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Celebrity vs Princess vs HAL vs Norwegian vs Royal vs Carnival vs MSc vs Costa


drsel
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Can anyone  do a comparison of the pros and cons of some or all of these mass-market Cruise lines?

 

How would you rank them based on quality of entertainment, shows, activities, food in the main dining room and buffet, state room, crew service and other facilities. Thanks!

Edited by drsel
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Princess, I felt was staid, food and shows great, could find a bridge game lol

 

NCL enjoyed food the most, lunches in the dining room or dinner. Lobster in buffet, which I know is t there now. But not convenient out of texas. Newer ships had so many fun toys I thought. 

 

Celebrity, idk, I liked everything, no complaints, the room decor was nicer and toiletries.,

 

Rcl free drinks at night imo is the big draw. Easy to hit diamond. Good shows. Oasis class best ship ever, no other cruise touched the shows and food choices of oasis., a step above the rest of rcl.

 

Carnival lunch time is my favorite and buffet is always open where you can sit and talk. Sounds dumb but I hate to be locked out of the buffet on rcl until 630 dinner. I dont want to eat, just sit and read maybe get a drink of lemonade. Carnival I like this, though I'm sure I'm alone.

 

I dont really care about service. I go for the ocean and food so I dont have to cook for a week. 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, firefly333 said:

Carnival lunch time is my favorite and buffet is always open where you can sit and talk. Sounds dumb but I hate to be locked out of the buffet on rcl until 630 dinner. I dont want to eat, just sit and read maybe get a drink of lemonade. Carnival I like this, though I'm sure I'm alone.

Nope, I’m onboard with you. It’s the number one thing I enjoy most about Princess when comparing it to Royal Caribbean. Having access to Horizon Court no matter the time with a full buffet being served (prior to Covid) until 11pm (10pm some itineraries) along with its casual dining options was a very pleasant accommodation. In addition, the waiter service for drinks in Horizon Court is another area I am quite fond of. On Carnival, once you’re pegged as a soda drinker, you’re ignored and pushed aside... especially if you appear to be younger.

Edited by xDisconnections
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1 minute ago, xDisconnections said:

Nope, I’m onboard with you. It’s the number one thing I enjoy most about Princess when comparing it to Royal Caribbean. Having access to Horizon Court no matter the time with a full buffet being served (prior to Covid) until 11pm (10pm some itineraries) along with its casual dining options was a very pleasant accommodation. In addition, the waiter service for drinks in Horizon Court is another area I am quite fond of. On Carnival, once you’re pegged as a soda drinker, you’re ignored and pushed aside if you appear to be younger.

I do find more food choices late at night on carnival which I like. My hours vary as I dont always sleep well. I feel like cattle waiting for the buffet on rcl to open half a hour past their dinner time. At home I eat at 5 pm often, 630 is hard on me a bit. 

 

I think I have 3 on princess and 3 on ncl too. Or 2 on ncl, i forget lol. I'm loyal to none. Dont dislike any cruise. Carnival used to have good shows. I dont like the newer ones with canned music, we did mostly comedy shows last time. I for sure dont like the game shows in the theater for carnival. I like singing and dancing shows., but love guys burgers,the bbq, cantina etc. Something I prefer on all lines.

 

Whatever is convenient I'd do. I might do alaska in 2023 on rcl, see if I'm ready to trust flying again. I did alaska on carnival, hawaii was celebrity.  

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1 minute ago, firefly333 said:

I do find more food choices late at night on carnival which I like. My hours vary as I dont always sleep well. I feel like cattle waiting for the buffet on rcl to open half a hour past their dinner time. At home I eat at 5 pm often, 630 is hard on me a bit. 

 

I think I have 3 on princess and 3 on ncl too. Or 2 on ncl, i forget lol. I'm loyal to none. Dont dislike any cruise. Carnival used to have good shows. I dont like the newer ones with canned music, we did mostly comedy shows last time. I for sure dont like the game shows in the theater for carnival. I like singing and dancing shows., but love guys burgers,the bbq, cantina etc. Something I prefer on all lines.

 

Whatever is convenient I'd do. I might do alaska in 2023 on rcl, see if I'm ready to trust flying again. I did alaska on carnival, hawaii was celebrity.  

I was pleasantly surprised by the food options when I recently sailed on Carnival. It’s actually an area where I think Carnival did well with and has much improved since my last Carnival cruise prior.

