When it comes to booking a cruise vacation, there are countless options available. However, two popular cruise lines are Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Both of these companies offer a wide range of amenities, activities, and experiences, but how do they stack up against each other?
In this comparison article, we’ll take a closer look at Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line, breaking down the differences between these two popular choices to help you make an informed decision about your next cruise.
Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line
Types of Ships
With 26 vessels, Royal Caribbean is known for having some of the biggest and most innovative ships in the industry, such as the Anthem of the Seas, which boasts features like a skydiving simulator and the North Star capsule that takes you high above the ocean. The line’s Oasis-class ships are the largest cruise ships in the world with their own Central Park, Ultimate Abyss slide, and a boardwalk complete with a carousel.
At 17 ships, Norwegian Cruise Line has a slightly smaller fleet but still offers plenty of options with its newer vessels like Norwegian Encore and Norwegian Prima. When it comes to cabins, both cruise lines have a variety of options ranging from solo cabins to family-friendly suites. Norwegian is also known for The Haven, its ship-within-a-ship concept.
It’s important to know when comparing the two companies that each cruise line could be split into two different categories, old and new, because there are older ships that were built in the 90s and early 2000s, and then the newer vessels that have many more features.
Royal Caribbean is known for its extensive range of itineraries that cover almost every region of the world — from the Caribbean and the Bahamas to Europe, Alaska, and Asia.
NCL also offers voyages in a wide variety of destinations, with a focus on the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Alaska. The line also has a ship based in Hawaii year-round that circumnavigates the islands on seven-night cruises.
Both cruise lines have their own private islands; in fact, they’re located less than half a mile from each other.
Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay could be compared to a giant water park with massive slides, a helium balloon with a basket beneath it for rides, and the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay is more relaxed with beach activities and a zip line. Both islands have an area where guests can pay a premium to have access to exclusive spaces.
Food and Drinks
When it comes to cruising, dining is a major part of the experience. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line both offer a wide range of dining options to suit various tastes and preferences.
Royal Caribbean is known for its variety and signature dining experiences. The cruise line also offers traditional meal options such as the main dining room, which serves classic dishes like steak and lobster, and specialty restaurants like Chops Grille and Jamie’s Italian.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also offers a variety of dining options, including a main dining room and specialty restaurants like Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro. Norwegian is also known for its Freestyle Dining concept, which allows passengers to dine whenever and wherever they want, without the need for reservations or set dining times. This is perfect for those who want more flexibility in their dining choices.
Both Royal Caribbean and NCL offer buffet-style dining as well, with a wide range of options, including international cuisine, made-to-order stations, and dessert bars.
In terms of pricing, both cruise lines offer various dining packages that can help save money on specialty restaurants. Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Dining Package includes access to several specialty restaurants for a set price, while NCL’s Dining Package offers a set number of meals at specialty restaurants for a discounted price.
Bars and Lounges
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer a wide range of options to suit various tastes and preferences. Royal Caribbean is known for its innovative bar concepts, including the Bionic Bar, where passengers can watch robots create their drinks, and the Rising Tide Bar, which is a mobile bar that moves between decks.
Royal Caribbean also offers a variety of other bars and lounges, including the Schooner Bar which is inspired by a traditional English pub and the Boleros Latin-themed bar.
Norwegian Cruise Line also offers a variety of bars and lounges, including the Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the Skyline Bar which features panoramic “views” of different cities. The cruise line is also known for its nightlife options, including the Bliss Ultra Lounge which features a giant LED screen and hosts nightly parties, and the Cavern Club, which hosts a Beatles cover band.
Both cruise lines offer various options for drinks, including a la carte pricing, drink packages, and happy hour specials. It’s important for passengers to know their drinking habits and preferences in order to choose the best option for their budget.
Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package includes access to a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, while NCL’s Ultimate Beverage Package includes access to premium spirits, cocktails, and wines by the glass.
MORE: Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Cruise Line: Which Cruise Line Is Best For You?
When it comes to cabins, both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer a variety of options to suit different needs and preferences.
Norwegian Cruise Line offers Solo Studios, which are designed for solo travelers and feature a full-size bed and access to a private lounge. The cruise line also offers a range of stateroom options, including Interior, Oceanview, Balcony, and Suites.
The Haven area on Norwegian offers a ship-within-a-ship concept. This exclusive area is available on select NCL ships and includes a variety of upscale amenities and services. Guests who book a Haven suite will enjoy access to a private courtyard area with a pool, hot tub, and sun deck, as well as a private restaurant and lounge. The suites themselves feature a separate living area, a private balcony, and butler service.
The Haven is perfect for travelers who want to enjoy a more exclusive and personalized experience while at sea.
