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RCL vs. NCL


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Hi:

 

We are a couple in our middle 50s who have sailed most of the major cruise lines (Disney, Princess, HAL, Carnival, NCL) other than RCL and Celebrity.  After being like Goldilocks and trying various cruise lines, we settled on NCL as our favorite, mostly due to the included drinks package and Howl at the Moon dialing piano bar.  We are also big musical theater people, so love the Broadway style shows also.  I know food may change after the break from cruising, but we also liked the buffet food on NCL much better than on other lines.  We also love the speciality restaurants (particularly The Bistro and Cagney's).  However, I think I am missing something with never trying RCL.  We really like transatlantic cruises and all of the sea days to relax.  The reason we have stayed with NCL is that with doing mock bookings with other cruise lines, I can never match the price once I add in a drinks package.  

 

Now that we have redeemed out Cruise Next certificates on our upcoming NCL cruise, I'm wondering if we should explore RCL.  For those who have sailed both lines, what do you like/dislike about RCL compared to NCL?  My husband hesitates to switch lines because we are on our way to achieving platinum status on NCL and it was after achieving platinum on Carnival that we decided it was not for us (full disclosure:  it's been a few years since our last Carnival cruise, so it may be different now).  

 

From what I have read, once you achieve a status on RCL, you get a free happy hour and it seems like the other perks are better than NCL.

 

Any input would be most appreciated.  Thank you.

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They're very similar. The Oasis class ships have Broadway shows like the Breakaway class does. The other ships have some type of musical show. No dueling pianos, but schooner bar has a piano player most nights. 

 

As for food I find some things better on Royal some better on NCL. RCLs adult only area is more calm than NCL. The ice shows on some RCL ships are cool. 

 

Honestly when I'm deciding between the two it usually comes down to price and with the drink package included often makes NCL a better deal. I'm also often traveling by myself so NCLs studios help too.

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11 minutes ago, smplybcause said:

I'm also often traveling by myself so NCLs studios help too.

Rcl has studio cabins also. I choose the double cabins for the double loyalty pts right now but jewel and I think was adventures has a few solo cabins I booked and cancelled to up my loyalty pts.

 

They have newer ships with virtual balconies and other options now. I was out of Galveston and glad 2 ships had some solo cabins, but you have to look for them. Rcl doesnt know they have them, 3 reps in a row had no idea.

 

I tried ncl a few times and liked the food, but it was hard to tell if it was because it was a change. I was getting tired of Mdr on carnival and rcl and new food choices were welcome and seemed really good in the Mdr.

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18 minutes ago, firefly333 said:

Rcl has studio cabins also. I choose the double cabins for the double loyalty pts right now but jewel and I think was adventures has a few solo cabins I booked and cancelled to up my loyalty pts.

 

They have newer ships with virtual balconies and other options now. I was out of Galveston and glad 2 ships had some solo cabins, but you have to look for them. Rcl doesnt know they have them, 3 reps in a row had no idea.

 

I tried ncl a few times and liked the food, but it was hard to tell if it was because it was a change. I was getting tired of Mdr on carnival and rcl and new food choices were welcome and seemed really good in the Mdr.

 

Yes they exist on Royal but 1) there's so few they're often not available 2) a lot are in crappy locations (like deck 3 between the dining room and casino) and 3) they're often not that much less than regular rooms (likely due to do few so the demand pricing gets a bit much). I think it's only the balconies on quantum class that I see a good price decrease - if you can find one. 

 

NCL just has a lot more, they're in a good location, the studio lounge is a nice perk along with the hallways being studio only access, and the price is usually actually a discount from the regular rooms. The newest ships even have a virtual window in their studios which is nice. And their singles program is better - there's a host that arranges a happy hour each night, will put together groups for dinner, and groups for activities on board. 

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Hi all, just my two cents.

 

If we are sailing from an Eastern US port, we just try to pick the newest ship on RCL, NCL or CCL. 

 

We did that with the Oasis class, the Breakaway class, Quantum class and Vista class. We are now booked on Mardi Gras and will book Prima when that comes on line. 

 

We know there are differences between the lines, ships, pricing models and itineraries, but to our small traveling party, things seem to even out. 

