Are you planning on booking a cruise and comparing Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, to see which is best for you?
Since these are both popular well-loved cruise lines, this is a great question. While Royal Caribbean and Norwegian do have some similarities, there are some important differences to be aware of.
As someone who has cruise with both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, I know first hand that both cruise lines have a lot to offer.
With that being said, here’s everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
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Why Cruisers Like Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is part of Royal Caribbean group, formally known as Royal Caribbean International. Royal Caribbean is a contemporary cruise line that is known for it’s innovation and for having the largest cruise ships at sea.
Here are the reasons why cruisers like Royal Caribbean:
Cruise Ship Design
If you’ve never cruised with Royal Caribbean, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are going to blow your mind!
Royal Caribbean has some of the most incredible and innovative cruise ships in the world. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships are the largest cruise ships at sea, at over 220,000 tons and more than 6,000 passengers.
These ships offer the most features and attractions. If you want a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with tons of activities, make sure you choose an Oasis Class ship.
Quantum Class ships also have amazing onboard attractions. Although they are a bit smaller in size at over 160,000 tons and more than 4,500 passengers, these are still popular and well loved cruise ships for families and kids.
Royal Caribbean’s older cruise ship designs are still great, but you won’t some of the bells and whistles that you will find on the large ships like the Oasis and Quantum Class.
If you enjoy a more traditional cruise ship and don’t need surfing pools, indoor skydiving and zip lines, older Royal Caribbean cruise ships are a great way to cruise for less.
It’s important to research to find the Royal Caribbean cruise ship and itinerary suits you best.
When it comes to private islands owned by cruise lines, nobody does it better than Royal Caribbean.
The great thing about cruising to the Caribbean or Bahamas with Royal Caribbean, is that many itineraries stop at their private island, Perfect Day at Cococay.
Perfect Day at Cococay has an incredible water parks, which includes Daredevil’s Peak, the tallest waterslide in North America. You’ll also find beautiful beaches, large swimming pools, zip lining, a hot air balloon ride and many more activities.
The food on the island is very tasty and it’s included with the price of your cruise.
Royal Caribbean also has Labadee which is their other private island located in Haiti. In Labadee you’ll find gorgeous beaches, a roller coaster and a zip line.
Variety of Restaurants & Dining Options
There are many dining options to choose from onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships. There’s a mix of restaurants are included and others which have an extra cost.
Some “free” casual dining options on Royal Caribbean include the Windjammer Marketplace (buffet), El Loco Fresh (mexican casual food), Sorrento’s Pizza, Cafe Promenade, and Central Park Cafe. For a nice down meal, the main dining room is a great included dining venue.
Royal Caribbean cruise ships also have a wide variety of specialty restaurants which have an additional charge. If you think you’d like to do more than a couple of nights at a specialty restaurant, consider purchasing the Ultimate Dining Package so you can try them all.
Family Friendly Environment
Royal Caribbean cruise ships attract families with kids of all ages. Many people love their Adventure Ocean kid’s club, which ranges from the nursery through 17 years of age.
Those who are cruising with a family, love to cruise with Royal Caribbean as it is the ultimate cruise line for family vacations.
Included Activities & Onboard Attractions
Royal Caribbean is known for having fun ships and some of the best onboard activities at sea. When you’re on a Royal Caribbean cruise, there is never a dull moment.
The onboard attractions are family friendly, so it’s a great time for everyone. Here’s a list of activities onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships:
Activities Onboard Royal Caribbean:
- Ice Skating
- Laser Tag
- Silent Disco
- Rock Climbing
- Water Slides
- Escape Room (additional cost)
- Splash Park
- FlowRider Surf Simulator
- Basketball Courts
- Mini Golf
- Zip Lining
- Bumper Karts
- The Ultimate Abyss (10 story dry slide)
One of the best parts about cruising with Royal Caribbean is that most of their cruise ship activities are free. This is especially important for families, as paying extra for activities can really add up and blow your cruise vacation budget.
If you want a cruise line where you are always going to be entertained, then Royal Caribbean is for you. Royal Caribbean is known for having some of the best entertainment at sea.
