A Comparison Question. Carnival vs Norwegian, which & why?

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361 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
I cruised 1 time on Norwegian. It was a very good deal, 3 day out of Miami on the Sky. I have cruised on Carnival 3 times. The reason I have gone back to Carnival is their staff is so kind & attentive, but it is possible, since I was on Norwegian's oldest ship, maybe the staff wasn't their top notch crew?? We had a grumpy dinner crew. We still had a wonderful time!! For me, I LOVE that Norwegian separated the adult parties from the family parties/events. I thought that was so considerate! For Carnival, their staff is over & above polite & they do extra stuff for their return guests (event with free drinks/food ).

Have any of you cruised both enough times to tell me if there are any huge differences? Why do you prefer Norwegian over Carnival??

Thanks much! My family loves to cruise, but we are still new & want to make good decisions & sometimes Norwegian has amazing deals!
Long Island..a quick train ride to NYC!
1,174 Posts
Joined Sep 2000
Since you are asking this on a NCL board, you will prob. get more people answering with a preference towards NCL. I, however, would have to say I prefer Carnival. I have approx. 17 cruises with them and only 1 NCL under my belt, though I am booked on the Epic and cannot wait! It does make for an unfair comparison on my part and I realize that.

I found the staff more friendly on Carnival, the cabins larger, and my biggest issue was the food. I found the NCL portions were very small at dinner & the selection just ok. I usually travel with my family & friends and prefer having the same dining room staff at a set dining time - though Carnival also has a My Time Dining Prog. or something along that line, I haven't used it. On the NCL cruise I was only with my friend so the Freestyle worked out fine, but my NCL dining experience was more like going to a somewhat inattentive restaurant where staff took your order, placed it down & you never saw them until you finished. One night I waited for a 1/2 hr. to get a cup of tea and dessert. On Carnival, with having the same wait staff each night for dinner, they seemed more anxious to making your experience really nice & were more attentive.

On NCL I found the majority of people really didn't dress up on their "Dress Up or Not Nights" & more people did so on Carnival. It did make it a bit laid back, which was nice since I was only with a friend, & packing was easier but with family & friends I like looking nice as a group, we do family pics,etc. I did not like that NCL did not have a beverage station out by the pool - just this big insultated sports type cooler with water. On Carnival I can get an iced tea, lemonade, coffee when eating in the central outdoor area. NCL I had to keep going back inside. Carnival I receive the Platinum perks so getting priority boarding & priority tenders at islands and the laundry service is a plus for me.

On the plus side for NCL, I loved their entertainment & felt there were more options than Carnival. I like NCL's Cagney's and felt it wasn't a stuffy as Carnival's steakhouse. Both had delicious food. I liked the Blue Lagoon on NCL where you could order food at all hours, as opposed to the 24 hr. pizza, which I almost never eat, on Carnival. Again, wasn't knocked over by the food, disappointed with the raved about chicken wings (bit bland even when ordered hot) but it was nice to just sit with coffee & dessert there if we had to get to a show & skipped dessert at dinner. I'm sort of laughing to myself at how much emphasis I put on food...sounds like I must be this big woman who is always eating, which is not even close, but I do enjoy a nice meal.

I thought NCL's private island didn't compare with the Half Moon Caye stop on Carnival.

All in all...still had a nice time on NCL and as said, will sail again because I am anxious to experience the Epic & do enjoy just trying a different line here & there to keep things fresh.
30 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
They are so similar, I would go with whichever one had the itinerary you like at the best price. We just got off the Star and had a great time. It was our first time on NCL, having done 5 on Carnival. I thought the food was comparable, but like the above poster, I do prefer set dining time with the same waiter. I think they are more attentive. I thought the entertainment was a notch or two higher on NCL, but I could be biased since this was our first cruise without our young kids, so we were actually able to go to a lot more shows. Overall we were very impressed w/ NCL.
183 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
We cruised Carnival Freedom in Feb and had a total opposite experince than you and wouldn't set foot on Carnival ship even if it was free.

I also didn't like the fact that they only had the one extra charge dining venue where as NCL has a few. We only eat in the speciality dining rooms for dinner.
Dallas, TX
9,050 Posts
Joined May 2008
2 Carnival and 3 NCL, not counting Norway.

If in a suite NCL hands down. If not, I'd be fine on either. On my last Carnival cruise I had low expectations and they exceeded them. I loved the Chef's dinner. Both lines' crews were great.
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Donna (Dallas, Texas)

Previous Cruises:
NCL Epic - Forward Owner's Suite (17004) - Eastern Caribbean (after
being cancelled TWICE by NCL)
NCL Jewel - aft PH - Western Caribbean from Tx - 4/15
Carnival Magic - aft balc - Caribbean from TX - 11/14
NCL Sun - aft PH (9076) - So. Caribbean - 03/13
Carnival Paradise - Baja Calif - 03/11
NCL Sun - aft PH (9076) - So. America (& Antarctica) - 2/09 (Favorite)
NCL Dawn - NYC to Nowhere -04/08 -
NCL Jewel - TransAtlantic to Greece - 04/07
RCI Monarch - Baja Calif - 03/05 - Family Reunion Cruise!
Celebrity Summit - Alaska - 08/03
Carnival Ecstacy - Bahamas - 5/00
NCL Norway - broom closet (Inside) Caribbean - 7/86 My 1st!!!
1,014 Posts
Joined May 2008
2 carnival, 1 norwegian, 2 more norwegian booked.

