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OPINIONS NEEDED: Carnival fans who have tried "upgraded" lines. . . what is the advantage and is it worth it?


KmomChicago
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Hello friends. Kmom here.  I'm looking for experienced, semi-loyal Carnival cruisers, who have generally been happy with the brand, who have also tried or transitioned to the next tiers of cruising. I am interested in all levels - next level mainstream like HAL or Princess, for example, premium like Cunard or Oceania, again just examples, luxury like Azamara or Regent Seven Seas, etc., Euro river cruises, expedition cruises, basically anything that you considered an upgrade from Carnival. 

 

Since preferences are so personal, here's the TLDR that might help identify if there is any value for us to even consider upgrading in the future. 

 

  • DH and I have cruised Carnival four times since the restart last summer. I think we have had enough for now, but the itch will return at some point.
  • We are extremely laid back, American working class people who really don't like to dress up on vacation.
  • The highest tier cruise lines I have sampled are Disney (1990's) and Celebrity (2001).  They were fine but not enough different from Carnival for the $$, IMHO.
  • Our favorite ship was Oasis of the Seas.  Our other RCI cruise (Adventure) was fine but again not enough different to justify a higher price than Carnival.
  • This might sound stupid, but honestly I cannot quite grasp exactly what people are doing all day on luxury small ships to justify their prices. 
  • All cruise food I have ever had, worst to best, has been more than good enough for me. 
  • I can easily pack for a 7 night cruise on Carnival in a single carry on bag and I love that.
  • I really don't care if there is "visible rust" on the ship, dated decor, or cosmetic wear and tear. Yes I see it, I just don't much care.
  • I am not looking to travel with classier co-passengers. I think I would just feel like a pauper-in-disguise among the aristocrats.

 

Would there even be any point in a better cruise line for us? I am willing to pay more for better stuff, but I really have to be able to understand where we are getting the value. 

 

 

 

 

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Im loyal to none...... When I sailed Princess and Holland to places like Egypt and Russia it was for three reasons. The destination, the tours, and the food. If you're looking for a party atmosphere and all the bells and whistles of a ship then I'd stay with Royal, Carnival and NCL. I sail for destination primarily and the next level lines give me what is most important. I find the conversation with random cruisers much more interesting on Princess and Holland .  I would not choose the next level lines to sail to the typical  Caribbean or Bahamas destinations.  

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6 minutes ago, BlerkOne said:

Egos with too much money looking for Camelot and to avoid riff raff. Then the existing cruisers on those lines need to step up their game to avoid the newcomers.

Exactly, I’m the riff raff they were trying to get away from!
 

To be fair, we are quiet and well-behaved, respectful to crew, and never drink to the point of embarrassment or cause any other sort of trouble. But as our income has slowly increased with age and job promotions, we’ve done nothing to improve our appearance nor had any ego changes whatsoever.
 

 

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21 minutes ago, tallnthensome said:

Im loyal to none...... When I sailed Princess and Holland to places like Egypt and Russia it was for three reasons. The destination, the tours, and the food. If you're looking for a party atmosphere and all the bells and whistles of a ship then I'd stay with Royal, Carnival and NCL. I sail for destination primarily and the next level lines give me what is most important. I find the conversation with random cruisers much more interesting on Princess and Holland .  I would not choose the next level lines to sail to the typical  Caribbean or Bahamas destinations.  


Thanks. To your point, it’s always been sorta well known that Princess and HAL have the best Alaska itineraries so I have that in the back of my mind if/when we head up that way. 
 

But now I think RCI is sailing Quantum class ships and that might well sway the decision. We don’t know one fjord from from another anyway.

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7 minutes ago, KmomChicago said:


Thanks. To your point, it’s always been sorta well known that Princess and HAL have the best Alaska itineraries so I have that in the back of my mind if/when we head up that way. 
 

But now I think RCI is sailing Quantum class ships and that might well sway the decision. We don’t know one fjord from from another anyway.

Even to Alaska I don't think you have to do Princess, Royal, or Celebrity to get the Alaska experience. Heck, Im sailing Carnival to Alaska in 5 weeks and used Royal for Alaska before. The next level lines I save for destinations that the usual suspects don't sail to. 