Since Royal Caribbean has some incredible big ships, there are multiple entertainment venues onboard. On select ships you’ll find aqua shows, musicals, ice skating shows at the ice rink, comedians and broadway style shows.
The great thing about Royal Caribbean ships is that there are a variety of different shows happening every evening. This means that there will always be plenty of options when it comes to entertainment, each and every night of your cruise vacation.
Royal Caribbean has one of the best youth programs in the cruise industry. If you’re cruising with kids, take advantage of Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbeans kid’s club.
The Adventure Ocean kid’s club is a supervised program where kids between that ages of 3 and 17 can make new friends, hang out and participate in activities. The kids and teenagers are separated by age group and have lots of fun things to do fo all ages!
As someone who grew up cruising, I know first hand how fun the kid’s club is on Royal Caribbean. As a kid, my parents could not get me out of the kid’s club, because it was such a good time!
On select Royal Caribbean cruise ships, there is a nursery for 6 to 36 month old children. Royal Caribbean is one of the only cruise lines that offers a nursery for young children.
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Why Cruisers like Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line, also known as NCL, has the reputation of being a fun, family friendly cruise line. Similarly to Royal Caribbean, Norwegian cruises has exciting attractions and beautiful ship designs.
Here are the reasons why cruisers like Norwegian Cruise Line:
Norwegian cruise line is most known for it’s relaxed “freestyle cruising” concept. You won’t find strict dress codes and formal nights on a Norwegian cruise ship.
While other cruise lines have embraced the concept of “open dining”, nobody does it better than Norwegian Cruise Line.
With freestyle cruising, cruise passengers can eat in different restaurants and dining rooms, on their own schedule. Although you can make reservations, there are no set dining times.
This creates a very laid back atmosphere and allows you enjoy your cruise at your own pace.
Free At Sea Perks
The Free at Sea promotion is one of the best benefits when cruising with Norwegian. This perks program, which has a free beverage package as an option, is a big reasons why people love cruising with Norwegian.
While the Free at Sea promotion changes at times throughout the year, overall the basics remain the same. With Free At Sea you can get a free beverage package, free specialty dining, free wifi (not unlimited), free shore excursion credits and discounts on 3rd and 4th passengers (on select sailings).
At times, you may even find a free air promotion. Always check with your travel agent or on the Norwegian website to find the best options for you and current free at sea promotions.
Video: Norwegian Free at Sea Perks Explained
Variety of Restaurants
For those who like cruise food, Norwegian has a nice variety of restaurants onboard their fleet. You’ll find 2-3 main dining room type restaurants, and all you can eat buffet and The Local or O’Sheehans (pub style restaurant).
When it comes to specialty restaurants, Norwegian has a lot to offer. Specialty restaurants do have an additional cost, however they are a significantly better culinary experience. You can also get free specialty dining as a perk with Norwegian’s Free at Sea promo.
On many Norwegian cruises you’ll find Teppanyaki, Cagney’s Steakhouse, OceanBlue (sea food) and La Cucina (Italian food). Depending on the cruise you are on, there can be many other specialty restaurants options as well.
Norwegian also has O’Sheehans and The Local, which are pub style restaurants that are open 24/7. Those who cruise with Norwegian, love these restaurants because the food is amazing and it’s open all the time.
Norwegian cruise ships are known for having amazing entertainment. Compared to other cruise lines, you can see that Norwegian invests a lot of money into their theatre and production shows.
Inside the theatre onboard Norwegian cruise ships, the lighting, sound and set design are among the best at sea. Additionally, Norwegian has great entertainers, singers, live bands, magicians, comedians and illusionists.
On past cruises on the Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Joy, the entertainment has always been phenomenal.
When cruising with Norwegian, you will never get bored! In particular in the evening time, there are always a variety shows and musical performances happening around the ship.
Activities & Onboard Attractions
Whether you’re a young cruiser or an older cruiser, there are activities and attractions for everyone onboard a Norwegian cruise.
NCL is known for their fun activities and amazing attractions. The attractions onboard Norwegian are some of the best at sea.
Here’s a list of attractions onboard select Norwegian cruise ships.
