Carnival Cruise Line vs. Norwegian: Which One is Right for You?

carnival cruise line vs. norwegian cruise line

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Two of the most popular cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Both offer a wide range of destinations and onboard activities, but each has unique personalities and styles.

If you’re new to cruising, choosing the right cruise line can be daunting. With so many options, it can be hard to know where to start.

Aerial view of Norwegian Getaway in Nassau, Bahamas
Norwegian Getaway in Nassau, Bahamas

Carnival Cruise Line vs. Norwegian Cruise Line

In this article, we will break down the major differences between the two cruise lines. Keep in mind, however, that features may vary depending on the age of the cruise ship. For instance, a newer vessel may offer a wider variety of accommodations or dining venues than an older vessel.

Types of Cruise Ships

Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line are two of the most popular cruise lines in the world, offering a variety of ships to cater to different types of travelers.

Carnival Cruise Line offers a fleet of 24 ships, ranging in size from small ones like Carnival Elation to the massive Carnival Celebration.

Aerial view of Carnival Celebration in St. Thomas
Carnival Celebration in St. Thomas

Carnival’s ships are known for their fun and lively atmosphere, with plenty of entertainment options, including water parks, casinos, comedy, and live music.

Norwegian Cruise Line, on the other hand, offers a fleet of 17 ships, with the Norwegian Prima being the newest. Its ships are known for their modern design and innovative features, such as waterfront promenades and go-cart tracks on the newer vessels.

Norwegian is also known for its Freestyle Cruising concept, which allows passengers to dine when and where they want, rather than being assigned to a specific dining time and table.

Additionally, Norwegian ships cater to many different types of travelers, from families to couples to solo travelers.

The line offers a variety of stateroom options, from budget-friendly inside cabins to oversized suites.

Exterior view of Norwegian Prima
Exterior view of Norwegian Prima

Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line offer a range of itineraries to different destinations worldwide, covering popular destinations such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Bermuda, Canada, and New England.

Norwegian Cruise Line, on the other hand, offers more diverse and exotic itineraries, catering to travelers looking for a more unique vacation experience.

Carnival Cruise Line mainly operates in the Caribbean, with most of its itineraries focusing on short to medium-length cruises to popular destinations such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cozumel.

Many Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries include a stop at Carnival’s private island, sharing with sister brand Holland America, Half Moon Cay.

The line also offers some longer cruises to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska, and Europe.

Additionally, Carnival’s itineraries generally have a party atmosphere, with onboard activities such as dance classes, live music, and comedy shows.

Aerial view of Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay

Norwegian Cruise Line also has many sailings in the Bahamas and Caribbean, occasionally stopping at the private island Great Stirrup Cay.

The line also offers a more diverse itinerary to exotic destinations such as Asia, Australia, South America, northern Europe, and the Mediterranean.

Aerial view of Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup Cay (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Essentially, their itineraries vary in length from three to four-day cruises to 14 to 21-day cruises.

Norwegian Cruise Line also emphasizes onboard activities such as fine dining, Broadway-style shows, and spa treatments. Their ships have a more sophisticated atmosphere, with more upscale and elegant decor than most of Carnival Cruise Line’s ships.

Cabins

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line offer a variety of staterooms to cater to different preferences and budgets.

Carnival Cruise Line provides four main categories of staterooms: interior, oceanview, balcony, and suite. These staterooms are spacious and equipped with basic amenities such as a TV, a bathroom, and a closet.

Inside view of Mardi Gras' cabin
Inside view of Mardi Gras’ cabin

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its stateroom categories, such as Haven suites and solo traveler studio cabins.

The Haven suites come with exclusive access to a private pool, lounge, restaurant, and the use of a personal butler, as well as hot tubs and expansive private balconies.

The solo studio cabins are 100 square feet, designed for one guest, and have a solo traveler lounge and dedicated area.

A bathroom in one of The Haven suites
A bathroom in one of The Haven suites

In addition to The Haven suites, Norwegian also offers a range of cabin options, from inside to balcony to suites, all with stylish and modern decor.

While Carnival’s cabin categories may not be as extravagant as Norwegian’s, they are still comfortable and well-appointed, with plenty of space for guests to relax and unwind.

Food and drink

Regarding dining options, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line offer many choices to satisfy any palate. However, there are some notable differences between the two cruise lines.

Carnival is known for its casual dining options, focusing on comfort food and classic favorites. Guests can enjoy burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint, pizza and burritos at the poolside grill, or head to the buffet for various options.

BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Sunrise.
BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Sunrise.

For a more upscale experience, Carnival also offers several specialty restaurants, such as the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Italian restaurant Cucina del Capitano, and Bonsai Teppanyaki hibachi on select ships, for an additional fee.

On the other hand, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a more diverse range of dining options, with a focus on global cuisine and innovative concepts. Guests can enjoy traditional dining rooms, buffets, and casual options like pub-style fare and Asian cuisine.

Norwegian also offers a variety of specialty dining options, including French, Brazilian, and sushi options, available for an additional fee.

One of the standout features of Norwegian is the Freestyle Dining concept, which allows guests to dine whenever and wherever they want without any set dining times or assigned tables.