 

The buffet hours is the only thing I dislike about Royal Caribbean. It simply doesn’t align well with my body clock considering I keep unusual hours. It closes too early and opens too late.

 

Overall, I find Princess and Royal Caribbean provide the experiences I’m looking for. A huge factor to me is anticipatory service and attention to detail... something I enjoy on Princess. Another big component would be activities that I can enjoy on Royal Caribbean. Lately I’ve been doing a mix of the two but know to avoid certain based on my preferences for both lines.

 

Like you, I’m not a fan of the guest provided entertainment or shows on Carnival.

 

If you’re looking for Alaska, check out Princess. They have more experience in the area than most lines and will provide the better itineraries along with HAL.

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44 minutes ago, xDisconnections said:

I was pleasantly surprised by the food options when I recently sailed on Carnival. It’s actually an area where I think Carnival did well with and has much improved since my last Carnival cruise prior.

 

The buffet hours is the only thing I dislike about Royal Caribbean. It simply doesn’t align well with my body clock considering I keep unusual hours. It closes too early and opens too late.

 

Overall, I find Princess and Royal Caribbean provide the experiences I’m looking for. A huge factor to me is anticipatory service and attention to detail... something I enjoy on Princess. Another big component would be activities that I can enjoy on Royal Caribbean. Lately I’ve been doing a mix of the two but know to avoid certain based on my preferences for both lines.

 

Like you, I’m not a fan of the guest provided entertainment or shows on Carnival.

 

If you’re looking for Alaska, check out Princess. They have more experience in the area than most lines and will provide the better itineraries along with HAL.

I'm aware of princess and their Alaskan cruises lol. I just liked rcl atmosphere better, and probably would go for rcl. Rcl has solo cabins to Alaska and princess doesnt. I should have grabbed one for like 636 when it first came out on quantum for 22, so I'll look for 23. 

 

As above I found princess a bit staid. If prices were the same ... but for me rcl has better prices as a solo. ..though I didnt mention that above. I am tired of carnival always charging me double. But I wouldnt say no to any cruise at the right price. 

 

Like you I'm well above 50 cruises, maybe 75, I have no idea. But I'm pretty aware of what's out there. I almost did msc, but worried about eating. I hate italian food, dont like pasta much or cooked tomatoes. I worried enough not to go. The only deal I passed up. 

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22 minutes ago, firefly333 said:

I'm aware of princess and their Alaskan cruises lol. I just liked rcl atmosphere better, and probably would go for rcl. Rcl has solo cabins to Alaska and princess doesnt. I should have grabbed one for like 636 when it first came out on quantum for 22, so I'll look for 23. 

 

As above I found princess a bit staid. If prices were the same ... but for me rcl has better prices as a solo. ..though I didnt mention that above. I am tired of carnival always charging me double. But I wouldnt say no to any cruise at the right price. 

 

Like you I'm well above 50 cruises, maybe 75, I have no idea. But I'm pretty aware of what's out there. I almost did msc, but worried about eating. I hate italian food, dont like pasta much or cooked tomatoes. I worried enough not to go. The only deal I passed up. 

Good thing you didn't do msc then.with all those nationalities on board.you would starve if your not adventurous with your eating there is lots of pizza and pasta.im italian so I thought it was great.especially the pizza.it was very close to what my mother and grandmother used to make.

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2 minutes ago, scpirate said:

Good thing you didn't do msc then.with all those nationalities on board.you would starve if your not adventurous with your eating there is lots of pizza and pasta.im italian so I thought it was great.especially the pizza.it was very close to what my mother and grandmother used to make.

I didnt eat pizza with sauce until I got out of college. ...and I even worked at a pizza place in college. So actually eating pizza with cheese and a small amt of sauce to me is adventurous lol. At least I eat more cheese now.  Food is subjective. 

 

Several times I got invited for dinner and it was spaghetti. I'd sit there and cut it up small and do everything trying to pretend to eat much. I just cant do spaghetti. I was thinking 7 days of that, I might not eat enough lol. I agree. Probably msc out. Or costa. I'm not adventurous with food.

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On 2/27/2021 at 9:16 PM, firefly333 said:

Carnival lunch time is my favorite and buffet is always open where you can sit and talk. Sounds dumb but I hate to be locked out of the buffet on rcl until 630 dinner. I dont want to eat, just sit and read maybe get a drink of lemonade. Carnival I like this, though I'm sure I'm alone.

