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NCL vs Carnival - ? for those who have cruised both lines

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I have been on two previous Carnival cruises. I had been planning on trying out NCL next but when comparing prices Carnival is cheaper by $400 (total) on basically the same cruise - same date, same number of days, same ports, same type of ship (Sun vs Liberty) - I'm not comparing an old Carnival ship to a new NCL ship. I've seen a previous post regarding what puts NCL ahead of the other lines but I'm wondering if there is a difference between NCL and Carnival that you would pay $400 for?

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In my opinion, they are more alike than different. If the itineraries are the same I would book based on price. Unless you are wanting to try something different, in which case I would try NCL.

 

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I have been on two previous Carnival cruises. I had been planning on trying out NCL next but when comparing prices Carnival is cheaper by $400 (total) on basically the same cruise - same date, same number of days, same ports, same type of ship (Sun vs Liberty) - I'm not comparing an old Carnival ship to a new NCL ship. I've seen a previous post regarding what puts NCL ahead of the other lines but I'm wondering if there is a difference between NCL and Carnival that you would pay $400 for?

 

I would book the Liberty. One, while I think NCL and CCL are very similar and target the exact same demographic, I think CCL is just a little bit of a better cruise line than NCL. Service and food are consistently better on CCL, and I've never been handed a pager and made to wait 30 minutes for a table on CCL like I have on NCL. Two, I think Liberty is a better ship than Sun. Aside from the Breeze, Liberty is one of my favorite CCL ships. All else being equal with Liberty being less expensive, this one would be a no brainer for me.

Edited by Cruzaholic41

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I'm interested in hearing other people's comments on this. We are booked on the Epic in Feb, our first with NCL. We have done several Carnival, 1 Princess and 1 Royal Caribbean. After a few Carnival in a row I started to feel bored. I loved every cruise but found that I really wanted to try different buffet food, different dinner menus, different entertainment, etc. So we tried RCL and loved it. Not better, not worse than Carnival, just different. Now we want different again. It might be worth trying something new for the experience.

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I'm interested in hearing other people's comments on this. We are booked on the Epic in Feb, our first with NCL. We have done several Carnival, 1 Princess and 1 Royal Caribbean. After a few Carnival in a row I started to feel bored. I loved every cruise but found that I really wanted to try different buffet food, different dinner menus, different entertainment, etc. So we tried RCL and loved it. Not better, not worse than Carnival, just different. Now we want different again. It might be worth trying something new for the experience.

 

In your case, I say go for it. Epic was one of my favorite NCL cruises, mostly because of great entertainment. The rooms are a little odd, but the rest of the ship is really nice.

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I'm interested in hearing other people's comments on this. We are booked on the Epic in Feb, our first with NCL. We have done several Carnival, 1 Princess and 1 Royal Caribbean. After a few Carnival in a row I started to feel bored. I loved every cruise but found that I really wanted to try different buffet food, different dinner menus, different entertainment, etc. So we tried RCL and loved it. Not better, not worse than Carnival, just different. Now we want different again. It might be worth trying something new for the experience.

 

Not that I have a ton of experience, but for our first cruise, we went on the Epic. I loved it. From the Blue Man Group, to the Ice Bar(I thought that was really cool) to bowling and the water slides. It was a great time.

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Sailed both NCL and CCL and as others have stated they are more alike than different.

 

Food is very subjective so it's difficult to say which you would like better. DH and I enjoy good food and we've found food we enjoy on both lines. The biggest difference is the "freestyle" that NCL offers which means no official formal night and no set dining times. The longest waits I've had for freestyle is on the first and last night of the cruise. When we've been told there was a wait (which was not often) we usually stroll to the nearest bar and enjoy a drink. It's similar to any land based restaurant where there might be a wait. And if you don't want to wait at one of the MDR there are plenty of other choices.

 

The Sun does have some of the bigger cabins compared to other NCL ships. Compared to other Carnival ships they are about the same size.

 

With the stops being the same and the ships being comparable in age the price would probably win out for DH and I.

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This would be a close call for us because we do prefer NCL but the $400 price difference might be enough for us to choose CCL.

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Since you've been on Carnival, you know what it's like. We were on the Liberty last year (first ccl trip). I really, really liked the ship. They had a wonderful, complimentary gym/spa (saunas/steam room with lockers and showers). The crew was great. The ship was always, well, in shipshape. It was more of a "fun" ship as they advertise imo. However, we did not think the food was as good--not as much variety, in general, as NCL (total subjectivity). If we ever decide to cruise on CCL out of Miami again, we will definitely try to get the express passes. We had a 90 min wait to board after check-in. We would also do self-debarkation as we had a nearly 3 hour wait after our assigned time. There was no issue with customs/passport control, just a lot of self-debarkation folks walking into the lines throughout the entire morning. For the savings (which you can put to great use on the ship or on excursions), I'd say CCL Liberty. Larger cabins on Liberty compared to Epic, too.