Ocean Blue on Norwegian Bliss
Ocean Blue on Norwegian Bliss (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

While both Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line offer a variety of dining options, Norwegian provides a more diverse and innovative selection, while Carnival focuses on casual comfort food and classic favorites.

MORE: Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Cruise Line: Which Cruise Line is Best For You?

Entertainment and activities

Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line are two of the most popular cruise lines in the world, offering a wide selection of activities for their passengers. While both cruise lines have a lot in common, they each have unique features and different activities.

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its fun and festive atmosphere, focusing on family-friendly activities. They offer a variety of activities, such as water parks, mini-golf courses, basketball courts, ropes courses, and outdoor movie screens.

Their ships also feature casinos, live music, game shows like Hasbro and The Game Show, Punchliner Comedy Club, and trivia.

The Vista-class ships also include a suspended cycling attraction called SkyRide, and the newest Excel-class ships, Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, feature the first roller coaster at sea — BOLT.

Bolt Roller Coaster in Mardi Gras
View of Bolt Roller Coaster in Mardi Gras (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schretter)

Norwegian Cruise Line, on the other hand, is known for its elegant atmosphere, with a focus on relaxation and entertainment.

They offer a variety of activities, such as Broadway-style shows, casinos, elevated spas and thermal suites, and a range of dining options, including specialty restaurants like Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro.

Their ships also feature a variety of bars and lounges, perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic evening. That isn’t to say that Norwegian doesn’t have thrills, as some of the line’s ships include laser tag arenas, water slides, and go-kart tracks.

go-kart tracks at cruise ship

For families, Carnival Cruise Line is a great choice, with plenty of activities for kids and adults alike.

Norwegian Cruise Line is suitable for couples or solo travelers looking for a more go-with-the-flow experience with a focus on relaxation and entertainment.

It’s also worth noting that both lines feature adults-only sundecks on most of their vessels. Carnival offers the Serenity Retreat, while Norwegian has Spice H2O.

Stunning view of Spice H2O in Norwegian Epic
Spice H2O (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line is a great choice for those looking for a fun and festive atmosphere, while Norwegian Cruise Line offers a more refined experience.

However, it’s important to consider the types of activities you’re looking for in a cruise, as well as the destinations you’re interested in visiting, before making a decision.

What’s guaranteed is no matter which cruise line you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable vacation at sea.

Kids’ programs

Regarding family-friendly activities and programs, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have a lot to offer. However, there are some key differences to note between the two cruise lines.

Carnival Cruise Line’s kids’ program, called “Camp Ocean,” is designed for children ages 2-11. The program offers supervised activities such as arts and crafts, video games, and outdoor play areas.

They also have a separate program for teens, called “Circle C” for ages 12-14 and “Club O2” for ages 15-17. These programs provide fun activities like dance parties, sports tournaments, and movie nights.

Kids at Camp Ocean
Camp Ocean (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line’s kids’ program, called “Splash Academy,” is separated into age groups: Guppies (ages six months to 3 years), Turtles (ages 3-5), Seals (ages 6-9), and Dolphins (ages 10-12). The program offers a range of activities, such as arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, and sports tournaments.

Norwegian Cruise Line has a program called “Entourage” for teens aged 13-17. This program features dance parties, pool parties, and video game tournaments.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s program focuses more on group activities. In contrast, Carnival Cruise Line’s program is more relaxed and offers a broader range of activities for kids of all ages. It’s important to consider your family’s needs and preferences when choosing between the two cruise lines.

Pricing

When comparing Carnival Cruise Line vs. Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the most important factors for many consumers is the price. So, how do they stack up?

In general, Carnival Cruise Line tends to be slightly more affordable than Norwegian Cruise Line. Carnival is known for its budget-friendly cruises, with plenty of options for those looking to save money on their vacation.

On the other hand, Norwegian Cruise Line often positions itself as a more premium brand, with higher-end amenities and experiences at a higher price point.

View of Vibe Beach Club under the sun in Norwegian Prima
Vibe Beach Club (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

However, it’s important to note that the price of a cruise can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the specific itinerary, the time of year, the level of cabin or suite you choose, and the included perks.

It’s also worth considering the additional costs of a cruise, such as excursions, drinks, and other onboard activities.

Both Carnival and Norwegian offer a range of packages and add-ons for these extras, so it’s important to compare prices carefully to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective option with a fun and lively atmosphere, Carnival might be the way to go.

Final Thoughts

When choosing between Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line, it’s important to consider your priorities and preferences for your cruising experience.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a bit more upscale and refined experience, with a focus on dining and entertainment, while Carnival Cruise Line provides a more lively and festive atmosphere, with an emphasis on onboard activities and partying.

People partying at CARNIVAL SUNRISE DECK PARTY
People partying at CARNIVAL SUNRISE DECK PARTY

Both cruise lines offer a wide range of destinations and itineraries, so it’s essential to consider the specific ports and excursions that interest you.

At the end of the day, the choice between a Carnival Cruise Line vs. a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation will depend on your taste and travel style.

READ NEXT: 11 Top Deck Cruise Ship Attractions

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