailed both lines recently. How different is it?

Sailed 6 NCL TAs including Encore Inaugural and 28 Princess including 5 Alaskan. I feel NCL has much better entertainment than Princess. If I was younger than 50 I would prefer NCL, especially if active or bringing kids. Princess doesn’t have the outside activities that NCL does or the number of bars and restaurants. Still, Princess does a great job, so you can’t really go wrong with either. Emerald is a great ship.

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1 hour ago, JamieLogical said:

 

Ooh! No coffee pot will be challenging! Do they at least do free room service coffee in the mornings like NCL?

Princess does not charge for room service any time of day. It's free. The menu is limited and there are some charges for certain items, for example pizza $3, sodas and alcoholic beverages, specialty apps. The Emerald does not have great coffee, but it is acceptable. It is prepared from a liquid concentrate like many restaurants. Better coffee is available at the International Cafe 24/7 something like $2 for a large cup. You can also purchase the New Grounds Coffee Package, around $36 and change. The package has 15 specialty espresso drinks plus unlimited brewed coffee, specialty teas and hot chocolate for the cruise. Other beverage packages are also available.

Princess does Alaska very well. If you have the time and funds suggest a land tour followed by the cruise.

We were on the Emerald in February/March 2019. Great ship, great layout, lots of evening live music and other. activities. The theater shows are pretty good, but from what I have read, no first hand information, NCL's shows are better. Shows in the theater are all walk in. Arrive at least 30 minutes early for seating. For popular production shows 45 minutes early.

The DR food on Princess is good quality. No need to book specialty restaurants unless you want the experience.

You can find all the dining options on this site: https://www.princess.com/downloads/pdf/food-and-dining/dining-options.pdf 

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We sail on both.  And have been on both to Alaska. 

Here are a few compassions: 

first decide if you want to go to Glacier Bay.  Highly recommend 

not all NCL sailings go there.  Most Princess sailings do.  

Ok:

Alaska Enrichment program: much better on Princess.  Huskies Puppies in the Plaza, folks from some of the shore excisions shows or trips. 

Food:  much better onPrincess, and Special Alaskan Menus. but NCL wins in the speciality restaurants 

Entertained  agree NCL 

Cabin: well as discussed here, many cabins don’t really have  a place to sit other  than the bed as a decision was made to remove the chair(s). Not sure what type cabin you have in mind. It does appear there is more room in the cabin, though. 

Bed: Princess 

Coffee pots in the rooms NCL yes, Princess no. 

One way cruises are sometimes better but transportation to and from Vancouver and Anchorage can be quite high In the summer as Well as hotel rooms  Princess offers round trips out of San Francisco. 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, JamieLogical said:

Okay, so I have now been on seven NCL cruises with one more booked for March. My SO and I are considering an Alaskan cruise on the Emerald Princess for August and are hoping to get some info from people who have sailed both lines recently. How different is it?

 

Numerous things to consider... have sailed Princess many times.Just off NCL Bliss. Not sure which NCL ships you are comparing to either but it sounds like you've been on several. You really have to consider what you want more than how they may differ...and they DO differ. Do you like specialty options? Do you have kids? Do you want a more activities, and cool things to do? NCL for sure... especially the newer ships. I personally don't care for the older Princess ships... Emerald, Crown, Ruby. But Alaska is more about the SEE than what is on the ships. Princess has significantly older crowd and is much more laid back. NCL has incredible amount of specialty options, Princess has few. Shows much better on NCL. For kids, forget Princess. Even on the newer Princess ships, you won't find all those slides, activites, and cool things to do. The buffet on the newer Princess ships (Royal, Regal, Sky, etc) is amongst the best of any line. The new internet is awesome. The movies under the stars is great, but again, weather permitting and if it's cold out (Alaska), that may not be usable. Princess doesn't nickel and dime as much as NCL... movies in room for example are free! NCL's "premium" internet isn't that great, and they let you only use one device at a time. Princess has a 4 device option and it's far less than you would pay on NCL for 4 devices... a LOT less... and it's much faster too. Specialties they do have are not as expensive as NCL, and if you are looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, Princess is great... and they are very good in Alaska. I know this will be the first time for you but another big draw for me is their options for Elites which are probably the best of all the lines.