Two biggest points which tip me in favor of norwegian are the more restricted indoor smoking rules on norwegian, and with carnival's early saver program, which I HATE, norwegian now comes out cheaper on the early planning I do.

That said, the two lines are not hugely different.

Food is better on carnival, as is the service in the dining room.
Anytime is nice on norwegian, a more laid back feeling all the way around.
Cabins are much better on carnival.
Both lines appear to have cut back on military discounts that used to abound.
Blue Lagoon is a plus towards Norwegian.
All the added space taken from public use for the added fee restaurants is not a plus in my book.

I would sail either, based on intinerary and price, but currently prefer Norwegian for the reduced smoking issues and lower prices. I will add though, it would serve Norwegian well to take notice of the MANY complaints of slow and inattentive service in their dining rooms.
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Princess Grand Autumn 2018 / Alaska
Carnival Sunshine Winter 2018 / Southern Carribean
Princess Emerald Autumn 2017 / Mexican Riviera
Sailed Norwegian Jade Spring 2017 / Western Caribbean(Last NCL for a while. )
Sailed Coral Princess Autumn 10/19/2016 / Panama
Sailed Norwegian Escape 12/5/2015 / Bahamas
Sailed Norwegian Getaway 5/92015 / Bahamas
Sailed Norwegian Sun 2/8/2015 / W Caribbean
Sailed Norwegian Dawn 10/3/2014 / Canada
Sailed Norwegian Epic 12/7/13/ Bahamas
Sailed Norwegian Sun to Alaska 6/3/13
Sailed Norwegian Dawn 11/25/2012 / Western Caribbean
Sailed Norwegian Star 11/27/2011 / Western Caribbean
Sailed Norwegian Jade 10/31/2010 / Western Mediterranean
Sailed Carnival Pride 5/3/09 / Bahamas
Sailed Carnival Legend 12/07/08 / Western Caribbean
Southern California
205 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
I like to switch between the lines, both have good and not so good points. We are suite pax and the suite life on NCL can't be beat, but it's also more expensive which means fewer cruises. We've found excellent and poor service on both lines, it's the individual person not the line that makes that happen. We found the main dining better on Carnival, the buffet better on NCL, entertainment varied on both...a bit better main shows on NCL but better "other" venus on Carnival. If you are a smoker, you'll like carnival a bit better, less restrictive....if you like dining choices...NCL is great. I'd go for the itenarary and price that suites you.
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Miami, Florida
4,095 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
To tell you the truth, I do not prefer NCL over CCL across the board. It comes down to the specific ships for me. Speaking of the 3 nighters, I found the service and ambiance of the Sky to be much better than the Imagination. However, I would cruise on CCL's Spirit Class any day over most NCL ships.
Henderson, NV
192 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
I'd never cruised Carnival until about a year ago. I'd been a fairly loyal NCL customer for the last twenty some years. Now we've done two Carnival cruises. The first was okay. Nothing fantastic but it compared well with NCL. So we did another, and that one turned out to be one of the most enjoyable cruises we've taken in a long time.

Bottom line though is the lines are very similar, and it really depends a lot on the specific ship you're on. Ships and crews can be very different even within a specific line.

As far as who does what best, we feel CCL wins on MDR food and cabin size, while NCL has better bathrooms and slightly better entertainment. The rest is pretty much a push. CCL offers anytime dining now, and I didn't see any difference in the level of dress for formal night, which can be a biggie for some.

Our next cruise will be on NCL again, so we'll see how we think NCL compares, after doing two consecutive CCL cruises.

And I've just booked CCL cruise number 3.
South Jersey, USA
1,786 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
@6 of us -
We have never been on Carnival. We enjoy the total freedom that NCL's Free-Style Dining offers. Flexible times, choice of venue, and eating by ourselves. That alone trumps any advantage Carnival or anybody else may have in the cabin size or food quality. Did I make myself clear? NCL all the way.
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Juergen (and Helen)
Our cruise pictures are at www.juergen.smugmug.com

Next up:

Apr 13 Norwegian Star, New Orleans - Copenhagen (Stern Cabin)
Oct 13 Norwegian Star, Copenhagen - Miami (Stern Cabin)

Been there, done that:
APR 12 Norwegian Epic, Miami - Barcelona (Stern Cabin)
AUG 11 Norwegian Jewel, NYC - Bahamas (Stern Cabin)
APR 10 Azamara Journey, Miami - Barcelona (Stern Cabin)
NOV 09 Norwegian Gem, Barcelona - New York (Stern Cabin)
NOV 08 Norwegian Gem, Barcelona - New York (Stern Cabin)
APR 08 Azamara Quest, Miami - Rome (Stern Cabin)
NOV 07 Oceania Regatta, Barcelona-Miami (Stern Cabin)
APR 07 Norwegian Jewel, Miami - Athens (Stern Cabin)
MAY 06 Norwegian Dawn, Bermuda & Bahamas (Stern Cabin)
MAR 06 Oceania Regatta, Miami-Barcelona
(Stern Cabin)
SEP 05 Norwegian Jewel, Dover-New York (Stern Cabin)
DEC 04 Norwegian Sun, Western Caribbean (Stern Cabin)