 

Our personal favorite ship is Breakaway, but we had a great time on Horizon; you just can't beat Grand Turk.

 

Finally, we have homes in NYS and SC, so our next three cruises will be out of NY Harbor and Port Canaveral, allowing us to drive,  avoiding airlines and hotels. That saves us mucho dollars. 

 

Whatever cruises you select, we hope you have a great time, and smooth sailing!!

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5 hours ago, pcrum said:

Hi:

 

We are a couple in our middle 50s who have sailed most of the major cruise lines (Disney, Princess, HAL, Carnival, NCL) other than RCL and Celebrity.  After being like Goldilocks and trying various cruise lines, we settled on NCL as our favorite, mostly due to the included drinks package and Howl at the Moon dialing piano bar.  We are also big musical theater people, so love the Broadway style shows also.  I know food may change after the break from cruising, but we also liked the buffet food on NCL much better than on other lines.  We also love the speciality restaurants (particularly The Bistro and Cagney's).  However, I think I am missing something with never trying RCL.  We really like transatlantic cruises and all of the sea days to relax.  The reason we have stayed with NCL is that with doing mock bookings with other cruise lines, I can never match the price once I add in a drinks package.  

 

Now that we have redeemed out Cruise Next certificates on our upcoming NCL cruise, I'm wondering if we should explore RCL.  For those who have sailed both lines, what do you like/dislike about RCL compared to NCL?  My husband hesitates to switch lines because we are on our way to achieving platinum status on NCL and it was after achieving platinum on Carnival that we decided it was not for us (full disclosure:  it's been a few years since our last Carnival cruise, so it may be different now).  

 

From what I have read, once you achieve a status on RCL, you get a free happy hour and it seems like the other perks are better than NCL.

 

Any input would be most appreciated.  Thank you.

Hubby and I are Diamond Plus on Royal and Platinum on NCL. They are our two favorite lines.

 

Royal ships are tough to beat, especially their mega ships. The ice shows on Royal ships are top notch entertainment. Royal also has "Broadway type" shows in their main theater. 

 

NCL is an innovator for many things cruise ships, beginning with their "Freestyle" concept. All other main stream lines have copied this as it has been very successful. I also love all the different dining venues NCL ships offer. Royal has followed with this concept with their mega ships and now offer many dining venues too. NCL is an innovator with entertainment going back to the Jean Ann Ryan dancers which always blew away the competition when it came to entertainment. I believe NCL is also one of the first lines to offer "Broadway" calibre shows in their main theater. NCL has "Burn the Floor" and at one time offered "Blue Man Group" but not sure that show is still offered.

 

We enjoy both lines but stay away from the smaller ships in both fleets. We realize we much prefer the mega ships on both lines. You can not go wrong with jumping over to Royal as these two lines really are more similar than different.

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I still find that RCCL is way more expensive than an apples to apples comparison versus NCL when all aspects are considered including drink packages and cabins and its still this way. I sail all lines and find the cost to value ratio to be the worst on RCCL compared to all lines. Celebrity has better value than it's parent company. Great RCCL ships but that's where the checkmarks end. 

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My friend and I went on an 11 day European cruise a few years ago on NCL, and it was fantastic!  My husband and I went on an NCL cruise that was a b2b with a HAL cruise we booked out of the same port.  The second NCL cruise was very mediocre.

 

That's the same type of experience my husband and I had many years ago and gave up on NCL.  It still seems a little iffy to me.  Of course, if you are and experienced NCL cruiser, then you would know the ins-and-outs of the different ships.

 

Even with the fantastic cruise on the Spirit, I found it to be about even with RCCL.  Specialty restaurants, dining room, buffet, etc., seemed about even.  RCCL has always had a reputation for having some of the best entertainment in the cruise business.  The first time I saw their compressed version of Grease I was very impressed.

 

NCL has a good thing going with their all-inclusive offers, but so does Princess.  I have reached Platinum on Princess, but cannot begin to find really good comparisons to RCCL's Crown and Anchor Society's benefits.

 

NOW is the time to try RCCL, because they just extended the double C&A points to the end of 2022.  You can reach a higher level of perks faster, and booking the lowest priced suite, a Jr Suite, gets you double-double points.  

