Norwegian Cruise Vs. Carnival Cruise
Norwegian Cruise Versus Carnival Cruise: My Personal Experience
Going on a cruise is one of the most inexpensive vacations you can go on, because it's pretty much all included, except for shore excursions, drinks, and the souvenirs you buy. The average person gains approximately ten pounds on a 7-day cruise. I can see why: both Norwegian and Carnival both deliver the goods at any hour of the day 24/7.
Cruising with both Norwegian and Carnival cruise lines was an experience I could repeat many times over, and I will. Both cruise lines have their pros and cons, but there is definitely one I favor a great deal more than the other.
The ships that I have cruised with were the Norwegian Jewel and the Carnival Miracle. I'm not going to bore you with facts about the ships like how many passengers they hold, or how heavy or how long the ships are, you can find that information elsewhere.
What I will tell you is: from the outside, the Norwegian Jewel looks beautiful, but I wasn't impressed at the interior. Don't get me wrong, it was nice, but it wasn't a wow like the Carnival Miracle. When you walk into the atrium on Miracle, it's all open concept: you look up five floors and see an open glass staircase leading to the steak house restaurant, the atrium has two glass elevators that are operating, and you can listen to the piano playing while grabbing a drink. This was a "wow" for me, I needed a drink just so I could take it all in.
What Port Will You Leave From?
The port you leave from will determine how much extra money you will have to spend. Just to get to the ship's port is half the battle. Will you drive there or have to spend extra on a flight?
Something else to consider: the port you plan to leave from will determine the type of people you will be cruising with. If you leave from New York, there is a good chance you will be cruising with a lot of people who live in the Northeast. If you leave from Cape Canaveral FL, the majority of the people you will cruise with will be from the South. It's not really a big deal but I thought it might be worth mentioning.
What Type of Cabin Will You Stay In?
Booking a cabin is probably the most important choice will you will have to make. Most people think they will not be spending a lot of time in their room, but that all depends. If you book an inside stateroom with no window or porthole to see daylight, unless you set your alarm, you will have no idea what time of day it is when you wake up.
When you have a small balcony off your state room, it gives you a chance to get away from the crowds, have a little privacy, and hang outside and enjoy the views and the sounds of the ocean. Waking up in the morning, drinking coffee, and watching the whales, dolphins and flying fish was the most striking way to enjoy the morning. It's not every day you get to experience this type of magnificence.
Having a state room with a window is better than not having any natural light at all, but if you spend a little extra for a balcony you will enjoy your cruise a lot more. It's also nice on the days of departure and arrival to have a balcony, because you don't have to fight the crowds for a good view. There will be plenty of time to fight the crowds, like at the chocolate buffet, or at any of the buffets.
When you get close to your departure date, check for any deals to upgrade your room. This is the time to get the best deals. Sometimes you can upgrade your room for a couple of hundred bucks to a much nicer room, one you can actually breathe in. The rooms can be very small and cramped, especially the inside state rooms; I stayed in one room once that was so small, I had to go outside to change my mind. Do yourself a favor, get a decent size room. All right, enough about rooms, but heed my warnings.
Book your shore excursions long before you leave on your cruise. Shore excursions fill up fast, especially the good ones. If you have your mind set on a specific excursion, like a catamaran ride in St Thomas or zip-lining in St Lucia, book it as soon as possible, these excursions fill up fast and once the tickets are gone they're gone, unless someone cancels. You don't want to find yourself throwing someone overboard just so you can go zip-lining. That might not be a good ending to your trip, plus I heard the food's not so good in the ship's prison. Just kidding, the food's great everywhere on the ship. That was me trying to be funny.
To Freestyle or Not to Freestyle?
When I have to choose again, I will choose not to freestyle. I liked to have the same wait staff each night and the same bar service. You really get to know the people serving you on a personal level, like where they're from, if they have family, and how long they have been serving on the ship. You also eat dinner with the same crowd each night, it’s just another opportunity to meet people at a personal level.
When the wait staff knows they will be serving you for the week, I think it sets a different tone. They are much friendlier and more engaging, knowing that if they serve you well, the tip at the end of the week will reflect how well they did. We were treated like kings and queens. Our bar server walked to the other end of the ship just to get me extra olives for my martini; now that is awesome service, that was Carnival.