 

So honestly, they are, in my opinion, VERY different. If you have kids, especially if they're a little older, they will probably enjoy NCL more. If it's just you and a significant other... you may even enjoy the more relaxed, and more elegant Princess. If you want more bars, specialties, and a much more "casual" but lively time... NCL for sure. But if you do go Princess, even in Alaska, experience one of the newer ships, not the 14-year old Emerald... Royal is the only one sailing Alaska in 2020, and that ship was the first of that series.  For newer ships on the NCL side, they have both Bliss and Joy in Alaska in 2020. I'm doing a repo cruise in 2020 from NY to the Caribbean and for that I'll be on the new Sky Princess. If I were doing Alaska, based on the options above, I'd go Bliss or Joy... just so much more to do!!  Good luck!

Edited by CruisingIsBest

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1 hour ago, JamieLogical said:

 

Ooh! No coffee pot will be challenging! Do they at least do free room service coffee in the mornings like NCL?

We do pour overs in our room. We take bags to put the grounds in, take filters(otherwise it’s a mess) and order a pot of hot water from room service. It’s easiest to request tea because they get confused with the hot water only request sometimes.
Then, we dump the filter and grounds in bag. Works great! Something like this.

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          Princess has  been cruising to Alaska for many,many years and because of this, the cruising experience there is exceptional. They are one of the cruise lines that has access to Glacier Bay. I would choose a sailing that includes this viewing on the itinerary.

          Alaska is beautiful,very different from other destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.  My DH and I found that sitting on an open deck or our balcony and watching the scenery as we sailed along to be peaceful and enjoyable. We would not be interested in waterslides,rock walls or ropes courses as offered on NCL ships - YMMV.

           We have always found Princess crews to be very good with the service they provided.  The ships are very nicely decorated with room to accommodate passengers both in the inside venues and open decks. Not something that we found on the Away class ships of NCL.

          As was mentioned, you can have room service deliver coffee/tea anytime of the day. But,better brewed coffee is available 24/7 at the International Cafe located in the Piazza or Atrium area of the ship. If coffee is very important to you I would definitely purchase the coffee package available. No need for a small coffee pot found in cabins on the NCL ships. 

          As for entertainment, there are production shows in the theater as well as entertainment in the various lounges in the evening. We have enjoyed Explorers lounge in the evening as well as Skywalkers and Crooners. While NCL may have had shows such as Rock of Ages that was for adult audiences and Howl at the Moon and the comedy club area, we found Princess entertainment to be more inclusive for passengers of all ages and the venues to have more room to comfortably accommodate a good number of  of passengers.

         For Alaska, I would choose Princess. If you are not pleased with the cruise or the Princess product, you can always book future cruises on NCL.

Bon voyage !

 

 

 

 

 

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Regarding the internet, it will not be very fast in Alaska. The mid orbit satellite  position does not provide service that far north. The connection is with the slower deep space satellites. Of course this should be the same for any cruise line. I may not have the technical terms exactly correct, but anyway it's slower.

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When on Princess I always bring a coffee press and coffee and just order hot water. I leave the press for my steward.

this is one of the main reasons we usually cruise on Crystal. Love all inclusive

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It would be great to hear your view after your Emerald experience. Having sailed both lines, a few comments:

 

(1) If you are use to the Breakaway class ships of NCL, you will be really disappointed with the buffet on Emerald. THe size, quality, and variety is lacking on Princess. As others have commented, the specialty dining quality is superior on NCL. Service in the MDR is better on Princess; however (and this is a big however), the dining room service team has too many tables and it takes longer to finish a meal than on NCL. The Anytime dining setup on Princess is really poor compared to the freestyle version of NCL. The MDR portion sizes on Princess are smaller than NCL but I view that as a positive as you can sample more stuff on the menu. Mentally, just be prepared for a more "leisurely" dining experience.