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14 minutes ago, tallnthensome said:

I still find that RCCL is way more expensive than an apples to apples comparison versus NCL when all aspects are considered including drink packages and cabins and its still this way. I sail all lines and find the cost to value ratio to be the worst on RCCL compared to all lines. Celebrity has better value than it's parent company. Great RCCL ships but that's where the checkmarks end. 

We started cruising in 2010 with NCL and still like the line.

NCL excels in entertainment.

Regarding dining and service, we have found more disparity than consistency.  On some NCL cruises the servers all seemed to be in training and just weren't up to standard, while on others the service was super.

As for dining, NCL is not up to par with Celebrity and I think even Royal C. has the edge in the MDR, while the buffet is about the same or NCL is slightly better.

 

Royal also excels in entertainment, we had one cruise where the ship had an ice rink and we saw two fantastic ice shows (no charge for those).

 

We don't like NCL's all inclusive pricing that adds perks that we don't want.  We are moderate drinkers and used to buy a 10 bottle wine package for a 14 day cruise.

 

We like to do transatlantic, but NCL has most of its TA cruises to and from NYC, which we don't care for.

Also, Royal seems to have the lowest prices for TA cruises from Europe to Florida when comparing Celebrity, NCL, Royal C. and Princess.

 

further, we love the Diamond Royal C. free happy hour and never have to pay for alcohol on a cruise.

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1 hour ago, pcur said:

I have reached Platinum on Princess, but cannot begin to find really good comparisons to RCCL's Crown and Anchor Society's benefits.

 

So the equivalent level to diamond on NCL gives you two free meals in the specialty dining instead of the happy hour...since the drink package is always a perk with them. Either the steak house or French place with wine and Italian or Brazilian steakhouse.

 

I'm looking forward to hitting the level on both Royal and NCL - hopefully in the next year or two. 

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Posted (edited)

I've done 24 cruises with Royal and 6 cruises with NCL. Royal is always my preference because I feel "welcomed" by all the staff. NCL staff are professional, but I'd never describe them as warm and welcoming (NCL Escape being a notable exception). The staff on Royal always make you feel like they've been waiting for weeks to get a chance to see you. If you opt for MDR seating with the same wait staff every night, you'll be blown away by how they cater to your preferences as the cruise develops. One of our group made such a fuss about how much he liked crab cakes mid-way through our transpacific cruise ... and he was served them every night for the rest of the cruise. Another one REALLY wanted coffee ice cream and our wait staff went to Ben and Jerry's every night to get some for her. 

 

Since you note that you're big on Broadway-style shows, I should point you at the Allure (my personal favorite). In additional to the Ice Show, the Aqua Show and Mama Mia, in a one-week cruise you'll get two different productions shows that compare favorably with Burn the Floor.

 

And the platinum benefit on NCL pales in comparison to the Diamond Benefits on Royal. The balcony discount is my personal favorite, since I'm not a drinker. And I usually try to get my free 8 x 10 photo each cruise.

 

Good luck, whatever you decide ... but if you don't try Royal at least once -- you'll always wonder ...

Edited by emeraldcity
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Not very seasoned on either Line, but we have experienced both, with four different RCI and two NCL sailings on the Breakaway.  I think there is good and better on both.  

 

With NCL - I thought fine dining and small venue entertainment were well above what we experienced on Royal, at least on the Breakaway. We found  Ocean Blue and Le Bistro to be a very good experience.  Syd Norman's Pour House quickly became our go-to after dinner venue.  Whether it was the staff who saved us a seat and had our beverage of choice ready or the music!  The external boardwalk and sea facing venues are amazing!

 

For Royal - price per pound we find it a better 'value'.  I do think the buffet is better on Royal, along with Chops and Giovanni's.  The pools and  public spaces are better on Royal, from our POV.  I also think the non main dining venues, Sorrento's, Playmakers, Cafe' Promenade offer better options.  We are betting on the Royal experience going forward - with six sailings booked across  a variety of ships.  

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Been with NCL since 2005 but trying RC again in 2022 last time was 2005.  We love the laid back Free~Style of NCL but anxious for our cruise on the Navigator to MR.

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Been on both.  IMO RC is a clear winner.  The quality of the food, entertainment and service cannot be beat.  Our favorite is the Oasis class, with the Freedom class second.  Third the Anthem.