Royal Caribbean also offers a range of stateroom options, including Interior, Oceanview, Balcony, and Suites. The cruise line is known for its innovative cabin designs, including Virtual Balcony staterooms that feature a floor-to-ceiling screen displaying real-time views of the ocean. Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas also features cabins with balconies that can be transformed into indoor living spaces with the push of a button.
In terms of amenities, both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer a range of options to make passengers feel comfortable during their cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line’s staterooms feature amenities such as a mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, and 24-hour room service. The cruise line also offers family-friendly amenities such as connecting staterooms and family suites.
Both Royal Caribbean and NCL offer a range of options to accommodate different budgets and preferences. Many of Royal Caribbean’s newer ships have dedicated solo traveler cabins that offer a more affordable option for solo travelers who don’t want to pay the higher single supplement fees for traditional cabins. These cabins are smaller in size but include all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.
NCL also offers a range of options for solo travelers, including solo traveler cabins on select ships. Norwegian has a dedicated solo traveler space in an area in the middle of the ship with a lounge and mingle area where solo travelers can get to know each other. They also have a pricing structure that allows solo travelers to pay a reduced single supplement fee, making it more affordable to book a traditional cabin without having to share with another passenger.
Entertainment and Activities
Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line offer a wide range of options to keep guests entertained throughout their cruise vacations.
When it comes to amenities and activities, both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have plenty to offer.
Royal Caribbean is known for its family-friendly activities like rock climbing walls and ice skating rinks, as well as its adults-only Solarium area.
NCL, on the other hand, is known for its entertainment options like Broadway-style shows and the popular race track on Norwegian Bliss, Encore, Joy, and Prima. Both cruise lines offer a variety of dining options, including specialty restaurants for an additional fee.
Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its Freestyle Cruising, which allows passengers to choose from a variety of dining options and entertainment venues. The cruise line offers Broadway-style shows, live music, comedy clubs, and even a circus dinner theater. Norwegian Cruise Line also has a range of outdoor activities, including ropes courses, rock climbing walls, and water slides.
Royal Caribbean is also known for its innovative entertainment options. The cruise line offers Broadway-style shows, ice skating shows, and even a diving show on select ships.
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships feature the North Star, a glass capsule that takes passengers over 300 feet above sea level for 360-degree views. The cruise line also offers a range of outdoor activities, including rock climbing walls, zip lines, and surfing simulators.
If you’re looking for a more adult-oriented vacation, both Royal Caribbean and NCL have plenty of amenities to keep you entertained. Royal Caribbean’s Solarium is an adults-only retreat featuring a pool, hot tubs, and a bar. NCL’s Spice H2O is also adults-only and so is the Vibe Beach Club (extra fee for this resort deck).
If you’re traveling with family, one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a cruise line is their kids’ programs. Both Royal Caribbean and NCL are known for their family-friendly amenities and entertainment options.
Royal Caribbean offers a range of kids’ programs for different age groups, including their Adventure Ocean program, which features supervised activities for kids and teens aged 3-17.
Additionally, Royal Caribbean has onboard water parks, mini-golf courses, and other fun activities that are sure to keep kids entertained throughout their vacation.
Norwegian Cruise Line also has a range of kids’ programs, including Splash Academy, which is aimed at kids aged 3-12, and their Entourage program, which is designed for teenagers. NCL also has youth counselors who organize activities and events for kids throughout the day.
When it comes to booking a cruise vacation, one of the top priorities for most travelers is finding a cruise line that fits their budget. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are two popular options that offer a variety of itineraries and onboard amenities, but how do they compare in terms of pricing?
Overall, both Royal Caribbean and NCL offer a range of pricing options to suit different budgets. However, there are some key differences to consider when comparing the two cruise lines.
Firstly, Royal Caribbean tends to offer slightly higher prices than NCL, particularly when it comes to their newer and larger ships such as Wonder of the Seas. However, Royal Caribbean’s prices do often include more amenities and activities, such as their signature surfing simulator and skydiving simulator, as well as Broadway-style shows and a variety of dining options.
On the other hand, NCL often offers lower base prices and more discounts and promotions throughout the year, like its ongoing ‘Free at Sea’ perks program that includes items like the beverage and dining package. This can be a great way to save money on additional expenses while still enjoying a range of amenities.
Norwegian Cruise Line has a reputation for nickel and diming guests, so make sure you compare the value of the add-on packages to make sure it really is a value and just not an attractive advertisement.
Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line offer unique and exciting experiences. For cruisers looking for a cruise ship to be the destination, Royal Caribbean may be a good fit. For vacationers looking for a more laid-back experience, Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising may be more your speed.
When choosing between the two, it’s important to consider factors such as onboard amenities, pricing, and cabin options for the entire party.
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