 

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Edited by Rhea98

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I have cruised both lines, twice on CCL, the Liberty and the Legend. I have cruised NCL 5 times, with 3 more set. I haven't cruised on the Sun, nor on their mega-ships.

 

The Sun is 4 yrs older than the Liberty, and about half the number of people on board. If you prefer a smaller ship, the Sun would be a good match.

 

The service on both lines is good, the food is very similar, but the buffet on an NCL ship will give you more options than you will get on the Liberty. You will also have more options if you choose a "for fee" meal.

 

Entertainment on NCL is by far better than CCL. You will have more live music as well.

 

The biggest difference by far is "freestyle" dining. Freestyle effects all areas of your experience on a NCL cruise, not just dining.

 

If you will be taking kids on your cruise, go with the Liberty.

 

Hope this helps, but I don't see my wife and I on a Carnival ship anytime soon.;)

 

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These are my 2 primary lines cause they tend to fit our budget and family culture with young kids. Overall, I find the 2 lines comparable. Recently, we have landed on CCL a lot by default related to price but here is my breakdown of who does what best.

 

Main Dining Room Food: CCL (more options, IMO)

 

Buffet: NCL, better layout, more effecient, open more often

 

Self-serve Ice Cream: CCL, 24 hours a day and delicious!

 

Entertainment: NCL, hands done, no competition here.

 

Kids Club: Tie

 

Pools/water parks: CCL, more pools and more water slides fleet wide.

 

Price: CCL, unless you find a sale.

 

Choice of Itinerary: CCL has more options

 

Size of stateroom: CCL

 

Comfort of Stateroom: tie. NCL slightly more comfortable bedding. CCL provides robes to all guests....not just VIPs.

 

Service/friendliness of staff: CCL slight edge.

 

Interior Ship Decor: NCL

 

Music: NCL

 

Daytime Deck atmosphere: NCL, CCL pool deck is loud and wild on sea days.

 

Freestyle: NCL, they invented it so they should get some street cred for this, other lines have since followed suit cause it appeals to the average joes.

 

I feel like what NCL offers entertainment wise really adds a lot of value. My parents in law and hubby prefer NCL just because of that. I, on the other hand, value itinerary choices, lower prices, and water slides for my kids, so CCL sometimes wins out despite :D

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I like the Liberty and its various sister ships. Great waterslide.

 

After cruising Carnival, Princess and others, I decided to give NCL a try out of NYC on the Gem. Have been back many times since. I still cruise Carnival too.

 

NCL food is more to my tastes, and their entertainment (especially the past few years) is much better than Carnival's.

 

That said, I have had great cruises on both (and others!).

 

Have a great time--on whichever you choose!

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We've sailed on both lines and have found them to be more alike than different. Our pick would be the one with the best itinerary and price. ;)

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Someone asked this question on the carnival board a while back and this was my response:

 

We have cruised both. I honestly like both lines. We were new to the 'freestyle' dining concept with NCL so that took us a bit to get used to. We found you would get stuck waiting in line for a table if you went to dinner at a busy time (or didn't reserve a table ahead of time). We wound up going to dinner around 5-5:30 when the dining room opened. We were seated immediately and were able to request a table by the window (I love to sit by the window). If we got hungry later, we went to the Blue Lagoon Cafe which served meals 24 hours a day. They were a small sit down place and we loved it. I prefer that very much over the pizza bar on Carnival.

 

NCL has hand dipped ice cream at the buffet. We loved this. Carnival only has the soft serve. Not something worth basing a cruise decision off but it was a nice touch.

 

Carnival seems to have more activities. We felt like we were a little bored at times on NCL. We wound up playing shuffle board A LOT. That's a game I hadn't learned prior to sailing NCL (I realize carnival has shuffleboards too). I've grown to love shuffleboard.

 

Overall the NCL ship was extremely clean. Everywhere I looked they were constantly cleaning. Wiping down rails, cleaning walls, scrubbing floors. It was a constant thing. Ironically, our room wasn't always clean. I felt our stateroom attendant wasn't as 'attentive' as the ones we've had on carnival. I believe this can be hit or miss with any cruise so I wasn't all that worried about it.