 

(2) Nighttime entertainment is heads and shoulder better on NCL so please lower your expectation on the shows and quality of musicians / singers / dancers. However, Princess does a better job in the daytime with lectures and on-site commentary preparing you for your Alaskan experience.

 

(3) As someone else posted, the age group is older on Princess so you will have a more sedate experience which can either be a pro/con depending on your POV.

 

(4) Generally speaking, the ship staff on Princess is better than NCL but it really depends on the individual you encounter and the type of problem you may have.

 

As long as your primary goal is to experience Alaska, you are going to have a great time on Princess as I feel they are the best mainstream line in that region. If the comfort amenities (food, entertainment, internet, etc.) are important and NCL's Getaway class is your baseline for comparison, you will need to lower your expectations.

 

 

 

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If $$ is a factor you may want to compare how many free vs fee restaurants are involved.

 

My limited experience on NCL was more fee than free restaurants.  This seemed to result in more people trying to go to the free options which became so crowded that people ended up paying substantial fees to avoid the crowds in the free venues.  It also resulted in having to plan and make reservations much more on NCL which is not my idea of fun on vacation.

 

 Princess only has 2 or 3 fee restaurants while NCL seems to love to push their "specialty dining" options which of course will cost you a significant extra amount of $$ if you participate heavily....some no doubt like the additional options but i always felt "nickeled and dimed to death" on NCL more so than on Princess.

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To clear up a few things that might help people provide better insight and advice:

 

  • We do not have kids and the likelihood of fewer kids on Princess is very appealing to us. We are not big fans of kids.
  • We don't care about internet AT ALL. We are both in the tech industry in real life and one of the HUGE appeals of cruising to us is to completely "disconnect" from the real world. On the first day of my cruises, my phone goes in the safe and only comes out to serve as a camera on port days.
  • We have mostly sailed on the Breakaway Plus class ships on NCL so far. Though we never use the water slides, I have only done the ropes course once, and we have only done go karts and laser tag a few times. While those things can be fun, we definitely don't need them to enjoy a cruise.
  • We do really really love live music. Are there a lot of lounge-type acts on Princess? We prefer live music in intimate venues to big productions in the theater.
  • Our planned sailing includes the Premium Beverage Package, I believe that includes specialty coffee on Princess? So does that mean we don't need to get that card some people were talking about?
  • Someone mentioned that the Emerald is an "old" ship, but it was just refurbished in April. Would you still recommend a newer ship? The reason we are looking at the Emerald is because the specific sailing we are looking at is actually really competitively priced.
Edited by JamieLogical

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The Emerald is one of the ships with a piano bar, Crooner's, which is usually my go-to in the evenings (of course, once or twice, the entertainer there hasn't been all that great, but over all my cruises, the majority have been very good to excellent).  There will also be other musical acts in other smaller lounges, as well as the production shows. 

 

Yes, the PB Package includes the specialty coffees.

 

I've sailed on ships  older than the Emerald and all have been fine; I wouldn't hesitate.  In fact, I'm not hesitating:  I have a cruise booked on her this week!  Sure, there might be some exterior rust, maybe some missing varnish here and there, however, you'll find the interiors are generally in fine shape.  But then I don't go looking for problems, either . . .   Some people seem to have totally unrealistic expectations of what is essentially just a big piece of machinery that's constantly in use 24/7/365, in a harsh environment. 

 

One benefit of this class of ship is the wrap-around promenade deck, and on the forward portion, you'll get some fantastic views.

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Besides Crooners, there is generally a duo or combo playing in the Wheelhouse each night, with a small dance floor for those who like to dance. Explorers' Lounge also has music performances occasionally. We enjoy listening to music in one of the venues most nights.