 

Not dumb, keeping the Lido buffet open is really nice when you want to play board games with your family in the late afternoon on a sea day.  I don't begrudge RCL for shutting the food down.  I just wish they would keep the space open.

 

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Carnival vs Holland America

 

At first we preferred the quiet atmosphere of Holland America. Then they cut their entertainment staff in half so we decided to give Carnival a try. 
all four of us are over 65 and we just love Carnival. 
the main dining room food I feel is better on HA and I loved the afternoon tea. 
everything else we like better on Carnival. 
my husband likes getting ice cream anytime he wants it and the 24 hour pizza is great. There is live music all over. The shows are wonderful. Movies at the pool are closed captioned which my husband needs. Free popcorn during the movies. 
and it was wonderful seeing all the families having fun together. 

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We've done about 30 cruises on many different lines. For us celebrity is the top followed by a tie between HAL and princess. All of the others are lumped together after that. Keep in mind that some of these were taken a while ago and things may have changed. (There was a cruise on NCL where the food in the MDR was really bad. Have cruised with them since and it was fine. Not great, but fine.) For me, I am looking for an itinerary, time of year and value. If one of the top three can compete I book them, but will gladly book others if they meet my needs with a better itinerary or a much lower price.

 

One thing I would add is that Costa (beautiful ships) and MSC are European-based lines. Announcements are made in many languages which can get tiresome and food is not necessarily worse, but different. The people watching can be more interesting though.

 

Each line has pluses and minuses. What I consider important may not be what someone else does. And, I have had major differences from ship to ship in the same line. We have taken Celebrity, Princess and HAL to Alaska. All were great, had a little different itinerary on each one. Would have missed some ports if we had stayed with one line.

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Carnival = NCL

 

There were minor differences, but the ship layouts, activities, & itineraries are all remarkably similar to each other. 

 

I suppose the one major difference I experienced was drinking on the NCL private island is included in your drink package. On Carnival it is not. 

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Posted (edited)
On 2/28/2021 at 7:58 PM, firefly333 said:

As above I found princess a bit staid.

This was our impression of Princess as well. There were many recent arrivals to the upper middle class with delusions of grandeur like they were celebrities " who want to be alone " for our comfort level.

Edited by sanmarcosman
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This was our impression of Princess as well. There were many recent arrivals to the upper middle class with delusions of grandeur like they were celebrities " who want to be alone " for our comfort level.

 

 

Love this comment. I have to say I have experienced this on multiple lines. Not always the income level, could be the status level with the cruise line or the cabin that they occupy. Funny thing is that I know many who could afford the best cabin on the ship, but choose not to spend the money. Just see no need. You run into this same attitude in many places on land and sea. I will say that when I cruise with my (DH) he is a bit of an introvert and we tend to stay pretty private. Not because we have delusions of grandeur, but because he is more comfortable that way.

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Our kids were raised on Carnival, and people on Carnival visibly seem to be having the most....fun.  One Christmas cruise on HA and talk about staid..., and stuffy.  Did Alaska on Carnival and Princess and really enjoyed Princess.  It was late season and the ship was dead by 900 pm but for that cruise it was ok.  DW did a last minute on NCL during February and had a good time.  Met a nice couple we hung with.  We've looked at the others for ITINERARY as now that is our main focus.

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One other thing I factor in is how many port days versus sea days. When doing a 7 day caribbean cruise my goal is to get out of the cold, snowy MN weather and get my toes in the sand. Some lines offer very few 4 stop itineraries - mostly 3 stop. I like a sea day or 2, but will always book a 4 stop at the minimum - even if it costs more. Of course there are times when a port is missed, but then i get 3 stops, not 2. Others prefer sea days.

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Posted (edited)

We are in our 40’s, raising a young family that includes 2 elementary school aged children. This is what we’ve liked (and disliked) of the cruise lines that we’ve sailed on as a family:

 

- CARNIVAL

 

LIKES: Affordable. Unpretentious. Unabashed fun. Close to home ports of embarkation. Good kids program. Happy feeling. 

 

DISLIKES: A bit too budget-feeling at times. Some of the older ships not as well kept. Sometimes it feels like a free-for-all. Incessant announcements promoting activities and sales get old.  
 

- ROYAL CARIBBEAN

 

LIKES: Top notch entertainment. Endless list of activities. Biggest wow factor (specially on their newest classes of ships). Modern and well kept ships.

 

DISLIKES: Sometimes it feels less like a cruise and more like a themed resort on land. Too much going on at times. Biggest is not always better. 


