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Thinking of returning to NCL after 8 yrs


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I hope you wonderful cruisers can help me figure out some things.  We have been cruising on Celebrity & Princess in the past years.  There is a cruise itinerary listed in 2022 that we really like.  We would be looking at a Penthouse Aft suite.  Could you tell me if you think NCL is a good choice?  We would like to know how happy you are with food, drinks, tours....   The itinerary is mid May-early June.  Are small children an issue?  Also a little confused about what suite perks are included.  I know there will be an area for breakfast & lunch.   Do they have a private dining area for suites during evening meals or a private club area for drinks?  We are Platinum and have read about those perks.  Our thanks for your help!

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I suggest the OP provide the ship that they might be sailing on.  That could impact their suite experience some.

 

My 2 cents... food is subjective.  It will also depend where  you eat on the ship.  Drinks are the same across all the lines as far as I can tell.  Tours are the same across all lines, often run by the same local companies in the ports.  Do you like or dislike small children?  I have never been bothered by small children on any cruise I've been on.  The suite-specific dining options vary from ship to ship.

Edited by MeHeartCruising
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45 minutes ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

 We would like to know how happy you are with food, drinks, tours....   


The biggest difference we've discovered amongst all the lines is that service on NCL tends to be the least personal. It's not bad, but largely just efficient. 

For example on Celebrity, the martini bar staff will learn your name, favorite drinks, suggest new options, perform flair, etc. Princess staff will go out of their way to stop and say hi if they see you in a different part of the ship.

Compare that with the last time we sailed on the NCL Gem out of NY. NCL had removed stools from the pool bar and instead installed a queue with ropes and stanchions for people to get on line for a drink, like they were waiting to ride Space Mountain.  While logistically logical, it's not something you'd really see on another line.

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Thank you. Means a lot to have your comparisons. I had thought it would be like that. As we get older and more seasoned we like the little differences and luxuries!  We love the private siding room and club lounge. Probably will just wait on Celebrity to post 2022. 

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You’ll get better responses for most of what you’re looking for with a discussion that’s titled differently since most of us do not book the penthouse.  That being said, I agree with the aforementioned that drinks are the same across all the lines as far as I can tell.  Tours are the same across all lines, often run by the same local companies in the ports. The activities such as dance classes, bingo, trivia, champagne art, pool parties (except Carnival IMO) along with lounge areas, beach lounge chairs, towel policy are basically the same. NCL does have a credit program for activity participation where you can get a prize (playing cards, Tshirt, etc) at the cruise. I know small, but something. Typically free exercise classes in the morning 7 & 7:30am. I think the gyms are nice but it depends on the ship. Most Royal Caribbean ships have a solarium pool separate from the party pool(s), NCL typically does not. The theatre shows depend on the ship.

 

Unfortunately things have changed on all of the cruise lines in 8 years. For me on Celebrity 2007 and NCL 2012, the food at the main dining dinner was about the same. Now NCL no longer serves butter escargot, top cut steaks or seafood at the main dining dinner. According to Valley Village you won't have to worry about main dining. I really like their specialty dining restaurants. You’ll probably get some specialty dinners with your package.

 

Platinum rewards are 2 extra specialty dinners over 5 days, free bag of laundry per member, 30 WIFI minutes and a few other small things.

 

The kids are about the same for most cruise lines except Carnival IMO. They have kids programs and recently a teen hangout area (this varies on ships).  The volume of children typically depends more on the length of the cruise not the cruise line. Cruises 2 weeks or longer have far less children. Typically there’s always a few since some kids are not school age, home-schooled kids and foreign travelers with different school schedules. The small amount of kids on longer cruises have not been a problem for me. I've seen discussions where the penthouse pool gets taken over by rich teens. That will be a hit or a miss.

 

I actually like Royal Caribbean better than NCL. Although I’ve been traveling Norwegian since 2016. They are offering more exotic/better itineraries than Royal Caribbean at reasonable prices (not those of the premium cruise lines).  They have a great future cruise program. I am not a picky person and the itinerary means more to me than the cruise line. Although I did not like Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas which had 2 cafeteria style buffet lines rather the food stations that most ships now have.

 

From the outside looking in, those penthouse perks do look nice. Some ships have specialty seating at the theatre for the penthouse guests.  I hope this helps.