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  • We do really really love live music. Are there a lot of lounge-type acts on Princess? We prefer live music in intimate venues to big productions in the theater.

Ok so I’m going to suggest HAL. We have sailed on Princess ships, including the Royal, but not the Emerald, and many NCL ships. When sailing Alaska you want TONS of outdoor viewing spaces which the Royal and many NCL ships do not offer, especially on the bow/aft. We sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam which was fantastic! Lots of viewing spaces, large balconies, great local experts and great live music. They had a fantastic live band nightly in the lounge (danced our A#&es off) and had super dueling pianos which we had a blast with nightly. No children and not as “aged” a crowd as we thought. Food and drinks were great! The large enclosed pool area with hot tubs (heated pools BTW) was an extra amenity that we would not have been able to enjoy on NCL or Princess. We normally prefer NCL or Princess but for THIS itinerary we hit a home run with HAL. All my opinion only.  I did a LIVE review on our Alaska cruise if interested. Alaska is so beautiful and YES the inside passage with Glacier Bay is a MUST. Many lines cannot get the ok to sail there. Have fun planning! 

Edited by HBCcruiser

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I have cruised to Alaska on Disney, NCL and Princess.  We loved our Disney Cruises when we cruised with our kids.  Now that we are empty nesters, we much prefer Princess over NCL. The quality of food in the MDR, the enrichment lectures and activities and the Glacier Bay itineraries are some of the reasons why we like Princess more.  Not that interested in the production shows; we found lots of musical venues on the Princess cruise to keep us happy.  Our NCL Alaskan cruises (3x, Jewel, Pearl) were great but we quickly got tired of the food quality and the lack of enrichment programs.  And, the general mood and vibe on Princess really resonated with us.  We booked three more Princess cruises after our Alaskan cruise.

 

And, Princess brings on puppies .  

 

 

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12 hours ago, JamieLogical said:

To clear up a few things that might help people provide better insight and advice:

  • We do really really love live music. Are there a lot of lounge-type acts on Princess? We prefer live music in intimate venues to big productions in the theat
  • Our planned sailing includes the Premium Beverage Package, I believe that includes specialty coffee on Princess? So does that mean we don't need to get that card some people were talking about?
  • Someone mentioned that the Emerald is an "old" ship, but it was just refurbished in April. Would you still recommend a newer ship? The reason we are looking at the Emerald is because the specific sailing we are looking at is actually really competitively priced.

Emerald's live music venues are:

Crooners, usually a piano man entertainer starting around 9pm

Explorer's Lounge, can be a party band, big band, solo entertainers

Wheelhouse Bar, Usually softer ballroom dance music

Solo guitar player/singer, plays in different venues

Adajio Lounge, solo guitar or piano, sometimes jazz with the Princess Orchestra

Piano music in the piazza

There is usually a classical duo that plays in the Piazza and also sets in other venues.

A DJ is in Skywalker's late evening. Great views from Skywalker's all day. Be sure to find it on boarding day, all the way aft and all the way up.

 

The Premier Beverage Package does include all brewed coffee, specialty teas, and specialty espresso drinks like lattes. No limits, have as many as you like. Specialty coffee drinks can be found at the International Cafe on deck 5 and also Coffee & Cones by the Lido Pool. I think there are a few other locations, maybe the Outrigger Bar. Brewed coffee is only at the International Cafe. Free coffee and tea available in the buffet all day and evening.

 

The Emerald is a great ship with a diversity of nice public spaces. It did get a face lift this past April. You should not be disappointed. Somewhere on these boards is a 'live from' with photos taken after the April dry dock.

 

Here is a dining guide

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

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So the itinerary we were originally looking at on the Emerald is inside passage, but only goes to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. It sounds like we should be trying for Glacier Bay? The Ruby is sailing to Glacier Bay around that same time, and looks like it would cost us around $175 more per person total. Worth it to do the Ruby and Glacier Bay verses the Emerald and Elicott Arm/Dawes?

