It’s time for the shake down! Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival vs. NCL – Who comes out on top?
First let’s talk price. This section is not about value, it’s about price. All considered, NCL is the cheapest of the three cruise lines. Coming in a very second is Carnival. It’s so close that this can change depending on the specials they are offering. You’ll want to compare them to see who is cheaper if your main focus is finding the cheapest cruise.
In third place is Royal Caribbean. They are not close to Carnival or NCL but they are dramatically cheaper than Disney.
Food is our next category. Coming in first is Royal Caribbean. They still offer high quality food outside of their specialty restaurants. In second is Carnival. They have decent food outside of their specialty restaurants but you will have to pay for the high quality food. In a distant third is NCL. Every time I cruised with them, the food was not good. It wasn’t good in the specialty areas either.
Service is our next category. This is not customer service / problem resolution. This category represents the employees you’ll run into. In first place is Royal Caribbean. They consistently offer am acceptable to high level of service. In second place is Carnival. They offer okay service. Sometimes it’s lacking but overall it isn’t bad. In last place is NCL. There are going to be times when you wonder if the employees are slaves or employees.
Entertainment is next. In first place comes Royal Caribbean. They tend to have a better selection and the quality is good. In second place is Carnival. Their entertainment isn’t bad but they focus too much on Vegas style entertainment. In last is NCL. They have some entertainment (term may or may not be used loosely).
Customer Service / Problem Resolution, is our last category, before we talk about value. I’ll be blunt. Two of these companies rank as poor and the other one is abysmal. Royal Caribbean and NCL tie for first, but keep in mind they are both poor and need to improve. In some ways NCL beats RC but it’s very close. NCL was apathetic when I ran into an issue. Royal Caribbean didn’t offer anything in the way of a solution to my problem when I brought it up. Carnival is just awful. I had two major issues I presented to them and they blew off both of them. If I had to give a letter grade to the three it would be: NCL = D, RC = D-, Carnival = F.
Now how does all that boil down to value? Royal Caribbean, even though it’s the most expensive, offers the most bang for your buck. Carnival is a distant second. NCL, even though they are the cheapest, comes in last.
Now for the most important question – Would I cruise on them again?
Royal Caribbean – Yes. However, I am neutral towards them right now. I would not recommend them and I would not tell someone not to cruise on them.
Carnival – No. I would not recommend them either. The only way you could get me back on Carnival, would be to give me a free cruise in a category equal to last one I paid for aka a Vista Suite.
NCL – No. The answer is just no. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d cruise them again. Even if it was free, I wouldn’t want to waste my vacation time on them.