Edited by Cruise4Twos
correction
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3 hours ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

Thank you. Means a lot to have your comparisons. I had thought it would be like that. As we get older and more seasoned we like the little differences and luxuries!  We love the private siding room and club lounge. Probably will just wait on Celebrity to post 2022. 

As asked above, it depends on the ship. If you are on the mega ships, there is a private lounge and dining room. If you are on a small ship (even in the Haven), there is only a dining room for breakfast and lunch, no dinner and no lounge. 
 

NCL pushes specialty dining vs main ding room. The main dining and complimentary dining is freestyle (eat when you want, where you want). We sail multiple times a year on NCL and RCL, and foods are comparable. It has been a few years since we were on Princess. 
 

You’ll have a room steward and butler to look after you and bring you snacks and serve you meals in your room on a white tablecloth if you wish. We usually have in room dining for early port days. A filet steak and eggs to start off the day before going ashore. 
 

You have a concierge to help you with booking and to try and get you into that sold out specialty dining room. 
 

And escort off and on the ship at some ports to avoid the lines. 

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Both Celebrity and Princess are a class above Norwegian.

Both Celebrity and Princess are ranked 5 star, while Norwegian is ranked 4 star by a giant online US travel agent.
There are very good reasons for doing so.

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2 hours ago, drsel said:

Both Celebrity and Princess are a class above Norwegian.

Dare I say that Celebrity and Princess are the "step up" brands for their respective ownership groups?  RCG for Celebrity and Carnival for Princess.  By that token, a better comparison for those lines would be Oceania or Regent (I believe both are part of NCLH) so comparing to the main brand of NCL isn't entirely fair.

 

That said - the closest you'll get to that experience on an NCL ship would probably be the Haven as others pointed out.

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8 hours ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

I hope you wonderful cruisers can help me figure out some things.  We have been cruising on Celebrity & Princess in the past years.  There is a cruise itinerary listed in 2022 that we really like.  We would be looking at a Penthouse Aft suite.  Could you tell me if you think NCL is a good choice?  We would like to know how happy you are with food, drinks, tours....   The itinerary is mid May-early June.  Are small children an issue?  Also a little confused about what suite perks are included.  I know there will be an area for breakfast & lunch.   Do they have a private dining area for suites during evening meals or a private club area for drinks?  We are Platinum and have read about those perks.  Our thanks for your help!

My last cruise, Getaway Nov 2019 was in an aft H7 suite. My three previous cruises were on Royal, Holland America, and Celebrity...each in a suite. So from a comparisons sake, I'll have to give the Norwegian Haven suite a good grade. For dining you have the Haven restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It wasn't quite to the Celebrity suite restaurant(Laminae) but it was very nice. You also have the Haven bar.  We had a cabin steward and a butler. Our butler was EXCELLENT. He will deliver daily snacks and such to your cabin and also room service and meals if you desire, all included. You may get meals delivered to your room off the menu during dining times as well.  I thought the Haven area was excellent. MANY loungers and umbrellas to pick from. VERY uncrowded. For this cruise we had zero issues with children or anyone for that matter. It was a very nice cruise!  

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7 hours ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

Thank you. Means a lot to have your comparisons. I had thought it would be like that. As we get older and more seasoned we like the little differences and luxuries!  We love the private siding room and club lounge. Probably will just wait on Celebrity to post 2022. 

This is exactly what I have thought first. The older I get, the more luxurious apartments I want to get. Its even not about the money but rather about some sort of comfort that I couldn't afford before, and I can afford now. I think we have deserved it.. and payed enough taxes lol 

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On 9/12/2020 at 10:05 AM, DragonflyCruiser said:

I hope you wonderful cruisers can help me figure out some things.  We have been cruising on Celebrity & Princess in the past years.  There is a cruise itinerary listed in 2022 that we really like.  We would be looking at a Penthouse Aft suite.  Could you tell me if you think NCL is a good choice?  We would like to know how happy you are with food, drinks, tours....   The itinerary is mid May-early June.  Are small children an issue?  Also a little confused about what suite perks are included.  I know there will be an area for breakfast & lunch.   Do they have a private dining area for suites during evening meals or a private club area for drinks?  We are Platinum and have read about those perks.  Our thanks for your help!

We don't book suites, but did upgrade to one once on Celebrity.