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The Ruby and Emerald ( and Crown)are virtually identical ships so that shouldn’t be a factor. DH and I loved Glacier Bay but I can’t comment on the other itinerary options.  Also the Alaska board will have very good info on all the ports and the specific differences. Alaska for many people is a once in a lifetime trip so pick the itinerary that will make you happy.  

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18 hours ago, JamieLogical said:

To clear up a few things that might help people provide better insight and advice:

 

  • We do not have kids and the likelihood of fewer kids on Princess is very appealing to us. We are not big fans of kids.
  • We don't care about internet AT ALL. We are both in the tech industry in real life and one of the HUGE appeals of cruising to us is to completely "disconnect" from the real world. On the first day of my cruises, my phone goes in the safe and only comes out to serve as a camera on port days.
  • We have mostly sailed on the Breakaway Plus class ships on NCL so far. Though we never use the water slides, I have only done the ropes course once, and we have only done go karts and laser tag a few times. While those things can be fun, we definitely don't need them to enjoy a cruise.
  • We do really really love live music. Are there a lot of lounge-type acts on Princess? We prefer live music in intimate venues to big productions in the theater.
  • Our planned sailing includes the Premium Beverage Package, I believe that includes specialty coffee on Princess? So does that mean we don't need to get that card some people were talking about?
  • Someone mentioned that the Emerald is an "old" ship, but it was just refurbished in April. Would you still recommend a newer ship? The reason we are looking at the Emerald is because the specific sailing we are looking at is actually really competitively priced.

Based on your details about I think you would enjoy Princess, Jamie.  I too am tech industry, but I need to stay connected... not for phone calls, but definitely for email, and other items including payroll and web work... Princess internet (Medallion upgraded ships) excels. 
 

Yes, Princess, unlike NCL, includes Coffees and bottled waters in their PBP! Something I thought was very petty on NCL... more of what I was saying with the nickel and diming. So you won't need the coffee card. Drink prices, even without the PBP are lower on Princess so if you are not a big drinker, you may be able to convert the PBP to Onboard credit instead. I have always done that in the past although it's not the same amount as they "value" the PBP.

Yes, they have many lounge acts... some are very good too. More such options on the newer ships. 

 

Yes, again, refurbished or not, would go with the newer ships... someone else mentioned the buffet... it's terrific on the Royal class... not even close on the Grand class ships (Emerald included). If you are someone that would rarely use the buffet then that won't matter much. Emerald has also not yet been upgraded to the Medallion Class improvements either... due to be done in August, 2020 so if you are cruising before then, you won't have that...  https://www.princess.com/ships-and-experience/ocean-medallion/ which also incluides that faster internet I mentioned... but again, as you said, that won't matter to you.

 

You'll likely be very busy enjoying all Alaska has to offer so time on the ship will be mostly mornings and evenings... another reason which may make the choice of ship less important. Enjoy!

 

 

Edited by CruisingIsBest

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1 hour ago, JamieLogical said:

So the itinerary we were originally looking at on the Emerald is inside passage, but only goes to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. It sounds like we should be trying for Glacier Bay? The Ruby is sailing to Glacier Bay around that same time, and looks like it would cost us around $175 more per person total. Worth it to do the Ruby and Glacier Bay verses the Emerald and Elicott Arm/Dawes?

 

Jamie, I don't have any opinion on Alaska itineraries--and this is after six Alaska cruises.  So, my information may not be helpful.

 

The Ruby Princess and the Emerald Princess are sister ships.  The deck plans are absolutely identical.  Other than some obvious distinctions such as signage or headers on items such as menus, I doubt if a passenger could tell one from another.

 

One thing I will add, and this might stir up posters who disagree, is that the Emerald Princess and the Ruby Princess are two of the three Princess ships that have a specialty restaurant called SHARE.  If dining is a consideration to you, SHARE is a much superior venue than the Princess dining rooms or any of the other specialty restaurants.  You can find sample menus at the Princess web site.

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