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We have tried one Celebrity cruise, three HAL cruises and about thirty cruises on each of Carnival and Royal. For our family, Carnival wins.  Just so laid back and casual.  For hubby and me, we choose either Royal or Carnival.  Really depends on the best value for places we want to go.  We did Carnival for the Panama Canal, and have Carnival booked for Greenland/Canada and the Hawaiian islands.  And three Caribbean cruises booked, one with Royal and two with Carnival.  While we enjoyed the food on HAL, we found them somewhat discriminatory to women and younger people.  Celebrity to us was just an upgraded Royal cruise.   Both Celebrity and HAL were a little bit boring after dinner.

 

But if any cruise line offered us a great value and unique experience, we would probably give it a try.  Just haven’t found anything that is worth spending three to four times what we usually pay.  Our next splurge cruise will likely be a music cruise.  

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I have taken 21 cruises in the last 30+ years, most with Carnival & Royal Caribbean, but also NCL, Princess, Holland America, MSC and others no longer in business. I have never been on what I would consider a “bad” cruise.
 

I cruise primarily for itinerary and price and find that the age / size of the ship & time of year are more important than the specific cruise line. The nicest cruise line / ship I have been on was the MSC Meraviglia and am booked in October on the MSC Divina. If you don’t need an amusement park onboard, constant activities during the day and are open to a more European food menu and entertainment, MSC is a great value with beautiful ships.

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We prefer Carnival (I'm a bargain hunter and it's tough for us to beat their value) but we have also tried HAL and NCL. I honestly didn't notice much of a difference. Some members of my family preferred the food on HAL (I'm not a foodie and didn't notice a difference).

I think it primarily depends on your goal for a vacation. My husband and I are both are in career fields that work way too much and we just want to get away, rest, get some some sun, a little exercise, not dress up, and not think about anything while on vacation. Carnival is a good fit for us at this point in our life (but maybe not forever).

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1 hour ago, lazydayz said:

  While we enjoyed the food on HAL, we found them somewhat discriminatory to women and younger people.  Celebrity to us was just an upgraded Royal cruise.   Both Celebrity and HAL were a little bit boring after dinner.

 

But if any cruise line offered us a great value and unique experience, we would probably give it a try.  Just haven’t found anything that is worth spending three to four times what we usually pay.  Our next splurge cruise will likely be a music cruise.  

I am interested in the comment about HAL discriminatory to women. How so?

 

I have looked at those music theme cruises as well. When you figure what a single concert costs, that could be a really good value.  Seems to me they are typically on the big 3, which is, of course, fine and dandy with us anyway. 

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48 minutes ago, JT1962 said:

I have taken 21 cruises in the last 30+ years, most with Carnival & Royal Caribbean, but also NCL, Princess, Holland America, MSC and others no longer in business. I have never been on what I would consider a “bad” cruise.
 

I cruise primarily for itinerary and price and find that the age / size of the ship & time of year are more important than the specific cruise line. The nicest cruise line / ship I have been on was the MSC Meraviglia and am booked in October on the MSC Divina. If you don’t need an amusement park onboard, constant activities during the day and are open to a more European food menu and entertainment, MSC is a great value with beautiful ships.

 

Thank you. I read your signature. I also sailed on Premier / Big Red Boat, the same 2 ships, though when I sailed SesBreeze she was the SS Royale.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/"Royale"_-_Nassau%2C_1985.jpg

 

This photo from Wikipedia claims to be in 1985, which means it is technically possible I was onboard when it was taken as that was my very first cruise and also my first time to Nassau. I also sailed the Oceanic but a few years later. I remember being interested in Commodore Cruise line. The ships - Boheme and Caribe -  looked small but always sort of fascinated me and I really just wanted to travel anywhere, anyhow back in my teen years. 

 

I have been trying to wrap my head around MSC and its efforts to integrate into the US market. So far I have not been convinced but perhaps I need to look into it further.  The Seaside docked right next to me in its first few weeks of service, also in Nassau. I got pictures. It was January 2017 and I was on Carnival Sensation. I admit it looked impressive.

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43 minutes ago, csm5986142 said:

We prefer Carnival (I'm a bargain hunter and it's tough for us to beat their value) but we have also tried HAL and NCL. I honestly didn't notice much of a difference. Some members of my family preferred the food on HAL (I'm not a foodie and didn't notice a difference).