Dressing up for dinner a couple of nights is cool. Right after dinner you walk to the photo shoot and have a bunch of pictures taken. My suggestion is to have a bunch of pictures taken because you never know which ones will come out awesome, plus you only pay for the ones you like. So don't be afraid to dress up for dinner, it's a good time. If you don't want to dress for dinner, no problem, food everywhere. So no worries, you will never go hungry on a cruise.
If you're going to do shore excursions, it might be a good idea to take the late dinner so you don't have to rush back, but if you have kids, it's probably a good idea to grab the early dinner, it's one of those things where you have to weigh your options. The late dinner kind of runs into the after-dinner show and it makes it hard to find seats there, so my suggestion is to either eat fast or move over to island time, no worries mun.
I personally like the scheduled dinner times because of the friendly atmosphere and because of the people you meet. Freestyle to me was solitude, and boring. You can eat whenever you want, but I just liked all the camaraderie on Carnival, it really was the fun ship.
The food on both ships was unbelievable. Every night is like eating in a 5-star restaurant, and the deserts were to die for. I think this is where people in general gain all their weight; furthermore, you can order as many dinners as you want, no limit. The food on a cruise is limitless, it's a perfect example of overindulging, and you will, unless you don't like food.
You Never Carry Money
Unless you are going off the ship, you never carry money. Norwegian and Carnival are the same in this respect. Before you board the ship, you will be handed a card that looks like a credit card, and it will be your money for the week and also your room key. Everyone gets one, even your kids if they are old enough. Every time you buy something on the ship, you will use this ship card, and at the end of the cruise you will pay it off in full with either cash or credit. There is a safe in your room so you can stow all your personal belongings, wallet, purse and jewelry.
Sun Decks and Swimming Pools
There are plenty of sun decks, but the swimming pools always seem to be very crowded. The Norwegian cruise had two pools, both in the same area, one was an adult pool and the other was for families, with a water slide in the same area. Norwegian also offered an upper deck for adults only. It was at the top of the ship, very hot and very windy, but that was the price you had to pay not to have kids splashing and running around.
The Carnival cruise on the other hand had two separate pools, one in the center of the ship for families, and an all-adult pool at the back of the ship. The water slide was on the upper deck at the rear of the ship. This set up was much more enjoyable for us: you didn't have to listen to dance music 24 /7 and it was very low key, you could relax, have bar service, and jump in the pool without having to worry about kids running around. Don't take that the wrong way, I love kids and have three of my own, but sometimes it's nice to have a break. Having the adult pool on the back side of the ship was very relaxing. Depending on where you sat, you could have a nice breeze or bake in the sun, totally up to you.
The best part about the pool decks is that when you're leaving, you can stop at the ice cream machine. There is always ice cream available: soft serve, chocolate, vanilla, or swirl, it is your choice. You make your own cone as well, huge or small, again, totally up to you. Just another way to pack on the pounds, but definitely enjoyable.
Cruise Ship Interiors
I found the Carnival cruise to be a better cruise than the Norwegian cruise, based solely on my personal experience and the information I share with you here. This is not to say one cruise line is better than the other, I am just sharing my experience, I have friends who liked the Norwegian cruise better than Carnival. I thought that the shore excursions were more informative and personal, the vendors used on the Carnival cruise seem to be more friendly and more interactive with the group; I like to be told where I'm going and what to expect when I get there. The vendors Carnival used exceeded my expectations whereas Norwegian's did not.
The food is pretty comparable and the restaurants were not much different. Norwegian did have ten extra restaurants that specialized in different foods, like a steak house, an Italian restaurant, and a Japanese steak house, but each of the restaurants was extra money (about $10 a head) and I didn't feel they could prepare a dinner any better that the main dining room, so why spend any extra money if it wasn't necessary.
I like the arrangement of the pools and sun decks better on Carnival than Norwegian, just a little bit better planning in my opinion. Some people just want to relax on vacation and not have to worry about kids running around doing cannon balls in their face, so the separate pools are a great option.
I hope this information will help you make an educated decision about what cruise you will go on next, Carnival or Norwegian, if anyone has more information to offer, please leave a comment, it will only help potential cruisers decide which cruise is right for them.
Stingray Tour in Nassau
I took these pictures with an Olimpus underwater camera. I was scared to use my camera under water, but I had no problems, and I was very happy with the results.