- MSC

 

LIKES: Beautiful, modern fleet. Affordable prices. Easy to splurge to a suite (and a long list of extra perks) without spending too much. Loyalty Match program. Wonderful, diverse, international passenger mix and atmosphere. Variety of itineraries. Frequent and real Kids Sail Free promotions. Awesome kids program. 

 

DISLIKES: Minor quirks on the way they do things. Ever-changing rules can be confusing (it’s gotten better). Website can be a pain sometimes. Announcements in seven languages to address their diverse cliente can get tiresome after a while. 
 

HOLLAND AMERICA:

 

LIKES: More upscale atmosphere without breaking the bank. Attention to details throughout. Wonderful cuisine. Flawless service. Blissfully quiet and chair hog-free pool decks. Traditional feeling ships that beckon a bygone era. More intellectually stimulating activities. Small, but dedicated and much more personal kids facilities.

 

DISLIKES: Some of the older ships can feel a bit gloomy. Not for people who enjoy a high energy cruise experience. Younger cruisers may feel a bit out of place in this senior friendly cruise line. 
 

PRINCESS:

 

LIKES: Beautiful, tasteful, classy feeling, and airy ships. A bump in service and quality. Great food selection. Well-traveled passenger mix. Varied itineraries. 


DISLIKES: Standard balcony staterooms tend to be on the small side (not even a sofa). You need to upgrade to a deluxe balcony to have where to sit. 
 

DISNEY:

 

LIKES: Beautiful ships, filled with Disney touches while keeping it tasteful and classy. Some of the best customer service at sea. Top notch entertainment. Most extensive kids program. Well appointed staterooms. Rotating restaurant concept is innovative. 


DISLIKES: Grossly overpriced. The Disney overload can get old after a few days. No “anytime dining” option. Some hardcore Disney-fan cruisers can make things miserable for others. Kid friendly sometimes feels like the adults are being neglected. 
 

-o-
 

Overall, I don’t consider myself to have one favorite cruise line at this time. There are things that I like and dislike about each one. Most recently, I’ve most enjoyed MSC (in the Mediterranean which is their turf). And even though we are a young family, we are now mysteriously drawn to Holland America after our last sailing aboard Nieuw Statendam. Truly one of our most enjoyable family cruises to date. 

 

Edited by Tapi
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My Rank from Best to worst in my personal experience. 

Quality on Princess, HAL and Celebrity really puts them in a bracket above the rest, but so does their price and I can hardly justify the difference, so only when they have really good deals do I even consider them. What I dislike about all these brands, is the cruises feel like an old folks home to me sometimes. I may be old, but I still like to see young laying out by the pools.  

HAL

Celebrity

Princess

 

Royal - a slightly better product, but only slightly in my opinion. Carnival has more going on each day if you like that. 

Carnival - Best cruise for the money in my opinion. Only downside can be the guests sometimes.

MSC - Have not tried yet, but all my research makes me think they are a step below Carnival in quality. Also I hate their class system for buying tickets. I would rather book on a nicer ship than a nicer experience on a lesser ship.  

Costa - have not tried yet

Norwegian - The worst cruise experience in my opinion and the worst value for your money unless you really like to drink which I do not. 

 

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50 minutes ago, asalligo said:

MSC - Have not tried yet, but all my research makes me think they are a step below Carnival in quality. Also I hate their class system for buying tickets. I would rather book on a nicer ship than a nicer experience on a lesser ship.  

Their various "experiences" can definitely make a difference. First time we sailed on MSC was on a Fantastica class standard balcony on the Divina, and the experience felt very much like Carnival. Budget minded. I wouldn't say that the cuisine, customer service, and entertainment were below Carnival. Just similar. It was an OK cruise but nothing to write home about. I do think that the ship was much nicer than anything we've ever experienced on Carnival though.

 

The second time  we sailed on MSC was aboard the Meraviglia (when she was their newest ship sailing in the Mediterranean). For that sailing, we selected an Aurea class suite (still cheaper than a standard balcony on other mass market lines). The bump in accommodations and the extensive list of perks that came with it were more than enough to elevate the entire experience well above other mass market cruise lines. And class of service aside, we found the Meraviglia to be an absolutely modern, stunning ship, with a "wow" factor similar to a Royal "Oasis" class ship. We had an absolutely fantastic time.

 

We read rave reviews about their Yacht Club, but I haven't experienced it myself. 

 

 

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