I think it primarily depends on your goal for a vacation. My husband and I are both are in career fields that work way too much and we just want to get away, rest, get some some sun, a little exercise, not dress up, and not think about anything while on vacation. Carnival is a good fit for us at this point in our life (but maybe not forever).

 

Sounds like we are very similar travelers. For elegant night my husband is willing to put on a collared button up shirt (usually a plaid, short sleeved one, not a real dress shirt) or a polo with khaki or black cargo pants.  I usually put on capris with flat sandals and a tunic.  That's as far as we want to go with it and honestly I think we would be really annoyed if we sailed some line that really looks down on that.

 

I did used to bring nicer dresses on cruises back in my younger days but I also lived in Florida within driving distance of the ports. 

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We cruise both Carnival and Celebrity, and like them both. We are not into organized activities - we cruise to relax. On sea days we like to hang out on our balcony or in the thermal suite, and like to snorkel or go to the beach when in port, so the various entertainment options aren't important to us. We tend to cruise on Carnival for the Mexican and Western Caribbean itineraries and on Celebrity for the Eastern and Southern Caribbean ones. I like the main dining room food more on Celebrity, but Carnival is better for having multiple options for breakfast and lunch.

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3 hours ago, KmomChicago said:
  • This might sound stupid, but honestly I cannot quite grasp exactly what people are doing all day on luxury small ships to justify their prices. 
  •  

It's all perception. Certain things upset other's sensibilities. For instance, a water slide. Even though they have no intention of ever going down a water slide, some people are offended by the mere presence of one on their ship. Others believe that dressing up makes having dinner a "classy" affair even if the food was all the same. As if clothing determines "class." There's much more but I'm sure you get the picture.

 

If you look at other lines, look for the best itineraries that can take you to more places around the world. Go beyond the Caribbean. There's an entire world to see.

Edited by cruizergal70
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54 minutes ago, KmomChicago said:

 

I have looked at those music theme cruises as well. When you figure what a single concert costs, that could be a really good value.  Seems to me they are typically on the big 3, which is, of course, fine and dandy with us anyway. 

I’ve been on three country music theme cruises, one on Norwegian in 1999 (my first cruise ever), one on Holland America in 2016, and one on Royal Caribbean in 2019.  While they are costly, especially if you are a solo traveler, as you noted, if you consider what one concert costs, they are actually a pretty great value.  

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2 hours ago, KmomChicago said:


Thanks. To your point, it’s always been sorta well known that Princess and HAL have the best Alaska itineraries so I have that in the back of my mind if/when we head up that way. 
 

But now I think RCI is sailing Quantum class ships and that might well sway the decision. We don’t know one fjord from from another anyway.

Don’t dismiss taking a Carnival ship to Alaska. I just took one in May and it was PERFECT. Great activities, they had a naturalist onboard, covered pool deck, and wonderful entertainment. 
 

Anyone who says that Alaska is JUST about the ports is lying. You spend more time on the ship than on land, so you want a ship and a cruise line that you are going to enjoy. 

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We have very similar cruising tastes! Carnival's product is a perfect fit for me. I don't want to dress up; I don't want five-star, white-glove dinner service; I don't care if the ships are aging or décor is dated; I like tons of trivia and silly deck parties and bargain cruises. I haven't even sailed Carnival's bigger/fancier ships; other than one cruise on Splendor and one on Freedom I've sailed nothing but Spirit class and Fantasy class for my 29 Carnival cruises. Put me in my beloved bowling alley balcony on a Spirit class ship and I'm a happy gal. 

 

I tried RCL once and Disney once early in my cruising career and have stuck with Carnival exclusively for the past 12 years or so. The only two things that would get me on another line would be an itinerary I *really* want to do that I can't get on Carnival, or if somebody else is paying (I'll be doing NCL to Alaska next summer on someone else's dime, but I'd never book that myself and it doesn't appeal to me any more than Carnival). 

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15 minutes ago, ilovesparky13 said:

Don’t dismiss taking a Carnival ship to Alaska. I just took one in May and it was PERFECT. Great activities, they had a naturalist onboard, covered pool deck, and wonderful entertainment. 