 

I do the research for our cruise planning and still consider NCL, along with Celebrity, Royal C. and Princess.   We have yet to cruise Princess yet, but I hear good things.

 

We prefer Celebrity, but still consider NCL.   Celebrity beats NCL in everything but entertainment.   When I compare cruises from the four lines, It usually goes with either Celebrity or Royal C, because of price.

 

NCL usually bundles its prices with perks that we don't want (especially with the absurd cost of the services charges with the drinks package) and that forces its prices beyond what we can book with Celebrity or Royal C.

 

Recently, NCL has starting offering sail a way rates (no perks) early bookings, but the sail a way rates are not significantly lower than the rates for Free at Sea.

 

We will still compare all four lines, but not expecting NCL to be competitive.

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1 hour ago, 4774Papa said:

 

We have enjoyed all 3 for different reasons.  I do think that Celebrity is my favorite for service & food.   After you cruise on one line for a while the itineraries seem stale.  We have done a lot of the ones we really wanted to do on Celeb.  My reason for looking at different lines to to expand the options.  We always loved the entertainment on NCL.  Actually, we have loved all 3.  I guess since it's been so long to cruise NCL we wondered what changes might have taken place in the quality we remember from 8 years ago.  I get the feeling that things are still good!  There are a couple of dates for the cruise we have chosen and would be on Dawn.  

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1 hour ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

We have enjoyed all 3 for different reasons.  I do think that Celebrity is my favorite for service & food.   After you cruise on one line for a while the itineraries seem stale.  We have done a lot of the ones we really wanted to do on Celeb.  My reason for looking at different lines to to expand the options.  We always loved the entertainment on NCL.  Actually, we have loved all 3.  I guess since it's been so long to cruise NCL we wondered what changes might have taken place in the quality we remember from 8 years ago.  I get the feeling that things are still good!  There are a couple of dates for the cruise we have chosen and would be on Dawn.  

Dragonfly,  I agree NCL is still a good cruise line.  We started with NCL and moved to Celebrity  in 2011, since at that time NCL didn't go around the Horn of South America, Australia/NZ, the Far East or Middle East.   We have done 11 cruises with Celebrity and don't like repeating past itineraries, so now we do a lot of TransAtlantics.

 

Celebrity and Royal C. have great loyalty programs with free drinks at happy hour.   NCL's loyalty program is OK, but not as good.  Also, we hate the price bundling and outrageous service charge on beverage packages.

 

Royal C. has as good entertainment as NCL and they go to more itineraries as well.  We prefer their medium to smaller sized ships.

 

NCL actually has improved a bit on its MDR dining.  However, its price increases for specialty dining are not good at all.

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Thank you 4774Papa!  I love all the little insights!  And, beyond the itinerary, it's all those little things that you remember about any cruise!  The one thing we are loving about being in a suite on Celeb is the small dining experience.  We just don't want to pay for the specialty restaurants or worry about booking times.  We stop in the Retreat lounge for a drink and then dinner in Lunminae at the same times as others.  It's so easy to get to know a wonderful group of people.  But, having said all that, we agree that we don't like to keep doing the same itineraries.  So we would have to give up some things.  Prices for Haven are beyond what we are willing to pay.  We were looking at a Penthouse on NCL.  We have not been on RCL.  Probably won't.  

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3 hours ago, DragonflyCruiser said:

The one thing we are loving about being in a suite on Celeb is the small dining experience.  We just don't want to pay for the specialty restaurants or worry about booking times.  We stop in the Retreat lounge for a drink and then dinner in Lunminae at the same times as others.  


One thing I'd note is that the Haven restaurant on NCL has a static menu that doesn't change for the duration of the cruise. There may be a special some nights, but it's the same entrees offered each day. This is compared to Luminae or Blu which is a completely new menu every night (and whatever off menu from the MDR you want). 

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53 minutes ago, AstoriaPreppy said:


One thing I'd note is that the Haven restaurant on NCL has a static menu that doesn't change for the duration of the cruise. There may be a special some nights, but it's the same entrees offered each day. This is compared to Luminae or Blu which is a completely new menu every night (and whatever off menu from the MDR you want). 

Thanks so much!  Hadn't stayed at that class and probably won't.  We could justify a suite on a lot of lines but not Haven.  It is always much pricier than a typical suite.  

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