Attractions Onboard Norwegian Cruise Line:
- Laser tag
- Race car simulator
- Ropes courses
- Mini golf
- Virtual reality
- Water slides
- Escape rooms
On a sea day, there are poolside activities that are fun to watch or participate in. At the main pool, you can find belly flop competitions, scavenger hunts and the poolside olympics, which is an absolute blast!
Family Friendly Environment
Norwegian Cruise Line is the perfect for a family vacation. There are plenty of activities, shows and a supervised kid’s club and teen club that children of all ages can enjoy.
In the dining rooms, buffet and restaurants, there will always be culinary options that are well suited for younger children.
NCL does a great job at making a fun, safe and family friendly environment for it’s cruisers.
Many guests love Norwegian Cruise Line’s casino. The casino onboard Norwegian cruises is large, has an enclosed smoking area (on certain ships) and even has a small buffet.
It’s in a central location, which makes it convenient for those who want to play in the casino. In the evening time, the casino is quite busy and the passengers love it!
There are slot machines, blackjack tables, poker tables and even a high roller room. If you like to gamble, then you will love the casino onboard Norwegian, as well as the Casino at Sea program.
A big reasons why passengers love cruising with Norwegian is because of their relaxed cruise line dress codes. On Norwegian, there isn’t any expectation to “dress up”.
This creates a relaxed atmosphere, where guests aren’t pressured to “dress up” on Norwegian. Of course, if you prefer to dress up you can. However, if you’d prefer to dress more casually, this works too.
Most cruise lines will have one or two formal nights throughout the cruise. However on NCL, there are no formal nights, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your formal clothing.
Norwegian Cruise Line has a youth program for kids between the ages of 3 to 17. The kid’s club is a great place where you can leave your children in a safe and fun environment.
Throughout the cruise, there are organized activities and themed parties and taking place in the kid’s club. This is a great place to leave your children while you relax by the pool or go to a show in the evening time.
The kid’s club is separated by age group and the activities will be catered towards the specific age groups. Here is how the kids club is separated:
Kids Club Info
- Splash Academy (ages 3-12)
- Entourage (ages 13-17)
As someone who grew up cruising, I’ve always loved the kids club. When I was younger, my parents would have trouble getting me to leave the kids club since it was so much fun.
Norwegian is a great cruise line for solo cruisers. Norwegian has solo studio cabins, that don’t have a singles supplement. The cruise line also has a fun atmosphere and some communal spaces for single passengers to hang out.
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So Which Cruise Line is Best for You? Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean is Best For:
Any cruiser who enjoys nonstop entertainment, activities and an exciting environment. Royal Caribbean is often referred to as the cruise line for those who are young at heart.
Whether you’re older, younger or cruising with a family, Royal Caribbean has fun things to do for all of their guests. The value of the many activities and onboard attractions is a plus for Royal Caribbean.
Norwegian Cruise Line is Best For:
Cruisers who enjoy exciting attractions, amazing entertainment and a fun night life. NCL does a great job at having fun activities planned throughout the cruise, so there is always something going on.
Norwegian is a great cruise line for families, as well as cruisers of all ages. Solo cruisers also like what Norwegian has to offer.
There are plenty of onboard attractions, bars and restaurants to try while you’re on a Norwegian cruise. Freestyle cruising is great for those who prefer a relaxed dress code and schedule.
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Final Thoughts on Royal Caribbean vs Norwegian Cruise Line
Well there it is, Royal Caribbean vs Norwegian Cruise Line.
Comparing Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise line is actually quite easy because they have a lot of similarities. Both cruise lines are family friendly, have incredible attractions and designed to be fun cruises.
When it comes to choosing which cruise line is better, it really comes down to what you’ll enjoy most on your cruise vacation. Both cruise lines have big fan bases and get a lot of repeat cruisers!
In this post, I shared everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Have you cruised with Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line or are you planning to? Please let me know what you like best in the comments below.
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Author Bio: Ethan Schattauer writes about fashion, travel and college advice on the website WhatToWearMen.com. As a frequent cruiser, Ethan shares his unique perspective on what cruising is like for teens and young adults.