 

In 2017 I took a 14-night cruise to Alaska roundtrip from Long Beach (my home port) on the Miracle. It was my favorite cruise ever. ♥️ I'll be on the Spirit to Alaska in four days! 🚢

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We’re almost Diamond on Carnival, but going to check out Princess in January since they’re going to start sailing out of San Diego where we live. The cruise goes to Loreto and La Paz which will be new ports for us. Really excited for this!

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Oceania ships are smaller and have the ability to get into ports that the Carnival (and other lines) cannot. The R Class ships are roughly 30,000 GRT with roughly 650 pax on them.  Take Bermuda for example, Oceania will port right in downtown St George, and run over to Hamilton. With the larger ships you lose this ability. 

 

For what it is worth, my avatar photo is from an Oceania sailing to Alaska. 

 

DW and I have sailed on HAL, NCL (Haven), Oceania, MSC (Yacht Club), and Carnival. Each cruise line has plusses and minuses. If you are a more destination focused cruiser, Oceania will be more your cup of tea. But just be advised, casual for them is slacks and a polo (tshirts are discouraged). I usually dress like this anyway, so it does not bother me. 

 

We just got back from a 10 day sailing on Carnival, so we do bounce around. 

 

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32 minutes ago, AQW said:

I don't want to dress up; I don't want five-star, white-glove dinner service

 

you would be seriously put off by Oceania. the evening entertainment is a string quartet that plays in the lobby (not an atrium)

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4 hours ago, KmomChicago said:

This might sound stupid, but honestly I cannot quite grasp exactly what people are doing all day on luxury small ships to justify their prices. 

 

you pay more because there are FAR fewer pax to spread the costs of ship operation out over. Plus, it is expected that the staff to pax ratio will be better, and the food will be better (I can get filet mingon for room service on Oceania).

 

But,  you are also looking at sometimes 3-4 times the cost to sail with them as per carnival. (average 10 day cruise on Oceania is around 5k for an entry level balcony)

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1 hour ago, cruizergal70 said:

It's all perception. Certain things upset other's sensibilities. For instance, a water slide. Even though they have no intention of ever going down a water slide, some people are offended by the mere presence of one on their ship. Others believe that dressing up makes having dinner a "classy" affair even if the food was all the same. As if clothing determines "class." There's much more but I'm sure you get the picture.

 

If you look at other lines, look for the best itineraries that can take you to more places around the world. Go beyond the Caribbean. There's an entire world to see.

 

Thank you, I do get the picture and I agree it seems people perceive things drastically differently because they are closer to whatever they think is classy. 

 

As far as seeing the world, I'm almost 56 now and I did most of my bucket list international travel in my 20's and 30's - several trips to Europe (UK, France, Netherlands and Italy), plus Iceland with my teenager in 2019, once to China (Beijing, Xian/Terra Cotta Warriors, Shanghai), once to Peru (Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu), and over the years I have visited all but a handful of US states, many of them numerous times.  I think I got to Peru sort of just before it exploded in popularity - around 2003. 

 

I realize there is a lot more of the world to see, but I've already exceeded my childhood dreams, and the logistics are getting more tiresome as I age. In the Caribbean I don't get off at all the ports. We cruise mostly for the resort atmosphere of the ship itself. My husband just this week mentioned the all inclusives in Mexico and DR that a lot of people around us seem to enjoy, but it sounds boring to me. I want my resort and the occasional port should I decide to go walk around for a while. 

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1 hour ago, AQW said:

We have very similar cruising tastes! Carnival's product is a perfect fit for me. I don't want to dress up; I don't want five-star, white-glove dinner service; I don't care if the ships are aging or décor is dated; I like tons of trivia and silly deck parties and bargain cruises. I haven't even sailed Carnival's bigger/fancier ships; other than one cruise on Splendor and one on Freedom I've sailed nothing but Spirit class and Fantasy class for my 29 Carnival cruises. Put me in my beloved bowling alley balcony on a Spirit class ship and I'm a happy gal. 

 

I tried RCL once and Disney once early in my cruising career and have stuck with Carnival exclusively for the past 12 years or so. The only two things that would get me on another line would be an itinerary I *really* want to do that I can't get on Carnival, or if somebody else is paying (I'll be doing NCL to Alaska next summer on someone else's dime, but I'd never book that myself and it doesn't appeal to me any more than Carnival). 

 

Thanks, I will be interested if you come back and compare and contrast your NCL experience to your many Carnivals.

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