 

I felt the food on NCL was better than Carnival's. We didn't do any of the specialty restaurants. We ate in the MDR for breakfast and dinner each day. We did the lido deck. I always felt the food was great and they had these pretzel rolls at the buffet that were AMAZING! We loved those. The desserts are better on Carnival. I love my chocolate melting cake.

 

I felt like the lay out of carnival ships are more user friendly. I got lost a few times and found myself getting in places that were dead ends. I hadn't experienced that before on Carnival.

 

Anyhow, there's my anecdotal advice for both the lines. Ultimately, I would cruise either line again. As a matter of fact, we're planning an Alaska cruise next Summer with NCL. So far, I'm not partial to any line. I am trying to cruise on as many as I can, determine which one is my 'favorite' and build up my points from there.

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Thanks for all the responses. I guess the ultimate reason I wanted to try NCL is the food since it seems like there are more venues (free and pay) to choose from. We have done Your Time Dining on both of our Carnival cruises and loved it but would love even more not to have to pack for Carnival's elegant nights! I'm still not sure which one I will go with though so keep the comments coming.

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Thanks for all the responses. I guess the ultimate reason I wanted to try NCL is the food since it seems like there are more venues (free and pay) to choose from. We have done Your Time Dining on both of our Carnival cruises and loved it but would love even more not to have to pack for Carnival's elegant nights! I'm still not sure which one I will go with though so keep the comments coming.

 

I don't get super-dressed up for elegant night as others choose to. I only took a carry on for my cruise on the Breeze last month, so not much room for formal wear. I did not feel ouy of place at all :)

 

 

 

Sent from my phone. Typos are inevitable.

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When are you cruising? I tried to figure out by itineraries and it seems the Sun leaves out of Tampa and the Liberty leaves out of Port Canaveral but that changes in 2015 to the Star out of Tampa and the Spirit out of PC. Personally, I'd be more inclined to sail on the Star or Spirit than the Sun. We have cruised CCL and enjoyed our cruises immensely but I really prefer the casual clothing on NCL and the many dining options. I will say 24-hr pizza on CCL was a HUGE point for my dh who could make pizza his only meal forever and be a happy man. We also thought the stand-up comics on CCL were hysterical but the rest of the entertainment was better on NCL.

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I disagree with all that say is more comparable.

We have sailed carnival once and never again due to far too many negative issues we had the entire week. We wouldn't sail carnival again even if they gave us free cruises for a year.

The one big negative for us is that they only have one specialty restaurant (steakhouse)

which was very good and leaps ahead of NCL Cagney's.

WE only eat at the specialty restaurants on NCL and it's big plus for us as we work in service industry. JMHO

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Both lines are great but I prefer NCL because of better buffet, awesome entertainment, and most of all the Free Style Concept.

 

I'm a bit of an introvert so spending an hour or two each night sharing a dining table with strangers is exhausting. It simply isn't enjoyable. Being able to eat whenever it is best for my kids also huge for families with young children.

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We have previously sailed Princess and RC, but we like Carnival and NCL. The first thing I would say is what is most important to you.

 

Some reasons we like Carnival are the stand up comedy, the outdoor movie theater and the piano bar, more trivia,more points in the casino, and the serenity area

 

Some reasons we like NCL is the 24 hour restaurant, the varied specialty restaurants, martini tastings and pub crawls, the thermal suites, new menus, the suite experience, the artwork in the halls and Le Bistro.

 

I think if one is a deal breaker or deal maker, that is what I would go for.

 

We try to alternate, because I think we would get bored with just one, but changing them out keeps it new.

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I would pick NCL. The service I received on my last Carnival cruise sealed that for me.

 

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I've only been in one Carnival cruise and that was the Pride. I've been in 6 NCL cruises. The CCL was the worse for us and the first cruise I was happy when it was over. I thought the MDR was subpar in the Pride and we ended up eating the next 6 days in the steak house. The shows were horrible. They focused a lot of the entertainment in karioke. The bars closed up early many times. We were at one bar and they yelled last call at 7pm. The bartender explained that she had to another bar and open it. Was really weird. It just felt like there wasn't much to do in the Pride. To be fair it is an older ship but we just didn't care for it. We vowed never to cruise in another CCL again.

 

 

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We've cruised on both and have no preference between them. We've chosen anytime dining on every cruise that's offered it, since its inception, so Freestyle on NCL obviously isn't an issue for us.

 

We choose our cruises for itinerary and price. What the ship offers for entertainment or whatever is completely secondary for us.

I usually don't even look at that aspect until after we've already booked.

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