 

We stayed in the Haven on NCL.  But walked around the ship, including the pool deck.  It felt like a mob scene.  Really didn't like it.  The food was fair and the entertainment, nothing like the RC ships I mentioned.  We like choice and RC hands down IMO the true winner.

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42 minutes ago, Cruise a holic said:

Been on both.  IMO RC is a clear winner.  The quality of the food, entertainment and service cannot be beat.  Our favorite is the Oasis class, with the Freedom class second.  Third the Anthem.

 

We stayed in the Haven on NCL.  But walked around the ship, including the pool deck.  It felt like a mob scene.  Really didn't like it.  The food was fair and the entertainment, nothing like the RC ships I mentioned.  We like choice and RC hands down IMO the true winner.

We will cruise on either line or Celebrity or Princess depending on itinerary and price.  So far no line beats Celebrity in dining and service, but Royal comes in a close second.

NCL has some of the worst designed ships, like Epic.

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1 hour ago, 4774Papa said:

We will cruise on either line or Celebrity or Princess depending on itinerary and price.  So far no line beats Celebrity in dining and service, but Royal comes in a close second.

NCL has some of the worst designed ships, like Epic.

Agree.  We love the promenade on royal. Of course on oasis class Central Park and boardwalk.   Princess in my opinion, too plain vanilla.  

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We found both lines to be very similar in the things that matter most to us. The entertainment on Anthem was top notch, but I understand that entertainment on the older ships isn't the same. We generally let the price dictate which line we sail with.

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Basically just echoing almost everyone else here, that I personally find the lines more similar than different (especially comparing Breakaway and B+ class to Oasis/Quantum class).

 

I'm just going to list the differences/advantages/disadvantages I've noticed:

 

  • Drink packages - it's nice that aside from gratuity it's included in many fares on NCL, but it also is a lot more restrictive than RCCL's (Royal includes specialty coffee and bottled water, which really make it an amazing value for me personally) - I can't say I prefer one model over the other but they are different.
  • Main theater entertainment - really is ship by ship, but I tended to like the show choices on the Breakaway more than the Oasis (not a big Cats fan)
  • Other entertainment -  Royal has, depending on the ship aquatheater and/or ice shows which are really well produced and a point for Royal's column
  • Dueling Pianos -  NCL wins this hands down. Sorry Schooner Bar fans, but Howl at the Moon is so much livelier (that being said if you do try Royal you will still probably enjoy the Schooner Bar piano and/or the Pub guitarist). 
  • Food - this is quite subjective, but I slightly prefer the MDR on Royal, and the specialty is about the same. I find Royal has more quick serve included options on their megaships, but NCL has more included sit-down options, so it's a tradeoff there too.
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I am not "loyal" to any line and will not hesitate to book on NCL, RCI,  MSC or Carnival.  I feel they are more alike than different.  When I book i am looking at:

1. Dates (2 kiddos in school)

2. Price

3. Ship

4. Itinerary

 

NCL is our favorite line, with Royal/Carnival tied for 2nd and MSC 3rd.

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Very interesting comparisons everyone has.  I guess some things are more important than other things to some people.  I've not done RCL yet but are definately considering it in the future.  I've always stayed away from NCL because of rumours that it was poorly run and the staff were not friendly, etc..  Around 10 years ago, we were docked beside an NCL (cannot remember which one) and the ship looked poorly maintained with rust on the railings and hull etc and we said we would never set foot on an NCL ship.  Fast forward 10 years and we are now booked on the NCL Prima  next year, my research tells me the line is actually very good and all of their ships are top class.  I'll be able to compare it with my more populated experience on Princess than RCL first and we shall see.   So many ships, so little time...(and money)..lol

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9 minutes ago, gardening_guy said:

I've always stayed away from NCL because of rumours that it was poorly run and the staff were not friendly, etc..

 

I think the not friendly impression is the fault of the freestyle dining. Even with the pick your time dining on Royal I was with the same waiters each night - so after the first night they'd get to know you and chat with you each night. But it's practically impossible to get the same server on NCL so there's no rapport built and the waiters are more get your orders & get your food. I don't think it's unfriendly, but I can see how some say that as it's a quite different experience than Royal or others. 

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